I can’t wait to get back to school. I do miss you so much. How are you? No doubt as great as ever. Remind me to tell you all about my home. It isn’t as exciting as yours. I have lied a lot.
Should I tell you this? Yes! I was betrothed last week to an Alhaji. But I’ll finish schooling no doubt. Just thought I should reply your letter. Words are limited. See you at school.
Ada read the short letter thrice and became really worried. Leila’s home isn’t what she used to imagine? What does ‘Betrothed’ mean? What does Leila mean saying she has lied a lot? The tone of the letter sounded sad but Ada couldn’t even imagine Leila to be unhappy.
Later in the afternoon, Glory arrived to take Ada to her place. Glory was Chuks girlfriend and Ada recently met her when she went to see the new house she and her father would move into.
Ada looked up at her. “Hi.”
Glory smiled. “Hi.”
This was their second meeting and Ada still was unsure if she should be friendly. “I don’t have to come spend the night at your place, do I?”
“No, but your dad is unsure if he will be back today. He had to make an emergency business trip. He said he couldn’t explain to you because you stopped talking to him because of me.”
Ada was quiet.
Glory looked at her. “I know how you feel, and I promise you I will never try to replace your mother.” She checked her wristwatch. “I’ll suggest we move all your clothes and pack your other belongings into a luggage. By the time you get a break from school again, we’ll be in the new house.”
Ada noticed she was emphasising on the ‘we’. “Where do you live?” she asked with unconvinced interest as she led the way to her room.
“On the Island. Ever been down there?”
“Now and then,” Ada said standing before the wardrobe, not knowing where to start from. “I went to the beach with my dad.”
Glory went on her knees at the wardrobe and began to pick out clothes for Ada. A million things were running through her mind. How would she become friends with a thirteen year old? She has friends that are mainly older than her. Not even one was younger, unless one counted Zim. Her friendship with him defied all definitions. “Ada?”
“Your dad told me you have a look alike best friend.”
Ada hesitated for long and went to sit on the bed, while Glory kept on with the packing. “Is Glory your real name? The name your parents gave you?”
Glory looked at her. Ada didn’t answer her question. “The name is Gloria,” she explained “But everyone calls me Glory.”
“Have you been in Nigerian for long?”
Glory laughed. “All my life,” she said. “Except for occasional trips and of course medical school,” she saw the girl’s expression and decided to explain. “My mother used to be a maid for an American couple. She was a very good girl, as they told me while I was growing up. She died giving birth to me.” Glory finished and faced her packing.
“I'm sorry,” Ada apologised. “Didn’t mean to dig.”
Glory smiled. “It’s nothing my dear. I never knew her. She died, and the Americans brought me up. They are the only parents I know.”
“Where are they?”
“In the United States,” Glory said. “I see them every summer.”
They fell quiet again and Ada watched Glory pack her clothes. She told Ada a lot of things to pass the time. Ada learnt Glory was twenty-four. When Glory stopped talking, Ada talked about the letter from Leila and her being ‘betrothed’, and Glory had to explain it’s a tradition among the Hausas. By the time they left the house in the taxi Glory kept waiting all along, Ada had to admit she liked the young doctor a little more.
“So when are you guys actually getting married?” Ada asked as Glory unlocked the front door to her apartment.
Glory stopped and looked at her. “Actually,” she started slowing, “we had no idea how you were going to handle our news.” She opened the door and they entered. “We got married two weeks ago.”
Ada looked around the small but cozy sitting room. “I love antiques,” she said, going forward to have a better scrutiny. “Art in general anyway,” she added holding up a carved head of someone that might have been a ruler a long time ago. “Mum liked art. We used to visit museums and attend exhibitions, but she rarely bought.” She looked at Glory, who was watching her closely. She didn’t react to Glory’s news about the marriage. Ada smiled. “She would say, seeing them once in a while gave her satisfaction and if she had to buy all she liked, there wouldn’t be a place to put them all.”
Glory smiled wanly and picked up a bag. “Come on, let’s get you settled in.” She showed Ada to a room and helped her unpack. “Care for a shower?”
“I’d love that, thank you.”
“First door on your right,” Glory said making to leave the room. She stopped at the door. “Please Ada, it was just a marriage at the court. You missed nothing. Your father has decided we will have a reception ceremony and invite our friends and colleagues before you return to school.”
Ada smiled at the woman who has taken on the role of a step-mother.
Born in 1973, Leila left Nigeria with her English mother when she was barely a year old. She had met and fallen in love with Suleiman Usman, but couldn’t marry him because he had wives. Roselyn White had been in the country for a course and had extended her stay because of Usman. She eventually left with Leila, accepting the fact that she had no future with him.
The first time Leila met her father was during her eight-year birthday party. He had arrived like a prince from nowhere with lots and lots of loads, that all turned out to be her birthday presents. Her mother introduced him as her father and it was love at first sight.
Back then, Usman only visited for business, and had to return to Nigeria. He kept sending gifts and letters, and he visited for two weeks, once in three months. His last visit lasted over a month because of her mother’s illness. Leila found comfort in him. Then tragically enough, her mother died and her father offered to take her. Her mother’s relations didn’t argue. Leila wondered a little what her parents had talked about for so long two nights before her mother’s death. Leila didn’t want to leave England. It wasn’t because she thought Usman wouldn’t take good care of her. It was because she was afraid of her dreams becoming a reality; and returning to Nigeria was one dream becoming a reality.
Usman did everything to please her; including putting her in the school she wanted. She had seen the advert in the newspaper and asked to go there. It was a distance, but for her comfort, he would do anything.
Days before going to the school for the first time, the dreams started again. Someone who looked how Leila would look in twenty years always appeared in her dreams to push her into a dark pit. Leila always woke up screaming. Then the day she saw Ada for the first time, she remembered the dream and the face and feared another dream was about to become a reality.
Then she met Ada and discovered a different truth she wasn’t looking for. And with Ada in her life, that particular dream stopped, making way for the coming of the visions. Ada was special to Leila. She knew it and would do anything to stop anyone from keeping them apart.
One morning, her father gave her the bad news; she was getting married, at thirteen. Leila protested in vain. Her father gave her examples of his older daughters and the women in the house.
Fire blazed in her. “I want to go to school!”
“You will go to school. Your husband is willing to wait.”
“I don’t have a husband! I'm not getting married!” she yelled hitting him anywhere her hands landed.
“You’ve got time still for education, shikenan. That is that. This topic is closed.”
“I refuse to be persuaded!” she looked at him strongly. Fear written all over her, because what was happening had happened before, once. In a dream which she thought was just a dream. The memory came flooding back as her father broke the news. Another truth also dawned on her; all her dreams come true eventually. All. She had stopped dwelling on them after she met Ada and the scary dream of herself falling into a pit stopped.
She was getting married. She was quiet and sad and her spirit felt defeated.
Four days later, the ceremony was held and Leila met Alhaji Danjuma Adamu, her husband. He was forty-seven and exceedingly happy to be married to a girl as beautiful as Leila. “You will be a medical doctor,” he told her. Leila had no such interest in medicine.
She remained home at her father’s place refusing to go to Danjuma’s place until she was done with her education. He agreed.
On the morning she was to return to school, her father knocked on her door and entered. “Are you ready?”
“I have been for hours,” she said in such a way that explained she couldn’t wait to be away from him.
“Danjuma’s driver is taking you,” he said.
She looked up at him in shock. Another uninvited surprise. “What?”
“Just you and his driver.” He said. “I think you’ll be more comfortable travelling that way.” He looked at her. “And his younger brother too, is that fine?”
She sighed. “I suppose so,” she said.
He sat beside her on the bed and took her hand in his. “I know I've disappointed you. Forgive me Leila. I want you to be happy.”
“But you’re not taking it back.”
“It can’t be done,” he said.
The car arrived for her and she got in beside Ahmed Adamu, Danjuma’s youngest brother. He was making sure the new wife in the family got to school safely. She looked at her father and took in everything eerily as if this would be the last time she’d ever see the place.
She closed her eyes and thought of Ada who would be in school and by her side. The thought of Ada brought a smile to her face and made her very comfortable. Although she knew she couldn’t confide in Ada, Leila knew the solution to any problem she’d ever have, would be Ada. She was determined to make their friendship stronger. She loved Ada a lot and felt strength in Ada. She closed her eyes and pictured the vision she had that first time Ada had spoken to her. It had being brief but clear. Since that time, two years ago, Leila saw the same vision every single time she was with Ada. It was of two new born babies in the arms of a woman she couldn’t place because her face was blurred. Twin babies; Leila and Ada.
There were things that she knew, that she couldn’t attach words to. The coming of Ada into her life intensified a lot of things. Leila doesn’t only see visions of when she and Ada were born. She saw many other scenes which she couldn’t explain, or who the people in them were because all the time, she never sees their faces. Never.
Ahmed Adamu watched the girls as they embraced and danced all over each other. He definitely didn’t fail to notice the resemblance between them. Though Leila wore braids that fell to one side of her face, the resemblance was still obvious. Leila had told him before they got to the school that she had a cousin from her mother’s side whom he will meet.
“Hi,” Ada smiled at Ahmed.
“Hi,” Ahmed smiled back, looking from one girl to the other. Ada was very full of life and he wondered if Leila was that way before her spirit was tamed with the marriage to his eldest brother.
Ada smiled. “I was actually whispering to Leila that you are very handsome.” She laughed at her own words.
Ahmed laughed with the girl with an American accent. “You’re very beautiful,” he said. “And, you look alike, the both of you,” he said, picking at his English. “You are not sisters really?”
“Nope,” Ada shook her head.
“Just cousins like I told you.” Leila put in and smiled at Ada who was surprised, then she nodded towards the skies. “He forgot to put us in the same womb after creation.”
“Anyway,” he braced up. “Nice meeting you Ada. Take care of Leila ok?” he smiled.
Ada watched him leave in the car and asked Leila who he was.
Leila was quiet for a while. “Nobody important,” she said quietly and met Ada’s eyes.
The Call of Ciri is Available on Okadabooks here and Smashwords here.
About the book
The Call of Ciri could only be ignored for as long as 'It' permitted. There was a set time for everything.
One woman’s mistake will cost three others their happiness.
Omah’s future was already written in stone until her father dared fate. Death hovered always around her loved ones.
Ada’s life was simple and beautiful until destiny threw her into the path of
Leila, who was tormented by her dreams and visions. Both bear an uncanny resemblance that was difficult to ignore and stirred deep secrets. While Ada wanted answers which her father couldn’t provide, Leila wanted the past to remain asleep but her actions were beyond her control and bound to hurt the people she loved.
Funmi; meant to be the new beginning, was the link that brought all these women together, thereby setting the dice rolling towards the end of their happiness.