This is the first of (hopefully) many Fiction Friday short stories on this blog. What that means is that I'll post a fictional story here every Friday. I hope you like it.
“Assalamualaikum warahmatullah. Assalamualaikum warahmatullah.”
The salam given marked the end of their first congregational Maghrib prayer as a family in their own home in just under a year. Fitri wiped his face and crossed his legs. His father would now recite some supplications, the ones Fitri himself has learned word for word because of praying with the family throughout his life, whenever he got to praying, of course, which was getting more and more frequent since he went off to Dublin to pursue his degree.
A tudung-clad Malaysian girl on campus had caught his eye, and he knew that he had to be more alim-looking if he wanted her to take him seriously. Gone would be the days of praying only once a week on Fridays. He was now up to praying three times a day over there, which, even to him now, seems like a miracle more than anything.
Of course, he couldn’t skip the ritual Maghrib congregational prayers his parents had in their living room. They had been doing that ever since Fitri could remember. All the other prayers were done individually, so he always skipped those and told his mother that he had already prayed “five minutes ago” whenever his mother asked, which wasn’t very often since he would spend most of his time home locked up in his room, but Maghrib had to be done as a family. “A family that prays together stays together,” he remembered his mother sending one of those hipster-images throughout their family Whatsapp group a couple of months back when he was still in Dublin. He still remembered reading the message while he was on the crapper on campus and sighing a breathe of relief that he had already prayed Zohor at that time.
Even though he hadn’t prayed with his family in almost a year, he still knew the proceedings like the back of his hand. About ten minutes after the azan on television, the prayer mats would be spread on the floor of the living room. That would be his job. One for his father, one for himself, to his father’s right, and one for his mother a couple of paces behind him. His parents would come and they’d pray straight away. After the prayers were finished, his father would recite his supplications, and after that was over, he would salam his father, then his mother. Finally, his mother would ask for her Quran on the table just a couple of metres away. Fitri would hand it over to her and go back into his room. Maghrib done.
“Ameen.” His father’s vocalised amen brought Fitri out of his reverie. He wiped his face again and went to kiss his father’s hand first before turning around and kissing his mother’s hand. After kissing his mother’s hand, he was taken by surprise when his mother suddenly put her arms around him and hugged him. It took Fitri a few seconds to snap out of his bamboozlement and hug his mother back.
“Mak rindu Fitri.” Normah allowed herself to say. It was a strange thing for her to say, but it had been 11 months and two days since she had seen her only child, which was the longest he had ever been away from the house. She had always been the strong mother, the one that isn’t about all that cheesy typical mother kind of talk. She was the headmistress of a school, so she always kept a professional and respectful air about herself, both in school and at home. She feels proud that she had the ability to silence a crowd of a thousand primary school students just by going up on stage without having to say a single word. That was to be her legacy, she decided, ever since she set foot into the profession all those years ago.
She let go of her son and cracked a smile. Her son was quite obviously as surprised as she expected him to be, what with that being the first time he had ever heard those words coming from his mother. Her husband seemed unfazed by this new occurrence in the household, as she saw him out of the living room into his study. Alright, back to normal, she thought to herself. “Ambil Qur’an tu kat Ibu?”
Fitri was seemingly still in shock, since he only noticed what his mother was saying after she said “Fitri?” for the second time, it seemed. “Ya Ibu?” he heard himself say.
Normah sighed. “Qur’an Ibu, amekkan,” she said, almost impatiently. Her son sure was being melodramatic. Was it that strange for a mother to say that she missed her son?
Fitri finally snapped out of it and went over to the table nearby to get the Qur’an for his mother. He held the Qur’an with both hands, stared at it for two seconds, turned around and handed it to his mother.
“Thank you Fitri,” Normah said curtly. She proceeded to open her Quran to where she last marked it and rested it on her crossed legs. She was about to start reading when she noticed that Fitri was still standing where he was. She looked up at him and gave him an inquisitive look.
“Erm, Ibu. Fitri nak baca Qur’an sekali ngan Ibu, boleh tak?” Fitri blurted out. His face felt warm for some reason. His throat was dry too. He cleared it and waited for his mother’s response.
A sudden rush of butterflies suddenly felt like they were making a tornado-formation inside of Normah’s torso. “Okay, sure. Sat, Ibu nak lena pergi toilet kejap, then kita baca, boleh?”
Fitri watched his mother get up and enter her room to go into her bathroom, he supposed. Fitri didn’t quite know what he was doing, asking her mother that, but he just felt like doing it. He walked to his room and looked for the travel Qur’an that his mother had given him before he flew off to Dublin (that he conveniently left out of his luggage). He found it in between his copy of Catch-22 and Sydney Sheldon book, all three of which he had yet to read. He started reasoning with himself. “Well, at least reading the Qur’an will score me points with Amirah.” Recalling the tudung-clad girl’s brought a smile to his face and he went back towards the living room.
As soon as Normah closed the bathroom door behind her, she burst into tears. She didn’t know why she was crying, but it felt so good. She let herself cry, but kept in mind not to be too loud. She couldn’t have her husband come in to check up on her all of a sudden. It just felt good to let her eyes pour out the emotions that she was feeling right there and then. Her son wanted to read with her? She tried and tried to contain her sobs and just let the tears trickle down her face.
Once she had regained her composure, she washed her face and looked at herself in the mirror. She inhaled and exhaled a few times and smirked at herself for feeling the way she did. She stepped out of the bathroom and joined her son who was sitting there on her praying mat, waiting to read the Qur’an with her, at long last.