Assalamu alaykum! Sooooooo this chapter took 57 years (Insert eye roll) But I promise that was never my intention. You know that thing called life? It happened, and I had a LOT to deal with these past months – illness, loss of a loved one, amongst other things. When I started this story, I vowed to conclude it and I will biidhnillah. So without further ado…
Aisha’s body melted into mine. I squeezed her tighter against me, leaving no room between us. In a way, this hug felt different. I felt like I could merge our souls right there and then. I wanted to remain in this cozy cocoon we had created, forever if possible.
“I’m sorry,” Aisha whispered again and again.
Her tears formed a wet patch on my jalaab, but I didn’t mind. After all, I was crying too. Everything that had occurred these past few hours only made me realise that I couldn’t bear to lose A’isha. All the anger and hurt I felt flew out the window in those moments when I feared the worst had happened to her. No matter how angry or betrayed I felt. No matter what she had done. We would always weather the storms and trials thrown at us. Together and with Allah’s help.
I tipped her head back and wiped the tears staining her cheeks.
“I know. Just…don’t leave like that again. You hear me?”
She looked up at me then, head tilted to the side.
“I-I didn’t just leave, I left you a note. You read it and knew to find me here, right?”
I shook my head slowly. “No, I found no note. Hadiza told me you’d be here, and I came.”
“Wallahi, I left a note. In the other room on the pillow.”
“It’s alright. I believe you.”
I pulled her head back onto my chest. If she left a note, why then hadn’t I found it? I tried to remember everything that had happened step by step. I remembered going into that guest room, soon after A’isha drove off. Much as I’d have loved to, I couldn’t forget Mama’s triumphant smirk and subsequent guilty look after I found her in there. Suddenly, realisation dawned. Back then, I had thought she was simply happy that A’isha had gone but it all made sense now. Mama must have found the note and destroyed it. Subhanallah! I sighed. Long and deep. For the sake of peace, this one incident should surely be kept close to my chest. Informing A’ishah about my suspicions and confronting Mama would only increase the animosity between them. No use stoking an already raging fire.
“It doesn’t matter now. What’s important is that I found you, safe and sound.”
She shrugged. “I guess so. But I just don’t understand…”
“Let’s just go home and sort this out, okay?”
She nodded, wringing her fingers. A’isha only ever did that whenever she was nervous. “Gaffar, b-before we leave, would you allow me to explain everything. Please? No offense but, I-I don’t want to risk Mama eavesdropping on us this time.”
“It’s alright. I understand.” I stepped back. “Lead the way.”
A’isha smiled then, proceeding to lead me into the living room. She walked up to the curtains and drew them apart, bathing the room with sunlight. The room was airy and spacious, minimally furnished with a comfy-looking lone sofa and two arm-chairs arranged in a semi-circle. The rug looked well-worn yet was soft enough for my feet to sink into. A house plant sat in the corner beside a bookshelf that housed a good number of books. I imagined the old man- Papa Baasit- as a professor or something of the sort. He certainly looked strict enough to qualify as one. I didn’t even know how he was related to A’isha but had a feeling I would find out soon enough.
A’ishah settled into the sofa and patted the space next to her. I needed no further prompting. Before taking my seat, I switched my ringing phone to silent mode, then placed it face down on the coffee table. Mama had been calling me non-stop since I left the house. A’ishah raised her eyebrows.
I nodded. “I’ll suffer no distractions now.”
“No, please call her back. You know how she is…”
“Not now. I already know what she’s going to say anyway. I’ll call her after in shaa Allah.” She looked ready to argue so put my palm up. “Promise.”
That seemed to satisfy her because she nodded. “Okay.”
Nodding as well, I took both her hands in mine. “Now, tell me.”
And she did. She told me about her rebellious teenage years which had led her to conceive Maalik. About her struggles as a single, teenage mother and overcoming the stigma that came with being one. Her parents and other family members had wanted nothing to do with the baby, and only Papa Baasit, her mother’s uncle had lent a helping hand. Till now they all pretended Malik didn’t exist. I was shocked, to say the least. It was difficult to imagine A’isha— my sensible, and strong-willed A’ishah whom I believed had never taken a misstep in her life — as a naïve and wild teenager. It felt wrong somehow.
Fury licked at my insides as well, burning its way to the surface as she explained how Maalik’s father had denied and tossed her out like garbage. How I wished he’d appear before me so I could smash his face in. Force him to acknowledge Maalik; the gift God had bestowed him, a gift others craved but were denied, yet he chose to dispose of. Make him see how foolish he had been…
A’isha’s startled gasp brought me back to earth. She tugged at her palms to release them from my death grip. I let go, shaking my head to clear the red haze clouding my vision.
“I’m sorry. It’s-it’s not you. Please carry on.” I said, a little ashamed of myself.
Not trusting myself to say any more than that, I focused on regaining control of my emotions. It was a struggle, but I succeeded, if only partially.
The shock and anger slowly wore off, and I was able to better listen to A’ishah. The guilt and shame were evident in her quiet voice. It was hard to miss. Those twin emotions caused her to sob quietly at a point during her tale. She had avoided my gaze from the start, preferring to look down at her feet. My heart shattered, thinking about all the pain she had endured. I yearned to wipe away the last of her tears and see her happy. Erasing decades of pain would not be easy but providing comfort, here and now? Piece of cake. So, I did just that. I reached out and pulled her in for another embrace unsure whether I wanted to let go.
“Let it all out. You’ve carried this weight for so long, lean on me this time.”
She cried harder then, and I made no move to hush her. We stayed this way for a short spell, with me rubbing her back and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Her sobs reduced to mere sniffles soon after and she spoke.
“Thank you Gaffar. For being here and for not losing faith in me.” She heaved a sigh. “It’s more than I did for you. I never truly had faith in your love for me and I am sorry for that. I apologise for keeping this from you- before and after our marriage. I guess everything that happened dented my self-esteem, and deep down I believed I didn’t deserve someone like you, so I hid my shame. I know now that I should have trusted you but I- I feared losing you and ruining your opinion of me was the last thing I wanted…”
“Look at me “A’ish” I whispered
She lifted her head slowly. I looked right into her eyes, allowing her a glimpse into my soul. I wanted her to see how much I loved and respected her.
“I would never think less of you, A’ish. True, I was hurt and angry when I found out. The betrayal cut like a knife, and I couldn’t fathom why you would hide such a major thing from me. However, recent events and your explanation now made me realise that I’ve never walked in your shoes, so I don’t know what I’d have done. Maybe the same thing. Maybe worse. However, what I do know is this— You are brave and beautiful and righteous to the best of your ability. I love you even more than before and I forgive you.”
“Alhamdulillah!” She hugged me then, an expression of gratitude and relief apparent in her very being. She pulled away, enough to look into my face, confusion mirrored in hers. “How can you still love me? After everything I’ve done?”
I smiled. “Love is not a switch you can turn on or off as it suits you. Besides, that was all in the past. I see you now. The REAL A’isha Mahmud and I say again – I love you… boils, warts, and all.” She giggled and hit my shoulder playfully. Her smile was gone in the next instant though. A lingering sadness lurked beneath her eyes, but I viewed her mirth as a win, no matter how fleeting.
I continued. “Seriously, for what it’s worth— we are flawed, all of us, and I’m yet to meet anyone who has never erred in their life. Not everyone is brave enough to keep moving forward. Those that have the courage to own up to their mistakes, learn from them and seek repentance. Then they press on in the knowledge that with Allah, they can never run out of chances.”
With a smile on her lips, she kissed my cheek. “I don’t deserve you.”
“No. You don’t. But here we are. And I’d have it no other way.”
“I love you.”
I stood up, holding out my hand to her. “You know I love you too. A’ish, no more secrets. From now on, we tell each other everything.”
She took my hand. “No more secrets.”
This time, it was my turn to smile, and we sealed our new-found understanding with a kiss. We walked out of the house holding hands and giggling like teenagers. At the main gate, I looked back and spied Papa Baasit in the doorway, a huge grin on his face. He gave me a brief nod which I returned, then he disappeared into the house.
I couldn’t explain why, but I firmly believed that I had just aced his test.
There you have it! As always, your thoughts are appreciated. Please drop a comment and do share the good news that TURMOIL IS BAAAAACK!