DaysOfTaqwa:Rebirth Chapter XI

Chapter 11: A Fateful Encounter

At Mr Phillips’ office, Naasir apologised for missing the first class and promised to be consistent, going forward.
“Did you come up with a basic curriculum to guide you?” Mr Philips asked.
Naasir shook his head. “No sir, I did not.”
“It’s no matter. You’ll share Bushrah’s.”
“That reminds me, sir, I’d like to speak with her before I begin my class.”
“Certainly. I think she is in the women’s wing now.”
Naasir thanked Mr Philips, then went in search of Bushrah. Turning a new leaf meant seeking pardon from those he had wronged and Bushrah was one of them. If they were to be working closely he needed to get this bad part of their history out of the way. Hopefully, she would forgive him for Allah’s sake.
He found her after another female volunteer pointed her out to him. She waited in front of what he assumed was her class. Lucky for him, her back was turned to him.
Naasir breathed in deeply to quell the nervous energy coursing through him. He cleared his throat, stabbed the ground with his foot and shook his head vigorously to try and silence the voice that told him it was a waste of time and she would never forgive him.
The time was now.
Okay, here goes. Bismillah…
“Hello-erm – Assalamu alaykum.”
She turned to face him.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullah, Naasir.” She smiled.
He cleared his throat again. “May I speak with you for a minute?”
“If this is about the curriculum, don’t worry. Mr Philips already talked to me about it. You are free to use…”
“No – I mean yes it is about the curriculum but I have something else to say too.”
“Oh. Alright, I’m listening.”
Naasir exhaled deeply. “I don’t want us to have any bad blood between us so I-I would like to apologise for my actions when we were in school. There’s no excuse for them. Rest assured, I regret everything and am working to turn a new leaf.”
There was silence for several beats. Naasir held his breath, afraid that she would not accept his apology and send him on his way. He wouldn’t blame her if she did that.
After silent contemplation on her part, Bushrah huffed out a breath through her lips.
“Are you apologising for yourself or on behalf of The Rebels?”
“Both, I guess.”
Bushrah nodded. “To be honest, I never in a thousand years expected that the renowned S. K would come back and apologise. I remember you used to refer to those of us you used to torture as weak cockroaches to be squashed at any time.”
Naasir winced at the ugly reminder. The first words that came to his mind popped out of his mouth.
“Tell me how I can make it up to you. I swear I am truly sorry.”
Bushrah shrugged. “In the spirit of Ramadan, I accept your apology.” She said airily.
Relief and surprise washed over Naasir. He felt as if a weight had been lifted off his chest. “Jazaakumullahu khayran. Thank you.” He was also glad for the fact that he had mastered the dhikr for saying thank you.
“You are welcome. I am only following in the footsteps of the prophet (SAW) in hopes that Allah would also overlook my shortcomings.”
“I understand.”
“I will, however, take you up on your offer to make it up to me. I hope you were not just saying it for saying sake?”
Naasir couldn’t help but smile at the teasing note in her voice. He chuckled. “No, I wasn’t. As long as you don’t ask me to do anything illegal…”
“Oh, nothing illegal.” She cut in. “Just your muscles.”
“Excuse me?”
“I only require your muscles. “ Bushrah repeated mirth dancing in her eyes.
“My… muscles?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll see. Meet me back here after your class.”
If Naasir were asked to rate himself after delivering the class, he would give himself a solid 3/10. He didn’t hesitate to say as much to Mr Philips when he went to report at his office.
“Don’t worry you’ll get better.” Was all Mr Philips offered plus a pat on the back.
Naasir did not agree with him, but he bade him goodbye and went to the mosque for Zuhr.
After Zuhr, he waited for Bushrah at the agreed spot. Apprehension settled in his bones. What did she mean by her words? A fight? No that was unlikely. Maybe some heavy lifting?
“You’re here!” Bushrah announced suddenly. “Have you been waiting long? Let’s be on our way then!”
Without waiting for a response, Bushrah started towards the exit.
The building in front of them was semi-dilapidated if there was such a word. Half of it looked intact and the other half was shabby.
“What are we doing here? Does someone live here?” Naasir asked Bushrah
Bushrah shushed him by placing a finger on her lips. “Shh, please don’t act weird around her. She is a widow with two kids. I’ve tried to get her to move to Lend A Hand, but she refuses. Something about making her own way. Anyway, I come here two/three times a week to help her out.”
Naasir’s eyes bulged. Why in God’s name would someone choose to live here? He was of the mind to turn back the way they came, but since he had made a promise he intended to see it through.
“Lead the way.”
Bushrah stepped inside the building and Naasir followed. It was as if they had entered a whole different place. Despite it being run down, it was clean. Two little kids ran over to them as soon as they saw Bushrah. She bent down to their level and hugged them.
“How are you my little munchkins?” She tickled them and they laughed.
Their clothes were old and faded but clean. Soon Bushrah introduced him to the kids and next to their mother. She was a middle-aged woman with an easy smile and a calm demeanour. Bushrah called her Ummu Twins. She welcomed him and thanked him for his help.
It was then that he found out what Bushrah meant by needing his muscles.
There was a well at the back of the house – the only source of water. Bushrah asked him kindly to help them draw water to be stored in drums.
While going back and forth performing his task, Naasir watched Bushrah with UmmuTwins and the kids. He couldn’t help but think it was funny the things you start to notice when your perspective changes.
He’d never noticed Bushrah when they were in school, and certainly not at Lend A Hand. She wasn’t his type – what with her hijab and all.
Yet, watching Bushrah get her hands dirty helping UmmuTwins with whatever they were doing, he saw her in a whole new light. Her laughter and her voice lightened up the whole place so much so that he almost forgot where they were.
In the years to come, Naasir would look back at this moment and credit it as one of the major turning points in his life.
As for the present, unbeknownst to Naasir, the seeds of affection were being sown in his heart. To be firmly rooted until the end of time.
© Hafsah bint Nurein

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