‘Owolabi, where are you?’ The voice at the other end of the receiver asked. ‘I’m at the motor park’, replied Naira. ‘Where are you going?’ The voice queried again. Naira thought about the question for a moment. Should she reply the question with another one like most Nigerians do or should she give a sound reply. She opted for the latter. ‘I am going home’ she said, ‘and by the way my name is Naira and not Owolabi’ she continued. The voice at the other end of the line giggled and said ‘I was waiting for you to say that, fi amanillah cash madam’. Naira smiled as she bade her friend goodbye on the phone. She took a seat by the window which was at the penultimate row. It was her favorite spot whenever she travelled . She liked it because there was room for her to put her bags and avoid the ostracized ‘Owo eru’ collected by the ‘agberos’ at the park. Transport fares had sky rocketed since the removal of the infamous fuel subsidy and Naira was not ready to pay any extra fee. Moreover she could at least avoid any body contact to one of her sides if she sat by the window. She would feel so uncomfortable if she was sandwiched in the middle but gone where the days of being sandwiched while one was traveling. Presently each row occupied three passengers. She hoped a female will sit beside her. There were still about six people left for the bus to be ready to move. Naira reached for her bag which was by her side and brought out a copy of the book ‘citadel of a believer’. She read the supplications for traveling. As she closed the booklet she reflected on the phone call she got earlier. It was Zahira, her classmate that had called. She often called her ‘twin sister’ because their names had similar meanings-shining. Zahira often called her Owolabi or Cash madam, the former meant -‘it is money we gave birth to in the Yoruba language. Though Naira’s name meant shining, it was also the name of Nigeria’s currency. Little wonder Zahira called her names relating to money.
‘Where are you going?’ Naira thought about the question again. She recalled her conversation with her roomie, Nabila some nights ago when she informed her she was going home. Her roommate had suggested she stay back in school. Naira’s roommate, Nabila said she was going to continue attending Madrasah during the break. Naira tried to convince her to go home but it was to no avail. It was obvious they were not on the same page. She understood why her friend did not really want to go home. Home was not where her heart was anymore. Nabila’s heart was in school where she felt at home, where she could be herself. She had faced resistant from her parents when they saw how serious she was becoming with her deen. The thoughts of home didn’t bring back happy memories it only reminded her of pain. Naira understood her roomie’s condition well. It was not as if she was having it easy in her own home too. Her Dad had started to suspect that she was becoming a better Muslimah. He had often paused whenever he called and asked where she was. Her Dad often called when she was attending Madrasah or attending Halqo in the mosque and she dare not tell him a lie. He would pause for a moment when she told him she was in the mosque and then talk about something else. She knew what the pause meant. She hoped things would be okay at home. As long as her grades did not drop, they would not restrain her otherwise she would be giving her parents an excuse to discourage her from attending circles of knowledge, to make her a better Muslimah. She hoped she would do excellently well in the just concluded exams.
‘But you’ll have to go home someday’, Naira said
‘I know but I won’t stay long at home, Marriage would save me’ Nabila alleged.
‘Marriage would save you, so they’ve started proposing eh?’ Naira queried, looking excited as she got down from the top bunk to take a seat by her roommate who was on the lower bunk.
‘Nobody is proposing, so don’t get thrilled’, came Nabila’s reply.
‘hmmmn are you sure roomie?’ Naira persisted, tickling her friend. Nabila chuckled and nodded her head. Naira decided to let her be. If there was any potential husband she would be the first to know. That was certain.
‘But seriously what if Marriage does not save you?’ Naira probed, looking staid.
Nabila looked at her roommate puzzled.
‘I mean what if marriage didn’t happen soon enough or worse…’ Naira continued and then paused.
‘or worse…?’ Nabila queried. Naira did not want to say it but she knew Nabila would not let it pass so there was no use trying.
‘Sometimes we think something would make things better for us but then it only makes things worse’.
Naira said looking fretful. Her mind wondered to her elder sister who was married for about a year. She had also thought marriage would save her. Her sister had gone through the same challenges Nabila was going through that was why her Parents did not give her much trouble like Nabila’s. Her elder sister had made that sacrifice for her. Back then, any time her sister came home, there would always be dispute and now her sister was married things didn’t seem any better. Her husband was something else. He wanted her to pull off the hijab and look trendy. He often told her she was an embarrassment and he could not show her off to his colleagues at work. She could not blame her sister though. The fact that there was nowhere to call home made her sister ‘jump’ into marriage without acumen. Naira did not want to make the same mistake, she wanted to make home worth returning to. Naira looked at her friend apprehensively. Why did Nabila want to take the same path her sister took?
‘Must you be a pessimist, can’t you wish me well? ’ Nabila said irritably.
‘No, that’s not what I meant’, Naira tried to explain.
‘Abeg, leave my bed ’ came Nabila’s harsh words.
Naira knew her friend had misunderstood her. It was better to leave her now that she was furious. Maybe she would explain to her when she was calm. Tomorrow she would try to make her roommate understand. But she was wrong, Nabila had decided to avoid her and now she was on her way home and yet she had not made up with her roommate.
Naira checked her bag for the Mp3 car radio device she had bought. She intended to give it to her Dad. He liked listening to Music. She knew he would be pleased with it but for her the device would serve as a means of doing Dawah. She would copy some lectures on her Dad’s flash drive. She only hoped he would not skip the lectures and move on to Music when they came on. She was pleased that the device was safe in her bag. She looked at her watch. She had been waiting for over twenty minutes and the bus was not yet ready to move. Naira thought of Nabila. She did not feel happy at the fact that she was leaving for home and she was not in good terms with her roommate. It was true that the cliché was- first impressions last longer but for her last impression stays forever. What if this was the last time she was going to see Nabila. She reached for the zip of her bag to bring out her phone. She pressed down the number 3 button. Nabila’s number was on her speed dial.
‘Salamalaykum, is there any one here?’ the voice asked.
Nabila turned to look simultaneously shaking her head. She was shocked as she took the phone away from her left ear.
‘Walalykum salaam, Nabila…What are you …’ Naira stuttered.
‘So you wanted to leave for home without me, roomie?’ Nabila said
‘You want me to die of loneliness eh?’ Nabila continued taking her seat beside Naira.
Naira was still astonished.
‘Where are you ….going?’ Naira said.
‘I am going home of course’ Nabila said smiling.
‘So what made you change your mind?’ Naira asked looking more dumbfounded.
‘Well I got to talk to your twin sister….’
‘Zahira!’ Naira exclaimed, interrupting Nabila.
Nabila replied in the affirmative and continued,‘ though initially I went to report you but she made things clear to me ’
‘I’m sorry for misunderstanding you’, Nabila said looking pitiful.
‘Don’t give me that puss in boots look, I won’t fall for it’, Naira said turning her face towards the window. She was enjoying every moment.
‘I’m sorry now’, Nabila said again but this time she gave Naira a tickle.
The duo both chuckled as the driver revved the engine. They were both going home to save their families.