Thursday, 6 June 2019

Flaming Home! (Episode Fourteen/Finale)


Episode Fourteen/Finale
Najwa’s Point of View
A Fulfilled Life
“Najwa, this green shirt is just okay. I don’t see why the colour of a shirt will increase my chances of getting the job.” Anas is saying grudgingly, placing his hand over his head in frustration.

Anas is driving his brown Mercedes and we are on our way to XYZ Media and Sahadat’s school. After dropping us off at work and school respectively, he plans on attending the job interview he had been invited for last week.

He is putting on a green shirt despite my insistence that he goes for the blue. Anas had turned deaf ears while he was dressing up earlier this morning, insisting that he would wear the green shirt.

“The blue shirt is bolder and more attractive. It will make you appear more confident and charming. In this green shirt, you’ll look like a poverty-stricken unemployed youth who has spent several years searching for a fifty thousand naira job.” I say in mockery as he turns towards me, flames in his eyes.

“Don’t start this morning, Najwa! By the way, it is too late. I’ve worn the green shirt and the blue one is lying in the wardrobe. I cannot return home and change my shirt…or do you want to be late for work?” he sneers at me as he returns his gaze to the road.

“Mom and dad, you promise not to quarrel again. You’re breaking your promise.” Sahadat rises from her seat and pats our shoulders.

I just realize that Sahadat is at the backseat of the car, listening to all that has been transpiring. “Don’t mind us, jare. We’re only pulling each other’s legs.” I turn towards her with a smile.

“Okay, mom. I’ll always remind you of the promise you made.” She replies as she opens the storybook she is holding and continues reading.

I stare at Anas and wonder if we can ever stop quarrelling…if we will ever stop quarrelling. Anas returns my stare with a plastered smile. We both know what we’re thinking. We will never stop quarrelling…but we’ll always learn to settle our disputes and re-ignite our love for each other.

“The shirt actually looks cool on you.” I whisper in his ear.

“Of course, I know that.” He winks at me lovingly.

As Anas pulls into XYZ building, I stare out of the window and wonder if I will ever agree to what Anas says.

“He knows this is who I am. He loves me like that.” I mutter.

Chairmo, I hail you! We don miss you oo Madam Najwa!” Baba Sumbo, the gateman raises his hands high in the air as he greets us triumphantly in his usual reedy voice.

He is a tall and frail-looking man with silver streaks of hair covering his head. Baba Sumbo has worked as a gateman since I started working at XYZ Media. News has it that he had worked here since he was thirty years of age. By now, he shouldn’t be less than sixty years.

“How’s the family, sir?” I smile at him as he lowers his head to greet us.

Won wa oo! We don miss you no be small.You’re welcome back.” He grins delightfully, revealing his kola nut-stained crooked set of teeth.

Anas dips two hundred Naira in his hand. Baba Sumbo mutters prayers in appreciation as Anas finds a good spot to park. Suddenly, I’m starting to wonder how life had been for Baba Sumbo when he was much younger and how he was able to manage his family financially.

I know the psychological trauma Anas will be facing currently, following his loss of job…

“Are you nervous?” Anas squeezes my hand and stares at me, drifting me from my thought.

I stare back with arched eyebrows. “Nervous about what?”

“About resuming work again. You know, your best friend is not here and people will be staring at you with sympathetic looks…starting your TV show again and counseling viewers on relationship matters despite the news that broke the internet a few weeks ago…”

“I don’t care, my love. XYZ Media is like my second home. Do you get nervous about visiting your home?” I say, cupping my hands around his face.

“That’s why I cherish you, sweetheart. You’re bold and courageous. You’ve never been scared to take any step.” Anas whispers as he pulls me into a kiss.

This time, it is real. I mean, very real and passionate. We’ve spent every morning at this same corner, displaying fake affections for each other… but this time, it is real.

“I’m sorry for arguing with you about the colour of shirt to wear. Sincerely, you look good in any of them.” I say softly, kissing him on the cheek. “I wish you success in your job interview.”

“Mom! Dad! Be fast about it or I’ll be late for school.” Sahadat smiles shyly as she covers her face with her hands.

We clear our throat, muffling laughter. “Sweet love, you’ve really made your mom proud.”

“How mom?”

“Despite the setback that occurred a few weeks ago, you’ve been able to meet up with your classmates. I’m glad to have a brilliant daughter…” I’m saying as Mutmahinat appears from the thin air, grinning from ear to ear.

Dressed in a green-striped blouse and black-polka-dot skirt, Mutmahinat stands beside the car and greets us with a plastered smile lingering on her lips. Mutmahinat…only Mutmahinat has the audacity to break into a conversation and intrude a private moment with someone. If it were to be the old Najwa, I would have chastised her and accuse her of trying to poke nose into our family matters.

But I’m changed and I no longer despise her. “How are you, Mutmahinat?” I greet her.

“I’m very well. I can see that Anas is taking good care of you. You look prettier and healthier.” She smiles.

By prettier and healthier, I know she is comparing my current look with the period I had just been discharged from the hospital when she paid me a visit with her husband-to-be.

Anas grins delightfully. “Abi? That’s what happens when one has a loving and sweet husband like me.” He says as we all chuckle.

“Mutmahinat, thank you so much for everything. My family is forever grateful to you. And I’m really sorry for misconstruing your relationship with my husband. It was Barakah who kept poisoning my mind against you.”

I remember how I hated Mutmahinat and accused her of trying to snatch my husband and my job. The truth is, it wasn’t just about what Barakah used to say. It was actually because I was intimidated by Mutmahinat’s confidence and intelligence. No one had tried to outshine me that way…but Mutmahinat appeared at the doorstep of XYZ Media and suddenly, it seemed like I have a rival.

“I totally understand and I forgive you. My aqdu nikkah will hold the first week of next month, in sha ALlaah. I want you all to be in attendance.”

“Of course, we will.” Anas and I chorus.

“Okay, enjoy your day. Bye Sahadat!”

“Bye!” Sahadat replies as Mutmahinat walks away, her skirt swaying and rustling.

“Good luck once again.” I place a kiss on his lips before alighting from the car. I wave at them till they drive out of the compound, sighing heavily and willing myself to enter the building.

Anas was right. I feel very nervous to meet my colleagues and also talk on the show. But I will do so. I am Najwa. Najwa is confident. Najwa will face her fear.
***
I am seated by my desk, staring at the blank screen on my computer and smiling graciously, deep in thought. Remembering all that had occurred in the past, I am grateful to Allah for keeping me safe and making me survive the ordeal I had gone through some few weeks back. I remember how life used to be; Barakah running out of the building to welcome me while I tell her how much I hated my husband and the ways I had dealt with him.

My colleagues have since taken the time to welcome me back to work and express their delight for surviving the plans crafted by my so-called ‘best friend.’ I stare at the pink-and-white coloured cards littering my table, filled with congratulatory and welcome remarks, and I’m glad to be living a fulfilled life. Yes! I am living a fulfilled life. I have a successful family and a good job.

“O Allah, please protect my family from trials and tribulations, and make our lives more fulfilled and filled with happiness.” I mutter in prayers.

Now, I’m thinking of how I had thought of killing my husband in his sleep. But it’s different now. I wake up at the middle of the night to stare at his bright, glowing face, revealing how unquantifiable my love for him is.

“Mrs. Mukhtar…Najwa…” I hear my name being called.

Drifting away from my lost thoughts, I widen my eyes to see Mrs. Bola in front of the table, staring at me with anxious eyes.

Ahhh, I’m sorry. Moti ronu lo. Good morning, ma. Please have a seat.” I fake a smile as I beckon her to sit on the chair.

Mrs. Bola smiles nervously and sits, staring at the ceiling and willing words to come out of her mouth. “Look Najwa, I know you have never liked me but I’ve never wished anything bad for you. I’m sorry for wrongly accusing you of breaching the trust of the organization…but you know it was beyond my power. There was no evidence to prove that you were innocent…” she sighs deeply and continues. “…I’m glad you’re back to work. We’ve all missed you.”

I stare at her with scrutinizing eyes. ‘Or you wish I don’t return?’ I think but brush off all negative thoughts.

“I’m actually at fault. I trusted Barakah despite all the glaring signals, warning me to stay clear of her. Let’s say I learnt my lessons the bitter way. Thank for taking the time to welcome me back. I hope you have a great time at work.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Mukhtar.” Mrs. Bola remarks as she walks out of the office.

“You have to be sincere…you have to be sincere, Najwa… Tell the viewers the truth about everything and you’ll gain their love again.” I mutter as I prepare for my TV show.


       *************************************************************************

Chapter Fifteen
Anas’s Point of View
My Wife is Hilarious!
Barakah is walking towards us, looking bedraggled and emaciated. She is leaner and her eyes look like they would pop out of its socket. Her hands are handcuffed and two police officers are shielding her at both sides. She weeps with creased forehead as she walks towards where we are seated. I can spot Najwa’s eyes opening wide in bewilderment.

Ei! Barakah. Is this you?”  Najwa says with a fake-pitiful expression which is undoubtedly in sheer mockery.

Barakah is reeking of a foul smell; one that smells like the juicy-remains of a dead animal…worse than the way Najwa had smelt when she was locked in that room! Her face is filled with marks and blisters, and blood is dripping from the corner of her right ear. Her left cheek is swollen and she looks a different version of the Barakah I know.

“Yes, ore mi. This is what they’ve been doing to me. It’s crazy here…just one night in this cell is tormenting. And they said that the prison is worse oo. You have to help me ehn, Najwa.”

Najwa clasped her hands and glare at her. “So if you had succeeded in killing me and my husband, will you have the mouth to beg me and say all these? Abi you’ve forgotten the way you were bragging and treating me like a bag of shit when I was captured by you. Now you have the mouth to say ore mi abi?” she is saying in a fit of anger.

I pat Najwa’s hand and beg her to keep calm. “I understand how furious you are. I am too. But we have to learn to control our emotions, after all, she has been arrested.” I say softly.

“Please, I want to be released. I do not want to go to prison. I haven’t gotten married nor given birth to any child. I promise you that I’ll leave this city and start a new life elsewhere. I will not disturb your family ever again!” Barakah cries as she kneels to the ground, her tears dripping to the cemented floor.

Najwa is about to open her mouth but she glances at me and keeps quiet.

“I have wronged you my friend and I am begging for your forgiveness. Now I’ve learnt that it is not right to compare one’s life with another because our life journey is different. I am really sorry… I even wanted to snatch your husband… I know it will be difficult but please, forgive me Najwa. You were a good friend; you cared for me more than I care for myself. Yes, you were a bit proud but you never acted snooty towards me. I wasn’t contented…I wanted to be you…” Barakah weeps loudly.

“Barakah, if I knew Anas was the problem, I would have begged him to get married to you as a second wife. We’d have shared him as friends and all matters would have been resolved.” Najwa says to my surprise.

Barakah gasps as her eyes widen in surprise. “Really?”

Najwa chuckles. “Of course, I’m joking. Why will I want to share my husband with you ehn? You still have your eyes on my husband Barakah! What is it sef?

I try my best to suppress my laughter as I nudge Najwa by the shoulder. Now, she is overreacting. “The deed has been done and we’ve all learnt our lessons. We should learn to forgive and move on.” I say, staring at Najwa lovingly. Her eyes soften as she reaches for Barakah’s hands and touches them.

“This matter is beyond us. We can only pray that the judge’s verdict favour you in a way. It is a case of attempted murder Barakah, and justice has to be served. And please Barakah, in whatever years time you leave the prison, do not come close to my family again. Never! Lailai!”
***
“For how long will your mother be staying?” Najwa asks as she rests her head on my legs. I am weaving my hands into her jet-black silky hair as we both lay on the couch, listening to the soft recitation of Najwa’s favourite poem; Love Conquers All by Daniel Elystrydom.

Mama has promised to pay us a visit next week and since she made that telephone call to tell us of her intention, Najwa hasn’t stopped prattling about how strenuous it would be to make meals for Mama.

“Najwa, if it is about cooking, we will do it together. While you’re making the ewedu, I will be turning amala beside you.” I say as she burst into laughter.

“So that your mother will say that I have cooked soup to steal her son’s brain abi?” Najwa hits my head playfully.

“How can you even prepare the soup to steal her son’s brain?” I laugh in mockery.

Najwa sits up and smacks my shoulder. “You’re saying I can’t cook abi?”

“The rice you made yesterday, wasn’t it salty? Sahadat and I had to force ourselves to take spoonfuls without cringing. We appreciate your efforts and that’s why we aren’t complaining. Seriously, I’m proud of you, my love.”

Najwa beams affectionately as she returns her head to my laps. “There’s something I want to tell you.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“You don’t complain but I know how you’re struggling this period. I know you borrowed money to pay my hospital bill and I know that things have not been very easy for you financially. You didn’t get called for that job and you haven’t gotten any other offer since then. Anas, I know you don’t want this but I sent some money to your Fidelity Account. I want you to start a business instead of sitting at home with hopes of getting a job soon… at least for now…”

“No, Najwa. I can’t accept …”

“Please my love, accept it. It’s a gift from me to you. This is my way of supporting you as your wife. In sha Allah, you’ll secure a better paying and more fulfilling job soon.”

“Aameen. Thank you so much, Najwa. You’re the best wife a man can ever dream of having.” I say, pulling her into a tight hug.

I clear my throat. “Mama talked about having another child…”

“Or children? I want to have Taofeek and Zaynab and Mutmahinat soon in sha Allah,” Najwa grins in triumph.

I raise my eyebrow in surprise. “Mutmahinat?”

She laughs loudly. “Yes, Mutmahinat.”

“In sha Allah. We’ll have more children and our home will be filled with more love and not flames.” I say, pulling her into another hug.

The truth is, I love my wife. I love Najwa with all of my heart and I won’t trade her for anything in the world. No, this isn’t a flaming home. It’s a loving home.

THE END.

A/N: Thank you by being patient and following me through the lengthy course of completing this story. Words cannot express how grateful I am.
Flaming Home is actually the first-real story where I shed light on marriage (me wey never marry…lol). I thought it will be difficult, but AlhamduliLlaah, it was a story I enjoyed writing.
Our new story ‘Her Last Breath’ will kick start Next week in sha ALlaah. Here is what I’ve gained from Flaming Home!
To not compare my life journey with anyone or pray to be like someone. Only ALlaah knows what he/she is passing through.
To not over-trust friends, colleagues, etc.
To appreciate what I have and cherish my family members.
To avoid all forms of jealousy and envy.
To worship ALlaah always instead of calling Him only in time of need…
…the lessons are numerous. What have you gained from Flaming Home? Have a wonderful time and happy reading!!!

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

Episode Twelve

Episode Thirteen


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