The wind that blew in my face, as bus sped on, smelled of promise. And it had only just begun.
I couldn’t believe we had actually done it – slid away from home to spend the weekend with Ahmed and his friends. The only thing that seemed real about the entire experience was that Aisha was with me. She was with me everywhere, so it made sense that she would come with me, on the most reckless journey of our lives.
The sound of my heart beating as we pulled out of the bus park could keep a party going; but I was too much of a coward to stop the driver and alight. So, to Damaturu we went.
When I tell this story to my children, I won’t tell it like this. I will leave out the parts that make me look like a stupid teenager; but because every criminal needs to confess to at least one person- just to assure themselves that what they did actually happened; I’m going to tell you the whole story.
It was meant to be quite simple. Ahmed had whispered enough sweet nothings in my ear to make my head large enough that I had lost all connection with my brain. He had somehow convinced me to leave Dapchi and come to Damaturu on Saturday and leave on Sunday. He had promised that he would show me around the city and take me to see Yobe State University, my dream school. We had made many plans about what would happen when I finally joined him in university, and so it was only fitting that I used the opportunity to see the land of our dreams.
The plan had been that I would tell my parents that I was sleeping at Aisha’s house and would go to school from there. They would never have allowed me sleep anywhere else. Aisha would tell her parents she was spending the weekend at my house and we would both go to school from her house on Monday Morning. We intended to arrive at Damaturu by 11am on Saturday and be back in Dapchi by 7pm on Sunday.
Ahmed and Salim met Aisha and I at the park. I truly don’t know what happened to Aisha over the next 24 hours. At a point, I forgot she had come with me. I went out with Ahmed alone; so I assumed she was somewhere having fun with Salim. Ahmed and I went out to buy suya, then we walked around the campus. It looked even better than I had imagined. All those buildings and people enjoying the freedom that came with university. Towards the end of tour, Ahmed led me towards a withering acacia tree and planted a soft kiss on my lips. I was caught between terror and pleasure.
The rest of the weekend was a blur. I didn’t miss home at all and wasn’t bothered about anyone else. So it was surprising when Aisha came up to me on Saturday by 12:30 asking when I planned to leave. She wasn’t asking out of curiosity or so as to prepare for our departure. I could tell that the words she wanted to hear me say were “We’re leaving now”; but the symptoms I had been experiencing earlier had yet to wear off.
Just as she was asking, Ahmed came in and convinced me, without much effort, to spend another night and leave on Monday. My parents already expected me to go to school from Aisha’s house, so they wouldn’t bother looking for me and I could safely return home in the evening.
I had never seen Aisha so angry in all my life. She called me all sorts of names because I chose to listen to Ahmed and stay an extra day. I had thought she would be happy for me, after all those days of teasing me about Ahmed being my husband; she couldn’t support my decision to spend more time with him. She packed her overnight bag and made her way to the park without as much as a goodbye. It hurt to fight with her, but Aisha was always there and Ahmed was not. Compromises had to be made.
There was something about being out of school on a school day. It felt like I was experiencing the eighth day of the week that was reserved for only a select few. It just felt different. Like the love child of a weekend and a holiday-perfect. I really couldn’t describe it any better; but spending it with Ahmed made it feel even rarer. We spent the whole day talking in his room. We lost track of time and I only remembered I had to go back to my father’s house when I started to notice the skies turning orange.
Back home, all of Dapchi was in panic. Some men from Boko Haram had come to my school and taken a handful of girls and their parents had been thrown into utter confusion. Parents, including mine, ran to the school praying to find their daughters only to find their desks empty with harrowing stories swirling instead and so did mine. My mother searched everywhere for me; but much like the other girls taken by Boko Haram, there was no trace of me. Aisha was no help, as she thought I had returned from Damaturu just in time for school and been taken as well.
By the time I made it back to Dapchi, I had heard on the bus what had happened and was filled with fear for my friends. Which of them had been taken? I had forgotten to charge my phone and so I could not call Aisha to find out if she was alright? Hassanat? Zainab? I said silent prayers for them as the bus dragged along.
As I walked down the road to my father’s house, Baba Hadiza saw me. His scream took me by surprise. Soon, other people ran out of their houses, looking at me like I had died and returned. All at once they began asking questions and examining me? “Have they touched you?” “How did you escape?!” “Where did they take you?” The daze of confusion gradually faded as what was happening dawned on me. Before I could explain that I had not been taken, my parents ran into the midst of the crowd with the Emir of Bade on their heels. My mum knelt down, her face full of tears as she hugged me. I was surrounded my parents bursting with questions and I had no answers. I looked at my father, I had never seen him so solemn in my life. Then I imagined how quickly his features would change if I told him where I had truly been during the last twelve hours.
“My daughter” The Emir held on to my arm “Please tell us, how did you escape?”
I looked up at all the anxious parents looking to me for answers, then I looked up at my father and remembered how he had beaten my sister mercilessly for being late for prayers because of a boy.
Break parents or be broken by mine- Those were my options.
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