I walked briskly with my head down. Thank goodness it was dark and no one could notice my strange demeanor. There was a cool breeze blowing as I arrived at the compound and quickly slid through the gates that were slightly ajar. I walked up the dark staircase leading to the second floor and knocked twice on the wooden apartment door. It opened, and I slid in. It was dark, but I knew Musa had opened the door. He flipped the light switch and the room was flooded with harsh yellow light. I looked around. The living room still looked the same from a month ago when I last visited. Nothing had been added or removed. The walls were still green. The tattered sofa next to the wall in one corner and a small round center table were the only furniture in the living room. He did not have a TV, but I could see his laptop charging atop the sofa. The ceiling fan creaked as it spun slowly and if not for for the open window letting in the cool breeze, it would have been hot in the house. I knew that if the living room had not changed, neither would the bedroom; which boasts of one furniture: a large mattress on the bare floor.
“What are you doing here?” Musa’s tone was harsh, almost full of hate.
“Musa,” I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. “What sort of question is that? Are you not happy to see me?”
Musa hissed and began to walk towards the bedroom.
“Musa,” I followed. “I had to sneak out of the house to come see you. Imagine how hard it must have been especially with my father around. At least say you’re glad to see me.”
“Halima, what do you want?” He flopped on his mattress while I stood by the door to his bedroom and watched. I was starting to get irritated with his behavior.
“I brought you food.” I stretched out my hand to show the bulging polythene bag I held.
“I’m not your dog. Go back home to your super rich father and don’t come here giving me crumbs from your table! I’m fine. I can take care of myself.”
I choked, “M-Musa!”
“What?” He spat. “You expect me to be happy and full of glee at seeing you? Why? When I know in 3 weeks you will be marrying that oil tycoon’s son, Abdul.”
“But it’s you that I love!” I cried.
“Hahahahaha,” His laughter dripped with sarcasm. “And so what? What is love in this case? Since you made that announcement last month that your father wants you to marry Abdul, I’ve erased the thought of a future with you from my mind.”
I dropped the polythene bag on the floor, walked towards the bed and sat next to him, “You hurt me badly with your words.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe you should be so hurt that you never return here. I wouldn’t want to ruin your happily-ever-after.”
“But you know I won’t be happy with Abdul. You know that. Stop sounding like I’m thrilled about my father’s arrangement. You know how I feel.” I tried to hold him, he flung my hand away. I was shocked. Why was he being especially mean to me? Was it because I had not been to see him in a month? “Sweetheart, if you’re upset that I’ve not come to see you in a month, I’m sorry. You of all people know how difficult it is to get away from Daddy’s watchful eyes. Since he returned from the States, he always has Hassan and Idris follow me everywhere. It was a miracle I got the opportunity to escape this night. I’m sure he’ll soon notice my absence. If he does, then only God knows what I’ll face when I return.”
“Then you better go.”
There was silence for about a minute. I decided to brush aside the rude remark. “How is work? How about that promotion that’s due?”
“I was bypassed. Again. I don’t want to talk about it.”
I tried to hold him again. This time he didn’t resist as I put my arms around him, “I’m so sorry. But don’t worry. I believe in you. You will be promoted or you will get a better job. Daddy’s company—”
He quickly stood up, “Don’t ever mention any of your father’s companies to me.” He shouted. Even if a job was offered me on a platter from his conglomerate, I won’t take it. I’m not your dog, you hear me?”
“Musa,” My voice trembled. “You’re yelling at me. It’s me, Halima. It’s me, the one you couldn’t get enough of.”
His voice softened, “Don’t remind me of that. As good as it was I want to forget about it. You should too. I know your mother is presently in Dubai shopping for your upcoming wedding-of-the-year.”
“But how can I forget? I’m pregnant.”
Musa glanced at me, then did a double take. His eyes became so wide that they looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. He stood motionless staring at me but I could see his hands trembling. The tremors soon spread to the rest of his body. Afraid he was going to have a seizure, I got up and walked towards him and tried to hold his hand. He withdrew it like he had just touched a hot object. Tears welled up in my eyes.
“Musa, what’s the meaning of this?”
“Astaghfirullah!” He exclaimed. “Halima, you’re pregnant.”
“You must leave.”
The tears flowed down my face, “Are you telling me you won’t accept this pregnancy? I was a virgin Musa!”
“I’m not denying anything, Halima.” He still refused to touch me. “I-I don’t know how to deal with this. You are getting married in 3 weeks. Your father….If he finds out—”
“If he finds out he will have no choice than to make me marry you. Don’t you see? This is wonderful for us.”
Musa was shaking his head. “Your father will make sure I’m dead rather than make you marry me.” A pause, “When did you find out?”
“Last week. I was so excited because I finally had something concrete to make this coming marriage to Abdul null and void. I couldn’t wait to tell you but you know, Hassan and Idris are always lurking about somewhere.”
Musa heaved a sigh, then returned to sit on the bed. I joined him.
“Musa, we’re pregnant. You should be happy.”
He groaned and ran his palm over his head repeatedly, “Hali, I can’t take care of you and a baby. Not now. Look at where I live. I barely eke out a living with this stupid job I have. I’m currently applying to other places.”
“None of that means anything to me. You know I don’t care if we live in penury as long as we’re together. How many times do I have to tell you that?” I held his hand.
“Hali, you were born with a silver spoon. You think it’s okay to marry me now but you will be the first to complain bitterly when all the comfort you are used to is no more. This is too sudden. And remember how your father treated me when we met?”
I sighed. Daddy had been brutal with Musa, even threatening to make life a living hell for him if he didn’t stay away from me. That was before I realized Daddy had plans to marry me off to Abdul. Would Daddy respond the same way if he knew I was now carrying Musa’s child? The thought of what Daddy could do made me shudder.
Musa rose from the bed, and paced the room for what seemed like an eternity. I watched. “I love you Halima,” He said, “But I cannot be with you. You have to go ahead and marry Abdul. I’m sure he will make you happy.”
“What!” I screamed and jumped from where I was seating. “What are you saying? What about the baby?”
“The baby will be his. You are only 3 weeks gone. In another 3 weeks you will be married and hopefully consummate your marriage on the same day. No one will notice.”
I began to sob bitterly. My body shook from the heartache I was experiencing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the love of my life. I didn’t even know this Abdul. We met for the first time only last week when Daddy invited him over for dinner. Surely he looked good, but he couldn’t take his eyes off me and I was disgusted by it. He looked at me like I was a prize he deserves, like a toy he must have. Daddy seemed to approve of the longing. The moment daddy left the dining table Abdul wasted no time in reeling out his qualifications: Harvard graduate, PhD in Stanford, currently works as a director at the multinational Oil and Gas Company which his father chairs. He kept telling me how he would spoil me with everything and more. I was repulsed. All I could think of was the baby, and how it would be my way to escape this loveless marriage daddy was forcing me into. Now those hopes were being shattered by the very man I thought would be joyful at the news.
“Halima,” He held my hand.
“Don’t touch me!” I screamed as I wept. “You never loved me. How can you coolly ask me to give our child to another man? What happened to love conquering all?”
He sighed. “Halima, you live in a fairy tale land. Would you rather see me dead?”
“Then we can’t be together, and this child only reinforces that fact.” He embraced me, “Stop crying now. You will be fine. I predict you’ll be happy with Abdul. At least both you and the child will be well taken care of. It’ll be our little secret.”
I calmed down, somehow I knew daddy wouldn’t be thrilled at the news of my pregnancy. As a powerful man he could even let harm come to Musa because of this. I couldn’t bear the thought of Musa getting hurt, or worse, getting killed because of me. I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll always love you Musa.”
“And I, you. You must go home now. It’s getting too late.”
“Will you keep the food I brought?” I asked.
“I will, if it will make you happy.”
“Will you come for the Nikkah?”
He groaned. “That’s asking too much Halima. You must go now.”
I nodded, left his embrace, walked to the door and left. He remained in the bedroom. Not even a proper goodbye. I wept bitterly as I walked home. It suddenly seemed like a bleak future was in store for me.
Photo Credit: Bellanaija