Sunday 19 September 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Thirteen)

I scrolled through my Instagram feed as I sat in the cab that was heading to Farouk’s office. I needed to distract myself by focusing on other things; like the bowl of garnished fried rice recently updated by a food blogger and a picture of Hassanah, my former colleague, and her three-month-old baby girl.


Anything to distract me from focusing on the reality- the fact that I would be meeting Farouk for the first time. I had first learnt about Farouk Zubair from a TedTalk he gave three years ago. He spoke about the significance of writing in our everyday lives. I had read through his Wikipedia profile and downloaded a couple of his books. I had no flick of an idea that I would, one day, have a personal interaction with him.


Farouk Zubair! Gosh! The thought of him made beads of sweat appear on my forehead. I plugged in my earpiece and spent the rest of the journey to his office, listening to his TedTalk for the hundredth time.


I arrived at Freelance Avenue about twenty minutes later, dressed in a brown-coloured t-shirt and black maxi skirt. My stiletto heels made a clicking noise as I walked into the medium-sized building.


As I arrived at the reception, I was shocked to see the office filled to the brim, despite today being a Saturday.


The receptionist, a petite lady with a bright smile (uncommon amongst Nigerian receptionist) looked up at me. “Good day. How may I help you, ma?”


I fiddled with the hand of my bag and tried to stay confident. “I have an appointment with Farouk Zubair by 02:00 pm.”


The receptionist smiled at me and tapped on her computer. “Please, give him a minute. He’ll join you soon,” she said as she gestured to the row of empty seats. “You can have a seat.”


“Thank you,” I replied as I settled on a chair and surveyed the office.


Farouk Zubair owned a digital marketing agency that offer clients copywriting, social media marketing, and content marketing services. The room was painted yellow and had this unconventional look that was common with tech companies.


The walls were designed with creative quotes and pictures of books and pens. I took several pictures of the reception with my phone before returning to an e-book I had started two weeks ago.


Farouk Zubair didn’t appear until ten minutes later. What had made me realise that he was standing in front of me was the scent of a grape-flavoued perfume. I whipped my head up and almost screamed in shock when I caught Farouk smiling at me.


“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah. I am so sorry for keeping you waiting,” he said with a grin.


Farouk Zubair was more handsome that I could have ever imagined. He had this smooth and glossy caramel skin that was looked like an eggshell. His eyes were glistening like light and his well-arranged set of teeth? Describing Farouk Zubair would take more than a day.


I tried to maintain composure and reply his greeting but what came out were breath of air. “Wa’alay…I mean…fine…” I prattled.


Farouk chuckled as if seeing people drool over his presence was a norm. “Please, come with me,” he said as he started to walk.


I tailed him as I glanced around the large hall, filled with cubicles. Farouk’s office was set up, such that, everyone worked in the same room. He didn’t even have a personal space of his own. Farouk halted at one of the cubicles composed of large books and award plaques.


“Please, have a seat,” he said as he took a seat beside an empty chair. “I am sorry once again. A client has complained about an article we delivered yesterday. So, my team of writers had to start all over because we didn’t meet his expectations. That’s one of the things we have to deal with,” he chuckled. “Do you care for a cup of coffee…or tea?”


I smiled shyly. “I’m fine, thank you.”


Farouk gave a throaty laugh. “You must take one of them. We’re still going to have lunch together, Rafiah. It’s a must!”


“Okay. Tea then,” I said with a smile.


“Great! Give me two minutes,” he stated as he strode off.


He appeared almost immediately with a mug of hot tea. “I also need to apologise for those crazy emails you received. My younger brother is a disaster,” he laughed. “I know I shouldn’t be laughing over this but I really wished you didn’t receive them. I mean, first impression matters. I am lucky it wasn’t one of my clients he sent those emails.”


“It is very fine,” I sipped from my drink and cleared my throat. “It is an honour to be in the presence of no one but Farouk Zubair! You’re a renowned and talented writer! Thank you for taking the time to see me.”


Farouk shrugged. “It is no big deal. I started just like you, eager to make something out of my talent. That was why I enrolled for a Master’s programme in creative writing. When I started the programme, I fell in love with writing all over again. I knew at that instant that I couldn’t do anything else.”


Farouk was dressed in an orange-coloured t-shirt and black pair of chinos. I had no idea orange could be that beautiful until I saw it on Farouk.


“Is writing that profitable? Can I make a living by just writing?”


“Of course, you can. That is exactly what I do. I publish novels and manage a digital marketing agency. The world is now digital, Rafiah. Companies are always looking for content for their websites. They need to grow their brand on the digital space, and that’s where we come in. It is paying off, in addition to the revenue I generate from the sales of my books.” Farouk paused and gulped down water from a flask resting in front of him. “What steps have you taken to grow your writing career?”


I furrowed my brows and lowered my eyes. “I haven’t taken any step.”


“I can give you pieces of advice, but it is up to you to take the step. You have to decide if you really want to pursue a career in writing and the niche you want to focus on. Enough of this career talk, let’s go for lunch. While eating, we can talk about our favourite writers and the works we enjoy best. What would you have? And don’t tell me you are fasting.” He faked a frown and laughed immediately.


“I’ll have anything. Are we…set?”


“Of course!” Farouk said as he rose from the chair. “I would really love to hang out with you again, Rafiah. How can we make that possible?”


My heart beat faster as I stared at Farouk. Hang out with me again? “Err.I have a wedding to attend tomorrow. My ex!” I laughed and he joined.


As we walked out of the building, I took more pictures of the interior.


“Add pepper to the cooler of rice. That’s the perfect revenge,” he laughed loudly and turned to me. My stomach churned in anxiety as he looked up at me. His face looked more charming in the bright sun…I had never set eyes on anyone more charming.


“You know I was joking,” he smiled. “So, can I accompany you to this wedding? I haven’t attended a wedding in years!”


“Well, I am going with Munir,” I said with a frown.


“It’s okay. I’ll do other things. Watch a movie. Read a book…”


“Or we can go together!” I interrupted. “Munir opted to come with me out of pity. You know, attending the wedding of an ex alone.”


Farouk’s face broke into a grin. “Great! I’ll iron one of my ankaras. That’s if it hasn’t been covered with cobwebs,” he laughed loudly.


I arrived home about two hours later, dancing in excitement and staring at the mirror over and over again. My cheeks hurt from smiling but I couldn’t help it. I had just had lunch with Farouk Zubair…and would be attending Tolu’s wedding with him. By my side! As my plus one!


Farouk was so charming that I wished I could spend the rest of the day with him. When was the last time my heart jammered in my chest at the sight of a man talking?


I was still drooling over my moment with Farouk when my phone chimed in my bag. It was Munir calling.


“Hey, Munir! Asalamu ‘alaykum warahmatuLlaahi wabarakahtuhu,” I greeted in excitement.


“Wa’alaykumu salam warahmatuLlaahi wabarakahtuhu, Rafiah. Wow. You sound so excited. I guess the meeting went well?”


“Yes, it went very well. And thank you for your offer, but I would be attending Tolu’s wedding with Farouk. I know you decided to accompany me out of pity.”


“You are going to Tolu’s wedding with Farouk?” Munir asked in surprise and I noted a twinge of jealousy in his voice.


“Yes…but if you…”


“No, it’s fine,” he cut in. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time with Farouk since you’re both writers. I’ll see you on Monday then. I’ve got to go. I need to pick up an item from the airport,” he said and hung up the call.


I was still trying to interpret Munir’s sudden change of tone when Rasheedah entered the room, throwing a big bag at me. “That is your dress, Rafiah. Check it out!” she said with a grin.


I stared at her with confused eyes. “Which dress?”


“The dress you’ll be wearing on my wedding day. Oya, put in on. Let’s see how it looks!” Rasheedah said excitedly as she dragged my hands.


“Okay!” I opened the bag and changed into the blue-coloured sparkling gown. Rasheedah and I gasped in shock as we stared at my reflection in the standing mirror. The dress was really glamorous.


“It is so beautiful, Rafiah,” she muttered.


I stared at my beautiful self and imagined walking down the aisle in a lovely gown. Not with Munir this time. I imagined walking down the aisle with Farouk. 

Don't miss out on the previous episodes:

Episode One

Episode Two

Episodes Three & Four

Episode Five

Episodes Six & Seven

Episode Eight

Episode Nine

Episode Ten



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