So my grand plan is to not go out into the sun. It makes me look like a half-baked witch when all my vanity wants is to resemble some Nubian beauty princess who has all the rich princes trying to get the glass slipper on and she doesn’t have to work a day again in her life.

I’ll try to not go out, I mean the government are basically begging us not to and I’ve heard rumors of curfew so perfect. I’ll drink only detox water. If I must go out even within the house, I need to have on sunscreen. I’ll exercise because Ciara body will not make itself. I want step out into the world after my estimated three months and look like a glossy ‘Vanity‘ magazine cover come to life. Y’all are not ready.

There’s however only one problem, my vanity is so vain and poor hence my quest for money. I need to utilise this lack of work period to venture into money making things that aren’t necessarily as deep as yahoo yahoo but kinda deep. I need an entire wardrobe overhaul because I want to attend rich people weddings and meet rich people friends and just bask in rich peoples glory even if for a while before I eventually get tired like I do with everything.

I need to purchase the baddest assest skin and hair care products so I can rock the baddest assest skin and hair and bags! I need fancy bagssss of life. I need lipgloss because they are an absolute necessity. Apart from having naturally dry lips, Iipgloss make me have an attitude. This baby is going to be born again.

But before all that, I need to open my eyes, get off this bed, greet the wicked stepmother and her husband who happens to father my siblings and I, get pissed by them for all of three minutes because I am tired of their pissful attitude, call my mother to calm me, piss some sister off or vice versa, eat a big fat burger and suya , gain weight and await apocalypse. 

Awesome! Sounds like a solid plan for a good day.

Fafa is up when I go to the parlor. Sometimes, it’s like she never sleeps. You go to her room in the middle of the night and the lights of her phone will be reflecting her face. You’ll think she is doing something reasonable then 5 hours later, you are on Twitter and you discover your sister had tweeted in the middle of the night how she can’t sleep because of mosquitoes or how she’ll die if she doesn’t eat seafood that night. Then one Arewa Twitter person will tell her to go eat crayfish from her mothers kitchen and she’ll laugh along on the timeline but will call him bastard in reality.

‘Oh! You are up’ she says after glancing at me.

‘Nope. I say with a yawn. ‘I’m fast asleep. It’s called somnambulism; sleep walking’.

She lets out a loud fake laugh then almost immediately dons on a blank face.

I walk to the kettle and fetch her pre-boiled water- because I know there’s always hot water where there’s Fafa as her constant high is one god-awful tea concoction or the other- I pour a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar and hold my nose as I gulp.

‘What’s that meant to do? Spark up ulcer?’ Fafa the intermeddler asks.

‘Weight loss’ I reply shortly.

‘All I see is ulcer’ she shrugs.

‘Just because you are fighting your internal battles-literally’ I add with a smug smile ‘- doesn’t mean we all will’.

She shrugs. ‘Whenever you feel the heartburn rising, just know that I have Mama’s puke-worthy concoction for that’.

‘You and Mama always have one medicine or the other for everything in life’.

She smiles enigmatically. ‘What can I say? It’s a gift’.

I roll my eyes. ‘Any food from the other side?’ I ask her.

She shakes her head without looking up from her phone. I sigh and look for something to eat from the kitchen; some bread, some mayo….will do.

Where’s Yasmin? I ask Fafa after the gulping my last spoon of cereals and internally wondering of what use the vinegar is since I just ate bread with mayonnaise and a bowl of cornflakes.

She shrugs. ‘Probably on the other side’. I contort my face to mirror Fafa’s. Apparently Yasmin is so loveable even the wicked stepmother likes her. The wicked stepmother liking you is the biggest deal; equal to winning a nobel prize for likeability.

There’s a knock on the door. The messenger has arrived, I think. What does she want now, someone to back her while she dazzles Baba with a spell?

I open the door expecting to see Umaima, Mommy’s somehow relative who is always the one sent with messages for us. My eyebrows shoot up when I see the tired person standing by the door.

‘What brings you here this early morning?’ I ask him.

He frowns, pushes himself in and settles on the couch.

‘You too? It’s my father’s house last time I checked’.

I almost roll my eyes. ‘I mean isn’t it too early… never mind’ I stop myself. Everything you say will be definitely misconstrued and be given a negative meaning by him.

‘Good Morning Yaya’ Fafa greets him. He merely nods back at her.

‘Aren’t you going to school?’ He asks

‘Baba says it’s not safe, besides it’s closing on Monday.’.

He snorts and shakes his head. ‘As if he cares’. 

I shake my head at the ridiculous dysfunctional family I have and go back to my room to freshen up.

Baba is on everyone’s not-good book. But he is definitively on my brother, Abdullah’s bad book. We call Abdullah, Yaya as he is the eldest in the house but he sure doesn’t act like it..

Yaya doesn’t stay in the same house with us, he left with Mama upon the arrival of the (Wicked step mother) WSM; short. She literally kicked them out.

The story of my family’s fall from the grace of one single unit to a dismembered chopped off family tree started some 6plus years when my father decided it was wise to join politics. Then maleficent set her eyes on him, then he fell in love and everything came crashing.

When I come out, I find Yaya lounging on the couch. Yasmin is back from her visit to the other side and Fafa is on the phone with her loud friend Naima. No one needs to be told when Fafa is talking to Naima because Fafa’s throat also gains an amplifier and they start a shouting match trying to be heard over the others din.

Like calm down sisters it’s called a phone, they don’t do town criers anymore.

‘Good Morning Nana’ Yasmin greets me.

I answer her and she intercepts me before I ask where she was. ‘Mommy sent me a text asking me to help her with some calculations of her record of accounts. I think something is fishy, her staff may be shortchanging her’.

I stare at her for some time before I nod. ‘Okay Sherlock’  I say loud enough for her to hear.

Yasmin is the only one among my siblings who relates well with the WSM and with Baba because one;

She is the young sweet one (to them)

She is the smart one

She is unrebellious 

She is the one who has so much potential they had better gotten her on their side so they can claim their accolades when she joins NASA

She is just the model child, miss-goody-two-shoes, forgive-everyone lets-live-in-peace-and-harmony. *Eye roll*

Sometime I see her as a traitor, sometimes I feel she isn’t being true to herself, she is trying to conform to what everyone expects of her, she is trying to be liked by everyone except of course we, the siblings. With us, she bring out her thorny side.
But you of course can’t say a thing because everyone will say it’s envy. I am older than that brat with 5 years and I sure am not jealous of her for nada. I Just can’t live a life of ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, I’d rather be fed to the crocodiles, neither can Yaya. Fafa is in the middle, rebellious but useful enough to be liked or at least tolerated. I don’t even try pleasing them, it pisses them off. 

It’s possible it’s because when the WSM crashed my family, Yaya and I were the most affected because we were more mature and we saw what it did to our mom. Whatever is the case, I just want a way out of this environment. And something tells me marriage might be the only way. Sigh!!!!!!! My non-existent love life you say? That’s a story for another day.

Next time I come back to you dear journal, I’ll pick up the pieces of our family book and put the puzzle together so it all makes sense. For now, just know that our middle name is ‘dysfunctional’ and our lingua franca is ‘drama’.

See you next time.

PROLOUGE

Dear Reader: If you are reading this then there are several possible reasons why;

-The world did not come to an end. Good thing

-The pandemic ended and I did not survive- not necessarily a good thing- and some gold diggers decided to Anne Frank it.

-The pandemic decided to disappear and I cash this baby out.

– The pandemic has shown no sign of leaving, we have learnt to live with it and I have turned my dear journal to a dreary history book.

Either ways. It is being read by you. I don’t know how this will play out. I might start coughing tomorrow and die in 5 days time- my throat has been itching- I might not write an update for weeks because may uninteresting life has become even less interesting or I may be whisked away by a royal family of handsome rich people who are adamant that their highly chivalrous and intellectual son must marry me and the pandemic will be a royal honeymoon. Then I’ll have plenty of stories to tell.

Another thing is I may be too embarrassed writing my life’s deepest senselessness and I may not be able to share all this.

        Chapter  One: The Lists

I know I’m not going back to that humid office that smells like our boss’s sweat for a long time. I feel it in my bones. Maybe Corona will mandate the closure of the wastage of time, mental energy and fashion sense that is NYSC or maybe I’ll be rusticated because of the hostile energy I exude whenever I wear that terrible Khaki that looks so nice on me. Apparently poopoo green is my colour, with the things I’m beginning to discover about myself, I’m not even surprised. 

I know I’m going to miss a few things like the chit chat with Lauje, the office assistant who is either in his twenties or fifties-I really can’t say- tall and lanky (hence the name) and whose head is clearly missing a few knots. He is loud and almost always speaks off point except he is talking about money; then he becomes a pro arithmetician.

I’ll miss looking at Mrs Binta, the lady whose real complexion remains the biggest office mystery -because a mix of the purple-brown lipstick and heavy foundation do funny things to ones visual senses- as she strolls in last every day and strolls out first because her ex-husband was the director and no one can say nothing.

I will definitely miss the epileptic wi-fi I can connect to only on the stairs on the way in and even though it means meeting and greeting people except when I’m pretending to be on the phone, it is worth downloading three episodes of Stranger Things after three hours.

I have barely stepped off the Napep when the scent of Jacqueline’s noodles swarm my senses and a wave of nostalgia hits. I already miss that heaven sent plate of noodles that tastes like epiphany. I always discover new things about life in every fork and I suspect she cooks them with weed, chicken poop or something like that so that we always keep going back for more. I told Hadiza that the other time and she looked at me as if I am a heathen for suggesting Jacqueline might have a slight.

Today, the Government have made an announcement ordering all offices to shut down. Today, I make two lists. 

One; all the things I would love to do in the three months (my estimate, seems far fetched but we shall see) it will take before Corona sorts himself out (definitely a guy). 

Second list; what I would love to do before the world wraps up and ends in the next few months because while an extreme end of my mind is hopeful, the other extreme end is in plain idiotic paranoia.

I swear when I see the figures of Covid-19 cases on the screen of TV before I walk out the moment the news starts because Millennials aren’t meant to like news, it looks like we have reached the finishing line and they are just rolling in the end credits. 

But then Anne Frank probably also thought so, then she decided to write a journal, then the world (Germany here) picked up the pieces, pieces of her memory and glorified her years of isolation and eventual death. Could be me. Being famous even if post mortem is better than passing through all this ‘The First Wave’ movie come to life without being acknowledged for my bravery. So let’s write this journal.

Here’s what my lists look like. Should we start with the gloomy one or the hopeful one?

To do list before Covid19 departs and the world gets back to normal even though I doubt that:

– Make money

– Make friends from different countries

-Eat junk

-Exercise 

-Make money 

-Get a boyfriend

-Make sure he is rich and doesn’t have smelly mouth (these two are hard to find together)

-Start planning on getting hitched (how does this even work?).

-Reconnect with family and old friends.

-Be nicer 

-Read Qur’an, learn Hadith everyday 

-Try reading a novel without having a headache and nausea

-Meditate inside a tub of warm water

-Sleeeepppp to get rid of eyebags and unwanted people

-Practice becoming ajebutter

-The boyfriend must be rich (emphasis)

-Go natural and grow hair to a healthy afro or waist length, whichever comes first.

-Melanin popping or just bleach the darn skin.

Pretty realistic right?

To do list before the world wraps up AKA Apocalyse

-Memorise Qur’an

-Have one kid, but I’ll have to marry first right? And I really have no time for that.

-Make money

-Sadaqah

-Eat junk because we will all die.

-Spend all the money on food… I repeat,  we will all die.

– Tell your crush you have a crush on him and that we will all die.

-Write a letter to your boss giving him tips on how to stop smelling like a skunk for the betterment of Earth.

-Sleep or don’t sleep. That’s your problem because we will all what…?

-Slap Tasi’u’s always clean shaven head because I really want to do that before I die.

There, done. My list looks like the beginning of an award winning movie.

Now to the implementation.

‘Hmmm! You smell like your office’, my sister greets as she walks by. 

I glare at her for a second.  ‘You see, it is these things you say that makes people contemplate suicide’

She laughs and walks away feeling like her life’s mission of annoying people 3 times in an hour is gaining momentum. 

I knew things were out of control when I found my sisters ‘To Do’ list from three years ago and in between the ‘make friends and stop talking to them’, ‘buy Iphone 8plus through prayers’ and ‘escape going to the University’, she legit has ‘annoy people for no reason at least 5 times daily’ like some sort of worship.

‘When did they take the lights?’ I ask her.

‘They never brought it back’ she screams back. 

I let out a long sigh, drag my bag behind me and vow to get a power bank the next time I go out. Then I remember Corona and I sigh even deeper. 2020 is going to be a long year, I can feel it.

Disclaimer: This journal is a pure work of fiction. It, in no way depicts the life of the writer nor any person. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Are You Okay will follow the life of our protagonist (she still has no name), and her quest to fulfill ‘the list’, or at least some part of it. She will discover how not-so-straightforward life is, how plans unfurl in funny ways, how family can be the crowd you want to avoid and how love can be found and possibly lost within a short time.

Most importantly however, she will find out about herself. And I hope everyone following this journal will open him/herself to self-discovery too.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

It is the most interesting of times…

I have been duped of the money I was given by my Dad as my poverty alleviation intervention, the guy I’ve been crushing on for a year was crushed by a truck driver and my only reaction was to laugh at the irony of how my crush got crushed, my clothes have become 3 boubous and 2 nighties because they were the only things I could fit in, I have approximately a football field of pimples playing hide and seek on my face, the world has run out of my favourite chocolate and …. Oh yes! Corona; the beginning of the end.

It is the worst of times.

The Year of Lefasefarel.
Welcome to my journal.

I don’t usually remember my dreams yet this one is quite memorable.

It’s action packed featuring characters from plenty fantasy movies (I guess)… of course Marvel characters feature.

Can’t recognise the villain but she is merciless…could be Hella.

So we were in some sort of training school (my fathers house in reality) and we were meant to have finished training but apparently some 5 of us including what (or who) I assume to be a washed down Aslam, the lion in ‘The Lion, The Witch and TheWardrobe: Chronicles of Narnia’ found out that something is wrong; some people will use the powers in there for bad so we stole a powerful silver ball and a powerful rectangular something (like a long bar of gold) covered in silver silk. Of course I stole the silver rectangle, after all it was in my fathers backyard where the tank is. I exchanged it for something frivolous.

We immediately got in the car and drove out but we weren’t past the third house when they caught on and began chasing. 

Now the place is like an academy for super heroes or sorts so imagine the powerful forces that would have been pursuing us.

Anyway, we only encountered who I suppose is Anon, who changed our field of vision so it became like a cartoon(It was like were in Micky mouse cartoon and we crashed into cars because we couldn’t see them). In hindsight, might be Mysterio with the drones. 

Anyway, my friend driving had the Peter Parker tingle after the first crash so we regained our footing and he drove away despite the deceptive simulation.

We hid somewhere for days trying to protect the treasure which has become Hufflepuffs cup or Ravenclaws diadem- I’m not sure which- but we all know its a Horcrux and little of Voldemort de dia so yes we were protecting a bit of old Voldie. Were probably death eaters sef.

For the days we were in hiding, something always happens, someone always gets in someones head and we almost get caught. Like when the witch villain took over a colleagues body and she was acting through him, which meant we thought he was one of us but she was in his body. It gave our position away (I couldn’t bear to watch that part, I had to move my cameras away). At that point I wanted to wake up but when I tried and it proved abortive, I continued because whatever happens, I knew I couldn’t physically be affected.

The villian finally got in and dragged the person safe guarding the treasure with her invisible hand powers (something like that) into a room so as to extricate it or atleast see where it is through his memory but he had managed to get out of the room long enough to give it to us without her knowing and we rannnnnnn because there was only one person to hand it to- Groot (or atleast looks and acts somewhat like Groot)

I and a black man rushed to Groots abode within a tree and called on him furiously because time was running out. I was scared he wasn’t home and we couldn’t give it to him but I knew he wasn’t because the future said so (Dr Strange now), I knew we will give Groot and even though Anty Villain will get him, it will be out chance to defeat her. I had- it seemed- scripted the whole dreamovie.

We were in Groots crammed up tight tree house (two of us could only just fit in) and I called out to him ‘The Avengers are here’, (meaning I was officially an Avenger😎) no answer. Time was running fast, Anty might catch on soon.

‘The Avengers are here’, Groot apparently heard me but he didn’t believe it because why will the Avengers look for him, to him they were little bit more believable than a myth. He appeared almost same time Thor did and he saw us and still thought it some parody or halloween-ers trick or treating.

I explained the situation and Groot was ecstatic to help while Thor looked hungry and thin (probably ran out of money since he quit his King job). Then we came out and the place was like an old farm with a field full of hay. We saw and spoke briefly to some people who were… I don’t know Men in Black?

Then I heard the fajr Athan and I couldn’t have been happier. Even in dreams you won’t rest with super hero duties.

She pressed and held so that the honk of her car will rally with that of the ones around, maybe then, the traffic will clear.

She could will all the cars away, she knew she could. But she did not. She wanted- needed- to conserve her new found powers because of course it was bestowed on her by more than coincidence… it was a gift of fate for the greater good.

Lala knew the world was in imminent danger. The signs where there, of things; bad things approaching from different dark crevices.

It was obvious in the shadows that moved anti-clockwise, against the sun,defying light.

It was evident in the children born with their eye wide open, open even in their mothers wombs.

It was apparent in the gait of the trees, more rebellious as against their gentility. Nature was brazen and brash; a tree trunk extending to make her trip, then the winds howling in laughter as she falls.

Somehow, she was the only one that saw them, she was the only one that felt the change so when she told her mother, her mother merely grimaced and looked away staring into the empty sunburnt evening.

Lala had had enough. Surely, doing something to prevent her from having a heatstroke amidst an ungrateful traffic in a state that will get mad at you for dying because you have caused more traffic is part of the greater good.

Eyes closed. Breathe hitched. Zen mode. Concentrate.  It took 10 minutes… it gets easier and faster by the moment. Wielding ones power, like a talent takes practice… Lala was getting a hold of hers.

The traffic had dispersed before her and she easily maneuvered, her heart in her throat, her fists clenching the wheels till she felt like she’d puke. She could do it, she had the power of telekinesis. She could move objects using sheer mental power and that…. that had to be the most heady thing.

She was glad she made it home before fainting. The mental exercise had drained her of all energy and she needed sugar or an energy drink to re-charge. She’ll take red bull, then she’ll tell her daughter all about it now that she had confirmed that she was indeed superhuman.

It all started in the lab, as a scientist working in a high facility government lab, she dealt with major chemicals, and she believed in major abilities but she had never for once thought she’d accidentally develop an ability though it might be that her strong mental believe had attracted that bug to her.

The vision of that multi-coloured, shimmery bug with eyes that looked like they could see right through people and straight into the future hit her again, this time, so hard she had to promptly sit on a sofa.

She wondered-not for the first time- how it had made it’s way past the barricade, past the heavy duty doors that shut so tight even air had to hiss away. The place was highly sensitized and well-lit, surely something as big and colourful as that should not have covered that distance unnoticed.

But fate… laws of attraction… her innate instinct to help must have had a hand in gaming it all. The sting was so sharp and sudden she fainted. That was when she  died, perhaps for a second or its split,but her heart had skipped a beat, maybe two and it had been jolted back to life only because on her way down, the complex chemical she was working on had spilled and burnt deep into the sting that it had prompted her heart to beat. And when she awoke, she woke up a new human.

She could see patterns in life, she could see thought processes. She could see the life in things people think are inanimate not knowing that they retain the hum of life of their raw nature. The furniture still hum with the trees essence, the cars still have elements of steel, so does every other thing; that was why controlling them became easy for her- because she could feel them, connect to them, communicate with them, will them and they bent to her will.

She didn’t hear her daughter come in. She was so in tune with every other thing she started losing touch with humans… they were far less interesting.

‘Mama you look pale’. Her daughter looked at her worried. Her daughter worried unnecessarily.

Lala smiled weakly.

‘I’m okay. How are you? How’s school?’

But she didn’t hear how school was, or how Nana was selected to represent the school in a science tournament, or how Nana’s best friend was caught with a boy and flogged before the class, or how Nana really needed money for a new uniform, because she was communicating with TV vibes and she would have moved it but for the fear that Nana will freak out.

When she opened her eyes, it was night and her daughter was nowhere to be found, she had slept off. There was a plate of yam and beans porridge on the table, Nana must have made it. Her poor child must be confused and lonely but some matters require sacrifice.

‘Mama are you sure you are okay?’ Nana asked again after checking up on her mother to see if she was breathing. Her mother had been delusional since her father left them for her mothers older cousin but it had become worse lately.

Lala didn’t flinch.

‘It’s okay to think about him. But please we have to move on’. She pleaded. She was desperate for her mother to pick up the pieces of her once colourful life again.

Lala tilted her head towards her daughter and smiled ‘Who? It has always been the two of us darling’.

She was, it seemed, stuck in a stage of calm denial- not of the act of betrayal (it would have been much better) but of the existence of Nana’s Dad. It scared Nana to no end.

Then something moved in Nana’s periphery. She turned to catch the object fly out through the window. Her mother caught her looking and smiled.

‘ I was wondering how you’ll find out. It was so hard keeping it to myself for so long. Now you know’. Her smile was so wide, it was the happiest Nana had seen her since the incident.

‘Know what? What are you talking about Mama?’

‘I know it may seem like there’s a plausible explanation, but it’s just that! I have the power of telekinesis… and yes I just threw out that verse through the window with my mind’.

‘Mama!’ Nana half-whispered in an ill-attempt to keep the alarm out of her voice, ‘Mama that was a bird’. And a tear fell from her eyes.

Submitted by Aisha Hamza

  I arrived at Tara’s apartment a little past eight p.m. She enveloped me in a warm hug and led me to the lavishly set dinning area where candle lights were competing with porcelain dishes . Sitting down, I allowed my eyes roam on the body hugging sequined dress that flattered Tara’s beautiful body. I might just propose tonight.

  Tara excused herself and went into the kitchen. Suddenly something moved from the shadows and surfaced in form of Tiara. She didn’t give me time to recover from my shock as she said “long time no see Ayo”. There was no way my ex from hell was sitting across from me. Too shocked to say a word, beads of perspiration gathered on my forehead.

“Tiara, I see you’ve met Ayo already” It was Tara’s honeyed voice. What in the world was going on? I mused. Tiara flashed Tara a smile. 

    “Ayo, this is my twin sister Tiara”. The universe must be playing tricks on me. “Remember the two girls on the night of the 27th, 2008. Your boys and you. Remember the rape Ayo”?
It was Tiara speaking.
I looked up and saw Tara holding a gun. “It’s payback time Ayo”. Smiling, she pulled the trigger. 

This story was written as an entry to the Flash Fiction contest hence the theme but unfortunately, due to technical issues, it was not received.

Writers Bio

Aisha Hamza

Aisha Hamza is an ardent and growing creative writer who is passionate about stringing words together. She is a poetic soul with the pen of a word artist and hopes that some day,her name would be written in gold amongst a legion of renowned writers.

She dipped the kitchen towel in a bowl of hot water and placed it on her hand. She winced as the heat seared through her tender flesh. There was a cut and several small injuries on the back of her hand and she couldn’t let anyone see it, especially the people where she was going.

She placed a band-aid and covered the small cut around her knuckles with foundation, she was wearing a long-sleeved gown to shade her wound from prying eyes. People, always trying to establish your life is not perfect like theirs.

She wasn’t going to address the cause of her pain until she’s back. He was probably on their matrimonial bed still asleep, but she had to get up, because she had to work, because she had to feed the family while he slept like a bunch of rotten bananas.

She checked her watch, frowned at how the small hand had ticked clockwise faster than she had wanted and hissed. The lecture wouldn’t deliver itself, she said to herself. Domestic violence, it seemed was a much sought after topic. Battered women where having none of the bullshit anymore, and she was proud. She stared at her bruised hand, she was proud of them.

Iridescent flowers that have already started darkening by the edges, that was what they looked like. Their faces lighted up in understanding and agreement as they stared ardently at her, eagerly sucking up each word like a child with an insatiable appetite of milk.

She shivered slightly at the sight of the innocence painted on their faces, innocence that for some, has already started getting tainted with a dark paint. She needed to save them; from themselves and from the others be it their parents, partners or the society… or all.

And so her voice got stronger with each word, with each message, with each example stating a hundred and one reasons why a woman is the owner of her body and why no one, can take that away from her.

‘The word ‘woman’ has, for a long time been taken to be synonymous to ‘weakness’, and that is why the girl child has been conceived of weakness, birthed by weakness and brought up in weakness. It has been drummed in our brains for so long we begin to believe in that and that is why when our husbands batter us’ she cringed at the thought of that ‘it is taken for granted and blame is heaped solely on us, the weakness’ her voice dripped of passion. She needed them to understand that they needed to stand up for themselves, she needed them to understand there in the grand looking assembly hall of the school of the elite children before it was too late.

‘But not anymore’, she went on. ‘The modern woman is strength and power. She understands that she is human before woman, she understands that she is woman and therefore priceless, she understands that dowry is not a ticket to torture, she understands that she is the owner of her body and she will fight to see that every other person accepts same’. She concluded.

The thunderous applause made her jolt a bit in fright. She stood stunned as the crowd of young secondary school girls and teachers stood up and cheered.

It always happened like that and that was why they scouted lectures so much from her for whenever she was delivering a lecture on violence against women, she was never herself. She was a woman from fifteen years ago who had been dragged and man handled, slapped across the face and told to shut up or the knife glistening in the dark will be buried within her. And she had to stifle her scream and lie for hour-like minutes until the deed was done and her innocence, gone. The most painful part being she knew who it was, and she knew he was a coward as only cowards hit women.

She smiled and lowered her eyes as if shy. The rage of being a victim had subsided and she was back to herself.

The admiration in the eyes of the female students and the profusely stated appreciations were enough for her. Her job was done.

She didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t want to face him or anyone. She just wanted to drive away, far away, but she knew she couldn’t, she knew she had to face her worse nightmare who shared her bed every day for 5 years.

The moment she pushed the door open and heard the sound of feet shuffling, she knew he was home. Where else would he be? Useless man.

‘Come here’. Silence.

‘I said come here’. Now with obvious annoyance.

She felt the rage creep back in. He always had that effect on her ever since he decided it was a good idea to rape her. Little did he know, he fucked with the wrong girl.

10 years after the rape, she had bloomed into a beautiful woman,and he had thought that she had forgotten as it happened a long time ago. And so when she did everything young ladies were prone to do to get the attention of men they liked, he had succumbed and had fallen prey. Some months later, they were married, what he will come to discover was her plot for revenge all along.

She had made his life a living hell from the first year of their wedding. She had made him lose his job, distanced him from family and friends and basically made him dependent on her so that all the power were in her palms, the palms she used to batter him all day as she relieved that dark night that awakened the monster in her.

Her fists were still sore from the punch she had given him last night and she could see him visibly shake as her palms curled to fists.

‘Bloody coward. I hope you tell this story to your fellow weak men who hit women’. She spat out in disgust and landed him another punch.

‘If Maryam dares, I’ll kill her’ I mumbled under my breathe, rubbed my palms on my arms to heat it up and let out a shiver. 

If Maryam dares to end her marriage before I see her grandchildren, I’ll maim her, because I am in this situation of sufferness because of her wedding. I bobbed my head in the rain in affirmation of my conviction and looked on.

No car was even stopping. Imagine, stupid cars driven by undeserving people. They are not even fine cars! I hissed and looked down at my legs which were getting muddier by the minute.

That day was just unfortunate. I had dragged my last kobo,#1500 and had carried my two yam legs to the salon to stretch my hair because, team natural hair. Mama had already warned me to forget about it because the weather was unstable, one minute it will be clear, and the next it will be pregnant. But no,Amira didn’t listen, Amira had to slay.

My hair was hanging well below my shoulders after the yeye looking salon woman was done. I had already envisioned it hanging out of my gyale while I do rawan kai all over the wedding hall because the abokan ango were sure to be loaded. 

I mean his father was into oil, oily kids only hang around with fellow oily or political kids. Slayage was calling my name. And to top it all, I was going to be the MC to the event, all eyes were to be on me that night, looking drab was not even an option. 

So I had made my way against all odds because I couldn’t miss the golden chance to possibly get a good catch, they were going to be present, it was a shortcut and I was a booby trap in the making.

After my shrinkage and curls were straightened, I came out waiting for Napep without a kobo one me,I planned on asking Mama to give me the money after I reach home, like always. Story of a broke ass lady.

Imagine how my heart melted when I heard the rumble of thunder, I prayed harder than I ever had for that rain not to call but to no avail. I was scared of rains, I had rainophobia (if that’s something), the pelts of fat water felt like I was being stoned to death and I always felt claustrophobic no matter how open the space I was in. Rain suffocated me.

I had to look for a squattable tree to serve as shed as I didn’t find any building I could squat under but the rain was unrelenting. I felt every strand of my hair get wet and loose it’s strechiness until all I was left with was an empty pocket,a recently stretched hair turned kinky and a broken soul. 

Even the Napep men were running like crazy, clearly unwilling to stop, it was like they had x-rayed my wallet and had seen a fat zero.

About 5 minutes later when I had almost succumbed to the feeling of depression enveloping me, a car rolled over and stopped. The driver wound the glass down.

‘Get in’ he yelled over the rain. 

I was grateful. Even though I knew chances were he was a serial killer or kidnapper, I was still grateful. I’d take a human killing me over the rain any day and at that time, my breathing was already acting like a hormonal woman- moody.

As I stepped into the fine car (I have a soft spot for fine cars), I made up my mind that if he was a kidnapper, I’ll just tell him to kill me there. I know my Mama, she likes money too much, she won’t even listen to him not to talk of negotiating ransom, she will say she has five more kids, Allah ya sa na huta.

The man did not mind the fact that I entered the car along with enough rain water to fill a bucket and my shoes had carried almost all the mud of the world into the car, if he was a killer then he must be a nice one, and he wasn’t even bad looking. I peeked at his face again after my raspy breathing had almost returned to normal, you could even call him handsome if you are into that beardless look, I’m #beardgang forever.

‘Ina wuni’ I said after settling down. I have to showcase my tarbiya, maybe he will have mercy on me.

‘Lafiya yaya kike?’ he answered and started the engines.

‘Sorry about this’ I apologised for the mess I turned his front seat into. 

He smiled ‘No problem’.

Water was still dripping on the car seat. I resisted the strong urge to just wring my clothes in the car, he would have probably killed me early.

‘Are you from school?’ He asked maybe to break the uncomfortable silence.

‘No, the salon’ I answered.

‘Heading home?’

No I’m going to the abattoir. I thought sarcastically in my mind.

In reality, I merely nodded and gave him the address.

A few minutes later,he took a turn that was opposite mine. My heart skipped a bit. Calm down Amirah, I comforted myself, maybe he doesn’t know the way.

‘Ermm that’s not the turn. It’s the other way’.

‘Yes I know I just want to drop something at my sisters house. Sorry’.

I swallowed hard and let him drive on but a voice at the back of my mind was cautioning me that that’s how they deceive there victims. The moment he started taking some weird turns and going through some lungus,I knew I was in trouble. Just last month my best friend had been almost kidnapped, I never knew I was next…. this life!

‘Maybe you should just drop me here, the rain has even stopped’ my voice was obviously shaking and I could barely hear it over the sound of my heart beating 150km/minute. If I’m extremely lucky, a heart attack will kill me before he did. 

My fear was not of being murdered or kidnapped, it was of being raped. Dama Mama had warned me of the growing rate of ritualists disguised as kidnappers in Kaduna but did Amira listen? No. Now I am riding in a car with one, live and direct. Maybe the fine car was somebody’s destiny, or worse, blood money.

I tried to open the door but it was locked.

‘What are you doing?’ He asked with a frown.

‘Mallam dan Allah drop me here. I’m sorry for getting in the car. Wallahi my parents are not rich. You won’t even get anything from them’.

The problem with me is that I have a big, fat mouth but my panic always grows at an exponential rate so that the more I panic, the more I lose my wit and do something stupid. I didn’t even know tears were falling from my eyes.

‘Who told you I am trying to kidnap you?’

‘Mallam the nooks you are entering ai mun kusa barin Kaduna. You can kill me but please don’t destroy my dignity. Or please don’t even kill me’. I begged as a second thought. Call him Mallam, he might remember God and let you go.

At that point, I realised that I was scared of dying just as bad. Was I even ready to face God?

‘Look Mallama I was just trying to help you because I found you stranded in the rain. Ke ba ‘yar gidan Alhaji Zubair bace?’.

He even knew my fathers name. Maybe this was all planned. Maybe he had been stalking me.

He had probably noticed that my panic had renewed because he said ”Look maybe you don’t recognise me because you were younger when we last met, I am Anty Hassana’s brother and her daughter is getting married today. I just got some souvenirs and I am trying to take it there on time so that they can arrange it before the dinner then I’ll take you home’.

Then came a new rain, it wasn’t in it’s physical form, it was in the form of lasers of embarrassment. The kunya I felt could not be described. And it was after he said it that I recognized him. It wasn’t my fault, I hadn’t seen him in over ten years and the rate of kidnapping was enough to make me reach that conclusion. 

‘Then why are you following lungu?’ I asked in a small voice.

‘It’s a shortcut’. He answered, he sounded amused. Dafuq was he amused at?

‘Aw’ I mumbled. By the time we arrived Anty Hassana’s house, he was already laughing at me much to my chagrin. He didn’t even have the decency to pretend it wasn’t funny that I had made a complete fool of myself.

You know the worst part? It was the same wedding I was hosting and he attended the dinner. 

Throughout the wedding I was as uncomfortable as one with a diaper filled with poop because he was just staring at me and laughing. 

Did I slay? I didn’t even apply makeup oily children be damned. But I tried my best as a host despite the embarrassment eating me whole.

Bashir still never misses an opportunity to remind me of that incidence, and it still isn’t funny. 

He says ‘At least we have a story to tell the grandkids’.

‘The day you tell the grandkids will be the day you look for a new grandmother for them’. I always reply.

‘Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of them all?’ But she knew the answer. Jamila was still the most beautiful of them all.

She dipped her fingers inside the jar and lathered on more cream. Maybe if she was lighter skinned, it wouldn’t be Jamila. Maybe if she exercises more it wouldn’t be Jamila, maybe if her hair was to grow longer, it wouldn’t be Jamila. Because Jamila’s beauty was swaying even her boyfriend and she was not having any of it.

But she couldn’t fault her best friend for being so naturally Masha Allah. She could only just admire too. Jamila always had men on her heels. Her aura and looks drew men to her and made women envy her. 

‘They must wonder why Jamila is even friends with me’ she muttered to herself. ‘With this ugly duckling’.

She wasn’t mad at Jamila for getting her boyfriends attention, she had caught him stare in wonder at Jamila many times and she had been silently miffed. But she wanted to keep being friends with Jamila, she at least got some male attention when Jamila was around even if it was vicarious. Besides she didn’t want to see her best friend mad.

But he was going to have it because she had had enough, the fact that they were flirting on the phone was beyond keeping mum.

Jamila was about to come. She didn’t tell her mother this time because the last time her mother saw Jamila, she had a scared and confused look in her eyes. She reapplied the lipstick and patted some powder on it to give it a matte finish, it was too glossy. She wanted to look beautiful, her boyfriend was coming soon and Jamila was almost there… and still a threat.

She saw Jamila through the mirror. She looked beautiful as always. She was wearing makeup too but she would have looked great even without any. She smiled a bit.

‘How far?’ She asked.

Jamila replied from behind the mirror ‘I’m good. Is Le Hub in the waiting here yet?’ 

Jannah pressed her lips together in annoyance. She didn’t like the way Jamila acted as if he was dating them both, but she didn’t like the way Abdul was responding even more… she had read their chats.

Jamila smirked, as if she could read her mind. But maybe she could, Jannah wouldn’t put anything past Jamila.

As if on cue, her phone rang, it was Abdul. 

‘Le Hub is here’ Jamila chirped in delight and Jannah’s frown deepened. She snatched her veil and went out.

‘Hi’ Abdul said with a smile once she settled in the car.

Jannah didn’t respond. She just folded her arms and stared out through the window. She was so angry but she was a chicken. She couldn’t stand confrontation and that was why she avoided talking to bold Jannah about it. 

And for all the fuming she was doing she was loosing the steam now that she was near Abdul.

‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ Abdul asked a frown etched on his face. He should have been used to her mood swings but he still worried when she suddenly turned from cold to loving and from prudish to flirty.

She simply shook her head, then some seconds later as if as an afterthought, she turned face on and started 

‘ Why would you do that Abdul?’

He kept silent, he was trying to think up what he did that was wrong and at the same time trying to see where she was heading to.

‘I know I’m not particularly pretty or anything but you said you loved me, you chased me until I practically handed you my heart and now you are going behind my back flirting with my best friend? Why?’

‘Jannah what are you talking about?’ He asked perplexed. But he couldn’t fool her, in the seconds he was silent she had seen the guilt fleet through his eyes.

She laughed bitterly ‘ And here I was thinking you are the two people I trust most’.

‘What are you saying? Are you okay? Is this some joke or a test? Because it’s not funny’. Abdul cried. She wasn’t listening.

‘No don’t’ she stopped him with her palms. ‘Don’t even, because I saw your text messages and you were flirting with her. You were flirting with Jamila and you were even telling her how beautiful she is…’ she chocked on the tears and words both fighting to come out of her throat. She was furious and depleted at the same time. Couldn’t she have one thing of her own.

Abdul’s eyes were wide. He looked confused and scared. 

‘But that was you. What are you saying. You called me with that number months ago and I saved it and we chatted occasionally on it from that time, I had no idea it wasn’t your number’.

‘You are lying you double timing…’ she couldn’t say bastard. She wanted so bad to call him a bastard but she couldn’t. ‘You were calling her name you were saying Jamila, you were saying you even preferred her to me how could you’.

‘I thought’ he started then stopped ‘I thought it was an act. You said you are Jamila and I said you are because you deserve that name and you even sent me a picture, your picture! The voice notes were your voice. But’ he lowered his voice ‘but you were different’. He kept quiet and really studied her as she furiously went through her phone and shoved it in his face.

‘I have screenshots of your messages and this, this is Jamila’s picture’. 

Abdul didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. She was right, he had been chatting with Jamila. He had been dating two people; Jiddah and Jamila, and he didn’t even know it.

She scoffed bitterly and shook her head.

‘Cat got your tongue? You never thought I’ll find out did you?’

‘No’ he said with a small smile, ‘I never did’.

She looked through the side mirror and scorned. ‘Here comes your beauty queen’. 

And he looked too, and he did see Jamila, the same Jamila he saw on Jannah’s phone. And he must admit, the confidence, the poise, the aura, it was Jamila, but the person, it was all Jannah.

He never knew he’d be with one much less be so close as to contemplate marrying one but his girlfriend, his Jannah, his Jamila had split personality, like that movie Split. She had, he racked his brain to remember the disorder, ‘ Dissociative Identity Disorder’. She was two in order and only Allah knows how many more resided in her.

Jannah left Abdul and went back home. He had admitted and she couldn’t decide whether to break it with him or… it was all so confusing. She needed time to think things through. And Jamila; she had apologized and promised to stop talking to him but she couldn’t be so foolish as to believe.

She stood before the mirror clutching a hairbrush and asked softly like she’d always done since she was a teen when being bullied about her body image almost drove her mad, she whispered ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of them all’.

And amidst the tears shading her eyes-she could see clearly through the mirror- Jamila looking back, a smug smile splayed on her face.

He was having a very bad day. He wasn’t sure the day could get worse but if it did, then he might completely lose it and breakdown. 

His landlady sent him packing so that the meagre clothings he had were thrown in a worn out, shabby backpack, along with his last money, some measly six hundred and fifty naira. His phone had been stolen a day ago else he could have probably called his rich Aunt to appeal for some funds and Binta had broken up with him because he couldn’t send her the 500 naira recharge card she had demanded for. 

She had already had enough of his bullshit according to her and he had tripped his last card. 

But that wasn’t the worse thing. The worse thing was that he couldn’t get any pot to smoke. The six fifty could sustain him on garri and some moldy bread sold at a cheaper price for some days but that was it, his weed funds were out.

He would have to resort to the job he had rejected, manual labour. He hated working and the only reason why he wasn’t in a gang of thieves was because his late mother had made him promise her he wouldn’t do anything illegal as a source of income. Sometimes, he hated himself for promising her.

He was tired of walking, he had to trek the length of the city to locate his friends house for temporary asylum. A lone shade offered some solace to his lonely self and he walked towards it already sighing in anticipation of being away from the scorching heat.

The shed wasn’t empty. It was occupied by an old man whose wretched possessions were scattered all over. His face contorted in annoyance as if he had found someone taking up his personal space.

He lowered himself and sighed. He was thirsty. He had no water to drink and there was no shop in sight. In fact, the place was partially deserted as it always was. There were just a few houses scattered around, everyone avoided the area because of the rampancy of rascals.

He glanced at the old man who looked creepier than most haggard homeless old men and hissed. He didn’t know why the old man was consistently staring at him. 

He arranged his bag beneath his head and placed his hand on the side where his last money was. Then he dozed off.

He jolted with a start, he had slept off apparently without realizing it. He knew something must have woken him up but he wasn’t sure what it was. He hissed again and readjusted his head on his bag- on the place where his bag was meant to be – because his head lay rudely on bare sand.

He sat up with a start, eyes wide searching for his bag. The old man looked at him keenly as if he was an interesting thing, chuckled, then laughed.

‘Why are you laughing old man?’ he asked still dazed. ‘Where’s my bag? You stole my bag you crook’. 

He held the old man by his worn out lapel. 

‘It wasn’t I, it was some kids. You were sleeping like a log, didn’t even feel them take it from beneath your head’ he shook his head ‘ lazy children of nowadays’.

He wasn’t even sure what to do to the man. He was super annoyed. 

‘ And you let them? You didn’t wake me up?’.

The old man shrugged ‘ Better you than me’.

He was furious now, and since he couldn’t be furious at the culprits, he directed it towards the old man. He balled his palm to fist and knocked the old man right in the middle of the head. Then he snatched the cap the old man stored his begging loot in and rushed away with it leaving the old man to clutch his head in pain.

For some reason, the sight made him laugh. He laughed so hard he doubled over. The old man deserved it for being a silent party to the theft. And what he did wasn’t stealing, he hardly thinks his mother would mind.

‘You know what they say boy’ the old man said between gritted teeth ‘ he who laughs last laughs longest’.

That made him burst into another fit of laughter. Silly fool. He had lost his few belongings but at least he was having a good laugh out of it. If every loss will make his spirit dampen he would have been in the bottom of a river by now.

He walked off still laughing. He didn’t know why but he couldn’t stop laughing. He didn’t start noticing something wrong until when he walked on for three minutes and he was still laughing.

Okay that’s enough laughter for one day you can stop now, he told himself. But he couldn’t. He kept on laughing even as he tried to close his mouth and stop emitting any sound.

He laughed on even as panic rose within him and set like a pregnant cloud full of terror. He laughed on…

The old man had cursed him. The sudden realization gave him an adrenaline pump and he turned and ran back towards the shed. 

Ever seen a man running and laughing like his life depended on it? Well he did. It wasn’t funny to him but to anyone who might be watching, it was a funny sight.

He arrived the shed, the old man had left, no traces of his footprints were visible, all the stuff scattered around where gone and in their place, his bag lay. He didn’t want his bag, he though in annoyance. He wanted his sanity back. 

‘He who laughs last laughs longest’ the words of the old man rang in his ears as if he was just an inch away from him.