Legend has it that there was once a family that was as close to the ideal family as could be.

The parents were the best of companions, constantly teasing each other, eliciting so much laughter, the best buddies. The children were mostly well-groomed and obedient and they got together well except for the occasional sibling fight.

They weren’t rich in this family, they were comfortable. Never lacked, never had in excess… they were the second bed laid on by goldilocks…. just right.

And then it all came crashing like the Wall of Jericho when the father joined politics. At first it was all good. Politics fit him well enough for someone who just started. Their comfort-o-meter was moving towards the greener light.

Before they got too comfortable however, Baba announced he had gotten married.

He did not say ‘I want to get married’ or ‘I have the intention of getting married’ or ‘my heart is doing me like I should marry’ he said ‘I have married another woman’. Hell did not break loose in the house after that declaration, hell became a tenant.

Maleficent moved in a month later. Apparently she was introduced to Baba by her brother who is part of his political circle months earlier. She is a good looking, young, widowed lady whose late husband left with two kids and a huge pile of money. Scratch that she’s not good looking, she’s beautiful. Sometimes I wonder why she chose to marry my father when she can chose from many different men who have more to offer.

I’m not saying Baba has nothing to offer, he is a very charming, charismatic and intelligent man and he ages very well. But she is so much richer than him I’d have expected a woman with a dark heart like hers will look for a place with more riches for her vampire fangs to suck.

Anyway, two months prior to the announcement, a massive renovation was initiated in the house near ours. We were so excited to get new neighbors; ‘maybe I’ll get a friend. And from the looks of it, they are definitely rich’- Fafa.

‘I just hope they don’t have a dog who’ll bark all night and stop me from sleeping’- Yasmin grudgingly.

‘Maybe they will have a tall, dark and handsome son who will be all posh and will sweep me off my feet’- Me in my mind.

 Me in reality- ‘This house is too fine, I bet they will be snobs’. 

A month later, Maleficent with no conscience/ The wicked stepmother moved in. Apparently she bought the house and beat it to fit her wicked tastes. 

Who does that?! Who marries a man with a family unannounced, buys the house sharing the same fence with his family, renovate it into a beautiful duplex that makes his existing home look like a gargoyle, and then a few years later, make sure he divorces his wife?. I’ll tell you, devil’s apprentice.

So I wanted to build up on the part where she led to my parents eventual separation but I’m too mad for that. Besides I may never share this journal with anyone because of the boringness in my life. So yeah, it marked the beginning of fights and mistrust in my parents life.

My siblings and I were all but sidelined. I literally had to pick up the maternal broom, I was 17, I should have been planning for prom.

Well Mama might be meek and after the initial brouhaha, she was willing to let things slide but she is no pushover. So when things got unbearable, when Baba wouldn’t come to our side for a month even though there’s a door that joins both houses from within, when he wouldn’t send upkeep money or he’ll retaliate at the slightest provocation, she left. 5 years later, we still aren’t over it.

Pretty messed up right? Honestly I didn’t expect it to be worse than this but well, my brother followed her soon after. According to the WSM, he was being very rude, discourteous (isn’t that basically the same thing?) and downright insultive to her. From what I heard, she made it seem like he was being almost violent, which is the fattest lie in the books; my brother is almost too gentle for a guy. Anyway, he was always fighting with Baba. Baba was always picking faults in his every behavior. She was always adding fire to the existing bad blood between father and son and then there was us, the three younger sisters trying to team up for our brother and fight for his innocence, in the end, we lost.

He moved out and moved in with Mama who is back in her fathers house occupying her mothers room. The thought of it alone disturbs me all the time. It makes me feel so bad thinking of Mama back in her fathers house because where else will she live? With all the other step mothers and siblings and relatives looking at her like the sad divorcee kicked out of her home. 

And it annoys me to no end that she has to move from a comfortable city house to live in an old-setting house with toilets outside of rooms and musty blinds and linens, dusty uneven plastered walls and rickety roofs. It makes me so mad. One of the reasons I need to make me money so soon and so bad. 

I know this makes me an ungrateful, selfish and probably cursed child but sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t mind Baba dying because that will bring an end to all this fiasco and I can use my inheritance money to get Mama a house. But I quickly try to get tid of that thought and conveniently blame shaytan, though I doubt it, I can be pretty dark myself.

What else haven’t I spoken about regarding our dysfunctionality apart from the fact that we (my sisters and I) still reside in our old home and at first we were getting food from the main house but it later trickles to nothing, instead, we get shopping money, buy food items and make our meals which is honestly more preferable if we get the money on time. Most times, we have to ask him and I hate the idea of asking Baba about anything and Fafa isn’t a fan either so we usually leave it to Yasmin. She has no problem getting the dough from him. Usually he sends us some lumpy pocket money and while Fafa collects hers with a smile and counts already thinking up ways to destroy the money, I grudgingly accept mine mumbling on how I cannot be bought; and truthfully, I wouldn’t mind not getting bribed into forgetting the destruction of our happiness by him.

Let’s talk about the step siblings. A male; Jamil;16; surprisingly good boy. Likes to play game and eat doughnuts everyday. Smart enough, responsible with his sister, tries to keep her in line. Not a fam of his mom’s attitude. Tries to be nice to us (was over nice at first because he thought he just gained a new family but we weren’t so forthcoming, surprise!!!!) and we are actually cordial, sometimes familial with him. I always remind myself that it’s not his fault, helps a bit.

Then Hanan; 14; bland personality honestly. Nothing to her. Got some of her mothers pretty features. I feel like she is too plain minded to be wicked. But then I feel like she might snap out of it and gain a personality when she blooms. We exchange greetings. Sometimes I ask how is school? She looks back like I just spoke Mandarin, not rudely; like she doesn’t get it. So I sigh and move on.

Her kids aren’t little no-good meanies and that makes things a bit easier to deal with.

Then our half brother; Kamil; three years old, a little angel. The reason I usually go to the other side. We honestly share a different I kind of love. Sometimes I bring him back with me because he wouldn’t let go. One time, he even spent teh night, his mother surprisingly didn’t mind. She doesn’t mind our relationship with the kids, she especially Kamil. ‘I wouldn’t wantnto come between siblings’ she says self-righteously. Oh yeah? How about coming between families huh?

I guess that’s it. The important ones you should know. There are unimportant people by the side like Umaima, WSM’s relative some-how and the messenger, Rahina, WSM’s younger sister who is 31 and very childish, silly and inappropriate but thinks she is the smartest pants lying around on the street and some others I couldn’t care less about

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.

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.

Luck or lack of it comes in different forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of a pretty lady you meet during your close friend’s wedding.

Zainab was the friendly and chatty but unimposing type. I didn’t appreciate her friendliness at first, but the more she spoke, the more I became acquainted with her humor, she had that kind of effect.

She did not only have an alluring personality she also looked like riches, it drew the ladies to her like a moth. Her father had to be someone, no questions asked.

I noticed she was different. She acted different, she dressed different (she wore no asoebi, in it’s place was a lace that could rival the brides) and she spoke different. I’ll ask Anisa, the bride where she knew her from, I mentally noted.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that Zainab was a resilient entrepreneur and even has blood relations with the Dangote’s, she had a picture of her with a group of women at Halima Dangote’s wedding as backing. She was a little perfect woman in her perfect world  and I could see a reflection of my awe and envy in the eyes of the other brides friends. 

‘All these business women be intimidating us with their big life’ Our friend Amma said after we had snapped over 50 glorious pictures on Zainab’s IPhone XS Max. I nudged her with my elbow. Amma is the I-say-whatever-is-on-my-mind-and-i-don’t-care-what-you-think type. 

‘It’s true now’. She said as she munched on a cake. ‘Which business do you even do like this. Because I feel it in my veins that I will soon become rich too. Let’s gist rich girl to potential rich girl’.

Zainab threw her head back and laughed heartily. She wasn’t at all pompous or offended by Amma’s innocently careless words.

‘I see it too honestly. You have the look of a great entrepreneur in your eyes. Always searching for new opportunities’. 

What Amma? The makings of a great entrepreneur as untactical as she was? Call me Bill Gates. 

Amma turned and smirked at me. She had already started playing rich. Not one to be left behind especially since there’s a prospect that the secret to Zainab’s riches were about to be leaked and I could also have a chance to connect with this Dangote blooded woman, I also scouted closer and opened my ears.

‘I deal with everything a woman may need ranging from lingerie, to kitchen stuff, to adornment, to furniture to clothings, to beddings… just say woman and I’m here. Sometimes I venture into houses, cars and electronics’.

I looked her over. She didn’t look stressed out at all. She looked like ‘yar hutu, a typical spoilt child who cannot do a days work to save her life. 

‘How do you manage all that?’ Aisha asked. Zainab’s audience had multiplied to 5 and I hadn’t even noticed.

‘I have connections on both ends, the sellers and the buyers. You think I source for all those goods myself?’ She said with a small smile, scanned our eyes to make sure we were fitfully entranced, then continued, this time dropping big names that usually ended with Dangote, Dantata, Indimi, Dankabo, Chachangi and Azman.

‘Anty…. is a dealer for Prestige products while Uncle…. has a huge shop filled with the latest Super Waxes, Anty…. is into cosmetics , Brother… has a car company, …. is into real estate ‘. Names and money rolled off her lips like they meant nothing.  In my mind all could think was I want to be like you when I grow up.

‘So what I do is called drop-shipping. I advertise for them, get a buyer, send them the money, hold my commission and have the product delivered to the buyer, ’. Easy peasy. 

‘Wow!’ I breathed out. No wonder!  ‘So you are like the marketer, advertiser and middle man all in one?’.

‘Exactly. It will fit you’.  She said while regarding me. I practically glowed, I knew I had a sleeping entrepreneurial streak in me. Wakey wakey.

‘So if you are interested I could hook you up with them. I could deal directly with you but I honestly am so busy with what’s on my plate. I’ll just give you their numbers and vice versa, you see what they sell, negotiate your commission and you advertise. They usually don’t care how much you add to the price as long as you sell’.

‘Sign me up!’ Aisha said with a raised hand. Aisha is over ambitious, I bet she can sell a house in a few days just so she can have money and belong to the riches crew.

‘I’m definitely interested’ Ibtisam declared.  I rolled my eyes. Ibtisam is only interested because she can have contacts of men from big families, she is currently actively husband hunting. Which may not be such a bad idea. 

So that was how 7 of us got into drop-shipping with Zainab, kin of the Dantatas.

I was so excited. Especially when I started communicating with the big named, big business people who always spoke busily like you were interrupting a million dollar sale so you have to round off quickly with whatever you were saying. 

The first I spoke to Muhammad Tijjani Dantata, my insides became a puddle. His tush tone and polished British English just flew away with me. I was calling him husband in my head.

I got my first customers the first week. Everything went according to plan. Shoes,bags, makeup stuff were delivered within a few days of transaction and I got some money from it. I didn’t even spend a kobo. I just took my profit, sent the money and the goods were delivered. I started aiming higher especially since Aisha just sold a TV.

Soon, we were all actively seeking bigger things, bigger commission. Aisha was negotiating a car sale, I couldn’t be left behind. My brother-in-law wanted to buy a new car, he had finally decided to change his tired looking car and my sister suggested my services. See me, my family members have moved from mocking to patronizing me. Money is good.

Then my boss wanted to get a house for his newest bride -to-be and he fell in love with houses up for sale. And that was how I was head locked in a car and house deal. Ecstasy had nothing on my happiness.

The prices where very good. My commission was enough to get me second hand small car and the customers were happy.  My boss had gone to see the house with an agent, it was perfect.

I sent the deposits of the money, millions of naira and the car was on it’s way, my boss’s house was sold.

I called Amma and I swear I could smell her jealousy through the phone. It was my turn to smirk. She had ordered for her cousins entire kitchen utensils including some electronics. It was huge money but it wasn’t hefty millions of Naira worth of house.

My bother-in-law called me a week later.

‘Has your car arrived?’ I asked him excitedly. 

‘That’s what I wanted to ask. I’m yet to get it. They said 4 days max’.

‘Okay I’ll call them’ I said and rolled my eyes. He is such a nag.

I called the car dealers office. They said the rains had made them stall off the delivery from Lagos. But it’s on the way.

Barely 5 minutes later, Aisha called me. The car she had finished all negotiations and payments on 3 weeks ago is yet to come. Zainab is not picking her calls and she sounded like she was in tears. 

My heart skipped a beat. Worry not…breathe…false alarm. I tried Zainab’s number, she assured me that everything was under control and Aisha was unnecessarily panicking. I breathed. I knew there was no cause for alarm.

I called Aisha and told her what Zainab said. She was silent for a while.

‘Have you spoken to Amma?’ She asked.

‘No, what happened?’.

‘Her cousins wedding is in two weeks time and the kitchen stuff has not been delivered.’ Aisha said and sniffed.  I was momentarily blank, then confusion rolled in and fear eventually bubbled. 

I felt faint, like the ground I was on was paper thin and It could cave in right away. 

‘Ibtisam and Fatima have not received any response either’. Aisha’s words buzzed around my head.

Before I could say a word Aisha continued ‘I called Anisa and asked her if she could get through to Zainab and she said she had never seen her in her life. She said she thought Zainab came with you because you came in at the same time’.

She’s fraud Ummi, Zainab is fraud and we just entered one chance’. 

 It was too much, the phone was burning my fingers like her words had caught fire.

I threw the phone on the ground like it was the source of my confusion. I could hear it ring but I couldn’t move to answer it.

An hour later, maybe less, I picked the phone up still dazed. My boss had left 12 missed calls and a message. ‘The house you sold to me is currently occupied by people claiming to be the owners. CALL ME ASAP’. 

‘No!’ A whimper escaped from my throat. No this is impossible. I couldn’t even cry real tears, tears, it turns out are a privilege.

I sat huddled up in a corner, dialling Zainabs number, I knew the response I’ll receive ‘Number is currently switched off’. And I understood, there and then, I understood why people will want to take their own lives.