After greeting Na’ilah’s parents and some light banter we found our seats, Na’ilah sat on a chair adjacent to me but far enough that I couldn’t make conversation. It felt deliberate. It didn’t stop me from daydreaming however.
Na’ilah, she was nothing like what I was used to. Her soft voice always sounded like she had just taken a break from singing. It is so beautiful, I wouldn’t mind listening to her talk every day. Right now however she was quiet, we were both quiet. The ‘adults’ were making all the noise. I kept staring at Na’ilah hoping that she would feel me staring and look up, but she just kept looking down at her phone.
‘Two can play that game’ I thought as I brought out my own phone and proceeded to text her.
^Hey, I didn’t know you could be so shy^
I looked up to see her reaction the moment I sent the text. She furrowed her brows after a few seconds then she turned her head, her eyes meeting mine at that moment. She frowned then went back to what she was doing.
^uhmm.. ignoring someone usually works better when they don’t know you’re ignoring them^ I texted again
This time, I watched her shoulders rise up and fall in one full sighing breath.
^Not in my experience^ came the reply
^Oh my and I pegged you for the naive type, please tell me all about your oh so vast experiences^
She looked at me again and rolled her eyes
“Aww, you guys are so cute texting each other from across the room” Lailah’s voice came out of no where, so did she. It seems Na’ilah didn’t notice Lailah hanging over her shoulder either because of how startled she was when Lailah spoke.
“Is that what they’re doing?” Oh no, I can’t believe Mima caught what Lailah said “You think you can do this under the radar huh?” Mima continued giving us a knowing wink. I could see Na’ilah retreating further into her shelf, or maybe that’s because she just got accused of flirting in front of her parents.
“Why do I feel left out of whatever going on here?” Na’ilah’s mother said
“Oh it’s nothing you should worry about” Mima replied “We’re just teasing them”
“Yes nothing,” Lailah added
“Oh I see,” Na’ilah’s mother said, but she gave me a quiet look, that made me feel like she was analyzing me.
“Why don’t we go else where and give the grown ups a some space” Lailah said to both Na’ilah and I, before she turned and walked.
We both got up to follow suit, but just before I was far enough I heard Na’ilah’s mother say “It would be really nice if they were a thing” and Na’ilah’s father cleared his throat causing laughter to erupt between the women.
“Wow, your mother and Mima seem.. very.. much alike”
Na’ilah didn’t reply, she didn’t even make eye contact.
“So Samir, you’re welcome to our humble den” Lailah said with her arms wide spread the moment we got to the significantly smaller living room. “This is were all the boy gossip happens” she added with a wink.
“Boy gossip huh?” I said giving Na’ilah a look
“Oh yes, this is where we sit down with our girls and dissect every boy who does us wrong. Sadiya calls it the Cove of Exposure”
I could help but laugh, that definitely sounds like something Sadiya would come up with.
“So another round of congratulations Samir” Lailah said as I took my seat on a lemon green bean bag that was placed in front of the couch which Na’ilah sat on.
“What for?” I asked
“For being the first guy Na’ilah brought him” Lailah replied matter of factly “And she didn’t even have to sneak you in”
I slowly shifted my gaze from Lailah to Na’ilah “Wow, that really sounds like such an accomplishment. When do you think I can pop the question?” I teased
“Oooooohhh” exclaimed Lailah “Hang on let me get pop corn before shit gets real steamy”
I laughed harder than I should’ve at that. I turned around completely to face Na’ilah the moment Lailah left to ‘get popcorn’.
“Take it easy, you’ll ruin my bean bag” Na’ilah rebuked me
“This is yours?” I grabbed at it with both palms “No wonder it’s so out of place”
“How is it out of place? It fits the curtains. And it’s my favorite piece of furniture mind you”
“Yes the color does slightly fit in with the color of the curtains and the carpet even.” I said “But it looks very out of place because every thing else has a formal regal sort of appearance and then here’s chummy blubbery Mr Bean Big, right in the middle”
Na’ilah chuckled at this. “Well you might be right”
“Oh I am” I said “It’s just like how you looked so out of place among friends that day”
“What are you talking about?”
“The fair day. I told you I saw you with your friends before I approached you” I said “You were with 2 girls and some guys, Sadiya left the group to come meet us”
“Oh, that” Na’ilah said and look away
“I remember thinking,” I continued “Everybody is laughing, why isn’t she laughing.” “It wasn’t that you looked annoyed or anything, it was just as if you couldn’t even be bothered to laugh or engage in a conversation”
“Yeah well with good reason” Na’ilah replied “I was forced to go meet them, something about me not interacting enough with boys. It also didn’t help that I didn’t want to be at the fair in the first place”
“Well it was very much obvious you didn’t want to be there. But that wasn’t it, there didn’t seem to be much chemistry between you and them. Not just the guys”
“Huh, chemistry? Where does that come in place, you do know that for girls to be friends biology is all that matters right?.”
“Eh? How do you mean” I was genuinely puzzled
“If I walk into a room, the first thing I usually do is look for a fellow woman. After that I measure the ratio of guys to girls, my comfort level gets better the more the amount of girls there are. It’s that simple, we stick together.”
“Oh wow, that is so weird” I exclaimed
“It’s called survival instinct and, or safety measures” Na’ilah put it simply
I paused to take all of her in, the more I spoke with this young lady the more fascinating she became. She was so simple in her reasoning it makes you wonder why you ever thought anything was so complicated in the first place.
“So in a situation like this where it’s one girl one guy, how do you deal? Is it uncomfortable”
“Not at all” her reply came quickly “I can take care of myself.” “Besides…” she trailed off with a wicked smirk on her face “You’re in my territory , and I know where all the knives and weapons are”
I blinked for a few seconds before I bust out laughing. She really knew how to crack me up.
“It does matter that we have things in common though, since I’m sure that’s what you’re asking” she said after my laughter had died down “And you’re right, Afra and Mariya the girls you saw me with that day are not exactly my cup of tea.”
“So why are you friends?”
“Well, we do belong to the same group of friends. The same group that I told you over text?”
“Oh yes, how does that work anyway? Seven friends? Isn’t that a bit much?”
“Yeah well it works, we might be a large group but we’re all good. Awkward moments here and there when two people who don’t talk much hang out but it’s all good.” She said “Gets crazy from time to time for me but I have Amaal and Sadiya to keep me sane”
“Hm, I see” I said “So, what about the seventh girl?”
“Oh, Mami?” She paused giving me a quiet look that bordered on calculating “She’s the lone wolf of the group”
“Wow, I would’ve pegged you for the lone wolf” I remarked
“Hah, well I do love my space but I’m also good in a group. It’s a little bit of this and that for me”
“Yeah, So it seems” I said before falling silent.
“What about..” she paused
“What about what?”
“Oh it’s nothing. I just wanted to ask about you, and your relationship with your friends?”
“Oh we’re all cool. You already know Aiman, and there’s Dalke and Moh. That’s about it. Not much to say about them”
“I see. What about your folks?” The awkward way she posed the question made me realize. So that was why she had been avoiding eye contact.
“So, you’ve heard” I sighed
“Y-yes” she replied
“It’s alright, I’m good. I barely remember” I said, replying to questions I usually heard before she could ask them. “Let’s not have that kind of conversation. And I don’t want you feeling uncomfortable about how you should behave around me like most people tend to do.”
She looked at me quietly, as if contemplating what to say. I returned the look, and things were silent for a little while, before Lailah came bustling in with bowls full of popcorn, bars of chocolates and packs of juice and cups on a tray.
“You guys are bonding nicely it seems” she beamed
“And you weren’t kidding about getting popcorn” I said amidst chuckles as I turned away from Na’ilah
“Yeah well, with the kind of tension I just walked into I really need it” She said “Let’s watch a movie shall we?”
“Yes please,” Na’ilah shot up “So new ones or old ones? Lailah’s laptop is still hooked to the TV from last night”
“Eh, what new one haven’t we seen?” Lailah asked
“You guys do this daily?” I interrupted
“Well, not daily but we do it a lot” Lailah replied
“So, there’s the Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania, Den of thieves?”
“Umm, I’ve seen them all” Lailah replied
“What? When? Wato ni kika yi wa solo ko? (So you went solo on me yeah?)” Na’ilah said peeved
“Dama will I wait for you ne?” Lailah responded “Why don’t we just watch Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets. It’s classic that no one can say no to” she looked to me as she said this
“Yes definitely can’t say no to Hogwarts” I said
Na’ilah rolled her eyes as she search for it and pressed play. Why was on the laptop shot up to the extra large screen TV hanging on the wall.
She came back to sit down on the couch beside Lailah and behind me.
“Umm, Lailah why is there a fourth bowl of popcorn?”
“Oh, because Isma’il is joining us duhhh”
“Nooooo” I heard Na’ilah groan as the stereos started blasting 20th century fox theme song, drowning her out.
Last week Sunday was quite memorable. Samir was fun and so were his family. I could see where he got his cheekiness from, and also his understanding nature because his Uncle Jiji had a lot to handle with Mima but they seemed to fit each other perfectly, sort of like my own parents. I had also seen Chamber of Secrets a gajillion times but Samir brought a new perspective to it. Apparently he had read the books and there was so much we didn’t know. He was surprised I hadn’t read the books, but after I had told him they weren’t easy to come by he promised to loan me his complete collection. Only problem was they were all in his room in Zaria. So I spent the next week counting down to when I would go back to Zaria. That was a first for me, I usually much preferred home. Lailah has however refused to let it be that it was just the books, she thinks it’s because of Samir himself. I started ignoring her silly taunts after some time. Now here I was on my way to Zaria with my sister, my brother followed us as an escort of sorts, our parents were never comfortable with us traveling long distance without either of them or our brother with us for protection. They don’t trust the driver or other workers enough, and rightly so but I didn’t want it to be my brother that would tag along. Ten minutes into the ride and we had managed to piss each other off so much that I blocked my ears off with earpiece. Shawn Mendez was blasting off my ears when I dozed off and before I knew it we were already Zaria. I usually made sure not to sleep a night before I travel so I could sleep the entire trip. I loved traveling but I hated journeys, I never liked sitting in a vehicle for a long time. It was so much easier if I just close my eyes and open them to find myself at my destination.
Samir called me just as we had settled in after my brother & Mallam Aliyu had left. I informed him that we had gotten to Zaria safely and he asked if he could come pay me a visit.
“Ah, tomorrow is quite far though.” He gasped “Besides I’m not coming immediately, maybe later in the evening.”
“Madam, you’ve relaxed enough at home” he said “Besides it’s not like I’m bringing stress with me or something”
“I’m not saying you are, it’s just that…”
“Just what? Kin gani (you see) you can’t even think of a good excuse.” He said snickering “Don’t you want the Novels too?”
“Yes, I do” I sighed, I could form for him but not J.K. Rowling “But If you come we would have to stand outside fa. We don’t have common room for guests”
“Ah yes, I know you don’t have a common room. Na San yadda gidan yake ai (I know what the apartment is like)”
“Hmmm, I see” I said
“Not like that, it’s just that I have a few friends that live there”
“What did I say? I didn’t say anything”
“I know what you’re insinuating” he stated
“Oh, and what is that?” I asked trying to sound as innocently as I could
“Never mind” he said sounding defeated “So I was thinking we can go out for a drive or something”
“Umm… I don’t know, uh” I started
“Hey, it’s just a drive. I want to just hangout with you is all”
I contemplated, apart from Ashraf and Abba I had never been alone with a guy. It wasn’t something I allowed to happen often.
“Okay then” I replied, surprising myself. Why did I agree to that?
“Alright then. I can’t wait” Samir said, not being able to hide the excitement in his voice. We ended the call on that note.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry, this won’t be the first time I’d be alone with him, even though that other time it was in my house and it was only for a couple of minutes. But he has feelings for me, however it is not the first time I would be alone with a who I know has feelings for me, even though the second time with Abba it was a horrible experience. Abba a one time “friend emotional attachments” of mine for one reason or the other seemed to have deluded himself into thinking he could score with me, and one day he got the opportunity to be alone with me when I followed him to his place. I never wanted to go there, but one of numerous times where he was escorting me home after my 2-4 PM classes it started raining heavily. We had no cover so he suggested we go to his place which was a lot closer than mine. I reluctantly agreed after he badgered on and on about how I’d catch cold, and how it wasn’t safe because of how heavily it was raining. So we took the detour by his place and he offered me a towel to dry myself. The rain continued with no end in sight and at that time I was still contemplating whether I should walk in the rain or try to wait it out, when he asked me to relax and brought out his laptop for me to go through his movies. And I being the movie buff that I am forgot myself out of excitement for the numerous movies which I really wanted. The first warning sign was when he came to sit uncomfortably close to me, leaning in over my shoulder to get a glimpse of the laptop screen. I turned the screen towards him so he would see it clearly and stop leaning so close and breathing on my neck. At that moment the lights went out as the constitution in our wonderful country states it should whenever it rains (the constitution doesn’t say so, but it might as well have). It got dark at once even though it was like 5PM because of the rain and he seized that very moment to grab me around he waist, claiming he was trying to see if I was okay. I assured him I was as I pushed his arms away from me. That was the second warning and I didn’t want to wait for a third, I immediately got up and told him I was going home. He protested but I refused to answer him as I picked up my bag and almost ran out of the room without looking back. After texting me that he had acted according to rumors he had heard about me and apologizing for his behavior saying he didn’t realize I was better than they say, I blocked him all on social media platforms as well as calls and that was the end of Abba. Or so I thought, he joined the rumor mills and ‘league of boys that didn’t know how to handle rejection’. I was never going to allow myself be in that situation again. So why did I agree to go on a drive with Samir?
“Was that Samir on the phone?” Lailah asked
“Yes it was” I replied
“Aww, you guys are already having old couple banter”
“What the hell?” I exclaimed
“I swear, anybody that hears you on the phone would think you were talking to a boyfriend of ages”
“Mtssssww,” I hissed “You like to envision things. We’re just good friends”
“Yeah, good friends that are going out on a date by the sound of it”
“No way, we’re just going to go for a ride about because we can’t come and be standing in front of the hostel with all eyes on us”
“For a ride? Samir ya a car?”
“From the sound of it”
“Ah-Ahn, Sisi kin huta fa (sisi you good now). Ba ke ba trekking kuma (no more trekking about for you)”
“Oh please, I’m not you”
“Ah, So by ‘I’m not you’ you mean you won’t treat your boyfriend like I do mine?” Lailah said with eyebrows raised “That sounds like you’re admitting he’s your boyfriend”
“No he’s not. And I’m not even going to pretend to like him if I don’t like you did with Faisal”
Lailah’s face turned stone cold
“First thing first, you do like him other wise you Na’ilah Abdulmanaf will not be going out anywhere with him. Second, I did use Faisal for his car at first but you know I like him now. He’s caring and he makes me laugh and he’s there whenever I need someone to talk to. Which is more than I can say for you”
“Yeah And when he’s not there he’s busy chasing everything in a skirt and smoking the black out of pot” I snapped
Lailah rolled her eyes at me as she got up to go tie her head scarf in front of the mirror.
I hissed again and muttered under my breath as I sat on my bed, picked up my laptop, and proceeded with ‘Dear White People’ that I was watching.
“I sha didn’t hear you deny again that you like him” I heard her say but I ignored her.
When I saw her spraying perfume all over herself I had to pause what I was watching.
“Lailah, where are you going?”
“Oh me” she said after I spoke up again, pretending to be unaware. She did that whenever I got on her nerves, pretends as if she’s not the one I am talking to. “Mr. Smoking Pot is picking me up for an outing”
I rolled my eyes at the Mr Smoking Pot comment, I didn’t know that was the part that got to her. It wasn’t my fault that her boyfriend is a junkie. I always told her she could do better and she always fired back by telling me that I can only lecture her after I’ve had a few experiences of my own.
“Be careful” was all I could say in reply “Remember, we never visit boys at their place”
She didn’t say anything
“Right?? Lailah” I said, making sure my voice was firm
“Okay big sis” Lailah said, in a mocking tone
“Lailah” I said making sure to make eye contact with her reflection in the mirror.
“Yes Nally, I know” Lailah said “You be careful as well, I’m used to dating bad boys but your case is different”
“Samir isn’t a bad boy!” I said squeezing my face “And for the last time we’re not dating”
“Oh honey, all boys are bad boys given the right circumstances” she said making eye contact with me through the mirror. Her phone started ringing rang just then.
As she got up and picked up her jacket & bag, and started on her way out she added “Don’t wait up, I might be late”