Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
“No ways!” Nusaybah squealed with wide eyes, as I filled her in on the past week’s events. “She kept that patch of garden for you?! All those years? How did she even know you were coming back?”
Did she know? Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just hoped… and it was fulfilled.
I smiled as we walked along, taking in the scenic views of the houses that we passed. It wasn’t the most elite part of the neighborhood but there were some gorgeous gardens. My passion for gardening had once again returned, and everywhere my eyes settled, seemed to be a new opportunity. It was like I had a newly found gardening addiction.
“She’s a really nice lady,” I said, as I gazed around. “And she was really close to my Mama.”
“You think that’s the only reason why?” Nusaybah asked, raising her eyebrows cynically as she kicked a stone with her school shoe. It hastily rolled away into a nearby bush.
I frowned, wondering what she meant.
“Don’t act stupid, missy,” she said, ogling me. “Obviously, she likes you … probably loves you. She also thinks that you are probably going to marry her son. Duh.”
The last part was added on as an afterthought, but I couldn’t help but frown as she said it.
I was only fifteen. Marriage was eons away, and I really was not even thinking about anything like that. Trust Nusaybah to think out of the box.
I had to burst out laughing.
“Nusaybah, please,” I said, shaking my head.
She held her hands up in defense.
”I’m just voicing my thoughts. I don’t want you getting your hopes up on some Justin Bieber, and then he lets you down because he’s not all you imagined. Just… lower your expectations, okay? Guys are bad news.”
My mouth was hanging open. Justin Bieber? I wasn’t even sure I knew what the guy looked like, but Nusaybah was pretty clued up on that scene. Knowing about that type of stuff for me was so futile and just … rudiculous.
Nusaybah was going on about getting hopes up about people changing and how she didn’t want me to be disappointed because everything is not always how we think it’s going to turn out.
She was telling that to the wrong person. I had already seen that too many times in my life. Unfortunately, I was someone who always had high expectations… and things hadn’t always turned out to be as peachy as I had hoped.
“You mean like how you have hopes on someone else?” I asked, feigning innocence.
“I don’t have hopes on anyone,” she said stubbornly. “I just like to you to keep your options open. You’re so lucky, you know, growing up with no mum, and some crazy stepmother stuff too… and magically, still being so… stable. Did anyone ever tell you how strong you are?!”
I wanted to laugh.
“All the time,” I said blandly.
That was probably part of my problem. The strength that I was always told I had… the determination that I had always portrayed, from a tender age. It created a great expectation for my future.
“But do you know how great that is, Khawlah?” She said, her eyes now widening, as if she was onto something big. I didn’t know what she was talking about.
”I’m nothing great, Nusaybah,” I argued, feeling awkward that she was throwing me up. “I’m just me.”
“‘I’m just me’. Hah,” she said, with a feigned chuckled. “Nonsense. You are like a knight in shining armor that stands out in the dark. Like a heroine from one of those story books I used to read. Ruby doesn’t know what she let go of. You were so good for the kids because you gave them that. You’re so solid.”
I wasn’t sure what she was on about. Rubeena was too demanding anyway. Nusaybah looked at me with her wide eyes and realized I needed more convincing. I could literally see her mind at it again… concocting the words to get me to believe it.
“You’re amazing, girl,” she continued, and I could see she was revved up. “You want to know why? Do you know that you’re the only girl in the school who wears long sleeves under your uniform jus’ because you know it’s part of your awrah? You’re probably also the only girl who hasn’t spoken to a boy on the phone… or in person. Whatever. Because you know it’s a sin. You’re like a one in a million, Khawlah. Goodness. You even use your break for Salaah. In this day and age, it’s so hard to get it right. We all want to strike a ‘balance’. We want to have it all. We don’t want to submit and just be what Allah wants us to be.”
Woah. It was a helluva load of food for thought, but there was some truth to what she said. I wasn’t as great as she thought I was, but I did I know that she was right. Having Deen was no coincidence. It was a gift that was give to only those whom Allah chose. It was a great bounty that Allah blessed with those whom He favored.
The Messenger of Allah said, “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
We had reached Nusaybah’s house now, and she paused as she gave me a quick hug.
We quickly greeted and then we parted ways leaving me with so much to think of. I never realized that she saw me that way. I never realized that maybe other people saw me as some kind of inspiration. It seemed so peculiar, but although we may not think of something we do as great, someone somewhere may see it as something completely mind-blowing. A small change can make a big difference. It may be a means for someone’s change… or an opportunity for them to see the greener pastures on the other side of life.
What if I was their window, and now it was shut off?
”Foi Nani!” I shouted as I entered the house, wondering howcome she didn’t come to the door like she usually did to greet when she heard me make a big salaam that she insisted we all make when we enter. She said it chases the Shayaateen away.
It was the first time she didn’t acknowledge my arrival. Unless she wasn’t home
I searched the house in case she didn’t hear me, finally finding her in the lounge, sitting in a chair and looking at the ceiling.
“Foi Nani, are you okay?” I asked her, a little concerned about her behavior.
She nodded, and then looked at me. She blinked a few times, and then widened her eyes.
“Khawlah?” She said, almost like she was confused.
“Is that you? You’re looking so tall, bachi.”
My frown deepened. Foi Nani hadn’t called me ‘bachi’ in years. It was like she was transported back in time.
“Are you okay, Foi Nani?” I repeated, getting worried.
“I’m just wondering,” she said, pointing to the ceiling. “When you’ll changed the color of the ceiling. It looks different.”
The ceiling? Really?
“Foi Nani, we always had that colour on the ceilings,” I said obviously. “Since we moved, its been that grey.”
“Since we moved?” She repeated. Now it was her turn to frown. “When did we move?”
I shook my head, smiling at her. She didn’t seem to be joking, but I wasn’t sure if she was dead serious.
Foi Nani had an weird sense of humor. I knew she was getting old, but she couldn’t be losing her memory? Right?
She settled back in her seat and seemed to be busy again as she picked up a book next to her that she was writing in. I left her to it, and went up to my room to start my school work. I ignored the feeling that maybe Foi Nani’s behavior was not just a slip of the mind.
As much as I tried to focus, Nusaybah’s conversation with me was still on my mind and I couldn’t help the nagging feeling, telling me that I had to see the kids again. I thought asking Nusaybah to join me might be a good idea, but I didn’t want to drag her into my little shenanigans again. I could go see them, right? Just to visit and see the kids. To check if they were okay.
It took me a few days to make up my mind, and through Foi Nani’s weird behavior and the imminent absence of Ahmed, I figured I needed a good diversion.
Finally growing the guts, I took a small detour after school on the last day of term, knowing that I would have extra time. It would still be early and I knew Rubeena would probably be home. I wondered how she’d act when she saw me. I wasn’t looking forward to meeting her after the way she had spoken to me the last time, but my heart had an inclination that I couldn’t control. I had to see the kids again. I didn’t want them to think I what just left them.
After Danyaal’s last words…. after I just left with no explanation… I hoped that he didn’t feel like there was no more hope for grown ups at all.
I took a deep breath as I reached the house, preparing myself for the worst. With summer coming to a close, I could see the leaves starting to show traces of upcoming autumn. It was beautiful in its goldish glimmer and so soothing to me as I walked along, even though I wasn’t sure what to expect of the visit. I wasn’t even sure if they would be home. I just tried to steady my breathing as I took the stairs to the front door, literally holding my breath as I reached for the doorbell.
Please be home, I silently commanded them, hoping I didn’t come all this way for nothing.
My neck was feeling damp from the perspiration of the effort that it had take. to get there. A stray lock had crept out of my hijab and I hastily pushed it back in as I waited, hoping I looked normal. I blinked in anticipation, hearing shuffling at the door and small voices somewhere beyond it.
The door finally swung open, and there stood Rubeena in slight discomposure, looking slightly out of breath. I wondered if her training schedule had been taking a knock since I had gone. I pasted a gleaming smile on my face, ready to kill any hostility with forced pleasantry. She gasped at me for a few seconds, with her mouth open.
“Khawlah?!” She breathed, almost as if she couldn’t believe it was me. “Is that really you?”
She seemed to be stunned at my presence, but I eagerly nodded as I replied in the affirmative, rushing through the explanation I had planned in my head.
I wasn’t sure if she even heard a word
“Do you know how many times I tried calling you?!” She exclaimed, shaking her head. “Your granny said she’d tell you… but I never got a call back… I thought you had disappeared!”
Wow. Was Rubeena actually admitting that she had made a mistake? She didn’t mention anything about her last exchange with me though. Conveniently. The news about Foi Nani answering her calls was also extremely strange… because I didn’t receive any messages from her. Unless…
Unless Foi Nani had forgot.
Rubeena was still talking about how the kids really missed me, and I was dying for her to get over with the rambling because I just wanted to finally see them… but there was a surprise lurking in the the far corners of the charming house that I didn’t expect.
As Rubeena explained that she was on her way out, and finally turned to call the kids, it was only then that I realized that there was probably someone else in the house with them… who had been watching me all this time.
I didn’t judge her, but I knew well enough by now that a person like Rubeena wouldn’t survive without extra help. I was positive she would probably crumble under the pressure.
As the kids ran forward and I outstretched my hands, I sought refuge in their broken but adorable little sentences and familiar voices.
They remembered me! I was so glad that I hugged them tightly, telling them that I missed all the fun we used to have. Even the baby seemed excited to see me, as he stood on twos now and tried to reach for my head.
Only Danyaal slunk back, and I looked at him apologetically. My heart sank. I knew I owed him a proper explanation. I had hope that I could explain to him properly how everything in life sometimes goes. I couldn’t help it… it was out of my control. I wanted to tell him all of that and more.. but as I opened my mouth to try and coax him nearer, the words died on my lips just as fast, as I gaped at the person in front of me.
I didn’t know if I was seeing right, but I found myself pointedly staring at the profile before me, almost in disbelief.
The infamous imposter. My sworn adversary. The memorable nemisis.
What a way for us to clash again. This was going to make things very challenging indeed.
She had been my replacement. By some twist of fate, she had to be the one.
She stood before me with that oh-so-familiar look on her face, and I just knew this was going to be a tough one. It was the same look she wore, the day I grabbed the naartjie from her hand. It was the same hostility she had, that didn’t change.
After all these years, it was still as clear as day.
Without a fight…. there was no way she was going to back down.
Next post may be a little delayed. Apologies in advance. If you enjoyed ajourneyinajournal and you have Instagram, please follow us on Instagram @ajourneyinstajournal.
InshaAllah, hope to make it as inspirations through little pieces from my first blog and other sources.
Oww mashallah. Always inspired ! Could it be Hanna I wonder . Jazakillahu khayr
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Shukran sis.. ❤️ Yup, she definitely fits the profile …
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