Her usually irritable husband, Maina, was being too nice and polite. Eerily so. Considering the heated exchanges that often defined their tumultuous one-year marriage. Maria couldn’t even remember the last time she adorned her marital ring. Wedded bliss had dried quicker than wet paint.
On this ordinary day, he had woken up earlier than usual for a Saturday. The aromatic waft of deliciousness woke her up to his cooking and simultaneous whistling. Well, he seemed to be in a good mood, Maria thought, maybe even a generous mood? She mused as visuals of spa days and shopping bags invaded her thoughts. Maria was convinced that he had gotten a fat bonus from his law reputable firm. Yes, that happiness had to be attributed to a heavy pay-cheque.
‘Good morning my love,’ Maina whipped his head as she made her entry to the kitchen.
My love? She raised an eyebrow in confusion. When did he ever? Had she woken up in the twilight zone?
‘Since you don’t do much in this house anyway, I have taken the liberty of preparing breakfast,’ he shoved a sumptuous-looking plate of pancakes and what smelled like the most deliciously brewed coffee in the land. It was that passive aggression that always ticked Maria off. ‘I have a surprise for you. We are going on a little trip.’
He seemed so pleased with himself for stunning her again with his prompt declarations. She was more than stunned. She was working on a stroke.
‘What kind of surprise?’ She couldn’t help but spit out vehemently.
His lips twitched at her venom. ‘A man going out of his way to surprise his wife doesn’t tell her in advance of the details of his efforts. Eat up, we leave in 2 hours.’
She exhaled exasperatedly, ‘And to think I once thought you were part-bulldozer.’
He had the gall to raise his eyebrows in amused query. ‘You changed your mind?’
‘Yes, you’re the pure breed, she reckoned.
And he did something that almost made her mind explode. He threw his head back and let out a hearty guffaw. When last had she heard him genuinely laugh? Not the snorting he usually did direct at her.
She was getting skittish. She yearned for control all her life and she could feel it slipping like she was being made a laughing stock. Like there was a camera crew just waiting to pounce on her and yell out Gotcha!
Two hours later, they were both seated in his Subaru Forester while he readied his Bluetooth with what she knew would be his usual DJ Lyta mix for the road. She rolled her eyes. His mixes always served to irritate her even more, all that dancehall screaming and shouting. Just another thing they would always relentlessly fuss and fight about. Who controlled the aux cord?
While she was lost in thought, she heard Beyonce come on. She stole a glance towards him and he was grinning. This was not ordinary. Nevertheless, she got into the groove and performed her animated renditions of To The Left, To The Left while laying to rest her growing suspicion.
One and a half hours later of bumper to bumper traffic suffered on Mombasa Road, it hit Maria, at Baraka’s Junction, that they were headed for Utawala. It did not occur to her that he was heading for her parents until they halted at the all too familiar black gate.
‘Why are we at my parents?’ she curiously asked.
To which he petulantly ignored as he parked the car and alighted.
‘My son, welcome,’ of course Maria’s mum would have already smelled them coming a mile away. It was just one of her superpowers. Her dad would predictably be scanning a newspaper in front of the TV. ‘Karibu chai. (Welcome to some tea)’
‘Mama Maria ata sikai sana leo (I will not be long).’ Maria was deliberately taking her sweet time touching up her makeup before royally alighting from the car. She approached her mum stealthily even as Maina puffed and proclaimed, ‘Nimewarudishia msichana (I have brought back your girl).’
‘What?’ Mother and daughter shrieked in shock for the entire neighborhood to hear. Even baba Maria had now manifested.
‘No offense’, when does anybody never take offense following that phrase. He went on to proceed, ‘She is an embarrassment. It is either you take her back or I will continue beating the submission into her. She refuses to give me a baby and she does absolutely nothing in the house that I paid for. Simtaki kwangu mpaka afunzwe kuwa bibi (she needs to be taught how to be a wife). Then he pointedly addressed Maria, ‘For your own good, do not come back. I will not be as nice’. All of his earlier pretentious nice demeanor had entirely evaporated and what was left was an unfathomable ugly devil.
He made his arrogant way back to his Subaru expeditiously as if burning coals were hot on his heels. ‘Maina let’s talk about this…’ both Maria and her mum were pleading. The raving engine was the only response they received.
Meanwhile, Baba Maria could be heard chuckling softly to himself, ‘Like Mother like daughter.’