I’d just finished cleaning up from dinnertime activities. This consisted of two spilled cups of milk, a trail of noodles from the kitchen to the bathroom (potty emergency during dinner), and spaghetti sauce hand prints on the light fixture from my 8yr old son scaring his little sisters in the dark while I was tending to the child with the potty emergency. My eldest daughter volunteered to clean the dishes. She’s only 5, so I would be recleaning them shortly after. Bless her heart for even trying.
We were eating late because after a long trying morning with my girls at the free clinic, I was in no mood to be conscious for several hours. So after my “sunnah nap” plus a bit more, I awoke, prayed, hurriedly straightened up the normal scatterings that occur when Mommy is asleep and began dinner preparations when I realised I’d forgotten to buy the tomato sauce for the spaghetti.
After waiting an hour for my son to bring me a simple can of tomato sauce from the market (a ten minute task at best), I scolded him for taking my change and going to the sweets shop where he refused to leave until he ate all evidence of his transgression. I like to have dinner ready right after Asr prayer so that my son’s who come home from classes at that time can eat before going back for evening classes. I don’t like for us to eat late at night. Now that plan was ruined as the boys were on their way out the door to evening classes as the first splinter of pasta hit the pot of boiling water.
I thought I had slept off the rage from my morning trials at the clinic, but now I could feel a tickle of grumpiness coming back. “Must push through,” I told myself. The girls helped with the sauce by fighting over who got to add which ingredients to the pot. My middle girl said that I needed to put more garlic in the sauce and my eldest girl argued that “No, it just needs a little more salt and oregano.” Masha’Allah, my girls will become great cooks one day, insha Allah. My youngest, age 2 simply wanted to taste each ingredient before we added it. I found out that strangely, she likes the taste of thyme. I’d give her some to shake into the sauce and she kept shaking it into her mouth. Masha’Allah she will become a great taste tester one day, insha Allah.
Bedtime came shortly after clean-up. The girls were in their pajamas and tucked snugly into their tents (my kids like to sleep in tents) by the time I came into the bedroom. “Mommy read us a story!” the 5 yr old said. Alright, I got a book off the shelf and waited for silence so that I could begin the story. But of course, silence is subject to several different interpretations in our home. So at the turn of each page someone yelled out, “I didn’t see the picture!” And in the middle of every other sentence, a child cried that she’d been hit or pushed by one of her sisters.
This continued for 6 or 7 pages (just how long is this book?) before I was ready to give up and say goodnight. I threatened to stop reading if they couldn’t be quiet. Of course they agreed in vain to comply. I was getting annoyed and could think of nothing but a hot cup of tea in a room full of slumbering girls. “Shush!” I tell them. Not because I can’t take anymore of their fussing ( I probably could’ve taken a few more minutes before loosing my mind) but because I think I heard a noise in the other room.
Our home is located on a quiet cul-de-sac. Our house is situated far back on a plot of land so that we are hardly visible (and barely audible) from the street. It’s nice for privacy but not so nice if something goes bump in the night. There are too many dark and empty places surrounding us for someone with bad intentions to hide.
The girls are now bickering about who sleeps where in the tent. “Be quiet,” I whisper angrily. They see the urgency on my face and quiet for a moment. I stare at the door and the darkness beneath it, waiting to hear that sound, the tap I thought I’d heard a moment ago. “Clink!” coming from the kitchen. Kayso, I’m pretty sure I locked the door in the kitchen but not so sure about locking the metal gate. I was preoccupied with complaining to my son about following my directions instead of his own agenda. Am I imagining this? Maybe it’s nothing. I’m always jumpy here at night. Like I said, we are a bit too far out of sight for my comfort. No one would even know if we were back here being burglarised, or murdered!
The noise level in the room rises again just as I think I hear the clinking noise again. Darn it! “Could you shut up PLEASE?’ I breathe at the girls with flames of frustration and anxiety nearly singeing their eyebrows. “But Mommy, she is sooo annoying,” 5 yr old says about 4 yr old. “Annoying? You want to know what is sooo annoying,” my voice rising with each syllable. “What’s ANNOYING is that I’ve asked you several times to be quiet and you refuse.” I take a breath but my temper has been ignited. “…annoying is the fact that I keep hearing a noise from the kitchen and I think someone has broken into our house….annoying is that I’m trying to figure out if there is a killer on the other side of this door (slapping several times on the door) waiting to murder us, but you people won’t be quiet long enough for me to save your lives!!!” The girls are now staring at me frightfully. I’m not sure if the fear is for unknown on the other side of the door or for the ranting lunatic inside with them. I continue, “I only hope there is someone in our house because at this point, I want a reason to hurt something. Give me a reason to spill some blood tonight! Let me be justified in severing the limbs of a stranger in my house! I can taste the metallic copper of his blood on my lips already!...” I’m shouting now and I decide I am not imagining this and there actually is someone in the kitchen. I grab the only weapon I can find in the girls’ bedroom, a heater that has been on for half an hour. I will burn the face off of some unfortunate idiot who has chosen to break into a mad woman’s house. I hear the kitchen door gently close. Just how many are in there? Oh well, I have to protect my babies so they can live another day to drive me insane. “La Ilaha Il Allah!” I rip the bedroom door open and charge the kitchen, the orange glow of the heater leading the way like a sword. I reach the kitchen. There is no one there. But just as I suspected, there had been. The metal gate is now wide open. I know I at least shut it earlier. I grab a knife from the drawer and clear the rest of the house… Nobody. Back in the kitchen, I lock the doors. Keeping the lights off, I glare out the window to see if I can catch a glimpse of my intruder. I see nothing but darkness.
The urgency of the situation is subsiding and now my hands are shaking from the fear I should have felt earlier if I wasn’t so angry. As I turn to go back and comfort the girls, I notice a piece of paper on the kitchen sink. Something is written on it in scratchy block letters. I reluctantly reach for it (as if the paper can do more damage than blindly charging a room to attack an intruder with a space heater). The burglar’s note reads: “Azaadville Free Clinic has Mental Health Counselling daily.” …Whatever.