On a plastic hallway chair sat a child, legs kicking in the air, clearing the floor by several inches as they swung back and forth. Maryam was mesmerized by the red rubber boots on his feet and blue duffle coat, somehow the kid reminded her of Paddington Bear. His face had unhealthy look to it and his eyes were hard open as he stared at nothing on the wall. Maryam stopped. The boy's legs weren't swinging in the care-free way she’d first assumed. Each one was more like a kick, sharp and pointed. She crouched down in front of him, letting the boy see her white coat and stethoscope. She fixed her veil and smiled sweetly at the boy. He stared at her with no expression on his face. She gently placed her palm on his cheek.
"Hey there, I'm Doctor Maryam. What's your name?" The boy became still and was quiet for a moment, sitting further back into the chair.
"Aliyu," came out almost like an accident, spilling out of his drawn inward lips. His brown eyes lost their harshness, becoming rounder, more glossy. Maryam looked at his mother and smiled. "He's the one?" She asked politely. The mother smiled sadly, nodding. "Come with me aliyu," Maryam said trying to hold his hand.
After an hour of observation and tests, she sat down on her office chair wondering how she would tell his mother her son has cancer. She scratched the back of her head looking at the boy in much pity. "The boy has Leukemia," a Doctor said, interrupting her thoughts. "I figured that out Doc," she spoke with a long sighed. "Call his mother for me," she ordered. The doctor did as he was told. He came back together with aliyu's mother.
"Uhmm you may not be happy with what we're going to tell you..." Maryam started, looking at the mother to her fellow doctors. "Your son has Leukemia," Maryam broke the bad news to his mother. "Leukemias, which are cancers of the bone marrow and blood, are the most common childhood cancers. They account for about 28% of all cancers in children. The most common types in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). These leukemias can cause bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss, and other symptoms. Acute leukemias can grow quickly, so they need to be treated (typically with chemotherapy) as soon as they are found."
"Is there any cure for this please doctor? He is my only child," she said worriedly her eyes gathering tears. "Well Treatment depends on severity. Treatment is highly variable. For slow-growing leukaemias, treatment may include monitoring. For aggressive leukaemias, treatment includes chemotherapy that's sometimes followed by radiation and stem-cell transplant. But we will do our best to make sure your son is being cured," she explained. She grabbed the woman's hand, "I promise In sha Allah your son will escape this." She reassured.
The boy got admitted immediately and started undergoing treatment. Maryam was in her office together with the mother, writing down what they needed for the boy's medication when Mahmud came in. "Oh sorry, I hope I didn't interrupt you," he said apologetically. "Uh no, come in, she is about to leave," she said giving the woman the paper she wrote the bill.
She left while he sat comfortably on the sofa. He was still wearing his uniform. "What's up," he said reaching to her fridge. He grabbed a bottle of water and gulped it down. "I have a very difficult case to handle right now," she sighed, getting up from her office chair to check some files in her desk drawer.
"You look tired, wanna eat something?" He asked with so much care. "M-hm," she nodded. "Why don't we go get something to eat when you're done with work?" He suggested. She shook her head sighing, "I have a lot to do. Going home late today."
"I'll go get something for you then." He rose up from the couch. "You're the best," she stated, looking pleased. She continued her work while he went out to her favorite restaurant and bought her favorite dish and dessert. When he came back, she wasn't in the office. He arranged the takeaways on her desk and waited patiently for her to come back. She came back in together with her P. A tailing behind with files. She kept the files on Maryam's desk, stealing glances at Mahmud who was busy with his phone. Maryam glared at her and sent her out before she could have the chance to greet him.
"I'm back," he interrupted her thought. She gave him a soft smile, flattening down and open the packs. "You bought me my favorite dish," she squealed, her eyes sparkled as though she saw a billion dollar instead of food. She immediately took a spoon and started eating. He watched her in so much admiration, wishing he was in his brother's position.
She raised her head up and their eyes met. She felt the heat rise to her cheeks as Mahmud stared at her without knowing what he was doing, he smiled and She snapped her head away, knowing that if she continued to stare she would get lost in his big hazel brown eyes. She could feel his eyes still on her, She silently inhaled and exhaled, hoping that his thoughts about her were good. She pushed the pack away and stood up. "Don't tell me you're already done," he said raising a brow. She nodded, "I am. I need to get back to work now," she replied. Her phone interrupted him from replying. They exchanged looks before she picked up the phone. She hesitated before answering. He figured out it was his brother with the way she was replying in low voice. He took a deep breath and exhaled, trying not to pay attention to what she was saying.
She was beyond shocked when Mujahid called her. Since he left he never looked for her. She was always the one that calls and texts him. She felt like she was the only one in the relationship but she still loved him that way. After she was done with the call, she dropped the phone and they continued talking like nothing was up.
"Your relationship with Yaya Mujahid is pretty damn serious huh?" Aydah asked astonished. "Well yeah, it is I guess," she shrugged off her shoulders. "Hmm. I thought he was your crush? The love of your life," she mimicked, laughing. Maryam furrowed her brows and ignored her.
"Okay Maryam you need to tell me what is wrong? At least you'd be at ease when you speak up. Holding it will not get you anything but pain."
"Aydah nothing is wrong with me, I promise. It might just be stress from-"
"Do not even blame work. You simply don't want to speak up right? I know you're not happy with him." Aydah bayed at her. Maryam furiously turned her head away and faced the window. The sun was slowly setting. "You just don't want to hear the truth and admit that Yaya Mahmud is the best guy for you. You guys are like always together like husband and wife. For crying out loud I'm still surprised that you guys are not together after all these years."
"Aydah, your brother would be very disappointed if he hears what you're saying. Mahmud wouldn't be happy too. Mahmud is like a brother to me and also my best friend and it remains that way," she concluded and stood up. She left the room to the living room where she left mahmud and her mother Chit chattering. Aydah scoffed and decided never to talk about it again. When the time comes, they will be together.
Maryam sat down beside her mother and pretended like she wasn’t furious. "Maryam, wai Ina Mujahid dinki neh? I haven't seen him in a while now? Or he's not in town?" Mommy queried looking at maryam. Maryam felt embarrassed, looking at how mahmud's mood changed instantly. "He traveled mommy," she replied fixing her eyes on the Tv. "Hmm. Let me go start preparing dinner. Mahmud I hope you guys are staying for dinner." Mommy said, getting up from the sofa. Mahmud smiled and nodded.
Maryam's eyes was still glued to the Tv, pretending like he wasn't there. She was still embarrassed about what her mother said few seconds ago. He threw a pillow at her and it landed on her head. She looked at him, mouth open while massaging the place. "That hurts," she complained. “Well you were pretending like I was among your furnitures.” She took the pillow and threw it at him but luckily, he caught it and threw it back. She stood up and took another pillow and started hitting it with him while he laughed and begged for mercy. Aydah did a U-turn when she saw what they were doing and went to the kitchen to help mommy with dinner.
"Next time don't mess with Doctor Mahdi," she proudly spoke. "Well it's a good thing you're a doctor because I think you broke my head," he teasingly stated. "I should've used a golf stick to hit you," she smirked.
They continued to tease each other till it was time for maghrib prayer. He went to the mosque while she went up to her room together with aydah to pray.
Mommy was arranging the dishes on the table when the ladies came down. She left the rest and went to her room to pray. Mahmud came back a bit later and they settled down, waiting for mommy to come down so they’d eat together. She came back minutes later and they had dinner together.
Aydah followed mommy upstairs while Mahmud and Maryam stayed in their usual spot. "Okay listen to me," she started. "I feel so comfortable when I am around you, that I don't even mind making a fool of myself when you are with me. You know me inside out. You are the most priceless friend I have ever had. I really value our friendship a lot. And you make me happy." She confessed.
His smile was one of happiness growing, much as a spring flower opens. She could see how it came from deep inside to light his eyes and spread into every part of him. A person smiles with more than their mouth, and She heard it in his voice, in the choice of his words and the way he relaxed. It was beautiful.
"You care for me like nobody else can. I feel alive when you are by my side. Thank you for being my best friend and loving me so selflessly." She returned a smile, trying not to give herself away.
Mujahid smirked, carefully listening to their conversation. He gently opened the door making Maryam to jumped in horror. She looked at both of them, speechless. Mujahid raised a brow at her, "surprised to see?" He questioned. "Hmm! just what I thought."
Mahmud was still sitting comfortably on the same spot looking at the both of them. "I thought I warned you to stay away from my girl." His deep horror voice came. Mahmud took a deep breath, trying to calm down. He felt the urge to punch his brother in the throat.
"Yaya mu..." he cut her off with a glare and she pushed back her words. "stand up and get out or else," he roared at his brother. Mahmud furiously stood up, "or else what?" He faced his brother. Their faces few inches away as they fumed in anger.