Ilham was completely unaware that today would mark the departure of her husband, Ma’aruf, from their world.

The day began just like any other. Ma’aruf headed to the mosque to offer his morning prayers. Upon his return, Ilham noticed his hurried efforts to gather his work documents and pack his bag. Before she could inquire about his plans, he informed her of his sudden need to return to Katsina, where he was employed.

“Yesterday, you didn’t come back, and today is Saturday. You can leave tomorrow morning,” she suggested.

Ma’aruf halted in his tracks without turning to face Ilham. “The manager called me urgently,” he explained. “He insisted that I return to Katsina right away.”

Ilham’s heart sank. These unplanned work emergencies often forced her husband to leave them behind and return to Katsina, where he worked for the National Electricity Board. He held a key administrative position there as the regional manager in the city. Typically, he spent four days a week in Katsina and then returned to Malumfashi, where his family resided. Ilham and their two children, Khairat and Aiman, could only spend three days a week with him.

Those three days, when Ma’aruf reunited with his family, were cherished moments for Ilham. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays were eagerly awaited.

“Please, Friday, come quickly,” she would silently wish, knowing that it was the day Ma’aruf would return home, bringing joy and laughter to their household. Their happiness would, unfortunately, give way to sadness when he had to leave on Monday mornings.

“Oh, dear God, don’t let Monday arrive so soon,” she’d lament.

As Ma’aruf prepared to depart, Ilham took Khairat’s hand, their eldest daughter, who was four years old, and carried Aiman on her shoulder. They would see off their beloved Abba, as they affectionately called their father, even as he parked his car in the front yard.

“Tell them you’ll be back soon,” she’d request of Ma’aruf.

He would lovingly reassure them one by one, preventing their tears as he got into the car and drove away.

Today, Ilham was ill-prepared for Ma’aruf’s sudden departure. She had assumed he would stay for his usual three days this week and return on Monday, so his quick return on Saturday was unexpected.

As Ma’aruf finished packing his bag with the necessary documents and car keys, he turned to leave. He hadn’t anticipated that Ilham would smile or offer to carry his bag or hold his hand for a goodbye. He didn’t expect that they would part today – he laughed while she couldn’t find a smile. He knew that she lacked the strength to endure their separation, so she clung to him in her heart.

He knew that if he left, she would be confined to their room. Even if she ventured to the backyard where they had plants, she’d be sitting alone on the couch. Ilham’s day would be spent in worry because she hadn’t anticipated this urgent trip and wouldn’t see Ma’aruf until the early morning hours.

Facing her, Ma’aruf tried to comfort her, saying, “Be patient, Maman Aiman. I don’t know why the manager urgently summoned me, but I hope it’s a brief task. I’ll be back in the evening, God willing. It’s better than being away for five hours.”

Ma’aruf chuckled when he saw how deeply Ilham was affected. She didn’t want him to leave; she didn’t want to be separated from him. Their love was strong, and the parting was painful. Ilham remained silent. She couldn’t tell him that she didn’t mind because it would be a lie.

Finally, Ma’aruf departed, quickly making his way to his car. Ilham stood at the door, watching him intently. It was then that Khairat emerged from the bedroom, calling out for her mother, Ilham.

Ilham poked her head outside, and Khairat clung to her, both mother and daughter gazing at Ma’aruf. He turned to look at them from his car and raised his hands in farewell. Ilham released her grip slightly, allowing Khairat to touch her father’s hand. Khairat was in her nightgown, her head covered with a thick scarf.

Together, they stood there, knowing that from that day onward, they wouldn’t be together. Ma’aruf wouldn’t see them again until…

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