13. Picture Perfect

The first person you see smiling after reading this post, make the following Dua for them:

Adhakallahu Sinnak

May Allah keep you smiling always

I spent the next few days being as horrible as I could, not cleaning behind myself, being rude and trying my hardest to make her give up and send me back home.

All that was happening was that I was becoming frustrated and guilt was plaguing me. How was she not getting mad? I ate and would just leave the dishes. Wordlessly, she’d do the dishes. She’d say something and I wouldn’t even raise my head to acknowledge I’d heard her. She’d ask me something and I’d bark out one word answer’s – but only after she’s repeated the question numerous times. How was it possible for someone to have so much patience?

Even Papa tired of me after a while so how come she wasn’t? He’d come to pick me up the last night for a short drive and seemed all too happy to drop me back here. He’d come again today but everything was different. He didn’t seem to trust me anymore and I couldn’t get over the fact that he’d kicked me out. It’s not my fault anyways. The way everyone acted you’d think I was hooked on drugs. I didn’t even take it willingly.

So we just had awkward stilted conversations that trailed off into uncomfortable silences after a while. Then, just because I was still mad, I asked him to bring me the entire contents of the last cupboard in my room. That was were all my junk stayed and I didn’t actually need it but… He didn’t need to know that. “Just throw everything in a box and bring it please,” I asked. As expected, he agreed.

He left a short while later and I was going to my room when Apa Aaisha stopped me, “What?” I snapped.

” We need to talk.” Uh oh! Did she finally realise that I was more trouble than its worth? Good riddance then! I can finally go back home. I sank into the couch as Apa Aaisha settled in the rocking chair across from me. “Haalah, I’ve broached this topic before and I know you’ve been evading it but I think you need to see a psychologist.”

“No I don’t.” I fixed my jaw and stared at the coffee table in front of me. “You need to Haalah, this denial needs to end. It’s clear that you’re troubled and bothered and a physiologist can help you through your issues.”

“I won’t go. You can’t make me.” I refused outright. I still remember when papa wanted me to go after mama left, I’d finished a completely boring and unhelpful session and came out to wait for the driver.

Out of the blue, I’d been ambushed by a swarm of bloodthirsty reporters all who were pushing to get to me and screaming out questions to me. Wave over wave of hopelessness overtook me. I couldn’t breathe. What mama had done to Papa had made national news and everyone wanted to be the first to get the inside scoop.

I turned to run away from these hounding reporters and hit a solid wall of them. I made a complete 360 but couldn’t find any way out. Claustrophobia rose higher and higher until it was a colossal effort for me to gasp in a single breathe. In the distance, I spotted Uncle Fred in the distance. With all the energy left in me I screamed out to him to help me. With tears running down my face, I collapsed to the ground and it was only when Uncle Fred got to me and carried me to the car did they leave me alone.

There was no way I would go to any psychologist again ever! I vehemently expressed this to ‘matron’. “Okay, if you insist. BUT,” she emphasised, “Then you have to write down everything that happened.” She disappeared and returned with a plain non-descript book and handed it to me.

“Everything that happened? I don’t know what you talking about,” I laughed lightly.  She stared at me with a piercing look that seemed to penetrate straight into my mind until I was forced to look away. “You know what I’m talking about Haalah.”

“Now make up your mind Haalah, either you go or you write everything down. You don’t need to show me just write. So which one?” She asked calmly. “How do you know I’ll actually do it even if I tell you I’m writing it?” I challenged. “I’m going to trust your word Haalah. So are you ready to give me your word?”

“You shouldn’t trust me,” I stared her in the eye, “Everyone who trusted me eventually had their trust broken.” She smiled softly, “I trust you, Haalah. You haven’t given me any reason not to. Now please give me your word that you’ll do it.”

I felt funny, my heart felt enveloped in this queer warmth and I had difficulty speaking, “I’ll do it. I promise.” I wasn’t going to let her down. I’d never broken a promise in my life and I wasn’t about to start now.

Papa came after that and left the boxes in one corner of my… no, the room. Apa Aaisha as usual had disappeared as she always did when Papa came. I couldn’t help but wonder where was that little child and that guy that I’d seen the other day. It was not a dream! I quite clearly remember the little child calling her Ummi. Imagine what it’d be like to have a mother like her. I’m sure Apa Aaisha would never… .

I stood up fast then trying to push away these wayward thoughts. Walking over to the boxes in the corner, I decided to see what junk Papa’d brought. It was sure to distract my thoughts for a little while at least. I opened the first box and stifled a giggle at the sight of a barbie doll perched right at the top. I can’t believe papa had packed that also. Unable to resist I went to get my phone to message him and groaned. ‘Matron’ had confiscated it and refused to give me back. She insisted that if I wanted to contact someone I could use the landline.

With a sigh, I trudged to the landing and called Papa. When he answered I thanked him in an over cheery tone for bringing the barbie doll. “Seriously Papa, you don’t know how I appreciate it. At least now I’ll be able to sleep properly at night. Thank you. Really, thank you.”

“Oh, my baby! Why didn’t you tell me earlier and I would have brought it for you?” I stifled a giggle at Papa’s concerned tone. I loved testing how gullible papa was and he fell for it everytime. I ended the call soon after that and went to digging through the boxes.

I spent the afternoon breaking out in random bouts of laughter and smiles as I found childhood gems, stuff that weren’t useful but I hadn’t had the heart to throw out.

* * *

A wistful smile played on my lips when I found my old letter box. Oh how I loved writing to people when I was a kid. Not many people replied very often but it was still fun back then. Plus I’d had two pen pals, Humaira had been older than me and stopped writing after a while. Layya on the other hand, I bit my lip guiltily, I’d sort of ditched Layya after what happened with Ummi.

I wonder what happened to her. Was she still the same innocent, fun kid? Or did she change?

I opened me letter box and found 7 unopened letters stuffed at the top. I frowned and lifted them up to check their senders. I always read my letters so how come these were unopened. l read the name on the first one, Layya Ma. Then the next one, Layya, then the next and the next, both from Layya. I picked up the last one, also from Layya.

Had I really ignored 7 letters of hers? I must have put them in here intending to read them but with all that was going on, forgotten about them. My eye spied something sticking out from beneath the letters. A small frame with the words *Adhakallahu Sinnak* inscribed. Layya had given this to me once when I’d told her about a prank I’d played on someone. I smiled softly. I love this frame and that Dua, ‘May Allah keep you smiling always.” ‘Maybe I should make it for Apa Aaisha the next time she smiled,’ I mused. It really was such a beautiful Dua.

I picked up her letters and read them one by one. By the time I completed the last letter, my fingers were itching to grab a pen and write back to her.

But should I? Self-doubts filled my heart. What if her address changed? What if she’d changed? What if she didn’t like the person I was now because I had definitely changed from the kid I was 5 years ago.

Giving in to my fingers itch, I picked up a pen but decided to fulfill my promise to ‘matron’ first so I began writing. In a horrible scrawl and with equally horrible grammer, but I did it. I refused to stop until I got to the end of my story. I tried to block out all emotion and just wrote. It was so much harder than expected but at long last I finished it.

I lifted my hand to brush away a lock of hair that’d fallen over my face and was startled when I felt wetness. I wasn’t crying, surely?

I really don’t know what she’d hoped to gain from this but nothing had happened. Nothing had changed. In fact, I just felt more drained. All that had happened was that I’d been made to revisit those horrible memories. The thoughts were fresh in my mind and try as I might, I coudn’t push them away.

What with this stupid exercise of matrons, and the fact that I had no distractions like phone, friends and Calla, these memories were haunting me like crazy. I bit down on my lip hard, willing the pain to make the horrible memories go away. It didn’t. It was only when I bit down a little harder and it started to bleed was my mind slightly distracted. But once the initial pain disappeared, it returned in full force.

Jumping up, I grabbed my clothes and headed into the shower, turning up the heat as high high as it would go. The scalding streams of water stung my back as it showered down heavily. If tears flowed, no one could even tell because the shower of water washed it away. I leaned my forehead against the cold window sill. “Man, I’m going crazy.” I trailed my fingers down to the marks above my knee. Barely visible, if you didn’t know they were there, it was easy to miss. Only once, in a few moments of weakness, when Anne had left for university and I’d been at my lowest point, had I given in to the strong urge. “No Haalah! You’re stronger than that. You can’t take the easy way out.” I commanded myself.

Because people who were screaming out for attention cut their wrists. But people who just needed the release, who needed the distraction from emotional pain, they cut where no one would ever find it. The urge was constantly there especially on days like this when my mind refused to stop its incessant replayal of ‘those’ memories. But I have to be strong because there’s no one who will be strong for me…

My mind replayed an article that I’d once come across. “This body is an Amaanah (a trust) from Allah. So before you damage it think, how are you going to answer to Allah for disfiguring his creation.” And that’s what kept me away from that tempting blade. I didn’t even blink an eyelid at the thought of scars and of pain. But that one statement made me shiver and made me rethink my actions, ‘How are you going to answer to Allah for disfiguring his creation?’

Lessons:

-Body is an Amaanat from Allah. Its not yours to just mess with as you wish. Tattoos, hair extensions, smoking etc are all ways of harming and altering this great blessing of Allah.

-Make Dua for your fellow humans when you see them happy.

-Its too easy for daughters to wrap their fathers round their little fingers. Trust me, I know. 

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