Sunday, 21 March 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Five)

 


“Rafiah!” Someone yelled my name from behind as I was walking towards the cafeteria.

 

I cleaned my wet forehead with a handkerchief as I whipped my head up. The path to the cafeteria was usually busy and crowded. Passers-by filled the road at both sides as they scurried towards their place of businesses. Buses and cars blared their horns at those who were driving rather slowly.

 

As I tried to dodge the motorcycle speeding past the road, I trailed my eyes at the sea of people waking behind me.

 

Kosi lo jare!” The rider cursed between his breaths as he sped away.

 

I couldn’t get a glimpse of the motorcycle as he whooshed past but I was in time to perceive the stench of liquor that reeked from his mouth. I was still scanning through the crowd when I spotted a familiar figure walking at a fast pace. My heart froze as Munir’s eyes met mine.

 

He muttered ‘wait’ and raised a hand as he hurried to meet up with me. Placing a hand over my chest, I took deep breaths and assured myself that everything would be fine. That I would remain composed and strike up a conversation with him…like my heart wasn’t beating faster than normal.

 

Like I hadn’t noticed the way he had smiled at me while I stepped into the company this morning.

 

‘Tolu broke your heart. Talhah broke your heart. It’s no time to dream of a relationship that would never happen, Rafiah. Focus, Rafiah! He doesn’t like you. It’s all in your head!!!’ I thought as Munir met up with me.

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah.” He greeted as we walked side by side towards the cafeteria building.

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam. You’re going for lunch?”

 

“Yes, I’m famished. Haven’t had anything to eat since morning. I can practically see stars,” he laughed and I chuckled in response.

 

Munir glanced at me before facing the road again. “You look…I don’t know. You don’t look fine, Rafiah? Hope everything’s fine?”

 

“Everything is fine,” I responded as I cleared my throat. “Why would you think everything isn’t?”

 

He scratched his head. “I don’t know… something is definitely off. Probably because Asmau isn’t present at work today. By the way, how is her health? Hope she’s improving?”

 

“Yes, she is,” I said blankly as we stepped into the cafeteria’s building.

 

Gosh, Rafiah. I had the chance to talk to my crush- who might possibly be interested in me- but I’m ruining this moment by giving brusque and cold responses. Asmau would literally smack me if she hears of this.

 

I caught sight of Faith as we walked to the usual table Asmau and I usually sit. Faith is a colleague at work who had taken extra effort to advise me on ways to move on from heartbreak. After the news of Tolu and Najeebah’s engagement broke, Faith had met me with wet eyes as she revealed how her ex had ditched her few weeks to their wedding.

 

“It will take time…but eventually, you’ll move on and forget all about it,” she had said with tears in her eyes.

 

I had stared at her with sympathetic eyes, knowing full well that she hadn’t recovered from the heartbreak.

 

“Hi, Faith!” I waved at her with a smile.

 

“Hello,” she smiled with a wink.

 

“I’ll go get our lunch. The usual jollof rice and coleslaw?” he smiled at me.

 

“Yes, thank you,” I replied as he walked over to the counter.

 

I whipped my head up to notice Faith staring at me. “Girl!” she mouthed with a grin.

 

I grinned in return as I unlocked my phone and checked my new notifications. A message from Rasheedah popped up.

 

Don’t forget to stop by the florist shop. Thank you, big sister!

-          Rasheedah.

 

“Here we go!” Munir said as he placed two plates of steaming jollof on the table.

 

“Thank you so much!” I smiled as I took a spoon and started to eat.

 

“You guys- You and Asmau- have made fall in love with jollof rice,” he chuckled as sipped from his bottle of water. 

 

“Thanks,” I responded as I continued to eat. “What do you think of your new job? Do you like it here?”

 

“Well... yes, I do. It is, no doubt, challenging to get used to a new environment at first. But, eventually, we’ll get used to it.”

 

“Yeah,” I said as I cut a slice of chicken.

 

We continued to eat in silence as the loud voices of other customers filled the room. Munir cleared his throat and glanced at me. “How are you coping at work?”

 

I stared at him with furrowed brows. “I’m coping well. Why do you ask?”

 

“I heard about what happened. You and Tolu. I know it must be hard working in such environment.”

 

I wanted to protest for bringing up Tolu but the look on his face was that of sympathy. “To be honest, it hasn’t been easy. Especially now that Tolu got engaged with someone from our workplace. Apart from the heartbreak, it hasn’t been easy knowing that people are staring at you with a look of pity and giving you preferential treatment because ‘Rafiah must be so heartbroken. No wonder she looks so sad!’ I wished I had gotten in a relationship with someone outside of the workplace.” I said as I took three sips of Coke.

 

“I’m so sorry for what you’ve been going through. I don’t know what it feels like to go through something this traumatic and I wish I can help. If you want someone to defend you anytime, I’m always here.” He raised a shoulder up and smiled at me.

 

“Thank you, Munir. This means a lot to me.”

 

“You should not change your mind about getting into a relationship with a colleague because of your past relationship. Not all men are Tolu.”

 

My heart raced faster as his statement rang in my head over and over again. Butterflies fluttered their wings in my stomach as I imagined our wedding together. Munir and I holding hands as we promise to love each other forever.

 

‘Not all men are Tolu,’ I muttered as I stared at my cold plate of rice. Like you, Munir. For the first time together, I was grateful Asmau couldn’t make it to work today.

 

“So, I got to apply for this job through my brother. He sent a job vacancy to my mail and I thought, let me apply for this. And boom, I’m here!”

 

“You were working someone else?”

 

“Yes. I’d been there for three years. No increment of salary or promotion. I just knew that I urgently needed to change jobs. Work in a different environment, gain new knowledge, explore new opportunities, and meet wonderful colleagues like you.” He said with a smile.

 

My stomach flipped in excitement again. I stared at my food and wondered if I could eat any further. The feeling of excitement had filled my belly.

 

“Munir, I don’t like it here. No…this is different from the Tolu story. It’s about the job I’m doing. I don’t have passion for accounting.”

 

“Then why are you here?”

 

“My dad wants his first daughter to be an accountant. I’m here because of him.”

 

Munir furrowed his brows as he dropped his spoon the ceramic plate. “I can’t believe this is still happening. Have you tried talking to him…making him understand that this does not bring you fulfillment?”

 

“Yes, I have. Long before I enrolled into the higher institution. We are told to make our parents happy. If this is what brings him fulfillment, then I’m ready to endure.”

 

“But it doesn’t bring you fulfillment, Rafiah. I think you should have a heart-to-heart conversation with him. The truth is, we can’t fulfill all our parents wishes. There are times that you have choose yourself. In terms of career, you have to choose what you want. By the way, what do you want to do? What do you have passion for?”

 

“Writing. I want to be a published writer, authoring several bestsellers and mentoring other aspiring writers.” I chuckled. “How do you tell your father that you want to write for a living?”

 

“Exactly how you’re supposed to tell him. That you have passion for writing. That you want to become a professional writer.”

 

I played with the hem of my hijab as I gazed at the door. A pudgy woman and her daughters had stepped into the restaurant. “I don’t even know how to go about it. Where do I start from?”

 

“My brother is an internationally-acclaimed writer. Faruk Zubair.”

 

I laughed unbelievably. “That’s your brother? The popular writer?”

 

Munir smiled. “Yes. That man is more popular than I am,” he laughed. “You should send him a mail. Tell him you’re from his naughty brother. It might take a while for him to respond but he’ll eventually do so.”

 

“Wow! This is unbelievable. Faruk Zubair! Thank you so much, Munir.”

 

“Do not mention. However, note that he is strict…well he acts like he is, but it’s a big lie.”

 

“Noted!”

 

“I’ll need your number to send his email address,” A smile lingered on Munir’s lips as he passed his phone.

 

Wow! What a day! I get to meet someone who knows one of the most renowned authors in Nigeria…and I might have found my husband!

 

***

Asmau laughed loudly as I told her what had transpired during the day. I didn’t miss a part as I related what Munir and I had discussed and how he had given vibes of affection.

 

“Maybe this is it! The one you’ve always been searching for. I guess the search is over.” Asmau giggled over the phone.

 

“I can’t really say until he proposes. I don’t want to get my hopes high, Asmau,” I said as I opened my laptop and logged into my Gmail account.

 

“Munir is handsome, a good Muslim and one of those men who wants the best for women. He wants to see you fulfill your dreams, Rafiah.”

 

“You’re right. But I won’t raise my hopes until he proposes. How is your health? Is the baby kicking?”

 

Asmau laughed. “Pregnancy is a whole new experience. I’m super-excited and nervous at the same time...”

 

“Mom is calling you to the kitchen,” Rasheedah said as she entered the room.

 

“We’ll talk later, Asmau. My regards to your husband. Asalamu ‘alaykum.”

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam, Rafiah. Goodnight,” Asmau said as she hung up the call.

 

As I walked out of the room, I heard voices in the living room…and then a piercing scream.


Don't miss out on the previous episodes:


Episode One


Episode Two


Episode Three & Episode Four 

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