Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Precious Figure (Episode Seven)



While walking to Tantalizers, I brushed my clothes and fantasized seeing Najib again. I had seen him just once but imagining his lovely pair of eyes and a sparkling set of teeth made me shudder.

‘Fareedah, how do you eat when you’re on a date?’ I muttered, unlocking my phone and trying to reach out to Google.

The flash of light on the phone from the sun rays almost blinded my vision. No one advised me to put my phone away that I returned it to my bag. I took a mint from my purse and started to chew, to keep my breath fresh.

Tantalizer was upstairs of a large shopping complex. I was just about to place a foot on one of the steps when I heard my voice being called.

“Fareedah.” I turned to see Aatiyah walking towards me.

She wore a thick brown-coloured khimar and red-framed spectacles. Aatiyah is the Ameerah of the Muslimahs’ Students Society, the same association that I hardly miss out on every week.

Aatiyah is really beautiful... the kind of beauty that’ll make you gape. Despite her modest dressing and natural look, Aatiyah always had this outstanding appearance that made her look unique. If it isn’t her flawless caramel skin or a new set of spectacular spectacle, it would be her colourful wedge shoes or a lovely bag. She is petite and calm-natured. She always had a glittery smile lingering on her face and her voice was sweet and melodious. It’s of no surprise that she was chosen as the Ameerah... I mean, she had the charismatic quality to attract new members to the society.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum sister. How have you been?” her face crinkled in a smile.

I moved closer to her and shook her right hand. “Wa’alaykumu salam. I’ve been good.” I replied, smiling back.

Believe me; you can’t avoid forcing a smile when with Aatiyah.

“Alhamdulillah. You look...lovely Fareedah.” Her eyes glinted as she surveyed my look.

“Thank you.” I blushed.

“You didn’t attend lectures this week and it’s so unlike you. This is the first time you’re missing the lecture and I am wondering what could be wrong?” she furrowed her eyebrows as she stared at me.

“My mom wasn’t feeling too fine on Monday and I needed to hurry home to prepare lunch for her.”

“Subhanallah. Hope she’s fine now?”

“Yes, she is.”

“It’s really painful that you couldn’t attend the lecture. Ustaz Sanuth gave a lecture on the virtues of performing tahajjud. Ahh...you really missed a lot, Fareedah. Anyway, you can have my jotter. I noted down the very important points.” She said, reaching for her silver bag as rummaged inside, searching for her jotter.

Gosh! I know this sounds bad but I really do not feel bad about missing the lecture. You know; if I did attend the lecture on that day, would I have had the chance to meet Najib? Definitely no!

“Oh, here it is.” Aatiyah handed the book with rough covers. “I can get it next week okay?” she beamed.

“Okay. Masallam.” I smiled at her and started to climb the steps.

Each step I took reminded me of Najib...his resonant voice, sweet talk, lovely eyes...how much I love those eyes!

Within seconds, I was at the entrance of Tantalizers, and I took deep breaths while hesitating to enter the eatery.

“You can do this Fareedah. He is a simple and accommodating person.” I mumbled, reaching for the handle of the door when it opened itself.

“Welcome, ma’am.” A young man, dressed in white and blue uniform smiled at me.

“Thank you.” I gestured, entering surreptitiously into the warm and large room that was filled with swarms of people.

Finally, I enter Tantalizers!!! I cheered within me.

I could see students...mostly couples, digging on fried rice and roasted chicken. It looked like the official meal for taking someone on a date. The room bubbled with talks and laughter...and for a minute, I stood still at one point, scanning around for the sight of Najib.

“Where can he be? Didn’t he notice my entrance? Now, these students will be staring at me awkwardly,” I muttered, reaching for my phone to dial his number.

“Hey.” I heard a familiar voice and the sight of a hand, waving in the air.

It is Najib! It is Najib!

I grinned excitedly, anxiously walking over to where he was sitting. The eatery was a square-sized room composed with rows of rounded tables and three chairs surrounding each of them. The wall was painted red and a large picture of a dark-complexioned lady was posted on the wall with the inscription, ‘melanin popping.’ At the right-hand side of the room was a large stand and a couple of staffs, taking orders and handing the customers their requests in a tray.

Najib was seated at the left-hand corner of the room, just beside the wall. I fiddled with the hem of my hijab as I was walking to where he sat.

I had several thoughts. What would Najib’s expression be when I enter the room? Will he really find me beautiful? Oh gosh. I smacked my forehead and marched to where he was.

“Heyyyy...Fareedah is here...” Najib cheered, standing up from his seat.

He clasped his hands excitedly and beamed at me. Najib looked really handsome. He was putting on a red shirt tucked in a pair of jean trousers. He looked fairer than when I had first met him...I can’t tell why but he looked really different...more handsome. I was just realizing that he had a broad chest and a birthmark at the side of his neck. Dimples formed at both sides of his cheek as he smiled.

I was studying Najib really well...and he looked more handsome than I had ever imagined.

Would I be able to sleep tonight? I thought, imagining the face of Najib occupying my mind and preventing me from going to sleep.

“Have a seat, chocolate.” He said, still having this fixed smile that displayed the whiteness of his teeth.

It was then I noticed that he was not alone...that the female-younger version of Najib was seated beside him, chewing furiously on a gum, sipping from her cup of yogurt intermittently and focusing on her phone. I wondered if she even noticed my presence. She was typing away on her phone without drifting her gaze.

Without Najib introducing her, I knew at one that I was seeing Fauziyyah, the only sister of Najib. She was very fair in complexion; fairer than Najib and she also had this dot-mark by the side of her neck.
She wore a knee-length pink-coloured gown that had flowers designs on it. She wore a black cap and a large-silver pair of butterfly earrings dangled on her ears. A red bold lipstick lingered on her lips and her eyelids blinked away in thick-black eyeliner.

“Nice to see you again Chocolate...you look...ahhh...breathtaking...” Najib exclaimed, peering at me.

Blood rushed to my cheeks as I took a seat opposite him and dropped my bag on the table. I could notice Najib’s riveted gaze on me and I pulled away.

“My bad...this is my naughty sister, Fauziyyah. And Fauziyyah, meet Fareedah, the lady I told you so much about.” He gestured and Fauziyyah pulled her gaze away from her phone and stared at me.

I felt very nervous as Fauziyyah’s large and whitish eyes were fixed on me, giving me a shrewd look. I could imagine what she was thinking about me:

1.      She is so short and thin. Doesn’t she eat?
2.      She’s dark with nice skin. No wonder he calls her chocolate!
3.      She has nice lips and lovely nose. She’s beautiful...not very pretty.
4.      She’s quite religious...but she’s bad at combining colours. I’m sure she’s appearing this way to please my brother.
5.      But wait! Why did my brother change his taste for women? Well, it’s a nice improvement.

I could imagine these thoughts as she eyed me and turned to continue with whatever she was doing on her phone. “Oh, she’s the chocolate,” Fauzaiyyah said matter-of-factly.
Najib chuckled, “Yes, she is, Fauziyyah. What would you like to take?” he turned to me, “don’t tell me it is water or we’ll quarrel this afternoon.” He chortled.

“Anything will do,” I replied, scanning around the room.

Oh, no. Why will Najib’s sister be here? This wouldn’t go fine at all. She doesn’t look friendly. Isn’t this supposed to be a date? Maybe Raqibah is right...I’ll just be mother-zoned.

What if he’s trying to hook me up with Fauziyyah with the saying; “Chocolate, you’re the best person to take good care of my sister and make her concentrate on her studies. I don’t mind coming every week to give you gifts as an appreciation for taking good care of my sister. Or, isn’t that how nannies are being treated?” I imagined Najib saying that.

Gosh! I imagine too much...that’s my problem.

“Fareedah, are you fine?” Najib gave me a concerned look.

I tried to comport myself. “Yes, I am...I’m perfect.”

“You look stressed out. Hope the test went really well? I’m sorry, I could have left you to go home and rest but I really wanted to see you. I have something to tell you...” he said, and pulled away from me.

What could it be? What I’m thinking?

Najib cleared his throat anxiously as he was standing up. “I’ll go get you something...and you must not reject it.” He smiled in a thrilling way as he walked away.

I was then left with his sister who seemed to be so lost in whatever she was doing. I tried to initiate a conversation.

“So do you have friends?” I smiled at her.

Fauziyyah twitched her lips without looking away from her phone. “This gadget right here is my friend.”

“Oh, how can a telephone gadget be your friend?” I wondered.

Finally, she dropped her phone on the table and looked at me. “My friends...my dreams...my passion...I connect to everything through here.” She replied, pointing at the silver-plated iPhone that was resting on the table.

I shook my head awkwardly. “I see. So you love art?”

“Art is my life,” Fauziyyah remarked and picked up her phone again.

I guessed there was nothing else to say. The young lady wanted her privacy...with her phone.

Najib sauntered to where we were sitting that minute with a tray filled with steaming fried rice and jollof rice, salad and fried chicken. Beside the plate was a pack of orange juice and a glass cup.

“I guess you haven’t had lunch. This should satisfy you. Tell me if you want something more.” He placed the tray in front of me and I smiled shyly.

“Thank you...I think this will do.”

“Brother Najib, I need to get going. I have a lecture by 3 pm.” Fauziyyah said blankly, carrying her bag and still typing on her phone.

Najib rolled his eyes. “You’re sure you have a lecture?”

She glared at him and replied sarcastically, “No, I want to meet a man at the nearby hotel. Come on bro, stop acting too over-protective. Bye bro, have a nice day Fareedah.” She said brusquely and started to walk away.

Within a minute, she was out of the door, talking on the phone. I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, it was me and Najib. Alone!

Najib raked his dark hair. “I don’t know why I feel like I am losing her. I want her to share every bit of her life with me but she’s been so withdrawn. Now I know what it means to be a parent.”

“Fauziyyah is no longer that young girl that meets you to discuss everything that’s happening in her life. You ought to take care of her, but you have to give her space. She shouldn’t feel pressured. Don’t give her the chance to grumble when she sees your call.” I said.

I remembered how much my mom is so bothered about me...wanting to know all that is happening in my life and wondering if she can solve any of my worries.

“You’re right, Fareedah. You’re so smart.” Najib eyes twinkled at me, in this deep way that almost made me melt.

I took a spoon of rice and chewed awkwardly. Najib didn’t stop staring at me. It made me very uncomfortable. I reached for my phone and googled; “How to act on a first date.”

“What are you doing with your phone?” he asked, peering at the phone.

I tucked my hands away. “It’s nothing.”

Najib smirked. “Let me see.”

“No...” I was late. Najib had grabbed the phone and he was reading through. I felt hot and red all over.

“How to behave in your first date... do not talk too much...do not eat much...comport yourself and maintain eye contact...don’t dress too fashionable or too simple...” he read from the phone and returned it to the table, grimacing. “Chocolate, all these do not matter. What matters is that I like you, really much. I don’t care about what you say or how you eat...I want you to be yourself, okay?”

I shivered in excitement and anxiety. Najib just said that he likes me. “Yes.”

I took more spoonfuls of rice and soon, I started to feel very comfortable around Najib. He was scrolling through the phone and remarking about how boring I am. I practically have less than ten pictures on my phone.

“Would you mind if we take a picture?”

I smiled widely and Najib clicked on the snap button. We just had our first picture!

“This looks really beautiful chocolate. We look perfect.” He grinned, showing me the picture.

It truly was lovely.

“I’ll make this your background picture. Whenever you take your phone, you’ll think of me,” he laughed and I smiled awkwardly.

Only if he knows there’s hardly a time that I do not think of him.

“Fareedah?”

“Yes?” I answered absent-mindedly, reaching for the juice and pouring some of its contents into the cup.

“I don’t know...I have something to ask of you...saying yes will make me the happiest man on earth...I don’t even know how to ask...

I noticed how nervous he was. What does he want to ask? That I take care of his sister? Of course, she’s very precious to him and taking care of her will make him the happiest man on earth. ‘She’s all I have.’ Isn’t that what he once said?

“Spill, Najib. Just say it. I’m all agog. I’ll try my best to fulfill your request.”

“Okay,” Najib straightened his shirt and gulped my cup of juice. “Will you mind if we start a relationship...I mean we start from somewhere and make it grow?”

I spilled a lump of chicken from my mouth. I didn’t mind that I was violating a dating rule.

My face crinkled in bewilderment. “You mean we should start an intimate relationship?”

“Yes Fareedah, I can’t think of spending my life with anyone asides you. Will you make me the happiest man?”

My head seemed to revolve and my forehead became sweaty. Was I dreaming? How can everything happen so fast?

to be continued...

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