Right after Subh, I sat in the kitchen cradling a mug of tea in my hands, nervously awaiting Papa Baasit’s scolding. When I’d arrived earlier, distraught, in tears, and barely coherent, he’d let me in without a word and then showed me into the guest room. Now after a fitful two-hour slumber, I felt a lot calmer and more in control of my emotions. Ready to face his reprimand.
I was wrong.
The moment he sat right across from me, drumming his fingers on the table, that ever-familiar stern look carved onto his features, I knew I was in for it. You see, whenever Papa Baasit is prepared to hand down a scolding, he goes for the jugular. He never yells or screams. Just picks the right words. If you were in the company of friends, he’d say stuff to embarrass you and if your friends weren’t careful, he’d do the same to them as well. If you were alone with him, Papa Baasit would dial hard on your guilt buttons. His tactics worked, EVERY SINGLE TIME. I always thought I’d become somewhat immune to it, but that never happened.
So I waited, head bowed, for him to begin.
“Tell me, A’isha what could’ve happened that was so horrible, you decided to leave your home in the middle of the night and come running here?” He leaned forward “He harmed you? Beat you? Sent you packing?”
I shook my head. “No, no never. Gaffar is not that kind of man.”
“You left of your own accord?” Papa Baasit’s tone was a blend of surprise and anger.
I nodded slowly. “I left him a note though. He knows where to find me.”
“A note?” Papa Baasit asked incredulously. “What if he didn’t find the note?”
I opened my mouth to speak but Papa Baasit stopped me. “You know what? Don’t answer that. Please start from the beginning, because I’m afraid I don’t follow. The only thing I can guess here’s that he probably confronted you about Maalik, and you both got into a fight. Right?”
“Yes,” I whispered, fresh tears threatening to fall.
He shrugged. “You should have told him A’isha. A long time ago. He shouldn’t have found out the way he did.”
“I know that now.”
“Why did you leave, A’isha?” Papa Baasit’s tone was gentler now.
I told him everything. From Mama’s arrival and subsequent antics to Gaffar and I arguing and everything in between that led to me leaving the house. When I finished, Papa Baasit leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“I should have known his mother was involved. She never liked you from the very beginning right?”
“Correct. Apparently only girls from their hometown are good and I’m not one of them. My inability to produce a grandchild only multiplied her contempt for me. And now…” I chuckled derisively. “…now that she knows what I’ve done, she’d NEVER accept me back as her son’s wife.”
Papa Baasit shook his head and waved his forefinger at me. “No. That’s for your husband to decide not her.”
“A’isha, I’ve only met Gaffar once, but I can tell he loves you. And I don’t think his mother can make him do whatever he doesn’t want to. That being said, you should have listened and waited for him like he told you to. From the information you gave me, that man still wants you in his life, trust me.”
“I don’t think…”
“He does, A’isha. Think about it – what if he didn’t find your note? He’d be worried sick, looking everywhere for you. What if something had happened to you on your way here? Do you know what that would have done to him? What if he gets hurt searching for you?”
Waves of guilt washed over my entire being. Every word he said, I pictured in my mind’s eye, and it didn’t look good. A gasp escaped my lips.
“I-I didn’t think…”
“No, A’isha you didn’t think. You were too blinded by your pain and grief that you refused to see what all this has done… and is doing to him…”
A bang from the front gate outside interrupted Papa Baasit. I looked at him, the guilt slowly dissipating, it was still there though, but it was slowly being replaced with unbridled joy. My lips stretched into a smile so wide, my cheeks hurt.
“It’s Gaffar. I know it is.”
Papa Baasit rose from his chair and took the back door out. I also stood up and went to stand by the door, teeth worrying my bottom lip. Despite everything Papa Baasit had said, I was still worried. I didn’t know what to expect from Gaffar. He’d been so, so angry last night and his reactions over the past few weeks scared me too. I hope you’re right about this, Papa Baasit.
Gaffar’s and Papa Baasit’s voices filtered through the walls into the kitchen. Without thinking, I opened the door and stepped out. The sight of Gaffar racing towards the front door of the apartment increased the trembling in my body. I must have exclaimed, because at that moment Gaffar turned his attention to me, changed his course and began running straight to me. I just stood rooted to the spot until he reached me and pulled me into a bear hug.
“Alhamdulillah! I’m so glad you’re alright A’isha. God, I was so scared.”
“I’m sorry, Gaffar. I’m so sorry.”
I burrowed deeper into his arms, relishing the feel of his body against mine. My heart sang. Delight pulsed through my veins. I felt at peace.
Home. That’s where I was.
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