Zuhura placed her phone down slowly after Swaleh had hang up. Sighing deeply, she took a minute to listen to her own heart beating furiously within her chest. She wasn’t certain what exactly it was that made her heart race so fast; the fact that the man he adored had just gone to meet her mother without even saying a word or because she was furious for not being consulted.
She sighed again and ran her hands over her head, clutching her pony tail firmly at the back.
Mama should have given me a heads up; why would she meet him and fail to mention anything about it? She wondered. And why had Swaleh gone to Mama without even asking for my consent?
“Swaleh…Swaleh…Swaleh!” she said, banging her forehead. “Just when I thought that I had finally nailed a decent guy from Mombasa!”
She didn’t know what to think. All she knew was that she was utterly annoyed at Swaleh for blind-siding her.
“Why would he even go straight to Mama?” she asked herself loudly, banging a cushion against the couch. “It’s as if I don’t matter! Eh, Kwani me I don’t matter? Like he can just go running to my mother behind my back and saying or asking things that I might not even agree to. Stupid guy!”
She glanced at the wall clock. It was only eight o’clock; tomorrow was a long way off. Grabbing her phone, she decided to call Swaleh and give him a piece of her mind. She needed to, this marriage fiasco and everyone making decisions for her on how, when and whom she should get married to was really getting on her nerves. She stared down at his number on the dial list, debating whether it was prudent to give him a call.
“I have to,” she hissed, glad that she was alone in the house. It felt nice, venting her anger out loudly. It would have been totally different if Mimih was around because she’d have been forced to internalize all that anger, and it would have tortured her all night long.
“No I don’t have to!” she said, throwing the phone on the couch, then looking at it like something dangerous, uncouth, not worth touching.
“No,” she said again. “I must call him. How could he do that?” Picking the phone, she hastily dialed Swaleh’s number, holding it back so she could compose herself better when he picked up. It would have been disastrous if she squeaked instead of voicing her disappointment coherently.
His phone went directly to voicemail.
“Ya Rabbi!” she said, burying her face in her palms. “This will make me look like a total jackass.” She berated herself. She decided that if by any chance he called back, she would pretend not to know anything about her missed call.
Glancing at the clock again, she made a mental note to change its battery because it seemed to be moving backwards, dragging the night along with it.
Finally morning came.
Zuhura had dozed off on the couch and she woke up extremely hungry, with her back paining terribly. Instinctively she grabbed her phone to check whether Swaleh had called or texted.
There was nothing. Not even a message that his phone was on.
Mimih had not come back. She would probably come in the late afternoon.
Zuhura’s heart started racing again when she remembered what had unfolded the previous night and the mere thought of it made her more hungry. She was desperate to pick up the anger where she had left it when she dozed off.
Swaleh had not given a specific time when he would call or meet. Getting up, she took a shower and busied herself making breakfast just so she could focus on something different. She had a pile of unlaundered clothes which she had planned to clean in the morning but her racing heart wouldn’t let her. She imagined Swaleh could call anytime. She actually hoped he would so she could rant.
“Damn you, just call already!” she hissed, pulling a duvet from among the dirty clothes with so much force that she almost fell back.
“You know what?” she said, pointing to the dirty clothes. “I’ll clean you all right now. To hell with Swaleh. Akipiga simu shida yake, ata jisort!” With that she proceeded to fill a basin with water, pouring in too much detergent. The foam rose defiantly as she threw in some clothes.
Swaleh had a habit of meeting her either at lunch time or in the late afternoon, never earlier or later, so she was certain that even if he called and she decided to go see him, the clothes would have dried by then. Almost an hour later she was at the balcony hanging the laundry when the call came. She almost knocked down an empty bucket as she rushed to answer it.
It was Swaleh!
She gritted her teeth and threw the phone on the couch.
It continued ringing.
Taking a few deep breaths, she wiped her wet hands on her Dhera and composed herself as she answered it.
“As-salaamu alykum?” he greeted.
“Wa alykum salaam,” she answered.
“What’s up? I got your missed call last night.”
Oh, you did? She wanted to ask. Ehe, so what?
“My missed call? Aih, maybe my phone dialed itself!” she said.
“Lucky me,” Swaleh laughed. “Your phone conveniently chose my number, huh?”
“Obviously, considering you were the last one to call my number.”
“Sawa,” he said. “Can you make it to town in an hour?”
“Why?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“I told you I wanted us to meet, remember?”
“Oh, that? I almost completely forgot,” she smiled to herself. “Si we meet in the afternoon? Kwani haraka ni ya nini?”
“I have a flight in the afternoon,” he said. “Okay then, I can come pick you up and…”
“NO!” she said too quickly. “I mean no need to come pick me up. I can’t make it in an hour though. Too short notice.”
“Alright then,” he said. “Then I guess I’ll see you when I get back from Qatar.”