The stories in this blog are first draft stories with minimal editing, sort of like a practice blog.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Retroviral Chronicles part 4- Virtue's reward

This shouldn’t be your reward, the payment for being a good wife. All the holy books are full of praises for the woman who is faithful to her husband, they call her blessed, honoured and virtuous.

 They do not say she should be waiting to collect antiretroviral medication in a hospital, imprisoned by a virus that has no cure and that will transform into a disease that will strip you of every dignity before it kills you. They are all silent on this matter, perhaps they did not foresee an idiot quite like the one you married.

 When you first saw Ibrahim, he was discussing points of Islamic law with your father who was a judge in the sharia court. You brought lunch for your father and his guest in the gazebo that served as your father’s study and quiet place, he thanked you for your trouble and smiled at you.

 None of your father’s friends and acquaintances had ever done that before- extend that small courtesy that recognised your shared humanity. You decided that he has a nice smile and a good heart and from his quiet yet powerful countering of your father’s arguments, you knew he has a brain too. 

 It wasn’t a surprise to you when your father called you to the gazebo and told you that the young man who’d just left had asked for permission to court you.

“Do you think you’ll like him, Baby?” he asked 

“But I do not know him, Baba” you replied

He threw his head back and laughed, his laugh was inconsistent with his dignified mien as a judge and foremost scholar. It is usually the first sign that there are many parts to this man who was revered for his wisdom and generosity, the thing that showed his zest for life and for jokes. 

“In my day, you didn’t get to know your intended spouse. Remember that I met your mother only two weeks to our engagement ceremony and we had the best marriage in this world.”

“Baba, please let us end this discussion before you start crying again”

“I can’t stop crying for the woman who owned my heart, Baby”

 You asked him what he wanted for dinner and you both avoided the subject of your late mother, speaking of millet and wheat and of beans soup and okro. When you cleared his plates after dinner, he held your wrist and whispered "Na gode" and your heart constricted again.

 The courtship was swift and uneventful, less than three months later you were Ibrahim's wife. He might have been interested in Sharia law but he was about the best young maritime lawyer in the country. He’d provided you with a luxurious lifestyle with the condition that you quit your job and enter purdah.

Agreeing to quit your job in the bank wasn’t a tough choice because you believed that a woman’s role was to make her husband’s life as pleasant as possible and your religion supported, no it emphasised that viewpoint. Your only objection was covering your whole body in the name of purdah, it took your father’s intervention to get him to accept your wearing of the burqa without the veil that covers the face.

 Baba was uncomfortable with your decision to leave your job too, he reminded you that your own mother had worked and only wore a hijab when she was praying or going to the mosque but you told him that you wanted to be a good wife. 

“Does that mean that your mother wasn’t a good wife?” 

 “Forgive me, Baba” you replied.

When your husband began to pepper his sentences with “Janice said this”, “Janice did that”, the hairs on your nape didn’t prickle with suspicion. The holy Quran allowed Ibrahim three other wives if he could love them all equally, even though everyone knew that no man could love four women equally. 

You knew you could say nothing if he brought home another wife, you could only pray that she would be a peace loving woman and you’d have a loving relationship like the wives of the holy prophet (peace be upon him) did. However Janice was a Christian who did not even dress conservatively, there was no way she’d be a source of temptation to your deeply religious husband. 

 The commotion in the counselling room brings a rush of bile- thick, pungent and bitter to your mouth as you remember sitting in that room and the nurse with the big breasts told you that you were HIV positive. You remember the maze of confusion that immediately erupted in your head, you had come for antenatal classes and was told to go to a white bungalow very close to the western gate of the teaching hospital where you met the pretty woman who was telling you rubbish.

“I came for antenatal! I didn’t come for HIV minini.” your accent thickens even as you feel the rush of tears behind your eyelids. 

“Please calm down Madam, it is standard procedure for pregnant women to be tested for HIV and some other diseases that can be passed from mother to child”. 

It was the look of pity in her eyes that split the dam that held your tears, you heard the broken sounds that came from your throat and saw her twisting her hands and avoiding your eyes. 

 The confrontation between you and Ibrahim was almost civil, he confessed to having an affair with Janice and that they had both tested positive to the virus when they underwent the tests as part of the activities of one of the NGOs that he did pro bono work for. He’d hoped that you hadn’t been infected but he couldn’t find the words to tell you. You looked at the man who you’d given your maidenhead to, the man for whom you had given up yourself and you finally knew how comfortable the weight of hatred felt.

 It was your grandfather who told you about the revenge plant, you had been too ashamed to go to your father and tell him how Ibrahim had failed you so completely. It was your grandfather who wiped your bitter and thick tears and helped you formulate a plan that made you feel better.

“What else are grandfathers for, if not to pamper and help their grandchildren in tough times?”

“How will I get the plant?” you ask with impatience lacing your words.

 When Ummi your cousin, brought the powder that contained the revenge plant and other synergistic plants, you were almost afraid of the savage anger on her face. 

“If I were the one, I’d stab him a hundred times in his sleep and let him die by my hands” she spat her words like a cobra spitting venom precision. 

“I have a better plan” you tell her and she hugged you until you begged for oxygen. 

That evening he came home and told you that you’d both go and collect the antiretroviral medication together, he’d fixed it in the clinic so that your hospital visits aligned. 
“You know that I don’t like you going out by yourself and having other men talk to you”

“But you can talk to other women and get HIV from them and give to me and risk the life of my unborn child, the child I had asked of Allah for two whole years”


“How dare you call me beloved, you spawn of Al-shaytan the demonic master” your fingers stung from the restraint you had applied on them. Only slapping his face repeatedly would ease the burn.

It is only the thought of the package sitting in your kitchen that gives you peace, of how you would start the alcohol extraction that would give you the result that you require. 

“We will go to the hospital tomorrow, I have fixed an appointment already”

“I have heard you” you reply in a low tone, as you struggled to hide your excitement.

The alcohol extract will give him intense stomach cramps as well as trigger hallucinations so fearful that he’d try to kill himself to escape from them. You wouldn’t let him die though, he’d live for a long, long time wishing for escape that will not come. When you were pouring the kunu that he liked to drink with his breakfast, you added a spoonful of the powder. The effect will start at midnight.

“Mrs Nafisat Abdulrahman” cuts into your thoughts.

“I am here” you answer.

With one last baleful look at your husband, you walk to the pharmacy window to collect your drugs.

Author's note: getting to the fourth (sixth actually) part of this series feels like a giddy dream, I'm not exactly fantastic at sticking to routines and schedules.
If you're just joining us... you're not too late though. you can catch up on other stories on the series from the popular post side bar. 
Please let me know your thoughts, comments and suggestions... you know the drill already. 
Finally and most importantly, thanks for stopping by and reading this. 


  1. Happy new year, Ada!!

    Please have mercy on us and continue this story na. If I had a dollar for each time I've refreshed this page... :-) Trust you are well.


  2. Wow! I didn't know anyone was reading, my attention span is pretty short when it comes to writing and I'd almost forgotten this series.
    Thanks for this reminder, I'll definitely do something about this.


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