Friday 8 February 2019
#fridayflash: The Other Woman
It’s the announcement that he’s leaving that surprises Iman the most.
“Why now?” she asks. The baby is due in two months. Their daughter Tulen is not yet four. She can’t do this alone.
Bakar stares at her. “You knew? Of course you knew.” His face pinches as he folds his arms and spits, “You and your witchery,” before turning away.
It’s not witchery, but Iman doesn’t have the energy to argue. “It’s not—I’ve let you—” She drops her hand and stares at the wooden spoon she hadn’t realised she’d been waving about. “Just… why now?”
He slumps on their tattered couch, runs a hand over his face, scratches at his beard and mumbles something.
Iman leans forward. “What? I didn’t catch that.”
He looks up, exasperated, and repeats louder, “I said, she’s pregnant. Can’t you read that off my mind? Do I suddenly need to spell everything out for you now?”
“But I’m pregnant too.” It comes out in a bewildered rush she hadn’t meant to speak aloud. I’m pregnant too and he’s also your child. And Tulen is your daughter. You should be there for them. For us. Not this other woman.
Bakar just gives her a weird look. “So?”
“So? So? What do you mean ‘so’? This is your child. I am your wife. She is nothing. A whore.” The girl is not a whore. She’s a sixteen-year-old kid flattered that a good-looking man ten years her senior is paying her interest. Iman knows that but she doesn’t care. She wants things to go back to the way it was before. Before, when she was cooking lunch and ignoring the fact that she knew her husband was cheating on her. He’d done it four years ago when she was pregnant with Tulen, as if a few months without sex would be the death of him. She’d ignored it then too. Maybe she shouldn’t have.
He sighs and leans his head back against the backrest, covering his eyes with his forearm. Iman steels herself to fight, for the careless words she knows will cut her to the bone. She’s thrown when all he says is, “Her parents are kicking her out of the house. I can’t bring her back here. That’s not fair to you.”
Just as quickly, her self-righteous anger deflates. It’s nice to know her husband has learnt some responsibility, even if it’s not towards her. She leaves him to stew on the couch and heads back into the kitchen, where she’d been making soup. It’s starting to boil over and she hurries to lift the heavy pot off the coals.
Iman stirs the soup and tastes it absently, her gaze fixed on the blue sky outside the window. The sun is warm, but she is cold. It’s not until she feels heat on her cheeks that she realises she’s crying. I told you so, she imagines Rahsia saying, You knew he would cheat on you. She hates this talent that she and Rahsia share, this ability to read minds. There are many things about her marriage she would rather have not known.
They need to talk through this. Iman washes her face and sets the table. As much as Bakar assumes she can read everything on his mind, that’s not true. Her talent is weak and untrained—the main reason she knows about the girl is because Bakar dreams very loudly about her every night when he sleeps in their bed.
Bakar takes his place at the head of the table when she tells him lunch is ready.
“Where’s Tulen?” he asks.
“Out with Rahsia,” she says. Her best friend had come over this morning and taken the four-year-old out shopping for her upcoming birthday. Iman wonders if Rahsia had known something, whether she’d read something off Bakar’s mind. Had she planned for them to be alone? Iman wouldn’t put it past Rahsia.
They start eating.
Iman breaks the silence. “How long?”
“How far along is she? Her pregnancy?”
Bakar shrugs as he spoons more soup messily into his mouth. “Long enough to show a little.”
“How long have you been seeing her?” She could guess, but she doesn’t want to. She wants to force a confession out of him, as if that would make her feel any better and him any guiltier.
He manages to almost look contrite. “Six months.”
“So the minute you knew I was pregnant.”
He doesn’t say anything, just continues eating.
“You do know you’ll need her parents’ consent for marriage.”
His spoon clatters, spilling soup everywhere. “Marriage? What?”
Iman’s anger burns cold. “You’re leaving me to take care of your underaged mistress because she’s pregnant and you’re not going to actually marry her? You’re not going to legitimise your own child? What were you planning to do? Just live together so everyone would think she’s a cheap whore?”
“No! I mean yes! I—How do you even know how old she is?”
“I snooped, okay. Happy? You were dreaming about her every night you were home and I was angry so I wanted to find out who she was and I—”
It hadn’t been her finest moment, storming up to the house, banging on the door demanding to see that slut only to find a pair of confused parents and a frightened teenager. She’d pretended she’d gotten the wrong address.
Iman shakes her head, hoping she isn’t the one who has caused this tragedy. No, it was his fault for sleeping with her. “What did she tell you?”
“She said she was nineteen.”
She knows he’s not, but she nods. “You’d better marry her. You’ve already ruined her life.”
So I have all these short pieces I've been doing for class and decided it was time to post one up.
This one is a snippet on Tulen's mother, and how/why she separates from her husband, so it happens before both Secretkeeper and Absolution. If you've read the short Shattered Memories on The Painted Hall Collection, you'll recognise Iman and Rahsia.