She ran to the elevator before it closed and entered, heaving a sigh out of relief. She knew if she had slackened, she would have waited there until someone came, which she was sure there would be no one unless the ones coming down for something because she was late enough for the day. She would have to find herself a driver, which they would reach an agreement because this Uber didn’t help a lot sometimes. She calmed herself down and turned to look at the people in the elevator. ‘Damn it’ nearly fell from her lips, did she have to run onto him every day? And that too in the elevator?
She wondered what kind of thing this was. Just that today he wasn’t alone, he was together with Sulaiman, and she smiled politely at him. “Good morning,” she greeted them in unison, but she could swear he didn’t even look up at her. What was his name again? Yeah, Yazeed Adam Bunza.
“Good morning, Jalilah. How was your night? And how do you like it in our company?” Sulaiman answered and smiled back at her. They exchanged a few pleasantries before she brought out her phone and waited patiently while fighting the end corners of her eyes not to take a look at his closed-off face. What was wrong with him for the sake of Allah? He looked like someone who was into the most grievous phase of his life.
‘Rather, what was wrong with you?’ She redirected the question at herself and completely turned to face the opening. That was the question she should’ve asked herself since. What was wrong with her? Why wouldn’t she leave this man alone? He fought his demons what was hers to keep being curious about the life he didn’t want anyone into it. She had noticed some resemblance with him and Sulaiman but she wondered if they were somehow related. It got opened, and Jalilah was glad to have a breath of fresh air, more than the one they kept circulating between themselves. If some scientist would tell her she had breathed in the same air that he did in that elevator, she wouldn’t argue.
“Come to my office, I have some work for you, Jalilah!” Sulaiman called out to her when she had already taken the route that would take her to her office, which was the same way with that of Yazeed. She was happy for this distraction, and she got the chance to change paths with him, all this didn’t look promising.
“Okay,” she calmly said and followed Sulaiman to his office. They entered and she waited until he fished out the files from his cabinet and he handed her while saying out the instructions of how to do it. She was about to leave the office when she remembered she had something to ask him, and she turned to look at him with a sly smile on her lips.
“I wanted to ask you something,” he sat down on his chair and motioned for her to go on. “Is it okay if I stayed here longer than 5:30 pm? Or everyone has to leave at that time?”
He quickly shook his head, “No, they generally close the company by 7 pm, I think it’s fine.” She thanked him because she had been thinking about what she would do if she wouldn’t be allowed to take her ballet classes. Though she still had to ask Mrs Rosey for the delay of at least ten minutes to give the workers the chance to fully evacuate from the office so she could freely do her dancing.
She walked back to her office, and she caught a glimpse of his face through the glasses, it looked like he was in a heated argument with someone, like what he was talking over the phone with someone was his least favourite to talk about. She wanted to know what that was, what was taking a toll on him that it showed all over his face, but she had no excuse to do that, and she silently walked to her office, thinking of how she had missed her ballet class yesterday even though she had practised it at home, it was still not the same.
Before she sat down, she looked at the office and made sure if she cleared the sofa it would be enough for her, even though she would still be restricted. But reminding herself how she squeezed and practised at home in her room, even though it had enough space, this was more spacious. Here, she didn’t have her mirror to get along, she didn’t have her half-completed canvases to keep moving between her wardrobe and her bed, lots of things weren’t here.
She smiled to herself and first sent an email to Mrs Rosey that they should likely shift it to 5:40 pm because it got along with her work. Mrs Rosey was understanding, Jalilah was sure she had no problem with that. She got to work, ignoring the tons of messages she was getting from Farha, she wondered what kept her awake today, was it because she wanted to know more ‘them’? As she had already tagged her and Yazeed. Maybe she was crazy too herself, but she had never seen someone as crazy as Farha was, that girl was just herself.
While at call, she got a few calls from Sulaiman directing her and asking her to send an email to this and that, she should check there were things to be done and so. When she called him to inform him that the work he had given her in the morning was done, she thought that was all for today. Maybe she would lazy around until it was time for prayer and she would do that.
“I think you’d have to take those files to the manager then, Jalilah.” She wished she could scream at him, tell him she wouldn’t do that. But before she did that, she realized this was work, what she was feeling about this Yazeed of a guy was nowhere related to their work. She didn’t even have the sole reason of being this angry at him.
“Okay, sure. I’ll do that.” She hoped he didn’t hear how her voice sounded gritted, showing her discomfort.
She stood up from her chair and fixed her veil carefully, thinking of the way she was going to address him. ‘Hi, the HR asked me to bring these files to you.’ No, that wouldn’t work. He wasn’t the right way to greet your boss. Or maybe it should be ‘Assalamu Alaikum,’ and she would duck her head down while she placed the files on his table. Maybe he would look at her with those orbs and question, ‘And what are these for?’ She would want to hit his face because it was clear they were for work but she would have to fight herself, ‘The HR asked me to bring them when I’m done.’ Yes, that would be it!
She carefully held the files and took her phone before she left. Approaching his office, she saw there were two men in suits there, and she stopped, watching him as he interacted with them. He wasn’t smiling even when they shook hands and the men walked out of the office, she wondered what was wrong with this man. At first, she thought he didn’t want to interact with his female workers, but she had seen it was beyond being a female worker. Maybe he acted like this to everyone?
She quickly ducked herself down when the two men walked by before she walked into the office with a soft knock. He looked up from his desktop and quickly glanced at her before he ducked his head back. She wanted to sit down, but recalling what had happened between them yesterday was what stopped her from doing so. She secretly glared at him and carefully placed the files on his face.
Just like she had predicted, he first looked at the files before he scrunched up his face and looked at her, he lifted one eyebrow without voicing a word out. Ugh! She didn’t want to hit just his face, she wanted to slap him until his fair skin turned sour. Maybe she would dull his handsomeness with her hot slaps. She had no choice but to answer him because she knew they both knew he was waiting for her answer.
“The HR asked me to bring it when I’m done getting the figures in, so…” she let her words trailed off while motioning at the files, which showed that she was done now.
“Have you entered the spreadsheet?” Not that! Please, not that! She hated it, she didn’t like doing it, please not that! Instead of those words to come out of Jalilah’s lips, she silently shook her head.
“No, he hasn’t made mention of that.”
He nodded his head and she felt an air of relief as it wafted through her chest. Well, it lasted long before he spoke again, “Yes, I asked him not to bother doing that. But I think you have to do it now. I need to get it into the site, maybe get your laptop and come here so if you have some done you can email it to me and we’ll be done that way?” He was even looking at her while he was talking, busy doing his work that the little glimmer of Farha she had in her, which madly told her that he wanted to see her that was why he suggested they worked in his office died. If he wanted that, he would have been looking at her while he spoke, maybe smile a little if their eyes met.
But even after she stared at his face and their eyes met, he gave her a questioning look. Like, won’t you do what I said? She curled her fist and ducked her head down. “I’ll get the laptop now.” He turned back to his work and she walked out of the office.
When she closed the door to her office, she let out a soft groan and responded to her annoying vibrating phone. “He asked me to work in his office, Farha! I’m so going to kill that guy!” She half screamed, but to her annoyance, Farha giggled before she laughed.
“Am I hearing I want to keep seeing you so why not work in my office?” Behold, she wasn’t wrong when she told herself that she was as crazy as Farha was, sometimes. Because this was what she thought for a brisk second before she looked at him and realized he wasn’t giving a single damn.
“That’s not the case, you idiot. This man only wanted to torture my life, he wants me to enter some annoying figures in a spreadsheet, how do they even do it? I haven’t been attending that lecturer’s class. Na shigesu!”
Farha burst out laughing so hard that Jalilah had to threaten him that she was going to end the call before she sobered up. “You know I can’t believe you when you ask me that, and guess who scored an A in that course? Idiot, you’re just anxious. Go and work in front of your hot ass boss, I’ll hear feedback when you’re back. You said you’re going to buy the things you want for your house tonight, right?” Farha asked, and Jalilah knew she had to unless she wanted to starve herself to death with only junks to save herself while making it hard for herself to practice ballet.
“Yes, keep your phone by yourself, I’ll call you to help me choose. Bye, I have to go.” She quickly took her laptop and walked back to the office. He was in the same position she had left him, only that now as he worked, he had his brows creased together and Jalilah wondered what he was thinking about. She softly knocked before she entered, and just in time, he looked up and their eyes met. What a sight to behold, he had one of the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen! He quickly took his eyes off and went back to his work, she shrugged off her shoulders.
She took the files and stood by his table, looking at him. When he sensed that her eyes had lingered much on his face, he looked up at her, “What do you need?” He asked, and she pointed at the empty chairs and sofas he had in his office.
“I was wondering if I could sit on one and work? Last time you said I can’t sit on your chair.”
She could see how taken aback he was by her words, “To the sofas please,” he pointed at her and she nodded her head before she walked over and sat down. She silently prayed for Allah to give her the strength to stay focused on what she was supposed to do. She began working, but from time to time, she would look up at him and find him intensely staring at the screen of his desktop, she wished she could go over to that table and move apart from his creased eyebrows. It even wondered to her how he had naturally arched brows, which they always fought with Mama because whenever she went for makeup or Farha did one for her, she had to carve her brows, and Mama always scolded her for that. She claimed that her full and nearly bushy brows looked more beautiful on her. But she had never seen that beauty.
There was a time when she looked up at him and Jalilah could swear she found him looking at her. What the hell was that?! He quickly looked away, but even if the heaven and earth were to kiss each other and someone would have to tell her if she didn’t believe it wasn’t him that looked at her the world would come to end, she wouldn’t believe. Because for a brisk second, they had eye contact.
Before she was out of that sentiment, a soft knock came and Sulaiman walked into the office. He didn’t notice her, he went directly to Yazeed’s desk and placed his hand on his shoulder, “How are you? It’s prayer time. I have to go back home, eat, and pray. I also have to take Ilham to her Yoga class, do you mind coming? Maybe so you can eat? You haven’t been eating enough food lately, Yazeed.”
Now that she looked at both men, they were surely related. If Yazeed would smile even for a split second, he would look so much like Sulaiman. Maybe they were cousins? Whatever relation they had, she was sure they were blood-related.
Yazeed silently shook his head, “No, I might come and have dinner there, or I’ll send my gateman to get it for me. If I don’t do either of the two, that means I’m full. Greet her for me, and the baby, please. And also, don’t forget to tell her that…”
Sulaiman smiled before he finished his sentence, “That she should take very good care of herself, the baby too. I will never forget that.” He smiled and Yazeed only tried what was never a smile but Jalilah knew to him, that was meant to be a smile.
Sulaiman turned to where she sat and he smiled at her, she lifted her eyebrows and smiled back at him. Lifting one of the files, she spoke, “We’re still working, I thought I was done.” There was a hint of a pout on her lips and Sulaiman nearly cracked up, he knew Yazeed did that on purpose to punish her for always getting into the elevator with him.
“Oh, and that must be tiring. I think you should join my wife’s Yoga class, she said it relieves muscle pains. Because this work will keep your muscles soaring with pain.”
She smiled politely at him and nodded her head, “Maybe if I feel the day I can’t move my limbs, I will surely join. Ask her to reserve my space.” She chuckled because she thought he was joking. It was surprising when she heard he had a wife, but he looked like a gentleman, his wife was so lucky to have him. They were expecting a baby too, that was amazing!
“I think I should leave before Ilham calls again. Bye you too, work hard.” He walked out of the office and Jalilah used that as an excuse to take a peek at his face. She didn’t know what was her attraction with his face. Yes, he was handsome, that was undeniable, but whenever she looked at his face she felt as if she wanted to find something new from him, but he didn’t give way to anything apart from the beauty that made itself palpable on his face.
A few minutes later, she watched as he stood up and he looked at her while trying to stretch his body. “I’ll go to the mosque and pray, you should too. You can have your lunch if you want to before you come back.” She quickly turned the laptop off and stood up.
Fixing back her veil while she watched as he walked out of the office. Again, they met in the elevator. And now was different, they weren’t the only ones, Jalilah saw Wafiyya. “Wafiyya! Oh my god, we met again!” She smiled widely and Wafiyya smiled back at her, softly side hugging her.
“It was a pleasure meeting you again, Jalilah. How have you been? How’s our company treating you?” She asked, and Jalilah took a glance at his face before she turned back and smiled.
“Hectic, too much work, but it’s amazing.” They chatted for a while and walked to the mosque together. When they were done, she smiled and told Wafiyya she wasn’t eating yet, she had work to finish and she would eat after Asr. She went back to the office before him and decided she would relax before he came back, she was sure she would see him coming before he reached the office.
She played soft music on her phone, the slow kinds of music she played whenever she wanted to clean her room, that way she could sway a little while she did her work. Sometimes if she had much space in her room, she would dance ballet, while staring at herself in her mirror and she endlessly smiled at herself. She couldn’t wait for the day she would dance on stage, without doubts, Jalilah was sure that would be the happiest day of her life. Even though she was only going to dance now, like normal dance even though Farha had told her times without number that she didn’t know how to dance as normal people do, all her moves were always related to ballet.
But she knew dancing was the only way she could ease off her muscles, and she began moving softly in the office, her eyes intently fixed on the way she was sure he would emerge from. She kept giggling to herself, dancing softly, moving with her body as if she had no bone in it. She could remember the way she thought Farha how to wine her waist, that day she laughed like no tomorrow. She didn’t know how she began wining her waist, maybe it was because she hadn’t done that for long.
She got so carried away wining her waist while she smiled at herself that she forgot to look at the path until it was nearly too late. She didn’t know when she abruptly slumped on the sofa when she saw him wanting to enter the office and paused the music while she kept panting for breath. What saved her was, he was so carried away with his phone and she was never relieved of how he didn’t look at people when he was walking until today. Well, she just met him yesterday.
He flashed her a weird look, she knew he wanted to ask her why she was acting as if someone that was caught doing something bad but she masked it up with a beautiful smile. They continued working, the only words they shared between them were, “Are you done? Maybe you can email me with that page?” All her answers were yes because she had relieved her muscles enough and now she could finally work.
When it was time for Asr, they were done, and she was glad. Because she didn’t know what she would have done if she wasn’t done with the work until it was 5:40 pm. It was either she asked him to excuse or she did that to Mrs Rosey, which she most likely wouldn’t. She couldn’t miss her class twice.
She prayed and walked down to the cafeteria, even though Mrs Rosey had warned her about eating fatty foods before she danced, she didn’t know what she would do now. Maybe she would be bringing her food here? But wouldn’t she look like a secondary school girl? She would have to check the restaurant Wafiyya said, maybe they had light foods as she wanted. He had already occupied the table she sat yesterday, and she wondered how the cafeteria was filled today. It looked like they had visitors to the company. There was nowhere she could sit but there, and she ordered what she wanted before she moved to the table with tentative steps.
She stood in front of the table, opposite him while she stared at his eyelashes. That was the closest she had ever gotten with him, “Can I sit?” She politely asked, because if he said no, she would have to eat in her office like she did yesterday. She didn’t know what had gone into her head today, maybe it was the spirits of Farha yet again.
He looked up at her and silently shook his head before he went back to his phone, she shrugged off her shoulders and rolled her eyes at him when she was sure he wasn’t watching before she moved back to the counter and asked the waitress to make her order a takeaway. Before she left the cafeteria with her food in hand, she glared at him before she walked away. On her way to her office, she met Wafiyya, and Jalilah started rambling on her without waiting for anything.
“I don’t know why he’s so grumpy, what’s wrong with him? He made me do the work I’ve never imagined of doing today, Wafiyya. And to think of it, he told the HR not to bother doing it, this man.” She hissed softly and looked away as if he was standing right before her and she hated the mere sight of him.
“You’ve been rambling, who is it?” Wafiyya asked while she laughed softly and placed her hand on an annoyed Jalilah.
“Our manager, you’re not in our department but I’m sure you know him. Yazeed something Bunza.”
Wafiyya wriggled her eyebrows before her eyes dilated a bit, “Oh my god, don’t tell me. He’s the son of the owner of this company. Adam Bunza. And his name is Yazeed Adam Bunza, right?” Wafiyya asked while all she wanted was to laugh at how surprised Jalilah looked.
She softly shook her head, “I can’t believe this, are you for real? How can he be the son of the CEO?”
Wafiyya shrugged her shoulders, “How can he be? Because he gave birth to him.” She laughed and placed her hand on her shoulder, “Everybody knows how he is, you shouldn’t be bothered about his habits, is it not just work? Do that for him and leave.” Even after Jalilah had gone into her office, she couldn’t shrug off the fact that Yazeed was the son of the CEO, because how would he be? Like she knew he didn’t look poor, even if he was from a poor family his position in the company would have at least gained him something so far, but being the CEO’s son? That’s too far.
She began eating her food but the information was nibbling on her as well, she had no choice but to call Farha and inform her even though he knew this would give Farha more reasons to keep on thing something. “Girl, he’s the CEO’s son. Is that why he’s always grumpy around people?”
Farha burst out laughing and Jalilah could imagine her shaking her head, “What do you mean? Jalilah you’ve already known this guy for the second day, you can’t conclude about his behaviour. But haven’t I told you he looked rich?”
“Him looking rich is normal, because I believe he has a beautiful face and a good skin, but…well, I don’t care.” They burst out laughing at the same time and they giggled. Farha told her about her service which he started yesterday as well and she asked Jalilah about her ballet lesson which she told her how it was going now.
When they ended the call, Jalilah thought of what she would do to eat her time away before it was time for her classes and she opted for watching a movie. She was so excited when Sulaiman gave her their wifi password and assured her she could use it whenever she wanted, and now…she would get to work. She was a Korean fanatic. She loved Korean dramas to the extent that there was a time Mama had to seize her laptop because of how she didn’t have time for herself nor her family. And now, she would be back with her obsession.
She logged into her Netflix account with her laptop and searched for ‘Suspicious partner’ because that was the movie Farha kept exaggerating about and she wanted to see it for herself. She was into the second episode when it was time and after she paused the movie, she moved to the window and watched as cars, men, women were walking out of the company looking tired. She wished she could follow them too, but she had to stay for an hour now.
She dialled Mrs Rosey through FaceTime and sat down widely smiling at her when her blonde hair made an appearance into her skin. “I’ve missed seeing you, Mrs Rosey. How have you been?”
“You look tired, Jealilah.” Mrs Rosey pointed out, and Jalilah smiled before she nodded her head.
“I have jeans underneath my abaya and my shirt, I can practice with them right? I’m not at home to wear my normal ballerina dress and shoes.” She smiled.
“You can do it with a skirt if that will make you comfortable, I can see you’re at work. Can I see your office?” Whenever she saw Mrs Rosey, she felt a certain yearning for her Dad. She could when he brought her first laptop and he secretly called her to his room. His first words after she had unwrapped the laptop were, ‘I know your mother doesn’t want you to learn ballet, but I want you to be whatever you want to be, Jalilah. I’ve already enrolled you in Royal Ballet School, London. You’ll be learning from home, I’ll renovate your room so you can lock it up whenever you have classes, if you need anything, you can always run to me, Jalilah.’
She masked her emotions and stood up holding her MacBook, smiling while she swirled, showing the office to Mrs Rosey. She kept smiling and praising until Jalilah was done and she smiled at her, moving away from her screen while she smiled at her, “Are you ready for our classes now, Jealilah?”
She placed the MacBook on the screen and pushed the sofa like she had imagined the office would look. She took off her abaya and wrapped her veil firmly on her hair, even though she was sure everyone had evacuated from the building, but she could never make the mistake of letting someone seeing her hair. She watched as Mrs Rosey started moving while she explained to her.
“I know you’ve mastered the plier (to bend), ètendre (to stretch), reliever (to rising), glisser (to slide or glide), Sauter (to jump) too, but you haven’t mastered it like the rest. I think we will have to keep doing it until you master it, Jealilah. So now, just stare at me and see until I ask you to practice.” She nodded her head and watched, as Mrs Rosey kept moving her body the way Jalilah wished one day she would do too. When Mrs Rosey was done, she was asked to dance too, and Jalilah prayed she won’t fall whenever she came to the Sauter step like she had always done.
She turned the MacBook so she could see her and smiled before she began. She knew no one was there, just her and Mrs Rosey staring at her through her screen, but she had never danced anywhere but her room. So she felt exposed, but she kept on moving, sliding while Mrs Rosey smiled at her. She was doing a good job, she knew. She could hear the soft tune she had played on her phone, while she moved, smiling to herself too.
“Is it time to Sauter, Mrs Rosey?” She asked while she glisser to the left, somewhere around the office door. But she didn’t mind, because she was so immersed in ballet that she felt she was setting her soul free of all that haunted it.
“Yes, do it like this. Let’s do it together and see, I’m sure you’ll perfect the art of it.” She nodded her head and smiled while she watched as Mrs Rosey started moving her body, they kept doing until it was time to Sauter and they jumped together. Mrs Rosey cheered when Jalilah did it right and they kept doing. Starting all over while they smiled at each other. She was the happiest when she danced. And Mrs Rosey was one of the people she could call a friend.
They kept moving, starting all over and doing it to the Sauter step. She had even forgotten that she was still in her jeans and she was dancing ballet, the kind of dance that amused the eyes of its watchers. When they were done, Mrs Rosey made her promise that she would practice more tonight before she slept and by tomorrow, she would improve so they could move to the next. She did, and they bade each other goodbye before she ended the call and sat down to collect her breath, while a wide grin graced her lips. Ballerina, the name she wished someday someone would call her with.