Somehow Fatima had survived five years as a soldier’s wife without Musa ever being deployed. Sure, he spent time in the training field in other units, but was never gone for more than a month, and was never in danger of dying. She hugged his big 6-foot frame at the edge of the parking lot. Musa brushed her red from her pretty face to see her tear-filled eyes.
“Nothing will happen,” he assured her.
“Anything could happen in a year.” At 5 ft 3, she looked up at him. “Promise me you’ll be careful.” She pleaded.
He laughed lightly and kissed her. “A hundred times, I promise.” He tried again to persuade her to go home. This was a new duty station where she knew no one. “You should go home to your family and wait.”
“No,” she refused. “we are just settling in here and this is our home. We’ll wait for you here.”
Musa smiled at his emotional wife. She would do it her way or fail trying. He broke the hug and picked up 3-year-old Ali and kissed the boy before handing him to his mum.
“I’ll write as soon as we are in Borno.” Musa waved as he walked towards the company that was just forming up. “I love you.”
“I love you!” She said bravely.
After the soldiers all boarded buses and left for the airport, then the young wife broke down and cried, holding tight to her little boy.
“are you OK?” Fatima heard an Igbo accent behind her and then felt an arm wrap around her shoulder.
Fatima looked up into a taller, older woman’s face, she looked maybe 34, with dark short hair and the warmest smile. “I’m OK.” Fatima lied.
“Your first deployment, huh?” The middle-aged woman understood. “It gets better.” The woman patted her shoulder. “I’m Ezinne, by the way.”
“I’m sorry,” Fatima said, wiping her eyes with her free hand then offering it to the woman. “I’m Fatima”
Ezinne ignored the hand and gave a quick hug “I know. My husband is your husband’s Major. I’m sorry we’re just meeting but it’s been hectic, you know.”
Fatima gave a strained laugh. “I know. I’ve never filled out so much paperwork before, power of attorney and Allah, he made a will.”
“Well, we’re in charge now, hun, until they get back anyway.” Slowly they walked to Fatima’s car. “I’ll come by later. When does that little guy take a nap?” Ezinne smiled at Ali, who smiled back for a second and then shyly buried his face in his mom’s shoulder.
“At four,” Fatima said. “I’ will bake chin-chin” she offered.
Ezinne gave a warm smile. “I’ll bring some cake. See you then.”
Fatima had straightened the apartment. It was small, but it was in the barracks, so they paid no rent. Ali was down in his bed and snoring like his Daddy. Ezinne showed up at a quarter past 2 with a homemade cake with tons of brown sugar in it and got a quick tour of the place.
They sipped juice and chatted. “It’s good you put him in his own bed. You’re going to be tempted to let him sleep with you on those lonely nights, but it becomes every night and when your husband comes home it’s a hard adjustment.” Ezinne said in her Igbo accent. “Keep things normal for that little guy. It’s the best you can do.”
“How many tours have you gone through?” Fatima asked her new friend.
“5 if you count Korea. We stayed stateside and Bob only had to do a year there, hardship tour if you don’t take your family.” Ezinne kept her eyes on Fatima, giving her all her attention, even when she got up for more coffee.
“What do you do with your time?” Fatima came back with the teapot. “I’m so used to Musa being here at 4:30. We eat dinner, we talk, watch TV and we go to bed. I’m going to go nuts without him here.” Her shoulders slumped in despair.
Ezinne reached across and took the young redhead’s hand. “You can call me. We’ll talk. We’ll watch TV and laugh over the phone. OK? And if you need it, I’ll talk to you in bed.”
Fatima laughed sarcastically at the last part. “It won’t be the same.”
Ezinne laughed with her. “No, hun, it’s not the same.”
Fatima made it through the first month by calling Ezinne every day, or going to lunch with her, or just hanging out at Ezinne’s house on the other side of the barrack. Ezinne’s kids were 13, 10 and 8.
Little Ali was adored by Ezinne’s 13-year old daughter who had to watch her little brother and sister anyway, so Fatima had a babysitter whenever needed. Ezinne had really taken the younger army wife under her wing. They went shopping on Saturday together and Dinner at Ezinne’s on Sundays. Ezinne introduced her to the Captain’s wife and the other wives from the company.
Fatima’s days were full. She had friends now and one really good mentor, but her nights were still lonely and long. She never brought Ali to bed with her as Ezinne suggested. She missed Musa so much. His smell was barely on his pillow anymore. She hadn’t washed the pillowcase since he left. She would hug it to her chest and face, trying to fill her senses with the scent of him.
Some nights, as she lay there under the covers, she would keep it over her face and let her small hand trail down between her pert breasts, then down across her belly with her fingertips as she breathed in the last molecules of his smell. Slowly she would rub her firm belly letting her hand go in circles that moved further down until her fingers felt the soft tuft of her bush. Fatima would cup her small round breast with the other hand. She would tease herself, letting her fingers just press in and rub her mound but not down to the lips, not yet.
Musa would tease her like this. He could play her body, knowing her spots. That hollow were her thigh met her torso and of course her pussy. Her Musa spent time on everything but her pussy so that when he finally trailed across it, she jerked. She tried to do that now. She ran her fingertips across all of her, making her little hairs stand up but when she went to her wet little pussy the surprise wasn’t there. She would slip her fingers in and rub, but it wasn’t the same. No electricity, no thrill, she got off, but it was still frustrating.
Ezinne had to go school shopping, and Fatima tagged along even though Ali wasn’t even in kindergarten. Slowly they wandered the aisles and talked.
Finally, Ezinne got blunt like she usually did.
“You look terrible. What’s wrong?” the older woman asked as she leaned on the cart handles and pushed slowly.
“I don’t sleep, not well anyway,” Fatima confessed.
“Bad dreams?” Ezinne guessed.
“That and…” Fatima looked to the floor like a girl talking to her mom about a boy, “you know.”
Ezinne rolled her eyes and her whole head. “Oh, thaaat” she said loudly and slowly and then giggled.
“Stop making fun of me”, Fatima pouted.
Ezinne still giggled. “You are not the only one”, and shook her head slowly.
“What do I do?” she asked
“You do NOT act like those navy wives,” Ezinne said emphatically. “We don’t cheat on our men. Go buy a toy.”
“That’s it?” Fatima had hoped for better advice.
Ezinne shrugged. “He’ll be back and you’ll be happier then if he’s been your only man.” She said wisely.
Fatima got letters, at least one a week, sometimes two. It helped to read his words, to keep her strong. But by the fifth month, she was watching every fit young man that walked by. It was an army barrack; every man was strong and fit. The seventh month brought her birthday. She was now 24. There was no party. Musa would have taken her to dinner. She sat in her apartment and shared a box of pizza with Ali. She didn’t even buy a cake.
On Saturday nights Ezinne plays ludo, so 13-year-old Oge was home with her siblings. Fatima brought Ali over and asked her to sit for her.
“Please, Oge.” Fatima handed her two thousand naira.
“I just need some time with the girls, you know, a few drinks.”
“Sure, Mrs. Fatima.” Oge took the money and readily agreed. She got nothing for watching her siblings.
She watched Fatima walk back to her car in this red silk dress. With her beautiful skin and dark hair, Mrs. Fatima looked like a woman wanting more than a night with the girls.
Fatima drove to the club near the barrack. ‘She would get a drink, just to get a buzz on.’ She told herself ‘and maybe dance a little, nothing wrong with that.’ Her mind justified it. ‘She deserved a night out’. She admired how her dress fit so well after all these years. She hadn’t worn it since before Ali was born. Her heels clicked on the concrete as she made her way to the door. ‘She wanted to feel sexy and needed some stares and attention, that’s all’, she assured herself.
Fatima started to pull the club door open.
“Where the hell are you going?” Ezinne was behind her.
Fatima spun in surprise “How…what are you doing here?”
“Hello!”Ezinne said, holding up her cell phone. “Oge ratted you out. I just guessed you were going here.”
Fatima was annoyed. “I came to get a drink and maybe dance.” She said defensively.
“Dressed like that?” Ezinne sniffed the air. “And smelling like that?” Ezinne shook her head. “You came on a dick hunt, sister, and we both know it.”
Fatima looked at her with her mouth open in shock. “I would never…”
“Oh, you would never, right now, but you would get a few drinks into you and shake that little ass out there on the floor, and maybe some young dude would rub his hard body up against you. You would get all flushed and start thinking ‘well a kiss wouldn’t hurt’ and maybe a few more drinks and the next thing you know that dress is on his floor.” Ezinne stopped to let it sink in. “Or maybe you would take him to your husband’s bed.” She accused in a cold tone.
“Maybe you speak from experience, Ezinne” Fatima spat back, trying to hurt.
Ezinne went forward and grabbed the younger woman by the wrist and yanked her away from the door. “Maybe I do” she simply put. It shut Fatima up and she dragged her to the car.
“Get in the car!” She stood taller than Fatima and ordered her. Fatima obeyed because she didn’t want to party now. She was pissed that Ezinne ruined her ‘innocent’ plans.
Ezinne drove and talked. “Why do you think I took you under my wing? Let you use my girl as your sitter? I knew this would happen. I was you, Fatima. Not so many years back, I was you.” Ezinne looked over at her. ” I love you and I won’t let you do this to your man.”
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