Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
Ahmed’s voice was curious as he looked up from what he was doing, frowning slightly as he waited for my reply.
Indeed. Who was that?
I mean, I knew her name… and I knew she was a neighbour… but there was something exceptional about the girl who I had just met a few minutes before.
“Her name is Nusaybah,” I said, almost in a daze, as I slumped down again, closing my eyes in an effort to rest then even for just a minute. I was exhausted.
“What a funny name,” Yunus said, and I laughed.
He obviously didn’t hear that name before.
Ahmed’s eyes were rolling almost out of his head.
“It’s not weird,” Ahmed said. “You just never open any books so you won’t know any better. Khawlah spends every spare minute buried in some Islamic book, so she knows the history of every name you can get.”
I didn’t comment. It wasn’t untrue what Ahmed was saying.
I loved reading about the companions of Nabi SAW and I found it most comforting… it was a refuge. In times of distress, I sought comfort in the works of learned authors and found solace in their detailed stories. In times of prosperity, I would gain a deeper satisfactio out of digging deep into the literary works of the Ulama who had taken the time out to record the beautiful narrations that so thrilled me. There was no time when I was not enthusiastic to bury myself in words that reiterated their courage and fervor.
I couldn’t imagine my life without knowing about their existence.
SubhaanAllah… if anyone ever read about the Sahabah, no-one else in this world could even come close to impressing them thereafter.
With that in mind, I headed up the stairs to my new room, finding my favourite book under the pillow where it always was, and opened to the contents. It’s pages were slightly stained and a little crumpled.
The writing on the left hand side of the page glared at me, almost in fury.
Khalid. I hadn’t seen him in over a year.
But the greatest loss to me wasn’t him. My heart bled at the loss of my confidant… his mother who had become a caring guardian to me during these few months. The worst part was that I didn’t have the guts to tell her that we were moving. I didn’t have it in me to let her know that she probably wouldn’t see me again.
I shoved the thought away, ignoring my conscience, and letting myself get lost in the adventures of the warriors who I often sought distraction in.
How brave were their tactics? How daring were their endeavors?
My mind was consumed for a good few hours as I enjoyed my literary company before bed, knowing that tomorrow would be a new day and a new start. Abba had already told me that I would be going to a new school, and although I was nervous, a fond sense of excitement filled my gut. There was something alluring about a new start and I found myself look forward to what it may bring for me the next day.
The morning came quickly and my mind was overwhelmed with mixed emotions. Will it be okay? Wil l I know anyone? Will I make new friends?
The questions and thoughts were endless even as I entered into the school gates, slightly nervous and wobbly about the day ahead. Going to the classroom I was instructed to go to, I hastily scrambled to a free seat, plopping myself down in great relief as I finally sat. It was just under a minute that had passed when I heard a voice above me.
”Excuse me,” the voice said.
I looked up in surprise, wondering who was talking to me. I smiled at a girl who looked just a little taller than me. She didn’t smile back.
Instead, she pursed her thin lips and stared at me.
“You’re sitting in my place,” she said flatly, pointing at me with a long finger.
Oh gosh. The first day and I already put my foot into it.
I widened my eyes slightly and got up, mumbling apologies as I did so and gathered my things.
I was about to go out the classroom and wait for the teacher when I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I looked up to see none other than Nusaybah next to me. She was frowning at the other girl.
“Veronica,” she said to her firmly. “You can see she’s new. Why don’t you give her a break?”
Veronica rolled her eyes, shrugged and looked slightly embarrassed. With everyone’s eyes on her now, she backtracked slightly, hastily took her bag, and sat on another seat closer to the window.
I sighed audibly, relieved that I didn’t have to move. I didn’t want to sit in another place and face a bigger terror.
“How are you?” Nusaybah asked me now, as I sat again, smiling kindly.
I could not have been happier to see anybody at that moment. Like me, she had a blue hijab tied around her round face, and matching pants that complimented the school uniform. I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only girl wearing hijab in the class and although it never embarrassed me, I felt glad to share the identity with her.
The thing was, no-one would ever know about our Deen or identity were it not for our dress. If we were to ignore the dress code of our religion, what would there be to tell us apart from a non-Muslim? How would anyone ever identify what or who we are? How we dressed was part of it all. It’s how people told me apart from anyone else.
I looked at Nusaybah again in relief, and noticed that the ferocity that she had in her eyes just a minute ago quickly disappeared as she spoke to me about the school and how ecstatic she was that I was here. I smiled back at her, glad that I had actually made this move. Glad that it was all okay.
”Hey, we have another new girl!” She suddenly said, and I looked in the same direction as her gaze to see a familiar face at the entrance of the door.
I almost could not believe my eyes, but as she stood there and watched us all, the childhood memories that I remembered so clearly all played back in my vivid mind. It wasn’t pleasant to recall, but the person I now saw in our midst looked the complete opposite of the girl I had know back then.
Hannah was here, and although I had no idea then and I didn’t know why… there was definitely some reason and connection here.
I look at her, and the fierce and fiesty girl that I had once knew had somehow transformed into a composed and introverted girl that I barely recognized.
This was no coincidence. I knew that already. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my siblings about it.
The day seemed to drag on from there, and although I greeted Hannah, e said no more to each other. I was dying to find out what exactly brought her to this school on the same day as I. I was dying to find out more but didn’t have the guts to ask her.
“So how was it?”
It was the first question that I was asked as I walked through the door of my home, and I paused momentarily before answering, knowing that the dramatic news of Hannah’s presence may create a little turbulence. Or a lot.
“Guess Who was there?”
Ahmed gave me a blank look. He was on study leave, but I didn’t see much studying going on. Yunus wasn’t home yet. I already missed my sister, who I knew would actually be interested in my day instead of just asking. I scowled.
Ahmed frowned, and then looked slightly interested.
“Really?” He said, looking pensive.
“Yes!” I said, flinging my hand up in the air, slightly disbelievingly. “And she just came today! Like me! How on earth did that happen?”
“Duh,” Ahmed said. “Her gold digger mother wouldn’t have it any other way, even though Abba can’t afford it.”
Ahmed raised his eyebrows and then shrugged.
“Abba really messed up when he married that woman. She’s literally wiping him out. She doesn’t give up .”
I raised my eyebrows. All this was news to me. And he was being a bit mean too.
Wait. What did Ahmed say?
My heart was suddenly beating a little faster and I couldn’t breathe as easily. Since when couldn’t Abba afford anything? All my life I had known Abba to have money. He always had enough. When did this whole scenario change?
I could have slapped my head in stupidity as I processed everything that happened.
The kidnapping. The change of house. Change of school.
It wasn’t only about security. Abba didn’t have enough money anymore. Something had happened, and everything was changing. Maybe the people who had taken him away had took everything he had. Now I knew why Abba had been so stressed out the past few weeks. Now I understood why everything had seemed so painful for him, even when we all thought it was okay. For us, we were okay. For him, everything had changed.
I sucked in my breath, feeling overwhelmed, but not showing any of it as Ahmed got up and went up to his room again.
He didn’t care that he had just dropped a massive bomb on me. Over the years I realized that’s how boys were. They were often indifferent and unaware of any consequence to what they said.
With Zuleikha not around, I had often sought comfort in Aunty Radiyyah, but to me now that seemed liked another world completely. I fought the urge to ask Foi Nani too… I didn’t want to put Abba in a bad light… and what if she didn’t even know?
Weeks passed and though I saw Abba often preoccupied and tired, I knew that there was not much I could do to help. I often tried to think of ways, but I kept coming back to square one. I would see Hannah at school, but our exchanges were often strained and vague.
And then, on a particularly upside down day, Nusaybah and I were sitting outside and I couldn’t help but let it all out. It was like a volcano waiting to erupt. She sat and listened carefully, not interrupting until the very end, when she was sure I had finished. Our story was quite a long one, even with leaving out the gory details. One thing that Nusaybah and I had in common was that we had both lost a mother when we were quite young. I had a feeling that the factor made us relate better to each other in a million different ways.
Her eyes were slightly teary, but she had the tiniest smile on her face. I looked at her questioningly as I saw it, wondering what on earth was going on in my friend’s mind.
“You will never believe this,” she started saying, and then started rattling off about how everything happens for a reason and she has just the perfect solution for me.
Her eyes were dancing with excitement and I could literally feel her energy as she got up and pulled me up too, determined that her solution was going to be just the thing to put my worries at bay.
I followed her almost half-heartedly, not sure if Nusaybah was really understanding the dilemma I was in.
How could anywhere she was going to take me solve my problem?
I silently followed her, and though with not much hope, to keep her heart, I nodded and let her lead me to a few roads down the estate that I had never been to.
Now, I had heard of these houses before. These were the more elite homes, built on bigger properties and with marvelous gardens. They reminded me of the neighbourhood that we had come from, with their natural beauty and aesthetic charm. Ceres pink bougainvillea almost cascaded down the cream walls, and the green and pink contrast made my heart yearn for what I knew. It made my heart long for the garden I now missed very dearly, and as we entered a huge and fancy looking pathway, I tried to focus on what my friend was telling me. I tried to control my heart.
“And so,” Nusaybah was saying as we walked, now lowering her voice slightly as we approached the door. “I told her I have no idea of anyone who may be wanting to look after her kids… but then you came along and now you told me your story and I know you will just be perfect!”
We both halted at the door now, and I watched Nusaybah as she climbed up the stairs and turned to me.
“Let me do the talking,” she said, winking. “You just smile.”
I nodded as she pressed the doorbell and we waited. With each passing second, my heart rate started to escalate, but I knew that Nusaybah may be on to something. Her smile was plastered on her face and she stood firm and tall, almost as if she was going to give a helluva speech.
And then the door opened and a whiff of perfume caught me completely off guard. It was a scent I quite liked, but the masculinity of it should have kept me on guard. My infatuation with the natural charm that surrounded me enhanced my ability to err… it was a blantant signal of danger that I purposefully ignored. I didn’t know it then, and neither did he….
Maybe it was the garden that caught my eye. For me, all I knew was that it was a new adventure….
And a new adventure had definitely begun.
Your stories are too enthralling māsha’ Allāh 💜 each chapter is more awesome than the previous!
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Shukran sis… 🎀
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Absolutely captivating!!!! Dear sister, you always have us wanting more and more
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🌸 shukran sis… will try n post soon InshaAllah
I’m a little confused ukhti
Which part, sis? Khawlah herself was a bit confused… but Nusaybah is trying to help to find some kind of job… let’s see what it brings InshaAllah … 🌸
next post please!
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