Monday 8 July 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Three)

I could barely close my eyes throughout the night. My mind was clouded with his face, his captivating smile and bright eyes. It was funny how a man would suddenly appear into one’s life and capture every part of the person. Taofeek had captured my heart and I couldn’t deny that.

‘But what would happen when he learns the truth? That I will be dying soon…that I’m like a dry leaf that will wither away?’ I thought.

I stared at his picture, my eyes feeling strained. I could have used my glasses but it was five steps away from the bed and I was too lazy to walk over to the cabinet. Taofeek looked different from what the picture had portrayed…in a good way. He was darker in complexion and he was more handsome.

I remembered what we had discussed…all we had discussed yesterday. His words sang in my head like a favourite song and the more I thought about them, the more I felt guilty for making him become a part of me.

“When are you planning to get married? Do you think I’m a suitable choice?” he had asked, watching me intently as if to find out the truth and nothing less.

I had smiled complacently, feigning confidence. “As soon as I get to know you better. Yes, Taofeek. You are the perfect choice for me.”

“Gosh! Alhamdulillah! I feel like the luckiest and happiest man on earth right now!” He had said excitedly, swinging his hands into the air. “I will love to spend the rest of my life with you, Khayrah.”

‘What happens when he learns the truth? That my time on earth is very limited? That if I am alive till we get married, we may not spend more than a year together? What happens when he discovers that he has fallen in love with a dying woman?’

“Khayrah.” Fadilah whispered, tapping me on the shoulder.

I shrieked in shock, hardly remembering that she was sleeping beside me on the bed. My phone fell to the bed like I was caught performing a bad act. “Yes? You’ve woken up?”

She rubbed her hands over her face groggily. “The light emitting from your phone disrupted my sleep but its fine. I know it’s all because of Taofeek. I acted worse when I first met Rasheed. I couldn’t sleep for close to three days. I was already picturing myself dressed in a wedding gown and travelling around the world with my hands in his.” Fadilah smiled.

I understood all she said. When she had first met Rasheed- a man whom she met through a close friend- Fadilah wouldn’t say a word without mentioning his name. It was a period I got very jealous of my younger sister.

“I remember vividly. I’m glad you’re back to normal.” I chuckled, yawning loudly.

“How did it go? I’m sure he is exactly the kind of man you want.”

“I should first ask you why Rasheed called you on an impromptu night date and why you came home…crying silently.” I said, studying Fadilah with scrutinizing eyes.

She had gone on a date yesterday and arrived very late in the night with red and puffy eyes. She had tried to act composed and normal but I knew that something had gone wrong; from the way she stumbled upon things and requested that we repeat what we were saying over and over again during dinner. Before going to bed, I had heard her sniff into her pillow to hide the tears that were streaming down her face.

“Well…I don’t think Rasheed and I can be together anymore. I think its better we go our separate ways.” She said in a strangled voice, resting her head on the pillow as she cleaned a tear that dripped down her face.

“Why? What happened?”

“He’s travelling out for his Ph.D programme. It’s a four-year programme. Would you advice me to wait for that long? Can you trust a man to wait for him for four years?”

“I’m so sorry, Fadilah. But this shouldn’t be a basis for breaking up. I’m sure you can work things out…”

“What is there to work out, ehn Khayrah? He has made up his mind oo! He is leaving Nigeria and he won’t return till after four years. I don’t trust a man to wait for four years…not even Rasheed. Tell me, do you trust Taofeek that much?”

I cleared my throat nervously. “Yes, I do. He’s a good man.”

“Okay oo! But what do you know about him sef? Someone you met on Facebook…”

Oyaa, it’s okay. Do not insult him because we met each other on Facebook. It does not matter where you meet your soul mate. What matters is how you’ll spend the rest of your lives together…”

“Speaking of spending the rest of your lives together…” Fadilah said, sitting up and staring at me with a serious look. “When are revealing the truth to him?”

I lowered my eyes and cleared my throat. The feeling of guilt crept in again. I knew that I was leading an innocent man to doom…but I couldn’t help it. “What truth?”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop all this, Khayrah. You haven’t told him you have cancer…that you’re dying…and you’ve made him fall in love with you? And you want to get married to him? Why are you acting so selfish?”

I stood up from the bed and marched towards the wardrobe, ignoring all she had said. “I need to pray tahajjud before the call to prayer is made.” I muttered, shuffling hijabs in my wardrobe and falling down pile of clothes in anxiety. I settled for my brown hijab and threw it on the chair, jostling towards the bathroom door before Fadilah would say another word.

Inside the bathroom, I turned on the tap and pretended to be having my bath. The water gushed from the tap with full force, as if struggling to fill the green bucket. But I didn’t think the water was as desperate as the tears that filled my face and soaked my blouse. I cried in pain…I cried in anger and frustration…I cried in disappointment…I cried till I couldn’t explain the reason for the river of tears that filled my body.

“If you don’t want me to accompany you to the hospital, at least allow Fadilah to do so.” Mom was saying as she was preparing hot tea for me.

I was going for my usual checkup with the doctor. The result of the meeting would determine if I would be undergoing another chemotherapy session.

“I will be fine, mother. No one needs to accompany me. I can go alone.” I remarked, glancing at Fadilah who was frying plantain on the electric cooker. Hafsah was standing beside her, sieving water from the boiled rice. Fadilah pretended like she couldn’t hear all that had been transpiring. We hadn’t said a word to each other after the incident that happened in the wee hours of the day.

Mom handed me the mug of tea. “I hope it turns out successful. Have you been having any side effects like nausea and anxiety?” she said, staring at my eyes and scanning my body from head to toe.

I sipped from the hot cup of tea. “I’ve been fine. I should be on my way. I’ve got some business to attend to before the end of the day. Bye mom!” I kissed her forehead.

“Khayrah! Aren’t you going to have breakfast…even if it’s just three spoons? Don’t tell you’re doing this stuff where you won’t eat for a day. You have to eat…you need to take your drugs. How will your medications work if you don’t eat healthy foods? Your doctor had advised that you consume healthy foods.” My mom said with a frown, worried that I wasn’t eating.

Maybe she hadn’t realized that Taofeek was now my food. That the thought of his face filled my belly. “I promise to eat when I return from the hospital. Bye mom…”

“Wait! One last thing. Your dad will arrive in Lagos tonight. He said he can’t wait to see all of us. I can’t believe he has been away from three weeks.” She said with a grin.

My father had been on a business trip to Abuja for the past three weeks. I was glad he was returning home. If he were to be around, I would have preferred that he accompanied me to the hospital. He never engaged the doctor in a series of questions…like my mother did always.

“I can’t wait too. Bye!” I grabbed my red bag comprising of bottled water, powder, lip gloss and my phone as I was walking towards the living room door.

“Wait again, Khayrah! I kept your lemon juice in the fridge. You should drink it before leaving. Hafsah please get her lemon juice from the fridge.”

I cringed internally, wishing that I could just run away, rent an apartment and start to live alone. As much as I appreciated my mothers’ care, her ‘over-care’ always got me irritated.

My phone beeped in my bag as I took the bottle from Hafsah and resumed marching towards the door. It was a WhatsApp message from Taofeek.

‘Good morning my princess. I hope your night was great? Mine was…well, I could barely sleep. Was thinking about you all through the night.”
-          Taofeek.

I chuckled as I placed my bag on my right hand and replied.
‘Lol, same. I could barely sleep. Is that what happens when a woman meets a man?’
-          Khayrah.

‘No, it’s what happens when a woman is in love…’
-          Taofeek.
Typing …

“Khayrah?” a voice startled me from the phone I was engrosses in. I looked up. It was Abdul Lateef.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum.”

“Wa’alaykumusalam, Khayrah. If I hadn’t called you, you would have collided into me. I can see you’re busy chatting with someone.” He teased with a smile.

Abdul Lateef was putting on a white sweater and three-quarter trousers. Bumping into him every time I leave the house is another reason I should consider renting an apartment of my own. Thankfully, his fiancée was not around.

“I guess it’s obvious.” I replied, feigning a smile.

“How is your health, Khayrah? I hope you’re much better?” he asked with a look of concern.

I laughed in my mind. I couldn’t believe he was asking that question after breaking up with me because of the same issue. Who asks a dying person if she is feeling much better?

“I’m on my way to the hospital.”

“Okay. Please Khayrah, can we hang out later…like have lunch or visit the cinema? We can still be friends you know…”

“I have an appointment to catch up with…”

“Are you seeing someone else?”

“Why do you care? Please, I’ll be late.” I sneered, walking towards the garage.

“Khayrah…” he called but I didn’t reply. It was not fair the way he called my name with so much passion. It was something I’d always loved him to say. Khayrah!

“Make we dey go?” Mr. Lolu asked as entered the car.

“Sharp sharp!” I screamed.

He started the engine and drove out of the compound as I watched Abdul Lateef stare at me from a distance.

I reached for my phone to reply the message Taofeek had sent.

‘What are your plans for today?’
-          Taofeek.

I noticed that he was no longer online. I replied, ‘I’ll stay at home all day and prepare for tomorrow’s presentation. My boss needs to be impressed!’
-          Khayrah.

I lied again. I had resigned from my place of work since I got diagnosed with cancer. I wondered how long I would keep lying to him.

Opening my diary, I scanned through my list once again. Go skydiving, read over a hundred books, go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, visit the Zanzibar, start a charity foundation, move closer to Allah and make Him my best friend, explore five European countries, fall in love and get married…

Falling in love was a feeling I wanted to experience before I die. But maybe Fadilah was right. Maybe I was just being selfish.

I broke into tears as I thought of my life before now, how I had envisioned my life before now…how I had big dreams and vision of how my future would look like. Life is indeed temporary.

“Madam Khayrah, no worry. Everything go fine…” Mr. Lolu remarked, staring at me through the inner mirror with sympathetic eyes.

 I cleaned my wet eyes and glared at me. “Can you just face the road? Don’t get me annoyed. Pretend like you’re the only one in the car…”

“But Madam…”

“This is your last warning!” I yelled at him.

He did not say another word after that. I rested my head on the seat and wept.

My phone rang that second. I checked the caller. It was Fadilah.
“Ah, thank God she picked! Can we watch a movie when you return from the hospital? I will prepare that spicy noodles that you love… I know you don’t like love stories anymore but I promise you that this story is unique. The movie is titled Midnight Sun. Are you in?”

I smiled amidst tears. “I love you, Fadilah. Thank you.”

“Is that a yes?” she asked excitedly.

“It’s a yes yes!”

“I love you too and I’m sorry for what I said this morning.”

 A/N: A lengthy episode to start off a fresh and productive week!💕💕💓

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