Monday 25 November 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Seventeen)

I watched as Khayrah paced back and forth, muttering incoherent words and crying openly. Her hands trembled as she placed them on her tear-soaked face.

“It will be fine, insha ALlaah. Tijanni will be fine.” I assured her with a trace of doubt in my voice.

I could hardly believe that the person who had been placed under intensive care for the past two hours, would be fine.

“Really? You think so? And we haven’t seen him?” Khayrah glared at me like I was responsible for his predicament.

I walked up to her and held her in my arms, having this unusual heart-wrenching feeling as she sobbed on my shirt. “I’m scared. What if he doesn’t make it?”

“Let’s not lose hope now. Not now.” I remarked as I walked her to a seat.

Khayrah rested on my shoulder and we sat quietly, listening to our heartbeats and dreading the moment the doctor would approach us and give us the news.

I imagined Khayrah in Tijanni’s position…audhubiLlaah, but it might happen one day. Khayrah wouldn’t be here with me, arms in arms. I would be here with my heart juddering in my chest, praying that she scales through.

“Mr. and Mrs. Adewale.” The doctor said as he approached us in hurried steps.

Khayrah and I flinched in shock as we stood up to meet him.  We had expected him for long…but a part of us still wished that he would wait a little bit longer, to avoid hearing the dreadful news.

He smiled ruefully as he stared at us with warm eyes. The doctor was a short and plump man with a bald head and a fair skin. He had dark patches on his face and he wore small-rounded spectacles that could hardly fit his eyes.

“He has regained consciousness but his condition isn’t stable. We may have to undergo surgery…well, that’s what he wants. We advised that he go through another round of chemotherapy because of the 50% chance of survival in undergoing a surgery…but it seems he is adamant…” the doctor cleared his throat uncomfortably and dipped his hand into his lab coat’s pockets. “Is any of you related to the patient? You’ll have to sign a form to attest that we go ahead with the surgery.”

Khayrah glanced at me and then turned to the doctor, cleaning her misty eyes. “I’m his friend. He doesn’t have a family. Please, doctor, do you advise he go ahead with the surgery?”

“If the surgery turns out successful, it will be better but what if it doesn’t? I think you need to talk to him. We have just twenty minutes.” The doctor sighed deeply as he walked away.
“Please, I can’t do this alone. Come with me.’’ Khayrah said as she held my hands.

The room wafted of iodoform and was painted blue and white. Tijanni was lying on the large-sized bed and his face broke into a smile as he spotted us entering the room.

“Hey TJ.” Khayrah said softly as we occupied a seat beside the bed. “How are you?”

“I’m sick,” Tijanni chuckled. “Isn’t it obvious?” he laughed, then turned sideways and gazed at me. “Now I get it. He’s very handsome. Nice to meet you, Taofeek. I’ve heard soooo much about you.” He grinned at me and I smiled in return.

“Nice to meet you too,” I replied, nudging Khayrah as a form of encouragement. She needed to convince him not to go ahead with the surgery. Only Khayrah could do so.

“We spoke with the doctor not quite long. Tijanni, are you really sure about this?”

“I haven’t been surer about another thing. This is me and I have only me…until I met you. You are my only family.  What else am I living for if I can’t live a healthy life? It’s either I’m okay or I’m not. I don’t want a temporary relief.” Tijanni sighed deeply as saliva foamed in his mouth. “I want to be over with this. I can’t bear this pain anymore. If this won’t work out, I’ll die peacefully. You might not understand…even you, Khayrah. I think this is right. I know it.”

I cleared my throat. “We want you to say the shahada…in case anything happens. You must become a Muslim, Tijanni.”

Tijanni turned towards the other side of the bed, backing us. “I’ve been alone. I’m still alone.”

“Excuse me, please. The doctor will like to have a word with you. He said the twenty minutes are over.” A skinny and tall nurse with a high-pitch voice said as she entered the room.

I held Khayrah’s hand as we walked out of the room.
An hour was gone. One good hour and we had no iota of knowledge of what was going on. Khayrah sat quietly at the last bench with her head lowered. She pulled on the tasbih as her lips moved faster. Tears filled my face as I watched her. I regretted ever suspecting that she was interested in Tijanni. All she wanted was for him to become a Muslim…and she felt disconsolate that she hadn’t achieved that.

I wanted to pull her in my arms and comfort her…but I wasn’t confident myself. How could I tell her that everything would be fine when I doubted that?

“It’s maghrib time, love. Let’s find a mosque to pray and grab something from a restaurant to eat.”

“Have you forgotten that I’m off-salah?” Khayrah glared at me like I had committed the worst of crimes by forgetting that she was menstruating.

“I’m sorry. What would you like to eat? Fried rice and chicken? Noodles and fried eggs?’’

“I’m not hungry.”

“Yes, but you have to eat…and take your drugs,” I said as Khayrah stared at me with sad eyes. “Okay. Please, I need a cup of tea.”

“I’ll get you one when I leave the mosque. Please be fine.” I kissed her forehead and walked away.

Walking to the mosque in the cold night, I would bawl my eyes out and wonder why life appeared in mysterious ways. I could cry openly in the dark…pouring out my feelings and not trying to feign confidence in the presence of Khayrah. I would laugh at the moments I thought I understood life and how it could go on in perfectly. I would walk into the ablution centre, feeling downcast and disconsolate as I try to clean my wet face with the tip of my t-shirt so that no one would notice. I would pray in the mosque and ask ALlaah to make the surgery a success, to keep Tijanni alive and change his heart towards the right path. I would pray that I do not lose Khayrah and that her health is restored. I would appreciate good health and accept that it is one of the best gifts from ALlaah.

I would return to the hospital about thirty minutes later to meet Khayrah sitting on the floor and bawling her eyes, out.

‘Tijanni didn’t make it. He died a kaafir.’ Khayrah would cry as I take her in my arms.

We would remain there, crying and wishing such that calamity does not befall us.
“Khayrah grew up as a confident lady. She wanted to become an engineer. She was the golden child of the family. She would bag the best prizes in most of her subjects when she was in secondary school. We were proud…as proud as we were of Fadilah. But, you know, a parent would always cherish the brainy child.” Khayrah’s mother said as we sat together in the dining room and watched as Fadilah spoke to Khayrah in the living room.

Fadilah, in her usual cheerful and vibrant self, was showcasing her recently-designed clothes to Khayrah, who was sitting on the sofa. A soft smile was plastered on Khayrah’s face but I knew that it wasn’t real. She hadn’t smiled a real one since Tijanni gave up the ghost.

It was two weeks now and Khayrah hadn’t returned to her normal state. It seemed that Tijanni’s death took a greater toll on her that I would have expected. She spent sleepless nights staring at the ceiling and sobbing into the pillow. I would wake up and try to comfort her but it was all fruitless. I had tried my possible best to find ways to make her feel better…but nothing worked out.

Frustrated, I had put a call to her mother yesterday, explaining all that had happened and the current state that Khayrah was. I was glad to see them visit us today. I knew it would make a difference. Fadilah was Khayrah’s only sister and best friend. Being around her would make her feel better. Her mother’s words of wisdom would also make her accept all that had happened and move on with life.

I sighed deeply as I ruffled my hair and stared at the table cloth. It was sparkling white and it had a patterned design at its middle. I seemed to be so fascinated by a simple tablecloth as I watched it avidly. Suddenly, I wished that I wasn’t a human being. Maybe a tablecloth…AstaghfirLlaah. But to be honest, life is filled with uncertainties and surprises. This minute, you’re excited and the next, you’re mourning an unexpected disaster. Can’t be it fun all through?

“Khayrah believes that she punished you for making you fall in love with her. She sees herself as being selfish for making you marry her.” Her mother said as she cleaned a tear that was about to drop from her eyes.

Surprise stole over my face as I gazed at her. “She thinks so?”

“Yes, she does. You see, receiving the news was one of the worst things that had ever happened to me and my husband. We could hardly believe that the energetic and brilliant Khayrah would be fighting cancer…would be struggling to live…but we had to accept ALlaah’s will because He has a reason for everything that happens to us. If it is about money, Taofeek…I mean, if money could buy Khayrah good health, you think we wouldn’t have done so long ago?” She stated as she picked some grains of groundnut from the ceramic plate and started to chew.

“Khayrah just gave up on everything…her dreams, goals and aspirations…everything. She wrote down this list of things that she wants to achieve before she dies. Travelling, moving closer to ALlaah and attaining taqwa, getting married. She was determined to achieve all before she breath her last. Abdul Lateef, the one who had promised her everything, left her in that critical time. Khayrah’s story is a long one and words would be insufficient to explain what we felt during those trying periods. But still, I’m forever thankful to ALlaah that He granted Khayrah a loving and caring husband. You are just everything and more than that for Khayrah. Who would accept to love her for who she is if not you?”

I smiled as I watched her closely. “SubhanaLlaah. I’m just trying my best but I’m not perfect in any way. Khayrah is more than I ever dreamt of. We are made for each other.”

Khayrah’s mother grinned appreciatively and swiveled her head towards the living room. I also turned my face. Khayrah and Fadilah were dancing in the living room. Khayrah laughed loudly as she raised my legs and moved her arms swiftly.

‘AlhamduliLlaah.’ I muttered as my face glowed in happiness.
“This gown will suit you perfectly. I know what will look beautiful on you.” I winked at Khayrah as she smiled shyly and added the gown to the clothes that rested on her shoulder.

We had decided to visit a boutique after dropping Fadilah and her mother off the street. Khayrah hadn’t looked this excited in weeks! She held my hands lovingly as we walked into the boutique to shop for clothes.

“This should be enough. Don’t forget that you just bought some gowns last month…and I haven’t worn any of them.” Khayrah grinned from ear to ear.

“Okay, my love. Go try these out.”

“Okay. Thank you. I love you. I really do love you. I really really love you. You’re my everything.” Khayrah was saying as she brushed her lips over me, breaking the kiss with laughs.

Oyaa, go and put this on before they chase us out of here. Let’s hurry so we can continue at home.” I said in a frisson as Khayrah hurried into the dressing room, still laughing.

I was grateful again that I invited her family members over. Maybe it’s true what they say that family will always be first. So, they had a more powerful effect on her than me, her husband. As Khayrah commented on the way the dresses looked, in the changing room, I was concerned about the costs of the dresses. I had not been financially stable for a while now and Khayrah had no idea about what I was passing through in terms of finance.

My phone buzzed in my pocket as I hurriedly took it out. I had a new message. It was from Rekiya.

I arrived in Lagos yesterday. Ready to meet this princess?
-          Rekiya.

“Darling! This blue gown is the most elegant. You picked just the right gown.” Khayrah yelled from the room and I screamed ‘yes’ in return.

I scratched my neck as I tried to resist the temptation that was right in front of me. The urge to meet Rekiya, the light-skinned lady with big bright eyes and a captivating smile.

Ready to meet you, Rekiya. And I can’t wait.
-          Taofeek.

I typed and clicked on the ‘send’ button.



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