By Odekunle Doyin Zouerat

After the wining and dining, we eventually left my in-law’s place, late in the afternoon–after observing the Asr prayer. During the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sofiyyah’s attitude.

“Babes, one day one day, your sister monkey go go market and e no go come back o. Make you dey note am now o!” I said to my husband, with a stern warning. I was slightly angry at him because if he could signal to me to not measure her sister’s trouble back to her right on the spot, he should have as well started apologizing for it the moment we got in the car.

“I am so sorry on her behalf, and mine too. Thank you for honoring me back there. I am going to put a stop to that attitude of hers, OK? Don’t worry dear.” My husband apologized heartily. He had said something that would have dissolved my anger and made me smile at him, but sometimes, an apology is not just enough. I couldn’t take it any longer.
“I’ll put a stop, I’ll put a stop, that is what you’ve always been saying, but yet, Sam or even worse instances wouldn’t stop repeating themselves, no changes whatsoever!” I mimicked him and lamented in response.

“I am sorry, babe. It is a promise this time, I will bring her disrespectful attitude towards you to an immediate end. I just wonder why she is acting like that, Sofiyyah has always been accommodating as opposed to how she is behaving towards you now.” He replied with an unnecessary explanation. I might have hung the matter right there if not for the explanation.
“Oh! Here you come again! Are you trying to defend her right now or what are you insinuating by that?” I fumed, the explanation didn’t settle with me at all.

“No. I am just saying that I can’t just fathom the reason behind her hostility towards you, I mean she does this only to you, and it is really confusing.” He replied, detaching one hand from the steering wheel and raising it to emphasize his claim.
“Maybe you should go ask her then,” I wanted to say, but I cautioned myself because that was no way to speak to one’s husband, and I settled for; “OK, no problem.” I fell silent afterward, thinking of my next line of speech and action. Maybe I did need a plan, in case his didn’t work, or he didn’t make an attempt at all–as usual.

I maintained my silence throughout dinner time, despite his several attempts to shake me out of it. Seeing that my mood swing from the morning had returned, he stopped pestering and gave me the space I needed.

Bored and still sulking, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood. And because I just moved into the area with my husband after our wedding, there already existed the need to familiarize myself with the streets and places in our environment. It soon became my habit, as I started taking a walk around the neighborhood every day.

One day, while on my usual stroll, I met somebody from my past. I was so surprised and almost shocked. He saw me first and called out to me.
“Zainab!” He screamed out my name, he seemed to be very excited to come across me.
“How are you doing? Long time no see!” He greeted me and started coming towards me before I could finish registering my surprise.
“Jamal, is this you?” I asked, I didn’t even realize that the surprise left me agape.
“Yes, it is really me.” He confirmed eagerly. He was already standing before me before I realized that he was trying to hug me. I quickly stopped him with my hands without saying anything.

“Oh, I am sorry.” He apologized, having understood that his hug was not welcomed.
“Where have you been all these years? What are you doing here?” He asked with his excitement, not the least affected.
“Hum, I live around here with my husband. I am just taking a walk.” I answered the second question, intentionally leaving the first question out after a second thought.
“Oh, OK. And your husband?” He asked and looked behind me, probably expecting to see my husband nearby.
“He has gone to work,” I replied.
“And you? Don’t you go to work?” He asked with a bit of surprise.
“As I said earlier, I am newly married and we just moved to this neighborhood. For now, I am not working. In fact, I love being a housewife!”. I replied, stressing the last statement.
“Oh, wow. OK.” He said, a bit embarrassed.

“So, Jamal, what are you doing in this area?” I asked much out of curiosity.
“We are doing a project in this area. You know the filling Station project going on around that axis?” He asked as he pointed towards the said axis. I nodded in affirmation, I had seen the ongoing construction several times, courtesy of my daily strolling.
“Yeah, my company is in charge of the project, and I am the supervisor here.” He supplied with a ting of pride.
“That’s good,” I said because that was what came to my mind.
“Thank you. I will be here till the end of the project, which means we will be seeing more of each other.” He said with a grin.
“Yes, definitely, we will be seeing more of each other.” I agreed, because technically, Yes.

“Can I have your number?”He requested and stretched out his phone for it?
“My number… my number… I don’t think that would be necessary, Jamal I am married.” I refused, hopefully, he let it slide.
“No, no now Zainab! Why is your mind so dirty. Of course, I know you are married, you just told me. I just want us to keep in touch. It has been a while, you know?” He quickly dismissed my excuse and for a fleeting moment, he succeeded in making me feel ashamed for my line of thoughts.
“I have got no dirty mind, I was just saying that I am married and there should be caution,” I replied, firm on my stance.

“Can you please give me your number?” He requested again as if what I just said held no weight.
“Please… Please.” He continued pleading.
“Or, you have to seek permission from your husband before giving me your number?” He asked, obviously to tease me.
“Well… I think I might have to do that. Let me call him.” I responded and fished out my phone, playing along with the teasing.
“Come on, Zainab! Do you really want to call your husband? Never mind, I won’t ask for the number again.” He said with surprise as big as the size of a pie on his face. I guess I was so good in the game of teasing that he felt that I was really going to call my husband.
“Look at you!” I exclaimed with modest laughter and then collected his outstretched phone to put my number in. He laughed along when he realized that it was a joke. We bid goodbyes soon after, and each went for his/her respective ways.

I didn’t bother to continue walking since I had already exhausted my walking time, and besides, I was not prepared to run into another person. I headed back home and the memories of my past will Jamal flooded my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about how everything started and ended, and the thought stuck around in my head throughout the whole day. I just couldn’t stop thinking about him. When my husband returned from work, I didn’t know how to tell him that I ran into Jamal because I was not ready for the discussion that would definitely follow.

Who is Jamal? Read more at www.zoueratwrites.com.ng

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