(An unedited excerpt from “The daughter of no one famous”)
Under the grey fleece of sunset, the muezzin called out for Maghrib.
She hated this time of day. It was lead on her brain, oppressive and dim.
It was also when she thought most about Basheer.
Husband for 40 years, widowing her for three; so many days of looking over her shoulder, that even now she still found herself straining her hearing to catch his tapping on the loose parquet flooring.
They would eat supper together and then he’d leave for salaah.
Now, she ate alone. Biscuits and tea.
The charm of cooking had long been kneaded out from her fingers.
Basheer always wanted fresh rotis with his supper.
She harboured no delusions about the farcical therapeutic nature of rolling out the dough, forming perfect circles and frying them to golden discs.
It was a tiresome chore, and it rubbed at her nerves after the long days.
It was only in their last few years together, that she’d started buying them from Khan’s. He never knew the difference.
Basheer was never abusive or hard to live with; he was just a bit strange.
She never quite understood, maybe it was because she was a bit strange too. And there were no other people made for them.
They were once two kids, pushed together by families who welcomed the cementing of ties that ran so far back,their forbearers were of the other faith.
Awkward kids thrown together, forced to try and understand.
And to have awkward kids of their own.
“Zaiby called. She’s coming to visit after work.”
“We haven’t seen her for so long. Is she upset about something.”
“We did nothing wrong Basheer. We did nothing. We do nothing. That’s why. We’re getting older, she’s getting younger. There’s nothing for her here.”
“What kind of talking is that? We’re her bloody parents.'”
“We cant understand Basheer, it’s so different these days”
“You always gave her too much string. So why is she coming to visit then? Why now?”
“I told her you were dying.”
But it was just the flu; a mild one that didn’t stop him from opening the shop every morning and talking it into Sakinah’s ear all night.
Zaiby would never have visited otherwise.
The doctors aren’t even sure Zaiby, it could be cancer. They’ll only know when the tests come.
Sakinah always lied to her children. They expected it.
A part of Zaiby knew this was another one of her mother’s creative moments. But, even though she’d never admit it, she missed the cloying familiarity of home.