Fatimah arrived school early on the Wednesday of the 3rd school week. She’s been coping well in her new class and department but what seems to be bothering her mind was the marriage proposal her mother had talked about. She knew very well, what their traditions were and what Allah required of a daughter in Islam. She was in between the yawn for further education and leaving for a man’s house – as his wife.
She had aunts who had done that, who had Left their studies at a tender/youthful age of 15/16. Leaving primary/basic school to be married to suitors that had shown interest in them soon as they were giving birth to.
Though, she had envied that when she was still in her Junior Secondary School but not anymore. She had developed mentally to know the importance of education for a woman. It don’t mean they have to be confined to the four walls of a home, of a kitchen.
Womanhood was more than being an housewife. It had become clear to her reasoning how the society seem to castigate woman and never want to see them as equal with man. She knew now, why women like Thatcher, Akunyili, to mention but a few had struggled to get to the height they had. It was not just getting there but to prove to the world, woman can also contribute positively to the development of the society than just sitting down at home all day; cooking and washing dishes and getting la!d.
She rose from her seat, put her bag on the desk and brought a jotter and a pen out of it. She checked her wristwatch and it was still 7:05am. How very early she had made it to school wasn’t something she felt like thinking about.
“Fatimah, you must get married, immediately after your secondary school. Whether you like it or not,” her mum shouted.
“But mum. Can’t tradition change for once? At least let mine be the alteration.” She replied calmly, so as not to get her mum vexed. That would mean disrespect.
“Don’t let this illumination of yours be a bad guide to the pit of hell”
“Mum! I want to be more than a housewife. I want to be myself. Be a woman that won’t depend on any man. A woman that would contribute positively towards the government of the day and take care of poor people and children.” She tried to make her mum see reasons.
“Then, I would rather have you do that to your own children and contribute whatever it is you want to contribute at your husbands house” she dished out “except you don’t want to be my daughter again – would you not get married after your secondary school.” She added.
“I will mummy. I’m not saying I won’t get married but not when I finish my high school. I must go to the university first.” She retaliated still trying to exhibit her calmness towards her mum. Anything apart that – would mean sinning against God and her.
“Hope you know your father wouldn’t want to hear this your rant? And what did I hear you say?” She held her ear “Not even a chance! No one would sponsor you. Hope you hear?”
“I don’t care mummy! I don’t care” she shouted this time and walked out on her.
She was already dressed for school before 6:30am and she couldn’t care what might be her fate setting out that early. Such dangerous journey. She left the house angrily.
She had tried to write in her Diary – how she felt this morning but she couldn’t scrub the pen against the jotter she had in her front. Her thoughts were more of someone without a thought. Just clueless about what her fate would be.
Her sister, Zainab , was also not buying their idea and it meant defiance of two siblings towards their parents but they didn’t care. You can’t impose such decision or suitors on us, – me especially, she thought.
“Fatimah!” Clinton called for the first time standing at her back but she didn’t reply. He wasn’t sure she even heard his call.
“Fatimah!!” The second time and still, no reply.
“Fatimah!!!” He called out and touched her, as she startled where she stood. “What have you been thinking about?”
“Nothing, really! Thank you” she said and walked away from his presence, – heading towards the door.
“You said nothing? Haven’t I been at your back for almost 4 minutes? Just wonder why you call me your friend when you can’t share your problem with me” he said. His back was against the direction she walked across. He didn’t turn but he heard no more steps.
She stopped abruptly at the foot of the door and turned back. She walked towards him and stood at his back for several seconds before she finally broke out.
“I’m sorry Clinton. I’m truly sorry! Just that, I felt,……..”
“Shhhhh!” He cut her shut turning to face her.
“Are you busy?” He questioned. Smiles shaping out from the sides of his mouth.
“Not really!” She sighed, her two hands which held the book, were crossed against each other – falling.
“Let’s take a stroll” he collected her jotter from her and the pen.
“That, dear! Not to be read or held by others. Tis my Diary” she smiled sheepishly. Her demeanour creeping out from wherever they might have been caged, – depressed and burden stricken.
“Oh! Sorry love” he said and handed it back to her. “Can I have your hand please?”
“Sure” she replied and they walked together towards the big field, same area the food vendors were.
Clinton was the boy she had later settled to be friends with, after Adefemi had said – he was occupied.
He was fair in complexion as she was but not as light skin as hers. He was same age with her but a science student. He had two marks, tribal – hanging eleven on his face. Very unfamiliar, as if he had got the marks from a fight but they were really from his mother’s people, the `Bendelite.’
It happened their friendship had bounded along boyfriend and girlfriend lines, in the Nigerian sense of it. She loves him now, very much! They were new in the world of `i love you’ and it felt they had just been offered Scholarship to study at the University of London. Such euphoria and madness (not intended as harsh) in the hearts of two young – love birds.
“Hope what you are bothered about ain’t that much, – you could share with me?”
“Nothing much than the way I walked out of my mum today.”
He stopped walking hearing that and faced her, staring into her face. His face frowned as though, he would scold her for doing that.
“I’m sorry” she begged -`sorrow’ed.’ She looked away from him. “It was an argument and it got worst. I didn’t really mean to do that!”
She paused and waited to see his reaction. This might seem really bad. He might feel I’m not humble and don’t respect my parents. He might scold me, she thought already sobbing in her heart.
“You mean” he paused and looked sternly into her face, though she avoided his.
“You mean, you’ve been thinking all about that? Just that – made you lose control of your head and embraced the pillow of thoughts?”
She didn’t know may be his reply was driving to a positive point or negative, so she decided to remain quiet.
“Common dear. You don’t need that. Come along. Would tell you what you would do when you get home.”
She was surprised at what he said. Not even a shout at me? Oh Lord! This is such a darling!!!. Someone I had always dreamt about. Someone who wouldn’t scold me when I make a mistake, she thought.
“You deserve more than thoughts. Look at such beauty of yours! Don’t you know, worries only get one ugly?” He added as they continued walking.
She felt teased and flattered but she decided it would mean pride to explode with `blushes’ and laughter or just springing up questions like, really? Or exclamation like, wow! I’m flattered!!!.
“When you get home, just smile in her presence and tell her, you are sorry! Her heart would melt and she would overlook what you did.” He said as they entered an ice-cream joint.
“Thank you so much Clinton” she said. But deep in her heart, she doesn’t feel she needs to apologise. That would mean weakness and accepting to submit to her will.
she hadn’t told him (Clinton) what really was the cause of the argument and he doesn’t even care to know and she felt he doesn’t need to know. She couldn’t bear to see how he would take her pragmatic parents. That would mean insult and probably, ridicule, – and that, she doesn’t want.
Though, they might not be on same page on the issue of marriage or no marriage after school but she still held her parents’ images in high esteem.
“Vanilla for two,” he ordered.
“Would that be all?” The Ice-cream man asked.
“That would do, thank you!”
He was handed the ice-cream which had been `pumped’ into a very small bowl that looked more like a cover of a shoe-spray.
“Have this dear.”
“Thank you so much Clinton. I can’t thank you enough for the cheerfulness you’ve brought my heart into these few minutes. Feels like you’ve been doing that all year!”
She smiled and rub his left hand a little, for the sake of not being seen as doing something immoral, at her age.
“Don’t mention it love” he blushed “that’s what friends should do.”
They stared into each others’ eyes as they bowled their ice-cream down their throats. They smiled, laughed and `gist’ed’ till the bell rang for the morning Assembly.
To Be Continued….