A Whole New Chapter

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah: My story. Well, where it all started. 

In life, we often experience things, and yet never see the connections between them.

Yes, loss is hard. It’s heartbreaking. An obstacle can shatter our hopes. A difficulty breaks our spirits. But these experiences have many reasons…. and lots of wisdom in them.

They humble us. They shake us up. Sometimes, they even rock our world.

But, most of all, they remind us of how small we are, and how Great our Lord is. How little control we truly have. And in that way, they awaken us from the slumber of our deceptions, our heedlessness, our wandering, and bring us back to the path. Often, they strip away the veil of comfort from our eyes, and remind us of what we are. Where we should be going. Where we are all going to be headed.

As it lingered, the scent of camphor and calico was the unavoidable reminder, as I was gestured by Foi Nani to see Mama for the last time. I breathed her in as I watched her, nearly at her face now, taking in the fine lines and smooth contours of her cheekbones.

The face of my mother was pale yet calming. Soothing. Pleasing, as she slept for what would now be eternity. I understood that I would never see her again, or hear her laughter fill the house. I understood that this was forever, and I could no longer just be a regular kid. I would be the girl without a mother, Our lives would change completely with mama gone.

I spun around fast and walked out, somewhat emotionless throughout the whole experience.

Where was Abba? I hadn’t see him from the morning.

“She looks just like her mummy,” I heard someone say, as I walked through the crowded passage.

Stares and glances of pity didn’t faze me in the least. That was the advantage of being six and already seen so much in life. Too much.  The smaller things didn’t matter to you.

Yunus stuck to me, gripping the back of my dress relentlessly as I weaved  in and out of the people who were present.

“Call Zuleikha,” I heard a familiar voice say.

I looked up to see if I could spot my eldest sister anywhere, eager for some comfort. Zuleikha was fourteen when Mama has passed away, but in retrospect, she always seemed so much older. She donned the face of the bravest teenager and she held her emotions in expertly as she was called to see mama too, for the final farewell. The emotions were raw that day, but for some reason, my heart remained unaffected and my tears were kept within.

”Khawlah, are you okay? What do you need?”

I was forced to stop as a gentle hand gripped my shoulder, and I looked up to see familiar eyes.

I knew those eyes so well. I just couldn’t place the face.

Those eyes. Steely grey. Almost like a cat.

They were the same as my friend Khalid. This had to be his mother.

“Do you need anything? Did you’ll eat?”

Only a mother would worry about food.

I shook my head. My tummy rumbled. No-one had time to think of food since the morning. I had sneaked in the kitchen and grabbed a pack of Marie biscuits for Yunus and I, but that was ages ago.

“Here,” she said, making us sit in the farthest corner of the dining room and giving us a packet of chips she had in her bag. I wondered if mothers were just a little crazy like that. They came prepared for impromptu meals in the middle of the oddest of places. Mama was the same. I supposed with four children she had to keep some stock on hand. We were always munching on something or the other.

I remembered sitting there, feeling so much more relieved than I had the whole morning. Maybe life wouldn’t be so bad after all, with Mama gone. At least someone was looking out for us.

The funeral days passed by in a blur, with people in and out of the house, coming and going as they pleased. Abba would come see us from time to time, giving us a small pat on the head, or an assuring nod, but he too looked so lost. Like his life was on pause. Like from here on… he wasn’t sure what to do. Where to go.

And then, of course, when the house started feeling empty again, and life started going back to normal, I had to start school again. Grade 1 was that same year and Abba persuaded me that it would be fun. That I’d have fun and I’d have a nice teacher. And although I didn’t exactly enjoy it, having my friend Khalid with me in the same school was the highlight. He lived down the road from us and since we saw each other everyday, it became the highlight of the days, as I got through my former years of school.

Zuleikha helped me with my homework, and Ahmed walked me to school. Dada was still around, and although we missed the presence of Mama, life went on. The pain eased. The wounds healed. Things got a little better.

We were in this motion that seemed to never end, until one day after school, in my third grade, Dada called us all to his room. He was in a fragile state at the time, and though he had always been old, after mama had passed on, he seemed to suddenly age even more. Aunty Agnus used to help him to the toilet, because he had started finding even the mundane things difficult.

“Your Abba will come home just now,” he said in his strained voice. He cleared his throat as we looked at him expectantly.

It was nothing strange. Abba came home every day.

“He has a visitor with him,” he said slowly. “You’ll need to promise me to be very good. This visitor is very special.”

I narrowed my eyes at Dada, feeling a little uneasy. If the visitor was so special, why haven’t we met this person before? Why suddenly all of this mystery? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be all nice and welcoming.

Zuleikha nodded dutifully, gesturing to Ahmed, Yunus and I to come out of the room again.

“Go and bath,” she said forcefully, looking at Ahmed and I. We were playing on our bikes so I imagined that we didn’t look our best.

She just didn’t have to be so uptight about it, I thought to my eight-year-old self, not really caring much about this visitor.

I had a quick shower and speedily put on my stained tights and a baggy shirt, in an attempt to look half decent. Zuleikha eyed me out as I exited the room, obviously not approving. I stuck out my chin and held my head high. There was no time to go back and redress anyway.

Zuleikha and her standards would have to take a hike.

The turning of the door handle caught us unawares as we all raced down the staircase, feeling uneasy about this new visitor. There was silence from our side, as we halted at the  door, waiting for the big reveal.

Who was this person?

We all had the same thoughts on our mind, as Abba’s wavering smile met us, almost as if uncertain about his next move. We looked at him and he looked back at us, greeting us affectionately and then finally stepping aside to let in the newcomer. We all looked up as we saw her, a youngish lady in an abaya, trying hard to keep the smile planted on her face, despite our hesitancy to welcome her in.

After all, as she gazed at us with a certain expectation, we looked back at her with a certain knowledge that she would probably be the catalyst in our world.

We knew that this wasn’t just a visitor. This was someone who would stay. Someone who we may not let in, but would stay, nonetheless. The test that we may fail, and the wave that may break us.

With her calm youthfulness, and her piercing gaze, we knew that this would be the explosion that could shake our solid foundation… but nonetheless, the beginning of a whole new chapter that the four young, yet resilient minds would always remember.


Note: Dear readers,

JazakAllah Khair for the comments and warm welcomes. Much appreciated 💐

I’m aiming for something new, InshaAllah… maybe the old characters may pop up somewhere though, we never know.

Enjoy, and make dua for sincerity of this author. May it be beneficial. InshaAllah.


Amatullah 🌸



9 thoughts on “A Whole New Chapter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s