11 Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulah wa barkatuhu. 24 Eid Mubarak!23 I hope you all had a great celebration. May Allah accept our ibadaah, may we live to see many more prosperous days.29 Here is a long one.2 Brace yourselves🙊.16 And hey, ghosties this is yours: If you are going to plague me with 'why are you not updating?' Please have the courtesy of being part of the story. Super mad 😏😡 Still, be part of it, then I may be gingered to keep at this regularly. 😎19 Hello Regulees!🙌🏼 It's been a while.77 *** Growing up, Maryam had always contemplated the situation surrounding her birth. As far as she knew- mostly through her mother- she had been an unplanned baby. She had once heard Aunty Biba retell how her mother had concealed her pregnancy until she couldn't hide it any longer.19 Maryam often wondered if it was out of shame that plagued young mothers, or guilt that she was carrying her not too long after her first. Or was it because her mother had truly hated her right from conception? Just like that...15 That notion was what prompted Maryam to reflect over her situation. Which led her to the realization that she may have had crappy sleepless nights with Muhammad up all night and more cranky mornings unable to keep down most of the things she ate, or that she now loved seafood and cried more than Muhammad did in an hour, but this child she carried had been the catalyst for her growth. She also realized, with a profound shock that she had been projecting her childhood pain onto her pregnancy.10 The pain she experienced as a child had reared its head and smacked her right across the face it was almost tangible. The feelings had skyrocketed and she knew she was right on the verge of repeating the cycle she had desperately wished to break.6 Not every woman felt the magic that came with pregnancy, she felt it with Muhammad, she may not have had that instant connection with this one. She may agree that not every woman immediately bonded with her fetus or baby. They may take time and she knew there was nothing wrong with that because she had needed that time to adjust.10 It may not make her a better mother or even make motherhood easier, but she was never going back on her vow, she would never become another Mama. Even if it meant loving her pregnancy with all she'd got. Even if she were to give birth to this child she carried the moment Muhammad clocked ten months. She would go through it, guilt-free, fearless and unabashed.26 Allah had chosen this time for her and she had surrendered to the journey of unpredictability.11 A few weeks ago when she stood staring down at the bathroom floor, pulse surging with anxiety and nerves from impatience with fear of the unknown waiting to get her verdict from a urine-soaked plastic, Maryam had thought her world had come to an end.7 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  The thought of carrying another baby when she was already going through days of sleepless nights was the most horrifying feeling she had ever felt. But now, Maryam knew that she would go to any length to protect her pregnancy and that she was inviolably in love with the tiny sprout within her. And since then, she had been ecstatic about it like Mubarak had been that first day at their closet door.9 They took rounds taking care of Muhammad, sometimes they did it together, other times Mubarak would let her sleep and he would take Muhammad out back to the basketball court in their backyard. They spent a lot of time there throwing hoops. With Muhammad looking from his stroller and Mubarak asking if he could make that move. She watched them from the kitchen window, some times she joined them outback.12 Often, Maryam envied how good Mubarak had slipped into the role of fatherhood. She couldn't reconcile this man and the man that freaked out when he learned of their first pregnancy.9 Yet here they were, with Mubarak giving her all the necessary support she would ever wish for and more.5 She may not have liked the idea of having a second child this soon, but that was the best thing that ever happened to her in the journey of her growth.23 *** AUGUST, 2011. "How are my babies?" Mubarak asked his voice a hushed whisper. She could hear the underlying fatigue in the gruffness of his voice. "Your babies huh? Muhammad says he is not taking this anymore. You have turned him into ping pong."9 Mubarak's laughter vibrated through the phone. "I mean it this time, he is my number one."3 "That makes you what, Papi?" "Alright, you two will not make a dishonest man out of me, go sort it out."5 Maryam laughed heartily, adjusting her position on their upstairs living room couch. "Seriously, when are you coming home?"6 "Someone misses me." He drawled.5 "Not you, I miss my number two, my assistant, my support system and second in command in the ministry called Muhammad Bugaje. That boy is draining me. I need some time out."20 Mubarak chuckled. "Now, that is the role I get?"7 Maryam batted her eyelashes as if Mubarak were in her presence. "Of course, what else do you think?"9 "I told you you can always go to Kensington..." "Na, Hajiya had hinted at that too and I gracefully declined. When will I take charge and be responsible enough to stay at my house when you are not in it? I have to guard..."14 "...My wealth and yourself when I'm away, I know, you've said that a dozen times. But don't you think now is a little bit different? You are supporting two babies in and out of you. You also need a support system. So you either agree willingly or I'll make you do it."12 Maryam was tempted to correct him then but decided against it. It was there though on the tip of her tongue. "No, you won't because you are due home tonight, after all."4 "When did I say? I'm still in Warsaw."2 "You are going to be on the next flight to London at 6.55 tonight... So you see? There is no need for us to leave the house."9 Mubarak chuckled. "Stop ploughing through my calendar, Shaaden."10 "Why, if you can't say it I can always have my hands on your office planner. So, have a safe flight, M.K." STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Love you, gazelle." He said, his words conveying the weight of his feelings. "Stay out of trouble."8 "Love you, three. Stay out of trouble too." She signed off on a lighter note and went to work.4 *** After their quick goodbyes, Maryam rushed to the kitchen to set up dinner and get ready to receive Mubarak from his two-weeks trip to Poland. The best part of the night had not yet started, she couldn't wait to see him. Why did it feel like it had been months since he was gone?17 It's been two months since they'd learned of the pregnancy and at fifteen weeks she was now at peace with it and in love with it. She just had her second ultrasound when he was away.4 That aside, Mubarak had done everything possible in the books to get her ready and accepting of their new roles. Sometimes she felt the need to outdo herself to please him. But that man was pleased with her pleasure, she only had to cough before he came hurtling to her side, asking if there was anything he could do to help.38 She had to keep reassuring him she wasn't a porcelain ware that needed round the clock care but deep inside she felt like a queen and always appreciated him.6 When she first came to London, Maryam had never thought she would find love. She would never have guessed the all-up-there castle-worthy-arrogant-prince would ever give her a second look. He had even called her a village girl and meant it too. But now, Mubarak loved her so fiercely she sometimes forgot about her flaws. He looked at her and all she saw was her perfectness in his eyes. When she was in a room full of people Mubarak would only have to look at her once and make her feel like that last drop of water that would quench his thirst. He never lagged in his effort to be a part of this as well as a part of their union.26 They had had their fair share of differences, but she felt this point in their marriage had maxed him of his kindness. He showered her with all he'd got. He was an efficient attorney for the firm, the multi-tasking and sweetest father to Muhammad and the hair-raising romantic husband to her.15 So when Mubarak came home, there was no way she would let him come home to a wife that made him feel out of place. She wanted him to look at her and see the phenomenal man that he was to her and his family. Moreover, she wanted to savour the look on his face when she shared the news she carried.12 *** If the word disappointment was getting a new synonym in the book of words, Maryam would have to call on the board and ask them to add her mother's name on the list.15 Because right when she was through with dinner preparation and setting up a cosy table for Mubarak and her. She received Mama's call. And the first thing she said made Maryam want to just stay there unresponsive and listen to her dump all her insults on her. She had long expected it.21 It was quite a surprise it came after all this time. She always knew Mama had a way with Surayya, there was no way that girl could keep a secret, especially if one told her to please don't tell Mama. That phrase made her prone to do some harm. It was like she was this little busy body that had to prattle.16 She didn't hate Surayya for that, she was just being a normal daughter, after all. One day she would like to tell Surayya that Mama may not have manipulated her in some ways, but that was because she already had her on a golden platter, she didn't even need to sweat before she got what she wanted from Surayya. Now that she got Mama's call only two weeks after she had told Surayya about her impromptu plus one, she commended Surayya for keeping it that long.17 So she held her smile in place and answered the call. "Assalamu alaikum Wa Rahmatullah." "Wa alaikumussalam," Mama responded. "Maryam! I've never expected your gullibility has reached this level. I know you will turn and do the exact opposite of what I told you to do, but I didn't think it would be this soon. Are you satisfied now? Surayya told me you are 'expecting' again. You'll go and feed poor Muhammad on pregnancy. That poor boy will become malnourished. How do you expect him to get all the nutrients he needs when you are sharing it between breeding a new baby and feeding him?"45 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Maryam didn't even flinch from Mama's words. She was too excited to be ruined with her words tonight. She just had a vision of Mubarak walking through the front door and that delight, like magic, washed away any sadness Mama's words would have caused her. 21 "Mama who said that?"2 "What?" "What doctor ever said that breastfeeding while expecting a baby would result in a malnourished child? I'm getting all the care I need and all the necessary support too. Do you suggest I terminate it?"27 Hajiya Aisha went speechless for a moment. "Wha... That is ridiculous. I was just saying you've learned it the hard way."13 "I don't see it as the hard way. Because Alhamdulillah, it has opened my eyes to a lot of things, and experience they say is the best teacher. Even though Muhammad had been a fussy child before, surprisingly he sleeps well now and only cries when he is being a baby. What if not Allah's miracle is that? It is done, so I can't undo it."13 "Oh, you can't! You just have to live with the dire struggle to remain a sane woman thereafter."7 "I can always come to you for tips." Maryam bit out. She had no idea what prompted her to lose it, but that was the final blow as Hajiya Aisha went completely silent. Maryam drew in a sigh to calm her trembling voice.20 When would her mother ever learn to filter her words through her actions before she blamed someone of doing the same? Maryam wondered.2 "Anyways, do accept my congratulations for Surayya, she told me she is 'expecting' too. You will soon need to build a den for all your grandkids, it seems." Maryam joked.6 "I see that alright. At the rate you all keep popping kids an arena is what we would need soon."16 "Mama you took up the courtyard with your living room, it would have been enough for them to play in. How is Hajiya Babba?"8 It seemed Hajiya Aisha was grateful for the topic change, because she leapt at it immediately, not knowing Maryam deliberately mentioned her grandmother, seeing that her grandmother alone had popped out ten kids, Maryam didn't see anyone complaining about that.24 "She is alright, just having some knee problem." The point got lost on her mother, after all. "Subhanallah, may Allah grant her shifa. Mama, you need to make sure she sticks to her diet."4 "Goodluck with that. Do you see Hajiya Babba following any one's directives regarding her food?"3 "Her doctor's."2 "Pff, Hajiya has a mind of her own."4 "Runs in the blood," Maryam muttered.8 "Kaniyarki." Mama said and Maryam burst into laughter.19 "Alright my regards to Baba and Tim-Tim."2 "In sha Allah. You should make sure you are eating well now that you are eating for three."14 Maryam laughed. "Be rest assured I'm eating for four. Thank you."15 Maryam said a quick goodbye before something came up and unnecessarily make them have at each other's throat. Again. It was surprising how they ended this call on a lighter note considering how it started heatedly. She thought her mother would come out of the phone and strangle her for being so careless. Apparently comparing her situation with her mother's had hushed her up.12 All is well that ends well, the saying went.3 And when her night ended with Mubarak whispering stories to their 'baby' and Muhammad sleeping soundlessly, she knew there was no disturbance that could unsettle her.5 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Alright, are you ready?" Mubarak raised an unbelieving brow, "Shaaden, do you want me to force it out of you? You have been dangling this since I left London, I'm a big man, I can handle it, drop it already."5 "Oh, you are?" Maryam laughed when he hooked his arm around her neck. "I'm calling foul." She squeaked.2 A big grin took over his face and he let her go. "Close your eyes." She said. He did. "Don't do anything funny." He warned. "I won't, trust me." A moment passed and she shuffled around a bit before she asked him to open his eyes again. When Mubarak did, he froze and could barely breath. His eyes were locked on the card she held in front of his face. He exhaled and the look on his face was one of the priceless looks she would always cherish.4 "Double the love, King, our Kingdom is growing two hearts."86 The card read, with tiny baby feet drawn on each side of the scrolls. She had spent half the day yesterday crafting cards until she found the one she liked.2 Mubarak's eyes saucered as he took the card from her. "They are two?!" he sat up and pressed his back to the headboard.21 "Yes, you can now freak out, because Allah knows I'm scared to my bones but I'm excited too. I don't know what you did to make me a believer of calmness. Heck! I don't even know how we are going to cope, getting help and all but, congratulations Papi we are having twins!"40 "Ya Rabbi!" he let out a breath and brushed his face with his palms. "Yes, I know." Before Maryam could say another word Mubarak had crushed her into a hug and captured her in the longest languorous kiss ever. Then he traced her lips with his thumb thereafter and smiled.2 "You are the best secret keeper ever. How could you keep this for days?"4 "It took all of my control to do that."4 "Alhamdulillah." He said. "Alhamdulillah." She echoed.1 He pulled her to his side and kissed her ear. As if to tell her that she was his everything. That thought made her tingle all over.7 She braced herself for what was to come. "But there is one problem now. Dr Suzan said since I'm carrying twins I'll have to talk to a lactation consultant. I did, and they both advised that I wean Muhammad off because of the risk involved."7 Mubarak was quiet for a moment, a scowl formed on his forehead. "How much risk are we talking about?" "My body can't..."2 "...I guess Muhammad has taken after his Papi in all aspects then..." Now it was her turn to have a squeezy face, "What does that mean?" He smiled. "Shortly after I was born, Hajiya went for Hajj and she had to wean me and go to perform the rituals. So, Muhammad..."6 "Is just being you. But I'm worried, M.K. he is just seven months old."16 "I was his age when she left. Besides, he is already eating everything under the sun."3 "Yeah, courtesy to you." she rolled her eyes.8 Mubarak traced the length of her brow. "I think I deserve a medal for that, don't you think?"11 Maryam shook her head. Most of the stress left her, she had been on the fence trying to rationalize the impact of her pregnancy on Muhammad, but since he would have supplementary food now her heart was at ease. STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "I guess we'll just have to ask Hajiya for tips on weaning a child at seven months. I heard they turn into slow learners."17 Mubarak's brows went up. "Oh, is that so? Tell me Shaaden, am I a slow learner?"8 She giggled as he tickled her sides. Mubarak was happy, he wasn't freaking out, he had been happy, this was him just being doubly excited. Indeed which of the favours of their Lord would they deny?23 At that moment, Maryam knew that she couldn't belong to any of the groups, not the wallowers nor the go-getters she was all shades of being human and she just had her world righted again.2 "Three more to go." He whispered and Maryam covered her face with her palms.4 "How could you remember?" "Hello! I was being propositioned the number of kids I would have when I wasn't even sure the wife loved me. That, FYI, is not something a man forgets."18 When his words sunk in, Maryam gasped and hid her face under the duvet. When she told him about her dream of having six kids she had no idea her words were carving other ideas in his head.4 Men!6 Mubarak's laughter echoed in the room. And he continued. "One boy down. Four boys and a girl to go. Or do it whichever way, all I know is that we have three more stops to make."18 Maryam shoved his bulky arm. "Alright, stop booking my uterus, let me land first."35 And they both laughed, between kisses, sniffings and dreamy talks of how wonderful it was going to be for them. For the family. They even went down the family tree on all three sides to get where they got the twinning trait from. It was almost 2 a.m. and they could only come up with two.9 Maybe he was right, this was a short-cut for their six babies.7 Or so she thought.38 *** Maryam's hands trembled as she tapped her phone to make the call. She waited, anxious about what she was going to do. Mubarak was in the study downstairs, she had to sneak to her room to make the call, she had no idea what she would do if her fear came true. Of course, she would have to tell him. But she needed to confirm it first. It may be nothing worthy of getting worked up over.4 She swallowed when the phone began to ring, but then what would happen if Hajiya confirmed her fears? Maybe she should call Sa'imah. But Sa'imah had her issues to deal with, adding more to them would be cruel of her. Nafeesah or Najma? They would all freak out and Najma would set out some theories for...2 No! She would just wait till evening and see, if it persisted she would tell Mubarak and they would go to the hospital. Now she was scared to make any sudden movement or even breathe hard lest it happened. So, when Hajiya Kulthum picked up her call, Maryam smiled and greeted her, telling her aunt it was a social call.1 She sat at the edge of her bed after their phone call, rocking herself back and forth, willing herself to calm down. Muhammad was asleep, so she had some time to take some rest, if she moved, it might just pop out. No!17 She clenched a hand to her abdomen. Maryam knew she had said many unbefitting things about her impromptu pregnancy, but now that she saw the tell-tale signs of losing it, she felt like it was the only thing she was living for. It didn't matter if she just had an ultrasound, or if the babies were not close to term, the connection she felt to the babies in her womb was unlike any other. Especially since she found out they were two. And they spoke about them every night with Mubarak, either passively or actively.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Ya Allah, forgive me and have mercy on me let them stay. Wallahi I'll always be grateful for my trials and blessings." She wiped the tears that cascaded down her face. She lay, curled into a fetal position on her bed. Soon she succumbed to her tired limbs and fell asleep.9 When she woke up from her two-hour nap, she visited the bathroom. She gulped when she saw that the light bleeding that had started earlier that afternoon had stopped. She prayed her Asr salah, and when Mubarak came out from the study she told him she would lie in a bit.3 "I have a headache." She said. But Mubarak the ever perceptive man that he was, narrowed his eyes on her. "Are you sure it's just a headache?"4 Maryam smiled and nodded. "Positive."4 "Okay, then. I'll meet the boys for a game. See you when I get home. Call me if there is anything." He pressed a kiss to her forehead.2 Maryam closed her eyes and swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, the relief was too profound she couldn't digest it.4 Mubarak held her face between his palms, "You look pale, you really should get some rest, let me get you something for the headache or maybe we should call Dr Suzan."4 "No, I'm good." Mubarak nodded even though his eyes remained sceptical. "Get Muhammad's bag, I'm taking him to Hajiya, so that you can rest well."6 She was about to protest when she met his set eyes, she knew he wouldn't relent, so she got a bag ready for Muhammad, he could stay there for a couple of hours until Mubarak was through with his game, then he would bring him home. That sounded like a good idea, she may need to rest up completely.2 Muhammad was still sleeping when they left the house. Maryam returned to her room, but instead of sleeping, she logged online and read about bleeding in pregnancy.6 When she read that a woman might have some spottings and still carry her child to term, she felt at ease. Only then could she lie down for her much deserved rest.6 But fifteen minutes into her nap Maryam felt the discomfort again and when she checked, the bleeding had returned.5 This time, she placed the call to Mubarak.2 "Get Dr Suzan. We need to go to the hospital." She said. "I'm coming back now." He said, he asked no questions as if the panic in her voice was enough to tell him all he needed to know.2 When they got to the ER, the nurse at the counter asked if she was experiencing any cramps. Maryam shook her head. "No cramps."2 "Have you passed out any clots?" "No, just the flow," Maryam said, impatience lining her words. Wasn't she supposed to do something to stop the bleeding now?2 "Alright. Can you wait here for a bit, I'll get a room ready for you." Maryam turned to Mubarak, she thought everything was alright if there was no pain and no clots? After all, she was in her fifteenth week when the risk of miscarriage had substantially dropped. Why were they getting a room ready for her?2 The nurse came back half an hour later to show them to her room. Mubarak had already called Hajiya Kulthum. While at the room, the nurse kept on asking questions, how far along was she, what brought about the bleeding. They drew her blood, performed an ultrasound on her and tested her urine, by the time they finished poking and probing her they had spent almost four hours at the hospital.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Maryam clenched her hand to her stomach and whispered. "We are going to lose them, aren't we?"2 Mubarak held her hand in his. He kissed her knuckles. "It's going to be alright, Shaaden. Let's see what the doctor will do." "You were right, I shouldn't have said all those things, I panicked and thought I wouldn't want this pregnancy, it was too soon and all those wild thoughts got to me, and now we may lose them, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent that from happening." Her eyes teared up and Mubarak squeezed her hand.4 "Shaaden, it's not because of what you said or did, you will all be alright in sha Allah. Let's pray, okay?"8 Maryam nodded and closed her eyes shut. CHAPTER 57 (YAAY! SURPRISE!💃🏼 😂)90 When she went to the bathroom after the second ultrasound, Maryam saw the first clot. Her heart thudded behind her chest walls.4 She couldn't lift her leg from the spot, Mubarak had to bring her out from the bathroom. A sob escaped her lips. This was the moment she realized that everything was over and that she was not carrying healthy babies anymore.13 Dr Natalie came into the room to talk to her and Mubarak, the tall Doctor with dark shoulder-length hair had her dread-inducing smile intact when she began a series of questions Maryam knew were just a bunch of formalities.2 Dr. Suzan had been unavoidably absent. "Maryam, how do you know that you are 15 weeks pregnant?"6 Maryam's jaw went slack, she reared her head back and blinked her eyes, trying not to say all the bad things streaming into her mouth at the moment. Duh! A woman knows it when she is pregnant. Instead of saying that, she cleared her voice.2 "It was based on the date of my last period. Also, from my first prenatal visit which was only two weeks ago."2 Dr Natalie adjusted her swivelling seat forward and brought out a plain sheet of paper where she began to sketch as she talked.2 "Alright Maryam, this is what is happening. We saw two sacs in your scan earlier and your uterus is enlarged but there is no activity."52 Maryam's ears ceased to work for a while, blood rushed to her head so fast she momentarily saw black. That was the worst thing she had ever heard someone say after hearing about Nabeela's plane crash.2 "It may be possible that after your last visit the babies stopped growing."2 "But the scans are accurate, right?" Maryam butt in, she saw them! She didn't understand herself anymore, one minute she didn't want the pregnancy the next she felt like her existence would stop once it ceased to exist in her.3 Mubarak's hand rubbed her shoulder soothingly, she blinked back her tears waiting for the Doctor to get on with it so they could leave. She wanted Dr Suzan, she saw them first, she told her she was having twins. She saw them float in her uterus.2 "Now, it is common earlier on to not see anything but the sac. It is also possible that you've already miscarried."6 "But I just saw the blood this morning!"2 Mubarak turned to look at her, "This morning?" He asked, baffled.2 Maryam blinked and her gaze deflected from his. "Yes, I didn't want to get you worried and I thought it was not... I read that it was normal. I'm sorry I didn't say..." She shook with her sobs and Mubarak took her in his arms. "Shhh... It's okay. You've done nothing wrong, alright?"2 Maryam turned to the doctor, a tissue paper clutched between her damp hands. "It was just a small amount and a single clot, how then...?"2 Dr Natalie shrugged. "There may be several reasons for that, it may be because of some chromosome impairment, a heart defect or something. And because of that defect, it naturally terminates itself. Now we can't have a definite answer to what is going on with you. If it is a miscarriage, then I want you to know that there is nothing you did to bring it on and nothing you could have done to prevent it from happening." Maryam nodded, but wasn't that what all doctors said to patients learning that they were miscarrying?8 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Dr Natalie gave them two days to return for a second test and ultrasound in which they would get a firm report on her condition, until then, the doctor advised she took some rest. Hajiya Kulthum, Wafiyya and Sa'ima were waiting when they came out of the doctor's room. Mubarak drove her to the Bugaje residence. They'd decided she would stay with Hajiya Kulthum until her next doctor's appointement.2 When Maryam saw no clots again, a hope surged within her. She went busy as she searched for all cases that presented misdiagnosed miscarriages or late miscarriages. Seeing that several people had been told that they were carrying twins only to give birth to singles or the other way round and some cases where there was no baby in the uterus only for them to give birth to a healthy baby. Her hope soared high.5 That night, Maryam was crushed between bouts of surging hope and tears for the fear of loss. Not knowing was the worst thing someone would ever have to go through in her situation. When Mubarak brought their things, he stayed at the mansion, and somehow having him close to her was a comfort she had never thought she would have tonight.3 Hajiya Kulthum came into the living room with a salam. "Maryam, close that thing now." She said, her voice stern.2 Hajiya Kulthum had indirectly spoken about her taking some rest before she went to bring her dinner, now she found Maryam still reading about the possibilities of her fate and she had had enough.2 "Hajiya, do you think I'll... it's confusing." She finally settled.2 Hajiya let out a sigh and handed her a mug of warm milk. "Yes it is, but do not worry about it in sha Allah you will feel better. And I don't want you poking around in that thing again. Let's just wait for your doctor's appointment."3 Maryam turned to the couch where Wafiyya had laid Muhammad earlier. It was as if the boy had sensed the low mood everyone was going through today, he had mostly slept the day away and had only woken up to eat twice, even though Hajiya had fed him some fruit puree and eggs while they were at the hospital.2 On Sunday night, a pain worse than any period cramp combined with food poisoning she had ever had woke Maryam from her sleep. She rolled on the bed and cried hard until Mubarak found her in her state of agony.12 "Let's go to the hospital." He said. "Wait... It's almost morning." Maryam said. In her mind, she knew she had lost it. But the pain... she wished the pain would just go away. She was dying today. She thought she was.10 Mubarak had already thrown a T-shirt over his head. "We can't wait until morning, Shaaden. You are in pain, I'm calling Hajiya."2 And before she got out of the bout of pain that ensnared her, Mubarak was already on his phone. Hajiya Kulthum took Muhammad from him and he helped Maryam to the car. Every breath she took, every second that passed, Maryam wished the world would go still and her pain would go away, she prayed every du'a that came to her lips. And at a point, she went numb with pain. Once at the hospital, they found a different nurse from the one they'd met two days ago.4 She gave her some analgesic and told her they had to go in for a Pelvic ultrasound. Maryam's eyes widened. "No, you will poke out my babies, no one is doing a second scan on me. I'm done. Just... take this pain away."2 The slight nurse nodded but went ahead to explain things again anyway, telling her the test wouldn't affect her or the babies.3 Maryam shook her head at the end of the long lectures. Mubarak had to persuade her to take the test. The pain may have reduced but Maryam still felt it. And the clots that came out of her had waned her already weak hope. Not to talk of the elephant in the room. 'The no-activity' part of the dilemma. She knew there was no going back.7 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  But knowing that had not prepared her for what the doctor had to say three hours later when the results finally came in. When Dr Suzan wouldn't meet her eyes, Maryam braced herself for the confirmation of her fear. Dr Suzan spoke about her low HCG levels and how her scans reflected the previous ones. She had indeed miscarried. She was diagnosed with a late miscarriage.43 "We didn't detect a heartbeat, I'm sorry." A sentence that shattered her to pieces.11 They were indeed gone. Just like how they appeared unexpectedly they were now gone.15 Maryam covered her face with her palms and burst into tears. "Ya Mubarak, the babies are gone." She said into his chest as he held her close.1 In and out of focus Maryam heard Dr Suzan say the babies had not increased in size since her last scan. Almost two weeks ago.4 They'd been gone days before they realized it. She was escorted to a private room as if to give her some privacy to shed her disbelief.2 Dr Suzan came into the room shortly after to discuss her treatment. "So, here are the options. We can do nothing and allow you to miscarry on your own at home or we can give you a drug to help in the process or we can do a surgical procedure to dilate the cervix and take them out. It will be done under general anaesthesia." Maryam chose to let everything pass naturally. But that was only because there may be a part of her that wished something would happen, and she would wake up tomorrow and her precious babies would be back into existence. Which she knew was not possible. But she wanted to experience a part of it one last time before they parted ways.20 When she began to bleed profusely at night, the next day, a D and C had to be performed on her to rid her of the remains of her babies, she knew they wouldn't even be called that yet. But she couldn't help but think of them as existing entities within her.15 How could someone love something they had not even planned to have? Was that her being human? Was it normal to crave and miss something so bad that only three months ago she had almost passed out when she found out about them?4 While she was in an out of consciousness Maryam had a vague memory of being asked if she would like to see her babies. But she had no recollection of seeing anything, maybe it was for the best she couldn't remember.4 Babies! They were gone.13 One look at Mubarak and Maryam could see how devastated he was. Yet, he had never backed down from telling her kind words, he remained silent with her and let her cried her eyes out without once reminding her of how she once wished she never got pregnant in the first place.11 She was in physical pain but the emotional pain of not carrying her babies to term had numbed her physical pain.2 She was too weak to walk on her own, she was wheeled into the bathroom, there she looked at her face in the mirror and Maryam could not recognize the sickly woman that stared back at her.2 When Maryam was young, Mama had miscarried a baby and she remembered it being the worse day of her life because that was the day Mama had told her she wished she had miscarried her instead. Was this how Mama felt about her? Did she really prefer to feel this way than have to see her live?33 When she cried, she cried for the babies she had lost and she cried for the Maryam that lost herself on that day at age thirteen.8 "Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un," she whispered and covered her face with her palms.2 *** Mubarak walked into the room after he saw Bilaal and Ibrahim out, his heart went out to Maryam. He knew that he may never know what she was going through, he may never experience her pain, physical or emotional, but this was their loss and he felt it for her, for them, and for the dream of what might have been.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  What he felt may not be enough but they were in this together. He walked to the bed and sat beside her. Her lips moved into a close-lipped smile and the little thread in him snapped. He gathered her in his hold and remained there until his heartbeat was the only sound she could hear.2 Mubarak's hand closed over hers. She looked up to find his sad eyes. "May Allah bless us with more. And may He bless us with patience and fortitude to bear this loss." He said and kissed her temples each time he did, he lingered.5 Maryam felt the wetness of his eyes blend with the wetness of hers. This was their pain.2 She exhaled. "Ameen." Her smile trembled. "Let's look at the bright side. I know that for every gift we have and of all our losses we could only lose or gain from the vast and endless wealth of Allah, it was He who had blessed us and it is He who will bless us with more. So, M.K I may be sad over what happened but I know it was decreed by Him. Alhamdulillah."25 Mubarak nodded and pressed his lips to hers in a comforting caress. *** Hajiya Kulthum came into the room a few moments later. Worry lines adorned her face when she silently took Maryam in her embrace. She smoothed a hand over her back. Today all words failed her. She kept saying. "Let it out Maryam and have some relief. May Allah bless you with more. May He give you the coolness of your eyes."4 Maryam sobbed into her aunt's hijaab until she felt like she couldn't cry any more.6 Hajiya Kulthum fed her, comforted her and helped her take care of Muhammad. Poor Muhammad, it had been hours since she felt his warmth in her arms. She took him from Wafiyya and held him close until they both fell asleep.4 She was discharged the next morning. *** When she got Baba's call, Maryam was no longer groggy, she had had enough time to rest. "Daaso..." "Baba?" "Mubarak called last night, you were asleep." "Yes Baba, I could use some of that can of malt now." She chuckled but tears streaked her laughter.4 "How are you holding up?" "I'm a mess but I'll live."6 "May Allah ease your affairs and grant you a quick recovery. May He bless you with the patience and reward you for your loss." "Ameen Babana. It's all in Allah's plans. It hurts a lot but I had to go through it. I'd have wanted you to meet them. They were two."18 Alhaji Muhammad was quiet for a long time before he spoke and Maryam knew that his white handkerchief was at work wiping his tear-soaked face.23 "I'm good Baba, don't cry. Can't you hear my voice? I'm okay. Really."6 "I know Daaso... May Allah bless you with pious kids and them with prosperous life, so that they will get to see what a blessing you are to them. May He bless Muhammad for you in this world and the next."15 "Ameen, thank you. So when are you coming to see me?" She asked the question to ease the tension between them, but after saying it, she realized she yearned to see her father. It had been long since they saw each other, they spoke constantly. But it was almost two years now since she saw him last.4 "Daaso..." "What? I miss you a lot, Baba." "I can't wait to meet Muhammad." STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "In sha Allah. But he says he doesn't want to meet you since you won't come to see him." "Tell him to wait for my arrival at the airport tomorrow."2 Maryam laughed. And they spoke longer than she had ever spoken to him on the phone. When they were done with their phone call, Maryam felt at ease as if a foreign feeling had invaded her body. Her heart found peace.6 She had a sound sleep that night. *** Maryam had received so many messages since the news of her miscarriage had gone out, she had seen all forms of notes and messages, some calmed her while some angered her. She wondered why people would tell her it was okay she would get another one soon as if this one didn't matter, as if she was never attached to it.14 Would the same people look at a widow and tell her to 'take heart you will soon get another husband"? Or if someone's kid died would they tell them it was all good it happened for the best she should get over it?5 She knew she was taking it to a stretch and she may not have bonded with the babies she had lost, but they'd already become a part of her. A part of her that they were already accommodating in their lives.4 When she got Mama's call, she almost didn't pick it, she knew it was time to hear all the I-told-you-sos, but Mama's I-told-you-so was the last thing she wanted to deal with today.14 "Maryam..." Maryam took the phone away from her ear and checked the screen, because the compassion in her mother's voice had knocked the breath out of her. What was wrong with Mama?8 "Mama, are you alright?" "Yes, I am. Oh, I'm deeply sorry for your loss and I'm here to listen if you ever need someone to talk to."32 "Mama..." Maryam clenched her eyes shut and tears slid down her face.2 "It's hard, I know. You can cry, talk about it or just... keep quiet. Whatever works for you. Because I went through the same thirteen years ago and I never forget how it felt, how it still feels. So... talk to me if you must, if you want to."26 Maryam sighed. "Thank you, Mama. Thank you..." It was all she needed and all that mattered. Nothing could compensate her loss, Maryam was sorry she had lost the babies, she was sorry it would take her loss to get some compassion from her mother. She was sorry she was her mother's child.12 *** She smiled when Mubarak came into her room, which was now where he spent most of his time, at the mansion. He spent the rest of his day with them the moment he came home from work and wouldn't return to his room in the mansion until either of them was drooping with sleep. "I can see Muhammad has missed his Maama. He has been moody and wouldn't smile at me." Maryam's smile widened. "Oh, you have taken him away after all. How are my boys?" She asked, her eyes mellowed with love.2 "We are good, we napped, ate, played ball and had some knee training; Oh we stood on our own today."16 "Really?!" "Yes, should we demonstrate?"2 Mubarak placed Muhammad down beside her bed. But Muhammad was too excited on seeing his mother, he couldn't stand upright. Maryam laughed and stretched her hands towards him.2 "How long have I been sleeping?" "Hm, that will be three hours." "Subhanallah, I left my guests out there." She had a vague memory of Dahlia and Raheema coming to see her. "Don't worry, they said their goodbyes." Maryam's eyes widened. "I should have seen them off." "The house is filled with people who will do that, Shaaden. Don't worry." Mubarak sat next to her, folding one of his legs on the bed beneath himself.4 "How are you feeling?" He held her free hand in his, running a thumb along the sensitive web of skin between her thumb and forefinger.6 "Top notch." She nuzzled Muhammad's face. "No more dizziness?" "Nothing, Alhamdulillah." Muhammad laughed when she reared her head back to look at him, he had been bouncing, eager to come to her.2 Maryam hugged him tight, she sniffed his scent and kissed the top of his nose. "Oh, Muhammad, Maama missed you too. I hope you've been a good boy?"3 He chortled something that must have meant yes, and they both laughed. Mubarak brushed a finger on the side of her face. She turned to look at him. She really didn't want to cry now, but the way Mubarak looked at her tugged at all her heart strings. He was her strength as well as her weakness. The battle ensued and at last, her strength won.2 "I'll go to the masjid, call me if there is anything." When their eyes met, Maryam felt the underlying weight of his words. Do not wait. She gulped and nodded then returned her smile to her son. She wondered if that lingering guilt would always leave a twisting stab in her. Even though she knew telling Mubarak about her bleeding earlier wouldn't have saved the babies, but she felt like he was entitled to know since he was equally a part of it.2 For now, Muhammad was all she had and she would be the best mother she could be to him. When Allah blessed her with more, then she would share that love, but that spot, the vacancy would always be there for her Abdurrahman and Abdullah.23 Yes, she had named the babies.7 Maryam decided to have a name for them instead of calling them the 'babies I lost.' At least she wouldn't feel guilty by reducing them to nothingness.2 And since Abdurrahman and Abdullah were the most beloved names to Allah, she chose the names for her babies.4 Mama was right, you never forget. Thirteen years from now she would also remember it vividly.4 Because they would always live on in her mind. 15 *** Whew!2 What a long one!6 So how were the chapters?46 It was a mixture of things (profound things) for me to write this without ever experiencing such. My heart goes out to all the women who have gone through this and those who are still going through it. 55 May Allah bring coolness to your hearts and may He ease your affairs. 43 Ma'assalam.9 Umm Yasmeen💞13 *** LONDON JANUARY, 2012 The snow smothered the City and the day lost its shape early, it was winter. But it wasn't the gloominess of the City that gave Mubarak the insistent prickly feeling on the back of his neck, it was the lack of response he got from his brother. He smoothed a hand over the thick muscle of his nape and pressed the dial icon on his phone for the hundredth time.10 "Come on, Bilaal!" He paced the floor of his office, willing Bilaal to answer his phone.4 Mubarak knew something awful was bound to happen the moment his father stood in this spot two days ago, demanding him to call Bilaal on his phone.8 Mubarak had turned to his father who stood waiting for him to make the call and shook his head when he couldn't get through to Bilaal.2 Alhaji Umar's eyes had hardened. "It's settled then! Get Mathias and tell him to bring the car around, we're heading to Westminster."2 Mubarak's eyes had bulged out. He had almost screamed his guts out. No! That would be a disaster. This was not the time to confront Bilaal. Especially not by his father since this whole conflict going on was because of him in the first place. "No, Baba..."5 Alhaji Umar had turned to face him with a raised brow, Mubarak was quick to amend his slip. "I mean, I think we should wait for him to reach out. It may come across as intrusive..."4 The scowl on his father's angry face was enough to inform him that his idea wasn't welcome. Because Umar Bugaje was no man to stop when he set his mind to a task. So he waited for the inevitable to happen.8 "You said there was no way out. How could you all be quiet about this. You've known, haven't you?"2 Mubarak's head jerked up. Did his father really expect him to answer that? No day had passed in which Umar Bugaje had not kept a tab on his second son. He had a team for that. The information which would further infuriate his brother if he ever found out.6 So, it would be impossible for his father to say he was unaware of his son's employment status or lack thereof it. He bet Baba had Bilaal's statement of account stashed somewhere in his office vault.6 The duo that was his father and brother had always left him dazed. After all the time everyone had taken to attempt to mend what was broken between them, it turned out it would only take a phone call from his daughter-in-law to make Umar Bugaje budge from his rigid position regarding his son.8 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Even though he was witness to the love Baba had for Bilaal, Mubarak was certain like he was about his death, Bilaal would not back down from this battle now. For the love of Allah, it was beyond him why that love wasn't enough to mend things between them.8 He had always tried to place himself in Bilaal's shoes, and despite everything, Mubarak couldn't bring himself to understand his feelings towards their father. One thing he knew was that somewhere in there buried within Bilaal's heart was love for their father.8 For a moment, Mubarak considered letting things fall into place even if the house would blow up for a while for things to fall back into place.2 When he had that thought, Mubarak had no idea things were actually going to blow up.8 Bilaal not answering his calls was one big red flag indicating that. If he didn't answer his calls , it had to be because he had switched it off.2 Which meant now that it was going through, Bilaal was purposefully avoiding him yet there was someone he needed to communicate with.6 He was about to dial Sa'imah's number when Wafiyya's call came in. At first, he couldn't make out her words. She sounded frantic.2 "Wafis? Calm down, I can't hear you." "Come home, something bad has happened..." She hiccuped.12 "Talk to me..." He said, but when she began talking, Mubarak was in the office elevator before she was done.4 *** Mubarak stormed into the house.2 "Where is he?" He bellowed. When he went into the house, he had no idea what he was expecting, Bilaal lounging on Baba's chair or Bilaal devastated by the events occuring, all he knew was that he was about to scream murder. Bilaal had no right to do this. Sa'imah didn't deserve this from him. Not after everything!7 Hajiya Kulthum's forehead creased. She turned to him with a stern eye, "Hello, mind your manners, please. You can't come in here like this. Get a grip of yourself." She scanned him from head to toe. He must be dripping from the rain, he had forgotten to take off his coat at the door. He went back to the entrance and removed his coat before he returned to his mother where she stood at the main sitting room.9 Mubarak's hand went to the nape of his neck. "Hajiya, is it true? Wafiyya said..." He huffed out large gulps of air. His heart seared beneath his chest. But Hajiya ignored his question. He looked around the room and the house was too calm for his liking. Why was no one doing something to stop this? Where was everyone?2 He had almost thought his mother had forgotten about his presence when she spoke, "I know what Wafiyya said, but we can only contain the damage if you calm down enough to give a helping hand."2 Mubarak swiftly took his mother's hands in his. "Hajiya did he...?" His eyes wavered, willing her to falsify what he heard.2 When she continued to tap her phone, taking her hand out of his, he let her go dejectedly. He gritted his teeth. "Stupid boy, I've warned him, I've told him to..."4 "Keep your voice down, Mubarak! Usman is here, I believe he will help us get to the root of the issue." She said in a low voice.12 Usman was Sa'ima's cousin. It was true then if her relatives had been informed about it already.23 Hajiya Kulthum held his gaze, perhaps trying to make sure he got her message. He got it alright. He gave her a short nod and backed down. The movement behind him snagged his attention to the new comer. A tall and fair man with a thin moustache stood at the doorway, he headed towards them. His deep set eyes and strong long strides informed his presence in a room. Baba's private sitting and the main sitting were only separated by a wall and a wide doorway, he was sure Usman had heard his earlier outburst.4 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Assalamu alaikum, Sorry man, I was..."2 "Wa alaikumussalam. No problem, I understand." They shook hands. Mubarak was about to speak when the doorbell sounded. They all turned to the door then their gaze returned to one another. "Mubarak, get the door, I'm going to be with Sa'imah." Hajiya Kulthum said. When he opened the door, Uncle Abdul, Sa'ima's uncle with his wife Hajiya Zuwaira stood there. Usman was their son, so it made sense that he would call his parents too.7 He ushered them into the house. Shortly after them, Alhaji Umar came home. Hajiya Kulthum debriefed them all of the situation at hand as subtly as she could put it. If divorce had a subtle word, that is.8 Mubarak still couldn't believe it. To top it all, Bilaal still wasn't picking his calls, he had switched it off at a point, and no one knew his whereabouts.15 When Ibrahim, Bilaal's best friend said he didn't know where to find him, Mubarak knew they had to resort to other means. He slipped out of the house when everyone was engrossed in lamenting over the event of the day, they wanted to hear things from Sa'ima's perspective. He couldn't bear to see her in this state.6 This was not meant to happen, but it had happened. How could he look at her after all the reassurances he had given her when he went for peace offering at their house, shortly after their wedding with Bilaal? She had gone through enough already. He couldn't bear the thought of her going back to her old life. No, Bilaal must undo what he had done.20 And for that to happen, he needed to find him. *** "What do you have Mr Mathias?" Mubarak stood a foot away from the towering man. Mr Mathias had always come through with their father's tasks. He was his chauffeur, aide and security all rolled in one, sometimes he was more of a friend to their father. So, Mubarak knew if he wanted someone to find his brother, Mr Mathias was his man.2 "I've found the Steve guy, he has met with him several times over the past weeks. He gave me an address, there is a place up in Isle of Wight..." Mubarak programmed the address in his phone GPS and gave him a smile of gratitude. "Thank you, Mr Mathias." "He is going to be alright." The older man said to Mubarak, his eyes softening without him moving a muscle on his face.2 Mubarak would hate to break it to Mr Mathias that he didn't plan to keep it that way. "Let's pray he stays alright after I find him." With that, he left the mansion.11 Three and a half hours later, he stood in front of an old two-storey brick-row of cabins in the Isle of Wight. It was dark, yet a flash of blue streaked the sky. Pearls of white spanned across the landscape and the trees around were covered with light pillows of snow, the ground was dusted with whiteness. The humped rooftops gave the cabin an impression of a homey feeling, but the storm within Mubarak was a stark contrast to the light snow that fell. He depressed the doorbell of cabin number six.2 The unspoken delay after the doorbell had chimed assured Mubarak that his brother had seen him standing there.2 He held his hands akimbo and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. "You know, this could save us a lot of time if you'll just open this wood already."6 Three seconds later, the wood creaked open. He raised his brows. Oh, it was a door alright.6 Mubarak pushed through it before Bilaal closed the door on him. He glared at him, "Don't bother explaining anything to me now."2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Listen, Ya Mubarak..." Bilaal began in a voice that had gone hoarse with silence and worry. Mubarak shoved him into the nearest wall, with one swift move, his arm pinned Bilaal in place.3 "I told you not to hurt her and you turn around and do this! Do you think you're the only one with a messed up life? Well, guess what? We all are messed up! We all are really really messed up. Do you want to know how messed up I am? I couldn't even show my happiness upon receiving the news of my first child, scared that I'll also turn out to be like him, Wafiyya almost died under my watch when she was a baby and guess what? Someone died because of me too! I guess that makes me like him too. Why don't you go ahead and hate me too?15 Bilaal's eyes widened upon Mubarak's revelation, but apart from that, Mubarak's confession didn't seem to faze him.2 "Don't you dare talk to me about going through a bad phase. We've all been through that, and we all have a part of us that was taken away, it's not just you. So now tell me, brother, why the heck did you do that to her? You know everything! Yet you went and... you gave her the dalaaq?!" Mubarak screamed in his face, his eyes blinded with undisguised rage.9 Bilaal opened his hazel eyes on his brother and spoke softly. "You're not like him. You're nothing like him."4 Mubarak pressed him into the wall with the back of his arm, "Then, what the heck man!! What the heck! Divorce? Are you out of your..." Mubarak's laboured breath escaped his lungs. "You are clearly out of your mind, you better get your brain together and reverse that outrageous mistake right now. This is..."2 He dropped his hands to his sides, releasing his choking hold on Bilaal. He stepped away from him and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.1 He couldn't remember when last he had lost his temper like this. "I told you not to hurt her... I gave her my word that you'll never cave in. But you went ahead and did just that. Damn it!" Mubarak bellowed. Thick veins pulsed from all planes and angles on his face and neck.6 "Let it go, brother, the damage has already been done," Bilaal said, still speaking in a low voice, he sounded detached as if he didn't care if the world toppled over.7 Mubarak snickered, licking his suddenly dry lips.2 "Wake up, she is going to hate you and I'm afraid you can't undo that when you finally do wake up. Because it's going to be too late. And believe me, I'm going to relish seeing her break you into shards. Did you even consider your daughter in all of this? I hope you still remember you have one?"2 Bilaal's eyes shot up to his brother, it was as if Mubarak had nicked a nerve in him. His jaws tightened and his eyes darkened. "Are you by any chance still hooked on her? You sound like a hurt lover to me. I thought you had moved on..." His hazel eyes glinted with contempt.53 Mubarak's mouth went slack, he blinked his eyes back to focus and nodded. He brushed the tip of his tongue over his dry lips. "Oh stop that. That is too low even for you, after what you've done. I don't know what to believe in again. Just set this mess right, before I get your head, I'm going to make sure it hurts hard this time."2 Mubarak turned and headed towards the exit. "Nice cabin by the way." He called out over his shoulder. When the door closed shut after him, Mubarak lunged forward and bent over his knees, he let out streams of pent up breath before he gave the cabin one last look and strode down the cobblestone pathway.2 This was all messed up.6 *** Maryam was in the living room when Mubarak came home in a dishevelled state. He didn't spare her a look when he walked past the living area and slid into the study. He closed the door behind him with a loud bang.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  The sound rippled through her gut, she knew something was wrong. Mubarak hadn't gone to find her or ask after Muhammad, he hadn't even teased her about her henna appointment scheduled for that afternoon which had been cancelled.4 So she followed him to the study, treading with caution. "M.K, what is wrong?" She asked, Mubarak stood still in front of his desk. His long coat had been haphazardly draped over the single chair there. She gasped when Mubarak knocked off his reading lamp from the table in one flourish move.31 Okayyy... this is a first.2 Maryam's hand flew to her mouth to tamp down her shock. She remained rooted to the floor. Mubarak had never been violent as far as she knew, at least not around her. If she took away the few times he had pinned her to the couch or the door. He had never really shown any sign of lack of control but this was him at his full-blown storm.4 He leaned on his desk and hung his head between his shoulders letting out bursts of air. Maryam walked further into the room and stopped right in front of him wondering what would have caused such a reaction from him. Was it work trouble? No, it couldn't be.3 "M.K?" Mubarak clenched his eyes shut. "I'm good, Maryam. But I'd like to be alone, please."11 He called her Maryam, whatever this was, it wasn't something light. There was nothing light about his shallow breaths nor his reddened eyes. Nor was there anything normal about the way he was intent on crushing his teeth and temple in. This was an entirely new man standing before her. So she did as he suggested, just like she did anything alien to her, she retreated from him.38 Dismissing the tight knot that clenched her gut, she nodded. Now Mubarak was blocking her out? Why would he do that?!2 As far as she knew, she did nothing wrong. When he left the house that morning he had been clingy and reluctant to leave, she had to turn him around and close the door after him. And now he returned to her like a wounded animal and shut her out? What was wrong with him that he couldn't share with her? He was right, he needed some time alone to calm down. That was just what he needed.6 Maryam turned around, her knees weak from witnessing Mubarak's wild outburst.2 She had barely reached the door when she felt his warmth against her back. Between her dazed walk back to the door on wobbly knees and the shock from his behaviour, she had missed when he left his desk and walked to her without her hearing his foot steps. She froze in his hold.30 The man she met five minutes ago scared her, she had never seen him like that, but Mubarak didn't let go, he hugged her from behind. And now he was letting out a pained breath of agony in the crook of her neck. She was split between running out the door or turning around to tame the wild beast in him.4 "You are scaring me, M.K." She whispered.6 "I'm sorry," he mumbled, she felt and heard the pain in his words as if he was about to have an explosive meltdown. He trembled and all her wits fled. Something was wrong to make her gigantic-towering husband come down to his knees. Whatever it was, it had left him vulnerable, broken and devastated.6 "M..." "Bilaal has divorced Sa'imah." He said into the crook of her neck.14 Maryam whipped around so fast she almost knocked him off balance. The words bitter, like a string of curse words resounded in Maryam's ears. "Di... what? Who? Back up a bit, please. What did you just say?" Her eyes narrowed as if challenging him to repeat his bad words.8 Mubarak pulled her back in his hold but Maryam remained unresponsive. Her joints were limp with shock. When he released his hold on her, he was a bit composed, leaving her like a weak-battery operated doll.4 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  He sniffled and ran a hand through his curly hair down to his nape where he squeezed the muscle firmly. "Sorry, I dumped that on you like that."2 "But why on earth would he do that? Sa'imah is the most amazing person one could have as a wife, she doesn't look at something twice if she knows Bilaal doesn't like it. She is always thinking of their future, always giving it her all. Why..." She extracted her hands from Mubarak's hold as if he had hurt her too. As if his hold bore a hole in her.5 "He has moved out to a rented cabin out of the city. I went to see him, and I... it pained me to see no remorse in him. He is messed up, alright. But I felt like tearing him in two when he repeated it in my presence."2 "Why?" Maryam kept asking because nothing made sense. Yes, Bilaal and Sa'imah had been having troubles for the past year, but they had always been together on it, trying to curb things together. Mubarak let out a sigh. "I guess we'll never know that. He isn't disclosing anything." "He did it, didn't he?" Mubarak held her close and buried his face in the crook of her neck he didn't know what got into him to break the news this way to her. He was so devastated to think straight earlier.2 The news had left him so confused and helpless he didn't know what drove him, he had no idea how he got home. And what upset him most was the accusation his brother lay on him. That he was overreacting because he still felt something for Sa'imah.2 That was outrageous! He knew Bilaal was in a bad place, but if he hadn't left the cabin the time he did, they would have been a bloody mess of muscles and bones lying in a pile in the ER right now. Because this time, he wouldn't have hesitated to pull the trigger on Bilaal.27 He shouldn't have hurt Sa'imah the way he did. He shouldn't have hurt her at all. He had promised he wouldn't.2 *** When Maryam asked Mubarak to go see Sa'imah, she had no idea what she would say to her or what she would do once they met. She wasn't thinking about how to react around her. She had acted well around people who had gone through a divorce before. But the fact that this was Sa'imah, the woman who had quickly become more like a sister to her, devasted her. How would she feel if she were in her shoes? Would she feel anything at all?2 Sa'imah was a strong woman, she would come out through this, even if bruised but this was her world being crushed with the utterence of one single word! She needed to be there for her in this time of trial. It still felt surreal.4 "Why do men take divorce lightly?" She asked Mubarak who refused to let her drive by herself, insisting he took her to the mansion where Sa'imah would stay before they had a sitting with Bilaal.5 "Sometimes things happen that we don't have explanations for."2 Maryam nodded, "This makes better sense." She turned slightly in her seat and regarded Mubarak's set features, his beard a bit fuller than he normally kept it, shone under the passing lights of London streets. His nose stood proud and unbroken. The curve of his brow, something she would occasionally steal a glance or purposefully stared at and admired. The stark familiarity of every pore on his skin was engraved to every bit of her being, would that all be gone if...2 "Would you do something you have no explanation for?" She blurted in a quiet voice.31 Mubarak darted a look at her but her question went unanswered. Though she didn't miss the way he clenched the steering wheel as they drove to his parents' house in Kensington.7 *** "No, Ammie, please don't say that. I know you are both in a dark place right now. But you are a beautiful person in and out, Ya Bilaal is an amazing man, a kind man and a wonderful father; you two are both good. You are good together."9 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Sa'imah smiled, her eyes reddened, were a pool of storm. "We aren't that good together apparently." "Oh, no! This shouldn't escalate please, wait. Let them do something about it. It can still be mended."2 "I'm done Maryam, I have no strength left to fall back out of this heartbreak. Bilaal has broken my heart. And that was the last bit remaining."30 Maryam covered the sob that bubbled up her throat. She hugged Sa'imah and swallowed the pain that tried to escape.2 "We're not giving up on you, but I understand that this is more than Naja'ah, more than Ya Bilaal and it is more than you, it has to be for the whole of you. And it has to function well. If a break is what you both need for it to return to its working body, I think you should take that break, but please let them amend the marriage. I'm sure he'll regret his actions within a day or two that is if he isn't already regretting it. Ya Mubarak said he saw him and he looked devastated himself. Hold on, until Baba Bugaje and Uncle Abdul do something on it. No annulment, just go home for a few days and return."3 "To what Maryam?"4 Maryam wished she had the answer to that question. Bilaal had let them all down with this drastic move he made.6 She couldn't even begin to imagine the pain Sa'imah was going through now. She still felt like it was a nightmare and soon she would say an isti'aza and wake up to Muhammad's tantrums. But this was as real as it got. It had ended.4 On their way home, Maryam rested her head on the headrest, and as if to answer her question from earlier she said. "If it ever happens, I'm done. That would be the end of things."20 *** The weeks that followed Bilaal and Sa'imah's divorce had taken a toll on everyone in the Bugaje residence, but Maryam had least expected it would have such a profound effect on her marriage too.5 It turned out she expected too much, because since the first day Mubarak had informed her of Bilaal's divorce he ceased to be himself, he was either too lost to engage in a meaningful conversation with her or too busy with work. Other times he would snap at things he'd found normal earlier or the things which used to be his idea. As much as she wanted to keep it out of her mind, the seed germinated in it.9 Why was Mubarak so affected by Bilaal's divorce? Was he hurt on his brother's behalf or because of the word he gave Sa'imah that she was in good hands? Either way, he was being too touchy on the subject for her liking.12 And she wasn't about to sit back and watch him destroy their marriage because of something that happened in his family. So that afternoon when he complained about his misplaced sports shoes, Maryam snapped.6 "You've always kept them yourself, how would I know when you misplaced them?"4 Mubarak reared his head back as if her words had stabbed him. "Well, these are things you are supposed to know."24 Maryam blinked her eyes several times. "Unbelievable!" She stormed past him into his closet and searched the lower shelf, but the shoes weren't there. She had a quick flash of them in the laundry. She might have seen them there. She was about to go and check when Mubarak said "You see? They aren't here!"2 "You know what? Why don't you go and bring her back? Perhaps your head would be level again."14 She slithered through the narrow space he left between his wide torso and the closet door. But instead of making the swift exit she had planned, Mubarak held her back by her wrist.5 "What is that supposed to mean?"12 She closed her eyes, praying for sanity to return to her. But to heck with it, she may as well say her mind and be done with this.16 "I said, why don't you go bring her back perhaps you'll function better and remember where you keep your things well."7 He squinted his eyes on her. "Her?"2 Maryam shot him a glare, what did he take her for? Muhammad? "Yes, Sa'imah."4 Mubarak drew his lips back, "That is ridiculous!"4 "No, you know what is ridiculous? You always being unnerved over the slightest of things. It seems the moment she went away from 'your lives', you've lost it and you snap at mundane things that normally wouldn't have bothered you. Since her absence affects you this much, why don't you go get her, your brother seems to be doing a very poor job at that. May be the luck is with you!"40 Mubarak gritted his teeth, he closed his eyes for a brief moment and when he opened them on her, Maryam swallowed hard. "Don't you say something you'll regret, Maryam."17 "Ha! Now it's Maryam. Should I tell you since when I ceased to be Shaaden? Since you came home with the news of the divorce. So don't deny me my right to be fed up with your little drama. I don't think I can take this. Go deal with whatever confusion you are going through. I won't have you snapping at me or Muhammad again. Your sneakers are in the laundry room, check the dryer!"28 This time when she moved past him, Mubarak did not attempt to stop her.4 Oh, how she would've loved to see him try.19 Ridiculous my foot! She scoffed and closed her bedroom door behind her. Muhammad stirred in his sleep, she went next to him and lay down on her side. But the burning sensation in her heart wouldn't subside. She sat up and rubbed her chest to ease the pain.5 A tear dropped from her eye.2 Maryam knew there was trouble in paradise when five minutes had passed and Mubarak had not come barging down her door. If he were guilt-free he would have insisted on explaining things to her. But no, he decided to let her go on with her theory which automatically made them facts.14 She couldn't believe they would be down this path this soon in their marriage. She couldn't believe they would be down this path at all.7 "A'udhu billahi minashaydanirrajeem." She whispered. Then got up from her reclining position and darted to the bathroom to perform an ablution, it was after she was done that her eyes found her reflection in the bathroom mirror. The sight of her frailed face broke her down and she let out all the hurt she had buried for the past few weeks.6 What was going on with them? What had she done wrong? She desperately wanted to block her suspicion about Mubarak's feeling towards Sa'imah, it had been years. Five years to be exact, he couldn't be still harbouring any feelings for his brother's wife... ex-wife would he? If he wasn't why would he act out this way?23 She left her thoughts there and performed her Maghrib Salah, thereafter she said two units of naafil prayers and sat there reciting the Qur'an until the Isha' adhan was called.1 *** DAN DAN DAN 7 They'd been skirting around each other in the house since that explosive evening. If Maryam was with Muhammad, Mubarak steered clear of them. Likewise her. Even though she had sensed Mubarak's temper easing down, he didn't admit that he was at fault, and as long as she didn't know her new stand with him, she decided to maintain her distance.8 On Thursday evening, Nafeesah called. And right after they said their pleasantries Nafeesah said. "We are moody today. Are you sick?"12 She should've gone with a yes, but knowing Nafeesah she would only make her say the illness and her cause of treatment so she went with the truth. Half of it, anyway. "No, I'm good."4 "Kill me if you want, Maxy but I know your jovial voice from your sullen voice. Are you still upset over the divorce? It's been months."4 "Trust me, around here it seems like it happened yesterday."4 "Why is that? I think you all need to accept the fact that it has happened and there is nothing anyone can do to change it. They've both made peace with their fate and are probably ready to move on."10 "It's difficult to do so when it is all Hajiya and Baba talk about. To make matters worse, Mubarak seems to be enveloped into the cocoon of anger, touchy to everything. I don't even know what's up with Ya Bilaal anymore. I saw him last, two weeks ago when we went to the main house. We met him there, and believe me, there is nothing that moved on with him except the length of his beard."45 Nafeesah laughed. "Maxy!"2 "What?" "I know how close-knit you are as a family, it must have taken a hard blow on everyone. But try talking to your king about it. He may share his feelings over the issue. It's unhealthy to keep going around your hurts."9 Maryam snickered. "As if he is interested in hearing anything from me when his queen is out of sight, he has lost focus on everything."26 Nafeesah gasped. "That is an outrageous allegation, Maxy!"2 Maryam rolled her eyes as if Nafeesah could see her. "It is an allegation when it has not been acknowledged."2 "Do you mean to say...?" "Yes, I've confronted him over the whole divorce drama he had been enacting and he had nothing to say in his defence, what does that say about him?"14 Nafeesah went quiet for a moment. "I think you are seeing this from a very twisted angle. Let's calm down and look at it logically. Maybe... maybe he was just upset, and because you have not been married to him for long you've not seen that side of him. That level of his anger."17 Maryam scoffed. "Four years is long enough, Feenah. I've never seen him react to something that way, he blew like a fuse, as if Ya Bilaal had killed Muhammad. Astaghfrullah."28 "You have a wild imagination, I must blame that on my company. But dear Umm Muhammad did you hear yourself? You've just said it, you've never seen him lose his cool. What if he had lost it on someone else, and not with you because you have only just seen the good side of him? It may be possible he has his own flaws that he has been keeping away from you because he cared so much about you and treated you with kindness only?"12 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Then why lose it over her?"2 "Oooh! We are jealous."7 "Ya Rabbi! No! I'll never be jealous over Sa'imah because I know in a million years she is not a problem to me."37 "Hm... That is saying a lot of things right now. It means you trust her more than you do your husband of almost five years, the father of your child, your king, the man you sleep next to for over a thousand days."10 "What... That's not what I... stop putting words into my mouth, okay?" Maryam adjusted her veil and looked around the small living room upstairs as if expecting someone to show up.6 Nafeesah laughed. "Then, girl tell me, what exactly have you been doing? Aren't you putting words into Ya Mubarak's mouth and I must say Ideas into his head too?"13 Maryam's forehead creased. "It's different, he had the right to talk and explain himself. But he chose not to. Because he had nothing to say."6 "So that you argue with him and put more words into his mouth and wild ideas into his head? Nah, if it were me I would retreat too and leave you to your madness. When you're done, you'd snap out of it and meet me right where you left off."24 "I'm not mad." Maryam pursed her lips.2 "They all say that."4 "Shut up Feenah, I'll strangle you and poke your eyes out."9 "You can send it to Man Abu when you're done, see what happens to you. Now go on and right your wrong. And If you keep on planting those ideas in his head. We would have to make some amendments to your house soon."16 "Marar mutumci, ta Allah ba taki ba." Maryam hissed. 15 "Oho! What did I say?"2 Maryam laughed. "My regards to Ameera and Abba. Don't let me get a hold of you anytime soon." "Ma'assalam, send my love to Muhammad and the King." After her phone call with Nafeesah, Maryam took a long sigh and tried to see everything from another angle as Nafeesah suggested.6 Could Nafeesah be right? Had Mubarak left her that day because he didn't want to dignify her insanity with a response? Was he testing her to see if she would sense her wrong and come back on track or was he really guilty of what she had accused him of?13 There was only one way to find out. And that way was currently downstairs nursing a cuppa as he watched the news. Alone!5 A string tugged in her heart when she came downstairs, he was dressed in a soft army-green sweater and dark wash jeans. His eyes followed her and stopped on her unmoving. When she felt Muhammad's hands bracing himself with her legs as he came down the stairs. She held the boy's hand and they moved to the living room and sat on the couch. She chose the one next to Mubarak's and sat there, while Muhammad branched to meet his father's waiting arms. They sat on the couch and wordlessly enjoyed their time together.28 Even though she felt left out from their mini-circle. The sight of them warmed her heart. She knew then, no matter what Mubarak's reason was for acting up the past few weeks, it didn't matter to her. Muhammad was proof enough for her how much her husband loved her. And if he had any feelings left for someone else, she would focus her energy on the good side of him. Even though it would kill her if it were true.6 "Here." His gentle voice slithered down her spine warming her up at the same time sending goosebumps across her skin. She guessed that was what it meant to feel the right kind of goosebumps.2 "Muhammad wanted some juice, I had a refill of my cuppa, so I got you one."27 This must be the longest sentence he had spoken to her at a go, in days!10 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Maryam you are so gone. How could a man manage to be this charming? So he took her coming to sit in his vicinity as an extension of a warm hand. And he made his move too by offering a cuppa. He wanted to call a truce too! 9 Smooth Mafia King. Real smooth.41 She blinked when she realized that he was still standing extending his hand of truce. How could she zone out for that long? She must be completely oblivious to the things around her for her to miss them getting up and going to the kitchen.8 "Thank you." She cleared her voice and took the mug from him, their fingers touched and lingered as he handed her the blue Ombre mug. Her eyes were still locked with his.2 When he broke the contact, it took a great deal of effort on her part to not feel the stab she felt in the subtle disruption.5 Shortly after, she put Muhammad to sleep and went to clear their used mugs. Mubarak kept himself busy in the kitchen, she didn't know what kept him there, all she knew was that he was in her space. And oh, how she always loved it when he was in her space.6 "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have... said the things I said the other day." She blurted. Her fingers clench and unclench the dish rag she used to wipe the counter top.13 Mubarak turned to look at her briefly then he nodded and paused for a moment as if he wanted to say something. She watched him leave the kitchen.20 What was she thinking? Did she assume that her accepting her fault would move him to tears after she had made such a great allegation against him? Did she expect him to grovel and ask for her forgiveness because he had ignored her for the past gruesome unnumbered-weeks?16 Well, she was still not sure if her concerns weren't genuine. But she was growing and in her growth chart at this stage it said, listen to the other side of the story.2 She gave up trying to decipher things. She took a bath and performed ablution in preparation to go to bed.6 *** Maryam had said her sleeping du'a when the lights in the room came on. She began to get up but Mubarak stopped her by pinning her arm down.8 He sat beside her on the bed. It took four tensed beats before he began. "I know Allah has many ways of making things happen. In my blinded rage, I forgot that Allah had brought them together in the first place, if He has made them part ways, there must be some wisdom behind that too.21 His gaze averted from her for a moment, his thumb made unconscious circles on a spot above her wrist.2 "I've seen a glimpse of what Sa'imah's life was before she married Bilaal. I was concerned that she may fall back into that misery, knowing that in part I was responsible for her being with Bilaal in the first place. I'll never forgive myself if she had to go back to... that life." He let out a huff of breath. "It wasn't my place to be rude or hard on you despite all that."54 He swallowed a bit, as if struggling with what he was going to say next. "You are right, you and Muhammad didn't deserve my outburst. I apologize for my behaviour too. But Maryam, all that is worthy of giving from me, is yours. You have it all, I've said this several times and I'll say it again you are it for me." Mubarak spoke in all earnestness.55 Maryam blinked once, he mentioned her name. He said Maryam, and somehow this time she felt the reverence in the utterance of her name from his lips, she didn't feel low or upset that he had not used the name he gave her, Shaaden. Because she had been blinded earlier, she'd forgotten that he could use the name when and as how he pleased. There was nothing wrong with him saying her name. If anything, her name had always sounded better from Mubarak's lips. He had a subtle way of saying it, giving each letter its due.12 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Then of course, he had to be the selfless love 'em all Mubarak Bugaje and feel guilty for whatever happened to Sa'imah. Him being the reason the family knew her in the first place, coupled with his protective instinct to feel emphathic towards women in distress, that must have hit home hard for Mubarak.6 Seeing a righted-wrong he had caused spiral to turn out worse in part because of something he could've done to prevent it from happening must've been grueling for him. Yet there she was having all kinds of thoughts about him...4 Did Mubarak think there was something he could have done differently to stop Bilaal from going into his dark phase? Or even proceed with the divorce? A warmth spread all over her and she wanted to hold him tight and comfort him for all of eternity. Her poor darling!8 "Forgive me, please." She said. Mubarak eased her into a hug and held her there. She let out a sigh, she knew a part of her wish had just come true.4 When a loose strand of hair tickled his nose, he nuzzled it down onto her head to keep it in place and kissed the spot.2 "I missed you, Shaaden. A lot." His voice came out gruff.30 She looked up at him and smiled. "I missed you too, King. A lot." There, she felt like all the burden had been lifted off her shoulders with her utterance.4 She raised her head from his shoulder. "None of it was your fault, and nothing you could've done would have stopped this fated event."2 Mubarak joined their foreheads together and traced her brows down to the smooth skin of her pointed chin. From her forehead, to her eyes, to the tip of her nose to her smooth cheeks down to her chin, he covered all the spots with cool dots of fire from his lips.8 "I know." He whispered into her breath and reminded her of what world-melting peace felt like.35 *** Notting Hill, London. 2013. "Maama..." The little fist pounded on the door again. Maryam smiled up at Mubarak.16 "You see? I told you, his timing is always wrong, man. He is all out to get me."2 Maryam shook with laughter. "At least he seeks permission now. Give the guy a little credit he just woke up." "Yeah." He said, grudgingly. Mubarak's phone vibrated on the nightstand and he had no choice but to let her go to the little guy at the door. His forehead creased when he read the name on the screen. He looked at the time, then sat up to answer the call. "Assalamu alaikum. Is everything alright?" It had been days since he spoke to his brother, if he was calling him at seven in the morning then it must be something important. "Wa'alaikumussalam." There was a brief pause then a long intake of breath before Bilaal spoke. "Ya Mubarak, this is so hard."2 It had been the toughest ride for Bilaal, Mubarak had never seen something affect his brother as much as his leaving his wife did. But that was their qadr.8 "Meet me at Hummingbird in thirty. Don't drive." He said into the phone and clicked off. He strode into the bathroom. Mubarak couldn't take his mind off the phone call. He got dressed in record speed and came downstairs to find Maryam feeding Muhammad on the kitchen island. "Hello, where are you zooming off to?" she asked. "I got a call from Bilaal." He shrugged on a brown sports coat as he strode into the kitchen.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  A knowing look passed between them for a moment. He poured himself a glass of water and sat on a breakfast stool to drink it. "Is he alright?" "Go ahead with your lunch plans, I'll catch up with you later." He kept the tumbler near the sink and gave them both a quick peck each on the forehead before he left. It had been a year since the divorce, and Bilaal was still going through the most difficult phase in his life. He had to let his family go, leave the job he loved most and face the most gruesome episode of his dark phase. For six months now, he had refused to interact with anyone. He had grown back into his shell.15 They all had to take turns to convince him to go back to therapy, just when they thought things were getting better, this morning he got this disturbing call. When he pushed the door to the little cafe, where they used to hang out since the place had opened eight years ago, he found Bilaal curled into himself, arms tucked under each other. He shivered as if the cafe wasn't warm enough, and he had not even removed his coat yet.1 "Bilaal..." "I want her back." He blurted as if he couldn't wait to offload his grievances.10 "B..." "I just... I want to make amends, I can't do this anymore. I need her with me even though I know how bad I am for her now, I want her back."17 Mubarak's brows went up and he gave Bilaal a suspicious look, somehow the image of his brother now reminded him of himself several years ago. He quickly fielded the image that conjured in his head.4 "Okay, Alright. You will get her back. We'll sort this out. Do you want a Latte?"1 Bilaal shook his head. "Stop being soft on me. I know that I've messed up and I had to pay for what I did to her, but is it bad that I also want her so much?"5 "You'll get her Bilaal. But have you taken a look at yourself lately? You've been a mess, you wouldn't want her to see you like this. This is not the image Sa'imah knows, this is not the image you want to show your daughter. You want them back, then you need to get a grip. Get your life together, set everything right. You have started the consultancy just three months ago. Get back on your feet then whatever you want to do, you do it."2 "What if she has found someone else? She is not even taking my calls. And when I asked of an account number to send Naja'ah's upkeep can you believe she sent her mother's? She doesn't want anything to do with me, Ya Mubarak."15 "Bilaal, you know Sa'imah better than anyone, that should tell you a lot. Would she take you back if you've not worked on yourself?"2 He slowly shook his head. "Then you need to get on it. Get it together. The HT fund is still with me if you ever want to use it." "No!" Bilaal gritted his teeth.2 Mubarak fixed his eyes on Bilaal. "Alright, then... take your time." "Do you think I did the right thing?"4 Mubarak was quiet for a while, he leaned forward and held Bilaal's gaze. "It's already done."4 Bilaal nodded. "It's done." He swiped a hand down his face. They left the cafe after Mubarak took his Latte to-go. They drove around the city aimlessly. "I think while you are putting yourself back together, it wouldn't hurt to reach out. I know I'd..." "It will kill me if she says no." Bilaal interrupted. "I'm not ready for a no."18 "Then you wait. And for the record Bilaal?" Bilaal's troubled eyes remained on him, "You're not bad. You are just going through a hard time. We all make mistakes, but we don't let our mistakes define us."7 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Bilaal gave him a tight-lipped smile, that word of wisdom was what Hajiya Dada, their grandmother always said to them. They drove until Mubarak was sure there was nothing more he could do to cheer his brother up, that was when it came to him. He hit the steering wheel with an open palm. "Subhanallah!" Mubarak said. Bilaal's forehead pinched at the centre, "What is it?" "We're expecting Uncle Muhammad today. I've almost forgotten. Will you be alright?"6 Bilaal scoffed. "Will you stop babying me around?"2 "Whew! Alhamulillah. For a moment there, I thought you weren't in there anymore. Alright then, see you around. Please keep in touch." The side of his lips twitched as if he would smile, then it was gone. "Got it. I don't plan on falling off the face of the earth if that is your concern. I'm going to champion Muhammad into a legend baller."11 Mubarak nodded, his smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. "I'm sure Muhammad would love that."2 He patted Bilaal on the shoulder and dropped him off at his house in Westminster. *** "M.K! Where have you been? Baba is here already!" Maryam said in a hushed whisper. "Sorry, got a bit caught up." "Salis said they would see Baba Bugaje before they come here. I don't think I can wait." She said, excitement beaming in her eyes.5 "I'll be right out." He said and sauntered into his closet to get ready for the day, his early outing hadn't left any room for grooming, he was meeting his Uncle/father-in-law for the first time in three years, he had to look his best.21 *** Maryam couldn't keep calm, and when she saw Baba, she couldn't believe he was there in the flesh not in her phone screen over skype. She noticed the sheen of tears in his eyes, and it tugged at her heart. She went straight into his arms and hugged him.12 "Baba, stop crying." She said, her own voice filled with unshed emotion. 4 "Maman Muhammad I'm not crying." Maryam covered her face when her father used that name for her. She wanted to know how he felt, seeing his daughter with her son for the first time.2 "Baba! You look... good." She said. The lines from his face had smoothened out, he had even put on some weight. He was fair again. He did look good.11 "I guess life begins at sixty."2 Maryam laughed. "You are sixty-four Baba. And sixty is old." She scrunched up her face.6 He laughed and his eyes shifted to Muhammad who was nestled in his father's arms. He extended his hands to him. "Now, let me meet my friend here, you are crowding us."2 "Oh really?" Maryam said, waiting for Muhammad to let out a shrill when his grandfather took him as he always did with new faces. Instead, Alhaji Muhammad only had to make a face and say something along the line of 'kuci-kuci-kuci" And Muhammad was laughing like a boy tickled with a feather.17 "Okay, I don't know what you did to get that from him. He always screams at new faces." "And who says I'm a new face to him?"2 "Ho! Maryam, can you at least let my brother sit down?" Hajiya Kulthum's entrance into the living room snagged their attention to her. They all laughed, and Maryam ducked her face into her palms.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  "Hajiya we were saying our greetings." "I heard it is best done while sitting. He just came off a long flight I believe he could use a seat." Once Alhaji Muhammad was seated, Maryam sat on the rug next to his feet as she always did whenever she visited him in Katsina.2 Hajiya Kulthum laughed and shook her head. "Mubarak, I think you have to forfeit your wife for the day, she's got a new favourite."10 Maryam's face warmed up from Hajiya's words. "Hajiya, you are all my favourites." Mubarak laughed when she jumped to her defence. He mouthed 'Love you' and she almost fainted there.39 What was he thinking?!13 They spent the whole day at the Bugaje residence even though she had to eventually leave her father with Alhaji Umar Bugaje. Later, he went to the chalet allocated to him. They planned an outing the next day, more like she planned his itinerary for his three-days stay in London.4 "Maryam, I can't go to all these places within two days." "Baba, you have to go, I discovered them when you left, I want to show them to you."2 "Okay, it's a date then." She smiled and they did a high five.8 Mubarak teased her all the way home calling her Baba's baby.6 "Go and do your baby thing too if you want." She said with a playful roll of her eyes.4 "Oh, soon. Don't worry about that. I've got it covered."2 She did her best to keep down her laughter but failed miserably, especially when he demanded a head massage once they were home.2 "Big baby." She teased.2 "I told you, I've got that covered." He winked at her.7 *** Maryam took her father to The V&A museum. It had always been her favourite museum in London, and when Mubarak took her once and she discovered its cafe, she fell even more in love with it. "Okay before we begin, later we are going to drop into the cafe here. I once ate here the very first day Ya Mubarak took me on the City tour it's still one of my fondest memories from my early days here. It is simply gorgeous, to cut the story short, you must have that fish pot pie thingy they serve with mashed potatoes on top."3 Alhaji Muhammad burst into laughter when Maryam was done.10 "Alright, I guess I have to eat fish today after having Ice cream for breakfast. I just hope you plan on taking us home early."6 "Don't worry, it will be quick."2 When they stepped into the museum, Maryam saw just like her first time at the V&A, her father was taken by the intricate designs on the central columns, the sparkling globe chandeliers, and the beautiful stained glass windows. They were enough to keep them away from even the best exhibitions. And she must admit the V&A had some of the best in London.2 So, later while they ate their fish pot pie thingie, Maryam prod Baba further regarding Zubaida's 'long' throng of suitors. At twenty-three, Baba spoke of Zubaida as if she were a sixty-year-old unwedded maiden.6 "Is the tall one still there?"4 "Oh he is alright, but lately she favours the short one. But I think it's because they had a fall out with the tall one. There was always a reason for a fall-out, the other time it was because he had not asked after Dada's health after she had told him her grandmother had a headache."52 Maryam laughed. "You need to decide for her then, she seems a little bit confused."2 Baba had a glint in his eyes "She knows what she wants alright, she is smart. But I've given her enough time. Now there is an ultimatum. She'll have to get back with feedback within a month. Or else..."4 "Oh."2 "Yes, if she knows what's best for her, she'll say it without letting anything interfere in between." Maryam smiled. "Mama has lots of expectations for Zubaida."4 "Which is why you can't trust them to make a decision together. At least this time she is making a good impression on Zubaida."2 Maryam toyed with her spoon. "Oh, that is a first." "What?" She looked up to see the confused look on Baba's face. "That you are agreeing with Mama on something."6 "Daaso..." He chided. Then took a sip of his chai latte. Maryam looked to her right when a couple took the table next to them. She saw the curious look the woman was giving her and Baba then she discretely touched the man's hand. Maryam smiled and returned her attention to her father. They only got a few moments before he was bound home.6 "What was it like making big decisions like this together? Had it always been a touchy subject for you two?"2 "Believe me, we used to be a spectacular team." The sides of his mouth twitched at a memory.19 Maryam silently observed her father, he looked genuinely happy when he spoke about that phase of his relationship with her mother. His eyes glinted with joy as if just remembering the good old days brought him so much contentment.2 "Then it happened." she spoke quietly. Alhaji Muhammad blinked his eyes, snapping out of his little jaunt down memory lane. "What?" Maryam stirred her hot chocolate. "Something must have happened to cause the divide in this... spectacular team."4 He shifted uneasily in his seat and cleared his voice. "Sometimes we make choices that don't always favour us. Other times the lack of making them causes a divide. So how is your book coming up?" He sipped his latte to refrain from saying too much perhaps.4 Maryam didn't miss the abrupt subject swap by her father. "I've shipped it off to my editor. I'm supposed to hear from her in a week or two." "Maa sha Allah, I know you'll do well." Maryam smiled seeing the pride in her father's eyes. "She had to use a bit of pressure on me though. And I think it worked, I finished up a manuscript that was due a year ago in four weeks."2 "I'd love to learn her tactics," Baba said. And they both laughed. "Maama..." Muhammad called out when she slowed down from feeding him his bites. He had long finished his mint juice. Maryam always thought Muhammad had a weird taste for a toddler until Hajiya Kulthum told her that Mubarak used to eat bread with okro soup.81 When they were done, they called it a day and returned to the Bugaje Residence. The day had been an eye opener for Maryam, if anything, now she knew her hunch was right. Something devastating must have happened to make Mama the woman she was today. Whatever it was, was grievous enough to make a mother hate her own daughter.19 What could it have been?23 *** Okaaay... 😱 What now? 🙊7 You know I ain't letting go now, but we all know it's gonna come out. 😉11 So just ride on with me as we find out all the dirty secrets hidden in the Maigoro and Bugaje's closets or should I say... mansions?😌23 You know I love it when it gets mysterious. Is this hook enough for you? Wait till you hear the next one.42 😝 Umm Yasmeen 💞10 Yeah don't get used to it. 😜43 *** FEBRUARY, 2014.2 Maryam sputtered, spitting her orange juice out when she heard Hajiya Kulthum talking about Bilaal's unwedded status, suggesting proposals to him.6 "You have to see someone Bilaal..." She insisted.4 "No, you find one by yourself. I'm not living in your house to regulate your home affairs..."2 Maryam wished she could hear more. But it was a one-sided conversation. The part Hajiya Kulthum only wanted them to hear. She was in part guilty for listening in to the phone conversation. But she couldn't believe Sa'imah and Bilaal would let their stubbornness cost them each other. Not that they were the best of buddies right now.14 Thankfully from Hajiya's response, Maryam understood that Bilaal was against the idea completely. But until when? How long would he keep rebuffing Hajiya Kulthum? Everyone knew how Bilaal revered his mother.6 It had been two years and the man had not snapped out of his mourning phase. He was still gloomy over his dead marriage. She pitied whoever was taking the vessel called Bilaal Bugaje, that poor woman would have the worse case of rebound as her husband.28 She wondered why Sa'imah wasn't letting any door open for reconciliation. Or why Bilaal wasn't making any effort towards it for that matter. He had been in Abuja for almost three weeks but according to him, he wasn't ready for a 'no' from Sa'imah so he didn't make an effort towards winning her back. As if not trying would get him a yes. According to Mubarak a smack upside his coconut head was what he needed- She began to agree with that too.35 "Ammie, you better snap out of whatever cocoon you've wrapped around your eyes, or Allah help me, I'm going to help him choose a wife. I'll play match-maker until that man is happy again, then I'll show you their picture." Maryam threatened while they were talking with Sa'imah over the phone.18 "Good luck with that," Sa'imah said, laughing on the other side.6 Maryam narrowed her eyes. "I'm not even kidding."4 "I've never said you are. Look, it's time he moved on already. I have my hands full as it is, I have no time for more complications in my life."11 Maryam gasped, how could she be so insensitive? Just last month, Naja'ah had been admitted to the hospital, they were still on admission, the reason why Bilaal had lingered in Nigeria and was still there until he saw how Naja'ah was faring. Hajiya Kulthum had returned a week ago.6 "Oh, how rude of me. How is Naja'ah doing now?"2 "Alhamdulillah, they may discharge us today." "Maa sha Allah! My love to her please, do call me once you are with her, it's been long since I heard from my Baby Yo."2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Sa'imah chuckled. "She misses you too, always talking about Aunty Yo and Muhammad." "You see? Please bring back my baby, you can go and rot for all I care. It's not good to separate a mother Yo from her baby Yo."9 Sa'imah laughed. "You are both sick. Alright, I have to go, I'm at work and my director is here, will catch up with you later if you promise to behave and not talk about you-know-who."31 "We both know you crave to hear about you-know-who."19 "Maryam!" "Alright, bye. If it helps, he's still pining over you. Looks the part too. You know the majnoon type. You guys should get back together alre..."7 Sa'imah hissed before she disconnected the phone. And Maryam burst into laughter. She would never figure out these two.9 *** LONDON, ENGLAND. MAY, 2014. "She has blocked me, M.K!"15 Mubarak didn't pause from typing on his laptop nor did he say a word. She went around the couch and sat next to him, demanding his attention.2 "Did you hear me? Sa'imah has blocked my calls!"23 Mubarak raised a brow at her, "Do you really want me to say something about that now?"7 Maryam mumbled under her breath. "No, it's just... why would she block me?"2 Now he turned to her and leaned back on the sofa. "Well, Shaaden it beats me too. Why do you think? Could it be because she wakes up daily to your rants about her coming back to her estranged husband which she had clearly told you won't ever happen? Or because after every three hours you repeat the cycle all over?"24 Maryam slumped back on the sofa and closed her eyes. "Ya Bilaal ya shiga uku!"17 Mubarak shook his head. "Serves him right," he mumbled.13 Maryam's eyes flew open. "Why would you say that? Don't you see how miserable he is?" "At this point, Bilaal is nothing, he has long quit being miserable, we will soon have to commit him to a facility if he keeps on at this rate. And if I were Sa'imah I won't take him back too."12 Maryam shoved his strong arm clad in a white button-up shirt, of course he didn't budge under her little attempt. "Mafia King! The cruel underground type, the ones with the big hat and moustache who chew cigars." She gritted.14 Mubarak shrugged, "We've always operated underground."24 He went back to his work leaving Maryam with her mouth agape. A moment later, he closed the laptop and pushed it on the coffee table in front of the sofa. He turned to her his eyes soft. "Let go of it, Shaaden. Don't stress yourself over it. They'll get back together when they are both ready."5 "I don't see that happening anytime soon. Now that his ex-wife keeps blocking the rats that come from the Bugaje village."15 "Give her time." "Well, she doesn't have any. Hajiya is hunting proposals for Ya Bilaal, left, right and centre. And I can't believe those cousins of yours are rushing to get fixed with him!" Her voice turned conspiratory, "Do they have any idea what a cuckoo he is?" She twisted a finger to her head.12 Mubarak gave her a choice glare.2 "What? It's true. She's only been gone what... two years? And everyone is sending their portfolio. Only Sa'imah knows how to deal with your brother, I tell you. She saw right through him and him through her, they synch. No one else can finish that job for her. She has to come back to him."21 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Mubarak sighed. "Two years is a lot of time for a man to stay without a wife, Shaaden. Especially a man that once had one." "Well, who told him to let her go?!"4 He fixed her with a stare. "I'd hate to say I told you so, but that was exactly the point I kept making since. Glad to finally have you on my side."4 Maryam grunted. "Your point is lame. I just want them back together." She folded her hands over her torso.10 Mubarak took one hand then the other in his and kneaded her fingers and palms. He kissed the centre of her wrist.2 "It will happen when it happens. Now stop stressing my baby and let's go catch some sleep."37 She slumped onto his side, suddenly tired of everything. How could everyone just watch them do this? Apart from being a model couple, Sa'imah and Bilaal were both miserable without each other. She wondered why they were both too stubborn to see that. If she had the right to do one good deed to leave as her legacy she would divide that deed into two, first, she would give her mother some sense and she would wish for Sa'imah and Bilaal to get back together. Hajiya Kulthum would have to get rid of all those girls she had been proposing to Bilaal.22 "Do you think she is also getting some proposals?"12 Mubarak rolled his eyes. "You can ask her if she unblocks you."86 Maryam didn't miss the irritation in his voice. She turned a side-eye to look at him.2 "Don't even go there." He warned then rose to his feet and pulled her with him. "Go get my son tomorrow, this house is a desert. It is too quiet for my liking."6 "Says the man who wants his wife to get some rest. I can't have two babies now. I want to nurse my wounds."2 Mubarak looked flustered. "What wounds?"2 "Hey, my friend just blocked me, you and your son can go find each other another Maama. I have other things to worry about." Her eyes lit up and she faced a disapproving look from Mubarak before she even said what it was. 1 Darn! She needed to learn how to put up a neutral face. The man could read her innermost musings and know exactly the colour of her thoughts too. Despite his disapproving looks, Maryam went ahead, anyway.4 "I was thinking, maybe you're the solution. You should call her and convince h..." She began but the hard look she got from Mubarak shut her up.12 "I was just..." "Don't go there Shaaden. The next time I speak with Sa'imah, you and him both will assume we have tied the knot. So, don't even go there."70 Maryam gasped.2 Ya Rabbi! That must have bruised him real bad, but that time he was acting too strange for her liking, how would she know there was a pact or anything he kept to himself? It was natural for her to get jealous or even think the thought she had thought. That was by the way. 2 Now that she knew there was nothing like that she wouldn't even let her mind wander that path. That was better for all of them, including her sanity.6 "Why would you say that? I've already apologized for making that insinuation." She followed him into his bedroom. His shoulders stiffened. "Well, stop making it all the time."5 "Where is this coming from? Let's not talk about it, please. I've read that shoving aside problems once acknowledged instead of facing them was the best fitness one can give their marriage. So let's keep that aside and build a new us." She smiled and the perfect lines of her white pearl-like teeth almost did Mubarak in. Almost.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  He scoffed. "Not talking about it won't stop your mind from working it over, for the last time Shaaden, I'm not in love with my brother's ex-wife, I won't even consider that ever. And this will be the last time I say it in words."10 Maryam's eyes bulged out. "Okay... I got the message. And for the last time that wasn't what I meant too. Stop putting thoughts into my head." She plopped down on the bed after dusting it.4 She crossed her hands over her torso and turned on her side of the bed. She knew nothing incensed Mubarak more than her ignoring him even for a beat.8 He grunted, "That won't cut it, gazelle. Turn around." He closed the gap between them and slid his fingers into her packed hair. When she felt him removing the hairband that held her hair into a bun, she gave a disapproving grunt of her own.9 "It will tangle up." She complained.2 "I'll untangle it. Shut up and sleep."6 His fingers must have belonged to a masseur at one point in time. Ya Rabbi, when he hit a sore spot she almost fell asleep.2 "I don't see you sleeping too." She purred.2 "Okay, turn around or I'll keep up with that."4 Maryam barked out a laughter. "That was an incitement for me to turn around or a sort of reprimand?"2 "Take your pick, and just so you know... I have loads of other ways too."2 "I don't mind being punished then because for that I can irk you every hour of the day. Should I get my oils?"4 Their eyes met then, his onyx eyes enveloped her with something so precious and delicate she had only seen from him. She knew that look, she had seen it, each time he bared his soul to her. Each time he couldn't find the words to say it out. Each time he wanted her whole. Each time he wanted to share his grief.4 The blinding smile that touched his lips snapped her out of her trance.2 "As if you aren't doing that already. Turn off the light." He said then waited. When she did, he pulled her snug against him and they lay as the dark confines of their room enshrouded them into a comfortable silence. Having a heart to heart that said more than words would. Well, some words.10 "I love the sound of your heartbeat." She whispered, her head resting against his chest.26 "I love your heartbeats too, Shaadeniey." He cupped a large palm over the rise of her abdomen.22 Her lips spread into a smile when she felt his fingers slide back into the depth of her tresses. These days they spoke silently to each other. It started when she found out she was expecting again. They spoke about it but were cautious not to be too much involved in it.14 They may have stopped talking about Abdullah and Abdur-Rahman but she felt it hover between them. When Mubarak would look at her on some days like he just did, when she talked about how fast Muhammad was growing, when they passed by a twin stroller in shopping centres. Sometimes things as simple as the TV would remind them of them. But they moved through it, they became content with what they had. Then one day, they talked about it and decided they would focus on what they had, pushing what would have been aside.4 They agreed it was healthy to speak about the experience but for some reason, they never did again. Until she found out five months ago she was carrying a four-weeks-old pregnancy.9 And out of the blue, that fear settled over them like a moving cloud, going with them everywhere they went.4 She didn't know how strong Mubarak could get. He was strong for her and himself, he acted normally around her, leaving no room for doubt to creep in. But she knew how vulnerable he was inside. She saw it. That was the thing she loved about him, he wasn't scared of showing his strength as well as his weakness to her. Even though some of his weaknesses were disguised in the form of strength. She knew he counted with her too until it became safe. And even now that she was six months along, they both didn't let out that sigh of relief. She had more time to cover. More uncertainties.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Now, Maryam leaned into Mubarak's gentle touch drinking in his peculiar woodsy scent until her eyes drifted close. Her last conscious thought was I love you Man Muba...8 He may have responded, she didn't hear it but she felt his response in his touch. Whispered to her heart, from his.4 *** "Paapi," Muhammad whined, his chubby hands peeling back the duvet. He pinched Mubarak's short beard and then as if innocent of what he just did, he rubbed his eyes out.11 "This boy is out to get me, why does he always do that?"4 Maryam laughed. "You were told to expect that, M.K. You get what you give."1 Mubarak groaned. "Since when should my sleep be disrupted?"6 "You should wake up then, no more sleep for you." "Ya Rabbi. He is going to pinch me bald!"5 Maryam laughed and began to move but Mubarak's hand caught hers. "It's a late morning today."4 "Yeah, for you. I have to feed this little glutton you created before he brings down the house on us."8 "But I want you here." He almost sounded like Muhammad, whining like that. Maryam laughed. "Come on M.K. You've been allocated three times a day, after that they are not responsible for anything they do. So let me..."6 "We need to put in a lock then and keep him away." He poked Muhammad's chest and Muhammad poked him back making a face as if mimicking his father. They burst into laughter.8 "Be my guest," She said, slipping on her dressing gown. She took Muhammad with her. "Maama, Paapi is no come?" Muhammad said, he spoke fast, just like his father. The only difference was the depth and timbre of Mubarak's voice against his cheery child-voice and the toothy way Muhammad thrusted his tougue between his teeth when he said some letters like S and Z.2 "Yes, Paapi is not coming." She answered, hauling him up in her arms, he decided he wanted to climb her neck instead, Maryam protested with a yelp.2 "You two shouldn't hurt my baby in there!" Mubarak called out. With them out of the bed, it suddenly felt too cold and too big for him. But he was too exhausted to care. He closed his eyes again.11 That was when his words echoed in his head and he realized the implications of them.4 Subhanallah! He was out of the door in record time, not realizing when his fatigue left him and his hazy mind. When he stopped at the foot of the staircase, Mubarak's eyes rounded with horror.4 Muhammad looked up at him his eyes wide with panic too, he cried and pointed at Maryam who was crouched down on her knees. "Maama!" He said.11 Mubarak sprinted out of his trance and slid next to his wife, meeting her with two strong arms to hold her up. "Shaaden!" He tipped her jaw up to look at her face. "Is it time?" He asked, breathless.9 Maryam made a grunting noise that twisted his insides. "Okay, alright. Uh... Muhammad, stay here with Maama, I'll be right back."4 He fled upstairs and grabbed his phone and a covering for her. He brought out her hospital bag and a bag for Muhammad, changed his PJs for a creme thobe and trousers. Then came down and helped her into the car. He belted Muhammad in his car seat and drove to the hospital.6 Once at the hospital, Mubarak turned to Maryam and held her face between his palms, "I didn't mean it that way. You know that, right?" Maryam gritted a shrill and nodded in understanding. At least he hoped she did. He had to put that out of the way, he didn't want her mind split in a thousand different ways when she was going through this. That was when it all dawned on him.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Oh my God! It's happening again! He called Hajiya Kulthum to get Muhammad, telling her that Maryam was in labour.8 Mubarak wiped his face down, for once taking in a deep breath. He hoisted Muhammad up and returned to the corridor, pacing between the delivery room and the waiting lounge.2 He felt like barging in there to see what was happening. But he couldn't go in because he had to stay with Muhammad until Hajiya Kulthum arrived.2 He remembered Muhammad's delivery, three years ago. The rush, the anxiety and uncertainty all rushed back to him. He remembered her pain when she lost the twins. He knew her labour was medium paced but gruesome. He chanted all the du'as that came to him as they waited, minutes stretching into unbearable hours. Hajiya Kulthum and Salis arrived in time. They all took turns in Muhammad-duty. Maryam was right, that boy was a whole army in one little unsuspecting creature.13 He wouldn't miss this one for the world. He needed to be next to Maryam, hold her hand and feel it with her as she went through the birthing of their child.3 A look of understanding and pride passed between him and Hajiya Kulthum, and once she had Muhammad with her, Mubarak dashed to the delivery unit.2 *** "Alhamdulillah, it's a girl."55 Mubarak grinned, he didn't think he would ever tire of saying those words to their loved ones. He may have to have a word with Maryam, because he just had a feeling he would need to book another place in her uterus, it felt that good to deliver the news.55 Almost an hour went by before the rest could meet the baby. "She is so beautiful. Maa sha Allah." Wafiyya whispered as she brushed a gentle hand over the baby's soft tresses. "Look at her sleek brows and sideburns, the girl's taken after Ya Mimie."6 Mubarak glared at Wafiyya. "You need a pair of prescription glasses. See your head like Ya Mimie, this girl is completely me."34 The whole room broke into laughter. Joy permeated the atmosphere. As everyone took turns holding the new baby, most of their neighbours and friends came to visit at the hospital. Hajiya Rukayya came with Sakeenah too just in time as Kamaal was leaving.6 Maryam suspected they had set up an appointed time so they could meet each other here.2 She nudged Sakeenah's arm once the rest were occupied with the baby. "Hey, when are you guys fixing things up?"7 "What?" "K.R. looks like he is going to steal you and head east with you."6 Sakeenah covered her face with her hands. "Umm Muhammad!" "Seriously, did you see that?!"5 "Alright, Abba finally said yes, we are thinking four months from now."6 "Really?! Maa sha Allah, that's incredible news. I'm so happy for you. Congrats." Sakeenah looked over her shoulder discreetly. "Shhh, Maami will hear you." "Oh!" Maryam covered her mouth with a hand, hiding her laughter. "What are you two whispering about?" Hajiya Ruqayya asked. With her small frame, she didn't seem to age at all. She always looked the same in her fine clothes. No wonder she was friends with Hajiya Kulthum who had an equal taste in style and fashion. Sakeenah cleared her voice. "Uh... nothing Maami."2 *** Maryam had rested well after their discharge from the hospital the next day. Mubarak took care of her every need and Wafiyya was there to help with Muhammad and the rest of the chores as Maryam recovered.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  She had received calls after calls from family and friends alike when the news of her delivery broke. When she asked Mubarak about his decision to name the baby he went quiet, he told her he wanted to think about it.4 She had suggested Hajiya Kulthum's name. What woman wouldn't be so grateful if her daughter took after her aunt in every aspect? She wasn't perfect but she had a way with life that always left Maryam in awe. She wore life like it was a second skin yet she kept it away, cautious of it like it was a deadly disease. She found a balance that worked for her.8 But Mubarak had not affirmed that suggestion too. So that morning when he held the baby in his hands staring at her to see any feature of hers that resembled his- he insisted she was his spitting image. Maryam tried again, "I know you've said the khutbah, Ya Mubarak," she pouted. Mubarak smiled down on the chubby beauty bundled in his arms. His thumb caressed her supple rosy cheeks.4 "How do you feel about the name Nabeela?" His eyes were still brightened by his smile.84 Maryam went still as her heart screeched to a halt in her chest. "Are you intent on stopping my heart?" She asked.14 "No, just the opposite, actually. I want to give you life. The whole of it." He turned to face her completely.8 "Uh... Nabeelah... that is huge. That. Is. Whole."9 The sides of his eyes crinkled with his smile. "Yes, it is. But if you are not comfortable with that... we can always change..."2 "No." She interjected, "Nabeelah is fine. It's perfect. Thank you." She said, finding his hand to hold beneath their daughter's little body. He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze.6 "No, thank you, dear Mairo. For completing me, for accepting me and giving me this lovely gift."6 "You can always pay with a gift of your own, you know." She wiggled her brows at him.10 "Gold digger." He muttered, playfully.16 She held her grin in place. "Nope, I prefer being called an opportunist."5 Mubarak chuckled. "Mafia king sounds like an angel right now, I don't trust that grin on your face, Shaaden. Out with it."2 "I want to go home." She blurted. She had been toying with the idea for a very long time, each time she thought of it something happened. First the miscarriage, then Sa'imah's divorce, then this pregnancy and now delivery. But despite all that she always felt that Mubarak was holding back about her going home.11 This time, if she would have to fight her way through it she would. She missed Katsina to the depth of her core. She missed Hajiya Daada and everyone there. So when she saw the difiant glint Mubarak's eyes had taken and the stubborn set of his jaw, she knew she had a fight ahead.7 "You are kidding, right?" "No, I'm not. I don't mean right away, maybe in a couple of months when we are both fit to travel. Please don't say no, because even if you do I intend to put up a fight, it's been ages since I..." "That's what you want?" Maryam was knocked out of her breath when he responded immediately, she nodded vigorously as if, if she did it any other way he wouldn't see how serious she was. "Yes, Daada will eat me alive if she spends another year without seeing my kids." Mubarak smiled. "Oh, that. She has a phobia for flying that has been the only thing that has kept her away." Maryam laughed. "Yes, and it's been forever since we visited." "Alright, you have a point there. And you got it."6 Her eyes rounded in disbelief. "What?" That furiously enchanting half smile graced his lips again and Maryam could swear the man was getting more handsome by the day. "I said you got your wish, Mrs. manipulator."22 She batted her eye lashes. "Thank you, partner-in-crime." He shook his head and kissed Nabeelah on her forehead, "She's a beauty. Just like her mother."6 "Aww so adorable. Glad to see you are growing M.K, accepting defeat already? Now you see the resemblance?"15 "Nope. Soon, she'll turn around and be my replica. The fruits of patience pay, Darling. It's the sweetest. Just watch us."8 Muhammad came into the room running after a faint knock and a salam in the middle of the room. He stopped to catch his breath. "She is here!" He shouted back at the open door. Mubarak and Maryam exchanged a curious look at each other then returned to Muhammad, "Who is here?"2 "My new sister. Mamafi said they took her away."17 Now they rumbled with laughter. "No one has taken your new sister Muhammad. Come meet her. Do you want to know her name?" "She is a new sister."2 "Yes, she is. But her name is Nabeelah."2 "Nalah?"8 "Nabeelah." "Okay." He said with resignation. He touched her forehead tentatively as if seeking permission to go ahead. Maryam nodded at him. He smiled and withdrew his hand with a start when Nabeelah's hair touched his palm.4 "It's okay," Mubarak said, sitting him next to him he placed Nabeelah on Muhammad's arms so that it looked like he had held her on his own. His lips rounded into an 'O'.2 "She iss crushing me!" He yelled. They all laughed, Mubarak placed her back into her cot next to Maryam.10 "Alright, let's get out of here and let Maama have some rest. Maryam watched their retreating backs. A string pulling in her heart when she saw the growing similarities between the father and son, even the way they walked was similar. She sighed and smoothed a hand over Nabeelah's head.2 "Welcome back, Ya Beelah. May Allah bless you with a prosperous life."53 *** A sweet little chapter to close the week. 16 Well, we all know what happens after sweet chapters. 🙊Boom! 💥42 Come along with your Cuppas, mats, popcorns and handkerchief- no, it's not for the tears, its for the drool. 37 Coz our jaws will soon hit the floor!!!💥🌪37 Hihihihih🤣 ABUJA, NIGERIA. APRIL, 2015 "Why are you not on the flight to London Mubarak?"2 "Baba, I think he meant what he said about staying in Abuja." "You mean we should just sit back and watch him do as he pleases because he has no direction and no elders to advise him? That girl is suffering!"2 Mubarak lowered his head, from lack of words. They had been on this for the past two days, Alhaji Umar had insisted they took Naja'ah back to London for her treatment while Bilaal stood adamant saying he believed she would get better in the hospital she was at the moment, in Abuja.9 Mubarak knew Naja'ah was in turmoil, in this battle he would like to remind his father and brother that it was not about them and their egos anymore. But that would be like killing a bush fire with an IV-fluid, hence he had tasked himself to visit the hospital and see for himself.7 This trip was tasking on him, on one hand, once he mentioned that he was going to Nigeria, Maryam came trotting with her bags, he hadn't refused to let her come because he had mentioned taking her home, but there was no way he was letting her meet her mother anytime soon.45 On the other hand, he had spoken with Naja'ah's doctors the previous day, and they assured him they had specialists that were on her case, so now he got the right response for his father when he demanded a meeting. "He is just too stubborn for his own good." Alhaji Umar repeated.10 "Baba, she is his daughter."8 That single statement from Mubarak seemed to have stolen the fight out of Alhaji Umar Bugaje. He let out a sigh. "Alright if you all insist."5 He stormed out of the room, despite his apparent surrender, Mubarak knew Baba would be the first person to call and visit before and after the surgery to learn of Naja'ah's condition.9 Seeing how Alhaji Umar reacted only reminded Mubarak how his father was the root cause of all the problems in the first place.5 Three years ago, after the divorce, he remembered being livid about the actions Bilaal had taken against Sa'ima. When Bilaal went to apologize to Hajiya Kulthum, Mubarak had found him in his former bedroom in the mansion. He had wanted to smash his face in for causing Hajiya yet another pain. But what he uncovered then weakened his resolve.2 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  He remembered vividly how he found Bilaal crumbled to his knees.2 Mubarak had swung the door open when he learned that Bilaal was in the house. "What are you doing here now? You can't cause Hajiya yet more pain." Bilaal's head had whipped up, his eyes filled with sorrow. "Ya Mubarak, please. I'm here to make amends of the things I can salvage, I hope you'll give me that hand like you always do. I wish I can get it all back. But..."4 Mubarak's head reeled with those words even though his heart truly wanted to reach out to his brother. "Oh spare us all that, you know what you did, and you let it all slip away from you. Now she's gone. You better have one heck of a plan to get her back and make her stay." "Gone?" "Yeah, Hajiya had taken her back to Nigeria, they are not here anymore, you can go back to your cosy little hole. If your conscience is so bad that you can't even be here when you've caused all the chaos," Bilaal had his hand covering his ears as if that would shut out the truth. But Mubarak had continued, "I don't know what you're doing here. Are you here to finish them too? Hajiya has cried, Bilaal, for several nights, now you think you're going to charm your way back? I'm so disapp..."6 "Arghh! Subhanallah! I had the dream again, okay!!!" Bilaal bellowed, making Mubarak's hand drop to his side, his eyes rounded with shock. "I had the dream again!" Bilaal held his face in his palms and sank on the couch next to him, sobbing hard.18 It had taken Mubarak almost a minute to get his bearings back. He knew exactly what dreams his brother was talking about. Those in which he got violent in them. Just like he did when they were teenagers... Ya Rabbi!7 Mubarak sat across the couch on the coffee table and held Bilaal's gaze. "What if... I couldn't keep her after that you know it. Subhanallah, do you think I would do anything like that for a pass time? Do you think I would ever want to see the tears in her eyes? What I did was like stabbing myself, do you think I enjoyed doing that? I've tried to make her ready for this, but I was never ready, I'm still not ready. You know what would have happened, Ya Mubarak, I would never have forgiven myself, had she seen me that way. And my daughter? That little girl what would I have told her? I'm done, I'm reduced to nothing, I have nothing to hold on to... I'm still there, after all these years, I'm still there."9 Mubarak had swiftly enveloped him in a hug. Patting his back firmly, "Idiot, stupid coconut head, why didn't you say that? Why did you keep this to yourself? Why did you..." Mubarak released his hold on him and shoved him on his chest.16 "I thought I had it under control, okay? Now everyone hates me, she hates me, Hajiya hates me too. Even he is mad at me! And I can't even explain why I made her go through that, I can't even face her now, I've messed up everything."8 Mubarak had taken the back of Bilaal's neck in a firm grip trying to make him focus on him. "You've done nothing wrong, you see? You're alright, you've done nothing wrong." "I'm really scared." "I know, but nothing will happen to you, okay? All we need to do is to meet someone. You need to get some help. You can't put it under the carpet each time it surfaces, you need help Bilaal, you have to do this for Sa'ima, she deserves this much from you."3 "Don't let Hajiya know about this please, you know how it will affect her." Bilaal wiped his face with the back of his arm.2 The scowl on Mubarak's face deepened. "Done. But we need to get you that help, now." STORY CONTINUES BELOW  When Mubarak looked up, he spotted Salis at the door, his hands tucked into his pockets, and the moment their eyes met, he rushed into the room and fell on his knees taking Bilaal into a hug.12 "I'm sorry Ya Bilaal, I'm sorry for ever misunderstanding your intentions. But we will always be with you. Just, know that we are here and stop bottling this up. What if you've told her and she still wanted to stay?"8 "I wouldn't want her to stay when I'm like this."3 "We are here!" Salis repeated. Bilaal nodded. And Mubarak was the one to break the bear hug.5 "Alright, I have to get back home now, Muhammad will be up waiting for me. You Bilaal, I'm seeing you first thing in the morning in sha Allah. And by the way, keeping a beard is good, just keep it neat." He said, taking a look at Bilaal's dishevelled state.4 Bilaal's eyes were still hooded, and Mubarak didn't think there was any humour that would cheer his brother up then.2 Now that they were here three years later, Mubarak hoped to Allah that they would mend whatever was broken between them.8 Bilaal and Baba.8 Bilaal and Sa'ima. 11 Mubarak prayed that Naja'ah got well soon. So that she would return to a home she truly deserved. He let out a long sigh.2 Tomorrow would be a long day.2 *** It had struck midnight, but Maryam was still on her feet packing their bags. It was an abrupt call, after spending the whole day at the hospital following Naja'ah's critical condition, she looked forward to resting her feet before she took on the next day. But Mubarak got a call, and he had to return to London. When she asked him to delegate someone to carry out the task, he told her he alone had the clearance to do the job. But when Maryam was packing her bags after she was done with the kids', Mubarak's bag caught her eyes in the closet.2 He had insisted she needed rest the day they'd arrived, which was three days ago. After that, it was chaos when Naja'ah went into crises, Maryam hadn't remembered to unpack the bag. It turned out, Mubarak hadn't unpacked since they arrived. As if he knew he would leave sooner rather than later.8 What was this job that someone else couldn't complete? He had several people in his team and according to him more than a dozen representatives spread over the world.6 Her breath hitched in her throat when Mubarak strode into the room to complete his nightly routine, ready to turn in. His eyes were dark with exhaustion she wondered if he was biting more than he could chew. Or if it was something else gnawing at him.2 As much as it pained her to endure and be patient about this, she didn't suggest for him to leave her and the kids behind. She silently packed their bags and said her goodbyes. Because if he'd wanted her to stay, he would've given her that option.6 His actions had stung her deeper than she cared to admit. She had already reached Abuja, what would it cost him to let them go to Katsina? When the realization hit her, her eyes went wide and her heart lurched in her chest.4 "Ya Mubarak, tell me, is there something I should know about this shield you have put up? Why don't you want me to go to Katsina? I find all these excuses odd. It is all about that, right?"6 Mubarak dropped the duvet cover he had been fluffing and sighed. He shook his head in resignation and looked her square in the eyes. "No Shaaden, there is nothing you should know, and there is no such thing as a shield either. Why would you think there is?" His eyes sobered up, softening in an instant. As if from relief.8 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Maryam had studied him for a while trying to see the hole in his speech but found none. Yet something didn't feel right.4 What are you hiding from me Mubarak Bugaje?19 But the thought of Naja'ah lying there at the hospital eclipsed her doubt, they needed to be there for Bilaal and Sa'imah. She always prayed to Allah to ease their sufferings. Naja'ah falling ill was a great test to them all. She blinked her eyes and responded to his enquiry. "Nothing. Goodnight." She said, her voice a whisper. She changed Nabeela's diaper and willed herself not to think about Mubarak's hidden motives.11 *** TWO WEEKS LATER LONDON, ENGLAND After their abrupt return to London, Maryam kept up with Naja'ah's health over the phone, the little girl got them all worried. Mubarak, on the other hand, kept up with his cover, he took a considerable amount of time away 'working' perhaps for her benefit. What good would it do, after all, if he didn't bury himself in his supposed 'highly-classified job'?4 He had asked her to give him at least a month to clear his schedule before they returned to Abuja as he promised her he had a piece of really good news to share.18 *** "Maama pleasse I'll be a good boy, just number one on my finger, pleasse. I promisse to eat all my food, I won't trouble you again. I'll say I love you and Nalah. Honest promisse Maama."26 Maryam shook her head and laughed. There was no winning with Muhammad he always knew where to target to get what he wanted. Just like his father.4 "Alright, wait for me. No throwing tantrums and don't ride your bike on the rug."2 He pumped his chubby fist into the air and danced, now ecstatic that he would finally get his bike. Maryam washed her hands in the kitchen sink and dry up with a red checkered kitchen towel hanging from its hook. And together they went to the basement to get the bike. It wasn't difficult finding the bike which was hanging on the wall where Mubarak had installed bike holders for him and Muhammad. Everything was kept in a neat array in the basement. Every year Mubarak upgraded his garage. Maryam used to tease him telling him how obsessed he was with the space. Turned out, it irked him to see a tool misplaced into the wrong toolbox or basket.16 Muhammad jumped when he spotted his little blue bike, the trainers' wheels were still attached to the thing, and he couldn't wait to learn properly so that they would be removed and he could ride like all the grown kids in the neighbourhood.2 Maryam grabbed the black pole lying beside the rack and lifted the bike off the hook. Muhammad pushed the end of the pole in his haste to get to the bike. Maryam gasped when the pointed tip smacked the items on the topmost slab right next to the hooks. Two boxes fell from their positions on top of the shelf. She let out a frustrated sigh now she had to rearrange them! How on earth would she start climbing a ladder? She would just keep them aside, when Mubarak came home, he would do the climbing.16 "Muhammad, you see what you made Maama do?" "Sorry, I'll help you."8 Maryam turned to the mess she had created, she took the lid of the first box off the floor and scrambled around for the contents of the box. There were a faded blue letter-sized envelope, a prescription bottle and a card, it looked hand-made. She grabbed the white shoebox wondering why Mubarak had not kept these in his files. He had a folder dedicated for miscellaneous stuff in their study. He also kept his old notes and greeting cards there. She had no idea where these came from. The last time she cleaned the garage, she had not reached the top shelf it must be tucked up there behind the big box. She turned the prescription bottle and smoothed a finger over the white label. It looked faded.17 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  She placed it back in the box and did the same with the card and the envelope. But the writing behind the envelope drew her eyes to the lettering. She knew this handwriting.11 She took the envelope again and looked closely, where did she... she gasped.2 Maryam knew that handwriting because she had seen it every day for the past eleven years at the back of her journal, there was a little inscription, a paragraph; where written in the same handwriting was, "If found, please return to the owner. You'll know when you see her. She is crazy."40 She released the box so fast as if it burnt a hole in her palm.2 "Maama are you alright? Did you hurt your hand?" Muhammad asked.2 Maryam turned to him and gave him a tight-lipped smile. "Manga, go on. Go ride your bike I'll be out in a minute."2 It took all of her control to wait until Muhammad was out of sight before she sunk to her knees. She scrambled through the items and squinted well until she could read the letterings on the old faded bottle. Her hands trembled as she tore open the envelope forgetting all about the ethics of human relations where it was strictly forbidden to spy on that which was hidden. She only had one goal in mind, to figure out the connection between all the items in this box. The card!8 She read the card and right there was the criterion she needed for her distinction. Her head throbbed under the weight of her discovery.4 How... just how could she be so caught up in her dream-land she couldn't see what was right in front of her? How long had Mubarak been fooling her?32 For the second time today, Maryam found out that when pain was too profound, one lost the ability of crying, she wished she could weep out the betrayal, perhaps she could bear it all.13 Her legs carried her in a slow procession along with her confusion.2 She sat on the dining room table her eyes fixed on the box. The letter lay flat at the bottom of the box, she didn't dare look past it afraid of what she would find within. Now she knew the connection, this must be his secret cache of lies. The lies he had told her all these years, the truths he had hidden from her. And inevitably, the end of them.31 *** Maryam felt the room spinning, she blinked her eyes several times to bring herself back to the real world. But the enormity of her discovery had left her numb.2 She had no idea how long she sat slumped and curled up on the living room sofa.2 After she had found the box, she had sat on the dining table until Nabeelah and Muhammad complained of hunger, so she fed them and put Nabeelah to sleep then kept the white box in her closet. The only blemish to her perfect grey marble closet island. Muhammad had slept too following his exhaustion from his bike riding.5 The white box!2 When she heard the unmistakable turn of the key at the main door, she startled with a jolt but didn't walk to the door to receive Mubarak like she always did.2 She didn't know how to do that, she didn't know how she was still breathing. She heard his salaam but her lips were frozen with numbness.6 What would she tell him? Should she just scream her head off? What would Maryam Muhammad Maigoro do in her situation? She watched him walk towards her in slow motion like actors did in movies.5 The sofa dipped beside her, she felt his warm, soft hands on her face. She had always teased him saying he had ladies' palms. He had denied that saying his hands were callused and very masculine. Right now they felt like rubber because they did not affect her. She had blocked all the electricity that flowed within her bloodstream at the mere sight of her husband. His touch was so repulsive she felt like throwing up. STORY CONTINUES BELOW  This man sitting next to her, she didn't know who he was. She...10 "Shaaden, you have to talk to me. What is wrong with you?" The smile on his face was now gone. He was smiling when he walked in, wasn't he?6 He shook her and she was grateful he did, she thought she was gone. But his touch had brought her back to reality.2 "Uh..." Her throat felt parched. She tried again. "Sorry, I just woke up." Sorry? Really, she was the one now saying sorry? What had she done to herself? Dr Fransesca always told her to own up to her personality, to feel worthy and stop belittling herself. She was saying sorry for not committing an offence. But she was truly sorry she didn't see right through him over the years. Eight good years that was how long it took to see the man behind the mask.4 Memories flooded her mind as she watched him take a sigh of relief and slump next to her, she tried to dissect each of those memories. They both lied to her each time they looked at her and left her unassuming, they lied to her each time they pretended not to know, they both lied to her and tricked her into their little cover-up act. This was the height of deceit!11 As much as she hated to admit defeat, her mother was at least right about one thing. They are all the same!10 The weight she felt on her thighs snapped her back to the present, she looked down to see Mubarak's head propped on her lap, if it were her M.K she wouldn't hesitate to give him his head massage.3 His lips were moving, when she listened carefully, he was telling her about his day at work. About his lunch with Bilaal and how everyone was shocked when Bilaal went to see him at the office.4 "I had to trick him and tell him Baba was not in for the day before he agreed to come with me, imagine his shock when the first person he met at the lift was Baba!"6 Yeah, she could imagine that alright, especially the tricking part, he was the trick master, after all. How many times had he practised his skills on her?2 When she didn't chip into his conversation, Mubarak tipped his head up and a deep scowl appeared on his forehead.2 Ah! finally! At least he wasn't pretending about being a perceptive person, he knew her moods alright. He had to know her well to play her this well.3 "Shaaden..." He turned to face her, burying his face in her abdomen, he snaked his hand around her waist. "Sorry, but I need to go, Nabeelah is awake." She spewed the words.6 Mubarak let out a short groan and rose from her lap. She plastered a smile on her face and began to rise, only to come back to him by just a little pull of his hand.2 Maryam cringed from the effect of his touch. Those hands...2 He nuzzled her neck and took a whiff of her perfume. When she deflected from his touch, he spoke.2 "You can't tell me nothing is wrong and act this way. You've been off since I walked through that door. Now, tell me what is it and I can let you up."2 "Nabeelah..."1 "Shaaden..." Something snapped inside her, and for him to use that word on her after what she had just seen twisted her guts. Did he use his boyish charms on her too? Did he look at her like she was the rest of his life? Did he call out her name giving every letter its due the way he said her name? That was all by the way, did he really think she was so dumb? God! He must think she was the biggest fool in the whole wide world for her not to figure this out after eight years!25 STORY CONTINUES BELOW  Her heart churned with the hurt of his lies, the weight of his deceit plunged her to her knees.6 "Can you please leave?" She said in a calm voice that surprised her.14 Mubarak narrowed his eyes at her, his forehead pinched at the centre. "Excuse me?"4 She gulped in some air and let it out gently as if it were something fragile. "Do you remember when I told you that IF something happens you will do the leaving?"47 If there was any possibility for him to look more confused and sidetracked Mubarak was looking it now.2 "Well, it is time now, Ya Mubarak. Do me a favour please and leave."6 His jaw went slack. Then he let out a short laugh. Her brows furrowed. Why was he laughing, did someone say a joke she missed?2 "I mean it. I'm going to go and get Nabeelah now, you can take the things you need before then."6 "Wait, you're serious? Shaaden what would... At least tell me what is wrong. You can't shut me out and expect me to know what I did wrong."4 "Funny how the rules always change when it comes to you! It's okay when you become sensitive enough and figure out what you did so wrong for me to ask you to leave your own house, then you can come home and we will have a chat." She wrapped her arms around herself so tightly, grounding herself to the spot so she wouldn't go at his eyes. She had a sudden urge to gorge them out. But she held on tighter, digging in her slender fingers into the flesh of her arms.7 Nabeelah's cries drew her attention to the guest room where she had laid her down. "Now, if you'll excuse me." "Heck no! I'm not moving from this place until you tell me what the heck is going on, Shaaden."2 She raised a brow at him, silently daring him.4 "A promise is a promise. And right now you're the last person I wish to see, so if you prefer we leave the house for you..." She shrugged. "It is all well. The choice is yours." She skirted around him and went into the guest room. There, she lifted Nabeelah and patted her back in soothing circles. When she turned around, she could see straight into the living room and Mubarak stood right where she left him his eyes fixed on her. She had never seen a man look so out of his element as he did then.13 He deserved an Oscar for his performance.8 Maryam closed the door shut putting a barrier in between them, if that was what she could afford at the moment, then so be it.2 *** Mubarak unglued himself from the spot Maryam had left him standing, he had never seen her look this cold. Even when he said things about her and Ja'afar, even when she left for the farmhouse. She had never looked at him like he was her worst mistake. Her very nightmare. There was something he couldn't pinpoint in her gaze, but that thing nicked him most. It was as if she was disgusted by him.6 That thing he saw in her eyes broke him to pieces, yet he had no idea what would make her act in such a way. Was it because he refused to let her go to Katsina? But she was okay with that decision once they were back. What would make her so detached in such a short period?6 He had received her text message four hours ago at the office. What could freeze Maryam within four short hours and make her take this ultimate step?2 Yes, he remembered how she always emphasized that if something went wrong, he would leave until it was resolved and she decided to have him back. So far nothing had made her use that against him until today.2 So, what happened today?12 Did she receive a call from her mother? That was the only thing he could think of. But even Hajiya Aisha could not rile up Maryam this much. He swiped a hand down his face and let out a series of breath. His throat felt parched. His hand went around the muscle at his nape and he rubbed out a knot that formed.2 He went upstairs to change out of his work clothes but couldn't find the strength to lift his arms.2 Mubarak dropped his blazer on the chaise lounge and lay on his back sprawled on his massive bed that felt strangely uncomfortable for his liking.2 By Allah, he couldn't think of anything to derive such a reaction from Maryam, so he decided he wouldn't go through this torment.2 He wasn't going anywhere until she told him what the heck was wrong with her!16 ***

0/Post a Comment/Comments

Recent Posts