Just a year ago and Ayah Thalith would have slapped whoever told her that her sister would run off dead in the face, she'd have given them a real long pep talk how they could use their time in doing so much better things - like breathing and eating.
She'd have prayed a lot harder and hoped to prove that person wrong. She'd rain on them, all the curses she had learnt in her seventeen years of life - That was how much she loved her sister. She had developed a soft spot for her ever since their childhood days. The duo were so close, it was hard to tell they were three years apart - that is, until things changed.
Barakah Thalith, the plumpy and slightly notorious elder sister to Ayah had started off by playing mature, claiming to have no time for her lifetime bestie - Ayah. Hiding behind her innocent mask of a face with a devious and mischievous glint in her eyes to accompany it - who would have thought that the potentially innocent Barakah was nothing like she really seemed to be?
She would go out all morning and come back late at night, wasted and sweaty like she had just been to a pub - and maybe she did was at a pub. She'd shoo away her lifetime bestie in the name of needing alone time.
One hot afternoon - Early March 2010 - sitting under the cool shade of their storey-ed building's balcony, chairs lined out on the decking and enjoying the cool breeze that blew despite the scorching sun that shone across the street. The three siblings had sat, chairs across from each other, reminiscing old times and basically just enjoying the weather.
Ayah didn't seem to do any of those, just staring out the balcony onto the street at passerbys going on with their daily lives.
The hot March sun shone across Shayi street in Dogo-Iche city, where Ayah and her family were based at. Passerbys could be seen holding up umbrellas against their heads and grimacing at the hot temperature - probably cursing the month as a whole. Some could be seen squinting their eyes and holding up a hand against their faces, serving as temporary shields against the sun.
Looking across the street, she noticed the bald vendor who's stand was right out their gate, on the other side of the road. Sweat glistened on the his bald head whilst he continued to sort out the newspapers he was selling. He would occasionally wipe on the sweat that kept on building up on his face, keeping a frustrated face - he had no shade to protect him from the murderous sun.
She paid no mind to her elder sister, who's frustration kept on building as she glared at the cloth currently wrapped around her head, it draped down her shoulder and onto her lap. The hijab.
"I hate wearing the hijab." She huffed. Blowing at her self with the hijab she was putting on.
Ayah painstakingly took her attention away from the passerbys who were entertaining her for the time being, hating that she'd have to start afresh once the conversation was over.
She diverted her gaze to her elder sister, the twenty years old graduate who sadly seemed to share a lot of features with Ayah. They shared the same adorable pointed noses and small doey eyes. Spongy African hair, gelled to perfection could be seen from the loose space between her hijab and her head.
Her brown skin looking smooth and fresh under the shade. Acne spread around her nose bridge, trailing a little towards her chin. She gave Ayah an unsettling gaze, as if saying 'you won't win this time, my mind is already set.'
Even if Ayah had no idea what Barakah was trying to win, something about that gaze seemed eerily familiar; the selfishness wavering underneath her dark brown pupils, a common feature in the family.
She took her eyes off her after concluding it'd be a waste of time and resources to talk her out of whatever was going on in that dark brain of hers, she was also loosing much of her passersby watching time.
She looked past her to her younger sister who was sitting relaxed at the other end. Eyes closed and humming inaudible melodies to herself.
"You hear your sister?" She raised her eyebrows, grabbing the little one's attention. Salamah who was just two years younger than Ayah - a fifteen year old who proves to be a lot wiser than her age, although immature at times, uses her wisdom to a great advantage.
"What'd she say?" Salamah asked, opening her equally brown eyes to the look at her sister, giving her full attention. "She said she hates wearing the hijab." Ayah repeated, throwing Barakah a mocking gaze.
Ayah watched how Salamah's beautiful, and smooth face, morphed into that of disgust and looked over to Barakah. She seemed to be a little different from the lifetime besties. She was a lot more beautiful and very endearing in her fashion life. No acne, rashes or whatsoever could be seen on her face. Eyebrows naturally carved and plump lips always moisturized with her everly trusted red lipstick.
"What sort of a statement is that?" She asked, disbelieve clear in her voice.
"It's the plain truth." Barakah shrugged as though she hadn't said anything that was enough to raise eyebrows.
"Lost cause." Ayah whispered underneath her breath, returning her gaze back to the street to watch what was left of the seemingly empty street, immediately regretting that she wasn't able to watch the vendor pack up and leave. His glistening bald head had always been a sight to behold.
Putting on hijab when going out had always been the number rule in their home. Based on religious ethics and moral values, a female Muslim is always expected to dress decently and not show off too much skin, hijab helped a whole lot in doing that.
This thus, marked the beginning of Barakah's drift.
"I'm not going to tolerate you going in and out of my house whenever you like." Yahya Thalith, the trio's father started early one morning.
It was earlier on in April. The next event after the hijab one had surfaced. Barakah was currently knelt down in the sitting room, looking like she was about to pass out, drifting in and out of consciousness - she had obviously drank too much liquor.
Her mom, Zainab, sat down on a two-seater couch, just across the furious Yahya. Hands placed on her chin, she struggled to keep her tears at bay. Where had she gone wrong in training her kids? She could vividly remember all the times she would tell them the merits and demerits of disobeying ones parents, even going as far as bringing in case scenarios. All to make sure her kids got the best of home trainings.
Barakah had sneaked in less then an hour ago, hoping to not be caught, but luck tended to not be on her side as she had met her dad in the parlour - probably waiting for her arrival.
"Don't you have a answer to supply me?" Yahya gritted, loosing his patience as the time passed.
Barakah simply looked at him with her fluctuating gaze, eyes fluttering open and close. She nodded a smile at him and took her gaze back down - she definitely had no idea what she was doing.
It was around this time that Ayah slowly climbed down the stairs, careful not to make any unnecessary sound. It was times like this that a simple spoon falling could send her dad talking for two hours non-stop, she didn't want a case like that happening. Certainly not this morning.
She glanced at the wall clock which was situated on the wall, right atop the television which was placed in a corner of their sitting room. It read seven minutes after five and she nodded. She still had school to go, so the time was on her side.
Ayah stepped in the tense sitting room, taking her time in accessing the situation. Her dad stood dangerously close to a simpering Barakah, she still hadn't gotten a hold of her conciousness. He looked like he could beat her right there but something was holding him back - probably the untold accusations and lies that might follow.
She strolled towards Zainab, still cautious enough to not make any sound. She planted herself beside her mom's swollen figure, placing a reassuring hand on her back. Her mom glanced at her and looked away most immediately, glancing back at her mere seconds later.
After an unplanned blinking competition, Yahya finally gave up, deciding he didn't want to talk about anything to his prodigal daughter.
"Get out of my sight."
He tried to dismiss her off with a plain tone but it had come out more rough than he planned, he wasn't apologetic though.
Without as much as a glance upward, Barakah scrambled up to her feet and sprinted for the stairs, nearly tripping on two different occasions.
"Go get ready for school." Zainab breathed out.
Ayah knew there wasn't anything she had to say anymore, her parents were plain tired of Barakah - maybe disgusted was the right word.
Weeks passed by and it was the last week of May. The family underwent the same routine over the weeks; Barakah sneaking in and out of every entrance of the home, coming back wasted and sweaty - like she always had been.
On an early Monday morning in which 'Busy and speed' were the theme, Ayah had woken up as early as possible. She had also woken up Salamah with which she shared a room and hurried up with her preparations. She finished dressing up and Salamah still hadn't made much progress with her's.
"You'd better not make me wait!" She yelled over her shoulder at the little one just as she stepped out of the room. Salamah was just putting on her uniform and Ayah knew it would take her no less than an hour to finish getting dressed - talk about dedication.
Ayah then dashed out for the kitchen right after. She placed her school bag gently on the dining table while she went off to greet her mom.
"As salam alaykum ma." She greeted, grabbing the back of her mom's hand and giving it a swift peck.
"Wa alaykum salam my dear. How was your night?" Her mom replied, a proud smile grazing her lips and she looked at her second daughter, silently wishing she would turn out to be nothing like her first daughter - a total disgrace.
"It was fine ma, yours?"
"That's great... Uhm, I'll be upstairs for a while, got somethings to do." She was half asking for permission and half telling. She knew very unmistakably that a single no from her mom would end up with her joining Zainab to finish cooking the rice she had already started cooking.
"Sure... Just don't be late. I can't finish this off on my own." Her mom waved dismissively, granting her permission. With a quick nod of gratitude, she headed up the stairs, plan already mapped out in her mind.
She had thought much over her sister's misbehavior last night while others must have been sleeping. She knew it didn't make sense for her once intelligible and morally upright sister to start acting out all of a sudden, there had to be a reason behind it - hopefully a meaningful one.
But no meaning could be meaningful enough to cost you your morality, she just hoped her sister was still sensible enough to think that way. If all her actions and talks all end up in the dead and dusty side of her sister's brain, then would be the right time to stop and just let her lead on her life the way she enjoyed doing it, it's hers afterall - she'd also know she had tried her best in all the ways she could.
She knocked on the door to Barakah's room which stood alone on the other side of the hallway. She and Salamah got to share a room while Barakah got one all to herself, her mom thought it was better since she tended to need more privacy than the duo.
She played with her fingers in a really childish way, twisting them over themselves and loosening it only to be twisted once again. The way she played with her hand clearly showed the nervous state she was in, being shooed away is never easy to handle - not even when it comes from family.
A faint voice ordered from inside which led Ayah to pushing open the door. 'here goes nothing' she thought to herself as she stepped foot into the former lifetime bestie's room
"I'm sorry Ayah, I really wish I could tell you something. I am afraid of what you would think of me when you find out what your elder sister has been doing." Was all Ayah could bring out of her sister for the ten minutes she's been seated in room.
"What do you mean?" Ayah grimaced. "So all what I've been telling you since was just me wasting my saliva? What is it that you hope to gain that's worth much more than your family's happiness? What have we turned to? What happened to us telling each other everything? This... It feels like I don't even know you anymore, and maybe I never really did." Ayah bursted out, disappointment clear in her voice.
She had used up a lot of emotion in talking to her sister and could virtually feel tears form behind her eyes. Not wanting her sister to see her cry, she headed for the door without as much of a glance backward.
"Wait... I'll tell you tonight I promise." Barakah promised reluctantly. Ayah had only stopped a little to hear what she had to say and didn't glance back. She walked out of the door right after her sister was done talking, not caring whether she would keep to her promise or not. Something deep inside of her hoped she would though.
She got back downstairs in a totally different mood from the one she'd woken up with. She felt so much hatred and could feel her heart pang out of the hurt of betrayal, she was afraid she might do a transfer of aggression.
With few to no words said and breakfast eaten, they had set off to school that Monday morning. Ayah unconsciously anticipating her sister's confession and Salamah basically thinking of the day ahead.
She got to school all swollen up and ready to scream at the nearest person who'd just mistakenly get on her nerves, she really needed to cool off as soon as possible.
After departing with Salamah at the corridor that divided both classes, she went straight for the bleachers at the football field - a place she always went to whenever she needed to cool off.
She sat down on the lowest step of chairs and stared at the vast field of green that spread across the ground, few kids playing tag whilst the rest just sat on the bleachers too, probably also cooling off.
"Earth to Ayah." Yasmin Alyas laughed, waving before Ayah's face. Yasmin Alyas was a really close friend to Ayah, the second lifetime bestie after Barakah. She sat down right beside her, legs dangling on each side of the bench, she stared at her friend.
Ayah simply threw a smile her way and carried on with staring at the field of green. She noticed the new character in the day's story, a stray dog. The dog went sniffing through the grass, probably to find something to eat for the day.
Ayah was tempted to smile at the act - and she would have, but she was in no mood to do so.
A small frown formed on Yasmin's lips watching her friend's dazed look, it was like she hadn't noticed her at all. She raked through her brain for what could possibly be the cause of her friend's distant behavior, that too on a Monday morning. What could possibly be wrong?
"Are you okay?" She asked, settling for words instead of assuming all sorts of things in her head. After a minute of not receiving any reply, she placed a small hand on Ayah's shoulder as a reassurance that she was always there. Ayah blew out an exasperated sigh, shaking her head in the negative.
"I take it as you had a rough morning?" Yasmin asked, still desperate to find out the cause of her friend's unusual behavior.
"I talked to sister Barakah this morning." Ayah stated dryly. Her eyes still hadn't left the field of green. "What'd she say?" Alyas asked curiously. "Same old, just that she is going to tell me her reasons tonight." She shrugged, scoffing as soon as the last words left her mouth.
"I can't be a fool to believe her though, she's a snake."
She bit back the rest of the angry words that threatened to come out, deciding not to add more to what she had already said. The reason Alyas could catch up though, was that they told each other virtually everything. They had grown up to trust each other so much that each of them counted the other as a sister.
"You don't need that, just wait till to tonight then whatever happens happens okay?" She said.
Behind her tone was a strict warning Ayah knew to not take for granted. She nodded mechanically, not having any more to say and allowed her shoulders slump.
"Don't be like that, let's get to class now shall we?" Yasmin beamed.
They headed to class shortly afterwards.
The rest of the day went by as a blur, with Ayah trying her very best to concentrate in class and not finding it in herself to do so. Her brain kept on replaying scenes of the conversation she had with her sister.
"Wait... I'll tell you tonight I promise." Her sister had said.
Though she didn't want to, she found herself willing the day to end fast and the night, fall quickly.
I can't wait to hear what that snake has to say.