Chapter Thirty-Six


Hadiza XII


Humming a tune under his breath, Basheer spread butter over his slices of bread, Nutella over mine. He poured orange juice, squeezed by his own hand into two glasses. I could literally feel the joy emanating from him as he worked and for a moment. I was perfectly content watching him from my spot at the table. The subtle smile playing on his lips, or the soft gaze he sent my way when he’d looked over his shoulder seconds ago gladdened my heart immensely.  If I could freeze and frame this moment in time I would.

He brought the meal over, his and mine. For the first time in a long while I could see this becoming a part of the rhythm in our future.

“Jazaakillahu khayran love.”

He replied by pecking my forehead, before settling in the chair opposite mine. We ate from the same plate, giggling and talking about silly things. I had missed this. Just being with him. Hanging out together used to be our favourite thing in the world to do, until recently. Alhamdulillah, that phase in our life was over for good. Basheer and I had reached an agreement and planned to stick to it.

“You know you didn’t have to subject Mas’ud to a week of no school. Poor boy is going to die of boredom before next week.”

“I believe it’s necessary o. My baby needs to rest, after the trauma he suffered at Zulay’s hands.” Speaking her name irked me, bringing back the horrible memories of days past. I didn’t want anything to spoil this beautiful morning with my husband, so I pushed the thoughts away. “You’re lucky I’m not pulling him out altogether. I don’t want him out of my sight as it is.”

“You’re the boss.” He gave a mock salute then proceeded to plant a huge smudge of butter on my nose.

“Hey!” I shrieked.

“Don’t act innocent. I only got you back for almost finishing my juice.”

I pouted, crossing my arms across my chest. “Still not fair.”  I pushed my chin forward. “Clean my nose, and I’ll switch our glasses.”

He chuckled. “What sort of deal is that? The order should be reversed. Switch the glass and I’ll clean your nose.”

I remained adamant. “Deal or no deal?”

Laughing, he picked up a napkin and wiped my nose with it. Then he kissed me. “It’s only 8 am. Mas’ud’s still with Big Mummy and I don’t have to be in the office until noon.” He mumbled against my lips.

I smiled coyly. “My, my Mr Balogun. What do you suggest we do until then?”

“Many things.” He whispered.

Prompted by the promise evident in his eyes I took his proffered hand. “Lead the way.”

Basheer’s triumphant smile mirrored mine.


Later that day, I sat in the upstairs living room with A’isha and Muslimah. waiting for Jemima. Muslimah and Jemima had posted about having huge announcements they had to make in our group chat and we’d agreed to meet here to discuss them. There was also the issue of A’isha. I and the rest of the girls were glad she and Gaffar had worked things out, but then her mother-in-law had to spoil it. Seeing A’isha’s now, it was obvious she was still bothered. Who could get over words such as Gaffar’s mum had uttered so easily?

“A’isha your voice note yesterday really scared me.” We were sat close together on the sofa. I put my hands around her, gently stroking her arm back and forth. “How are you holding up?”

She sniffed. “Not good Hadiza. I just can’t comprehend why Mama would say that to me.”

“Does Gaffar know?” Muslimah asked. She was curled up on the swing chair opposite, sipping a coke.

“He doesn’t. As he was unable to convince her to come back inside with him, he took her to wherever it was she asked him to. I cried all my tears before he returned.”

“Why not tell him?”

“Muslimah!” I threw her a disapproving look.

“What?” She shrugged, unfazed. “What if she does something worse;  like taking action to get her wish?”

“I disagree.” A’isha shook her head. “Mama would never. Besides I do not want to come between them more than I already have.”

“I don’t agree as well. Personally, I believe Mama will come around. It may take some time, but she will. Hang in there darling.” I hugged A’isha again.

Muslimah eyed us both. “Okay o if you say so. Me, I sha think you should find out her location and go have a heart-to-heart with her. I mean have you really sat down to have an honest conversation with her? Find out why she dislikes you so much? As I recall she never liked you from the start before any of this child business occurred.”

“You know, you may be half-right, Muslimah,” A’isha said thoughtfully.

Muslimah tilted her head to the side. “I am completely right.”

A’isha rose abruptly and began to pace. I could tell she had slipped into ‘brainstorm mode’. “It could definitely work.” She continued animatedly.  “Today I’ll have a talk with Gaffar and find out where she’s staying, then propose a visit. There I’ll orchestrate a talk alone with her.”

“Or you could go on your own.” Muslimah chimed in.

“I like that even better.” A’isha high-fived Muslimah then plopped down on the floor by her feet. “Thanks, guys. You’ve lifted my spirits.”

Smiling, I raised my glass to A’isha. I had to admit Muslimah did have a point. However, I remained sceptical due to my recent experience with confrontation being a catastrophe. To be fair though, A’isha’s situation was different, and she wouldn’t exactly be confronting her mother-in-law. The meeting would be more like an open discussion meant to unearth the bone of contention and profer a way forward. Not so different to the discussion Basheer and I had had the night Mas’ud returned home, and that had gone splendidly well – the events over the past few days a testament to its success.

“Now enough talk about me.” A’isha started abruptly. “Hadiza, tell us why you’re looking like the cat that swallowed… I can’t remember the animal. A bird or something?” She looked to Muslimah for help.

I spoke before Muslimah could answer. “I believe the cat swallowed a canary A’isha and yes I am pleased with myself, thank you. As you know, Basheer and I are in a good place now, Alhamdulillah, Zulay’s been remanded and Mas’ud’s fine.”

“You saw Zulay?” Muslimah asked.

“Yes, we went to the police station yesterday.  She said she was asked to bring him to Lagos for 200k. Can you imagine?”

A’isha clapped her hands. “Na wah o. The things people do for money. I hope the police are pursuing every lead to catch the masterminds because obviously, she wasn’t working alone.”

“Yes. She’s confessed all and they’re taking the necessary steps to apprehend them.”

“And Mas’ud?” That was from Muslimah

“He’s gone out for a bit. Big Mummy had to pry him from me yesterday. “

A’isha chuckled. “Can’t blame you for smothering him.”

“I’m happy for you Hadiza.”

“Thanks, Muslimah.” I blew her a kiss. “You haven’t told us what news you have for us. Oya spill jo.”

Immediately, Muslimah’s face was completely transformed by a wide grin. “We’ve finally found a way to deal with Prof Jaiye. Hopefully for good this time.”

“Seriously?!” I shouted.

“How?” A’isha asked. She was surprised as well.

“Well, we have a plan that’d hopefully send him away for good this time…”

“Wait for one second Muslimah,” I interrupted, going over to sit on the floor beside A’isha. “You keep saying ‘we’. Who’s ‘we’?

“Yes, I was wondering too,” A’isha added.

Muslimah shook her head. “Una too like gist.  Anyway, the plan was conceived by Kamaal and…”

“Stop right there.” A’isha turned to me first before looking up at Muslimah. “Is it the same Kamaal who asked you to marry him, but you refused or another one?”

Muslimah rolled her eyes. “Yes, A’isha, it’s the same Kamaal…

“But I thought you told him to back off? When did you start plotting and planning together?” I wagged a finger at Muslimah. “You’ve been holding out on us.”

Muslimah huffed, putting her palms up in defence. “No, of course not. It’s- we-I mean it just happened, okay? Listen, if you girls would just stop interrupting me, you’d understand better.”

A’isha adjusted her seating position. I did the same too. We were like two eager kids about to listen to a moonlight tale at grandma’s feet.

“Can I continue now?”

“Yes, by all means,” I answered for both of us.

Muslimah told us about Prof Jaiye threatening her during and after class the day before. How, out of despondence she’d decided to take Kamaal up on his previous offer to help and had called him.

“It turned out to be a good decision. So, the plan is to let Prof Jaiye know that I choose to graduate. Obviously, that means agreeing to his terms. We’ll set up a meeting date and place. He’ll believe he has won, but what he won’t know is every correspondence between us would be recorded henceforth and on the D-day, Kamaal and others will be waiting to apprehend him.”

“Others?” A’isha asked.

“Yes. He said his dad has friends in high places. Who knew right?”

I was impressed. “Wow. It’s a good idea, but risky. What if something goes wrong?”

“It won’t. Kamaal will be there the whole time.” Muslimah assured us.

“Sounds like someone’s catching feelings o” A’isha said wriggling her eyebrows.

“Me? No!”

“You’re going to deny this, Muslimah. Really? Remember who you’re talking to. You no fit hide anything from us o.” A’isha looked to me for support. I nodded, smiling. “Besides, it’s obvious you like him. I wish you could see the way your eyes lit up when you were talking about him, the smile on your face, I mean come on…”

“I agree, Muslimah,” I said.

Muslimah made a gesture with her thumb and forefinger. “Okay so maybe I like him. Just a tiny bit. But there’s someone else. Remember the brother that saved me on the day of the robbery. Jameel. We kept in touch. He sends me these reminders and stuff and I find it easy to talk to him.”

“What are you saying?” Aisha wanted to know

“I mean I haven’t figured out exactly what my feelings for him are yet, but I think maybe…” She shrugged.

“Ok, hold up everyone,” I said. “Has this Jameel proposed or hinted that he will?”

Muslimah shook her head.

“Perfect. I think we should focus on established facts and that is: you like Kamaal. Why then do you deny yourself? Why did you refuse his proposal?”

Muslimah sighed, her smile fading. “I didn’t want to enter a relationship with all the drama in my life plus the baggage from my past.” She grew very serious. “He doesn’t know even the half of it guys and I don’t think he’ll want me if he ever found out.”

I stood, perched myself on Muslimah’s lap, then hugged her tight. “Don’t talk like that ‘Limah. If he loves you, he’ll accept you the way you are.”

“Yes. Any man would be lucky to have you.” A’isha added, squeezing Muslimah’s leg to her chest.

“I already refused him, remember?” Muslimah said, her voice muffled against my chest.

A’isha huffed. “That can be remedied. A little nudge in the right direction will do the trick and he’ll propose again. Right Hadiza?”

“Of course.” I chuckled.

“Erm, excuse me. I love you guys, but Hadiza, you’re choking me and A’isha, let go of my legs please!”

Laughing, I rose and went back to sit on the sofa. As soon as A’isha released her legs, Muslimah rose and stretched. A’isha promptly settled into the swing chair.

“ You guys, Jemima should have been here hours ago, right?” Muslimah asked, worried.

“That’s true o. I’ll call her,” I said, picking up my phone. I dialled Jemima’s number. “She’s not picking.”

“She’s not coming,” Muslimah announced suddenly. I turned to her.

“How do you know that?”

“Because she said so on the group chat.”  This was from A’isha.

In a flash, I checked the WhatsApp group chat. Sure enough, Jemima’s message was there.

Assalamu alaykum. I don’t think I’ll be coming over anymore.

I’m kinda tired. Have fun for me! See you all soon. xoxo

There was more to this message, and I was sure the others felt the same way too. We had decided to meet here so we could take her mind off everything that was happening, and Jemima had been really looking forward to it. Cancelling out of nowhere felt strange somehow.

“I’m worried. I think we should go to her”, Muslimah said.

I agreed. So did A’isha. At that moment the adhaan for Asri was called from the neighbourhood mosque.

“We’ll go after Solah. Come let’s go pray.”

We filed out of the room. “A’ish you use the restroom down the hall, Muslimah, take the one downstairs, I’ll use the one in our room.”

Muslimah was about to descend the stairs when she stopped, slapping her palm to her forehead. “Oops, I’m off solah. Totally forgot.”

The three of us laughed at her expense, swapping stories about close shaves regarding solah during menses. I was glad that at least Muslimah and A’isha were having a bit of fun. I hoped we could succeed in alleviating Jemima’s fears too

Hadiza’s back! Share like and comment. I love to read your thoughts. xoxo

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