Picking an outfit for the evening was proving to be more difficult than I expected. Abdul was due back in a few minutes, and with a surprise planned, I needed a look good enough to complement the evening. However, every single outfit I had tried on was either not right or simply did not fit; because of my growing midsection. I made a mental note to find out where Hadiza shopped for her maternity wardrobe.
After rummaging around my wardrobe some more, I finally settled on a simple, yet elegant black and white striped abaya with lace details at the hems. It was just wanted I wanted- loose-fitting and comfortable. I touched on my makeup, spritzed on some perfume, then looked in the mirror at my reflection.
Abdul won’t know what hit him tonight. Getting treated to expensive gifts by your hubby is not an everyday occurrence, so a little TLC from me in return should balance out the equation.
The doorbell chimed. Abdul. I closed the wardrobe and hastened to get the door.
“Assalamu alaykum, mijina” I flew into his arms.
“Waalaykum salam mata kyakkyawa.”
“Welcome, my love. How was your trip?”
I took his hand and led him into the house.
“Hectic as usual, but I am all the better for seeing you now.”
I watched him smile as he took in the dim lighting and candlelight dinner setting at the table.
“I see you’ve been hard at work, ‘Mima. What’s the occasion?”
I gave him a coy smile. “Do I need an occasion to treat my husband right?”
“No, you don’t”. He planted a kiss on my lips. “Thank you… for all this.”
“You are welcome, darling. Now, dinner or bath first?”
“I’m famished, but I think I’ll go take a shower first.”
“Alright. The table is already set, so I’ll just wait for you.”
With a quick peck on my cheek, Abdul left to take a shower and soon I heard the sound of water running. Eager to lay my eyes on the gift Abdul got for me, I wheeled his suitcase into the bedroom, opened it, and searched through its contents. Then I saw it; a paper bag labelled: Phone Crib. With nervous excitement, I opened the bag but stopped short when I read the label on the box inside.
No. Abdul did not just do this to me.
My good mood slowly dissipating, I sat at the edge of the bed, holding the box away from me like it was a contagious disease.
Why, oh why did Abdul do this?
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed Abdul come out of the bathroom and enter the bedroom but I did not acknowledge his presence.
“Sweetheart? I see you already found it.” He said, joining me on the bed. “Do you like it?”
That did it. I saw red. Abdul had the nerve to ask me that? I stood up and flung the box at his chest.
“What is this Abdul? I asked for an iPhone XS. This is a Tecno. A China Phone!”
He held his palms up. “Listen, I’m sorry but I couldn’t afford that iPhone. What with the housing project and all…”
“I don’t care! I wanted an upgrade from my Samsung and you get me a Tecno? What sort of regression is that?”
“Please, I said I’m sorry. Let’s not ruin the mood tonight, hmm?” He reached for me and I stepped away.
“How do you expect me to show my face in public with that?!”
Of course, by ‘public’, I meant HER.
“But it’s the latest one- Phantom 8 plus!”
I shook my head. Abdul was unbelievable. He just didn’t understand these things. “And to think I went through all this trouble to try and make the night special… for nothing”
“I thought you said earlier that you didn’t need an occasion to do something nice for me.”
“That was before I found out you weren’t man enough to do one SIMPLE THING!”
I was mad and I could tell by the rapid rise and fall of his chest that he was angry as well. Every muscle in his body was tense, but I didn’t care. We stared each other down; me – hands on hips and eyes flashing sparks; Abdul- clenching and unclenching his fists. After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke first.
“You know what? I’m done. Do as you like.” He plucked a shirt from his suitcase on the floor. “The phone will be on the dressing table if you still want it. Please get me my dinner.”
Still seething, I stomped out of the bedroom, trying to come up with ways to get back at him. God forbid that I go through all that trouble and have nothing to show for it. An idea struck me just as I reached the dining table. I picked up the bowl of miyan kuka, entered the kitchen and opened the condiments cabinet. Before I changed my mind, I picked a jar and emptied its contents into the bowl of soup. That’d teach him.
Satisfied, I returned the bowl to the dining table and waited.
Patience is a virtue.
Tonight, I wasn’t so sure about that. I prided myself to be a calm man with the patience of a saint, but Jemima had a way of testing said patience and inviting me to be the worst person I could ever be. Like she was doing tonight. It was taking every ounce of self-restraint I had, to not succumb to that temptation.
Immediately she started ranting about the brand of the phone, everything started to add up. That text message on the day of their get-together was not something out of the blue. I realised now, it was all about her obsession with Hadiza.
She drove the same car as Hadiza, we moved into the same estate as Hadiza’s family; basically, anything Hadiza had she wanted her own version of. Apparently, she was still not satisfied. I could bet my life savings that my wife’s unhealthy craving for things Hadiza possessed, started way before we ever met. Now that I think about it, I am of the opinion she agreed to marry me only because I worked in oil and gas, just like Basheer.
Sometimes I wondered if she truly loved me for who I was or for what I represented in her life.
I sighed and pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind. I was tired and hungry and wanted nothing more than to eat and get some rest. I ventured out into the dining room and saw Jemima there; waiting for me with a smile on her face. She pulled out a chair.
“Sit. I’ll serve your meal”
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Jemima was never this calm after any of her tirades. She would rather keep on raving and would NEVER act so nice. Alhamdulillah. Perhaps she was having a change of heart today, so I sat down and waited for her to dish the meal.
When she placed a plate in front of me, I thanked her and prepared to dig into my meal.
As soon as the first morsel of tuwo entered my mouth, I could literally feel the sodium levels in my blood rise. The food had more salt in it than the Atlantic ocean. My first instinct was to spit it out but when I looked up at Jemima, she was watching me. The expression on her face dared me to say something – flip out even. I swallowed.
“Are you enjoying your meal darling?” She asked sweetly.
She was goading me, but I wasn’t going to give her the fight she clearly wanted. If eating the food was the price of peace then I would gladly pay it. So instead of speaking, I put another morsel in my mouth.
No retreat, no surrender.
The only word that could accurately capture my feelings. I was sadness personified. Every other emotion was buried underneath and my depression greyed my spirit, tainting all that could bring me joy. Nowadays my smile was only a mask; worn to protect myself from well-meaning questions by friends and family. I wore the mask for my son too. He was still too young to understand anything that was going on between his father and me. Every night he would ask for his ‘dada’ and I would reply like a broken record:
“Your daddy will be here soon baby. Go to sleep.”
It was a necessary lie that had to be told.
Basheer was rarely home. I could say he lived in his office more now. I get that he had just been promoted and the company had some big projects underway, but surely, he had a duty to his family first, right?
I couldn’t remember the last time Basheer ate breakfast or any other meal at home. He rarely ever spoke to me. He was out of the house immediately after Subh and returned very late at night. We were practically strangers living in the same house.
Yes, he was aloof, standoffish even, but he never acted like he had anything to hide. I don’t think he realised he was doing anything wrong. In fact, I wouldn’t have read any meaning to his conduct, if it wasn’t for the calls …and the chats.
I knew in my heart it was HER. I just knew.
Basheer would call HER when he was leaving the house, he would call HER when he arrived home from work. He would continue to chat with HER into the early hours of the morning – laughing and giggling like a schoolboy. I wanted so badly to confront him and the words sat at the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t bring myself to say them. I was too afraid. So, I watched my husband grow more and more detached from me and I did not do anything to pull him back.
I hated HER for what she was doing to my marriage.
Even more so, I hated myself for lacking the courage to step up and fight.
How are you liking the story so far? Jemima is a bit cray-cray, no?🤔
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