She tried stretching her body but she felt as her joints moved painfully. Lazily opening her eyes, Jalilah looked at the clock on her bedside drawer which caused her to jerk upright, which made her experienced the worst kind of pain she had ever experienced in a very long time. She placed her hands on her head and groaned, feeling as her temperature rose a bit. She knew something of this nature would happen, but never this worse. And now, she had to be at work, she was even late.
She groaned again and walked softly to her kitchen, finding it so hard with her sprained ankle and her head threatening to burst into two. She got herself the only headache and fever pill she had, which was courtesy of Mama and gulped down, not even remembering the fact that she hated medicine. If she was going to have it as she wanted, she would go back to her bed and sleep some more, but she knew they had a lot of work to cover today. She moved to her bathroom directly and took her bath while silently wincing in pain.
She got ready and didn’t mind getting herself something to eat. One, because she was so sick and she hardly ate when she was sick. Two, because she was extraordinarily late, she wondered what Yazeed would do to her if he looked for her and she wasn’t there. She was silent inside the car, thinking of the best excuse to give him while she kept blowing her nose with each passing second. The driver finally pulled in front of the building, she paid before she walked out, holding her bag firmly.
She knew she was a total mess today, but she had no choice but to keep going. When she reached the elevator, she dropped the tissue she was holding in the bin and stared at it while thinking of what to do. She knew it was high time she knew how to get into the elevator herself, but every time she braced herself for that, she couldn't and she ended up failing wholly.
“Which floor?” She heard a voice behind her, and when she turned, it was Wafiyya smiling widely at her.
“Oh, Wafiyya, I should start calling you my guardian angel. 9th floor please, I'm so late, right?” She asked while they entered and turned to look at her while she waited for an answer.
“Yes, you’re late. And you’re a mess today. Are you sick? Your nose is red, your eyes too, your whole face doesn’t look like yours. What's going on?” Wafiyya asked while she helped Jalilah held her handbag as she blew her nose.
“That rain, I caught a cold, Wafiyya. And you know I told you I sprained my ankle yesterday, right? Everything is messed up for me, I want nothing but to stay at home and sleep. But that man, I'm sure even if I’m going to spend a week without coming to work, he’ll keep mine for me. It’s better to do it at the right time than do it while everything is choked up for me.”
“Why don’t you tell him you’re sick and you couldn’t make it? I'm sure he wouldn't force you to come if you took an excuse from him.” Wafiyya insisted, and Jalilah laughed before she shook her head.
“It’s like you forgot the person we’re talking about, right? Please, we’re talking about Yazeed Adam Bunza, I don’t even have his number to call him and take that excuse, plus he wouldn’t let me have the day off even if I'm taken to the hospital.” Wafiyya laughed and they kept talking until they reached the 9th floor and Jalilah collected her bag from her, “Thank you so much, Wafiyya. Wait for me at the elevator during lunch.” She smiled widely and walked away while she watched as Wafiyya pushed the 6th-floor number and she slid down.
She had to stop herself from looking at his office while she approached there until she was seated on her chair and she heaved a sigh out of relief as if that was the heaviest task she had ever done to herself. She blew her nose and before she could make the next move, the office phone had rung, she needn’t know who it was, because she knew it was him.
Nonetheless, she picked up. “Hello? Good morning.”
“Morning.” His voice was cold and distant, what was wrong with him? “I can see you’re just coming to the company, come over as soon as you can, we have some work to do.” And before she told him anything, not even an okay, Yazeed had already ended the call. She wanted to smack him through the phone but she restrained herself knowing that he could easily see her from his office.
She took her bunch of tissue, her phone and MacBook before she left. She softly knocked on his door and walked inside with tentative steps, her ankle didn’t hurt as much as it did when she woke up, but it wasn’t flashy as well. She found herself a spot in her usual sofa before she looked up at him, “Good morning.”
He had his eyes fixed on his screen and he only looked up to her when she had given up a reply from him and began switching on her system. “Will you mind sending...” Her words were cut off by a sneeze and she blew her nose afterwards before she continued, “Sending me the works, please? I'll review them now and sort everything out.”
He only nodded his head and Jalilah rolled her eyes at him, she hated this cold look on his face. She knew she only knew this version of himself but she had seen a sparkle of a warm Yazeed within him yesterday. She believed that this wasn't his real self, as if he had been hiding behind this cold body of his for a very long time.
Throughout her stay in his office, she kept sneezing and blowing her nose that she wished she could go back to her apartment, to her room and sleep until her body was tired of sleeping. When it was finally zuhr time, and he still hadn’t uttered a word out to her, she was the one that kept talking with her sore and tired voice when necessary. She watched as he walked out of the office without even informing her that he was going to pray like he used to. What the hell was wrong with this man? She wondered and shrugged off her shoulder, standing to her feet when she saw Wafiyya’s message that she was waiting for her.
She left for the elevator and that was what she realized that Wafiyya was waiting for her at the down floor, and now she had no other chance. Looking around their floor, she saw there was no one but him, walking toward the elevator and she knew history had to repeat itself. She masked up her emotions and walked behind him in a cool manner one would think it was so cool for them to walk side by side without sharing a word out.
It wasn’t until they entered that he noticed she was the one following him. She sneezed some more and blew her nose while her head throbbed for the umpteenth time. She placed her palm on her forehead and felt her temperature while she winced softly. “Ya Rabb, I'm so sick...” Another sneeze came. She kept reciting ‘Alhamdulillah’ as required in Islam but he hadn’t said anything, that riled her up.
“I get it, if you can’t speak to me because of your reason which I don’t know of, but can’t you at least pray for me after I sneezed like it is required in Islam? I know you’re my boss and all, but no one is beyond correction, right?” As much as she resisted the urge to roll her eyes at him, she couldn't. That was something she did whenever she was annoyed, and right now, she was even frustrated.
He looked at her, their eyes met for a split second but there was no reply from him. He looked away from her and kept staring at his phone screen. She knew she would be either thrown out of this company because of what she was going to do to him or he would beat the hell out of her if he was the abusive type. Because there was no way she was going to let this slide.
She moved an inch close to him and placed her hands on akimbo. “I do respect you, but what you’re doing right now is something I find so annoying that I might not be able to control myself. Why don’t you at least voice a word out?” She spoke through gritted teeth, but all Yazeed did was stared at the distance between them and he took his eyes back to his phone.
She sarcastically waved her hand over his face and spoke again, “I’m not being persistent so you could speak to me, rather, I was pointing out what Allah asked us as Muslims to do. When someone sneezes, and if he or she says Alhamdulillah, you have to pray for that person’s forgiveness and yourself. And if you in case don’t know about it...” She wasn’t able to complete her sentence when he looked up at her and their eyes met. Did she ever mention that his eyes could unnerve her soul in a matter of seconds? Because they did now, and she instantly lost her voice. He stared deeply into her eyes for more than a minute before he tucked his phone into his breast pocket and walked out of the elevator, that was when she noticed that they were down already.
She met Wafiyya waiting for her and when she approached her, she tapped her shoulder with a teasing smile, “What happened? You seem out of yourself. Did he say something to you up there?” Wafiyya asked, and Jalilah turned to look at her. This was the first time he held her gaze for more than the seconds he used to, and she could still feel the way his orbs felt into hers. It was just soo...she couldn't even have the right words to describe it.
“Tell me if what I did was wrong, Wafiyya. I've been sneezing since morning and in front of this man in his office but he couldn’t say anything...” She told her all that happened in the elevator and from the shocked expression Wafiyya had, she knew it was no good at all.
“Oh my god! You didn't say that to him, Jalilah. What has gotten into your head for Allah’s sake? Ya ilahi! You have to apologize, oh my Rabb!” She had to smack Wafiyya’s shoulder so she could stop freaking her out. That was why she loved being friends with Farha because their level of craziness was the same. If had it been she told Farha this, the only thing she would say was, ‘He’s such an idiot for ignoring you that way, Baby girl! I'm glad you gave him his own medicine.’ But now Wafiyya was making her feel as though she had committed murder.
“Look, I'm not exaggerating, but you what you did right there was wrong. And you even dared to move closer to him? Jalilah!” She couldn’t help breaking out into a fit of laughter. She had seen different kinds of girls, but this was the first time she was seeing the kind of Jalilah, and it was terrifying and hilarious altogether.
“But I think what I did was Islamically right? How can I be sneezing endlessly, and he heard me muttering Alhamdulillah but he couldn’t pray for my forgiveness and his own? I wasn’t the one that invented this law, Islam did.” She rolled her eyes at no one in particular, wishing he was still by her side, she had more words to say to him.
“I’m not saying he wasn’t wrong, but seeing the kind of person he was, you shouldn’t have done that. What if he made your life a living hell because of that? What would you do then?”
She was silent for a while before she shook her head, “I don’t mind, I’ll try as much as I can to disturb his peace of mind too, that’s if he has any. And I will just be here for a year, once I'm done with my service there’s a tendency he wouldn’t be able to see me again forever, I will forget about him too. He’s so full of himself.” She hissed and rolled her eyes at no one in particular while Wafiyya laughed as they walked to the mosque.
They were done praying and were walking toward the restaurant Jalilah wasn’t able to check out yesterday when Wafiyya pointed a car at her, it was just nearby, so they were walking themselves there. “Look, I think that’s him! Where is he going? He hardly takes lunch until after Asr, and I thought that’s what you do too?”
Jalilah groaned outwardly and playfully glared at Wafiyya, “For god sake, Wafiyya. Why are you like this? I don't mind if he’s driving somewhere or if he’s going to root there forever. Yes, I'm sick now and I haven’t had breakfast so a girl has got to eat to be alive.”
Wafiyya only laughed as they walked into the restaurant, placed their orders and sat down as they waited for their foods to arrive. Wafiyya looked at how ruminative Jalilah looked and tapped her hand with a teasing chuckle, “Are you thinking of what he’ll do to you?”
She glared her eyes before she shook her head, “He can do his worst for all I care, Wafiyya. I'm just hungry, sick, and want to sleep so bad.”
Safiyya heaved a sigh before she smiled again. One thing Jalilah had noticed about her was, she has a very cool smile and she was good-hearted as well. “But you know he’s not that bad as you thought, right? He’s a very good guy, you just have to know him for some time.”
“Why are you suddenly praising him?” She rolled her eyes upward to show her annoyance, but slowly, she nodded her head and sighed. “From his looks, I think he has something he’s trying so hard to walk away from but he couldn’t. Like he’s fighting so much on his own and he found it so hard relying on others. That’s what I think though, I'm not sure if that’s what’s bothering him or it’s just my illusion.”
Before Wafiyya was able to reply to her, the waiter came to and placed their orders. Jalilah smiled while she thanked him and dived into her food. The first spoon she took, she looked at Wafiyya with a horrible expression until she was done swallowing. “I thought you said the food here is good?” There was an accusative tone on her voice.
“Yes, it is. what?” Wafiyya asked, confused. She looked between Jalilah and their delicious plates of food.
“It tastes horrible Wafiyya, oh my god!” She whined but took the second spoon to her mouth nonetheless.
“You’re sick, remember? You don’t need to have a better taste of things. But I think the food here is very good.”
“Even if it’s good, some things just don’t sit right with your taste buds. I won’t be eating here again, oh my buds.” Jalilah had got to be the most dramatic person Wafiyya had ever seen in her life.
They were done eating and paid everything before they left back to the company with Jalilah still complaining about how horrible the food tasted and how she was never going to eat there again. She didn’t know what to do anymore, because the food in the cafeteria wasn’t good for her as well.
They bade each other goodbye before Jalilah followed the employees into the elevator whom she was sure she had seen their faces once or twice in their department. She had to brace herself when she stood in front of his office, contemplating on whether to enter the office or just forget about it and go back to her office. If he needed her he would call. But she knew deep down she hadn't finished today’s work. She muttered some supplications before she turned the doorknob and entered.
“Assalamu Alaikum,” she said her taslim and waited to hear if he was going to answer her. Which to her surprise, he did.
He discreetly walked to the sofa and sat down, thinking of how she was going to survive the remaining hours left for them. Through her peripheral view, she watched as he stood up and walked to the water dispenser. Immediately she saw that she knew what it meant and she didn’t know when she abruptly stood up and he turned to look at her.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
She palmed her face to give herself the confidence she needed before she told her to lie, “I think I left something in my office, I want to go and get it back.” She said in a rush and tried moving but he stopped her.
“Wait, take your medication first.” He said and took the cup while he moved to where she stood.
She quickly shook her head, “I think I need to use the restroom, I'll be back in a bit.” From the way she was talking in such a rush and the way she was glaring at both the cup and nylon in his hand while trying all she could to run away from him, for the first time in her life, not that she had spent a lot of time with him, but he softly chuckled and smiled afterwards.
“You don’t need anything, sit and take your medicine.” He said, with a hint of a smile still on his lips. She forgot what they were talking about and got so carried away by the way the edges of his lips stretched a bit, she had never seen such a beautiful man her whole life.
“Oh my god, you just chuckled and smiled!” She didn't know when she exclaimed and stared at him with sheer admiration.
He didn't realize he did that until she pointed it out, and he masked up his expression before he sat and motioned for her to do the same. She sat down opposite him and shameless kept staring at him. “Please smile again, it looks so good on you. I wonder why you don’t smile often.”
When he looked up at her, that was when she realized what she had said and she palmed her lips. “I’m sorry, what should I do?”
“Take your medicine, and let’s work.” He brought the pills out and handed them to her. She looked at him, stretched out her hand and he placed the pills there. She looked at him then at the other medicines he had on the table.
“What are those for?” She asked.
“Oh, I noticed you’re having a fever and also cold, so I got you these.” He was hesitant at first as if he knew exactly what his words would do to her heart. She kept staring at him with her mouth widely agape. Did she hear him right? He noticed she was having a fever and cold and he got her these?
‘So I got you these.’ It’s official, these five words were now her favourite words out of all the words in this world. She didn't even know how to act, her lips were already stretched out and she had this dreamy look in her eyes.
He looked up at her and found she was still staring at him with a lovely smile and he cleared his voice, “Take that one first and take these when you’re done.”
She sobered up from her sentiments and looked at him with a stub norm expression. “I’m taking these, that I agree of because the doctor prescribed them himself. But for those, you’ll have to bribe me first. I'll tell you the truth, I hate medicines.”
He nodded his head softly, “Yeah, I figured that out. And what is the bribe?” He didn’t even know why he was playing along with her. If he wanted, he would have dumped the pills for her on the table and walk back to his work. But he guessed it was guilt that was eating him up, he was guilty it was all because of him she had become a mess in just two days.
“You have to smile again, like the one you did just a few minutes ago.” She flashed him the cute dreamy look of Jalilah that he had to look away for his sanity. It had been long since he last spoke this long with someone apart from Sulaiman and which wasn’t work-related. Years had passed, which even though he knew he would never lose count of, he pretended to.
“You are no child, this is for your health.”
“Then I'll take the pills, I'll be fine. But if you want me to take them, you have to promise me one thing...” He stared at her and lifted an eyebrow, by god, this was the most amazing gesture she had seen in a very long time. Who else could look this hot with just an eyebrow lift? She bet no one.
“You have to be seeking my forgiveness and yours whenever I sneeze and thank Allah.” She knew her words had surprised him because he was wasn’t expecting that.
“I did that whenever you sneezed and thanked Allah, do I have to say it out loud?” Wow, just wow. Now he was talking.
“No, but why didn’t you tell me that when I was asking you in the elevator?” She questioned, still playing with the pills he had placed in her palm, he figured out she was only finding a way out for her not to take them.
“Are you taking the pills or not? Because I have a lot of work to do.” Damn it! He was back again to his old self. It turned out that she wasn't lying when she said he acted like he was having his period.
“I’ll take them, just a moment.” She promised and looked around, “Don’t you have some sweet?” This time, she got a glare as an answer and she wished she would be sick forever to be getting this from him.
She gulped them now and outstretched her hand while he placed the other ones, she took them and was scrunching up her face afterwards when Yazeed looked at her and the edges of his lips lifted upward. “You smiled again!” She exclaimed with a happy chuckle and pointed at his lips.
He masked up his emotions and stood up, pointing at the ointment he had brought out for her. “Apply it on and continue working, we don’t have forever in our wake.” And he was back to his seat in the blink of an ear.
Jalilah stared at him with a smile and hushed, “I wish someone will tell you the truth.”
“The truth about?” Oh, no he didn't hear that.
“Nothing. But you know when humans smile they look more beautiful than they are, right?”
“I don’t need a smile to be handsome.”
She didn’t know when her head jerked upright and she looked at him, he looked unbothered about his reply and was even casually working on his system. “Oh my god, are you the one that spoke?”
It took him more than five minutes before he looked at her, “Are you done with the first slide? What about the site that needs to be coded?”
And again, he ignored their conversation, she glared at him under the thick waves of her eyelashes and answered back. After they went to pray their Asr prayer, Jalilah was sure she had sene him walking to the cafeteria, ah, didn’t he said he went out and he even bought her those pills? Why was it that he didn’t take his food serious?
She was the first one to come back to the office and she took that chance to dial Farha’s number, patiently waiting for her to pick up as she tapped her feet on the marble floor.
“Girl, any gist?” Those were the first words her best friend uttered, and she wondered how in the whole world, she chose a psycho to be her Besty.
“Are you sure you’re normal? You aren't even going to ask me how I'm doing? I told you I was sick, Farha!” Jalilah whined, but some part of what she had buckled up since after Zuhr began melting because she was sure she would find a solution through Farha.
“Come on, I know you’re fine. If you aren't fine, I would have gotten a call from either Mama or that hot boss of yours saying you’re either dead or unconscious. So, gist me already, I know you call me to tell me something.”
She hissed loudly and wished she was together with this bunch of craziness so she would give her a medicine of her own. “I don’t know what's wrong with you, Farha. So here it is, since yesterday...”
Farha giggled and Jalilah could imagine her dancing, “Now you’re talking, I'm sure something happened yesterday. Girl, did you realize you’re slowly getting obsessed with your handsome-I’m-on-my-period-boss?”
They both burst out laughing and Jalilah found it so hard to stop, “What the hell is wrong with you, Farha? What kind of name is that?”
“I thought yesterday you said he always act as if he was on his period? Forget that, gist me the whole deal.” And she did, not omitting single information out. Because that was what always happened, even if she promised herself that she wasn't going to tell Farha something, she couldn’t.
She had been giggling, screaming and Jalilah heard sounds she was sure were her crazy and annoying dancing steps. “You said he collected your bag in the pharmacy, you had an eye contact in the car and you could feel his gaze all over. Also, your hands slightly brushed during lunch but he stupidly let you got drenched. Babe, how dare him?!”
That was why she always loved Farha, if something happened to her, she showed more anger than herself. Before she replied her, Farha continued, “And today he acted cold towards you, didn't even ask how you were feeling. You kept sneezing, thanking Allah, but nothing came from him. Do you know what I love the most about you? Your crazy self, I'm glad you roasted the idiot with your words. But man, I like him! Look at how he’s been taking care of my best friend! She even takes her medication, hypocrisy at its peak, Jalilah.”
Jalilah threw her head back and laughed, she knew Farha would surely complain about this. Because if she fell ill, both Mama and Farha would be begging her to take her medication but it would be a matter of doing or die before she did. “I didn’t simply take it, Farha. I told you, he forced me.”
“Mmm, he indeed forced you. With his eyes and that angelic smile huh?” Jalilah clenched her eyes shut and realized that she had to set some things right.
“Look, yes, I kind of like his eyes even though they unnerve my soul at times. But you see when he smile or speak as every human being do? Farha even you that always claims to be hard girl, you have no choice but to fall for that. Girl, it looks like you have a whole freaking angel sitting beside you!”
She heard the soft foot smacks in the office and just before she was done praying that he wasn’t the one or she was only hallucinating, he spoke. “Are you done yet or you have more words to say so we can get back to work?”
“Oh my god! Jalilah is that his voice? My chest, sweetness!” Farha giggled and awed to herself.
Jalilah wanted the sofa she was sitting on to swallow her whole, but the way Farha was squealing and ranting about his voice showed how she had gotten herself a best friend that deserved to be taken to the psychiatry.
“Farha, he heard what I was telling you. Girl, I'm ruined.” She hushed through gritted teeth and didn’t make the mistake of turning to look at him.
“And so what? Tell him that you were talking to your amazing best friend about him, that you’ve gotten yourself the kindest boss ever on earth. It’s as simple as that!”
“You’re going to hell for this. Don’t ever call me again!” Jalilah whined with a heartbreaking voice and ended the call to avoid Farha’s destructive giggles from rupturing her ears.
She braced herself for the worst and turned to look at him, he was seated on his chair and was working while he casually looked up at her. “Are you done?” He asked, motioning at her MacBook.
“Did you hear something? Please say you didn’t.” She knew she sounded so desperate and was embarrassing herself even more because of this, but she had no more choice. As far as she wanted to have peace of mind, she had to know.
“I heard what? Talking over the phone about something? Yeah, I did, what’s about that?” He answered and fixed his eyes on her, how she looked solemn was enough to make him laugh, but he didn’t.
“And who am I talking about?” She slurred and looked at him with a pleading expression in her eyes.
“How would I know? Probably your boyfriend or husband? The slides please.” He pointed at the heap of documents in front of her, emanating that he wasn’t interested in whatever it was she was talking about and didn't even mind about that either.
She looked at her MacBook and nodded her head lightly, she palmed her face and heaved a sigh out of relief. “Ya Rabb, I've never been this embarrassed.” She got working but it wasn’t long until Farha sent her a text.
‘Girl, make sure you tell him he’s the one. That voice shouldn’t be wasted on another girl but you! I'm going to disown you if you don’t, idiot!’ Please, where can she buy a licensed gun? She had someone to kill.