As we had expected Haneefa and I had loads of madrassah work to catch up on. We sat through our first lesson after going back, feeling as blank as a grade one kid would feel if he was suddenly planted in a grade two class. After that we realised that we would have to catch up as fast as possible if we wanted to understand the rest of our lessons. So our free periods, breaks and after class periods were spent in furiously scribbling page after page. While I retired to one corner with Hafiza who explained dars after dars to me then gave me her notes to copy down, Han sat in her own corner with the friend of her choice. Thanks to Hafiza’s tireless dedication I managed to catch up in two days flat.
“Phew!” I exclaimed on the second day after I had finally finished, “I’m never gonna miss mads again!” I flexed my fingers and stretched my aching back.
Hafiza laughed. “Yeah, the payback isn’t worth it.”
“Oh, definitely!” I glanced in Han’s direction but she was already gone. “Wonder if Han’s done.”
“Probably not,” Hafiza replied, “I think Samia can’t stay for long after classes. Han must be waiting for you by your car.”
“Maybe, if she hasn’t caught a lift with someone else already,” I replied. I turned and hugged Hafiza. “Jazakillah for staying till so late with me, Fizzpop. I would never have caught up so fast if we hadn’t taken out this extra time.”
“Oh, it’s fine. Only you might have to drop me off today. Everyone else seems to be gone.”
“No problem. Come.”
They were all gone, I realised as we walked towards the car park. The madrassah looked empty except for a few lights lit here and there; probably apas staying back till late. Han was leaning against her car, tapping her fingers on the bonnet impatiently.
“There you’ll are!” She exclaimed, “what took you so long?”
“I’m alll done!” I replied with a grin.
“Seriously?” Han’s mouth dropped open, “that’s not fair. I still have so much left!”
“I told you to work with me and Fiza but you didn’t wanna listen.”
“If I’d known you would finish so fast I would have joined you,” Han replied morosely.
“It’s okay, you’ll catch up,” Hafiza said, smiling at her comfortingly.
Hafiza’s house was in the opposite direction of mine so by the time we dropped her off and got home it was maghrib time. Feeling silently grateful that I had thought of praying asr at madrassah before leaving, I locked up the car and went inside.
“Where were you’ll?” Mum asked as soon as she saw us, “have you seen the time??”
“Yeah, chill, mum, we were at madrassah…catching up on all our work,” I replied.
Mum relaxed at that. “Oh, so that’s what you were doing. Missing madrassah isn’t just fun and games, is it?” She shot us a sympathetic smile, “anyways, go pray maghrib then come down for supper. Daddy wants to eat.”
Sumaya and Adnaan returned two weeks later, suntanned, lovestruck and beaming, their smiles shining through their newly browned faces. We had brought Sumaya’s extra bags along with us from Durban and put them at their flat opposite our house. We had also cleaned it up and stocked it up as best as we could. The rest would be up to Sumaya of course; though she did not show an immediate inclination to do her own thing apart from us.
“I thought I can cook with you, mummy. That way I can learn your style of cooking as well, since I’m sure Adnaan is used to your way of cooking and loves it,” she smiled.
Mum was taken aback but pleased as well. “Oh, Adnaan’s not fussed at all,” she said, “put any kind of food infront of him and he’ll eat it up.” Adnaan leaned back in his chair and shot Sumaya a self-satisfied smirk.
“Yes, he told me,” Sumaya said, giving Adnaan a look of her own, “but I still would like to be with you for a little while.”
“No problem, ma, this is your house as well. You’re welcome here anytime.”
“Yeah, sure, come help her out then she can get off my case for not coming in the kitchen,” I grinned.
Mum raised her eybrows at me. “I don’t call you for my own benefit, Fazila, and Sumaya’s presence won’t let you off in the least. You’ll carry on as before.”
I groaned loudly. “Well, it was worth a try at least,” I said wryly to Sumaya who was laughing at this exchange.
Sumaya started coming over everyday after breakfast, when Adnaan left for work. Mum was a chilled out mother inlaw and Sumaya soon adapted to her ways. And Sumaya was quick and efficient so mum found it pleasant to work with her as well. I found it a wonderful arrangement in that I didn’t have to make rotis everyday. I knew my rotis well by now but I still disliked making them and since Sumaya was a pro we alternated in making them so I had every other day free.…
I turned around to see Aunty Aisha poking her head through the connecting gate.
“Jee?” I smiled and walked over to her.
“How you, ma? Can you please drop this off at Zeenat’s house? I’m so busy today I won’t be able to go there. Careful, it’s heavy,” she warned as I tightened my grip reflexively, not expecting the hot pot to be heavy, “it’s biryani. Shame, Zeenat gets so tired she can’t cook so much food and all, you know. So I thought I’ll send her lunch today so she can rest.”
“Is she okay?” I asked, immediately concerned. Zee hadn’t mentioned anything unusual to me.
“Yes, she’s fine. Just big and uncomfortable. She can’t wait for the baby to come now,” Aunty Aisha shook her head and laughed.
“I see. Don’t worry, I’ll drop it off. Assalamu alaykum,” I smiled and made my way to my car. Zee’s house was on the way to madrassah so Aunty Aisha often sent things through me, and I found it easy to pop over randomly as well, to see how she was doing.
She wasn’t doing very well today, I realised as a harried Zee opened the door, clad in a sameera, her hair uncombed and sticking out on all sides.
“Oh, Faz…howzit? Come in…ag, this heat! It’s gonna kill me, I swear! Oh, is that the food mummy sent?” Her face lightened considerably at the sight of the hot pot. I nodded and held it up.
“Yup, it’s biryani. Let me put it on the kitchen table.”
“Ya, put it there. I’ll empty it out later,” Zee placed a hand on her lower back and waddled to the lounge where she sank down on the sofa with a huge sigh. Lifting her feet she placed them on the coffee table and leaned back, closing her eyes tiredly. Watching her I felt a pang of sympathy…and a sense of horror. Was this what women had to go through to get kids? If so I didn’t think it was such a good idea to have kids after all!
I was so lost in thought that I walked smack! into Bashir as I entered the kitchen.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed, trying to hold on to the hot pot while maintain my balance at the same time.
“Careful there,” Bashir said, an amused smile on his face. He reached out and took the hot pot from me. “Is this food?” Sniffing appreciatively he placed the hot pot on the counter then opened the lid to see.
“Yup. Biryani, courtesy of the mother inlaw,” I replied, though he had already figured that out by now.
“Yeah…oh, this is divine,” Bashir scooped out some and popped it in his mouth, his eyes closed in ecstasy. I laughed and he opened his eyes.
“No, thanks. I’ve just eaten breakfast and come.”
“Okay, then. Though you don’t know what you’re missing out on,” he grinned and removed a pot from the cupboard, emptying the biryani out then carrying the hot pot to the sink.
“I do. I’ve been eating Aunty Aisha’s biryani since I was in nappies,” I informed him with a smirk. He laughed and washed his hands then grabbed his keys.
“Right, then, I’m off. Where’s Zee?”
“In the lounge.”
“Okay. See you, Faz.” With a wave of his hand he was gone.
Despite my assurances to the contrary my stomach rumbled at the smell of biryani and I couldn’t help scooping some into my mouth as well. I ate a bit then drank some water and went back into the lounge to find Zee still reposing with her eyes closed.
“Zee? You okay?” I asked, sitting down next to her.
Zee opened her eyes and smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry. I’m just so tired. I can’t wait for this baby to come!” She patted her huge stomach which resembled a large watermelon.
“Time for you to come out, poppet,” I informed the bump, laying my hand on it, “mummy’s getting tired of carrying you around now.” As though in response I felt a strong kick and gaped at Zee.
“It moved! Oh my God, it kicked me!”
Zee laughed. “Yeah, he’s an active chap. Keeps me awake at night as well.”
“Go on, poppet. Kick khala again,” I crooned, moving my hand over the bump. For a while there was nothing then I felt like the whole belly was churning as the baby turned inside, random bits poking out, bumping against my hand.
“Subhanallah!” I murmured in absolute fascination. The thought of a whole, live baby being inside the stomach of a human was mind boggling. It showed the qudrah of Allah Ta’ala, who created a child in three layers of darkness, in the womb of its mother. Feeling the baby move I suddenly retracted my earlier view of not wanting babies of my own.
“It gets so tiring, walking around with this big stomach. Then I feel the baby move and the exhaustion just disappears,” Zee said softly, mirroring my thoughts.
“You’ll miss this once the baby is out,” I said.
“Yes, but right now I’d rather have it outside me than inside,” Zee laughed.
“You called it “chap”. Do you think it’s a boy?” I asked curiously.
“Yeah, I have this feeling it’s gonna be a boy.”
“Well, I think it’s gonna be a little girl,” I said with certainty, “aren’t you, poppet?” I patted the bump once more whose occupant was now still and silent.
Zee got her wish…but my prediction turned out to be correct.
Two days later I was roused from a deep sleep by a phone call.
Zee had given birth…to a little princess.