You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
Save for the howling August wind outside, nothing else could be heard. The silhouette of four frozen figures could be seen from the open window.
Nobody within seemed to breathe.
The twin boys rushing in from outside broke the silence.
Danai brushed the tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes away, and forced a smile on her face.
Turning her back on the guilty alarmed women, she patted her nearest son’s head.
“Damian, Dylan – come! Come and say goodbye to your aunties…we’re going home”.
Dylan began to protest.
“But Mummy we’ve only just gotten here….. Tete I want to stay….”
“Now Dylan. I don’t want to hear another word from you. We’re going home now”.
She winced as she saw the look of shock and fear race across his handsome baby features. She’d been unnecessarily harsh and hurt her babies…because of them….
Chenai, her eldest aunt, made as if to protest.
“But Danai you’ve only just gotten here! We haven’t even had time to talk; or see the boys…..”
Danai slowly turned around to look at the woman who’d addressed her. A sharp pain sluiced right through her heart. Breathing in deeply she looked at her aunt straight in the eye.
Chenai quelled under the intensity of that gaze, and dropped her eyes.
Danai looked up at all three of them; then firmly gripped either one of her boys’ hands on either side.
Picking up her duffel bag and her car keys she walked rigidly to the door, let the kids out and gently shut the door behind her…….
She was silent on the way; totally engrossed in her thoughts. She’d thought now would be the time for their relationship to heal and grow strong. Today.
Today it had worsened, if not died a complete death.
She wanted nothing to do with them if she could help it.
Gary was tired and dying to see Danai. He’d missed her so much.
She’d looked excited when he’d left in the morning…. Excited about going to visit her sisters in law. She tried so hard to please them, to befriend them.
He hoped they’d had a good time … Danie deserved all the love the world could give…..
He let himself into the house, and caught a glimpse of the object of his affection. It was a while before she noticed his presence.
Her usually bright smile was oddly cold and forced.
Danai seemed wrapped up in her thoughts and withdrawn even as she greeted her husband, kissing him on his cheek.
She felt cold, and impersonal.
This wasn’t his Danie. Where was the woman he loved so much?
The last time he’d seen her like this was when they’d almost broken up, when he’d allowed someone else to interrupt their courtship……
Gary watched her closely as she served supper, and toyed with her food.
Instinctively he knew something was wrong.
This was nothing like the Danai he loved and knew. He tried to catch her attention, and yet she kept avoiding his eyes, and wouldn’t come anywhere near him.
This was worrisome…… he thought.
Whatever could it be?
By ten o’clock she was still up and running around the house; anywhere else except near him. He had to get to the bottom of this.
Getting up, Gary walked quietly to the kitchen sink, where Danai was staring into space; hand hanging limply under running water.
“Penny for your thoughts,” he whispered into her ear.
She started guiltily, sending the cup she was holding clattering to the ground.
Stooping to pick it up, she muttered an apology, and made as if to walk past him.
“Not so fast, Princess,” Gary softly said.
“Talk to me.”
She wouldn’t look up and when he cupped her chin and forced her to, he was alarmed to find brimming whirlpools of tears in her eyes.
She couldn’t contain it. All the pain and agony she felt inside burst forth, and she turned away and began to weep wretchedly. Wrenching herself from out of his grasp, she ran into the passage and slammed the bedroom door shut. She couldn’t let the boys see her like this………
Gary strode in after her, frowning. This wasn’t going to be easy. Danai was a passionate woman indeed but rarely did she get this upset.
Something must have really set her off.
He found her sitting forlornly on the bed, crying quietly now. His heart constricted painfully within him. His Danai had gone through enough in her life, and when he’d married her he’d vowed to make her happy; to make sure nothing but laughter came out of her mouth. He hated that sad lonesome sound that seemed to come from the very seat of her soul. He reached out to her, and began to cry too as she fell into his arms and began crying again.
It was a long while before the tears subsided and she looked up at him.
“I’m sorry Gary”.
She looked so sad. Those beautiful eyes that twinkled with joy and life were so dull; so lifeless.
“Tell me what’s wrong Danie”.
She heaved a sigh; and shook her head.
“It’s nothing important Gary. I just felt sad…I…”
“Don’t lie to me Danie… what is it?” He hated it when she shut off from him like that. He was so afraid he’d lose this delicate flower; he loved her so much and anything that saddened her angered him.
He raised her chin again, and stared into her eyes.
“Tell me. I won’t relent until you tell me what’s wrong. Don’t shut me out Danie. Just don’t”.
She battled within herself – what to tell him? How?
In her mind’s eye she could see the three sisters sitting and making fun of her, making fun of her family; and her past……..
Maria had hurt her the most. How she’d befriended her and thought her the greatest aunt one could have. To think she’d done this to her….
Biting her lip to stop the tears flowing again, she looked into her husband’s concerned face. How was she going to tell him what she’d seen? And heard?
She could hear the anger rising in his voice.
She had to tell him. Taking a deep breath, she began.
“Last week I remember telling you I felt bad, I didn’t seem to take much interest in your sisters and their families. I had these weird vibes about them not liking me, and I didn’t want to expose myself to any pain. Since I had the whole week off, I decided to pay Tete Chenai a surprise visit. With the boys. She hadn’t seen them in a while and I thought it would help heal whatever differences they have with me”.
She’d known for awhile that they had been disappointed when Gary had married her.
They’d wanted him to marry Cecilia, a girl that had met with their approval.
She swallowed down the painful lump that had begun to rise in her throat again, and wiped her smarting eyes.
“You know how the boys love dogs”. She smiled at the memory of them frolicking in the lawn with Rover and Jet, Tete’s two canine friends.
“They wouldn’t come up to the house yet, so I left them with Joe, the gardener. I used the old gate to Tete’s house – it still hasn’t been cordoned off even after the renovations. That way I could get to the door without her seeing me, and surprise her for sure”.
Closing her eyes, she relived that moment, when she had been so innocent in her excitement. She held a beef casserole ion her hand, and tried to balance it with the basket of fruits she carried in the other hand.
Feeling calmer now, on the circle of Gary’s arms, she continued.
“When I turned the corner I was surprised to see Moira’s car parked in the garage. So that meant she had come to visit too. It was going to be a very pleasant visit indeed. I walked up to the side door, and that’s when I saw.. I heard…’
She stopped, couldn’t continue as the pain rose up in her heart once more. She saw Maria holding up their wedding portrait; the ugly ink marks on her pictured face staring out straight at her….
Her voice barely audible, she forced herself to go on.
“That’s when I heard them talk….about me… I saw the painted photo..I couldn’t…I didn’t’’
She couldn’t stop the hateful words reverberating in her head, or the hot tears flowing afresh.
Gold digger. Slut. Worthless. Second rate rubbish. Pauper’s daughter.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I just froze when I heard Maria saying such hurtful things … about me.
What have I ever done to her? Why does she hate me so much?”
She couldn’t go on. Turning away from him, she began to weep again. He moved closer, hugging her to his expansive chest.
Inside he was dying; hurt beyond comprehension by the sisters he loved. The only family he had left.
It took a while before the tears subsided, and she continued her story.
Gary couldn’t move as pain enveloped him; threatening to keel him over.
“Gary was it so wrong that you married me? Am I so sub standard I can never be the daughter in law your mother wanted? What did Maria mean that they wanted a sister in law who would fit into the family? What is wrong with me Gary? Am I such an embarrassment to you, and your family?”
“Danai I …..”
“It’s okay Gary. I should have known I could never be good enough for you in the first place. It’s not every day that a young successful doctor like you marries a hopeless single mother like me. I never chose to be unhappy. I never chose for Todd to walk out on me and leave me alone, to fend for little Junior. The pain I went through then was enough to kill me. Must I go through it again?
How long must I pay the price for loving someone who didn’t love me back?”
Why Gary? Why me? What have I done to them? I’ve tried so hard to be good; to be what they wanted. Five years Gary. And I’m still not good enough??”
“I gave away my baby so they wouldn’t have to see him. I ache for him everyday, thinking of how they’d be happy together with the twins. He’s so far away Gary. Must I continue to pay the price? How much higher can it get Gary? I can’t take it anymore….”
Her voice rose with hysteria. All he could do was hold her shaking body close……
He couldn’t say anything – not in his sister’s defense, nor in the face of such agony.
In a flat monotone she continued,
“I was in a state of shock. I felt faint, as though a hand was cutting off my air supply. The casserole dish I was holding fell to the ground, breaking into hundreds of splinters. It must have been the sound that broke up their sadistic party as they sprang apart. They all stood up when they saw it was me………
I couldn’t say anything – just looked at them. Finally I knew what they really thought of me. I was a wasted piece of rubbish, fit for the dumpster. I was just another cast off; something they had no use for. I wasn’t good enough to be part of them, and no matter how hard I tried, I never will be.
I’m tired Gary.
Now I understand why they act so prim and polite when I’m there.
Each time I walk into a room, they change the subject. Or disperse. Or just laugh. At first I thought I was just failing to break in and be a part of the family. Now I know I was deliberately kept out.
I’m not the kind of daughter in law who fits into the family. I’m cut from a totally different cloth”.
Gary looked at his beautiful wife, so small and defeated. He felt he’d failed her; failed to protect their love and life. She was the mother of his two beautiful children, and the anchor he’d searched for years for. And now here she was.
And nobody saw the value he saw in her.
He didn’t know what to say as he held her close again.
The silence was disturbed by the shrill ringing tone of his cell phone. Picking up his hand set with a free hand, he set his jaw as he saw who was calling him.
Chenai….his eldest sister.
The time had come – to fight for his honor and defend his all that he held dear and sacred – Danai. Their boys. Their future.
She was after all, all that he had and counted dear in his life.
Had not the Pastor said,” what God has joined let no man put asunder”?
He was not letting them get away with it this time.
They’d run off every girlfriend he’d ever had in his life, and had fought him valiantly each time he’d wanted to settle down. They’d failed when it had come to Danai. She had a strong fighting spirit of her own, and had fought together with him for their love and their life.
And now these vicious mongrels wanted to take it from them. It had gone too far this time.
He’d deal with them once and for all if it was the last thing he was going to do.
He was shaking with barely disguised anger by the time he answered the phone.
“Oh thank God I’ve managed to get hold of you, Gary. I need to see you. Can you come here before you go home? I need to….’
“No Chenai, I’m at home with my wife. I cannot come there – not today; not for a long time to come. When I get off the phone with you, I’ll be speaking to Baba in Norton. We will meet there at his house on Saturday afternoon. There’ll be a family meeting”.
He cut off her protests, her lame attempts to explain.
He turned the phone off, and cradled his now drowsy wife in the crook of his arms. Tears spent, emotions in check, she was now tired and battling not to sleep.
Rocking her to and fro, he watched as she fell into a deep sleep, and vowed to deal with his family affairs once and for all.
He’d worked hard to get this marriage going, and nobody was ever going to take his Danai away from him again.