Good Old Days

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah

Abba looked at Zuleikha sharply, and his expression changed as he processed what she had said. Marriage? 

She was serious. There was not a glint of humour in her amber eye. The trait of my elder sister was that she had the amazing ability to make others just… well, succumb.

Abba needed her. He needed her to be there. Even though he had married Aunty Nas, he knew that he didn’t want to force her out of the family home. Not like this.

When Mama had died, she had been the foundation that formed our home, and kept it stable. Although she was still young, she understood the enormity of three younger siblings, and the burden that my father carried. She cared for us like a mother would, and took over chores that my father couldn’t find the strength to. She matured at an amazing rate and carried herself in a manner far beyond her years. No-one could question the value of my elder sister.

“Okay,” my father said, nodding now. He didn’t ask her who she will marry. He didn’t ask her anymore. Maybe he should have.

I could see that he was thinking. This was a lot for little minds to process. We had lost our mother. We had partially lost our father. We didn’t want our sister to go.

My sister stood straight with her chin out, stubbornly staring my father down and waiting for him to speak again. Her olive skin made her amber eyes seem even more stark, and her eyebrows furrowed slightly just the way my fathers did. The pair of them were so much alike at that moment, I found it hard to believe that they were not seeing eye-to-eye.

She was not backing down on her threat, even as my father seemed to relent.

“We will stay here,” he said finally, his hands tiredly running through his hair.

He got up and looked at us all, probably wondering how everything had gotten to be this way. My father’s tanned skin looked drawn and his eyes was sunken. Although he tried to obscure it in his dress, he was definitely aging in a way that was not so graceful. Abba was getting old, and acting it too.

“Abba, can we go to the park tomorrow?” Yunus asked, his eyes suddenly lighting up. He saw an opportunity and he didn’t want to miss it.

“Okay,” Abba said, without even a batter of an eyelid. Maybe he was feeling bad. I didn’t realised it, but guilt was settling in as he stood and looked at the kids he had left to bring themselves up. Well, that’s how I saw it, even at that tender age.

”Abba,” I blurted out now, seeing an opportunity too and not able to keep it in any longer. The guilt was consuming me too. Was this my fault?

“I’ll be better, okay? Please don’t make us all leave,” I cried, my eyes were burning as i tried to hold back the tears.

What would I do? I wouldn’t have my friend Khalid down the road. Our lives would change. Everything would just be so messed up. The simplicity of a nearly nine-year-old caught my father off-guard.

My father’s mouth turned up at the corners, and he shook his head at me.

That was my Abba. That was precisely how I remembered him. Not the harsh, unapproachable version that had become Aunty Nas’s husband. I liked the obliging, hopeful, and always cheerful one that kept our family going. The Abba That would surprise us with a pack of jelly tots late at night. That would whisk us off after bed-time, with a complete disregard for Mama’s rules. He was the fun parent. I missed that.

“Alright,” he said, his eyes sparkling. It was like the light within him had been switched on again. He seemed so much more alive.

“Tomorrow we will go out. And tomorrow we will be like the old days with ‘the gang.’”

I forgot about the antics of the afternoon then as my heart expanded in my chest, excited about the upcoming day. Abba was true to his word and took us out the next day. He seemed to give us more attention than the past few weeks during the months that followed.

True to his word, the mention of the other house dint come up again. I remembered the arguments that followed that day, accompanied by hushed whispers and disgruntled voices, but being so young, I brushed in under the carpet and carried on with my childish day-to-day life.

Every day would bring a new adventure, and though we seemed to sometimes collide, I found my step mother and sister not home as often as they usually would be. In keeping the  peace, my father had split his former family and his new one, and that way, there was much less conflict. And of course, they got the new house.

It was only one day, when I ran from outside into the house that I realised how much had been going on behind the scenes. I climbed up the little ledge on the kitchen skirting, trying to each for a glass to get some water. I could hear the voices in the passage, but I ignored them until I heard Zuleikha.

“Thats not yours,” she said, in an acid voice.

”Well, she doesn’t know it, and we are just borrowing it,” my stepmother said, her ugly voice even colder than usual. “We’re not stealing it. And you better keep quiet before I tell your father about your Mister with the red BMW.”

I froze as I listened, trying to figure out what they were talking about.

“You can’t just come in here and act like you own this house,” Zuleikha said, her voice icy. “It doesn’t belong to you, and we don’t deserve this. You’re not my mother so don’t try to threaten me-“

Zuleikha!”

It was Foi Nanis voice that came from somewhere further than where the pair of them stood, and I too got an enormous shock as I heard her. I didn’t even know she was around.

The glass dropped from my hands, and as it crashed to the ground all the voices ceased. The footsteps scurried to the kitchen where I stood, shattered glass around me and a guilty look on my face.

Aunty Nas stared at me as she usually did, with complete dismay, while Foi Nani put her hand to her mouth in shock, obviously disturbed about what the nine-year-old ears might have heard. Zuleikha was nowhere to be seen.

Now don’t get me wrong. Aunty Nas was not the best person for me in my childhood years, but it didn’t mean that she was ugly on the outside too. She was actually a very attractive woman who kept herself physically on top on things. But as a child, Mama had taught me a very important lesson as I would gaze into the mirror and admire my own aesthetic beauty.

Character. Beautiful character. That was what truly mattered.

It was the greatest asset a person could ever have. I remembered her  words so clearly, the day I got into trouble for making another girl cry after she picked on me. I sought revenge. It was a trait I tried hard to break.

“It’s not about how people look, Khawlah,” Mama had said wisely. “It’s about the inside. About how you treat other people. You have to be good to everyone, not just the people you like. People may forget what to say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

And of course, she would, as always, tell me about the Hadith of Nabi (SAW), and bring to like the beauty of his character in a completely differing perspective. Mama knew these thing and she always pushed us to learn it too. Though I missed her every day, it was one thing that I missed most about her. The fact that she just made us want to be better people. It was things like this that you couldn’t learn in books. It is the very deed that will lead people to enter Paradise the most.
When the Prophet ﷺ was asked about which act leads people to enter Paradise the most, he replied, “Piety and good character.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah)

I ran out of the kitchen as fast as I could that day, back outside to where Yunus was waiting for me. Khalid was supposed to be there too but ever since his Aunty had bought him that PlayStation thing, he had been getting more and more scarce. It was like we had to drag him out of the house. I tut tutted as I walked down the oath to his house, shaking my head and complaining mercilessly about my friend.

I didn’t realize that Khalid was now entering another zone of his life, maybe even early adolescence. He was a full year older than me and my own mind was too naive to understand the changes that were taking place. His mother came to the door with her usual smile, beaming at us both with enthusiasm, and telling us to get Khalid out of the house to have some outdoor fun.

I simply loved her. There was just something amazing about her character that just drew people to her. The cherry on the top was that her smile was infectious.

I raced through to the lounge, knowing I would catch my friend there.

“Khalid, this is so boring!” I complained as I sat on the edge of the couch and watched him dart from side to side as he tried to aim at something with the remote controls.

“That is so cool!” Yunus said in contrast, as he fixed his gaze on the screen, his eyes wide with eagerness as he watched every move Khalid made. I shook my head and rolled my eyes at them both. This was simply torturous.

Boy stuff. Ugh.

“Five minutes, Khawlah,” Khalid said as he turned and looked at me, trying to assess how annoyed I was. He gave me a small buttering-up smile and then turned to play again, with Yunus at his side. I sighed.

Maybe we were getting too old to play outside. Why did I feel like everything was different? How had everything changed so quickly? Even Khalid was starting to look different. Was something wrong?

The five minutes lasted about 15 more, and I sulked in a corner as they finished, reluctantly getting up as Khalid gestured to me to come with them.

“Let’s go up,” Yunus said, and I got up ready to follow.

“Outside, please, my darlings,” Aunty Radiyyah said, her smile not wavering. “I’m sure you’ll know that us Mummies get worried about the mess in the rooms.”

I wanted to tell her that we knew all about it. I sometimes I felt like I couldn’t even breathe in the house, leave alone mess.

When Aunty Nas was around I did my best to disappear. I didn’t know that Aunty Radiyyah had ulterior motives for sending us outside. In her adult wisdom she knew the harms of indoor activities at our age. Though not yet teenagers, our childish innocence was dwindling away.

We made up a fun game with a soccer ball, a net and a few beacons we found outside. I had always been the Tom-boy type and although I found myself slowly outgrowing it, for Khalid, I would sacrifice my girlishness. It just went without saying. Even though I had recently befriended a new girl in school who I had really come to like, I treasured my friendship with Khalid because it had always been my security. I thought that we would be that way forever. I didn’t know that our days were numbered.

Yes, I hated the dust and perspiration as we played, with the hot sun beating down on us from above, but it’s what made it all the more exciting.

The endurance. It was both exhilarating yet exhausting, and we finally took a break as we sat on the tarred pavement outside the house, just soaking up the blazing winter sun and chatting about our ambitions. It was rainbow smiles and sheer bliss. The life I knew I would always miss.

This was before it all changed. From dreams of building the fanciest of tree houses to comparing the high hopes we had. From childish banter to actual serious chatter… The problems of the wide world were far fetched for us. I couldn’t help but allow myself to get lost in the moments, living in them as if they would never end.

For now, all I knew was that I had passed. I had passed the biggest tests that life threw at me. It was a childhood that I would never forget, but was made so unforgettable by the little things of beauty that I woke up for every day. Those were the days of our life… the good old days.

The days I would never forget.


Dear readers

Shukran to all for the comments and feedback. I know the story may be a bit sad and I apologise in advance if there are any more depressing parts. But please remember that I always aspire to have a good ending so Insha Allah, it will be, with lots of lessons to be learnt. Always appreciate the feedback.

P.S. Are posts too long? Too boring?

Just checking 🌸

Much Love

A xx

 

 

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