Chapter 21 Numb

I woke up the next morning and went for a shower. I looked at my body in the mirror. Before, I was a healthy 58kg in proportion to my body and height. Now I looked a sickly thin. My skin was dull. My eyes were lifeless.

I started packing up to move to the apartment in Rosebank. My stuff would be collected and sent to the apartment. The rape incident still nagged at me. I needed to escape route. I took a cocktail of drugs to numb the pain.

My phone started ringing. It was my mother. I was not in the mood. I ignored the call. Layha was persistently sending messages trying to find out how I was doing. She actually invited me for a Quraan class. This woman has lost the plot.

My phone alarm started buzzing for Zohr salaah. I switched it off and wondered how I landed where I was. I forgot that my Lord exists. I should feel guilty but I felt nothing.

Aslam barged into the room. I jumped. I didn’t know how to react after yesterday’s incident. He came and gave me a kiss. “I missed you!” he whispered. All the resistance had melted. I could never stay mad at him for long. I loved him with all my heart and soul.

“Babe, We should go on a honeymoon, what do you think?” asked Aslam.

I jumped for joy. “London, Dubai, Malaysia?” I suggested.

“Durban” he said wearily. “My new partner “the foreigner” needs to go to Durbs to meet some club owners. I was thinking let us kill two birds with one stone. We leave in the morning”

Outwardly I showed gratitude and excitement. Inwardly I was disappointed. Durban. How boring.

“Before we leave, I need to go sort out some stuff with Layha, she is talking about divorce. I will be back later”.

“Wasn’t the plan to let her go?” I asked.

“I will never leave her, I love her and I will do anything to keep her.” He said furiously.

“So am I just here to make her jealous? She is a psycho…”

Before I could finish my sentence Aslam pushed me so I hard that I lost balance and stumbled to the floor. My head hit the corner of the coffee table. Blood started gushing out.

“Go clean yourself up!” he barked.

He came into the bathroom and handed me a pill. “Never disrespect my wife, ever!” he ordered.

He then threw a box at me and said it was a gift.  I picked it up off the floor and opened it. It was a diamond tennis bracelet.  I kept it. It would come in handy for a rainy day.

I went to sleep and woke up just before supper. I decided to put some sexy lingerie on and surprise my husband.  Aslam walked in, looked at me and said that he was not in the mood and wanted something to eat. I felt hurt and rejected. We both drank away the evening.

When I woke up I saw a message from Layha pleading,

“Aslam needs help with his alcohol addiction. I am sure you don’t want a drunkard coming home every night beating you to a pulp?”

“He will change when he is older” I replied

“Tomorrow may never come and nothing is guaranteed” she answered.

I got ready. Ordered some coffee and breakfast. I woke Aslam up. I couldn’t wait for our honeymoon even if it was only to Durban.

As he ate, I could not stop admiring how handsome he was.

“What happened with Layha?” I enquired.

“Argh nothing, She is gone all holy. She wants me to stop drinking and going to parties and stop the other women. She is scared I will give both of you Aids.” Aslam replied.

“She is right, you have two wives now. We can give you all the fun you need.” I said.

“I don’t think Layha and I will last much longer, so I will need more women.” he said with a naughty grin on his face.

We both had a quick fix and left for the airport. Hardly a few minutes passed and I became intensely euphoric. I suddenly became hyperactive and alert.

My mother called to tell me that she would be in Joburg soon and asked if I needed anything. I coldly told her I was going away to Durban and did not need anything from them.

As soon as I put the phone down, I received a message from Aneesa. Busy day, I thought.

She invited me to her wedding. Still angry she did not attend my wedding I told her I would check my calendar and see if I was free.

Upon reaching the airport “the foreigner” met us. He tried to make idle chitchat but I just ignored him. I was not in the mood for small talk. My high was wearing off. I started to become agitated, irritable and very uncomfortable. We boarded the plane. Even though I battled, I eventually forced myself to sleep.

Chapter 20 – Denial

Since that rescue mission, Layha has been on my case to seek help and go to rehab. Rehab? Is she nuts? I don’t have a drug problem! Rehab is for junkies and I just casually take drugs now and again when I am bored.

I was browsing through my emails when I saw the unopened message from my mother.

I took some calm-me-downers to brave myself to open the letter.

To my Fatima

When you decided to marry Aslam you hurt both your father and I. What is done is done. We can’t fix the past. I had such high hopes that you would be married from our home. I had so much to tell you about marriage, but this sudden marriage of yours came as a huge shock to us. I am still trying to come to terms with it. You are our only daughter and all we ever hoped was you have the best life. The path you are on now seems dangerous and self-destructive. All I can do is make dua that you find your way back home.

Marriage is not a bed of roses. It is half of your Imaan. You have taken a very big step and it does not seem like you have given much thought about what a commitment marriage is. There are moments in life where you will wonder why you are in the marriage. Just remember when things get tough, we will always be here for you. Always turn to Allah first as HE can do more for you than I can ever do. I can’t sleep at night worrying that Aslam will abuse you so badly like he did Layha. A woman should never be someone’s punching bag. Never take abuse. I get scared thinking about what might happen to you. If you ever need to talk I am here to listen to you. I am just a phone call away. Hope to see you when we are in Joburg again.

Love mummy 

I suddenly missed my parents, I missed my home, I missed my bed, I missed my mother’s home cooking and most of all I missed my father’s warm hugs.

When I called Aslam, he asked me to get ready as we were going to view an apartment in Rosebank. I wore an off the shoulder pink dress that came above the knee with a pair of adorable, glossy black Guess heels. I tied my hair in a bun and put on some hoop earrings. Looking in the mirror, I noticed the brown marks on my teeth were even more visible now. Note to self: next stop, dentist for some teeth whitening.

I casually snorted some crack and went to the lobby to wait for Aslam.
Aslam pitched up looking all beaten up.
“Where have you been?” I asked

He ignored my question and said “Babe u look hot.”

“Why did you leave me in that alley to die?” I shouted

“Stop all this nagging and questioning my comings and goings. I married you so I can get away from all this nagging. The cops want a statement about where I was that night Layha got beat up. Don’t screw it up. Tell them that is the night we got engaged,” commanded Aslam.

I nodded in agreement. He handed me a package. “Here is a belated wedding gift from my new partner.” When I opened it I was ecstatic to see a mixture of drugs from cocaine to Molly.
When we arrived at this apartment, I was not impressed. “This place is crappy and so small and nothing like Layha’s palace.” I exclaimed. Aslam grabbed my arm and pushed me against the wall.

“Stop carrying on like a spoilt brat, I already signed the papers. You will just have to live here whether you like it or not.”
“You’re hurting me Aslam, please stop,” I begged and he let go.

I thanked him and asked about furniture. “Mine and Layha’s old furniture is in storage and I will get them to deliver it here soon. We need to be out of the hotel by tomorrow.” I was fuming! How dare he give me Layha’s hand-me-downs? But I did not want to piss him off any further so I kept silent, seething inside.

We hardly saw each other lately. I was missing him, so I went to kiss him. He pushed me away. I was hurt and felt rejected. I asked if we could go out for a late lunch. All he said was, “Let’s go to the police station so you can go and give your statement. I am warning you, don’t mess it up!”

At a traffic light, I saw Shaheen in the car next to us. I greeted him. Aslam went crazy. “What the fuck was that? Are you smiling at other men like a cheap whore, while I am right next to you?”

He angrily drove the car to a deserted place where no one could hear or see us. He dragged me out of the car. I begged him to stop because he was hurting me.

“You cheap junkie whore!” he yelled. He pushed me onto the back seat, ripped my underwear off and raped me. This was the first sexual encounter with him I ever experienced sober. When he was done, he zipped up and dropped me off at the police station. He then threw some money at me and told me to find my own way home.

When I entered the police station, I went to the bathroom and set on the floor. I was feeling very cold. I felt like I was going to faint. I was disorientated. I felt like I was going to vomit. I started trembling uncontrollably.

“Are you ok Madam, do you need to report a rape case?” asked a police officer who was leaving the bathroom. I stood up, washed my face and told her I was here to give a statement on another case. She told me to see her when I was ready. I went into the toilet cubicle. I locked the door. I closed the toilet lid. I took out some cocaine from my bra. I made a line on the toilet seat. Once I numbed away the pain, I got up went to the police officer. I was stuttering and stammering, still in shock. I lied under oath for Aslam about the Layha incident.

My phone started beeping. It was a message from Aslam.

“Hope you on the pill. There is no way I am having a child with you.”

I had all these ideas about intimacy with a husband. The night I lost my virginity and my wedding night were all blur. This was the first encounter I remember with Aslam. Is it possible for a husband to rape his wife? I could not process what had just happened to me. I became increasingly agitated and restless.

I left the police station, walking to nowhere, crying inconsolably.

Chapter 19 – Confrontation

Layha’s side:

The hardest part being in an abusive relationship is walking away. My brother and his family have been very supportive. I started attending therapy sessions and found solace in dua.

I asked Aslam to meet my brother and I so we could discuss our situation. He arrived looking like he had a hangover. Before he could speak, I asked him to listen.

I started becoming nervous and started making dua to myself asking Allah to guide me and help me. Sitting across Aslam put fear in my heart. I had to build up courage to say what needed to be said.

“Aslam, please do not interrupt me and let me say what I have to say. You are my husband, together we started the car sales business. With the grace of Allah we are doing very well. I am happy about your marriage to Fatima, all I ask is you take better care of her than you took of me. I married you fresh out of school. We were married for a very long time. I still love you but I have to say this to get it out of my heart. When you hit me you stole a piece of me. Each punch and kick stole who I am and who I want to be. Despite all the pain, suffering and torment you have put me through in the past, I forgive you”

Aslam with a blank look on his face just listened as I continued

“If you want our marriage to work you will have to go for rehab and we need to go for marriage counseling together. I also ask you to become punctual with your salaah and also help Fatima get out of the sorry state she is in. If you feel you can’t do any of this then all I am asking is you let me go peacefully. I will not take a dime and leave quietly. Yes, I have not worked a day in my life. Reading the Quran has liberated me and made me realize and has given me the courage that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to do.”

Aslam stood up and interrupted, “Who died and made you holy, I don’t have time for this nonsense, I’ll decide what I want to do with my life. You just stay put here.”

He left in a hurry and banged the door behind him.

That night I sat and read some self help books recommended by the therapist. I sent a message to Aslam asking him to meet me, but he didn’t reply. I called and he ignored the call. I tried my best so left it.

I woke up for Tahajud salaah. I started crying my heart out. It is hard to walkaway from a marriage that you have invested many years of your life. You compromise so much. Although each affair Aslam had was a dagger to my heart, it was extremely painful to leave. I sat on the musalla begging Allah to guide me to make the right choice.

Aneesa came knocking on the door franticly, “Fati called she said she is lost in some alley.”

“Call Faheem to pick us up to go and look for her,” I replied.

“Are you sure you up for this?” Aneesa asked concerned.

“I am sure and no one deserves to be treated like this” I answered.

Faheem picked us up and we drove around. I couldn’t imagine how it must feel to be left alone, lost in the big city. I started making dua asking Allah to keep Fati safe. I started becoming anxious and asked Aneesa to dial the number Fati phoned from.

Joburg’s gorgeous sun rise now seemed gloomy as I worried.

We found Fatima lying across the sidewalk like a homeless person. When I got to her she was submerged in her own vomit. Her clothes were tattered and torn. I hoped and prayed that she was not raped. Aneesa and I carried Fatima into the car. I sat in the backseat and put her head on my lap. Her eyes looked lost. She needed help. All she desperately asked for was cocaine. I knew she had a drug issue but never realized it was as bad as cocaine. What did Aslam do to this innocent soul? I begged her to go to the hospital to get some help but she insisted all she wanted was a quick fix. I didn’t have the guts to take her to her parents in this sorry state. She needed their support more than ever now. We left Fatima at her hotel room.

As I returned home, I felt some remorse for missing my Fajr. I had a shower and performed my missed salaah. After salaah I sat in dua, praying for Fatima who needed a kind friend more now than ever.

Chapter 18 – Lost

Dazed, and just conscious enough to feel the cold, I woke up. As my vision cleared up and I was once again able to focus, I realized that I was in a dark alleyway. I was alone! My hand and legs were stained with dry blood. I began to panic. How long had I been outside that the blood was dry and frozen? I’d been thrown out as if I was trash!

I tried in vain to stand. As I stood up, I fell back down again, I realized I was barefoot. My head pounded as though a jackhammer had gone to work on it. I searched for my phone but that too was gone.

My body ached, I was alone and I had no clue where I was. I began to sob uncontrollably. I tried to lift myself until finally I was on my feet. It startled me to notice that my dress was ripped, but I walked anyway. I tried to flag cars down to help but at this hour no one would even bother. Looking at the sky, I surmised that the sun would be up soon. I continued walking until I found a pay phone. I had no money. There, sitting on the side of the pay phone was a homeless lady. She unselfishly handed me a R5 coin. “You look like you need it, madam.” She said sympathetically. I couldn’t stop thanking her.

As I dropped the R5 coin into the slot, I paused. “Who, in this day and age remembers phone numbers?” “Think Fatima!” I commanded to myself. The only numbers I could remember were my parents’ and Aneesa’s.

A groggy “Hello” answered the phone.

“Aneesa, please, I’m lost. I’m alone. I’m somewhere on the streets. Please help me.” I begged.

“Fati what you mean?” Aneesa replied.

“I was at a club. I got high and woke up on the street. Listen I don’t have much money in the call box can you come please, I don’t even know what street I am on.” I started to sob.

“Fati can you see any landmarks?” She asked

“I think I’m in Braamfontien near the Mandela Bridge. I am walking distance from the Mandela Bridge.” I answered.

“Hold on! I’m coming!” said Aneesa in a panic.

I went and carefully sat down next to the homeless lady. At least nobody bothered to check my bra. I took out some crack and snorted it. I offered the homeless lady some, but she declined. I must have fallen asleep because the phone rang and woke me up.

I answered the phone,

“It’s me, Aneesa. Listen, the sun’s coming up and we’ve been searching all over for you. Can you see a street name?” she enquired.

“Mariam something… I can’t see, my vision is blurry.” I answered.

“Oh ok, I know where you are. That’s by all the clubs.” She replied.

I sat down next to the homeless lady again and she wished me well as she left. I thanked her. Watching the sunrise made me feel sick and woozy. I threw up and fell cheek first into my own vomit. I began to shiver and tremble as though it was the middle of winter. I needed more coke! I searched and dug into my bra but found nothing. People began making their way to work. Some passed and merely gawked, others asked if they could help. Out of frustration I simply told them to fuck off.

Finally Aneesa arrived with Faheem and Layha. Aneesa and Layha helped me into the back seat. I remember my head resting on Layha’s lap. She stroked my hair kindly. As baffled as I was by her reaction, I welcomed the gesture from my co wife.

I looked up at her and asked where Aslam was and she said that she had no idea.

“He came briefly to meet me yesterday and left in a hurry.” Answered Layha.

“He was with some foreign businessman that night and I didn’t know the nature of the deal or anything thereof.” I explained.

Suddenly Faheem stopped the car with a jerk, “Was the name of the man Aslam met David?” he asked. I confirmed that it was.

“David is a drug dealer on a large scale and for weeks he has been talking about using Aslam’s business as a front for this. I was in David’s clutches and finally managed to get my life back from David after many years of being used by him as a front to clean money,” explained Faheem.

Faheem rang up David and by Faheem’s tone one could hear that he did not associate himself with these people any more.

I began to shake uncontrollably. I begged Faheem for just one line.

Layha cradled me in her arms as though I were her child. I begged her for some cocaine too because I really needed a line. She tried to calm down and convince me that perhaps going to the hospital would be a better option.

“No Woman!” I yelled, “I need a line that’s all!”

Turning back to Faheem, I yelled, “Faheem! I need a line dammit!”

“Listen, I am changing my life for Aneesa. I can’t get married to her knowing my money is haraam, so please I can’t give you a line! I can get you to a hospital or I can drop you at that hotel you and Aslam are staying at.” He replied.

I asked to be dropped off at the hotel and they obliged. As we stopped Layha reprimanded me.  “Rather go to rehab now than later,” she said with a look of concern on her face. I yelled at the top of my voice, “Who the hell do you think you are? I don’t have a drug problem!”  I slammed the door and they drove off.

“Ma’m, are you ok?” asked the receptionist.

“Listen, stop being nosy and get me a card to my room!” I instructed her. It’s under the name Aslam.”

“I need some sort of identification,” said the receptionist.

Irritated I retorted, “Lady I’ve been robbed! I don’t even have a purse on me! I’m his goddamn wife!”

In spite of me being so rude to her, I have no idea why she helped.

I got up to the room and the shaking started, even worse this time. I could barely get the card to the door. When I finally did, the first thing I did was search the room for any sort of cocaine traces. I finally found a small bottle which held enough cocaine for just one line. I snorted it and just sat. The most horrible feeling in the world not have your fix when you need it.

With still no phone, I had no idea what Aslam’s number was. In fact, I didn’t even care where he was. He had left me in that club to die.

I searched the room for anything that would help me get my fix. I found his credit card. “I’m sorted for the night!” I thought.

I looked in the bathroom mirror and I was shocked. The truth is, I looked like shit. My teeth were browning, and my face was aging too. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, changed into fresh clothing and made my way to the ATM to withdraw R5000 for some more cocaine.

The problem is I had no idea how to score this stuff. Faheem was my go-to-guy. And now he’d gone all saintly. Surprisingly, dodgy looking people on street corners are not drug dealers. In desperation I begged a car guard to tell me who sold cocaine. Aah, success! Soon I was on my way to meet a man.

We all assume drug dealers are found in dingy areas, but it’s quite the contrary. They are well-dressed in expensive suits, driving fancy cars and are found in well-known coffee shops.

“Are you Jack the man with the plan?” I asked.

“Who are you?” replied Jack.

“Cut the bullshit! I need to score some lines from you.” I asked anxiously

“Gorgeous women turning to the line? Sad…but that’s why I am rich.” He replied with a sly smile.

“Shut up and tell me what does R4950 get me?” I asked getting angry.

“Bet the car guard scored a R50. Ok missy it will get you not as much as you like.”

He showed me a small bag, hardly worth R5000. Nonetheless, I took it, shoved the money in his hands and left. I ran right back. He laughed handing me his card, almost knowing he would be my dealer on speed dial.

I had to walk back to the hotel because I didn’t have money. I got to the room strew some of the powder across the table and cut it up into lines.

The hotel room phone rang.

“Are you ok?” enquired Aneesa.

“Yeah, I am. Thanks for bailing me out” I replied.

“Anytime.  Listen, you seem off. Are you a drug addict? Faheem came clean with me and told me about what was in the bag. He told me it was drugs and how he got involved with David. Please Fati, don’t throw your life away for Aslam,” Pleaded Aneesa

“I am an occasional user, nothing major. Listen any news from Aslam? My phone got stolen. Can you get me his number?” I replied

“No news on Aslam yet. Listen, Layha asked if you want to come stay for a few days?” she said.

“Nah, she will kill me as I sleep. Plus a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Chat later alligator.”

I snorted one line and packed three to go. Got dressed, got a meter taxi and headed to Sandton for some supper.

Sitting at the Hard Rock Café, I noticed an incredibly handsome man looking at me. I tried to pay no attention, but he soon came over anyway.

“Fatima, where is Aslam? “David is looking for him.” He said.

“I have no clue.” I responded annoyed. Before I could even order I got up and left. Never mind, perhaps I would try to eat later.

I bought some new clothes on Aslam’s credit card and arranged a new phone.

I called Aslam.

“Hey babe.”

“Where were you?” I asked.

“Sorry, crazy night! I ended up going home with someone else. I tried to find you but couldn’t. Good to know you’re ok.” He replied.

“You idiot! I woke up in an alley! I was left for dead! Anyway, some guy said David is looking for you. I need money. I maxed out your credit card on clothes.” I asked anxiously.

“Do you need money or a little recreational medication?” he enquired.

“Mmm, you know.”

“Okay, see you at the hotel at about 01h00, and we’ll talk then. We need to move out of the hotel. You know I’m not made out of money.”

I got into the taxi, headed back to the hotel room, snorted a few lines and eventually took something to help me sleep.

 

Chapter 17 – Rock Bottom

Twenty-four hours have passed as a married woman. I thought Layha would have been kicking and screaming at the wedding. She is such a drama queen usually. I was heartbroken that Aneesa did not come to the wedding. She did not even reply to my message. I was missing her so much.
I walked into the bathroom and for the first time I really looked at myself in the mirror. I was stick thin and half my normal body weight. My face was looking dull, ragged and there were blotches forming. I had red, glassy eyes and my nose was running incessantly, trickling with blood. My voice was hoarse and I had difficulty swallowing. My mouth was dry and I was always thirsty. What I found disturbing was that I was losing my sense of smell. “Who cares Fatima, You are living the dream life,” I reassured myself. I then washed my face and brushed my teeth. My teeth were becoming very sensitive and the ulcers that had formed were burning as I was brushing them. My nose started bleeding again. “Argh shit happens I guess”.
Aslam was waking up and I was wearing my skimpy bikini getting ready to bask in the sun by the pool. “Babes, have you eaten?” He asked as he was wiping the sleep from his face.
“No, I am waiting for you just like a good wife” I said playfully.
“Oh shit, look at the time, I have to meet Layha in an hour,” he said as he jumped out of bed. For the first time I noticed his nakedness as he walked towards the bathroom. All our sexual encounters were a blur.
Aslam showered quickly, dressed and left in a hurry. We parted ways like strangers. It was as if we did not know each other. It did not bother me.
I checked my emails on my phone as I walked towards the pool area. I noticed a message from my mother. I just ignored it because I was not in the mood for her bayaans (lectures).
I was bored out of my mind. I had no friends and it was awkward to confront my family. Twiddling my thumbs, I decided to call Aslam. “I am bored Aslam. Can’t we go do something fun?”
“Stop your whining junkie, get a grip, I am busy” he laughed at me mockingly and put the phone down.
When boredom prevails the only thing to liven things up again is to get high, and that’s exactly what I did. I took some pills to remove me from this dull anxiety I was feeling. When you hit rock bottom the last thing on your mind is food. You are never hungry so you don’t eat. You never realize how close your body is to shutting down. The least attractive thing is when you’re noticeably high. I was stumbling all over the hotel but it didn’t phase me one bit.
What started out as a midday nap turned into a good sleep. When I looked at the time it was 4pm.
I called Aslam to find out where he was.
“Babes, get ready. I have an important business meeting and I am taking you with me. Wear something skimpy and short” he instructed.
I showered, did my make-up and wore a short black dress. I accessorized with a gold belt and completed the outfit with glitter gold heels. I curled my hair, rounding up my ‘party girl’ look. I freshened up with a line of cocaine and waited in the lobby.
Aslam arrived and looked at me disapprovingly.
“You need to go shorter, I need to show off that I have candy.” He said.
I just glared at him. “I feel sexy!” I insisted. Surprisingly, he didn’t persist.
As we were driving I asked him what Layha wanted.
“Babes, Layha is still my wife and I needed to spend time with her,” he answered.
I threw a huge tantrum! Aslam took a fistful of my locks and tugged violently, shouting at me, “Listen here you junkie! She’s my wife and nothing will change that! Not even you!”
“You’re hurting me, you dog!” I yelled in retaliation, to which he stopped the car and promptly slapped me across the face.
“Don’t you ever call me a dog again, you whore!”
Defeated, I mumbled, “I’m sorry.” He gave me a pill and all was fine again.
We met the client at a classy restaurant. The food was  scrumptious. I had the lobster, and Aslam had sushi. We took the liberty of ordering a seafood platter for the client. The client was used to the finer things in life and insisted on taking us to an upmarket and exclusive nightclub. The allure of free drugs always got me excited, so I was game.
True to the nightclub lifestyle, we danced, drank and socialized. Deals were struck and of course we snorted several lines.
Suddenly my nose was on fire and the insides of me felt like hell had opened up its doors. In a panic I went up to Aslam and said, “Aslam something’s wrong with the stuff I snorted!” I had to yell repeatedly before he heard me.
“Can’t you see I’m busy? And go clean yourself up! Your nose is bleeding, you junkie!” was all he said.
Tripping and fumbling I eventually found a bathroom.
“Are you ok miss?” someone asked. That was all I remember. ‘Hitting rock bottom’ happened figuratively and literally. As I fell, the bathroom floor hit back.

Chapter 16 – Acceptance

Layha’s side:

When I was in hospital, all battered and bruised, an old nanima approached my  bed. She appeared from nowhere, it seemed. I was startled, thinking that maybe she was a Jinnat. “Seek solace and comfort by performing your salaah. Salaah is your key to contentment. Start reading the Quran. Begin and reflect with Surah Nisaa. Read the English. It has many lessons for women.” She advised me.

I felt so lost. “Today we are only Muslim by name,” I replied.

“Thirty years ago I was in your shoes. I only found my strength when I became punctual with my salaah. Ask Allah for help first. The best time is tahajjud time. There is nothing wrong to seek counseling. Everyone thinks going to a psychologist or admitting you have depression is only for nut cases and we don’t want to admit this about ourselves. It really helps to talk to someone about this and let it all out without it festering inside you.” She continued to offer me sage advice. She handed me a few helpline contact numbers. “These organisations are excellent and give you a new lease on life, especially from an Islamic perspective.” she said reassuringly. She embraced me with the warmest hug I had ever felt and left. I did not know this stranger, but in a short while I felt so much peace from her compassionate words.

I immediately went to my phone and opened the browser. I searched for Surah Nisaa, the English translation and explanation. I never realized women have so many rights in Islam. Like the rest of the world, I felt we were oppressed. It explained the guidelines about the smooth running of the family unit. Ways to settle disputes. Rules for marriage. How the rights of a husband and wife are apportioned fairly and equitably. It emphasised on the status of women in society. I immediately felt empowered.

I gathered all my strength, got up from my self-pitying state and walked to the bathroom even though my ribs were hurting. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was not a pretty sight. My lip was cut. I had big, blue bruises. My one cheek was swollen. My face was riddled with stiches.
It didn’t matter what I looked like. I started making Wudhu. I walked towards the jamaat khana in the hospital. I was glad to see that they had an abaya and burqa available. I donned the Islamic garb. This was the first time I had worn it in years. The last time I wore it was at madressah. I commenced my salaah. As soon as my head touched the thick mat in sajdah, I immediately felt peace and tranquility enter my heart. When I completed my salaah. I sat in duaa. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I was engrossed in conversation, finally talking to my Lord, asking HIM to help me and guide me. It felt like I cried out every pain I had ever suffered.

Soon after the visit from the mysterious nanima, I was discharged. I often still wonder if she perhaps was an angel. I went back home. Aslam was not around. I was relieved. For the days that followed, I couldn’t wait for salaah time. It had become my solace. I started pondering more and more the loss of your identity when you get married. You are either someone’s wife or someone’s mother. You are never you. Before marriage you have such high aspirations and you just give it up all for a man. I made it my mission to find out who Layha is? And so began my journey of self-discovery.

Aslam came home one day to tell us he was getting married. My brother Adam, who was visiting, wanted to hit him but restrained himself. I did not feel a thing. I was at peace. I was basking in the Light of my Allah, and came to the realization that Allah is sufficient for me.
I wished Aslam well. He was shocked and seemed a bit disappointed actually, that I didn’t kick up fuss. I felt remorse about how I had wasted my life loving someone who treated me like trash. All heartbreak is repaired when you accept that everything is the will of Allah.

Aslam and Fatima’s wedding day arrived. Aslam hijacked the anniversary party I planned for us. These material things did not bother me anymore. I felt it was my duty to warn Fati what she was getting herself into. You wouldn’t wish almost dying in a pool of your own blood, battered and bruised even on your worst enemy. Abuse takes your soul to dark places you have never been to before. You feel lost. Every time you get hit you feel like another part of you is lost. I confronted Fatima at the door and pleaded with her to make the right choice. She just shoved me aside. All I can do is make dua she finds the straight path again.

When I reached home, Aneesa came running towards me. “I am so sorry I brought Fati into your home.” She fell on my shoulder. I embraced her. “She was my best friend. I can’t believe she did this,” she sobbed. “I feel a part of me has died now that my friendship is over with Fatima,” She cried.
“I have forgiven Fatima, so should you?” I said trying to console her.

My mother entered the room, “It’s all your fault he is marrying that slut….” I blocked myself off from what she was saying. She babbled on for a while before I looked her with a genuine smile on my face and said, “Mummy, Allah has a plan for all of us. We don’t understand this plan but let us trust He knows best.” That quietened the noise somewhat.

Only by being punctual with my salaah and reading more Quraan with understanding, did my life turn around completely. No one teaches you this in madressah. Turn to Allah in your darkest hours and make dua to Him. Life gets busy and we forget how to be Muslim. We’re never ready to change. One day, some day when I am older then I will go for haj or I will start wearing scarf. All we need is to have some faith.

After the wedding, stories about the wild, raucous after-party started to surface. I was shocked. I knew Aslam drank with clients because I had to cater for the wining and dining, but what I heard utterly horrified me. Although I gained materially, I had sold my soul to the devil in the process.
I went to my brother Adam. “I want to get a divorce!” I exclaimed. “I can’t see myself staying in this hell-hole any longer.” I offered justification, “He doesn’t want kids. I want more out of life. I got married fresh out of school because he was a rich guy. I also told Aneesa to rather study then get married and experience life a little.” Adam came towards me and hugged me tightly. “You can move in with us if you want?” He suggested. I needed a fresh start. I went on my musalla and read my istikharah, begging Allah to show me the way forward.

Chapter 15 – Trapped

(unfortunately we posted a whole lot of posts without it being edited, thank you for your patience while we get up to speed)

Aslam met me near the elevator. He grabbed the bags from my hand. “Listen babes, I planned a small function. It is last minute. People will finally realize that Layha is a liar. I organized everything, hair, makeup, dress, and the works. Make sure you look stunning. We talked about this day for ages. It has finally come.”

I kicked off the heels I was wearing, tired from all the walking in the mall. To celebrate I ordered some bubbly. I never tasted wine before but this momentous occasion was a champagne moment.

There was a knock at the door. Room service wheeled in champagne in an ice bucket. I asked him to pop the cork. I didn’t have a clue on how to do that. He poured a glass for me and left the room. I whirled the glass, smelt it and then took a sip. Yuck! Why do people die for this stuff and pay so much money for it?  It tasted like rotten orange juice.

As I was unwinding and dosing off, the doorbell rang again. It was Trisha. “Fuck you too” she said as she walked in. “This is Adrianna and she has some dresses and some shoes for you to choose from.”

Only one dress caught my eye. I wanted my wedding dress to exude class and elegance. I chose a long open-back, strapless ivory dress, with golden beadwork. This dress accentuated my bust. Who knew my breasts were so big. My run down face was suddenly glowing after the bridal make-up was applied. She added some fake eyelashes and finished up with some golden glimmer eye shadow. The hairstylist pinned up my dark, long, brown hair and pushed some small pearls of gold around for good measure. That was the quickest makeover ever! I looked like royalty.

I built up the courage, picked up the phone and dialed.

“Mummy put me on the speaker phone please.” Which she did. “Mummy, Pappa please come to my wedding day? I can’t do this without your blessing.” I implored them.

Sobbing uncontrollably my mother said, “Fati, you are making a big mistake, please listen to us. We always want what is best for you. Why are you hurting us like this?”

Tears were welling up in my eyes, and then I thought about the make-up and tried to keep restrain my tears. I reached for my bag, took out a pill and popped it into my mouth.

“It’s my life! I thought you will be happy for me. I will message you the address… come if you want. I don’t give a damn!”

I looked at myself one last time in the mirror before I headed out. I took a deep breath. “Keep calm, this is a new me, a new start,” I told myself. As I boarded the elevator I felt something was missing. My scarf! I never leave home without my scarf. I always thought I would wear a scarf on my wedding day. “This is a new me. No husband wants a wife who dresses like a Dadima,” I comforted myself.

I was surprised to see Faheem when I got to the car. “You look beautiful,” he said smiling.

“I can’t take the nerves! Don’t you have something to the edge off?” I asked quivering.

“I came clean. Aneesa found out about the drug business. She asked me to stop or she will leave me. I love her too much, so I plan to change my ways,” Faheem explained.

We sat in silence, until he looked at me from the rear view mirror. “You are looking stunning today. Are you sure you want to go through with this? It is not to late to back out. You can really make something off you life. You were becoming a doctor. Why are you wasting your life away like this.”

“Shut up Dr. Phil, you are just here to drive, so drive faster.”

As we approached the hall I caught a glimpse of Layha outside. “I wonder what this bitch wants!” I said to myself almost aloud.

“Fati, he is just using you to cover up his lies. This marriage is just a sham, one big lie. Who do you think planned this party? It was supposed to be my and Aslam’s anniversary party. The dress you’re wearing is mine. Fati, you are very intelligent. I am trapped, but I warn you… please get out while you can? He will drag you down and use you like a pawn, how he wants. Everything is just fun and games for him. I am begging you, please don’t do it.”

I pushed her aside, looked back and sneered, “You’re just a jealous bitch! Get a life! And I don’t care what you think. I love him and he gives me everything I desire.”
As I entered some uncle was standing with the nikaah book at the entrance. The witnesses were some man I did not know and Aslam’s two brothers. A moment of sadness overcame me, realizing my father was not there to represent me when I signed the nikaah book or even walk me down the aisle. This sombre feeling was short lived as soon as I entered the hall.

The hall was breathtaking. It was a Paris setting, with lights that shone like stars in the night sky. The plate settings were ivory and gold. The table décor was miniature Eiffel Towers. Even though I did not plan this day, everything was perfect. The brightly coloured macaron Eiffel Tower was my favourite. The only thing missing was the drinks. With all these bearded uncles here, I was sure it would have caused a riot if we had brought out the champagne.

I sat down at the main table. I was centre of attraction. Everyone looked at me puzzled, perhaps wondering who I was.

My husband arrived. Aslam walked in. He wasn’t dressed for the occasion. He looked a little shabby even. He greeted me with peck on the cheek. He wreaked of alcohol. I was ecstatic, regardless of his lack of effort.

As he sat down, he called for everyone’s attention.

“Salaams everyone,” he started. “I am very happy you all made it here today. I have just come from the masjid. I would like to announce and introduce you to my new bride and second wife Fatima!” There was a gasp and murmuring all around the hall. But he continued over the humming. “Isn’t she looking gorgeous? I am wealthier today. As they say, a man’s wealth is measured by the amount of wives he has. Thank you all for your support and enjoy the rest of the evening.”
Then there was silence. Everyone looked at each other confused. They then started chatting amongst themselves. I just overheard someone saying, “Shame, poor Layha, wonder what she thinks about this?”

When my parents suddenly walked in, I was overjoyed to see them. Every girl wants their parents to share their happiest day with them.
My father looked run down and 10 years older. It looked like he aged overnight.
My parents sat next to me. “Fati, you are married now, without my permission but I will have to live with this heart ache. There is nothing I can do now but tell you even though you are choosing this path, we are still your parents and we will always be there waiting for you if you decide to turn back. You will always be daddy’s little girl.” My mother said nothing, just sobbing uncontrollably the entire time. They left soon after that.

Aslam and I left the wedding party around midnight. No, I did not turn back into Cinderella. “The night is still young. Let us have a jol. Invite some cheap call girls. Have a drug fest.”

Before I knew it the room was filled with people. Drugs were flowing freely like air. The room was hazy. I had a whole cocktail of drinks and drugs. When I woke up I was on the floor, numb. As I looked on the bed, I saw Aslam with a white naked chic next to him. All I felt was numb. Not betrayed, just numb.

As long as I have him by my side and a free supply of drugs, he can do whatever the fuck he wants. Little did I realise at the time that I had hit rock bottom.