Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Precious Figure (Episode Thirteen)

It was three months into our relationship and Najib would be meeting my mother for the first time. Shouldn’t I be elated? I should but I didn’t feel that way. For the past few weeks, I’d been feeling insecure about our relationship. There was no one to talk because no one would understand how I felt...not even Najib.

Everything seemed too perfect... in fact, too perfect that I started to worry about the uncertainty.

‘What if something happens and our perfect relationship ends just like that?’ I would think.

I had the unusual feeling that Najib was hiding things from me...but what it was, I had no idea about.

“Have you made the beef stew?” My mom startled me from my thought as she entered the kitchen.

“I’ll do so after I make the amala,” I replied.

“You said amala and efo riro is his favourite?”

“Yes, it is.”

Je kodun oo, like the soup you made three days ago. I almost bit my tongue while eating,” my mom laughed. “First impression matters oo. You know this is the first time that he’ll be visiting.”

“I will, mom.”

“Okay...I’ll clean the tables in the living room,” she said, leaving the kitchen.

Efo riro and amala was a meal that was prepared at least once a week. Suddenly, I became jittery.

‘What if I add extra salt...or it becomes too peppery? Najib has once complained of having ulcer symptoms once...’ I thought.

I steamed the beef and left for the room. I knew that Najib would have called and I was right. I was about his dial his number when his call came in. “I’m a bit nervous. What if your mom doesn’t like me?” he said in a hurried and nervous tone.

“She will like least when she meets you in person. You’re a nice man, you know?” I couldn’t help but smile.

“Now you’re making me blush. Anyways, I’m in front of your gate. I’ll be at your door entrance any moment from now.”

Immediately, I hung up and changed into nice clothes. I informed my mom that Najib was around and she hurried to change into a presentable outfit.

Two minutes later, we were welcoming Najib into our living room and he was sitting on the chair beside the door. I served a bottle of Malt and placed a plate of groundnut in front of him. Najib greeted my mom and soon, they started to converse.

I returned to the kitchen, desperate to ensure no lump appeared in the mixed yam flour. I served the meal and we all assembled in the dining room.

“So you said your father produces movies?” my mom asked, pouring cold zobo from a large jug. We had just completed our lunch, where Najib couldn’t stop commenting on the food’s unique taste.

“Fareedah never told me.”

“Yes ma, he’s a movie producer,” he replied.

“Your mom... Where is she now?”

“She’s currently in Morocco. She’s a tour guide. She travels to several countries at different times in a month.”

“That will be a fabulous job. I wish that I can explore places in the world and leave this country.” My mom laughed. “Why did you return to Nigeria with your sister?”

Najib’s mood changed in an instant and I knew that my mom regretted asking. “I’m sorry, you don’t have to say...”

“No, it’s fine. My parents went through a painful divorce when I was five years old. It was an opportunity for my mom to fulfill her dream of touring the world, and so she left just immediately. My dad married two wives shortly after and the home wasn’t the way it used to it. We didn’t feel loved and we weren’t well-taken care much comparison and rivalry. When I completed my degree in Software Engineering, I returned to Nigeria with my sister. It was the best we could do.”

I could see my mom’s eyes moisten. “I’m really sorry. How is your sister?”

“She’s fine. At least, she’s coping with her studies now.” Najib tried to give a rueful laugh but what came out were breaths of air.

“You should invite her over to the house. She can be spending days with you.” My mom was saying to me.

“Okay.” I was staring at Najib and my mom, and I had this unusual feeling.

Yes, I was in a happy relationship but things weren’t just right. It didn’t look real. I was also diminishing spiritually.

‘What if I’m just over-thinking?’ I thought.

Najib had planned to take me to his house after the visit. Fauziyyah claimed that she had just downloaded a captivating movie. She called it When Love Happens (While reading at the library, Fauziyyah would spend time downloading movies with the school Wi-Fi. Such a case!).

I wore a mini-length hijab and didn’t even care to make up my face. I wore a saggy gown and carried my bag. Believe me, I looked like the older version of Raqibah.

Before we entered the car, Najib inquired to know if I was okay, scrutinizing my sad eyes.
“You’ve been acting funny for weeks now. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” I assured him.

“Do you mind pizza?”

“No,” I replied, walking out of his side and entering the car.

The ride home was a really quiet one. Najib had managed to comment that my mom was really nice and I nodded in response, without uttering a word. I knew that he would be wondering what had happened to me, but how do I explain that our relationship looked too perfect?

He pulled into the compound and parked beside the Toyota Camry. “We’re home!” He said as he was alighting from the car. He attempted to walk towards my side and open the door but I didn’t wait for him. I opened the door myself and walked inside with a frown.

The living room was wafting of baked food and eggs. The aroma was so inviting that I couldn’t help smiling. I knew that it would be Fauziyyah’s handiwork.

Fauziyyah appeared in front of us, grinning from ear to ear and holding a tray of cakes and doughnuts. “I made these, sister Fareedah. Just imagine. It was fun!” she yelled in delight.

I smiled at her. “That’s my girl. They look delicious,” I said, licking my lips.

“Great...let me set the table.” Fauziyyah hurried to the dining room and placed three ceramic plates, the tray of cakes and doughnuts, and two bottles of Fanta.

We assembled around the table and started to munch the delicious snack. She had added honey to the doughnut and it made it more sumptuous.

We ate silently, Najib and me stealing nervous glances at ourselves. Fauziyyah stared at us suspiciously, wondering what could be wrong.

She clasped her hands to gain our attention. “ guys have to tell me what’s wrong. You’ve been acting weird. Any issues you have to sort out?”

Najib stood up immediately and left our presence. “What is wrong with you guys? Tell me.”

I tried to think of something convincing to say because I really could not explain what was wrong. “I don’t trust his ex,” I pouted my lips.

Fauziyyah laughed, “She left him...he didn’t. Why would she be interested again?”

“What if I’m just a medium to get her to feel jealous and return to him?

“My brother doesn’t forgive someone that has hurt him before. Be rest assured that Moyo is in the past,” Fauziyyah assured me.

“I’ll be back.” I stood up, smiling at Fauziyyah and she winked in return.

She knew exactly what I was trying to do. I walked to Najib’s room and knocked on the door.

“The door is open,” came his voice.

I entered his room to see him drawing on a white paper. “You draw too?” My eyes widened in surprise.

“I draw and paint like Fauziyyah.” He was still concentrated on the paper and pencil and his fingers moved in several directions.

“Wow. Since when?”

“Since we were little. We learnt it from our mother. My mom loved to draw and paint, and we would just sit there and watch her work with full concentration in her small room.”

I sat beside him. “You miss her, don’t you?”

“Of course. I wish we can see before the end of the year. It would be great to see her again.”

“I’m sorry love. I’m sorry for acting funny and displaying a strange attitude. I think I’m just being too ungrateful. I love and trust you.” I confessed and suddenly, Najib pulled me into a big hug.

I was so shocked to respond but I didn’t pull away from his embrace. Maybe I’d agree to savour this moment and seek forgiveness afterwards. I found so much love in Najib’s arms that all I could think of was our life together...getting married, having our first kiss, spending our honeymoon in Paris, having beautiful kids...our life would be perfect together!

“Chocolate?” He whispered to my ear and I felt that my world should end there...being in Najib’s arms and feeling his soft whispers in my ear.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Can you use scarf like my sister. It’s more fashionable than the hijab you wear. It’s also very comfortable.”

I pulled away from him. “No, I can’t,” I replied stiffly. Najib might have the key to my heart, but he didn’t have the power to stop me from putting on my hijab.

“Okay,” Najib replied and pulled me into another hug.

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