Najmah snapped her book shut then fastened her seat belt, staring out of the window. She had a phobia for flights, so she spent the whole flight duration reading one of the many books she had brought together with her; "Lie to me, Dan by Longrin Wetten″ which happened to be one of her favorites.
She gripped the edge of her seat and snapped her eyes shut as the captain began the procedures for landing, muttering all the du'as• that came to her mind at that time, holding tight to her seatbelt as if her life depended on it. And much to her relief, it was a smooth landing. She took off her seatbelt with shaky hands then got her luggage from the compartment, sighing in relief when her feet came in contact with asphalt as she stepped out of the plane.
"Welcome to Istanbul, your new home," Mr. Faik beamed at her once they were done with airport preliminaries.
"Thank you, sir," she replied forcing a fake smile.
"Please don't," he scrunched up his face. "Call me Baba if you don't mind. After all you are now part of my family."
"Yes Baba," she nodded, feeling strange calling him that. She'd always referred to him as Abba′s friend and now, she was to call him Baba. The irony of that, she sighed inwardly.
"Come on let's get going," Mr. Faik smiled at her. "Our ride is already here."
She nodded, trailing behind him. She struggled to understand what he was saying, what with his heavy Turkish accent as she settled into the lush leather seats of the Mercedes E-class. She stared out of the window, enjoying the scenery and for a moment, she forgot where she was, her mind travelling back to her safe-haven; the fantasy world she created in her mind.
"Najmah," Mr. Faik called out tapping her a little on the shoulder, making her flinch as his hand made contact with her body. "I'm sorry child, I didn't mean to scare you," he smiled apologetically, retracting his hand.
"It's okay,″ she responded, smiling politely. ″I was just caught unaware."
"Well then,″ he nodded, stepping out of the car. ″We are here."
She followed suit, gawking at the magnificent building before her, which looked more like an estate than a house. She tailed behind him like a lost puppy as the household staffs took their stuffs into the manor. How she wished she could just run back to Nigeria and curve into her reading nook, away from the world; at least with Fahad, he knew what to expect from her.
As they passed through the grandiose foyer, Najmah couldn't help but admire the tasteful art decorations and cut flower arrangements in artistic vases, lining up the slate tiled floors.
As they passed left, through a wide open space, three pair of eyes greeted them. A woman dressed elegantly in a red abaya with startling green eyes stood next to a lithe lady, clutching a six-year-old.
Najmah's heart fluttered as her chestnut eyes made contact with the little girl's blue ones who hid behind the lady, casting her gaze downward.
"It's so nice to finally meet you," the lady threw her arms over Najmah before kissing both of her cheeks lovingly."We are going to be terrific sisters."
Najmah awkwardly returned the hug, smiling at the enthusiastic lady, unsure of what else to do. She noted that the lady's accent wasn't as heavy as her father's, it was almost nonexistent.
"You're really pretty, Kardeş* is going to swoon when he sees you," she clapped her hands with enthusiasm. "I'm Lale by the way."
Not knowing how to reply to that, Najmah just nodded then squatted down to greet her mother in law.
"Welcome to the family Najmah." She placed her hand on her shoulders and raised her to feet, engulfing her into a hug before kissing her cheeks.
'Wow, I just got into a family of huggers. AWKWARD' she thought, returning the hug.
"This is Hilal," Lale introduced the young girl—who had her head tucked between Lale's legs— to Najmah.
"Hello," Najmah squatted to the girl's level.
"She's not much of a talker," Lale smiled apologetically at Najmah.
"Oh," Najmah smiled, rising to her feet. "I have a feeling we'll get along just fine."
Just then, a lady with honey blonde waves, tied up in a high ponytail descended the stairs, her heels clicking on the marble floor.
"Welcome back home Amca°," she beamed at Faik, her sultry gaze falling on Najmah.
"Thank you Afet," he replied, following his wife who had began walking towards the staircase.
"So this is the infamous woman who has snagged our Aslan from the bachelor's list," she studied Najmah with an air of amused disdain, smiling icily at her.
"Afet," Lale warned, looping her arm with Najmah's.
"Just making polite conversation Lalehan," Afet rolled her eyes, bumping her shoulder with Najmah's not-so-accidentaly as she sidestepped her.
"Come on," Lale smiled apologetically at her. "Ignore her, she's just trying to get under your skin. Let me show you to your room, you can rest for now and I'll give you a tour of the house later if you want."
"So, this is you. I'll let you get settled," Lale flourished her hands, gesturing at the room. "If you need me, I'm in the room down the hall."
"Thank you," Najmah smiled at her, staring at the room before her awestruck. Covered in black, white and ash color schemes, everything about it screamed of sheer masculinity. She placed her hand over one of the many paintings hung on the wall tracing its pattern, marveled at the raw emotions oozing out of it.
She moved around till she found herself in the walk-in closet which made her feel like she was in a boutique; there were racks upon racks of male clothing, from tuxes to pants to shirts. It then dawned on her that she was in her husband's room and then she wondered who could he be?
Was he as nice and welcoming like his mother or as chatty as his sister or as cold as the lady from earlier? She hoped he was as nice and reserved as his father, she couldn't handle another person demanding for her attention. Try as much as she does, she couldn't give people much attention which was one of the negatives of having SPD.
A slight shiver ran over her as she stepped out of the closet. The thought of her stuffs draped around the room or her books laying anywhere around there just felt wrong to her. Would she ever feel at home here in a strange country with a husband she was yet to meet?
She knocked on Lale's room and then went in after she heard her yell something in Turkish, hoping that it meant 'come in'.
"Hey sorry to disturb you... " she began but stopped when she saw Lale soaked in a pile of fabric.
"Are you okay?" she asked, moving towards the lady.
"Yeah," Lale whispered, finally unlatching herself from the fabric she got tangled in. "Sorry for the mess," she smiled sheepishly at her.
"You're a fashion designer?" Najmah asked, her eyes roaming round the room-turned-workroom loaded with fabrics and sketches scattered around.
"Yeah," she grinned. "I started my fashion line and hopefully, I'll have a company to call mine in a few months."
"That's wonderful," Najmah cheered.
"Do you want to see the rest of house?" Lale queried. "Of course you do. Come on then let's get going." she stated, not waiting for Najmah's reply.
Halfway through the tour, Najmah wished Lale would let her go so she could run to the library and check out the books in there. It was the only thing that held her interest amongst the rooms Lale had shown her.
"This is your husband's art studio," Lale stated with a proud smile. "He's an architect and he loves to paint."
"That explains the paintings I saw," Najmah muttered, realization dawning on her.
"Yeah, pretty much..." her words were cut off by the shrill ringing of her phone. ″Excuse me, I have to take this." she mouthed to Najmah as she walked away.
Najmah pushed the door open and peeped in, wanting to catch a glimpse of who her husband was, even if just a little. Her curiosity got the best of her so she ambled in, closing the door after her. She walked farther in, feeling a strong pull towards a black canvas which was bare except for a streak of paint at the bottom of it. She picked up the paint brush and dipped it into the ink then brushed it against the canvas. As she made another quick brush on the canvas, her face broke into a smile and she lost herself in painting, completely unaware of her surroundings, she proceeded to paint from her heart. She painted down everything she was feeling right from the moment she was told about Fahad's arrest.
"What the hell are you doing here?" She heard a deep male voice boom from behind her. Caught off guard, the brush slipped from her grasp, as she elicited a sharp gasp. She whirled around to face the owner of the voice, clutching the hem of her dress which was now dripping with red paint.
"Who gave you the right to touch my stuff?" He roared, prowling towards her.
"I...I...I'm sorry," she whispered, her voice breaking. She pushed past him and ran out of the studio towards the room Lale had led her to, dripping paint all over the floor.
She took a bath and discarded her paint soaked dress into the bin, knowing that the paint wouldn't go off easily. Her husband owed her a new dress.
She slipped into a new dress then headed towards the library with a heavy heart. Her heart and mind were a jumble of mess and she wondered why that was as she sort through the isle of books, looking for one to read.
Sitting on the beanbag chair after picking up “The Host by Stephanie Meyer”, she made her self comfortable, flipping through the pages. Her back sagged down, her environment disappearing as she got deeply immersed in the journey of Melanie and Wanderer. Halfway through, her lids began to drop and exhaustion and jet lag caught up to her.
"I thought I'd find you here," Lale spoke from behind, startling Najmah who was in the middle of stretching.
"How?" she questioned, dropping her hands by her side.
"I saw the way you looked at the books, it is the way I look at new clothes," Lale replied sheepishly.
"I'm sorry, I should've asked for permission before I..."
"It's okay, it's a bit refreshing to find someone here. The library has been vacant for long ever since..." she paused, a faraway look on her face.
"Ever since?" Najmah's eyebrows shot up.
"Ever since Hilal's father died. He was a big fan of literature," she rushed her words, eager to be done with the part where she mentioned his death. "By the way, I came to tell you that dinner is ready."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"About?" Lale's forehead crinkled in confusion.
"Of course," she nodded solemnly. "Don't worry about it, it's been a while. Now come on, I'm hungry."
Najmah understood that Lale didn't want to talk about it so she let it go. After all, she wasn't a fan of small talks and she had no idea how to comfort a lady she had just met about her dead brother.
After dinner, Najmah went back to the library and picked up the book she was reading earlier then made a beeline for the room she was going to stay at. What she wasn’t expecting was to find Aslan on the bed, working on his laptop. He wasn't at the dining room earlier and she felt immense relief that she didn't have to be in his presence.
He raised his head and stared at her with an unreadable expression then returned his gaze back to the screen of his laptop, totally ignoring her presence.
She walked towards the reading nook feeling out of the world, she couldn't possibly stay in the same room with him, how was she supposed to live with him? All her life she'd lived in her room alone because the mere presence of another person made her anxiety level build.
She shook her head then sat down, flipping through the pages till she found the page she stopped at. When she was done reading, it was way past three in the morning so she closed the book and looked around the room, but Aslan was nowhere in sight.
She walked towards one of her suitcases and opened it, bringing out her Mickey Mouse pajamas, quickly changed then got ready for bed, but all thoughts of sleep evaded her as memories of her meeting with Aslan kept replaying in her mind. She was still annoyed at how he had shouted at her and made her ruin her dress. Didn't he know that it was rude to shout at an unsuspecting victim, he could've given her a heart attack.
With a sigh, she shook her head to rid herself of any thoughts about him. Ever since her meeting with him, her emotions have gone haywire which was something that's never happened with her. Normally she would've shrugged it off but this time around she couldn't and it was frustrating her.
The next morning, Najmah couldn't sleep after fajr salah so she went out of the room and headed towards the the kitchen, tracing Lale's steps from the day before. She found Aslan perched on a stool sipping tea, a copy of the day's paper held in his left hand. He raised his head and their gaze met, his unreadable while hers was full of uncertainty.She whirled around to head back where she came from when she froze, his husky voice sending shivers down her spine. "Come in, I don't bite."His presence unnerved her and she wished more than anything he would leave the kitchen and let her gather her thoughts. On one hand, she could just leave like she intended to but she really needed the caffeine.Shoulders sagged down in defeat, she walked towards the espresso machine and tried to turn it on, but all her attempts were futile as she had no idea how to operate it.Aslan sensing her distress debated on whether to help her or leave her to it. Deciding on the former,
Aslan didn't sleep a wink the night before after Najmah had woken him up, he sat behind the desk of his office rubbing at his temple tiredly. Bags were visible under his eyes and the mug of coffee he kept on his table wasn't helping matters, the caffeine wasn't strong enough to ward off the effects of the nightmare.He shuddered as events of his nightmare kept replaying on his mind, he still remembered that dreadful night; the night that cost him the life of someone close to him, and almost cost him his sanity. It was a night he'd never forget."Sir? You have a meeting in five," his secretary knocked at the door of his office, interrupting his thoughts."Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" he grumbled, picking up the file on his desk. He straightened his tie, slipped on his suit which was hanging on the chair then walked out of the office with strides that demanded authority.Every employee scrambled up from his seat greeting him, while he gave a curt nod a
The sun rays penetrated through the glass walls of the greenhouse, stimulating the plants growth. Najmah was busy transferring the blooming seedlings into various pots after asking Ferah for permission who was more than happy for she was far too busy to take care of it.After successfully transferring them to the pots, she arranged them in a corner then set to plant new seeds. Using her thumb and index finger, she pinched the top of a few leggy plants, for them to grow fuller and healthier before spraying pyrethrum around the greenhouse to ward off ants and aphids.Using the back of her mud covered hand, she wiped away the tiny sheen of sweat that rolled down her face then bent down to pick a broom and began to sweep the mess she made while transplanting.When she was done, she stepped back to admire her handiwork. Satisfied with it, she turned around to go back in and take a shower when she froze, letting out a scream.
Lale stared at her reflection in the mirror, scrunching up her face in distaste. Bags were visible under her eyes and her face looked pale due to exhaustion from lack of sleep."You shall sleep when everything is set," she said to her reflection as she added another layer of foundation to her face. When she was satisfied with her look, she donned her hijab then padded to Aslan & Najmah's room.Just like she predicted Najmah was sitting on bed with a spoon hanging on her mouth, staring intently at the book she was holding, a jar of Nutella kept to her side. She never could understand the girl's obsession with books and Nutella."Hello Missy, care to join me on an adventure into town?" she queried, startling Najmah who threw her book away.Although exhausted Lale fell into a fit of laughter, clutching her stomach and pointing at the sullen look on Najmah's face."You...look...look.
Blood pounded in her ears, her heart thudding in her chest. Her hands shook as she felt a tingle in her feet. Her vision became blurry and she gripped the edge of the basin, trying to steady her breathing. Each moment that passed, breathing became harder for her.She took long measured breaths, staring at her reflection through her blurred vision. She debated on whether to bolt out and run back home or stay and face her demons.If she stayed, she was likely to make a mess of herself. If she left, Lale would be really disappointed. Either way, there was a sure risk on both of her decisions, besides if she left, she had no idea how to get home."Najmah are you okay in there?" Aslan queried, knocking on the door of the bathroom.She couldn't give him a coherent answer due to her lack of breaths. Sensing something wrong, he ran into the bathroom and found her hunched over the basin."Hey
She stared out of the window, her eyes unfocused. She felt empty and out of sorts like she didn't belong. She wanted to go back home, but she couldn't voice out her thoughts. Try as she might, the words don't seem to come out.She felt suffocated and trapped, like she was shackled. The Sadeks have been really kind and welcoming to her, she couldn't go to Aslan's dad and demand to be returned home. The few weeks she had spent with them were the best she's ever had. With them, she felt like she was finally living; like her life had meaning again.After Fahad, she hadn't thought she would care about anyone again but then came Aslan, and now Najmah wondered if being friends with him was the best decision she made.She sighed, pushing her hand through her hair,feeling disoriented and robotic. She hadn't felt like that in ages, not even after the news of Fahad's betrayal was broken to her. She still couldn't understand why he di
"So how was the therapy?" Aslan asked, folding the sleeves of his shirt."It went well nothing new," she shrugged scrolling through her twitter feed.Aslan sighed, sitting at the edge of the bed. He had been trying to get her to open up since she came back from visiting the therapist, but all he got were vague answers."So when did you...umm...learn..." he stuttered, trying to find the right words to say. He couldn't think of any word to use, lest he offends her."That I was crazy?" she chuckled, locking her phone and facing him."You aren't crazy," he frowned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You're schizoid and schizoid people are not crazy. Though temperamental at times but definitely not crazy.""Did you somehow earn a degree in psychology overnight?" she teased, throwing her feet off the bed. "You seem to know a lot about my disorder than I do, Dr Aslan."
She stared out into space, a spoon dangling in her mouth. Aslan observed her, wondering what she was thinking and how to get her to open up to him. A thought occurred in his head and he cleared his throat to gain her attention."Walk with me?" he queried, extending his arm towards her.She raised an eyebrow, trying to gauge his expression but it was neutral. She capped the Nutella jar she was holding and set it aside then swung her legs off the bed, placing her hand in his arm."Where are we going to?" she questioned, staring up at him."The garden," he replied, leading them out of the room.They walked out of the house in comfortable silence, wrapped up in their own world."Let's play a game," Aslan suggested, coming to a complete stop by the swing."What sort of game?" she queried, sitting down on the swing."20 questions?" he smiled, pl