“I thought it had happened.” “What?”, her father inquired. Leeyah said almost laughing, “apocalypse”.
Leeyah is the only daughter of a single father, who had to raise an incubated infant after the demise of his wife, Zahrah, who died seven minutes after giving birth to their daughter, Leeyah, who was born prematurely. It was more difficult for him because Jamal had never entertained the thought of nursing an infant, a premature one at that. He strove really hard to make sure that Leeyah never felt the absence of the mother that she never knew. In a bid to raise his daughter appropriately, he enrolled for countless parenting courses, both online and offline. He joined various Single Fathers Clubs and reading books on parenting was part of the important investment that he made. He tried to cover up for his inexperience and he did a good job. He thought he did.
Leeyah grew up into a beautiful, bold and bright lady. She received all the love that she could from a father who would do anything to make her comfortable and happy. She went to the best school, went on expensive vacations and always got to choose what she wanted. She is now in 200 level in Covenant University – the university of her choice. Leeyah loves her father as much as he loves her but she has recently changed from being the good girl that her father used to know.
It was the first semester break and it would last for three weeks. Normally, Leeyah would come home almost immediately after she dropped her pen after her last paper. In fact, she would already bring her luggage to the examination hall. She always risked being scolded by the examination official just to make getting home faster to see her dear father. However, it was different with this particular semester break. Leeyah finished her last paper on Tuesday and she was not home until Saturday. It was unusual of her. Her father worried, panicked and was greatly disturbed. Despite the fact that Leeyah told him that she had a school event, he was still unsettled. He was uncomfortable. He felt that something was wrong. “My Leeyah would still come home, even if it is just to say bye before attending the function. I know my daughter”, he kept thinking. He managed to concentrate at work for the few days that his daughter was not back home. She had said that she would come home on Saturday. So, he would randomly say to himself, “Saturday is here. Yes, it is almost here” at any chance that he got to be alone.
Eventually, Saturday came. Jamal already heard Felix, the gatekeeper exchanging pleasantries with Leeyah. It was the usual atmosphere. Leeyah got something for Felix this time too and the appreciation message was taking too long for Jamal to bear. It was as if it was the first time that the situation would be occurring. But He had missed his dear daughter too much to wait any longer. All the same, he kept his cool. He waited. Finally, Leeyah entered and the hug was longer enough to break their backbones. There was affection in the air. The exchange of “I missed you, I missed you too. I love you, I love you too” continued almost after each topic. Jamal was too carried away to notice his daughter’s appearance. Leeyah had no scarf on. It had been used as a hair ribbon. Oh, she had plucked her eyebrows. “What the…”, he managed to hold it. He managed to calm himself without Leeyah noticing and said, ” Where is your scarf and what happened to your eyebrows?” She feigned surprise and said indifferently, “I have it on, of course.” She continued, “You didn’t say that it has to be wrapped around my hair. You only said that I should always have it on and I have it on.” “As a hair ribbon?”, Jamal inquired, almost in disbelief. He would not want to lose it. He had to be calm, though with great difficulty. He never thought that he would ever have that kind of conversation with his lovely daughter. “Dad, I’m tired. I had a long day. Can we talk about this later over dinner?” She trivialized the situation. Pecking her father’s cheek, she walked inside with her luggage. It was different. Her father used to insist on helping her with the luggage whenever she came home for holiday, saying that she had tiny hands. The situation after that was usually that of lovely argument and amusement. But that particular day’s was different. An invisible bridge was being built between father and daughter. Whatever where the misunderstanding was coming from, Jamal vowed in his mind never to allow it. He stood still for more than two minutes, lost in thought of what was going on. It was the first for him. The first time that Leeyah would walk out on him without minding if they were done with the conversation or not.
That night, he couldn’t sleep early. The thought occupied his mind until he finally dozed off. The next day, while returning from their normal morning exercise, Jamal tried to talk to Leeyah about the day before. He went on talking about how he understood how peer and societal influence can affect a young girl like her. He explained, using the words of Allaah from their scripture and the Prophet’s to explain to her why she should not fall for all the lies and deceits of the world, explaining how vain life is and how certain ‘Qiyaamah’ (the day of judgement in Arabic) is. Leeyah did not argue with her father and he hoped in his mind that his daughter had heard and understood all that he said.
They went on with their day’s activities normally. It was 8:05pm and the Razaks just finished having dinner. “It is time for ‘Solāt’ (the Muslim daily prayer), so tell Meenah to round up in the kitchen”, Jamal said to Leeyah. “I know”, she said, almost snapping. She had been doing that since she returned from school, always snapping or sounding so whenever her father tried to talk about something that she did not want to do. Jamal noticed but chose to ignore her. He knew that dealing with a seventeen-year-old girl, who left home for the first time in her life, required patience and calmness if he would not lose her to the ones mentoring her. After the the congregational prayer, which usually brought the three people living in the main building together, Jamal went inside his study. It was his habit to read the Qur’ān (the Muslims’ scripture) before sleeping. They exchanged some goodnight words and Leeyah went into her room.
It was past 9:00pm and Jamal kept wanting to check up on her daughter. She was no longer a kid but he kept thinking about checking. Unable to debate about it anymore in his mind, he stood up. As he was about to hold the door knob, he heard a faint sound. It was as if someone was tiptoeing and trying hard to make the littlest sound as possible. He peeped through the tiny hole on the door and he could see Leeyah, dressed half naked. As different from her usual free dress which would cover her knees, what she had on didn’t even reach them. She had no scarf on and her cleavages inside her very fair skin were all visible. Jamal almost lost balance. Different thoughts ran through his mind. For a second, he was convinced that it was a dream. It took a pinch by him to realize the realness of the situation. He did not open the door. He watched her sneak out. He didn’t stop her. “Stopping her is not the solution. It will be temporary. I must stop her from doing that forever. To do that, I need to be calm and think. Yes, I should”, he kept soliloquizing until he unconsciously burst into an uncontrollable cry. He could not hold himself any longer. He blamed himself. He pondered where he had gone wrong. He thought that maybe he misapplied a rule he once read in one of his parenting books. He thought that maybe he didn’t care enough or love her enough. He started rolling on their fully rugged floor, praying in tears to his Lord for guidance for his innocent daughter. He felt helpless and submitted to his Maker for help.
He stopped rolling but didn’t stop supplicating. He was feeling more at ease. He stopped crying but kept praying without noticing the passage of time. He was lost in prayer when Leeyah sneaked back in. It was the slight squeezing of her door that made him know that his daughter had returned.
After twenty minutes, he went to her room and found her collapsed on her bed, reeking of alcohol. He removed her shoes, placed her properly on the bed and was making to leave when he heard Leeyah say, “Daddy!” with great panic. He rushed to her side. She was still sleeping but sweating profusely. It was obvious that the sleep wasn’t peaceful. Leeyah is now in another world entirely. She is standing in front of their house. It is all in ruins. Felix cannot be by the gate. The gate is no more. The house is no longer there. She is alone. “Where is Daddy, Meenah, Felix and the food seller that sells beside our house”, she murmurs. She goes further down their street. All are in ruins. She feels lost. “Am I in the right street?”, she thinks out loud. She shouts, “Hey, who is there? Can anyone hear me?”. It is dawning on her now. She is alone! Afraid, she runs. She keeps running, hoping to find a house with someone or some people but it is the same. All are really in ruins. Suddenly, a thought flashes through her mind and she immediately covers her mouth with her both hands as if she just realizes what trouble she is in. She just gets the gist. She is truly alone in this world and she will be the last person to disappear! She effortlessly sits down on the floor. It is more of falling down. She starts to cry, regretting many things that she has done. She blames Shalewa, her supposed best friend and roommate in school. She thinks that it is Tayo and Latanah that initiated her into clubbing. She wishes that another chance can be given to her. She closes her eyes, saying, “Oh, my Lord! I know that I have wronged you and betrayed Daddy, if given another chance to live, I will be the best that I can be until I return to you.”
She lies down, knowing that there is nowhere that she will go that is not like where she is. Now, she hopes for a miracle. She drifts into sleep and wakes up to her father’s stare. Jamal is still by her bed. He hears her daughter silently say the prayer. She was half awake when she said the prayer and the promise. Her father heard everything. He doesn’t know the full story but he knows that it is something good, judging from the prayer and the promise. Leeyah hugs her father and says in tears, “I am sorry, Daddy. I am really really sorry. I love you.” Her father understands and only nods as though he is saying, “It is okay. I understand.”
It is morning. Leeyah comes to greet her father before preparing for the morning prayer. She hasn’t done that since she returned from school. Her father happily replies and as she is about to go, he asks, “ehen…what did you really dream about yesternight”. Smiling, she replies, “I thought that it had happened.” “What?”, her father inquires. She says almost laughing, “apocalypse”.