“You are crazy,” Zuhura shook her head vehemently. “I will do no such thing!”
“Hear me out, girl,” Mimih pleaded.
“No,” Zuhura said. “Not on this.”
“Do you love Swaleh?”
“Like I told you earlier, I’m not sure what this is. Could be love or something else.”
“And does he love you?”
“I wouldn’t know,”
“Excellent. Then let’s find out if he loves you,”
“I have a vast experience dealing with men. Trust me when I tell you I know exactly how their minds function. You’d be surprised to know that all men think the same.”
“I am not certain about all this. One thing I’m certain of is that putting you in the middle of my issues is a recipe for disaster.”
“I know, right?” Mimih laughed. “But then again, disasters and tragedies do have a way of bringing out our true selves, yes?”
A week later, Zuhura and Mimih were in Mombasa on Mama’s request. Mody was still in Nairobi following up on his travel arrangements. It had been a couple of months since they had come to Mombasa, and Zuhura had missed Yasmin so much.
“Kichunu wetu!” she hugged Yasmin, tightly. “Mambo!”
“Poa.” She said, smearing home-made Vimto juice on Zuhura’s abaya.
“I missed you so much,” she said, kissing Yasmin’s cheek.
“Come give me a big hug, darling,” Mimih went down on one knee as Yasmin collapsed in her waiting arms. “Guess what I’ve brought you from Nairobi?”
Yasmin looked at Mimih expectantly as she put her hand in her handbag.
“A doll!” Yasmin shouted as she grabbed and hugged the stuffed doll.
“And what do you say when someone gives you something?” Zuhura asked.
“Thank you,” she said, swinging the doll in her arms.
“Guess what else I have for you?” Mimih winked at her. Yasmin’s eyes went wide with anticipation.
“Chocolate!” she yelled. “Mama, auntie Mimih brought me chocolate and a doll!”
“Now,”Mimih said. “One for you, one for Ali. Where is Rehema?”
“Rehema is still in boarding,” Mama said. “She was here for mid-term a week ago.”
“Eh, we should go visit her before we go back to Nairobi.”
“I am sure she would love that.” Mama said. “Now, why don’t you two get changed and settled? It’s almost dinner and I need some help setting the table. We are expecting some guests.”
“Guests? From where?” Zuhura asked.
“From Dar,” Mama sighed. “That pesky uncle of yours is in town and will be making a house call tonight.”
“Subhanallah! I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to visit,”
“Nakwambia,” Mama said, straightening Zuhura’s head scarf. “It’s just a visit and he is family. Let’s just treat him right, sawa? Go along and change. This pilau won’t serve itself.”
“Sure,” Mimih said, pulling Zuhura along. “I so want to see that uncle of yours!”
Uncle Jaffar came accompanied by two other men bearing the unmistakable mark of typical Swahili men out on a mission. The way they sat on the majlis with their legs crossed, thumbing their prayer beads, lips moving inconspicuously whenever they were not conversing among themselves, settling like they were not even in a hurry to go anywhere, like they were really at home, their home. Typical Swahili. Two of Zuhura’s uncle’s, Jaffar’s younger brothers who lived just a few blocks away were also present.
“So who are the others?” Mimih whispered as she peeped through a curtain that separated the lounge from the rest of the house.
“He said they are friends of his from Dar,” Mama whispered. “He has been on my neck about getting you married,” she said, addressing Zuhura. “So I presume that this is not just a regular house call. Jaffar doesn’t make regular house calls. We all know that. Your uncle Mohamed was here earlier and he is the least impressed with what Jaffar is doing. He just came out of courtesy, but if it was up to him he would have asked Jaffar not to come.”
“He is still angry at him for not helping him pay Fatma’s school fees?” Zuhura asked.
“I guess so,” Mama said. “Fatma really wanted to attend university like you, and the way Jaffar put off his brother, telling him that good Muslim girls are not supposed to attend university really messed their relationship, considering especially that it was Mohamed who bailed Jaffar out when his business was almost going under.”
“Mamake Mody?” Mohamed called behind the curtain. “A word?”
Mama left to converse with Mohamed as the two girls busied themselves arranging plates in trays. She came back and pulled Zuhura closer. “Your uncle Mohamed mentioned, just like we had figured, that the two other men are here on a marriage proposal mission. One of them is Muadh’s father; I think Hassan told you about him. The other is Muadh’s uncle.”
“I see,” Zuhura said. She felt the blood rush into her head, as she clenched her fists hard, trying to control the urge of screaming out.
“Easy my dear,” Mimih said, pulling her closer for a hug. “Just because they are here doesn’t mean you are getting married, okay?”
Zuhura nodded as she fought to keep the tears from flowing out.
“And Muadh is on his way too,” Mama said.
“Wow, things keep getting better!” Mimih said.