I peeled my eyes from the T.V screen as soon as the credits started to roll and glanced at my wristwatch. 6:30 pm. Four hours was enough time for a playdate, right? I rose from my position on the floor and faced my three best friends, who had vanquished the food cupboard and were currently making a mess of my living room. I had been so engrossed in the movie and hadn’t noticed anything. Not that I minded. I would probably have done the same thing if any one of the others had played host. But I was still the only spinster in the gang, the get-together was hosted at mine. A good thing was since I was the host, I got to decide when the date started or ended.
“Time up. Oya ewa ma lo. It’s time for you guys to leave.” I started to pick their bags from the floor and dumped them in their laps.
“Muslimah darling. Are you actually asking us out of your home?” Hadiza asked smiling.
“Yes o. It’s getting late. Besides, I no want wahala abeg. Especially from Gaffar. He won’t allow my phone to rest until Mrs. walks in through their front door.” I eyed A’isha while saying this.
She laughed and swatted my arm playfully. “You are just jealous jo. You know you are more than welcome to join the club.”
“Nah, I don’t think so.” I began to clear the floor and table of discarded paper cups and plates. “I’m fine just the way I am.”
“Sorry o. Mrs Self-Proclaimed Spinster, married only to her studies.” That was from Jemima.
Hadiza donned her hijab and said gently. “But really Muslimah, it’s been years after that dreadful incident. Surely, you can try and give someone a chance? That brother that has persisted in asking for your hand- what’s his name…?”
“Kamaal.” A’isha supplied.
“Yes, Kamaal. I can tell he really likes you. Give him a chance hmm?
“Help me ask her o. Anyway, I know she feels something for him too. She’s just being stubborn.”
“Shut up, A’isha.”
I entered the kitchen and dropped the stuff I had in my hands. I clenched my fists tightly to try and quell the trembling of my hands. My vision began to blur, and the image of a certain man appeared in my mind’s eye. He stood over me, hands outstretched and teeth bared in an evil sneer. No. I clutched the edge of the countertop, willing the images out of my mind. NO. I wouldn’t allow myself to succumb to the darkness. I took deep breaths to calm myself and shook my head to clear it. When I was a little composed, I feigned a smile and returned to the sitting room. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.
“Oh, there you are.” A’isha came to stand beside me as soon as I appeared. “I was just telling the others that you and Kamaal would make a great couple.”
“No thanks. I already have someone in my life.” I smiled sweetly.
All three of them gasped and looked at me in anticipation.
“Who is it then? Tell us!” Jemima said.
I looked at their faces, eager to hear my reply. They only meant well, I knew, and I loved them for it. But I just couldn’t give them what they wanted.
“Look at them, JHA akproko association. If you must know, I was talking about my mum.”
“Oh!” Hadiza sounded disappointed.
“Really?” Jemima looked sceptical.
“I don’t believe you jo.” Typical A’isha.
Well whether they were satisfied or not, that was all they were getting from me. I glanced up at the wall clock
“6:45 pm – you should really get going girls.”
They started to pack up their stuff quietly. I ventured into the kitchen once again to continue cleaning up.
“We should pray Maghrib before leaving, or what do you think?” I heard Hadiza say.
Pray. That would mean staying here till well after 7:05, ablutions and afterwards one of them would insist that I lead the prayer. No way was I going to let them in on my dirty little secret. I dropped the plate I was holding and hastened out of the kitchen. They were already preparing to perform ablution.
“Muslimah bring mat o!” Jemima called out.
“Erm, I don’t think that’s necessary. Besides it’s still fifteen minutes to the time for solah so…” I jumped as soon as I heard my phone ring from the coffee table. Saved by the bell. I glanced over at the girls on my way to pick it up. They were staring at me with strange expressions on their faces, no doubt wondering why I was so skittish all of a sudden.
I looked straight at A’isha when I saw the caller ID. “See, it’s Gaffar.”
I took the call and listened for a moment before I replied: “Yes she’s actually on her way out now.” I paused and listened again. “Okay, I’ll let her know. Waalaykumsalam.” I ended the call.
“He says he’s been trying to reach you A’isha.”
“Oh?” Aisha whipped out her phone and checked its screen. “Ouch. I completely forgot I put in aeroplane mode.”
“Well, call him on your way home then.”
“I will.” She grabbed her bag. “I guess we’ll have to pray Maghrib at home then. Hadiza I’m riding with you. I didn’t bring my wheels.”
“Sure thing babe.” Hadiza rose and so did Jemima.
Relieved I hugged each of them and saw them out the front door.
“Assalamu alaykum guys. I’ll call you in shaa Allah.”
I waved goodbye and waited till the taillights of both cars disappeared. I wanted to make sure that they were really gone. I closed the door behind me and leaned against it, heaving a sigh of relief. My secret was still safe. I don’t know what I would have done if they had found out. They would never understand. I tried to picture their individual reactions; Hadiza would sigh and admonish me in that calm manner of hers. Jemima would probably scold me first, then make a joke out of it. A’isha? She’d spit fire and brimstone. She had the kind of raw candour that tested most friendships, but I appreciated it. I appreciated all three of them.
But I wasn’t ready to see the looks on their faces when they found out that their friend hadn’t prayed a single solah for the past three years.
My head ached badly. The kind of ache that began at the temples and worked its way across the entire head. I rubbed my fingers on both sides of my temples, to alleviate the throbbing, while I listened to my boss speak.
“I want the best hands on deck for that deal, Basheer. That’s why I want you to handle it personally.”
“I understand sir. I’ll get started right away.”
“Good. And don’t forget the meeting with Mr Chairman at 8 pm, alright?”
I nodded and stood up. “I will be there sir.”
I walked out of the office, shutting the door behind me. The mountain load of work I had waiting at my desk propelled me forward; I needed to get at least halfway done before the scheduled meeting. I hastened towards the elevator and although the floor was deserted, I passed by one or two offices with lights still on.
My thoughts wandered, and I did a mental calculation to estimate the time I’d finally be finished with work. 11:30 pm – give or take. Then the drive home would take at least an hour. My first instinct was to send Hadiza a text not to wait up for me.
Pangs of guilt engulfed me as I typed out the message. I had been neglecting Hadiza for the past few weeks. Work at the office had been and still was hectic, what with the company’s expansion project and my recent promotion to Divisional Head of Marketing. My days and nights were packed full of meetings, presentation, and more meetings, so much so that I hardly ever carved out time for myself let alone my family. It wasn’t much of an excuse, but that was all I had.
“I will make it up to you Hadiza, In shaa Allah.”
My phone beeped just as I reached the elevator. A WhatsApp message from Shaakirah, an intern posted to my division. She had been with us for three months and had proven to be smart, efficient and hardworking. Although she had been transferred to another office, she still popped in regularly to help me with my work and as such, we grew quite close.
Where are you?
I texted her back.
At the elevator on 10.
Meeting with Mr CEO?
Okay. I’m at your office. I have those documents ready.
Great. I’ll be there in five
I rode the elevator and made my way to my office, where Shaakirah was standing by the door. She handed me the files as soon as I reached her.
“Jazaakillahu khayran. You are God-sent.”
“Don’t mention it. Happy to help.”
“Alright, see you tomorrow then. Assalamu alaykum.”
I stepped into my office and closed the door. It was almost time for Maghrib and as usual, I prepared to say my prayers in the office as there was no mosque in the vicinity. Just as I opened the door to the adjoining bathroom, I heard a knock on the door.
“Pardon me, sir, are you preparing to pray Maghrib?” Shaakirah asked from the other side.
There were only about five Muslims, including me on the floor and most times we prayed together in my office during work hours.
“Please I’d like to join you”
I opened the door. “Shouldn’t you be heading home? It’s getting late.”
“The window for Maghrib is short and will be over before I reach home anyway, so why not pray now?” She said and stepped past me into the office.
I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I left the door wide open and we ended up praying together.
Solah completed, I sat back behind my desk, expecting Shaakirah to leave but she asked instead.
“You still have work to do?”
I glanced over at the stack of papers and my blinking computer. “Yes.”
“I will stay behind and help you.” She sat at the other side of the desk and brought out her laptop.
“No, Shaakirah. It’s way past closing hours.”
“I don’t mind. Listen I will order some food now and keep you company while you work.”
I weighed my options. Every shred of common sense I had screamed for me to stamp my foot down and send her on her way. But if I was being honest with myself, Shaakirah’s help would be invaluable and the work would get done faster. Besides, she proved to be good company.
So despite my reservations, I found myself nodding. “Alright.”
She smiled. “I’ll be right back.”
I knew it was wrong to feel this way, but I was looking forward to spending time with her.
Mr Basheer- always playing hard to get. Or maybe he was that clueless and hadn’t noticed my advances. Or he was being faithful to his wife and didn’t have eyes for another. Yet. I had done my research and found out that their marriage was still young- two and a half years. That was enough time for a man to take a second wife, right? So, I made it my personal mission to make him notice me, and if I was lucky enough- to fall for me.
You could say my infatuation for Mr Basheer, or B.O.B as he was referred to around the office, began on the very first day I started to work here. That was almost three months ago, but I remember it like yesterday. He had walked into the conference room to address us interns, and he took my breath away. His carriage, physical good looks and the silent aura of authority which he exuded pulled me in. And I fell. Hard. As if that wasn’t enough, I could see he strived to be a good Muslim both in speech and action. I fell harder.
In the weeks that followed, I schemed my way into getting jobs that would bring me closer to his desk. When he wanted something done, I stepped up. I learned to anticipate his every move and often put out work before he even asked for it. That meant extra hours, but I didn’t mind- so long as my goal was accomplished. I soon carved out a niche; as the smartest, most efficient, and hardworking intern on our floor. And I made sure he knew it. At last, my hard work paid off and Mr Basheer started to notice me. Then I dug my claws in deeper…
So tonight, when Mr Basheer agreed to let me pray with him, I began to think of ways to extend our time together. Although I was tired, I offered to help because I was determined not to miss this opportunity that had presented itself on a platter of gold.
As I walked out of his office to order for some takeout, an old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, crossed my mind.
I would never doubt that adage again.
Assalamu alaykum people. Please bear with me the story is a lil’ rough around the edges and is unedited – basically the first draft. Because: #Nano. I hope you are enjoying it though. Please don’t forget to leave a like, comment below and share!