TURMOIL- CHAPTER THIRTEEN
“Calm down Shaakirah and tell what the matter is.”
It-It’s your wife, sir. She was here with another woman and they-they…
Shaakirah’s bawling disturbed my ear, so I put the phone on speaker and placed it on my desk.
“Hadiza was at your house?”
Yes. It was such a rude shock, sir. She-she and the other woman c-came ready for a f-fight. I-I don’t know what I did to deserve such treatment. They barged in and called me unsavoury names, demanding I stay away from you.
Subhanallah, what had happened to make Hadiza behave this way? Like a fishwife, with no poise or decorum? The other woman was definitely Big Mummy and she must have put Hadiza up to this. That was the only rational explanation I could think of for Hadiza’s behaviour. Plus how in God’s name had they found out where the poor girl lived?
“Listen, Shaakirah. I’m truly sorry you had to go through all that. Please accept my apologies.”
It’s alright, sir.
Alhamdulillah, her tears had reduced to mere sniffles. I sighed in relief. Tears made me nervous. Dealing with her would be much easier now.
“Are you alright?”
I am fine. Aside from Hadiza hitting me across the face twice and the other woman’s hurtful words, I’m good.
“Hadiza hit you?”
“Subhanallah!” I was mortified. What had come over Hadiza? “I am so sorry about this. How long ago was this?”
They left about five minutes ago.
“Accept my apologies, Shaakirah. I’ll have a talk with her. Something like this will never occur again. I give you my word.”
It’s alright sir.
Why would Hadiza stoop so low and tarnish her image, as well as mine this way? All in the presence of a work colleague. A very junior work colleague at that. What was it? Jealousy? Fear? There was absolutely no excuse for harassing an innocent human being. Anger pulsed through me, blurring my vision, clouding my senses. Hadiza’s unfounded accusations must have led to this. Clearly, she hadn’t learnt anything from my recent behaviour around the house. Shaakirah was right all along. Some women were just plain ungrateful; blind to their blessings and needed a nudge in the right direction. I was only disappointed my wife was one of them.
Getting any form of work done now was out of the question, so I pushed my chair back and started packing my stuff. I had to fix this… and fast before Hadiza got more out of control.
Please, sir, can you come over to my place? I-I don’t want to be alone. I-I’m afraid they’ll come back.
I started at Shaakirah’s voice. I had completely forgotten she was still on the line.
“Erm, I’m sorry Shaakirah, but I can’t come. I must go home and fix this, you do understand, don’t you?”
I heard her sigh. Who would blame her though? She had just been traumatised and was probably hanging on by a slim thread. A nice idea popped into my head.
“Tell you what? Balqis is at the office. I’ll send her over to stay with you until you feel better. That okay?”
No, don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine sir.
“Are you sure? You sounded pretty shaken up the other time.”
I’m sure. I’ll just take a walk or something. You know, get out of the house for a while.
“Ok, if you insist. I’ll call you later. Take care.”
I ended the call and stepped out of my office. Hadiza had some explaining to do.
Disgraced. Dishonoured. Degraded.
I have never been so humiliated in my entire life.
It would be an understatement to say that the trip was a phenomenal disaster. A dismal failure. I felt so foolish. Everything Shaakirah had said echoed in my mind.
Get used to it. Your husband doesn’t want you anymore.
The expression on her face as she had uttered those words made me feel so small. Her tone still chilled me to the bone. The look of triumph in her eyes as she threw us out of her room would haunt me forever.
The traffic lights up ahead changed to red and I slowed the car to a stop. I should never have listened to Big Mummy. I should have remained in my space and figured out a better way to handle things. Perhaps then, my dignity and self-respect would still be intact.
I bit down on my lower lip hard, blood trickled onto my tongue. Good.
I glanced at over at Big Mummy. She was fuming, mumbling under her breath. Considering Big Mummy’s reputation as a no-nonsense matriarch, Shaakirah’s audacity was a first. No one in her extended family- not even me, her beloved niece, dared to speak or treat Big Mummy in an inappropriate manner.
“That small rat. How dare she treat us like beggars?”
“Big Mummy, we asked for it the moment we stepped into that building.”
Big Mummy looked at me, an ‘are-you-kidding-me?’ look on her face. I shrugged. She knew I was right.
The lights changed to green and I accelerated.
“How come you are so calm? Didn’t you hear everything that girl said in there? About Basheer?”
I was far from calm, but I refused to show it. Shaakirah’s words still hurt. I felt like she took a knife to my skin and peeled the flesh off my bones. Presently, the knife was cutting my heart into little pieces. It didn’t help matters that Basheer’s conduct buttressed her words. Tears stung the back of my eyes, threatening to fall. I blinked them back. Tears were not an option now.
“That’s all you are going to say?”
“I will wait till I confirm from Basheer.”
Truly, the only thing keeping me sane was the knowledge that this girl was probably a hoax, trying her best to frustrate me. I wanted Basheer to look me in the eye and tell me that he planned to take a second wife because he was tired of me. If he did, then maybe I would freak out. Until then, the lid on my emotions would remain.
Big Mummy shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself.” She held out her left hand. “I found this in her room. Took it when she wasn’t looking.”
I looked at the piece of paper in Big Mummy’s hand. Brown eyes stared back at me- eyes that resembled my own. In my shock I slammed on the brakes, bringing the car to an abrupt halt. Was my mind playing tricks on me? Other road users were already throwing curses at me, as I had stopped the car in the middle of a busy highway. It was a miracle I hadn’t caused an accident. Quickly I pulled the car onto the nearest curb.
I took the piece of paper and stared at it. My mind wasn’t deceiving me, it WAS my image on the sheet of paper.
“Big Mummy, what… how did she get this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she has been stalking you?”
“I doubt that, Big Mummy.”
The image wasn’t even full-length. Just my head and a part of my shoulders. Perhaps if it had been a photo of me shopping or taking Mas’ud to school, I’d consider her being a stalker. The question remained, however; how did Shaakirah get her hands on my photo? I racked my brain, trying to make sense of the situation. As I never snapped photos of myself, my guess was that Shaakirah had made a coloured photocopy of my passport photo. The only way she could have had access to it was from Basheer.
I rubbed at my temples. Had he provided it at her request? Why did she have it? What did she plan to do with it? Sihr? A’udhubillah.
Big Mummy spoke.
“She could have gotten it from Basheer then.”
I nodded. “My thoughts exactly. What do you think she wants to do with it?”
“Considering that she had it before we ever met her, my guess is- nothing good. Hadiza, that girl had more copies in her room. Maybe now you’ll take me seriously and stop approaching this matter with a grain of salt.”
I turned to face her. “What would you have me do, Big Mummy? You saw what happened back there. What else do you want me to do?!”
Close to tears, I covered my face with my hands. It was all too much for me. Perhaps I should just let it all go, after all, what was there to fight for anyway?
Big Mummy reached over and put her arms around me.
“I’m sorry dear. It’s alright. Let’s just get home and think this through okay?”
I wiped my tears and tried to calm myself. I prayed to Allah to give me ease, because surely only He could grant me ease. I repeat the du’a over and over during the remainder of the drive home.
It was almost dusk when we arrived at the house. I parked the car and hurried in, eager to see my baby. Strange though, normally, he would run out of the house to greet me as soon as I drove in. Maybe he was asleep. I had never been away from him for so long and I was sure he missed me.
Inside the house, it was silent. Too silent. I switched on the lights.
“Where has that girl gone to now?” Big Mummy went into the kitchen.
I bounded up the stairs to Mas’ud’s room. He wasn’t there. I checked his playroom. Not there either.
Panicking, I screamed louder. “Mas’ud! Zulay! Mas’ud!”
I checked all the rooms upstairs. Nothing. Heart hammering against my ribs, I raced down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Big Mummy was waiting at the foot of the staircase.
“She’s not in the kitchen. Is Mas’ud up there?”
I shook my head. “They are not there.”
“Yeh, mo gbe, I am done for.” Big Mummy put her hands behind her head, stamping her feet on the ground.
A cold dread settled in my bones and I began to tremble all over.
“I’ll check her room.” Perhaps Zulay had taken him in there to play and they had both fallen asleep. I rushed to her room downstairs, Big Mummy at my heels.
The room was unlocked, and I pushed it open, hoping to find my maid and my son sprawled on the floor or on the bed, sleeping. Unfortunately, the room was empty. Fighting the urge to scream, I checked the adjoining bathroom. Empty as well.
“Ya Allah! Subhanallah! Where’s my son?!”
“Hadiza o, come and have a look at this.”
I sprinted back into the room. Big Mummy was standing by Zulay’s cupboard. It was bare. All her bags, shoes and clothes were gone. Nothing remained. Even the bedside drawers were empty. I slumped to the floor, the realisation of what was happening dawned on me. My maid had absconded with my son. ZULAY RAN AWAY AND TOOK MY BABY WITH HER!
“Ah, mo gbe mo ku mo daran. Hadiza I am finished. It’s all my fault o. If I hadn’t asked you to go out…” Big Mummy broke down in tears.
My own tears flowed, unchecked. Zulay would sell my baby to slavers or worse ritualists. I had heard stories of maids kidnapping their employers’ kids. Some of the kids were lucky and reunited with their parents. Others were never found. I wondered if I’d ever see my baby again. If I’d ever feel the warmth of his tiny little body or kiss his plump cheeks. I wondered if I’d ever watch him grow up to be everything, I prayed for him to be: an haafidh, a responsible member of the society. I hugged myself and cried harder.
“Hadiza we have to do something. Anything.”
Big Mummy’s voice sounded like she was far, far away but I heard what she said. She was right of course. Maybe any of the neighbours had seen something. I rose unsteadily to my feet.
“I’ll go ask some of the neighbours.”
My bag was on the sitting room floor where I had dropped it earlier. I could barely see through my tears, so I just emptied the contents on the coffee table and picked up my phone. I rushed to the door, at the same time trying to navigate my phone with my shaking fingers. I had to call the police.
As soon as I opened the door and stepped out, Basheer’s car entered the compound. Basheer was back, and only God could save me from his wrath.
*Rubs palms together*
I’m sure you weren’t expecting that.
Hadiza is in trouble. Big trouble.
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