“Baa Kura” my other cousin thumped me on my back as in weldone sani. Allah ya sanya albarka. I was watching Ammi’s mum too. She was happy about it all. Ammi’s little sister was jumping and playing as though it’s normal to be somehow betrothed to her sister just like that. My sisters Zainab and Aisha were roaring with laughter. It was Ammi’s eyes I wanted to catch. I couldn’t explain the expression on her face. I couldn’t tell if she heard it or not. Maybe her brains were slower than her little sisters’ I hoped. But I was sure she understood it. After all she’s more matured than her age. She collected it and thanked my mum earnestly. She meant it when she thanked her. But there was this burning look on her face. Like fury, Like irritation, Like betrayal. Like she has been wronged. She left us all without another word. Turning her back on all of us.
AMMI after thanking mum for the gift, left us there in our jubilation. I signaled mum to have a private word. She refused and kept saying very loudly you will thank me for doing this later. Mama vehemently refused to offer me any explanation for what she had done. And probably Ammi is mad. No wonder I thought I might have noticed in the look on her face that she felt betrayed. I was hoping and waiting for our midnight gist and hira but nothing. She completely didn’t come out of their room. The Female room and any time I go close to that room Aisha my sister with her dogon baki shouts out for everybody to hear that this is “dakin mata and what do I want”? I couldn’t bring myself openly to say I want to talk to Ammi. I asked ammi’s little sister why is Ammi not coming out. She said she’s just lying down and playing games on her phone .
I asked her to discreetly tell her to come out and play games and to not let anyone hear her as she tells Ammi my message. Ammi sent her back that she’s tired and wants to sleep. “Tapdi jam yau Ammi nacemun bacci take ji”. I didn’t know what to make of it. Ammi’s attitude towards me had changed instantly. She became as formal as if we were new colleagues at work. “Ina kwana” “Ina wuni” “Uncle Sani sai da safe” was all I was getting from her? She wasn’t smiling on top of it too. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Someone I got along with so much has suddenly turned into a stranger. The feeling was a nightmare. I tried to assuage my conscience that in the matter of hours all shall be fine. Perhaps at night when she comes out to watch. I took comfort in thinking that she will pull through it and become as friendly. But sadly it didn’t happen, I was distraught. Two days left for them to go and I still couldn’t reconcile. Come to think of it, reconcile what? Did I hurt her? What exactly have I done? Why would she feel betrayed? I shouted inside me that there is no “hakuri” to give. It was in one of my long walks outside towards Jabi Lake. It was really impossible for me to stay indoors again. I was becoming quiet and lonely and not my usual playful me. I went to walk by the lake all the time. The breeze was always sweet but not those days cause I was covered in horrible thoughts… I was also escaping Aisha’s (my immediate elder sister) senseless Jibes. Always making me feel embarrassed about everything.
Sometimes I wondered why somebody hasn’t come to marry her and take her far far away from me. She made it worse ten times. I felt lonelier, stressed, hurt, sad, and pessimistic about everything. I became very punctual at prayers and got all the raka’ahs. Though I mostly prayed with loads of tunani in my head. “Allah dai ya amshi ibadunmu”. I wondered whether i was ever going to recover from this. I told myself I had to confront her. I didn’t want her to go away with the impression that I made my mum buy all those stuffs for her. I was going to have to force her to believe me dat i never planned any of this with my mum. She must believe me. The target for this task was to tell her before they go. And mission must be accomplished. I sadly couldn’t bring myself up to confront her, I tried actually. Not once not twice but it was like she knew I was going for her. She stopped staying alone. She was always where everybody else was and gisting with them animatedly. There was no way I could go in on them and demand that she gives me a minute to talk to her privately. Aisha will humiliate me. I decided to let everything go and settle for when they were leaving. I was sober. So annoyed with myself. That I couldn’t even bring myself up to confront a common 17 year old. I slept with that big shame in my heart. I was left to live with this thought for only God knows how long. The price of my cowardice. I resigned to stay fully away from her like the coward i was until the day they were leaving. The coward i have always been when it comes to women!!! I didn’t worry too much as their last day with us approached. I knew I must confront her somehow. I thought an opportunity was bound to come. I couldn’t believe all her fondness for me had vanished and evaporated just like that. All the support she rendered. All the understanding she showed me.
All the plenty companionship I enjoyed. All gone over a set of some stupid jewelries. I was livid. I wanted to hit something. But I was also curious. Curious about making all this such a big deal. Why am I so so worried over something this trivial? Why? What for? Why won’t I even keep quiet and let them go sef without saying a word at all? Why is it disturbing me this much? I couldn’t think of any answer. Until I thought……. What If I really liked her thats why? What if I more than like her? I shivered at the thought that i love her. I have never had any real love all my life all thanks to my cowardice. I caught myself laughing it out that I love her and it’s the only explanation. I stopped thinking it immediately. It was a horrible thought to me. She didn’t like my mum forcing me on her so why would she listen and consider me if I said I loved her. Shirme…. The night before their departure for Maiduguri, I felt a rush of adrenalin to meet her and tell her what she needs to know. What she’s got to understand. But then something about her kept me at bay. She was also struggling with something. Like something she wanted to tell me. We were all in the sitting room packed with everyone else. It was our last family hira. So no one was missing. But yes she was struggling with something too. I was more curious and confused. What could she possibly want to tell me. It left me deep in thoughts. My mum stood up and announced that they should all go to bed. They have a long journey from Abuja to Maiduguri tomorrow. Ammi’s mum protested that haba, they don’t know when next they will be coming to see us like this and that they will just sleep in the bus all through. Soon after some more hira, One by one people started filing out to go to bed. I was thinking deeply and was becoming less aware of where I was until I heard someone say “sai da safe uncle sani” i looked up and it as ammi’s little sister and Ammi too on their way to bed. I told myself now or never, but something stopped me. For Ammi was smiling at me for the first time in days and she said “sai da safe uncle sani”.
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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