Monday, 13 January 2020

Her Last Breath (Episode Nineteen)


Khayrah
“You are still as beautiful as ever. Stunning, adorable…”

E don do! You’ve started all these again? Well, Taofeek tells me that every day, so, I don’t get flattered.” I said as I tried to hide the smile that passed across my face.

“Aha! But you just blushed. Admit it, Khayrah. You love to hear these words.” Tijanni remarked as a flicker of amusement passed over his face.

“You’re gone now…and I’m really scared. Sometimes, I appear like I’m not but the thought of death frightens me. What if it comes now?”

“What’s the use of being frightened? You know you’re going to die. We all know we’re going to die. Then, why don’t we spend the rest of our days memorable?”

“You can be smart when you want to, Tijanni.” I muttered, staring at him with thoughtful eyes.

Tijanni cackled and with a swoosh, he disappeared into the light.

My eyes blinked steadily as I tried to reach out to him. With a piercing scream, I opened my eyes to find myself on the bed, drooling saliva from the side of my mouth. As I turned sideways, I caught sight of Taofeek staring at me with a creased forehead as he sat beside the bed and sipped from a mug of tea.

“What’s up with you and nightmares? Is this one of the effects of pregnancy?” he asked with an anxious look on his face.

I sighed deeply as I sat upright and stretched my body. “I don’t think so. It’s just this recurrent dream I keep having.”

“What’s it about?” Taofeek inquired as he walked up to where I sat and felt my palm. “Are you having Malaria?”

“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. It’s nothing.” I muttered between breaths as I stood up and stared out of the window with strained eyes. I swiveled towards Taofeek to notice that he was dressed in a white shirt, black tie and a pair of trousers. Gosh! I had slept until dawn.

“Don’t tell me it’s past seven!” I yelled in disbelief as I reached for my phone. It was worse. 7:30 am on the dot!

Taofeek snickered. “My pregnant wife is acting cray cray!”

“I’m not acting crazy. Don’t you dare say that!” I bellowed at Taofeek as he continued to laugh.

As I sauntered towards the bathroom to perform ablution and perform salatul subh, I caught sight of myself in the mirror.

My eyes widened in shock as I noticed my fat face and swollen lips. I looked completely different from my real self.

“What happened?” Taofeek stopped laughing and stood beside me in front of the mirror.

“My face. My shape. It’s an eyesore. I look horrible. Darling, have you been lying about this pregnancy glow thingy?” I glared at him and noticed that he cleared his throat.

“I’m not. You are glowing, love. Take another look at yourself. You look amazing.” He said as he held me by the waist and kissed my neck.

“Okay…I’m beautiful. I believe you. Can I go and perform ablution?”

Taofeek released me from his grip and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Okay, my love. I’ll be waiting for you in the living room.”

As I entered the bathroom and filled the kettle with water, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream I had experienced.

Tijanni again? When would I stop dreaming about him?!

Since Tijanni passed away, there was hardly a night that he didn’t appear in my dream. I had prayed about it…then it stopped…and continued months later. I hadn’t told Taofeek about the dream because I was scared that he would get jealous. My mind flashed to the sight of Tijanni’s corpse as I washed my face. Tears streaked down my face as I remembered all that had happened a few months ago. I washed the tears with water and proceeded to wash my arms.

Twenty minutes later, I was in the kitchen, making a quick breakfast for Taofeek. I searched through the cupboard but it was obvious that we had run out of foodstuff. I settled for the almost-empty pack of oatmeal from the shelf and placed a pot of water on the gas. Taofeek came in that minute, avoiding my eyes as he rinsed his cup.

“For the hundredth time, I need to go to the market to buy foodstuff. The kitchen is practically empty!”

Taofeek placed the cup on the tray and cleared his throat. “We’ll go to the market this weekend. Settled?”

“Why can’t I go alone today? I’ll be home all day, literally doing nothing. Are you broke?”

“Broke? Why would I be broke? See Khayrah, I’m late for work. There’s no time to wait for breakfast. See you in the evening. Love you.” He said, placing a kiss on my left cheek.

“Love you too,” I replied, watching as he walked out of the kitchen with a frown. And certain that Taofeek was hiding his financial situation from me.
***
How to fall in love with your child. How to love children. How to develop love for children even if you don’t love them. How to be a good mother. How to make your child love you…

I had been searching on Google for the past two hours with a plate of Cabin biscuits beside me and a glass of juice. My eyes were strained and I was exhausted.

The articles I read were all saying the same thing. I just wanted one answer. How to develop that love!

I remembered when I first held Taofeek’s twins in my arms. Beautiful children, they were…but I still get frightened whenever they visited. I still wonder how I would get to fall in love with my child.

To drift my thoughts away from my children and how to love them, I put on the TV and tuned in to Netflix. I was about to select a movie to watch when a call came in. It was Janet, the new friend I had made in the cancer support group.

“Hey, Khayrah! How you dey nah?” Janet said at the other end of the call in an excited tone.

The way she pronounced my name as Kiara often made me wince. “I just dey here oo. Husband is at work and I’m all alone at home, thinking of binge-watching a Netflix series.”

“Let me visit you nah. I’ve missed you small,” Janet replied.

I beamed in excitement. “Be coming, jare!

“One condition. You must prepare okro soup and semovita. Remember I’ll be driving down from the island?”

“I’m sorry, Janet. That won’t be possible. My kitchen is empty oo! Please buy two plates of rice and chicken from Tastee.”

“Are you high? I should come to una mainland and still buy food?”

“Be nice for once nah…ah, it seems my husband is calling. I’ll be expecting you and the food. Bye!” I said as I hung up and picked Taofeek’s call.

“Who were you talking to?”

“Janet. She wants to pay me a visit.”

“At least, someone will keep you company till I return.”

“Yeah,” I replied blankly, sipping from my cup of juice.

“Khayrah, I’m sorry about what happened this morning. I promise to make it up to you.”

“Okay. Get on with your work before your boss barges into your office.”

“Are you indirectly telling me to hang up, huh?” Taofeek laughed teasingly.

“Bye bye, Mr. Accountant.” I said as I hung up the call.

***  
Janet appeared by the door one hour thirty minutes later, with two Tastee-branded bags. I pulled her into a big hug as I welcomed her home.

“I’ve missed you so much, Janet. This house can be boring.”

“Haha. What about those estate meetings of yours where you gossip and talk about your husbands?” Janet smirked as she pulled her hat and wig away, revealing her permed low-cut.

She was a tall and slender lady with bright eyes and fair skin. I’d been astounded by her beauty the first day she approached me in the cancer support programme. Janet was putting on a red gown and a brown hat. She settled on the couch and picked a biscuit from the ceramic plate.

“Well, I decided to stop attending their meetings. It wasn’t productive at all. We’ll spend the whole day talking about how men are not to be trusted…then the women would start to quarrel amongst themselves. Some of them would visit me just to spoil the name of another woman in the estate.” I said, opening a plate of rice and dipping a spoon inside.

“Typical of Nigerian housewives. And I don’t want you to become like them. Why don’t you start work? You don’t have to work 9-5. You can work remotely, just like I do.”

“I’ll think about that. I just have a lot clogging my thoughts. Tijanni is still appearing in my dreams. I haven’t even told Taofeek. The only persons I’ve told is you and my mom.”

“It’s no big deal, Khayrah. It is normal to dream about someone you’ve lost if the person was very close to you. Remember you didn’t even have much time to spend with Tijanni. You wanted to impact on his life but you couldn’t. Maybe that’s why. Give it time. You’ll get through everything.”

“Okay. Thanks, Janet,” I remarked, sitting on the sofa and cutting flesh from the chicken drumstick.

Ehen! Remember that my Muslim neighbour that was smiling at you like a mumu the last time you visited?”

I swallowed the chicken as I replied. “Kunle? The one that drives a white car?”

“Yes oo. You won’t believe that he was asking about you yesterday. He said he likes you.”

I chuckled. “And what did you say?”

“I told him you’re happily married,” Janet stated as she put on the TV.

“Janet, the funny thing about my life is that I wasn’t really noticed by men before I got married. Now I’m married and boom! The toasters are knocking on my door.”

Hahaha. You’re funny. Abeg, let’s watch this movie. The Princess Switch. I heard that the movie will make you fall in love.” She said as she clicked on play.

“Well, I’m already in love!” I exclaimed cheerfully.

Janet and I settled on the couch as we ate and watched the movie. After two hours of gushing over the characters and shedding tears, we fell asleep.

I was woken by the ringing of my phone. Janet and I woke up startled as we stared at the phone that rested on the table.

“It’s Taofeek,” I stated as I took the phone from the table. “Hello. Asalamu ‘alaykum,” I greeted in between yawns.

“Wa’alaykumu salam. You just woke up?”

“Janet and I watched a movie and fell asleep afterwards. How are you? You’re on your way home?”

“Yes, I am. And I have companies. Can you briskly make something?”

My face jerked in surprise. “Make something? Seriously? You’ve forgotten there’s no foodstuff at home?”

“Oh, yes. That’s true. You know what? Just buy a few provisions from the shop beside our house. Please.”

“Who are these guests we’re expecting sef? Are they that special?”

“They’re our friends. I’ve got to go now. We’ll be there in the next thirty minutes. Bye.”

“Your husband is inviting people over and now you have to cook for them?”  Janet glared at me as I dropped the phone on my legs.

“Yes.”

“Ah, one of the reasons I’m grateful for not being married. Let me be on my way.”

“Okay. We’ll be going out together. I want to buy a few items from the shop close by.”
***
I had boiled rice and eggs and placed it in a large bowl in the kitchen. I was grating the balls of pepper and tomatoes when I heard a knock on the door.

I jostled out of the kitchen as I cleaned my sweaty forehead with my hand. I’d forgotten that I just touched balls of pepper. The stinging sensation it gave to my skin made me remember that.

“Ah!” I whined, rushing into the bathroom and rinsing my face.

Afterwards, I changed into a loose gown and wore a brown hijab. I breathed deeply as I walked towards the door. I was not very good at meeting new people and Taofeek knew that. He shouldn’t have just notified me within thirty minutes.

Taking another deep breath, I opened the door slowly to receive Taofeek and the guests.

“Surprise!” was yelled by my family members!

Surprise engulfed my face as I widened my eyes and stared at my parents and Fadilah, grinning at me in excitement.

“SubhanaLlaah. Darling, these are the guests? You’re incredible!” I yelled in excitement as I hugged them one after the other.
“We’ve missed you so much. Is this what happens when one gets married?” Fadilah laughed.
She was dressed in a red blouse and black palazzo pants. I dragged her cheeks and hugged her again.

“Can you go inside and have a seat? I haven’t visited here since you got married.” My father stated as we walked inside.

“Thank you,” I mouthed to Taofeek and he smiled in reply.

“I’ll go change into a simpler outfit. Khayrah will serve you a cold drink.” Taofeek stated as he was walking out of the living room.

“A minute.” I grinned as I followed Taofeek inside.

He gasped in surprise as he spotted entering the room. “Great surprise, yeah?” he said, unbuttoning his shirt.

“Greatest surprise ever! How were you able to pull this one without me noticing?”

“Well, I knew you have missed your family members and I noticed you’ve not really been yourself these days. So, I decided to surprise you and invite them over!”

“You’re the best,” I whispered, pulling him into a kiss.

“Thanks for the compliment…but you’ll have me all night. Now, go and meet your family members.”

“That’s right,” I remarked, pulling him into another kiss.

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