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THE THIN LINE - CHAPTER ONE: THE PHONE CALL.

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

"THE PHONE CALL" 14/12/2023

A Hijabi girl walking away.
 

WARNING!

“This series and the characters in it are fictitious. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and specific other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law."

Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.

 

Mr. Usman finished marking the last test script for the day and put it away. He stretched and yawned. Outside the window, it was dark and quiet. It was 2 am on the dot. He had been marking papers for over three hours and was very tired.


The phone rang as he made to get up to bed. He went for the receiver lazily…wondering who it might be at this time of the night.


“Hello, Usman’s residence.” He spoke into the phone.


“Hello! Is that Usman?” A voice answered back from the other line. It was very faint, probably a distant call.


“Yes?” he answered, “who’s on the line, please?” he asked.


“Oh Usman….” The person sounded excited and emotional. “It’s me Abubakar calling from Kansas…”


“Abubakar!” he almost shouted. “Wow, what a pleasant surprise, long time brother.”


“Yeah, it’s been long. I cannot believe it is you… I miss you so much.”


“Oh, do you?” He asked with a little sarcasm. “Is that why you forgot about us for so long?”


“Oh, Usman. It is not like that. I tried calling you many times, but I never got you. So, I thought you changed your number.” He paused, then added, “I wasn’t sure I would even get you this time, but I am glad I did.”


“It’s ok, I am at fault too you know.” He giggled. “Actually, my problem is the cost; you know it’s costly, making international calls from here.”


“Yeah, I know. Anyway, how are you and everybody over there in Nigeria?”


“We are all fine. What about my son Ahmed?” He asked.


“Ahh! Ahmed is fine.” Mallam Abubakar answered. “Do you know that he is a doctor now? He just graduated from the university last month with a first-class degree.” He added proudly.


“Wow! That is great. But I thought he just got admitted into Med-school. When did he graduate?”


“You know here we spend less time in the university than they do over there in Nigeria.”


“Yes, I know. I would love to do my Ph.D. over there.” Mallam Usman said.


“Great idea,” Abubakar replied.


“So, Ahmed is a doctor huh? Say a big Congratulations to him for me o!” Said Usman, laughing.


“I will.” Mallam Abubakar replied.


“My Abba just graduated from the university. He read electrical engineering. And he is waiting to be posted for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps stuff.” Mallam Usman announced.


“That is great!” Said Mallam Abubakar. “What about Sameera? Is she married?” he asked.


“Ah. Girls nowadays don’t marry on time o. She is fine. In fact, she is also in the university studying political science.”


“Wow, that is great.” He paused a little. “And what about our wife?”


“Hadiza is fine. In fact, she is upstairs sleeping. She slept off waiting for me to come to bed. I am glad you called, if not, I wouldn’t know what excuse to give her. Do you know what time it is over here?” Mallam Usman asked.


“Nope.” Mallam Abubakar said, laughing.


“2 am. And I am still in the study. She is going to kill me.”


“Usman, you never change abi?”


“My brother, how I go do now?” Usman replied and they both laughed. “So, what about you? Have you gotten a wife for us yet?”


“Not yet.” He replied.


“Oh, come on, Habu. It’s been over twenty-five years. You cannot go on like this.”


“I know, Usman. But we will talk about this later, ok?”


“Why can’t we talk about it now?”


“Come on, Usman!”


“Ok. Fine.” He paused for a while before asking his friend what was really bothering him. “Habu, I hope everything is well with you over there?”


“Yes, everything is fine. It’s just that I have retired and will be coming home soon.”


“Really?” he asked in surprise. “You are really coming home?”


“Yes. I miss home. I want to come back and settle down at home.”


“Yes, I think that is a good idea. And we have missed you too. It’s been so long.”


“Yeah, it’s been 14 years. That is a long time, and I thought, with Ahmed graduating, its better we return home and settle down. Maybe he will get a job with ABU Teaching Hospital.” He paused and then added, “It will do him a lot of good to come back home and learn about his people. He is becoming too westernized for my liking.”


“I agree,” said Usman, knowing what Abubakar meant by that statement.


There was a little silence between them for a while, and then Abubakar said, “I was thinking, now that my son is old enough to take care of himself, I think I can afford to relax. I have also written a book you know,” he added.


“Well, I don’t know what to say. I mean it’s your choice.”


Abubakar understood what he meant. “Yes, I want to come back…” he paused, “I think I should come back now.”


“I am glad,” Usman said after a while. “It’s high time you came back home.”


“Yeah.”


“So, when should we expect you?” Usman asked him.


“I will come by next month, God willing. Probably by the 25th.


“Ok. We will be expecting you.”


“Can you get me a house? May be a three-bedroom flat. I will send down the money for it. “


“Of course, my brother, I will, in fact anything. But you know it may take some time.”

“No problem, we will stay in the hotel in the meantime.”


“Haba Habu, while I am alive and still in KD, I will not allow you to do that. You know you are always welcome in my house.”


“I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”


“Haba! You know my house is your house. What are friends for?”

“Thank you very much.”


“So, Habu what about the wife issue?” Usman inquired.


“Are we still talking about that?” Mallam Abubakar said.


“Yes. I want to know...”


“I guess this will be our first task by the time I get back home. So get your tact in place because you will be doing the searching…”, Mallam Abubakar replied jokingly.

“Don’t run away from this Habu.” Mr. Usman interjected.


“Bye. Say hi to my sweetheart.” Mallam Abubakr said and hung up.

The room was silent again.


Mallam Usman Gently placed the receiver back on the phone and began to think about his friend. Abubakar Aliu, his best friend. They were from the same neighborhood in Anguwan Dosa in Kaduna, Kaduna state. Their fathers were friends and lived next door. And since Usman and Abubakar were about the same age, naturally, they played together. Growing up, they were inseparable. They went to the same primary school, secondary school, and Polytechnic together. And finally, ended up becoming a lecturer at Kaduna Polytechnic.


While Usman's parents were from Zaria in Kaduna State. Abubakar’s Father was a Fulani man from Gongola State and his mother a Shuwa Arab from Chad. That combination earned him his stunning looks which he uses to his full advantage. He was a player to the fullest. Girls were tripping over each other just to get noticed by them. He was smooth, charming, and naughty armed with a great physique, a beautiful face, and a smile that could melt the most stubborn of hearts. He was a ladies' man. Yes, he knew how to get the ladies. He knew just what to say to a girl at the right time that would make her fall for him in an instant. Because of that, he can afford to change girlfriends the way he changes his shirts. All he needs to do is smile at a girl, and the next thing you know, she is drooling all over him. He was also smart and very intelligent. And that is why it wasn’t surprising that he ended up as a lecturer. Some people seem to have it all made.


After graduation, they both got jobs as lecturers at the Polytechnic at the same time and in the same department. Of course, there were a lot of girls in the school. And Abubakar continued his playing, until the day he suddenly, without any warning, fell head over heels in love with one of his students called Binta. Now, Usman always thought that the girl Abubakar would fall in love with, if that was even possible, would be some extraordinary kind of girl. She must be more beautiful than a mermaid and must have a lot of class. She should also be brainy and probably from a very wealthy family. A character that can be found only in novels. But Binta was just an ordinary shy girl. She was neither extraordinary nor from a rich family. A typical girl next door. But somehow, she manages to bring his friend down to his knees.

Abubakar was crazy about her. And just after six months of courtship, he decided to tie the knot with her and make it official. She introduced her own cousin, Hadiza to Usman. And as if by plan, they also fell in love. So, they all decided to get married at the same time, thereby making their friendship even stronger.


Their wives got pregnant at the same time. Almost as if they planned it. Maybe they did. Hadiza was the first to give birth to a bouncing baby boy which she named after her Husband, as it is with the Hausa custom. So, they call him Abba as a sign of respect. A week later, Binta also gave birth to a baby boy which they later named Ahmed. But, she had some complications at birth and died.


Abubakar was devastated. A part of him died along with his wife and he knows he will never recover from it. Usman did his best to help his friend. His wife, Hadiza helped take care of Ahmed while he tried his best to get his friend to marry again, but with no success. Ten years later, he was still not married. His friends were worried. It is not ideal in the Hausa culture for a man to stay unmarried, especially if he was once married. As the years went by, they tried to fix him up with girls. His parents and relatives were also not left out of the matchmaking game. All their efforts did not yield any positive results. When his son Ahmed was 12 years old, he applied for a postgraduate degree and a lecturing job abroad and he got both. Therefore, he took his son and left. That was 14 years ago. They had been communicating on the phone for a while, but two years ago they suddenly stopped. He was a bit worried about him, but he was glad that everything was fine. More so now that he is coming home.


“That is a good sign,” thought Usman. He looked up at the wall clock. The short arm was on two while the long arm was on forty-seven.


“Oh my God…I!” he said silently as he realized how late it was, “Hadiza is going to kill me.” He quickly got up and went upstairs.


He opened the bedroom door gently, revealing his wife subtly lying on the king-size bed, beautifully wrapped in a pink nightgown, the lights exposing her smooth skin under the silky gown. “She still looks fresh…and sweet… twenty-six years after…”. Suddenly it came to him; the date rang in his head. It was their wedding anniversary.

“Damn!” he swore silently to himself. “She will never forgive me for this.” She looked so innocent now that she was asleep, but he dreads her trouble. He changed into his pajamas, slipped quietly beside her into the bed, and turned off the bedside lamp.


The beautiful Saharan sun was already up and high in the sky by the time Usman woke up. The window was left wide open and the sun rays were slowly basking his face. A revenge move by Hadiza, perhaps. He checked the bedside clock and it was 8:30 am. He will definitely be late for work. But then, as the head of the department, he was invincible. Memories of the previous night came flooding back to him at once. So he jumped off the bed and headed down towards the kitchen to give his wife the good news.


As he approached the kitchen, he could perceive the delicious smell of Masa, his favorite, and the aroma of Coffee. He stopped at the door and peeped in. His wife was moving up and down the kitchen in a familiar pattern of making breakfast.


“Hey, pretty woman. Happy Anniversary sweetheart, what are you cooking?” he sang and walked in with a little dance. She did not answer. So he walked to her and gave her a peck on the cheek.


“Good morning sweetie.” He said again.


“Up already?” she asked without looking back. Obviously, she was angry.


“Come on honey, give me a break. I had to stay up to mark all those papers.” He said, turning her round to face him and lowering the stove. “You know I wasted time and I have to submit the results today.” He added trying to make her see things from his own point of view.


“Mhm, another excuse for sleeping off in your study again. Maybe you should just move in there.”


“Hey, I am sorry. I will make it up to you, ok?” He planted a kiss on her lips, and she smiled.


“It was our anniversary.” She said, obviously very unhappy.


“I know. I am really sorry about that.”


“Ok, last warning.”She said.


“I have news that will make you smile.”


“I wonder what that would be.” She said, turning round to continue frying.


“Guess.”


“No, I can’t…” she started, then with a mischievous smile on her face, she said, “You are going to quit your job and pay more attention to me.”


“I will work on that. But another guess.”


“The head of state gave you a call last night.”


“Close, but it was somebody better than Mr. President.”


“Wow, who is that?” she now seemed interested.


“I’ll give you three guesses.” He said going to sit at the kitchen dining table.


“Oh, come-on!”


“Ok, it’s Abubakar Aliu, from the U.S.”


“Who?” she asked then she remembered, “Oh, Baba Ahmed!” She said excitedly. “Really? How is he? How is Ahmed?”


“Oh, they are fine. He told me that they would be coming back home permanently. Can you believe it?”


“Haba! When?”


“Sometime next month, I think.”


“Oh, I can’t wait to see my son Ahmed. He must be all grown up by now.” She said, going over to serve him a plate of Masa.


“He just graduated from medical school. He is now a doctor.”


“Ahh! My son is a doctor. Wow! I am so happy for him.” She paused and seemed to think for a while. “But wait, how come? They were in the same class with Abba, and he just graduated.”


“I know. Their educational system over there is wonderful. I am impressed by the speed and efficiency. Plus there are no strikes over there.”


“Yeah. I love strikes. That is the only time I get to see you.” She said.


“Honey!” Mallam Usman protested.


“It’s true now. At least strikes would keep you home for me.” She replied. “But wait, you said they will be coming home?”


“Yes, and it's final. He has retired and with Ahmed now a doctor, he can afford to come home and relax.”


“ Nmhmn, I think he is doing the right thing.” She said.


“I think it will even do the boy some good if he comes home to Nigeria. He doesn’t know his people at all.”


“Yes. I think so too.” They were silent for a while. Then Abba walked in.


“Good morning folks.” He said, going to kiss his mum.


“Good morning to you too baby.” Answered Hadiza.


“Waz up pops. He said to his dad.


“Yesterday it was yo! Today it is Waz up?


“Come on Dad, lighten up! You got to be part of the 21st century.”


“Abba!” Hadiza cuts in. “Apologize and greet your dad properly.”


“Sorry dad, Good morning.” He apologized. “But you have to come along into the new millennium o!” he said suckling.


Mr. Usman smiled and nodded his head.


“Guess what baby?” began Hadiza as her son joined his father on the dining table.


“Your friend Ahmed and his dad will be coming home next month.”


“Wow! That’s great.” He exclaimed.


“Yeah, I was telling your father the same thing.”


“I wonder what Ahmed looks like now.” He said looking up at the ceiling.


“Can you believe he is now a doctor?”


“Ehen? A doctor?”


“Yes, a doctor. Answered his father.


“Yes, and I have not even served. Damn!”


“Noo, nooo, Abba. No swearing." Said his mother.


“Sorry mum, but do you think it's fair?” Abba started again and continued, turning to his father. “Dad, why didn’t you people send me to the US too..? I would have been a Masters Degree holder by now.”


“Oh Oohh, hard luck. You got the wrong dad..” His father returned jokingly.


“Anyway,” Hadiza began, “We have to start preparing to receive them or are they not going to stay here?”


“They are! I have discussed it with him. He told me to look for a place for him, but in the meantime, let them stay in here. This will even give us the time to get to make up for the lost years.”


“That’s ok. There is enough room here. He can take the guest room while Ahmed will share Abba’s room, you don’t mind do you dear?” she turned round to ask her son.


“No, I think it will be wonderful to have him in my room. It will give us the opportunity to catch up on old times.”


“Nmhn, and to do all sorts of mischievous things together too,” added his mum.


“No mum, you know I am a.”


“Tell me something I don’t know.” She said and they all burst out laughing.


 

Later that morning, as Mr. Usman drove to work he stopped at the post office to pick up his mail. And just as he expected, one was from his daughter Sameera.

“Needing money, I am sure!” he thought aloud. He just sent her N5000 two weeks ago and he is sure that she wants more. Girls, how they spend baffles him. Makeup, clothes, toys, snacks, and all sorts of rubbish. Anyway, if he did not give her, he is sure she is going to find other means of getting it, and he does not want that. He dropped them on the dashboard and drove towards the school.


[End of Chapter One]

 

Thank you for reading Chapter One of The Thin Line. If you enjoy it, please leave me a like, comment below and subscribe to my website. You can read chapter two below:


 
 

 

 

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