Thursday 12 December 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Eighteen)

The aroma of fried meat and jollof rice whiffed the air and the compound brimmed with people, dressed in kaftan, lace, and Ankara. Their faces were radiant as they chatted cheerfully, laughed loudly and devoured their plates of food.

Lukman, my elder brother, was celebrating the aqiqoh of his newly born daughter, Sumayyah, and he had called his family members and friends to grace the event and celebrate with him.

I gazed at him from where I was seated, watching as he walked around with energetic moves, supervising all activities and ensuring everything went on smoothly. I could see the look of pride in his eyes as he greeted his guests and strode around the compound. I was jealous. I wished I had a healthy wife. I wished I had children. AstaghfirLlaah! But…really…something had gone wrong. I was starting to become ungrateful for the blessings in my life- like Khayrah.

“Aren’t you eating?” Khayrah nudged me as she stared at my half-eaten plate of food and trailed my eyes suspiciously.

“No appetite,” I replied brusquely, wincing as my phone buzzed in my pocket.

It would definitely be from Rekiya, the lady that had distracted me from Khayrah. I wished that she hadn’t stumbled upon my Facebook account and sent me a friend request. I wished that I hadn’t accepted and went through her pictures. I wished that I hadn’t replied to her ‘hi’, which sprouted into longer conversations and an exchange of numbers.

Reuniting with an old lover from the past had reignited my uncontrolled feelings and desire for women. I thought it would be easy…I thought falling in love would change it all.

“Taofeek, are you okay? You’ve been acting strangely for the past two weeks. What is wrong with you?” Khayrah yelled angrily as she glowered at me.

She lowered her eyes as she noticed that she had spoken quite loudly and several pairs of eyes were staring at us.

“I’m sorry, love. It’s work and all. Give me a sec. I’ll return shortly.” I smiled at her as I stood up hurriedly and walked towards Lukman’s apartment.

This time, my phone was ringing. I hastened into the living room, marched past groups of people that would want to greet me and entered the bathroom. With a deep sigh, I clicked on the answer button. “Rekiya, what is it?”

“Coming from someone who is missing me. How’s your day going?”

“Couldn’t be worse.” I frowned, wishing that I could appear at home and escape from the party.

“Haha! It’s your brother’s naming ceremony and you’re saying this? What has become of you, Taofeek? Is this what marriage does to a man?”

“It’s not about marriage, Rekiya. Where are you?”

“The room where I lodged. I’ll be leaving Lagos next tomorrow. So, you have only tomorrow to see the damsel you’re truly in love with. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance with me.” Rekiya said in her usual tiny-sexy voice that would make a man say ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no.’

Memories flashed to my mind. Pictures of Rekiya as she explained a point with her white set of teeth glittering from beneath. Her wide and bright eyes that you could spend the whole day staring at. Her ‘yellow paw paw’ smooth and glowing skin that was tempting to touch. Her figure-8 shape and the way her butts moved in even motions whenever she walked…

“Taofeek? Are you there? Well, we’re meeting tomorrow. At six-thirty in the evening. We’re spending the night together at my hotel. You better find a convincing story to tell your wife.”

“Please, Rekiya. Do not call me again. Send me a message and I’ll reply when I see it. Do not put me in trouble.”

“I hear you. See you tomorrow!” Rekiya sang as she hung up the call.

I heaved a sigh of relief as I pulled the phone away from my ear and opened the bathroom door. I shrieked in shock when I saw Lukman standing in front of the door. “SubhanaLlaah! What are you doing here?” I exclaimed as I glared at him.

“What are you doing here?” he folded his hands across his chest and gave me a suspicious look.

Lukman was putting on a white gini and red cap, but the kaftan already had streaks of oil and dirt stains on it. I could understand because he had been supervising all activities- ranging from the food, barbeque and drinks section.

“In the bathroom? It’s…obvious I came to…urinate.” I stuttered as I avoided his eyes.

“We both know what you came here for.”

“I... don’t know…what you’re talking about.” I said in between breaths as I lowered my head.

“Can we go to my room? I need to talk to you.” He said as he started to walk without waiting for my approval. I tailed him as we entered the room and settled on the bed.

Lukman stared at me thoughtfully and cleared his throat. “I want to tell you a story. Two years ago, I met this Muslimah in the bank. I had forgotten to take a pen along with me, so, I requested a pen from the person closest to me. It was a pretty lady who I would later refer to as Ameenah. As I turned sideways to ask for a pen, I locked eyes with her and believe me, Taofeek, I didn’t know what was going on around me. I had forgotten that we were in the bank and I had gone there to deposit some amount of money. I couldn’t lower my gaze. I stared at her lustfully and wondered how such a pretty person could be human like me. Her smile was so radiant it could melt the highest of mountains. My hands trembled in pleasure as I tried to remember my signature and append it on the form. I accompanied her to her car like a dog following its master. I requested for her name and number. And that was how it all started. I would be with my wife but my thoughts would wander to Ameenah, the pretty lady who had the perfect shape I wanted in a woman- the way my wife had looked before she got married and had her first child. Ameenah and I would meet up after closing from work and we would sit in a restaurant and talk till late at night. We both liked each other so much. However, we were both married. Ameenah claimed that she no longer loved her husband and she wished that she could divorce him…but she wouldn’t, because of her child. I also started to bear the thought that I might fall out of love with my wife. We both knew that we couldn’t leave our marriages but we both yearned for each other. So, one day, we had stayed at our usual restaurant till very late at night and…we just couldn’t stand up to leave. We locked eyes and craved each other. We knew what we both wanted. But then, something struck me. The fact that ALlaah was seeing us. The fact that I was committing haram. Then I imagined what would happen if I fall into temptation. We would drive to the nearest hotel and I would peel her clothing from her body, commit the grave act and regret for the rest of my life. I would live the rest of my life wallowing in regret. I would be ashamed to talk to my Creator and seek forgiveness. I would know that I had betrayed my wife and child’s trust. So, I stood up and walked away. I blocked her number and vowed never to talk to her again.” Lukman said as he faced the ceiling with teary eyes.

 The room fell silent as we both reflected on the story without saying a word. Guilt crept up my face as I imagined what I was about doing; performing an act that was worth getting stoned for. Betraying the trust of the woman I love with all of my heart- Khayrah. Committing a grievous sin and disobeying my Lord despite promising to shun such acts.

“Why did you decide to share this story?” I asked, turning towards Lukman with moistened eyes.

“You know why, Taofeek. You know why.”
The thing about cheating…or attempting to cheat is that you’ll always have this fear that you might get caught. And I’d been living with that fear for the past two weeks. I would delete messages and my call history from my phone. Then, re-check over a million times to be certain that I hadn’t left anything suspicious by mistake. You’d study your wife to be assured that her face holds no trace of suspicion.

“I don’t feel too fine…not the other stuff. It’s a strange feeling and I can’t explain it.” Khayrah was saying as we were returning home from the mosque.

She clamped her left hand in mine and rested her head on my chest as we were walking down the path.

“What could be wrong? Should we visit the hospital tomorrow? Have you been taking your drugs?”

“I’ll hold on to see if this condition persists. But darling, I can’t believe you’re asking if I’ve been taking my drugs. You don’t act as caring as before. Or is this what happens when we stay longer as a couple? Oh! Maybe the estate women were right. None of them had a positive remark about staying in love after several years. But at least, we should wait till we clock one year, right?” Khayrah stared at me in the dark and guilt stole over my face.

“I’m so sorry. It’s work. I’ve been so busy. Let’s make out time this weekend to spend in a different place so that we can reignite our sparks of love?”

“Sounds like a brilliant idea!” Khayrah said brightly as she held me tighter.

As we stepped into the house, I pulled Khayrah closer to me and hugged her tightly…so tight that I could hear her gasp for breath. We stood there for minutes, in each other’s arms, as I whispered ‘I love you’ over and over again.

Khayrah was one of the best things that had happened to me and I couldn’t imagine that I wanted to risk my moments with her because of a one-night stand. I hadn’t done it but I felt ashamed for even considering betraying Khayrah’s trust.

When I pulled away, she sat on the sofa and took heavy breaths, staring at me suspiciously. “Woah! You haven’t done that in ages. My real husband just returned. I think I’m the happiest person right now. What really happened to us?”

“I really don’t know…but we shouldn’t let that happen again. Let’s go out for dinner and steal kisses in the dark.” I grinned at Khayrah and she gave me a knowing smile.

“I’ll change to my red gown. Be right back!” she said, running into the room.

It was just then that my phone buzzed in my pocket. I confirmed that Khayrah was out of sight before taking out my phone.

Hey love. Ready for tomorrow? I’m going to put on the sexiest gown that will pop your eyes out of its sockets. Just wait for it!
-          Rekiya.

Hello, Rekiya. There’s a change of plan. I don’t want to see you and I don’t want to have anything to do with you…ever! Kindly delete my number and pretend that you’ve forgotten Taofeek Adewale. We’re not seeing and nothing is happening between us. I’m happily married and I won’t risk my marriage and deen for the sake of zina.
-          Taofeek.

Okay…okay. But how about getting married to me? At least, that’s not zina?
-          Rekiya.

AudhubiLlaah! I would never consider getting married to a lady who sees no crime in sleeping with someone else’s husband. Why don’t you revisit the Qur’an and hadith and repent from your wrongdoings?
-          Taofeek.

Really? Now you’ve turned to an over-night Ustadh? You know what? Get off my phone. I’ve got other men on their knees, pleading that I love them. And you’re here saying thrash. Get away jare!
-          Rekiya.

I smiled in satisfaction as I deleted all of our conversations and headed towards the room to meet Khayrah.

“It’s so bad I couldn’t give my wife money this morning for her hospital bill,” I said bitterly as I mixed a part of the boiled rice with stew and dipped a spoon into my mouth.

Daniel and I were in a restaurant and I was revealing my problem to him- my alarming financial status and how it was taking a toll on my emotional wellbeing.

Her papa be big man. Why don’t you just call him and ask for help? I’m sure he wouldn’t spill the information to your wife,” Daniel said as he gulped a cup of water, watching me with sympathetic eyes.

“He calls very often. He even called this morning, asking if there is anything he could help us with.”

Daniel gave me an incredulous look. “And what did you say?”

“That we are fine.”

Your own too much nah! I understand you want to act as the man of the house and provide for your family…but let’s face it. You are broke and if care is not taken, Khayrah would start to suspect. She would confide in her mother. Her mother would tell her father and your case will become a family matter. You should contact her father privately and ask for help.”

“But he has done enough…or hasn’t he? He bought a car and a house for us. It feels awkward to start asking for money again. It’s a shame because he had previously offered me a job in his company but I declined.”

Daniel rubbed his forehead with his palm. “What will you do now?”

“I’ll ask my brother. I hope he has a surplus to help me with. He just celebrated his daughter’s aqiqoh and he spent a lot of money. Fortunately, the month is ending next week and we’ll receive our salary.”

“True talk bro…true talk…” Daniel was saying when I cut him.

“Wait…today’s 20th right?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Oh my gosh! We’re six months today!”

“You and Khayrah?”

“Yes. And I’m sure she’s forgotten. I’ll surprise her.” I stated, imagining ways to surprise Khayrah.

“Daniel, you sef do quick marry. This man is making you feel jealous.” Daniel remarked as he laughed loudly.
I had gotten the perfect plan! I would make a surprise dinner for Khayrah and read her poems I had composed a few months ago. That was the cheapest way to celebrate our anniversary, courtesy of my financial situation.

I was just driving into our street when a call from Khayrah came in. She had spent the day visiting the hospital and seeing Janet, her new friend, for lunch. And we hadn’t spoken since I left for work in the morning.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum my pretty, sweet, loving princess…”

“Wa’alaykumu salam, darling. Where are you?”

“Just heading home. You?”

“Well, I’m still at Lekki. I have a massive surprise for you.”

“Gosh! I’m impatient! What is it?”

“Should it wait till I get home?” Khayrah asked as she laughed teasingly.

“Oh gosh! You’ve started again. You know my heart races when I hear the word ‘surprise’. What is this massive surprise? Please tell me, love.”

“Okay.” She cleared her throat and laughed again. “I am…”

“You are what?”

“I am pregnant! Three weeks pregnant, darling. The doctor confirmed it this afternoon.” She yelled in excitement. 

AlhamduliLlaah! AlhamduliLlah! I am speechless! Oh gosh! I love you! I love you more than you can ever imagine, Khayrah. You are my world, Khayrah.”

Khayrah vibrant laughter made me smile and cry at the same time. Tears moistened my face as I reversed and returned to the road. “Send your current address. I’m coming to pick you up.”
“But I’m at Lekki. I’ll just order an uber…”

“I’m taking you and my child home in my car. I cannot risk anything happening to you. Send the address now.”

“Okay, husband. I’m sending it right away.” Khayrah laughed as she ended the call.

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