Monday 28 June 2010

The Northern Prince Part 10

Jamal Mujahid was no longer the most important person in his house. This position had been taken over by someone who was not even born yet. Everywhere he looked there were presents for this child. Invading his lavishly decorated three bedroom house; next to leather sofas and silk curtains, beside expensive electronics and laid atop French furniture. Most of the gifts came from Kaka, excited to be a great grandmother; the rest from business associates, friends, well wishers and neighbours. If Jamal saw one more Fisher Price box, another Mothercare catalogue or ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book he would burn the house down.

Jamal was not threatened, merely peeved at not being the centre of attention. It used to be people hung on his every word, stared at his face, and cheered at his achievements. Now it was all about Nabila. How she was feeling, what she was thinking, drinking, sleeping, craving, foods she ate, how much...The only time he was even looked at during these conversations was when he was asked questions he did not know the answer to: the due date, sex of the child and what method Nabila chose to deliver it in. Method? He thought there was only one: pushing. But oh no, there was a whole variety of birthing he was introduced to; Water bath, Lamaze, Caesarean. His vocabulary now included new words like antenatal and epidurals.

It was bad enough he did not love his wife anymore. But now with her bloated stomach, weak bladder, waddle walk and all, remaining calm had turned into a true test of his character. All Jamal wanted was his spotlight back; hadn’t this pregnancy caused enough trouble for him already? The love of his life, Rabi, was all this child was taking away from him. Eagerly he awaited the birth, so he could finally leave this toxin of a marriage and begin life anew.

He heard Nabila scream. Jamal rose quickly and half-ran out of the guest bedroom, pulling on a shirt and mentally picturing where last placed the car keys. He nearly tripped on the stairs in his haste. What met his eyes on the landing was not a bloodied mess; in fact Nabila did not seem to be in any pain at all. She stood quite capably at the door clutching her chest at the sight of something, someone...

“Jesus Nabila, you have let yourself go. Pregnancy is no excuse”

Nabila hissed and gritted her teeth. Curious Jamal pushed her aside; his eyes were given a sight not seen in nearly a decade.

“Femi you bastard” he strongly embraced his old friend.

“Is this how you were raised to just show? Not even a heads up.” Jamal punched him still in shock

“And miss the look on your girly face? Never man” Femi laughed his easy laugh. The last time Jamal heard it, he and Femi were in their twenties, parading around Manchester with huge chips on their shoulders and very smitten girlfriends on their arms. It wasn’t 2002 anymore.

Jamal shook his head and strongly embraced Femi again. Allah, how time flies

“Its Femi” he explained to Nabila, maybe pregnancy was messing with her memory

“I’m not fat” she responded walking away

“Guy no vex” Jamal apologised

“It’s Nabila. What else did I expect” Femi shrugged. “She’s on her way to call Amaka isn’t she?”


“So you have time to fill me in” Femi said in a conspiratorial whisper

Kai you first. Did you strike gold in Yankee?”

“My guy, that one na long tory” Femi said strolling to the blue sofa and making himself comfortable.

Amaka Nwafor had not been sleeping. She spent the night wandering around the apartment, doubling the locks and checking in on the children repeatedly. In the mornings she was irritable, and snappy, but when night arrived, she did it again. Amaka missed him, really missed him. She wanted uncompleted sentences and naughty winks and a reason to wear red. She also wanted a chance to enjoy the ache of separation without Femi looming over her head, reminding her by his mere presence and relationship with the kids that they were bound for life. The things he seemed allergic to before he left, he was now eager to be a part of. Femi had watched every home video of the children, looked at every drawing ever coloured, he recited night prayers with them, played football, subjected himself to Disney sing-along-songs. Not once did her heart lurch. Amaka did not think she would ever be the sort of mother to place her wants and needs before that of her children, but here she was wishing Femi would just disappear.

It was the weekend, which meant the children were at the Cokers. Amaka shut her eyes and forced them to stay that way. This was the perfect opportunity to catch up on lost hours of shut eye, distractingly enough it also afforded the perfect opportunity to think about him without fear of interruption. No guilt trip awaited her if she reminisced on those soft lips and strong arms. She could lean back and smile because the tingle from when he kissed her was still there, hear him whisper in her ear, his voice like dark chocolate

The phone rang jerking her eyelids open. Not now, she had to have this. Where was she? Ah, coffee frothed tenor, trailing from her neck to her mouth then the kiss, wet and soft and so sincere...her phone rang again.

Amaka answered

“He’s in my house right now.” Nabila sounded upset. Amaka could guess why

“Femi got back last week. Two nights before Kano”

“What about Ikenna?” Nabila got right to it, no beating about the bush.

“I don’t know”

“What do you mean you don’t know? You always know”

“Nabila, what do you want me to say?”

“Say you will at least think about it. Sensibly” she stretched the last word

“That is all I’ve been doing”

“Why is he here anyway? Why now?”

“He got deported”

“Why am I not surprised” Nabila hissed

Amaka sighed; she was too tired to fight Nabsy on this


“I have to go see Baba first. But as soon as I’m done I am coming straight over okay.” There was no room for negotiation. Amaka flipped her phone shut and got up to prepare something for the fiery Hausa woman who now ate for two.

Nabila Mujahid hung up and placed a hand on her tummy. She hissed at the sound of loud laughter- male bonding laughter- coming from the living room. Femi grated her nerves to no end, and if he made Amaka who was finally happy, leave Ikenna... she couldn’t even think about it. One thing was for sure, waltzing back here after so long was not acceptable. She had to make her friend see that before she went all gaga again. This was not 2002.

“I have so much to teach you about love, little one” she said to her baby. “For one thing, stay away from men like Femi Coker” she warned her baby. Before realising she did not know if she was talking to a girl or a boy. Although, her second trimester was coming to an end Nabila chose not to discover the sex of the child. It will be a blessing to her either way so she preferred to keep the secret close to her heart. Frustrating Mama who complained at the sight of green and brown baby outfits which filled the nursery.

“The child needs something blue or pink” Mama scolded, “it is what is appropriate”

Nabila left both men to their devices, grabbing her car keys from the silver tray by the door. Neither of them saw her leave, too engrossed in high fives and “my guy” shoutings. Driving out her gate Nabila took off in the direction of her childhood home. Baba had left her messages that she come around for a talk. The urgency in his voice was unusual, it worried her. She arrived and found Baba in the front room, examining a black and white picture of his daughters. Rabi was laughing so hard her head was nearly out of shot, hair in a curly afro; Nabila as usual had a more serious look for the camera and her hair was in neat pigtails, just as she liked it. The gold 12 x 16 frame had been hanging on that wall for so long she did not remember when last she paid it any attention. Baba on the other hand, stared like he was seeing it for the first time

“Baba” she smiled into his beard as they hugged

“You girls grow up so fast” his tone was solemn and directed at the picture. Nabila shook her head; she obviously caught him in a rare moment of reflection.

Ya hanya- how was the road?” he asked resting his chin on her head


Oda walked in with a jug of zobo and a side dish of kuli-kuli. “Six ice cubes ko?” she asked laying the tray gently down on the table

Nabila didn’t answer because Oda had known her since childhood; she knew how she liked her zobo. “What is going on?” she asked her, only to be answered with a sigh and a pitiful glance

Baba dismissed Oda and sat down in front of Nabila. He rested elbows on his laps, long fingers drumming on his knees

“Baba, has something happened?”

“Are you happy?”


“Tell me Nabu. Are you?”

“Yes. Of course I am. Don’t I look it?”

“I just don’t want anything to cause you distress” Baba placed thumb and fore finger to his eyebrows, like he was breaking difficult news

Nabila looked exasperated, “why does everyone keep asking me this?”

“Baba I am happier than I have been in a long time” she unconsciously stroked her tummy, the child kicked in response

“Six months ko?” he peered at her stomach. Nabila nodded giddily.

“Any complications?” he asked in his doctor voice. Nabila placed a hand on his knee, stopping his drumming fingers, “Baba you worry too much. Dr. Mahdi is very good. You know this”

“I just want things to go smoothly for you”

“Insha Allah”

“You should not be worrying about anything right now. We’ll talk when you have put to bed” he nodded, agreeing with himself

“Baba are you travelling?”


“Then I’ll see you before then now.” Nabila laughed “There is still have a long way to go.”

“Promise me you will not worry about anything, and if you do you will call me right away”


“You are my daughter.” He said with a long stare.

Nabila smiled and drank her zobo. She was surrounded by overprotective people.

Jamal Mujahid cast his gaze around the gym. People-watching as he began to warm up, tossing the racket in his hand from left to right.

“I almost feel sorry for what I am about to put you through” he told his opponent

“Too much talk, not enough action” Ikenna said

“Drop money then, if you’re so confident” Jamal urged

“Please! I am the money”

Ikenna lost all sets. His game was way off and a couple of times he missed hitting the ball. His focus was noticeably elsewhere, and a couple of thousand Naira later he finally admitted defeat on the squash court.

“I didn’t enjoy that as much as I thought I would” Jamal wiped sweat off his brow “What’s the matter with you?”

“It’s Amaka” Ikenna panted with his hands on his knees

“Wait are you actually telling me?” Jamal paused mid-sip from his water bottle

“Of course. You asked”

“But I thought you would say ‘nothing’, or crack a joke.”

“So I can’t talk about it?”

“Femi and I are friends, it will be weird”

“Is that your way of telling me to back off?” Ikenna was upright now and looking him directly in the eye. Luck had dealt a terrible hand and he was looking for someone to blame. His feelings would not let it be Amaka but Jamal was looking like a viable candidate.

“Ikenna don’t force me into a corner. I am not picking sides.” Jamal turned his focus to his gym kit.

Both men gulped from sport bottles, oblivious to the lady in the short tennis skirt that was taking a considerably long time tying her shoe laces.

“You have Nabila. You two can gossip all you want” he assured Ikenna

“How are you guys?” Ikenna asked. “Last time I saw her, she was very upset”

“We had an argument. Married people argue. You of all people should know that, Mr. Divorcee”

“It looked like more than a minor argument to me. She was very shaken up”

“Guy what is this, did she send you to me? Are we here to play squash or not?”

Ikenna raised his hands in surrender and gestured that the court was all his. Jamal raised a right arm to serve

“I just hope you guys have worked things out. Nabila is a good person”

“For fuck sake!” Jamal swore as his serve ricocheted off the wall at an awkward angle. He pointed aggressively, “Marry her or let it go”

“Amaka or Nabila?”

“Take you pick”

“Wow, you really hate discussing your emotions”

“Ikenna if you keep talking this way you are going to start growing breasts”

Femi Coker was finding it really hard to get through to Amaka. Now she was this tough shell of bitterness and pessimism. How much resentment can one harbour over four years? Surely she must be running out of angst by now. He suppressed a chuckle as she rammed into him for not packing the twins’ lunch boxes right.

“Femi they are growing children. They need fruit”

“I’ll put in a whole basket next time”

“Is this a joke to you?”

“No. But don’t you think you are taking this a little too far. I mean, you are screaming at me over bananas.”

“No Femi, I’m screaming at you because today its bananas, tomorrow you’ll forget to pick them up from school”

“So this is practice for when I eventually fuck you. I mean fuck up” he grinned

Amaka rolled her eyes and restrained herself from a snide remark. The kids were watching TV in the living room. At this hour on a school night they should be in bed but daddy said it was okay. Just like he okayed skipping their after school activities tomorrow so they could go to the zoo. Decisions he took without consulting her, till she was ambushed by two pairs of bright eyes and chants of “Mommy please.” She could not keep playing bad cop, the un-fun parent because she insisted on time charts and structure.

“What is it?” Femi touched her arm

“I can’t keep fighting you about this. The children have a routine, it is how we do things and every time you alter the schedule it throws the whole day out of balance.”

It was the first vulnerability Amaka had shown him. Femi decided not to try to be funny this time

“Maka I’m learning as I go along. You have had six years to perfect this. It is really hard not to for me not to say yes to everything they want. I mean look at them”

“Femi you are their parent, not their peer. Music and dance classes are important for building character. Homework cannot be left to the last minute. Whenever you say ‘yes’ to everything, I’m left to clean up the mess”

“I understand” Femi nodded. Amaka awaited a cheeky comment but none came

“The school mornings are tumultuous enough without wondering over lost pencils, uncompleted homework or tripping over toys the kids didn’t put away”

“Amaka I get it. I’m screwing up”

“You’re not screwing up. I just need to feel like you are on my side, please.”

Femi smiled, “Are you worried they love me more than they love you?”

“Yes Femi, that is one of my greatest fears” Amaka said sarcastically, and turned away to face the dirty dishes in the sink.

Femi came up behind her, hands on her waist and whispered in her ear “Thank you. Really. For everything Maka, I don’t say it enough”

Amaka turned around and faced him squarely. “Not tonight. Not tomorrow night. Not for many many nights to come.”

“This wasn’t even about staying over.” Femi lied. He was going to kiss her but she stared him down and he chickened out. He had to admit the new Amaka scared him a bit.

The following day Femi arrived to take the children to the zoo as promised. Chiamaka and Chibuzo did not seem to mind forgoing ballet and piano lessons, packing their school bags fast and jumping on their father. As her regular routine no longer applied, Amaka remained in her office till 6pm before eventually packing up and driving to the Coker residence to get the children. She parked her car and steeled herself for the onslaught of hugs that Lade would throw her way, but what met her were strong words and raised voices. She could hear them from the shrub lined walk way. Kunle and his son were arguing, it didn’t take long for Amaka to figure out why

Ba omo e soro- talk to your child” Kunle Coker shouted

“...So I am supposed to live beneath your thumb for the rest of my life.” Femi countered

“You are supposed to be responsible and get a job”

“What do you intend to do with all your money. Eh, what are you keeping it for? Take it to your grave now, be buried with it”

“You senseless boy. How dare you”

“I just want what’s coming to me; I have a family to take care of for Chrissake”

“The mother of your children has been doing that without our help. Not once has she asked for a handout”

“Big Daddy ejo o- please” Lade tried to calm things down by placing herself between the two.

They all noticed Amaka then.

“Where are the children?” she asked Femi

“They have gone to get ice cream with Bisi” Lade answered “Ejoko- sit down, my daughter”

“No thank you”


“No” Amaka interrupted Femi. There is no way she was staying here. Watching them argue about money was not the atmosphere she needed right now. It was the same opposition on both sides, just as it had been four years ago.

“My dear, I insist” Kunle said sitting back down slowly, as if to show her the quarrel was really over

“Big Daddy I still have some errands to run. I just wanted to check on the kids. Femi I guess you’ll just drop them off later, no need interrupting ice cream time. Okay, yeah. Bye” Amaka shouted the last word as she bailed, the front door had barely slammed shut before she was starting her Toyota and driving off. She didn’t need this.

Amaka Nwafor was not sure of where she was going till she got there. By the time she realised the road she turned into, it came as no surprise that it was where she needed to be. The Central Bank of Nigeria located in Garki. Amaka spent 5 minutes sitting in the car and staring at the glass building, and flying Nigerian flag. This late in the evening, all parking lots in the Central Business District were empty so it was not for want of parking space.

She was here already; to not go in would be stupid. Summoning up courage she drove towards the blue gate. The security guard waved her into plot 33. He need not ask who she came to see, there is after all only one person who would still be here so late. Inside the building, the lobby was wide and high and the hallways difficult to manoeuvre. The logo of the green eagle stamped onto a wall of white marble, so startling it glistened, seemed to follow her every movement. After making two wrong turns she finally found the elevators, Amaka knew what floor he worked from, he had told her so and with the stride of a woman on a mission she pressed the floor she required, sighing in relief that the first door had a gold plate bearing his name.

The door was slightly ajar and from within emerged sounds of fingers tapping on computer keys. A glance showed an empty executive armchair and a huge working desk. The south facing wall was made entirely of glass and the view from this height was breath taking. Night colours of intense red and orange hues enacted the ending of dusk and beginning of twilight. He was sat on a chair in the shadows with his laptop on his knee. He blinked severally before accepting she was in his office on a Wednesday evening at 7.50pm. Behind him on the taupe wall was a framed certificate from Wharton Business School along with other accolades and awards for investment banking, most with the Swiss national symbol. On the opposite wall were Van Gogh imitations of his famed Sunflowers and Starry Night paintings. There were two other doors contained in the office space. The first was a wardrobe containing starched and ironed shirts, colour coordinated and hung on wire hangers and the second led to a private washroom. The space was immaculate and tastefully decorated with lamps and abstract pieces of design. It looked better than most people’s homes. If this was her office, she’d never leave too.

“Please tell me you did not stay behind so you could play Solitaire” It was a feeble attempt to break the ice

“Not one of the qualities you find attractive in a man?” Ikenna asked closing his Mac Book Pro

Amaka laughed “Not usually, but that list needs revising anyway”

An awkward silence ensued

“I would say I’m happy to see you but I’m not sure what sort of visit this is” he pushed his chair back, standing up

“I need some perspective” Amaka had chosen her words carefully

“As a friend? I cannot be your friend Amaka” Ikenna was quick with his answer. The decision was made once he noticed how her absence affected his concentration. It was all or nothing as far as Ikenna was concerned

“Can I just hide here for a while then?” Amaka sighed. Everything appeared to be spinning

“That’s what I’m doing. Company would be nice”

Amaka sat on a chair and looked around nervously.

“How are the kids?”

“The kids send their love” she said at the same time he did. They both smiled, the children card had been played. What next?

“It is good to see you Maka”

“It is good to see you too” she wondered why she came here with nothing to say. No speech prepared.

“I’m starving” Ikenna said, picking up the phone to dial.


“Will you join me?” there was a hint of his naughty smile

“What are you having?”

“There’s a lady down the road that serves lunch to the bankers, she always makes me a little something before closing up. I let her choose the meal. Do you mind?”

“A decision I don’t have to make? Sounds lovely” Amaka said

In no time at all, Ikenna rushed down to pick up the delivery from the lady’s son. He came back in and set the polyester bag down, opening a bottom drawer and producing plates, forks and two glasses.

“You really need to get out more” Amaka advised

“Ms. Nwafor are you asking me out?” he asked with a wink

Opening a mini fridge he brought out a Sprite bottle, filling the glasses, he handed Amaka one and for a moment they both just sipped, staring at one another.

His ebony and elm desk was too high to rest her elbows on. Amaka had no choice but to balance the plate of jollof rice on her lap. It was hot and burned her satin skirt but she did not want to complain. She after all was the one imposing, disturbing his routine.

“Wait I have an idea” Ikenna said. Kicking off his shoes, he jumped up on the table. He took Amaka’s hand and pulled her up as well; her black patent heels fell down to the carpet with no sound.

“This is how I always eat dinner I swear.” he gave a cute grin as he pushed up his sleeves.

With the added height, the wonderful view of the city was uninterrupted now. Because glass took an entire section where conventionally cement would be, Amaka felt like she was soaring out and into the night, it was just clouds, sky, stars and lights. Abuja was beautiful.

“I can see why you never leave.” She said to him

“It’s one of the perks.” He shrugged, “I’ll trade you plantain for some of your fried peppered gizzard”

“Best thing I’ve heard of all day” she said handing over her plate

The arrival of the food certainly helped to restore the breeziness that used to be their relationship. They ate without haste, occasionally trading words, playing catch up.

“I couldn’t bear to be in Kano without you.” Ikenna whispered, unburdening himself as he set aside his empty plate. They were sat cross legged now and watching the sky.

“I’m sorry for how I acted that morning” she said minutes later.

They were silent for moments on end. After their meal, Ikenna replied Amaka’s question and explained his fascination with Van Gogh, confessing that one day he would love to own an original. Amaka chided that he must learn to ‘Buy Nigeria’, and teased his international palette. Ikenna argued that he was in no way posh or ‘ajebutter’. In fact he was sure he knew more Nigerian songs than she did, and not this new contemporary nonsense but old classic meaningful songs. Turning on his iTunes library, Ikenna played songs from the old school, there was Afro Juju, Highlife, Fuji, Labaja, Blackky, Majek Fashek and a lot of Fela. In no time at all he asked her to dance, Amaka did not need to be asked twice and she jumped down from the desk and into his arms. Stomachs heavy with food and drink, Ikenna led Amaka around the room with her bare feet on his; their footsteps silently imprinting on the soft carpet

When Ikenna tried to kiss her Amaka almost sighed with relief, it was getting hard to concentrate on what he was saying anymore. With his breathe at her chin, hands on her hips, Onyeka Onwenu’s ‘One Love’ on the stereo and stars in the background. She gave in to that feeling, surrendered to the scenery and seduction of night sky, dimly lit surroundings and sexy scent of skin. Smoothly their mouths met once again, and it was like time had not passed since that morning in her kitchen. His lips were sweeter than she recalled his touch gentler, and once again it was she that forced the intensity, it was she that succumbed to passion and dragged him down to the carpet. It was Amaka that unbuttoned his shirt and kissed his chest, it was she that led his hand down her stomach.

She awoke the following day to fierce sunshine. Amaka sat up. Sleep slowly vacated her eyes and she gazed around the room bathed in morning sun rays. The bowls from last night’s dinner were stacked neatly on the floor, so were their shoes, Sprite filled wine glasses and a half eaten bowl of chin chin. Ikenna had on a Bluetooth ear piece, spouting figures, and every second he refreshed a page on his Mac. He was shirtless and though he bothered to put trousers on, he had not done up the zipper or button so they sagged low on his boxers. He caught sight of her, and grinned when she gathered up the blanket to her chest to cover her modesty. He strolled over and kissed her, he tasted like coffee

“About time”

“It’s 6am.” Amaka protested. “When did you get up?”

“5am. Tokyo market is 8hours ahead”

“Show off” She scoffed

“I was starting to think I tired you out”

“Yeah nobody cuddles like you Ikenna” she teased

He grinned and tried to sneak a peek, chuckling when she tightened her grip on the blanket. The person at the other end of the line resumed the conversation and Ikenna excused himself.

Amaka realised that if someone was to walk in, they would assume a night of wild sex had taken place. A fair assumption; her breasts were unsupported at the moment and Ikenna was a wiggle away from nudity. God knows last night she wanted to, her inhibitions melted away and all that mattered was her heart pounded and her breathe shortened when he kissed her. She pushed his dark body down to the desk, climbing atop and unbuttoning his shirt, she remembered kissing his chest and following the cluster of hair down his navel, she remembered feeling sure... that was till panic set in. Five years is a long time to go without that sort of intimacy with a man; what if she didn’t know what she was doing? What if she said the wrong thing? Did he expect her to know tricks? On and on these mediocre concerns sprang up. All these questions made it difficult to relax. She could no longer go through with it and with a hesitant shake of the head, Ikenna understood. Even with his erection poking her thigh, he did not press or insist she finish what she started. He kissed her gently and held her head.

They cuddled instead and when tiredness overcame them, removed restrictive clothing so as to sleep comfortably. Sometime past midnight Amaka awoke and looked at the sleeping man by her side, the one that let her use his shoulder as a pillow, even with her braids pinching into his skin. She watched his eyelids slightly flutter and she felt safe. Feeling her stare he opened his eyes, bright and beautiful.

“I was 18 when I first met Femi...” Amaka began unprompted. The entire length of the narration Ikenna did not utter a word or change facial expression. He did not frown when she spoke of the good times. Berate when she mentioned loaning Femi all her money for his get rich schemes. He did not sympathise when times got rough after she fell pregnant. He had not a foul word to say about her parents or Chukwuma. He did not even cheer when Amaka set out alone; arriving in Abuja with just the down payment to a house she had not even seen. Ikenna said nothing, he just listened. When Amaka stopped talking, he said simply “Thank you for telling me”

“You must think I am the most naive person.” That was why she had not wanted to tell him the first time he asked, she was embarrassed at how gullible and weak her old self was

“No I think you’re wonderful”

The glass wall showed golden clouds now as dawn fully unwrapped. Ikenna strolled to her and helped fasten her bra, kissing her shoulder with each clasp he hooked. He buttoned her shirt and smoothed down her hair. He kissed her forehead and her lips.

“I have to go” Amaka whispered against his throat

She was at the door before his insecurity showed “So what does this mean now? You and me, Us, are we?”

“If I knew I’d tell you” Amaka said before she shut the door without a backward glance. Leaving Ikenna Nwosu more confused than she met him.

“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool...” Nabila Mujahid read from to her baby, as she did every morning after her prayers. This week it was from Things Fall Apart. She enjoyed reading in the nursery. Nabila liked the swampy, evergreen forest theme and found it relaxing. It was her rain forest in the metropolis. There were all sorts of toys stacked around the room but her favourite had to be the Kermit the Frog teddy, future Godmother Amaka had purchased. It looked right at home amongst the leaves and fellow lagoon friends painted on the wall- including a few sneaky crocodiles lurking in the dark water.

Nabila read Chinua Achebe’s words aloud, shifting slightly when the baby kicked harder. It was the fourth book she had gone through, reading her favourite novels out loud in the morning, before the noise of the city was pure joy for her. And every time the baby kicked she imagined it’s sucking its thumb and hearing every word.

“Any minute now, your father will get up and storm out of the guest bedroom seeing red. But don’t worry he’ll come around” she said to her baby

Her forehead was damp from her ablution and she dabbed at it as she swayed to and fro on the rocking chair that had been a gift from Kaka. She had no chores or errands to run today so she planned to watch a birthing video. Amaka had suggested it as a joke but the idea really took hold for her and as punishment/reward she insisted her best friend suffer/marvel through nature’s greatest miracles. Nabila foresaw a lot of open mouth gaping in her afternoon. Her baby nudged harder

“You better love sports with all the inconvenience you are causing Mommy” she said

The kicking got harder and tighter, so much so that she gasped. It felt like a dagger was been repeatedly buried in her flesh. It was searing and hot. The novel fell from her hands and her fingers stared to tremble. Nabila ran her hands down her sides, trying to soothe her baby back to rest but to no avail. She tried to stand up, hopefully rebalance the pressure or whatever but the frequency of the jabs in her lower abdomen caused her to arch her back then bend. Pain was contorting her body. Something was not right, she could feel it. It was too soon to be having contractions. She had read every book there was and it was not supposed to feel like this, was it? Nabila wasn’t one to cry wolf so perhaps this was something that would soon pass. A slightly higher level of discomfort was all it was...mind over matter she told herself. It did not help, pain came in fast doses now and soon her hands were clutching at her neck and face, pulling at her hair, squeezing her knees for support. She didn’t know what was happening to her. She was shaking now and so scared. Nabila wanted her mother. Amaka could hold her hand and tell her it was all expected, normal procedure in labour.

There was clenching of her teeth, a swift pain in her ribs caused her to cry out in agony. Tears streamed down her face, she was breathing through her mouth.

“Jamal” she screamed. It came out a strained whisper. “Jamal” she tried again, this time she could barely hear it. Her cries for help had no volume, she was suffering in isolation. She needed help, she needed Jamal

Nabila started to stumble in the direction of the guest bedroom, hanging on to the wall for support, she called his name, but her lips trembled too much to release sound. The pain made her crouch, then crawl, still she kept moving in the direction of help. She suddenly felt very warm, like heat was expanding her body, as sudden as the heat was there, there was cold, in great waves. Each step was torture, her nerves were on fire, her knees were jittery and it felt like at any moment she would tip over sideways and be unable to get up. That was her major fear, not being able to move, unable to get to her husband and tell him their baby was in trouble. The door was in front of her now and Nabila hit the wood with palms and feet. She heard the locks turn; she saw Jamal’s face, and muttered something before falling on him.

Nabila Mujahid’s miscarriage was confirmed at 6.50am that Tuesday morning by her obstetrician Dr.Mahdi in the female ward of National Hospital Abuja. It was a boy and she would have named him Danjuma, after Baba.

By S.B