Part 222

Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Hope everyone is well and doing great! Once again, jazakallah khair for yourlls understanding and patience. I’m putting this here to say that I’ll try to be regular but my posting might be a little erratic and I don’t want to put up notices everytime so if it’s delayed, just know that I’m trying to get it up as soon as I can❤❤

Have a wonderful Monday and enjoy the post xxx


I opened my eyes slowly, to sunlight filtering through the curtains. My head was resting on something hard and warm, my right hand curled on top of the same warm surface. Ahmed, I realised, squinting down my nose at the short, curly hair tickling it. That was surprising enough to give me pause; I hadn’t slept curled up against him in ages. Slowly, as the sleepy haze lifted, memory returned…Ahmed and I talking last night, making up…and the blissful night that had followed. Smiling like a cat that had eaten a canary I stretched languorously, the top of my head bumping against Ahmed’s bearded chin in the process. Oops! I quickly lifted my head and looked at him to see if I’d woken him up. His eyes were open, looking into mine smilingly, though a hint of caution lurked in their depths.

“Sorry. Did I wake you up?” I asked guiltily.

“No, I’ve been awake for a while…watching you sleep,” Ahmed replied with a smile.

“Sorry…” I began again. Ahmed placed a finger on my lips, cutting me off.

“No more sorrys. I didn’t mind.”

“Okay,” I smiled back at him, “what’s the time?”

Ahmed reached out a hand and picked up his phone, squinting at it. “Seven-fifteen.”

“What???” I jumped out of bed, wide awake now, “why didn’t you wake me up? I have to go! I’m gonna be so late!” I was already running around the bedroom like a headless chicken, pulling out my abaya and pants for the day before running into the bathroom for a quick, five-minute shower. When I came out again Ahmed was already gone.

Crap! I had probably delayed him as well, I thought, pulling on my pumps and hastily wrapping a hijab around my head. I grabbed my bag, dumped my phone and other essentials inside and raced into the kitchen for a quick glass of milk, only to skid to a halt when I saw Ahmed placing two steaming, fragrant mugs on the table.

“You were making coffee? I thought you’d left already,” I said, feeling absurdly pleased at the small gesture.

Ahmed shrugged. “If you’re late you may as well take your time. You can’t be late twice,” he said solemnly but with a twinkle in his eyes.

I laughed. “Try telling that to my supervisor!” Pulling out the chair I plopped down on it, looking gratefully at the toast and coffee infront of me, “I love you,” I said, biting into the crunchy buttered toast.

“I love you too, princess,” Ahmed looked at me intensely, leaning forward to run the backs of his fingers down my cheek. It was such a familiar gesture yet such an alien one that I froze then blushed. I looked down and took a huge swallow of coffee to cover my sudden awkwardness. Ahmed leaned back and started eating his own breakfast and the kitchen was silent except for the crunching sounds of toast and the muffled thuds of mugs being placed on the table. I ate quickly then rushed out after pecking Ahmed quickly on his cheek. And so began another hectic day.

Things didn’t miraculously return to normal after that night. We were still awkward, taking uncertain steps towards each other, still tip-toeing a little around each other, especially Ahmed. But we both made an effort. Our days were busy and we were both out all day but we tried to get as much time together as we could in between. To that end Ahmed suggested I stay up after fajr as well.

“I can’t do that! I’ll be dead on my feet the whole day!” I said in horror. I knew it was preferable to remain awake after fajr but I was so used to sleeping after fajr that the days I didn’t I really did feel like a zombie. I needed even an hour’s sleep to feel energised. Ahmed, on the other hand, had a habit of staying awake from tahajjud since his madrassah days so it was no big deal for him.

“I know it feels like that at first but if you carry on it gets easier. Try for one week and see. You’ll have so much more time before work that way.”

So much more time with me, he meant. I agreed to try, for his sake. The first few days were horrible! I felt like I was sleepwalking through my morning, my eyes looked red and felt scratchy and by lunchtime I had a dull headache that persisted till I went to sleep at night. But I persisted and after a week I could feel the difference. Ahmed was right. I had so much more time before leaving for work. After fajr Ahmed came home and made coffee for both of us then we went to sit in the garden on the comfy swing. After finishing our coffee Ahmed asked me to recite the Qur’an so I prayed my daily portion of the Qur’an aloud while he listened. Some days I asked him to pray but mostly he insisted that I should pray, saying he couldn’t get enough of my recitation. That was also advantageous for me since it meant that my daily portion of the Qur’an, which I had squeezed in after tahajjud or at other times of the day, could be prayed at that time. We got to spend time together that way, have a relaxed breakfast before changing and leaving for our respective work places, instead of oversleeping then rushing out of the house like I’d always done. It did make a huge difference, as I admitted to Ahmed after a couple of weeks.

***

“Assalamu alaykum!” Ahmed called as he entered the house, accompanied by the jangle of keys.

“Wa alaykum salaam,” I replied, wiping the back of a floury hand over my forehead to push back the stray strands of hair that had escaped my ponytail.

Ahmed appeared in the doorway, smiling like I was the best thing he had seen all day, despite the fact that I was in a casual shirt and sweatpants which at the moment was covered in flour. I left the dough I had been kneading and went to give him a quick kiss, quickly stepping back when he leaned in for more.

“No, I’m covered in flour. Your kurta will get messed!”

“So I’ll put it in the wash. Come here.”

“Nope. After I’ve showered,” I answered, neatly side-stepping him. I grinned at his pouty face and went back to kneading the dough for garlic naan. Ahmed disappeared for a while, reappearing again in a casual shirt and three-quarters, then proceeded to help me finish off supper. I had honestly thought that Ahmed was the type of man who didn’t get his hands dirty in the kitchen, since he’d never helped me out when we stayed with his parents, so I was pleasantly surprised when he’d started helping me after we’d moved.

“It was because of my mum. She hated men in her kitchen and always shooed us away,” he explained the first time I had expressed my surprise. Yet another reason for being grateful for moving out then!

I took a quick shower after supper was done, changing into something more flattering and spritzing perfume over myself. I wasn’t into applying makeup everyday but perfume? Perfume was life! It could turn casual into enticing in the blink of an eye.

We had a relaxed supper, talking about how our day had been and other random things. We cleared up and washed up then retired to the lounge or bedroom for some more together-time. The days I had work I would do it in the lounge while Ahmed sat with me, on his laptop or with a kitab in hand. We were trying and it was working Alhamdulillah.

As Nazia had so wisely said, our experiences would either draw us closer or draw us apart. In mine and Ahmed’s case it drew us closer than ever. Our bond grew stronger than the nikah and honeymoon stage as well; then we were newlyweds with stars in our eyes; neither of us could do wrong in the other’s eyes. We had been novices, sailing in smooth waters with the naive optimism that the tides would never change. But they had. We had weathered storms that had broken us, crushed us in it’s relentless grip; and we had risen from it, stronger, seasoned warriors…and together. That was the main part, that the storms had not managed to rip us apart. Together we broke and together we healed, and now here we were, knowing we had weathered the worst storms of our lives and emerged victorious; and we would, inshaAllah, emerge victorious throughout our lives.

If this ordeal taught me one thing, it was that we don’t give up at the first hurdle. Marriage is not a bed of roses, it’s filled with thorns as well. It’s extremely difficult to hold on to at times but we have to try…because it’s definitely worth fighting for.


I added some humour in the pics below. I came across them today and they were relating to marriage so I thought, why not share them here 😜😄

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Part 221

It wasn’t that I intended to let things drag on between us. Life got in the way. The new year had dawned, bringing with it new responsibilities…full time commitments. I had started my year-long internship at the local government hospital, which meant working from seven till five…which meant no more teaching at the school or madrassah. Luckily Han had learnt how to teach the special needs kids at madrassah so I was able to hand the class over to her. And luckily we had moved out before I started because I could just imagine what my mother inlaw would have said at my working full time! Now we lived alone which meant cutting corners at home. I cooked simple meals and luckily had a helper so things were easier for me. But by the time I got home I was exhausted. Sometimes I brought work home with me, which meant late nights alone with coffee and my laptop. Ahmed and I were out of sync with our schedules. We saw each other briefly in the mornings, in passing, then again at night. The only meal we had together was supper. Then he went for esha while I cleared up and made preparations for the next days supper. By the time he came back I was either in the bathroom, making wudhu and changing into my pjs, or buried in my work. And when I did go to bed it was to turn around and knock out like a lightbulb. I was the sort who fell asleep quickly anyways, and with my long days I knocked out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Maybe I was putting off the talk, avoiding the confrontation…maybe. I brushed it off with the excuse that I was busy, and justifiably so.

That was until the night I found Ahmed moving things out of our room and into one of the single rooms opposite ours.

“What are you doing?” I asked, eyeing his laden arms suspiciously.

“I was thinking I’ll move out of our room for a while…till things get right between us again,” Ahmed replied.

“What???” I burst out incredulously, “why on earth would you do that??”

Ahmed sighed and rubbed his forehead tiredly. “I know things are messed up between us, Fadheelah. I know I messed up badly. I’m sorry for not moving out sooner. If I could go back and change that I would. But I can’t. I can only shape the future. And I’m trying to make things right between us again…but you don’t seem interested,” his eyes looked into mine searchingly, “you’ve shut me out and I don’t know how to get back in. Tell me, Fadheelah. Tell me what I must do but don’t just shut me out. We won’t solve anything that way…”

“Well, for starters don’t move out,” I snapped, “you’ll make things worse that way, not better!”

“For the past month you’ve turned the other way and gone to sleep. Or you stay up till late and only come to bed long after I’ve gone to sleep. You make sure you stay on your side of the bed and not come close enough to touch me even accidentally. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable in your own room. So if you prefer to be alone I’ll move out.”

I stared at him silently. His words had hit me with a far greater force than he realised. For the first time in weeks I looked, really looked at my husband. Lines marred his face…lines that hadn’t been there before, bracketing his mouth. Dark circles ringed his eyes. He looked stressed, worried, tired. All of a sudden a memory flashed through my mind…a memory of years ago…

Nana and Ahmed arguing, angry at one another, not on speaking terms…Ahmed pleading at me to intervene, to get nana to forgive him. My words to nana, “every son of Adam is a sinner, but the best of sinners is the one who repents…yes, everyone sins, everyone makes mistakes. But the best way to move forward is to forgive, to move past the mistakes and bury them completely. We can’t let our past control our future.”

How easily had the words left my lips then. But now that it was about myself I had forgotten all that. I had forgotten the power of forgiving, of letting go. Nazia’s words also came to mind. “Don’t let the past come between you. Look ahead now… and remember. Every experience either makes you or breaks you. It depends on how you take it. You can either move forward from this together, stronger than ever…or not at all. The decision is in your hands.” And yet, what had I done again? I had buried all that and immersed myself in my work again…ignoring my husband and his feelings in the process. Since when had I turned into this bitter old hag???

“Fadheelah?” Ahmed was looking at me uncertainly.

“I’m sorry…” I choked out, “I’m so sorry.”

Ahmed’s eyes flared in surprise. “Can we talk?”

I nodded and led him back into our room. Shutting the door behind us we sat cross-legged on the bed, facing each other. Ahmed leaned forward and clasped my hands in his. I didn’t pull away.

“Can I start?” “You can start.” We said at the same time. Looking at each other we started laughing, lightening some of the tension between us.

“Go on,” Ahmed said, lifting our joined hands slightly.

I nodded and took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ve…uhh…been going for therapy these past few weeks…”

Ahmed’s mouth opened in surprise. “Oh,” he said.

“Yeah. Sylvia dragged me there. Said I needed it. And I did. I didn’t realise how many issues I had to work through. Therapy helped me put things into perspective. It helped me begin the healing process…and the process of building myself up again. Ahmed…we both thought getting out of your parents house would be the end of it…but it wasn’t. The impact those months had on me was lasting and it was affecting my present as well. Nazia showed me how much mummy had knocked me down. I was a shell of my former self. My confidence and self esteem had gone down. I felt like I wasn’t good enough anymore…like I was a good-for-nothing. Nazia helped me regain that confidence. I’m still not where I used to be but I’m getting there slowly. And I also had a lot of resentment buried inside me…at you and your mother…but mainly at you…for not getting me out of there sooner. That’s why I’ve been acting this way. It’s the blame and resentment within me.”

Ahmed nodded. “I thought so. But princess…why didn’t you tell me? Why were you going through this alone? I could have been there for you…I could have helped you through all of this.”

“Hardly, when the culprit in my mind was you,” I replied dryly.

“So? You could have told me everything. Let it out. I would have taken it. That’s better than you keeping it in.”

“I did let it out. In therapy. I told Nazia everything but she told me to talk to you as well. To let you know everything I’d been through. To let it out then let it go. And then to forgive and move on…”

“I could have been there for you from the time you started…not just now,” Ahmed repeated, his voice tinged with regret. He tightened his hold on my hands, leaning forward slightly, “tell me everything…let it out, Fadheelah, and then find a way to forgive me and come back to me. Can’t you see how much we’ve drifted away from each other? I want my old Fadheelah back. Remember us in Costa Rica? I want that Fadheelah back. No matter what it takes.”

The urgency and desperation in his voice tore me up inside. I swallowed hard and nodded briefly. And I did. I told him everything I’d been through at the hands of his mother…my emotions, thoughts and feelings during that time. I told him what I’d been going through since we moved out as well. I spoke clearly and concisely, baring my soul to him. He listened silently, his only response being the flash of regret and pain that crossed his face every now and then. When I finished there was total silence between us. Then he sighed heavily.

“This makes me feel like a complete fool. Because I knew…and yet I had no clue of the depth of your emotions. I…” he shook his head.

“Open communication,” I said quietly, “from now on we lay our thoughts and feelings on the table. And we discuss them calmly. No more shutting each other away. No more keeping grudges.”

Ahmed nodded. “I’m sorry, Fadheelah. I’m…” he clenched his jaw hard, his grip on my hands tightening almost painfully, “I’m so sorry.”

Three words. Three words that meant the world to me because of the total sincerity with which they were spoken. For the first time in weeks I smiled, really smiled at Ahmed.

“It’s okay.” And it was. It was okay. We would be okay.

Without another word Ahmed opened his arms to me. I stepped into them, feeling them close tightly around me…

…feeling like I had finally come home.

Part 220

Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

I…AM…BACK!!! Yes I’m as excited as you’ll are😜

I want to thank my incredible readers for all your support and duas during my long break. It’s what encouraged me to return sooner than I expected as well…the support and understanding. I have the best crew in the world…you’ll rock!!!🤗😘❤

Also, this post is dedicated to Miracle…for just being there for me when I needed it😘😘😘


It was a short drive to the house, which was on the next street. Dark and empty, it sat on what seemed to be a large piece of land, trees looming up at around us. I couldn’t see much else and I didn’t look around anyways, wrapped as I was in my own thoughts. I followed Ahmed into the house and moved around, turning on a few lights here and there. It was a single storey house, wide and spacious. I walked down the passage, peeping into the rooms as I went, till I reached a wide door at the end on my right. Opening it I found myself in a large master bedroom. A huge king sized bed graced one wall, floor-to-ceiling windows making up the opposite wall. Cupboards lined the third wall, with the fourth wall blank save for a huge frame depicting the beach…white sands and blue waters, the sun reflecting brightly off the water. Just my scene. I liked the room immediately.

“Well? How is it?” Ahmed asked, coming in with the bags. He dropped them at the foot of the bed.

“Nice. It’s really nice,” I replied, shooting him a smile. I opened my suitcase and retrieved my toothbrush, toothpaste and pjs before making use of the equally luxurious bathroom.

After praying esha I crashed, too exhausted to think of doing anything else.

I spent the next few days setting up house. It was a lovely house, with a wide, spacious kitchen overlooking the large back garden. It was interconnected with the dining room and lounge which made up the front half of the house. The three bedrooms were at the back, two singles side by side and the master bedroom opposite them, also overlooking the back garden. The garden itself was the best feature and I immediately fell in love with it. With a tall water feature in the middle and rolling green grass around it, bordered by vibrant roses in a multitude of colours, it was scenic, peaceful and soon became my favourite retreat. I spent many dawns and late afternoons curled up on the bench at one end or on the garden swing at the other end, lost in my own little world. I had finally found a safe haven after all the chaos that had been part of my life for months and I cherished it wholeheartedly.

If only that had been the end of it. In my mind it had been so simple. Move out. Get our own space and live happily ever after. Reality, however, was much more complex, marred by age-old scars that, though buried beneath the surface, were far from healed. I could not live my happily ever after…not until I walked the path of absolution.

Things between Ahmed and I were…strained. On the surface things were fine. We were finally alone and we were both more relaxed, able to be ourselves without any outside interference. Daddy, Humi and Dalia had come by a few times, bringing the rest of our things. Mummy still refused to acknowledge our existence. However, those scars were still there…and the reason for their presence was staring at me every single day.

It was not that I had intended to blame him. He got us out after all…but…a little too late. That was where my mind refused to move from. A little too late. After I had been through verbal abuse for months. After I’d had my self esteem ripped to shreds and thrown in my face. After the old bubbly, carefree Fazila had been ruthlessly crushed, leaving a shell of her former self in her place. He had removed me from that place but the damage was already done. And he hadn’t shielded me from the damage. In my mind I blamed him…I resented him and that resentment was festering away inside me. Sometimes it came bubbling out in a torrent of words. Ahmed did not say a word. He took every word I hurled at him silently…because in his mind too he was guilty. And just as resentment festered away inside me, so did guilt fester away inside him. He tried in dozens of way to make it up to me…to the extent of making plans of adding a swimming pool to the back garden, just because I had once voiced the wish of having one.

It was Sylvia who suggested counselling…or rather, insisted on it. She went as far as booking me by a brilliant Muslim woman and dragging me to her when the day of my appointment arrived. I grudgingly gave in only because the woman was a Muslim and came highly recommended by several people. I didn’t only want psychological advice, but from an Islamic point of view as well. Little did I know how much Nazia was going to impact on my life.

Those therapy sessions saved me…they pulled me out of the dark hole I’d buried myself in and allowed me to take a good hard look at myself. I was shocked at the person I’d become…at the bitter feelings I had buried deep inside me. Nazia drew each and every one of them out. She encouraged me to talk…talk about the emotions, thoughts and feelings I had buried, about the people who had incited such emotions. And I did talk. I let it all pour out, every bitter word pouring out of me like acid. I’d thought I was handling things just fine. The therapy sessions taught me that I hadn’t been handling things well at all. I needed to let it all out and let it go, not bury it in me and hope it would go away. It never did.

Then, after the floodgates had been opened and the dam of emotions released, came the process of building myself up again. Nazia told me to list all my good qualities. Before I’d have been able to list twenty…now I could barely list five. My mother inlaw’s words had penetrated deeper than I had realised. I felt like I was a good-for-nothing. After all, nothing I did ever pleased her. What did that say about me? Nazia told me to make a gratitude journal…to write one positive thing about myself in it every single day. And to make a list of things that make me happy and another list of things that make me sad, and do one thing that made me happy everyday.

“Remember, what that person says is beyond your control. But how you absorb it and how you react to it is in your control. So that’s the part you need to take control of. What if you meet another Nilofar in your future? Will you allow her to tear you down again? No. You’re worth more than that. So you’ll pause, take a breath and remind yourself that you’re not what another person says you are. Keep your response and emotions positive. You are a wonderful person, Fazila. Remember that and don’t let anyone take the power of self love away from you,” Nazia grasped my hands in hers and looked at me earnestly, willing her words to penetrate. I stared back at her silently, then gave a small nod. The old Fazila was slowly emerging again.

Then I spoke to Nazia about mine and Ahmed’s relationship…how I was still feeling resentful over his inability to move out before this…how it was affecting our relationship.

“Look, Fazila. Men are not mind readers. They’re not even hint pickers. They need things spelt out for them in black and white. Tell me, when you were going through all this, did you sit down and tell him what his mother was doing? Exact words and scenario?”

“I tried a couple of times. He told me to make sabr. After that I gave up,” I replied.

“That was wrong of him. Sabr doesn’t mean passively sitting and doing nothing. Did he expect you to just take the abuse?”

“He thought his mother will change eventually, that I just have to be kind to her,” I replied.

“And when she didn’t…did you tell him how she still was?”

He could see for himself how she was. He’s not blind,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Did his mother behave that way around him as well?”

“She didn’t insult or put me down directly infront of him but she constantly criticised me to him.”

“And…?”

“And nothing. He kept being blindly optimistic that she’ll change eventually. Plus his parents had drawn up some silly contract about him having to stay with them for one year at least, so he thought if I play kind she’ll change and if she doesn’t we can move out after the year had passed…one year he expected me to stay in that hellhole! He should have stayed with her himself if he was so optimistic!” I retorted heatedly.

Nazia looked at me, nodding her head thoughtfully. “Have you told him any of this?”

“Yeah, I lost my temper and ranted about all this to him the night we moved out.”

“And after moving out…have you spoken to him about any of this?”

“No, what’s the point? He knows how I feel about all this.”

“Maybe not. Fazila, men need things in black and white. He knows you’re still hurting but you can’t carry on like this. You need to sit down with him and tell him all this. Let it off your chest then let it go. Even while staying with his parents, you should have carried on telling him about how you feel, not given up and thought he can see for himself. He needed to hear it from you…how you were coping, how you were feeling. How you’re telling me. You needed to tell him. It would have made things clearer in his mind…”

I nodded, slowly getting what she was saying. She was right. I had become so frustrated I had either kept silent, not wanting to bang my head against a brick wall again, which was what I thought about speaking to Ahmed…or ranted to him when the frustration became too much. Both ways weren’t effective. I should have been clear and concise, though I was still annoyed at how dense men could be sometimes!

“So put that on your list. Sit down with your husband. Tell him everything. Make him hear it all, whether it’s hard to hear or not. Then let it go, Fazila. Both of you have started a new chapter in your lives. Don’t let the past come between you. Look ahead now… and remember. Every experience either makes you or breaks you. It depends on how you take it. You can either move forward from this together, stronger than ever…or not at all. The decision is in your hands.”

I nodded again as I got up to leave. “Jazakillah, Nazia. For putting things into perspective for me,” I said, hugging her.

That was not the end of the road but it was a start. I went home that day full of hope and renewed intentions. But life has a way of getting in between sometimes…making even the most well laid plans turn to dust. And things between Ahmed and I, instead of improving, continued to deteriorate…

Unplanned Break…

The key word being “unplanned” here… I thought I’ll take my time in writing and whip up something by Tuesday or Wednesday at least. But now I know it’s not gonna happen. I’m still not 100% well and I need a small break to get my head in the game again, so to speak. I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Hopefully soon inshaAllah…

Jazakumullah khair for all the support and duas you’ll have sent my way. Keep the duas coming…

xxx

Part 219-AHMED

Thursday.

The day everything changed.

Almost a week had passed since Fadheelah had returned. She was not her normal self. She was quieter, more withdrawn. All my attempts at drawing her out were in vain. She did not let on how her relationship with my mother was now. She just moved through the days robotically. It worried me and I resolved that this weekend I was going to sit her down and explain everything to her. The document, the conditions stated within…the chains that bound me to this place. I would tell her everything then I would leave the final decision to her. If she said we should move out then that was what we would do. It was time someone finally gave her a choice. But that day didn’t come…because the tides changed before that.

I had no idea what awaited me that evening as I returned home from work. I had no idea that the undercurrents flowing through our house for months would erupt in a violent storm that would toss our ship about in it’s merciless hold. I had no idea that the bend in the road had finally approached; that the tide had finally changed, and we were powerless to control it. All we could do was hold on and let it sweep us wherever it willed. And there was no looking back. From that point in time we could only look forward. There was no more looking back; no more what ifs.

I heard their voices before I even set my sights on them. One raised, screaming, hysterical; the other calm but brutal, merciless. Then I rounded the bend to the kitchen and they came into view. I stopped dead in my tracks and with dawning horror watched the scene unfold before me.

Fadheelah was facing mummy, tears streaming down her cheeks, her voice hoarse with screaming. Mummy stood on the opposite end of the island, staring her down. When she got angry her eyes glittered dangerously, shooting cool fire. Her lips thinned until they almost disappeared, and her face whitened. Her hands clenched till the knuckles stood out in sharp relief, white tipped and deadly. Other than that she showed no emotion at all. She was at her most dangerous when she was like this, her anger at it’s peak. My mother did not scream or shout when she got angry. Her sense of control did not only extend to other people, it included herself as well. To her screaming and crying was a form of losing control and she would not lower herself to that…ever. The angrier she got the more quiet and controlled she became, until she was biting off each word, spitting them at her victim like white-hot darts, each one finding it’s target with deadly precision, right where it hurt the most. Her expertise was finding the chink in her opponent’s armour and drilling into that vulnerable spot repeatedly until she left the victim helpless, bleeding…reeling from the onslaught. And right now her opponent, her victim was my wife.

I had seen that anger turned on myself a few times, before I went to UK. I had seen it turned on Humi more often and once at Dalia as well. Even daddy had been the recipient of such anger a few times. I had never seen it turned on Fadheelah though, before now. It made us all back down hastily. No one could stand up to her in such a state…except Fadheelah. She met mummy word for word, thrust for thrust. But…the stakes were different. I saw that right away. For my wife it was a battle of survival. The harsh desperation in her face, the way she attacked, was proof of that. As for my mother…it was a game. She was a cat, toying with a mouse she was planning to eat up whole. A jab here, a push there. There was no doubt at all who was the prey here…and who the predator.

Then, suddenly, it was all over. Fadheelah whirled around, her face white and streaked with tears, and ran blindly past me. I ran after her into our bedroom before she could slam the door behind herself and possibly lock it as well, and shut the door behind myself. Fadheelah was standing at the window, her arms wrapped around herself, shaking with the force of her sobs. The sound tore through me like a missile, making me feel puny and helpless. I moved towards her slowly and placed my hands gently on her shoulders.

“Fadheelah.”

She started and jerked my hands off her. I debated the wisdom of trying to talk to her now…but I couldn’t sit by and let her cry like this.

“Fadheelah. Come here. Let it out on my shoulder.”

She whirled around, her eyes shooting fire at me. “Let it out on your shoulder??? On your shoulder??? Where was your shoulder when I cried all these months??? Where was your shoulder when your mother insulted me and degraded me all those times??? Where has your support been all these months??? Where were you when I needed you the most??? Huh??? Then you told me to make sabr and shrugged it off like it was no big deal! And just sorry doesn’t make everything right!!! Sorry does not solve anything!!! From the beginning I told you to move out but you’ll put me through hell but you won’t move out! My tears aren’t worth that much to you, are they??? You know what, Ahmed?? Not only have the people I vowed to take as parents let me down in the worst way possible, but even you, the man who promised to love and cherish me and keep me happy…even you have let me down!” Her voice broke on a sob and she spun away and ran into the bathroom, locking it behind her. I sat there, stunned…shaken to the core. Fadheelah’s words kept going round and round in my head. “Even you have let me down…even you have let me down…” Guilt tore through me, self recriminations pouring down on me like acid. Yes, I had let her down. I had thought this would work out but why hadn’t I seen just how much Fadheelah was suffering before this? In all honesty I’d had no clue that she was taking this so hard. Call me dumb or blind but before today Fadheelah had never shown me this side…this broken, bitter, disillusioned side of her. It was as though the smooth plaster had finally been ripped off, revealing the gaping, bleeding wound within. Still…I had no excuse. I should have moved out sooner. That was the bottom line.

Ya Allah! I paced up and down, waiting for Fadheelah to come out of the bathroom. Forget about waiting for the weekend. I would tell her about the document tonight! I could not change the past but I could change the future. I would not force my wife to live in this house a minute longer.

Fadheelah did not emerge for a long time. In a state of worry I went for esha salah then came back to find her sitting on the bed. She looked subdued and worn out. I approached warily, sitting down beside her. She did not look up. I took a deep breath.

“Fadheelah. There’s something I need to tell you.”

No response. I plunged on anyway.

“The day before we got married…my mother had my father draw up a document. She made him write down all the conditions she wanted me to abide by…which included living in this house with them for good…not move out…not go into any business of my own…not go work for anyone else…I had to work for my father only…and respect her rank as a mother first and foremost…there were a few other things written as well, all along the same lines…can’t remember them now…then at the bottom, what would happen if I broke any of those conditions. I would lose the right to work in my father’s business…I would be cut off without a single cent to my name. I wouldn’t be able to ask my father for any help whatsoever. I wouldn’t be able to open up any business of my own and I wouldn’t be able to work in anyone else’s business. Daddy is an influential person. If he decides to block my path and make things difficult for me in this town he can. So basically that’s what he would do if I ever broke the conditions.” Fadheelah was looking at me now, a horrified look on her face. “And to top it off, they would cut off all ties with me as well. I would be disowned as of that moment and would never be able to contact any of them again.”

“Is she mad???” Fadheelah burst out, “disown you for moving out??? And you agreed to that???”

“I didn’t have a choice. I had to sign at the bottom of that document. But daddy amended one part of the document. Instead of writing, “for good,” he wrote, “for one year.” Mummy wasn’t happy about it at all and made a big fuss but for once daddy put his foot down. He said he will bind me to these conditions for only one year. After that time if we were happy here we could stay on; if not we would be free to move out and none of those conditions would apply anymore. Mummy wasn’t happy but she kept her mouth shut. But I knew what she was thinking; that after one year if we thought of moving out she would get daddy to draw up another document with the same terms. And so on. So you see, princess,” I took her hands in mine, “I couldn’t move out. I’d have lost everything. I would have had to teach somewhere and we would have had to live in very basic conditions. I could have lived like that if it was just me…but I didn’t want to put you through that. I didn’t want you to sacrifice because of me…”

“So you thought I could sacrifice my sanity instead,” Fadheelah pulled her hands from mine and punched me on my shoulder, “you couldn’t tell me this before now?? You couldn’t make mashwara with me about this?? I’d live in a freaking hut if it meant escaping from this house! I’d choose happiness over wealth any day!” She jumped up and began pacing up and down, running her hands through her hair in agitation. “I’m so annoyed with you right now! How could you make that decision for me?? Couldn’t you ask me what I wanted??? Men! They think only they know everything!”

I watched her move back and forth, bemused. “There’s another thing. It’s not just about wealth. They would have cut off family ties with me. I didn’t want that.”

“Great! You know what? You stay with them. I’ll move out into a place of my own. And you can come visit me when you climb off your mummy’s lap.”

“No!” I burst out, horrified. As if I’d let her move out without me! “I’ll go talk to mummy and daddy right now. That document needs to be torn up. It’s nonsense.”

“Now he realises that!” Fadheelah muttered, rolling her eyes. I stood up, resolved to sort this out once and for all today. “I’m going. You can come as well.”

“No, thanks. You go sort it out. But for once stay firm. Don’t allow your mummy to sway you with her drama.”

I nodded and moved to the door.

The scene when I walked into the lounge was just as I expected. Mummy complaining to daddy with a tear streaked face. Daddy looking angry and torn. They both looked up when I entered.

“There he is!” Mummy burst out, “ask him! He was right there, I saw him! Ask him how his wife screamed into my face and insulted me! Ask him what nonsense she was talking to me! I have never felt as degraded in my life! Insulting me like that in my own house?!? What next, I tell you?” She started crying again while daddy comforted her and looked at me accusingly, waiting for an explanation. I took a deep breath.

“You’re right, mummy. This is your house run by your own rules. You’ve said that too many times before. It’s your domain and everyone has to do as you want. And Fadheelah isn’t doing what you want and that’s upsetting you. At the same time you’re putting her down because she can’t obey you the way you want and that upsets her. You can’t take this anymore and neither can she. And from tonight you both don’t have to tolerate each other’s presence. We’re moving out, mummy…daddy…” I looked from one to the other, “we should have done this from the beginning…or at least as soon as I realised that you two will never get on. I regret that. So many tears and unhappiness, just because I was too optimistic that things would work out and didn’t see the truth glaring at me. But now it’s enough…”

“Like hell it is!” Mummy burst out. She had been staring at me with her mouth agape till now, “have you forgotten that document??? You can’t move out and you know it so stop talking rubbish here!”

“Okay, why do you want us to stay?” I asked her, “you obviously don’t get along with her. You’re always complaining about her. Don’t you think your life will be more peaceful without her around?”

“That’s because she’s rude and disrespectful! But why should I lose my son because of her??? Why must I let her win and walk away with you? I won’t let her do it!”

“This isn’t about winning and losing. And you’re not going to lose me. I’ll be right here in this same town and I’ll come visit you regularly.”

“It’s not enough!” Mummy hissed, “I know the moment you walk out of here you won’t be the same anymore. She’ll take you in her hand and make you her puppy! Then you can forget about coming to see me!”

“I told you, that won’t happen…”

“No! And that’s final! Otherwise you’ll lose everything and then we’ll see how you come running back!”

“Daddy…can you destroy that document?” I asked, turning to look at him, “it shouldn’t have been drawn up in the first place.”

“Like hell he will!” Mummy snarled before daddy could get a word in, “that document stands! Now shut up with your nonsense and sit down again!”

I kept looking at dad, waiting for him to respond. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “It’s already been six months, Ahmed. You just have to stay for six months more. Then that document won’t apply any more.”

“Have you seen Fadheelah’s condition in six months?” I looked directly at him, “you like sitting with her in the mornings. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Does she look happy? She’s miserable! She can’t do anything her way and on top of that she has to listen to constant criticism and complaints from mummy. Last week mummy invited all the town’s gossips and degraded Fadheelah infront of all of them, calling her lazy, rude and disrespectful. Is that any way to treat someone? Can you live like that?? It’s not fair on her and I won’t put her through that any longer…”

“What bullsh**!” Mummy spat out, “this is what happens when you only listen to your wife’s lies! So now I’m the bad one and she’s the angel??? See how she’s already twisting you around??? And you’re too blind to see the truth!”

“No. I was blind. Now I’ve finally opened my eyes,” I replied quietly, “the problem is, you’re too controlling, mummy. Your whole life you’ve had things your way so you need that control constantly. You can’t let the people around you live their own lives. They must live their lives according to how you want. Things don’t work that way. You yourself could never live under someone else’s rule but you expect everyone to live under your rule…”

“Shut up! You telling me how to live my life now?? Who died and made you my father???” Mummy shot off the sofa, her face white with anger but daddy’s hand checked her, closing around her arm like a vice. She stared at it then at him in astonishment but something in his eyes made her back up. She sat back down without a word.

“Take a step back and look hard around you, mummy,” I continued, “look at Humi. She’s an adult now. Don’t treat her like a child. Don’t suffocate her. Let her breathe a little. Even with Dalia. You love her and I know you mean well but you need to temper possessiveness with understanding. You need to start looking at things from other people’s perspective as well. How would you like someone treating you the way you treat Fadheelah? Would you like someone to tell you when to wake up, when to come in the kitchen, when to leave the house? Would you like to ask for permission everytime you touched something, to be told that it’s not your house and make you feel like a refugee? And after going through all that and trying to obey someone would you like it if that person still criticised you and insulted you infront of people? Ask yourself honestly…last week at the tea party, what if you were in Fadheelah’s place and she was yours? What if she said those same things about you? Would you find it innocent then? Would you not have felt bad? Is it right, the way you treat her? No one deserves to live in an environment like that. The only option now is to move out.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you today. Did that wife of yours do jadu on you? Must be, for you to speak rubbish like that!” Mummy said, looking astonished and wary, “go sleep now. You’re not thinking clearly. Tomorrow we’ll talk again if you’re in your senses.”

I shook my head. I should have known that she wouldn’t accept her faults. It was too late for her to change. “I am in my senses right now. I’m leaving.”

“Fine, go! Leave with nothing but whatever you own! And don’t ever come ask us for help again! From today onwards you’re no longer my son!” Mummy spat out. Daddy put a restraining hand on her arm.

“Now, Nilofar, don’t speak in anger. It’s fine if they move out. I’ll destroy that document. Ahmed was right. It should have never been drawn up.”

“Don’t. You. Dare!” The same anger that had been directed at Fadheelah a few hours back had returned; this time aimed at daddy, “that document stands! If Ahmed leaves now he leaves with nothing! And don’t you dare help him, Imtiaz, or I’ll kick you out as well! Then you can go live with them…if that witch doesn’t kick you out as well! Let Ahmed leave…he’ll soon come crawling back, watch!”

“The same Allah who provides for you will provide for me and my wife,” I replied, “don’t think you’re on top of things. Allah is above you as well. I haven’t cut ties with you, mummy. You’re still my mother and I still love you. I’ll keep coming to visit you.”

“You won’t be allowed past the gate. Leave and you’ll never step foot in this house again. It’s your choice. Do you choose your family or your wife? Choose wisely because your family can never be replaced but your wife can. Tomorrow if you get divorced or something you’ll be left with nothing! No wife and no family! So choose wisely you fool!” Famous last words from an embittered woman. I shook my head with a last regretful look at her and turned to go.

“I’m not taking any sides here. I’m still your son and I always will be. Assalamu alaykum, mummy.” She didn’t bother to reply, her face stone cold and devoid of emotion.

Fadheelah was still sitting on our bed when I trudged up the stairs and into our room. She looked up when I entered.

“How did it go?”

“Not good,” I sighed, “she said she’s disowned me. If I walk out of this house I can never come back.”

“Ya Allah!” Fadheelah exclaimed, “she stuck to that???”

“Yeah, she won’t budge. Come, let’s pack a few things and go. We’ll come and get the rest of our things later and if we can’t I’ll tell Humi to drop them off to us.”

“Where will we go?” Fadheelah asked, already pulling out suitcases from the closet.

“We’ll think about that later. Let’s worry about leaving now.” I replied.

We packed the essentials into two bags and went back down the stairs. We passed the lounge on the way but carried straight on, ignoring the swear words thrown our way from within. We got into my car and I switched it on and put it into reverse.

“Ahmed!”

I saw daddy run out onto the front porch, waving something in his hand. He jogged up to us and slapped something cold and hard in my hand. A set of keys. I looked at him, puzzled.

“What’s this for?”

“The house in the street behind is empty right now. It’s yours. Good luck, son. And don’t worry about that document. It’s as good as gone. It should never have been drawn up in the first place.”

I stared at him in shock. “But she said she’ll kick you out as well!”

Daddy barked out a laugh. “Kick me out of where? My own house?? And why should she kick me out? I’m her bank account right here. Those are just empty threats. She’s wrong to disown you for something silly like this and she better realise it. Now go. We’ll talk again soon,” he slapped me on my shoulder and moved off again. I drove off, mixed feelings running through me. It was indeed a bittersweet moment…


I’m finally…finally done with this post Alhamdulillah. By the time I reached the end of it I was exhausted…even though I had written the first part a few days ago and I just had to write the second half. Guess it made me realise just how much writing takes out of me…but shukr Alhamdulillah.

So…no promises of a post on Monday as well. I’ll post whenever I can manage inshaAllah.

Keep me and my family in your duas❤

Part 218

I stayed at Seascape for three days. I spent that time sleeping, praying, meditating…and just being me. There were no rules here. No one to tell me what time I should wake up, what time I should do what. There was just me and I relished this freedom fully. I ate simple meals outside, on the deck or on the lawn…I swam in the pool and in the ocean, letting the cold water refresh me. I took long walks on the beach, letting my soothing surroundings clear my mind. This was my me-time and I made the most of it. I hardly touched my phone or laptop; I would have switched off my phone and totally disconnected if it hadn’t been for Ahmed and Zee, both of whom kept checking up on me multiple times each day. More so Ahmed. I could tell he was still worried but he gave me my space. And I was glad he did, otherwise the resentment within me would have spilled over onto him and I would have said things I wouldn’t have been able to take back later on. He was also responsible. He was also responsible for me being in this mess and that I could not deny.

On Friday I packed my bag and headed to my mum’s house for my weekly visit, refreshed in mind and body but no closer to finding a solution. What could I do? I dreaded going back to that house but what choice did I have? When was Ahmed going to open his eyes and take the step of moving out? I was tired of having to spell every little thing out to him. And I had mentioned wanting to move out several times before to him. He knew that’s what I wanted. I did not have to spell it out to him again. I wanted him to take the initiative himself…so I said nothing when I met him later that night at the family braai. We didn’t say much to each other then since there were people around. He did ask me if I would be going home with him, to which I nodded briefly, noting the relief in his face. I couldn’t hide away forever. Things had to come to a head, and soon.

I followed him back home in my car and followed him inside silently while he carried my bag up the stairs. Alone in our room at last Ahmed turned to me and took me in his arms.

“I’m sorry, princess,” he said softly, “Humi told me what happened that day. I’m so sorry. I have no idea what mummy was thinking, to do something like that.”

I leaned back to look at him. Regret and sympathy were carved into the strong planes of his face. “Humi told you? What about mummy? Did you ask her?”

“Yeah, I did. She denied it,” he sighed and rubbed his face, “she’s…” he trailed off, shaking his head. I saw the weary resignation in his face. Was he finally realising the true colours of his mother?

“She will never accept her faults. And she will never change. You need to accept that,” I said slowly.

“Yes. I know. She’s been this way her whole life. She can’t change now. It’s too late.” Bittersweet words, coming from the mouth of someone who always looked for the good in people, sometimes to the extent of becoming blind to their faults.

“Yes,” I agreed. There were a few minutes of silence as we both searched for something…words chosen from the recesses of our minds, then discarded as insignificant. How to express the multitude of emotions going through me at that moment? Then, “so now what?” I asked. Coming to the heart of the matter…

Ahmed sighed. “I don’t know. So many things to think about. It’s…difficult.”

Difficult. Even after all this…it was difficult. When, then, would it become easy??? Mere words were paltry when they weren’t backed up by action. Disappointment coursing through me yet again I pulled away, mumbling an excuse of being tired, and escaped to the private confines of the bathroom. I went through the motions of brushing my teeth, taking a shower and changing into my pjs robotically then sank into bed and fell asleep, hardly aware when Ahmed came to bed as well.

The next day we all went to Seascape for the weekend, forcing me into close proximity with my mother inlaw yet again. I had little to say to her and spoke to her only as much as necessary, though I was unfailingly polite and respectful. The weekend passed with a bit of a muted atmosphere; mummy and daddy were their usual selves but Humi and Ahmed were more subdued and even Dalia seemed to sense the undercurrents of tension running through the house and was quieter. Ahmed and I were not on normal terms just yet… I mainly did my own thing…

Then came Monday, when the men were all out once again and it was me, Humi and mummy in the kitchen once again. Dalia seemed to sense the strained atmosphere and opted to stay more in her room. And strained it was. With mummy once again in control of her domain she started her usual tactics again. She probably didn’t like the fact that I went away for a few days and I suspected that she also suspected me of telling Ahmed what really went on that day at the tea party. So in her usual way she tried to bring me down and bend me to her will yet again. But now, after becoming thoroughly disillusioned by her, I had become numb inside. I had erected an armour around myself so she could not pierce it again. I would not give her the power to hurt me again. I mechanically moved through my chores while letting her jibes and insults slide off me. Day after day I donned my armour and ventured into the battlefield, determined that I would emerge victorious…my victory being her inability to penetrate my defense. But even the strongest armour cannot withstand continuous attacks. Even the strongest armour will eventually wear and tear…will develop chinks, dents, cracks. And my mother inlaw was an expert at finding the chinks in her enemy’s armour and aiming her poison-tipped arrows accordingly. With military precision she wore down my defenses one by one, leaving me helpless and bleeding in the open, vulnerable to any further attacks. And like a cornered animal I reacted with an aggression far beyond my normal capabilities. And that turned out to be the turning point in all our lives…

No post today…

Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Yeah I know you’ll are waiting for that next post but I’m still not done with it. I’m not feeling too good myself and the kiddos aren’t feeling well as well so I haven’t managed to complete it. I’ll post as soon as I’m done inshaAllah.

Remember us in your duas!

xxx

Part 217

I drove around listlessly for a while, before the sinking sun forced me to make a decision. I couldn’t go to my parents’ house. Besides the fact that I didn’t want to worry them unnecessarily, I wanted to be alone right now…so that meant going somewhere where I could be alone. Not many options for that for a lone woman. I didn’t want to check into a hotel and where was I going to find…an…empty…house…

The wheels in my head turning now I impulsively took the familiar turn. I knew where I wanted to go. An empty house…with the beach right there…a perfect place to clear my mind. I pressed the accelerator, driving with a renewed purpose, and soon the familiar gate loomed up to my right. Praising Allah that mummy and them left a spare set of house keys with the gate remote by the old woman who lived opposite, I turned left and hooted at the gate.

“Fazila!” Amina Ma, as we called the friendly old woman, peered at me in surprise, “what a nice surprise! Come in!” She moved aside to let me precede her into the house.

“No, no, Amina Ma, I just came to collect the keys for the house and gate. I’ll drop by later inshaAllah,” I replied quickly.

Amina Ma turned and looked at me curiously, “you want the house keys? You didn’t bring yours?”

“No, in the rush I forgot to get them,” I replied briefly.

“Oh. You alone, ma?”

I sighed inwardly, impatient to be off. “Jee, but Ahmed will be joining me soon.” Like ten years from now.

“Okay, let me go get them. Come in and make yourself comfortable. I won’t be long.” She shuffled off.

I perched at the edge of the sofa in the lounge, tapping my foot impatiently. I just hoped Amina Ma didn’t chance to speak to mummy or anyone else that I knew anytime soon. I didn’t want to deal with anyone for like the next few years!

“You okay, ma?” I jumped, startled out of my thoughts. I hadn’t even heard her approaching.

“Jee. Jazakallah. I’ll see you soon, inshaAllah,” I said, smiling at her and giving her a brief hug before I moved to the door again.

“No problem. Make sure you come, huh!”

“InshaAllah!” I called back with a wave as I got into the car. The poor old woman must be so lonely, living all by herself in this remote area. I almost felt bad for rushing out of there so fast. But I had no energy for anyone else right now.

I entered the house and moved around, throwing open the windows to let in the fresh air. I breathed in deeply, gazing at the ocean. The sun was already low on the horizon. I needed to go pray my asr.

I prayed my asr then went out onto the deck and sat at the edge of the pool, dipping my legs in the cold water. I blanked out my mind and just…felt. Felt the wind blow against my face and toss my hair about. Felt the cold water swirl against my legs. Felt the salty mist in the air, caressing my face with the wind. And felt the first stirrings of peace within me.

I sat there, watching the red orb sink slowly into the fiery water, then came back inside to find my phone ringing off the hook. It stopped ringing, giving me just enough time to glance at the screen…eight missed calls…before it started up again.

Ahmed.

He must have seen the note then.

 

 

AHMED:

 

 

How could a day that started off so well end so badly?

I had left my wife with a kiss on her smiling lips. I had sent her a random text at around lunch time, just to tell her that I was thinking of her. And when my work finished early for once I decided to go home straight after asr and surprise her. Maybe we could go out for a little while after maghrib or esha… instead I came home to a cold house and no wife.

I ran into mummy by my room door. She was just turning the handle to go in. “Oh, Ahmed!” She exclaimed in surprise when she saw me, “you’re here early today! I was just going to look for Fazila. Don’t know where she’s got to!”

“Oh,” I said, slightly puzzled, “don’t worry, I’ll go look for her.”

I went in and shut the door behind me. The room was empty so I checked in the bathroom. Also empty. I frowned in puzzlement. If she wasn’t upstairs or downstairs, where was she? Had she gone out? Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen her car outside when I came in…

That’s when I saw the scrap of paper fluttering on my bedside table…the corner pinned under the lamp. I took it without much interest…and the words leaped out at me.

Panic. It formed a cold fist in my stomach and wrapped it’s tentacles around my throat, squeezing me in it’s tight grasp. I re-read the words, trying to read between the lines…and noticed some of the words smudged as though drops of liquid had been sprinkled on them. No, not just any liquid. Tears. A great many tears. The knot in my stomach got tighter.

I grabbed my phone and frantically called her. There was no answer. In full blown panic mode now I dialled her number again and again while pacing up and down my room and mumbling durood under my breath. Allah, let her be safe.

“Assalamu alaykum.”

“Fadheelah…oh, Alhamdulillah! Where you?” The words couldn’t come out fast enough.

“Never mind where I am. I’m safe.”

“Princess…please tell me what’s going on. What did mummy do?”

“I don’t have the energy to rehash all that right now, Ahmed,” she sounded weary and drained. I swallowed hard.

“Where are you, princess? Have you gone to your mum’s?”

“No, I haven’t. Don’t tell my family anything! They don’t know anything and this will worry them for nothing. Let your parents think I’ve gone there but don’t tell them anything.”

“Okay, I promise I won’t tell anyone anything but at least tell me where you are! It’s not safe for you to be out alone like this, especially at night.”

“I can’t tell you, Ahmed. I need to be alone right now.”

“I understand that, princess. I won’t come after you…but at least let me know when you’re gonna leave to come back home. I can come pick you up and follow you back home. It’s not safe at night.”

“I’m not coming back tonight, Ahmed. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“What???” I yelled, then lowered my voice with effort, “Fadheelah, what’s wrong? You’ve never done this before.”

“I know, right? I should have done this sooner,” she laughed harshly.

Worry bloomed within me, mixed with the panic that was swirling around inside me. What was going on?? “Princess, I swear I won’t tell anyone where you are and I won’t come there myself. I’ll give you your space if that’s what you want. But please tell me where you are. I’m going out of my mind with worry here.” Desperation lent an edge to my voice.

Fadheelah sighed, a long, drawn-out sound. “Fine. But you have to keep your promise. No telling anyone where I am and no coming after me. No matter how much time I spend here.”

It was the hardest thing I ever did but I shakily promised to honour her wishes.

“Seascape.”

I exhaled in part relief. That was better than some random hotel or whatever. “Okay. It’s fine. You can stay there for as long…” I swallowed, “as long as you want. But I’ll keep phoning or texting you to find out if you’re okay. Bear with me. And princess,” my voice thickened with emotion born of fear…fear like I’d never before felt in my life, “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Ahmed,” her tone softened, “but I need to find myself. Give me that time. I need to know where to go from here.”

“Wherever it is…we’ll go together. Okay? We’re together in this. You’re not alone. You have me.”

She didn’t reply to that and that hurt me more than anything she’d said.

Had we really drifted apart that much in the space of a few months?

 

 

FAZILA:

 

 

I wiped my tears as I hung up. Ahmed had sounded so panicky, so lost and afraid, it almost made me pack up and run back into his arms. But those arms hadn’t protected me from his mother. Those arms hadn’t shielded me from her cruel insults and hate-filled barbs. If I went back I would be stuck in the same rut again…and those arms wouldn’t be there to pull me out. Could I go back if it meant living in that house again? I wasn’t sure anymore. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to give even another inch. I was all wrung out. And nobody was looking at my happiness here. I had to look out for myself because no one else would…

I had a simple supper of cheese on toast and tea. I ate outside on the deck, preferring the cool outdoors to the stifling interior. I was sipping on the last of my tea when my phone beeped.

Hey, salaams! What’s up? How did the tea party go?

Zee. That girl always had the most uncanny timings. It was as though she had some sixth sense when it came to me, that allowed her to sense my moods. I had mentioned today’s tea party to her as a by-the-way thing, including her in my musings of just who mummy had invited.

Wassalaam. Not so good.

I could never lie to her…she knew me too well. Not that I would have thought about lying anyways. The one person who knew me in and out was Zee.

Why? What happened?

Don’t want to talk about it now. But it was a disaster.

Mother inlaw at work again?? Is this about her?

Yeah. Who else.

That bloody witch!!!

A moment later my phone rang.

“Zee, I really don’t wanna talk about it,” I said with a sigh, “and don’t call her names. You wouldn’t want to give a person like her your good deeds, would you?”

“Trust you to be Miss Rational at a time like this! Okay, so where are you?”

“Seascape…the beach house.”

“You escaped with Ahmed? Good for you! Take my advice and don’t go back.”

“Not with Ahmed. I’m alone.”

“What??? Why? Is there problems between you and Ahmed as well?”

“No, nothing like that. I just need to be alone.”

“That doesn’t sound good. Why didn’t you go to your parents? Should I come pick you up? You can come to my house. No one will dare trouble you there.”

“You’re not at your house yourself,” I pointed out. Zee was due anytime so had gone to her mum’s house to stay, “and I’m fine here. This is the best place for me to be. I just need to be alone.”

“Okay but I’m here whenever you need to talk, okay? Don’t bottle it up, Faz. It’s not healthy.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about me. You worry about yourself and your baby.”

Zee snorted. “Yeah, right! I’ll go punch that woman with my great big belly right now if you tell me to. Send her flying to Timbuktu where she can keep circus monkeys like herself company!”

I started laughing. “Only you can make me laugh at a time like this. Okay, I’m off now. Going to crash. I’m exhausted.”

“Okay. Keep me posted or else I will keep worrying about you. Salaams.”

I replied to her salaam then hung up and went to take a long, hot shower to relax me, then prayed esha and crashed into bed. Sleep eluded me for a long time, thoughts going round and round in my head in a confused jumble, till I finally fell into a restless sleep.

 

 

AHMED:

 

 

There was only one person who could answer the million questions buzzing around in my head and I went down to find her. She was taking out supper with Humi and looked up as I entered the kitchen.

“Where’s Fazila? She’s really late today.”

I thrust the note in her face, forcing her to clutch at it. “What is this all about? What happened today??”

Mummy glanced down at the note. Her eyes widened in surprise. “Who wrote this??? Fazila??? What a liar! Insulted her infront of the whole town??? How can you believe such stories, Ahmed??”

“My wife is not a liar!” I said through gritted teeth, “something happened today to upset her so much she left this note and went away. I want to know what that something is!”

Mummy’s eyes widened even further. “Are you shouting at me now??? Really, Ahmed! Is that how you’re supposed to talk to your mother???”

Okay, wrong tactic. I took a deep breath and backtracked a bit. “I’m not shouting, mummy. I’m asking you what happened today to upset Fadheelah this much. She’s never gone away like this before. Something must have really upset her.”

“How am I supposed to know??” Mummy snapped, “that girl is just like that! She must be up to no good as usual! I wouldn’t trust her if I were you, Ahmed!”

I stared at her, feeling sick to my stomach. “What has my wife ever done to you to make you hate her so much?” I asked quietly, “she does exactly as you ask her to do. She cooks whatever you tell her to cook, she runs the house exactly your way, she does everything your way. So what’s the problem? What has she done to you to make you hate her so much?”

Mummy laughed harshly. “That’s what you think! You’ll think she’s so perfect! Only I know how she really is! I’m the one who has to stay with her the whole day!”

“Okay, tell me then. Tell me all her bads and evils so I also know,” I promptly replied.

“Okay, I’ll tell you since you want to know so bad! Then don’t blame me for making you hate her! She shouts at me, disrespects me, talks back to me. She organises my kitchen however she likes just to spite me! She runs away in her car everyday and expects me to serve her ready meals when she comes back! That’s just a few things. If I start listing all her bads we’ll be here all night!”

“Fadheelah didn’t mess up your kitchen or anything, she organised it and spring cleaned it to make you happy. She was doing you a good turn but obviously she wouldn’t remember exactly what you put where. Surely something minor like that shouldn’t make you so upset?”

“Of course that’s what she’ll tell you! Why would she tell you the truth?”

“But mummy, how do you know she did it out of spite? You just assumed that. She said she did you a good turn so why not believe her? It’s not like you can prove she did it out of spite.”

That stumped her. I saw her floundering and pushed on. “Also, she goes to teach which we discussed in the beginning. And she offered to make the entire lunch before she left but you refused because you want everything your way. So it’s not her fault that she can’t contribute to lunch. And she does contribute to supper so you can’t say she gets ready meals from you.”

“What discussed?? I told you, don’t let her go teach in the mornings but did you listen?? No, you only want to do what you want! Then you say I mustn’t blame her but if she had listened to me she could have helped me make lunch as well.”

“She already went part time for you, I couldn’t ask her to stop altogether. Teaching is her passion. She loves it, why would I take it away from her?”

“Ya, so you only want me to compromise! Your beloved wife should get everything she wants!” Mummy hissed.

“No, that’s where you’ve got it wrong. You want everything your way and you want everyone around you to compromise. Look at us. We can’t even have a proper conversation without you getting defensive. Humi has to do everything you say, or else…same with me and Dalia and Daddy. You insisted that Fadheelah and I have to stay with you. You threatened me and forced my hand. So the least you can do is compromise, right? Work together with Fadheelah. As a partnership, not leader and subordinate. Don’t think of Fadheelah as beneath you, someone who has to listen to you. Why don’t you take her opinions as well, let her do what she wants as well? She is not your property whom you can order around as you like. She’s a different girl from a different family. Accept her differences and go fifty/fifty with her. That’s the only way this will work, otherwise it will be impossible for us to live in the same house.”

“How dare you???” Mummy hissed, her face white with anger, “I am your mother! My rank is higher than your wife so how dare you tell me we’re equals?? And impossible to stay in the same house?? You’ll stay because you don’t have a choice, do you?? You can’t walk away and you know it! And so long as you live in my house you will live under my rules! Have I made myself clear???”

I pressed my lips tightly together and stared at her. Yes, she had made herself clear. She had made her stance clear from the beginning. I cursed my weakness for the thousandth time as I turned to go. At the very last minute I turned back. “I’m not done here. Something upset my wife and drove her away and I will get to the bottom of this,” I gave her a hard stare then turned and jogged up the stairs to my room.

***

A timid knock brought me out of my brooding thoughts. “Come in!” I called out, hoping it wasn’t mummy again.

The door opened and Humi peeked in, a nervous look on her face. “Can I come in?”

“Ya, sure…” I waved her in, “what’s up?” I asked, noticing her twisting her hands in her lap as she perched on the edge of the bed.

“I…thought I’ll tell you what happened today. I can see how worried you are…and I saw how upset she was…and I feel horrible even though I did nothing.”

“Yeah, please tell me what’s going on,” I said immediately, straightening from my slouched position on the bed.

Humi glanced nervously at the closed door. “You have to promise you won’t tell mummy or daddy that I told you. Otherwise I’ll be in deep shit with mummy and she’s already in a swell mood.”

“I promise! I won’t tell them who told me. Just tell me.”

So she did. Hesitatingly, with lots of stammering and nervous glances at the door, she told me what had transpired this afternoon. I was speechless with shock, my mouth hanging open in horror as I listened to just how my wife had been humiliated infront of the town’s main gossips.

“But why???” I burst out finally, “why would she do something like that???”

“Who the hell knows?” Humi replied, rolling her eyes, “for attention, maybe? For people to listen to her sob story and feel sorry for her? Or maybe to send a message to Fazila, that do as I say or there will be consequences.”

“But Fadheelah is doing everything she says! Tell me, does Fadheelah shout at mummy and disrespect her like she’s claiming? I don’t believe it but just for the record, does she?”

Humi snorted. “Of course not! She goes so much out of her way to please mummy that sometimes I feel like yelling at her to cut out her martyr act. But she still has that independent streak, you know. She goes to teach and that’s a big black mark against her…she goes to her parents more than once a week sometimes…she’ll just drive off if there’s no work or anything. That’s also a problem for mummy because how dare she leave the house without her permission? So because she isn’t exactly how mummy wants her to be, she’ll never be good enough for mummy. Mummy wants to control her completely and that’s not happening, and that’s making her angry.”

“But that can’t happen!” I exclaimed.

“Exactly, it can’t. So I don’t know why you even bother staying in this house and trying any more. If I were you I’d have packed up and left a long time ago!” She finished bitterly.

I looked at my sister. Lines bracketed her mouth and the corners of her eyes, marks of unhappiness and strain. She was clearly not happy. Were any of us? Ruled with an iron fist by a narcissistic woman (yes, Fadheelah had told me what my mother was and on researching the symptoms I had ticked every one of them as applying to my mother), unable to be truly free. Was it fair to make someone live in an environment like this? I didn’t think so any more. I had been optimistic that this would work out, too optimistic, but now reality was hitting me like a cold slap to my face. There was only one solution to this problem and I could finally admit it to myself.

That document though. That cursed piece of paper that bound me to the conditions stated within. What about that? I heaved a sigh. I had never mentioned the other reason for me sticking to my parents house to Fadheelah. Now I needed to decide. Our sanity versus our lifestyle….our happiness versus our family. Which sacrifice was greater?

 

 

Part 216

After the showdown on Monday night mummy became even more exacting than before…if that was possible. She kept me busy with one thing or the other all throughout the mornings, and sometimes afternoons as well. She started letting Humi off the hook more, dumping her share of the work on my head as well. It was like she was taking some sort of morbid pleasure in ordering me around and secretly hoped I would snap again so she could make a fuss out of it. I kept my mouth shut though, to her and to Ahmed. Even though Ahmed and I had made up the situation in the house was nowhere near perfect and as usual Ahmed could do nothing about it. He had altered his stance in the sense that he told me I didn’t have to listen to everything mummy said; that this was my house as well and I could also do as I liked. But that didn’t work, as I found out first hand the day I decided to organise the kitchen cupboards. Mummy had gone shopping with Humaira and left me with some work. I had completed it before they were back and on impulse decided to spring clean the kitchen and pantry. The open surfaces were spotless as usual but the cupboards hadn’t been cleaned in some time. So I emptied all of them out, wiped down the various bottles, jars and glassware, wiped all the shelves then began stacking everything inside again…all by myself, with no help from Sally. I finished it all before mummy came back and went to bath. When I came back down I heard mummy lecturing Sally.

“Why did you let her mess up everything like this??? Look how she’s put everything now! Looks so rubbish and out of place! If she wanted to clean why couldn’t she put everything in it’s place?? Now how will I find anything?? Now it’s your job to make sure you put everything back the way it was. Ask me if you don’t remember. I don’t want anything out of place!” She turned to go and almost bumped into me. Fixing me with a hard stare she added, “who told you to touch my kitchen, Fazila?? I don’t remember giving you permission to mess up my kitchen!”

“I didn’t mess it up, I cleaned and organised everything!” I replied, stung.

Mummy laughed sarcastically. “If this is “organising” then I don’t even want to see your definition of messing things up. Next time don’t touch anything without my permission. Got it??”

I jerked my head in a nod and moved past her. This is what I got for trying to do her a good turn. I didn’t know why I even bothered.

When I mentioned the incident to Ahmed he said consolingly, “don’t listen to her, princess. It’s your house as well, you do what you want.”

Ahmed had started saying that after the showdown and makeup the following day. He told me I could leave the house whenever I liked, whether to go to my parents or anywhere else, that I didn’t have to live my life by her rules. “Yes, I would still encourage you to keep the peace with her but you don’t have to jump at her every order. If you can’t do it, don’t. Tell her you can’t or you’ll do it some other time or whatever, and walk away before she starts shouting at you.”

The same thing happened when we went for the weekends to the beach house. Mummy herself declared that she was taking a break from the kitchen for the whole weekend. But at the same time she didn’t want to eat fast food the whole time, she wanted hot home cooked food so that meant Humi and I had to go in the kitchen. The first few times I had listened and gone in the kitchen before every one else had even woken up, to prepare a simple lunch and supper. Humi had seen me cooking and run away again to sleep. Then Ahmed started noticing that I wasn’t getting the break everyone else was getting so he told me to sleep in as well and we would get takeaway from a nearby restaurant. Mummy hadn’t liked that of course and had made a fuss but Ahmed told me to turn a deaf ear and enjoy my break as well.

All that was well and good but now I was in a catch22 situation. Listen to everything she says and do whatever she wants and she would run me into the ground with her demands and I would end up completely drained; don’t listen to everything she says and she would become even more difficult to live with and make my life hell with her overbearing attitude. She liked to control everyone around her and by me not listening to her that control was slipping, which made her furious…and which she paid me back for in any way she could. So no matter what Ahmed said I couldn’t really do whatever I wanted after all…I had to listen to her, like it or not, just to make living with her more bearable. And I couldn’t even complain to Ahmed after that because he had provided me with a solution that he thought would work and I wasn’t following it……

Three weeks passed like that, with me veering between hopelessness, despair and brief sparks of hope…till that fateful day……

***

“Fazila! Come quick, we have so much to do today! This is everything you have to make. Make sure you finish it all on time! And make sure nothing flops! This is the ultimate high tea. All the topshot ladies are gonna attend so everything has to be perfect!”

I glanced down at the list in my hand in surprise. Chocolate cake, jam swiss roll, scones, cinnabons, milk tarts…I’d better start quickly to get through all this. I had no idea what this was all about. Mummy did invite people over every now and then but usually it was her cousins or close friends. She didn’t go all out and look so excited like she was looking now. I wondered who she had invited for her to get so worked up. Humi didn’t know exactly who was invited as well and we both speculated as we worked in the kitchen. I teased her that it might be someone interested in her for her son. She looked horrified and waved my idea away quickly.

Four o’clock rolled around and fancily dressed women began arriving. There were about twelve of them, ranging from young women only a few years older than myself to a few old grannies as well. A very diverse group and not at all like mummy’s usual get togethers. Humi was also baffled as we laid the long dining table with fine chinaware and all the goodies we had made.

“I don’t even know some of these women,” she whispered to me, “never seen them in my life.”

“Told you…they must have come for…” I whispered back teasingly.

Humi nudged me. “Oh, shush! Twelve women for one purpose?? I don’t think mummy is marketing me off here!”

I laughed and carried on setting the table.

Mummy called us both to come sit with them in the formal lounge. We went and sat with the ladies who were talking about this and that, or rather, this one and that one. Their main topic of conversation was gossiping about people, something that always made me uncomfortable. Besides the fact that it was gheebah and by talking about people we were basically handing them our good deeds on a silver platter…and who in their right mind would hand over their hard earned good deeds just like that?…talking about people just didn’t make sense. What did we get out of it? Who cared if so and so fed her husband leftovers and food from the freezer all the time? Who cared if so and so didn’t even know how to cook and make rotis nicely and ordered half her food from someone else? Who cared what people did in their lives? It didn’t impact us in any way so what was the need to discuss it? Rather discuss things like the war in Syria or Palestine so we can become aware of their plight and make dua for them. This was such a shallow conversation that I tuned out after a while, daydreaming about my own things instead. After a while mummy called all the ladies to come eat, then after the refreshments were served and oohed and aahed over and a million questions asked about who had made what, they all moved back to the lounge, drinks and some snacks in hand, to continue the conversation where they had left off. I wished I could escape but mummy would find it rude and I would hear about it afterwards so I remained sitting. I couldn’t even sit with my phone because that was also rude and unmannerly according to mummy. So I sat there and tuned them out again, thinking longingly about my kids at school and madrassah. I missed them so much and actually couldn’t wait for school and madrassah to open again. The kids were just so sweet and had learnt so much in such a short time…it didn’t even seem like a job to me. It was more like a passion, one I threw myself into wholeheartedly……

“Ay, but the girls of these days! What to do!” Mummy’s loud pitched voice broke into my thoughts. I looked at her to find her gaze fixed on me, “they wake up so late! Come into the kitchen like princesses, expecting to be served on a silver platter! Run away from the house at any excuse, saying they’re going shopping or who knows where. Then come bang at lunch time, and we must give them food like maids!” She looked around at all the ladies, as though waiting for them to agree with her. I was uncomfortably wondering where she was going with this when her gaze swung back to me, “take my daughter inlaw, Fazila, for example…” I froze. “When we take alimas into our houses what do we expect? That they’ll come in with an open mind. They have spent five years in madressah. They have learnt right from wrong. So they should know best, neh? They’ll come in, treat us like their own mothers, be good to us, obey us…such high hopes I had but today I hang my head in shame and wonder how I ever chose this girl for my son! She’s nothing like I expected! She disrespects me, screams at me, shouts at me, calls me names! Oh, the azaab I have to go through in my own house!! She told me this is her house so she can do what she wants! I’ll arrange my kitchen so nicely and she’ll nicely come and spoil everything and put it all in wrong wrong places! Then how can I find anything in the mess she makes?? She insists she wants to teach mornings and afternoons, so whole day she’s running around…then lunch time she nicely walks in and expects to be served her lunch! Big queen she is, neh! And I’m her maid! In our days how we used to be scared of our mother inlaws. How much khidmat we did for them. But today’s girls know nothing! There her sister went and married one black boy! Her parents even allowed her to marry such kachra (rubbish)! How, I don’t know! But a girl who comes from a family like that with no standards, how can she ever fit in with us?? If I had known all this from before I would never have chosen her for my son! I regret the day I took this girls name for my one and only son!” I sat frozen in place as she shed copious amounts of tears through her entire rant, unable to believe what I was hearing. My ears were ringing and my face felt hot and flushed. I heard the ladies titter and saw their accusatory gazes fixed on me. Mummy was still carrying on her emotional rant but I couldn’t hear what she was saying anymore…till she pinned me with her hard gaze again.

“Well, Fazila? What do you have to say for yourself??”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. To my absolute horror I felt my eyes prick with tears and I stumbled to my feet, mumbling something unintelligible. The last thing I saw was Humi’s stricken face as I rushed out of the room.

I ran blindly up the stairs and into my room, slamming the door shut behind me. I ran into the bathroom and stood at the sink, my chest heaving with the outpouring of emotion. The numbness had receded and I was beset by emotions I couldn’t name, each one tumbling over the other. I knew now why mummy had organised this whole tea party. She hadn’t invited just the top shots of society; she had invited the top gossips of society. And all with a set purpose; to degrade and humiliate me infront of the whole town…because she knew that everything she said would be broadcast throughout PE by tomorrow at the latest. I had seen the malicious glint behind her whole emotional act. She had devised this whole plan…why, I couldn’t begin to imagine…and I didn’t even want to think of the whys at the moment. Right now all I knew was that I had to get away…away from this house and the woman who owned it. I hastily wiped my tears and splashed water on my face then ran back into my room. I threw open my closet and removed a small carry-on bag, threw it open and shoved a few pairs of clothes and essentials into it. I zipped it closed, threw on my abaya and hijab and went to my bedside table. Pulling out my notepad from the top drawer I tore off the top page and grabbed a pen. I hastily scribbled a note to Ahmed, explaining my absence when he came home.

Your mother just insulted me infront of the whole town. I can’t take it anymore. I have tried to be nice to her but I can’t take this anymore. I need to get away. Don’t come looking for me. I need to be alone. I’m done! I slashed the pen down on the final exclamation mark, watching as fresh tears dripped onto the paper, smudging the ink…sealing it.

I left the note on his bedside table where he could see it immediately and grabbed my bag and keys. I ran down the stairs and out the door, passing the lounge on my way. I knew everyone could probably see me leave. I didn’t care. I threw my bag into the car, jumped in and drove off with a screech of tires.

I was done…with everyone.

Part 215

Assalamu alaykum…

I had promised you’ll a bonus post since the last season, for anyone who got the honeymoon destination correct. You’ll are so sweet not to even ask me for it (or did you simply forget?😜) but luckily I remembered. So here it isdedicated to:

Miracleoflife68
Maryam Taahir
Laaibah176
Maryambintemuhammad
~

I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone…if I have this is dedicated to you too🙂

Enjoy xxx


I woke up a bit late the next morning, feeling groggy and disoriented. My head throbbed dully. I hadn’t managed to fall asleep till the early hours of the morning. Mummy’s taunts kept going round and round in my head, making me get worked up again. And on top of that was Ahmed’s remarks. Sabr. kindness. He had gone into proper bayaan mode. Not that I had a problem with the Islamic points. I didn’t. But at that moment I had wanted a bit of support. A bit of love and understanding. Empathy. Sympathy even. Not a lecture. Not being told that I was wrong…after all the sabr I had to make I was still in the wrong. Was there even a point in trying? I had fallen asleep with my cheeks wet with tears, the salty taste on my tongue. I woke up with a headache that did not bode well for the rest of my day. The last thing I wanted to do was open my eyes…when I did open them it was to a lavish bouquet of deep red roses perched in my favourite crystal vase on the bedside table. Surprisingly I hadn’t even smelt them before now. I sat up in surprise and reached for the tag attached.

I’m an idiot of massive proportions. Forgive me, habibti?

Ahmed? What did he mean by this? I read the message again, frowning in perplexion. As though reading my thoughts my phone beeped.

Salaams, princess. Did you see your gift?

Yeah, I did but I don’t understand the message, I typed back.

You don’t have to understand it now. I’ll explain everything later on. How about a date tonight, gorgeous?

Date? Uhmm, okay…where? And what time?

That’s for me to know and you to find out *wink*. Tell mummy we won’t eat supper there. Actually, don’t tell her. I’ll tell her when I come home. We’ll go after maghrib. That okay?

Yeah, sounds good.

I didn’t really want to go out and pretend that everything was fine…not after last night. But he had sounded different…and that note…… I shrugged to myself. I’d find out in good time…

Mummy’s remarks also didn’t bother me as much today. I was able to tune her out more easily thanks to my preoccupation.

Ahmed came home straight after maghrib. I had just stepped into a classy abaya and applied the final touches of makeup when he walked into the room. His eyes widened in appreciation and a slow smile dawned on his face as he walked towards me. “Gorgeous as usual,” he said huskily as he bent to kiss me. I stiffened slightly, my mind going on last night’s conversation…the hurt still lingering under the surface. He seemed to sense my thoughts because he pulled away and touched my cheek briefly, a sad smile lighting his face. “Come on, let’s go,” he said, turning away.

“Mummy, we’re going out to eat,” Ahmed said as we stopped by the kitchen.

“What? Why so sudden? Fazila didn’t even inform me. I made so much food for you’ll!” Mummy complained.

“It’s okay, mummy, we’ll have it tomorrow. Don’t cook tomorrow. Right then, salaams,” he towed me away before she could say anything else.

“That’s nice! Walk out whenever you wish with no thought of even informing us! No manners!” I heard mummy grumble as we walked out. We ignored her and climbed into the car. Ahmed came to open the door for me to get in. I eyed him suspiciously but slid in without a word. We drove for a while before Ahmed pulled up outside a familiar place.

“Blue waters!” I breathed. I hadn’t been here in so long…

Ahmed smiled at me and placed his hand on my knee. “Good choice?”

“Yeah,” I replied succinctly.

Ahmed had already made the reservations so we followed the waiter there. It was a corner table on the balcony, facing the ocean and pier. I sat with my back towards the other diners so I could lift my niqaab. We ordered our food then sat silently, listening to the crash of waves in the distance. Ahmed played with my fingers, an old habit of his, looking up at me every once in a while with a soft smile on his face. Something was different today… Ahmed was always charming, always engaging and loving…he hadn’t changed during the past five months; I had. But I had mastered the art of concealing my emotions so he had no idea just how much I’d changed. I tried to act normal with him, except the days when it came bubbling out in a torrent of frustration. But today…today I was tired of putting on a normal act. Today I had let my mask slip, had allowed him to see beyond the happy facade. And today he seemed more perceptive. His gazes were searching, almost apologetic, his touch soft, gentle. He was handling me like a piece of glass and I had no idea why. He didn’t let on the reason immediately either. The food arrived and we ate silently amidst small talk. Dessert and coffee was taken the same way. Then Ahmed stood up and held out his hand.

“Shall we?”

I nodded and lowered my niqaab again. We walked down to the pier, right to the end where it was dark and empty, the row of lights beneath us and the full moon above us the only sources of illumination. Ahmed leaned back against the railing and drew me close to him. I lifted my niqaab and breathed in the cool night air.

“So what was the note all about?” I asked abruptly. I couldn’t take the suspense any longer.

Ahmed sighed. “I acted like an idiot last night. I could see you were upset and emotional. What my mother said was horrible, I won’t deny that. But whenever she blows a fuse we back down. It’s instinctive. None of us can really stand up to her. She’s like a tornado! But I could have at least supported you, sympathised with you…instead I started lecturing you. At that time the words just came…I didn’t think much of them…but later on I started thinking and regretting my thoughtless words. There’s a time and place for certain words and last night wasn’t the time. I heard you crying late at night, princess,” his voice was heavy with regret, “I wanted to get up and hug you, comfort you…but I was scared you would push me away in anger. So I thought I’ll try and make it up to you today. I’m sorry, princess. I acted like a thoughtless idiot. I’m sorry,” he held my hands in his, his gaze searching mine. He looked so sincere and remorseful that my anger melted away.

“It’s okay,” I sighed, “but Ahmed?”

“Yeah?”

“Next time you act like a thoughtless idiot I’ll break something on your head. And I’m not joking.”

Ahmed laughed and hugged me close. “I’ll try never to act like one again then!”

“You weren’t wrong last night,” he said after a while, moving me away a little so he could see my face, “what you said…you tried to hold it in but she pushed you to your limits. I don’t blame you for speaking out. But she blew a fuse and called you some nasty names. I hate it when she talks that way about you so I told you to say nothing, just to avoid her anger. But you weren’t wrong…anyone would have spoken out if their family had been insulted. I’m sorry…”

I put a finger on his lips. “I know, I know. You’re sorry,” I said, injecting a teasing note in my voice.

Ahmed laughed. I rested my head on his shoulder and sighed. Now was the time to bring up his mother…that he may be sorry for last night but what about all the other times I had been through hell at her hands? What about the times I would go through the same again in the future? Saying sorry for this one incident didn’t make things right miraculously. But I looked at his happy, relaxed face and I just didn’t have the heart to bring up the other stuff and possibly spoil this intimate moment. So I pushed it all away and concentrated on making this night memorable…for different reasons……

Living life cloaked in modesty and islamic principles…