Taahir had felt ridiculous leaving the apartment that morning. He’d spent a sleepless night calling himself ten kinds of fool and trying in vain to deny his feelings for Faiza. By morning though, he’d given up trying to kid himself.
He loved her.
He was in so much trouble.
He hadn’t been able to face going to work and pretending everything was normal. Instead, he’d driven on autopilot until he finally stopped at the beach.
Taahir had always loved the beach. The waves calmed him. When he was little, he’d used to cry when it was time to go home and try to clutch onto the waves with his chubby fists.
He stared at the beautiful sight in front of him. The ocean was rough today and it felt like the perfect counterpart to his jumbled thoughts.
Eventually, he lost himself in memories of a time long past – a time when falling in love had been something that he’d grinned over in private and bashfully admitted… a time when he’d been innocent and gullible.
Faiza’s eyes strayed towards the clock for what must have been the thousandth time that day. It wasn’t even midday yet but she was already impatient for Taahir to come home. She felt an almost physical need to see him with her own eyes and make sure he was alright. Alas, he wouldn’t be home for several hours yet.
Faiza cast her eyes around, trying in vain to find something else to clean. She’d scrubbed the apartment from top to bottom, in between baking enough for a family of five. She had originally planned to lose herself in studying but she couldn’t focus enough to take in any of the information and had tossed the thick textbooks away in disgust.
Faiza had just made up her mind to strip the curtains when the phone rang. Distractedly, she hurried towards it, answering with a salaam.
“Wa alaikum salaam,” came the reply. “How are you, Faiza?” It was Muneerah on the phone which brought a smile to Faiza’s face. She had immediately taken to her mother-in-law and Muneerah had made a habit of calling every day or so to chat with Faiza – both about Taahir and about many other things.
It was instinctive for Faiza to simply reply with Alhamdulilah and redirect the conversation. She prepared to do so but then, all of a sudden, the feelings of helplessness and fear rose up within her and she admitted the truth.
“Not so well, Ma,” Faiza said shakily. “Ma, I’m worried about Taahir.”
Muneerah sighed into the phone. “Did he tell you what happened last night, Faiza?” she asked, half guessing the answer already.
“No, Ma, he just ignored me. I haven’t even seen him since yesterday morning!” Faiza choked out.
“What?!” Muneerah gasped. She had been worrying about Taahir herself since the previous evening but had comforted herself in the knowledge that Taahir would have Faiza to turn to. Hearing that he had locked himself away from Faiza was horribly upsetting.
Gaining control over herself, she attempted to reassure Faiza but the younger woman wouldn’t have it.
“What happened, Ma?” she asked insistently, refusing to be placated. “Why was Taahir so upset in the first place?”
But no matter how much she pushed, Taahir’s mother refused to explain what had happened, simply saying that it wasn’t her place to say and Faiza needed to speak to Taahir.
Faiza hung up the phone feeling worse than when she’d picked it up. Her imagination was running wild, conjuring up scenes of drama and heartache to explain Taahir’s behaviour the previous evening.
She shook her head hard, trying to clear it. Her eyes fell on a musallah that she’d been airing out and she smiled in relief.
‘Of course! The cure for all of this turmoil was staring me in the face all day!’
She rushed into the bedroom and made her wudhu before sitting down on her musallah. She spent an hour in quiet prayer, rising only when she no longer felt an overwhelming amount of nerves or anxiety and finally managed to complete some urgent assignments and essays thereafter.
Faiza’s nerves were still there in the back of her mind, however and as the day wore on, her impatience managed to taunt her again.
The Mahomed house was filled with tension. Muneerah had been furious since her phone call with Faiza and now, Taahir not returning her calls had made that fury brim over.
She walked quickly into the lounge, in search of her husband. When she found him there, blissfully unaware of the turmoil the rest of his family was experiencing, she snapped.
“Do you know what you did last night?” she demanded.
Mr. Mahomed stared up at his wife in surprise. He dropped the TV remote in his hand, focusing his full attention on her.
Her anger was not unexpected – Muneerah had been protective of Taahir since the day he had been born, a month and a half premature and so tiny he had seemed like a little doll. But she had never before let her fury show in her behaviour, usually clinging to civility and calm.
“Muneerah…” he said slowly. “I know that you must be upset. But you need to understand – Taahir’s behaviour was unacceptable. I’ve been trying to make him see reason for years now but he’s never understood that his words hurt others. Now that he has come to that realization, the worst thing to do would be to mollycoddle him and hide the problem. He needed to hear what I told him. In the long run, it will benefit him.”
“He hasn’t spoken to Faiza since yesterday! He’s not answering my calls and he didn’t even go into work today! What if he did something? What if he’s hurt somewhere?”
Muneerah dissolved into sobs.
Mr. Mahomed gathered his wife into his arms. “Taahir’s probably at the beach,” he comforted. “I’m sure that he’s just left his phone in his car and he’ll phone you just now when he checks it.”
Secretly, he worried over his son’s whereabouts. Even as he pacified Muneerah, he prayed silently for Taahir’s safety.