The Runaway- Episode 7
By Luula Jama
Mumina only saw Bashir at meal times over the next week. He would ask how her leg was healing as she served him sugo and salad with beets and hard-boiled eggs. She didn’t speak with Rashid or Ahmed but felt their eyes on her as she cooked and cleaned according to Nicmo, Ahmed’s wife’s, strict orders.
“You left dirt in the corner behind the television,” she said and swung the broom at Mumina.
“The beans are too salty.”
“Don’t burn the laxoox!”
“Only a fool puts that much sugar in shaah.”
After serving the others their food, Mumina took the leftovers to a dark corner behind a mattress propped against the wall in the bedroom she shared with Nicmo. She leaned her head against the wall and ate slowly, saying “bismillah” over every bit. Since arriving in Djibouti, she had been too exhausted even to pray and hoped Allah would have mercy on her.
That was where she was when Rashid found her, huddled in the corner, her fingers greasy with oil and tomato sauce.
The voices of an Egyptian soap opera floated through the open door. Mumina didn’t notice Rashid until he slid the door shut and the television sounds disappeared. Mumina looked up as he knelt in front of her. He placed one hand on her knee and, before she could react, put the other over her mouth.
“One sound and I’ll kill you,” he said and moved his hand from her knee her thigh.
Mumina remembered her barefoot run in Hargeisa and the explosion on the boat and how she kept herself alive while others drowned. She didn’t care if he killed her, she wasn’t the kind of girl who obeyed the rules.
Rashid started to fumble with his macwiis. Mumina bit down on his thumb and tasted blood. Rashid howled and jerked his hand away. She threw green chili sauce in his face and kicked his shins, knocking him off balance. She was on her feet before Rashid could stand and stomped on his fingers.
“Touch me again and I’ll kill you,” she said.
Ahmed, Nicmo and Bashir stood around the door when Mumina thrust it open. She ignored them, grabbed her shoes and left the house.
“Wait!” Bashir called but she couldn’t stop. He followed her into the street. “Wait.” He grabbed her by the wrist and Mumina snatched her arm away, turned and slapped across the face.
“Don’t touch me,” she said.
Bashir raised his hands in the air. “Wallahi, I won’t hurt you,” he said. “But you’ve got nowhere to go.”
“I’ll find someplace.”
“No, you can’t. They’re looking for you.”
Mumina squinted at him, trying to decipher his meaning. “Who?” she asked. Her parents? The man she was engaged to?
Bashir took a step backwards. “Well, maybe not you exactly. But the police said a boat from Hargeisa to Yemen was bombed a few days ago. They are looking for anyone who might know something.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mumina said.
“Someone was carrying ransom money for a ship held by pirates but before they could deliver it, the boat sank.”
Mumina remembered the captain’s quick escape. “What does that have to do with me?”
“I think you were on that boat.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Mumina said.
“I believe you.” Bashir lowered his voice. “Let me help you. I work at Petlier Hospital.”
“They’re looking for a cleaning woman. You’ll have to stay for a few more days while I arrange things but I can protect you.”
Mumina hesitated. The thought of one more minute in the same house as Rashid made her skin crawl. But she needed a job or she would be on the street with worse men than Rashid in no time. Slowly, Mumina nodded and turned back to the house.