Friday 23 November 2018

The Precious Figure (Episode Twelve)

Najib was standing by the doorway with a bouquet of flowers, looking fixedly on my face. Most of my course mates had riveted stares on him. They would be wondering whom he was looking for, but it wouldn’t take long for them to realize that I was the one because he was staring deeply at me.

“What he is doing here?” Raqibah whispered to my ear. “You have to leave the class so that you won’t cause a scene.”

Raqibah was right for the first time. I politely took an excuse from Dr. Chinonso and left the class to meet Najib.

“Gosh! I’m really sorry Fareedah.”

“Let‘s leave here first.” I shot him a warning look and we both quietly walked downstairs.

As we got downstairs, Najib immediately knelt down with his head lowered. “I deserve to be ignored because of what I did, but I’m sorry. Your actions have left me in a beleaguered situation. I promise that it will never happen again.” He pleaded.

Swarms of eyes were fixed on us and my face was gobsmacked and hot with embarrassment and anxiety. “Just stand up, people are staring at us.”

“Not until you forgive me,” he continued.

“Okay...I forgive you. Please stand up now.”

“Yes!” Najib said delightfully as he rose to his feet and presented the flowers. “These are for you.”

My face was a rictus of sheer delight. All feelings of anger that resided in my heart melted away as I smelt the lovely flower. I actually found what Najib did to be sweet and lovely.

“Let’s go to our usual spot in Tantalizers. I’ve really missed you.” His eyes grew wistful and my heart skipped a little.

Najib had the key to my heart. He had the power to make me say ‘yes’ when I actually wanted to say ‘no.’ “But we’re having lectures,” I prattled.

“So? I’m sure your lecturer would want one of his Medicine students to act romantic for once.” He was saying as he walked towards the direction of Tantalizer building. I trailed behind him, noting the way people stared at us.

Najib and I took our usual position and he ordered ice cream. “Open your mouth,” he urged me.

I was scrolling through my phone and it seemed that my brain had just re-played what he said. He was holding a spoonful of vanilla ice cream and his hand was moving towards my mouth. His gesture came to me like a bolt from the blues.

I obliged, blushing stupidly. Najib fed me repeatedly and I responded with a smile. People were still staring at us and I decided to not bother. After all! We were in love.

“I love you,” Najib grinned at me.

“I love you too.”
It was the next day at school and Raqibah and I were walking to a buka for lunch. We had just left the lecture room, feeling hungry and thirsty. Raqibah’s dressing was very astounding; she was putting on a white lace blouse, a brown-leathered skirt, and a black kimono. Her legs were glamoured in red gladiator heels. The pimples on her face had started to dry and the black spots on her face were steadily clearing off.

Raqibah was talking excitedly about what our course mates had been saying and the news that was spreading around the campus. I wasn’t flabbergasted. I too had noticed the stares and murmurs from people as I walked on campus.

“Check out this Instagram pictures. While you and Najib were busy playing ‘I love you’ yesterday, some busybodies were taking your pictures.” Raqibah giggled and I hastily grabbed the phone and checked the pictures.

“Screenshot the pictures and send to me immediately. Najib must see them, they’re so cute.” I grinned broadly, feeling a frisson as I scrolled through the pictures.

“Sincerely, I want a man like Najib. He’s so perfect,” Raqibah said.

“I’ll advice you to keep praying for the best. No one is perfect...” I was saying when I spotted Aatiyah and her friend, Zuwayrah, walking towards us. I wanted to make a U-turn but it was just too late. Aatiyah was waving her hand, indicating that I stop.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, sister Fareedah.” She greeted with a stern look.

Aatiyah was putting on a well-ironed navy blue khimar and she wore spectacles with a red-coloured frame.

“Wa’Alaykumu salam,” I responded, scratching my head nervously.

She didn’t wear her usual bright smile. Instead, she frowned and tightened her lips. “We want to know why you’ve stopped attending the weekly Muslimahs’ Circle. Is your schedule that tight that you can’t sacrifice an hour of your time in a week? The programme would hold now and you’re meant to be your way there,” Aatiyah said.

Zuwayrah (the Muslimahs’ Treasurer) who was a bit taller, stood beside her and was nodding her head to approve of Aatiyah’s statement.

I closed my mouth in shock and disbelief as I had totally forgotten that the programme would hold that afternoon. “I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“You’ve also stopped attending the madrasah classes on Saturday,” Zuwayrah added.

“And you’ve failed to attend the weekly hospital visitation and prison visit. When did you start to drift away from performing religious activities? We were even planning to appoint you as our new Sister Secretary. You’ve changed completely, Fareedah. There are rumours spreading around that you’re dating one ‘jasi’ boyfriend that has made you change your dressing. What is going on? How can we be of help?” Aatiyah was talking with so much pain that I started to wonder why she cared so much.

“All is fine sisters. I may have an appointment on that day, but if I do not, I’ll try my best to attend,” I convinced her, noting her skeptical look. I knew she had no iota of belief for what I just said.

“Okay oo. We will be expecting you. Asalamu ‘alaykum.” She greeted and walked away with Juwayrah.

“Wa’alaykumu salam,” I responded, biting my lips guiltily.

All the while, Raqibah stood beside me, watching us all. She had never been the type that attends religious programmes. “It’s surprising how you’ve changed in a matter of one month,” Raqibah eyed me.

“Whatever. Let’s go and eat. I am longing to taste Mama Oyin’s ofada rice.” I said, changing the topic of discussion.

We resumed our journey to the buka while Raqibah showed me more of our pictures on Instagram.

“Sister Fareedah!” Fauziyyah was running towards us. She pulled me into a big and I struggled to maintain balance. I could see how excited she was to see me.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine sis. You cannot imagine how excited I am to see you. It’s the first time that I’ll see you accidentally on campus. You look beautiful.”  She held my hands and stared at me appreciatively.

Fauziyyah was so engrossed in my looks that she hardly noticed Raqibah. “This is my friend, Raqibah. Raqibah, meet Najib’s sister, Fauziyyah.”

They exchanged a ‘hello’ handshake and Fauziyyah turned to me again, grinning from ear to ear. She was putting on jean trousers and a blue shirt, and she tied a black scarf.

“You look lovely just like your brother.” Raqibah commented and she flushed in appreciation.

“Thank you.”

“So we’re going to the buka. Would you join us?”

“This will be my first time. I’ll like to know what it looks like.”’ve not visited a buka before? Ajebo like you...look at the way she pronounces the buka,” Raqibah smiled breezily.

“I haven’t actually, but I’ll give it a try today,” Fauziyyah replied.

It was then I noticed that Raqibah was staring at Fauziyyah’s mouth as she was talking. “I so much love the way you talk. I’ve tried to practice speaking like Britain but it turned out to be Engli-Yoruba,” Raqibah enunciated and we laughed.

“Let’s go to the Mama Oyin’s buka jare. We’ll proceed to the library afterwards,” I remarked avidly.

Fauziyyah feigned yawning. “Alright...just wake me up when I fall asleep reading those big books.” She laughed and I held her hands.

She was just like a younger sister...and who had an idea that she would turn out to be very friendly? The ‘first impression’ notion does not work all the time!

Don't miss out on the previous episodes:

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five

Episode Six

Episode Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten

Episode Eleven