Thursday, 23 January 2020

Her Last Breath (Episode Twenty)




Taofeek
A grin was plastered on my face as I changed into a simple t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Khayrah was very excited to see her family members. I chuckled as I heard their vibrant voices from the living room. My surprise was the best!

I had sat down on the bed to change into my shorts when my phone buzzed with a new notification. It was from Funmilayo.

I’m sorry to bother you. I know you have a lot of expenses to make…but please, remember that your children have started school and they need to pay their school fees. They also need to eat. I hope to hear from you soon.
-          Funmilayo.

My face felt paralyzed as I read through the contents. I jammed on my phone’s keyboard to reply.

I’m so sorry, Funmilayo. I am broke. The month will end in the next four days. I’ll send you something by then. Thanks for your understanding.
-          Taofeek.

I clicked ‘send’ and walked out of the room to meet only Fadilah and her father in the living room. Khayrah’s father had his phone pressed to his left ear as he spoke earnestly while Fadilah sat on the sofa, watching the TV.

“They are in the kitchen,” Fadilah smiled at me as she noticed my questioning eyes searching for Khayrah and her mother.

“Oh….” I stuttered. “I thought as much.”

Sincerely, I’d never quite related well with Khayrah’s family members, asides her mother. Her mother had soft and understanding eyes that usually portrayed the love she had for her daughter.

‘Khayrah loves you so much. And I know you love her. So, I love you both for loving yourself.’ She had remarked on a particular evening when I had called her to relate my worry about Khayrah’s state of health. It was when she was still brooding over the loss of Tijani.

Her last statement still rang in my memory. It meant a lot to me. She knew we both love ourselves deeply…but Khayrah’s father was different. I would feel nervous whenever I was relating to him. He acted nice and polite and he always offered to assist us in whatever way he could…but there was still something about his questioning eyes. Like I had gotten married to his daughter because of his money.

“Brother Taofeek?” Fadilah called as I shook my head and regained myself. I hadn’t noticed that I had been staring at him for long- the man who was dressed in a white kaftan and black cap. Khayrah’s father would be in his early fifties. He was of average height and had chocolate-coloured skin and small, beady eyes. Fadilah was the direct replica of her father, only that she took her mother’s complexion and eyes.

“Yes, Fadilah. I hope you’re enjoying your stay here?”

Her face flickered with a smile, revealing her wide eyes like that of Khayrah’s. “I am. Your house’s cool. You’re very handsome. I don’t know if I’m allowed to compliment the looks of my sister’s husband,” she laughed. “But in all sense, you are. The day you two met, my sister could not sleep. She was so crazy about you. Now, she’s pregnant. I mean, my elder sister is pregnant. The same person that shared the same room with me. We would dance delightfully when our parents were fast asleep and talk about how we imagined our future husband. One of those nights, Khayrah had placed a pillow beneath her blouse and feigned pregnancy.” Fadilah laughed again and I joined her.

“What I’m trying to say is that time flies so fast that you can hardly realize that things are changing. Events are occurring and as they do, we pass through several phases in life. Sometimes, when I look back at those days, I wonder if they are real. If they truly happened. And I’m grateful for life and love, and hope. I watched my sister shed buckets of tears. We thought she would leave so soon. We gazed at her like that would be our last. But here she is, happily married and expecting her first child. Alhamdulillah.” Fadilah stated as she cleaned streaks of tears that fell from her eyes.

“I’m sorry for blabbering, brother Taofeek. I just felt so overwhelmed visiting you and seeing the glow on my sister’s face. Please don’t tell her I said any of these.” She smiled at me in a pleading manner, revealing the intensity of her red-painted lips.

Fadilah was dressed in a red kimono and black veil. Her face glittered, courtesy of the Tara brown powder Khayrah had told me her sister saved money to purchase. I glanced at her petite stature and skin, the colour of papaya. And I wondered how two siblings could be different. Khayrah was selectively shy. She had this excellent aura that swept around her. Khayrah would study an environment critically before being her real self. Well, I saw a different side of Fadilah today. I never knew she could reflect deeply.

“I won’t. Let me go check on them,” I remarked as I turned to leave. I spotted Khayrah’s father, who was now resting on the wall. He was still deeply concentrated in his phone’s conversation. He greeted me with his eyes and I smiled in return as I sauntered towards the kitchen door.

I heard voices as I attempted to turn the doorknob.

Does he know…I’m scared…isn’t pregnancy…the doctor assured…let’s keep praying…

I heard filters from the conversation Khayrah had with her mother. In order not to get caught eavesdropping, I walked away and headed for the room.

Settling on the bed, I read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars for the seventh time and pondered over deep words the author had written. I had read the book for the first time during my final year in the university and I had no flick of an idea that a similar incident would happen to me. That I would fall in love with someone who is counting her last breaths.

I had spent five minutes reading the book when my phone rang. I picked it up. It was Ridwan calling.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, bro. How are you and how’s the family?” I greeted cheerfully.

“AlhamduliLlaah. They are fine. Little Zulaihat also sends her regards,” he chuckled. “I actually called to ask if you’ve gotten your bills settled. Have you found anyone to lend you some money?”

“I haven’t oo. But the month will end in four days. I believe we can manage until then. Thanks so much for your care.”

“You’re welcome. How’s your pregnant wife doing?”

I laughed proudly. “Healthier than ever. That reminds me, I spoke to dad yesterday. His legs still hurt him. But he said it’s getting better as he’s using the drugs administered by the doctor.”

Ah, AlhamduliLlaah. I’ll call him today. Old age ehn. Who will ever imagine that our energetic father will suffer from arthritis?”

Abi oo…” I was saying when Khayrah entered the room, smiling teasingly and pulling me up with her onion-smelling hand.

“Food is ready,” she whispered as she kissed my right cheek.

“Ridwan. I’ll call you back.” I said in a frisson as I tailed her.
***
“All the time Khayrah and I made the meal, Fadilah sat in the living room watching the TV.” Her mother frowned at Fadilah as she served the meal on the dining table. I took a seat beside her father as I perceived the nice aroma of fish stew wafting the atmosphere.

“But mom, you know I don’t like cooking. Who made it compulsory for all women to like cooking?”

Khayrah’s mother scrunched up her face as she glared at Fadilah. “Eri eleyi ni! Who told you cooking is not compulsory for women? Even if you hire a cook and let her do all the meals, she’ll end up snatching your husband. Look at your sister. Remember how she would sit in the room and expect Hafsah to do everything in the kitchen? By force by force, she has fallen in love with cooking,” She said as we all laughed.

I dipped my spoon into the plate of boiled rice and fish sauce, turned part and placed a spoon in my mouth. It was at that moment that Khayrah’s father cleared his throat.

I willed myself to swallow the food as I imagined what would come next. He never cleared his throat except that something big would be coming up.

“Taofeek?” he said in his usual high-pitch voice.

“Hmm?” I swallowed hard and turned towards him.

“I heard about a group Khayrah attends. A cancer support group. And I was wondering, why would she decide to attend such a group?”

“It’s a beneficial group. They talk about healing from pain…and she has also made friends from there…” I prattled.

“Friends that die every day like chickens? Friends that remind her that she would die soon? I heard she was very sick when she lost a dear friend few months back. What’s his name again…yes…Tijani. I think she gains nothing from attending such a group,” he blurted out and the air felt still for a minute.

Everyone was quiet save for the occasional clacking of spoons against the ceramic plate and peering eyes that travelled questioningly amongst ourselves.

Khayrah’s mother chuckled nervously and broke the silence a minute later. “You made a good opinion, my dear, but why don’t you discuss this with Taofeek after the meal?”

“Yes, fabulous idea,” Khayrah smiled.

My phone buzzed in my pocket and I picked it up hurriedly. Since my financial situation grew worse, I’d had the fetish for checking my phone repeatedly as if someone would suddenly consider to send me money and I would receive a credit alert.

Surprisingly, it was the credit alert I had been yearning from. But…it was from someone I never expected. It was from Khayrah’s father!

Stealing glances at them, I noticed Khayrah and her mother glanced at me and looked away immediately. I knew at once what had happened. Khayrah had told her mother about my financial condition. Her mother had asked her husband for help. Khayrah’s father had sent the money and he hadn’t stopped to wonder if I could really cater to the needs of his daughter.

My legs felt wobbly and I gulped a cup of water. My forehead had beads of sweat and my hands shook unusually. I felt ashamed and unworthy of being a husband. I could eat no more with several thoughts going on in her father’s mind.

“Excuse me,” I said politely as I walked out of the dining room.

I headed towards the balcony and inhaled the fresh air that swept the surrounding. Tears burnt my eyes as I replayed the scenario over and over again in my head. Was Khayrah’s father indirectly mocking me by asking those questions? How would her family see me? As a husband who cannot cater to his family’s needs? Why would Khayrah tell her mother about my financial situation? Why do I have to be wayward before now? If I didn’t have children out of wedlock to cater for, wouldn’t my life be simpler?

“Darling,” Khayrah called as she joined me in the balcony.

I didn’t respond. I was infuriated. She shouldn’t have told her parents. She shouldn’t have. We could have worked it out as a family.

My face softened a bit as Khayrah hugged me at the back. “I’m sorry, my love. I never knew it would happen this way. Even if you won’t tell me, I knew you were broke and I was just trying to help…”

“Trying to help?” I yelled as I removed her hands that surrounded my back and turned towards her with a glaring look. “I never asked for your help. Why did you tell your mother? Why?”

“You needed help but you were too proud to say it. You wouldn’t even tell me, your wife. And my dad is wealthy and always ready to assist us…”

I stifled a snort of laughter. “Always willing to help? Didn’t you witness what played out some minutes ago? He believes I married you because of his money.”

Khayrah frowned. “No, don’t say that. He doesn’t think so. I’m sure of that.”

“He does, and most people think so too! I’d overheard people in my street gossiping about me. They called me a fornicator who got married to a woman with a terminal illness because she’s from a wealthy home. People say this and that. They make assumptions about me. And you still want me to ask your father for help?”


Khayrah winced as a tear dropped on her cheek. “Who cares what people say? We both know how we feel for each other, Taofeek. You love me and I can feel it deep down my heart. I can never appreciate you enough for loving me despite knowing my health condition. I don’t care about your past because I trust my husband and I am certain that he would never cheat on me. So, who cares what anyone says? What matters is us. We shouldn’t stop loving and caring for each other every passing minute. And I think you’re making assumptions with regards to my father. Maybe he doesn’t show it but he appreciates you a lot. And he doesn’t think you’re a gold-digger. I’m a hundred percent certain. Please, darling, let’s leave all elements of doubts aside and fight all obstacles together. I want us to be a hundred percent sincere. You should tell me when you’re broke. I should tell you that Tijani has been appearing in my dreams.” Khayrah said as she looked away.

I gasped in surprise. “Tijani?”

She bit her lower lip nervously. “Yes.”

“How long has this been happening?”

“Four months. I’m sorry.”

I pulled her into a hug. “It’s okay. We’ll discuss that later. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Khayrah replied when my phone started to ring.

“Oh, gosh! Why does this phone keep intruding on our special moment? Should I yank this object away?” her face broke into a joyful smile.

“Yes, let’s.” I chuckled as I checked the caller ID. It was an unknown number. I clicked on the answer button and pressed the phone to my ear. “Hello?”

“Surprise. Since you refused to pick my calls, now I’ve used a different number. I am in Nigeria! Come and pick me up at the airport, dad.”

“Aliyah?”

“Yes, Aliyah. Come and pick me up. I’m waiting!”

“Okay,” I muttered as I hung up the call.

“Aliyah is in Nigeria?”

“Yes, she just arrived. We should pick her up. What will we tell your family members?”

“We’ll sort it out.”

“Yes, we will,” I replied as we both laughed.
“Wait, I’ve got no appetite for the meal anymore. Can we visit a buka on our way to the airport?”

I looked up dazedly at her face. “You haven’t visited a buka before, like ever?”

Khayrah rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Don’t mock me now. Let’s go.”

“You’re still the weirdest being I’ve ever met,” I snickered as we left the balcony.
***
While I drove to the airport, Khayrah kept talking about Aliyah…and children…and Aliyah…and children.

I knew she was nervous that Aliyah had returned. Khayrah had never been good with children…talk more than a teenager. I had spotted the anxiety appearing in her face since Aliyah made the call. But I’d missed Aliyah. I’d missed my first daughter. The one I’d held in my arms and wept tears of joy. I’d miss her vibrant laughter and angelic voice. I’d missed the way she would roll her eyes and pout her eyes whenever she wanted a thing from me. I’d missed Aliyah so much.

“…children are the gift of life. Yes, they can be trouble. But they are sweet and innocent…” Khayrah was saying as she opened another wrap of bubble gum and started to chew.

“I never loved children. I never even imagined living with them. But the day Aliyah had been placed on my hands and I just stared at the beautiful being cooing and wriggling her hands. And I fell in love with her that minute. Even when Jasmine dropped her and fled off, I gladly nurtured Aliyah till she grew up. It was hard but I tried my best to be a good father.”

Khayrah surveyed my face thoughtfully. “Is that why you couldn’t forgive her?”

“She left me and started staying with the woman that left her years ago, without prior notice. It hurt me deeply.”

Khayrah held my hand and rubbed it with care. “But she has realised her mistake. You ought to forgive her now.”

“I have forgiven her long ago. I just wanted her to know that what she did was wrong.”

“Okay,” Khayrah replied as I pulled into the parking lot.

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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Things No One Told You Before Graduation (Stories Left Untold)



We often get excited whenever we are newly admitted to the university. We stuff our bags with nice clothes and rush to school like someone being chased by a dog.

The feeling of becoming an undergraduate swirls in our minds as we resume school to begin a different phase in our lives. Soon, school stress and all starts to creep in and then, after having spent a year or two in the university, we become impatient and crave for that day; the day we are going to do our convocation and finally be called a graduate!

While in the university, we dream about the things we wish to accomplish after we graduate. Thoughts about going for our Masters, getting a stable job, making enough money to fend for ourselves or even getting married often float in our minds.

“When I graduate, I’ll finally get the chance to visit different countries. I’ll get a nice job and make lots of money,” my friend had said, grinning widely like she had just won a golden trophy. Thing is, there are stories and facts left untold.

Stories no one told me before I had to face the unexpected events. I spent most of my years in the university believing the thoughts that twitched in my mind and clouded my memory like a haze of smoke.

After my graduation, I got to know that reading and learning do not end in the university. In fact, we are expected to learn more things beyond what we had been taught in the university. It is important even in terms of seeking a job.

The world itself is highly competitive and may tend to be harsh sometimes, so we must acquire much knowledge as we can.

I remember vividly back then in school when I used to sog my legs in a bucket of cold water just to stay up at night to read. I drank coffee tire! I had the feeling that university was the peak of learning and so I gave it all my best while in school.

The necessary skills I should have cultivated, the things I saw to be unnecessary to read, the online courses I never registered for and the educative programs I never attended finally haunted me when I least expected. I got to know that certain skills are necessary to cultivate before we graduate.

Truth be told, learning continues as long as we breathe. I realized that a person who leaves his brain dormant is similar to a torchlight that does not emit light through its bulbs and so, has no means of knowing what goes on around it.

Having neglected so many things I should have done in the past, I have been taut on stitching up and acquiring all that is necessary for me to know. And that is one of the things no one told me before I graduated.     
                                                                                                                                  -Anonymous.

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Monday, 13 January 2020

Her Last Breath (Episode Nineteen)


Khayrah
“You are still as beautiful as ever. Stunning, adorable…”

E don do! You’ve started all these again? Well, Taofeek tells me that every day, so, I don’t get flattered.” I said as I tried to hide the smile that passed across my face.

“Aha! But you just blushed. Admit it, Khayrah. You love to hear these words.” Tijanni remarked as a flicker of amusement passed over his face.

“You’re gone now…and I’m really scared. Sometimes, I appear like I’m not but the thought of death frightens me. What if it comes now?”

“What’s the use of being frightened? You know you’re going to die. We all know we’re going to die. Then, why don’t we spend the rest of our days memorable?”

“You can be smart when you want to, Tijanni.” I muttered, staring at him with thoughtful eyes.

Tijanni cackled and with a swoosh, he disappeared into the light.

My eyes blinked steadily as I tried to reach out to him. With a piercing scream, I opened my eyes to find myself on the bed, drooling saliva from the side of my mouth. As I turned sideways, I caught sight of Taofeek staring at me with a creased forehead as he sat beside the bed and sipped from a mug of tea.

“What’s up with you and nightmares? Is this one of the effects of pregnancy?” he asked with an anxious look on his face.

I sighed deeply as I sat upright and stretched my body. “I don’t think so. It’s just this recurrent dream I keep having.”

“What’s it about?” Taofeek inquired as he walked up to where I sat and felt my palm. “Are you having Malaria?”

“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. It’s nothing.” I muttered between breaths as I stood up and stared out of the window with strained eyes. I swiveled towards Taofeek to notice that he was dressed in a white shirt, black tie and a pair of trousers. Gosh! I had slept until dawn.

“Don’t tell me it’s past seven!” I yelled in disbelief as I reached for my phone. It was worse. 7:30 am on the dot!

Taofeek snickered. “My pregnant wife is acting cray cray!”

“I’m not acting crazy. Don’t you dare say that!” I bellowed at Taofeek as he continued to laugh.

As I sauntered towards the bathroom to perform ablution and perform salatul subh, I caught sight of myself in the mirror.

My eyes widened in shock as I noticed my fat face and swollen lips. I looked completely different from my real self.

“What happened?” Taofeek stopped laughing and stood beside me in front of the mirror.

“My face. My shape. It’s an eyesore. I look horrible. Darling, have you been lying about this pregnancy glow thingy?” I glared at him and noticed that he cleared his throat.

“I’m not. You are glowing, love. Take another look at yourself. You look amazing.” He said as he held me by the waist and kissed my neck.

“Okay…I’m beautiful. I believe you. Can I go and perform ablution?”

Taofeek released me from his grip and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Okay, my love. I’ll be waiting for you in the living room.”

As I entered the bathroom and filled the kettle with water, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream I had experienced.

Tijanni again? When would I stop dreaming about him?!

Since Tijanni passed away, there was hardly a night that he didn’t appear in my dream. I had prayed about it…then it stopped…and continued months later. I hadn’t told Taofeek about the dream because I was scared that he would get jealous. My mind flashed to the sight of Tijanni’s corpse as I washed my face. Tears streaked down my face as I remembered all that had happened a few months ago. I washed the tears with water and proceeded to wash my arms.

Twenty minutes later, I was in the kitchen, making a quick breakfast for Taofeek. I searched through the cupboard but it was obvious that we had run out of foodstuff. I settled for the almost-empty pack of oatmeal from the shelf and placed a pot of water on the gas. Taofeek came in that minute, avoiding my eyes as he rinsed his cup.

“For the hundredth time, I need to go to the market to buy foodstuff. The kitchen is practically empty!”

Taofeek placed the cup on the tray and cleared his throat. “We’ll go to the market this weekend. Settled?”

“Why can’t I go alone today? I’ll be home all day, literally doing nothing. Are you broke?”

“Broke? Why would I be broke? See Khayrah, I’m late for work. There’s no time to wait for breakfast. See you in the evening. Love you.” He said, placing a kiss on my left cheek.

“Love you too,” I replied, watching as he walked out of the kitchen with a frown. And certain that Taofeek was hiding his financial situation from me.
***
How to fall in love with your child. How to love children. How to develop love for children even if you don’t love them. How to be a good mother. How to make your child love you…

I had been searching on Google for the past two hours with a plate of Cabin biscuits beside me and a glass of juice. My eyes were strained and I was exhausted.

The articles I read were all saying the same thing. I just wanted one answer. How to develop that love!

I remembered when I first held Taofeek’s twins in my arms. Beautiful children, they were…but I still get frightened whenever they visited. I still wonder how I would get to fall in love with my child.

To drift my thoughts away from my children and how to love them, I put on the TV and tuned in to Netflix. I was about to select a movie to watch when a call came in. It was Janet, the new friend I had made in the cancer support group.

“Hey, Khayrah! How you dey nah?” Janet said at the other end of the call in an excited tone.

The way she pronounced my name as Kiara often made me wince. “I just dey here oo. Husband is at work and I’m all alone at home, thinking of binge-watching a Netflix series.”

“Let me visit you nah. I’ve missed you small,” Janet replied.

I beamed in excitement. “Be coming, jare!

“One condition. You must prepare okro soup and semovita. Remember I’ll be driving down from the island?”

“I’m sorry, Janet. That won’t be possible. My kitchen is empty oo! Please buy two plates of rice and chicken from Tastee.”

“Are you high? I should come to una mainland and still buy food?”

“Be nice for once nah…ah, it seems my husband is calling. I’ll be expecting you and the food. Bye!” I said as I hung up and picked Taofeek’s call.

“Who were you talking to?”

“Janet. She wants to pay me a visit.”

“At least, someone will keep you company till I return.”

“Yeah,” I replied blankly, sipping from my cup of juice.

“Khayrah, I’m sorry about what happened this morning. I promise to make it up to you.”

“Okay. Get on with your work before your boss barges into your office.”

“Are you indirectly telling me to hang up, huh?” Taofeek laughed teasingly.

“Bye bye, Mr. Accountant.” I said as I hung up the call.

***  
Janet appeared by the door one hour thirty minutes later, with two Tastee-branded bags. I pulled her into a big hug as I welcomed her home.

“I’ve missed you so much, Janet. This house can be boring.”

“Haha. What about those estate meetings of yours where you gossip and talk about your husbands?” Janet smirked as she pulled her hat and wig away, revealing her permed low-cut.

She was a tall and slender lady with bright eyes and fair skin. I’d been astounded by her beauty the first day she approached me in the cancer support programme. Janet was putting on a red gown and a brown hat. She settled on the couch and picked a biscuit from the ceramic plate.

“Well, I decided to stop attending their meetings. It wasn’t productive at all. We’ll spend the whole day talking about how men are not to be trusted…then the women would start to quarrel amongst themselves. Some of them would visit me just to spoil the name of another woman in the estate.” I said, opening a plate of rice and dipping a spoon inside.

“Typical of Nigerian housewives. And I don’t want you to become like them. Why don’t you start work? You don’t have to work 9-5. You can work remotely, just like I do.”

“I’ll think about that. I just have a lot clogging my thoughts. Tijanni is still appearing in my dreams. I haven’t even told Taofeek. The only persons I’ve told is you and my mom.”

“It’s no big deal, Khayrah. It is normal to dream about someone you’ve lost if the person was very close to you. Remember you didn’t even have much time to spend with Tijanni. You wanted to impact on his life but you couldn’t. Maybe that’s why. Give it time. You’ll get through everything.”

“Okay. Thanks, Janet,” I remarked, sitting on the sofa and cutting flesh from the chicken drumstick.

Ehen! Remember that my Muslim neighbour that was smiling at you like a mumu the last time you visited?”

I swallowed the chicken as I replied. “Kunle? The one that drives a white car?”

“Yes oo. You won’t believe that he was asking about you yesterday. He said he likes you.”

I chuckled. “And what did you say?”

“I told him you’re happily married,” Janet stated as she put on the TV.

“Janet, the funny thing about my life is that I wasn’t really noticed by men before I got married. Now I’m married and boom! The toasters are knocking on my door.”

Hahaha. You’re funny. Abeg, let’s watch this movie. The Princess Switch. I heard that the movie will make you fall in love.” She said as she clicked on play.

“Well, I’m already in love!” I exclaimed cheerfully.

Janet and I settled on the couch as we ate and watched the movie. After two hours of gushing over the characters and shedding tears, we fell asleep.

I was woken by the ringing of my phone. Janet and I woke up startled as we stared at the phone that rested on the table.

“It’s Taofeek,” I stated as I took the phone from the table. “Hello. Asalamu ‘alaykum,” I greeted in between yawns.

“Wa’alaykumu salam. You just woke up?”

“Janet and I watched a movie and fell asleep afterwards. How are you? You’re on your way home?”

“Yes, I am. And I have companies. Can you briskly make something?”

My face jerked in surprise. “Make something? Seriously? You’ve forgotten there’s no foodstuff at home?”

“Oh, yes. That’s true. You know what? Just buy a few provisions from the shop beside our house. Please.”

“Who are these guests we’re expecting sef? Are they that special?”

“They’re our friends. I’ve got to go now. We’ll be there in the next thirty minutes. Bye.”

“Your husband is inviting people over and now you have to cook for them?”  Janet glared at me as I dropped the phone on my legs.

“Yes.”

“Ah, one of the reasons I’m grateful for not being married. Let me be on my way.”

“Okay. We’ll be going out together. I want to buy a few items from the shop close by.”
***
I had boiled rice and eggs and placed it in a large bowl in the kitchen. I was grating the balls of pepper and tomatoes when I heard a knock on the door.

I jostled out of the kitchen as I cleaned my sweaty forehead with my hand. I’d forgotten that I just touched balls of pepper. The stinging sensation it gave to my skin made me remember that.

“Ah!” I whined, rushing into the bathroom and rinsing my face.

Afterwards, I changed into a loose gown and wore a brown hijab. I breathed deeply as I walked towards the door. I was not very good at meeting new people and Taofeek knew that. He shouldn’t have just notified me within thirty minutes.

Taking another deep breath, I opened the door slowly to receive Taofeek and the guests.

“Surprise!” was yelled by my family members!

Surprise engulfed my face as I widened my eyes and stared at my parents and Fadilah, grinning at me in excitement.

“SubhanaLlaah. Darling, these are the guests? You’re incredible!” I yelled in excitement as I hugged them one after the other.
“We’ve missed you so much. Is this what happens when one gets married?” Fadilah laughed.
She was dressed in a red blouse and black palazzo pants. I dragged her cheeks and hugged her again.

“Can you go inside and have a seat? I haven’t visited here since you got married.” My father stated as we walked inside.

“Thank you,” I mouthed to Taofeek and he smiled in reply.

“I’ll go change into a simpler outfit. Khayrah will serve you a cold drink.” Taofeek stated as he was walking out of the living room.

“A minute.” I grinned as I followed Taofeek inside.

He gasped in surprise as he spotted entering the room. “Great surprise, yeah?” he said, unbuttoning his shirt.

“Greatest surprise ever! How were you able to pull this one without me noticing?”

“Well, I knew you have missed your family members and I noticed you’ve not really been yourself these days. So, I decided to surprise you and invite them over!”

“You’re the best,” I whispered, pulling him into a kiss.

“Thanks for the compliment…but you’ll have me all night. Now, go and meet your family members.”

“That’s right,” I remarked, pulling him into another kiss.

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