Something was not right.
I sensed it the minute I entered the house expecting Jemima to be in the sitting room, shooting daggers at me with her eyes. Making snide remarks. Taunting me. Insulting ‘Ateekah. The hollow echoes of the empty rooms told me Jemima wasn’t in the house.
“Maybe she’s sleeping in her room.” ‘Ateekah said, answering the unspoken question that lingered in the air. She brushed past me on her way up the stairs. “I’ll go check.”
I walked farther into the sitting room, rearranging stuff as I did. Replaced a throw pillow there, straightened an upturned stool there. I wondered what had happened, for the sitting room to be in such a state of disarray. Was this another one of Jemima’s antics? To ‘set me aright’ as she always put it. I would get my answer soon enough.
As I returned a flower vase to the coffee table, I noticed a piece of paper sticking out from under the T.V remote. It had my name written bolding at the back, in Jemima’s handwriting. With shaking hands, I opened the folded paper, hoping to God it wasn’t a suicide note.
By the time you read this, I’ll be long gone. I have had enough of your shenanigans. You and your wife have no regard for me. You treat me like I don’t matter, rubbing your newfound love in my face. And you, Abdul, have also refused to make things right between us.
It is said that a person doesn’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone. Well, I hope you realise what a gem you’ve lost Abdul. Please don’t search for me. You won’t find me. I’ll contact you when my baby is born.
In light of recent happenings, I thought it inappropriate to address you as ‘Dear’. Assalamu alaykum. Have a nice life.
P.P. S. Go ahead and divorce me now. I know you’ve been itching to do so. It doesn’t matter to me.
“Subhanallah!.” I slumped to the floor in a heap. My mind grappling at straws, trying to make sense of the note. Jemima had left, and with my baby too. She wanted me to divorce her. Subhanallah how deluded could a person be?
‘Ateekah’s shriek had me bounding up the stairs like a lunatic. Heart in mouth, I rushed into her room, half-expecting to see Jemima there ready to do something extreme. Nothing in the world would have prepared me for the sight that met my eyes. The room was in shambles. It looked like someone had razed through with a bulldozer. The remnants of various items of clothing, bags, shoes, books, lay strewn on the floor. The pile of foam in the corner indicated where the bed was once stationed. It seemed everything ‘Ateekah owned had been ripped to shreds.
Subhanallah! Allahu akbar! I cradled my head in my hands. I didn’t know Jemima was capable of such… depravity. She had gone too far this time. Anger bubbled inside of me, threatening to erupt. If only Jemima were here, if only…
I sought refuge from Allah against the shaitan trying to take over my thoughts. I chanced a glance at ‘Ateekah. She was standing in the middle of the room, weeping uncontrollably.
“Look what she has done, Abdul! Look at all my stuff. She didn’t even spare ANYTHING!
“Ateekah, I am so sorry.”
“This…” She picked up the remains of the blue hardcover from the floor. “… was my thesis! I was supposed to submit next week!”
I moved closer to her and put my hands around her. “I am sorry, ‘Aateekah. We will replace everything. I will print out your thesis again, I promise.”
“I guess I should be glad my laptop wasn’t in here then. If not, Mrs destructive Jemima would’ve smashed it too. Abdul you know I didn’t sign up for this. You didn’t tell me she was a nutcase. If she’s like this why are you still married to her?”
A pertinent question. One whose answer I hated myself for. I loved Jemima. In spite of all her crazy, I did. Very much. Perhaps that made me a fool.
“Abdul, I can’t stay here anymore. I’m scared. What is she decides to…”
“Don’t worry, she left” I showed ‘Ateekah the note.
‘Ateekah looked at me, pity in her eyes. She was probably wondering how I got stuck with someone like Jemima. After being at the receiving end of Jemima’s harshness I couldn’t blame her for thinking like that. “What’s to be done now?
“You’ll go back to Ummi’s. In the meantime, I’ll search for Jemima. She’s not keeping my baby from me… not while I’m alive.”
My intention had been to lodge at a guest house just outside the city. In the early days of our marriage, I always mentioned to Abdul that if I ever had a chance to go on a road trip, I’d lodge there because of its serene environment. I figured Abdul would look there first when he came searching for me. I didn’t arrive there, however, because my car had other plans. It developed a fault just before I reached the ABC bus park. Fortunately, a mechanic’s shed was close by, so I stopped there, to get it checked.
Now here I sat, in a rundown mecho stall, crying my eyes out because I missed my husband. Because I was beginning to regret my earlier actions. And because I was scared too. What if Abdul believed everything in my note and decided not to come looking for me? What if he’s turned to the new wife for comfort and her soothing words have erased all thoughts of me from his mind? Muslimah’s advice made more sense to me now. Was my stubbornness and pride worth being pregnant and alone?
“Hajia why you dey cry? Hope nothing?”
I scrubbed at my tears and glanced up at the mechanic’s apprentice. He had a worried look on his face. I couldn’t afford to explain my predicament to strangers. “I no cry o. Something enter my eye.” I sniffed. Una don finish?”
“No. E remain small.”
“Ok. Make una do quick abeg.”
My car had broken down for over thirty minutes now. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was a sign. Maybe Allah didn’t want me to pursue this course. Perhaps when the car was fixed, I could go home and…
I exhaled a deep sigh. And what? Show my face at the house after what I had done? I cringed just thinking about it. The damage was irreversible. By now, Abdul would have found the note, and the little gift I left behind for his wife. He probably hated me now, if he didn’t before. The new wife would surely scratch my eyes out the moment I showed my face.
I decided that I wouldn’t go home. Not yet. I’d wait at the guest house for things to cool off, then maybe, just maybe…
The sound of a child shouting pierced my thoughts. It was very loud. My eyes darted towards the bus park where the sound had come from. There were a lot of people in the park, but it wasn’t hard to make out the child because almost everyone in the park was chastising its mother. The mother and child were at the entrance of the bus park
“Carry am for back now, ahan.”
“All these small girls dem, wey go dey born pikin dem no fit take care of.”
It was funny that none of the people judging her for having a baby at so young an age or asking her to strap the baby on her back actually offered some help. She was struggling with the child, as well as trying to lug two suitcases. The child’s squirming and kicking weren’t making it easy for her. At a point, the child dug its heels in the ground and refused to move.
My heart went out to her. I wondered if my baby would also throw tantrums in public like this. The thought brought a small smile to my lips. Maybe I could be of help, get some child-rearing practice in while my car was being repaired.
I summoned the mechanic’s apprentice and told him where I was going. He nodded and assured me that the car would be ready before I returned.
I walked the short distance to the bus park and spotted the young mother and her child, who was still screaming bloody murder. The suitcases were gone now, probably taken by one of the bus conductors. The mother was speaking to him now, trying to convince him to board the bus.
“Sorry, my dear. Let’s go in. I’ll buy ice cream for you.”
It was getting dark and I couldn’t make out her face, but that distinct Yoruba lilt in her voice sounded familiar.
Hmm, I wonder…
Please don’t forget to leave a like, share, and comment! I love to hear from you!
Read chapter 15