Faiza clung to her mother, sniffling. “I missed you so much,” she cried.
Mrs. Amir squeezed her daughter tight. “Don’t lie,” she said teasingly. “I know you love running your own house.”
Faiza turned to her mother, ready with a quick denial but paused when she saw the twinkle in Mrs. Amir’s eyes.
“You’re right, Mummy,” she admitted. “I do love running this little ‘house’. It feels… different.”
Mrs. Amir smiled. Her daughter was experiencing a happiness gifted solely to newly-weds a happiness that she herself had experienced some twenty-odd years ago.
“Mubarak, my darling. Treasure this time,” Mrs. Amir instructed. “There’s something special about this time as newly-weds. You are never so merciful towards your spouse as during these early days.”
“Jee, Mummy,” Faiza said.
“And one other thing… build habits now that will last for your entire marriage. Be romantic and playful with one another and don’t allow that to stop as time goes by. This kind of behaviour is very important to keep you in love with one another.”
Faiza nodded, smiling. “Jazakallah khair for the advice,” she said.
The mother and daughter sat down to tea, industriously putting a dent into Faiza’s baking frenzy.
They chatted about nothing of consequence for a while, simply catching up on the small news that hadn’t been shared over the phone.
Eventually, Mrs. Amir couldn’t resist teasing her daughter a little and she asked about Taahir.
Faiza blushed immediately and avoided the question.
Mrs. Amir frowned lightly, her suspicions aroused. “Faiza? Is something wrong? You know I’ve always been frank with you… Has Taahir… been demanding?”
Faiza was blushing so hard she felt like her face was on fire. “No, Mummy!” she denied immediately. “He’s been the opposite of demanding! In fact -.” At this, she faltered and shoved a biscuit into her mouth.
“In fact? Faiza… where does Taahir sleep?”
“In the guest room,” Faiza mumbled, staring at the floor.
Mrs. Amir gaped in shock. “Faiza!” she scolded. “How could you make him do that? And for over a month now!”
“I didn’t make him do anything, Mummy,” Faiza defended. “The first night, he just told me he was going to sleep in the guest room and then he left before I could say anything. I didn’t even want him – I mean –”
Faiza felt like she was going to faint. Had she really just said that? And to her mother, too!
It was true, though. As shy as she’d felt on her wedding night, she hadn’t wanted Taahir to sleep in the guest room. Such a thing hadn’t even crossed her mind until he’d announced it.
Mrs. Amir began to laugh at this. “Oh, no. Oh dear. What are you going to do, sweetheart?”
“Well, actually,” Faiza said slowly…
Muneerah Mahomed hummed to herself as she worked, a big grin on her face. She was making baklava, something she usually hated to do but which was a favourite of Taahir’s. She’d felt in the mood to celebrate when she went into the kitchen that morning and since Taahir was the source of her good mood, she’d decided to spoil her darling son.
‘I need to make a note of what kind of sweets Faiza likes,’ she thought to herself absent-mindedly.
Muneerah had always shown love through food – this was the main reason Taahir even had a sweet tooth.
She thought back to her conversation with Taahir the previous night with a smile. She hadn’t spoken to him for long on the phone, had just advised him to be attentive and thoughtful to Faiza and had ordered him to bring her to visit that weekend. It was now Thursday and she was already impatient for the weekend to come so that she could get her son in her clutches.
She’d been ecstatic to hear that he’d fallen in love with Faiza and had smiled smugly to see that she’d chosen correctly when she’d taken a liking to the young girl.
‘Just wait until this weekend… I’ll give Taahir all the advice he needs to make sure Faiza knows exactly how much he cares for her.’
Faiza had barely cleared away the dishes and other detritus from Mrs. Amir’s visit when Saeedah arrived.
She looked at the unset table, the slightly messy kitchen and her own self and shrugged. If her friends couldn’t see her looking like a mess, who could?
She opened the door and jumped back with a squeak.
Saeedah stood on the threshold, hand raised to knock.
“Saeedah!” she gasped. “How did you get up here?”
“I charmed the security guard,” Saeedah explained.
Faiza giggled and shook her head. Only Saeedah could charm complete strangers into bending the rules for her.
“The house is filthy,” she warned.
Saeedah shrugged. “Your house is always filthy,” she said. “I’m used to it.”
“Saeedah!” Faiza glared. “My house is not always filthy!”
“Yeah, okay,” Saeedah conceded. “Only half the time.”
The two women dissolved into giggles.
Saeedah paused in the passageway. “Can I go exploring or is it rude?” she asked.
Faiza shook her head, immediately waving the other woman away. “Go,” she said. “I’ll clean up the kitchen while you snoop.”
Five minutes later, Saeedah came running back into the kitchen.
“Faiza!” she shrieked. “Why is your husband living in the guest room?”
Faiza groaned to herself. Of course Saeedah had wandered into the guest room. Faiza had even given her permission to snoop.
Well, at least now I don’t have to think of a way to bring it up. And I wanted Sae’s advice anyway.
“It was his idea,” she said immediately. “And now… I don’t know how to tell him to stop…”
Saeedah began to giggle.
Faiza huffed and crossed her arms, turning away from Saeedah. “Don’t laugh at me!”
She turned around again. “Help me!”
“Well… I don’t know, Fae. You always get yourself into such interesting problems,” Saeedah said slowly.
“Mummy gave me some advice,” Faiza admitted. “But I need more.”
“How about you just talk to him?” Saeedah suggested.
“I can’t do that! Next.”
“Maybe you could…”