“You’re a whore! You’ve set fire to the city… Your actions are worse than a fire during prayer.” These words from the young man still echoed in her ears. Her mind wasn’t accustomed to receiving such harsh language. The complexities of her life and the challenges that surrounded her had kept her from returning to the hidden world she had once entered. For the first time, she regretted stepping foot into that clandestine realm.

The secret world of the barracks!

It was a world her parents knew nothing about, a world hidden from her neighbors and friends. Even though she had entered it only days ago, she couldn’t easily let go. Most of the time, she concealed herself from prying eyes and played the role of an innocent, but in the barracks, she was someone entirely different. She could remember the first person who had known her as a woman, her boyfriend Rabi’u, whom she had trusted completely and given her love unconditionally. He had managed to tarnish her life, taking advantage of her naive greed, deceiving her with the gift of a gold chain for women worth fifty thousand. Finally, he made her hear the rumors and see the evidence of his infidelity. She had to let him go after he promised to buy her silence.

The second person she blamed for the downfall of her life was her best friend, Nusaiba. Nusaiba had introduced her to the evening trade.

“Ah well! What’s done is done,” Nusaiba said when Rabi’atu confided in her about her troubles. Her father’s wealth had crumbled, leaving her family in dire straits, especially in the evenings when loneliness surrounded them.

Nusaiba suggested a solution to Rabi’atu’s problems. “Oh Nusaiba! Can’t you see what Rabi’u Mangyal did to me? And now you’re proposing a path that’s no better?”

“You’re facing the same problems, Rabi’atu. Every time a solution presents itself, you hesitate, fearing the unknown. Tell me, do you know of any mature woman in this era, regardless of her age or marital status, who isn’t involved in this trade in some way? Even married women are compelled to join in. If a married woman commits a grave sin, whose authority is there to question her actions? Look at how your life has regressed. There’s no one to support you, and your dreams of education seem impossible. If you don’t address your problems now, how much longer can you hold on to your resolve? Will you let it slip away to someone else? What about the opportunities slipping through your fingers? Rabi’atu, come back from this world of confusion you’ve immersed yourself in, or find happiness in life. It’s only a temporary measure, and it’ll help you get by until things change. You won’t be stuck in this life forever.”

Rabi’atu listened in silence to her friend’s impassioned speech, reflecting on her once-privileged upbringing and the turmoil that had disrupted her family’s prosperity, leading to strained relations with their impoverished neighbors.

Rabi’atu had known little of life’s hardships in her early years, making it difficult for her to cope. Every time financial needs arose, she felt as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders, causing her to grasp for material possessions greedily. Her heart assured her that her family’s fortunes would eventually be restored, perhaps even through her own success, but no signs of improvement were in sight. Initially, she believed this would happen after she completed her education and secured a good job. However, time had passed, and her studies remained incomplete.

So, when Nusaiba offered her advice, she hesitated but ultimately agreed. She thought to herself, “Nusaiba is right, and even if I’m handed a sword, I’ll need to wield it. Let’s give it a try. But it’ll only be temporary; once I finish my studies…”

Nusaiba interrupted her thoughts, saying, “What are you pondering, Rabi’atu? You’ve got a problem on your hands.” Nusaiba picked up her bag. “I’m leaving. If you’re going to hesitate, I’ll go.”

Rabi’atu quickly held her back. “Don’t go. How do you think this should be executed?”

“Don’t you go to school every evening?” Nusaiba asked.

“Do you mean we should go from school?”

“Oops! You still don’t grasp the plan very well. You’ll pretend to be heading to school as usual. Once you leave, call me, and I’ll tell you where to meet. The rest of the details are as easy as drinking water.”

And so, Nusaiba convinced her friend, and they embarked on a venture they saw as profitable, a means to quench their thirst for both satisfaction and the necessities of life—money.

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