AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Zainab had survived without a husband and a man. The suitors wouldn’t stop coming for her. She was adamant. All her siblings had gotten married, she was the only one unmarried. Her parents tried to convince her to reconsider but she remained adamant
She heard Bashir had gotten remarried. Zainab was happy for him but sad for his wife. A leopard never changes its spot. She didn’t want to know anything about Bashir. He was still trying to be with her. He said to his mother, “she will always be his wife it was a matter of time before she comes home.”
Immediately after her divorce, Zainab went back to the University to study Islamic law. She spent five years in the university and went to law school. Esther hailed her; she said one qualification was enough. She only did short courses. Funke had gotten her ICAN and ACA. She didn’t want to go further Nkem was the one pushing for PhD after she has gotten her Masters. Nkem had always been a bookworm.
Zainab applied for study leave and left for Dubai to study for a fully funded Master’s degree. She worked so hard to achieve this feat. When she graduated, she was recommended for a fully sponsored PhD scholarship. She couldn’t believe it. One was her coursemates was also offered the scholarship and became close to her. He is a Nigerian from Kano state. Usman wanted to know why she was interested in law. She told him she wanted to fight for the defenceless girls and women and teach them their rights in Islam.
She was passionate about her studies and Usman drew closer to her. They were friends. Zainab always wore her hijab and was fully covered. Usman asked her out on several occasions but she declined. He realised there was more to her. He suspected she was married the way she kept to herself. When he asked her, she mentioned she was divorced. Usman deduced it was messy. He wanted to know more but he held his peace.
Zainab came back to Nigeria on holiday. She went to Ilorin to stay with her family. While there, her cousin came with information for her.
“Bashir’s wife fought with him. They stripped themselves naked outside. He beats her and she warned him she would not take it. He continued beating her or would I say they fought most times. This last one, she threw her shame to the gutters and dragged him outside. His mother received a beating from the wife too as she tried to separate them. I was speechless. People had to gather to cover them up. She was pregnant during the fight. Bashir said the marriage is over because the world has seen her nakedness and he has no pride in her. He quickly forgot he started the fight.”
“Bashir will not change.”
“He attacked his mother. He threatened to kill his mother if she doesn’t take the girl away. The girl said she is going nowhere. She asked Bashir to do his worse. Bashir almost broke her head with a stick. She is still in the house with him. She is due soon. You are lucky to have left that sadist. My joy is that he met his match his wife. I know his wife, she is a fraud. They packaged her as a saint, she is not. We attended the same university. She was very wayward and vile. Only for her family to clean her up, wear her hijab and claim she is a virgin. That is Bashir’s problem, he was scammed by her family.”
“When he had a virgin, how did he treat her? I have moved on,” Zainab replied and immediately showed disinterest in the conversation.
Zainab went to the local government with her mother to get licenses for her business. As a lawyer, Zainab wanted her mother to be in good standing with the law. As they were there being attended to, Bashir came in with his pregnant wife. She was a black beauty, tall and a bit robust may be due to the pregnancy. They sat on separate chairs. Zainab didn’t know what they came there for but she didn’t want him to see her.
When they stood up to leave, Bashir looked at them. Zainab quickly walked out. He recognised her mother and stood up to greet her. Then he asked who she was with. Zainab’s mother hesitated, Bashir knew she was the one. He left his wife and rushed outside to meet her.
“So you are around. Welcome back. You saw me and avoided me. I extended a hand of friendship to you and you refused to accept. When did you get in?” Bashir asked.
“A week now. How are you?”
“As well as I can be. It is good to see you again. You look amazing. Can I take you out…”
Before he could finish the question his wife (they didn’t know she had come outside) cut in. “Take her out to where? Is she not Zainab? The one you always make mouth about? I can see she is beautiful but you can’t take her out. Where are you taking her to? She divorced you, why are you looking for her?”
“Memuna shut up! How dare you interrupt my conversation with my wife. Are you ok?”
“Wife? She is your ex-wife; she divorced you.” she turned to Zainab, “Stay away from my husband. We have a child together with one on the way as you can see. You didn’t give him any children and have no rights to him. Stay away from him.”
Zainab replied, “Trust me, I don’t want him or to even have anything to do with him. It cannot happen. Excuse me.”
Zainab turned to open the car door so I could get into the car. Memuna came to where she was and said, “You feel you are better than me that stayed with him? Where is your man? Do you have any children? Do you have a home? You couldn’t even get pregnant while with him. See you walking around with your nose in the air. You are a nobody. I am better than you.”
Zainab’s mother had come closer to them at that time and stood almost in between them. Zainab replied “Whatever makes you sleep at night. Mami, please let’s leave here.”
Bashir married his match. They were having children in this chaotic relationship. What kind of upbringing will they have? Bashir’s mother had left the house for them. She got fed up with their continuous fights and left. Zainab felt for her when her mother mentioned it. But she caused her problem.
Zainab was surprised to be called to her parents’ sitting room to receive a visitor. She saw Usman sitting comfortably. He stood up to greet her. He said he came with some friends to Ilorin for a wedding and he decided to locate her home. He mentioned her family name to the host and they brought him to their house. She introduced him to her family.
Read – Dream chapter 38 – 39
They went to the garden to talk. Her mother sent over cold drinks and snacks. She was excited Zainab was talking to a man. She thought her daughter was scarred for life but this handsome young man was here to see her. Usman asked her when she would be flying back so they could go together. She was yet to decide.
“Do you want to lecture or be an advocate?” Usman asked.
“Both. I desire to impart knowledge and also defend the defenceless. Women need to be better educated.”
“Tell me your story. I want to hear it from you.”
“My story? Who told you I have a story?”
“You avoid men. Even those from rich families most girls clamour for, you deliberately ignore. There is a reason for that. I went digging and I heard you had a bad marriage. A bad marriage does not equate to man hate. Something happened. I suspect something sinister for your family not to insist on you remarrying.”
“You investigated me? Why Usman?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You should know I am interested in you.”
“I am too old for you, Usman. Your family will never accept me. And they wouldn’t allow you to marry a divorcee.”
“It will also be my second marriage. My wife died during childbirth four years ago. I couldn’t bear the loss. I gave up everything. I wanted to study Medicine to save lives but then I decided to further my studies in law and help more people. I went to law school but I never practised.”
“What of the child?”
“She is with my late wife’s family. It was an arranged marriage and my late wife was very close with her family. I allowed them to raise Hadiza. She is three years old now. I talk to her as often as I can and I also visit when I am in town. She is fine. The family is doing well for her.”
“I am happy to hear that. Your in-laws must like you for you to take time off work and focus on your education while they raise your child.”
“They are above average family and my wife was her parents’ last child. She was the last child of the entire family. Having Hadiza with them comforts them. That was the least I could do. Enough about me; tell me about yourself. Tell me your story.”
“There is no story.”
“Was it a love marriage?”
“No, it was arranged.”
“So, why did you decide to leave?”
“It wasn’t working. There was no need to stay in a marriage where the two parties don’t love each other.”
“I heard he still wants the marriage. Why does he still want you?”
“That is a question for him and not for me.”
“True. Is he remarried now?”
“He is. May I ask a question?” Usman nodded his head. “Why didn’t you remarry?”
“I intended to after five years of mourning my late wife. It is not easy to forget someone so amazing. But I have to move on now.”
“I hope you find happiness after your mourning period.”
“I have already found it, I found it in you.”
“Usman, I am not the right person for you. We are very close in age and I do not see a future between us.”
“You are older than I am by a few months. Age is nothing but a number. I want to marry you because we share the same ideologies and you are passionate about whatever you put your mind to doing. I know you were hurt in your previous marriage but I had to ask myself, why would a man who disrespected his wife still want her back? It is either he is a control freak or there is something about her he found irresistible. I think that was what happened, he found you irresistible. Just like I have.”
“You have no idea what you are talking about. I have no interest in marriage, I have tried it once and I will never try it again.”
“Did you ever have a relationship before marriage?”
“Never, I was betrothed to him. I have only known him and one marriage is enough. Men cannot be trusted.”
“He did a number on you. I can change that. Let us start with a date and take it from there. If you enjoy the experience, we will get married. I must warn you, I am not rich. Also, if we do get married, it will be a simple ceremony with not more than twenty people.”
“We have not gotten a heads up about the relationship you are talking about marriage. I am not getting married again.”
“We will see about that. Before the holiday is over, I will make you fall in love with me.”
“We will see about that.”
“The wedding I came for is on Saturday. Please accompany me. I will be bored stiff because I hardly know anyone there. But if you are there with me, I will have good company and people will notice me.”
“Why will they notice you?” Zainab asked.
“Because I will be the most important man there because my date will be the most beautiful woman in the room. Please tomorrow don’t wear a hijab, tie a scarf or something. I want you to look elegant. I want you to stop hiding and start living.”
Zainab was silent for some time and then she asked, “Whose wedding is it?”
“My parents are attending that wedding. Today is Thursday. Ok, let me see what I can do. Most of what I will be adorned will be borrowed.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
Her parents wanted to know more about Usman but she told them they are coursemates for the PhD programme. She told her mother she had been invited to the wedding and asked if she could get an outfit quickly made. Her mother made sure it would be delivered.
On Saturday morning, she got ready for the wedding. Her mother went overboard with the outfit. When she discarded the hijab for a scarf and veil, her mother was surprised. Zainab had always been a conservative child. She hated attention being drawn to her but she was seeing a different child this morning. Zainab was full of life. This wedding would be a turning point for her.
Zainab intended to go with her parents to the wedding until Usman called and told her he was on his way to pick her up. She sprayed her mother’s perfume (her mother loved perfumes and had a collection of them) and informed them she would be going to the wedding with her friend who invited her. Her father refused to leave until he arrived. He couldn’t believe Zainab was attending a ceremony in the company of a man.
Usman arrived not long after. He came in, greeted Zainab’s parents and asked for permission for her to accompany him to the wedding. Her father gave his approval. Zainab came out to meet him. He smiled widely when he saw her. She was so beautiful. He could see her full face now. He liked what he saw.
The wedding was a gathering of prominent people in Kwara state. Everybody knew everybody. Usman didn’t know anyone except his friends. During the reception, they sat at the table reserved for them. Usman attended to her. He made sure she was served what she wanted. They had their drinks so she had drinks. They witnessed the beautiful ceremony together. The place was rowdy so they couldn’t talk much.
After the wedding, Usman drove his two friends home and for the first time that day, he was alone with Zainab.
“You are stunning. Now I understand why Bashir doesn’t want to leave you. He has seen what I haven’t seen. But the little I have seen, I want it all. I am serious, Zainab. I want to marry you. I have wanted to from the moment I sighted you. You were different. You are reserved and only join conversations if you are comfortable with everyone in the group. I know many of us wanted you. They talked about it but I knew they wouldn’t go about it the right way. You have had suitors but there can only be one soulmate. Why did you agree to accompany me to the wedding?”
Zainab was shy at this point. She didn’t know why she agreed. She felt comfortable in his company. She enjoyed their conversations. She shrugged meaning she didn’t know why.
“I am serious. I can bring my family to make my intentions known. We will give ourselves some time to know each other. I am estranged from my family. But, they will be glad to know I intend to marry again and I have met the girl. They will come with me. I will stay in Ilorin for another week. I want to spend more time with you away from distractions. What do you say?”
Zainab nodded. It was fine by her. She felt like a little girl in love. So this was how it felt to have a relationship. To be genuinely liked by someone and like the person in return. It was all new to her but she was ready to explore. She was ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
Usman was patient with her. He tried to pull her out of her shell. She didn’t like to be seen in public but he made her go out with him. Because she wasn’t comfortable running into people she knew, they went to places they were least likely to. They went hill climbing, It was fun. The following day, they went to Owu falls. Usman chose a day there won’t be many people. It was an experience for Zainab. They went to the cinema and also the university dam. Each time, they spent the entire day together. They talked about each other.
Usman asked Zainab what her expectations were in a husband. She was quiet for some time but he waited for her patiently. “I want a man who is responsible. Who will be faithful to me and if he desires to marry another wife, he should come to me first. A man who is a provider and doesn’t live off his family. A man with a vision for his family. An exemplary leader that those around him would want to emulate. Most importantly, a devout Muslim.”
“I can understand the devout Muslim but the rest seems to be all about him. Where do your ideas, thoughts, and observations come into play? I expected you to desire a man who would plan with you, share his dreams for the family with you and listen to yours so they can align. You are brilliant, what if his ideas don’t make sense or can be improved upon? Wouldn’t you tell him? You should desire a man who understands you, knows your strengths and your weaknesses and works with you to build the strengths and work on the weaknesses. A man who will partner with you to build a good and happy life together. Someone who will be there for you through thick and thin. Someone who will make it easy for you to love him wholeheartedly. You are also a human being, Zainab.”
“All you have said, I desire. What I will get, I am not sure of. I don’t want to raise my hopes.”
“I am all that I said I am and more. The more time we spend together the more I fall in love with you. The only problem I foresee is you falling in love with me. You have had a terrible experience in marriage, would you want to take a leap of faith and try again? This time will be better insha Allah. Take your time. I will like you to visit me in Kano before we go back. I want you to meet my family and Hadiza. I want you to make up your mind about the courtship. It will last for three months. And if you are satisfied, we will get married.”
“Let’s not rush. We can do this after we have finished our programme.”
“How old are you, Zainab? You will want to have children of your own. The older you get the more difficult it becomes. I don’t want you unhappy during the marriage”
Zainab realised he had thought of everything. She didn’t know if her parents will accept her visiting him in Kano. She didn’t want them to get excited yet, she wanted to be sure he was genuine. He sounded genuine, and he behaved genuinely but she needed to be sure he was the one. Once bitten twice shy.