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Chapter 1

With abashed steps, she walked into the living room, already grunting before her mother started ranting. Ummah examined her from head to toe before she scoffed as she shook her head in disbelief. What sort of stubborn child does she have? Among her four daughters, Hidayah was the only one giving her a tough time. And she always questioned herself for making Hidayah her favourite child at the same time treating them with equal love.

Hidayah pretended as if no one was in the living room and started walking towards the stairs. ‘Hidayah come back here!” Ummah instructed her. Hidayah hesitated before she halted and slowly turned to look at Ummah. ‘I called your friend, Yasmeen and she told me you guys were done with your exams for the day since 12 noon. Now look at the time.”

Hidayah swallowed the anger and heaved a sigh. She needn’t to be on her mother’s bad side that night. At least for the sake of Adam and the party they were going to attend tonight. ‘Something came up and I had to stay in school and tackle it.” Without waiting to hear more of her mother’s rants, she walks off to her room.

Ummah looked at her retreating back and shook her head. She believed it was a trial and she would surely pass it.

Hidayah entered her room, closing the door behind her. She rested her back on the door as she rustled on how to sneak out tonight. She could never afford to let her boyfriend down. Her boyfriend, she mused to herself, smiling. The thought of her boyfriend, Adam made her head over heals.

She smiled again, her smile was one of happiness growing. Much as a spring flower opens. It showed how it came from deep inside to light her eyes and spread into every part of her.

When she sees him, it’s as if space and time become the finest point imaginable, as if time collapses into one tiny speck and explodes at light speed. It’s as if her universe begins and ends with him. She could run forever, search forever, but in the end, every path leads right back to his heart and soul. She loves him, wholeheartedly. And she can’t see any human being breaking them apart. Not even her family.

With the smile still lingering on her face, she walks further into her room and dropped her bag on the bed.

After she had prayed Isha, she laid on her bed, eyes glued to the ceiling as many thoughts misled in her mind. Most were about Adam and how obsessed she was with him.

Two hours later, she received the phone call she has been waiting for, almost thinking he wouldn’t call. She ended the call, the smile never left her face. Getting off her bed, she sauntered into her closet. She rummaged through, picking the perfect dress that’d fit for the party.

She laid the dress on her bed before heading to the bathroom to have a quick bubble bath. Soaking in that heated water, feeling it hug every inch of her skin so gently, breathing in the aroma of the bubble bath. It was her heaven… her mini vacation, a place she breathes deeply and let her inner peace return.

After her bath, she moved to her dressing mirror to pamper her skin, mostly her face before getting dressed. The dress sits upon her skin as soft petals it’s hue the many pink of a rose garden. She does a little twirl, admiring the figure shown in the mirror. No doubt hidayah was a beautiful girl and could proudly say that herself.

A call came through but she ignored it, rolling her eyes as she mused curses at the person buzzing her. She finished getting ready and rolled a head tie around her head. Another call came through but this time, she beamed. She picked up the call and spoke to the person. ‘Yes babe, I know. I’ll be out in a minute.”

She quickly grabbed her purse and headed to the door. Peeping through the corridors, she tiptoed out of her room, gently closing the door. Steadily she began to approach the stairs. She stood by the stairs, listening. She heard the voices down stairs. Perhaps her siblings were downstairs. She listened intently. Voices were downstairs only. She quietly walked down the stairs to the kitchen.

‘You’re sneaking out…. again?” A mellifluous, yet irritating voice halted her from her mission. Hidayah turned, slowly. ‘Nafisa….” She lets out a nervous chuckle. ‘Where are you going by this time of the night? Have you seen the time?” Nafisa pointed at the clock glued to the kitchen wall. Hidayah looked at the time, it was past 10pm.

‘Uhh… yes I know. But please, just do me this one favour and don’t tell Ummah I sneaked out, okay? Please just this one favour. And I promise you, I will be safe. Please sweet sis.” Hidayah’s hands on her sister’s shoulder as she eagerly waited to hear what she had to say. Nafisa hesitated before nodding her head gently. ‘Just don’t stay out late, okay?”

Hidayah nods her head before she gave Nafisa a quick hug and rushes out. Nafisa stared at her elder sister till she closed the door. Heaving a sigh, the feeling came back again. That sadness she feels whenever she looked at hidayah. Why was she different from the three of them? Why does she had to be this way? Disobedient and a little bit rough. She felt sorry for her sister, sorry for her because she was lost in this sham world.

Praying for her sister’s safety, she saunters out of the kitchen.

Hidayah picked up her pace, praying the abrasive individual called gateman wouldn’t be there. ‘Please hajiya hidayah just go back, I am begging you, else I’ll call madam and tell her you’re sneaking out again.” He stood by the gate, firmly holding the door with no way for her to pass. ‘Garba, Garba! I am warning you, stop sticking your nose in my affairs. By Allah I’ll be the reason why you lose your job if you don’t stay out of my life.” She attempted to walk out but he blocked her path, making her to step back, grunting.

‘Of course you’ll be the reason why I lose my job if you don’t stop sneaking out in the night when I’m supposed to stop you.”

Hidayah groaned, stomping her feet on the interlocked ground. ‘Look, Garba! If you don’t get out of my sight, I will make sure you don’t eat in this house for two good weeks. Just try me and….” Her phone interrupted her from completing her sentence. ‘Babe, I’m so sorry. I’ll be out in a minute. This annoying gateman is here wasting my time.”

She ended the call as the anger boils up. She marches towards him and he had no other choice but to shift aside before she tries something crazy to him.

She hurried walked to Adam’s car. She hopped into the car and faced the annoyed man beside her. ‘What sort of nonsense it this, hidayah? You knew how much I hate waiting yet you chose to violate my rules. You think you’re worth wasting my time… or you can keep me waiting as if I’m one of your cheap boyfriends…”

‘I’m sorry.” She cuts in, smiling through the pain. She was hurt, yet she loved the man that uttered the hurtful words to her. ‘Can we go now?” She asked, looking at somewhere else but his face. How could she forget about this ugly side of him?

She gave to him freely from a sense of deep love, yet he assumes he had taken it from dominance. She sees their relationship as cooperation, yet he sees manipulation instead of helping words, as if they were in some bizarre live game of chess. It broke her heart to realize that he sees a Cold War instead of sweet love, for it was all in his head, a paranoia. Yet, she loved him, always.

The car came to a halt, bringing her back from her reverie. She looked at him already stepping out of the car. She did the same and followed him into the club.

Inside the club it was like dancing on the northern lights. Beneath the dry ice smoke swirled an array blues, acid greens, hot pinks and gold. The music played over the dance floor as if had fused with the bodies. The sight of the dance floor brought a frisson of joy to her soul.

Forgetting what he did, she joined her friends at the bar to have a quick chat before heading to the dance floor. And doing what she does best. ‘Oouu, look at you…. You look so pretty! Happy birthday!” Hidayah enfolded her friend in a warm embrace. She broke the hug as she spoke. ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t bring anything for you. Adam was a little bit cranky so we couldn’t stop to get anything.” Hidayah finished speaking as she looked around to see where he was.

‘Oh, c’mon it’s okay. You being here is more than enough. Although, you have to keep an eye on your boyfriend.” She pointed at him with the champagne flute she was holding. Hidayah turned to the direction she showed her. She narrowed her eyes, walking towards him.

Not looking at the lady he was talking to, she stood before him. ‘Can we talk? In private.” She spoke, irritated, still not sparing a glance at the lady behind her.

‘What?” He grunted after she pulled him aside. ‘We are here just few minutes but you’re already chasing other girls. What is wrong with you?” She whisper-yelled. She was already angry before he responded. He rubbed the space between his eyes and sighed. ‘Look, she was my course mate back in the university. So I knew her before I knew you, and you obviously don’t have the right to tell me what to do here.” He shoved her aside but she briskly held his hand before he could walk away. He had done enough damage for the night.

‘Let’s dance.” She spoke, insisting. Despite the fact that his words pained her, she swallowed the hot ball of anger and led them to the dance floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck, closing the gap between them. He smiled, looping his hands around her waist.

Her lips find his in a tender, yearning kiss. He holds her tight against his chest, deepening the kiss into a fervent embrace. Hidayah moved away after brisk seconds and stared at him as he smiled at her. ‘This is what I wanted, and you knew but you chose to play hard to get, huh?” She chuckled softly and shook her head. Disappointed, she felt. This was the only way she could see him smiling or actually saying something positive to her.

‘No, I was just waiting for the right moment, which I finally got one.” She spoke softly and rubbed their nose together. Adam sighed, slowly lowering his hands down to her butt. She grimaced, notwithstanding the fact that she didn’t allow him to see her facial expression. Another thing she hated about Adam’s behaviour; touching her.

‘I want more, but…. not here, not this place.” He whispered in her ear and planted a kiss there.

Hidayah cleared her throat, holding his hand before he could attempt to do anything imbecilic. She shook her head side ways. ‘Why does it always have to be like this with you?” She asked softly, afraid he would get offended by her innocent question. He breathed out, already getting irked. He slowly freed himself from her body and steps out of the club. How can her harmless words get him pissed of so easily.

Without hesitation, she followed him, calling his name continuously.

‘Adam, I’m talking to you! Why do you always choose to humiliate me in front our friends? Why? What have I done to you please? Or you don’t love me anymore?” Adam halted, few inches away from his car. He then shook his head before walking to his car and unlocked it.

She watched his retreating back as he entered his car. In hurry, she walked to the door and tried to open the car. She knocked on the glass, but before she could demand for anything, he zoned out of the place, leaving her mortified.

There was a scream from deep within her that wanted to force itself out from her throat. All she felt was anger, all she felt was that she couldn’t keep up with Adam’s ridiculous attitudes. For one thing she was getting fed up with his rude behaviours but she was still obsessed with the arrogant man. She let out a deep sigh when she felt a soft grasp on her shoulder. ‘C’mon hidayah, you’re more than this. Just look at you, as beautiful as you, how can you just let this so called guy be treating you this way? Don’t you see that he’s obviously using you.”

Hidayah gave her friend a cold look, feeling as if she should punch her face for the anger to cool off. ‘And who told you he’s using me? Look, I’m not in the mood for all of this.” She shrugged her hand off her shoulder and started walking away.

Sitting by the gazebo alone, she sensed an intruder settling down beside her by the bench. She briskly wiped the tears and looked at the person. ‘Excuse me?” She spoke but he never looked at her, left alone to tell her why he was invading her privacy. Hidayah scoffed and turned her head away from him. He continued staring at the blank space before finally turning her way and examined her side view. ‘My name is Tahir and you look like you could need some company. How are you feeling in this moment?”

When her emotions hands her the sadness card, that’s when the tears came back again. This time, it was worse. Tahir observed her for a while. He saw what happened earlier through the glass window but he couldn’t tell exactly why it happened. ‘It’s okay to have a bad night,” he assured her and somehow, hidayah felt she could trust him. ‘Care to enlighten me?”

‘I don’t really know what he wants from me, I mean I do everything that he wants but he’s always boorish and ungrateful. I try my best for ‘our’ relationship to work but it seems like I’m the only one that want things work out. He tells me he loves me but he never shows it to me. I mean action speaks louder than words right?” She sniffed and furiously wiped her tears away. She felt enraged for crying over someone that left her stranded at a club.

Tahir nodded his head, eyes focused on her. She was so obsessed with the guy she was talking about, he mused to himself. And he observed speaking bad about the guy would make him break the trust she has for him. Instead, he consoled her.

‘Don’t treat failures as reasons to give up but as stepping stones that lead you to succeed.” He encouraged her. Hidayah moved her eyes away from him, reasoning. Then, she peered at him ‘So you’re saying that things might work out between me and Adam?” She asked, having her hopes high.

Tahir hesitated before shaking his head, ‘not really, but…. But if you believe he’s the one, maybe things might work out between you two.” Hidayah smiled softly and nodded her head. ‘I’m glad you understood me. Thank you.”

He smiled back, nodding his head to her. ‘Can I buy you a drink?” He offered, hoping to get a positive respond. ‘No, thank you, I don’t drink. And I have to go now.” She got to her feet before grabbing her purse that was siting on the bench. ‘Oh no I don’t mean that kind of drink. I don’t drink also, I just came here to eat at the restaurant.” He pointed at the entry inches away from the club.

Hidayah gave him a sheepish smile. ‘Well, thank you again. Good night.” She turned on her heels, having said, he stopped her. She hesitated before slowly turning to look at him. She raised her brows, waiting to hear what he has to say again. ‘It’s pretty late already, can I take you home…. Please? A pretty, young lady like you shouldn’t be stranded alone by this time fo the night.”

Knowing well he would still insist and it would be unsafe and unwise for her to start wandering around alone, she accepted his offer. Tahir smiled, almost letting out a sigh of relief. He led the way to his car.

On their way home, Tahir tried to make a conversation but hidayah seemed distant and he knew it was about her so called useless boyfriend.

The rest of the ride home was a silent one until they arrived home. She thanked him again before dropping out from the car, and ambled to the gate. Few knocks on the gate, Garba rushed out to open the door, knowing she was the one. ‘Welcome back Hajiya,” he greeted but in return, she glared at him and hissed before walking away.

He shook his head, staring at her retreating back. He peeped out to see who dropped her before he scoffed and locked the door.

Hidayah unlocked the door with her keys and gently stepped in. Not turning on the lights, she tip toed to the stairs. Taking gentle steps upstairs, the lights of the living room suddenly turns on, making her heart to sink.

She slowly turned just to lock eyes with Ummah. A very ‘furious and disappointed’ Ummah.

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