I really wanted to confront Aminah about the letters but thought it best to not do so, I felt it was better for me to put them back in their place for now. I felt that was the better thing to do. I felt different , the guilt of the past no longer clawed at my insides, for the first time in ages my decisions were based purely on the desire to do what was right a not on some one's opinion of what 'seemed' right.
I decided to visit my parents early in the morning and seek their advice about the issues that seemed to be bothering me. I decided to pick up some breakfast for them on my way there , and a fresh bouquet of white lilies; mum's favorite. As usual both my parents greeted me with warms smiles and big bear hugs, part of me wanted to stay just to be able to be close to their loving embrace every time I felt like I needed a hug. "Mum, dad I am really confused." I started to say as we sat on the dinner table enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice and breakfast salad."Confused about what love?" Dad asked.
"I feel like I have made a lot of bad decisions and I don't know how to make things right. I feel like I have wasted so much time doing what I wasn't supposed to do... How do I make things okay?"
"Humm... well I can't say I understand because you haven't told me exactly what these bad decisions are but from my experience I feel that the best way to fix one's situation is to seek Allah's help and try and do what we are supposed to do according to Him, make Istekhara it might help clear your mind, Insha'Allah."
"But there are so many decisions , not just one..."
"Well list them down and make istekhara for them separately and choose the path that you think is best, if Allah knows it to be good for you then He will create an opening for you in that situation and if it isn't good for you He will put up barriers and stop you from carrying on with your decision. Insha'Allah"
"Okay, I understand.... Thank you so much Dad , I am so glad I was able to discuss this with you."
"Abdullah, why don't you take her to the workshop... maybe she can help you fix the problem you were telling me about earlier." Mum finally spoke.
"Yes that is a good idea Maryam , I think it high time our daughter took some interest in the family business." Dad replied with a smile.
"Come on!What are we waiting for?"
Dad drove me to the workshop and led me to a small office. He turned on the computer and showed me some designs of some the furniture he was planning to import for his furniture showroom and also the plan for expanding the business. As I sat there listening to him, I felt excited about the plans he had made and couldn't wait to be a part of his venture and help him. It was after a long time I had felt excited about something related to work , back at my own office in London there was hardly anything left to look forward to or something that made me want to excel at my job.
"So, when is the new stock coming in?" I asked.
"Next month, Insha'Allah." Dad answered.
"Humm... well from the looks of it I think you will need all the extra help you can get. You might have to hire some new staff. I could help you with keeping check of the accounts and the inventory, if you like?"
"I would really like that actually, but I am not sure about how much time you can give to this work seeing as you already have a job"
"I am thinking of changing jobs and moving closer to home."
"Whatever you decide, remember that you are more then welcome to start work here anytime you like my dear"
I was so touched by Dad's words. Words failed me and I just smiled back. That night I prayed 2 units of prayer and made istekhara.
One week later.....
"I wish you didn't have to go Noura" Aminah said as she hugged me.
"Don't worry I will be back soon , Insha'Allah." I said as I hugged her back.
"Please keep in touch dear." Mom said as she hugged me
"Don't worry I will."
"It was so nice of you to come and spend so much time with us, I think I speak for all of us when I say we truly enjoyed ourselves with you around." Dad said.
"I enjoyed myself too." I said and kissed dad on the cheek.
This time as I got on the train , I felt different. Normally I would just be rushing through the goodbyes and impatiently waiting for the train to start moving so I could go back to my living my life in London. London no longer felt like home. I wanted to stay in Surrey and spend more time with the people I had spent so much time neglecting. I tried hard to stop myself from crying but all in vain , tears rolled down my cheeks.
Back in my apartment, it felt odd being by myself. I was due to start work the day after but I wasn't looking forward to it. I laid out the prayer mat and once again made istekhara as I had been doing since the past 1 week. Suddenly I remembered dad's words and realized that all the answers to my problems lay right in front of me. I knew what I had to do.
As I stepped into the office on a Monday morning I felt different. I had been ages since I had worn the headscarf to work. For the first time I didn't loathe wearing it, I felt confident about my choice and felt at ease. As I walked to my cabin, I got the usual stares and even heard someone stifle a laugh but none of that bothered me. Immediately I called my supervisor and asked to arrange a meeting with him. The same afternoon I was called for a meeting with him.
"So... what seems to be the trouble Noura?" James asked.
"There are a few things on my mind and I was hoping I could discuss them with you." I said
"Okay, sure but if you don't mind I want to ask something before we proceed"
"Sure, go ahead."
"Why are you wearing the headscarf? I clearly remember you telling me that it wasn't something you felt comfortable with."
"Yes, and I was wrong to have felt that way. It is a symbol of my identity as a Muslim woman and also a means of protection."
"Noura, in this day and age women need self defense lessons and pepper spray to protect themselves from perverts not a headscarf"
"James, I appreciate you voicing your concerns but I think you misunderstood what I meant by protection. The headscarf protects a woman's beauty from strange men and preserves it for only those who God has allowed for her to reveal it to."
"Right, I see..." He didn't seem to convinced by my answer and his facial expressions showed thinly veiled skepticism
"Anyway, what I wanted to discuss with you was that, is there a possibility I could get a transfer?"
"You are well aware of the fact that we only operate from our London office in England."
"Oh, I yeah I remember, well I could help with the expansion of the company?"
"That's just not a possibility at the moment I am afraid. Where exactly do you want to get transferred to?"
"Why of all the places would you want to move there?"
"Because my family lives there and I want to be closer to them seeing as they are getting older and may need help around the house."
James let out a laugh. "Then start looking for a nice old folks home for them, you don't have to pack up your whole life just for them! That is just absurd!"
"Those are the people responsible for bringing me into this world and taking care of me, if anyone deserves my love and support its them."
James laughed again. "Okay Okay kiddo no need to get all emotional with me, I will see what I can do"
"Kiddo? Excuse me? I am not a child." I felt myself getting angry. Up until the meeting I had thought that James was my friend and that he would understand my situation and help me but I was wrong he was humiliating me for decisions .
"Well you certainly are behaving like one Nourah. Do you think we will listen to your every whim and wish just to make you stay? If you are having second thoughts about this job then you are welcome to leave, its not like the company can't function without you. We may be friends but when it comes to work related matters no one is my friend, I have to look at what is best for the company."
"Well , I have to look at what is best for me and my family. Thank you so much for your time." I walked out of James office.
In the coming week I handed in my resignation letter. All my co- workers tried their best to convince me to stay but my mind was made up. No amount of bonuses and perks could tempt me to stay. The job I had once called my "dream job" no longer appealed to me. I was happy to leave, it felt right and I had no regrets about my decision.
On my way home I stopped by the local masjid and prayed magrib salah and thanked Allah for making a tough decision easy for me. I bought cartons to start packing all my things. I was surprised that I didn't find this process difficult in fact I was excited about going back to Surrey.
As I came home I called Aminah and told her about my plans and she was very happy for me and agreed to come to London the following week to help me with the packing.
Just as I put my phone down it began to ring again. Susan was calling me. I had half the mind to cut her call after the humiliating experience I had with her during our last meeting. I decided to receive her call and hear what she had to say;
"Helloo... its me Susan."
"Yeah , I recognized your voice."
"I am really sorry about what happened that night at the club"
"Yeah, I am sorry I came with you. That was one of the worst nights of my life."
"I can only imagine. Lately, everything has been so messed up I don't know what to do with my life. I am so sorry I dragged you into that mess, you are a true friend."
"I can't let you do this to yourself Susan, don't throw your life away like this please."
"What do I do?"
"Well why don't you join me for some classes I will be taking in Surrey next month?"
"What kind of classes?"
"Well , lets just say it will help you learn a little bit more about us Muslims"
"Uhhh... I don't know Nourah."
"No one is forcing you Susan, but I just think this will be good for you. It will be a different environment and might help you think differently about things"
"Okay sure why not, I mean it cant hurt to try"
"That's the spirit! By the way I am moving back to Surrey"
"Oh wow that is lovely news. Do you need any help?"
"Yeah why don't you come help me with the packing?"
"Sure why not"
With that we both hung up.
(stay tuned for part 7 (the final part) Insha'Allah)