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Two Years Later
SSC was becoming a center of refuge, a sweet-smelling flower that drew children like moths and butterflies. The success rate was unbelievable but very impressive and highly sought for. It stood like a beacon along The Amalia Street that led to the old roundabout in Zaria.
A blue flat that was previously owned by a former senator amicably donated for the cause of children suffering from domestic violence. To a lot of people, the success rate was measured on the number of donations, visit, and feeding programs they were able to organize, to me, it was every single life they’d touch, every child that had walked into SCC, and experienced a better life.
We’d come a long way and I wasn’t planning to stop anytime soon.
I looked at the white pale paper on my table that had scribbles of name and contact addresses. It was a list of the number of reported cases of domestic violence against children. I knew I had to get down to them, every minute was precious in this world, every second could make a difference.
No child deserved to be assaulted physically, emotionally, sexually, and mentally. I made notes of the cases I would assign to the volunteers and the ones I would handle myself.
I looked at the blue wall clock Habib had given me on my last birthday, it was past four. Time to pick the kids from school. I bade the workers goodbye as I got into my car.
Driving the long and busy street of Zaria gave me ample time to reminisce on my life two years ago. It was the most difficult period where I had to face my inner demons and wage a war against them.
I was no longer the selfish woman I was two years back. The transformation had not been easy and I was still on it, but a lot of hurdles had been crossed.
Spending six months in a prison had changed my life. Somehow I got to experience a little of what Sameer must have experienced when he lived in my old storeroom.
The six months gave me precious time to think about my life, make new resolutions and decide to become a better person. The words of my therapist were stuck in my head.
“You’re already a better person Larai, you just need to shine forth”.
Indeed I was shinning forth now, each passing day of my life I strived to spread light in small, little ways. That was why I started SCC: Sameer Social Centre, in honor of Sameer who was yet to be found even after two years.
Sometimes I would cry profusely into my pillow, using it to smother my cries, begging God to let Sameer come into my life once more. A lot of times when I drove, I would unconsciously look into the face of every young boy who had the same frame as Sameer hoping that perhaps just one day, I might run into him.
It’d been two years, but it was yet to come. I never lost hope and I never will. Sameer would one day come to me.
“Mummy, Welcome”. The twins ran from the school’s gate, there were all grown up, both in primary five now.
Perhaps the hardest part of my Six months in jail was having to stay away from my children.
The kids were allowed to visit, but I’d decided not to allow it. How could I explain to them why I was in jail? I didn’t want my children growing up with the image of their mother in prison. Hassan clung to me tightly.
“How was the school, my babies?”.
“It was fine. Mummy stop saying, babies. Only Hassana is your baby. I’m not a baby.”
I laughed out loud at as they hopped into the car. A response had not left my mouth when I caught the sight of Mr. Okoro, Sameer’s favorite teacher. Several times, I tried to have a conversation with him, but it was obvious he wanted nothing to do with me. It was all my fault Sameer was missing, according to him.
“You are” something screamed deep down inside me. The kids were quiet in the car as I drove, it would be nice to give them a little one after all these years. I was four months gone but I hardly showed. Habib had been ecstatic about the news and couldn’t wait to have a baby in the house.
“Mummy, would you allow us to have a video call with Freda Tonight?” I smiled at hassana’s request.
The litter girl and Freda had been close for a while now. Almost best friend. Freda was in Canada running her degree program in Medical biochemistry, just in her first year, turns out Freda was very smart.
After the rape incident, an NGO sponsored her to study outside the country, and so every night Hassana would talk to her.
“We’ll see if she’s not busy first Hassana. You know time isn’t the same in all parts of the world”. I replied turning the steering right to avoid a bump.
“Really? You mean we have different times around the world?”
“Yes, sometimes it’s daytime in Nigeria, but nighttime in Canada. You’ll learn that in geography soon, rotation of the earth around the equator or something like that. I can’t remember”.
The twins grinned and fell quiet. I drove into the estate to see a bit of a crowd. That was very unusual because the estate was always scanty. I drove to our flat to see Habib looking very sad and unhappy, some policemen and few other people.
The police were not my favorite people now. What was wrong? My knees were already weak and threatening to give. I resolved to come out of the car. It was one of the hardest things to do, not knowing what to expect.
“Stay in the car, stay inside, and don’t come down”. I gave a strict warning to the kids before I alighted. Whatever it was, I wanted to know what it was before the kids.
The crowd’s attention turned towards me as I approached, they all carried a sad face. Few women were wiping tears from their eyes. My heart continued to thud. Habib quickly approached me to hug me tightly. The streaks of tears filled his face.
“Habib, what’s wrong?” I was scared, was someone dead? But who, my dad had died four years. Something rang loud in my head like a bell. Sameer. “Sameer oh my God, Habib is it Sameer? Has he been found? Where is he”?
The questions were running from my mouth desperately, my voice broke. I just wanted to see and touch him, to love him and be the mother he lost.
“I’m sorry Larai, I’m so sorry”. Habib pleaded amidst the tears that clogged his eyes. “He’s not here Larai”.
“Then where is he? What are all these people here? The police, what are they doing here?”
Habib sighed and swallowed heavily like he was trying hard to stop himself from falling into sobs again. This was the first time that I would see my husband cry. He’d always been strong, even though my trials and court case.
“Sameer was found dead on the train this morning. And this was found beside him”.
Even before he showed me, I already knew what it was. The notebooks Sameer wrote on. I felt the world spin and I found it hard to focus on my view.
A second later, I heard people running to my sadness. The last thing I saw was Habib, he was pleading with me not to leave him.