Monday 28 October 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Thirteen & Fourteen)

“Your pap is horrible. It’s too thick and…and…”

“And what?” I quipped my brows in amusement as I watched her prattle.

Khayrah pulled into her defensive mode as she feigned confidence and swung her arms in a demonstration. “Okay. Frankly speaking, it is bland. It tastes like starch and doesn’t go well with moin moin and akara.”

I gave a paroxysm of laughter as I watched her in the dark, her eyes bright and her face glowing under the full moon. “My pap is bland? Egbami! What of the custard you made yesterday that was filled with koko? Or it because I didn’t say a word?”

Ha-ha. And you took it like it was the best meal in the world. You are something else!” Khayrah clasped her fingers tighter in mine as we walked down the path.

We had just left the mosque after completing our ishai’ prayers and we were returning home in the dark, enjoying the ticking feeling the cool breeze gave our skin and having the freedom to hold hands and display our affection without the world peering at us.

Khayrah would always want to tag along whenever I was going to the mosque at night. We would hold hands and talk about random things. And it was always fun.

“You see, I’m a nice person. Taofeek is a nice man. He’s the best husband in the whole wide world!” I sang loudly as Khayrah beat me playfully.

Shhh. Don’t you know the wall has ears? And do not praise yourself too much or your head will burst…”

“Asalamu ‘alaykum Mr. and Mrs. Adewale.” A high-pitched female voice startled us. We trailed the voice and spotted a large-sized figure approaching us.

It was dark but I knew Khayrah could also tell that it was Hajia Balkis. She was the pudgy woman who was usually dressed in a long gown and medium-sized, cottoned hijab. She was the one that had visited us on our arrival at our new house, presenting a flyer and advertising her business of baking cakes and pastries for events. She was also the one who would distribute snacks for free at the monthly estate meeting.

“Hajia Balkis. Wa’alaykumu salam. How could you recognize us?”

“Ah, who wouldn’t recognize the new couple in our estate that hold hands everywhere and give us nostalgic feelings of when we had recently gotten married too.”

We all burst into laughter, Hajia Balkis explaining further on ways we behaved like teenage lovers.

“But isn’t that how it should be? Couples should keep showering themselves with love even after several years of being together.” Khayrah stated and I nodded in agreement, even though no one could see my reaction because it was pitch-black.

Eh, remain like that ke? It’s only the first three years of marriage. How can we remain that way when children would arrive with their distractions and jobs would come with its engagement? See my husband now…the last time he was around was two months ago. He currently in Benin and he has to work or else the family would suffer from pangs of hunger. I’m not scaring you oo! Keep enjoying yourself and continue to cherish this moment.”

“Thank you, ma. How is business going?” I enquired.

“AlhamduliLlaah. I’m getting steady supplies from those who are in need of wedding vendors. Why don’t you encourage your wife to hang out with us one of these days? I’ve told her about this several times but she keeps saying that she would think about it.”

“With who?”

“The estate wives of course. We’re a clique. We do things together. We keep ourselves entertained since most of us are housewives.”

“I’ll think about it, ma. We need to start heading home because my husband has to prepare for work tomorrow.” Khayrah held the tight grip of my right hand and increased her walking pace.

Hajia Balkis’s ‘bye bye’ faded in the distance as we walked in hurried steps. I smiled mockingly as I imagined Khayrah amid of the estate women as they gossip and talk about the trending styles to sew or the fabric that has been chosen for one of their daughter’s wedding ceremony. I imagined Khayrah staring at them with a scrunched-up face, willing time to run faster so that she could escape from their midst. Most of them were within the age group of 30- 45 and a majority of them had at least a child in secondary school. For example, Hajia Balkis had two children in a boarding school and her last child, Ibrahim, was in primary two.

“We’re home!” Khayrah squealed in relief as she pushed the gate open and sauntered into the compound. It was then I realized that we hadn’t said a word since we left Hajia Balkis’s presence.

Unlocking the door, Khayrah dragged me into the living room with teasing eyes and led me to the sofa. She placed her lips on mine and kissed me hungrily. “It’s a pity we can’t kiss in public.” She mumbled passionately.

I pulled away and smiled at her. “Aren’t you hungry? We should make noodles before going to bed.”

“Okay. I’ll make noodles filled with smoked fish. The best you’ve ever tasted.” Khayrah smiled proudly as she pulled her hijab and long gown, and placed them on the sofa. She winked at me before sauntering into the kitchen.

Hi handsome. Zulaikha told me she saw you and your wife. How have you been? It’s a shame I wasn’t around when you visited. I’ve missed you.
-          Zainab.

I cringed internally as I peered at the kitchen door. Luckily, Khayrah was engrossed in her cooking and she was humming a poem.

Why are you pestering me, Zainab? You can see that I’m happily married.
-          Taofeek.

So what? Is it halal to marry more than one?
-          Zainab.

And it isn’t compulsory to marry more than one. If I want to, I’ll decide that myself. If you disturb me again, I promise you to block your number. I don’t know you as a homewrecker so don’t become one.
-          Taofeek.

I angrily put away my phone and turned on the TV. I rested on the sofa and watched the news on TVC, wondering how to tell Khayrah what was on my mind without getting on her nerves.

“Can you perceive the aroma?” Khayrah grinned excitedly as she walked out of the kitchen with a sweaty face. “You’re about to get your tongue melted.”

“I can’t wait to get my tongue melted.” I chuckled, sniffing the air and giving her a thumbs up.

“A minute more.” Khayrah laughed in exhilaration as she walked towards the kitchen door and came out some minutes with a tray of steaming noodles.

“This will be delicious.” I muttered as I took hold of the tray and placed it on the rug.
“I have something to tell you.” I whispered, playing with a strand of her hair as she rested her head on my chest.

“What is that?”

“You are smart and intelligent and witty and nice. But you are living in a world of your own. I want you to go out there and have fun. I want you to make friends and start work. Being in isolation of yourself won’t help. We are all going to die one day. Yes, we all are. There’s no definite time for us on earth and we have no idea if we’ll be breathing our last this minute or the next. But that shouldn’t make us live like we’re already dead….” I pulled her head away and sat upright, gazing deeply at her face. “Khayrah, I want you to become the woman you were before being diagnosed with cancer. I want you to be happy. I want you to make a mark on earth and meet more people.”

“But I have you and my family,” she said, tears coursing down her face.

“We’re not enough. You need more people in your life. Please, my love, think about all I said. I want you to stare at yourself in the mirror and smile proudly. I want you to appreciate your bright eyes and pretty face. You are alive. We are alive. That’s what matters now, okay?” I pulled her into a hug.


We sat on the bed in each other’s arms for minutes, tears dripping down our faces as we thought about our future and what it holds.

“So…you need to prepare for work.” Khayrah stood up and cleared her throat, her face flashing a bright smile. “What would you want for breakfast?”

“I’m late already…I should just…”

“No. I’ll prepare something really quick. You can’t go to work with an empty stomach.” Khayrah said as she walked out of the room.

“Hey! Don’t wear a red shirt. It’s hideous.” She called from the living room.

I cackled in amusement. “The brown shirt then?”

“Yes, the brown shirt.”

I laughed loudly as I reached for my wardrobe, picking the clothing items that I would wear to work.

In less than thirty minutes, I had kissed Khayrah goodbye and was on my way to work. While stuck in traffic, I stared at my phone’s background picture with a smile plastered on my face. It was a picture of the two of us, grinning excitedly as we held each other’s arms. We took the picture on our first outing and we had visited Lekki Conservative Centre. The thought of that day made my heart flutter in excitement. Khayrah was more than I had ever expected and I had no regret making her my wife.

Episode Fourteen
“Here comes the latest married man!” Daniel squealed in excitement as he barged into my office.

I squinted my eyes and forced a smile. My colleagues at work had spent most of the day congratulating me on getting married. I was tired and exhausted…and all I wanted was to complete my outstanding tasks and return home to my wife.

Na we be that.” I replied, returning a file of March’s financial statement to the table. I had thought that my first day of resumption would be comprised of lesser activities but I was wrong. It looked like they had piled up all outstanding works throughout the weeks that I had not been around.

“How are you na? How is your wife? How was the honeymoon?”

I rubbed my eyes wearily and glared at Daniel. “Not now, abeg. The work I have on my table is overwhelming.”

Daniel guffawed. “Are you sure it’s the work that’s making you moody or you’re just missing someone.”

“Ah, not today Daniel. I’m really not in the mood…” I was saying when my phone started to ring.

I hurriedly grabbed and checked the caller ID. To my delight, it was Khayrah calling. A smile spread across my face as I answered the call. “Hey, sweetie. Asalamu ‘alaykum.”

“Wa’alaykumu salam, my darling. How’s work been? Hope you could concentrate?”

“How will I when my colleagues have dedicated today to congratulate me and one yeye friend is here, arguing that I’m thinking of you instead of working. And he’s actually right.” I stated, rolling my eyes at Daniel who was giggling.

“Oops. Sorry about that. Well, guess what?”

My forehead crinkled in confusion. “The last thing I want to do right now is to think.”

“Okay…okay. I’m at your workplace, at the reception. I brought you a surprise lunch.” Khayrah said excitedly.

“It’s a lie. Come over. I’m waiting!” My eyes widened in excitement as I dropped the phone and grinned at Daniel.

“Wait! Your wife is here?”

“Yes, she is. If you would excuse me.” I stifled laughter as I watched Daniel rise from the chair and roar in laughter.

“I said it. I was so right,” he laughed loudly.

“Yes. You were so right.” I was saying when I heard a knock on the door.

“Hello. Here I am!” Khayrah squealed in delight as she ran towards the table and pulled me into a tight hug. As if she just noticed Daniel, she pulled away and smiled at him shyly.

“Hi. Good afternoon. You’re Daniel?”

“Yes, I am. Taofeek must have said lots of nasty things about me. But don’t mind him. I’m a good guy. I’ll see you later.” He smiled and sauntered out of the office.

As he became clearly out of sight, Khayrah pulled the napkin away from the basket and grinned excitedly. “We have boiled rice and efo riro right here. It’s so delicious. Would you like to have some?”

“You’re still asking me? Of course, I do.” I said in a frisson as Khayrah scooped a spoon of steaming white rice and poured the delicious soup with the nice smell on a ceramic plate.

“How’s work?”

“I hope you haven’t been thinking about home?” Khayrah asked, winking at me.

It was then I noticed that she was putting on a green gown and brown hijab, and her eyes were covered in kohl.
“To be sincere, I’ve been thinking about home. You know what? Why don’t we go on a dinner date tonight? I’ll pick you up once I arrive home and we’ll go out.” I said, my eyes sparkling in delight as I put a spoonful of rice into my mouth.

“Ah, that won’t be possible. I registered for a cancer support group on Instagram. We have a meeting this afternoon at Gbagada. I actually decided to stop by and give you a surprise lunch before heading there.”

I spilled grains of rice in shock. “Cancer support group? Why?”

“You advised me to socialize. That is exactly what I’m doing. I also visited Hajia Balkis this morning. We’ll be going to the market to buy baking ingredients and attend the estate women’s meeting this evening.”

“Estate women’s meeting?” I asked in surprise.

“Yes. So, that means you might not be seeing me till late at night. Take care of yourself and don’t miss me too much. See ya!” Khayrah pecked my forehead and walked out of the office.

I glared at the door in shock. Khayrah had taken to my advice but this would cost me a lot. She would go out and make friends and I would be alone…missing her!
Entering the living room, I was shocked to see Khayrah arranging meat pies on a tray. She was putting on an apron and her eyes were gleaming in excitement. It was long since I’d seen her that happy.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, my darling. You’re welcome home.” She hugged me briefly and headed into the kitchen to bring a tray containing baked cake.

The room wafted of a nice aroma and I couldn’t help but walk towards the dining room as I pulled away my blazer and tie. “What ceremony are we having here?”

“Hahaha. Hajia Balkis encouraged me to make this. It’s actually for the estate women’s meeting.” She smiled broadly. “You didn’t ask about how the cancer support group went.” She frowned at me.

I scratched my head as I blinked painfully. “Oh…the cancer support group, right? How was it?”

“It went well. It was great! You were right, my darling, I really should go out and make friends.”

Yes, she should…but I really wanted to spend time with her. I reached towards her and placed my hands around her waist, pulling my face closer to hers and feeling her warm breath as they tickled my skin. “It’s barely a day and I miss you…”

“Madam Khayrah oo!” Hajia Balkis’s voice resounded from the compound.

Khayrah pulled away and ran towards the door. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, ma. Please give me a minute. I’ll soon join you.”

“Khayrah…” I was saying but she walked faster towards the room door.

“I’m so sorry, love. Fix yourself with something. I’ll be back before maghrib. Insha ALlaah.”

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  1. Longest time sis������������.
    All smiles, wishing them blissful union.
    More ink to your pen.

  2. Longest time sis������������.
    All smiles, wishing them blissful union.
    More ink to your pen.