Sunday, 14 February 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode One)

 



Episode One

A smile spread over my face as I watched Rasheedah talk about her wedding day; how she planned on putting on a glamorous blue gown and stealing the gaze of her guests. How the wedding would be the talk of the town and how she yearned for such a memorable moment. Dinner was practically about Rasheedah’s wedding. We couldn’t talk about anything else.

 

“You will be the happiest woman on your wedding day,” Mom stared at her with a bright face. “You’re getting married to Khalid…and he loves you,” she smiled at him.

 

Khalid, who was cutting a slice of meat, whipped his head up and grinned at her. “I love Rasheedah more than you can ever imagine,” he said with certainty.

 

Three months and five days ago, my younger sister, Rasheedah, said yes to spending the rest of her life with Khalid. The house had bubbled with excitement when she revealed the news. We had drunk glasses of fruity wine and ate bowls of seasoned chicken to celebrate the engagement.

 

Khalid was not only a sweet person who had fallen head over heels with my sister, but he was also the son of Honourable Suleiman Olalekan, the commissioner for works in Lagos State. And Rafiah, the twenty-seven-year-old elder sister, was still jumping buses to work every day…with no plan of getting married soon. Yes, me.

 

My cheeks hurt from smiling too much, and I was tired of hearing the word ‘love’ and ‘marriage.’ If I hear them one more time, I might explode. I grabbed my phone from the table and clicked on WhatsApp.  

 

Save me, Asmau!!!

-          Rafiah.

 

I sent a message to my best friend, hoping that chatting with her would relieve my situation. My phone chimed with a new notification as I dropped it on the table. I picked it up and opened it with haste.

 

From your family members?

-          Asmau.

 

Yes, from my family members.

-          Rafiah.

 

Hahaha! Because your sister is getting married and you haven’t found a man yet?

-          Asmau.

 

No. Because my parents keep reminding me that I am the eldest child with no husband. In contrast, my younger sister found a loving and wealthy man.

-          Rafiah.

 

…typing

 

I rammed my fingers on the table as I waited impatiently for Asmau to finish typing. A yell from my father made me drop my phone.

 

“We’re having dinner with an important guest, and you’re pressing your phone? What impression do you want Khalid to have of our family?” My dad quirked his brows as he glared at me.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ll put it away.” I muttered in shame as several pairs of eyes fell on me.

 

I placed the phone on the table and willed myself to eat the meal I had spent over two hours preparing- spicy jollof rice with fried chicken.

 

“Please, prepare the meal, Rafiah. You know you’re the jollof rice expert. And Rasheedah needs to dress up for her fiancé.” My mother had said no long after I returned from work.

 

Mom instructed that I cook the meal without considering the fact that I would have experienced a busy day at work and encountered a stressful commute while returning home.

 

I clacked my spoon on the ceramic plate as I silently prayed for the dinner to be over soon. Yes! The dinner with my family members was a disaster, and I wished that I wasn’t around.

 

“I can’t wait for you to tie the knots with Khalid. He’s such a nice man,” My mom grinned in excitement as she winked at Rasheedah.

 

I adjusted my seat and cleared my throat, wishing that Lagos traffic had been heavier tonight and I had arrived home after the dinner was over. I wished Mr. Kolapo had instructed that we stayed back to clear the account, such that I would have to leave my place of work late. I wished the danfo driver had encountered a rift with one of the passengers or a LASTMA official such that I would have to spend an extra hour on the road.

 

If any of these had happened, I wouldn’t have had to be here!

 

I glanced at my father and noticed that he was staring at me with a look that read, ‘When are you also bringing a man home? Remember that you’re the first child?’

 

I could spot Rasheedah smiling as Khalid talked about his new business venture. While Khalid’s father was an influential politician in Lagos State and his mother owned a popular supermarket in Lekki, Khalid was also a successful business owner recently featured in a business magazine.

 

Khalid was the perfect definition of prince charming. He was a tall and dark-complexioned man with bright eyes and a captivating smile that could lit up a room. Khalid was the dream of every woman- tall, rich and handsome. And Rasheedah was also a pretty lady with a lithe figure and a pretty face. If I could be half as good looking as Rasheedah, I could have wound up with a fiancé by now.

 

“Khalid needs more salt. Go get him,” My mom was saying.

 

I was cutting a slice from my chicken drumstick when my mom yelled my name. “Rafiah! Get the plate of salt for Khalid.”

 

Anger seeped through me as I stood up and strode towards the kitchen. Entering the kitchen, I lowered my face in the sink and sighed deeply. I thought Rasheedah’s marriage would be more comfortable than this…but it wasn’t. My parents would keep reminding me that my younger sister was getting married before me. Neighbours would stare at me and wonder what I actually felt towards my sister’s marriage. Family friends would try to hook me up with their sons so that I wouldn’t remain single.

 

I scrunched up my face as I returned to the dining room and placed the plate of salt beside Khalid’s plate. He smiled in appreciation and sprinkled salt on his rice.

 

‘Is he saying that my food is tasteless? No, Rafiah. Don’t overthink.’ I muttered as I returned to my seat.

 

I was about to sit down when my mother called. “Sorry, Rafiah. Bring another jug of water. The one here is almost empty.”

 

I was about to open my mouth in protest, but I resisted and returned to the kitchen. In a matter of one hour, everything would be over. I would return to my room and fall into a deep sleep.

***

 

An hour had passed, and Khalid was still in our living room, sipping his cup of freshly-made cold zobo and listening attentively to my mom talk about her plans for their wedding. With the way he smiled awkwardly and nodded repeatedly, I was confident that he was tired of my mother’s discussion. But he had to leave a good impression on his fiancée’s parents.

 

We had finished dinner and sat in the living room, discussing the wedding plans as the TV's faint sound- showing a movie on Africa Magic Yoruba- played in the room.

I gazed intensely at my parents and imagined how thrilled they would be- knowing that one of their daughters would soon be tying the knots. My dad, a stout-looking man with a shiny bald head and beady eyes, stared interestingly at Khalid as he talked about taking Rasheedah to the Maldives after the wedding ceremony. Rasheedah was the direct replica of my mom. They both had dark, glowing skin and a long-pointed nose that made them look charming. I, however, took after my father’s look.

 

“I can’t wait…I just can’t wait…” Rasheedah’s face flickered with a smile as she glanced at Khalid.

 

“Same here, my love. I’m so sorry to cut this interesting conversation short, but I have to leave now. It is very late, and the night comes with dangers,” Khalid stated as he cleared his throat and gulped down his drink.

 

“Ah, yes. We’re sorry for keeping you this long. We’ll be expecting to receive your parents this Sunday. We have a lot to discuss. Have a great night. Rasheedah, accompany your fiancé to his car,” Dad remarked.

 

“Of course!” Rasheedah jumped up in exhilaration as she tailed Khalid to the door.

 

I watched them with jealous eyes as they whispered to each other before walking out of the house. Noticing my mother’s eyes on me, I held my phone and stood up from the seat, preparing to retreat to my room.

 

“Where are you going?” My mom inquired as she watched me stand up.

 

“My room. It’s past ten. I have to rise early and prepare for work.”

 

“Sit down. We want to discuss a crucial issue with you. It won’t take more than five minutes.”

 

My father cleared his throat as I returned to my seat. “It’s about the husband issue. Rafiah, time waits for no one. You’ll be twenty-eight this year’s September. You need to get married…”

 

“But I haven’t found the one yet. If I had, I’d have brought a man home just like Rasheedah.  I also want to get married. But what happens when I’m still searching for him?”

 

“You are not searching enough. Have you signed up to halal dating sites? Have you met with the Imam of the community mosque to link you up with a suitable bachelor? What are you doing other than waiting hopelessly for a man to approach you and propose?” My mother asked.

 

I swallowed hard and whipped my head up, staring at the TV and wondering why my case had to be different. I mean, my colleagues at my workplace and friends at school get married weekly. Where do they find their husbands? How do they get married? Was there a secret manual?

 

“Rafiah…can you hear this? You have nothing to say, abi? Anyway, Alhaji Mustapha and his family will be visiting us this Saturday. I’ll introduce you to his son.”

 

“Okay. Goodnight.” I muttered as I walked to the door, opening it and slumping on the bed.

 

Recalling all that had happene, I wondered why my life was different from that of my sister. Rasheedah had always wanted to become an architect. And she was actualizing her dreams. She was also getting married to the love of her life. But I was stuck in a job that I despised and had to keep searching for Mr. Right.

 

A notification buzz drifted me back to reality. Asmau, my closest friend and colleague at work, had just sent a new message, coupled with the ones she sent some hours ago.

 

…Just keep calm and patiently wait for everything to be over.

 

Ah, Tolu just sent a message to our group chat. He announced that he proposed to Najeebah tonight. Imagine!

-          Asmau.

 

My heart juddered in my chest as I read the message over and over again. Did Tolu propose to Najeebah? He was supposed to propose to me!

 

I remembered the day Tolu had walked to my table to break the dreadful news. He had called me privately and explained that our relationship had to end.

 

“It is not working, and you know that. We should call it quits,” he had said before walking out on me.

 

I went to my contact list and searched for Tolu’s number. I still had it saved as ‘My Future Husband.’

 

Tolu, my love. What went wrong? I knew our relationship was shaky…but we still could work it out.

 

I typed and erased it, thinking of typing something else.

 

I heard you’re getting married to Najeebah. Seriously? Najeebah? What happens to the promises you made when we were together?

 

“No,” I muttered as I deleted the message and laid on my pillow, allowing the tears to flow freely down my face.

 

I almost jumped out of my skin as I heard the sound of my phone vibrating. I turned the phone and checked the Caller ID, hoping it would be Tolu calling. It was, however, Asmau. How could I be dumb to think that Tolu would call me?

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah. How are you?” Asmau said as I clicked on the answer button.

 

I rubbed my palm over my wet eyes. “Wa’alaykumu salam. I’m not. How would I be able to face them at work? People will laugh at me.”

 

“No…Tolu should be the one ashamed. You’ve done nothing wrong, Rafiah. He was the one that ended the relationship. Yes, colleagues will talk…but let them talk,” Asmau said as she started laughing.

 

“What’s funny?” I asked with a scrunched-up face.

 

“I just remembered that you also wanted to end things with Tolu. He only said it first. Rafiah, you know you can’t imagine getting married to Tolu. There is an amazing person out there for you, and you know it,” Asmau said with certainty.

 

“SubhanaLlaah. What is life without you, Asmau?”

 

Uhmm…you owe me lunch for dishing out these words of advice,” she chuckled. “Don’t forget to wear a lovely outfit to work tomorrow. And wear that confident smile.”

 

“Sure!” I said as I hung up the call and strode towards my wardrobe.  


A/N: Months feels like years...and I'm glad to be here, sharing fascinating stories with you. I hope you enjoy this and look forward to reading more. Cheers!💓

 

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