When Abdullah and Maymunah finally decided to get married, people around them were not surprised. After courting for about a year it was time for them to solemnize their love, complete their faith, and live the couple’s life they’ve always dreamt of. Only if matters of the heart were that simple.
It was on a Friday evening that Abdullah “popped” the big question over a WhatsApp voice-note exchange. Abdullah, a tall, athletic dark brother was the na’ibul ameer, vice president, of the City University of Ibadan’s Muslim Student Association, and if you knew anything about such a position you would know he wasn’t one to go down on one knee with a diamond ring in hand to propose. Although Maymunah wouldn’t have minded a tad of romantic flavor to the proposal, she wasn’t the type to be flattered by the knee and diamond, so no foul was done. That evening, they chatted and chatted into the night, brimming of euphoria, and feeling intensely attracted to each other. In fact, they did something atypical of them: video chat, with a ton of blushing and giggles.
Even Kiffayah, Maymunah’s roommate and best friend, who had always felt some things underneath her heart for Abdullah, that night, observing her friend’s smiling and giggling from across the room on her twin-size bed, could not but sing out loud: “What a feeling! To be loved. Oh, what a feeling to be loved!”
A week after they’ve become engaged Abdullah took Maymunah home to visit his parents.
Maymunah wore a black floor sweeping overall hijab and put on a light makeup – kohl, lip gloss, and of course, light powder.
“My wife, omo iluwo nie? where are you from?” Abdullah’s mother asked.
“Eko, Lagos ma.”
“Ah, eko wo nibe, se eko’ile ni, abi isale eko, abi aromisa legbelebe?”
“Isale eko, ma.” She replied with a smile.
Abdullah was smiling, too. His father made some funny comments about Lagosians, and the smiles turned into laughter. The visit went pretty well as Abdullah’s parents accepted Maymunah towo – tese, with open arms and legs.
Two weeks later, Maymunah, too, took Abdullah to visit his parent – her mother – in Lagos. Maymunah’s father had been deceased since the year Maymunah turned twelve. So, ever since then, her mother had been a single parent and the sole provider for her and her three little brothers. The visit went well as well. After Abdullah had left, Maymunah’s mother casually joked about Abdullah’s height. Afesona e yii ma ga gan o. Se oni ma wo bata giga bayii? Your fiancé is so tall. Won’t you have to wear high heels ?
Everything was going well until a certain Monday; three months to graduation and just a month to their formal introduction ceremony or, if you’d like, engagement party. Abdullah had something to tell and her number wasn’t going through. So, he decided to check her apartment in a street close to the school campus. Dusk had begun to set when he got there. It was Kiffayah who came out to him.
“Salaam alaykum, Sister Kifayyah.”
“Wa alaykum salaam.”
“Is Maymunah home, please?” He asked with lowered a gaze.
Kifayyah was impressed by his modesty but she wished, if only fleetingly, that he would meet her gaze. She quickly reprimanded herself and felt guilty.
“Yes, but she’s not feeling well.”
“Subhanallah! I have been calling her phone… is she okay?”
“Yes.” She replied quickly. “I mean no, she’s not. But she will be.”
“Can I see her?”
“Hmnnn.” Kiffayah thought about it. “No, not in the condition she’s in right now.”
“Ah, it’s that bad? Is it malaria?”
“No, no. Just headache and nausea and chills. Nothing too much.” She rushed a response.
“Ah ok. Tell her la bas tohurun in shaa Allah, and Can you tell her to at least call me back?”
“I will in shaa Allah.”
Abdullah left perplexed. He hailed an Okada rider who looked as though bathed in dust and mounted the Bajaj after a short haggle over the price and hurried back to the campus to join the maghrib prayer.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
Kiffayah turned to Maymunah who was sitting on a sofa, clearly hale and hearty.
She did not respond. She just kept sitting in silence with her fist on her chin.
Saturday morning, two days earlier, Maymunah had followed another friend, Aisha, to her house to work on the Muslim Student Association’s annual magazine because they would be able to work better there. Unlike Maymunah, Aisha was from an affluent family. Her father’s mansion was in a posh neighborhood in the city. They went there to enjoy uninterrupted electricity and Wi-Fi connection.
After hours of writing, design and research, they went to the dining to eat lunch. At the same time they’re eating lunch, Aisha’s uncle, Abdul-Kareem, who was visiting his sister came down from upstairs and met Aisha and her attractive friend, Maymunah.
“Hey, niece! What’s up? Salaam alyki.”
From that accent Maymunah could tell he was an Americana.
“Wa alaykum salaam!” Aisha left her food and hugged Abdul-Kareem. “Wow! I didn’t know you were visiting!”
“Oh, I just had to discuss some things with your mom.” He said, smiling. “How’s school?”
“School is fine. Alhamdulillah. How are you Umm Bilal finding Nigeria and settling?” Getting back into her seat, she asked.
“It’s our country, now. So, we’re finding it fine. Alhamdulillah.”
Before resuming her food, she realized she hadn’t introduced Maymunah. “Uncle, this is my friend Maymunah Adebanjo, we’re both graduating this year.”
“Oh ma shaa Allah, congratulations to you both.” He said to them. Then he turned towards Maymunah. “Salaam alaykum, Maymunah.”
And she looked up shyly. “Wa alaykum salam, sir. Thank you…”
That image would not leave her head. His grey shirt with sleeves rolled to midarm. His well-trimmed, shining beard and the glasses he wore. The smile that accompanied his salaam. The tenderness in his gaze towards her. His voice. The way he walked. She should have continued to lower her gaze. She shouldn’t have raised her head to look at him even in that split second, but she did. And now she couldn’t get that image out of her head. And later she wouldn’t be able to get the things Aisha said about him out of her heart either.
– To be continued