It seemed as if the surprise element were far more excruciatingly shocking than what Dina’s usual composure could have contended with. Her face blanched in a flash; she swallowed hard and almost dropped the pot she held in her hand. “And what did you tell him?” she asked, ostensibly beaten by unruly anxiety the moment I broke to her the news of Martin’s proposal.
I was on my usual weekly visit to grandpa’s house on a Friday evening, on the day following that of the marriage proposal. My parents and the boys, along with grandpa Mathew and uncle Sam, were all gathered together confabulating in the living room in front of the TV and imbibing sweet Iraqi tea. Dina and I were in the kitchen. I was relating to her the swift turn that events had suddenly taken, as I helped her with cooking dinner. I responded carefully to her question, sheathing my reply in an attitude of deliberate nonchalance, ‘I asked if we could discuss it some other time’. It was apparent that the news had struck her like a thunderbolt. Having not yet recuperated from the impact of the previous week’s revelations about the ongoing romance, which she had received with obvious dissatisfaction and concern, she was now completely overcome by the blow that the proposal represented. What had remained of her tolerance seemed entirely obliterated. She ceased what she was doing, her eyes overeager to draw more out of me. She struggled to stifle her evident discontent and jitteriness as she proclaimed her decision, ‘Things have changed now that he has proposed, and I think it’s time your parents knew about it’.
‘No, auntie’, I clung to her shoulder, pleading. ‘Not now, please’.
‘And why is that? I can’t hide it from them any longer’, she protested resentfully. ‘It’s total dishonesty. My situation would be quite unpleasant once they find out that I knew about it all along and concealed it from them’.
‘Sure you could wait a little longer auntie, please!’ I carried on with my fervent imploring. ‘Besides I’m telling you all about it, am I not? And I’m not doing anything wrong. God is my witness that I’m not doing anything wrong, and you must trust me, please’. I wrapped up my fervent bid at persuasion by crossing myself.
‘I trust you, and I am certain you are not doing and wouldn’t do anything wrong, but still your parents must know about it. It’s their say in the end, not mine’.
‘But there is nothing to tell them now, auntie’. I continued desperately. ‘He proposed like any other suitor and I haven’t even given my consent yet’.
She shot me a sharp reproachful look, pregnant with meaning, ‘He’s not like any other suitor, Lu’, she said disgruntled, arching her eyebrow. ‘You and I know he’s not like any other suitor. You’re both in love; this we can’t disregard. Besides that, he’s not Iraqi. He’s American, Liana, or have your forgotten that?’
‘What difference does it make if he’s American or Iraqi or else?’ I asked annoyed. ‘Is it nationality that matters most in the end or my happiness?’
‘This, you tell your parents and convince them, not me. What I think or say doesn’t count much. It is their decision, not mine, as you know very well’.
The hot debate was killed, however, the moment we perceived mum approaching the kitchen, inquiring if we needed a hand of help.
Blown out of the water would be a sheer understatement for the way Dina had received the news. The way things had advanced didn’t seem much to her liking. I could sense her becoming more like a bubbling volcano verging on the point of eruption. On the face of it things had moved faster than she had expected. She must have been clinging still to the hope that this romance was nothing beyond a transient whim that would be extinguished by the shifting susceptibilities of youth. Wagering on his absence, she had wittingly placed all her weight behind negating and rebuffing his influence by drowning my feelings for him with her endless list of inviolable taboos. Hence, I suppose a reply such as ‘I asked him to discuss it later’ had felled her hard, harder than she would have been prepared for. My reply must have implied one of two prospects, either that I was colouring the truth, or that I was deliberating consent. Although both would have been bad to her, the second of the two must have outweighed the first in Dina’s mind as she stood staring at me, seeking to divine my intentions from the expression on my face. The sudden proposal turned the tables, appearing as one hell of a complication that she had not bargained for. With his proposal she felt him winning and getting closer to me, and it was much sooner than she had anticipated. The night, however, passed peacefully.
Next morning was another usual hectic Saturday. During the first two hours the offices were buzzing like a beehive, but by twelve o’clock the entire place was deserted except for Tom and me. Martin had already made his first two visits, and was shortly due on his third. I was immersed with my work when I glimpsed Fury bolting out queerly. I was standing, a short while later in Tom’s office, talking to him, when I saw her returning in the company of another woman. My heart gave a leap that set my pulses racing, and my adrenaline pumped. The other woman appeared to be none other than Dina, my auntie, apparently visiting the establishment. ‘What’s she doing here? And what’s Fury doing with her?’
She went inside Fury’s office, her demeanour that of a total stranger who had never set eyes on me before. She sat designedly where she could capture an ideal view of my office.
I fumed, but I endeavoured my hardest to adopt a calm exterior. I kept to my work, but I was seething inside with choler and indignation, mainly against the traitor, the Trojan horse, who had made no previous mention of this visit. I no longer could stand the soaring pain of distrust and audacious betrayal from both plotters. Some fresh air seemed all the more vital to cool down my suppressed rage, which had begun burning my nerves. Staring into vacancy, I stood by the water cooler, sipping some cold water, incoherent with shock, and incandescent with rage. ‘Why didn’t she tell me? I was at her place last night, and we were most of the time talking about him. Why didn’t she tell me? I would’ve arranged for the visit myself. And as for you traitor’, I found myself threatening Fury now, ‘I say “Fair enough, just wait until she’s gone”. My mind was set on punishing both traitors, but mainly Fury for allowing herself to be such a nasty accomplice in such a mean conspiracy.
I returned to my office. My sense of indignation rocketing uninhibitedly by the minute, I could barely check the anger that my shivering hands had absorbed to the limit. I sat abstractedly in my chair feigning business, and totally avoiding looking across to the opponent’s side. In less than ten minutes Jack arrived, preceding the rest of the guys who had begun returning back to base, one after the other. He sat in his chair and we chatted for a few moments. Through a few casual glimpses, I could see Dina from her surveillance tower engrossed, looking hard at him. Fury smiled as she watched Dina. The scenario was repeated to a much lesser extent with silvery-haired Larry, but Gerhard’s share of concentration was relatively a great deal more. Fury was still smiling and watching the show silently.
A short while later, two more Iraqi engineers arrived. Dina, still silent and totally immersed in her mission, watched them, while Fury watched Dina. Finally the ‘heart and soul’ arrived, strolling in, engaged in conversation with Jimmy, entirely oblivious to the lurking eyes. Both men stood for a short while at the main entrance. Martin paradoxically stood ‘welcomingly’ facing her, hands in pockets, unwittingly giving her the best angle she could have hoped for. Both men then sauntered to Tom’s office, and re-engaged in another discussion. A few sketches and charts were spread on Tom’s desk. The three sat around, and some sort of a meeting seemed commencing. My heart shrank in apprehension, and I sat stone still, staring at Dina. Her eyes were glued on Martin as she took stock of him. Fury, still maintaining her assiduous watch, was like a sentry, head and eyes bouncing between Dina, the group of three, and me, now. After a few heavy suspenseful moments, I saw Dina turning to Fury. She uttered a few words. Fury nodded, smiling. YES, she had identified him.
Dina didn’t actually need to exert much effort. His conspicuous charisma outshone whoever was there, let alone the precise description and particulars that I had provided her during my seven days’ ordeal.
To Be Continued.......