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Querah heard the shout and struggle that emanated from her employers’ house. For long, she’d suspected that Faisal was abusive towards his wife. The signs were evident. Aneesah would stare for long hours continuously with no expression on her face.
If Faisal was at home, she would lock herself up for hours in her room.
Every passing day, she got sadder. Querah was amazed by the vibrant and jovial videos Aneesah made on her blogs, no one would believe she went all through her present predicament. She hid beside the large umbrella tree as she had the front door open roughly. It was Faisal filled with anger, looking disheveled. Querah watched him as he entered his car and drove off. She had come back to take her phone which she had forgotten on the kitchen shelf. The commotion had halted her. Her first reaction and thought was to run and help Aneesah, but what would that mean for them both? Aneesah had to make a deliberate effort to take a break from this marriage.
Hence Querah resolved to do more. Besides she preferred being anonymous.
The loud knock jolted Aneesah from her reverie. She had been working for hours on her blog, responding to hundreds of messages from women across Nigeria. When the knocking continued, she picked the large orange veil close to her, proceeded outside to see this insistent caller.
“Good evening Ma.”
Aneesah wasn’t expecting to see a young smart boy by her door. She instantly recognized him as the young boy who had fetched water for thirteen rounds. Somehow, she never forgot that number.
“Good evening, how are you?”.
“I’m good.” He paused for a while before he continued. “I want to fetch water.”
“Oh, that’s alright. What’s your name?”
“Samir.” The boy replied fiddling with his hands.
Aneesah noticed how unkempt he looked. His shoes were torn likewise his clothes.
“Alright, Samir. You can fetch your water.” Aneesah replied.
The little boy quickly ran to an adjacent building, to pick his bucket she presumed. Why would a boy of that age be made to fetch water every day, when she was sure there was a steady water supply in each house in the estate?
She slightly shook her head and went back to her room. Her interest was piqued as she noticed a new message from her anonymous ‘stalker’.
Aneesah couldn’t contain her excitement as she almost toppled over while trying to click on the message.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Under Chinua Achebe lies great knowledge.
Beginning today, color your life.
Aneesah was stunned. Wait, this sounded more like a puzzle than an encouragement. Was someone giving her a task to accomplish. She read through the message again trying to decipher its contents.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Under Chinua Achebe lies great knowledge.
Aneesah had read the book Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe several times, so she knew the line was from there.
But who were the falcon and the falconer? She however knew for certain, that whoever this person was, knew she was being abused.
Was this Petra? Her friend had been distant for over two weeks now since Faisal had tried to choke her. Was it Querah? No, it wasn’t. Querah was far too timid to do this. Then who else was playing with her? Her eyes scanned the room and saw a copy of the novel. Suddenly something clicked in her head, she picked it up and surprisingly beneath the book, she saw a purple crayon. She gasped as she turned to look at her laptop for the rest of the clue.
Beginning today, color your life.
Someone wanted her to color her life purple, what does it mean?
She noticed Samir whom she has forgotten leaving the house obviously done for the day.
She quickly decided to follow him to see his family.
Aneesah noticed that Samir was scared and anxious about taking her to meet his family, but she assured him that it’ll be fine. They both entered into the large green bungalow, it was evidently a wealthy apartment.
Exclusive chairs and tables were strategically placed around the house. The interior decoration was top notched. Two other plumpy children who couldn’t be more than five ran out chasing each other. They stopped short when they saw Aneesah. The two children quickly ran back inside the house, apparently to tell their mum of the strange visitor. She noticed Samir fidgeting.
After a few minutes, a dark unsmiling woman showed up. She looked obviously displeased at her visitor. Aneesah recognized the face as she had seen her a few times around the estate. She was ready to confront this woman. It wasn’t the first time she had to do this.
“Salamu Alaikum.” Aneesah began. “I’m sorry for just barging into your house without informing you.”
“Alright. Sit down.” The woman had a surprisingly thin, sharp voice.
“My name is Aneesah”. She introduced herself as she sat down. ” I live just adjacent to you. The yellow building over there. I have made the acquaintance of your little boy here, Samir.”
The woman ignored her for a while as she attended to the little girl that had been tugging at her laps. She promptly put the girl on her lap and turned to Aneesah.
“Yes, what do you want?”
Aneesah however smiled, she knew this type. Loud and bossy. Mrs know-it-all. Sitting there for three minutes only made her conclude that Samir wasn’t this woman’s son from the way he sat far across in the living room and the way the other children clutched to their mother.
“I just want us to talk about Samir. I meant no disrespect coming here, but as an activist for women and children, I have an obligation to speak out. I’ve noticed that Samir fetches water almost every day. My main point of concern is that he fetches far into the night. We have a lot of cases of rape, not only of the girl child but boys as well. I don’t think you should let him work far into the night that way”.
She stared at me like I had lost my mind. I hadn’t expected her to care or understood what I said. Aneesah shook her head. Women like this only made her job harder.
“Alright. I’ve heard you. Is that all?”. Aneesah was surprised she’d spoken. Her thin voice had now risen a tempo louder. Her slits like eyes bored into me. If her eyes could send daggers, Aneesah was sure she would have been dead the moment she stepped foot in the house. The thought amused her.
“No, that’s not all. I’ve also noticed how Samir looks unkempt. We’re both women and know how important hygiene is to children. Try and work on that too”.
“Don’t you dare tell me what to do with my children.” She reiterated her voice bitter.
“Oh I highly doubt Samir is your child, but that’s not what I want to find out”. Aneesah calmly replied. “As I said earlier, I’m a women and child activist and I wasn’t bluffing. If things don’t change with regards to Samir, I’ll be forced to take drastic legal actions against you as his health care provider.” With that, Aneesah stood up and made to leave.
“Oh and please, don’t try to hurt Samir. This was entirely my idea. Hurting him will just speed things up.”
Aneesah left the woman to ponder on her words as she waved goodbye to Samir.
“Faisal, sannu da zuwa. Ya kake?”
“Lafiya Mama, Ina wuni”. Faisal greeted the elderly woman, squatting shyly.
“Lafiya. How are you today?”. The woman enthusiastically greeted. Somehow, this young boy impressed her.
“I’m fine mama. Ya aiki?”
“Alhamdulilah Faisal. Come in. Don’t just stand there. Come in and sit down”. The woman reiterated leading him into the large sitting room.
They both sat down and made small talk about the weather. It’d been really rainy for a while and most of the states had issues with a flood as crops and farmland were destroyed. Aneesah heard the two and detested the fact that she had to go out.
She couldn’t hide in her room forever. How could she tell her mum that this Faisal made her uneasy? Would she even understand her point?
“Aneesah, your guest is here. Won’t you go and say hello?” Her mum entered her room.
How could she tell her mum that she had no interest in seeing Faisal? She was busy developing her blog: Pride, which she started a few weeks ago.
“Aneesah, I am talking to you, leave that laptop and go to the living room”.
“Alright”. Aneesah muttered, put on her Hijab, and proceeded to meet Faisal.
“For a while, I thought you were going to leave me here.” Faisal wasn’t smiling. He looked really pissed off.
“I’m sorry. I was busy. What can I offer you?”
“Busy? You couldn’t leave whatever you were doing to come and see me. I’m supposed to be one of your top priorities.”
Aneesah was stunned. His ego was overbearing. She ignored his statement and asked. “What can I get you?”
“It’s okay. I’m fine.” There was an uncomfortable silence for a while before he asked, “How was your holiday?”
Aneesah had written her first semester exams already and was home for two weeks’ holiday. “Just fine. There’s nothing to do anyway.”
“Of course. I’ve been trying to spend time with you, but it seems you’re avoiding me. You do know I want to marry you right?”
Aneesah’s eyes widened in shock.
“Yes, I want to marry you.” He repeated, looking carefully at her.
She was tempted to laugh, but when he didn’t blink, Aneesah realized he was serious. She couldn’t believe her ears. Was he really talking about marriage? She couldn’t see herself married to Faisal. He wasn’t a bad person or so, but Aneesah felt uneasy towards him. There was just something off about him. Something she couldn’t exactly pinpoint.
“I think it’s too early for us to be talking about marriage. We only met each other a few months ago. Besides, it’s not like we’ve talked about loving each other. People marry only when they love themselves.” Aneesah said without breathing.
“I understand your point, but that’s not true,” Faisal replied, his face expressionless. “People marry for different reasons. I want to marry you. That’s all I know. The moment you agree, I’ll send my parents to yours so that we can make the necessary arrangements. You’re already in level four. What else do you need to do?”
Aneesah couldn’t fathom why she was still talking to Faisal with all the rubbish spewing from his mouth. “Look Faisal, I’m not interested in getting married now. It’s late already, Maybe you should leave.”
Faisal looked like he would protest but instead changed his mind and stood up. He bade her mum goodbye and left. Aneesah didn’t see him off.
“Aneesah. Me matsalar ki? Why are you treating that young man so badly?”. Her mum started infuriated. Aneesah wished there was a way she could dodge this conversation. She missed her dad, if only he was here. He understood her better.
“Aneesah, I’m talking to you. Do you think you’ll be with me in this house forever? You’re not getting any younger and all you do is send off any young guy that comes your way. I’m not going to be feeding you for long in this house. All your mates are already with their first or second children and you’re here doing something I don’t know. You better get your acts rights. Kina ji ko?”. Her mum emphasized her point by pointing a menacing finger towards her.
“Mama, I don’t like this guy. Why can’t you just understand it?” Aneesah tried to reason with her mum, but she knew it wouldn’t yield any results. When her mum was convinced, nothing could change her mind.
“I didn’t like your dad either when we got married Aneesah, but over the years we grew to love each other before death took him away from us. Give it time Aneesah. You’ll love him too.”
“But mama, this is different. Dad wasn’t anything like this Faisal. Dad was good, calm, very kind, and always full of happiness”. The memory of her father brought tears to her eyes. “But Faisal is nothing like that. Something is off about him.”
“And what’s that?” Her mum asked coming to sit beside her on the bed with the blue spreadings. The weather was humid and cold, and Aneesah felt her hands growing cold partly from the weather but mostly from the conversation with her mother.
“I don’t know”. Aneesah threw her hands in the air and clutched both her eyes. “I don’t know, mama I don’t know.”
“Ki kalle ni Aneesah, I know how you second guess whatever decisions you’re about to take and I understand how this is unfamiliar territory for you, but look Faisal is just the guy for you. Besides, if you think there’s something off about him, he’ll change when you get married and begin to get comfortable around him.” Her mum said her voice filled with pleading.
“Mama, you think so?”
“I know so.” Her mum replied obviously sure of herself.
A few minutes after her mum had gone to her room, Aneesah decided to give Faisal a chance.
Since the night Faisal choked her, she observed he’d been keeping his distance, always minding his business, keeping late nights, and staying away from her. When Aneesah discovered it, she stopped cooking for two people and made meals just enough for her.
She was glad of this recent change of his attitude, this would give her ample time to plan and develop the courage to leave her marriage. She walked quietly along the streets of the estate on her way to the saloon. The surrounding was quiet and peaceful, the birds chipped loudly from the high tall trees and one or two cars zoomed passed occasionally.
Every Saturday, she and Petra would go to the salon to take care of their hair, but lately, Petra had been distant. Aneesah thought it would last for a while but no, Petra didn’t want anything to do with her, even when she’d tried to talk to her. She was ready to admit that she’d missed her friend badly and desperately wanted her back in her life. This was the very time she could use a friend. Maybe she would pay her a visit from the saloon.
Color your life.
The words of the last puzzle floated through her mind. Someone wanted her to color her life. Who could that be? Anyway, she hoped the puzzles would keep coming. It was rejuvenating to do something new. The excitement was thrilling. She saw someone wave to her and instantly recognized him as Samir. For the last few days, he had not come to fetch water. Aneesah was glad that her visit paid out.
She stepped foot into the exotic saloon that was run by a young Yoruba lady called Kemi. Right there in the saloon was her friend Petra with her growing baby bump waiting for her turn. The saloon immediately became stuffy for her. This was awkward. What was she supposed to do? Petra hadn’t seen her yet. That was quickly rectified when Kemi saw her.
“Hello, Sis Neesah. Welcome.”
Petra turned to face her. She gave no expression and turned back to her phone. Aneesah was dismayed. “Hey, Kemi. Thanks. How are you this morning? How’s business?”
“Going great. Thanks. Have a seat.” The young girl turned to concentrate on the customer she was working on. Aneesah was forced to sit close to Petra. It was awkward.
“Petra”. Aneesah called out to her reluctantly.
“Neesah, how are you?”. Petra replied, dropping her phone in her bag, looking up to face her.
“I’m fine.” Pause. “Petra I’ve missed you so much.” Aneesah started her voice beginning to shake.
“I’ve missed you too. Neesah you pushed me away, I just wanted to know what’s wrong with my best friend. Instead, you pushed me away.”
Aneesah couldn’t hold back the tears. “I’m sorry Petra, I’m really sorry. “There’s something you should know about Faisal Petra. Things are not just really the way they seem.” Aneesah stuttered, she was apprehensive on how best to explain things to Petra.
“It’s okay Neesah. We could go to my place after making our hair so we could talk okay?”
“Alright. Thanks.” Aneesah replied using the top of her veil to wipe her tears. She couldn’t wait to be done, so she could have a chat with her friend.
Just then, her phone started to ring.
In the space of few seconds, her whole body system changed. Her heartbeat increased and she became instantly wary. What did he want? Why was he calling her?
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Petra asked after seeing the dazed expression on her friend’s face.
“It’s just Faisal. Give me a minute.” She picked up.
“Get yourself back home now. A neighbor wants to see you”. His large voice vibrated through the phone.
Why do you think a neighbor wanted to see Aneesah? Is it Sameer’s mother? Did something bad happened to Sameer?