He was walking around in the kitchen, trying to make his sandwich while making sure he met up with the time without being late for work. The sound that came through his phone caught his attention and he walked out to his living room, wondering who called or texted him at this time. Taking a sip of his coffee, Yazeed sat down and took his phone to read the message, it came from Sulaiman. He tried reading it aloud but the way his voice sounded made him changed his mind, too bad for a morning voice.
‘Hey, Man! the morning I don’t whether you slept well or not. I feel so bad for what I said yesterday even though it’s the truth, but Yazid, you have to give this a thought. I am not saying it should necessarily be her, but it looks like the girl likes you and she is beautiful without a doubt. It looks like you enjoy her company as well. So, why not give it a try? Or should we speak about it some other time? See you at work.’
He sighed and placed down the phone while giving it a thought as Sulaiman said even though he knew there was no way he could do as Sulaiman wanted. He walked back to the kitchen having a flashback of the way she looked, how she smiled, how excited she seemed whenever he smiled and the way she pouted her lips whenever she was angry at him but couldn’t voice a word out.
He could admit to the fact that he loved being in her company even when she wasn’t speaking or staring at him when she thought he wasn’t looking, and he liked the innocence that dripped from her eyes whenever he caught her staring. But what Sulaiman suggested was something he couldn’t bring his mind to think of. He knew it wasn’t a sin, but to him, the new version of Yazid Adam Bunza, loving or rather accepting someone into his life will be horrendous. It wasn’t just about him, but about her as well. He didn’t want to douse her innocence with a pinch of his grief nor did he want to put a glimmer of tears on those exceptional does like orbs.
He turned off the sandwich maker and figured out he had lost his appetite. Covering everything up, he walked back to the living room, took his office bag and walked out of the house. He drove directly to the company while doing all he could not think about what Sulaiman had said, but to no avail. He parked the car and his eyes momentarily stared at where she used to park and there she was! Leaning on to her car with her right hand clutching her handbag, her left scrolling through her phone. She had her face dolled up with a simple touch of makeup and to his dismay, Jalilah wore an Ankara gown today.
Wasn’t it just yesterday he thought about how he had never seen her in some clothes other than abayas and English dresses? Yes, he saw her in her jeans once, when she thought he wasn’t staring as she danced. From the way she stood, he needn't be told that she was waiting for him and that nearly made him smile. Nearly.
He took his eyes off her and hopped out of the car, forcing himself to ignore her even if she spoke to him. He had to stop giving Sulaiman more reasons to talk about the things he liked. He walked past her and was sure she didn’t realize he had walked away until a few seconds after that.
“Hey! Good morning!” She half yelled and he had to turn to look at her at the way her voice sounded.
He wished he didn’t turn at first, because the way she smiled while she walked up to him with a gait he was sure even the gazelle would envy, Yazeed had to look away. She stood beside him, “Good morning.” She greeted again with a wide smile that was rather affecting his being.
“I'm taking the staircase today, are you in? Or you can call Wafiyya down?” He asked, and didn't miss the way her eyes turned sad but she masked everything up with an even brighter smile.
“No, let’s go.” He noticed she was holding a picnic basket with her. He was sure it was their lunch or her lunch, whatever he wished to tag it, but she seemed to be having difficulties holding it. “I’m so glad I didn't wear heels, it would have been another torture.” She whispered and walked past him, walking up to the stairs. He had to bite his inner cheek to avoid himself from smiling, she looked so pissed.
He walked behind her, watching her every step as she struggled to hold the basket. Yazeed was tempted to collect it from her, and when she stumbled and nearly fell, he didn't know when he rushed to where he was and took the basket from her hand. She went cold, looking up at him as if that was the first good gesture she had ever gotten from him.
He scrunched up his face and spoke, “Stop giving me that look, you’re struggling to carry it yourself.” He didn’t wait to hear her answer when he walked past her and he was sure she had his eyes still on his retreating back. But the big question here was on him, what the hell was happening to him? He wasn’t like this for the past years but he could feel it, something was changing in him.
“Hey, wait for me!” She yelled behind him and sprinted up to reach his pace. She was giving him that appreciative smile that he found so hard to ignore, and before he had to force himself to look away from her face, Jalilah spoke again, “You didn’t notice?” She asked with a baby grin and he wondered what that was.
“What? And you’re grinning like a baby who has been gifted a candy does.” He retorted.
She stopped walking and he had to stop as well, she had this cute pout on her lips that as much as he wanted to ignore her and walk directly to his office, he couldn’t. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed, please.”
“If only you’ll stop talking in puzzles and tell me what exactly, we don’t have the whole 24 hours of today.” He walked past her and he heard the soft sound of her shoes as she followed behind him.
“Is it that you’re naturally like this or you choose to be like this with me?” What the hell was this girl talking about? He wished he had superpowers to know what she was talking about even though he enjoyed seeing this desperate look on her face. Like, did you not notice or you choose to act like you didn’t?
He ignored her and kept walking as she persistently kept asking him, which he all acted like he didn’t hear her. “You know that if you don’t notice this I'm going to be so sad, right? And I won’t light up your day with my amazing smile.” He had to internally chuckle at that. Who the hell told this girl that she lighted his days up?
“And who told you I need your shrinking smiles to have my days lig-” he wasn’t able to finish his sentence when one of the cleaners walked her way with a wheelbarrow which had some damaged electronics and if he didn’t act so fast in pushing her out of his way, she would be pushed upon the stairs by the edge of the wheelbarrow and he couldn't imagine the damage that would be done.
He didn't want to, but the was the only way to save her life, the cleaner moved so close to her that with just another step, they will all hear nothing but her scream as she rolled down the stairs. But all she cared about was, ‘Don’t even start with I have shrinking smiles, because I could tell from your eyes my smiles are the prettiest you’ve seen.”
Act up, Yazeed! He had to save this girl. With one pound of his heart, Yazeed used his right hand and he pulled her to his side. She lost her balance and he had to hold her to his body as she steadied her balance. When the cleaner saw that, he stopped and that caught the attention of some of the workers.
“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking straight. Thank god he was able to push you aside, I would’ve hurt you. I'm so sorry.” He kept begging and Yazeed nodded his head at him and waved dismissively.
She was cold standing by his side, with his hand holding hers and her body leaning onto his, this...he didn’t even have to think was the closest they had ever gotten, because it was. The eyes of the workers that were on them were what brought his attention back and he pulled her away from his body, but with a reason unbeknownst to him, he still held her hand.
“Are you okay?” It looked like she wasn’t herself until now, and she shook her head coldly at him before she broke into tears.
“I’m scared.” She whimpered, Yazeed squeezed her hand a bit.
“Look, we’re in our floor already. Will you please not embarrass yourself and wait until we at least get into the office?” He was staring into her eyes, and even though his words were telling a different story, his eyes were the most comforting she had ever seen, not to even talk about his hand that was drawing soothing circles on her palm.
With her tears still flowing and his hand not leaving hers, he walked them until they reached his office and he guided her to the sofa. The first thing she said after he released his hold on her hadn't was, “I can’t believe I was that close to death, Ya Rabb!” And she broke into tears again. Yazeed walked to his chair but every move she made was right into his eyes.
He let her cried because he didn’t know how to console her. When he cried an ocean, he had no one to console him but Sulaiman, and he was sure their means of comfort was different. What worked for him might likely not work for her. She looked up at him with her bloodshot eyes and pouted lips.
“Even though I’m thankful to you for saving my life, why can’t you at least try to console me?” She whined and fixed her eyes into his, Yazeed didn’t try to hide his smile this time.
She was thrilled by his smile, he could see it. But Jalilah was so stubborn to let it show and she wanted nothing at the moment but for him to answer her question. “Your life was saved, you came out unscathed, I see no reason for you to cry. If you’re done, can we work?”
“I need to wash my face first, Boss.” There came the Boss again, and out of the hundred things he could think of, there was a probability of two. Either she wanted to go back to that moment and push him on the stairs instead, or for her to open that picnic basket, produce a knife out of it and choke his eyes until he bled.
He watched as she walked out of the office and wished he could tell her that even though she looked so amazing and as much as he hated to think of it, beautiful in her abayas and other Islamic dresses, nothing beat the look Ankara gave her today. Like it was a whole vibe and he knew for today, she would have to catch him taking stolen glances at her which he will be embarrassed by later.
She came out of the bathroom and was so glad she had come along with her phone. She sat down on her chair and wondered the last time she had spent more than two hours in this office which were always the last two hours before she closed for the day. She brought her hand to her face and that was when she recalled what had happened! Holy god! She couldn’t suppress the giggle that escaped her lips and she stared at the side she leaned onto him with a giddy smile on her lips.
“I have to call this crazy girl!” She mused to herself and felt the way her heart pounded beneath her chest, did it happen. Staring at her hand again, she wished she could turn the hands of time and go back to when Yazeed held them if she could clearly remember, he even drew some soothing circles on her palms!
“Girl, it’s a game over for me today, you have to wake up!” She squealed, and Farha hissed softly before she asked.
“What happened? Jalilah you know I wouldn’t have picked your call if I wasn’t excepting a juicy news right? Make it worthy of my sleep.”
“You’re such an idiot, I'll start from the bottom then we go back to the beginning. One, he held my hand! As in girl, not for a brisk moment, for minutes! Caressing and trying to calm me down. Second, girl! I won’t tell you this!”
“To hell with youuuuu! Oh my amazing god! I can’t believe this! I've never screamed this loud my whole life, not to talk about early this morning. Detailsssss, Jalilah, I want the freaking details and you can’t tell me that too! What the hell happened?! How was his hand? Soft right? And so scrumptious that you feel as if you held an apple?” They burst into peals of laughter and Jalilah had to beg her ancestors before she was able to control herself.
She flipped her imaginary hair and reply admits Farha’s loudly insults that she wanted the details, “So, this is what happened. It isn’t like he did it intentionally, even I was just realizing what happened now and I can’t control my self not to call you unt-”
Farha cut her off, “Enough with the long essay, you’re not an English student, are you? Get to the point, what the hell happened? Because of the girl! I might come to Abuja today!”
Jalilah threw her head back and laughed before she nodded her head, she knew she had to do fast because it was evident he was waiting for her. “Okay, we took the stairs today as well, and-”
“That’s why I told you to wear your flats in case.”
“And you’re interrupting me.” She absentmindedly rolled her eyes.
“Oh, I'm so sorry. Please forgive your beloved best friend.” Jalilah had to laugh at that, something that Farha couldn’t do to hear stories? That’s no.
“I wore an Ankara today and I kept asking him if he didn’t notice. You know what me wearing an Ankara means, once in a decade. Fast forward, I was persisting and you know, the usual, he ignored me and while we were arguing about me having shrinking smiles, I think I saw a flicker of a cleaner walking toward me in speed with damaged electronics in a wheelbarrow. If I had clashed with that wheelbarrow, it was either a death sentence or uncountable breakages in my body. Girl, I need to leave, let’s talk later!”
“To hell with you need to leave! Jalilah, it’s either you freaking tell me what happened or I'm going to call the company, act like my Dad’s secretary and ask for the IT department’s manager’s number, and I'll tell him everything! Don’t even try me!”
She burst into a peal of laughter and lifted her hands in surrender, “I was just testing your patience, my god! He took my hand and pulled me to his side, and you know? I will most likely lose my balance, so he held me closer and I leaned onto him while his hand squeezed mine tightly. The cleaner apologized, and by Allah that was the softest I’ve ever seen him, he was all over like, ‘Are you okay?’ Girl! You need to see his eyes when he asked me that. And I was scared then, I broke into tears telling him that I’m scared...”
“Kill me already! No, wait, I'm already dead, revive me to my freaking life, Jalilah! My chest! Ya Ilahi, Astagfirullah, quickly say that before we continue jubilating! Like, I can’t believe this had happened and I’ve never thought of installing a camera in your eyes!”
There was laughter, lots of it. Giggles, plans, amazing ideas and what not until Jalilah knew that deep down, she was in for it. She had to leave unless she wanted Yazeed to walk in on her while she was talking about how soft his hand was and how mind-boggling his scent was.
She walked back to the office with such a happy grin that when Yazeed looked up at her for the first time and went back to his work, he had to look up again to make sure she was indeed the one. Didn’t she walk out of this office with tears all over her sad and she seemed sacred and cold? Was she some kind of chameleon or what?
She sat down on the sofa and flashed him a smile before she turned her laptop on and get to work. Minutes had passed, maybe to thirty or so, and each time she worked for a second, she had to look at her hand and a smile never ceased to grace her lips. She momentarily looked up at him and by Allah, she didn't know when she squealed softly when her eyes fell directly on his, did this man have his eyes on her all this while? Ya Rabb, make him be thinking of that hand touch!
She kept aside her MacBook and turned to look at him completely, “You still haven’t answered my question.” She knew she was stubborn, persistent and whatnot, but there was no way she was going to let this slide, not when he had his eyes on her.
She watched as he heaved an exasperated sigh before he looked up at her, yet again. “What question is that?” He asked and she wriggled her eyebrow in a manner that said, ‘Really? You’ve forgotten the question?’
“Even though I know that you didn’t forget the question, I'll say it again. Is it real that you didn't notice or you choose to act you didn’t?” She questioned again, she could see the way his Adam’s apple bubbled up and down as if he was battling with something she could never understand.
“Will you tell me what that is? If not, don’t bother talking to me about it again.” She looked away and rolled her eyes before she turned to look at him, the smile still not leaving her face.
She knew there was enough distance between them, but he saw everything she did from his table. “I'll tell you this, but not because I'm sure that you haven't noticed, but because I want to get it off my chest. One, when I was home, and whenever it happened which is once in a decade, my mom always noticed, and she will rain compliments on me until I take it. I don’t understand this, you’re the only person I have close to a friend in Abuja...”
“I'm not your friend, I'm your boss.” He corrected her, and this time when Jalilah wanted to roll her eyes, she didn’t look away from him.
“I know, boss. But at least I expected that you must have noticed.”
“What is that? In case you don’t know, I have something to do but I paused it to listen to you.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet.” The look he flashed her made her palmed her lips and she muttered a simple, “I’m sorry.”
“Okay, I wore an Ankara today! That’s it, that’s the news, Boss! And you haven’t said anything about it like you acted as if you haven’t noticed.”
He gave her this sly smile and she felt as her heart skyrocketed to Jupiter before it ran back. “Just because you wore an Ankara that’s why you expected it to be the headlines on every news station or what? What if those girls in other continents that have never worn something close to Ankara, the day they did, should it be a piece of international news? Please, get back to your work.”
She looked at him, and with her expression, he knew she was truly hurt. Pain hardly ever showed on her face but today it did and he felt so bad for making her feel that way Even though he knew that was the safest thing to do. Because he was sure complimenting her now would only give her false hope because he knew that was what she wanted. A compliment from him. And something crossed his mind, what Sulaiman had said in his text, ‘But it looks like the girl likes you and she’s beautiful without a doubt.’ He couldn't admit the first sentence, but the second, today that she had worn this Ankara, he had no choice but to admit that to himself. As much as he wanted to say this to her because it clearly showed that it was what she wanted to hear so bad, he had to refrain himself, for her sake.
She opened her mouth to protest but she motioned for her MacBook, “Your work.”
She turned back to her laptop with her shoulders sagged in defeat and pain, and he ducked his head back to his work as well. They kept working in silence, today, she didn't even ask him if she had to or if she had to do something more on the files. She just kept working, and if he could add, aggressively. The only thing that was passed between them was the emails as she sent him the work done. When it was time for prayer, he watched as she walked out while dialling a number on her phone which he was sure was Wafiyya, and something struck at his heart.
Behold, she wasn’t there when he got to the elevator. He was walking to the mosque while thinking of what had happened, something in him told him what he did was right, but somewhere, deep down to the part of him he had closed years ago, it hinted to him that what he did wasn’t right. She was just a cheerful lady excited that she had walked out of her comfort zone and worn something different for the day. A tap landed on his shoulder, but he didn't have to look to know it was Sulaiman. He was the only person that could do that to him in the company.
“I’m tired,” Sulaiman whined and kept flexing his arms to massage his muscles.
“Why don’t you go home and rest? You’re the HR so you can excuse yourself.”
“No, but I have some works left to do. Hey, how have you been?” He loved the way that even if they had it been with Sulaiman, the next to them they saw each other would be completely different as if it had never happened.
“I’ve been fine, and you? How’s your wife and the baby?”
“They’re all fine. But, Yazeed, are you sure everything is fine?” Sulaiman asked and fixed his inquisitive eyes on him. Whenever he did that to him, he knew he got to find out about something he didn't want him to know.
“What do you know? Just say it out and I'll clarify on it if it needs one.”
“I saw Jalilah in the elevator, she seemed so scared like she wanted to cry. And as much as she tried controlling herself, her body kept shaking. Did I think maybe something happened? Or you two are fine?” That was a huge blow, he knew she wasn't like that because of what he had done to her, but he knew she was that way because she was in the elevator, or so she thought.
“Nothing happened, I think she wasn’t feeling okay.”
Sulaiman shook his head, “Tell me the truth, Yazeed.”
“Okay, she has a phobia for elevators, she didn’t tell me the reason though. So that’s what happened.”
“But you always ride with her, why did you let her be this time?” He asked, and Yazeed wished he could run away from this question.
“You know how I act sometimes, I think I got her angry and she left without waiting for me.” Sulaiman was about to rain another question on him when he quickly shook his head and whispered, “Sulaiman, please.”
He lifted his hands in surrender and smiled, “I won’t say another word, whenever you feel like talking about it, know that I'll always be here.”
They walked to the mosque in utter silence and after they were done praying, Sulaiman begged him that they should go to his house and have their lunch, but he declined. He hadn’t told him the reason was sole that Jalilah had cooked for them and there was no way he could not eat it, especially today that he was sure she was angry at him.
He walked back to his office and met her there, she was scrolling through her phone. With just a single glance at him, Jalilah didn’t even smile as she used to and when she looked at the sofa opposite hers, he knew what she meant. He needn’t be told to find himself a seat, but really, how she was sulking was rather funny to him.
He sat down and without a word, Jalilah served him, placed the plate in front of him and she went back to her phone. Okay, maybe he had never seen this part of her, the sulky and angry part of Jalilah that didn't smile nor speak. “Why are you not eating?” He asked, and she looked at him for a brisk moment before she shook her head.
“I’m full. You can eat so we can get back to work.” That was straight, and he understood sarcasm when he heard one.
Minutes had passed and he realized he wouldn’t be able to eat while she sat opposite him, angry and aggressively scrolling through her phone. “Why didn’t you wait for me to take the elevator?”
“Because I can survive on my own, sorry for my choice of words.”
He stared at her longer than usual before he nodded his head and got back to his plate, it wasn’t unto a minute before he looked up at her again. He had never known he could be this restless when she acted this way. “Why are you sulking your face then?”
She looked at him then back to her phone before she shook her head, yet again. “I’m not sulking my face, I act this way to at times.”
He placed the plate down and stared at her, “You aren’t like this, is it because of what I said?” As much as he didn’t want to bring that up and act like it had never happened nor did it bother him, he couldn’t.
She looked at him, pouted her lips before she looked away. “No.” There were more words to this no, they both knew.
His Adam’s apple bubbled up and down before he found it in him to say the words out, “Okay, I'm sorry. I just wanted to burst your bubbles, but you look so beautiful in it. That’s it, what you wanted to hear, right?” The moment the edges of her lips began to stretch into a beautiful smile, he knew it was worth it.
She turned to face him completely, for a moment she masked up her smile but when she opened her lips to speak to him, it came back. “Say that again.”
He looked amused, and today, Yazeed didn’t try to mask up to his smile. “Say what again?” Even though he knew it would be one of her craziness, but he was ready to take up the risk.
“Say that you’re sorry and I look so beautiful in it.” She grinned, and he had no choice but to chuckle at how excited she seemed. Maybe not telling her that when she wanted to hear it was worth it.
“Why would I? I've just said that barely a minute ago.”
“Please...” She drawled and gave him the puppy face.
Yazeed nodded his head and spoke again, “Okay, I said I'm sorry and you look so beautiful in it, wear it often.”
Wear them often. Jalilah didn’t know when she sat upright and squealed before she palmed her lips and laughed, “I’m sorry, thank you for the compliment.” Her eyes wandered back at his abandoned plate, she wanted to get a distraction away from his eyes, they were so fiery.
“You should eat before it gets cold, I think I'll bring my microwave here so we can be warming the food, what do you think?”
“I have one I don't use, I'll bring it.” She nodded her head with a smile and went back to her phone. “Won’t you eat? Or do you want me to apologize to you for not taking the elevator with you?”
She grinned like a teenager and nodded her head shamelessly, “Yes, please.”
He chuckled and shook his head, “Okay, I'm sorry. Will you please eat your food?”
“I think I should have recorded this whole conversation!” She giggled and he chuckled at how excited she seemed.
But it looks like the girl likes you. He was beginning to see Sulaiman’s word every action of hers. But he didn't want it to extend to something, he had to stop it, stop them. She brought out another plate from the basket but he shook his head and positioned his plate in the centre.
“This is too much for me, let’s eat.” By Allah, he didn’t know he had said that until he did and when he saw the expression on her face, he knew that he was only making it worse.
She took her spoon and reluctantly scooped the food, “Are you sure about this? I mean, we eat together?”
“Serve yourself if you’re in doubt,” he said and tried pulling the plate back to himself when she quickly shook her head.
“No, come on! I'd love to. But make sure you aren’t someone in the body of my boss because my boss isn’t this nice.” When she looked into his eyes and saw the look he was flashing her she giggled and apologized, “I’m sorry, Boss. I think you’re the nicest person I've ever met.” They both tasted the sarcasm dripping from her words.
(Don’t forget to vote please. Thank you)