Justina: “Offer you a seat where? You better say what brought you here and get out before Hajiya and Alhaji meet you here. God, how did you even get in here? I mean how comes the security men allowed you in?”
Achema: “Why won’t they allow me in when I told them that you are my wife? There were more than glad to allow the wife of their beloved oga’s maid in”.
Justina: “Who is your wife? I can see that time and poverty has turned you into a mad man”.
Achema: “I am not here to exchange words with you, Justina. I know that you are a veteran in that field. You know, we are in a small world, do not think that you can hide forever. I left Abuja after I searched for you to no avail. I came back few years later and I have remained in this city searching for you since that time. Luck smiled on me last month when I saw you at a super store in town. I trailed you without your knowledge and saw you enter this gate. I made enquiries and I was told you are the personal maid of the first wife of the politician who lives here. My own Justina, a common maid! What a shame. What happened to the ambitious girl that I know back then in the village?”
Justina: “Why are you following me about? Why do you have to leave the village in search of me all these years? I’m I owing you?”
Achema: “Of course you owe me. Don’t feign ignorance, you owe me my child. I came to claim him or her. Give me my child and I will let you be. That has been the crux of my quest all these years”.
Justina: “Child? Oh, that pregnancy? I didn’t keep it. I aborted it as soon as I came to the city”.
Achema: “Do not even think of lying to me, Justina. You and I know that you didn’t abort the pregnancy. I got in touch with Vicky, your secondary school mate whom you lived with and she told me she sent you out of the house after you tried to abort the pregnancy to no avail”.
Justina: “Erm, I, it is not…”
Achema: “Justina, give me my child before I tell the owners of this house who you really are”.
Justina: “Don’t do anything that you will regret, Achema. Yes, I had the child but he died a day after his birth. That was when the hajiya in this house had pity on me and brought me to live in here with her as a maid”.
Achema: “What! Oh my God! He was even a son? I knew he would be a son. Oh God, so all these years I have wasted my time searching for a child that died after birth. I am sorry for all the trouble I put you through, Justina. I will just return to my village and continue my carpentry job until God calls me. I have refused to love another woman because I was looking forward to marrying you so that we can live happily together with my child”. He turned to leave when the sight of Yusuf running into the room caught his attention”.
Yusuf: “Aunty Justina, please come and help me look for my ball. I don’t know where I kept it yesterday”.
Justina: “Okay, Yusuf. I will soon be there, run back into the room”.
Achema: “No, don’t run away. Behold the flesh of my flesh and the blood of my blood. His eyes, the fire in his eyes are exactly the way they were in my late father’s eyes, God rest his soul. And his anthill skin colour exactly like my mother’s. He is my son, no doubt. God, I bless you for a day like this. Come son, come let your father feel you in a warm embrace”. He drew near to Yusuf who ran away as fast as his legs could carry him up the stair.
Achema: “You lied to me, my son is alive”.
Justina: “Your eyes must be deceiving you, that boy is alhaji’s only son”.
Achema: “No, that child is mine. I am very sure about it, don’t try to deceive me a second time. I am leaving this house with him and not even you or anyone can stop me”.
“Justina, who are you talking with that you kept my son waiting?” hajiya’s voice behind her startled her.
Justina: “Hajiya, I am sorry. I had to attend to this emergency”.
Achema: “Hajiya, I am the father of Justina’s son. I came to carry my son home”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Which child? What is he talking about Justina?”
Justina: “I, he, we…”
Achema: “Hajiya, Justina was my girlfriend before she got pregnant and ran away from the village. I have been searching for her and the child all these years. That child you people call Yusuf is mine and I must take him home with me. If you don’t allow me leave here with the child, I will kill him and then kill myself. If I don’t have him, nobody will”.
Hajiya: “Justina, I thought you were raped by armed robbers. How true is this story?”
Justina: “Hajiya, don’t listen to him, he is lying. I guess he wants to blackmail us into giving him some money”.
Achema: “Blackmail? For what? You think I have put my life on hold all these while just for blackmail? No, I am more honorable than that. Hajiya, if you doubt me, I demand that we carry out a DNA test to determine the boy’s paternity”.
Hajiya Hauwa: “It has not gotten to that. Justina, prepare him a place in the guest room and give him something to eat. We shall discuss all these after dinner tonight. Mr man, please make yourself comfortable, we shall talk later, you look tired”.
Achema: “I will not spend a single night in this house without my son. Oh, you want to poison me right? I will not eat anything. Its either you give me my son or I kill him and kill myself so you all can be empty handed”.
Justina: “Don’t be silly, Achema. Hajiya is a good woman and you have to wait to talk to her in the evening”.
She took him to the room and instructed the cook to serve him food.
After dinner that night, Achema told Justina to take him to hajiya’s chamber for the discussion because he wasn’t prepared to spend the night in the house. He was in the sitting room when he saw Justina lead yusuf to his bedroom which was located in one of the rooms in his mother’s chamber. “So, this is where the little boy sleeps? I will visit him while everyone is asleep tonight”, he reasoned aloud.
“What did you just say?” Justina who overheard him asked.
Achema: “I was just talking to myself, never mind. Have you told hajiya that I am waiting for her?”
Justina: “Hajiya is already asleep and it is haram for a man to go into her chamber in the night. It is her turn to be with alhaji tonight and he will soon join her. Go to bed, we shall have the discussion tomorrow morning”.
Achema: “Oh, I see. Okay then, no problem”, he said as he walked into his room, his plan for his son fully hatched in his heart.
Yusuf was sleeping soundly in his room when he felt a hand touch him slightly on his shoulder. He thought that it was his mother who was waking him up for the morning prayer as she always did. He shut tight his eyes and when the hand touched him violently unlike the first time, he opened his eyes and jumped up in fright.
“Wayo, mamana!” he screamed as a bullet hit his forehead causing him to slump.
Early the next morning, as it is the custom of the house, hajiya work up and performed ablution before saying her morning prayers. After she finished, she went into her son’s room to wake him up to pray as she always did. She tapped gently on his door and pushed it opened. There in the pool of his blood with a bullet on his forehead lay her beloved son, lifeless. She ran to him and crumbled on the bed.
Hajiya Hauwa: “Subahannilahi, Yusuf. Who did this to you? Wake up”. She shook him violently as she lets out a loud shriek waking everyone in the compound.
Question: What happened to Yusuf? Will hajiya Hauwa allow Achema to leave with the child? Will Achema get to discuss with Alhaji?
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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