The Girl with the Golden Smile – 7

7 – Choices

Nalia clutched her handbag, as she waited outside the Kilimani courthouse. Her choices led her to this moment; still divorceEA 2 wasn’t an easy choice. She’d struggled with the decision. Her hand touched her jaw, and for the first time in years marveled at the lack of pain.
Men and women alike glanced her way, as they passed her. She was glad to find the overwhelming urge to keep her head down gone. Before, with Malik, she’d found it hard to look up, afraid people would guess how she’d gotten the bruises on her jaw. God, she’d hated that feeling. That helpless feeling that she couldn’t express without tears filling her eyes, and sliding down her cheeks.

Nalia let out a soft breath and glanced at the time on her phone.

Nicholas was late.

She frowned.

Nicholas.

He remained worlds away, even though they’d spent almost everyday together for the past two months. Nicholas had turned cold toward her after he found out she was married.

As if a switch had turned off inside him, Nalia’s frown deepened.

Perhaps he judged her choices harshly. She couldn’t tell. Nicholas helped her without complaint. He wasn’t her lawyer; he’d refused that job outright, and instead, had gotten a competent woman named Christine who worked with FIDA.

Christine was a godsend.  Christine had taken her through the divorce process without asking for money first. When Malik had shown up at the new one-room house Nalia was renting, Christine helped save her from a beating. Christine had used that incident to get the law on Nalia’s side. There was nothing to fight for in court. Nalia didn’t want anything Malik owned, or his money. She was afraid that money would haunt her. She thanked God everyday that they hadn’t gotten children. It made the divorce process easier.

Nalia sighed leaning on the wall.

“Are you happy?” Malik asked and she looked up in surprise to find him standing a few feet away from her.

“I asked, are you happy Nalia?” Malik asked when she didn’t answer him right away.

Malik looked tired, his suit hanging on his shoulders, his jaw unshaven. His eyes, however, still held the same anger toward her. He refused to forgive her for making the choice to leave their home.

“I’m happy,” she said now, her voice strong.

“You’ve made us into the talk of the town. Everyone knows we’re divorced. How are you going to keep working at the school? Surely parents will shun you for being a divorcee,” he sneered.

“If they don’t want me there, I can always get a transfer to another school,” Nalia said.

She had options. Christine taught her that. Refusing to leave a bad marriage was not one of those options. Christine taught her that choosing to live a free and happy life was the most important decision to make.

“You have everything figured out,” Malik said.

Far from it, Nalia thought. Holding Malik’s gaze, she straightened her shoulders.

“No, I don’t. All I know is that I don’t want you slapping me because you don’t get what you want.”

Malik scoffed and took a step closer.

Fear arced through her, irrational fear, because they were in public. There were people passing them and the sun was out. Malik wouldn’t dare hurt her here, but still the fear grew deep inside her and she had to clench her fists to keep from running.

“You’re weak,” Malik said in a hateful tone. “You’re no beauty, and you could never fit my standards. It’s good you’ve left. I’ll find a better wife now.”

Nalia bit her inner lip wishing she could ignore his words. She knew Malik wanted to hurt her, and she shouldn’t let his words matter, yet they did. They mattered because she’d loved him. Loved him enough to marry him, and try to build a life with him.

Tears stung the back of her eyes and he smirked.

“I hope you’ll be happy,” she said in a tight voice.

She locked her knees as he stared at her for a moment, before he turned away and went into the courthouse. She fell back on the wall with a sigh once he disappeared, and took in a deep breath.

Warm hands clutched her shoulders and she looked up into Nicholas’s kind eyes.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

The tears she’d held back fought their way out, her eyes filling; she blinked fast hoping to keep them at bay.

“You did well,” Nicholas said, squeezing her shoulders. “You did very well.”

She closed her eyes and the tears fell down her cheeks. Nicholas moved closer, handing her a handkerchief, he waited for her to wipe her eyes and compose herself.

“You’re late,” she said after a while, staring at his white handkerchief.

“I’m sorry.”

She met Nicholas’s gaze.  She wasn’t sure what he was sorry about, being late, or being cold toward her.

“Well, you’re here now,” she said with a small shrug. “Christine is getting paperwork done. She wanted to talk to you.”

“I know,” Nicholas said, his gaze still holding hers. “I’m—

She frowned when he broke off.

“What?” she asked.

“I thought distance was better,” Nicholas said abruptly. “I thought it would make this easier for you. Watching you stand up to him, I think I made a mistake. Nalia—

She dropped her gaze to his shirt collar. “I thought you didn’t want anything to do with me because of him and the divorce.”

“That’s not true,” Nicholas said touching her right shoulder.

Nalia met his gaze, a soft gasp escaped at the longing in his eyes.

“It’s time,” Christine interrupted coming up to them holding a pile of files. “We should go in.”

Nicholas nodded and squeezed Nalia’s right shoulder. Christine headed into the courthouse, but Nicholas stopped Nalia.

“It’s almost over,” he said.

Nalia smiled. “I feel like its just beginning.”

Nicholas took her right hand and squeezed gently.

“I’m right here,” he said. “Right here with you.”

It was hard to ignore the wave of happiness that swept through her.

****

Other Stories from the EA Friday Feature:

The Restaurant: You’re a Waiter

Some Kind of Love – 4

Unlucky 13

The Plot it Thickens

 

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 5

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 5

Nicholas couldn’t help stealing glances at Nalia. He drove with care, keeping to the speed limit, not overtaking at EA 2will. A smile tagged at his lips.

Eli would be proud, he thought.

Nalia sat with her hands on her lap. Her fingers were in tight fists, her gaze fixed outside the window. She hadn’t spoken much after her consultation with Eli.  Eli resisted his efforts to discover what they discussed in privacy. Instead, Eli had given Nalia his card and made her promise to call him.

Nicholas stopped the car at the first bus stop he found on the main road. Parking on the curb, he turned to Nalia.

“Do you live close?” he asked.

She nodded, but didn’t say a word.

Reaching into his jacket, Nicholas got his wallet and found a five hundred shillings note.

“Will this be enough?” he asked, holding it out to her. “It should get you home—,”

“That’s too much,” Nalia said. “Two hundred is fine.”

Nicholas sighed.

“I don’t have loose.”

She frowned at him.

He didn’t like those little frowns of hers. She probably thought him stuck-up or something worse for carrying large notes.

“Take the money, Nalia,” he urged.

She scoffed and took it with a short jerk. “I’ll pay it back.”

“Are you always this stubborn?” Nicholas asked. “You don’t want help from anyone. Who lives like that?”

“Me,” she said and reached for the door handle.

The surge of panic that flooded him was new.  Nicholas was sure he’d never see her again, but…he wanted to see her again.

“Wait,” he said when she opened the door.

“For what?” she asked jumping out of the cab.

She held the passenger door open and met his gaze.  When he didn’t say anything, she shrugged.

“Thank you,” she said. “You’ve been very kind to me.”

Nicholas nodded and watched as she closed the door and took two steps back.

She had his card, he thought.

She’d insisted on it, to be able to pay back the money she borrowed.

A matatu stopped in front of his car, and he watched Nalia hurry to board.  Nicholas smiled when she paused at the last minute to look back at his car. She gave him a short wave and he scoffed at the little flutter in his chest. The matatu took off as fast as it had shown up.

Nalia was intriguing.

She was a woman who took the time to bake to thank him for being kind. Her sense of humor made him laugh, not to mention she was beautiful in her own right. The bruise on her face brought a frown, and Nicholas wondered what it was Eli had learned about that bruise.

Domestic violence came to mind. He wondered what kind of man dared to hit a woman like Nalia. Would that bastard do it again?

Nicholas frowned, staring after the retreating matatu.

Maybe he shouldn’t have let her go.

“Come to your senses, Nick,” he murmured and started his car. “She’s a stranger you met last night.”

Turning the car around, he drove back to the villa and his renovation plans.

****

Malik wasn’t home when Nalia entered their small rental house.

floorNalia stood in their living room staring at the plates she’d dumped on the living room floor. She leaned down and righted one of the two dining room chairs they owned. She rubbed her arms looking around the little living room that could fit in the bathroom she’d used to clean up hours before.

Her home was small, but she’d once thought to be happy here, now this small space felt cold. Colder than the rain she’d ran through last night.

Ignoring the mess on the floor, Nalia went to the single bedroom she shared with Malik.

The bed was unused. Malik hadn’t slept here. She stepped over Malik’s soiled shirt on the floor and sat down on their bed. The room was messy: the clothes she fought to keep neat in their tiny closet were falling out.

Nalia shook her head.   She needed to figure out what she wanted.

****

“What kind of woman runs out in the rain?” Malik demanded later that day when he got home. “You made a mess, and then left me to clean it up. What did you think was going to happen?”

Nalia sat at the small dining table peeling potatoes for dinner. She kept her gaze on the potato peels, refusing to look at Malik.  Her husband was drunk. He had come home from one of his binges at the bar. Something was either right or terrible wrong. She didn’t dare ask. Her cheek was starting to heal. She didn’t need a fresh bruise.

“Are you just going to sit there?” Malik asked, standing over her. “All you do is cook and clean, work. You have no time for me. Why did we get married again? You don’t even try to look pretty anymore.”

Nalia closed her eyes and forced her fingers not to stiffen on the knife she held.

“Go sleep,” she said. “You must be tired.”

“Sleep here?” Malik scoffed. “This shack we call home is not comfortable, Nalia. What do you want to do about that?”

Nalia’s eyes opened and she dropped the knife on top of the potato peels.’

“What do I want to do?” she asked, her tone sharper than she’d intended.

Damn it, Malik was a spoiled man. She couldn’t stand it anymore.

Malik blinked staring at her.

“What am I to you?” she asked, pushing her chair back, Nalia got to her feet. “A punching bag? A private chef? Your cash cow?”

“Stop this foolishness,” Malik said with a wave of his hand. “You still haven’t told me where you went last night. No descent woman sleeps outside—

“Whose fault is it I went running out in the first place?” Nalia demanded. “I’m tired of this, Malik.”

“Tired of what?” Malik asked, his gaze dropping to the peeled potatoes. “Cooking?”

“No, being your slave,” Nalia snapped. “I want a divorce.”

****

Previous Chapters

The Girl with the Golden Smile – 4

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