He wanted it quiet, especially when it was closing time. Yazeed looked at his wristwatch and heaved a sigh, like every day, he felt at his lowest when it was closing time. Because he had to go back to his world, where he had to live alone with his demons. His thoughts that he always fought before he could be able to sleep. Most of the days he didn’t sleep, he only rested at night. But on days he wanted to sleep so badly, he had to take his sleeping pills. Sulaiman always warned him not to get addicted to those pills, that was why he was being careful.
He stood up and packed his laptop into his office bag before he turned off the appliances in the office. Everywhere was dimmed and silent, that was what he wanted. So no one would see him when he was at his lowest when he had this gloom and longing look on his face. He walked out of the office and today, he didn’t pull his phone out to pretend he had something important going on there, no one was there for him to pretend to, he could be himself. When he was walking on the corridor, Yazeed was sure he heard a tune and the sounds of feet on the floor.
His eyes naturally turned to where the sound was coming from, and his eyes landed on what he had never imagined he would see with his own eyes. It looked like a reality show to his eyes. How she was clad in her jeans and shirt, how she had her hair fully covered while she moved her body with a warm smile on her lips. At first, he thought maybe she was dancing, maybe something happened and she was jubilating. He didn’t notice the MacBook she had placed in front of her, and when he noticed, he knew just what that meant. She was practicing ballet, and she knew just the right way to move her body in such a way nothing could look more appealing to the eyes of her watchers.
He didn’t know why he got rooted to his spot, he couldn’t move, just his eyes following her every step. The way she expertly moved showed him her immense love for ballet and she was expertise when it came to it, or so he thought. And he stood waiting, while until she was done and she turned off the MacBook and slumped on her sofa to take a breath. So this is what she had been rushing to finish work for? So she couldn’t miss it? Somehow, even though he had an urge to go to her and ask her to dance again so he could have a better view of it, he found himself walking down to the elevator.
When he saw a leg beautified with a chain on her ankle, he knew she was doing, because he had seen that anklet on her yesterday when she was going to enter the elevator. It was the same story today, she pushed open the doors and entered with a tired smile on her lips. She looked worn out but satisfied, just the kind of look one had on his face while he or she did what they loved doing the most. She flashed him a pleasant look and looked into her phone.
What was her name again? Khadija, right? She made mention of something she preferred to be called with, was it Jamila? No, he had to wait until one of the workers mentioned it again. They got down and she waved at the downstairs receptionist before she moved to the gate while he walked directly to the parking lot and got into his car. There as someone waiting for her by the gate when Yazeed drove out, he hadn’t seen his face but it could be anyone.
Enough of her thought, he said to himself and brushed her off with a single sigh. He had more important thoughts to ponder over for the night, why would he let this bother him? His face was a shade of what was enveloping the sky now, but he didn’t mind. That was how he always looked because he believed the only good thing he had in his life was Sulaiman and he wasn’t that close to him either. Even though he had had something even brighter than the moon once in his life, it had become his past, and he ought to grieve that for the rest of his life.
He slowed down when he arrived at his house and before he honked, the gateman had already opened the gate for him and he drove him. He knew someone would think he had it all after seeing the luxury he lived in, but that didn’t amaze him. It had never amazed him. He wanted something light as long as he would find happiness and true love in it. He parked his car and took his office bag before he walked out of the car.
“Good evening, Yallabai. Hajia and Alhaji came today and told me that I should ask you to meet them at Asokoro,” the gateman informed, Yazeed wished the ground could suck him up.
“Okay, Malam Harisu, I’ll do that.” He walked into his house while pondering over what brought that woman to Abuja and what did she want that she asked him to come? Because he was sure his father would never want to see him, not to even mention asking him to meet him at his house at Asokoro, it all had to do with that woman.
He only had dim lights turned on, and that was how his house was for all he could remember, he walked directly to his room and dropped the bag before he walked into the bathroom and took his bathe. After he was done praying and everything, he knew it was time to go to Asokoro because if he failed to, the whole of Abuja would know. He changed his dress and walked to the kitchen to make a quick sandwich but remembered the sandwich maker was faulty, he had to buy another one.
He hissed softly and walked out of the house, thinking of going to Sulaiman’s house for dinner or he would just make a takeaway for himself since he was going out? And of course, not to forget to buy a new sandwich maker. He opted for the latter and drove directly to his father’s house in Asokoro. The gatemen waved at him after they had opened the gate for him and he walked into the living room bracing himself for the worst. Because the worst always happened whenever this woman came to Abuja.
“Assalamu Alaikum,” he said his taslim in a soft voice and walked further into the living room, finding himself a place on one of the luxurious assorted sofas. One of the maids whom he had no idea how they managed to work while the owners of the house didn’t visit often came out of the kitchen and she bowed and greeted him. “Evening, will you mind informing them about my arrival?” One thing he hated about her visitation to Abuja was, if he came, he would have to so much because she had always riled him up. If it was for his father, he didn’t even know he had come to Abuja unless they had a meeting in the office and he treated him like every other employee, so he felt no difference.
“Yes, I’ll go and inform that now.” The maid said and Yazeed brought out his phone before they walked down. He heard the clacking sound of her heels from the stairs but he didn’t lookup. Even though he had a lot of things he hated having sight of in his life, she was the most disgusting one among them.
She walked to the sofa opposite him with the kind of smile she always had on her face while she was interacting with him, “Yazeed Adam Bunza!” She had always called him his funny with a tone that made him cringed, because he could point out a lot of things in the way she called his name. Like he wasn’t worthy of being his father’s son, or he made the biggest mistake of his life because he came to the world as his father’s son.
He looked up from his phone and stared into her eyes, what he hated came back to him. He knew in his heart he hated her, no, despised her even. But whenever he looked up at her, there was no way he could say no to whatever she wanted him to. He felt his heart shaking with fear of wronging her. He knew deep down the kind of person he was when he was together with her wasn’t the real him, it felt like he was changed or something, but he couldn’t control himself either. It had been like this for all he could remember.
“Good evening, Hajia.” He greeted, and she smiled widened.
“Good evening to you too, Yazeed. How have you been? How’s work?” She asked, and in his heart, Yazeed wanted nothing but to stand up and leave the house, but he knew he couldn’t, she had to ask him to leave first.
“Everything is fine, Alhamdulillah. Malam Harisu told me that you asked me to come, is Alhaji not home?” Even though his father was the last thing he wanted to see whenever he was together with Hajia because she made sure she brought more darkness and fire into his life, he needed the distraction. Because his father always asked him or talked about work unless Hajia unveiled something that would soon be a calamity in Yazeed’s life.
“He is, he will be down soon. Yes, I asked you to come because it’s been long you went to Kebbi, and we haven’t seen you or heard from you all those months, nearly a year, Yazeed. We’re traveling to Thailand, so we ought to say goodbye.” It was relieving whenever they traveled, even though he didn’t stay with them and even if he visited Kebbi he rarely spent three days there, just the thought of having them out of the country was the truest form of relief.
Before he answered her, they heard the voice of Alhaji as he descended the staircases while he was on a call, they all waited until he was down and Hajia smiled before he ended the call and sat down by her side. “Good evening, Alhaji,” he greeted, and he looked at him squarely before he nodded his head.
“Evening, how’s work?” That was it, always. He had never heard something close to ‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you fine?’ came from his father even if that question would be fake. It was always about work as if he was no human that had problems as if he was no human that needed consolation from what had happened to him.
“Everything is fine, Alhamdulillah.” He looked down on his feet because he hated it when he saw his father in the body of another man which he didn’t recognize, it had been years, but there were times when Yazeed found it so hard to keep up with the pain and accept the reality of his life.
“I was just talking to him about how he wasn’t visiting Kebbi at all, if one wants to see Yazeed, he or she has to come to Abuja.” She chuckled softly, and Yazeed knew that was a giveaway for Alhaji to start scolding him for not visiting Kebbi. Maybe she meant to say visiting their house in Kebbi because he felt he had no one in Kebbi to visit often.
The scoldings from Alhaji came, and she sat there lovingly smiling at him while he had a medicine of his own. When Alhaji was done, she looked at Yazeed and asked, “Will you like to have dinner?”
He silently shook his head, “No, I’m full. Can I leave?” He prayed she said yes because there was no way he could go against her words if she said otherwise, and he wanted to leave this house.
“Yes, I think that’s all. I heard you’re always grumpy at work, Yazeed, why is that? Must everyone know what happened in your life wasn’t pleasant and you’re still angry at God for making your life that way?” Woah! She was tired of pulling up the facade? The fake smiles and everything? She was back to her real self, and she wanted Alhaji to intervene, maybe this time fire him from work?
“What is that, Yazeed? Grumpy at work? I made sure I showed no sign of you being my son at the company, do you have to show that yourself? And what Hajia said is correct, you’re still angry at God for what he did to your life, right? Are you the only one to ever experience that?” He was about to speak, defend himself when Alhaji roared and pointed at the door for him. “Leave! Get out of my house, I’ll put eyes on you in the company, one mistake; you’re not just going to leave my house, you’re going to leave everything that has my name attached, arrogant boy.”
Even though the words he was being thrown out of the house were hurtful, he was glad he would be finally out of this house, their faces won’t be appearing in his eyes. He palmed his face when he was in his car and sighed. He had heard that numerously from Alhaji, there was a time he even suspended him from work. He didn’t know what Hajia exactly wanted from him, just that he knew whatever that was, it wasn’t something good.
He drove out of the house and went directly to a mall, where he knew he was sure he would get his sandwich maker. After he parked, he walked out bringing out his phone from his pocket to mask his angry eyes. He walked inside while getting himself busy with his phone. He knew where to get what he needed, and he walked directly there while musing to himself how he had to eat and sleep tonight, as far as he wanted to remain sane. It had been the third day since he hadn’t slept at night, he knew as much as he didn’t want to take his pills, he had to do that today.
Someone bumped onto him, and he watched as both their phone fell on the ground. What he first noticed was that person was on a video call, and with a girl. Who was ever on a video call in a mall? “Oh my amazing god!” The girl screamed when he bent down to take his phone. “Jalilah! You went to the mall together?!” What?! Just what had he heard?
In a swift, the person that bumped onto him bent down and took her phone, it was now that he realized she was a woman, because at first when he saw the person in the screen, he thought it was a man having a call with his wife or girlfriend. They stood up at the same time while Yazeed put his phone into his pocket, glad that his screen didn’t crash.
“I’m sorry,” she was about to voice a word out when Farha spoke again, “Farha, I’ll call you later.” And she ended the call without waiting for an answer from her.
Yazeed looked at her for some time before he noticed she had changed into new clothes, the first image that flashed through his mind when he saw her now was the way she danced, and he resisted the urge of asking her to dance again. He softly nodded his head and walked away. What was she doing in the mall? At night, and maybe alone? He discarded that thought and brought out the sandwich maker before he left to the cashier. When he went there, she was already standing there with her hands at akimbo and she looked ruminative.
He acted as if he had never seen her in his life, even when he looked up at her and their eyes met, he acted that was the first time he had ever seen her. She smiled at him softly before she walked out of the mall, and Yazeed didn’t know when he heaved a sigh. He wanted her out of his sight so bad that he felt her presence there was suffocating him. Because whenever he saw her he felt that he wanted to ask her to dance again, maybe for a second or two. After he paid, he walked out of the mall and ignited the car to life, ignoring Sulaiman’s call because he was sure if he knew he was out, he would have to pester him until he went to his house to have dinner there.
If one thing, he couldn’t ignore Sulaiman’s call forever, he had to pick, and he did while making his sandwich in his dim lighted kitchen. “Hey, Sulaiman.”
“Yazeed do you ever realize that you hardly keep your promises if it has you as the benefactor?” Well, that wasn’t well, maybe Ilham had been nagging to him about while he wasn’t there and he would vent it out on him?
“Oh, I’m sorry. Hajia came, I had to go and meet them in Asokoro, you know if has never ended well when they come together, so I wasn’t in the mind to come to your house, please apologize to Ilham on my behalf.” He informed, taking his sandwich and drink to the living room.
“You should have called me, I would have brought it home for you. How are you feeling now?” He liked that Sulaiman was his first cousin and only friend. He understood him in a way no one had ever done, and he would forever be indebted to him.
“I’m feeling much better. It’s the usual, I’m fine.” He sighed and began taking his sandwich while they conversed freely with Sulaiman. Well, maybe not freely, because he had learned not to speak too much, not to give away too much. He had become a closed book, but at least with Sulaiman, he was slightly opened. They bade each other goodnight after Yazeed had spoken with Ilham and she nagged about him not eating dinner in their house. After they were done with the phone call, he went to the kitchen, rinsed the utensils he used before he walked to his room, contemplating on whether or not to take his sleeping pills.
As he laid on bed with the pills and water on his bedside drawer, he wasn’t sure what to do. He closed his eyes and put the advice his therapist had once told him, that if he couldn’t sleep at night, he might as well think about something beautiful he had seen for the day. Even if not beautiful, something that hadn’t irritated him and he found that amusing to his heart. He closed his eyes reminiscing all that happened in his day and when he came to where Jalilah was dancing, he just couldn’t keep on thinking. He figured out it was the only good thing he had seen today, and he kept thinking about that. From the way she smiled, the way she expertly moved her body, the way she giggled while staring at her screen, clapping her hands in excitement, everything. And slowly, sleep overtook his consciousness.
It was surprising to him at first after he had woken up and found the pills he had kept there untouched, like, did he sleep without taking his pills? And not just for an hour or two before dawn, he slept for almost four to five hours today. He brushed the thought off, not wanting to remember the reason he was sure had helped him to sleep, and he got ready for work. They all arrived on time today and Yazeed called for a meeting, which took place in the conference room of their department.
Jalilah had this sulky look on her face which he was sure, if he could recall, wasn’t her usual look for the two days he had seen her. But he quickly took his eyes off her and the meeting continued. They weren’t done until it was time for prayer and Jalilah walked out of the conference room immediately. She didn’t know what she was exactly sulking her face for. Was it because she had seen him yesterday and he acted as if he didn’t know who she was? Or it was because of what Farha said, which she was sure he had heard her?
Nevertheless, she didn’t smile as she got to the mosque, having it in mind that she would try that restaurant Wafiyya had mentioned today. She had to try it and see. After she was done praying, she walked out of the mosque and aimed at the gate, which was hurdled by cars driving out of the company. She wished she had a car of her own too, she would have been driving back home to eat something for herself and she knew she would be back on time.
She hissed slowly and tried as much as she could to avoid being hit by a car until she got to the center of the gate, where she had to take another lane because that was where the restaurant was, and she got hit. At first, she thought it was all joke when she fell as she fell flat on the ground. But the excruciating pain that enveloped her leg was what welcomed her back into reality. She was hit, and it was no good even though it wasn’t that serious. She ducked her head on her knees and waited for whoever it was that hit her to come out of the car because she wasn’t sure if she could move normally.
They rushed out, or rather; one of them rushed out of the car and the other walked to where she was. When she looked up at them, it was Yazeed and Sulaiman, and from what she understood, Yazeed was the one driving even though it was Sulaiman’s car.
“Oh my god, we’re so sorry, Jalilah. Can you move to? So we take you to the hospital or a nearby pharmacy.” That was Sulaiman, speaking with all panic and he looked at her with his utmost regret. She flashed him a painful smile and looked at where Yazeed was just looking at her. What? This man didn’t know what was the right thing to do or what the hell was he claiming? He didn’t know he had hit her and it was expected of him to apologize to her? Even if she was no human, he had to look for at least her owner and apologize, right?
“Yes, I can manage.” She supported her shaking body with the car and stood up. “I’ll take my leave.” She spoke through gritted teeth. She wasn’t at all angry at Sulaiman, but she was, at Yazeed. Didn’t he know that a simple sorry could go a long way? What the hell was wrong with this guy?
When they watched as she was limping to the other way, moving away from them and she didn’t get to the car like Sulaiman suggested, “No, I think you should get into the car so we can take you to the hospital.” She heard Yazeed’s voice out of the blue and she had to turn to make sure he was speaking to her. Like, what did this mean? He couldn’t say sorry to her but he wanted her to get into the car so he could take her to the pharmacy to be treated?
She shook her head, “No, I’ll go there myself.”
“No, Jalilah, I think you should just enter so we could take you there. Your leg hurts, right? We’re so sorry please, but you have to enter.” Even though she was backing from them, she knew this kind of words could only be uttered by Sulaiman. Yes, she had known them to that extent in just two days.
She turned to look at them, she wanted to say no to them, but the moment her eyes fell into Yazeed and the look he flashed her while he said, “People are watching, I think you should get into the car.” For a moment, his eyes wandered to her hurting leg and she could swear his eyes were soft. As if he was afraid something delicate had been hurt or damaged. She was too because if she strained her ankle, she didn’t know what would happen to her ballet for days or even weeks, she had to wait until she was fully recovered.
She nodded her head at them and wordlessly walked into the back of the car and sat down. Jalilah could swear she felt his eyes all over her until she sat down and they walked back into the car as well. She had never felt uncomfortable like she did now. She hardly ever felt uncomfortable while she was around a certain number of people, but today, she was. Because she was aware of his eyes that were on her through the mirror. Even though he didn’t know she had noticed that, and the look he was flashing her was the kind that spoke a lot of things which she didn’t want to think of. He looked disturbed, and afraid that maybe something may happen to her.
They hadn’t spoken until they got to the pharmacy and Sulaiman walked out first, answering a phone call. Yazeed walked out of the car even though he didn’t leave right away, he as well didn’t come to where she was. She opened the door by herself and when she tried to move, she felt as her joints cracked, which was so painful. She winced and stood up, walking out of the car while trying to steady herself with one hand and have a better hold of her handbag with the other.
She didn’t know how it happened, how he walked to where she in a matter of seconds, but he had swiftly collected her handbag and was looking into her eyes, “Can you make it inside? Or we have to ask for help?” By help, she knew he meant for a woman to come and help her in, and that was rather thoughtful of him.
She looked at her bag that was in his hand and stared at the distance she had to cover before she could make it inside, “I think I can make it.” She moved from the car and he closed the door before he followed behind her, all this while delicately looking at her ankle which she limped painfully. She nearly lost her balance and Yazeed swiftly moved to where she was, even though he hadn’t touched her and she regained her composure right back, she could see through his eyes that if something was to happen, he would have done that.
They walked inside, to where someone showed them and met Sulaiman already seated on a chair while still on a phone call. Sulaiman looked at them and softly smiled at her before she was given a chair and Yazeed found a spot beside him and sat. Jalilah didn’t know whether it was a nurse or doctor that had came to treat her, but she knew the man had a cool smile that she had to smile back despite being in so much pain.
“We’ll have to move the leg to know what exactly happened to it, can I?” He gently asked, and she nodded her head before she lifted it to him. Her anklet was revealed, which had adorned her ankle and the doctor began moving the leg softly. One minute she was smiling and thinking of the cool smile he had, the next minute she was scrunching up her face, preventing herself from crying out loud. The next move he made with her ankle made it so hard for her to hold it in.
She screamed softly, more like a loudly wince, and covered her lips with her palms, giving way for her tears as she closed her eyes. “That hurts!” She whined amidst her tears and tried pulling her leg away from him but he held it firm.
“I’m sorry,” he said and gently placed her leg on something while he stood up. “I think you’ve strained your ankle, but it’s not a serious wound. You’ll heal in no time.”
That was it, what she feared! “But, can I dance with the leg like this?” She asked out of the blue and didn’t even know where the words came out from. He gave her a confused look and she quickly shook her head with a shy smile, “I mean ballet, not normal dance. Can I practice ballet with the leg?” She looked rather sad when she asked the question because she didn’t know what his answer would be.
“No, you can’t. You have to give it some weeks to heal, but if you dance with it like this, you will hurt yourself deeper which will cause even greater damage.” She nodded her head in understanding while he walked away to bring the medications for her.
For a brisk second, she looked up at Yazeed and for a brisk second he had lifted his eyes too from his phone and laid them on her. They were so quick at looking away and they all waited until the doctor came back with the medications in a nylon bag and he handed it to her. “There are ointments and pills…” he kept talking about how she had to take them until Jalilah didn’t find his cool smile alluring any more, she hated medicines.
After they were back to the car, Sulaiman stopped her before she entered with a soft smile, “I think you should take the rest of the day off, where can we drop you off?” He asked, and she shook her head.
There was no way she was going to take the day off and have herself neck-deep in work tomorrow. Yazeed had given her a pile of work that she hadn’t even touched yet, and she was sure there would be more tomorrow. “I’ll be fine, it’s just a sprain. And I have a lot of work I need to complete as long as I want to leave early tomorrow.” She glared at Yazeed through her peripheral view, and sadly, he saw that. Wait, did he always have his eyes on her?
Sulaiman nodded his head and suppressed his chuckle, he had seen the look she flashed Yazeed. “We were heading to my house to eat lunch, let’s all go there.” He said after they had already driven off, and she knew there was no way she could argue. But the thought had made her nervous, she would have to be in the same environment with Yazeed? Like a normal home, not his office? While she was having that thought, their eyes locked through the rear mirror and she pouted before she looked away.
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