What a world of difference there was between my leaving PE and returning once again. I had left happy, whole, secure in my life and marriage; I returned broken, incomplete, my dreams and illusions shattered…a mere shell of my former self.
It seemed like half of PE had turned up to welcome me. My inlaws were there, mummy, daddy, Humi and Numair. My parents were there with Han, Hamza and Safiyyah, and Adnaan, Sumi and their tiny bundle of joy, Hafsa. My aunts, uncles and cousins were all there as well and I spotted Zee as she rushed over to me. They were all hugging me, murmuring condolences and expressing their happiness at seeing me again. I barely registered any of it, replying automatically when it was required of me. Mummy and daddy saw how I was and finally steered me out of there.
I was quiet on the ride home. It was weird going to my parents house instead of my own house. It was crushing being on my own like a single woman again, after being attached to another person for so long. Now that the adrenaline rush was gone I felt empty and devoid of strength. I stumbled as I was going up the stairs and mummy and Han quickly rushed over to me and helped me up and into my room. I collapsed on my bed and stared listlessly at the ceiling above me. I could feel mummy’s and Han’s worried gazes on me, hear their whispers as they discussed me but I was too numb to care.
“Fazila,” mummy began gently, “do you want to freshen up then come down and eat? I’ve made your favourite pasta for you.”
I raised my head slightly and tried to smile at her. “Later, mummy. I’ll just rest for a while first.”
They nodded and backed out of the room, carefully shutting the door behind them. I curled up into a ball and rolled over onto my side, shutting my eyes tightly to block out the images beginning to haunt me.
Ahmed…where are you, Ahmed? What’s happening to you right now? Are you okay or lying in a ditch somewhere…
No! I clapped my hands to my head to block out the unwanted thoughts and twisted around, jumping to my feet. Maybe a shower would do me good after all.
I managed to eat a bit of the pasta that mummy had prepared so lovingly for me. It was good to be back amongst family. At least I didn’t feel quite so alone despite the gaping hole in my heart. Their chatter managed to distract me somewhat, something I knew they were doing on purpose.
“Fazila, eat some more,” mummy said after I’d pushed my plate away.
“No, mummy, I’m full, jazakillah,” I said.
“But you’ve barely eaten…” mummy started protesting.
Daddy placed his hand on mummy’s arm. “It’s okay, Rabia. She’ll eat later when she’s hungry again.”
I nodded and rose to my feet. “I’ll just go rest in my room for a bit.”
“Have you seen her, Faruk? She’s skin and bones! I bet she hasn’t eaten properly in weeks…!”
“I know, Rabia, but we can’t force her. She’ll slowly start eating again, InshaAllah…”
Their worried voices faded as I walked away to my room again. I lay down on my bed and willed sleep to come and after a while the blessed oblivion finally shut me off from the world and it’s bitter reality.
The days dragged and blended together simultaneously. I had absolutely nothing to do except sit around and it was driving me crazy, especially after my crazy activity in Iraq. People kept popping in to offer support. Han and Zee came by everyday and Amira and Aliyah kept popping in every few days. Sumi was also in and out of our house and strangely it was her baby Hafsa who gave me the most comfort. The first time Sumi dumped her in my arms and walked away I stared at the little human and wondered what to do with her. Within half an hour I was totally mesmerised by her and when Sumi and Han came back it was to see me laughing at the baby’s adorable gurgling sounds. It was a sight so welcome to them that they made me their unofficial baby sitter and kept dumping their kids by me one after the other. Zee found out about it and also started bringing Laaibah and Zaid around to distract me with their chatter.
The first week after I came back I flat out refused to leave the house. I just wanted to be left alone even though my thoughts and worries haunted me most then. My family, however, were just as stubborn as me and in the second week they forced me out of the house. They took me to the mall a couple of times even though I hated the crowds and refused to go back after that. They took me to the parks and beach which was much better as the nature soothed my soul and made me calmer. The ocean, in particular, was a therapy of sorts for me. I could drown myself in the sound of the waves, drown out my thoughts and simply FEEL. I would sit there for hours doing nothing but stare at the waves, losing track of time till someone came along and dragged me back home.
The nights were the worst for me. Without the buffer of family and distractions that filled my days my thoughts came back to haunt me viciously. I had nightmares almost every night and woke up screaming and drenched in sweat. I would wake up screaming and crying to find myself in mummy’s arms, her soothing voice filling my ears as she rocked me to and fro.
“You don’t have to come,” I told her one night, seeing her exhausted, worry-ravaged face, “I can wake up by myself and then I usually make wudhu and pray Quran or Salah or make dua. You don’t have to interrupt your sleep for me.”
“Do you think I can sleep peacefully while hearing my daughter screaming away?” Mummy replied, “I’m here for you, sweetie. I can sleep with you if you want.”
I shook my head instantly. “No, no, I’ll be fine, don’t worry,” I tried to muster up a smile to reassure her though I wasn’t doing a good enough job of it judging by the worried lines still marring her face.
I got up and immersed myself in ibadah as I always did when I was woken up by nightmares. Turning to Allah calmed me down because I knew that He was the only one who knew the condition of my heart and the trauma I was going through. He was the only one I could pour my heart out to and know that He truly understood. And He was the only one who could calm the frantic beating of my heart and soothe the tortures of my soul.
Even though I had things to distract and occupy me through the days I barely ate and barely slept and both had a negative impact on my body. I could tell mummy and daddy were really worried so for their benefit I tried to force food down my throat but for some reason it just didn’t stay down. I would repeatedly get up midway through my meals and rush to the toilet only to empty the contents of my stomach. My body was thin and gaunt and some days I barely had enough energy to get up and down the stairs as well. My parents were worried sick and I could tell it was taking a toll on them as well. I suppose things had to come to a head some day and they did. I had just walked into the kitchen one day when I suddenly felt faint. The last thing I remembered was daddy’s arms coming up to catch me before everything went black.
When I woke up I found myself in a doctor’s office, several worried faces peering down at me. I groaned and tried to sit up.
“You fainted, that’s what happened,” mummy replied.
“Oh…I don’t need a doctor though, I’m fine,” I said.
The doctor, a middle aged woman with a friendly face smiled at me. “Let’s just do a few tests, okay, then you can go home. You look a bit down so we’ll just take a few tests to clear everything up.”
I gave in since I had no choice in the matter. I had urine and blood tests done then waited in the waiting room till the doctor called us in again. To our surprise the doctor was smiling instead of looking worried.
“Good news!” She beamed, “this explains a lot of what you told me, Mrs. Bhayat.” She turned to me then, “congratulations, Mrs. Cassim. You’re pregnant!”
For the second time that day I fainted.