We met Maymunah in the waiting room. Layla was giving her a hug and asking after Ziyad when the doctor arrived. They took us to Ziyad who was now awake and staring at the IV fluid hung right beside his bed.
The doctor on the way had told us that it was nothing. He was dehydrated from the fever and the hot and sweater his mother made him wear added to the entire thing. I gave Maymunah a look when the doctor said that. The boy was not feeling fine this morning but she had insisted he won’t miss school. Àwọn Iya overseriousness.
“Son, what were you doing losing consciousness? We don’t faint in our clan. Go and ask. How are you feeling?”
The ladies sat on the bed, checking on him as if they were doctors. We were there for a while when Maymunah suggested that we go and pick the children as closing time was near.
Later that evening, I dropped off Ah’mad at Maymunah’s because Ziyad insisted that he comes for a sleepover since the next day was a public holiday. As I drove back to Layla, my mind flashed back to earlier that afternoon, when Maymunah told me that I should stay with Layla that night.
With the advantage of 12 years of marriage and romance between us, Maymunah knew me better than anyone else. I loved my children and whenever they’re sick I pay extra attention and want to be close to them. This was the first time a child would be sick or recovering and I won’t be at home since a year into Layla’s marriage. I was contemplating of how I would explain and beg Layla to understand that for the second night in a row I’d take away from her time when Maymunah texted me and said I shouldn’t worry.
There was a little traffic on the way. I brought the windows down and felt the warmth of the night. Maymunah. I said her name aloud and smiled. It was after an Isha prayer about a year and half ago I told her about Layla. She’d stayed calm listening to me without interrupting. Then when she said something, it was a question. ‘Are you sure?’ I had nodded in response. And with that, a stream of tears was let loose from her eyes. She stood up, went to the bathroom, and locked the door. I stood by the door, pleading to her to open the door and let’s talk through it.
We’d been discussing the possibility for about two years. In my mind that would have prepared her from suffering a heartbreak, but it turned out I was wrong. Weeks following that revelation of my intent was perhaps one of the most difficult moments of my life. They were filled with emotional roller-coaster days. We would be playing, talking and laughing in a moment and then the next, tears will be pouring. Someone I loved deeply and cared about more than anyone else was hurting, and there was nothing I could do but be present. What made it even more difficult was that I was responsible for the hurt.
Maymunah told me that she’s not crying to make me feel bad or to sabotage my plans. She just couldn’t believe her vision of what her life would be like was changing right in front of her eyes and she couldn’t help it.
I could back out from my intentions with Layla, but that would also be equally difficult because I would be hurting another female servant of God who had waited 7 years after her first marriage ended. And I was also taken by her beauty and intelligence so I very much wanted it to work out too. So, I chose the challenging path with the knowledge that Maymunah is a strong and pious woman and the hope that together as a team we’d be eventually fine.
When I got to Layla, she was surprised that I would be coming back. She ran towards me and embraced me tightly.
“I thought you’d stay behind for Ziyad…” she said.
I debated if I should take credit for that or give the credit to the one who had more sense than me.
“You know, it’s your time. Maymunah insisted they’d be fine. And with Ah’mad over there, I did not want you to be by yourself.”
“Thank you my husband. You get sense.”
“Yes, I do.” I replied. I hadn’t eaten anything concrete since that brunch so I asked. “What’s for food?”
“You don’t know anything else except food you this man. And small thing they’d be posting on Facebook that they’re husband material. Why couldn’t you buy shawarma as you were coming back? Not everyday Àmàlà.”
I told her I will try to remember that next time. But for that night I prayed that fire will not consume her company and should please give me food.
“Don’t worry darling. I have treats awaiting you tonight both in the dining and – with Ah’mad not around – everywhere else in this house.”
As she walked away into the kitchen, I pinched myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. Sometimes it all felt surreal. Me caring, loving, protecting, supporting Maymunah and Layla.
About 2 months into our marriage, Layla woke up and found me doing laundry and making breakfast for Ah’mad. Later when we were alone, she looked at me and burst into tears. When I asked her what happened, she pointed to me and said I happened. She said I am so good to her that she sometimes feels unworthy of the love. I was like, what?
And then another time she asked me if I’d ever assert my power as the husband. What do you mean assert my power? She said I don’t shut her down or tell her not to go places. She said it was different from her first marriage where she had to get permission for everything.
Listen, I said to her, I don’t need to show you that I’m the man in the house. I’m the man. If I ever have to prove that by showing my powers and privileges, then something is wrong nìyẹn. I’m to take care of you. Restricting your life is not part of the plan as far as I’m concerned.
Even though I spent the night fuly present with Layla, a part of me was thinking of Ziyad and I felt a kind of guilt of not being with him. The away from the children was one of the difficult part of marrying Layla. The back and forth for me also has been adding up. So, after Fajr prayer next morning, I had an epiphany which led me to think more of restructuring the living arrangements. Now, the main issue is how to present it to both sisters for them to agree.
See Episode 4 for continuation.