This post is dedicated to my friend and fellow blogger, the author of finding my way, for uplifting me and making my day yesterday❤ and for the rest of you’ll who kept asking me for Bashir’s POV…
I had thought that life, with its twists and turns and bitter lessons had deprived me of the ability to truly get shocked at anything anymore. I had been shocked when Laila had walked out on me; I had thought she would stick around even when our marriage hit rock bottom. I had been more shocked when I had learnt that she had left me for another guy; I had thought she thought more of me than that. But then I realised that life will throw you around; sometimes with a safety net, sometimes without. You just gotta land on your feet each time and keep walking. And so I did; picked myself up, dusted off the gritty bits of my past and walked on. Then I met Zee and walking turned to soaring. I had finally found the missing piece of myself and I let life carry me to heights unimagined. But then came the twist; from the very top life threw me down, and this time there was no safety net at the bottom. I fell and fell hard, and I realised that I wasn’t past the ability to be shocked after all.
The encounter with Fazila jarred me violently, all the more because I never saw it coming. I was deeply in love with my wife and had no desire to look elsewhere. Fazila was simply my wife’s friend at first and my friend later on. I sometimes noticed how pretty she was but I simply shrugged it off and put no more thought to it. She was a friend, nothing more. Which is why, when I actually lost my head and did something I would never have imagined myself doing it came as a huge shock. That moment, leaning against the table, my cheek flaming from the hard slap Fazila had dealt me, would be imprinted on my mind for the rest of my life. The look of furious betrayal in her eyes, the tears she fought so hard to control. Had I actually broken the innocent trust of a girl in one moment of recklessness??? She had run off from there and I had remained rooted to the spot, trying to wrap my head around what I had really done. Then I heard a sound from the bedroom…Zee…and my stomach promptly turned itself over. I bolted from there, hand over my mouth, and threw up every vile emotion inside me; self-disgust, betrayal, self-hatred and a deep sense of grief and loss. I retched over and over again till there was nothing left inside me except a dull hollowness. Then I slowly slid down to the bathroom floor and put my head in my hands. What had I done?? Had I just done what I had sworn myself never to do; to put my wife through what I had been through? Had I actually betrayed Zee the way Laila had betrayed me?? Did I not know enough of what it felt like to be stabbed in the back by the person I trusted, to drive that same knife into my wife??? Had I destroyed my marriage with one single, foolish action???
No, I moaned to myself, God, no!
I wondered if Fazila would tell Zee what had happened. I didn’t think so as it would destroy their friendship as well but she might, to relieve her own sense of guilt. Not that she had anything to be guilty about, except befriending an idiot like me. I wanted to run after her, to beg her not to tell Zee anything, but I knew I couldn’t face her right now; not after what I had done. I had betrayed two people who had trusted me completely. Words could not begin to describe the loathing I felt for myself.
“Bashir?” A rap on the bathroom door which I had thankfully locked, “are you in there?”
I struggled to my feet and cleared my throat. “Yes, I’m in here, honey. Just getting ready.”
“Okay, I was wondering why it’s taking you so long today.”
“I’ll be out just now.” I brushed my teeth to rid my mouth of the foul aftertaste, washed my face and wore my kurta. I dreaded facing Zee as well, fearing she would see something in my face. No help for it, though. I would have to pretend that everything was normal.
Zee was in the kitchen. I fetched my briefcase and went to greet her. She was making tea for herself.
“Have you eaten already?” She asked.
“Yeah, I have, as you can see,” I indicated to the table and smiled wryly, “forgot to clear up today.”
“Did Faz come? Laaibah was sleeping when I woke up.”
I fought to keep the easy smile on my face. “Yeah she came but Laaibah was sleeping so she went away again.”
“I see,” Zee’s mouth pursed as it did when she was thinking of something. It always made me want to kiss her and I felt the same impulse rise up in me now. I firmly tamped it down again; I felt like an imposter, kissing my wife in the same kitchen where…… bile rose up in my throat and I struggled to repress it and the thoughts battering my mind.
“Bashir? You okay?” Zee was looking at me, a concerned frown on her face.
“Yeah…I’m well,” I forced myself to smile at her. My eyes clung to her face; so pretty, so trusting. What would she do if she knew? Would she leave me? I tried to imagine life without her and found the thought like a fist to my stomach.
“You don’t look well at all. You’re pale and sweating. Maybe you should take off from work today and rest it out. You work too hard anyways.”
“No, I’m fine, honey. My stomach’s feeling a bit funny but I’ll be fine, don’t worry,” I grabbed the hand she had placed on my forehead and pulled her to me. I hugged her tightly, breathing in her scent…trying to convince myself that everything would be okay, “I love you so much,” I said fiercely into her neck.
“I love you too,” she replied, sounding faintly amused. She pulled away and ran her hand through my hair, “well, if you don’t want me to pamper you then you’d best be on your way. You’re quite late already.”
I smiled and kissed her hand, “I’ll hold you to that, jaan. You can pamper me all you want later on.” I winked and picked up my briefcase again.
I held my breath for the next few days, feeling like there was a time-bomb placed in the house, one which could go off at any time. I cringed everytime I saw Zee on the phone, fearing the worst. I left for work extra early each day, way before the time Fazila would normally come, so there would be no chance of my bumping into her. But she stopped coming around. I found that out when Zee grumbled about Fazila disappearing suddenly, and wondered if she had maybe tired of the babysitting duties. I shrugged and feigned indifference, though I was glad that she was staying away. I only started breathing easily again the day Zee told me that Fazila’s madrassah was starting the following day so she had said that she wouldn’t be coming around anymore. I felt like a piece of the rock on my shoulder had chipped off and fallen down. If Fazila hadn’t told Zee anything yet chances were that she wasn’t planning on ever doing so. I kept making dua that this was the case. Slowly life went back to normal for me. Fazila was keeping away, Zee was just the same and I slowly became my normal self again. I locked that day into a box and buried it deep into a corner of my mind, never to be unearthed again. A secret I would take to my grave.
Now here she was again and the box reared up out of the corner and broke open, spilling the jagged memories out which seared through my mind. For a few minutes I could only stare at her back, my mind spinning furiously, wondering what I should say to her. She was shaking, her hands gripping the counter top so tightly that her knuckles showed white, her breath coming in ragged gasps. I felt a spasm of guilt rock through me. I owed her an apology, for abusing her trust and assaulting her. Where to begin though?
“Fazila…..” I began hesitantly.
Her head jerked up sharply. “Don’t come any closer!”
“I won’t. I’ll stay right where I am,” I injected a soothing note into my voice, “I only want to apologise to you.”
“There’s nothing to apologise for. Now if you’ll excuse me and turn your back for a moment, I need to go to the lounge. My niqaab is there.”
“You’ve started niqaab? MashaAllah, that’s nice.”
“Yes,” her voice was brittle, as though it might break at any moment, “I suppose I have to thank you for that. You opened my eyes to my mistakes.”
“You didn’t make any mistakes, unless you count befriending an idiot like me,” I took a steadying breath, “please, Fazila, let me say what’s on my mind. Then you can go.”
“Fine. Say it then.”
“I wanted to apologise for what I did. I know there’s no excuse for my behaviour. What I did was unforgivable but I regret it deeply. Please forgive me for it. I never thought of you that way. You were like a friend to me, nothing more. I love my wife, Fazila, and I would never betray her for the world. I have no idea what happened to me that day…….”
“Huh?” I stared at the back of her head blankly.
“I said I do. I know why it happened.”
“You know? But how…it wasn’t planned at all…….”
“I know that, Bashir, just as I know that we were both at fault there,” she spoke sharply, irritably, “my apa explained to me what happened.”
“Your apa…..” I fought down the angry denial and shame that sprang to my lips. She had spoken of me and what had happened to her apa?
“Yes. I didn’t tell her your name, don’t worry. Just what happened. I needed to confide in someone,” she paused, “she told me that it was the lack of purdah between us. That whenever a man and woman are alone shaytaan is always the third one present. And shaytaan will try his best to deviate them. She said we gave ample opportunity to shaytaan to work his wiles on us. We were supposed to do purdah and keep away from each other from the beginning but we didnt. We broke the laws of shariah and we paid for it.”
There was silence as her words, jerked from her mouth in short, sharp staccato bursts, found their mark in me. As I allowed them to penetrate and absorb into the recesses of my mind. She was right of course. Absolutely right. Why hadn’t I thought of it that way? It didn’t lessen the blame at all but it did solve the riddle for me. A riddle that had kept me awake for many nights; that why would a man so happy with his wife and marriage and so averse to the idea of unfaithfulness stoop to something like that? It was shaytaan, yes…and my own foolish imprudence. It was a lesson both of us had learned the hard way. She had already allowed the bitter lesson to shape her future for the better; would I do the same?
“Jazakallah for telling me this,” I replied finally, “I had not thought of it that way. Your words opened my eyes alhamdulillah.”
Fazila nodded. “We both learned the hard way. We just need to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes,” she said, mirroring my thoughts.
“Yes…” I replied.
I moved away then. Turned my back so she could leave. She stayed in the lounge and I went to my room, shoving those memories back into their box, burying that box again in the corner of my mind. However, this time there was a marker on the grave; one which boldly proclaimed the lessons learned from those memories.
Change was slow to come but I tried. I didn’t really mix with females at home; my cousins were few and scattered. I wasn’t really close to any of them. I, however, mingled with females more at my workplace. That would have to change, beginning with my secretary, with whom I spent many hours of my day alone in my office. At least no one would object to that, except the woman herself. Everyone knew I could get much better than her. What no one expected was me taking on a man as a secretary. There were raised eyebrows, whispered comments and some said right to my face. I smiled and heard it all out but at the end of the day I did what was beneficial for me in this world and the hereafter. I could not say that it was easy. Some decisions cost me more than others but I was not looking at easy anymore. I was looking at beneficial and that it definitely was. In the end it all would be worth it because I was aiming to please the only Being I ever needed to please; my Rabb.