He found it so hard to take his eyes off her, with the reason unbeknownst to him. Especially when they were in the pharmacy and the doctor was examining her leg, he had to pretend that he was using his phone so as not to appear stupid. When she let that cry out, Yazeed felt something within him, and he had to look up to meet the tears flowing down her cheeks. And until now that she had this pout on her lips while she looked through the window which was obvious to avoid his gaze, Yazeed couldn’t take his eyes off her. Maybe it was because he felt guilty that she had to pause with her practice because of him, he was the one that hit her after all. Maybe it wasn’t the guilt, he wanted to see her dance one more time.
He swerved the steering wheel and parked while he looked at Sulaiman who was grinning widely. This had always been Sulaiman’s reaction whenever they came back home, he figured out this had always been his reaction whenever he spent a few hours away from home and he came back to his wife. Through the rear mirror, he watched as Jalilah stared at the building with a soft smile on her lips before she walked out of the car, careful not to hurt herself more. He got down too and they silently walked inside.
They both sat down in the living room as Sulaiman went inside to call Ilham. Jalilah’s phone rang, and she made a face before she brought out the phone from her bag and slide the answer button. “Farha, how are you?” She asked softly because there was no way she would act all giddy while he was sitting close to her. Like they weren’t that close, but what mattered was they were in a living room together even though they weren’t sitting together. And most importantly, she wasn’t home or in her office, she had to behave herself.
“Hey girl, you promised to call me with an update. How far? Have you checked out the new restaurant and has he apologized for acting as if he doesn’t know you?” How was she ever going to have this conversation with Farha while he was seated a few feet away from her? One of the perks of having one best friend, she told her everything. Even if she didn’t want to tell her, Farha had seen him yesterday.
“I tried checking out the restaurant but I got hit instead, so, no.” she absentmindedly rolled her eyes and pouted her lips before she looked away from him. She was that outspoken Jalilah, right? She could do everything she so wishes, to hell with him. He was the reason she couldn’t practice ballet now. And instantly, she figured out she had to email Mrs Rosey that she couldn’t make it with evidence attached because she felt Mrs Rosey will accuse her of wanting her job so bad that she couldn’t continue doing ballet anymore.
“Oh my god, like hit by a guy? What happened? How does he look like? Did you give him your number?” Farha asked, and Jalilah had no choice but to palm her face. Who had such a crazy best friend?
“Oh, Farha! I was hit by my boss, with a car not with words that might have a place in my heart. And I’ve sprained my ankle because of that, which means no ballet until it’s healed. And also, no apology came because of what happened yesterday, there, I’ve said it all.” For the moment that she spoke through gritted teeth, she kept her eyes fixed on him but he didn’t even acknowledge her presence in the living room, which brewed her anger even more. And she figured out she had to quickly take her eyes off him unless she wanted him to look up and meet her glaring at him.
Before Farha replied her, Sulaiman walked out with his heavily pregnant wife. “Hey, I’ll call you later. Don’t disturb my whole life with your annoying-I-want-to-hear-the-whole-story-calls, okay?” She warned and ended the call while ignoring the way Farha groaned.
She smiled widely at Ilham and waited until she reached the sofa she was seated on, they shook hands with beautiful smiles on their faces. “Hey, my name is Ilham, and you’re welcome to my home.”
Jalilah smiled and nodded her head, “And you can please call me Jalilah. I hope we met you in good health, I can see, you’re heavy already, Masha Allah. I wish you a very safe delivery.” They smiled warmly at each other while Ilham answered her prayers and she turned to look at Sulaiman with a questioning look while pointing at Yazeed with her eyes.
“Yazeedu, what’s with you today? Not feeling okay? Or just the feeling of having your words to yourself?” She was the only person that called him Yazeedu, sometimes Sulaiman did call him that too, but she was a constant. He looked up at her and shook his head with a soft smile, trying all he could not look at Jalilah, and he did that perfectly.
“I was just letting you finish exchanging the pleasantries, Ilham. How are you and the baby?” His words were calculative like he only chose who to speak long words to and who not to. Jalilah found it amusing staring at him while he spoke.
“I’m fine, and the baby is ecstatic today because you’re here, finally you aren’t going to starve yourself in the office today.” She smiled warmly and looked up Sulaiman, “How did you manage to get him out of that office?”
“It was one hell of a job, shall we move? We’ve spent so much in the pharmacy and we have to go back in time.” Sulaiman said and looked at the watch attached to his left wrist.
Even though they all stood up, Ilham turned to look at Jalilah with an apologetic smile, “Yes, he told me what happened. How are you feeling now?” She asked, and Jalilah smiled at her.
“It hurts a bit, but nothing to complain about.” And they walked together to the dining table while the couple spoke lovely to themselves. If Sulaiman acted like Yazeed, she would have wondered how he was able to be so lovely toward his wife, but he was a gentleman that the first time she saw him she knew his wife had gotten herself one of the best husbands on earth.
The men sat down and Jalilah looked at how Ilham was trying to serve them, “Oh please, I’ll do that. You should sit down please.” She wanted to hesitate at first, but Jalilah had this cool look that when she requested something of you, it was hard saying no to her. Ilham smiled at her and sat down.
Jalilah moved around serving them and if it was okay they would say it with a lovely smile on their face until she walked to was serving Yazeed, and she had to move to where he was seated because she sat opposite him and there was no way she could serve him from there. She looked at him with a grim expression and asked, “What will you like?” He looked up, and their eyes met. His eyes that this secret power of unnerving her soul, which she didn’t know how it happened in just two days, but she was certain they did.
“Anything please.” She nodded her head and served him before she placed the plate down while he moved his hand forward to take the spoon and something which she wasn’t sure of brushed her hand. When she looked up, it was his outstretched hand and she quickly retreated her hand before she walked away. Did he feel that? She doubted because he looked so calm as if nothing had happened.
She went back and sat down, finding it a punishment to sit opposite him while she ate. Not that she had never eaten with him sitting opposite her, but this was different, even though she was sure the couple didn’t even realize what was sparking between them. She took her eyes off him, served herself and ducked her head down while she slowly began taking her food.
She didn’t look up at him even though she was sure there were times he looked at her until she was done and he was done as well. Their eyes met while he was taking a gulp of his drink and she looked away, which wasn’t a good idea because Sulaiman was lovingly feeding his wife and she felt the urge to walk back to the living room and wait until he was done so they could go back to the company.
She wordlessly stood up and walked to the living room, glad that none of them asked why she was leaving the dining area because it was evident that she was done and something was happening there which she shouldn’t witness. She was so happy when she heard Yazeed speaking to him that he should do fast, and from how natural he sounded, she was sure he was used to seeing the duo like that. After Sulaiman was done, they left back to the company with no words shared between them. Just a laconic conversation going on between the men which she had no business in.
She was staring at the blank page of her MacBook while wondering what in the world would she tell Mrs Rosey today? She was tired of having excuses, she had missed her class for almost two days, the day she came to Abuja and the first day she started working here, which was only a two days ago. And now this? She looked at the picture she had snapped her ankle, which showed no sign of hurt but she knew Mrs Rosey will believe her because she was telling the truth.
A call came through from the office phone and she picked it while staring at her MacBook with her hand supporting her chin. “Hello?”
“I need you to come to my…” she didn’t know why she was startled to the point that she let out a faint scream! “What’s wrong?” Even though it came out soft, as if he couldn’t help himself asking, she was so surprised.
“I’m sorry, what were you saying please?” Was she going to tell him that she got startled because she had never expected him to call and ask her something? This was the man that right before his eyes the HR asked her to go home so she could rest, but he even had the guts to…
“I need you to come to my office with the work I gave you in the morning, we need to work on that.” He cut her thoughts off and before she could comprehend what he was saying he had already cut the call off. She looked at the phone and groaned loudly before she scribbled something quick to Mrs Rosey and stood to her feet. She took all she knew she needed and walked to his office, giving herself the pep talk to control herself and not to stare at him too much, lest she appeared like a pest.
She knocked softly on the door even though she could see through that he was ready for her to come in but she waited outside. She was sure she saw his lips moved a little, which meant she should come in but she acted stubbornly, she wanted him to speak normally with her. She knocked again and he looked at her through the glasses before he motioned for her to come in, which she did. She found herself a seat on the sofa before she turned to look at him.
“What do I need to do?” She asked, and he stared at her for a minute until she realize that she had her ankle brought up and she was slowly moving the leg to ease her pain. She quickly muttered something beneath her breath and took the leg down, covering it fully with her Abaya.
“Does it still hurt?” He asked with utmost sincerity while staring at her. She wanted to retort back with a sarcastic reply, of course, it hurt, if not she wouldn’t have been caressing it like that. But seeing the way he was softly looking at her, to the innocence dripping from his words, she decided to answer him normally.
“Yes, it hurts a bit.” She replied and nodded head with a hint of pout lingering on her lips.
“Have you taken the medication?” Oh, this didn’t look promising. Was he the one or she was seeing someone like him? She admitted she didn’t know him for long, just two days to be precise, but the Yazeed she knew would never ask her if she had taken her medication.
Nonetheless, she shook her head, “No, I’ll take them when I get back home.”
He lightly shook his head, “Can I see the medicines?” She thought he was only curious, maybe he had a suggestion of a better pill she would use that will take away the pain in no time, and she rose to her feet.
“They’re in my office, I’ll bring them now.” And she walked out of his office without waiting for a reply from him even though she was sure he had his eyes fixed on her until she disappeared from his sight. She came back to the office bearing the nylon and placed it on his table before she went back to the sofa and sat down, putting on her MacBook.
Through her peripheral view, Jalilah watched as he stood up with the nylon in his hand and he walked to where the water dispenser was, she thought he wanted some water and also was going to give back the nylon, but to her surprise, after he had gotten the water into the disposable cup, he sat down on the sofa opposite her and placed the cup between them.
She watched as he took the pills out as prescribed by the doctor and handed them to her, she looked between his face and the pills in his hand before she asked, “What should I do?”
From the look on his face, it was evident he wanted to smack her so hard until she got back into her senses, what kind of question was that? It was evident he meant she should take the pills, for god sake! “Take your pills, apply the ointment then we start to work.”
She stretched out her hand opened her palms, waiting for him to place the pills on it. She was afraid that if she kept acting as if she didn't know what he meant, he would get angry and walk back to his seat, which meant she wouldn’t be able to see this kind of Yazeed ever again. Even though she had her lips pouted, she watched as he placed down the pills in her opened palms and relaxed back on the sofa, watching her as she kept staring at the pills.
“Why won't I have it at night? That’s the most suitable time to take medicines.” She suggested, looking at them as if they were some sort of a dangerous poison.
“But the doctor prescribed them for you, he knows a suitable time to take medicine better than you. Or are you a medical student?” This was the first time he had ever spoken this long and even sarcastic to her, she found that amusing.
She closed her eyes and opened them again, showing her grief. “I’m not, but...”
He cut her off, “Please, we have a lot of work to do. But if you feel you can’t do that then you can take the day off but you have to take the pills first so you can emerge strong by tomorrow Insha Allah.”
“No, I can do that. I'll just...” She let her words trialled off as she gulped down the pills into her mouth and wished she could bring them out. She hated medicines, why the hell wouldn’t he understand that? She placed down the cup on the table between them and had this horrible look on her face.
“Now, the ointment, I'll stare at you from my table. You have to do fast.” He stood up and walked back to his table while she kept shooting daggers at him. She brought her leg up and placed one of his throw pillows on the table to rest it on before she squirted it on her hand and began applying it on her ankle.
After she was done, she looked at Yazeed, who had his eyes fixed on her and spoke, “I’m done. Now, what do I need to do?”
He pointed at her MacBook, “Work, send it to me when like we did yesterday.”
Those were the last words he had uttered to her, even when she asked him something or said something, he only nodded his head or shook his head. Until it was time for Asr prayer and he told her he was going to pray. Even when they were back and continued working, they shared no word until she was done and she stood up with the nylon in her hand.
“No, leave that nylon here. It’s once per day, you’ll be taking them here, Insha Allah.” His words showed he cared, but his actions spoke otherwise. How could you tell a girl that she had to be taking her medications from your office while you’re not even staring at her? Not to even talk of a smile? She had never seen someone like him in her life. She nodded her head and begrudgingly placed the nylon on the table and walked out of the office.
She went back to her office and sat down, thinking of what she would do today to eat her time away. Remember she had a lot of unfinished paintings, Jalilah smiled and looked through the window, she had to buy her painting materials, but staring through the window now, she figured out it was cloudy in Abuja and might as well rain before it was closing time. Painting was one of the things she enjoyed doing but never took seriously as ballet. She did it only when she was bored and had nothing to do, which wasn’t often.
She tried calling Sulaiman’s line to ask if she could go to the shop and buy her materials but she remembered her ankle now and stopped herself from doing that. It would only be best if she ordered and have them delivered to her house, and she got into her phone.
As she expected, before it was closing time, it had already begun drizzling and she prayed she would have an Uber closely, which reminded her that she needed a driver, she would have to call Mama today, there were a lot of things she wanted in Abuja. Mrs Rosey’s call came through just when it was closing time, and Jalilah got ready to receive an earful.
“Hi, Mrs Rosey,” she waved at her with a beautiful smile and Mrs Rosey pulled her blonde hair to the back of her ears. “Why the face? Did you receive my email?” Jalilah asked, trying so hard to suppress the laughter wanting to erupt from her lips. Mrs Rosey was one of the most dramatic people she had ever known.
“I feel like I should believe you, but a part of me doesn’t want to, Jealilah.” She groaned and rolled her eyes at her, which was a gateway for Jalilah’s laughter.
“Come on, Mrs Rosey, I was truly hit by a car. Though it isn't that serious, I sprained my ankle and you know how I won’t be able to practice ballet with a sprained ankle unless I want to wound myself forever.”
“You have this kind of smile that makes it so hard to believe. Stand up, I have to make sure you aren’t lying.” Jalilah did as she ordered before she looked at her, “Where is the hospital report?”
“There’s none because it’s a pharmacy I was taken too, not a hospital.”
Mrs Rosey mused to herself, “And what of pills or ointment? Anything to show that they want you to heal.” Oops, that was bad.
“They are with my boss. You know how I hate medicine right? He wants me to be taking them on time that’s why he kept them with him.” Did that sound okay?
Mrs Rosey shook her head, “Are you sure you aren’t lying, Jealilah? That was what you did last time you wanted to attend your cousin’s wedding.”Did she ever mention that she liked Mrs Rosey? She wanted to take these words back. This woman can never forget!
“I’m serious this time, should I show you?” Jalilah whined and stood up, to her dismay, Mrs Rosey nodded her head.
“Yes, show it to me. Dance a little, but don’t hurt yourself in the process.” Did she hear herself? Don’t hurt yourself! That meant she believed she had a sprained ankle, Mrs Rosey will always be Mrs Rosey.
Jalilah moved far away from the screen, not minding the kind of clothes she had and she began moving softly, it got to the point that she nearly fell and she quickly slumped on the sofa, “Ouch! That hurts so bad, Mrs Rosey!” She whined and carefully lifted her ankle and examined it.
She didn’t know so much time had passed while she spoke with Mrs Rosey until she heard the buzzing sounds of car engines as they drove out of the building. She quickly ended their conversation with Mrs Rosey and packed her bag, it was beginning to rain heavily, she began searching for a nearby Uber even before she walked out of her office.
She realized that even if she walked out now, she had to wait outside while the rain poured down on her before the Uber arrived, that’s if she got one. And she sat down patiently waiting in her office while the whole company became evacuated, which she was sure would be less embarrassing if she got drenched by rain because no one was watching.
Not until she was sure there was no one in the building did she stood up and walked out of her office, almost bumping on him on her way. She quickly backed away and ducked her head down, “I’m sorry.”
But he walked away without saying it was okay or anything of some sort. She glared at his retreating back and limped behind him because she knew there was no one left in the building for her to take the elevator with. As she predicted, they were the only ones left and she stood away from him while he busied himself on his phone.
When they got down, Jalilah noticed that the rain was getting heavier with each passing minute, and when she took a peek at her phone, the cars available were far away from the company, what would she do now? She cringed to her skin and got ready for a cold because there was no way she was staying in this building alone with just a few security officers here and there. She clutched onto her bag and walked into the rain. She scolded herself for not thinking of getting herself an umbrella, she would have used it for her sanity today.
She began walking with her eyes getting clouded by the rain while she shivered lightly. When she saw a car moving toward her, she was sure it was him, because she had seen him pulled over in that car yesterday and today as well. At first, he slowed down to the point that she thought he was going to ask her to come in but he drove up in such a speed that frightened her. She stared at the car until he drove out of her sight and hissed softly. She had never seen a moody man like him, and he was heartless too. Knowing quite alright she was sick and he was even the cause, and he had the guts to leave her like this? Wow, just wow.
Out of nowhere, she heard a car honk beside her, it was too heavy that she wasn’t even seeing properly, she turned and cleared the water away from her face, and to her dismay, he wasn’t the one. She moved to the car and the driver winded the glass down, “Oh, Wafiyya!” Her teeth clattered as she spoke, and instead of Wafiyya to answer her, she motion for her to quickly get in the car, which she did.
“Oh my god! I'm so cold, ya Rabb!” She spoke through clattering teeth and undid her hijab. “My hair is so wet too, what should I do now?”
Wafiyya laughed at how flustered she looked and handed her a box of tissue, “Use it if you can, even though it’s clear that you only need a hot bath and a coffee. Why will you walk in the rain alone?”
Jalilah thankfully collected the tissue and began clearing her face, one thing she hated in her life was to have her hair wet, because she knew it meant a lot of work. “I couldn't get an Uber, Wafiyya, and I'm so afraid to stay in the company along with those security officers.”
“You should have called me, I was just coming back because I forgot my laptop in there and I have a lot of work to do, I'm glad I was able to help.”
“You did, even though I'm sure I'd wake up with a cold tomorrow. Am I going to get your car?” She asked, staring at her drenched self.
“No, don’t worry. They are leather seats, I'll just have someone to clean them off. Which area do you live?”
“Wuse zone II...” And she directed her to her house while they listed on their way there.
She sneezed and moved her cup away from her mouth until she was done and carefully placed her phone back to her left ear, “Don’t you think buying a new car is too extravagant, Mama?” She asked because she didn't feel the need to do that.
“If you don’t want to buy it then I can send the driver to bring yours over there. Didn't I ask you to let the driver take you there so you can have your car with you? But no, you were so lazy to endure a simple trip from Adamawa to Abuja by road, now see what it caused on you.”
“Mama, how can you call a 13hrs or even 14hrs trip a simple trip? I can die before we reach Abuja. I'll appreciate it if he can bring it to me.” She sneezed again and moved her head very close to the room heater so it will dry, even though she knew that wouldn't be enough for her head, she had to do that before she could let go of her laziness and do the right thing.
“I'll arrange for it, during the weekend, Insha Allah. You’ll start using your car by next week. Just manage and know how to do with your life before then, okay?”
“Mama!” Jalilah whined, “I’m not complaining that it will reach the weekend, but you aren’t even showing any sympathy. You don’t even ask how I'm doing, I'm sure you heard me sneezed.”
“Ahh, what is sympathy again? Jalilah you caused this upon yourself, what do you want me to do now? Cocoon you in my arms until you fall asleep or what? And yes, I hope you dried your hair if not you’ll fall sick tomorrow.”
“I haven’t done that yet, but I’ll do that before I go to bed, Insha Allah. How’s Fareed and Fareeda?”
“They’re all fine, Fareed has gone to watch a football match with his friends, and Fareeda is here.”
Before Jalilah spoke, she heard the resonating voice of Fareeda, “I missed you so much, Addah.”
Jalilah smiled to herself and spoke back, “Oh my baby sis, how have you been? I’ve been missing you guys here too. I have no one to talk to but over the phone with either Mama or Farha. No one annoys me and makes me laugh as you two do. I don’t even separate fights anymore.” They burst into a fist a peal of laughter and Jalilah wished she could see herself at home right now. She missed those two teenagers, like they were everything she had and more, after Mama. She missed their silly fights and annoyance and everything.
“We don’t fight as often as we do when you were here, you know. And if Mama sees us, she won’t speak, the night thing we feel is Idi Maigadi’s stick on our bodies, I've been so careful since then.”
Jalilah didn't know how to control her laughter, she had been thinking of how Mama was going to be stressed out by these two, but it turned out she had gotten herself a perfect solution to her problem. “I’m glad she found a suiting solution to her problem, I'll be doing the same when I come back, you won’t be stressing my life with ‘Fareed! Fareeda! Won't you stop it for Allah’s sake?’ It will just be Idi Maigadi’s stick on your bodies, and you’ll stop for its sake.”
They chatted for a little while before they bade each other goodnight and ended the call. Jalilah was smiling while she rinsed her cup and kept it when a message popped into her phone, it was Farha, and the moment she saw ‘Girl, there’s a problem!’ She needn’t ask what the problem was.
She walked around the kitchen in her baggy nightwear and found herself a pack of cookies and a bottle of yoghurt before she walked to the living room, turned on the tv and sat down, she knew this would be a long chat.
Even before she was able to reply, another one popped up. ‘Girl! I'm in a dilemma!’
‘What is it, Farha? One, the problem has Baba in it. Two, the dilemma, another marriage proposal?’ She giggled because she knew this was the only definition problem had in Farha’s life.
‘You guessed right. I don't know what to do, Jalilah. You need to see the guy, yuck!’ Every guy was yuck to Farha to the extent that Jalilah wondered the type of guy she wanted for herself.
‘Can I see a picture of him, let’s rate him.’
It took her only a few minutes before she sent the picture, and when Jalilah opened it, he was a good looking handsome man in his probably mid-twenties. Even though the picture was discreetly taken, it was evident he was handsome and also cute. ‘Girl, are you sure we aren’t accepting this one? What's his name?’
‘Another turn-off, his name is Nura, how much I dislike the name. And to make it worse, he’s the last born and you need to see how he’s been acting childish to me. Girl, I can’t kill myself!’
Jalilah had to laugh out loud before she replied to her, ‘But he’s handsome, you want handsome men. I don’t think his name will be a problem.’
‘It’s a no for me, and you know when we say no...’
‘We mean no, baby girl. What should we tell Baba this time?’
“I’ll figure that out. How’s your eccentric boss?’
‘I’ve been searching for the right word to describe him, eccentric indeed. That man acts like he's on his period, I don’t even know what to say about him anymore.’
“My chest! How can I unsee this! Nura thinks I'm laughing because of him, oh my god!’ When Jalilah reread what she wrote, she had to laugh as well, and imagined how Yazeed would act if he heard that she said he was on his period. Maybe he was going to act like he didn’t know or he was going to throw a fist? She would love to see his reaction someday.