Amina smiled and strolled in casually. Certainly, she wasn’t a stranger to the old woman. She moved straight to Hajiya’s desk and gave her a peck on the cheek. This made the woman very happy. She had always favored Amina right from childhood. Amina’s mother had been a good woman, and everyone in Dafaloved her. Sadly, her husband’s attitude had changed since her death.
Hurriedly, Amina dropped her picture on the desk.
“I want to be in the catalogues, as soon as possible.” Amina bit her lip and avoided the old lady’s penetrating gaze.
Hajiya smiled, “I won’t ask for the reason you’re doing this. I’ll make sure you end up with a good man, alright?” She waved a finger over Amina’s face.
“Thanks for helping me Hajiya. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Amina felt relieved. She couldn’t wait to get out of Dafa. Hajiya was happy that she could help.
A dark haired man leaned on the rails that prevented the horses from leaving the barn. He tried to get rid of the numbing pain by staring at his animals. All his life, he had worked so hard to make a name in the ranching business, and he had. Mallam Abdul’s ranch was the largest Ranch in Kanem Dazau. His only regret and pain was that the wife of his youth, Fatma had two years ago. They had struggled together, and built the ranch from the dust.
Now she was no more, and his world had been plunged into darkness. Three years after Fatma’s departure from a brief illness, Abdul had found it difficult to move on. If not for the help of his devoted workers, the ranch would have fallen. He had gone into his shell, and wouldn’t speak to anyone. He was now a shadow of his old self.
While staring at the horses, and listening to the call of the wind, a sharp voice interrupted his moment of solitude. It was the voice of Hazim, one of his cowboys.
“Abdul!” Hazim rushed forward with a paper in his hand.
Hazim had been his oldest companion on the ranch. Right from the beginning, Ander had always been by his side. He was second in command.
“I got something for you.” Hazim moved closer.
“Go away Hazim, we’ll talk later.” Abdul grumbled.
“No, this is important. You should see it.” Hazim offered Abdul the paper.
Abdul swirled round and grabbed it from him. He unrolled the paper and glanced at it. The creases on his forehead came together in a frown and he scoffed.
“A match made bride?” He scoffed.
“Fatma has been gone for too long. You should consider having another woman by your side.” Hazim replied.
Abdul glared at the beautiful picture. She was young and full of life. Her eyes had fire in them. For the first time in three years, he noticed a woman who was far more attractive than Fatma, to catch his attention.
“Should I send for her?” Hazim cocked his head to one side.
“Amina Tukur from Dafa. She is not Fulani but a Shuwa. This explains her peculiar looks.” Abdul’s heart skipped. Could it be the same Tukur that betrayed him many years ago?” He decided to confide in his friend.
Hazimr grabbed the paper from him and stared at the young woman.
“I think this could be Mallam Tukur’s daughter.”
Abdul chuckled softly; maybe it was time to exert revenge of the traitor after so many years.
“Pay for her, she will be my bride. Through her, Mallam Tukur would be brought to his knees.” He whispered before leaving the barn.
Hazim remembered the cattle war at the Dafa Valley. He had a sick feeling of bringing an innocent girl into this game. But he had no choice but to send for her as Abdul had commanded.
He had been there, when Mallam Tukur had connived with the greedy Idris to steal Abdul’s grazing portion. Hazim hoped that the woman in the picture wasn’t anyway related to Tukur.
“The marriage would be a disaster.”
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Back at Dafa, Amina was getting nervous. Hajiya was yet to give her feedback after her submission, and she had only two weeks left before the return of Mallam Idris. She lived in agitation for many days, but her fears came to an end one sunny Tuesday afternoon.
Amina had gone to the local market to sell her father’s wares as usual. While calling on buyers to check out the farm produce, a little boy rushed towards her and tossed a paper on her lap.
“Abu! Wait….” Amina grabbed the paper and rose to her feet.
“Hajya asked me to fetch you. Now come on!” The little boy scurried through the streets of the market square. Amina’s heart leapt with joy and expectation as she glared at the dirty brown paper in her hand.
This was it; she was finally leaving Dafa to start a new life. She finally had the freedom that she needed. Without hesitation, Amina grabbed the paper and hurried after the little boy. It was only a matter of time before she got on the train to the place where her husband would be.
“Salam! You sent for me.” Amina sauntered into the office.
The old lady, who’d been busy reading her Quran, dropped the Holy book and glared up at her visitor.
“Did you read the paper at all?” She chuckled as she noted the look of excitement on Amina’s pretty face.
Amina shook her head, “I just couldn’t wait to see you.”
“Open it,” Hajiya pointed at the paper, and Amina calmly obeyed.
One Mallam. Hazim Isram had paid for her. From the faint picture in the background, she could tell he wasn’t a very handsome man. He wore his hair long, and he had a crooked nose. The man was probably in his early forties.
“Don’t you like him? He paid handsomely for you.” Hajiya pulled out a purse and showed Amina some money.
She wasn’t thrilled about meeting Mallam Hazim Isram her husband. But the thought of fleeing Dafa and avoiding a marriage of convenience with Mallam Idris made her happy.
“He isn’t a very fine man Hajiya.” She folded the paper and smiled.
The old woman burst into a laughter that was crackling to the ears.
“You have much to learn child. What matters in love isn’t about a man’s looks, but the way he treats you.”
To be continued…