7 – Choices
Nalia clutched her handbag, as she waited outside the Kilimani courthouse. Her choices led her to this moment; still divorce 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.
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.
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