TURMOIL- CHAPTER NINE
Dread settled in my heart as I stared at the words scribbled on my answer booklet:
Drop by my office as soon as you receive this.
I knew what was coming. It was only a matter of time before Prof Jaiye found out I attended his class. He even surprised me by scoring my work. The truth was; I wasn’t disappointed in Prof. One couldn’t expect less from a profligate like him. My grudge was with God.
Hadn’t He humiliated me enough already? My entire life had been a tumultuous ride ever since I could remember. First, it was Abu, then Ustaadh, Micheal and now Prof Jaiye, two times over. Would my tribulations never come to an end? Will I ever have peace? There was only so much a person could take.
Allah only tests those that he loves.
Instinctively, I put my hands over my ears to blot out the sound of the unwelcome voice in my head. These weren’t tests, they were punishments. Besides, I seriously doubted God loved me. If He did, he wouldn’t put me through all this.
Pushing my thoughts to the back of my mind, I placed the script in my bag and headed for Prof Jaiye’s office. Best not to delay the inevitable. As I walked towards the GNS departmental building I passed by students milling around, laughing no doubt having a good time. I wished I could just be carefree like them. Never have to worry about anything except studying and having good grades. Even if it was just for once.
At the door to his office now, I hesitated and took a deep breath to calm my nerves. You can do this. Show him no weakness. After a silent count to three, I rapped lightly at the door.
I stepped into the office. The suite had changed since the last time I had been there. More bookshelves lined the walls, more award plaques and paintings hung on the walls too. I wondered who the ignoramuses were that deemed him fit to receive awards. The furniture and upholstery had changed too- they screamed elegance and class. It was expected. I guess his recent rise to full professorship came with its perks. Levels don change. He was staring at his laptop and a sudden urge to smash his face against the screen engulfed me. An urge I couldn’t give in to, sadly.
I cleared my throat and spoke as calmly as I could manage.
“You asked to see me, sir.”
He raised his head and looked straight at me. All the hatred and anger he harboured in his heart for me were reflected in his eyes. A shiver raced down my spine. There was no mistaking it, Prof Jaiye wanted revenge and would stop at nothing to get it. Determined not to show him fear, I squared my shoulders and stood ramrod straight.
“Miss Sideeq. We meet again, at last.” His voice, though quiet, dripped venom. He leaned back in his seat and twirled the pen he was holding between both his thumbs. “Have a seat, won’t you?”
Over my dead body. “No, I’m fine sir. You asked to see me.” The impatience that laced my words did not go unnoticed.
“Don’t be like that, Miss Sideeq. You know why you are here don’t you.?”
“No, sir. I do not.”
He laughed, and goosebumps spread over my entire body.
“I’ll cut to the chase then.” His mouth turned down into a snarl. “My dear, I simply want what you denied me years ago. And this time you WILL oblige otherwise, the four walls of this school will be your permanent abode. Make no mistake, this is not a threat. It is a promise.”
I wasn’t surprised at all. In fact, I expected more. I also knew he expected me to cower and plead and cry at his feet. But he didn’t know the Miss Sideeq he was dealing with now. He didn’t know the new and improved version that wouldn’t allow him to ride roughshod over her. No one but me was going to come to my defence, so with adrenaline pumping through my veins, I made my stand.
“Professor here’s how everything is going to play out: I am going to walk out that door, we’ll both go our separate ways and pretend this conversation never took place” I narrowed my eyes and lowered my voice to a whisper, injecting as much malice as I could muster. “If you dare try to stir up any trouble, mark my words, I will do…”
“NOTHING!” A loud bang reverberated through the room and I jumped. Prof Jaiye removed his fist from the table and rose, pointing a finger at me.
“I was hoping you would refuse. Now, YOU mark my words. If you refuse to play ball, I will destroy you. Did you think I would forget everything that happened four years ago? How you tarnished my image, cost me my honour and damaged my reputation? God, even my wife left me!” His scathing gaze swept over my trembling form and I felt exposed, despite my hijab. At this point, I didn’t even want to hear his next words. “I swore to God that I would make you pay and have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I am generous so I will give you 48 hours to consider my offer. If you still refuse to cooperate after that, I will rain fire and brimstone upon you. Now get out of my office!”
With a wave of his hand, he dismissed me. Just like that. I couldn’t utter a word- there was no come back for that. The courage I had felt mere minutes ago evaporated like smoke into thin air. There was no doubt about it now, I was done for. I thought my show of bravado would scare, not incense him. I thought he would be on his knees, quaking in his boots when he saw that I could stand up for myself. Instead, the reverse was the case and he had me boxed into a corner. I suddenly felt as if a heavy burden had been dumped on me. My shoulders slumped, and I fought back tears. I didn’t want to add to my humiliation by allowing him to see me cry so, I forced my feet to move towards the door and almost collided with someone as soon as I stepped out.
“Subhanallah! I am very sorry.”
It was Kamaal. What was he doing here? I didn’t know he was a student in the GNS department. Had he been listening in on the conversation? A flash of anger rippled through me and I wanted to lash out. Transfer all the aggression in me onto him. However, as soon as I opened my mouth, I realised that I had no reason to be annoyed at him. He had probably come in at the wrong time and besides, Mr Randy Professor hadn’t bothered to keep things quiet,
“It’s fine.” I stepped aside and continued towards the exit, intent on leaving as fast as I could.
“Sis Muslimah, please wait. I-I would like to speak with you.”
The only reason I stopped was so that I could find out if he heard anything. It was certainly not because I felt so alone and desperately needed someone to talk to. Someone to share the burden with. Perhaps a part of me wished he had even heard the whole conversation. Perhaps not.
“I am listening.”
He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “I may be way out of line, but I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the Professor.”
Oh, God. I prepared myself for the sermon that would follow.
“I just wanted to say that there’s no excuse for his behaviour and assure you that this will pass in shaa Allah.” He hesitated. “I- I also want to offer my assistance. You see, I recently joined his research team and would be working closely with him on a project. I believe with calculated actions and du’a…”
I shook my head and shrugged. “I am done with all of that.”
“I said I am done with prayers. Never got positive results, so why bother?”
I could hear the incredulity in his voice. Yes, now you know what a terrible creature I am, so maybe you’ll back off and leave me in peace. What was I even doing, listening to him? I turned to face him.
“Listen Kamaal, I appreciate your gesture, but I don’t want anyone sticking their neck out for me. This problem is mine to bear alone. Please stay out of it.”
Without waiting to hear his response, I left the building.
“Oga we don dey here for over two hours o. You sure say the person you come meet dey here so?”
It took every ounce of patience I had not to yell at the cab driver. His complaints grated on my nerves and made me want to throw him out of the car. But I had paid him, and handsomely too, so he had to render the service whether he liked it or not.
“Just a little while longer. Sebi I yarn you say na for the whole day you go carry me… and I give you correct kishi. Why you come dey hala?
He grumbled. “I no know say na watchman you hire me make I come do now. If to say I know, I for no collect your money o.”
I ignored him and trained my eyes once again on the gate we were watching. A’isha’s car was parked outside, as I knew it would be. The GPS tracker I had planted in her car last week, led me here; to this house in a secluded neighbourhood at the heart of Okrika. We arrived at the house two hours ago, and I was sure A’isha had been here long before that. I allowed myself to think about what I would find out. Would my fears be confirmed? What if they weren’t? What would that make me? A jealous, insecure husband who kept tabs on his wife, all because of a baseless hunch. But my suspicions weren’t baseless, that was the point. I had a very good reason for them, but that didn’t stop my mind from replaying the verses about A’isha’s (RA) slander in Suratul Noor in my head. It was like a warning for me to desist from my venture, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Admittedly, it was also one of the reasons why I chose to do this on my own, without the help of a third party. If I was wrong, I’d face the consequences alone and seek tawbah, without having stained my wife’s reputation. If I was right… I couldn’t bring myself to complete the thought.
“Oga, he be like say person wan commot from that house o.”
Immediately, I was at alert and sure enough, A’isha walked out through the gate, her gaze travelling around the neighbourhood as she walked towards her car. She surely looked like someone who had something to hide. With another nervous glance over her shoulders, she unlocked her car and got in. I slid further into my seat and hid my face with the cap I brought along as she drove past the cab. A sigh of relief escaped my lips when I was sure she was gone.
The cab driver glanced over at me then at A’isha’s retreating car and I think he put two and two together.
“Erm oga no vex o. Se na your wife be that?”
Of course, I was angry. He was merely there to drive me and had no business asking whether the person we saw was my wife or not. I glowered at him and he instantly shut his mouth. “Sorry sah.”
“Stay here. I am going inside.”
“Ah make I wait again? Oga abeg time don dey go o… ”
“I go give you 20k join.”
The promise of more money elicited a grin from him. He nodded. “Okay. You go meet me here when you finish.”
My heart pounding, I walked towards the house and opened the gate.