THE ASSORTMENT of opulent cars, well-dressed people in different fashions, ranging from local attires to modern European gowns stormed the ground of this glamorous occasion. It could easily pass for an automobile fair or a fashion parade. But it is neither of the two. It is the visiting day of the Government Girls School where my beautiful wife-to-be attended. I felt like a pauper among these people. I was still a student and had not got to the stage of accumulating extravagant things, jealously, I consoled myself. I was envious but I knew my Jamilat would wipe away the envy from my heart with her soft consoling voice.
“She is coming,” the lady I sent to call Jamilat informed me. I thanked her, then she appeared in a tip-top shape with some of her friends. Some guests and a couple were removing their eyes from their companions just to catch a glimpse of my natural, God-sent comforter, Jamilat. Never would I exchange her for silk or even a Roll Royce. Being an honest fiancée, she shunned many people who asked for her hand in marriage just to fulfill our long vow of betrothal for future union. She apologised for keeping me waiting as she had just received her mother and sisters. She had a charming smile that could only be bought by a powerful king or a rich man. It made angry men, by it, satisfied. She used it to introduce her friends to me. I replied their greetings with a light banter. They laughed heartily.
They went off later, leaving Jamilat and one of their friends who had been looking at me throughout the exchange of pleasantries. Her name was Talatu, and with her, we went to where Jamilat’s mother and sister sat. They received me warmly as they always did to me and warned me not to push their daughter. “Never shall I do that,” I respectfully reassured them.
I strolled about the school compound with Jamilat who introduced me to her new friends. I was so proud to have her by my side and that made me swagger. Still, Talatu was with us.
One sunny day, during their holiday at home, Jamilat walked into my room accompanied by this girl, Talatu. I was shocked as she didn’t tell me she was coming, I gave them bottles of soft drink and a photo album filled with Jamilat and my pictures. I could see Talatu scrutinizing the album as policemen do with drivers’ particulars at check points. Later, I saw them off.
From all I could remember that day, it was Talatu who did the talking, boosting her ego and saying that she was a captain for some games, official of some school club and so on, but my Jamilat kept mum and smiled. That night, when I visited Jamilat to thank her for her visit, she told me it was Talatu who insisted that they should visit me. She added that Talatu was an honest, trustworthy and faithful friend whom she relied on. Three days later, I heard a knock on my door. As I opened it, I saw Talatu, indeed I received her as a honest friend of my fiancee. I bought biscuits and a bottle of soft drink and played my best Michael Jackson track, BEAT IT.
She liked it and even danced to the music, urging me to dance with her, which I refused to do, saying her friend might come over to look for her. She replied that Jamilat was not aware of her coming. I started to be suspicious, really suspicious of Talatu`s apparent behaviour. I didn’t want to disappoint Jamilat by informing her about her so-call good friend.
Talatu`s visit became more often. A week to their resumption date, she brought a cassette of a music and played it. She implored me tactically with innocence to dance with her. I was enticed and Satan signed this scene. We started dancing as I put her arms around my neck. She played with my hair, kissing me on my cheek and on the lips and gradually, I found myself in bed with her. I felt guilty to let myself get seduced by Talatu. Even if Jamilat forgave me, my conscience would never forgive me.
Three months later, Talatu was suspended from school because she was pregnant. She came to my room and told me the tidings. “To hell with your pregnancy!” I shouted at her. With tears and curses, she went away. My whole life became a turmoil. I prayed that Jamilat did not connect me with the pregnancy. In my state of confusion, I heard a radio broadcast announcing that a prize-given-day was coming up the following day at Jamilat`s school.
What! I must go there with my camera, knowing my Jamilat would at least receive a prize as she did every year. But, why didn’t she write me, knowing that I was always eager to have her picture taken on such occasions? Or did she know about the horrible incident? The guest-speaker delivered his speech and prizes were given to outstanding students. Jamilat received her award before I came into the hall.
She was called upon again to collect the well-behaved student of the year prize. I went over to take a picture of her. When she turned to my direction and saw me, her smile evaporated. She suddenly turned her face away.
“Ja-Jamilat, please turn this way so I can take a picture of you.” I didn’t know when my shaky voice went through the microphone, emitting a pitiful sound to the hearing of the audience. She didn’t turn.
When she turned, her visage was no longer of innocence and her eyes were red and with salty fluid. The audience was more than surprised, as if they had seen a ghost for the first time.
Miraculously, her voice went through the microphone as she said: “If ever I talk to you again, let God put me in hell fire. Go back to Talatu!” Her statement continued to echo in my brain till I got home and learnt that Talatu had died while attempting abortion.
This literary fiction by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Sunday Triumph March 24, 1991