Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Flaming Home (Episode Six)


Anas’s Point of View
Everything’s Over!
“Can you just…for the first time in your life…be nice enough to close the toilet seat…and stop littering the room with your clothes? There is enough space in the freaking wardrobe!” Najwa is saying with flames in her eyes. She is not screaming but she is talking with angry tones.

She has, in fact, been very quiet since yesterday. I don’t know what kind of dispute she had with his sister this time, but she has been in a bad mood since yesterday.

I brush my beards as I am facing the mirror. “Najwa, I don’t have your time this morning. Nothing you say will have an effect on me because I don’t want to have a bad day.”

“I also do not have your time. I just want you to act sane for the first time ever. I’m not your maid. You don’t expect me to keep arranging the room and cleaning the toilet like I was employed as the house help…and stop hanging around with some set of people that can implicate our family.” Najwa says as she wears her black gown and brown kimono. She is packing her hair into a bun and I cannot help staring at her with twitched lips.

“Oh…so this is all about Mutmahinat?”

“Yes, Anas. This is all about Mutmahinat. She is my rival and you know that. Yet, you keep lurking around her like she’s your second wife. You also know the picture we’re trying to portray to the public. What if one of my fans sees both of you together?”

“We have nothing together, Najwa. We only met to discuss some random issues…and I think you’re jealous.” I smirk wickedly, noticing Najwa’s face jolting in shock.

She quickly brushes it off with a shrug. “Jealous my foot! I’ve warned you. Stop associating with my biggest enemy. She’s only out to destroy our home and wreck my career. And I won’t let that happen!” Najwa yells as she walks out of the room.

“Only if you know who really wants to destroy your home…only if you know that the person who you trust the most is out there to destroy your home.” I mutter under my breath as I reach for my black tuxedo.
***
I’m at my desk, kneading the back of my head and remembering all that Mutmahinat had said yesterday. Mahmud is talking about the alarming fee charged in his son’s school or so- but I can hardly pick a word from what he is saying.

“I’m not interested in getting married again…I know that you and Najwa are both pretending… but I believe you’re both in love but you just can’t see it…You’re proud to apologize to each other and end your quarrel…Your house will continue to be in flames if one of you do not make the first move…” Mutmahinat had said yesterday afternoon while we were having lunch.

I had surreptitiously watched her hands as they peeled the fleshy part of the chicken and reach for the glass of orange juice. She looked beautiful as usual, dressed in a lilac t-shirt and brown maxi skirt with a purple veil. Her smile was radiant as always and I couldn’t help but stare at her glinting eyes and the tiny hole that formed around her face when she smiled.

She’s really beautiful but I can’t have an iota of interest in her. Najwa was more loving before we got married. I thought I would love for the rest of my life. But Mutmahinat isn’t interested in getting married again. We both hate the word ‘marriage’…only that I’m still in the bondage of marriage while she is free from it.

I wonder how she could easily figure out that we were pretending…everyone else thinks that we’re truly in love and Najwa is truly an experienced relationship and marriage coach…

“Anas!!!” Mahmud slaps me on the back and I shriek in shock.

“What happened?”

“I can’t believe that I have been talking to the space for the past five minutes! The witch is looking for you.” Mahmud is shooting daggers at someone as he darts his gaze to the left.

“Najwa?”

“No. Barakah.”

I wince in anger. There she is. A tall lanky woman wearing a red-fitting gown and black ballet flats. A bandage is tied around her head and she is smiling weakly at me.

What the hell is she doing here?

“I’m right here, should in case you need me,” Mahmud whispers pettishly and I nod in return.

I count my steps as I am walking towards her. As I proceed closer to where she is standing, I can see her clearly. Her lips are shimmering in bold-red lipstick and she is wearing dangling earrings.

“What are you doing here? Do you know that you have no right to barge into my workplace without informing me beforehand?” I sneer in irritation.

Barakah only smiles in return. “Where is the nearest restaurant? We need to talk.”

We are at the medium-sized restaurant a stone throw from the office. Barakah orders a cup of black coffee while I choose a cup of water. She is stirring her cold coffee and staring at me with a plastered smile.

“You haven’t told me why you’re here. I should be in my office…”

“Do you know how I felt when I saw the two of you yesterday…talking and smiling like your lives depends on each other? It was really hard…I wished that I was the one in the position of Mumahinat.”

“Oh, you took Najwa there, didn’t you?” I ask, incredulously.

“Of course! She has to know what her so-called husband is doing behind her back. She has to see a reason to let go of you. I love you. I love you more than you can ever imagine. I think of you every single of the day. When I sleep every night, I wish you’re beside me…”

“Enough!” I raise my hand. “Isn’t this enough reason for you to stop pestering me?” I say in rage, darting my eyes to her bandaged head.


“Oh…this,” Barakah touches her head. “I forgive you for this. Why are you still with Najwa? You don’t love her. Is it because of Sahadat? I’ll be a better mother…”

“Barakah…” I place my hands over my head, determined to hear nothing more from her. “Najwa is your friend and she trusts you more than anything else. Haven’t you considered this?”

“Najwa sees me as a puppet she can order around. She doesn’t care about me.” Barakah sips her coffee and reaches for my hands. I pull them away before hers would touch them. “I want you to think about this. You have ‘love’at the tip of your finger. Do not let this golden opportunity slip away!”

“Thank you for your advice. But I’ll let this slip.” I say blankly, walking out of her.

Such effrontery! I pity Najwa who thinks that she has a friend. Well, I do not pity her. That’s what she deserves. I’ll fall into a paroxysm of mockery laughter when she realizes that Barakah had never been her friend.

I muffle laughter as I imagine the look of shock Najwa will wear when she realizes the truth. She wants the world to revolve around her but she is wrong. No one likes her. Not even her best friend!
***
I am walking to the office, wondering why everyone is staring at me with quizzical expressions. I had just left some minutes ago and now, everything looks different. I feel like I am entering an entirely new place. Mahmud who was talking cheerfully about his family now has a frown on his face and he is trying to avoid my eyes.

“What is going on? It looks like something happened the minute I stepped out of the office.”

Mahmud doesn’t reply. He types hurriedly and fixes his gaze on the computer. After a while, he clears his throat and replies. “Mr. Effiong wants to see you in his office.”

“Okay.” I shrug nonchalantly and stride to his office, ignoring the looks on the faces of my co-workers.

Maybe this is the moment I’ve been yearning for. I’m better than Najwa. Her supposed best friend is after me and I’ll finally get the promotion that I’ve been yearning for.

As I knock on Mr. Effiong’s door and saunter into his office, I imagine myself in the Maldives, touring the beautiful city and holding the hands of smiling Sahadat. Najwa will be at home, looking miserable.


“Mr. Mukhtar, please have a seat.” Mr. Effiong’s forehead creases into a frown as he drops his phone on the table.

Mr. Effiong is very tall …like an iroko tree. Despite how tall I am, I still look up and raise my eyes while talking to him. It’s funny how ladies would say they like a tall man but when you’re too tall like the height of Mr. Effiong, they hate it. They love when a man is tall and dark but when you’re too dark, then it becomes a problem.

Women and problems!

“Good morning sir. You sent for me.”

“Ah…yes. I have a letter for you.” He says blankly, reaching to a pile of white envelopes and handing over one of them to me.

I was right! I’ll get promoted or transferred to a different city. Life will be different and better!

“Can I open…?”

“Yes, you can.” He is staring at me with a flummoxed expression as I open the envelope.

Nooooooo……I’m totally wrong….this is totally unfair…this has to be a mistake.

My face jolt in shock and my stomach plunges in disbelief. Beads of sweat have already formed around my forehead as I whimper in anxiety. “I’m sorry, sir…but there has to be a mistake…it says that I have been sacked…there must be a mistake in the name…this can’t be for me…” I prattle, flummoxed.

“I’m sorry Mr. Mukhtar but it is for you. Nigeria Circle Newspaper is facing a financial crisis and we have to lay down some of our staffs… You have contributed significantly to the progress of the company… You are deeply appreciated…We would have loved to retain you, but this is above our capability…”

This is unbelievable. One minute, I saw the prospects of progressing in life and fulfilling my dreams and the next minute…everything’s over.

I force myself to mutter a ‘thank you’ as I leave his office with weakened legs. Now I understand why everyone was staring at me…and Mahmud’s unusual expression.

My colleagues are consoling me as I am packing my possessions from the drawer. ‘You will get a better job.’ They console me.

 My mind is a whirl of confusion and I am trying my best to fix a fake smile. Mahmud doesn’t say a word. He looks nonplussed. He only pulls me into a hug as I am preparing to leave.

Life is indeed unpredictable. One minute, you’re overjoyed and the other minute, you’re sad. I’m still confused. I know it isn’t right to think this way but I have to. I am a more hardworking staff. I do my job diligently and even work extra-hours during the weekend. Unlike Mahmud. He eats like a glutton and snores while at his desk at office hours!

Why would he be retained while I am being sacked? This is totally unfair! Where do I go from here? What do I tell my family? Where do I start? How can I suddenly become an unemployed man? Najwa will be the happiest woman on earth!

I drive into an eatery and park the car, sitting in silence for minutes and pondering on what to do. Where to start from and how to face this sudden situation?

I stride into the eatery and order for a plate of fried rice, roasted chicken and a pack of Hollandia yogurt. I wobble down the food hurriedly as I cry silently. Everything’s over!

***
It is 12:00 am and both of us cannot sleep. We are sobbing silently and soaking the bed sheet with tears. I didn’t inform Najwa of my current situation and I know there’s something bothering her…something that also occurred yesterday. Her face had worn a doleful look since I picked her from work. Her eyes were also red, swollen and puffy.

I know something is not right…but I don’t care. I have my own troubles to face. But the tears are that of pain. I can feel it. We both can feel it. We need each other. We are meant to be snuggled up in each other’s arms, crying out our heart and consoling ourselves. But we can’t.

When you hardly sleep, the night will seem longer than normal. I am aware of every second and minute. When it is some hours later, Najwa and I both get up from the bed and we pray silently on the mat, pouring out our emotions and seeking Allah’s assistance.

Funny how humans remember their creature when they are in times of need. When last did we wake up for tahajud? Probably five years ago.

“Mummy! Daddy! Asalamu ‘Alaykum.” Sahadat walks into the room.

It is her arrival that makes me realize that it past 6. “Wa’alaykumu salam.” I reply weakly as I return the tasbiu to the mat.

“You haven’t started preparing for work and it is past six. When are we leaving the house?”

“I can’t go out.” I mumble, staring at the floor.

What do I say? That I do not have a job anymore?

“I also can’t go out,” Najwa says silently as she adjusts her sitting posture on the mat.

Sahadat grumbles she as stomps her feet on the ground. I turn towards her. It was then I notice that she is already dressed in her school uniform. “This week is for our continuous assessment test. I have to go to school.”

I can easily drop Sahadat off at school but I am weary and exhausted. I feel drowsy and weak, and I don’t even have the strength to drive out of the gate.

We are silent for a minute as Sahadat continues to grumble. “Let’s meet Mrs. Susan,” Najwa says.

Mrs. Susan is our immediate neighbor and her three children also attend the same school as Sahadat. It is the best option. She will assist us in dropping Sahadat in school this morning.

Heyyyy! Mr. and Mrs. Mukhtar. To what do I owe this pleasant and surprise visit?” Mrs. Susan grins at us as we stand by the doorway. She is smiling broadly but it is obvious that she has been crying. Her left cheek is red and swollen.

“Can we come in, please?” Najwa smiles at her.

“Yes, please.” She ushers us into the house.

The living room is small and richly furnished. It is warm and smells of onion and garlic. We take a seat beside the door as Mrs. Susan adjusts the collar of her son’s uniform’s shirt.

“How are you? How’s the family…oops! I have no reason to ask. You guys are always perfect. You have a very happy family. Look at my face, John did this last night just because I made rice for dinner and he wanted eba.” Mrs. Susan whines, touching her swollen face.

“I’m sorry about that. I hope he changes…”

“Change? John can never change. I’m only staying put in this marriage because of my children. So, why are you here?”

“We want you to assist us in dropping Sahadat in school. We’re both staying at home today.” I say.

Mrs. Susan covers her mouth and chuckles delightfully. “Don’t worry…I get it. You both want some intimate time alone.” She winks at us and clears her throat.

“Not that…”  Najwa tries to defend, looking flustered.

“I totally understand. Have a nice time together!” She laughs as we walk out of the house.
Maybe Najwa and I do not really hate each other. I mean, we haven’t raised our hands at each other…
My phone buzzes and I take it from my trouser pocket. I read the message, totally gobsmacked. When did this happen?

“Najwa,” I call out to Najwa, whose cheeks are glistened with tears. “Is this true?”

“Yes, it is. Everything’s over!” Najwa wails loudly as she falls into my arms.



Don't miss out on the previous episodes:

Episode One

Episode Two

Episode Three

Episode Four

Episode Five 
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5 comments:

  1. Does it mean that Najwa has also lost her job!!!
    May Allah suffice them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe...let's see in the next episode.

      Thanks for reading, sis!

      Delete
    2. Maybe...let's see in the next episode.

      Thanks for reading, sis!

      Delete
  2. Well crafted. I like the suspense element. I like the way the writer exposes the thoughts of the characters. It shows the frailty of the human mind. Nsywa's friend is a ....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! Haha, Najwa's friend is truly a case😂

      Delete