Malama made up her mind to visit Justina that evening. She knew that she had been unfair to the girl by not going to see her since she gave birth and she wondered how the new mother had coped with bathing the baby and herself. Although it was already few minutes past 9pm, she decided to visit them and give them a wrapper that she had bought from Sahad Super stores as a gift for Justina. She got into her car and when she got to Maitama hill, she got stuck in a holdup which was usual by that time. Curious, she got down to find out what the cause of the traffic jam was and she discovered that a trailer had fallen on the road and officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps were making efforts to take it away. She got into her car and waited, hoping that Justina wouldn’t have fallen asleep by the time she got to Kubwa.
Justina ran to the gate with her baby safely tucked in her arm but the gate was locked. She screamed at the security man and when he didn’t answer, she peeped into his room and saw that he wasn’t there. She tried to unlock the gate all to no avail. She thought of scaling the wall but with her baby, it was an impossible mission.
“You need help with something?” Hajiya Hauwa’s cold voice behind her caused her to startle.
Justina: “Erm, Hajiya, I…I…”
Hajiya Hauwa: “Yes, I know what you wanted to do, you do not need to stammer. You wanted to escape with my child before I caught you”.
Justina: “I am sorry, Hajiya. I just didn’t…”
Hajiya Hauwa: “Shut up, you ingrate. Do you think that I am a fool? I wanted to test your loyalty and that is why I went into the restroom. I didn’t meet the gateman at his post when I came in here and I had to lock the gate from within for fear that anybody can walk in and rob us seeing the luggage I brought in. I had my eyes on you when I went into the restroom. Is this how you want to repay me for all that I have done for you? You want to run away and leave me empty handed even after I have told you my husband will be expecting me to return with a baby? What do you want me to tell them happened to the child when I go home back empty handed?”
Justina: “Hajiya, you can take back everything you have given me and leave me and my child alone. I don’t care what you tell them at home, Just leave my own child alone”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Oh, I see that you have a source of income now. Okay, I want you to pay me back all that I have ever spent on you from the first day I saw you till now and then I will leave you and your child alone”.
Justina’s jaw fell. She knew that she didn’t have any money in the world and that she could never repay Hajiya for all that she spent on her.
Justina: “I don’t have money to pay you now but I don’t mind paying in installment”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Do not deceive yourself, my dear. You don’t have the means to pay me even in installment. Listen to me, I know how attached you feel to this child after giving birth to him but I want you to understand that…”
Justina: “No, hajiya , you do not understand how attached I am to my baby. If you do, you won’t even attempt to take the child away. How can you understand the bond between a child and his mother when you have never given birth before?”
Hajiya Hauwa: “You now mock me with my barrenness? Anyway, I will just assume that I didn’t hear you make that statement. Listen”, she drew near and hugged Justina, “Whatever decisions you have taken is for the good of your baby. You have chosen to give your baby the best of everything in life in place of lack and penury. You have chosen to give him the name of a wealthy politician whose name alone is an opportunity opener in place of the name of an armed robber who raped you before you conceived the child. I know it is difficult, but this child will thank you later. Do you want the child you love so much to grow up and suffer and curse you for bringing him into the world to suffer? How much more do we express love if not by sacrifices? That is what you have done for this child and he will be forever grateful to you. Let me go with this child, you will join me tomorrow as a maid, there you will be close to your child forever. Meanwhile, if my step sister comes to check on you while you are here, tell her that you lost your child immediately you got home. That way she won’t suspect anything. Do you understand me?”
Justina accepting the reality that she couldn’t cater for her baby without hajiya’s help accepted and handed over the baby to Hajiya even though she had her own plan B.
Mallama Fatimah exhausted from sitting for more than one hour in the traffic jam decides to turn back home to visit them the next day since it was already late.
The next day, after breakfast, she set out for kubwa. She knocked several times on the door and when Justina didn’t respond, she walked in and found her lying on the bed without the baby beside her.
Mallama Fatimah: “Wayo, Justina. What happened? Where is your baby?”
Justina begins to sob.
Mallama Fatimah: “Talk to me! Where is your baby and why are you crying? I am sorry I haven’t checked on you since the day we left the hospital that is because I fell sick and couldn’t go out”.
Justina: “Mallama, my baby o, my baby o, hmmn”.
Mallama Fatimah: “Talk to me, what about your baby?”
Justina began to contemplate if she should tell mallama the truth or not. She decided on the later.
Justina: “My child is dead, Hajiya. My baby died a day after we came back from the hospital”. She lied.
Mallama Fatimah: “Wayo Allah na. I am so sorry, my dear. Allah gives and he takes, be strong. Another baby will come at the right time. I didn’t even get the time to look at the baby very well in the hospital that day. I don’t even know what he looks like and now he is dead. What a world”.
Justina: “Why would it be my own baby that will die? Why would Allah give me a child and then take it away from me after all I went through in the labour room?”
Mallama Fatimah: “Don’t talk so. Who are we to question Allah’s decision? By the way, have you told Hajiya Hauwa about this?”
Justina: “No, I haven’t told her. I tried to call her but I can’t reach her”.
Mallama Fatimah: “I have also not been able to reach her, but she would be back to Nigeria with her baby soon. Wipe your tears, you will be fine”.
For two days, Achema kept on roaming the streets of Abuja in search of Justina to no avail. He had spent the N20,000 he left the village with on food, transportation and hotel bills. Hungry, exhausted and broke, he decided to return to the village with the promise that he will return some other time to claim his child.
As soon as mallama Fatimah got home, she dialed hajiya Hauwa’s Nigerian number and it went through.
Mallama Fatimah: “Haba, hajiya. I have been trying to call you all these while. Are you back to Nigeria?”
Hajiya Hauwa: “I am sorry, my sister. I returned late last night but I was too tired to call you. How are your children?”
Mallama Fatimah: “They are fine and how is the baby?”
Hajiya Hauwa: “He is fine”.
Mallama Fatimah: “That your girl you left in my custody lost her child a day after birth and she said that she has not been able to reach you since that time”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Eyah, this is very sad walahi. May Allah console her. Where is she now?”
Mallama Fatimah: “She is in the house you rented for her”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Can you do me the favour of giving her my house address so that she can come here tomorrow? I think I will convince my husband to employ her as a maid. That way, she will have something to do and earn some money”.
Mallama Fatimah: “Oh, that is very kind of you, walahi. I will not only give her your house address, I will personally bring her there myself so that I can see your baby”.
The next day, mallama Fatima and Justina set out for hajiya Hauwa’s house. The maid at the door ushered them in and as soon as Justina saw hajiya Hauwa husband, her bag of clothes on her head fell down.
“What! Alhaji! You?” she exclaimed.
Question: Hmm… Will mallama Fatima recognize hajiya Hauwa’s baby as the child Justina had in the hospital? Has Justina met hajiya Hauwa’s husband before?
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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