His words were blunt and powerful; they cut deep into all that were present. The sisters knew how stubborn Fatima could be. Their only wish was to see her married to Umar. It wasn’t just about saving the ranch from his money, they all knew that Fatima was in love with Umar but her ego wouldn’t let her admit it.
The silence that dwelt in the atmosphere was comfortable. They all enjoyed their breakfast while housing their thoughts about Fatima and Umar. Soon, there was going to be an interruption and it would bring surprise to everyone.
“I must say, you cook very well Faiza. Thank you for feeding me.” Laila dropped her hands lazily on the table.
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The men burst out with laughter. It wasn’t a secret that Faiza was a terrible cook. She had tried many times to make her dishes work, but they never did. If the salt wasn’t tongue peeling, the pepper could burn the entire ranch. Faiza accepted her fate. But she was an expert in needle work and knitting; her sisters had no idea on how to sew a dress perfectly.
“I hope you aren’t laughing at me…” Laila rolled her eyes.
Faiza chuckled, “It wouldn’t be a bad thing for men to learn how to cook.”
“A man was meant for greater things than the kitchen.” Faiza’s husband tried to correct her view on the matter.
“When the woman isn’t available, a man will go hungry then.” Faiza fired back.
“Well, he could get other women to cook for him when his woman isn’t available,” he answered. This response infuriated Faiza. Was her husband planning to marry a new wife? Was he planning to cheat on her?
Laila could see the flame in her eyes. She had a feeling that the husband and wife would begin to quarrel if care wasn’t taken.
“Enough! It doesn’t matter who does the cooking in a household. What matters is love and understanding. This is why I plan to marry a very wealthy man who will have servants to do all the cooking….” She trailed off when she spotted Mallam Ahmad at the entrance of the dining hall.
The old man announced his entrance by clearing his throat. When all attention was on him, he began to stroll towards the table.
“Is there a problem Mallam?” Faiza watched the old man’s face.
He shook his head, “Not at all. You have a visitor Laila.” Mallam Ahmad bowed his head.
All eyes turned to the sister who couldn’t cook.
“Does someone have a secret admirer?” Abdulmasid eyed her curiously.
“Is someone jealous?” Laila winked.
She was about rising to her feet when she spotted the man by the entrance of the dining hall. It was Tanko, the bar owner and the brother of Aisha; the woman who had Umar’s heart.
“What is he doing here? You shouldn’t have let this brute in!” Laila quickly grabbed a fruit knife from the table.
Tanko walked in dejectedly. Paying a visit to the shrew had not been an easy decision, but he had come anyway. He was ready to do anything to make his sister win Umar’s love. Coming closer to Fatima’s family was the first thing.
“Easy Laila, you must listen to him.” Mallam Ahmad pacified her.
Laila bit her lip and threw the knife across the table. She folded her arms across her chest and waited for the man to speak.
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“I am sorry for the way I spoke to you at the bar. I apologize. I had taken a little drink and it had blurred my sense of reasoning. I do not treat women badly or speak to them anyhow. I have a sister, and I treat her kindly. Please, forgive me dear Laila.”
Laila’s heart softened when she heard his words. They seemed to come from a place of genuineness. But she was careful not to show it. Tanko had to be taught a lesson.
“Laila? Please say something.” He begged.
“I have nothing to say to you. I bear no grudge against you, but we will always be enemies.” She gave free rein to her hands and dropped on her seat.
Tanko’s face reddened in embarrassment. He couldn’t believe the spoilt brat would treat him that way. He had swallowed his pride and asked a woman for forgiveness and she was treating him like he didn’t matter.
“What more do you want from me? Is my apology not enough?” Tanko asked.
“Just leave my father’s ranch. I am satisfied with your apology, but don’t ever come here!” Laila fired at him.
Tanko ran his eyes over the faces in the room. He spotted Umar’s elder brother, and Faiza’s husband. So they all ate together? He also had a feeling that Umar usually had his meals here, but he wasn’t too sure. He was going to ask the old man once they stepped outside.
“Very well then, thank you for granting me audience.” He bowed his head and walked out of the dining hall.
Mallam Ahmad had lived with the girls a long time. He understood their temperaments and their personalities. He had been watching Laila’s face the whole time. From what he noticed, Laila was only being puckish. She wasn’t angry with Tanko; in fact, she was greatly pleased with his apology.
“Do not be too hard on yourself. Women behave oddly at times.” The old man tried to make Tanko feel better. If only he understood Laila’s playful nature, he wouldn’t be too upset with her reaction.
Tanko sighed, “I really hurt her Mallam. I do not know what to do to get into her good books.”
Mallam Ahmad was interested in getting the ranch back to its old glory. This could only be possible if there was money flow from somewhere. He knew that Laila was just as troubled about the ranch like Fatima. But she was careful not to show it.
“Women love men who are problem solvers…” Mallam dropped a hint.
Tanko’s brows were raised in confusion. He was an experienced man when it came to the buying and selling of information. His bar was the birthplace of all rumours and scandals that ever took place in the little country of Israr. He sensed a deep message from what the old man was telling him.
“How can a man be of help to her and everyone else, when he doesn’t know the cause of a problem?” Tanko replied in the same proverbial fashion.
It was time to deliver the message. It was time to spill the secret that he had been keeping for many years.
“The ranch needs help. The ranch will fall soon. We are in trouble and we need a saviour.”
Tanko contained his shock with a cocky smile. He had to pretend like he was interested in Laila to keep the old fool talking. He couldn’t wait to share this news with Aisha, so they would know the next action to take.
To be continued…