“All I ever want is to get this burden off my heart and focus on something productive”, she lamented.

“Who’s stopping you? Has anyone wrapped up your heart? I mean, shroud actually…” Fatimah was always the first to talk and whenever she did, she always tried to tease her. She would always try to crack some jokes even if they were dry. “I just dislike a dry discussion. We shouldn’t be serious always”, she would say. She couldn’t complete her sentence before Rafat cut in.

“Shrouding or wrapping is not what we need to talk about here. What exactly do we need to do about her challenge?” She rebuffed. “All you always do is crack jokes when serious issues are going on”.

Fatimah beat her face with her palm and rolled her eyes “Oh please! Why must we always take all issues as hot as they appear and make the concerned feel like they really have problems?”

“We all know she has problems, so let’s just thrash them”

“Of course we do. Lightening up the atmosphere and lifting her spirit is not a crime and that’s what we should do first, please.”

Fatimah and Rafat had been in the argument of what to be done first or not for more than three minutes before they realized that their other friend, Laylah had not said anything. They both looked at her, back at each other and at Laylah again. “You aren’t saying anything, Laylah”

“What exactly are you expecting me to say? Where do I come in? What topic am I to give my contribution on? Coz it’s so obvious that you both have divided the discussion into two. So, I’m actually confused if you are expecting me to talk about Sarah’s present state, or talk about you two for entering into this unnecessary argument and forgetting that there’s someone needing our help…”

Fatimah sighed. “Sis, I really don’t mean this as an argument…”

“Oh, please! You both really need to be careful with the way you do.” Laylah remarked.
She looked at Sarah who was already tired of her friends entering into arguments because of her. She could see the details on her face now, more than ever. It was really telling on her that she’s going through a lot. The lines on her face that said she’s getting old, even though she’s not. The eye bags and red eyes that revealed it more that she’d not been sleeping well but crying. Her whole colour that used to be clear fair was now pale and dry. She shifted her gaze down her body. Sarah really looked lean much more than ever. She adjusted her sitting resting her back, folded her arms and sighed.

“What’s your husband saying about it?”

“I didn’t tell him there’s anything going on”. She replied.

“What?” “Pardon?” The ladies chorused and looked at each other with surprise.

“Wait a minute! Are you saying that all these years, your husband has been unaware of your ordeal?” Rafat sat up, shifting to the edge of the sofa she sat on.

“Do you expect me to report her?” Sarah looked at her friends’ faces. “I don’t think that makes any sense”

Fatimah shook her head and sighed. “My dear, how many years has she been with you?”

“Two. And three months though”

“Urgh! I’m sure you know the plus days too”

“And you still think reporting her doesn’t make sense, while you continue to kill yourself?” Laylah nearly shouted. “She didn’t ask because she forgot. None of us forgot. You’re dying, Sarah! You’re killing yourself! This is a suicide mission!”

“I just can’t find myself telling him about it. I see it as reporting. I shouldn’t expect him to scold her or something” Sarah shrugged.

“She should be scolded by him if need be, please. Na only her waka come?” Rafat hissed. “Hmm. I wanted to ask what she does when your husband is around. I guess I know what the likes of her do” She shrugged.

“Of course, she behaves as if we’ve got the best of rapports. The kind of rapport I used to have with my mum before she passed away. The kind of rapport she always put up with me before we got married. The very kind of rapport I ever wanted with her” She counted, teary.

“Hm. I know, right?”

“Did you say she was good before you got married?” Laylah asked.

“Yeah. At least, she seemed to”

“She was either forced or persuaded to accept you or she had no choice or decision over her son marrying you in the first place. So, being good to you had always been a façade, my dear. Believe me.”

“And she has just been able to put up with the act so well for all these five years.” Fatimah added.

“Well, if you can’t tell your husband about it… I’m scared…” Laylah sighed.

“Just leave the house for her. Take an excuse from your husband and travel somewhere. Get some refreshing rest till the time he comes back” Rafat suggested.

“I can’t keep doing that every time he’s away” Sarah replied with an obvious ‘I am fed up’ expression.

“Then, go for a short-term course. With the duration of the remaining number of years he’s to spend before coming back home finally” Fatimah shrugged.

“Exactly! Sounds right. Didn’t you want to focus on something productive?”

To be continued


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