Nabila Mujahid had been in Kano for two months when she found out she was pregnant.
She knew this because Kaka crossed the days off the calendar beside her bed and underneath today’s date she had circled in red pen...month two. Kano was helping Nabila to heal. It tore her apart certainly; but only so she could be put back together again. Gone was the self-pitying, woe is me Nabila; the one who arrived at Mallam Aminu Kano airport bald and bleeding.
The frail woman who ran to her grandmother, exhausted by emotions she could not express. Punished wife, betrayed sister, hurt daughter and deceived friend...this person had departed like the Atlantic winds that ushered rain into the desert. Her spirit was stronger and prouder. Able to recognise her unhealthy love for Jamal for the addiction it was. Nabila had grown to need her husband in a way that was unnatural. Functioning only through him; smiled if he smiled, ate if he ate, and slept only after he did...
The last time Nabila and Kano met she was also pregnant. Awaiting the birth she believed would cement her marriage. Relying on a child to create love she could no longer solely supply. Memories of her last visit were created in happiness but now revisited with sorrow. Memories of Kaka speaking of gratitude and the Balarabe women who earned it, memories from the stables, asking if Rabi would speak to Jamal about his renewed smoking... “You two are really close” she had said- little did she know how close-, memories of Rabi’s resultant awkward embrace. That was the worst. Rabi pitied her! Because she knew, knew that Nabila had not a chance in Hell of ever winning Jamal back.
During these times it was hate that kept the heart pumping within this weak body, it was hate that drove the blood underneath her skin, and it was hate that allowed her to function. She hated a lot within that period. Hate for Jamal, hate for Rabi, hate for Amaka, hate for Baba and Oda, hate for everyone that knew and withheld from her. The tears that refused to fall in Abuja found her in Kano. Tears flooded her pillows at night, salted her coffee by day. Interrupting her prayers causing her to sniff and sigh while reciting surahs, dampening her hijab. The tears weakened her, reduced her to nothing, and made her relive their reason for falling again and again. My husband does not love me, he loves Rabi, because she is perfect and I am not, my father protected her, my best friend kept her suspicion from me, I lost my beautiful baby, everything is lost, everything I love.
Till eventually, Nabila owned her suffering. She accepted weeping was not a sign of cowardice but strength. It meant she was dealing with the reality of what had occurred and moving on. So she let them come, excusing herself to find a quiet corner when they fell from reddened eyes. Imagining the tears washed her anew, made her clean again. When it slowed to a trickle she resumed whatever she had previously been engaged in; praying, gardening, sleeping or dining. Most of all she was grateful that Kaka neither interfered nor interrupted these moments.
Kaka patiently observed her granddaughter as she sobbed her way to recovery. When Nabila suddenly excused herself from the dining table only to return with blocked nose and wet eyes Kaka had said nothing. When at night noises of wailing and weeping emerged from her suite Kaka said nothing. When sniffles drifted across the prayer mat in the mosque Kaka simply watched in silence. It was not because she did not care; far from it. She simply knew that to do nothing was exactly what Nabila needed from her right now. “What’s done is done” she had said to her one evening as Nabila lay in the bed she had refused to leave for 10days. “The question now is what you are going to do”
“I don’t know” she replied. So quiet Kaka barely heard it
Kaka had left the conversation at that. It carried on in that manner for over a month. Suffering did not depart quietly.
One morning Nabila arrived at the breakfast table and smiled good morning. Her eyes were not bloodshot, her lashes were dry. It was all Kaka needed to see. Rising from her chair she embraced her granddaughter. No words were needed, no words would be appropriate.
A week later, Nabila chatted about the heavy rains that had flooded lower Kano over the past few weeks. She seemed to have just noticed that which others, including Kaka, had lived through. Sorrow had shielded her ears from peals of thunder and blinding lightning and fierce winds. Nabila remarked on the destruction to the herb garden at the south of the estate just behind the servants quarters, nearly knocking over her cup of mint tea. Breakfast was served on the East deck and the sun was just rising above morning clouds spilling light pinks on the white tablecloth. The lone veranda was the highest point in the Balarabe estate and the vast city spread out below; a mix of high rise and bungalows. Corrugated iron roofs normally coated with dust had been scrubbed clean by rains. Rainy season had finally come to an end so Kano was crowned in wonderful sunshine. Welcoming light that would evolve to scorching heat as the day progressed. Nabila devoured her scrambled eggs, helping herself to more fried sweet potatoes. Shaking her head and laughing when Kaka requested more mint leaves be added to the teapot.
“Kaka any more mint and I could brush my teeth with this tea”
“You have found your tongue now ko?”Kaka waved her jewelled hand. “Walk with me” she said when Nabila finally finished eating. Kaka looked on in amazement when she insisted on picking up a freshly baked bread roll first. Nabila was really hungry. They walked past fountains and sculptures, their sandals slapping rhythmically on the earth. Nabila chewed and swallowed. Watching as the red dust clung to the bottom hem of Kaka’s white gown, dying it pink.
“This is for you” Kaka eventually said, coming to stop
“I don’t see anything”
“The land we are standing on. It is for you”
Nabila looked at the earth, the soil slightly soft from months of rain. They were well and truly into planting season.
“You forgot” Kaka realised. “It is the day after tomorrow”
“Yes” Nabila agreed
“But I will not be here. I have to go to Abuja.” Kaka took a breather, “Rabi is getting married”
Nabila nodded and brushed crumbs off her turquoise blouse. She could feel Kaka watching her closely.
“I will return at the end of the week” her voice was reassuring
“So you gave me a project to keep me busy” Nabila joked
“I wanted you to have it either way”
“Kaka what has happened has happened” Nabila repeated the words said to her all those weeks ago
“What do you wish to do now?”
“Garden” Nabila smiled. She took another bite, wiping crumbs from the corner of her mouth.
Kaka paid close attention to Nabila for the reminder of the day. But she saw no signs to hint her impending absence would cause harm. Yes, Nabila seemed healed but a tiny part of Kaka, an inner voice she had come to trust in her mature years, told her the worst was yet to be revealed. Perhaps it was because Nabila gave no intention of returning to face those she ran away from. How do you know you are healed, truly healed, unless you face that which hurt you? Still what did she know, she was an old woman too protective of her granddaughter.
From the moment Nabila could walk it was apparent she was the more fragile of the Bello daughters. True, Rabi was more forthcoming with emotions but Nabila remained so closed up that Kaka worried in the wrong hands it would be remarkably easy to break her. More worrying Nabila remained unaware of this character flaw, believing to be cold. Till Jamal came along, he made Nabila feel womanly; soft and warm and desirable. Kaka wondered why she did not stop the marriage to that boy from taking place.
When she met him he lacked the complete devotion her son-in-law, Danjuma, possessed. Jamal however knew Nabila. And Kaka being a grandmother found it hard to believe that someone could know her granddaughter, completely know her, and not love her. So she gave her blessing although it quickly became apparent that Jamal was unable to remain interested in anything for a period of time. That was until Rabi. Why did it have to be Rabi? The one person Nabila always compared herself against, never mind they were as different as night and day.
“So you see Kaka, these two would make the better choices for a sunken garden” Nabila pointed to a picture of a blue plant with dark brown spots on its petals. Kaka merely nodded, “I see” she said knowledgably, “very wise choice.” Nabila smiled please her Kaka approved.
“Okay now I am wondering about the shade area, the tree has to have minimal shedding” Nabila trailed off mumbling to herself and flipping through pages in the gardening encyclopaedia.
A servant interrupted, apologising via multiple curtsies. She handed Kaka her phone and backed away. It was Farida and Danjuma. Kaka excused herself gathering up her gown as she stood. It was the same question: when is Nabila coming home? Kaka’s answer was the same: their daughter needed to heal. In her own time she will return to them but if they tried to force it...
“Yes yes” Farida agreed. Knowing full well she would call tomorrow with the same request. A fact Kaka accepted. She also knew Danjuma was listening in, although he did not speak. He punished himself, believing to have acted wrongly. Kaka agreed with his wife that he had done what was best at the time, placing Nabila’s pregnancy above all else.
“We are having lunch now” Kaka informed them. Farida sighed and hung up. It was a rude gesture but understandable in the circumstances. Kaka saw the 19year old girl that ran away from home to marry her doctor boyfriend. Too impatient and impulsive to allow Time play a responsible role.
Lunch was served on the south terrace. The air was warmer now. Humidity was a rare thing in Kano, as rare as discovering salt water fish in the shallow lakes. But as the first prolonged sunshine in months brightened the town, waterlogged soil aerated intensely. It was almost possible to see the vapours rising from the ground. The result was burning sunshine and sticky stiff breezes. Kaka waved a paper fan by her face. Nabila as usual did not perspire. Immersed in a planting chart she was creating for her plot of land. A sunken garden Kaka gathered from elementary explanation; to provide shade from the high sun in early afternoons. If it was half as effective as Nabila described Kaka intended to commandeer the space. She beckoned a servant girl, relaying a message to be repeated to the chef. “Lunch is no longer to be served on the south terrace.”
“More tuwo shinkafa” Nabila added gesticulating to the empty cooler on the table
Kaka could have sworn there were at least five mounds when they sat down. The soup was all but gone as well. It was good to see Nabila eating again. Months ago she could barely swallow the teas Kaka personally brewed. The servant curtsied- once for each request- and left. Kaka had eaten with a fork, which she placed down now to enable her use her right hand to stroke her granddaughter’s hair. The short natural curls wound around her fingers as she traced the uneven scalp tissue. Despite the damage Nabila had done the hair was growing back at a good rate, currently between the stages of a low cut but not voluminous enough to be a minimal sized afro. The doctor had predicted it would heal slowly and till then, the hair was not to be stretched. Which was the only reason Kaka had not insisted it be subdued in plaits. Nabila tired of Kaka poking around her head again and she edged away, earning a smile for her efforts
A large ball of tuwo was placed on the table. It was obvious they had just been taken off the fire for the steam emanating seemed prepared to burn a hole through the clear nylon it was wrapped in. Kaka gave a look that seemed to say “You better finish that.” Nabila knew she would, she was really hungry these days. Previously she could barely bring herself to down herbal teas now she ate for two....
That thought stopped Nabila mid sketch...eating for two. Her heart began to beat faster, drowning out Kaka’s monologue. Eating for two... that did not make any sense. She had no morning sickness so she couldn’t be. Although her energy levels were back up, she still fell tired pretty quickly, her sense of smell was heightened, and she was eating a lot. If she thought about it her breasts have felt a little sore of late. Now she was overreacting. It was nothing, absolutely nothing. There was a simple method to discover the truth. When last did she have her period? She could not think. She wasn’t even aware what day it was. Here in Balarabe estate time moved differently, at a slower pace. How long had she been here for? Two months. When last did she even need that blue pack of Always...Nabila sighed. She had not seen a sanitary towel since Abuja. She was checking her supply to make sure she had enough because her period was on its way. Then she had gotten distracted...because Jamal was an hour late returning from work.
The following morning Kaka left for Abuja hugging Nabila tightly she prayed on her head, her lips muttering for Allah’s guidance and protection. Kaka finally sat down and settled in, she stared at her granddaughter through a tinted window till the BMW drove out the monogrammed coral gates of the estate. Nabila watched the car proceed down the private driveway leading onto the main road before letting her plastered smile waver. She bit her lip and clawed at her belly. Since last night it had begun to feel like an alien had hijacked her body. This thing growing within her was unnatural and unwanted. It was punishment, a final fuck you from Jamal. She wanted nothing more to do with him and did not need to be taunted by something that would breathe the same air she inhaled, feed on the same foods she consumed and fill her breast with heavy milk. Nabila did not want this child. She had promised herself to suffer no more and this was pain in its most lethal form. Nabila turned her hand into a fist and pressed it to her stomach, pushing in. She hoped the thing could feel that. She would not tolerate it... It must go.
Rabi Bello did not feel like a married woman. Yet married she was. Alhaji Tukur was not the husband Rabi thought he would be. She assumed he would leave her in the house, a perfect trophy wife to be admired by all who visited. Reality was far from that. He intended her to hang on his arm and be present for every function imaginable. So far they had been to the army barracks in Kaduna, a wedding in Katsina, a mosque opening in Gombe and a burial in Zamfara. Next week he would be receiving a medal in Lagos and Rabi was required to be on his arm, eyes full of manufactured love. Each morning a troop of women dressed her in heavy lace and adorned her skin in henna before she could be presented to her husband; a perfect made up doll. He had never seen her with a strand of hair out of place, unlined eyes or naked lips. “This is what I married” he often said to her, “young and beautiful Rabi”
At night Alhaji Tukur summoned her to his quarters by aid of the intercom. Her personal servant walked her to his door, a light knock to signal his parcel had arrived before departing. He would bark “shigo [enter]”. She would undress at the foot of the bed while he watched licking his lips and touching himself, big belly rising with quick breaths. Then he would beckon her forward, finger sticky with pre cum and she would climb atop him to gyrate for his pleasure while he lazily gave directions. His words: “Haka ne [that’s it]”, “bude [open]” “sama [top]” “kasa [below]” told her what paces and positions to observe. He would command her to moan and agree to the names he called her, Rabi had learnt to do this without prompt now. Soon after ejaculation he would roll over and snore, Rabi as required of her would get up and return to her quarters. Alhaji Tukur was not to be disturbed when resting.
Her marriage was a level of hell she never knew existed. Every morning Rabi Tukur awoke in her Queen Size ivory bed and wished she died in her sleep. She hated her life, hated the cold un-sexual being she had become. She used to love sex, she used to love laughter, she used to love life, but she no longer recognised any of it. The painted geisha in the mirror was not her. Her hair hurt from the tight styles it was pulled into, her breasts subdued in traditional garb. She missed being free to do as she pleased. Free to come and go however she liked. Free to wear skinny jeans.
This was a beautiful prison, adorned with gold trinkets, diamonds and rubies and polite speaking guards but a prison none the less. What good are two underground garages if she is not allowed to drive any of the cars? What good is all the finery in the world if it is to please those you cannot be with? All the money at her disposal but she had to seek permission to spend it. Permission, permission, permission; her life was a never ending loop of question and answer, ‘Please’ and ‘May I’. Rabi of many friends was lonely in her gilded cage. Baba turned away from her like she had been corrupted. He no longer spoke to her not even on her wedding day...as long as Nabila remained in exile, Rabi remained in family prison. She was shamed in front of the entire staff when Mama slapped her and she was ordered to apologise to her sister. Not to return till she had proof of vindication but Rabi could barely make it halfway to Kano. The shame handcuffed her feet and with hung shoulders she returned and begged to be let in. The gates were wheeled open but it was never the same. Theirs was a close family no more.
The marriage to Alhaji Gidado Tukur was rushed before any red flags could be raised. Popular recording artistes flown in via private jet, imported exotic flowers from Malaysia, the head chef from Aso Rock made all the Nigerian dishes while the chef from the Ritz in London made foreign dishes.
World renowned Vogue photographer captured the event and a street was named in her honour; the first to recognise her new name as Tukur. Ice sculptures filtered the drinks; there was a cigar and shisha bar for the many important men who attended-including the Vice President. Lifestyle magazines had field day, “long awaited marriage of the remaining Bello offspring”, was one newspaper tagline. Nabila’s absence explained as “an unfortunate illness.”
Kaka was on hand with the smooth lies, speaking into microphones what a tight family they all were. Rabi had eight outfit changes and was called ‘lucky’ more times than she cared to recount. The day was a blur of colour, she recalled very little of it. Apart from an hour which she managed to steal away from the falseness of it all...she had no memory of the event. But the glossy magazines proved it had in fact happened, her fake smile on every front page nationwide fooling everyone.
Rabi sat up in her bed and surveyed her large room with morning light. It was too much space for her broken heart. She caught her reflection in the large gold mirror, one of four hung on the white walls. Jamal adored her like this. The just roused from sleep look. Hair tousled, feet bare, he loved her shoulders exposed, and he loved her personality. She didn’t have a voice anymore. It had been reduced to a pretty face that laughed at chauvinistic jokes spewed from the mouths of Big Men. It was required duty in her role as Hajiya Rabi Tukur. She was unhappy but by Allah she deserved it.
A flurry of feet approaching her door told her the face painting was about to begin. She wrapped a silk robe around herself and let them in. One after the other they curtsied. Re-introducing themselves although she already knew their names. Bilkisu was her hair dresser, Hauwa her makeup artist and Fatima her personal stylist. Immediately they got to work filing her nails and applying cleanser on her face. Her wardrobe was opened wide and fabric after fabric was dumped on the bed to be examined and scrutinised. Shoes and bags were placed side by side; jewellery held up against the light to ensure glittering power...it was the same dance as each morning.
This morning was different, this morning Rabi intended to ask her husband for permission to return to work. She had already missed out on countless hours and she craved the independence, though that would be the one word she would not use during her appeal. The fertility clinic was to be her life’s work; but the experience she hoped to gain in man hours was being swindled away at useless functions with loud music and flashing photographers.
Rabi rehearsed a submissive way to broach this at breakfast. Two hours later, preened and smacked with lipstick she slowly entered the breakfast room, kneeling to greet she averted her eyes from his. Alhaji liked it when she did that; played shy. He as usual had already begun his meal and gulping hot coffee, gave her an approving once over; smiling at the carnival red lace she wore with matching lipstick that made her mouth resemble a slice of tempting apple. Rabi waited for him to shovel yam into his mouth before she began, in a whisper soft voice of course
“Alhaji I was hoping you would grant me an opportunity to discuss the hospital”
“Are you sick?” he seemed to back away his chair
“No. It is about my job”
Alhaji Tukur hissed. When Rabi frowned he signalled her to continue
“It could be arranged for my hours to lie within 9am-5pm that would not be a problem at all.”
“MEANING...” he was impatient already. Rabi waited a heartbeat to continue
“I would be here when you leave in the morning and back home before your return.”
“I see” he said. Alhaji Tukur picked corn beef from his teeth, sucking at the spaces with a slurping noise. The blue plastic containing toothpicks was right in front of him; Rabi worked hard to keep her annoyance off her face. Just take one she thought, barely containing a sigh that threatened to break out when he bypassed the toothpicks to reach for a serviette still with that irritating saliva action.
Rabi waited for him to deliver his verdict; she waited through his sucking teeth action, waited through his 15minute phone-call and waited while he instructed the driver which car engine required warming up. If she pushed it might upset him so she must be patient. Finally
“What exactly will you be doing?”
Rabi blinked. What would she be doing? She’s a doctor. What did he think?
“Assisting with paperwork, and copying reports for the matron” that was part-true. If her husband wanted to pretend she would not be treating bloody accidents and delivering injections on men’s naked backsides, then she would play along. Alhaji Tukur was quiet once more
“No” he said. “I don’t not see what you intend to gain from that. You already have your degree in Medicine that is good enough for me”
Yes, but this is about me
“Maybe later. When the children are grown and starting school then you can have this asibiti [hospital] as a side project”
Rabi could not believe it. Her eyes repeatedly blinked as if to shake away what was being said. Alhaji Tukur belched and asked the plates be taken away. Rabi just then realised she had not eaten at all. The pieces of yam on her white china had been soaked though by the palm oil. Her coffee had cooled, the milk forming skin on the surface of the liquid.
“Come to my room early tonight” he said gathering up his phones; Blackberry, Sony Ericsson and Nokia, “I like this attire you are wearing. You are very beautiful in red” he smiled, admiring his possession.
Rabi wanted to lie she had her period and so could not make it but she was scared he would ask that she prove it.
“It has already been over a month fa Rabi.” He said with a suddenly serious tone, “If there is no news within the next two months people will begin talking. Kuma [also] I for one can say I have no problem in that area as you know...”
Her husband walked out of the door, into his chauffeured Range Rover and drove away leaving his words hanging heavily like wet laundry on a washing line. Yes, Rabi Tukur’s marriage was a level of Hell she never knew existed.
Jamal Mujahid was having problems at work. He saw it coming. Three months ago when he returned to find Nabila gone he knew, knew that his days as an Abuja socialite were numbered. Dr. Danjuma Bello was not one to make empty threats. Jamal had to hand it to the old man; having his name taken off the priority list was one thing but having his Solar Power contract withdrawn was pretty impressive. It stated on the rejection letter, in black ink, that his idea for solar powered street lights along the Nyanya expressway simply was not cost-effective. Bullshit! Jamal was not buying and after insisting for the facts, the Minister of Power and Steel had simply said to him, “What were you thinking? I always thought of you as a smart and bright young man, but now you have made some powerful people very angry.”
“It doesn’t mean it is not a good idea”
The Minister agreed, “The problem was not the idea”
Three days later Jamal’s subordinate was handed the contract. That was merely the first of a domino chain reaction. It quickly became apparent that Jamal no longer wielded the power and influence he used to, in Jamal’s world that was akin to being pushed out of a corner office and placed back on the stock floor. Jamal was now a political leper, anyone associated with him was promptly denied.
At first he took it all on the chin, shrugged it off and promised to bounce back. He was Jamal Mujahid; he had contacts to call on if needed. People in delicate positions owed him huge favours. With an immense amount of nicotine (he was back to chain smoking) in his system Jamal re-examined his Career path. He had fingers in many pies: agriculture, finance, power and aviation. He would get his monthly turnover back on track with a little clever manoeuvring. As it turns out, his so called connections failed to materialise. No one was scared to offend him, because well, there really wasn’t anything he could do about it. The fear he mobilised had evaporated.
Jamal could not understand what changed so rapidly; except for his marital situation of course. But that shouldn’t matter; Nabila had never played a role in his success. Well she never personally came to his office but her family name often came up. His wife was the daughter of UN consultant and former Minister of Health, an ex-President remained her guardian and testimonial Godfather and most importantly Kaka was her grandmother. Jamal knew this swayed heavily in his favour when he was coming up in the Federal Ministries; now he earned contracts on merit and past credentials but initially it began as; the son-in-law of...requires some assistance. Jamal was not ashamed of where he came from. His family had a lot of money- a little too much in some respects.
But one thing he had come to realise in Government is that there is difference between money and power. The powerfulness of old money was exponential. Nabila’s family was powerful. Kaka alone probably controlled half the public sectors. He had built his name-the Mujahid name-on that lineage of powerful political players and now it was all collapsing like a house of cards.
To make things more difficult talk of malpractice and bribery swirled around his head so no private investor or financier would touch him with a 12foot pole. Not to say the bribery claims were false; everyone was a party to a little tit for tat. Everyone greased palms once in a while, it was the Nigerian way. A way, which the Federal Government intended to stamp out, hard and with immediate effect so Jamal, Deputy Director of Engineering Services for the Ministry of Works and Housing, was made an example of. Jamal would not lose his job that much he knew, he was still too valuable. However his days as a mover and shaker were coming to end. Jamal was enough of a realist to see that.
Last week Jamal called a realtor and had his house in Wuse II put on the market. It sold quickly. His marriage situation was no secret so continuing to live in the four bedroom house made no sense. Also with the garden overrun it had taken on a sombre dilapidated look. Jamal recalls the happy couple that held hands, the ones that gave a synchronized wave when they received the keys. “Oh what a lovely blue couch” the skinny wife cooed. “Please say it comes with the house”. Jamal stared at perhaps the most diligent observer of the collapse of his marriage. The couch he and Nabila made love on in the early days, the couch she waited on when he kept late nights, the couch he found her napping on the day he rushed her to the hospital fearing she inhaled a poisonous fertiliser, the couch she fell from that night he confessed he did not love her, the couch she sat on after her miscarriage. The damn blue couch again and again.
“No I’m sorry that is mine. The movers must have left it behind”
“Oh” wife frowned and nestled her husband. Husband right on cue
“My wife really wants it so how much are you willing to part with it for?”
They were playing right into his hands. Jamal hated the stupid thing and would love to see it burn. Drawing on the acting skills that made him so good at his job once upon a time he stared longingly, before muttering a figure with a saddened sigh. The look of pain on Jamal’s face deterred the man from haggling, plus he wanted to please his new wife. With that he wrote Jamal a cheque right away. No fool, Jamal asked for a business card in case it bounced, “nothing personal” Jamal said in response to the man’s annoyed look. Jamal chuckled all the way to his car, what was it about manipulation that made him so happy? He figured he would spend the money on interior designing his new apartment.
Jamal wanted to call someone to talk. The only person he could trust with his situation was Femi Coker but he was too busy relishing his role as house husband. Even after Femi moves into the 4 bedroom house in Garki that his parents bought as a wedding gift, Amaka would divorce her new husband before she let him entertain Jamal under their roof. After Nabila’s departure Amaka's text had said one thing, “God will surely punish you.”
Jamal scrolled through the contacts on his phone again, for the umpteenth time. He thought he had friends but he didn’t. They only hung around because of what he could get for them, for the luxuries his position afforded. He played the role, always patronising, the way the very rich pretended to understand the plight of others. They polished his ego and he paid them for it. Suddenly a memory flickered before his eyes; the word ‘ego’ jogged something. Jamal sat back as the scene played in front of him like a movie. It was one of the rare occasions he and Nabila got along. He watched her rub lotion between her palms as she gisted him of the pre-nuptial arrangements abroad where wives were entitled to half of their husband’s property. He saw his eyes go wide, confused at how a man could just sit back and let any woman take anything from him. But that wasn’t why he remembered this moment, it was what she said before, he rewound the image... “I like Ikenna.” Nabila was saying, “Most of your peers just follow you around like lap dogs but Ikenna is on an even keel. You’re good for each other’s ego. Maganin ka wallahi [he’s your medicine]”
Jamal decided not to argue with the woman who had every right to take half but didn’t. He took a deep breath and dialled Ikenna’s number.
Ikenna Nwosu did not condone cheating. It was one of his cardinal sins, perhaps because he had been on the receiving end of it. It stung. The damage caused reverberated for many layers ruining your self esteem, confidence, trust and worse of all your belief in love. He would take many things over adultery; he championed divorce, trail separation, even open marriages and swingers. But behind the back cheating was a no-no in his book. Friday night however saw him nursing a Jack Daniels and listening to a man recount exactly that. And Ikenna did not feel the irritation, anger and disappointment he thought he would. Perhaps it was obvious life had already dealt Jamal Mujahid a fatal enough blow that Ikenna’s harsh words would inflict no more pain than that already felt.
“So when last did you see Rabi?” He asked
“Her wedding day” Jamal sighed. He rubbed his face and looked around....Donnell Jones wafted through the speakers. Any other day he would tease Ikenna on his mushy attitude, probably make a joke about R ‘n’ B being too soft for his taste but oddly enough it was the right sound he needed to hear. Besides for the past few months he had been having a secret affair with John Mayer- and if that white boy wasn’t mushy...
“Did you get a chance to talk to her?” Ikenna asked
“Yes” Jamal answered. He was tired; his mouth had been moving non-stop for three hours now. It was good to get everything off his chest at last, he must admit. But he had spent all day getting his belongings out of storage only to be informed his apartment was not ready yet. Luckily Ikenna was more than happy to house Jamal and his boxes and electronics,
“Let’s order some food” Ikenna suggested.
“Where are we going to get food at 4 in the morning?”
“Leave it to me I know people”
“I used to know people” Jamal sighed.
“Then you know they’re only good for one thing” Ikenna said
“Favours” they said in unison
“Man thanks so much for putting me up. I can’t explain how you’ve saved my neck”
“Nah forget it. I know how important it is to keep up appearances”
“Exactly” Jamal agreed. He would remain immaculately dressed and charming. They won’t see what he’s going through. “Roommates ko? I’ve never had one”
“Me neither” Ikenna mused
“What are we going to do when women come around?”
Ikenna laughed, “Nice try but you are whipped and so am I. There will be no females here for a while yet”
“We need to get back in the game” Jamal tried to sound unflustered by the thought
“I don tire for the game jor” Ikenna refilled his glass. He had gotten back from work just a few hours ago and still wore his corporate suit.
“I’m sorry about Amaka” Jamal was shocked to find he genuinely meant it
“She’s doing what’s best for the kids”
“Let me guess...and for that you love her even more”
“No I hate her. I want her to understand that trusting again was a risk for me and she has ruined whatever redeeming factor love had. Just taken it, stabbed it and walked away”
“You hate her?”
“More than I ever thought I could”
“I don’t hate Rabi”
“Really? If she didn’t marry the old man you and she could be together right now”
“I understand now why she did it. If there was a way I could ease Nabila’s pain I would. What I did was wicked and unfathomable. It was low and...You have nothing to add Ikenna? Now is your chance to say I deserve it or something” Jamal scratched his hair
“There’s no need. You are suffering right now. Lost the one who loved you and cannot be with the one you love. You’re alone. That is punishment enough”
Jamal figured one more sentence before they closed shop on this emotional meeting.
“Amaka doesn’t love him”
“Is that so?” Ikenna said sarcastically “And how would you know this? Amaka surely did not tell you and neither did your friend. So tell me Mujahid, disgraced Government official how do you know she does not love him; the father of her kids. The one she getting married to?”
“Because I was there when she did, back then she would have died for him. Now it’s FEMI that has it bad”
“You didn’t have to call the name”
“This disgraced Government official felt the need to”
Stay Tuned for the next part of the Finale
Stay Tuned for the next part of the Finale