I stayed at Seascape for three days. I spent that time sleeping, praying, meditating…and just being me. There were no rules here. No one to tell me what time I should wake up, what time I should do what. There was just me and I relished this freedom fully. I ate simple meals outside, on the deck or on the lawn…I swam in the pool and in the ocean, letting the cold water refresh me. I took long walks on the beach, letting my soothing surroundings clear my mind. This was my me-time and I made the most of it. I hardly touched my phone or laptop; I would have switched off my phone and totally disconnected if it hadn’t been for Ahmed and Zee, both of whom kept checking up on me multiple times each day. More so Ahmed. I could tell he was still worried but he gave me my space. And I was glad he did, otherwise the resentment within me would have spilled over onto him and I would have said things I wouldn’t have been able to take back later on. He was also responsible. He was also responsible for me being in this mess and that I could not deny.
On Friday I packed my bag and headed to my mum’s house for my weekly visit, refreshed in mind and body but no closer to finding a solution. What could I do? I dreaded going back to that house but what choice did I have? When was Ahmed going to open his eyes and take the step of moving out? I was tired of having to spell every little thing out to him. And I had mentioned wanting to move out several times before to him. He knew that’s what I wanted. I did not have to spell it out to him again. I wanted him to take the initiative himself…so I said nothing when I met him later that night at the family braai. We didn’t say much to each other then since there were people around. He did ask me if I would be going home with him, to which I nodded briefly, noting the relief in his face. I couldn’t hide away forever. Things had to come to a head, and soon.
I followed him back home in my car and followed him inside silently while he carried my bag up the stairs. Alone in our room at last Ahmed turned to me and took me in his arms.
“I’m sorry, princess,” he said softly, “Humi told me what happened that day. I’m so sorry. I have no idea what mummy was thinking, to do something like that.”
I leaned back to look at him. Regret and sympathy were carved into the strong planes of his face. “Humi told you? What about mummy? Did you ask her?”
“Yeah, I did. She denied it,” he sighed and rubbed his face, “she’s…” he trailed off, shaking his head. I saw the weary resignation in his face. Was he finally realising the true colours of his mother?
“She will never accept her faults. And she will never change. You need to accept that,” I said slowly.
“Yes. I know. She’s been this way her whole life. She can’t change now. It’s too late.” Bittersweet words, coming from the mouth of someone who always looked for the good in people, sometimes to the extent of becoming blind to their faults.
“Yes,” I agreed. There were a few minutes of silence as we both searched for something…words chosen from the recesses of our minds, then discarded as insignificant. How to express the multitude of emotions going through me at that moment? Then, “so now what?” I asked. Coming to the heart of the matter…
Ahmed sighed. “I don’t know. So many things to think about. It’s…difficult.”
Difficult. Even after all this…it was difficult. When, then, would it become easy??? Mere words were paltry when they weren’t backed up by action. Disappointment coursing through me yet again I pulled away, mumbling an excuse of being tired, and escaped to the private confines of the bathroom. I went through the motions of brushing my teeth, taking a shower and changing into my pjs robotically then sank into bed and fell asleep, hardly aware when Ahmed came to bed as well.
The next day we all went to Seascape for the weekend, forcing me into close proximity with my mother inlaw yet again. I had little to say to her and spoke to her only as much as necessary, though I was unfailingly polite and respectful. The weekend passed with a bit of a muted atmosphere; mummy and daddy were their usual selves but Humi and Ahmed were more subdued and even Dalia seemed to sense the undercurrents of tension running through the house and was quieter. Ahmed and I were not on normal terms just yet… I mainly did my own thing…
Then came Monday, when the men were all out once again and it was me, Humi and mummy in the kitchen once again. Dalia seemed to sense the strained atmosphere and opted to stay more in her room. And strained it was. With mummy once again in control of her domain she started her usual tactics again. She probably didn’t like the fact that I went away for a few days and I suspected that she also suspected me of telling Ahmed what really went on that day at the tea party. So in her usual way she tried to bring me down and bend me to her will yet again. But now, after becoming thoroughly disillusioned by her, I had become numb inside. I had erected an armour around myself so she could not pierce it again. I would not give her the power to hurt me again. I mechanically moved through my chores while letting her jibes and insults slide off me. Day after day I donned my armour and ventured into the battlefield, determined that I would emerge victorious…my victory being her inability to penetrate my defense. But even the strongest armour cannot withstand continuous attacks. Even the strongest armour will eventually wear and tear…will develop chinks, dents, cracks. And my mother inlaw was an expert at finding the chinks in her enemy’s armour and aiming her poison-tipped arrows accordingly. With military precision she wore down my defenses one by one, leaving me helpless and bleeding in the open, vulnerable to any further attacks. And like a cornered animal I reacted with an aggression far beyond my normal capabilities. And that turned out to be the turning point in all our lives…