Read Chapter 9&10 HERE
Hadizat sat on a park bench and watched the huge fountain a little ahead. The water from the fountain formed a small pool below and some ducks were taking a swim. Hadizat looked around and smiled.
“The United Kingdom”.
Her father had kept his promise. Hadizat was abroad for her master’s education! She thought back to her last days at ABUAD. She had attended the class dinner and farewell party. She remembered Timi, Bola and all her coursemates. They all looked stunning that day as they bid goodbye to the undergraduate world.
Some months later, they all proceeded to the Nigerian Law School. That was when Hadizat got separated from Timi and Bola. Timi had been posted to the Lagos campus while Bola found herself in Yenegoa. Hadizat had been posted to the Bwari campus at Abuja. She finished from the Nigerian Law School with a first class degree much to the delight of her father who was only too eager to fulfill his promise to send her abroad for her LLM degree. After a year of compulsory national service, Hadizat boarded the flight to the United Kingdom where she resumed at the University of Edinburgh as a Master of Laws student.
Hadizat enjoyed her Sunday walks. She never missed it. She had grown accustomed to seeing the swimming ducks as her friends. Even the bench she usually sat on had a familiar feel to it. Sometimes, it almost seemed as if it was waiting for her to come and have a seat. The sound of a bell brought Hadizat out of her reverie and unbidden, she turned towards the direction of the bell. Hadizat studied the tall building with a huge cross at its peak and the stained glass windows.
“A church”, she whispered slowly as the sound of lovely music filled her ears.
As though being moved by an invisible power, Hadizat felt herself rise and walk towards the building.
“It wouldn’t hurt to watch”, she mused.
The sounds enveloped her like a blanket as soon as she stepped into the building. She saw a middle-aged Caucasian woman greet her with a smile and direct her to one of the front pews. Hadizat shook her head and slipped into one of the back pews silently.
About five minutes later, someone sat on the empty space beside her. Hadizat didn’t notice. She was too engrossed in the music. The orchestra was amazing!
“Hey, you’re the girl from Nigeria, aren’t you? Hadi…Hadizat?” Hadizat heard the person beside her ask. She turned to the right slowly and smiled in recognition.
“Oh, it’s you. Hello Alexa”. The girl was one of her coursemates in the Commercial and Taxationaw course at the university.
“I can see you love the music”, Alexa smiled. “To be honest, that’s the first thing that attracted me here. I was attending another church on Leith Street but since I heard this rapturous music, I’ve not returned there.”
Hadizat could only smile in reply.
After the orchestra concluded, Hadizat watched a man who had a robe walk to the pulpit. “Perhaps he’s the pastor”, she thought as the man read a portion of the Bible and said some words. Hadizat could not understand a word of what he said. She stood up and slipped out the door quietly. She walked to the park bench without looking back, not even when she thought she heard someone call out to her. It was probably the Caucasian woman or Alexa. Hadizat didn’t care. She was trying to analyze what in earth had pulled her into a church building! Thankfully, she wasn’t at home in Yola. This was the kind of thing people were killed for or seriously lashed at least.
When she got to the bench, Hadizat decided against sitting. Her Sunday walk was over. She walked back a little way to George Square and then, reentered the university gates. It was time to return to the reason she was in the UK – study.
Classes progressed wonderfully as Hadizat found herself busy with studying, group discussions and occasional outings organized by the African Students Association. After a quick research in the library one day, Hadizat was rushing out to her apartment when she heard someone call, “Hadizat!”
She stopped and turned. Her eyes lit up as she noticed Alexa. Hadizat had returned to that church twice in the past one month and on both occasions, Alexa had been there. Hadizat has still not analyzed her feelings enough to understand why she kept going back there. It was not that she was Christian. But then, she feared she wasn’t Muslim either. What Muslim would neglect their prayers and go to church on Sunday instead?
She tried to convince herself it was the music. But, even that was not tenable. If it was just the music, she could have played music on her phone or listened to the church’s music while she sat on her favourite bench at the park and watched the ducks swim.
Alexa walked up to her with a young man Hadizat could not recognize. “Hello Hadizat,” Alexa greeted.
“Hi Alexa. How are you doing?” Hadizat smiled. Since she had been meeting Alexa at church, they had grown a sort of camaraderie.
“This is Ahmad,” Alexa gestured to the young man with her. “Ahmad, this is Hadizat from Nigeria.”
“Hello Hadizat,” Ahmad smiled. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Alexa has been telling us about you.”
“Us?” Hazidat’s brow shut up.
“Pentecost Students and Associates PENSA. I’d like to officially invite you. We hang out on the lounge every Thursdays by 6pm and Sundays by 4pm,” Ahmad replied.
Alexa smiled and nodded. “I told Ahmad and some others I had seen you at Evangelical church a couple of times. We’d love you to join us even if it’s only once. Please…” Alexa pouted.
Hadizat smiled. “I’ll think about it.”
“Thank you,” Ahmad nodded. “See you around?“
“Sure,“ Hadizat replied.
“Bye Hadizat,” Alexa hugged a surprised Hadizat and walked away.
“What just happened?“ Hadizat asked her dazed self as she also walked away. She continued her walk to her apartment and fell on her bed exhausted.
“Christian or Muslim?” were the words on her lips as she drifted into a fitful sleep.
Hadizat woke up with a start. She clutched the duvet tighter as her chest heaved up and down. She reached out and switched on her lamp and the glow filled her bedroom. She rubbed the back of her neck and forehead repeatedly.
“What a dream!“ She exclaimed as she stood up and walked to the kitchen. Hadizat poured out a glass of water and sat at the counter as she emptied the contents of the glass and ruminated on the dream she just had. She had seen several people, millions actually groping in darkness. There was not even a speck of light. Despite the darkness, she could make out a form that looked like herself. She was groping in darkness just like everyone else.
Then all of a sudden, she saw a ray of light. A little tiny ray of light. Apparently, others could not see it. She moved towards it and kept on moving. She saw it was a door that was slightly ajar. On getting closer, she could make out the letters on the door M E R C Y.
The letters spelt Mercy. Hadizat didn’t stop to wonder what it meant. All she knew was that she had to get to the light. Just as she reached out to grab the knob, the door opened and a beautiful lady looked in and called out to her “Hadizat!” Hadizat looked up and saw someone she had not thought of in years. Deola.
“Come Hadizat. Mercy is waiting for you. Mercy is your ticket to the light”. With renewed zeal, Hadizat moved forward to accept Deola’s outstretched arms but a huge monster appeared and struck her on the head with a club.
“I will never let you go!” He growled. Hadizat plunged deeper into the dark abyss and it seemed the little ray of light faded out. She could see it no more. She woke up a second later, panting hard like she had just finished a hundred meter dash.
“Mercy” she sat at the counter and mused. “Who is Mercy?”
Later that day, Hadizat ran into Ahmad. As a matter of fact, she had been avoiding him and Alexa since they invited her to PENSA. She couldn’t fathom why but she knew she didn’t want to get involved with Christians. The church service she had attended few times still posed a puzzle. A puzzle she had not yet solved. She couldn’t afford to go in deeper.
Hadizat noticed Ahmad had already seen her. There was no way of escape. She smiled as she walked towards him.
“Hello Hadizat,“ Ahmad greeted cheerfully.
“It has been a while,“ Ahmad stood directly in front of her.
“Yes, it has,” Hadizat fiddled with her bag strap.
“How have you been?”
“Very well. You?”
“God has been faithful.”
They said nothing more but Ahmad did not make any attempt to continue on his way and he kept looking at her as though he could see deep into her soul.
Hadizat squirmed under his scrutiny. “See you around?” she squeaked and made to pass through his side.
_“Yahrub?_” he asked.
Hadizat turned back in surprise. She had studied a bit of Arab when she was younger. She did it so she could read the Quran. She understood what Ahmad had said.
“You know…” Ahmad began as he turned to face her. “The door of mercy is open unto you. _Teal alaa almanzil_ Hadizat. Come home.”
As Ahmad walked away, Hadizat regained her composure. “Mercy? Again?” She resolved to attend PENSA the next Sunday. Perhaps Mercy would be there. Perhaps Mercy would help her make sense of her life. Perhaps Mercy would show her the way. The right way.