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Part 30 of 33 in the Series Our Friendship by Fadimafayau

The Present Time

Zainaba’s face glistened with tears as a flood of memories and pain engulfed her. It felt as though everything was happening in the present moment. “Maybe you’re dreaming,” another voice in her mind insisted, but she couldn’t ignore the reality before her. Her eyes fixated on Ummi, and she couldn’t comprehend how her 7-year-old daughter had transformed into this young lady overnight. Doubt crept in, and she whispered, “I might be mistaken,” tears continuing to stream down her chin. The confusion weighed heavily on her, and she longed for someone to guide her through this bewildering situation.

Ummi, who had been sitting beside her mother’s bed, woke up from a short, involuntary sleep. She reached out her hand and gently wiped away her mother’s tears. “Ummanmu, what happened?” Ummi asked, concern etched on her face.

Zainaba strained to listen to Ummi’s words, realizing that the young lady standing before her was indeed real. She wasn’t just a figment of her imagination. But why did she call me “mum”? Was she really my baby? Zainaba questioned herself, her confusion growing. Just as Usman entered the room with their family, Abu mustered the strength to sit upright, shaking her head in astonishment, as if she wanted to convey something important.

Usman hurriedly made his way to her side, tears streaming down his face as he gently wiped away her tears, holding her hands with his other hand. Seeing her again was something he had never dared to hope for. “Usman,” she whispered softly, her voice barely audible. “Did you recognize me?” he asked eagerly. Zainaba mustered a smile and replied, “Yes, I do. Is this Ummi?” She pointed towards the young lady standing beside her, seeking confirmation. But the overwhelming emotions had already washed away her curiosity. Usman, now older than she remembered, appeared to be in his late 40s.

“Yes, it’s her—our baby,” he replied, a radiant smile spreading across his face. Zainaba’s mind raced, questioning where she had been and how these profound transformations in both Usman and their daughter could have occurred without her knowledge. “Have I been sick?” she inquired with a mix of curiosity and tears.

Usman found himself at a loss, unsure of where to begin. Just then, the doctor entered the room, signaling for silence. The doctor advised them to step outside, explaining that Zainaba needed time to adapt to her new situation without any mention of her past, both before and after her disappearance.

After Ayatullah returned home, as instructed by his mother, she continued to vehemently express her disapproval, claiming that her son would never marry Abu’s daughter—the destroyer of her happiness. Ayatullah scoffed, unable to fathom how she could view Abu as an enemy, considering they were distant relatives from the same village.

“Who told you that? We had nothing to do with her. We found her unconscious by the roadside. It was your psychologically sick uncle who developed an affection for her, possibly due to her own mental instability, which led your grandmother to keep her. As for me, I grew fond of her, partly because she love your sister Balkisa, who was only six years old at the time. But she managed to seduce your father, and he fell for her,” Ayatullah’s mother explained, her jealousy becoming apparent.

Only now did Ayatullah begin to comprehend the full picture. It was all fueled by jealousy. He mustered his confidence and retorted, “But Mom, Dad never married her.”

His mother glared at him angrily. “Whether he did or not, he still loves her,” she growled before continuing, “If not for your late uncle’s insistence on marrying her, your father might have already been her husband. How do you expect me to accept someone my husband loves romantically?”

She sniffled slightly, then continued, “And I’m sure he’s still planning on marrying her…”

Ayatullah stood up, taking a few steps away, before turning back to face his mother. “Fine then, I won’t marry Amatullah, but mark my words—today will be the last time you see me alive. If she can’t have me, and I can’t have her, I see no reason for my existence.”

His mother, who knew her son better than anyone, hurriedly followed him, pleading, “Okay, you can marry her, but please, just stay alive.”

Ayatullah only smiled, refusing to look back. He knew that threatening his mother with death was his only recourse. He left the house, leaving his mother consumed by curiosity. Fear gnawed at her, fearing that if her husband decided to marry Abu, her co-wife would become her in-law. She fervently prayed, “Ya Rabb, please don’t let this happen to me.”

Ayatullah drove straight to the hospital, where he found Ummi the family. His grandmother, Hajiya Kaka, gazed at him, curiosity in her eyes. “What happened? Did she take back her words?” she inquired, referring to Ayatullah’s mother.

“Yes, I am allowed to marry the woman of my choice,” he exclaimed, his face adorned with a wide grin.

“What do you mean? So your mother no longer opposes the marriage?” Hajiya, Ummi’s grandmother, interjected.

“That’s what she said earlier, but not anymore,” Ayatullah’s grandmother replied, overjoyed.

“This can never happen. My granddaughter will never marry into a family that dislikes her. I know how it feels,” Hajiya declared furiously.

Ayatullah’s anxiety heightened. “But…” he attempted to explain further, his voice trembling with fear, but Hajiya silenced him with a raised palm. “Look, I mean it, and my words won’t change. She’s not marrying you,” Hajiya firmly stated.

All eyes turned to Ummi, who emerged from the room where Abu lay, her face stained with tears. “What happened?” Sa’ada asked.

“Ummanmu…” Ummi choked on her words, her voice trembling as she wept.

Usman and Abu’s father rushed into the room, while Sa’ada went to speak with the doctor. Moments later, Sa’ada returned with the doctor and rushed into the room. After a few minutes of examination, the doctor stood up, wiping sweat from his forehead, and uttered the heartbreaking words, “I’m sorry, but I believe she has passed away…”

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