“But when did he come back, Sulaiman?” He asked as he stood up, compiling the documents he knew he had to present to him. As much as he didn’t want to go there, he knew he had no other choice.
“I don’t know either, but he comes to the company today. You have to do quick and meet him at his office, he requested to see you.” He nodded his head as if Sulaiman could see him and didn’t voice another word out when he ended the call and looked at Jalilah that was so immersed in her work. She looked so calm and collected that he envied her for a moment.
“I have to go to the CEO’s office, if I have guests, ask them to wait for me until I'm back. I won’t stay long.” He said, and she looked up from the screen of her laptop.
“Okay, I'll tell them that.” She nodded her head in affirmation and fixed her eyes on him until he walked out of her sight.
Yazeed heaved a sigh which wasn't out of relief but rather, the feeling of angst that was eating away every courage he had built for the past month he had been away. He didn’t know what had happened this time, because Alhaji hardly ever requested to see him personally unless it was something. And that something was always connected with Hajia.
He knocked softly and entered when he heard the some he made which emanated that he should come in. Yazeed had his eyes fixed onto the floor as he walked to the table and sat on the chair. “Good morning, Alhaji.”
There was no answer, and even though Yazeed wasn’t expecting one, he felt hurt. He looked up and their eyes met while he placed down the files he had compiled for the duration. “There are the files, and if there is something that needs to be rectified or clarified, I'll receive a call from your secretary.” He knew it was all about work, and he had to go straight to the point. Because he didn't have the kind of father that would ask him how he had been, whether he was fine or not.
And to him, he had no father to ask how he had been too. It was all business for them. Alhaji collected the files and briskly went through them before he looked up at him, “I heard there's a girl that works for you?” He had always heard of one’s heart losing a beat, he had never thought it was real until now. His heart lost a beat, and he didn’t know what Alhaji had heard and what he had to say about that.
But still, he masked up his expression and pulled over his confident skin, “She doesn’t work for me, she works for the company. But we work together at some point, she isn’t an employee, she came here for her NYSC.”
Alhaji’s face became even harder than it was and Yazeed felt as his insides churned, “I’ve heard things about you and her, don’t even try making any mistake this time, Yazeed. And for your information, I won’t admit for something to happen like it did in the past, understood?” His voice was so cold and sharp that Yazeed felt it cutting his insides, but he didn’t have to show that to him. Because even if he did, he wouldn’t care. But he enjoyed it when it was only the two of them, because that way, he could be able to tell him all that he had buckled up, but if Hajia was there, he felt as if he was tongue-tied.
“I don’t think if I want to do something with my life I'd have to wait for your approval now, Alhaji. I have amazing uncles that can do whatever I want for me, uncles that cared for me, even though one is no more but the other is here, I’m sure I'd lack nothing if he's by my side.” He looked away from his face because he hated it whenever he spoke harshly to his father, but sometimes he knew he had to be a bit rude for his father to understand what he was trying to pass across.
“Are you telling me this because of a girl?” There wasn't surprise on his tone, because he knew Yazeed was capable this and more whenever he put himself to it.
“I’m not saying this because of her, I thought we were done talking about her because I made it clear, she’s just here for her service and nothing more. And in case you speak to Hajia about this, if anyone hurt this girl, I won’t hesitate to do whatever comes to my mind. If that’s all I'd take my leave.” He stood up and stared at his father, who had a mischievous smile on his lips that unnerved Yazeed but he masked everything up with a hard stare.
“If you say so, you can take your leave.” Even as he walked back to his office, Yazeed knew this conversation hadn’t ended. And he was so afraid of what would happen. He walked directly to Sulaiman's office because that was the only place he was certain about finding a solution to whatever bothered him.
He knocked softly and entered, Sulaiman looked at him with an inquisitive look and motioned for him to have a sit, which he did. “What happened? You don’t look yourself, Yazeed.” Sulaiman voiced out, and he heaved a sigh before he shrugged off his shoulders and decided to get it out of his chest.
“He asked me about that girl, I don’t even know who told him we worked together, Sulaiman.” There was a certain heaviness to his tone, he didn't know what to feel.
“Oh my god! And what did he say about her? Was it bad?”
Yazeed shook his head, “It wasn’t bad enough, but I think I made it worse.” He told him everything that transpired between him and Alhajia and all Sulaiman did was shook his head.
“That’s so bad, I think Hajia had placed enough surveillance on you in this company, if not, how could he know about this? And I don’t think it’s something to even think about, you told him what she was and why she was here. But you shouldn't have laid that warning, he’d think that you care about her and they would want to hurt her for you to feel miserable.”
“I said that for him to know that I know everything, and I know what they were capable of doing. Or rather, what she was capable of doing because she said and he acted upon it.” He palmed his face and sighed again. “What do you think I should do? I think being close with her, like I know we aren’t that close but we’re pretty good, right?”
Sulaiman smiled softly and nodded his head, “Yes, you two are pretty good, and you give a lot of impressions when you’re together.”
He nodded his head and spoke again, “I don’t know what to do to keep her safe, advice me. Because I feel like the more Hajia’s surveil sees us together, the more it’s not safe for her.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem, you told him who she is. please don’t keep that in your mind, I assure you she won’t hurt her unless you make it so clear, it’ll be fine. But wait, why are you so persistent in keeping her safe?” There was a teasing smile on Sulaiman’s lips that Yazeed wished he could punch it right back into his cheeks.
“Because I'd feel bad if something happens to her on my wake, there, isn’t what you wanted to hear, right?” He glared at him and when Sulaiman threw his head back and laughed, Yazeed eased off a bit. It wasn’t as bad as he thought after all. Because if it was bad, there was no way Sulaiman could be laughing without finding him a solution first. “When are we expecting the baby?” He asked and changed the diversion of their conversation because he was sure if Sulaiman was going to reply to him, he would utter words which he was sure would be carved into his mind all night long.
“This week, but the highest it can get will be in two weeks. And man, please get married and expect a baby, Ilham is hell-bent on making me bankrupt, not that I’m complaining though. Anything for Yazeed Jr.” he had said it times without number, but Yazeed had never believed him.
“I couldn’t remember complaining about going bankrupt.” He glared at him and smiled afterwards, “And are you sure about naming him Yazeed, Sulaiman? Because I don’t want to put my mind into it and then be heartbroken all over.”
“That’s the only thing I like about Alhaji, sorry to say. But as much as you’ll try to go bankrupt, you can’t do that. He has filled you in every way possible, even though it’s sadly not only what you need. And about Yazeed Jr, I'm sure. Ilham loves the name too, you know she likes you a lot. So, get ready to be a godfather in a week or two.”
“What if it’s a girl?” As much as he would want the baby to be a boy, he knew there was a higher tendency of the baby being a girl, and they should speak about it sooner than later.
“It’s simple, you’ll name her with any name of your choice, we will love it nevertheless.” Could he ever find someone that would love him as Sulaiman did?
He stood up because he had to get back to his work, “I don’t think it’s too early to thank you, Man. It’s not like I have friends, I would’ve said you’re my best friend. But out of all my cousins, I kind of like you the most.” Instead of a handshake, he patted his shoulder and he could see the grin that was painted on Sulaiman’s cheeks.
“Just say you love me, idiot. I promise I won't tell Ilham that you do.”
Yazeed threw his head back and laughed, for a moment, he thought about Jalilah and wondered how she would have acted if she had seen him now. The way he was laughing freely and talking as if he wasn’t the Yazeed she wanted so bad to see him smile. “I don’t do men, thanks for the offer though!” He practically sprinted out of the office because he knew the comeback would forever not be sweet on him, it had never been.
He walked into the office with a hint of a smile on his lips, he loved the way Sulaiman was able to calm him down whatever the situation was. And no matter how worse he thought the situation was, whenever he spoke with him, he felt relieved and felt he could do that.
She looked up at him and there was this cool smile playing on her lips, “You look happy, perks of having a rich dad.”
He smiled and shook his head before he sat on his chair and looked at her, “What made you thought of that? I’m from Sulaiman’s office, nothing related to the CEO.”
She dramatically rolled her eyes and nodded, “Nothing related with the CEO, this is the CEO’s son acting as if the CEO wasn't that big of a deal. And about the HR, when is his wife giving birth, she's such a nice woman.”
“We just spoke about it, he said in a week or two, Insha Allah.” He informed and she nodded her head.
“I wish her a quick delivery. I will be invited to the naming ceremony, right? I'm so bored of staying in my apartment whenever I’m not at work. I don’t know anywhere or anyone in Abuja.” She made a whiny face and Yazeed held his chuckle.
“You didn't know anywhere in Abuja or you choose not to? You can just search it up on google and the google map will take you everywhere you want.” He didn’t know what had gotten into him with speaking this way with her. Wasn’t he supposed to act like she wasn’t there so he could keep her sake?
“You always make me tired at work, I can’t find time to explore the city. And on weekends, well, I guess I'm so lazy to do that. I take care of myself and my apartment and watch some movies.”
“What kind of movies do you watch? And no, I'm not the one making you tired, you exhaust yourself with your craziness.”
“And now he's saying I'm crazy,” she made a sad face but answered him nonetheless. “I watch Korean dramas like I have nothing else to watch but them.”
“There's this new movie coming out, not a promise, if I feel like it, I can take you to watch it. Watching those Korean dramas is sickening, too much unrealistic fantasies.” He scrunched up his face and when he looked away from her, that was when he realized what he had done. He told her he was going to take her out for a movie!
“Oh my amazing god! Please make it a promise, and for the naming ceremony, don’t make it seem as if I forget. If you don’t invite me, I’ll haunt you in your dreams.” She grinned widely and he nodded his head with a soft smile. He wanted this to stop, he wanted to stop himself before he could be able to stop her. But with each minute he spent with Jalilah, she kept making it so hard for him to act up.
They kept working, and when it was time for zuhr prayer, he stood up and stared at her. How she looked so immersed in her work with her brows brought up in concentration as she flipped through the papers and tapped her keyboard. “Let’s go to the mosque.”
She looked up at him then back to her laptop with a sly smile on her lips, “I think I'll just warm the food before you’re back.” What did that mean? He was about to ask her why she wasn’t going to pray when it clicked into his brain. From the way, she wasn’t looking at his face and she had her eyes fixed on the screen even though he was sure she wasn’t working, she seemed shy.
“Okay, I'll be back then,” he said and walked out of the office.
Jalilah followed his retreating back and when he disappeared from her sight, she heaved a sighed and began fanning herself with her hand. She had never been this embarrassed her whole life. Like she had planned on how to answer him when he asked her this but she had never thought it could be this embarrassing. She didn't miss the way his eyes flicked when it registered into his brain what she meant when she said that.
A call came through and she slid the answer button without looking at the caller’s ID. “Hey, is everything fine? You aren’t out for prayer.”
Oh, that was Wafiyya. She thought it was Farha so she could start rambling on here about the current situation, but it turned out she wasn’t the one. “Oh, yeah, Wafiyya, I'm on my period and I have some work to finish, I would have come down to see your face.”
She giggled and Jalilah could imagine how she was shaking her head, “It’s not like you miss me, it has been less than 24hrs when we last met. I'll see you maybe tomorrow? Could you stop by at my office?”
“Oh, yes, that will be great!” They spoke for a few seconds before they ended the call and Jalilah stood up to the microwave. She loved the way they had found a corner and positioned the microwave there. That’s where she kept the basket and they had a mini kitchen there.
She crouched down and brought out the disposable plates she used in warming their food and served before she put everything into the microwave and gave it time. She was bored with what to do, and she knew even if she was to call Farha, they won’t be done with the phone call before Yazeed came back. She figured out she would be able to dance for a bit and would have her eyes fixed on the way to know if he was coming back.
She played the soft piano on her phone and wrapped her veil loosely around her head. She began dancing with such grace that she felt as if she was walking on cloud nine, everything felt better with ballet. She moved around the office in ways she had never thought she could. She knew there were reasons for her flexibility today, one was because she was so happy with no doubt, and she couldn't imagine how happy she would be when they went out for that movie. Second, she felt like she truly lived, everything couldn't be better for her.
From where he stood, Yazeed watched as she moved perfectly around the office in such a way she made it so hard for him to look away. He didn’t know when he stood rooted in his spot. He was glad that the corridor leading to his office was always quiet and no one could see her except him. She kept dancing, moving around and smiling happily that he didn’t know when he wrapped his hands over his chest and with a smile on his lips, he kept staring at her.
For a brisk moment, he watched as something took off her mind and she quickly went to her phone, turned what he guessed what the tune she danced for before she moved to their kitchen. As she fondly called the corner, it had always been ‘This kitchen of ours looks so messy today, should I take a day off to clean it, Boss?’
With the smile on his lips and a feeling of contentment filled to the brim in his heart, Yazeed walked to the office and from where he stood, he watched as she brought out the plate and before she placed it down, she screamed and carefully placed it down before she held her hand to her face. “Oh my god!” She screamed again, blowing some air on her nearly burnt fingers.
He rushed to where she was crouched and crouched to her level, “What’s wrong? Is it burnt?” He asked and resisted himself form holding her hand. She looked up at him with her eyes getting watery and nodded her head.
“I forgot about it and it got so hot, I should have waited until it cooled down a bit.” She lamented and kept turning her hand, having a better view of the burnt.
“You should have been more careful. Look, go to the sofa and sit down, I'll bring everything to you shortly.” What he realized after he spoke those words out and began serving them in a plate which had become a norm for them to eat in a plate was, she hadn’t moved an inch. Rather, she had her eyes fixed on him with this dreamy look he couldn’t bring himself to fathom.
“Why are you staring at me?” He questioned and took his eyes back to his work.
“No, being nice looks so good on you, that’s all.” She smiled shyly at him and stood up as he ordered.
Yazeed kept pondering over her words, ‘Being nice looks so good on you.’ He smiled to himself and stood up with the plate in his hand and two spoons in the other. He placed the centre of the table and watched as she walked back from the fridge holding two cans of drink. She placed them down and sat opposite him.
“Thank you,” she said, and he could detect the sincerity in her words.
“What for? Eat so we could get back to work.” He dismissed her comment and her shoulders sagged in defeat. He wanted that vibe to be back to her face, that undiluted happiness she always had whenever she was dancing, he wanted to see it while they conversed.
“Can’t we have a day off? I'm seriously tired for today.” She whined, and Yazeed handed her her spoon before he shook his head.
“Tired? What have you done today? All the work you did were in this office, sitting right on this chair, why will you be tired?”
“I want something different, I'm tired of dealing with codes and numbers, they’re making me depressed.”
He had to softly chuckle at that and watch as she began taking the food as though it were a pill to her. It was amusing to his eyes, but at the same time, he couldn’t resist commenting at that.
“You eat like an angry baby,” he said his thoughts out loud before he could be able to control himself.
She excitedly looked up at him and flipped her imaginary hair with an ostentatious roll of her eyes, “That’s because I'm one, a baby girl.”
“Please, don’t make me lose my appetite, you’re so full of yourself that it always makes me sick.”
She snorted softly and went back to her food while she silently whispered, “I smell J here.”
He whispered back without even looking at her face, “And that’s the first letter of your name, too bad for a name.”
“So you know my name?!” She exclaimed, and he nearly choked before he gulped down some drink and glared at her.
“In case you forget how your crazy self act, it’s always ‘Oh, Jalilah is so tired.’ ‘Jalilah wants to take some nap.’ ‘Jalilah hates to work so much.’ And especially when you scream it out loud not minding that you might damage my eardrums, ‘Jalilah wants some attention!’”
She threw her head back and laughed while she clapped her hand excitedly, “So you’ve always heard that, but why did you ignore me? Because you acted like you didn’t hear.”
“Because I couldn’t give your crazy self more chance to be crazier than you’re now.” She was about to speak again when he pointed at her spoon and muttered, ‘We have work to do.’ From the way his expression changed, Jalilah knew that even if she was going to keep on speaking to him until it was closing time, he wasn’t going to reply to her unless he wanted to. She sealed her mouth up as well and continued eating her food.
She loved it when they ate together, on the same plate. The day he suggested they ate together by Allah she thought he was only pulling her legs, she had never thought he meant it until she saw him eating together with her and he didn’t throw any tantrums. The next day he wanted them to eat from different tables, but Jalilah was so persistent that he had no choice but to eat with her, which fortunately became a norm for them.
And right now, she found it so hard to eat alone while she was at home. Even though she was sure just eating lunch didn’t qualify that she got so attached to him, but there were things that as much as we wanted to control them, we couldn’t.
Yazeed was one of those things. She knew it was unhealthy getting this attached to him, it was so bad that she was getting so close to him despite the invincible barriers he had around himself. Every day she watched as she made him broke one of the walls that surrounded him, but she knew for him, it wouldn’t be long before he built them back. She was the problem, she was the one to be pitied, the one to wished healing for, even though it wasn’t yet time for the heartbreak.
And as she stared at the way he lavishly ate his food now, she knew that he would be worth taking a risk for. She wouldn’t deprive herself of whatever that he was, she was going to let it flow as much as it was destined to, and when it was said to end, it will. She knew it will end the day she left Abuja after she was done with her service and from then nothing could make Yazeed look for her, but she was ready to take that risk.
She was lazily moving around her apartment, she didn't know what she should start doing first. Should she wash her hair first? And before it dried she can quickly cook something for her stomach while she cleaned the living room? Or that wouldn’t work? Because she might easily sit down and start watching a movie and before she knew it, it would be an evening like she had always been on every weekend.
She thought about this and shook her head, no. She would have to start with cleaning the kitchen thoroughly, and after that, she would clean the living room while letting the cheese powder to steam into her hair, she knew by the time she was done, her hair was done and she would clean her bedroom because the other bedroom had never been touched by her, she just kept her stuff in there. She opted for the latter and walked directly to the kitchen.
Musing the music on the background to herself while she worked, she heard the shrilling sound of her phone and she rushed out to the living room to take it. She thought it was Farha because she was the only one that called her during weekends and they could spend hours laughing, gossiping, fighting, insulting each other and whatnot. But to her surprise, it was a new number, and she wondered who it was.
“Hello? Good afternoon.” She greeted tentatively because she didn't know who it was, she couldn’t start being rude without making sure who the caller was.
“Hey, afternoon. I'm outside your house.” It was a male’s voice. But as much as she cracked her brain to remember where she had known this voice, she couldn’t. Because it sounded all alien to her, like something she had never heard before.
“Outside? I don’t know you but I'll be out in a bit. Hope you aren’t here to abduct me?”
“No, I brought a parcel for you, someone wanted to surprise you.” Her eyes quickly scanned up to the calendar bar on her open and she saw that it wasn’t her birthday. Who would surprise her on a random weekend and with what?
“A parcel? Okay, I'll be out in a minute.” Maybe Mama sent something for her, or Farha because they were the only ones that knew her address and she wondered what it was. Even though she wanted Mama to be the sender of the parcel, a huge part of her wanted it to be Farha, because if she was the one, the gift will be more exciting.
She dropped the brush she was scrubbing the cooking gas with, rinsed off her hands before she nodded her head as if the man could see her. “Okay, I'll be out in a bit. Thank you for your patience.”
She rushed to her room and got into her open kimono real quick, she wrapped her veil around her face and walked out, firmly holding her phone as she nearly stumbled. When she walked out, she saw a maroon sleek Maserati that nearly made her drooled, and she thought, this could never be a parcel. ‘But what if Farha had a friend delivered it to you?’ She thought to herself and nodded before she walked to the driver’s seat and softly knocked on the window. She knew she was a total mess, but she didn't mind because she would just collect what he had brought for her and walk back to her world. Were she found comfort in her baggy shirts and trousers?
He began winding the glass down until his face was revealed and she didn’t know when she screamed at the pitch of her voice, jumping up a little. “Oh my god! I can’t believe this! You came?”
Today, the way she was overly excited by seeing him in front of her house, Yazeed didn’t even try to hide his chuckle, he chuckled outwardly and nodded his head. “Yes, we’re going for the movie, remember? But you aren’t even ready yet.”
With her palms on her mouth to suppress how delighted she seemed, and her eyes dilated in utter bewilderment, she asked him while pointing at his phone, “So you mean you were the one that called me? Boss, I can’t believe this.”
“Yes,” he replied and chuckled, “And the parcel is a movie out, you aren’t ready yet. Should we postpone it till another time?” She was vehemently shaking her head before he got the chance to close his lips.
“No! Come on, this is once in a lifetime opportunity, I couldn’t lose it for the whole world. Will you come in? I'll get ready before you get to say, Jack Robinson. My living room is a little messy though, I'm cleaning the house.”
He politely shook his head, “I’ll wait for you here, but if you take long...”
She didn’t let him finish his sentences, “I know what that means, you’ll leave and I won’t be able to see your smile ever again in the office. Don’t worry, I'll be fast!” She sprinted off without waiting for a reply from him, and he didn't miss the way she kept giggling on her way in.
He kept staring at her until she disappeared from his sight and Yazeed heaved a sigh while his shoulders sagged with defeat. He had failed himself again, every day he woke up with the thought that he was going to back away from her, but he kept failing. Even though for today Sulaiman practically chased him out of his own house, seeing the way she seemed so delighted had made him felt all the struggle he went through before he came was worth it.
As she said, she hadn’t taken so long, if thirty minutes wasn’t long enough for Jalilah. She came out all clad in a gown and matching headgear wrapped over her head. He knew he had mentioned that nothing ever looked on her like Ankara did, but today, this dress, it was the prettiest he had ever seen. She opened the passenger’s seat and sat down before she flashed him yet another Jalilah enthralling smile. The dress, the simple necklace around her neck, the kohl in her eyes, everything looked damn alluring on her that he didn’t know when he uttered...
“Beautiful. You look so amazing.”
(Don’t forget to vote please. Thank you)