This story is by Afegbua Raheemat and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Still unhooked in my late twenties, my parents threatened to get me married to the next responsible guy they choose for me and I gave them the go ahead.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would still be single. I planned my wedding with Mubarak so meticulously in my daydreams it looked and felt so real- I unconsciously drove away any other suitable suitor.
I didn’t care anymore who I married as the news from Nasir had finally dashed away my years of secretly hoping to be Mubarak’s wife.
As I looked out of my room window, my eyes strayed to the tree outside. Leaves, the colour of brown and yellow swirled round and round as the wind buffeted them far away from their branches. Nasir’s voice from earlier that day echoed back the news that shattered my heart into tiny pieces.
<“Asalam alaikum, Samrah,” Nasir said as the phone connection crackled in my right ear. “I bear good news”. “What’s the news?” I asked, clueless to what was to come. I was always eager to hear from Nasir because of the news he bore of his brother. My heart beat thudded against my rib cage as my heart sang a melodious tune, waiting to hear about my Mubarak. Calm down, Samrah! “Mubarak is getting married soon.”>
A chill passed through me as though my insides were made of ice.
“We’ve found a responsible man that deserves you, my Princess,” said father as he clasped his hands and a huge grin sprung up on his face. I could see relief behind his smile.
“Do we know the family — before now?” I watched my father with all my hopes and dreams in that single question and tried to resist the tension curling my insides tight and struggled for air. I foolishly clung to hope.
“Yes,” he said. “His father is a very good friend of mine and I’ve respected him over the years because of his integrity.
‘Oh,” I said. A flicker of hope flared in my chest and immediately flickered out when I remembered the news I had received a month ago. It can’t be Mubarak’s family. He shall soon get married.
My father touched my hand where it laid on the couch handle.
“What is it, Samrah? You did agree to let us find you someone, didn’t you? “I assure you that you and the young man are going to be a perfect fit.”
Guilt coursed through me as I looked up at Father. I’ve put him through a lot already and I did agree to this. I forced my lips to turn inwards as I gave what hopefully was a smile.
An old memory from secondary school visited and I immersed myself totally in it.
<“I don’t want you to make fun of Samrah ever again,” said Mubarak as he gripped the boy on the arm pointing his index finger at his face. Horror shone from the boy’s eyes as I looked on. “Better still, take the other way when you see her coming your way, okay?” The terrified boy gave several nods before he scampered away. My affection for Mubarak skyrocketed that day and we became inseparable. As we grew into our late teens, Mubarak’s attitude towards me turned aloof and he would purposely say things that were irritating. My feelings for him didn’t change though- he has captured my young heart forever. I remembered a particular episode that showed he was actually putting in so much effort to get me mad. <“Why do you always like dipping your nose in a book when everyone is enjoying themselves?” Mubarak’s snide remark cut through my concentration and I came back to reality with a thud. With a deep breath, I marked where I stopped by folding the edge of the page and rose from “flat on my tummy” position to look into dark laughing eyes with full eyelashes that should look out of place on a male but looked great on him. He relaxed on the dining chair with his feet suspended on the table. The chair was at an awkward angle only on two of its four legs. Seeing his feet on the table sparked a reaction as if to go forward and wipe off the smirk from his face. “And why is that any of your business, ‘Mr. Know It All?!” “Am I not right, hmmm? We all know you’re a bookworm who prefers to hide behind books rather than making conversations.” His eyebrows hit his hairline with a sneer to his mouth. “You always feel you’re better than us all- a snob at her best.” “Don’t start the taunting game, please!” A harsh laughter left Mubarak’s throat. My inside further roared like a lion on vengeance and my heart boiled with much indignation. “Why are you always such a nuisance?” My fingers balled into a fist. “You should take a leaf from your brother’s gentle way.” His feet hit the rug the instance he heard the comparison. Mubarak never liked to be compared to his younger brother. And I knew he wasn’t going to let my remark go unchallenged. I’ve accomplished my mission- giving him a taste of his pranks. Mubarak’s eyes narrowed and his lips twisted in readiness to fire back another of his hurtful and wound searing words. “You bett-“ “I don’t have the time!” I responded and hurriedly left the sitting room.>
Mubarak and I grew up knowing one another’s family members as one big family. Our fathers’ friendship bonded the two homes. There wasn’t a ceremony happening in one family that the other wouldn’t be invited- yes, we were that close.
Our parents jokingly referred to me and Mubarak as soul mates and I took their words to heart. I believed them.
My heart shattered when Mubarak left for abroad for his university education. But I was hopeful that he would come back for me.
Alone in my room that evening, I searched for the unforgettable letter and reread it even when the words were already imprinted on my heart.
The nostalgia brought the tears rolling down my cheeks in torrents as I cried my heart out.
The introduction day arrived too soon.
It took me forever to get ready after I’ve said my Fajr- the dawn prayers.
My insides tensed as I felt as if I was on my way to the gallows instead of going to be introduced to my future in laws. I wasn’t going to fuss about the fact that I have no feelings for the proposed suitor. No, I wasn’t.
Everything was cool, right?
My sister stood beside me as we descended the stairs. I was adorned in one of my best gown of shimmering chiffon. A hijab relaxed on my head with both ends criss crossed across my chest and pinned down by two colourful hijab pins.
I could hear the buzz of conversations and laughter going on below as though both families were really having a nice time.
A familiar voice drifted to my ears from below as I stepped on the last tread of the stairs with my sister’s left hand on my shoulder. She giggled and my attention temporarily swayed to her.
The voice again. That sounds like Mubarak’s voice – went the alarm in my head!
I looked at my sister when another chuckle came out from her.
“What are you up to, Sis? I asked in the smallest of voice. A shrug met my question.
On rounding the corner from the stairs, like a magnet, my eyes were pulled to where a man sat on a seater couch from the rest of the crowd.
I stared into Mubarak’s dark eyes and froze, then I stepped on my trailing gown and almost fell flat on my face. Alhamdulillah- Praise be to God, for my sister whose quick reflex saved me from embarrassment.
On righting myself, I looked towards him again, my mouth ajar.
A naughty smile and a nod from him confirmed my un-uttered question.
Mubarak filled me in on all the secrets our parents played in getting us together amidst laughter.
The scent from the rose bushes along the garden path teased my nostrils as a slight breeze scattered the yellowish brown leaves around my feet.
I sat on the settee swing, swaying in time to the chirping of the crickets. A huge smile covered my mouth as I waited for my prince charming.