Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Flaming Home (Episode Seven)


Najwa’s Point of View
What?!
“So now…tell me everything!” Anas is staring at me with a look of worry and concern.

We are sitting on the couch, my head on his laps. We had waited for Sahadat to leave the house before we began to discuss.

Anas found it really hard to believe when I told him that I’d been suspended from work. I still find it hard to believe too.

Tears streak down my face as I open my mouth to explain to him. He squeezes my hands and urges me to continue.

“What really happened? What got you suspended from work?”

“I was accused of trying to frame Mutmahinat. A mail was sent through Mutmahinat’s email address…it contains confidential information that shouldn’t be received from an outsider. The mail was sent to Bushcairs Limited, a rival company.”

“So?”

“Mutmahinat was accused of betraying the trust of the company and selling our initiatives to a rival firm…but something happened afterwards. A voice note was sent to the WhatsApp account of all staffs…it was when I was threatening to deal with Mutmahinat and put her in her place…and a copy of the mail was found on my computer.” I say, sobbing in tears and cleaning my moist nose with the hem of my blouse.

Anas furrows his brow in confusion. “No way! How could that have happened?”

“I have made empty threats several times to deal with Mutmahinat. I have even threatened her to her face. Everyone knows that I despise her and I am angry that she is holding that position…and it was my voice in the leaked audio tape…I actually threatened to deal with her. I even got angrier when I saw the two of you together. I planned with Barakah to teach her a lesson…” I am bawling out my eyes and Anas is cleaning my misty eyes with the tip of his hands.

“Did you do it?”

“No, I didn’t! I didn’t plant that mail on her computer.”

“Why did you threaten her then?”

“It was just an empty threat. I just wanted to deal with her by planting cockroaches in her locker. I wouldn’t go to the extent of framing her and risking my job. You know me, Anas. I’m just a toothless barking dog with no courage… I didn’t do it…I only wanted her to be scared of me. Mrs. Bola suspended me till they conclude on their investigation. I will be fired if I am found guilty and will resume work if otherwise.”

“Who could have done it then? Who could have recorded your conversation and sent it to all staffs? It must be someone who wants your downfall.” Anas says as he forehead creases into a frown.

“I don’t know who could have done it…and the strange part is that Barakah’s part of the conversation was removed. It means that this person is after me…this person really wants to end my career.” I place my hand over my head, remembering all that happened yesterday.

The suspicious look on everyone’s faces as I walked into Mrs. Bola’s office and the accusations.  No one believed me…except for Barakah.

“Where is Barakah?” Anas asks.

“She’ll be visiting the hospital today. You won’t believe that she’s the only one that believes me. No one else did! Mrs. Bola told her to assume my position till investigations is concluded but she refused. She promised to get to the root of everything and reveal the culprit.” I say in a proud tone, remembering the way Barakah had stood by me throughout the charade. She had promised to understudy everyone and find the master minder before the end of the week.

Anas breathes heavily and shakes his head. I know he doesn’t like Barakah. “I’m really sorry about everything. I believe the truth will be revealed soon.”

“Thank you, Anas. How about you? Why are you at home? You look worried…you were crying yester…”

“I was sacked.”

“What?!” I sit upright and gaze at him. “How come? You’re loyal and hardworking.”

Ahhh…I still can’t believe it…” Anas says with a sad look on his face.

Anas is still the one…the man I’d promised to spend the rest of my life with. The man that kept me sleepless for so many nights as I imagine his bright face and our awesome life together. How could I have hated him?

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry this is happening to us.” I hug him, resting on his shoulder and wishing that I can remain in his arms forever. “What of Mahmud? Was he also fired?”

“No.”

“Gosh. That lazy man?” I chuckle and Anas laughs in return.

I can feel his warm breaths on my neck. I’ve missed my husband so much.

We remain there for minutes, snuggled up and feeling the warmth of our bodies against each other. It’s been a long time I’ve looked at Anas with so much affection.

“Najwa?” Anas whispers into my ear.

“Yes?” I pull away from his embrace and look at him. Our faces are close to each other and I can feel his warm breath on my face. I stare longingly into his eyes.

“I love you.” He kisses me passionately and his thick, shiny beard brushes my skin.

“I love you too,” I reply as we pull away. I bury my head on his chest as I feel the thumping of his heartbeat.

What changed everything?

“What happened to us?” I mutter as I kiss his chest.

“I don’t know…what really happened? Why couldn’t we iron out our issues? Why did we hate ourselves? What did I do?”

“Everything changed when we got married and it got worse when we had Sahadat. Before we started living together, you looked neat…but then, we stayed in the same house and you started to litter everywhere and leave the toilet ‘unflushed.’ You didn’t wash your dirty dishes and you made me feel like a maid. You know I can’t cook but you forced me to make your meals three times a day!” I say, remembering the day Anas had gotten angry and called me a ‘lazy wife.’

“I didn’t know you can’t cook…not until we got married. Najwa, you cherished your job more than the family. I didn’t get much attention from you. You’ll leave the bed when I need you the most to bury your face in one of those big books. You became wealthier and more successful and you didn’t respect me as a husband…it was just like I was living with a stranger.” Anas says.

“We’ve portrayed a bad example in the presence of our child. How can she forgive us?” I say with tears in my eyes.

“It is not too late to make amends. We can start now…to make things different.” Anas says as his stomach rumbles.

I peer at him. “You’re hungry?”

“I’m ravenous.”

“Okay…let me order pizza.” I stand up from the couch to get my phone from the table.

“You know, I have ulcer,” Anas says behind me.

“I’m sorry, I had no idea…” we live under the same roof but we hardly know a thing about each other. Sad!

I unlock my phone…but I am shocked to see floods of messages. I log in to my Instagram account, and surprisingly, my numbers of followers have reduced drastically.

I hate you…you liar.
Hahaha…wonders shall never end oo! So all these while, Najwa had been lying?
Celebrities and their fake life sha. I knew from the onset that she was lying. Is there any perfect marriage?
You just lost a fan for deceiving us. Good riddance to bad rubbish!

“What happened?” Anas asks behind me and I try to remain composed.

“Nothing…just reading some messages,” I mutter with trembling lips and shaky hands.

“Okay. I have something to tell you, Najwa.”

I turn towards Anas, who is sitting on the couch. His face wears an unreadable expression and I stare at him, looking flummoxed.

“What is it?”

“Please, come sit.” He gestures by tapping the space behind him.

I tighten the grip of my phone as I return to the couch. “You’re getting me scared. Hope everything’s fine?”

“It’s about Barakah.”

Oh, Barakah?

“Anas, I know you don’t like her but she has been my pillar of support since we haven’t been in good terms. Barakah supports me all the time…I know she hated you because you were close to Mutmahinat but who wouldn’t? That lady, Mutmahinat, was trying to steal her best friend’s husband!”

Anas winces and I am wondering, eyebrows in concentration, why he hates Barakah so much. Is there anything more? “Mutmahinat and I had nothing together. Barakah wasn’t angry because of you. She was angry because she was jealous.”

I laugh incredulously. “Jealous? Why would she be jealous?”

“Because she likes me. I know you may find this hard to believe, but Barakah is madly in love with me. She tried to seduce me at Zara’s engagement. It was when I pushed her and stalked off that she broke her head. Barakah isn’t your friend. She says disparaging remarks about you. She hates you…she wants your downfall.”

My stomach plunges. “No…Barakah can’t do that. She’s like a sister…no, I don’t believe you…” I whip my head up, nonplussed.

“I’m telling the truth. Barakah came to my office yesterday, luring me to divorce you and get married to her. She wants to be my wife and the mother of Sahadat. She wants your position…she wants to be you!” he blurts out and I stare at him, morosely.

My face jolts in shock. “You’re sure about what you’re saying?” My mind is a whirl of confusion and my insides shrivel in shock and anxiety.

“I am 100% sure. And I think she has a hand in your suspension. Why do you think her voice was omitted from the audio clip? Why was she so angry when she saw Mutmahinat and I …and desperate that you teach Mutmahinat a lesson? Why isn’t she concerned about getting promoted or earning a better salary? Do you think all this is because of her love for you? Think about it, Najwa.” Anas says with his hands folded tightly around his chest.

Reality has dawned on me. Anas is right. Yasmin is also right… But what if they aren’t?

I stand up. “I need to go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“Barakah’s house. I need to hear these from her mouth. If it is true, I want to know why she has decided to ruin my life.”

“But Najwa…”

I can’t hear what Anas is saying. I tie a wrapper, throw a hijab around my head and storm out of the house.
***

The hazy afternoon sun falls on my upturned face as I scamper along the busy road; people walking by and buses grinding and cars hooting. I have a gnawing feeling at the back of my head. It seems like my life has taken a different path.

Just a day ago, I was happy and had a successful career. Now, my career is on the verge of breaking apart and my best friend might be the reason for that!

“Jimoh Balogun!” I call out as I try to flag gown a keke napep ploughing through Ketu road. Everywhere looks so busy and it seems like the whole world has turned against me. Not until a young man parks beside where I am standing.

“Hello, pretty Alhaja. Let me take you to your destination.” He smiles at me.
His car is exotic and he is well dressed in a neat-fitted t-shirt and black jeans.

“No, thanks.”

I’m desperate to leave the scorching sun but not through this man!

“Oh, please. You need help. The weather isn’t favourable for a charming woman like you. Let me take you…”

“Oh, you want to help me? Okay…fine, help me. I’ve hated my husband for a long time…until today; I realized that I am wrong. My best friend, who I thought loves and care about me is…” I am prattling, feeling downcast, but the frustrated man has driven off in anger.

I hiss deeply as I flag down an Okada, promising to pay whatever amount to get to my final destination.

Barakah had said that she won’t be going to work today because of her scheduled visitation to the hospital on Wednesdays. So, I’m pretty certain that she would be at home.

Barakah welcomes me with a look of triumph as I step into the house. The atmosphere smells of spices and I can see a plate of jollof rice on a stood.

“Asalamu ‘Alaykum, Najwa. I hope you’re fine?” she hugs me and looks at me with concerned eyes.

Of course I don’t look fine. I am dressed like an old woman…no makeup or attractive clothing. I look like a different version of my real self.

My hearts plummets as I stare at her innocent eyes and fragile body. She is still the same person. How can I ask her if she thinks badly about me? “Wa’alaykumu Salam. I…”

“I’ll get you a glass of juice. I know you must be tired. Please have your seat.” Barakah says as she hurries into the kitchen.

Barakah is very nice and caring…I can hardly believe what Anas had said. What if it was all a lie?

“Here you go.” Barakah serves me a cold juice and I gulp it as she takes a seat. “How are you?”

“Well, I’m trying to be fine. Anas also lost his job.” I reply in a strangled voice.

Bakarah gasps. “I’m so sorry about that. Everything will be fine, in sha Allah. This is only a phase in life…”

“Anas told me some things about you and him. I find it hard to believe. Is it true?”

Barakah stands up and walks around the room, cackling. I struggle to strain my eyes but I feel very dizzy. My legs feel wobbly and I struggle to keep your eyes open I can’t. I can see Barakah’s blurry figure, laughing mockingly.

“Is it true? Did you poison my drink?” I ask, beleaguered.

“Yes,” comes a reply and a sudden hit on my head…and a piercing cry from me…and everything turns dark!

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