Matured Stories

The Replacement Girl – S01 E02

Ahmad.

I stood pathetically at Garima junction searching for a cab home. My car had just broken down and the network was so bad that I couldn’t contact Mubarak to come pick me up. It had been a hectic day at work, I wanted to go home and have some rest only to end up in this mess. “Gosh!” I cursed as I turned to look at my

car again. “Crazy b—h” I muttered. The time was quarter past 6 in the evening, meaning if I don’t reach home soon the place would soon be dark. Considering how dangerous it could be for me to stand there alone, I decided to trek to a hotel few kilometers away. It wasn’t easy for me as I wasn’t use to stress. I was halfway to reaching the hotel when a car pulled over in front of me. It was a black Mercedes Benz with tinted glasses. I was scared.

I gently moved away from the car and continued walking. One strange thing about the car was it kept following me slowly, and each time I turned it would stop. I wanted asking the person the hell he or she was but I was the scaring type so I kept moving swiftly until I reached the hotel. I booked a room for the night and peeped through the window to see if the car was still by the hotel’s gate. It wasn’t there. I sighed and walked to a bed. “God, I’m exhausted!” I said falling wearily on the bed. My phone beeped in my pocket, I s–t my hand inside and brought it out. It was a text from my wife, the network had recovered. I sighed reading the text.

“Ahmad, where are you? Stay wherever you are please, It’s not safe over here”

I gulped as I adjusted to a sitting position. What was she really talking about? I wondered as I began typing,

“Naziha, I don’t understand…”

I texted and patiently waited for her to reply. It took almost 10 minutes for her message to pop up. I quickly viewed it.

“Xenophobic attacks in our area, they are destroying Mtn and DStv shops”

What?! I blurted out with my heart beating very fast. Perhaps that was the reason why the network went down hours ago. But why would they retaliate what the South Africans are doing to our people in their country? Don’t they know that it would critically affect us? Many people here are using Mtn, DStv and many other South African products. Fire can never quench fire, they should let the government do its job!

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“This isn’t really good, stay indoors please! Tell Mubarak not to open the gate for anyone at all cost, okey?”

This time around her text arrived just immediately after mine was delivered,

“Okey, I love you Ahmad”

I sighed as I quickly typed back,

“I love you too, Naziha”

I went to the bathroom and performed ablution after having dropped my phone on the bedside table. I did my Magrib prayer and later on, Ishaa. I took my phone to check on my parents but the network wasn’t stable at all. I hissed and turned on the Tv in the room. The xenophobic attacks was been aired by a local Tv station. I hissed, turned it off and slept. I hate nonsense.

In the morning I woke up, prayed, ordered for breakfast, and then took off. I went to the exact spot where I left my car, thus I called my mechanic to handle it. “Bring it to my house once you’re done” I said to him before leaving.

The cab I boarded was owned by a South African, he said he wasn’t happy about the xenophobic attacks that was going on in his home country and here. “We are all Africans, I’m sure the whites are now laughing at us” He said.

“They sure are” I blurted.

It was a wonderful ride, we kept talking until we reached the area I was living in. Everywhere was calm, no pedestrian could be seen outside. He dropped me in front of my gate and I paid him.

“Thank you” He said and drove off.

As soon as I knocked on the gate, Mubarak shouted at me. “Who are you? Leave here before I shoot you”

I smiled, he was really a funny watchman. “It’s me” I said. Yeah, I didn’t have to tell him my name he knew my voice.

He quickly opened the gate. “Oga, good morning sir” He said bowing.

“Morning,” I handed him my briefcase. “Is Naziha okey?” I wrinkled my brows.

“Yes sir,” he said closing the gate as soon as I stepped in. “Madam is fine, sir”

I smiled walking straight into the flat with Mubarak trailing behind me. Normally, every morning, Naziha would water the flowers in the garden by herself. She honoured them because they were planted by her late mother.

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“Keep the briefcase on the couch, I will go and check on Naziha” I said to Mubarak as I swiftly walked to the back door which leads straight to the garden.

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Naziha, while holding a sprinkling can kept singing her favourite song – Wait For Me – as she watered the flowers. I decided not to announce my presence but to pull a prank on her just like she did to me days back. I walked slowly to her and quickly hugged her from behind with a scream, “Gotchaaa!”

She was freaked out, she started throbbing me – I thought we was playing until she gave up and I could hear her sobbing. I dropped the joke and quickly turned her to look at me. “Naziha is everything okey?” I asked her.

She shook her head in tears and turned to the flowers. “That black day,” she sniffed and continued. “Mama called me that she wasn’t feeling fine. I told her I would come take her to the hospital, I told her to wait for me but she said she could go alone. She never knew her death was calling, she would have waited for me…” she said sobbing.

That was my Naziha, she never would get tired of narrating that heart touching story to me. She was the last born of her mother, Hannatu and Nabil were her elder siblings. She lost her father at 6 years of age, and just a year into our marriage her mother died. I gently embraced her as she kept talking, if I ever intrude her she wouldn’t stop crying. Sometimes, one needs to peacefully pour out whatever is in his mind in order to feel relief.

Few hours later, I was in the kitchen helping Naziha in rearranging the utensils when a call bounced in. It was my father. I cleared my throat before swiping to receive. “Kai Ahmad, I’m waiting for you in the new factory!” He said and quickly terminated the call. He didn’t even wait for me to greet him.

That was actually weird, I didn’t wait for a second thought before I took off for the factory after having informed Naziha. My car wasn’t brought back yet, so I used Naziha’s car. I parked the car adjacent a defunct forklift and stormed out. “Good day, sir” A security officer greeted me. I nodded my head and walked straight into the factory. My father was in the Chief Engineer’s office, he glared at me immediately I entered. The chief engineer didn’t need to be told to excuse us, he kindly walked out after taking his bow.

I was about sitting down in one of the visitors’ swivel chairs when my father gestured me not to sit down. “Don’t you dare sit down, Ahmad!” He cautioned with his index finger angrily.

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I gulped lowering my gaze. What could be wrong with this old man? I wondered playing with my fingers.

“Ka jishi kawai, so you even have the guts to cancel meeting with the labourers’ executives? Kai wawa ne?”

“I’m sorry, dad. I don’t have any op…” I didn’t complete my words when a resounding slap landed on my face.

“Shege kawai, dan iska!” He insulted me as he hit the desk with his hand. “If not because Engineer Isah Bala was able to calm the rest of the labourers down they would have gone on strike. Do you even know the millions of naira we will loose if they embark on strike? Do you?”

I was already angry with him. First, he called me Shege (a bastard), and second, he called me Dan iska (a fool). Meanwhile, what I did was the right thing on my own way. “Dad, I am tired of having table discussions with those people. You keep telling me to calm them down when infact you know exactly what they need. Don’t you know that those people also have families? You want them to work from morning to evening but you can’t increase their wages” I said not looking at him.

He disappointedly clapped thrice. “I don’t blame you Ahmad, you just don’t know anything about business. Is this how you will run this company while I am gone?” He heaved a sigh. “If you’re to do whatever the labourers want then you will end up bankrupting” He said.

I wanted to add more words to my previous explanation when he cut it.

“I learnt that Naziha is barren, I also learnt that she kept it a secret from you all these while, and I also learnt that you vowed to keep it a secret from me too” He said with a mischievous smile.

My heart began pounding vigorously, how on earth did he knew all that? Was someone spying on me all these while?

“You know the tradition of our family, one wife!” he said laying emphasis on the one wife. “Is either you divorce her and marry a fertile woman that will give me heir, or I will disown you…”

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