When she called the embassy in early August, officials said bad weather and mudslides near her husband's village, a nine-hour bus ride from Dhaka, had delayed an investigation into his background. Officials are troubled, she said, that her 35-year-old husband is twice-divorced. The last divorce was made final just days before they married, on Feb. 5 in Dhaka.
''They might think Abdul married me just to get U.S. citizenship, but that's not true," she said. "He told me he wouldn't marry me if that's what I thought.
She traveled to Dhaka in January. They had been engaged for 10 months and planned a double ceremony, one for his family and one for her's. She had repressed her fear of flying to follow through on their plans.
''If he didn't care for me so much, believe me, I would have never gotten on that plane," she said. "I don't think he knows how to use people."
Federal officials suspect that three of every 10 marriages between U.S. citizens and foreigners are based entirely on a desire to get permanent residency for the foreigner, said a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington.
Although the long delay in acting on Khaleque's petition is unusual, a State Department spokesman said it is routine for embassy officials to scrutinize such marriages.
"A visa won't be issued until they're satisfied that the marriage is valid," said Gary Onfrak, a spokesman in the State Department's immigration division in Washington.
Action on Chesmond-Khaleque's petition for her husband could come sometime in November, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. James J. Florio said last week. At her request, the congressman's office sent two letters to the Dhaka embassy urging a swift resolution of the matter, said Florio spokesman Tom Rosenthal.
Chesmond-Khaleque said that she wanted to believe that the waiting was nearly over, but that she could not relax in her efforts to get her husband home.
Suffering from diabetes and early-stage Hodgkin's Disease, Chesmond- Khaleque said she is under a doctor's care and cannot return to Bangladesh to wait with her husband. She plans to continue her costly monitoring of her husband's petition by telephone.
"My phone bill has shot up to $440 a month since this started," she said. "I work just to pay the bill."
She is a waitress in the Windsor Diner in Cherry Hill, where she met her husband in December 1984.
He had worked at the diner, first as a dishwasher, then as a cook, since jumping ship from a freighter that docked in the New York harbor in 1979, she said. When relatives wrote in October that his mother was ill, he left his job to go home and prepare for their marriage, she said.
"Before I met him, I didn't know there was a life," Chesmond-Khaleque said. "I was a compulsive gambler, and I worked just to go to the casinos. I didn't care about myself. He changed me completely."
She said he had been planning to return home permanently before they became engaged.
''He was lonely. His life was work, work, work," she said. "We were two lonely people who found each other. I'll be glad when we can be together again."
Chesmond-Khaleque, who dropped out of high school, is studying to get her diploma and plans to move on to community college for a degree in restaurant management.
''We don't have anything now but each other, but we have dreams of opening our own diner one day," she said.
The couple plans to bring over his three children by his first wife - the children are 7, 9 and 11 - after they get settled, she said.
''The waiting, it's so hard," she said, stubbing out her third cigarette in 40 minutes. "We're so far apart, there's only the phone to keep in touch. We just get on the phone and then we start to cry. We can't do anything else."