Sunday, 30 January 2022

Life and Everything in Between (Episode Twenty Five)


Over two months had passed since Rasheedah returned home and our lives swiftly returned to normal. Rasheedah had called off her engagement with Khalid and returned to school to prepare for her final exams. I had resigned from Fulaan and started working as a freelance writer.

 

Munir was also vigorously planning his wedding ceremony, and Asmau was heavily pregnant. I still hadn’t heard from Farouk. I’d flinch in fear and anticipation whenever my phone beeped with a notification, but sigh in disappointment when I realised that it was from someone else.

 

Asmau gobbled down the bowl of curry rice and steamed goat meat as she talked about how she had been spending her days at home. According to her, her daily routine was a mix of praying, eating, and sleeping. And her husband made the matter worse by fulfilling all of her cravings.

 

“Rafiah, can you believe that Hanif prepared this food as early as 06:00 am? He acts like he is on a mission to make me the happiest and fattest pregnant woman,” Asmau said as she gulped down her cup of orange juice.

 

I chuckled as I stared at her in amazement. “Isn’t that what you want? Gosh, Asmau! You’re three times your normal size.”

 

Asmau was dressed in an oversized black gown and her hair was braided into cornrows.  I gazed at her rotund figure and remembered how she had looked about seven months ago.

 

“Oh, whatever. Wait till I give birth. I’ll hit the gym and shed all of it!” Asmau remarked as she rolled her eyes.

 

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had decided to spend the rest of the day with Asmau while we caught up with the latest events and talk about Munir’s forthcoming wedding ceremony.

 

“Why have you been staring at your phone? Still expecting a message from Farouk?” Asmau asked as she stared at me with curious eyes.

 

I locked my phone and threw it on the sofa. “Oh, it’s nothing. I was just monitoring the reactions on a post I updated on Instagram this morning. Imagine, Asmau, I haven’t gotten up to 15 reactions since morning,” I sighed heavily as I continued eating.

 

“It’s a process. No one got it all in one day. You just have to remain consistent and continue putting your works out there,” Asmau advised.

 

“Thank you, Asmau. That’s exactly what I’m doing. It can be hard sometimes, but I’m trying.”

 

“How’s writing? Are you making progress?”

 

“Oh, yes I am. I’ve gotten close to five writing contracts this month. And I keep sending applications for full-time positions. I was invited for an interview earlier this week. Hopefully, I’ll get the job,” I said with a smile.

 

“I’m so proud of you, Rafiah! And your dad?” Asmau asked.

 

I chuckled. “I’m twenty-eight, Asmau. He’s got no choice,” I stated as I rose from my seat. “Can I get more of this? Your husband is such a good cook!”

 

“Yes, there is. Go check the pot,” Asmau said I walked towards the kitchen.

 

When I returned with a refilled plate, I caught Asmau peering at my phone.

“Mutmainah is calling again. That lady is obsessed with you,” Asmau said with a sigh.

 

“I’ve told her to let me be. It’s been months now. When will she give up?” I scowled as I picked up my phone and answered the call.

 

“Hey, Rafiah. How have you been?”

 

“When will this stop, Mutmainah?” I blurted out as I sank on the couch and placed my plate of rice on the nearby stool.

 

“I’m really sorry for keeping your sister hostage. I didn’t know what came over me,” Mutmainah begged and it sounded like she was crying.

 

“You’ve apologised countless times. Are you going to keep calling me to apologise? You’re supposed to be rotting in jail, Mutmainah. But, well, the wealthy ones are above the law,” I quipped, rolling my eyes in disgust.

 

“I wasn’t in my right senses and regret doing that for Khalid. We’re still not going to get married. It’s obvious that he never liked me. I need you back as my friend. You’re different from others. Please, Rafiah, the short period I spent with you was different.”

 

“You can’t keep forcing people into your lives. That’s what you were trying to do with Khalid. You’re doing the same right now. It won’t happen, Mutmainah. I can never be your friend. I’m eating, so I can’t talk much. I wish you all the best,” I said as I ended the call and raised my head to see Asmau’s husband, Jamal, placing a tape rule over her nose. I didn’t even realise when he came into the living room to join us.

 

Asmau giggled and ran around the room. “Look at what my husband does all the time! He measures the size of my bulging nose to tease me. Is it my fault that my nose appears twice larger than the normal size?”

 

“Well, I’m here to tease you until it returns to normal. Just take a look at the nose, Rafiah. Are you not amazed?” Jamal gave a peal of throaty laughter as he stared at her face in admiration.

 

I picked up my bag and forced a smile. “I…think I should be leaving.”

 

Asmau shook her head. “Oh, no. We haven’t chosen a style for Munir’s wedding. You can’t just leave like that.”

 

“Well, it’s getting late. We can always discuss that via WhatsApp,” I explained. “It’s good to see you again, Jamal.”

 

“Thanks for visiting, Rafiah. You’re always welcome to spend time with my naughty wife,” he chuckled.

 

“Let me see you off,” Asmau said as she wore her khimar and tailed me to the door.

 

As we stepped out of the building, Asmau turned towards me. “Did you ever like Munir? I mean…wish that you guys were together?”

 

“Yes, when we first met. Though, it was only a simple crush. It faded after meeting Farouk. I fell head over heels with him,” I replied.

 

“You know, there might be a genuine…”

 

“There’s no genuine reason for not responding to my message for months. I know I was wrong to have lashed out at him that day. But, what do you expect of someone searching for her only sister? I’ve apologised, what else? He’s just a proud person who never forgives,” I said as I spotted an okada rider.

 

 

“Let me be on my way, Asmau. We’ll talk better tomorrow. Bye!”

***

 

I arrived home about thirty minutes later to the sight of Mom running towards the entrance. I tried to maneuver my way into the house, but Mom kept shoving me away with a loud laugh.

 

“You cannot enter, Rafiah,” Mom stated as she grinned from ear to ear.

 

I eyed her suspiciously. “Why? Are you hiding something from me?”

 

“Well…” Mom adjusted my red-coloured veil and smiled at me. “You may go now.”

 

I sighed heavily as I stepped into the living room, wondering what could have happened in there. Did they suddenly change the seven-year-old curtains when I was away? Or, had Rasheedah returned from school? I almost squealed in shock when I spotted Farouk sitting on the sofa beside Dad.

 

 

He smiled at me and stood from the seat. “Asalamu ‘alaykum, Rafiah. I am so sorry for everything. If you can grant me the chance to explain everything to you,” he said with pleading eyes.

 

Farouk was dressed in his usual t-shirt-and-pair-of-jeans attire, and he appeared leaner than the last time I set eyes on him. His face also looked ashen. “Wa’alaykumu salam. Okay, I’ll be back,” I said as I glanced at Dad to see him nod in approval.

 

Mom was still smiling and I had just noticed that she had served Farouk a plate of fried rice and croaker fish.

 

I entered the room and called Asmau immediately I sat on the bed. She picked at the first ring. “What’s up?”

 

“Farouk is here!” I said with a breathless tone.

 

“What do mean Farouk is here? Isn’t he in Morocco?”

 

“It feels like I am dreaming. He’s right here, in the living room, discussing with my parents!”

 

“Oh my gosh! Are you serious? How did you react?”

 

“I was dazed. I was…I told him that I’ll return soon. I think my parents like him. My mom served him fried rice. Imagine! She never cooked such for Tolu,” I explained as I raised both hands.

 

“You have to act angry. Don’t forgive him so easily, okay?”

 

“Okay. Got to go. I need to freshen up,” I said as I ended up the call and hurried to the bathroom.

***

When I returned to the living room, Farouk was neck-deep in a conversation with Dad. I was contemplating returning to the room when Dad stood up. “Let me not prevent you guys from discussing. We can always continue our discussion, Farouk,” Dad said as he started walking towards the room. “It’s glad to finally meet you in person,” he smiled at Farouk.

 

“Same here, sir,” Farouk said before turning towards me. “So, can we talk now?” Farouk glanced up at me nervously.

 

“Yeah, I guess so. Let’s use the verandah.”

 

“Okay,” he started. “I initially travelled to Morocco to unwind. But then, I became terribly ill. The kind of illness that requires visiting the surgical theatre,” he explained.

 

SubhanaLlaah. I had no idea,” I gasped in surprise.

 

Farouk waved a hand. “It’s a simple surgery, really. However, I spent weeks in the hospital. I didn’t even have the time and strength to check my phone,” he laughed briefly. “But, Alhamdulillaah, I’m fine now. I am so sorry I couldn’t reach out to you all this while. It wasn’t intentional,” he explained.

 

“Why didn’t you tell Munir about it? What if something worse had happened?”

 

Farouk shrugged. “Well, I’m not particularly close to my brother. And I knew that he was busy with his wedding plans. I wouldn’t want to disrupt that by making him travel down to Morocco,” Farouk stated.

 

“Why aren’t you close to Munir? It’s just you, him, and Adam. What example are you setting for your younger brother, Adam?”

 

“I don’t know, Rafiah. Everything you’ve said is correct. We are meant to be really close, what with the fact that we are the only ones left. But…I don’t know. The death of our parents loosened our bond instead of tightening it. That’s why I admire your relationship with Rasheedah. I’m glad she was found hale and hearty.”

 

“Yeah, it’s not too late. You’re the eldest child and it’s your responsibility to make that happen,” I advised.

 

“You’re right about that. I’ll try my best. I mean, I wouldn’t have found you if not for Munir. So tell me, Rafiah, can we still make this work? Am I too late?”

 

“You’re not too late, Farouk. I’m glad to know you’re healthier and…”

 

“Is that a yes?” Farouk asked hesitantly.

 

“It’s a yes!” I said in excitement.

 

Farouk grinned widely. “Thank you so much, Rafiah. This is the best news I’ve heard this month. Thank you for bringing joy into my life and making me believe in love again,” he said amidst tears.

 

“And lest I forget, I’m now a professional writer,” I blurted out as I made a quick dance.

 

“Really? When did that happen? Tell me all about it!” Farouk said in anticipation as he stared at me.

***

‘Hey, beautiful. Despite being a writer, I suck at writing love letters. So, please, take this as you see it. Ignore the grammatical blunders and cringe-worthy words and see it as a text coming from someone who is madly in love with you.

 

I can’t specifically recall the exact moment I fell in love with you, but I was awe-struck when I saw you for the first time. You were dressed in a mustard-coloured shirt and those black maxi skirts I’d later know you with. You had this gracious look that could not be faked, and believe me, it took so much effort to avoid staring at you.

 

What kept me going when I was bedridden were the memories I’d shared with you. The sight of you closing your eyes to relish the taste of afang soup and laughing at one of my weird jokes.

 

I love you so much, Rafiah. More than you can ever imagine. I’ll never find someone this beautiful and smart and talented. I’m so blessed to have met you.

 

We are going to be spending the rest of our lives together. Phew! That would be such an adventure, Rafiah, and I cannot wait to visit new places and try new delicacies. We wouldn’t have it perfect all the time. There would moments of happiness and sadness, but sharing these happy times and sad moments, together, will be what matters.

 

And yes, I am really eager to nurture our dream children; Aisha and Muawiyyah.

 

Thank you for choosing to become my wife.

 

Yours truly,

Farouk.

 

“Are you done?” Farouk’s voice distracted me from rereading the message he had sent to my email.

 

It was a day to Munir’s wedding and we were all gathered for the rehearsal dinner. I cleaned my misty eyes and put down my phone. “When did you compose this?”

 

Farouk snickered. “Is that all you have to say? Really?”

 

“Oh, I have other things to say. It is a very beautiful piece. Thank you so much, Farouk,” I was saying when Bushrah entered the hall, dressed in a glamorous emerald gown.

 

“Oh my! Bushrah looks sooo beautiful,” I squealed in admiration.

 

“I can’t wait to see you in yours,” Farouk gave me an affectionate smile. “By the way, where’s Asmau? I thought she’d be attending the wedding?” he asked.

 

“That’s true. Let me try calling her,” I said as I picked up my phone and dialled Asmau’s number.

 

“Hello,” Jamal’s croaky voice greeted my ears.

 

“Asalamu ‘alaykum, Jamal. Where is Asmau?”

 

“Wa’alaykumu…salam,” he said with a shaky voice. “Asmau is currently in the hospital. She had some complications, so we had to rush her into the theatre for delivery. Well, the good news is that we have a baby girl! Asmau is doing very fine, though she can’t talk to anyone now,” Jamal prattled and it was obvious that he was shedding tears.

 

I tried to respond to him, but words failed me. My eyes moistened with tears as I thought about the pains my best friend must have experienced. And I was glad that she and the baby were healthy. I cleared my throat and nodded at Farouk, who was staring at me with a look of worry. “I’ll be on my way right now! The same hospital, right? Green Maze?”

 

“Yes,” Jamal replied. “I’ll be expecting you. Got to go. The doctor needs me,” he said and hung up the call.

 

“What happened? Is Asmau fine?” Farouk asked.

 

“Yes, yes. She is fine. Can you drive me to the hospital?”

 

“Yeah, sure! I’d quickly explain why we’re leaving to Munir, and we’ll get going,” Farouk said as he stood up and hurried towards where Munir was standing.

 

Munir’s eyes widened in shock after Farouk relayed the information. He ran towards me with fear and anxiety. “Can we all go? I really need to be sure that she is fine,” he said.

 

“What about your rehearsal dinner?”

 

“This isn’t the real wedding. And this can continue without me. Let’s be on our way please!” Munir answered.

 

As we walked towards where Farouk’s car was parked with worry in our eyes, I realized that we were already a family and we’d always be there for one another, no matter what happens.

 

I couldn’t wait to hold Asmau’s baby in my arms and watch Asmau raise her with so much love and tenderness. I was also eager to watch Munir walk down the aisle with the love of his life, Bushrah, and celebrate their special day with them. And I was waiting, breathlessly, for the day Farouk would pull me into a hug and kiss my lips passionately while he promises me a happy-ever-after.

 

A/N: Words are insufficient to express my gratitude for sticking through and patiently following this story, despite the ups and downs that occurred over the past few months.

I appreciate your messages, comments, tags, and most of all, the time you’ve created to read the episodes. Thank you so much.

If you’re new here, kindly start from the first episode. You have twenty-five episodes to complete!!!


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

Episodes Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, & Twenty-Four



Share:

1 comment:

  1. Mashmirror provides the best lists of apps, software, and online tools. It has reviews, comparisons, pricing information of thousands of different online tools, apps, and software. MashMirror has the best information on many SaaS, websites, subscription-based services. MashMirror aims to bring the best answers to many tech-related questions in one place in the simplest way. As a relatively new platform for such features, it is growing fast and has a basement of user-derived opinions. We bring the best sets of data and information in single pages to make it easy for you to choose and identify the best app, service, or tool for you and your teams.

    ReplyDelete