Her attempts to focus on her studies were futile as her thoughts remained fixated on the disturbing situation unfolding in their home between her father and sister. She couldn’t block out the sounds of her father, Khadeeja’s screams, and the heated argument echoing from the middle of their house.

Desperate to escape the turmoil, she covered her ears with her fingers, attempting to muffle the sound. She overheard her father, amidst the commotion, reproaching her sister Khadeeja, saying, “By God, I’ve never seen a more stubborn child like you. You disrespect me. Do you think you’re too good for your sister’s son?”

Khadeeja retorted defiantly, “I don’t love him, and I won’t marry him, I swear by God!” Surprisingly, her father refrained from further physical aggression.

This was a frequent occurrence in their household, a relentless tug-of-war between her father’s insistence on Khadeeja marrying her cousin and her sister’s unwavering refusal. She often wondered how Khadeeja endured it all. Her father was a formidable man, feared not only by his own children but also by the neighborhood children. Whenever he encountered a helpless child, he would reprimand them mercilessly. Khadeeja had always been terrified of him, especially when she used to hang around his room. However, her fear seemed to have dissipated lately; she didn’t seem to care about the beatings, the forced marriage, or even being kept indoors and away from school. She showed no interest in the clothes their mother provided, wearing only what was necessary.

With a heavy heart, she rose and approached the room’s door, lifting the curtain. She saw her father bent over, securing her sister to the bed, while Khadeeja cried out in pain. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she stifled a sob. Her mother knelt beside Khadeeja, her own tears mixing with her daughter’s. She felt a deep sympathy for her sister, who had been pregnant and in pain due to the daily suffering.

She couldn’t hold back any longer and wept silently. Her mother called her, breaking her reverie. She rushed to her mother’s room to join her in prayer.

The following day, as Fateema prepared for school, her thoughts were still on Khadeeja, who lay beneath a blanket, clearly suffering from cold and fever. The chilly weather of Jos during the early part of the twelfth month had taken its toll. Khadeeja’s neck felt hot while her body shivered with cold. Fateema wondered how her mother managed to keep her composure amidst her father’s mistreatment of Khadeeja. 

She finished dressing for school in a blue knee-length skirt, a white shirt, a blue waistcoat, long white socks pulled up to her knees, short socks underneath, leather sandals, and a white hijab. As she stepped out of her room, she overheard her sister Khadeeja and her friend, Charity, exchanging greetings with their mother in their native Brom language before heading to school.

Charity remarked, “Is your father still adamant about Khadeeja?” Without waiting for a response, she continued, “You’re not Hausa; you don’t understand. Besides, he’s a man, and it’s his decision, but he needs to consider Khadeeja’s future. She’s only 17, in SS2. He should think this through; it’s not fair.” Fateema couldn’t help but ponder how she could help her sister in this challenging situation.

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