The Thorn in The Rose
Mama Sho had returned to her home at Egbeda, soon after the conversation with Sumayyah.She was seated in her the living room lost in her thoughts. In her usual fashion, she dubbed it ‘the eye-opener ’ for Sumayyah had bared her heart out. She was disappointed in herself for not recognizing all the signs earlier; and now that she knew the truth she realized that all the stories they told whenever Sumayyah landed in the hospital never added up; car mishaps, falls down stairs, even robbery attacks, and now dogs.
What a fool she had been! She knew now that the five-year age gap between her grandkids was because Sumayyah had miscarried two pregnancies, by her husband’s hand. Subhanallah.
Even that incident just after Yusuf’s birth was not due to postpartum depression as they had claimed. She sighed. It was a miracle that sweet girl was still married to him. The poor girl had experienced so much sadness and pain.
She did not deserve to have had to carry such a burden for so long. Mama Sho still could not figure out how her son could be so callous but she was determined to find out – by all means. Before she left Sumayyah and the kids, she promised that she would have her back and support whatever decision she decided to take. Zaid was due back in the country in a few days and she intended to have a face to face confrontation with him: he was going to face her full wrath.
‘”Daddyyyy! The kids screamed as Zaid walked into the living room. They had been listening to their mum read their favourite story to them on the couch. They rushed into their dad’s outstretched arms while he smothered them with kisses “My babies I have missed you. How are you both?”
“Fine daddy. We missed you too, so much.” Ramlah said and giggled excitedly as he tickled her.
“What did you buy for us?” Yusuf asked jumping.
‘”You see this bag? The kids nodded “Well it’s filled with goodies just for you..” he tapped Yusuf’s nose. “but you can only get them after I have unpacked. Meanwhile, I have something else for you until then.” With a flourish, he handed them chocolate bars and they skipped away happily.
Sumayyah watched the scene before her. Pretender. Anyone watching would have thought she was the luckiest woman ever; blessed with a loving husband and beautiful kids. If only they knew it was so far from the truth. Zaid straightened his tall frame from his squatting position and walked up to his wife. He smiled and made the teslim, “Assalamu alaykum dear. Is that any way to welcome your love? Come over here and give me a hug. How are you?”.
What do you think? Hug ko Huggies ni. Sumayyah remained where she was and replied tight-lipped. “Waalaykum salam. Fine. I trust your trip was ok.?” Sumayyah did not wait for his reply before she continued. “Your dinner is already served. I will dish it just as soon as you freshen…”
Zaid cut in.. “hey hey dear wife stop, please. You know how I dislike the rambling.” He looked around ‘”Mama Sho’s gone?”.
Typical. The aftermath of their episodes always played out like this; pretend like it never happened and there was to be no mention of it; so she had learned to never expect any apologies. She had grown a thick skin over the years and didn’t need them anyway. “Yes, she left on Monday.” Sumayyah inferred that Mama Sho had been true to her word and hadn’t spoken with him since she left. It explained why he didn’t know she had left their abode.
Zaid was surprised. Why didn’t mum inform me she was leaving.? “Ok. I will give her a call later. Here take this to the kid’s room for me, will you?.” He dropped the tote bag he had retrieved from his travel box. “I’ll go freshen up and get ready for dinner – I am famished. What did you make ?”
As expected, greedy man. Sumayyah rolled her eyes “One of your favourites: Ayamase sauce with ofada rice garnished with shrimps and plantain with vegetable salad on the side. Freshly squeezed, chilled orange juice to wash it down and I also made ice cream sandwiches for dessert.”
Zaid ran his tongue over his lips and smiled “Hmm sounds delicious. That’s why I love you Sumayyah, I know you will always take care of me…. no matter what”. He winked at her and put his arms around her shoulders.
Sumayyah stepped out of his embrace and bent to pick up the bag. She straightened and smiled back, but it did not reach her eyes. Oh, no dear husband. You don’t know this Sumayyah you have returned home to.
Sumayyah could not find the words to describe how happy she was feeling. They had only been married for a month and the experience was all she had hoped for.. and more. Zaid doted on her; her every wish was his command. She looked at his sleeping form beside her on their matrimonial bed and she smiled .her heart full of love. He was so cute, funny, generous, gracious… oh, she could spend all day listing his many virtues. Sumayyah was content and she thanked Allah for giving her this perfect specimen of a man for a husband. Alhamdulillah.
Sumayyah got out of bed in order to surprise Zaid with an early breakfast. She slid her feet into her bedroom slippers; they had been one of the many gifts her mum had given her for her wedding. The thought of her mum brought back the memory of the conversation they had when Zaid had made his first appearance at their family home.
‘’So Amoke, at twenty-two, I know you are old enough to get married.Some girls younger than you even have kids.” Her mum looked worried “But are you really positive about this Zaid ?”.
“Yes, mum. But you acted nice to his family now before they left, you and Olori ebi (the family head) even picked a date for the aqd. Why the sudden change?”.
“I don’t know dear. Don’t get me wrong I like him, he seems nice. But I can’t shake this feeling I have about him. Like he has all these pent-up emotions .. abi energy deni , just waiting to be released.” Her mum tried to explain.
“Mum he doesn’t have pent up kinikan (anything). It’s just you being paranoid.” She put her arm around her mum,s shoulders. “I know you are only looking out for my happiness mum but Zaid is a nice guy, I love him and I know he loves me too. Just give him a chance, please. Sumayyah pleaded with her mum
“Well if you say so ..”
“I do say so, mum. Now stop fretting, you have your daughter’s wedding to plan .”
They had both laughed it off then, but in the days that followed Sumayyah noticed that her mum had not completely let it go. Even when her mum had conducted investigations into Zaid’s family background she had been obsessively thorough. Up until this day Sumayyah felt her mum did not completely like Zaid. Well, she was married to him now and was determined to prove all those who didn’t think they could be happy, wrong. Starting with her mum.
The Thorn in The Rose
Zaid sat across Mama Sho in the exquisitely furnished living room. She had insisted he come to meet her at home shortly after his return, that she had pressing matters to discuss with him. The settee he was seated in was an antique and had been his favourite when he was young because its cushions were cosy. He fingered the mark he had made with a compass on its armrest years ago and watched his mum. Mama Sho sat in her favourite armchair which was a few inches higher than his favourite settee. It made him feel like a stubborn student waiting for the principal’s judgement. This can not be good. It was obvious she was not pleased with him and Zaid almost squirmed in his seat; his mother always had that effect on him whenever she was angry.
“Mum I am here now what’s up? You did not even open the gift I got you” Zaid started. Mama Sho ignored his remark about the gift and said: “I won’t waste any time so I will go straight to the point; Zaid why have you turned your wife into a punching bag?”.
Zaid was taken aback. The expression on Mama Sho’s face was blank and she was dead serious. How on earth had she found out? He regained his composure and replied ‘”Punching bag ke? When I am not training to be Mike Tyson. I have no idea what you are talking about, she was attacked by our neigh…” Mama Sho put her palm out and interrupted him “Please spare me the lies, Zaid. I want the truth and I AM NOT JOKING.” She was shaking with anger.
Zaid was still surprised. Had Sumayyah ratted him out? He licked his lips nervously, it would be useless to lie “Okay I can see you have been enlightened, but whatever Sumayyah might have told you I have an explanation for.” Mama Sho folded her arms across her chest and motioned with her head for him to continue; “Go on I am listening. “
‘She deserved it. “. He said under his breath.
Mama Show was livid “She deserved it? That is all you have to say?. Tell me how she deserved broken limbs and scars hmm. Tell me Zaid, how she deserved miscarriages and emotional trauma kin to di igbaju lu e (Before I slap you). And don’t think that I won’t if you don’t start talking. I have tried over and over to make sense of it all, but there can be no justification for what you have done to that poor girl.
Zaid stood up and spoke defiantly ‘” From your words, BAE, it is clear that you have already picked a side. So why do you need my explanation?” He knew how she disliked being called BAE, but he wanted to rile her the more, to change the course of the conversation.
His mum replied disbelievingly: “Zaid this is not about picking sides. And for the last time: DO NOT CALL ME BAE. I don’t like it.”
It worked. “But they are your initials and you like nickna…”
“Mama Sho is a nickname and it is just fine, thank you. I know what you are trying to do and it won’t work. Let me hear what you have to say in your defence.”
Just then her phone began to ring. She looked to see who was calling and it was her daughter , Faatimah .” You see, it’s your sister calling. “‘
”Whaat, you told her?” Zaid shouted.
Maama Sho nodded in the affirmative and took the call “Hello, teemah bawo ni ? (how are you) She paused and listened then replied “ I am fine too jare , ose oko mi ,awon omo mi nko? (Thanks my beloved, how are my children) Another pause, then ‘”Yes he’s here already…”
Zaid groaned inwardly. His sister, Faatimah was worse than his mum. She was the eldest and had never condoned any rubbish, especially from him. I have to get out of here. Zaid was relieved when his phone also beeped. It was a text message from his boss asking him to meet him for an urgent matter. Alhamdulillah, he had literally been saved by the bell and he couldn’t get out fast enough.
“Mama Sho that was my boss o. He wants me to come and discuss business with him immediately. We will continue our conversation some other time in shaa Allah. Send my regards to Fateemah and her family”. Zaid did not wait for a reply but rushed out of the house. He walked purposefully to his car, unlocked it and got in. Sumayyah would have it when I get home today, he thought as he drove out of the compound.
It had been a long, tiring day at work, and Zaid was really cranky. He was looking forward to taking a well-deserved rest at home. He packed up his stuff and went down to his car: a Chevrolet subcompact Sonic, 2002 model. He waved goodbye to the security guard and drove out into the busy Lagos traffic. The drive home to Lekki from his office in Marina was supposed to take an hour or so but with the traffic, at this time of the evening, it could take two hours or more. After a hectic drive, he arrived home and steered the vehicle into their compound. S.O the security man shut the gate and ran up to greet him. ‘’Good evening sir, Welcome sir’”
“Good evening S.O. How are you?”
‘Fine sir.” S.O replied and returned to his post.
Zaid climbed the steps and stepped into the waiting arms of his wife, his crankiness dissipating.
“Welcome home honey. She said smiling as she gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek. How was work today?”
“Fine darling, Thank you. I missed you.” Zaid replied.
“I missed you too. Go freshen up and come to the table. I made something special.”
Zaid was pleased. Throughout the year they had been married she had always made ‘something special’ for dinner. Tonight she had dimmed the lights and the house had a romantic feel to it. “That’s my girl. I can’t wait. Just give me a few minutes ok? Alhamdulillah, I already stopped at the mosque to pray Maghrib.”
Later at the dining table , Sumayyah dished his meal and they sat down to eat.
Zaid inhaled the aroma wafting from the dish and said: “Smells nice.” He took a bite and immediately spat it out “Sumayyah what is the meaning of this? I thought you said this is something special?” the crankiness he was feeling earlier resurfaced.
Sumayyah replied him. “It Is. You don’t like it? Let me taste it.”
Zaid watched her as she did. She put down her spoon and barely swallowed the mouthful she had taken. “I am sorry I will fix it”
“You can not eat this bland food but you expect me to abi?”.
“I didn’t remember to add salt at all. I am so sorry please. Let me whip up something else quickly.” She moved to go into the kitchen.
“How could you have forgotten? How long does a hungry man have to wait to eat proper food in his own house ehn?” He angrily pushed his chair back and stood up.
“ahn ahn I apologized now. Bear with me please, at least you know this is not a regular occurrence. Pregnancy hormones ni.” She rubbed her tummy and smiled.
His anger took over and Zaid reacted. He slapped her hard across the face twice, “Listen to yourself. Bear ko, tiger ni. So it is your pregnancy hormones that made you forget that this is the third occurrence in two weeks. The last time it was too much pepper, the other time you almost burnt the house down. Are you the first woman to be pregnant? Get out of my way jo. I will go find something else to eat by myself.” He pushed her roughly away and she fell on the ground in a heap and in tears.
In bed later that night, Sumayyah cuddled up to him and asked his forgiveness. “Please forgive me for ruining your night and your dinner. In shaa Allah it will never happen again” she promised.
Zaid kissed her, apologised and made a promised too; “I am sorry I will never slap your face again in shaaAllah.
Sumayyah laughed and said ‘’Don’t you mean to say that you will never hit me again?”.
Zaid did not give her an answer.
Sumayyah heard her husband’s car drive into the compound and she looked up at the wall clock in the kitchen and nodded. I made good time, Alhamdulillah . She proceeded to set the table and welcome her husband. Zaid walked into the house and she greeted him “Assalamu alaykum. Welcome. How was your day?” she greeted woodenly.
“Walaykumsalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. It remains to be seen if my day will end well or not.” Zaid dropped his bag and inquired “Sumayyah what is the meaning of that stunt you pulled?”.
Her heart skipped a beat. Had he found the pills? “What do you mean?”.
“Don’t pretend. What did you tell Mama Sho about me?”.
“Oh that.” She shrugged and said nonchalantly “I only told her truth; she asked”.
“And you just opened your mouth and told her?” He was getting really mad.
“I take it she has confronted you. Well what did you expect me to do, lie? Sorry, can’t do that. I am not you” she pronounced flippantly.
Zaid was flabbergasted. The nerve of her. How could she just stand there and act like it was no big deal. “Sumayyah are you ok? Do you want to tarnish my image in the eyes of my family?”. He asked furiously.
“Well if you are truly worried about your image, stop doing things that will actually tarnish it. Look keep your voice down the kids are asleep.” Sumayyah was unfazed.
Zaid’s eyes blazed with fury “I don’t know where you got this new found confidence, but I assure you that I WILL BEAT IT OUT OF YOU!. Zaid moved purposefully towards her.
In your dreams. Sumayyah stood her ground. “Don’t move another inch towards me Zaid.” She warned.
“If I do what will you do eh?”. She is not cowering. He stopped in front of her and raised his hand to hit her.
“That hand must not come down o Zaid,” she said calmly.
His hand connected with her face anyway and Sumayyah reacted instinctively . She reached up and slapped him hard. Twice. With the inside and back of her palm. Zaid held his palm to his still stinging cheek and looked at her incredulously with his mouth hanging open. This is not Sumayyah. The Sumayyah he knew would never talk back at him, let alone strike him.
Sumayyah was shaking with emotion. She had utilized the element of surprise and it was exhilarating. “Now listen to me and listen good. Remember this night because it is the last time you will EVER lay your hands on me. If you ever try it again, you will have yourself to blame. I will not warn you again.” She stepped away from him and continued ‘”Your food is on the table , if you care to eat. Goodnight” She walked away from him into the bedroom. Zaid was still immobile and in shock.
“This is not over , I promise you” he called to her retreating back.
Sumayyah smiled. No it is not. It has just begun.