“Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” Baba Talatu uttered, her gaze fixed on Saddiqa, who stood to the side, her eyes brimming with tears. “Quickly, fetch some water,” she instructed, and with haste, Saddiqa hurried out of the room, encountering Baba Malam and his elder son, Alhaji Magaji, on her way.

Baba Malam addressed Saddiqa, noting, “You’re still crying, as though you wish to prevent Halima from resting peacefully in her grave.” Saddiqa shook her head, attempting to contain her tears. “Baba Malam, we’ve stopped crying. When she fainted, it was Baba Talatu who fetched water,” she clarified. Upon hearing this, Baba Malam and Alhaji Magaji swiftly entered the room, while Saddiqa rushed to get a cup of water and re-entered the room with it.

Baba Malam knelt beside Naja’atu, praying for her, before taking water and sprinkling it on her face. Baba Talatu, meanwhile, wiped away her own tears, her head shaking slightly. The teacher had to sprinkle water on her thrice before she let out a deep sigh. Her eyelids fluttered, and she quickly sat up, scanning her surroundings.

Baba Talatu took hold of her hand and said, “Naja’atu, I’m sorry, don’t distress yourself.” Naja’atu erupted, covering her ears with her hands, her body convulsing. “Baba Talatu, your ears can’t endure such words!” she exclaimed. “Where does it say that a father marries his own daughter? Are Baba, the teacher, and even my own father all ignorant of religion…?” Before she could finish, Alhaji Magaji struck her, urging her to remain composed and listen to the explanation.

Fuming, Naja’atu rose as if preparing to raise her voice. “Baba Magaji, I won’t tolerate this, I’ll calm down, but I am not an unbeliever. By God, I’d rather die than be married off to my father. Have you not heard that his name is Abban Naja’atu?” she challenged. “Yes, his name is, but you’re to marry him,” Alhaji Magaji retorted. “I’ll take this matter to the Hisbah!”

Baba Malam wiped tears from his eyes, taking her hand and pleading, “Auta, sit down. Let me clarify things for you.” She pushed his arms away, attempting to pass by. Alhaji Magaji moved to block her, insisting, “You won’t listen to reason, will you?” Firmly gripping her, he said, “Abba Magaji, observe this situation carefully! She’s just a child. Since our mother’s passing, they’ve spoken of marrying me to my father. What kind of life is this?!”

A hush fell over the room for three minutes, an air of tension enveloping everyone, particularly Naja’atu, who felt a foreboding sense of uncertainty. Abba Magaji’s revelation that Abba Abbas wasn’t her father left her unsettled, struggling to find the right words. She wept, glancing at Baba Malam, who bowed his head, wiping sweat from his brow. “Father, do you want me to die too? Do you want to lose me like you lost my mother? My heart is failing under this calamity, the one you’ve thrown me into. Baba Magaji claims my father isn’t my real father; then tell me, who gave birth to me?” she implored, her voice quivering.

Baba Malam raised his head, meeting her gaze with sincerity. “Naja’atu, I am your father. I brought you into this world. Alhaji Abbas is your foster father and the husband of your sister, Halimatu.” Naja’atu shook her head, tears streaming down her face. Calmly, she declared, “Father, have you done this? Have you played with my mind? I refuse to believe you are my father. Abba Abbas is my father. I’ve known him since I was born, and I want him to marry me to the man of my choosing!”

An irate Abba Magaji was about to interject, but Baba Malam raised his hand, silencing him. “Don’t shout at her or scold her. She’s anxious, understandably so. Death has brought us to this juncture. Halimatu’s son is alive, and Naja’atu will continue living as his sister, despite being her younger sibling.”

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