Tuesday 28 December 2021

Life and Everything in Between (Episodes Twenty-two, Twenty-Three, and Twenty-Four)

Over two hours had passed, and I had stopped crying. I was devouring a bowl of boiled rice and turkey stew while listening to Mom talk about how Saturday’s wedding would be lit.


I was sticking to Dad’s advice- ‘to flow along and pretend that everything is fine…even though it isn’t.’


“So, you haven’t told me who dropped you off,” Mom said with a smirk as she stared at me with curious eyes.


I chuckled. “That was a new friend. A female friend,” I swallowed the food in my mouth and smiled at her. “But if you’re talking about the black Toyota Corolla…”


“Yes, the tall man who drops you off every evening,” Mom stated.


“His name is Farouk.”


“Are you in a relationship?”


I laughed shyly. “Very soon.”


Mom grinned in excitement. “AlhamduliLlaah! You’ve finally found someone. This means that I have another wedding to plan. After Rasheedah’s wedding is held on Saturday, I’ll start working towards making yours even more glamorous,” she looked down at the bowl of rice and whipped her head up. “Please, eat very well. You need to add weight for your forthcoming wedding…ah, I need to prepare the budget for drinks,” Mom stated as she swiftly stood up and started walking towards her room.


I was trying to drift my thoughts to something else when my phone chimed on the table. Just at the right time!


I picked it up and was unfazed to see Farouk’s name on the Caller ID. “Asalamu ‘alaykum,

Farouk,” I said, matter-of-factly, as I clicked on the answer button at the first ring.


“Wa’alaykumu salam. I was starting to think that you’ve been kidnapped. I’m glad to hear from you,” he laughed.


My forehead creased with a frown. “Farouk, what if we’re just being paranoid? I spent just a few hours with Mutmainah today, and I can confidently say that she is innocent. What will she stand to gain? This lady is suffering from a mental health disorder. I’m sitting right here, wondering what she stands to gain by kidnapping my sister!”


Farouk remained silent for over five seconds before clearing his throat. “No one is calling her the culprit. She’s only a suspect, just like everyone on our list…”



I cut in. “We can’t suspect everyone. It is not right. I cannot believe you planted such doubt in me that I started to think that Mutmainah might have a hand in my sister’s disappearance. Khalid was right. Something is definitely wrong with me.”


Farouk gave a heavy sigh. “One thing I’m hundred per cent certain about is the fact that we’re perfectly okay. We are not crazy. I did not frame a story. I have nothing to gain. I’m trying to play a role in making sure that Rasheedah returns home,” Farouk explained.


“You should probably reduce the number of John Grisham’s books you read. I’m eating, Farouk. I’ll talk to you later.”


“Bye, Rafiah,” Farouk said coldly and hung up the call.


I threw the phone on the table and stared at the ground with tears burning my eyes.


Asmau, Munir, and I were seated, at our usual corner, in the cramped restaurant, eating from our plates of jollof rice. Today was different because Bushrah, Munir’s love, was also seated.


Bushrah was a petite and pretty lady with wide eyes and fair skin. She was dressed in a blue-and-white striped blouse and a pair of jean trousers. Her ears were adorned with silver rings and her bracelet- with her name imprinted- dangled whenever she gesticulates.


Munir couldn’t help but stare at Bushrah with a smile whenever she talked. He had barely touched his food since Bushrah joined us at the table.


Asmau and I gave each other a knowing look as we glanced at Munir. “Are you going to return to the office with an empty stomach? Asmau asked and we both giggled.


Munir smiled shyly. “You ladies should leave me alone, o. I’m not complaining.”


I grinned at both of them. “So…is it official?”


Bushrah chuckled and sipped from her bottle of Coke. “Yes, it’s official. I’ve said yes to Munir.”


“Wow! And you didn’t tell us!” Asmau glared at him.


Munir raked his neatly-combed hair. “Things are quite different. You’ve tendered your resignation letter and Rafiah is going through a lot. It is quite not the best time to share my love story,” Munir explained as he glanced at me with sympathetic eyes.


Asmau squeezed my right arm. “I don’t know exactly how you feel…but I know that this is not a great time for you. I’m so sorry for not being available to comfort you. I’m glad Farouk’s here to support you.”


“Well, I must have crashed the relationship we were gradually building. I lashed out at Farouk yesterday, and he didn’t deserve it,” I said with misty eyes.


“Oh, no wonder. Farouk appeared very moody last night, but he never disclosed what happened. And he took the first flight to Morocco this morning,” Munir said.


“Morocco? Why?” I asked with a surprised tone.


“He was meant to travel there last two weeks. He delayed his trip because of you, Rafiah,” Munir added.


“SubhanaLlaah. How could I have sent the love of my life away?” I whimpered in tears.


“Call him…or send a message. Apologise for what you said. I’m sure he’ll understand,” Bushrah advised.


“It’s 01:00 pm, Rafiah. We need to return to work. We can complete our discussion later,” Asmau said as she sprang up from the chair.


“Please, give me a minute,” I said as I took my phone and composed a message.

Asalamu ‘alaykum warahmatuLlaahi wabarakahtuhu, Farouk.

How are you doing? I heard you left for Morocco this morning.

I sincerely apologise for my outburst. You didn’t deserve that, and I regret saying such words to you.

Kindly let me know you arrive at your destination so that we can talk.




“Rafiah, Munir wants to book an uber for Bushrah. I’m wondering why he still doesn’t have a car,” Asmau giggled as she slapped my arm.


I clicked on the send button and looked up just in time to see Munir rolling his eyes. “I’ll buy a car if you provide the money. Ahn ahn, Asmau, stop disgracing me in front of my babe,” Munir frowned as we burst out laughing.


“It’s nice hanging out with you guys. I had so much fun!” Bushrah smiled at us.


“Same here. You’re such a breath of fresh air, Bushrah. Munir is lucky to have you,” I explained.


“Thanks, Rafiah. Let me not keep you waiting. I’ll just wait here until the uber arrives,” Bushrah explained.


“You guys should go ahead. I’ll join you later,” Munir gave us a knowing look as Asmau, and I strolled down the road.


“I’m wondering where Rasheedah is right now…and what’s she doing…and what the person stands to gain from keeping her captive…and if she is still alive,” I prattled as Asmau held my hand.


“I’m so sorry. ALlaah will answer our prayers,” Asmau said as we entered the company’s building.


“Aameen,” I was saying when Mrs. Bola called my name.


“Please, let’s discuss in my office,” Mrs. Bola ordered as I tailed her, wondering what could have happened.


She sighed heavily and glared at me as I shut the door behind her. “The task you submitted this morning was full of errors. It’s obvious that you weren’t concentrating,” Mrs. Bola said as she walked over to the shelf and grabbed an empty mug. “Go home and have a rest. I’m giving you two days off. I’m doing this because I know how trying this period is for you. But I don’t want this same mistake to repeat itself when you return next week,” she said.


“It won’t. Thank you very much, ma,” I said in appreciation before walking out of her office.


After bidding Asmau farewell, I grabbed my bag and left the company’s premises, wondering how to spend the rest of the day. Definitely not at home, watching Mom plan the wedding of Rasheedah, who is still yet to be found.


I was wondering whether to visit an eatery and spend the rest of the day when a thought came to my mind. Immediately, I reached into my bag and brought my phone.


About thirty minutes later, I was walking into the Kanu Ndubuisi Park to spend the rest of the day with Mutmainah and her friends. Mutmainah had cheerfully invited me to hang out with them when I explained that I was away from work.


I tried to locate where they were seated, and my eyes caught the sight of over ten people seated around a large table covered with a variety of food and drinks.


Mutmainah waved her hand as she spotted me and walked towards where we were sitting, wondering if I had made the wrong decision. How could I feel free amid strange people, who were probably children of influential politicians?


“She is here!!!” Mutmainah screamed in delight as she ran and welcomed me with a tight hug. Gosh! I’d never met anyone like Mutmainah.


“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Mutmainah,” I greeted as she held my hands.


“Wa’alaykumu salam. I’m glad you could make it! Hey guys, meet my new friends,” she said as she started to introduce me to everyone.


I gasped in shock when my eyes caught sight of the tall and gangly man sitting at the right end. Khalid.




Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty-Three)

Khalid lowered his eyes in shame as I stared at him with questioning eyes. How could he…how could he hang out with friends when my sister was still nowhere to be found?


“Are you okay? You seem…off,” Mutmainah asked as she patted my shoulder.


“Yes, I am. Getting here was a bit stressful. The sun was very intense, so I’m just trying to unwind and get myself together again,” I explained.


“Oh. I’m so sorry. Let me get you a cold bottle of Chapman,” Mutmainah said as she walked over to where the cooler was kept.


The table appeared bigger than it looked when I was still a stone-throw away from it. There were packs of fried rice, ofada rice, assorted meat, boxes of steaming pizza, and a significant number of drinks. I couldn’t help but ask the cause of the occasion.


“I know you’ll call us lazy youths, but we’re just hanging out and catching up with what we’ve been up to. We do this every month,” Mutmainah explained as she handed me the drink.


“Thanks,” I said as I gulped it down and glanced at the people talking cheerfully.


There was Halima, the pretty lady dressed in a red gown. She had barely touched any food or spoken to anyone. She had been focused on her phone since I got there. Aisha, the rotund and fair-complexioned lady whose smile could light up the world, had been talking about her trip to Mexico. And there was Khalid, glancing intermittently at me and pretending to be interested in the short grasses.


“That’s Khalid, the guy I told you about,” Mutmainah said, pointing at Khalid.


“Oh. He’s the one?”


“Yes. Isn’t he cute? Wouldn’t you do anything to get the man of your dreams?”


I rolled my eyes. “Oh, well. Farouk is gone. I don’t think it will work out. I got on his nerves last night, and he travelled out of the country this morning,” I explained.


“If I were you, I’d be on the plane now, ready to win him back,” Mutmainah said with certainty.


“How far can you go to get the man of your dreams?” I asked her.


Halima looked up from her phone and stared at me. “Mutmainah can do anything,” she said and whispered in a low tone. “Rumour has it that she has a hand in Khalid’s fiancée’s disappearance. She wouldn’t admit it, though.”


Mutmainah raked her head and strode off uncomfortably. “It’s dhur time, guys. Aren’t we going to pray? Well, I’ll be waiting for you at the mosque,” she muttered and walked away hastily. ‘


My body shivered in shock and fear. What if we were right all along? How far could she go to make Khalid hers?


I was still wrapping my head around the recent event when Khalid walked up to me and cleared his throat. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah.”


“Wa’alaykumu salam,” I replied brusquely.


“I’m sorry. They are my friends. We’ve all been together since childhood. I’m as worried as you are. Hangouts like these are what keep me going.”


“Indeed. You made me believe that I was crazy, knowing full well that Mutmainah could do anything to get you,” I glared at him.


“I still don’t believe she has a hand in this. By the way, what are you doing here? How did you become friends?”


“Leave me alone, Khalid. I have important things to take care of,” I said as I walked to a quiet corner and dialled Asmau’s number.


“Hey. Are you home now?” Asmau asked as she picked the call.


“I need your help. I’ll explain all you have to do…but first, I need to find Mutmainah.”


My mind was a whirl of confusion. Sweat dripped from my green-coloured veil as I descended from the uber and stood in front of Mutmainah’s gate.


Was I doing the right thing? What if I ended up getting missing like Rasheedah? How could Mom survive? Doubts filled my mind as I stared at the blue-painted bungalow. I was contemplating leaving when a voice made me shriek in fear.


Wetin you dey find?” A tall man, dressed in a security uniform, called out.


I cleared my throat and forced a smile. “Mutmainah told me to wait for her at home. She’s currently in Alausa, Ikeja.”


The man scanned me from up to down with curious eyes. “You’re right about that. She’s in Ikeja. Why did she tell you to wait for her?” he asked.


I shrugged. “How am I supposed to know that? She just called and told me to wait at home. She promised to join me soon.”


“Okay. Make I call her,” he said and dialled Mutmainah’s number.


“Hello…okay…okay…I go open am,” The security officer said and ended the call.


An hour ago, I had stolen Mutmainah’s phone and handed it to Asmau. The security officer had spoken to Asmau, thinking it was Mutmainah.


He opened the gate, and I strode in, glancing around and wondering if I had done the right thing. If I don’t find Rasheedah, I’d probably be spending the rest of the day in jail for trespassing on private property. He unlocked the main entrance, and I stepped into the medium-sized fully-furnished living room.


Mutmainah had once revealed that she was living alone in the apartment her father rented out for her. I could spot award plaques hung on the wall and a framed quote of Paulo Coelho. As I walked further into the lobby, I perceived the smell of onion wafting in the air.


Could she have a flatmate? What if someone found out I was here?


I spotted a room and gained the courage to open the door. I screamed in fear when I spotted someone sitting on the bed- no one else but Rasheedah, reading a book and eating from a bowl of peppered macaroni.


“Rasheedah!” I screamed in shock and excitement as I ran to hug her. “You’ve been here all along! We’ve been looking for you! We’ve all been worried!” I said amidst tears.


“Oh. You finally found me,” Rasheedah said blankly and dropped the book on the bed.


Rasheedah didn’t look like someone who had been held captive against her will. Anyone who stepped into the room would have assumed that she was in her room, having lunch, and reading a book. “What’s happening? Weren’t you kidnapped?” I asked in confusion.


“Yeah, I was kidnapped by Mutmainah,” she responded.


“Why do you look like someone…who isn’t desperate to get away? Why do you feel so comfortable? What is going on?”


“I don’t know what to do anymore…or say. I was kidnapped on my wedding day- the day that was supposed to be the most memorable day of my life. I thought I was getting married to the love of my life. But then, Mutmainah sent someone to capture me. But guess what? Khalid isn’t bothered that his wife-to-be is missing. He is now engaged to Mutmainah. They’re planning to get married while his fiancée is still missing!” Rasheedah said in tears. “Mutmainah promised to let me go when they tie the knots. I just…I feel ashamed for choosing love over education. My colleagues would have written their final papers, but here I am, kept against my will because of a man.”


I hugged her tightly. “It is no fault of yours. Everyone falls in love. That doesn’t make us weak. You’ve done nothing wrong, Rasheedah,” I tried to pacify her.


“No, I have. I shouldn’t have chosen Khalid. I’ve brought so much shame to our family that I’ve accepted this predicament. Please, Rafiah, leave and inform Mom and Dad that I’m fine. I’d return soon, I promise.”


“What are you saying? Mom is currently planning your wedding. She is not in her right senses. And you want to remain here? What is going on?” I was saying when Mutmainah stepped into the room.


“I have a camera installed, so I knew when you got in,” she said and settled on the chair. “I had no idea that you were Rasheedah’s sister. I thought you were a true friend,” she said matter-of-factly.


“My sister must be released immediately. I’ll report you to the police…”


Mutmainah cut in. “What would you say I did? It doesn’t look like I held Rasheedah against her will, no? I sincerely apologise for everything. I know I overstepped my boundary…but I wasn’t thinking straight. It happened so fast. Khalid broke up with me and got engaged to someone else all of a sudden. I am truly sorry,” Mutmainah begged.


“I am leaving with my sister. I’m highly disappointed in you, Mutmainah. I kept hoping that you wouldn’t be the one. But alas! Here you are,” I said as I held Rasheedah’s hand, and we walked out of the building.




Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty-Four)

It felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe that I was heading home with Rasheedah by my side. I was set out for work this morning with no iota of knowledge that I’d be returning with Rasheedah- hale and hearty.

And that was why, when we returned home, Dad had cleaned his eyes more than once to be certain that he was staring at his missing daughter. And Mom had shed uncontrollable tears as she wrapped her arms around Rasheedah.


The next series of events followed, praising me for my act of bravery and filling Rasheedah’s stomach with too much food. We had spent the rest of the night, in the living room, listening to Rasheedah recount all that happened when she was away- how she had received a call from a strange number pretending to deliver a surprise package and how they had carted her to an unknown destination.


“I’ve officially ended things with Khalid. I need to face my studies and start working towards actualising my dreams. Probably along the way, I’ll find love again,” she had said with certainty.


The next morning, our house was filled to the brim with family, friends, and well-wishers, excited to celebrate the return of Rasheedah. Asmau and Munir visited after work and I sat with them in the verandah, listening to recent events. Tolu and Najeebah had returned from their honeymoon, and Mrs. Bola had assigned everyone with more tasks than usual.


“I want to tender my resignation letter. I know I haven’t made the necessary plans to become a professional writer, but I can’t keep pretending to love accounting. I want to stop experiencing that dreadful feeling of getting up in the morning and heading to work. Well, I’m grateful for the period I spent at Futnair. I wouldn’t have met you or Munir,” I said, glancing at them. “But, I’ve made my decision. I’ll probably regret this. I might be broke for days, but, eventually, I’ll find my foot.”


“Yay! That makes the two of us. I’m proud of you!” Asmau grinned at me.


“I’m proud of you, too. Lest I forget, Farouk asked of you. I told him everything- about how you found Rasheedah,” Munir stated.


“He’s probably laughing at me right now, saying that he was right,” I chuckled.


“No. He’s proud of you. You were able to get Rasheedah out of the lion’s den, all alone. You got Mutmainah to trust you. You singlehandedly planned an escape plan. You should be on the headlines of Daily Trust,” Munir laughed.


I rolled my eyes. “Don’t flatter me too much. Really? Daily Trust?”


“Why isn’t Mutmainah at the police station? Don’t tell it’s because of her father’s influence,” Asmau said with a frown.


I let out a shudder. “I have a recording of Mutmainah’s conversation, but I really do not think we’re going to do that. Mom and Dad are so excited Rasheedah is home that they are not bothered about apprehending her,” I explained.


We spoke until dusk, and Asmau and Munir left after observing maghrib. I was still sitting in the verandah and thinking about the implications of my life decisions when Rasheedah joined me.


“A penny for your thoughts, Rafiah,” she slipped her right arm around my shoulder.


I sighed heavily. “Well, I’m wondering what Farouk is doing right now and if he misses me as much as I do.”


“I am the cause of all these. Why do I cause so much unhappiness to our family?”


“Rasheedah, you are witty and beautiful and smart. Don’t you ever think less of yourself. And I’m glad you’re choosing your studies over Khalid. You’re not perfect, and no one is. Believe me; the house wasn’t the same when you were away. You’re, like, the one that lights up the family.”


Rasheedah held me tightly. “Thank you, Rafiah. I really appreciate this. How do I assist you in getting Farouk back?”


“Mutmainah suggested that I fly over to Morocco and beg him,” I said as we both giggled.


“Typical Mutmainah! Let’s compose a message. I’ll be the one to send it,” Rasheedah grinned as she brought out of her phone.


Asalamu ‘alaykum warahmatuLlaah wabarakahtuhu, Farouk.


How are you? I trust you’ve been good? Well, you have to. You’re probably exploring beautiful places in Morocco and taking lovely pictures. I guess you’ve tried out most of their dishes and written pages of your new story. I believe you’re happy and as vibrant as always.


Well, I’m not. I’ve been miserable since I lashed out on you. I made a mistake, and I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I could make amends. Yes, you were right. Mutmainah-the beautiful and sweet lady- was the one all along! How could I have doubted your words?


I am so sorry. I regret my actions and wish you forgive me for all I said. I wish we could continue learning more about each other…and spend the rest of our lives together, exploring, learning, and growing. I love you, Farouk. I didn’t realise how much I do until I lost you.


I’ve met men that made me feel less of myself. I started to doubt my value that I felt it was too good to be true when you came into my life. Every single moment we spent together, I wondered if you were a figment of my imagination. But you’re not. You’re real, Farouk, and you showed me that I deserve to love and be loved.  


If you don’t respond to this message, I’ll assume you’ve moved on…and probably found someone else. And I really hope to hear from you.




 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

Episode Seventeen 

 Episode Eighteen

Episode Nineteen

Episode Twenty



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