Friday, November 7, 2014
Na'ima Ibrahim crossed her denim laden legs at her ankles to give her posture a sense of calm. She was listening to every word, answering them a million different ways in her head and then, scolding sweet Nai for being unlady-like with some of her remarks. She tilted her bronzed face to capture the last rays of sunlight. She loved coming to Julie's in the summer, they had the perfect location for what she called a sun-kissed evening. The decor had an artsy, 60s theme with lots of light, framed illustrations and a huge Victorian chandelier to complete the homey vibe the cafe resonated. Her favorite part of the room was easily the old skool fabric cushions, they reminded her so much of her dad's old settee.
Nai's face shone and she looked prettier than ever. As petite and fragile as she looked, her strength and grit was unmistakable. The lilac veil gave her face some color, but her eyes were a pool of conflicting emotions She was wearing a yellow maxi shirt and multi-colored ankara bangles to complete the look. The years had been good to her, despite losing her mother and moving to Canada.
The move had been tough for her at first, she would sit for hours in the consolidated darkness that was her studio apartment thinking of her mum and how her family had been devastated from the aftermath of her diagnosis and eventually, her death. But nothing could compare to the depression her dad sank into, and how the family had turned their backs on them. It took them over two years to finally get a good program to help him. He recovered but it was never the same, their lives had taken a sharp turn and the accompanied bumpy somersault had left them scarred. Na'ima had shut everyone out, it seemed like the only logical thing to do. She couldn't handle the questions and the prying eyes. The scrutiny made her feel cornered and small, those were feelings she had always stood against. Work and school were all she focused on.
Her new prototype for gene mapping was gaining recognition and from her colleagues and research laboratories in Montreal. Working with an equally passionate set of scientists had done her a lot of good. She had very few friends but kept in touch with Fatty and her brothers. Their conversations were usually about TV series, research and the escalating insecurity in Nigeria. Fatty knew not to discuss certain topics that will take her back to those dark months. Fatty feared it will take a miracle to make the ice berg that used to be her heart melt, and that miracle remained top of her prayer points for Na'ima.
Slowly, scared not to push her away, Kabir reached for her shaky hands across the wooden table and covered them with his firm, sweaty ones. He was wearing one of his signature turtle-necks, A sky blue. but this time his face was slimmer with a fine trail of hair covering his chin and the outline of his cheeks. He had grown into a man even more handsome than she had ever imagined. His clear, brown eyes spoke of wisdom and grace. He still had that sweet boyish grin she loved so much, and his broad shoulders looked more inviting than ever before. His style had stayed the same but he resonated a certain level of class and charisma that charmed her even more now than he would have before.
Their eyes locked and she smiled at him. A smile that was warm, beautiful, damning. That smile he had been dreaming of, that smile made him believe there was more to life. that smile made him run across the world and abandon everything behind immediately Yaqub told him he had ran into her. In that moment he knew, he knew that there was hope, that there was going to be genuine laughter, happy tears and an amazing love story to tell their kids.
"I never left. I can't leave you." she blurted out, looking him straight in the eyes. His face softened instantly, his mouth flew open but she stopped him with more as her face became cloudy and grim.
"But what is love if happiness doesn't accompany it? why should you wreck your life in a bid to fix this wounded soul? why sacrifice your own skin for someone who won't fight for herself?" Nai continued, her voice was laced with anguish. Every word uttered felt like a dagger to her heart. As the memories flooded her mind, making her feel paralyzed. With Kabir there were no shortcuts, he saw all of her. She showed herself to him without fear. It was why she had walked away without looking back. She couldn't forgive herself if she had dragged him down with her. He was her rock and pillar when all around her crumbled and she seemed to be living in a nightmare that wouldn't end. She shifted her gaze to stop the tears, her face hung down, her heart was shattered by the product of her selfishness. She reminded herself as she did everyday for the last five years, of how cruel their love had turned out to be.
"Nai, my sweet angel, I know and I feel guilty. I have fought this, love brought me here, I deserve a fighting chance. Forgive yourself. Let me love you. Please let me be your strength. You can do this. We can do this." he responded, finally finding his voice, with a considerable amount of conviction, to his own delight. He reached for her chin, cradling it with his left palm. He looked into those eyes and he was sad at the look of defeat he saw. But he was sure, this time around there was no going back, he had suffered enough. Despite all his efforts to be happy and accept that their love was stormy and seemed impossible. Kabir knew that what he felt was beyond him. That fighting it will only cause more pain. His heart just couldn't survive more of that torture. Time had taught him a hard lesson. Five years without her had seemed like an eternity. It was time to live their dreams. Damn his pride, it had to give way for his happiness, he wouldn't live the what-ifs any longer.
She shut her eyes to think, for a moment, in that beautiful scene she had created time after time in her mind, Kabir was the love of her life. She had loved, but never with such intensity. His imprint was embedded in her soul. Their connection was undeniably strong. She flipped her eyes open, he was still sitting there. this wasn't a dream anymore. he was here, with her, and his eyes were asking, begging for a chance to live this dream with her. A chance to build, live, grow and be happy. A chance to take that journey and go where the wind takes you. A chance to stand in the rain and feel the warmth of love engulf your soul with light and magic.
"My heart wants only you. You make the world seem perfect. I need you." Kabir was saying, squeezing her hands with a reassuring smile. He was getting quite antsy but he knew that didn't work with Nai'ma, she worked better at her own time. He was silent, waiting, hoping, and in then in what seemed like an entire decade, she whispered, "my heart wants only you too. I want all of this too, and I only want it with you"
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The months flew by without Naima even noticing. She was always engrossed in household chores or busy helping with Aysha’s wedding. It was amazing how she had fallen for a totally different guy from her “standard”. He was in his early forties and all those who knew Aysha including her own mum still didn’t understand it. BB had been a good sport about it, and apart from his intial reaction of calling Naima a traitor for accepting to be in Aysha’a bridal train, he seem to have warmed up to the idea. He even called her once to ask how things were going and said to call him if she needed any help with the preparations, which was more than anyone could do given the circumstance in which they had broken up and how BB had come to find out only because the groom-to-be was his own father.
It was no news that since the divorce, his dad had made several attempts to remarry. It was only unnerving to think that they were actually dating the same girl as his first and only son. and even more shocking was that she had played BB skillfully for a whole year before the wedding preparations started. It was funny now how BB will say that she was the one girl he believed was going to change him. With all the tons of ladies he was seen around and the zillion others he had flirted with, he never would have believed Aysha had it in her. He treated her like a queen. He left all his player charm at home locked up in his virtual secret box each time he visited her, and was on best behaviour anytime he was seen around her. He didn’t even pick calls or reply messages when they were having a conversation. He gave her his undivided attention and often got upset whenever she teased him about leaving him in the past. The pain and betrayal was double edged. His own father and the girl he loved. He had no intentions of forgiving his father anytime soon. He was blinded by his fury to believe that his father had done this intentionally to get back at him for siding with his mother during the divorce. He had seduced the poor girl and she only agreed to it because she respected him as her future father-in-law all along, That was the comforting picture BB had painted in his mind. It may help him get past all the grieve, but the stories Naima heard in town made her believe otherwise, no matter how much logic and detail BB brought to beef up his claim. Aysha was known to be a sweet girl with good looks,but a sucker for fame,wealth and prestige,which was what his dad was offering as he was currently in the race for the senatorial seat in his home state. So many family members had tried to reconcile BB and his dad, and draw up a truce, but BB won’t even attend the meetings. He stayed at his mum’s since the divorce, so he was never really close to his dad. He had even worked at bringing them back together before he left for school abroad, now he understood fully why his mum had said he was an unrepentant psychopath who was to be avoided like a plaque.
It was almost noon by the time Naima got the girls to agree on what should be served at the bride’s sendforth. They had been at it for hours, with most of the girls wanting to serve a three-course meal and a few others like Naima arguing that light snacks and drinks will do the trick. They were not staging a royal feast nor was it to be a whole day’s event, “so why serve a three-course meal on the same day as the brunch the groom’s family had planned already?”, Naima reasoned. The girls re-distributed themselves into small groups with each assigned to cater for one detail or the other to make the sendforth a success. Naima let out a big sigh of relief as she turned on the ignition of her red 206 and zoomed off. She went as far as the next block as the traffic caught up with her. It was slow and painfully so. A new trend in the streets of Abuja that she clearly wasn’t pleased with, along with many other commuters. The council kept promising to construct more roads, and thus far, their afforts at expansion had only made the situation worse. Naima turned on the radio then, hoping to be distracted. She switched from one radio station to the other, but none of them got her interested enough to stay tuned. Her eyes drifted to her surroundings instead and she watched those around her with interest. Everyone’s face was colored with emotions; some looked upset, while others looked plain angry cursing and shouting at the traffic wardens, as if that will help. A few looked like they had prepared well for the situation, as they wore a calm face and looked on. Naima was clearly irritated,she tried severally to maneuver and take the shortcuts most of the taxi drivers took, but failed to outdo them. They were rather too risky for her liking. She was wearing a deep blue knee-length kaftan-inspired top and washed out denim. Her hair was securely held to the back of her head in her signature channel-O headgear. She wore a look of frustration and utter impatience. This was not how she expected her day to turn out. She still had to go see the caterer and help Aysha pick the colors for the sendforth and budan kai. That was Naima’s favorite part of the traditional wedding ceremony. The unveiling looked like a passing rite to her. It signified a sort of acceptance and welcoming of the bride into her new family. All the members of the groom’s family were expected to be present, they will welcome their new bride and accept her from her old family by paying a token equivalent to her beauty and poise. The unveiling had been in the hausa-fulani society for ages, and despite introducing modern day trends to wedding ceremonies, the budan kai remained an integral part of the main events.
Three and half hours later, Naima walked into her room drained from the day’s activities. The whole house was deserted since it was a Saturday. Her brothers were out,her mother at the salon, and their dad was out of town for a two-week conference. Aysha had gone with her to see the caterer to save time. They brisked through the many pictures and brochures of wedding cake at Zinny’s. All hell however broke loose when the groom had called to say he was short of cash and needed the bridal train cut down by half, tilting towards how ridiculous it was for him to buy five sets of ashobi each for a dozen girls. Naima did her best to reason with him and keep Aysha calm. But her feathers were ruffled by the call, as she began threatening to call off the wedding until he was ready. This had to be the kind of wedding shown on those bridezilla shows, as Aysha was still barking into her phone when she dropped her off at home. Naima thought to herself with a grin as she kicked off her plastic sandals and lay her head down on her bed. She closed her eyes and relaxed her mind. Her mind darted off to her last conversation with BB. He had hammered on her almost non-existent social life. He just didn’t understand why she chose to isolate herself.
“you might never get back into the dating game, if you continue this way” he lamented with clear disapproval. He claimed it was unhealthy for a girl her age to be that way. Naima had never given it much thought or cared about it. She had lived virtually all her twenty-something years that way. She was a loner, and an introvert in the true meaning if the word. She read books, surfed the net, or watched movies in her spare time. Otherwise, school had been the main thing in her calendar, and ever since she graduated, she had enough time on her hands. Still she rarely socialized. If she was seen anywhere, then she wasn’t alone. She was with family and friends, or on rare occasions sitting alone in the corner of a restaurant lost in thoughts and sipping on a drink.
“Maybe the dating scene just wasn’t for girls like her that were too chicken to stick around and wait out the storm.” Naima assured herself yet again. She had in some funny way accepted that her love life, if she ever had one, will be a rather troubling ride. It was like she was her own worst enemy. She expected it to get worse before it was any better. So far, she had been proven right once. It was unbelievable to accept that Kabir had actually gone ahead to start dating some girl. Everyone claimed she was warm, friendly and pretty. Naima couldn’t even bring herself to talk to him in a cool tone, talk more of being in the same room as his new girl. It was going to be inevitable with Aysha’a wedding coming up. She pushed the negative thoughts out of her mind as she picked up her phone and dialed BB’s number. She strolled towards the kitchen to grab a late lunch as she put the phone to her left ear and waited for it to be picked on the other end, using her right hand to unwound the cream veil she had made into the channel-O. He picked on the second ring, promising to call her back in a few minutes. She dropped the phone ontop of the microwave as she set about making indomie and boiled eggs. She was about to step out of the kitchen when his call came through. She danced a little to her miss independent ringtone as she set down the plate of steaming noodles to answer the call.
“Allu” she teased. They had grown a lot closer and fondier of each other since he got back. Their frequent chats on yahoo had kept them in contact while he was away.
“you witch! How did you know I was about to call you?” he accused her jokingly. She laughed in answer.
“abeg I no get strength for your wahala this afternoon” she was worn out and he could hear it in her voice.
“you can’t come along for the movie later then” he said disappointedly. He had told her about it within the week, but she had totally forgotten about it. He was looking forward to watching Christopher Nolan’s inception. He loved all his movies and thought he was a brilliant director. It was the first night it was showing in Abuja and BB wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“oh my! I totally forgot its today” she replied apologetically. Conceding was the only option but she made him promise to drive her straight back home after that, and not try hooking her up with some of his friends as he had done the last time. They hang up then, as she tried to finish her lunch and get more rest before he showed up by seven.
They were at the fourth floor of the sliverbird galleria by 8pm. She had only switched her top for a simple pink one. BB was wearing a brown Tee and black plain trousers. They bought drinks and popcorn as BB looked like a kid excited to be on his first ever roller coaster ride. They stood at the door and kept checking their watch waiting for the next few minutes before it started showing. The whole place was packed with an equally expectant audience as BB. Naima couldn’t care any less, she loved movies but not to the point of watching them on the day they premiered, that was more BB’s style. She kept looking over to her far left. She could almost swear she saw someone familiar, but it was no surprise in a crowd like this, especially at the cinema on a Saturday. She turned again to have a good look. Their eyes met , and she looked away immediately. She was instantly upset and uneasy. She turned to warn BB and saw him walking towards them already.It was too late. His long legs taking up the space between them with each step and closing in on them. The moment she had dreaded for months was about to happen. She could feel her heart in her mouth, pounding hard and fast. That akward time when she will have to act all civilized and normal under the searching eyes of Kabir was about to play out in real life and she was in no way ready for it. She turned and walked away in the opposite direction on impulse, just as he reached BB’s side, and instantly regretted it. It was foolish and childish, but she couldn’t care less. She ran towards the lifts as both men looked on, totally taken aback by her reaction.
... to be continued.