Friday, 15 February 2019

Flaming Home (Episode Five)




Najwa's Point of View
Yes, I Love Him!

The month has been a stressful one…really stressful! Barakah had been hospitalized and I’d spent my days by her side, holding her hands, feeding her, muttering prayers and hoping that my friend-turned-sister heals completely.
                                                                                                                        
The incident at Zara’s engagement still makes my face blanches in shock. The sight of Barakah lying trodden on the floor like a log of wood. Blood stained on the wall. Her bare chest revealed.

“I had gone to the store to adjust my gown. As I unzipped my gown, I slipped and fell.” Barakah had said when she regained consciousness at the hospital.

I was glad that it was nothing worse than a minor fracture.  How would I have lived without Barakah? She is all I have; my best friend, sister, and even husband.

Do you still call Anas a husband?

He literally ignored me throughout the period I spent at the hospital before Barakah got discharged. He never even cared to visit her for once or ask after her health.

Is that really a husband?

“You should divorce that man you call your husband. Imagine how heartless he is. If you were the one in my position, he would do the same!” Barakah had said as I fed her custard at the hospital.

She was right…but it is easier said than done. Our marriage is the foundation of my career and I just have to strive…strive to cope with that good-for-nothing man called Anas.

It’s a bright morning and I am on my way to Yasmin’s boutique. Barakah got discharged three days ago and I have taken the day off to unwind and relax from the stress of visiting the hospital.

As I inhale the fresh air that is pouring into the car, I feel glad that I am free from the smell of iodoform that reeks the fore-walls of hospitals!

I haven’t visited Yasmin in a while. Yasmin is my only sister. We have never been friends. We spent our childhood with my aunt’s family. Yasmin and I are so different; she wants a simple life. She doesn’t want fame or wealth. She is all about gaining more degrees and becoming a successful businesswoman.   We’ve never been close. We disagreed on everything…every single thing!

Well, it will be a brief visit. I will ask about her welfare and leave within the space of a few minutes. I’ve got better things to do with my time!

I drive into the parking lot and park beside Yasmin’s old-rickety car. The same car that she has been using for the past five years.
Yasmin’s boutique is a small-sized shop for the sale of Muslim wears. She wears a full-length black-coloured khimar, displaying her zero taste for fashion.

I push the faulty door which has impacted the free movement by exerting so much force. Yasmin is seated by her corner, punching the calculator and giving instructions to her salesgirl.

The boutique is an eyesore. I inhale the smell of dust wafting the whole room as I saunter towards her with a malicious smile. “Asalamu ‘Alaykum sis. Such a long time. How have you been?” I pull her into a hug.

Yasmin is pudgy and very short while I’m the tall and slender sister with the pretty face. Aunt Rasheedah had said that I looked like our father while Yasmin looked like our mother.

We never got to see our parents!

“Wa’alaykumu Salam. Alhamdulillah sweet sis. I watch you every day on TV. How is Anas and Sahadat?” she smiles at me as she wears a concerned expression.

“They are wonderful. I have the best family! What more can I ask for?” I twirl and take a seat beside her, surveying the whole boutique with a scrunched up face.

 I wonder if she gets up to a customer in a day!

“So, what’s up? Why did you decide to pay me a visit after so many centuries?” Yasmin chuckles as she reaches to her refrigerator for a bottle of Coke.

“I just decided to pay my big sister a visit since you’ve deserted me…ah, no. I don’t take carbonated drinks.” I humbly reject the dust-covered Coke that should have spent more than a month in the refrigerator.

“Oh…I see.” Yasmin looks disappointed as she places the bottle of Coke on the table.

“Excuse me. My husband will want to know that I’m here. He wants to say ‘hi’” I grin in a haughty manner as I dial Anas’s number.

He picks at the first ring. “Hi lov…”

“What is it?” Anas breaks me off with a tone of annoyance.

“My love…”

“Why are you disturbing me, eh Najwa? What do you want?”

“I’m with Yasmin. She wants to say hi.” I mutter disconcertedly, wishing I hadn’t placed the call on loudspeaker.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve been having a rough day…sorry for sounding rude. Please give the phone to her.” Anas quickly corrects himself and I hand the phone over to Yasmin, who has been glaring at me with scrutinizing eyes.

As they talk on the phone, I pick the bottle of Coke I’d rejected and sip from it, walking towards the window to stare at the road.

We cannot pretend to have it all. We cannot keep pretending to be perfect because sometimes, it won’t work. Nothing I say to Yasmin will convince her that all is fine.

I wish that things were the way they used to be when we just got married. We were happy and so fond of ourselves. We used to spend the night, talking about anything we could think of. Our tongues weren’t far from each other. We would kiss longingly and gaze at ourselves with deep affection. We would snuggle up on Friday night and watch an amazing movie over a bowl of popcorn and soda drinks. Where did everything go wrong?

“Najwa,” Yasmin says silently as she prods me on the back.

I clean my moistened eyes and I turn towards her. “You’ve spoken to him? Great!” I take my phone and return to my seat, Yasmin tailing beside me with suspicious eyes.

“Najwa…”

“I know what you’re about to say but you’re wrong. We’re happy…very happy. Anas is just having a rough day and guess what? He’ll make it up to me by buying me gifts before returning home today.” I say with a fake-confident look.

“Rukayya told me what happened at Zara’s engagement. Anas forgetting the name of his lovely wife and Barakah getting injured. Speaking of Barakah, hope she is fine now?”

“Yes, she is. I took good care of her and she is perfect now. In fact, she resumed work today.” I reply proudly.

“Barakah must be a good friend…”

“She is a sister….more than a friend. She supports me all the time. And I do my best to reciprocate her favours.” I say, remembering when I tried to match-make Barakah with my cousin, Jamil.

On their first date, Jamil called me an hour later to confess that Barakah isn’t his type. I ordered him to get married to her and he called a family meeting, reporting me to everyone that I had threatened to force him into marriage with my best friend.

I cringe, remembering all that transpired that year.

“So Barakah isn’t interested in advancing her career path and getting promoted to a better position. She isn’t concerned with getting married or having her own kids. She doesn’t get jealous and she has a very good heart. She is all about making her friend happy, isn’t it?”  Yasmin is glaring at me.

“You know what this is all about? It is all about the fact that you are divorced…you are single with no child and no life. Now you’re jealous and you want mine to crumble? I have a loving husband and a best friend that is rare. Stop being envious of my life and try to work things with yours.” I yell at her.

“Najwa, I’m not jealous of…”

My phone starts to ring and I hasten to check the caller ID. “Hello, Barakah.”

“Where are you?” she replies with an eager tone.

“Yasmin’s place. How is work?”

“Really? You’re  at your sister’s place when your husband is disgracing you in public!” Barakah screams on the phone.

I re-check my phone to ensure that it isn’t on a loudspeaker. “How?” I ask incredulously.

“He is having lunch with Mutmahinat in a restaurant close to the office. Only God knows who must have seen them together. You have to get here now!”

“But…hello?” Barakah has hung up the call and my hands shiver in shock.

“Are you okay?” Yasmin inquires.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Do you still love your husband?”

“I have to leave now.” I retort sulkily. I grab my bag and hurry towards the door. But before I push it open; I give Yasmin a last glare. “Yes, I love him.”

***
Up till this moment, I never knew that the distance from Yasmin’s boutique to my workplace is this far. I’ve spent close to an hour on the road and the snarled-up traffic is not helping matters. If I don’t get there on time, I won’t be able to catch them red-handed. Cheating Anas and desperate Mutmahinat.

How can someone just appear and try to literally own your life? What you’ve been building for years!

Barakah had made it a duty to call me every five minutes to give me feedback on what is going on at the restaurant.

“Anas is smiling at her and he just poured more juice into her cup…Mutmahinat is smiling shyly and playing with the hem of her hijab…Anas just whispered something to her ear and she is laughing…” those were the kind of news Barakah has been filling me with.

My legs are wobbly and my face has turned tomato-red. I want to park by the roadside and flag an okada to the restaurant. I want to get hold of them and squeeze Mutmahinat’s thin biscuit-bones.

What if someone sees them? Doesn’t Anas know that he is tarnishing his family’s image by going on date on a bright Thursday afternoon?

I’m almost in the street but the traffic is frustrating. I can see the restaurant I usually go to buy fufu and white soup whenever I desire to have a different taste. I pulled into the compound and greet the woman, picking my bag from the car and ensuring that all doors are locked.

About five minutes later, I’m at the end of the road and Barakah is standing beside the restaurant, hands akimbo. A bandage is still tied around her head and she is putting on a white shirt, black maxi skirt, and red scarf. Her face is filled with sweat and it is evident that she is trembling.

I wonder why she is so concerned that Anas is having lunch with Mutmahinat. “Thank God you’re here. See them. Just see them!” she drags to a corner of the building and we peek inside from the transparent-glass door.

“You see why you have to deal with this stupid rat? She took what belongs to you and now, she is after your husband!” Barakah dances as she points at them, eating and discussing in a way that shows that they are having an intimate relationship.

My insides shrivel and my face jolts in shock as I watch them. Anas is putting on his red t-shirt and jeans trousers. He looks very composed and confident as he speaks with such calmness. I’m not surprised that Mutmahinat is engrossed in the discussion. Anas has his way of bringing up interesting discussions that will make your stay with him an eventful one.

I can hardly believe it! Why will Anas scoop so low to go out with Mutmahinat? Is she prettier than I am?

“Are you jealous?” Barakah turns to give me a dazed expression.

I struggle to regain my composure. “Jea…jealous? Of course, not. I’m just surprised.”

“Good. It is time to put Mutmahinat in her place. You have to take all that belongs to you. You must deal with her now or never!” Barakah whispers to me with a serious tone.

“Thank you, Barakah. What can I do without you?”

Barakah holds my hand as we walk out of the place. “This is no time for appreciation. This is what we will do…”

A/N: Hey readers! I'm sorry for the late update. I've been sick but I'm fine now. I appreciate your prayers. You all are wonderful!💕💕

Don't miss out on the previous episodes:






Thursday, 7 February 2019

Flaming Home (Episode Four)



Anas's Point of View
Zara’s Engagement
“How is your beautiful wife and daughter?” My mother is saying on the phone.

“They are fine.” I sigh deeply, knowing what would come next.

“When should we be expecting another one? It should be a boy this time.” She remarks.

Only if she knows when last Najwa warmed my bed.

“Very soon.”

“I hope both of you are not planning on delaying till some years time? I know Najwa is very passionate about her career. You see, a woman’s body…” my mom is trailing off.

I put the phone away from my ear and stare at the wall, wondering when it will all end…the incessant talk from my mother.

“Are you there Anas? I know you’re not listening to me! I’ve said my own oo. You better get advice from an experienced mother of seven. I gave birth to all my children before I clocked 40. I wish I could attend Zara’s engagement but I have to look after Mubarak’s son…” she is saying.

My younger brother’s wife gave birth to his third son last week and since then, mom hasn’t stopped talking about it. She had travelled to Akure to stay with his wife for a month; the main reason she cannot attend Zara’s engagement.

“It’s fine, mom. We will represent you. I have to go now so that I can get to the venue on time.”

“Okay oo. Have a nice day. Greet your family for me. I’ll call Zara now.”

“Okay, bye.” I cut the call and heave a long, shuddering sigh.

“The next thing your mother will suggest is for you marry a second wife.” Najwa snarls as she is dressing up.

Dressed in a red-sparkling gown, Najwa is seated by her dressing table, putting on a gold bracelet.

I ignore her and plod to my drawer, ruminating on what to put on. I remember the conversation I had with Mahmud yesterday; Mahmud telling me to get married again.

“You look very excited Anas. Have you and Najwa ironed out your issues?”

“No.” I had tried to suppress the smile that was spreading on my face as I faced my computer.

Mahmud had pulled me towards him and stared at me intently. “It is a woman right?”

Blood had gushed to my cheeks as I grinned. “Well,…she’s just a friend. Mutmahinat, Najwa’s rival.”

“Wow! The same divorcee with two kids? The woman Najwa despises so much? That makes it perfect. Make her a second wife.”

I had burst into laughter as I shook my head. “Another woman? That will be Najwa times two. Please oo, I’m done with them.”

“But Mutmahinat isn’t Najwa na. She seems nice.”

“Najwa was nicer than that before we got married. Ahbegi, are you done with that research?” I had asked in a bid to change the topic.

“Mummy, daddy! I have worn my gown.” Sahadat yells excitedly as she enters the room.

“That’s my girl. You look gorgeous. Do you feel like going to the toilet?” Najwa holds her hands and brushes her hair.

“No, mom. Stop asking those questions. I’m no longer purging. I’m fine now.”

“Great! Let me give you these earrings I bought on my trip to New York.” She says, searching her jewelry box.

I walk up to Sahadat and give her a hug. “You look very beautiful.” I stroke her cheeks and she chuckles in delight.

“Mr. Ugly. I’m going to select what you will wear to the party. I don’t want you looking like my driver.” Najwa says as she walks towards the wardrobe.

“Whatever. We must leave in the next thirty minutes.” I reply, irritably.

“That’s not possible. Barakah is coming with us.”

“What?” I shriek in anger. This is a family celebration…and Najwa has no right in the world to invite her friend.

“Yes, Anas. Barakah always feels lonely. I just want her to be a part of something. She’ll be doing nothing at home and I don’t think it is a bad idea if she comes with us.”

This is unbelievable! But I do not have the time and strength to argue with Najwa. It’s my cousin’s engagement party and I should there on time to wish her the best.”
“I don’t know why you don’t like Barakah. She is my best friend. She cares so much about me and it is my duty to also make her happy.”

I ignore Najwa and sling my towel around my shoulder. There’s something about her so-called best friend that turns me off every time. Probably because she acts like Najwa is superior to her.
***
Zara is the prettiest lady in the house. She is dressed in a gold-laced blouse and skirt. Her face is fixed with a smile and I’m starting to wonder if her cheeks do not hurt. She is walking around the room, greeting everyone. I remember when Zara had just concluded her bachelor’s programme at the University of Nottingham and she returned to Nigeria. She wanted to find her soul mate and get married too…just like her mates were doing.

I wanted to advise her against getting married but what would I say when my marriage was seen as a perfect one?

“I want my marriage to be exactly like that of you and Najwa. More than perfect! Aameen.” She had prayed triumphantly, her eyes yearning for love and desire.

If only she knew that she had just cursed herself.

“Anas? Anas?” Ruqayyah is patting me on the shoulder.

I revive from being lost in thought to the present. “Yes? Ruqayyah? How are you?”

“Alhamdulillah. Najwa is looking very beautiful.” She smiles at me.

“Who?” I ask in puzzlement.

“Najwa.” Ruqayyah is furrowing her eyebrows in confusion.

“Who is Najwa?” I ask again.

“Your wife… sitting beside you. I was just complimenting her look. I said that she looks very beautiful.”

“Oh…najwa! My wife! Of course, she looks beautiful always.” I smile at Najwa and touch her hands nervously.

“Don’t mind Anas. These days, he seems to always be lost in thought. Work pressure is overbearing.” She places a kiss on my left cheek and smiles at everyone.

Everywhere is quiet and all eyes are on us. What was I thinking? Why couldn’t I remember that Najwa is my wife?

“Great. I’ll get you all a bottle of fruity wine.” Ruqayyah smiles nervously and she greets the woman seated next to Barakah.

Gosh! Trying to appear like everything is fine isn’t that easy. How could I have forgotten Najwa’s name?”

“Are you high? What was the meaning of that? Now, everyone is giving us shrewd looks. Be careful next time.” Najwa says, whispering to my ear in a fondly way.

No one would have an idea of what she said. It was like she was whispering words of love to my ear…only Barakah would know what is ensuing. Barakah; the scrawny woman dressed in a body-hug black dress. She is staring at us indignantly. In fact, Barakah had been staring at me since we arrived here.

My phone vibrates in my pocket and I bring it out. It is Dr. Effiong calling. How did I forget what I was asked to submit an article before 12 noon?

It is 11:45 and I’m in the middle of a programme. There’s no way I can meet up with the deadline. I’ll just have to explain to him…after all, it’s a Saturday.

“I have to pick this call. I’ll be back sweetheart.” I kiss Najwa on her forehead and smile at Sahadat.

Perfect family! Everyone thinks!

I hurry out of the living room and search for a spare room. A store is just beside the kitchen and it looks cramped and quiet. I enter the room and reach for the answer button.

“Hello, sir…”

It is late. The call has ended. I am attempting to call him back when I hear footsteps of someone approaching the room.

I turn towards the entrance of the room and tilt my head upwards. Barakah is standing by the doorway with her right leg hanging up and her hips swooshed to the right.

“Hi, Barakah. What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.” Barakah smiles seductively as she enters the room and closes the door behind her. “Why do you guys pretend? Do you think you act well? You think no one suspects?” she is walking towards where I am standing.

I arch my eyebrows and wrinkle my forehead, looking flustered. What is going on here? “I don’t think it is any of your business…and if you care to know, why don’t you ask Najwa?”


“Najwa? That one?” she roars in laughter.


Now, she is by my face. She is very close to me and I can feel her warm breaths on my face. I can see her face clearly…the dark birthmark on her eyelids, the pink-coloured lipstick she is wearing on her lips, the smell of the fruity wine she drank not quite long. She is an eyesore.

“Why do you still share the same bed if you both hate yourselves? Don’t you wish those kisses were real and affectionate? Haven’t you noticed how badly I want you? Najwa isn’t a good wife. She isn’t good for you. I’ll be the best wife you can ever imagine. I’ll make you nice meals three times a day and make you happy always. I’ll wash your clothes…I’ll do anything you want. I love you, Anas. I’ve loved you since the first day I set my eyes on you…”

I shove her away and clean the beads of sweat that have formed around my forehead. “Najwa is your best friend.” I splutter. I am too shocked to find words to say.

Barakah isn’t ready to give up. She unzips her gown…but I can’t take any more of it. I lower my eyes and push her to the wall…not bothering to check if she had been hurt. Blood…broken skull…I do not care! I hear a loud shriek of pain as I jostle out of the room.

Don't miss out on the previous episodes:

Episode One

Episode Two







Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Flaming Home! (Episode Three)



Najwa’s Point of View
Disappointment
I can hardly breathe. I feel a throbbing pain at the back of my head. My mind is a whirl of confusion. I have been pacing around the room for minutes now. I am disappointed…disappointed with everyone! Mrs. Bola had given my position to someone else and Anas have been mocking me in my face.

It’s no doubt that he is happy I didn’t win the position but guess what? I’m still richer than him. My best friend didn’t help matters yesterday. She actually walked into that kitchen and made amala for Anas!

No one but Anas! She was practically smiling as she watched him eat the food. What was the meaning of that? Trying to please him? Isn’t she supposed to be by my side? If I hate my husband, she has to hate him too. That’s what friends are for!

I thrust my hand on the sofa, furious because Anas spite me this morning. Yes, he wasn’t satisfied with what he did yesterday. He had to tarnish my image in the presence of my daughter!

“The food Auntie Barakah made yesterday was really delicious. Mom doesn’t make food like this. Why do we have to eat noodles every day?” Sahadat had asked avidly as she poured milk into her bowl of cereal.

Anas made a burst of rich, throaty laughter and ruffled her hair, eyeing me in mockery. “This is what every mother is meant to do. Prepare good food for the family.” He had replied.

“So mom isn’t a good mother?” Sahadat widened her eyes in shock.

“Is she?” he laughed again and poured more cereal into her bowl.

He wasn’t satisfied with mocking me and displaying his excitement over the news. He had to spoil me in front of my daughter!

“Where’s this tie?” Anas is muttering as he enters the room.

I hurry towards him and grab the collar of his shirt fiercely.

“Whoa! Whoa! Not this morning, Najwa. We can do this when we’ve returned from work. I have a meeting with my boss this morning.” Anas is saying breathily with a look of haughty disdain.

Ehen…you want to progress in your career while you watch mine crumble abi? It’s a lie…a big lie. Now you want my only child to see me as a bad mother. I say you lie!” I yell at his face.

Anas chuckles and stares at me. “I lie? All I said is the truth and you know that. You might hide your true self from the outside world but not from your family.”

Really? He can talk? I need to pull him harder.

I grab his shirt with all of my strength and pull him forward. Anas coughs and pushes me away, making me land to the ground with a loud thud.

“You want to kill me? You will not succeed.” He walks towards the wardrobe and I run after him, kneading my sore hip.

“I will succeed oo. I will kill you in this house one day. You are wicked and shameless. A good-for-nothing husband!” I jostle towards the table and reach for my powder. Placing my palms over it, I hasten to where he is standing and smudge his white shirt with the brown powder.

“You are crazy, Najwa. Something is wrong with you!” he yells in rage as his eyes turn blood-shot.

“Yes, I don kolo. I have just started with you.” I grab his collection of ties and dash to the bathroom as he takes off after me.

He is too late. I have dipped them into the bucket of water before he enters the bathroom.

Drained in anger and frustration, Anas covers his face with his trembling hands.

“I feel happy now.” I grin as I scuttle out of the room.

Sahadat and I will leave the house without him. After some hours, he can sort himself out and… will be absent for his so-called meeting.
***
“You’re trying to tell me that you hardly quarrel with your husband? How’s that possible?” the caller with gravelly voice asks.

I try my best to maintain composure as I smile and reply to his question. “It’s all about understanding. When you love and understand yourselves, they’ll hardly be any need for disagreement. You are one…like a person….” I say in a fake British accent, remembering how I’d dealt with Anas this morning.

I wonder how he will meet up with his meeting on time. The thought of him driving to work with a frown makes my smile broader.

“But Najwa, how can that be possible? You’re saying that you and your husband are always in good terms?”

“Always in good terms,” I reply confidently.

Can someone put this caller out of the line before I do so myself?

“Okay. Thank you. Have a nice day.”

“Bye, thanks for calling…we’ll wrap the show here this morning. I’ll see you same time, same station tomorrow. Have a great and fruitful day!” I wave my hands and smile at the camera.

“Gosh!” I stand up and walk out of the room, swearing loudly. I’m still angry and disappointed that I didn’t get the position. I had strutted about the office yesterday, promising to take my colleagues out for lunch. They’ll probably be mocking me!

“Oh, hey Najwa.” Barakah comes closer, her satin skirt swaying and rustling. She stretches her hands to embrace me but I decline, rolling my eyes at her.

“What happened?”

“You’re asking me? Were you not the one taking care of that man like you’re his wife?” I remark as I am walking to my office, Barakah tailing behind me.

She chuckles. “As your friend, I had to take care of your family since you were down. You don’t expect me to sit down and watch them wail in hunger.”

I stare at her. Long neck filled with hollows. Long legs like that of an antelope. I wish that I can find her a man… or maybe find her a better job…

“I did the right thing, Najwa.”

“You’re my best friend and my enemy should be yours too. You have no right to smile at Anas.” I adjust the hem of my chiffon blouse as I walk into my office. I take my seat and sip from my cup of cold coffee.

“Okay. I promise to never do that again. So, how are you holding up? Have you seen Mutmahinat today?” Barakah asks, sitting in front of me.

At the sound of her name, my spine aches from within. I grind my teeth and clench my fist. “That little pipsqueak? I haven’t seen her.”

“She was walking to everyone’s table this morning. Greeting everyone and smiling graciously like she’s a model for toothpaste advert.”

“What was she putting on?” the last she will do is to compete with me in dressing.

“One yeye yellow skirt and a black T-shirt that made her look like a toothpick. I did a little background check on her and discovered that she is a divorcee with two children. Two boys!”

I spill coffee on my blouse in bewilderment. Divorcee? Two children? I stare at my computer and all I can see is her face.

“You should confront her…threaten her. She took your place, Najwa. Fight for it!” Barakah motivates me as she toys with the stapler on the table.

“You’re correct. Why haven’t I thought of that?”

In the flash of a minute, I am standing by Mutmahinat’s table in her office…I mean my office!

“To what do I owe this pleasure ma’am?” she smiles at me.

Mutmahinat is undoubtedly the most beautiful woman in the company. She has fair, glowing skin and her face is always plastered with a smile.

“You took what belongs to me and you won’t go scot-free. I will deal with you and make sure that I get what is rightfully mine.” I say, irritably.

Mutmahinat smiles mutinously. That smile, I wish that I can make it fade from her face. I wonder how she is able to gain so much confidence. People get intimidated by me…but she is different.

I think of what to get her furious. “You cannot even manage your husband. He had to divorce you. How can you manage our department?”

Mutmahinat’s face suddenly creases into a frown. “You have to leave now. Please!” She says, nettled.

“I’ll leave…but I’ve said the truth. Tell Mr. Bola that you’re no longer interested.” I screech in anger and storm out of her office.

I clean the beads of sweat that have formed around my forehead with the sleeve of my blouse. “Mrs. Najwa, I want to see you immediately.” Mrs. Bola suddenly appears in front of me.

It isn’t up to five minutes and Mutmahinat has reported me to Mrs. Bola? She’s just a timid woman.

I follow her grudgingly to her office.

“Why did you threaten Mutmahinat? Who said you deserve the position?”

“My TV show is the most popular and I’ve been working effortlessly for years. How else do you expect me to prove that I deserve the position?” I stare at Mrs. Bola’s face, filled with an over-do of make-up.

She is pudgy, chocolate complexion and always dressed in her usual shirt and palazzo pants…with a scarf wrapped around her head. “I understand you but the management has a reason for this. Mrs. Mutmahinat was intentionally brought here to head over the department. You must accept your defeat and accept her as your boss. Also, you shouldn’t use any word of threat on her anymore.”

“Okay,” I force the word as I watch Mrs. Bola nod in appreciation.
***
I am walking out of the building, planning on how to hug and kiss Anas without anyone noticing that we’re acting. He’ll be very angry with me and I’m scared that he might not return the gesture.

I flinch as my eyes catch the usual spot where Anas always park the car. He is not alone. He is with Mutmahinat. They are talking and laughing. What are they saying? What is Anas thinking? Doesn’t he have an idea that she is my enemy and he is my husband?

I brace myself as I walk towards the car. Mutmahinat is laughing at one of Anas’s joke…his dry jokes I pretended was funny.

It is obvious that she is trying to impress him!

“Asalamu ‘Alaykum. How are you?” I grin maliciously and give Mutmahinat a dirty glare.

“I should be leaving now. Bye, Anas.”

“Bye Mutmahinat.” He smiles as he waves at her.

I try to control my temper as I enter the car. “What was the meaning of that?”

“What? My new friend, Mutmahinat?”

“Anas, you know this lady is my sworn enemy and you made her your friend. Don’t you know that she’s after me? First, she takes a position that’s rightfully mine and now, she’s trying to seduce you because she believes that we’re in love.”

“You overthink things, Najwa. Mutmahinat is harmless.” Anas insists as he takes a bottle of water beside him and gulps it.

“Well…I’m sorry for being a nuisance this morning. Did you meet up with your appointment?” I ask with concerned eyes.

Anas and I may hate ourselves…but we still care.

“There was snarled-up traffic this morning. Luckily, I got in when the meeting was just about to start. Sahadat’s teacher called this afternoon. Why couldn’t you be reached?”

My expression alters completely from self-satisfied smugness to shock. “I switched off my phone. What happened to my baby? Is she fine?”

“She is, now. She had a running stomach…was purging repeatedly.”

I dab my eyes, careful not to smudge my make-up. “It’s Barakah’s food that caused it. She isn’t used to eating that.”

“That is because you do not make it for her. Well, she’s fine now. She was taken to the sickbay.”

Ahh…Alhamdulillah.” I cannot imagine anything bad happening to Sahadat.

“My mom called. Zara’s engagement is this weekend. We have to attend.”

“Okay,” I reply weakly, wearing my seat-belt and wondering how Sahadat had faired all alone.

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