Nadia waits for Daniel to slip out of bed and leave the apartment for his weekly offroading expedition before she opens her eyes and kicks off the covers. She counts to three hundred after she hears the front door close in case he bursts back into the apartment and when the sound of his rumbling Nissan Patrol fades away, she climbs out of bed and starts making wudhu for Salaatul Fajr. As she washes her face, rinses her mouth and drips water over her arms, she feels a sense of peace fill her soul.
After the failed dinner, Nadia has not spoken a single word to Daniel, waiting for him to apologise and make the first move to repair their wounded relationship. He hasn’t. Instead, he sneaks out of bed in the morning when he thinks she’s still asleep and reappears late at night, either crashing on the living room sofa or sleeping as far away from her as possible on the king-sized bed. If she wants to, she can make it difficult for him to avoid her by staying up reading, or curling up on the sofa watching TV. But the reality is, she doesn’t want to see his face, because whenever she does, she gets the urge to slap it. Hard.
Wudhu completed, she pats herself dry with her navy blue thick, fluffy towel and then dabs a little moisturizer on her face. Slipping an abaya over her yellow cotton pyjamas, she wraps a pashmina around her head and lays out the silk Persian prayer rug facing Makkah on the cold bedroom floor. Standing straight with her eyes cast down, she starts in the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful, and begins with Surah Al Fatiha – The Opening.
She finds that she can’t concentrate on her morning prayers and stumbles on the words she has recited a thousand times. When she finishes, she sits still on the rug and clutches onto her turquoise prayer beads, a gift from her maternal grandmother in Marrakesh She runs her fingers over the smooth beads that feel cool against her warm hands and breathes deeply with her eyes closed, imagining herself in the Koutoubia Mosque. She misses Marakkesh, with its countless minarets and spiritual fervour that thrives despite the secular government that tries to tame it, and wishes she could walk through the labyrinth-like alleyways in Jamaa el Fnaa once again, or sit leaning against a pillar in famous Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Although she is only half Moroccon (her father's side Algerian) and lived in Morocco for just a couple of years, she feels more Moroccan than any other part of her identity.
When the sun slowly begins its ascent into the violet sky, Nadia pulls herself to her feet and puts on the kettle, still in her plain black abaya and purple pashmina. As the water boils, she makes the bed and then takes out her laptop with trepidation. Spending all day on a computer at work, Daniel hasn't bothered with buying his own laptop and uses Nadia's pink Sony Vaio whenever he wants to check his Facebook or Myspace in the evenings or weekends. Last week though, she installed a keylogging device on her Vaio that tracks every password entered and today, she is planning on using the knowledge she will receive from it.
Nadia pushes aside the niggling twinge of guilt she feels at betraying his trust, telling herself that it is her right to do what she can to understand their relationship, that she has waited long enough for him to acknowledge her existence. With every day that passes, she realizes that he has no intention of changing, and that realization has bred a desperate urge to find out exactly what is occupying his mind. It obviously isn’t her.
The laptop welcomes her to Windows, and she stares at the desktop wallpaper, willing her eyes not to fill with tears. It is a picture of her and Daniel on their wedding day, fifteen months ago. She looks radiant in a simple white dress with long, fitted sleeves adorned with tiny white beads and Daniel looks equally as ecstatic and handsome in a plain black suit. Although Nadia is looking at the camera, Daniel is looking at her and his expression is that of a young man who simply cannot believe his luck. He is staring at her as if she is a precious jewel and he wants to hold her, protect her and keep her by him for ever.
Nadia wonders if today, forever is about to come to an end.
The wedding was a small, private affair – a mosque ceremony followed by dinner at her grandparents' large, detached house in Surrey, and there weren’t more than thirty people present but despite the small size of the wedding, the simple dress she had bought from Fonthill Road and the bouquet she had made herself, she felt like a queen.
That night, they drove to a boutique hotel in Hampshire and Nadia quivered with anticipation as Daniel slowly and deliberately unwrapped her white, silk hijab and let her curly brown hair tumble to her shoulders. It was the first time he had seen her without hijab – he hadn’t even seen any pictures – and it was worth the wait. He touched her as if she was a porcelain doll, his fingers shaking, drunk on love and the beautiful feeling of knowing that his wife was all his – that no other man would ever be able to see her as he could.
Opening the hidden program, Nadia quickly scans in all the passwords that have been entered. His Gmail, his Yahoo, his Facebook and his Myspace are all there. She copies and pastes them all onto a blank email and saves the draft, just in case she forgets them, and then opens up his Gmail.
Everything is normal in Daniel's inbox and she feels a twinge of guilt for doubting him. There are emails from his friends and family in the US, work related messages and some forwarded mail from her sister. Her eyes eventually fall on an email thread from a girl named Sarah. She wracks her brain, certain she has heard her name before. She gives up trying to work out who it is and just opens it, telling herself that as his wife, it is her right to know about his interaction with women. The thread opens to show at least fifty messages exchanged between the two of them over the course of a couple of months. Feeling vulnerable and yet hopeful – after all, Sarah could just be a colleague - she finds the very first email and begins to read.
Half an hour later, Nadia is still sitting in the very same position she was in when she turned on the laptop. She feels as if her bones are made of lead and she cannot move without experiencing a sharp ache in her head. Daniel and Sarah, Sarah and Daniel. She rolls around the names in her mouth. They sound good together, like salt and pepper, similar but different. Better than Daniel and Nadia. Chalk and cheese.
Daniel and Sarah, it seems, are meeting today. From their messages, she feels as if she has watched their entire relationship in a movie. They both like to write and their emails are full of colourful stories and descriptions. Nadia has worked out that Sarah is his ex-girlfriend, she wishes she never dumped him four years ago and she is visiting Dubai. Just to see him. The emails are littered with innuendos and the underlying passion of two people who desperately want to be together but cannot and although Daniel mentions that he is in a relationship, he forgets to add that it is the kind united by God. There are also pictures – Sarah in a bikini on South Beach, Miami, Sarah in an evening gown at a fancy party in LA, Sarah looking pretty in pink at her sister’s wedding in New York.
Sarah is small and curvy with short, wavy blonde hair. She is definitely attractive in a girly, innocent way, with wide blue eyes and a small tulip mouth but Nadia knows that she is much better looking. So what exactly is the fascination with this woman?
You look good enough to devour, he wrote after receiving the bikini image. It reminds me of that day we spent on the beach when we were still friends, and we somehow ended up home together. That day, as we messed around in the water, all I could think about was untying those bikini strings, watching it fall and letting the sea swallow it up.
Nadia’s tea remains cold and untouched on the coffee table as the adjectives he has used to describe her play over and over in her head. Sexy, smart, sweet, cute, lovable, beautiful. Does that mean she is none of those things? Her hands begin to shake and she quickly logs out of Gmail and climbs back into bed. Too scared to tell her family that her relationship with her husband is failing, too ashamed to confide in her friends, loneliness wraps itself around her as she buries her head under her pillow. The tears start slowly, but soon, they are gushing out of her eyes like a broken tap and her sobs are wracking her entire body.
Right now, my husband is with another woman, she keeps repeating to herself over, and over again.
Eventually, the tears subside and she wonders what his Facebook is hiding. She doesn’t have the willpower to look through it, though. She has read enough for one day.