Tuesday 5 October 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Fifteen)


I was seated on the green S-shaped chair, staring through the glass wall and searching the faces of every man that walked into the restaurant. I would flinch in anxiety whenever I caught sight of someone that looked like Farouk and let out a deep sigh when I realise that he wasn’t the one.


How could I want someone to be here and not be here at the same time? Gosh! Rafiah, you’re weird!


Five days, three minutes and five seconds ago, Farouk invited me to a lunch date. I remember vividly the remarkable way it had happened. I had just arrived from work and was about to take a shower when I heard my phone ring. I had dashed out of the bathroom and hurried to the bed to grab my phone. My heart juddered when I realised that it was Farouk calling.


He had requested to see me the following week to talk about some career-related issues, and I swiftly said yes. It was all I had wanted all week. To get a chance to see Farouk again. To sit beside him and watch him flash the nicest set of teeth I had ever seen as he laughed about a random issue.


And there I was, twenty minutes before the scheduled time, sipping from my bottle of Fanta and wondering how I would stay composed when I set eyes on Farouk again.


I took out a mirror from my bag and checked my face for the eleventh time. Mucus, dust, a stain on my teeth. Whatever. I needed to eliminate anything that would distract Farouk from admiring my beautiful face.


After confirming that my face was still in order (my face still glistening courtesy to my new brown powder and my lips still shimmering with my strawberry gloss), I turned on my data and went through his website.


I gasped in surprise, disappointed with myself for not realising that he had made a new update that morning. At 08:45 am, Farouk had published a new post titled ‘When I Find Love.’


I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a fictional or non-fictional work. Could Farouk be writing about me? Well, time will tell.


I was still scrolling through his older blog posts when I noticed someone enter the restaurant. Without looking up, I was certain it was Farouk that had walked through the door.


Whipping my head up, I caught sight of Farouk approaching my table with a bright smile, as always. He was dressed in a grey t-shirt and black pair of trousers.


“Asalamu ‘alaykum. May I have the honour of sitting in front of this beautiful lady?” he said with a grin.


I flustered and tried to hide it with a laugh. “Please sit, Farouk. Wa’alaykumu salam.”


“Thank you!” he replied as he settled on his seat. “So, what have you been up to, Rafiah?”


I sighed deeply and gulped down the last of my drink. “Well, I’m trying to withstand the pressures from my family members. Finding the right spouse is really challenging. But my family members believe it is much simpler than that. Like I could visit a website and download the right man automatically,” I said with a chuckle.


“You are beautiful and smart and intelligent. You shouldn’t be concerned about finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with. You will always find someone perfect for you. If not now, later,” Farouk said.


“Well, my younger sister is getting married this weekend. So I had to mute notifications on my phone so that I could breathe. Believe me, it is not easy at all. And some of the men out there have these patriarchal and orthodox beliefs. It’s crazy what these men see women as!”


Farouk laughed softly. “I think I understand what you’re saying. I’ve met a bunch of them.”


I continued. “And I’ve tried matchmaking websites. It was a disaster. We’ll stay here till evening if I relate the encounters I’ve had with men I met from these platforms.”


“I have been in a similar situation. One of my aunties tried to match me with a lady. The lady and I share zero interest. We couldn’t relate with each other at all,” Farouk laughed, and he sat upright. “For example, I have similar interests with you, you know,” Farouk said, and I wondered if that was a hint that we were a great match.


I cleared my throat and looked up at Farouk. “I have decided to become a writer.”


Farouk shook his head as he watched me carefully. “There is no rush at all. It takes time to make a big decision like that of your career.”


I rolled my eyes. “I thought we were here to talk about writing.”


“Well, you caught me. I actually wanted to spend time with you. What would you like to eat?”


“Oh, I really can’t eat. I’m sorry. I have to get to work on time,” I said with a frown.


Farouk raised his left hand and checked the time on his wristwatch. “Okay. We have twenty minutes to go. I promise to make use of that time judiciously. And I’ll drop you off so that you’ll get to work early.”


I smiled. “Okay then. I’ll have basmati rice and fried plantain.”


“Nice choice,” he grinned as he stood up. “Give me some minutes. I’ll get that right now.”


My stomach flipped in excitement as I watched him walk towards the counter.


About twenty minutes later, Farouk was driving into the company’s building as we laughed at his story of searching for amala in the UK. As Farouk parked his car, I noticed Munir walking past us with his bag of lunch. He turned sideways when he spotted us in the car and hurried inside the building.


Farouk and I sat in silence, knowing full well that we had witnessed the way Munir had totally ignored us.


“I’m not really close with my brother. But he has never ignored me in public. This is completely unusual,” he said and appeared to be deep in thought.


I pulled the seatbelt away and grabbed the bag of curry rice Farouk insisted I take along. “I need to get back to work. Thanks for lunch…and everything.”


“I should be thanking you for taking time to see me. I’ll be travelling to Abuja this evening. I should return next tomorrow, and I hope to see you again.”


“Me too. Bye. Asalamu ‘alaykum,” I smiled at him as I alighted from the car and walked into the building.


I had just stepped into the office when I noticed someone shove my hand. Asmau dragged me to the kitchen and placed my hand on her stomach. “Rafiah, the baby kicked!” she squealed in excitement.


“SubhanaLlaah. That’s amazing! Have you told Jamal?” I asked.


“Of course! I sent him tons of messages, and he replied with dozens of love messages. I am so excited!” she grinned at me. “So, how was your date?”


I smiled shyly and looked around. “I think I might have feelings for Farouk,” I was saying when Munir entered the kitchen.


Shock and embarrassment engulfed my face as I froze and stared at the ground. Why did he have to appear at that exact minute?


“Hi, ladies,” he greeted us as he grabbed a ceramic plate from the rack and set his lunch on the table.


“Hi, Munir,” I said as Asmau and I stared at each other and hoped he hadn’t heard what I said earlier on.


“Are you okay, Munir? You’re not your usual bubbly self,” Asmau said with concerned eyes.


Munir smiled at her, and for the first time in a long time, I saw him flash his set of teeth at us. “Not really fine. I have mild Malaria. I’ll take the day off tomorrow,” he said and turned towards me. “How’s preparation for Rasheedah’s wedding?”


“It’s going well. I think everything is perfect for the D-day,” I replied.


“I hope I’ll be invited…unlike Tolu’s own,” he chuckled.


“I’m sorry about that. If you hadn’t given me the go-ahead, I wouldn’t have attended with Farouk,” I said with a pleading tone.


Munir scratched his neck and rolled his eyes. “Did you really expect me to say no? I wouldn’t do that, nah,” he said as he rinsed the plate. “Well, I’m used to my brother winning my friends due to his charm and fame. So I signed for it before introducing you to him.”


“I’m so sor…”


“It’s fine, Rafiah. I’ll catch up with you guys later,” he gave a forceful smile and moved to the other side of the table with his lunch.


Asmau and I gave ourselves a knowing look as we walked out of the kitchen and returned to the office.


It was Rasheedah’s henna party, and ladies took out their phones to capture every moment.


Bottles of kunu tsagyi and trays of spring roll were placed in front of us as we stretched our hands and legs and gisted while the henna artist designed our skins.


I was ecstatic! Rasheedah would be getting married the next day, and we were all gathered to design our skins for the D-day. I smiled in excitement as a cold gush of wind tickled my skin. What could go wrong? Mom had collaborated with the wedding planner to ensure that the day would be perfect as planned, and Khalid’s parents had spent millions to make the wedding a grand one. Knowing that my sister would become a married woman in some hours’ time made me joyous.


“So by this time tomorrow, Rasheedah will be kissing Khalid with free will,” Maimunah, one of our distant cousins, said with a laugh.


Rasheedah widened her eyes and smiled shyly. “Maimunah! Don’t say that! You’ll start to make everyone picture Khalid and me kissing. And I don’t want that.” She gave a burst of throaty laughter. “Firdaus, did you tag me on your Instagram story? I want to repost.”


“Oh, I forgot. I’ll do so now,” Firdaus, one of Maimunah’s friends, said as she rammed her fingers on her phone.


Rasheedah was looking exceptionally beautiful in a blue gown and gold veil. I was still admiring her looks when a lady tapped my hand to inform me that my phone was ringing.


‘Farouk’ appeared on the caller ID. Unable to place the phone to my ears because my hands were painted with henna, I stealthily clicked on the ‘answer’ button and placed the call on the loudspeaker.


“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah. How’s the party going?”


“Wa’alaykumu salam. It’s going well. Have you returned to Lagos?”


“Yes, I have. And I really need to see you. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if I do not express my thoughts.”


“The henna hasn’t dried up. I cannot leave now. I’m sorry,” I was saying when I noticed that everyone was staring at me, especially Rasheedah, who wore a smirk.


“I’ll come over to your street and wait for you in an eatery…for how long it would take. I don’t mind. I’ll wait. Is that okay by you?”


“Yes, it is. I’ll send the address,” I said as my heart faced faster.


Is Farouk about to propose? Should I also be imagining walking down the aisle soon? Are all these a dream?’ I thought as I listened to Farouk talk about his flight and how the airline had delayed the passengers for more than one hour.


        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

Episode Eleven



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