The first time I burnt something in my father’s house was the day I knew that my life as a female was doomed.
I had read in a novel that hell hath no fury as a woman scorned, oh boy, they knew nothing about a hungry factory worker.
My mother had put on my father’s plantains and had asked me to watch it while she nursed my younger brother Nas’r. I say my father’s plantains because my father loved plantains and unless he offered you some, you weren’t allowed to eat any, EVER!
Back to the plantain burning incident; my friend Hawa, had a fresh batch of those M&B novels, and had snuck one through the hole in the fence for me.
I sat wide-eyed as the man in the novel, tore off the lady’s evening wear to reveal…
“Allahu Akbar!”My mother exclaimed at the smoke emanating from the kitchen.
My eyes really had cause to be open.
“Oh Mama!”I clasped my hands on my head and ran helter-skelter, like a chicken without its head.
In my fright and panic, I’d dumped the novel on the floor without a second thought.
“Oh Moria!” her hijab floating like a cloud behind her.
She lifted the smoking pot and ran with it to the back of the house.
I clasped my hands on my head; I just had to burn the plantains.
As if fate would have it, I heard my father’s keys jingle as he turned the lock on the door.
I quickly chanted La Ilaha Illa Allah, as he approached the kitchen area.
My mouth was so dry; it could have started a fire.
He grabbed her arm harshly and dragged her into their bedroom.
I shook in fear, as the screams and wails emanated from the bedroom.
La Ilaha Illa Allah, I was screaming it now, the sweat soaking my little chemise.
My father appeared from nowhere, grabbing my arm.
“You burnt food in my house.”
“Oh papa, I didn’t mean to. I swear!”
“What were you doing? What was so important?” he shoved me across the hallway.
I stuttered, thinking of a suitable excuse.
As he stormed towards me, his foot grazed an object, lying carelessly on the floor.
My father stopped, stooped and picked it up.
It was in that very moment, when he lifted the book into the light, that my life ended.
Johua’s Vixen, was the name of the novel and on the cover was Joshua, with his long untamed hair and gorgeous body.
My father stared at the book and then at me.
My mother slowly limped out of the bedroom, blood dripping from her bleeding lips.
I was vibrating now.
“Is this what your daughter is reading?”
“In my house?” he bellowed.
I knew better than to attempt to defend myself. My father would have skinned me alive there and then if I as much as coughed.
“Amina, I give you three days to prepare her for marriage. Three days!”
He threw the book at her head and stormed out of the house.
After what seemed to be eternity, she limped towards the novel and picked it up.
“Moria, where did you get this book from?”She gasped at the cover.
My tongue lost its ability to form words.
“Mene na wannan, Moria? What is this? ”
Nas’r began to scream in the room nearby.
“I need to feed your brother.” She flung the book at me.
“Moria, I have worked hard to keep you away from marriage, but evidently your curiosity has sent to where you need to be.” She added, faintly above a whisper.
I watched the cloud of fabric flow after her.
There was no point to sobbing or wailing.
Two of my friends had since been married off; in fact one had just had a baby. Both were additional wives to a string the men already had.
I grabbed the novel and quietly snuck into my room.
My father did not return that night, or for the rest of the month.
He had nine wives and my mother was the seventh; when any ‘misbehaved’ he simply bumped them off and moved on to the next.
*Anyone who would like to continue this story, may freely do so, I’d love to see where you’ll take it! Please call it Moria’s Diary, so I can read it too!