Sue sat on the table staring down at the thick pea stew and the aromatic rice on her large flat plate. The smell of the meat soup next to her was sickening and she pushed the bowl away from her, and picked up her spoon to eat.
“The grace.” Her mother’s voice cut in, making her drop the heavy spoon loudly against the side of her plate. Sue sighed, entwining her fingers before her as she looked down at the white tablecloth. White. Mum really outdid herself this time. The white linen was never used.
“Mind saying the grace? I am a little out of practice with the praying thing…” the male voice to her right said and she heard the smile in his words. He was smiling his stupid smile. The smile, which will show his mwanya* on the upper part of his teeth. A mwanya exactly like hers and she hated him, and herself for it.
“So am I,” Sue said and sighed again, never looking up. Her mother cleared her throat and taking her new role of peacemaker, she volunteered.
“I will do it. Let’s hold hands,” she said and Susan quickly looked up to see her mom’s slender open palm, wrist cuffed by a new, leather strap watch, reaching out across the table to her own hands. And the walls broke.
Out of nowhere, laughter came, bubbling up from her tummy. It first came out as a sudden guffaw that surprised even her to the point of covering her mouth with her right palm. It didn’t stop there. Sue’s eyes landed on her mother holding hands with this man- this stranger who had come out of nowhere to change her life with one snap of his stupid manicured fingers! This impeccably dressed man who wore a suit on a Saturday, with a whiff of expensive cologne and a face that looked so much like hers, she wanted to take a knife and cut her own face off.
A picture of the three of them holding hands passed through Sue’s mind and another bubble of laughter came up her throat. Perhaps they could make a video as they went through a field of lush golden grass, holding hands and skipping their way towards an orange sunset! With her head thrown back and her hands clutching her ribs, Sue laughed some more; laughed till tears dropped from her eyes as her parents watched in silence. Parents with an ‘S’. She thought and laughed once again.
“Are you okey?” the stranger man asked and her laughter subsided. Shaking her head and pursing her lips to gag the threatening wave of laughter, she deeply inhaled and stared at him. On second thoughts, she just might cut his face off not hers. Imagine him faceless. She begun laughing again and this time, she got up from her seat and begun walking away.
Seventeen years absent and he thought he could sashay in here with his good English and amazing car, and an unopened gift she knew from mum, would be a laptop; and he expected to meet her, find her starved of a father and breathlessly eager for him, didn’t he?
“Susan,” her mother called with warning in her voice and Sue stopped in her tracks and turned to stare at her then at the man.
Did he know everything? He couldn’t possibly know everything; not on mum’s watch. If he did, he would know without a doubt that his reappearance now, whatever the reason for his absence, would make no change on her life; would never be justified. Not after everything that had happened.
…Not after everything that has happened, Sue thought decisively as she had long learnt to. And leaving the two, she turned and walked out of the house.
*Mwanya– Swahili word for the tooth gap usually between the upper or lower incisors.