Taahir blinked confusedly.
What just happened? he thought bewilderedly. He’d braced himself for shouting or even for Faiza to walk away in disgust.
Instead, she’d hugged him again and started cooing at him. He wondered vaguely if he was still dreaming and reached out discreetly to pinch himself. It hurt.
That meant that he couldn’t be dreaming. But… He had to be. There was no shouting. Why was there no shouting?
Taahir looked up at Faiza, who still had her arms around him. She was crying!
“You’re crying.” he said.
Faiza lifted her head from his shoulder. “What?” she asked.
“You’re crying,” Taahir repeated. “Why are you crying?”
“Because, Taahir, I’m upset.”
“I – I thought you’d be shouting. But… you’re crying. And you hugged me?”
“Yes…” Faiza said slowly, a blush coming to her cheeks. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable but I feel so bad for you that I couldn’t help it.”
“Bad for me? But why?”
“Taskiya took advantage of you, Taahir. She was awful to you!”
“But, that was my own fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to a haraam relationship.” Taahir protested.
Faiza nodded. “Yes, Taahir, that was wrong. I’m not saying that you were blameless but you weren’t the only one to blame either. Taskiya shares the responsibility with you and the way she treated you makes me angry for you. No one deserves to be used like that and cast aside.”
Taahir stared at her, trying to reconcile what she was saying with the guilt he carried. He couldn’t. He’d always placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders and thought of the painful ending to the whole situation as his punishment for his actions.
But Faiza wasn’t telling him that the harsh treatment was nothing less than what he deserved. She hadn’t pardoned him – but she’d told him that it wasn’t all his fault. Was she right? No, she couldn’t be. She was being kind.
Taahir shook his head. “I deserved it,” he told Faiza. “If she hadn’t done that… I don’t know what I would have let her convince me to do.”
Faiza’s heart went out to Taahir. He looked so miserable. She felt sure that he would have gotten the courage to end his haraam relationship on his own – he’d even issued Taskiya with an ultimatum to that effect but because of how things had ended between the two, he didn’t believe that he had any strength of will. She didn’t know how to make him feel better, how to convince him that he would have turned away from sinning.
Instead, she redirected the conversation. “Taahir, why did you choose to tell me this now?” she asked.
“I – I talked to my father last night…” Taahir said. “I know that I speak without thinking sometimes and… I wanted his help to try and stop. He told me that I say things I don’t mean because I want to push people away, because Taskiya had scared me into holding people at arms length. I – I didn’t want to hear it at first. I refused to believe that little comments could do so much damage. But then, when I thought about it, it made sense. I’ve been doing it to you as well. I wanted you to know why, I guess.”
Faiza winced. She hadn’t realized that Taahir could read her so easily. He’d been right to tell her, though. Now, with the knowledge she had about his past, Taahir’s behaviour was much easier to both understand and forgive.
“Jazakallah khair for sharing it with me. Oh! Did you speak to your mother today?”
“No, why? Is something wrong?” Taahir asked worriedly.
“She phoned me earlier,” Faiza explained. “And… I was worried so…”
“You told her about what happened yesterday,” Taahir completed in an understanding tone. “It’s alright, Faiza, I’m not upset. I was in horrible shape last night, I don’t blame you for wanting to talk to someone about it.”
Faiza smiled. “Just call her and show her that everything’s alright now. She must be worried about you.”
Taahir excused himself to the bedroom and Faiza took the opportunity to clear up their supper dishes. She laughed out loud as she entered the kitchen. She’d been too worried earlier in the day to appreciate the ridiculous sight it made, with the counters fairly covered in various baked goods.
She bit her lip in thought, trying to figure out what they were going to do with all the extra food. Even though both she and Taahir enjoyed good food, they couldn’t possibly eat everything that she’d made before it began to go stale and spoil.
An idea struck her and she fetched her cellphone to snap a quick picture of the kitchen. A few clicks later and she’d sent it to both Saeedah and her mother with an accompanying caption inviting them to come over the next day to take whatever they wanted.
Faiza knew that both women would stay for a while and she looked forward to the upcoming visits. She’d missed her mother and her friend and she knew that Saeedah was probably worried about her, after the breakdown she’d had on the phone the previous night.
Taahir plugged his phone into the wall charger and waited impatiently for it to go on. He didn’t want to use the landline for this conversation – it was installed in the lounge and if he used it, Faiza would be able to hear the entire conversation. He wanted some advice from his mother and, as it was his wife he planned to ask her advice about, he wanted a bit of privacy for it.
He dialled the number quickly and waited impatiently for the call to connect.
“Taahir! Oh, Alhamdulilah. Are you alright, baby? I’ve been so worried about you! What happened to you? You didn’t even go into work today, are you sick? Taahir, answer my questions!”
Taahir laughed. “Give me a chance, Mamma,” he said gently. “I’m alright. I’m sorry I missed your calls – I was at the beach.”
Muneerah sighed in exasperation at this well-used excuse. “Taahir!” she scolded. “That’s not good enough!”
“Well, never mind now. You’re sure you’re alright?”
“What? What’s wrong?” Muneerah cut in immediately.
“Nothing, Mamma,” Taahir said soothingly. “I just… I wanted your advice.”
Taahir hesitated for a few seconds.
“Taahir? Of course I’ll help in whatever way I can. What is it?”
“Mamma… I’m in love with my wife. How do I tell her?”