As soon as the bathroom door opened up and she heard his feet paddling gently across the carpet, Binta curled up even tighter into the duvet hoping to paint a picture of a person in deep sleep as she did every morning. In truth, she was up at the first light of day but she never let it show because of him. Who knew what he might demand of her if he ever discovered her to be the light sleeper and early riser that that she was? No! She thought. Never! She would never let him see that far! That’s why she had to pretend for those hours until he was through with his morning routine and he retired downstairs for his breakfast on his way to work.
It wasn’t the best way to spend her mornings but for her, anything was better than having to open her eyes and watch him get ready or worse, suffer through conversation with him like she did that first morning. Usually, she would close her eyes and drift away to her perfect place where she was anyone but herself. This morning however, she could hardly concentrate over the discomfort in her belly. Groaning silently, she berated herself for yielding to her late-night craving for ice-cream the night before. How could she have been so careless? She knew what the result would be the morning-after, yet she went for it so shamelessly.
Stilling herself against the pain, she tried so hard to stop herself from groaning in pain. She needed to get to the bathroom fast! She had resorted to taking deep, slow breaths when he spoke. ‘Binta?’ ‘Binta?’ he called again. In shock, she paused. Had she blown her cover? Just then, Hassan whispered ‘Have a good day. Sai anjima’ as he did every morning and with that, he walked out the door sending her into a frantic run to the bathroom. Minutes later, Binta stood in front of the bathroom sink, watching her reflection in the mirror and groaning in relief ‘Wallahi! That was close!’
Hours later, after resting a while and administering some drugs to herself, Binta felt ready to face the issue that she had put away for far too long. With some tightness in her stomach, she put the much-awaited call through to her sister. Without fail, Amira picked up on the first ring ‘Binta Yaayaa! Ina Kwana!’
At the sound of her baby’s sister’s sweet, girly voice and the nickname that she had adopted for her since she was a little girl, Binta fell into laughter despite herself ‘Amira! Kai, you won’t change this girl!’ ‘Change for what now? Hmmn. Not a chance!’ Amira said, sounding no older than she did when she was just a girl of eight looking up to her sister with so much love and adoration.
In no small measure, Binta felt a surge of undeniable love for her only sister. With that feeling came the need to protect her own and she was re-directed back to the real reason behind the call; the same one that had caused her to attack that bowl of ice-cream with vengeance the night before. ‘Amira. What is that I’m hearing? What is going on?’ There was a slight pause before she heard a rustle on the other end ‘Amira? Really? Is that all I am to you now? Just Amira?’ Hearing the subtle anger in her voice, Binta shook her head in endearment. ‘Amira, come on…’ ‘Eh? Still Amira?’ ‘Ah! Fine. Amira kanuwaa! My one and only younger sister! Are you happy now? Allah, you can be such a pain! How are you still so particular about nicknames that you came up with when you were only a little baby?’
Still in a jovial mood, she wasn’t ready for the heavy weight of her words when her sister replied ‘Nicknames? Yaayaa, they’re not just nicknames. They are everything! Do you hear me? You are just Binta to everyone else but for me, you will always be Binta Yaayaa. Aii, Yaayaa! Have you forgotten already how that mere nickname saved me and brought us back together? Have you?’
Short of words, Binta sat still waiting for the waves of emotion to pass away as she listened to her younger sister speak some sense into her. It was in times like these that she wondered who the older sister was between the both of them. ‘Kanuwaa! How can you even ask? Of course not. I’ll never forget how I almost lost you to those men in that train if you hadn’t been crying out for your Yaayaa from where they hid you beneath the seat. Haba, Kanuwaa. I’m sorry. I know how much it hurts when that day comes up. Yi hankuri, Kanuwaa. I’m truly sorry. Just forget it, okay?’
She didn’t miss the little sniffle before Amira responded ‘Yaayaa. Shi ne ke nana. It’s okay really. Don’t mind me please.’There was an awkward pause before Amira said ‘Ina son ka sosai, yaayaa. So, so much.’ ‘My Kanuwaa, I love you more. Kai, you’re making me cry again.’ Binta said as she mopped the tears from her eyes. She could scarcely remember why she had made the call anymore until she saw the medicine for her stomach on the table before her and it all came flooding back.
Taking a deep breath, she ventured into unfamiliar territory. ‘Kanuwaa’, she began. ‘Eh?’ came a response. ‘Aunty Aisha called me last night… and she told me some things.’ Hoping for a response but getting none, Binta continued ‘I jumped into some conclusions and to be honest, I wasn’t very happy with you after our talk but that was then. I’m not angry anymore. Kanuwaa, I just want to understand. What is happening?’
Whatever Binta expected, it definitely wasn’t close to what she heard next from her baby sister ‘Yaayaa, I’m sorry but… I might be getting married sooner than we expected.