Chenille Thomas came from a small village in Toronto, Thornloe. She was working in The Grove, one of the big restaurants in the Ontario city as a waitress when she met Usman Ali.
She had been an only child to her parent whom she lost them in a fatal motor accident at the age of ten and ended up living with her paternal uncle. Her uncle tried to rape her when she was twelve after which she ended up in the orphanage. She left the home to be on her own when she was eighteen.
She got a job in the first restaurant she approached for a job and ended up sharing rooms with a colleague, Olivia Wilson who eventually become her friend. She was a 19-yr old, dark-haired girl with a striking look and a lush figure when they met.
Usman worked as an engineer with Nigeria Bottling Company, Kaduna branch. He was sent to Toronto for a six-month training program.
He went into town in the company of a black American friend, Derek on his second day in town. They walked into the restaurant café for a cup of steamy coffee and for a change of scenery from the hotel environment.
The first person he saw bussing the table was this incredibly pretty dark-haired, white girl who smiled at him. He returned the smile.
Chenille was greatly attracted to the tall, slim, Hausa Youngman. She couldn’t stop talking about him, long after he had left.
Fortunately, he came back the following day and asked her out. It turned into a sizzling affair between the two of them which lasted for the duration of the six months stay. He was the one who deflowered her.
A night of unprotected sex in the back of a rented cab after a whole day out resulted in a pregnancy which they both discovered when it was three months old. They decided to keep the baby.
Usman’s training period ended and he returned to Nigeria with his fiancée to the surprise of his family.
Chenille’s dream of happily-ever-after marriage ended abruptly when she met her hostile in-laws who made no attempt to hide their dismay, shock and dislike for their white daughter –in- law- to- be.
Not only did she have a different skin color from theirs, she was a non-believer who wore skimpy dresses without bothering to cover her head and didn’t understand their language. Usman tried to bridge the gap between his bride and his family by making sure she did everything they wanted.
Apart from the hostile family, the northern harsh weather was not a comfort to her white skin. The only happy spot in her life was her very supportive husband and the growing baby in her tummy.
After a brief stay in his family house which ended in a bitter row between the couple and his family, he got a new apartment in Kaduna city and moved his fiancée there.
She gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl in the federal medical center a few weeks later. Usman was moved to tears at the sheer beauty of his baby girl.
They were married formally and quietly in a court of law the same day their baby was named.
Fatihat Elizabeth Ali was six months old when her father came home one day to find out that his wife had disappeared mysteriously into thin air and had left his baby wailing her head off in the cot. He dropped his baby with his mother and went to report to the police. The search lasted for almost one year in which Usman’s hope of ever seeing his wife dwindled.
His anger and hurt at her disappearance festered every day which he took out on his toddler daughter. He reduced the frequency with which he visited his daughter at his family home and eventually stopped visiting when he started dating another lady.
Amina Mohammed was the daughter of his father’s best friend. Her family was from Zaria. They met at his immediate sister’s Nikka ceremony and started dating to his family‘s delight. Usman got married again when fatihat was three years old and he took her back.
Fatihat was the combination of her parent’s best physical traits. She was a walking temptation by the time she was old enough to walk on her two feet.
Her father’s family regarded her as a curse which was why she was so beautiful with her ever curling dark hair and treated her like one. She was maltreated and neglected until her father came to take her back, then her real nightmare began.
Amina settled into her husband’s home as a full housewife and turned her step-daughter into her personal housemaid.
Fatihat started doing household chores immediately she was old enough to walk and understand whatever instruction was given to her.
Her father enrolled her in a government primary school while her immediate younger siblings started in an exclusive private crèche.
She hawked wares for her stepmother whenever she comes back from school. She took care of everybody in the house except herself. Most times, she was the last person to go to bed at night and the first to wake up in the morning. Her study time was limited to her school time.
She was an exceptional student in school; she did well in both her academic and out-doors activities. Her numerous awards were tucked away in the privacy of her room from the prying eyes of her step-mum and hostile uncles and Aunts.
Amina suggested in a subtle way to her husband to get Fatihat betrothed to a man as soon as she finished her primary education. Usman agreed but when he saw the result of her entrance examination, he changed his mind and enrolled her in secondary school.
However, destiny had another plan for her because her father died when she was fourteen years old.
It was a cold Saturday morning. The harmattan was blowing fiercely. Amina just puts to bed her fifth child. She was alone at home with the kids because her husband has traveled to Abuja on a business trip.
Fatihat was scrubbing the kitchen floor while her siblings were watching cartoons on kiddies’ network when she saw a police car drove into their compound, closely followed by an ambulance.
She dropped what she was doing and went to peep through the kitchen window in time to see a police officer walked up to their door.
Amina opened the door on the second knock and stared at the uniformed policeman, truly puzzled.
“Good morning, madam. I’m inspector Adam Abdullah. Can I talk to Mrs. Aminat Ali?”The man greeted with a polite smile.
“I’m Amina Ali. How can I help you?” She asked in a trembling voice.
“I’m sorry madam but is there any other adult in the house, probably a man?” He asked uncertainly.
“I’m the only adult in the house except for the kids. Please tell me what happened to my husband. It is him, isn’t it?” She pleaded, wriggling her hands. She tried not to glance beyond him at the waiting ambulance.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but your husband was involved in a fatal car accident on his way from the airport. His car had a head-on collision with a coming tanker driver and he died on the spot.” He told her solemnly. She screamed in agony.
Fatihat stood at the window as the remains of her father’s mangled body were brought out of the car and washed and wrapped properly. She watched as his janazat prayer was observed on him and he was laid in his final resting place.
She watched as their friends and relations trooped in and out of their house to console them and not even one person asked about her or how she felt.
It was as if she doesn’t even exist in the household, she thought miserably, feeling chilled to the bone because the only person that cared, no matter how little had just left her in the world to face its cruelty alone. She knew it was time for her to make another choice. Her education has come to a sudden standstill and she needed to think of another way of survival right now.
Madam Kofoworola Akinola lived down the street from Ali’s house. She was a divorcee and her children resided mostly with her ex-husband abroad, so she was almost always alone in the house except for her house helps.
Most of the elites in the society were on her client’s list as she supplied them with house helps whenever they needed one.
She was having a late-night dinner one evening when her doorbell rang. She went to open the door by herself as she had dismissed her house-maid for the night.
“Who is it?” She asked cautiously a few feet from the door.
“This is Zainab, madam. I came to introduce the girl I told you about ma’am. ”A feminine voice answered. Zainab was a house girl in one of the neighborhood houses and it was Kofo who introduced her to her employers.
She opened the door and the girl walked in, closely followed by fatihat Ali. She let in both girls and flagged them to a seat. She sat opposite them and studied the younger girl, clad in a faded Ankara blouse and skirt with a head tie covering her head.
“How are you, fatihat? Please accept my condolence on your father’s death. May His soul rest in peace” Kofo addressed her in sympathy.
“Thank you, ma’am.” She bowed her head and studied her feet.
“So how may I be of assistance to you, girls?” She addressed them both now, looking from one to the other.
“Do you remember that you told me if I find anybody willing to work for your friend in Lagos, I should let you know? Fati wants to go.’ Zainab nudged the other girl in the rib.
“Fatihat, you want to go and work in Lagos? Are you aware it is far away from home?” Kofo’s voice echoed with surprise. She was well aware that their tribe does not mingle with Yoruba.
“I no longer have a home. I can work in any part of the country as long as I will be allowed to school as well.” Fatihat stated with a boldness which surprised the woman, meeting her direct gaze.
“It seems as if you’ve already made up your mind about this but you have to assure me that you won’t allow your schooling to affect your chores in the house.”Kofo warned her.
“That is not a problem, Madam, it won’t.” She smiled shyly at her.
“I think that is settled. Be ready to leave by 8 am on Sunday morning. I hope you are aware of the way your salary will be paid?”Kofo raised an eyebrow.
“It is okay by me. Zainab explained everything to me. Thank you very much. You just saved my life.”Fatihat went on her knees. The woman got to her feet to raise her up.
“You are welcome, Fatihat. You girls should start going. It is late already.”Kofo glanced at the wall clock. It was an hour to midnight.
“Goodnight ma.”They chorused as they filed out. She locked the door behind them.
On Saturday evening, the last thing fatihat did was to pack her things and dropped it with a neighbor.
She woke up unusually early on Sunday morning, did all her regular morning chores, took her bath and was dressed to leave by the time Amina woke up.
“Where are you going?”Amina asked sharply, taking in the fact that she was dressed to go out.
“I want to get something down the street. I will be right back.” She fidgeted nervously.
“Postpone whatever it is you want to get. Go and washed those soaked baby clothes I have in the bathroom.”Aminat ordered briskly.
Fatihat glanced at the wall clock. It was ten minutes to eight already.
“I’m sorry, ma. I need to go right now.” she insisted firmly, edging past her. It was the first time she had ever rebelled against her step-mother. Amina swirled round in shock.
“Did I hear you right?”Aminat stared at her in shock as she headed for the door.
“You heard me quite right ma.”She moved on very fast in case her step-mum decides to strike her which wouldn’t be the first time.
“Please don’t bother to come back to this house because if you do, I will teach you a lesson you will never forget in your whole miserable life.”Aminat threatened her, shaking with rage.
Fatihat turned around when she got to the door of their sitting room and looked her squarely in the eyes.
“When next we meet, Aunt Amina, you will be shocked because by then you will be willing to end your miserable life. This is just the beginning of it by the way.”Fatihat informed her and walked out.
Amina sputtered with rage and remained furious for the rest of the day but it was the last she saw of Fatihat Ali in years.
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