We went to Zul’s house first because Ahmed just could not wait to meet his long lost best friend. However he had a trick up his sleeve…
“You go first while I stay out of sight,” he told me when we pulled up on the curb. We parked a few houses before theirs so they couldn’t recognise the car, “if Asiyah opens the door you can prank her however you want. But if Zul opens the door tell him…………” he went on to outline his plan to me.
I laughed and raised my eyebrows under my niqaab, “seriously??”
“Ya but don’t get too friendly and chatty with him. Keep it short. I’ll be listening anyways so when the time is right I’ll jump out of my hiding place.”
“So you want me to prank the dude but you don’t want me to talk to him. And they say women can’t make up their minds,” I rolled my eyes and climbed out of the car.
I rang the doorbell and waited, my heart beating faster in anticipation. I didn’t know if I’d prefer Asiyah to open the door or Zul. Before I could think more on it the door opened and I found myself face to face with Zul. He looked exactly the same as I’d seen him last, looking at me with a polite but impersonal smile on his face.
“Wa alaykum salaam,” I tried to keep my gaze averted, an extremely difficult thing for me to do when speaking directly to someone.
“You’ve come to see Asiyah? Let me call her…”
“No!” I burst out before he could walk away, “I’ve come to see you!” I tried to neutralise my accent this time before he realised who I was like Imaan did.
Zul stopped, looking confused. “Me?”
“Yes. My husband sent me actually. He doesn’t like me talking to guys but he said he had no choice this time because if he came himself he’d probably end up murdering you!”
“Okaayy. And who’s your husband?”
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know him! You asked him for £500,000 for your business venture and you promised to start paying him back in two months time but he still hasn’t received a single penny from you! You’ve stopped answering his calls and you run in the other direction if you see him anywhere! Infact that’s also why he sent me because if you’d seen him you wouldn’t have opened the door! How could you? Have you no shame taking peoples money like this then not paying it back? We also earned that money you know, it’s not like it grew on trees!” I had really warmed up to my role, raising my voice also like I was really annoyed. I glanced at Zul’s face and found him glaring at me angrily.
“I have no idea who you think I am, lady, but you have the wrong person. I’ve never taken any money from your husband or anyone else…”
“You’re Zulfiqar Ansari, innit? Your wife’s name is Asiyah and your son’s name is Sa’ad. I know you and my husband knows you so stop hiding. Give us our money back or there’ll be consequences that you won’t like. This is not on, you know.”
“Who the hell is your husband??” Zul yelled, thoroughly incensed by now, “tell him to come see me and we’ll have a nice talk! Tell him to stop hiding behind your skirts like a bloody coward and come face me. Go, go tell him I said all this…”
“Boo!” Ahmed yelled, jumping out so suddenly that Zul and I both jumped, “I am the husband you want to have a nice talk with. So what you wanna say, bru?” He stood with his hands planted on his hips, quirking a brow at Zul with a smirk.
Poor Zul looked like he was about to faint. “Ahmed???” He asked, shaking his head like he couldn’t believe his eyes, “wha…?” Then he looked at me, “Faz??”
Ahmed and I started laughing. “Gotcha!” Ahmed said, grinning at Zul.
It finally seemed to register to Zul. With a yell he jumped forward and punched Ahmed on his upper arm, “idiot! Couldn’t even tell me you’re coming!” Another punch, “and pranking me like that and making me angry,” a third punch aimed at the other arm but Ahmed dodged that one. They laughed and did their man-hug thing then Zul turned to me, “Faz when did you become a professional prankster huh? Speaking in that weird British accent as well,” he laughed.
I pretended to be offended. “Excuse me, my British accent was quite believable ’cause you fell for my prank hook, line and sinker!”
“Ya the look on your face bru! She scared you proper!” Ahmed laughed.
“Aah whatever. I knew there was something fishy there,” he ignored our exclamations of disbelief, “let’s go inside, people will think we’ve gone crazy!”
“Where’s Asiyah?” I asked once we’d stepped into the house.
“She’s upstairs with Sa’ad. Go on up,” Zul waved his hand towards the stairs then he and Ahmed went into the lounge.
I padded softly up the stairs. I spotted Asiyah immediately as I reached the top. She was in the room directly on the left, her back to me as she stood saying something to her son who was half-hidden by her body. I removed my niqaab, tiptoed forward and stood behind her, a grin on my face. Sa’ad saw me and his grey eyes widened but before he could say anything I placed my hands over her eyes. She jumped, clearly startled.
“Guess who,” I whispered close to her ear.
I could hear her loud sigh. “Come on, Khads. How many times do you think I’ll fall for this trick?”
“It’s not Khads,” I whispered.
“Yeah, right!” Asiyah snorted loudly and a giggle escaped my lips.
“It’s not Khads, kassam…err, promise” I amended hastily, realising that she probably wouldn’t know what that means.
Asiyah grew silent. I could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. “Okay, I give up. Who are you?” She asked finally, trying to turn her head. I let go of her and took a step back, grinning at her as she spun around. Her expression of shock was even more comical than Zul’s. Her mouth hung open, her eyes almost popping out of their sockets. I couldn’t help it. I started laughing.
“Faz?? Am I dreaming or is it really you?” Asiyah asked in disbelief.
“It’s me,” I replied, my smile stretching from ear to ear.
Asiyah shrieked and leaped forward, throwing her arms around me. We hugged each other tightly, tears of happiness forming in our eyes at this long awaited reunion. Finally we pulled apart and laughed, wiping our eyes.
“When did you come? You didn’t even tell me! Does Khads know?”
“That’s what everyone is saying. But no one knew. We surprised everyone, even my nana and nani. And no, Khads doesn’t know yet. We came here first.”
“Wow…I still can’t believe you’re here! Sa’ad, come meet Aunt Faz. You remember her, don’t you? We keep phoning her on the laptop?”
Sa’ad nodded and came forward shyly. “How are you, Sa’ad? You’re such a big boy now mashaAllah!” I exclaimed, crouching down to hug him.
“I’m five years old,” he answered proudly.
“Wooowww! Do you go to school then?”
“Yes! And I’m the tallest boy in my class!” Sa’ad said, standing on tiptoes to appear even taller. I laughed and hugged him again.
“He’s go gorgeous, Siyah. And you? How are you??”
“Good good alhamdulillah. The usual. And you? How’s the world tour going?”
“Oh, awesome alhamdulillah! Getting to see so many places…with so much history. It’s fun and at the same time I’ve learned so much as well!”
“Will you go to Italy? My grandparents are there, in Venice.”
“Venice? That gorgeous city with the gondolas and all? I’ll definitely have to mention it to Ahmed!” I grinned.
“Lucky you that Ahmed pampers you and takes you wherever you want to go. Zul can’t even take me to the seaside right here in England,” Asiyah commented, rolling her eyes.
I looked at her in some surprise. That was definitely a thread of resentment I’d heard in her voice. Before I could comment on it though her expression changed.
“You said Khads doesn’t know you’re here?”
“Nope, we haven’t gone there yet,” I replied.
“Let me call her over. I have to see this!” Asiyah said, whipping out her phone, “hello, Khads? Are you free?… Good. Come here as soon as you can, I have a massive surprise for you… I’m not gonna tell you that of course! Come here if you wanna see. And quick before it gets spoiled!… right, see you then. Salaams.”
“What do you mean, gets spoiled?” I raised my eyebrows at her.
“Meaning you’d leave,” Asiyah laughed, “but I couldn’t tell her that of course!”
Khads loved surprises and arrived in record time. As soon as we heard her footsteps on the stairs and her yelling for Asiyah, Asiyah pushed me into her closet and shut the door. It was pitch black inside as I stood there, hearing the voices coming from the other side.
“Well? Where is it?”
“First guess what it is.”
“Aah, come on, Siyah! Wasn’t me coming all the way here enough suspense for me?”
I had to fight to control my laughter as the two bickered away. Finally Asiyah tapped on the door and called out, “you can come out or else we’ll spend the whole night waiting for her to figure out her surprise!”
And then the door opened and out I stepped…
I was loving this…surprising people and seeing their reactions…and Khadija’s reaction was by far the best of them all…