Chapter 1- Mother's Pain
2 Years Later
"You okay?",I sit beside Zaynab who's eyes are fixated on her laptop screen while typing furiously fast on the keyboards.
"Yeah, yeah. How was work?", she asks but never actually looks at me.
"Same, so. Are you ready for Aamanee's naming ceremony?".
"I told you am not going",she replies.
"You can't keep doing this Zaynab. You missed Aaleyah's baby shower AND naming ceremony for Amir. Not just that, you also missed Aamanee's baby shower and now the naming ceremony?",I question her but she's just fixed on her laptop.
"ZAYNAB. AM TALKING TO YOU".
"Okay. Babe watchu want?",she sighs and places her laptop on the bed.
"You can't keep living like this. You quit your job, I don't really mind or care, but you're not stepping out of the house. You can't keep living like this",I tell her.
She turns to face me then hums.
"Have you talked to Abeke? Or Abisola?",she asks me.
"Obviously not. They're DEAD".
"Well if we're not careful, I will be just like them and you won't be able to talk to me either because guess what. I'LL BE DEAD TOO", she exclaims.
"Are you hungry? I made you some iyan and vegetable stew. I know you like it so I made it for you",she smiles and stands up.
"We're going to that ceremony. For Aayan at least",I try to convince her but she just shakes her head.
"I already told him. Am not coming. Now conversation is over. You go get freshened up then come down and eat before you go, if you are going",she tells me.
I shake my head and rub my face exhaustedly.
"Babe",she pushes my hand away from my face and sits on my lap.
"What Zaynab. What?",I sigh.
"I can tell you're stressed. Want me to help with that?",she whispers while massaging my shoulders.
"Zaynab stop",I whisper.
"What?". She leans in closer and places a few kisses on my cheeks then makes her way down towards my neck.
"ZAYNAB. I SAID STOP", I yell which made her jump and fall onto the floor.
"Zaynab. Am-am sorry. I didn't-".
I bend down to her level and help her up.
"Well damn. What crawled up your h-".
"Don't. Don't do this",I shake my head and move away from her.
"Am going to the ceremony. Keep the food. Am not hungry",I tell her.
I walk past her and towards the wardrobe. I take off my jacket and get a clean pair of black pants and a white long shirt.
"I spent time making you the meal",I hear Zaynab whisper from behind me so I turn around to find her staring at the floor with shaky hands.
"I'll eat it later",I tell her.
"I want my baby",sobs starts escaping her lips quietly then she just bursts into full tears.
"Zaynab, we'll find him".
"You say that every time and get mad at me every time. You're acting like him every time",she yells then jumps onto the bed and continues crying.
"Not again", I shake my head before walking over to her and bringing her to my chest, repeating the same words I always say to her.
"Z, we'll find him. Fawaz has Vince look into it. And I talked to Stephan a while back. They think they're close to locating Abiodun which means, they're close to your son. You have to be strong".
"You promise?",she looks up at me with a pout.
I just smile then kiss her forehead. I can't really promise you if that never happened. Sorry Zaynab but lying to you is the only thing that's working for any of us at this point. Its been 2 years and you're still believing the same thing I tell you which means, you're not really in the right state of mind.
"Will you eat then?",she asks me smiling.
"Am already late. I can't but I will when I get back".
She frowns then looks away from me.
"Zaynab don't do this. Not today. Not again".
"Fine go. Leave me alone. Let me die. See how you feel after that",she mumbles to herself.
"Why are you exaggerating? Look, work was hectic today. I can't deal with you on top of that".
"So am a problem for you? Is that it? Am work for you?",she sits up with anger on her face.
"I didn't s-"
"YES you did. You just said so yourself. Work was hectic and you don't w- you know what. It's fine. Go. Just go",she yells then falls back in bed and throws the covers over her.
Am not doing this with her. Am not going to miss another event.
I walk out of the bathroom, dressed. I walk over to the bed and tap her shoulder.
"I'll see you when I get back",I tell her.
"I love you?".
"No you don't"she replies and kicks at the covers.
"Okay. Whatever you say. If you're scared, pray".
"I already did that....countless times",I whisper into her ear. She gasps loudly then sits up and covers her mouth.
"Yeah, that's what being married to you is like",I chuckle.
"Aww. That's an insult by the way. But, ugh. I guess I love you too",she rolls her eyes.
"See you soon. Call me if you feel any bad vibes yeah?".
"Okay. Tell Aayan, I love him and kiss my nephew for me",she gives me a kiss then smiles.
"It would mean a lot to him if you'd come".
"Please? Just even for 30 minutes. Once you start feeling uncomfortable, we leave straight away. I'll do whatever you want then. Just please? You haven't stepped out of this house since that day. Please, just this once?".
"I don't know Khalid",she whispers.
"Please?". I kiss her cheek then down her neck which made her let out giggles.
"Okay. Okay, fine. But when I want to go home, then I want to go. Okay?".
I smile and nod then pick her up bridal style.
"If this goes well for you. Do you want to go to a restaurant tomorrow with me?",I ask her.
"Uh...I'll think about it".
"That's good enough for me".
She smiles innocently then takes off her seatbelt and takes a few deep breath before opening the door.
I get out and rush over to her side. I help her out of the car and hold her securely around the waist.
"Am scares. He's everywhere Khalid. I want to go home",she whispers and hides her face in my chest.
"Zaynab. Let's go inside. You'll be safe there",I whisper to her.
She just holds onto me tighter. I take my chance and quickly take her to the front door.
I press the doorbell and hold onto it so they'd hurry up.
"Damn chill. Who's that?",Fawaz opens the door.
She leps out of my arms and runs inside the house.
"How did you manage to bring her?".
"Honestly, I couldn't tell you. Am still surprised myself",I tell him. He chuckles and closes the door as I walk in.
"Lock it",Zaynab tells him.
"Uh. Sure",He nods and does as told while she watches him intensely.
"Come on",I pull her down the hall after Fawaz and into the living room.
"Look who's here",Fawaz says loud enough for everyone to stop what they're doing and look over.
Zaynab fakes a smile while looking towards all the windows frantically.
"What are you looking for?",Idris asks her.
"Nothing. Nothing",she mumbles.
"Well, do you wanna see him?",Aamanee asks Zaynab.
Zaynab turns to her and looks towards my newborn nephew. Abdul Aalim (Religious scholar).
Aamanee stands up and walks to Zaynab.
"He's so tiny",she whispers as she takes Aalim from Aamanee who chuckles.
"Yeah, he's a very playful boy too",Aamanee smiles.
Zaynab looks down at him and smiles.
"What's his name?".
"Ah. He better not be like his annoying self of a father. Right babez?",she tells Aalim who's just staring at her.
"Nah. He gon be like his dad. Cuz am just good like that",Aayan wiggles his eyebrow down at Aalim who starts kicking his leg around.
"From where abeg",Zaynab and the rest laugh.
Aalim starts crying so she holds him out to Aamanee who starts patting his butt while stepping side to side with him.
Zaynab stares at them and smiles a little but that soon disappears.
"It's okay",I whisper to her.
"This should've been me",she whispers.
"I should be carrying my baby. I didn't hold him. I barely saw him before he was taken away",she adds then a tear slides down her face.
"Do you need a minute?",I ask her.
"Come on. Let's get you some water",Basha holds her by the shoulder then takes her into the kitchen.
I sigh and rub my forehead.
"Any leads on Abiodun?",Aayan looks at Fawaz who shakes his head.
"Its like he's just not in existence anymore. I don't understand HOW he even survived the gunshot in the first place. But am scares for Zaynab's so- I mean, their son. Who knows what he'll do. The guys a psychopath",Fawaz sighs and scratches his head.
"He's always wanted a son. He wouldn't harm him",Aamanee shakes his head.
"I think you should try talk to her",Fawaz tells Aaleyah.
"Its been 2 years. She hasn't talked to me".
"Well do you really expect her to? Because of you, her son was taken. watchu mean",Fawaz tells her.
Aaleyah looks at him shocked just as the rest of us.
"Me? How was I supposed to know that she wasn't actually a nurse. I've done it before. Why are acting as if I wasn't doing my job right",Aaleyah snaps at him.
"You weren't doing your job right. What sane woman hands over a child to some random nurse?".
"So what you're saying is am stupid abi? That am mad?",Aaleyah stands up.
"Whatever you interpret it to be",Fawaz shrugs and looks away.
"Fawaz, ME",Aaleyah yells.
"Aaleyah, don't shout. Calm down",her mother tells her.
"Didn't you hear what he said?",Aaleyah looks at her with shock.
"Oko re ni (he's your husband)".
"And so? That gives him the right to talk to me anyhow? Is this one a husband or-".
"Or what?",Fawaz looks at her.
"Go ask the person behind you",Aaleyah comments and folds her arms.
"Ahh. Aaleyah",her mom and aunt Rukayat gasp loudly.
Fawaz scoffs and shakes his head.
"You too, you're shocked abi. This is just phase 1 for her. Wait for phase 2",He mumbles.
"So now you too you've become another Abiodun abi?",Aaleyah folds her arms.
"I hope you're not mad?",Fawaz drops his arms and turns to Aaleyah with anger evident on his face.
"Why are you comparing pelu owun (with him), I hope you're not crazy sha?".
"FAWAZ. Iyawo re ni omon bawi be yen (it's your wife that you are talking to like that)",aunty yells.
Fawaz looks at her and sighs then looks away.
"Se iyawo ni ele yi?",he scoffs.
"Me too am wondering the same about you",Aaleyah hisses at him.
"Aaleyah. Shut up",her mom pulls her down beside her.
"What's going on?",Basha and Zaynab walk in with confusion on their faces.
"Look. Fawaz am warning you. Am warning you. I don't like the way you're acting nowadays. How can you just be hurling disrespectful insults at your wife, the mother of your kids. I hope there's nothing wrong with you sha?",aunty yells at me.
"Mommy. I don't know why exactly, it's me that you are talking to. I respect those who earn it. After all my patience with her, now that am finally done. Am still the one to blame abi? It's okay. I just won't say anything anymore. But as for you"he turns to Aaleyah who rolls her eyes.
"Sebi it's war that you want abi? You've earned it. Just don't cross my path anymore".
"Ah ah. Is it that deep?",Zaynab whispers to Aayan.
"Abeg where are you going to go?",Aaleyah hisses.
"If I slap you",her mom gives her an annoyed look.
"Fawaz. You have to take it easy. Marriage is not an easy thing. There's always going to ups and down but you have to have patience",she tells him.
He looks away and folds his arms.
"Mommy am hungry",Azeez pulls at Aaleyah's dress.
"I hope you're okay",she snaps at him.
"Aaleyah",her mom and aunty both yell.
"Azeez come here",Fawaz tells him. Azeez frowns then runs over to Fawaz who picks him up.
"I think its better if she stays with y'all for a while",he tells aunty and uncle.
"Fawaz. She's your wife. Not ours. You both have to talk things out. You're not kids anymore. Aaleyah if I give one slap. Ah, ah. What is wrong with you? We're all seated here and still you have not one single shame. You're just throwing insults at your own husband. RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. Ah",aunty exclaims with a shocked look.
"When am some stupid mumu (fool) that will sit there and watch him insult me. What's next? Getting me hospitalized?",Aaleyah rolls her eyes.
"Wait wait wait. First of all. Have I EVER laid my hands on you? No no no, please answer me. Have I?",Fawaz yells.
"Ask the person behind you",she hisses.
"Aaleyah. O ni oju ti ni? (Do you jot have any shame?)",uncle finally speaks up.
"Daddy, you do-".
"I've heard enough already. The last time, he came over. HE appeased you even though you were in the wrong. Now this again? When did you start acting like some untrained child?".
She looks away and glares at Fawaz.
"Oko re o soro, iwon ne da lon (your husband is talking, you too, your replying back). I hope you're not sick sha?".
"No answer me. Because if you're not sick. You won't be acting the way that you're acting. Right in front of us".
"Abi o ti e beru ra ra? Sebi ton ri epe mon was lori wheelchair yi lonfi ri aye lati mon wuwa ra da ra da ba yi?
(Or do you not have any fear at all? Or is it because am on this wheelchair that you now have the guts to act this way?)
"Ah daddy. That's not it",Aaleyah gasps.
"No, you weren't like this. I don't know what's gotten over you".
She frowns and sits beside me.
"Am sorry. It won't happen again. Please don't say that again",she tells him.
"That's the way you're acting".
"Am sorry. I will apologize",she tells him then she looks up at Fawaz.
She looks like she wants to personally strangle him but for her dad's sake she walkey over to him.
"Fawaz. Ma benu si mi (don't be angry with me). It won't happen again",she tells him.
He scoffs and looks away.
"Look, I don't have time for your fake act right now",he tells her.
She stops and takes a deep breath then gets on her knees in front of him.
"Oko mi (my husband), am sorry. I shouldn't have spoken to you like that either. I'll watch myself next time. Please, am sorry".
"Damn. Imagine Zaynab doing that to you",Aayan whispers to me then we both look towards Zaynab who raises an eyebrow at us. We both smile then snicker at the same time.
"Fawaz. She's begging you. Ah. Forgive her na",his mom tells him.
"I don't have time for her. Honestly. Let's get you something to eat",Fawaz walks past Aaleyah and into the kitchen with Azeez in his arms.
"Well. I tried",Aaleyah stands up and brushes off her dress.
"That's it?",Zaynab's jaws drop.
"What do you want me to do? Chop off my head and serve it to him on a silver platter? I apologized and he didn't accept. I've done my part. If he wants. Jump a cliff. What's my own",Aaleyah hisses.
"Well your apology stunk. And you're surprised he didn't accept?".
"Ah ah. I went on my knees and begged him what else does he want?"
"Oh I don't know...maybe a chance of attitude? Not acting like you're some psychotic idiot?".
"Zaynab",I whisper and shake my head.
"Ah",Aaleyah chuckles to herself.
"look at the psychotic patient herself calling someone psychotic".
"You really want to talk? No as in, you really have mouth to talk? After what you did! You have the audacity to even call ME psychotic. Aye. This house is about to burn down. And Wallahi you will be the only one in it",Zaynab yells.
"Okay. She's mad. We should stop her",I mumble and try to walk over but Aayan pulls me back.
"She's been holding all this in for a while now. Let her explode. Maybe it'll help" he whispers.
I look from him to Zaynab whose chest is literally heaving u and down as she stares at Aaleyah with anger.
"She was dressed as a nurse. I GENIUNELY thought she was a nurse. I didn't know she was fake",Aaleyah screams.
"Would you hand over your own child over to some random nurse? You don't even like nurse Tam which just means that you never cared about him anyways. You wouldn't give your own son to her. You wouldn't Aaleyah and don't stand there and tell me otherwise",Zaynab yells.
"Well he's gone. What's done is done. What do you want me to? I genuinely want to know. Because I've tried to apologize but you're always giving me the co-"
"How about this",Zaynab steps back.
"If anything happens to my son. Wallahi you will regret ever meeting me. Sebi your marriage is already falling apart abi? Thanks to my prayers. Thank God. Not only that. Your whole life will come shattering down. Everything you've worked for will come crashing down. And I say AMEEN to that",Zaynab screams.
By now, all our parents were standing up. Everyone was just staring at her speechlessly.
"Y-y-you prayed for my marriage to break?",Aaleyah stutters.
"Ah. You're lucky I stopped there. I wanted to bring your own kids into it so you can see how it felt. But they didn't offend me. So why involve them? Right? But YOU Aaleyah. Aaleyah. Ah. You will suffer. You will suffer. Just let him harm my son. See if I don't kill you myself. I will show you pepper (basically means, I'll deal with you in such a way that you'll regret ever doing what you did). If everything I said now doesn't come true. Don't call me Zaynab ever again. Every downfall you have. Know that it's my prayers being answered",she tells Aaleyah who has tears in her eyes.
"All for a mistake?",she whispers.
"A mistake? Do you know the type of man Abiodun is? He could have killed me. He could've. Am surprised I even lived 2 years after he came back. He killed his own daughter Aaleyah. He killed 2 of his wives and his own daughter. His mind is so twisted, if you don't do what he wants and he gets angry? Ah. You will wish you even died before ever setting eyes on him. And you're telling me that's a mistake?",she yells.
"It was a genuine mistake Zaynab. A genuine mistake. How can you wish all this on me",Aaleyah whispers with tears sliding down her cheeks.
"Ah. That's just beginning",Zaynab hisses.
"You know me Zaynab. We don't have to live with each other since birth to know each other you know I wouldn't wish anything bad for anyone you cared about or you yourself".
"With the way you've been acting nowadays? And even before I gave birth? Ah. I can't even believe that you won't side with Abiodun to kill me" ,Zaynab shrugs.
"So this is where we stand?",Aaleyah nods then she wipes her tears.
"Me that I've been pragif for the return of your child while you, you've been praying for my downfall?".
Zaynab scoffs and rolls her eyes.
"What prayer? Please stop praying. Maybe that's why we still haven't found him yet. Please, stop your fake prayers. I don't want hem I don't need it".
"Can we go. Now?",Aaleyah tells Fawaz who nods. He takes Amir from his dad then follows his wife out of the room.
Once the door shuts, we all look at Zaynab.
"Zaynab",her mom calls.
"You both used to be best of friends",she whispers.
"I don't want such kind of friendships anyway",Zaynab shrugs.
"She genuinely made a mistake. We all make mistakes. you're still living your mistake",Aamanee comments.
"Aamanee. Don't",Aayan tells her.
"It shall not be well with you for what you just said",Zaynab yells at Aamanee.
"Zaynab stop cursing",her sister and mother yells.
"Look you. Don't anger me. You're married to Aayan, that's the only thing keeping me from not throwing you off whatever I see. I hope you're not mad sha? Who ask you?".
"Zaynab",her mom pulls her back then slaps her.
"Mommy, aunt, Adelola",we all gasp loudly with shock.
"Will you shut up. Are you stupid? Do you think curses are a joke?",she yells.
Zaynab looks up at her with her hand on her cheek and just stares at her.
"What? You want to curse me too ni? If I beat you. You'll regret ever knowing me. Zaynab. Watch yourself Ooooh. Watch yourself",aunt adds.
Zaynab doesn't say anything. She licks her lips and bites her lip a few times then releases it and hums.
She turns around and pushes past me.
"Zaynab",she yells but Zaynab runs out of the room.