The next day, after her husband left for work, Fatimah went to hajiya’s chamber and knocked on the door. As soon as she saw the woman, she fell on her knees to greet her, suddenly remembering that hajiya was old enough to be her mother.
Hajiya: “get up please, why are you kneeling down for me? Remember that we are co-wives” she said sweetly and patted her on the back.
Fatimah: “mother…please, can I call you mother?” she asked.
Hajiya: “I don’t know if alhaji will approve of that but for the main time, you can do so” she replied.
“thank you ma. Yesterday, alhaji asked me to prepare his dinner before he returned from the office. I came here to ask you for the menu list as he had instructed but your maid told me that you were not around” she explained.
Hajiya: “yes, I went to see my grand aunt who I leant was ill. She trained me and it was a duty for me to go and see her”
Fatimah: “sorry about that ma. Well, I went to the other wives to ask if they could show me where the menu was but they all refused. When my husband…erm..I mean our husband got back, he was angry that I didn’t cook for him. When I told him that the other wives refused to show me where the menu list was, he called them to confirm and they all denied before my eyes, accusing me of trying to lie against them” she said sobbing.
Hajiya: “hmmmn…Fatimah, you are still a little girl but now you are a woman, you have to get used to things like this. They are the characteristics of polygamy which is why some women prefer to marry a pauper who will have them alone than a rich man with more than one wife” she said thoughtfully.
Fatimah: “but mother, how can they lie against me like that? Is that what the holy Quran teaches?” she asked without really expecting an answer since she already knew the answer.
Hajiya: “they always do that even to me. I remember the quarrel that happened the first day you came here, right before your very eyes, they accused me of being the witch that had tied up their womb, thus preventing them from giving birth. Me, tie up another woman’s womb, God forbid. Take a good look at me, do I look like someone that has that kind of evil heart? I married my husband when he was no body, he didn’t even have a car then and we were living with his parents until Allah blessed him with a job. I had Mustapha while we were still living with his parents. After we moved to our own apartment in another part of the city, I got pregnant and miscarried after some months. Since then, I tried to conceive again all to no avail. There is no drug and herbs that I did not take just so I could get pregnant. When it was obvious that I couldn’t take in anymore, people began to accuse me and my husband of using my womb for money rituals. After a while, alhaji bowed to family and societal pressures and married another woman. I cried my eyes out when he told me he was getting another wife but I was consoled by the fact that the other wife would at least give birth to children so that people could stop accusing us falsely. I welcomed all the wives with open palms but how did they pay me back? They turned against me and accused me of witchcraft simply because I am the only one who has a child for alhaji. Am I God who gives children?” she asked.
Fatimah: “hnmm…you must have suffered a great deal living with these women all these years. When they lied against me yesterday, I thought of packing my things and running back to my father’s house where I would at least have peace of mind. But then, my father warned me never to return home as a divorcee since I was the one who insisted on marrying alhaji despite the age difference between us” she said.
“I salute your courage, I must say. When you left that first day, I thought you would change your mind about marrying alhaji because of the commotion that you had witnessed. It was a wonder that you still went ahead with the marriage”
Fatimah: “but what can I do to win their trust and love? I really do not want them to see me as an enemy” she said.
Hajiya: “what can you do? What haven’t I done to win their love all these years? I have personally taken them to hospitals, herbal homes all in a bid for them to get pregnant so that they would stop hating me but as soon as it fails, they accuse me of going behind do spoil the medicine. Anyway, I advise that you show them love and understanding. They are just being jealous and envious of the fact that our husband married a younger wife, with time you will get used to it even though I cannot assure you that the commotion will stop because I have been expecting it to stop for years and till now, nothing”
Fatimah: “thank you, ma. Please, I need the menu”
Hajiya handed her a copy of the menu list and told her she could keep that copy with her. Fatimah thanked her and turned to leave until Hajiya stopped her.
Hajiya: “I want you to trust me and confide in me whenever you are having anything that is troubling you. Also, talk to me whenever you are having issues with our husband and I will plead with him on your behalf. Also, don’t forget to tell me anytime you take in, I will be here to help you in anyway a mother can help her child” she said.
Fatimah: “thank you hajiya. I will surely confide in you, I feel better now” she said and ran off to the main kitchen where all the necessary kitchen utensils and foodstuffs were in abundance.
Fatimah collected all the foodstuff and ingredients needed to make what was on the menu and left for her own kitchen which had been newly furnished to prepare it. It was a tedious process that saw her spending more than 4 hours in the kitchen. It was a three course meal of fruit salads as appetizer, fried rice and chicken with shrimps and pawns alongside cole slow and grilled kidney as appetizer. And fruit smoothie and vegetable salad as dessert. Fatimah did everything alone, since no domestic staff was allowed anywhere close to where alhaji’s meals were being prepared. After she finished, she set the dining table in the main sitting room where alhaji always ate and laid out the all she cooked in very attractive plates there.
She stayed behind in the sitting room waiting for alhaji to return since it was around the time that she had returned the next day. When she got tired of waiting, she sent him a text message on his phone which read:
“Your food is ready, alhaji. Please come back soon”
After some minutes, her phone beeped and she picked it up to see alhaji’s reply.
“I am already on my way. See you”
She smiled after reading it and thought of going to shower before he returned so he could see her beautiful and smelling nice rather than the smell of all that she had cooked. She checked the table to make sure that all was in order, just in case alhaji returned while she was still in the bathroom. When she was satisfied that everything was set, she left the sitting room for her room and then to the bathroom.
Few minutes after she left, Jemila came in and perceiving the aroma of different delicacies, she went towards the dining table and seeing that no one was in the sitting room, she began to open the dishes, looking over her head to make sure that no one was seeing her.
Question: “Hmmmn, may we not be implicated for our kindness o. What do you think Jemila intends to do? Is it wise of Fatimah to have left her husband’s food in the sitting room like that?
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