Sunday, 7 March 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Three & Four)

 



 Episode Three

Rasheedah gulped down her cup of juice and glanced at Khalid. “Never have you ever?”

 

“Never have I ever lied to my fiancée,” Khalid smiled at her.

 

Munir laughed loudly as he clasped his hands. “I’m next!”

 

It was Saturday afternoon, and Rasheedah and Khalid had organised a fun hangout at Ikeja GRA. They literally dragged me to accompany them to the hangout, not knowing that Khalid had also invited his close friend, Munir.

 

“You’re both single. Something can come out of this meeting,” Khalid had whispered when we arrived at Sweet Sensation.

 

“I don’t like all these arrangements…” I was saying when Khalid cut me off.

 

“Just go with the flow,” he stated before walking up to meet Munir.

 

Munir was a tall and skinny man with beady eyes and fair skin. He had glanced at me once with quirked eyebrows. I wondered what he thought about me. Well, I perceived him as a proud person…I might be wrong. Time would tell.

 

We were playing several games, and none of them fascinated me. I wished that I could return home and curl up on the bed while I read an exciting novel.

 

“Senegal,” Munir said as he started a new game.

 

I winced and adjusted myself on the seat. We had been playing these games for over thirty minutes…and my neck had started to ache.

 

“Togo,” Khalid said hurriedly.

 

“Malawi,” Rasheedah continued.

 

“Keny…” I prattled as I realized that I would be next.

 

Munir glanced at me and lowered his eyes. “What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

 

I cleared my throat as I tried to recall scenarios in my head. The only cringe-worthy thing I’d done was stalk Tolu on social media. I still hadn’t stopped. Even though I convinced Asmau that I had unfollowed his accounts on social media, I still checked his recent post this morning.

 

The picture of Tolu grinning widely as Najeebah stood happily beside him. I couldn’t drift my thoughts off the image of their happy faces. They had visited Lufasi Park and took pictures around tall green grasses and large trees. Late last year, Tolu had promised me that we would visit there on his annual leave. Now, he had visited with his new lover, Najeebah.

 

“Rafiah!” Rasheedah yelled my name.

 

I stared around to notice their eyes peering at me. Munir glanced at me with a look of disgust and broke a piece of biscuit in his plate.

 

“We’ve been waiting for your response like ever!” she grimaced.

 

I smiled. “I think I’ll pass,” I sipped my drink and insisted that it was better to remain mute than disgrace myself in the front of them.

 

Tell them I was stalking my ex? No way!

 

Munir yawned. “This hangout is not going as I expected. Believe me, Khalid, I’m bored.”

 

“Well, we need to visit the drink store before heading off. We should probably leave now,” Rasheedah said as she smiled at Khalid.

 

“I’ll go settle the bill,” Khalid stated as he rose from his seat.

 

“I’ll join you!” A mischievous grin was plastered on Rasheedah’s face as she tailed Khalid.

 

So yes! I was left with the proud-looking person my sister and her fiancé was bent on matching me with. Munir!

 

Munir glanced at me again and cleared his throat. “Are you always this quiet?”

 

“Well, I’m selectively shy,” I stated as I pretended to be preoccupied with my phone.

 

“Okay,” Munir replied as he picked up his phone and started to type.

 

Rasheedah and Khalid arrived some minutes later, stealing furtive glances at us. “Are you guys bonding?”

 

Munir grimaced. “I need to go home and relax.”

 

Khalid laughed, “But you were really looking forward to this meeting,” he said, glancing at me.

 

Munir scrunched up his face in a frown as he sprung up from the chair. “It didn’t turn out as expected. Can we leave now?”

 

“Okay.” We packed our bags and prepared to leave.

***

“We’ll have over two thousand guests,” Rasheedah guffawed as Khalid was driving us home.

 

They were, as usual, talking about their plans for the wedding. I stared out of the window and sighed deeply as the warm breeze tickled my skin. I wondered how realistic their wedding plans were.

 

“Can we hold it in Dubai…or make it a destination wedding?” Khalid quipped.

 

“It’s just a one-day event,” I added with a scrunched-up face.

 

Rasheedah rolled her eyes as she glared at me. “It’s not just a one-day event. It’s my wedding,” she insisted.

 

“Oops. Sorry. You can have it the way you desire…” I was saying when my phone chimed with a new notification.

 

Hey. How’s your weekend going?

-          Talhah

 

I grinned excitedly as I started to type.

 

Not too well. I guess I want to appear in my room now!

-          Rafiah.

 

Not at home?

-          Talhah

 

No. Remember I told you I’d be hanging out with my sister and her fiancé?

-          Rafiah.

 

Oh, yes, you did. I’m sorry. I can’t wait to see you next week. I’m super excited!!!

-          Talhah.

 

Same here.

-          Rafiah.

 

Talk to you later. I need to catch up with a friend at the park. Asalamu ‘alaykum.

-          Talhah.

 

Wa’alaykumu salam, Talhah.

-          Rafiah.

 

I clicked on the ‘send’ button and threw my phone on the seat, imagining the moment I would finally meet Talhah, the imaginary man I might be in love with.

***

Mom spent breakfast talking about aso ebi colours to choose from. My head throbbed in pain as I watched her and Rasheedah argue over colours.

 

“I know you want the best for me…but it’s still my day. Please…” Rasheedah was saying with a frown when Mom interrupted.

 

“I know it’s your day. That’s why I think this colour will be perfect…or what do you think, Rafiah?” Mom gazed at me as she showed me a picture on her phone.

 

I scratched my hair in confusion. “It’s…a nice choice. Rasheedah, why don’t you go with mom’s colour?” I said teasingly as I watched as Rasheedah’s forehead creased with a frown.

 

I muffled laughter that filled my lungs as I stared at her frustrated look. “I need a nap. This whole wedding preparation is stressing me out.” Rasheedah said as she grabbed the empty plates and entered the kitchen.

 

I took my cup of water and strode to the living room, sitting next to my dad on the sofa and glancing at the programme he was watching- The world news on Al-Jazeera.

 

“Rafiah, how is work?” he reduced the volume of the TV and turned sideways, staring at me with eager eyes.

 

“AlhamduliLlaah. Work is fine. I think I’m getting used to the environment….and financial world…” I laughed nervously as I wondered if I had used the word right. Financial world?

 

It seemed Dad didn’t take notice because he was scrolling through his phone. “I want to show you a post…ah yes! There it is,” he gave me his phone.

 

On the screen was a post talking about the success journey of a young accountant. “You don’t have to read it all now. I’ll send the link to your WhatsApp. The post is very motivating. Rafiah, I want you to break grounds. I want you to claim top positions in the financial sector. I want my first daughter to become a reputable accountant,” Dad beamed in excitement as his eyes travelled far.

 

I could imagine him picturing his daughter working in a large corporation, giving orders, attending seminars and gracing business interviews. I could picture events that I would never wish to experience.

 

“You will do this for me, wouldn’t you?” he asked.

 

“In sha ALlaah,” I smiled as I watched the TV, wondering what matters the most- pleasing myself or Dad?

 

“I’ll be back,” I muttered as I walked to the room, recalling the words Dad had said.

 

‘You will do this for me, wouldn’t you?’

 

I wished Dad had ever asked if I derived fulfillment being an accountant…if I wanted to be someone else.

 

Rasheedah jumped up in fright as I entered the room. As she covered her face with her hands, I noticed that she was crying. “What is wrong?” I asked, sitting beside her.

 

Tears streamed down her face as I pulled her hands down, and she looked up at me. “Everything, Rafiah. Everything! This whole wedding process is overwhelming.”

 

“Is it the colour argument you had with Mom?”

 

“More than that. The preparation is very stressful. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if I really want to go ahead with this.”

 

“But you love Khalid, right?”

 

“He isn’t perfect, Rafiah. He can be childish and immature. Sometimes, I wonder if he would make a good husband. But I love him…and I guess that’s what matters. But…I don’t know if I’m making the right decision. I’m in my final year at the university. I don’t know if I’m ready to take this path and if I’m making a mistake…”

 

I held her hands. “Follow your heart, Rasheedah. Do what you think is right…and do not be discouraged.” I said, remembering that I had not implemented the advice I gave my younger sister.

 

I’d always wanted to become a professional writer, but I was…choosing the accounting profession to please Dad.

 

“Thank you, Rafiah,” she hugged me. “This means a lot to me.” She cried in my arms.

 

Tears filled my eyes as I stared out of the window, watching as the mango leaves fluttered to the movement of the wind. I wished I could spread my wings and dive through life’s obstacles like the leaves.

  

Episode Four

I gulped down my cold cup of tea as I stared at a load of work on my table. I sneered in frustration as I remembered how Mrs. Lola had instructed that I complete the tasks before noon.

 

‘Why does she hate me this much?’ I muttered between breaths, realizing that no staff was an exception. Mrs. Lola has the habit of appointing tasks a few moments before its deadline.

 

I wore my spectacles and tried not to get dizzy as I fixed my gaze on the figures on my screen. I suddenly remembered that Asmau had been unusually quiet since the beginning of today.

 

Whipping my head up, I glanced at her desk to notice that she was dozing away. “Asmau!” I said in a low tone as I tapped her back with the tip of my pen.

 

Asmau was dressed in a light blue shirt and black skirt. Her shirt looked rumpled and old, and her face looked ashen. How couldn’t I have noticed this since morning?

 

“Yes?” she cleaned her sleepy eyes as she turned sideways.

 

“What is wrong with you…and why do you appear so different?” I was asking when Mrs. Lola entered the office.

 

I swiftly faced the computer screen and pretended to be busy as I rammed my fingers on the keyboard. I glanced at Mrs. Lola to note that her curious eyes were peering at us as we worked on our computers. Then…I noticed that she was not alone. A tall and dark-complexioned man with bright eyes was standing beside her.

 

Mrs. Lola walked up to Chinaza’s desk to discuss some issues before leaving with the man. The loveliest man I’d ever set my eyes on. The man who glanced at me…or had I imagined it?

 

“Who’s he?” I whispered to Asmau.

 

She stared lazily at her screen. “The new staff.”

 

I gasped in surprise. “The new staff? How come I haven’t…?”

 

“You were late this morning, remember? Mrs. Lola introduced him as our new colleague this morning,” she stated before staring at her screen.

 

Just then did my phone buzz with a notification. I was hoping it would be Talhah…but it was Rasheedah.

 

Sorry to bother you at work…but do you really agree with Mom’s colour? I mean, it’s sooo bland.

-          Rasheedah.

 

I rested my head on the table and started to type.

Truth be told, it is. You just need to convince her to go with yours. Make her favourite ogbono soup and semovita, and try to convince her when she’s in a good mood!

-          Rafiah.

 

You’re right. Thanks! Please, don’t forget to collect the vendor’s number.

-          Rasheedah.

 

Which vendor?

-          Rafiah.

 

Mom didn’t tell you? Oh, I forgot to deliver her message this morning. You are meant to collect the cake vendor’s number. The one at Ojota. Pretty please…

-          Rasheedah.

 

I sighed deeply as I read her message over and over again. Going to the vendor’s shop would mean spending extra time on the road.

 

When will this whole wedding wahala be over because I’m tired!

-          Rafiah.

 

LOL. It will be over in a month time. A few weeks from now. Thanks, sis. Got to go!

-          Rasheedah.

 

As I tried to concentrate on the tasks in front of me, I couldn’t help but picture myself sitting beside the handsome new colleague on my wedding day. Him being the groom and me the bride!

***

 

“I was pretending to be working on my computer when I noticed his glance, Asmau. The handsome new colleague glanced at me!” I was saying as I missed coleslaw with my fried rice.

 

Asmau seemed unimpressed as she ate her rice slowly. “His name is Munir.”

 

“Yes, Munir. I think he likes me.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Because he glanced at a colleague he didn’t see in the morning?  Chill, Rafiah.” Asmau giggled as she stared at me.

 

“What?” I glared at her.

 

“Let’s check him out on social media. I think his surname is Hassan.”

 

I grinned broadly as I brought out my phone. I clicked on my Instagram app. and searched for Munir Hassan.

 

The results shown did not correlate with the new handsome colleague I had spotted a few hours ago. Moving to Facebook, I searched for his name, and a unique profile popped up that very second.

 

“Seen his profile?” Asmau asked as she noticed my widened eyes.  

 

“Yes…” I muttered as I went through his profile.

 

His profile picture had last been updated two years ago. He didn’t have any photos on his page, except images of food and art.

 

“Here,” I showed Asmau his page as I groped my neck to go through it with her.

 

We were still staring at his profile when we heard a voice behind us. “Asalamu ‘alaykum.”

 

Asmau shrieked in shock, and her shivering hands sent my phone flying to the floor. I also gasped in shock as I noted who was behind us. Munir!

 

Gaining composure and swiftly grabbing my phone from the floor, I smiled nervously at Munir and lowered my eyes.

 

‘Did he see that?’ I muttered to Asmau, who nodded her head in shame.

 

Gosh! What would he think of us? He caught us checking him out on social media!  I imagined Asmau and I laughing hysterically the next day as we recount how we had made fun of ourselves.

 

“Wa’alaykumu salam,” we replied in unison.

 

“You’re…”

 

“Rafiah,” I said nervously as I occupied my seat and stared at my cold plate of rice.

 

He grinned at me. “I spotted you this morning. I didn’t get to see you when I arrived this morning. Anyway, my name is Munir.”

 

Munir looked more handsome than I had imagined at first glimpse. His brown eyes glimmered like there were bulbs in them and dimples appeared at both sides of his cheek when he smiled.

 

“Nice to meet you,” I stated as I toyed with my spoon.

 

“Please, can you guys advise me on the best meal to order for lunch? I heard this is the best restaurant around.”

 

“Well…I think…” I prattled.

 

“Their jollof rice and fried fish is the best!” Asmau smiled at him as she poured water into her empty cup.

 

“Thank you,” he started to leave, then halted on his tracks and turned towards me. “If you also want to check me out on Instagram, my username is Munir_B,” he smirked before walking to the counter.

 

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Asmau giggled as she stared at me. “He likes you!”

 

“Oh, please!” I blushed as I checked his profile on Instagram.

 

I spent minutes viewing his posts and reading their captions. It was then I realized that Munib studied Accounting and Finance at the University of Nottingham. He was also an artist. He managed a blog where he updates his artworks.  Going through his post, I also realized that his elder brother is a well-known writer.

 

‘Yahya Hassan,’ I muttered in disbelief as I stared at the pictures they had both taken together while on vacation in Malibu. His elder brother was a remarkable writer. One I had also dreamt of meeting!

 

“Rafiah?” Asmau called my name.

 

“Yes…you wouldn’t believe that Munib is…”

 

“Rafiah, I’m pregnant,” Asmau grinned at me.

 

I held my mouth agape as I stared at her in disbelief. Pregnant?


Don't miss out on the previous episodes:


Episode One


Episode Two

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