Friday 12 October 2018

The Precious Figure (Episode Five)

“What are you putting on???” Mom glared at me with scrutinizing eyes.

It was then I remembered that my dressing was different…totally different from what I would wear on a normal day. The day Alia, my distant cousin, presented the gown to me as a gift, I had forced a smile and lied that I really love the dress…that I’d put it on every week because of how beautiful it is. When she left, I had complained to my mother that it is too tight and attractive.

“I’ll just leave it in the wardrobe. I can’t wear this out.” I had muttered to my mother immediately Alia stepped out of the house.

The bosom-length hijab I was putting on was one I used to wear while still in the secondary. The brown lipstick that shone on my lips was also shocking; the last time I used make-up was in 100level.

“Err…I just want to look different.” I tossed my phone nervously in my right hand.

“Look different? Why do you suddenly want to look different?” Mom eyed me suspiciously.

Why can’t she just stop all these questioning and walk to the car? I am getting late.

“It is 7:45 am, mom. I’ll be late for my lectures. Mrs. Lanre might even decide to give an impromptu test. We haven’t written any of her tests since the beginning of the semester,” I stated convincingly.

My mom, as if realizing how much time we had wasted re-adjusted her black veil and grabbed her car keys from the dining table. “Let’s get going. I’ll drop you off at the end of the street.”

She was already walking to the stairs but I stood, leering at her. Mom was putting on a lace gown with puffy hands and a long A-style skirt. “I told you I am late. Ain’t you going to drop me off at school?”

“I have an appointment with Mama Abigail. I’m also late.” She gave me the strict look that kept me quiet in an instant.

“Okay.” I followed her downstairs and within a minute, we were already in the car; mom driving and me staring out of the window.

I could notice the unusual stares from men…men staring at me as they were walking on the road…driver winking at me as they were driving beside my mother.

Was that how it felt to look good? The stares and admiration…the compliments and smiles…
Why hadn’t I looked this way when Najib first saw me? He would have been head over heels with me. I couldn’t wait for Najib to see me this way…he wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes off me.

I chuckled with pleasure as I imagined his widened eyes fighting hard to not gaze at me.

“What’s funny?” my mom is turning sideways to where I sat.

“Just something I remembered.” I took a book from my bag and opened. I really hoped that mom didn’t notice the way men were staring at me this morning.

“I don’t know…I feel like I’m losing you these days…like you hide things from me. I understand you’re already an adult and there are some secrets you’d prefer to tell Raqibah than me…but I’m your mother and I care about you, you know?”

My eyes moistened in guilt. “I know mom. You have no cause to worry. You still remain my best friend.” I smiled at her, touching her left hand.

She smiled back. “I know.”

“Okay, have a great day mom. I love you.” I pecked her left cheek and alighted from the car. We had gotten to the end of the street and as much as I wanted her to drop me off, I was eager to walk down to school.

“I love you always.” She replied before driving off the path where I stood.

I stood fixedly at the same place till she was far away, wondering if I am truly a good daughter.
Oh yes, I am. I have always loved and treated her like no one else. She is my number one and would always be one.

I walked down the road, glancing at the men that had gawked at me. It felt good…but it was awkward. I’d always been the decent and modest lady that tried to avoid undue relationship with the opposite sex. This made me feel like I was walking barely naked on the street.

“Fareedah!” I heard my name being called from behind me.

“It can be another Fareedah. Who says that I am the only one bearing the name in school?” I muttered, walking faster without turning back.

“Fareedah Adams.” The voice called again, in a louder tone.

I was undoubtedly the one being called. The ‘Adams’ had been added to the name. My surname.

I turned back, seeing a very unfamiliar face scurrying to where I was standing. It was a very tall man…really tall. His russet-brown skin shimmered under the bright sun and his black hair glistered like the light bulbs. He wore a knee-length garment and black trousers. He slung a two-hand bag across his right shoulder and dipped his other hands into the side pocket of his gown.

“Asalamu ‘Alaykum Fareedah.”

“Wa’alaykumu salam.” I replied reluctantly and lowered my gaze.

Who the hell are you and how do you know my name?

“I’m sorry but I do not know you.” I took a second glimpse at him and noticed his deep-brown eyeballs.

“I’m Mustapha. We live on the same street…I’m in the department of Mechanical Engineering.” He replied, his face smooth and stern.

I wondered if he ever smiled.

“Oh, I’m seeing you for the first time. So, how do you know my name?” I questioned, folding my arms around my chest.

“My younger sister knows you. She’s also a bona fide member of MSSN. I’ve been willing to talk to you…but…well…I guess I got the courage today.” He replied shyly, toying with the hands of his bag.

“Okay, nice to meet you.” He smiled finally, and I could feel my heart flipping.

Why was I so distracted by smiles?

“Nice to meet you too. Can we walk to school together?”

“Of course…oops!” I hurriedly checked my phone.

I was really late…I had two minutes to get to the lecture room before Mrs. Lanre enters.

“I have to hurry now. See you later.” I said, without waiting to hear his response.

There should be no distraction…the man is cute but I have Najib…oh wait…Najib hasn’t even proposed yet. How sure are you that you’re not going to sister-zoned? No Fareedah…stop these thoughts and hurry to class!

I scuttled to the lecture room. It was 8:07 am and I still hadn’t entered the class. As I about to climb the stairs, I noticed some of my colleagues also running upstairs.

Good. I am not alone.

We hurried upstairs, then to the lecture room to see Mrs. Lanre opening her lecture book and taking a marker from the table. She peered at us through her square-sized spectacles and ordered that Hassan close the door.

The door was shut at our faces and Mrs. Lanre faced the class, starting her lecture. She didn’t acknowledge our presence or consider the fact that it was the first time that I would be coming to class late.

I was only 8 minutes late!

Raqibah gave me a revolting look as she glanced at all of us one by one. She took a second glare at me, noticing that I was looking really different.

I could notice the fixed stare of some of my colleagues at me. Mrs. Lanre called our class prefect, Mardiyyah, and whispered some words into her ear. Some seconds later, Mardiyyah was out of the class, informing us that we had to leave the lecture room area or we’d serve a grave punishment.

“What of the attendance? Will she at least mark our names?” Fred asked hesitantly.

Mardiyyah chuckled. “You know Mrs. Lanre. There is no attendance for anyone that comes after her class.”

“Will she give us test this morning?” I asked anxiously.

“I don’t think so, but you guys will write a makeup should in case she decides to set one before leaving.” Mardiyyah is smiling mockingly and I eyed her, leaving for downstairs.

“By the way, you look different Fareedah.”

“How?” I halted.

“A bit beautiful and more fashionable. You should wear more of this.” She smirked, giving me thumbs up and returning to the class.

I sighed deeply and walked downstairs. Ignoring Mardiyyah had always been a daily tip for me; I’d also so this morning.

This would be the best time to revise Prof. Audu’s note because I hadn’t been able to digest any word since yesterday.

“Fareedah, Mrs. Lanre’s calling you,” Mardiyyah calls from upstairs.
Yesss! I said it. I wasn’t the unserious type that would intentionally arrive late. I was glad she knew that.

Mardiyyah waited till I got upstairs and she started to walk in, her long gown trailing behind her. She wore this kind of awkward style that was short in front but really long at the back. Mardiyyah tied a scarf but a part of her long-braided hair was still visible.

When I entered the class, Mrs. Lanre was still talking and she didn’t glance at my path. I could notice the thousands of eyes that peered at me as I was walking to the seat. I really was shy but I didn’t bother that minute because what really mattered was that Mrs. Lanre honoured me out of the rest of colleagues that also came late.

“You didn’t keep a seat for me?” I whispered to Raqibah who was sitting at the right end of the front seat.

We always kept a seat for one another. We were the ‘front-seaters’ and the first to get to class would always keep a seat for the other.

Raqibah rolled her eyes and I felt as though she wouldn’t respond. “You came really late. You shouldn’t expect to see this seat blank when others in the class will want to sit.”

That’s the person I call my best friend. Really…that’s my best friend. What kind of best friend is Raqibah?

“Okay.” I mouthed, walking swiftly to the back of the class.

I compared my note with the course mate that was sitting beside me and started from where I met. I could just meet Raqibah after the class and borrow her note…that’s if she stops her unusual snobbish behaviour.
Raqibah and I met after class; she was just on her way to the library when I ran towards her.
“Why are you acting very funny?”

“Am I acting funny?” Raqibah scowled, avoiding my gaze as she walked briskly on the path to the library.

It was 10:00 am and the school area was cluttered with swarms of students, walking back and forth. Raqibah was putting on an over-sized black gown that had apparent stitches at the lower part with yellow thread. It looked like the kind of work that Raqibah would have hurriedly done that morning with a needle and an available thread.

“You’ve been ignoring me. This is not you, Raqibah, I know my best friend.”

Raqibah suddenly stops to glare at me. “This is also not you. You’re different.” She exclaimed.

“Okay…we’re both different now. That makes us even. Let’s go revise in the library.”

We started to walk when she stopped abruptly again, taking a close look at me from the top to bottom. “Why are you dressed this way?”

“Oh,” I grinned. “I just wanted to try something different.”

Raqibah frowned. “Something different? But you’ve never dressed this way to school.”

“I have, now,” I replied brusquely, walking past her.

We both walked to the library without saying another word to each other. Mrs. Ibrahim welcomed us to the library as we entered. Our faces were very familiar; the library was like our second home. We were never asked for our library cards, nor did Mrs. Ibrahim have to explain some of the ethics of the library as she did to some students.

We walked to the left end corner and took our usual seats, beside the window. Raqibah opened her book and started to read the moment she sat down. I opened Prof. Audu’s note and read the first sentence. It sounded like Latin.

Okay, Fareedah…you’re just tired and exhausted. You need to calm down and read this note. Tomorrow’s test is no joke.

I stared around and suddenly, the wooden desk looked really fascinating to stare at. I felt the edges and imagined a heavily-built-wood cutter man felling a tree in the forest, a furniture making company turning the wood into furniture.

This tree must have gone through a lot. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you reunite with your family in the forest one day. I twitched my lips, returning my gaze to the book.

The first word reminded me of Najib…no…not because I was eager to hear from him again, but because the word started with an ‘N.’

My thoughts were clogged with a lot…

…Why hasn’t he called me since yesterday?

…Oh my…look at that guy I met this morning

…the guy that made me late to class.

…when he smiled, I imagined myself drooling

…imagine, he lives just close to me…wait! It means that I’ll see him virtually every day

…no, I like Najib better. He’s bold and confident…and sweet…and so handsome…and lovely…and jovial…

…should I send him a SMS…or call him? Does he even like me? I’ve said it before, I’m sister zoned!

“Fareedah!” Raqibah stroked me heavily on my back.

I shivered and regained my composure. “Yes…yes?”

“I’ve called your name five times now. Why are you so deep in thought?”

“I’m sorry…I was just trying to digest some sentences in the book.”

Raqibah gave me a look that read ‘I really doubt you,’ then her face flashes into a smile immediately. “I’ve read this book a thousand times. Let’s ask ourselves questions.”

I raised my hands in defeat. “No please, let’s not do that.”

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