“When did we grow so old?”
Fatima scowled as she handed a steaming cup of mint tea to her sister. Jamila accepted the tea as Fatima settled her bones on the river bulkhead.
“I am not so old as you, sister,” Jamila said, sipping her tea. The tea fragrance carried them back to fall harvest in their mountain village. As young girls, Fatima and Jamila had worked long hours in their father’s fields.
Now, fall was gone and the damp winters of Rabat pained Fatima’s arthritis. They sat in silence, sipping their tea as the green black waters of Bou Regreg sludged past.
“I do not know why we still come here,” Jamila said.
“Because our husbands do not like it,” Fatima replied and they laughed. There are few satisfying rebellions for a Muslim woman and Fatima and Jamila practiced them often.
“What did the doctor say?” Jamila ventured.
“Youssef is too stubborn to tell me,” Fatima said. She savored a sip of tea. “But I know.”
“How do you know this?” Jamila realized when she asked the question that she shouldn’t have asked the question. Her cheeks colored and Fatima laughed.
“You are too modest, little sister.”
A gusty breeze fluttered the silks of Jamila’s hijab and she drew the scarf tight under her chin. “Mamma had a remedy for such things,” Jamila said, not looking at her sister.
“I know,” Fatima said. “I have been mixing the herbs with his breakfast meal for weeks.
“You have?” Jamila looked up at her sister, eyes wide.
“What our men don’t know…,” and the sisters giggled as girls.
“Has it helped?” Jamila asked and the women laughed again.
“Shush,” Fatima said. “The Imam will see us laughing.”
“As will the All-Seeing-Eye.”
Fatima shivered in the moist river air as the culture of silence settled on the women. She sipped her tea as a lone seagull squawked above.
“How does Saïd at University?”
“Good. Good. He’ll be home in another month.” Jamila watched a fisherman rowing a worn wooden boat against the current. “And how is Asmae and the babies?”
“The babies are noisy, and hungry,” Fatima smiled. “I love having them here. Asmae says that Hakim wants her to come home.”
“It is too soon.”
“That is what I tell her.”
“She must rest, and feed her little ones.”
“So says the Prophet.”
Jamila took a sip of her mint tea and frowned. “My tea grows cold.”
“As do my old bones.”
Fatima and Jamila both twisted their bodies and stood up as old women. When the Adhan call to prayer echoed across the river they looked up to the minaret.
“The Muezzin is in good voice today.”
“He always sounds good on those days when we aren’t required to be there.” The sisters exchanged guilty smirks.
“You bring the tea.”
They smiled and embraced.
The mournful Muezzin’s call echoed across the cobblestones as the sisters plodded toward home.