Soft laughter was Zainab's answer to her mothers words. Without turning, she could already feel her mum studying her closely.
"Will there be a day when you come to this house and not accuse my husband of cheating?"
"Daughter of mine, men are not as they seem. Look at your father, didn't he..."
"Don't you dare say anything about daddy!"
Mrs. Shagari's lips firmly pressed against each other after her daughter’s outburst. The kitchen was devoid of the sound of voices. It was not a complete silence, the torrent of water from the kitchen tap a reminder that the tranquility was not true. Dish after dish was washed and rinsed; passed from the hands of daughter to mother. Soon, there was no more dirty plates to occupy the hands. Still they stood there, both not wanting to be the first to move. The tap now off, Zainab began to feel the pressure of the silence. Unable to take it anymore, she caved, turning to her mom.
"Just because you say it over and over doesn't make it true."
"What about the tracker I put in his car for you? Are you telling me he has never once lied to you about where he was?"
Zainab hesitated, then began to speak.
"Yes, he has never once lied. Just because you have no trust in daddy does not mean I have to be you."
"I am your mother, no matter what you do, in the end, you will forever be like me."
Zainab's mum laughed, walking to the kitchen island to sit down.
"Daughters grow up to be their mothers, my dear. You could have told him about the tracker in his car at anytime, but you didn't."
A pain crept up her heart when faced with the inability to refute her mothers words. What a hateful woman, Zainab thought, fingernails biting into the softened skin of her palms. She said nothing in reply, choosing to ignore the one who sat on her kitchen chair. Rather, she made her way to the stove to put the finishing touches on dinner. Her mother on the other hand would not let up.
"You will thank me one day when you too have children of your own. Then you will understand all I do is for you. Speaking of which, have you convinced him to..."
Mrs. Shagari stopped mid-sentence as she heard footsteps approaching the kitchen. A smiling Namdi walked through the open door.
"Is there anything I can help with Mrs. Shag.., I mean mummy."
"Such a good child! Don't worry yourself, your wife is taking good care of me."
Namdi did not notice anything amiss as he walked past his mother-in-law on his way to Zainab's side, giving her a short hug.
"Food smells amazing. Where are the matches?"
"Cupboard beside the sink. What do you need matches for? You and dad better not be smoking again."
"Of course not. We wouldn't dare."
He sounded very unconvincing. Finding the matches, he quickly made his way out of the kitchen, not wishing to give Zainab a chance for further interrogation. Having escaped an atmosphere which felt like a recent battlefield, Namdi stopped just out of sight of the kitchen door, hoping to hear snippets of their conversation. As he waited, he looked to the floor, remembering Zainab had shattered a few cups against the wall earlier today. Seeing nothing, he smiled in his heart at the meticulous way his wife handled things. Having fruitlessly stood there for a little under a minute, Namdi made his way to the balcony.
There was nothing special about the place they called the balcony. It had been a last minute addition to the architectural plans. Zainab wanted to be able to spy on the neighbours, or at least, that was what she said. A strange reason, considering at the time they had no neighbours. Instead, they were surrounded by acres of forest. The second time they had made love beneath the stars had been right there. It had been late December, the heat they generated with their bodies easily driving away the cold. Celestial objects gazed upon them, twinkling in approval of their fiery affair. Her father currently stood on that balcony, looking out into the dark star filled sky.
Standing outside the glass sliding doors, Namdi watched Mr. Shagari. Even alone, the man stood ram rod straight, his military bearing hard to miss. Though not as tall as Namdi, there was never a time Namdi stood beside him that he felt above the man. Clamping down on the budding fear within him, Namdi slid the door open. His father-in-law did not turn around, his eyes fixed on the starry night sky. Namdi's mouth opened and closed, unsure if he should speak. After a quick debate, he decided to remain silent and just watch the stars as well. Decision made, Namdi took a step, placing him shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Shagari. As his chin lifted to the heavens, he heard words coming from beside him that made him shudder.
"Do not hurt my daughter."
Continued on next page...
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