Turmoil

TURMOIL -35

Chapter Thirty-Five

Kamaal III

 

When Muslimah’s text came in, I did a double-take. I could hardly believe my eyes.

I’d like to take you up on your offer. It read.

One simple sentence. Not even a long one. Yet it meant the whole world to me. On the flip side, I was willing to acknowledge that perhaps a change had occurred or worse something had happened to warrant her unexpected turnaround. Immediately I called her. Over the phone, she sounded like she always did—brief and professional. However, an undercurrent of anxiety rippled beneath the brave façade she projected. I could feel it.

“Is anything the matter, Muslimah?” I was worried.

“I promise to tell you everything, just meet with me, please.”

How could I refuse such a plea? And from Muslimah of all people. I could never, so I agreed to meet her at the school masjid.

Excitement, fear, and anger warred within me as I tidied my desk and prepared to leave my office. Excitement at seeing Muslimah again, fear that Prof Jaiye had done something untoward, and anger that he had even tried.

The knowledge that I’d learn the truth soon enough calmed me a bit, and fifteen minutes later I arrived at the mosque. Muslimah was already waiting. There weren’t a lot of students present at the mosque as it was still two hours before the next solah.  In a way, I was grateful, because that would give Muslimah and me more time to discuss whatever was bugging her. I greeted one or two people as I walked over to join Muslimah at her spot by the notice board. Her back was turned to me, so I announced myself.

“Assalamu alaykum.”

She jumped, then turned to face me, a startled expression on her face.

“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to startle you. I thought you were expecting me…” My voice trailed off. My mind had gone blank. I always seemed to be at a loss for words whenever I was around her.

She waved my apology away. “No, I should be the one apologising. I didn’t expect you to be here so soon, that’s all.”

“Well, I sensed the urgency in your tone, and thought to head over as fast as I could.”

She nodded. “Th-thank you Kamaal. For not blowing me off.”

I shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

She continued. “I’d also like to apologise for the way I treated you…before. I know I’ve not been the kindest or most courteous person where you’re concerned. Forgive me?”

My heart melted. Subhanallah, had she asked for one of my limbs then, I’d have ripped it out of its socket, no questions asked. What I’d give for her to feel the same way about me. The heart wants what it wants, and unfortunately, she had made her true feelings clear. Her heart wanted nothing to do with mine. I had to accept that, no matter how much my treacherous heart longed for her.

I plastered a smile on my face.

“There’s nothing to forgive, Muslimah. Although I am curious. What made you change your mind?”

A shadow crossed her face. “For so long I’d managed to convince myself that I was all alone in this. I guess I realised that’s far from the truth.”

I had a pretty good idea what ‘this’ meant. Her voice was laced with pain and misery. She looked defeated as if she was carrying the weight of the whole world upon her shoulders. Her arms were wrapped around her midsection as if trying to hold herself upright. My heart went out to her. I yearned to lift those burdens, one after the other, and God help me if I didn’t try.

“It’s okay. Allahul musta’an. He alone is our source of help. I’m glad you reached out.”

She nodded, sighing. I noticed she had been doing that repeatedly since I arrived.

“I’m sorry you had to come all the way.” She began again. “I should have come to you, but your office is in the GNS building and I didn’t want to risk another encounter with him.”

“You mean Prof Jaiye?” At her nod, I continued. “What did you mean by ‘another encounter’?” I asked, fighting to keep my tone level. Anger, white and hot surged inside my blood. If he had so much as touched her…

“I already had a falling out with him earlier today. Twice in fact.” Muslimah heaved another long, drawn-out sigh. “In truth, it was more like, he threatened me.”

I took several deep breaths to calm myself. A few exhales later, I asked the question that was the elephant in the room.

“Muslimah, what happened with Prof Jaiye the last time? Why is he so fixated on punishing you?”

“You don’t know?” She sounded surprised. I couldn’t blame her.

“I know only bits and pieces. Wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth.”

Muslimah was silent for a long while after that. I prayed that she wouldn’t retreat into her shell, shutting me out once more. I wanted to help her, but I would be unable to if she refused to confide in me.

Minutes later, she raised her head to look up at me, eyes glistening with tears. “Alright, Kamaal. I’ll tell you everything.”

XXXXX

“Okay let me get this straight.” I began after Muslimah finished speaking. “Four years ago, prof Jaiye did exactly the same thing, correct?”

“Yes.”

“You reported him to the school authorities, there was an investigation, then a trial and he was found guilty.”

“Yes. Now he’s back to take vengeance by taking what he was denied the last time.” She shook her head. “It’s different this time, Kamaal. He will stop at nothing to destroy me if I refuse. I know it.”

“Muslimah, don’t lose hope or faith in Allah. We will find a way.”

She snorted. “Please tell me you didn’t come here to ask me to make du’a. I want something concrete., that will actually work”

I narrowed my eyes at her. What was her grudge with du’a anyway? I sensed asking this question would open a can of unpleasantness, not to talk of taking us several steps backwards, If not back to square one. I made a mental note to talk about it later. For now, I’d focus on the issue at hand.

“Not at all, I do have a plan, and I might argue that said plan and du’a are not mutually exclusive.” She was about to speak when I raised my palm. “Don’t worry, I won’t talk about all that now.”

“Okay. So, what’s your plan.”

“Right. To be clear, whatever assistance I render shall be devoid of conditions.” I cleared my throat, feeling awkward all of a sudden. I was gripped by an unexplainable urge to show her that I was different. “What I mean is: I-I won’t ask for anything in return or-or expect you to g-give something. You know… considering the-erm- the history between us…”

Subhnallah! I stopped speaking before I made an even bigger fool of myself a second time. How was it that I could make a presentation to a multitude of people without breaking a sweat, yet be unable to string together coherent thoughts before Muslimah? I looked away, wondering how to salvage the situation. From the corner of my eye, I spied a small smile playing on her lips. It was gone in a flash, but I had seen it.

Perfect. Now she thinks I’m a fool. I wouldn’t be surprised if she refused my help after this.

“Kamaal, you don’t need to explain.” She said. The smile had been replaced by a grave look, yet her voice was gentle. “I truly appreciate what you’re doing for me, and I shall not take it for granted.”

Her words soothed my racing heart. I turned to face her again. “I’m glad you feel that way.”

“Now tell me what your plan is.”

“It’s simple really. We set a trap and catch him redhanded.”

Muslimah looked confused at first, but I could tell my words had finally registered when she suddenly broke into a smile.

This time it lasted a while.


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2 thoughts on “TURMOIL -35”

  1. Raheemah Odusote

    Ma sha Allah! This book brought back memories of reading it somewhere time ago. I’m definitely starting from the beginning, in sha Allah to immerse myself in the story. Well done, Hafsah. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing at Kamal’s theatrical behaviour.

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