Farida looked out at the ocean. The clear blue water crashing against the shore in thick white foam spat droplets of water against her skin. She watched dark skinned children dressed in tight shorts and t-shirts, presumably hand-me-downs from older siblings or donations from bosses of their parents run towards the edge of the shore line and giddily laugh as waves chased them back to dry sand. She ran her fingertips underneath her scarf and could feel the stickiness of congealed blood tangled in her hair. The pain had gone away faster than she thought it would. The scars would go away soon too. He knew the places on her that no one else would be able to see. The places he could force her to cover. The bluish-green bruises that told a different story to the successful Durban businessman she was married to.
How lucky she was that he had chosen her. After all, what did she have to offer? Her Aunty and Uncle were more than happy to give her away to the first suitor that came knocking. When neighbours with mouths too big for their own good would stop by for tea and say, “But shame man. She is too young Zainab. Don’t you think she should go to University at least?” Her Aunt would find excuses as to why it wasn’t a good idea. “Ey what University and all? These girls today have no respect. All are so loose. Better she gets married and goes. When her and mother and father died I took her in but it is hard for us too,” she’d say.
Karim’s mother had warned her the first day that they had gotten back from their honeymoon that she wasn’t to cross any boundaries, she belonged to a family now and they owned her. “You mustn’t come here and think you can take over. I am the mother in this house and my boys won’t stop listening to me because of pretty faces. They know how hard I worked for them,” she said. Farida never argued with her mother in law. Karim promised that they would move away one day but his mother was old and sickly so he couldn’t leave her. In odd moments of lying against the cold concrete of her bathroom shower after Karim had gone too far and she had to run cold water against her body so swelling would go down, she would laugh and then cry at how much strength his mother seemed to have in the moments she would enter their room and scream encouragement at her son, “who this girl thinks she is? Coming to our house and carrying on like this. Show her Karim. Show her. The small bitch.”
When she was little, her mother and father would bring her to Umhlanga Rocks and they would eat bunny-chows and drink cream soda. Always the same. Always huddled in their red Toyota Corolla. “One day we will buy one of these apartments,” he father would say. She knew that they could never afford it but the thought entered her mind and she couldn’t help but smile at fantasy afternoons after school running to the beach. Maybe inviting her friends over and showing them the view from the balcony she was sure her apartment would have. Although she knew her dreams would never eventuate, especially after the phone call from the police saying that her parents were hit by a truck on the N3, she always imagined the same apartment in her darkest moments.
As the sun slowly made its descent below the skyline to the other side of the world, Farida pushed herself away from the sand and stood up. Before she had run away, she had hastily put on her favorite dress. Karim’s mother insisted that she only wear it for special occasions. She wished that she had time to do her make-up and jewellery if only because it would be the last time that she would have been able to wear the outfit the way she liked to.
Farida walked to the edge of the shoreline and looked behind her. She walked into the ocean until she was almost fully covered in water. For the first time in her life, she was glad that her mother died before she taught her how to swim. There would be no struggle.
Like so many woman before her, her body too would wash up on the shoreline and when the police informed Karim that it was his wife who had died, he would cry and seem genuinely baffled because “she was always so happy”. Her mother-in-law would cry too. “My beautiful daughter,” she would lament, “how could you do this to us? Why did you take away my Angel, God? Why?”