TURMOIL- CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
“Dinner is ready!”
A’isha’s call from the kitchen broke the deafening, awkward and unnecessary silence in the house. Grateful for the chance to do something else, I jumped up a little too quickly from my seat and almost spilt the contents of the glass in my hand.
“Careful,” My mum said, her eyes glued to the TV
I didn’t like this one bit. Mum’s demeanour was just too calm for my liking. Usually, she picked a fight with A’isha the moment she stepped into our house. Today, however, she’d been calm since her arrival in the afternoon. Maybe I was being a little too dramatic and my mum was ready to accept A’isha. I hope this visit continues to go well, ya Allah.
“Mum dinner is ready… and you can’t say no this time, please. You’ve not had anything since you arrived”
She chuckled. “I wasn’t going to refuse you. Go on, I’ll join you.”
I smiled, sighing in relief. Perhaps this was the beginning of some sort of truce. It was no secret that my mum disliked A’isha and never missed an opportunity to show it. The whole situation was made worse by the fact that A’isha and I were yet to have kids of our own. Kids that my mum could call her grandchildren. I shook my head. If only you knew what I now know mum…
“Darling, I’ve served your meal” A’isha’s voice startled me out of my thoughts. She’d met me halfway to the dining, probably on her way to come and drag us to there, if need be. She touched my arm lightly. Instinctively, I winced and pulled my arm back.
A’isha stared at me, her eyes questioning and filled with pain. I had no answer for her. All I knew was that she was a stranger to me now. And I wasn’t ready to confront her yet about what I’d found out.
I took my seat at the dining, almost at the same time my mother arrived at the table. She was carrying a food flask. What does mum want with that?
I got my answer when Mum simply picked up her own plate of amala and ewedu and returned it to the kitchen. She proceeded to dish out the contents of her flask into a fresh plate. Then she sat down and attacked the food with gusto. She wolfed down spoon after spoon of rice and stew, only pausing to have a sip of water.
“Won’t you eat?” She asked in between mouthfuls.
I turned to A’isha. Her eyes brimmed with tears. Her lower lip trembled. Something tugged at my heart. This was not okay. She was doing this to spite A’isha. We all knew it. No matter what, A’isha didn’t deserve to be humiliated or hurt in this way. And especially not by my mum.
“Mum, why are you doing this?”
“Doing what? Eating?”
I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean mum”
“Gaffar, it’s alright. Mama doesn’t have to eat the meal if she doesn’t want to.” A’isha said quietly.
“Yes, please, mi je ounje oshi. I have no appetite for what she cooked. How is that a problem?” My mum punctuated her words with a hiss. Loud and long.
This was going to be a long night. I turned to A’isha. She continued with her meal, picking at it really. All the while mum shot daggers at her from her seat opposite. I decided to let the issue go because dragging it further would only create more friction. The tension in the whole room was palpable, hanging over all our heads like a dark cloud. Great. So much for a truce. I was a fool to think that mum was ready to accept A’isha. Now, dinner was officially ruined. In truth, I didn’t have much of an appetite anymore.
“Gaffar, I’d like to have a word with you after,” Mum said.
“Ah, ama dupe. I thought you’d disagree. You’ve refused to listen to whatever I’ve to say since you took this ako ibepe as your wife.”
That did it. The last thread of patience I was holding on to gradually slipped away. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw A’isha freeze. A lone tear travelled down her cheek. A’isha was many things but barren. I’d found that out first hand. I clenched my teeth and tried to speak as calmly as I could manage.
“Mum, why are you being like this?”
Mum held up her hands. “I am only trying to prevent you from existing like a snake which passes by on a mountain top. It will never leave a footprint.” She clicked her fingers over her head thrice. “Over my dead body will I allow that to happen to my son.”
I pushed my chair back and stood up. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going for a walk outside. Will be back after Isha’a”
I didn’t wait for a reply before storming out of the dining room. At the moment, I didn’t trust myself around either of them.
“Ehn, Go. Sogbo, ma lo. The truth is always bitter. Sha, come back in time for our discussion.” My mum called after me.
Ya Allah, grant me strength… and patience…
The house was dark and quiet by the time I returned. Perfect. I wanted to avoid any form of confrontation, so I tiptoed up the stairs to our room. Aisha was already asleep in bed. I got myself ready in a few minutes and slipped in beside her. I just wanted to shut off my mind and sleep. Mum’s talk could wait till morning. She was probably asleep already anyway.
I sat up instantly. “A’isha! You’re awake.”
“Couldn’t sleep. I was waiting for you.”
“I took a walk after praying at the mosque.”
“You didn’t eat anything at dinner. Do you want me to fix you something?”
“No thank you. I got some Suya at the junction.”
I laid back, with my back turned to her. I expected her to say something, anything about her son. About Maalik. Surely by now, she must know that I’ve found out. And she should have deduced that I wanted to hear it from her own lips. Then why wasn’t she saying anything? Why didn’t she ever defend herself whenever my mum called her barren? Staying silent was driving me insane. I wanted to let out all the anger and sadness and resentment bottled up inside of me. I was curious too. I wanted to know the how and the where. But only A’isha had those answers.
I could coax it out of her? Maybe give her a little nudge? I cleared my throat, praying she hadn’t fallen asleep yet.
“I’m sorry… about what mum said earlier.”
Silence reigned. My spirits fell. She had gone back to sleep. I sighed deeply. So be it. Keep your secret A’isha.
“It is I who should be sorry, Gaffar. I’ve wronged you”
My breath caught in my throat. I stayed still, not moving a muscle. Is she about to come clean? I felt her move and sit up in bed.
“Gaffar I’m sorry. I know you know why I’m apologising. I lied. I kept my son a secret from you and I shouldn’t have”
That’s it? That’s all she had to say? Something inside of me snapped and I exploded. I sprung out of the bed and faced her. “You’re right. You shouldn’t have. I thought I had you all figured out A’isha. But I was wrong. Tell me why A’isha? Why did you keep this from me? Why did you keep him from me? A living, breathing 13-year old, boy! YOUR son!”
“No, please calm down Gaffar. Keep your voice down.”
“I won’t calm down until you tell me what I want to know! Do you know how I felt after I found out? Like a fool! A complete idiot.” My head was pounding hard now. I could feel every vein in my body pulsing like they could burst open any moment. “For five years we’ve tried so hard, been to several hospitals… and you didn’t say anything. All that time you were probably thinking: ‘Let the fool keep at it. I’m already covered’: right?!
She shook her head vehemently, her face streaked with tears. “No, Gaffar I would never think that of you.”
“Then WHY? Why didn’t I- your husband- know that you had a child! Tell me. Did you think you could hide him forever?”
“I was afraid! I was terrified of losing you. I had him when I was 16. I was young and foolish and reckless…” She sighed. “I thought if you knew the truth you wouldn’t want me anymore.”
Her words felt like a punch to the stomach. I felt sad, but most of all disappointed. That she didn’t trust me enough, didn’t know me well. That hurt me, more than anything.
“Subhanallah! A’isha, I’d never think less of you. No matter what you’d done. I thought my actions showed you that.”
I shook my head and turned my back. I couldn’t bear to look at the stranger in my bed. She left the bed and came to stand beside me.
“I’m truly sorry Gaffar. Try to understand…”
Before A’isha could complete her sentence, the door to our room flew open. I raised my head in surprise.
Oooh! I’m so excited!
What happens now?. Did Gaffar handle things well, I wonder?
Let me know what you think in the comments. Don’t forget to like and share too.! xoxo