Jabeer trailed behind them, unfamiliar with their identities until they reached their home. Pausing to examine the house from the car, he couldn’t help but wonder if there were any similar houses in Abuja. Even from a distance, it was evident that the owners of the house were struggling. The dilapidated walls and the impact of years of rainfall had taken a toll on the structure. The house lacked proper security, with a wall on one side that seemed to serve as nighttime protection.

In essence, the house was quite small. Jabeer sighed after his inspection and realized that if he hadn’t followed her, he would have never guessed that she lived there. What surprised him most was her refusal of his help, despite living in such conditions.

Exiting the car, he decided to approach the house. Scanning the surroundings for signs of life inside, his eyes fell on a young boy holding a bowl of soup. The boy’s face was smeared with it, and his attire appeared to have been stolen and worn for a while.

Taking his eyes off the boy’s face, Jabeer began to speak. “Excuse me, young man. I’m looking for Jaleelah’s house. Is this it?”

The boy responded, “Yes, this is her house. Do you need something?”

“Could you show me the way inside? I’d like to speak to her father if he’s here.”

The boy hesitated briefly and then asked, “How much will you pay me if I take you inside?”

Jabeer was taken aback by the boy’s demand. He couldn’t believe how this young boy was already conditioned to expect payment for everything.

“Never mind going inside. Just tell me where it is.”

The boy entered the house and, after a while, emerged with an elderly man who carried himself with dignity. They exchanged respectful greetings before the boy interjected with a request for payment.

“Master, you didn’t give me any money.”

The elderly man responded sternly, “What money will I give you? You still haven’t outgrown this habit of demanding money? A boy should not expect payment for everything. Now go away and leave us.”

As the boy departed with a displeased expression, the elderly man returned his attention to Jabeer.

“Boy, you haven’t told me why you’re here.”

Jabeer proceeded to explain, “I heard that Jaleelah, the girl who lives here, was hit by a car on the street. I suggested she go to the hospital for a check-up, and she seemed fine. So I came to see if she’s okay.”

“You mean Jaleelah? She just got back from school today and walked in empty-handed. No one knows what happened.”

Jabeer couldn’t hide his surprise upon hearing that she had lost everything on the way home but not inside her house. The elderly man consoled him, “Don’t worry about her; she’s used to it. She never tells me anything, but it’s nothing to worry about. Go on, I’ll check on her inside. Thank you for your concern. May God bless you.”

Jabeer insisted on giving the elderly man some money, but the man firmly declined, pushing Jabeer’s hand away.

“No, my son, don’t burden yourself with this. Just go; you needn’t give me anything.”

With that, Jabeer made his way back to his car, feeling grateful for the encounter. He marveled at the kindness of people like the elderly man, who had so little but were still willing to help others.

Glancing at the darkening sky, Jabeer realized that Hajiya Zeenah might have returned home by now. He had chosen not to tell her about the arranged marriage because he feared her reaction. He knew that her temper could be explosive, especially when it came to matters of his marriage. Thus, he hoped fervently that she had not returned yet.

However, upon arriving at Hajiya Zeenah’s department, he saw people gathered there, confirming her return.

“It’s over,” he muttered in dismay. As he exited the car and made his way to her department, he knew that the instructions given to him must be with her. He had not mentioned that his department was still undergoing repairs, and he saw no reason to return there anytime soon. It had only led to arguments with Hajiya Zeenah.

Maleekah met him in the living room, holding a plate of food, and then entered Hajiya’s room.

“I came to ask you,” Jabeer began.

Filled with trepidation, Maleekah looked at him, her face devoid of any happiness.

“When did Mom return, and where is she?”

“She returned about thirty minutes after we did. She’s in her room with the bride.”

“The bride? Does anyone know what she’s talking about?”

“Yes, Mom has gathered all the staff and informed them that you got married today. She’s been searching for you since you returned.”

Jabeer sighed heavily, hearing about his mother’s calculated actions once again. There was no doubt that she had done it intentionally because she knew about Lubna. He didn’t look at where Maleekah was going and headed straight for Hajiya Zeenah’s room.

As he stood before her, his head bowed and his eyes fixed on the ground, it was evident that the floor was in an unpleasant state. He took a seat on one of the chairs in the room and noticed a white woman sitting beside Hajiya Zeenah, a sign of a foreign presence.

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