Sunday, 15 May 2022

The Best Self-Care Checklist

 


We often underestimate the importance of self-care. Yet, this is essential for health, and it makes us happier and more organised.

This self-care checklist has been divided into various categories. Use these self-care checklist ideas as a guide to creating a self-care routine.

Relationship to Self

-          Have a quality night's rest

-          Exercise

-          Read a book you love



-          Watch a movie you love

-          Eat nutritious and healthy food

-          Adopt good personal hygiene

-          Wear dresses you adore

-          Solve a puzzle

-          Take a walk

-          Go on a weekend trip



-          Reflect and meditate

-          Avoid negative and toxic people

-          Cry if need be


RELATED ARTICLE: How to Become a Minimalist (7 Surefire Ways)

Relationship to Others

This self-care checklist centres on your relationship with your family and friends. You cannot avoid interacting with people in life. Your behaviours will have an impact on your relationship with people. Check out ways to improve your relationship with others:

-          Schedule time to spend with your family

-          Schedule time to spend with your friends

-          Schedule dates with your significant other.

-          Seek help if you need to

-          Contact the important people in your time

-          Create time to telephone friends and family members.

Relationship to Environment

A major force in your life is the environment. You may not know, but the environment influences you in several ways. You can make small, significant changes towards improving your environment.

-          Clean items in your home

-          Take a different route to the mall

-          Start a garden

-          Plant a tree

-          Water a plant

-          Declutter your home

-          Visit a nature park

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Fascinating Facts about Coffee.

Relationship to Work and Money

Without creating boundaries and emotions, this can affect your time and lifestyle. Your well-being will be improved when you care for your work relationships.

-          Set limits with colleagues and co-workers

-          Go for lunch breaks



-          Complete your tasks with full concentration

-          Create time to engage in small talks with your colleagues at work

-          Seek help from a boss or co-worker when needed

-          Arrange your workspace

-          Balance your work and personal activities

-          Arrange your workspace

-          Open a savings account.

This self-care checklist will change your life positively. It will make you feel happier and more accomplished and fulfilled.


Sunday, 30 January 2022

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty Five)


Over two months had passed since Rasheedah returned home and our lives swiftly returned to normal. Rasheedah had called off her engagement with Khalid and returned to school to prepare for her final exams. I had resigned from Fulaan and started working as a freelance writer.

 

Munir was also vigorously planning his wedding ceremony, and Asmau was heavily pregnant. I still hadn’t heard from Farouk. I’d flinch in fear and anticipation whenever my phone beeped with a notification, but sigh in disappointment when I realised that it was from someone else.

 

Asmau gobbled down the bowl of curry rice and steamed goat meat as she talked about how she had been spending her days at home. According to her, her daily routine was a mix of praying, eating, and sleeping. And her husband made the matter worse by fulfilling all of her cravings.

 

“Rafiah, can you believe that Hanif prepared this food as early as 06:00 am? He acts like he is on a mission to make me the happiest and fattest pregnant woman,” Asmau said as she gulped down her cup of orange juice.

 

I chuckled as I stared at her in amazement. “Isn’t that what you want? Gosh, Asmau! You’re three times your normal size.”

 

Asmau was dressed in an oversized black gown and her hair was braided into cornrows.  I gazed at her rotund figure and remembered how she had looked about seven months ago.

 

“Oh, whatever. Wait till I give birth. I’ll hit the gym and shed all of it!” Asmau remarked as she rolled her eyes.

 

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had decided to spend the rest of the day with Asmau while we caught up with the latest events and talk about Munir’s forthcoming wedding ceremony.

 

“Why have you been staring at your phone? Still expecting a message from Farouk?” Asmau asked as she stared at me with curious eyes.

 

I locked my phone and threw it on the sofa. “Oh, it’s nothing. I was just monitoring the reactions on a post I updated on Instagram this morning. Imagine, Asmau, I haven’t gotten up to 15 reactions since morning,” I sighed heavily as I continued eating.

 

“It’s a process. No one got it all in one day. You just have to remain consistent and continue putting your works out there,” Asmau advised.

 

“Thank you, Asmau. That’s exactly what I’m doing. It can be hard sometimes, but I’m trying.”

 

“How’s writing? Are you making progress?”

 

“Oh, yes I am. I’ve gotten close to five writing contracts this month. And I keep sending applications for full-time positions. I was invited for an interview earlier this week. Hopefully, I’ll get the job,” I said with a smile.

 

“I’m so proud of you, Rafiah! And your dad?” Asmau asked.

 

I chuckled. “I’m twenty-eight, Asmau. He’s got no choice,” I stated as I rose from my seat. “Can I get more of this? Your husband is such a good cook!”

 

“Yes, there is. Go check the pot,” Asmau said I walked towards the kitchen.

 

When I returned with a refilled plate, I caught Asmau peering at my phone.

“Mutmainah is calling again. That lady is obsessed with you,” Asmau said with a sigh.

 

“I’ve told her to let me be. It’s been months now. When will she give up?” I scowled as I picked up my phone and answered the call.

 

“Hey, Rafiah. How have you been?”

 

“When will this stop, Mutmainah?” I blurted out as I sank on the couch and placed my plate of rice on the nearby stool.

 

“I’m really sorry for keeping your sister hostage. I didn’t know what came over me,” Mutmainah begged and it sounded like she was crying.

 

“You’ve apologised countless times. Are you going to keep calling me to apologise? You’re supposed to be rotting in jail, Mutmainah. But, well, the wealthy ones are above the law,” I quipped, rolling my eyes in disgust.

 

“I wasn’t in my right senses and regret doing that for Khalid. We’re still not going to get married. It’s obvious that he never liked me. I need you back as my friend. You’re different from others. Please, Rafiah, the short period I spent with you was different.”

 

“You can’t keep forcing people into your lives. That’s what you were trying to do with Khalid. You’re doing the same right now. It won’t happen, Mutmainah. I can never be your friend. I’m eating, so I can’t talk much. I wish you all the best,” I said as I ended the call and raised my head to see Asmau’s husband, Jamal, placing a tape rule over her nose. I didn’t even realise when he came into the living room to join us.

 

Asmau giggled and ran around the room. “Look at what my husband does all the time! He measures the size of my bulging nose to tease me. Is it my fault that my nose appears twice larger than the normal size?”

 

“Well, I’m here to tease you until it returns to normal. Just take a look at the nose, Rafiah. Are you not amazed?” Jamal gave a peal of throaty laughter as he stared at her face in admiration.

 

I picked up my bag and forced a smile. “I…think I should be leaving.”

 

Asmau shook her head. “Oh, no. We haven’t chosen a style for Munir’s wedding. You can’t just leave like that.”

 

“Well, it’s getting late. We can always discuss that via WhatsApp,” I explained. “It’s good to see you again, Jamal.”

 

“Thanks for visiting, Rafiah. You’re always welcome to spend time with my naughty wife,” he chuckled.

 

“Let me see you off,” Asmau said as she wore her khimar and tailed me to the door.

 

As we stepped out of the building, Asmau turned towards me. “Did you ever like Munir? I mean…wish that you guys were together?”

 

“Yes, when we first met. Though, it was only a simple crush. It faded after meeting Farouk. I fell head over heels with him,” I replied.

 

“You know, there might be a genuine…”

 

“There’s no genuine reason for not responding to my message for months. I know I was wrong to have lashed out at him that day. But, what do you expect of someone searching for her only sister? I’ve apologised, what else? He’s just a proud person who never forgives,” I said as I spotted an okada rider.

 

 

“Let me be on my way, Asmau. We’ll talk better tomorrow. Bye!”

***

 

I arrived home about thirty minutes later to the sight of Mom running towards the entrance. I tried to maneuver my way into the house, but Mom kept shoving me away with a loud laugh.

 

“You cannot enter, Rafiah,” Mom stated as she grinned from ear to ear.

 

I eyed her suspiciously. “Why? Are you hiding something from me?”

 

“Well…” Mom adjusted my red-coloured veil and smiled at me. “You may go now.”

 

I sighed heavily as I stepped into the living room, wondering what could have happened in there. Did they suddenly change the seven-year-old curtains when I was away? Or, had Rasheedah returned from school? I almost squealed in shock when I spotted Farouk sitting on the sofa beside Dad.

 

 

He smiled at me and stood from the seat. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah. I am so sorry for everything. If you can grant me the chance to explain everything to you,” he said with pleading eyes.

 

Farouk was dressed in his usual t-shirt-and-pair-of-jeans attire, and he appeared leaner than the last time I set eyes on him. His face also looked ashen. “Wa’alaykumu salam. Okay, I’ll be back,” I said as I glanced at Dad to see him nod in approval.

 

Mom was still smiling and I had just noticed that she had served Farouk a plate of fried rice and croaker fish.

 

I entered the room and called Asmau immediately I sat on the bed. She picked at the first ring. “What’s up?”

 

“Farouk is here!” I said with a breathless tone.

 

“What do mean Farouk is here? Isn’t he in Morocco?”

 

“It feels like I am dreaming. He’s right here, in the living room, discussing with my parents!”

 

“Oh my gosh! Are you serious? How did you react?”

 

“I was dazed. I was…I told him that I’ll return soon. I think my parents like him. My mom served him fried rice. Imagine! She never cooked such for Tolu,” I explained as I raised both hands.

 

“You have to act angry. Don’t forgive him so easily, okay?”

 

“Okay. Got to go. I need to freshen up,” I said as I ended up the call and hurried to the bathroom.

***

When I returned to the living room, Farouk was neck-deep in a conversation with Dad. I was contemplating returning to the room when Dad stood up. “Let me not prevent you guys from discussing. We can always continue our discussion, Farouk,” Dad said as he started walking towards the room. “It’s glad to finally meet you in person,” he smiled at Farouk.

 

“Same here, sir,” Farouk said before turning towards me. “So, can we talk now?” Farouk glanced up at me nervously.

 

“Yeah, I guess so. Let’s use the verandah.”

 

“Okay,” he started. “I initially travelled to Morocco to unwind. But then, I became terribly ill. The kind of illness that requires visiting the surgical theatre,” he explained.

 

SubhanaLlaah. I had no idea,” I gasped in surprise.

 

Farouk waved a hand. “It’s a simple surgery, really. However, I spent weeks in the hospital. I didn’t even have the time and strength to check my phone,” he laughed briefly. “But, Alhamdulillaah, I’m fine now. I am so sorry I couldn’t reach out to you all this while. It wasn’t intentional,” he explained.

 

“Why didn’t you tell Munir about it? What if something worse had happened?”

 

Farouk shrugged. “Well, I’m not particularly close to my brother. And I knew that he was busy with his wedding plans. I wouldn’t want to disrupt that by making him travel down to Morocco,” Farouk stated.

 

“Why aren’t you close to Munir? It’s just you, him, and Adam. What example are you setting for your younger brother, Adam?”

 

“I don’t know, Rafiah. Everything you’ve said is correct. We are meant to be really close, what with the fact that we are the only ones left. But…I don’t know. The death of our parents loosened our bond instead of tightening it. That’s why I admire your relationship with Rasheedah. I’m glad she was found hale and hearty.”

 

“Yeah, it’s not too late. You’re the eldest child and it’s your responsibility to make that happen,” I advised.

 

“You’re right about that. I’ll try my best. I mean, I wouldn’t have found you if not for Munir. So tell me, Rafiah, can we still make this work? Am I too late?”

 

“You’re not too late, Farouk. I’m glad to know you’re healthier and…”

 

“Is that a yes?” Farouk asked hesitantly.

 

“It’s a yes!” I said in excitement.

 

Farouk grinned widely. “Thank you so much, Rafiah. This is the best news I’ve heard this month. Thank you for bringing joy into my life and making me believe in love again,” he said amidst tears.

 

“And lest I forget, I’m now a professional writer,” I blurted out as I made a quick dance.

 

“Really? When did that happen? Tell me all about it!” Farouk said in anticipation as he stared at me.

***

‘Hey, beautiful. Despite being a writer, I suck at writing love letters. So, please, take this as you see it. Ignore the grammatical blunders and cringe-worthy words and see it as a text coming from someone who is madly in love with you.

 

I can’t specifically recall the exact moment I fell in love with you, but I was awe-struck when I saw you for the first time. You were dressed in a mustard-coloured shirt and those black maxi skirts I’d later know you with. You had this gracious look that could not be faked, and believe me, it took so much effort to avoid staring at you.

 

What kept me going when I was bedridden were the memories I’d shared with you. The sight of you closing your eyes to relish the taste of afang soup and laughing at one of my weird jokes.

 

I love you so much, Rafiah. More than you can ever imagine. I’ll never find someone this beautiful and smart and talented. I’m so blessed to have met you.

 

We are going to be spending the rest of our lives together. Phew! That would be such an adventure, Rafiah, and I cannot wait to visit new places and try new delicacies. We wouldn’t have it perfect all the time. There would moments of happiness and sadness, but sharing these happy times and sad moments, together, will be what matters.

 

And yes, I am really eager to nurture our dream children; Aisha and Muawiyyah.

 

Thank you for choosing to become my wife.

 

Yours truly,

Farouk.

 

“Are you done?” Farouk’s voice distracted me from rereading the message he had sent to my email.

 

It was a day to Munir’s wedding and we were all gathered for the rehearsal dinner. I cleaned my misty eyes and put down my phone. “When did you compose this?”

 

Farouk snickered. “Is that all you have to say? Really?”

 

“Oh, I have other things to say. It is a very beautiful piece. Thank you so much, Farouk,” I was saying when Bushrah entered the hall, dressed in a glamorous emerald gown.

 

“Oh my! Bushrah looks sooo beautiful,” I squealed in admiration.

 

“I can’t wait to see you in yours,” Farouk gave me an affectionate smile. “By the way, where’s Asmau? I thought she’d be attending the wedding?” he asked.

 

“That’s true. Let me try calling her,” I said as I picked up my phone and dialled Asmau’s number.

 

“Hello,” Jamal’s croaky voice greeted my ears.

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Jamal. Where is Asmau?”

 

“Wa’alaykumu…salam,” he said with a shaky voice. “Asmau is currently in the hospital. She had some complications, so we had to rush her into the theatre for delivery. Well, the good news is that we have a baby girl! Asmau is doing very fine, though she can’t talk to anyone now,” Jamal prattled and it was obvious that he was shedding tears.

 

I tried to respond to him, but words failed me. My eyes moistened with tears as I thought about the pains my best friend must have experienced. And I was glad that she and the baby were healthy. I cleared my throat and nodded at Farouk, who was staring at me with a look of worry. “I’ll be on my way right now! The same hospital, right? Green Maze?”

 

“Yes,” Jamal replied. “I’ll be expecting you. Got to go. The doctor needs me,” he said and hung up the call.

 

“What happened? Is Asmau fine?” Farouk asked.

 

“Yes, yes. She is fine. Can you drive me to the hospital?”

 

“Yeah, sure! I’d quickly explain why we’re leaving to Munir, and we’ll get going,” Farouk said as he stood up and hurried towards where Munir was standing.

 

Munir’s eyes widened in shock after Farouk relayed the information. He ran towards me with fear and anxiety. “Can we all go? I really need to be sure that she is fine,” he said.

 

“What about your rehearsal dinner?”

 

“This isn’t the real wedding. And this can continue without me. Let’s be on our way please!” Munir answered.

 

As we walked towards where Farouk’s car was parked with worry in our eyes, I realized that we were already a family and we’d always be there for one another, no matter what happens.

 

I couldn’t wait to hold Asmau’s baby in my arms and watch Asmau raise her with so much love and tenderness. I was also eager to watch Munir walk down the aisle with the love of his life, Bushrah, and celebrate their special day with them. And I was waiting, breathlessly, for the day Farouk would pull me into a hug and kiss my lips passionately while he promises me a happy-ever-after.

 

A/N: Words are insufficient to express my gratitude for sticking through and patiently following this story, despite the ups and downs that occurred over the past few months.

I appreciate your messages, comments, tags, and most of all, the time you’ve created to read the episodes. Thank you so much.

If you’re new here, kindly start from the first episode. You have twenty-five episodes to complete!!!


Episode One

Episode Two

Episodes Three & Four

Episode Five

Episodes Six & Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten

Episode Eleven






Episode Seventeen 

 Episode Eighteen

Episode Nineteen

Episode Twenty

Episodes Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, & Twenty-Four



Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episodes Twenty-two, Twenty-Three, and Twenty-Four)



Over two hours had passed, and I had stopped crying. I was devouring a bowl of boiled rice and turkey stew while listening to Mom talk about how Saturday’s wedding would be lit.

 

I was sticking to Dad’s advice- ‘to flow along and pretend that everything is fine…even though it isn’t.’

 

“So, you haven’t told me who dropped you off,” Mom said with a smirk as she stared at me with curious eyes.

 

I chuckled. “That was a new friend. A female friend,” I swallowed the food in my mouth and smiled at her. “But if you’re talking about the black Toyota Corolla…”

 

“Yes, the tall man who drops you off every evening,” Mom stated.

 

“His name is Farouk.”

 

“Are you in a relationship?”

 

I laughed shyly. “Very soon.”

 

Mom grinned in excitement. “AlhamduliLlaah! You’ve finally found someone. This means that I have another wedding to plan. After Rasheedah’s wedding is held on Saturday, I’ll start working towards making yours even more glamorous,” she looked down at the bowl of rice and whipped her head up. “Please, eat very well. You need to add weight for your forthcoming wedding…ah, I need to prepare the budget for drinks,” Mom stated as she swiftly stood up and started walking towards her room.

 

I was trying to drift my thoughts to something else when my phone chimed on the table. Just at the right time!

 

I picked it up and was unfazed to see Farouk’s name on the Caller ID. “Asalamu ‘alaykum,

Farouk,” I said, matter-of-factly, as I clicked on the answer button at the first ring.

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam. I was starting to think that you’ve been kidnapped. I’m glad to hear from you,” he laughed.

 

My forehead creased with a frown. “Farouk, what if we’re just being paranoid? I spent just a few hours with Mutmainah today, and I can confidently say that she is innocent. What will she stand to gain? This lady is suffering from a mental health disorder. I’m sitting right here, wondering what she stands to gain by kidnapping my sister!”

 

Farouk remained silent for over five seconds before clearing his throat. “No one is calling her the culprit. She’s only a suspect, just like everyone on our list…”

 

 

I cut in. “We can’t suspect everyone. It is not right. I cannot believe you planted such doubt in me that I started to think that Mutmainah might have a hand in my sister’s disappearance. Khalid was right. Something is definitely wrong with me.”

 

Farouk gave a heavy sigh. “One thing I’m hundred per cent certain about is the fact that we’re perfectly okay. We are not crazy. I did not frame a story. I have nothing to gain. I’m trying to play a role in making sure that Rasheedah returns home,” Farouk explained.

 

“You should probably reduce the number of John Grisham’s books you read. I’m eating, Farouk. I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Bye, Rafiah,” Farouk said coldly and hung up the call.

 

I threw the phone on the table and stared at the ground with tears burning my eyes.

***

Asmau, Munir, and I were seated, at our usual corner, in the cramped restaurant, eating from our plates of jollof rice. Today was different because Bushrah, Munir’s love, was also seated.

 

Bushrah was a petite and pretty lady with wide eyes and fair skin. She was dressed in a blue-and-white striped blouse and a pair of jean trousers. Her ears were adorned with silver rings and her bracelet- with her name imprinted- dangled whenever she gesticulates.

 

Munir couldn’t help but stare at Bushrah with a smile whenever she talked. He had barely touched his food since Bushrah joined us at the table.

 

Asmau and I gave each other a knowing look as we glanced at Munir. “Are you going to return to the office with an empty stomach? Asmau asked and we both giggled.

 

Munir smiled shyly. “You ladies should leave me alone, o. I’m not complaining.”

 

I grinned at both of them. “So…is it official?”

 

Bushrah chuckled and sipped from her bottle of Coke. “Yes, it’s official. I’ve said yes to Munir.”

 

“Wow! And you didn’t tell us!” Asmau glared at him.

 

Munir raked his neatly-combed hair. “Things are quite different. You’ve tendered your resignation letter and Rafiah is going through a lot. It is quite not the best time to share my love story,” Munir explained as he glanced at me with sympathetic eyes.

 

Asmau squeezed my right arm. “I don’t know exactly how you feel…but I know that this is not a great time for you. I’m so sorry for not being available to comfort you. I’m glad Farouk’s here to support you.”

 

“Well, I must have crashed the relationship we were gradually building. I lashed out at Farouk yesterday, and he didn’t deserve it,” I said with misty eyes.

 

“Oh, no wonder. Farouk appeared very moody last night, but he never disclosed what happened. And he took the first flight to Morocco this morning,” Munir said.

 

“Morocco? Why?” I asked with a surprised tone.

 

“He was meant to travel there last two weeks. He delayed his trip because of you, Rafiah,” Munir added.

 

“SubhanaLlaah. How could I have sent the love of my life away?” I whimpered in tears.

 

“Call him…or send a message. Apologise for what you said. I’m sure he’ll understand,” Bushrah advised.

 

“It’s 01:00 pm, Rafiah. We need to return to work. We can complete our discussion later,” Asmau said as she sprang up from the chair.

 

“Please, give me a minute,” I said as I took my phone and composed a message.

Asalamu ‘alaykum warahmatuLlaahi wabarakahtuhu, Farouk.

How are you doing? I heard you left for Morocco this morning.

I sincerely apologise for my outburst. You didn’t deserve that, and I regret saying such words to you.

Kindly let me know you arrive at your destination so that we can talk.

Regards

Rafiah.

 

“Rafiah, Munir wants to book an uber for Bushrah. I’m wondering why he still doesn’t have a car,” Asmau giggled as she slapped my arm.

 

I clicked on the send button and looked up just in time to see Munir rolling his eyes. “I’ll buy a car if you provide the money. Ahn ahn, Asmau, stop disgracing me in front of my babe,” Munir frowned as we burst out laughing.

 

“It’s nice hanging out with you guys. I had so much fun!” Bushrah smiled at us.

 

“Same here. You’re such a breath of fresh air, Bushrah. Munir is lucky to have you,” I explained.

 

“Thanks, Rafiah. Let me not keep you waiting. I’ll just wait here until the uber arrives,” Bushrah explained.

 

“You guys should go ahead. I’ll join you later,” Munir gave us a knowing look as Asmau, and I strolled down the road.

 

“I’m wondering where Rasheedah is right now…and what’s she doing…and what the person stands to gain from keeping her captive…and if she is still alive,” I prattled as Asmau held my hand.

 

“I’m so sorry. ALlaah will answer our prayers,” Asmau said as we entered the company’s building.

 

“Aameen,” I was saying when Mrs. Bola called my name.

 

“Please, let’s discuss in my office,” Mrs. Bola ordered as I tailed her, wondering what could have happened.

 

She sighed heavily and glared at me as I shut the door behind her. “The task you submitted this morning was full of errors. It’s obvious that you weren’t concentrating,” Mrs. Bola said as she walked over to the shelf and grabbed an empty mug. “Go home and have a rest. I’m giving you two days off. I’m doing this because I know how trying this period is for you. But I don’t want this same mistake to repeat itself when you return next week,” she said.

 

“It won’t. Thank you very much, ma,” I said in appreciation before walking out of her office.

 

After bidding Asmau farewell, I grabbed my bag and left the company’s premises, wondering how to spend the rest of the day. Definitely not at home, watching Mom plan the wedding of Rasheedah, who is still yet to be found.

 

I was wondering whether to visit an eatery and spend the rest of the day when a thought came to my mind. Immediately, I reached into my bag and brought my phone.

***

About thirty minutes later, I was walking into the Kanu Ndubuisi Park to spend the rest of the day with Mutmainah and her friends. Mutmainah had cheerfully invited me to hang out with them when I explained that I was away from work.

 

I tried to locate where they were seated, and my eyes caught the sight of over ten people seated around a large table covered with a variety of food and drinks.

 

Mutmainah waved her hand as she spotted me and walked towards where we were sitting, wondering if I had made the wrong decision. How could I feel free amid strange people, who were probably children of influential politicians?

 

“She is here!!!” Mutmainah screamed in delight as she ran and welcomed me with a tight hug. Gosh! I’d never met anyone like Mutmainah.

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Mutmainah,” I greeted as she held my hands.

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam. I’m glad you could make it! Hey guys, meet my new friends,” she said as she started to introduce me to everyone.

 

I gasped in shock when my eyes caught sight of the tall and gangly man sitting at the right end. Khalid.

 

 

 

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty-Three)

Khalid lowered his eyes in shame as I stared at him with questioning eyes. How could he…how could he hang out with friends when my sister was still nowhere to be found?

 

“Are you okay? You seem…off,” Mutmainah asked as she patted my shoulder.

 

“Yes, I am. Getting here was a bit stressful. The sun was very intense, so I’m just trying to unwind and get myself together again,” I explained.

 

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Let me get you a cold bottle of Chapman,” Mutmainah said as she walked over to where the cooler was kept.

 

The table appeared bigger than it looked when I was still a stone-throw away from it. There were packs of fried rice, ofada rice, assorted meat, boxes of steaming pizza, and a significant number of drinks. I couldn’t help but ask the cause of the occasion.

 

“I know you’ll call us lazy youths, but we’re just hanging out and catching up with what we’ve been up to. We do this every month,” Mutmainah explained as she handed me the drink.

 

“Thanks,” I said as I gulped it down and glanced at the people talking cheerfully.

 

There was Halima, the pretty lady dressed in a red gown. She had barely touched any food or spoken to anyone. She had been focused on her phone since I got there. Aisha, the rotund and fair-complexioned lady whose smile could light up the world, had been talking about her trip to Mexico. And there was Khalid, glancing intermittently at me and pretending to be interested in the short grasses.

 

“That’s Khalid, the guy I told you about,” Mutmainah said, pointing at Khalid.

 

“Oh. He’s the one?”

 

“Yes. Isn’t he cute? Wouldn’t you do anything to get the man of your dreams?”

 

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, well. Farouk is gone. I don’t think it will work out. I got on his nerves last night, and he travelled out of the country this morning,” I explained.

 

“If I were you, I’d be on the plane now, ready to win him back,” Mutmainah said with certainty.

 

“How far can you go to get the man of your dreams?” I asked her.

 

Halima looked up from her phone and stared at me. “Mutmainah can do anything,” she said and whispered in a low tone. “Rumour has it that she has a hand in Khalid’s fiancée’s disappearance. She wouldn’t admit it, though.”

 

Mutmainah raked her head and strode off uncomfortably. “It’s dhur time, guys. Aren’t we going to pray? Well, I’ll be waiting for you at the mosque,” she muttered and walked away hastily. ‘

 

My body shivered in shock and fear. What if we were right all along? How far could she go to make Khalid hers?

 

I was still wrapping my head around the recent event when Khalid walked up to me and cleared his throat. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah.”

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam,” I replied brusquely.

 

“I’m sorry. They are my friends. We’ve all been together since childhood. I’m as worried as you are. Hangouts like these are what keep me going.”

 

“Indeed. You made me believe that I was crazy, knowing full well that Mutmainah could do anything to get you,” I glared at him.

 

“I still don’t believe she has a hand in this. By the way, what are you doing here? How did you become friends?”

 

“Leave me alone, Khalid. I have important things to take care of,” I said as I walked to a quiet corner and dialled Asmau’s number.

 

“Hey. Are you home now?” Asmau asked as she picked the call.

 

“I need your help. I’ll explain all you have to do…but first, I need to find Mutmainah.”

***

My mind was a whirl of confusion. Sweat dripped from my green-coloured veil as I descended from the uber and stood in front of Mutmainah’s gate.

 

Was I doing the right thing? What if I ended up getting missing like Rasheedah? How could Mom survive? Doubts filled my mind as I stared at the blue-painted bungalow. I was contemplating leaving when a voice made me shriek in fear.

 

Wetin you dey find?” A tall man, dressed in a security uniform, called out.

 

I cleared my throat and forced a smile. “Mutmainah told me to wait for her at home. She’s currently in Alausa, Ikeja.”

 

The man scanned me from up to down with curious eyes. “You’re right about that. She’s in Ikeja. Why did she tell you to wait for her?” he asked.

 

I shrugged. “How am I supposed to know that? She just called and told me to wait at home. She promised to join me soon.”

 

“Okay. Make I call her,” he said and dialled Mutmainah’s number.

 

“Hello…okay…okay…I go open am,” The security officer said and ended the call.

 

An hour ago, I had stolen Mutmainah’s phone and handed it to Asmau. The security officer had spoken to Asmau, thinking it was Mutmainah.

 

He opened the gate, and I strode in, glancing around and wondering if I had done the right thing. If I don’t find Rasheedah, I’d probably be spending the rest of the day in jail for trespassing on private property. He unlocked the main entrance, and I stepped into the medium-sized fully-furnished living room.

 

Mutmainah had once revealed that she was living alone in the apartment her father rented out for her. I could spot award plaques hung on the wall and a framed quote of Paulo Coelho. As I walked further into the lobby, I perceived the smell of onion wafting in the air.

 

Could she have a flatmate? What if someone found out I was here?

 

I spotted a room and gained the courage to open the door. I screamed in fear when I spotted someone sitting on the bed- no one else but Rasheedah, reading a book and eating from a bowl of peppered macaroni.

 

“Rasheedah!” I screamed in shock and excitement as I ran to hug her. “You’ve been here all along! We’ve been looking for you! We’ve all been worried!” I said amidst tears.

 

“Oh. You finally found me,” Rasheedah said blankly and dropped the book on the bed.

 

Rasheedah didn’t look like someone who had been held captive against her will. Anyone who stepped into the room would have assumed that she was in her room, having lunch, and reading a book. “What’s happening? Weren’t you kidnapped?” I asked in confusion.

 

“Yeah, I was kidnapped by Mutmainah,” she responded.

 

“Why do you look like someone…who isn’t desperate to get away? Why do you feel so comfortable? What is going on?”

 

“I don’t know what to do anymore…or say. I was kidnapped on my wedding day- the day that was supposed to be the most memorable day of my life. I thought I was getting married to the love of my life. But then, Mutmainah sent someone to capture me. But guess what? Khalid isn’t bothered that his wife-to-be is missing. He is now engaged to Mutmainah. They’re planning to get married while his fiancée is still missing!” Rasheedah said in tears. “Mutmainah promised to let me go when they tie the knots. I just…I feel ashamed for choosing love over education. My colleagues would have written their final papers, but here I am, kept against my will because of a man.”

 

I hugged her tightly. “It is no fault of yours. Everyone falls in love. That doesn’t make us weak. You’ve done nothing wrong, Rasheedah,” I tried to pacify her.

 

“No, I have. I shouldn’t have chosen Khalid. I’ve brought so much shame to our family that I’ve accepted this predicament. Please, Rafiah, leave and inform Mom and Dad that I’m fine. I’d return soon, I promise.”

 

“What are you saying? Mom is currently planning your wedding. She is not in her right senses. And you want to remain here? What is going on?” I was saying when Mutmainah stepped into the room.

 

“I have a camera installed, so I knew when you got in,” she said and settled on the chair. “I had no idea that you were Rasheedah’s sister. I thought you were a true friend,” she said matter-of-factly.

 

“My sister must be released immediately. I’ll report you to the police…”

 

Mutmainah cut in. “What would you say I did? It doesn’t look like I held Rasheedah against her will, no? I sincerely apologise for everything. I know I overstepped my boundary…but I wasn’t thinking straight. It happened so fast. Khalid broke up with me and got engaged to someone else all of a sudden. I am truly sorry,” Mutmainah begged.

 

“I am leaving with my sister. I’m highly disappointed in you, Mutmainah. I kept hoping that you wouldn’t be the one. But alas! Here you are,” I said as I held Rasheedah’s hand, and we walked out of the building.

 

 

 

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty-Four)

It felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe that I was heading home with Rasheedah by my side. I was set out for work this morning with no iota of knowledge that I’d be returning with Rasheedah- hale and hearty.

And that was why, when we returned home, Dad had cleaned his eyes more than once to be certain that he was staring at his missing daughter. And Mom had shed uncontrollable tears as she wrapped her arms around Rasheedah.

 

The next series of events followed, praising me for my act of bravery and filling Rasheedah’s stomach with too much food. We had spent the rest of the night, in the living room, listening to Rasheedah recount all that happened when she was away- how she had received a call from a strange number pretending to deliver a surprise package and how they had carted her to an unknown destination.

 

“I’ve officially ended things with Khalid. I need to face my studies and start working towards actualising my dreams. Probably along the way, I’ll find love again,” she had said with certainty.

 

The next morning, our house was filled to the brim with family, friends, and well-wishers, excited to celebrate the return of Rasheedah. Asmau and Munir visited after work and I sat with them in the verandah, listening to recent events. Tolu and Najeebah had returned from their honeymoon, and Mrs. Bola had assigned everyone with more tasks than usual.

 

“I want to tender my resignation letter. I know I haven’t made the necessary plans to become a professional writer, but I can’t keep pretending to love accounting. I want to stop experiencing that dreadful feeling of getting up in the morning and heading to work. Well, I’m grateful for the period I spent at Futnair. I wouldn’t have met you or Munir,” I said, glancing at them. “But, I’ve made my decision. I’ll probably regret this. I might be broke for days, but, eventually, I’ll find my foot.”

 

“Yay! That makes the two of us. I’m proud of you!” Asmau grinned at me.

 

“I’m proud of you, too. Lest I forget, Farouk asked of you. I told him everything- about how you found Rasheedah,” Munir stated.

 

“He’s probably laughing at me right now, saying that he was right,” I chuckled.

 

“No. He’s proud of you. You were able to get Rasheedah out of the lion’s den, all alone. You got Mutmainah to trust you. You singlehandedly planned an escape plan. You should be on the headlines of Daily Trust,” Munir laughed.

 

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t flatter me too much. Really? Daily Trust?”

 

“Why isn’t Mutmainah at the police station? Don’t tell it’s because of her father’s influence,” Asmau said with a frown.

 

I let out a shudder. “I have a recording of Mutmainah’s conversation, but I really do not think we’re going to do that. Mom and Dad are so excited Rasheedah is home that they are not bothered about apprehending her,” I explained.

 

We spoke until dusk, and Asmau and Munir left after observing maghrib. I was still sitting in the verandah and thinking about the implications of my life decisions when Rasheedah joined me.

 

“A penny for your thoughts, Rafiah,” she slipped her right arm around my shoulder.

 

I sighed heavily. “Well, I’m wondering what Farouk is doing right now and if he misses me as much as I do.”

 

“I am the cause of all these. Why do I cause so much unhappiness to our family?”

 

“Rasheedah, you are witty and beautiful and smart. Don’t you ever think less of yourself. And I’m glad you’re choosing your studies over Khalid. You’re not perfect, and no one is. Believe me; the house wasn’t the same when you were away. You’re, like, the one that lights up the family.”

 

Rasheedah held me tightly. “Thank you, Rafiah. I really appreciate this. How do I assist you in getting Farouk back?”

 

“Mutmainah suggested that I fly over to Morocco and beg him,” I said as we both giggled.

 

“Typical Mutmainah! Let’s compose a message. I’ll be the one to send it,” Rasheedah grinned as she brought out of her phone.

 

Asalamu ‘alaykum warahmatuLlaah wabarakahtuhu, Farouk.

 

How are you? I trust you’ve been good? Well, you have to. You’re probably exploring beautiful places in Morocco and taking lovely pictures. I guess you’ve tried out most of their dishes and written pages of your new story. I believe you’re happy and as vibrant as always.

 

Well, I’m not. I’ve been miserable since I lashed out on you. I made a mistake, and I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I could make amends. Yes, you were right. Mutmainah-the beautiful and sweet lady- was the one all along! How could I have doubted your words?

 

I am so sorry. I regret my actions and wish you forgive me for all I said. I wish we could continue learning more about each other…and spend the rest of our lives together, exploring, learning, and growing. I love you, Farouk. I didn’t realise how much I do until I lost you.

 

I’ve met men that made me feel less of myself. I started to doubt my value that I felt it was too good to be true when you came into my life. Every single moment we spent together, I wondered if you were a figment of my imagination. But you’re not. You’re real, Farouk, and you showed me that I deserve to love and be loved.  

 

If you don’t respond to this message, I’ll assume you’ve moved on…and probably found someone else. And I really hope to hear from you.

 

Sincerely,

Rafiah. 

 Don't miss out on the previous episodes:

Episode One

Episode Two

Episodes Three & Four

Episode Five

Episodes Six & Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten

Episode Eleven






Episode Seventeen 

 Episode Eighteen

Episode Nineteen

Episode Twenty