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CIRCLES OF LOVE PRESENTS HAUWA

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Hauwa stood before her new mistress whose eyes were staring in scrutiny all over her. 'Madam Lydia'. She asked Hauwa to open her mouth to see her teeth, to put her hands forward to inspect her fingers; she checked to see beneath her hair to be sure she has no lice. In fact, Hauwa was taken back when she finally asked her to take off the gown she was wearing to inspect her body. She claimed she didn't want any form of rashes brought into her house. At this request, Hauwa noticed her young son, almost about her own age who was working on his laptop but having heard his mother asked her to take off her clothing, he turned to her direction. Madam was so engrossed in inspecting every part of her that she failed to notice the intense gaze of her teenage son staring at her or maybe she cared less to have her expose her whole body in public. Hauwa used her tiny hands to cover up her chest since she wasn't wearing any bra to cover that up. Growing up in a very poor family didn't provide her with daily necessities. Her only possessions were five long dresses passed down from her elder sisters and three briefs which were also passed down.

At the age of fifteen, her parents had pulled her out of their local secondary school in a remote village in Nassarawa, part of a northern state in Nigeria to start work as a maid in Lagos. In fact, her parents were so thrilled when Mallam Abu, the local trade man returned from Lagos and announced he found a job for their daughter. They were all excited at this offer, knowing it would bring more income for them every month. Hauwa is the last of eight children, two boys and six girls; three of her elder sisters have been given into marriage after having to work as a maid for several years. Her elder brothers were also away from home, working in one of the states in Nigeria. Hauwa had no idea where they are as they move from one place to another to make end means. Hauwa had hoped to finish secondary school and proceed to university with or without her parent's help or approval but the future looks unseemly now.

“I know girls like you are always very dirty.” She heard Madam voice but the shame of having to take off her clothing held her from speaking.

Hauwa fought the tears about to drop from her eyes. Her face was fixed on the boy staring at her as she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her in tears. After their faces met, he immediately took his face away, aware of the intense gaze of Hauwa on him.

“Why are you staring at my son?” Madam slapped her back which made her jolt. “That is your master too; you don't look him in the eye, OK.” She snapped.

“Yes Madam.” Hauwa replied with her eyes moist. At last, she had given him the satisfaction of seeing how weak she was.

“Get dress,” Madam ordered. “Gloria!” she called out.

Within seconds, a lady walked hastily into the living room. She was dressed in a blue and white uniform.

“Yes Madam.” Gloria stood, straightened with her hands behind her, avoiding looking into Madam's eyes.

“This is Hauwa; she's the new maid I talked to you about. I want you to show her what she needs to do and tell her all the rules.” Madam said.

“Yes Madam.” Gloria said.
“I'm going out now, take care of the house.” she took her car keys and her bag, walking towards the door.

“Yes Ma.” Gloria said.
“C'mon Edward,” Madam called her son. “We have to leave now if we want to meet the store.”

Edward stood up from the couch, trying to avoid looking at Hauwa. He followed his mother behind and closed the door.

Hauwa pulled the bag with her only possession tightly to her chest

“What is your name?” Gloria asked.
“Hauwa.” She answered.
“Ok Hauwa; my name is Gloria and you will be helping me in the house.”

“Ok madam.” Hauwa replied quickly, almost afraid of her.

“Don't be afraid Hauwa,” Gloria brought her face upward. “I am not the 'madam' okay.” She said softly.

Hauwa nodded, unable to utter any word.
“Come; let me show you to your room.” Gloria said, leading the way.

She led her to the room at the end of the long corridor. It was a medium size room with two beds facing each other. It had a ceiling fan and a wide window for easy ventilation.

“This is your bed and this is mine.” She pointed to the beds. Hauwa was surprised to have a bed all to herself. After all, all her life, she's had to sleep on the corridor leading to the kitchen, but now in an actual room with Gloria and a bed to herself was a great deal to her. And the room has a door.

“Have you eaten?” Gloria asked.
“No.” She replied.
“Alright then, let's start with feeding you and then, all other things will follow.” Gloria smiled at her.

Her smile was soothing and soft. She led her to the kitchen and poured a plate of rice for her with stew and even gave her a piece of meat. Hauwa was overwhelmed with this. She couldn't remember the last time she ate meat, probably during the Muslim festival where their king had shared ram to every member of the community. She quickly munches on the food.

Hours later, Madam was back from her outing but Hauwa didn't have to attend to her. Gloria gave her easy chores to pass the rest of the day with. At night, when everyone was off to them, Gloria asked her to go to bed while she waited few more hours before she joined her in the room. The bed was very soft and comfortable that it didn't take long before she slept off.


“Wake up Hauwa!” Gloria gently tapped her.
It's the dream again; Mallam Abu grabbed her tiny body and threw her on his bed. She grunt, pushed and scratched him but he was too strong for her. She has been in Lagos for almost three days and Mallam Abu still had not taken her to the place of work he promised. He took her straight to his small apartment. During the night when Hauwa laid one of her wrappers on the floor to sleep, he had woken her up to come join him on his bad. Hauwa bluntly refused which was when he carried her forcefully from the floor and when she began to scream, he tied a piece of cloth on her mouth. He pushed her on his bed and raped her. The next day, Mallam went out early in the morning and didn't come back until the following day when he brought her to Madam's house. The dream was almost the exact thing that happened. She felt someone calling her name but she was still muffling at Mallam to stop it.

“Please Mallam, hi kada wannan (don't do this).” She said in tears. “Kana mini ciwo (You are hurting me).”

“Wake up,” Gloria called louder.
Immediately, she stood up, pulling her wrapper over her body.

“Please, don't let him touch me again.” She said in tears, hysterical.

“Who?” Gloria asked, confused, looking around her.

“Mallam Abu.” She answered, fearfully.
“Oh dear, you've been dreaming; there's no one here.” Gloria said, trying to assure her.

Hauwa took a moment to look at her surroundings and sure, Gloria was right, there wasn't anyone here, it's all a dream.

Gloria looked at her in pity; what could have happened to this young girl to make her scream in her sleep? She asked her to go back to bed and her heart aches for Hauwa and also for herself.

……………………….
It's been several months since Hauwa has been working with Madam; she's come to understand that people like madam are ruthless, cares for no one except herself and her son was no exception. He behaves like he owns the whole world. Although she rarely stays at home, always out on one occasion or shopping but Hauwa was glad about that, at least, it would reduce the amount of slapping she receives each day. Madam never fails to correct with a slap each time she wasn't pleased with her. Edward on the other day is a pervert. He sits on his laptop everyday doing some despicable things. Several times, Hauwa had caught him watching pornography clips on the internet and even tried some acts on himself. Since knowing about this, Hauwa avoided going into his room or clean it when he's home.

Aunty Gloria became a god-sent to her; her pleasant nature assured her each day that everything would be fine. Hauwa opened up to her as to her family and what Mallam Abu did to her. She's learnt to trust aunty Gloria during these months; in fact, she treats her a siblings; gives her little or no job to do when Madam is out and ask her to go to bed early enough to catch a good night rest.

One night, Hauwa laid in bed wondering what Aunty Gloria was still doing; she always have one work to finish every night and Hauwa felt bad going to bed while she slaved away so she stood up to go search for her. She checked the kitchen but she wasn't there, went to the laundry room, the living room but there was no sign of aunty Gloria; then, she noticed the door to the basement was open, although she's never gone down there since she arrived in the house; she's seen aunty Gloria goes in there once in a while. Hauwa quietly walked down the stairs leading to the basement; she switched on the light and to her surprise, it was just an empty room, it was a proper bedroom, with wardrobe, TV and every necessity you want in a room but it was empty. There wasn't a trace of anyone in the room, then, she saw another door which she walked to but stopped suddenly when she heard a humming coming from there; she was sure it was Aunty Gloria's voice. She hesitated for few seconds to go in there but then, resisted the temptation and went ahead to open the door.

Hauwa was shocked at what she saw; Aunty Gloria bathing a well-grown man in the bathroom. Aunty Gloria jolted when the door opened and having seen it was Hauwa, she shouted at her to get out. Quickly she took to her heels and ran out of the basement and back to her own room. She was shaken in fear; the loud voice of Aunty Gloria was enough to scare her. She sat on her bed for several minutes afraid to go back to bed. Now, she understood better , sometimes during the day, Aunty Gloria will suddenly leave the kitchen and go into the basement, also, in the evening, she does the same thing and every night while she tells Hauwa to go to bed, she would walk down to the basement. Hauwa wasn't sure if Madam knew about the man in the basement, maybe, it was just Aunty Gloria secret which she has just found out.

Almost an hour later, Hauwa was almost closing her eyes to sleep when the door suddenly opened. She stood up quickly from her bed, staring at Aunty Gloria.

“I thought I asked you to go bed young lady?” she looked straight at her.

“I'm sorry ma; I was only looking to help you.” Hauwa said, fearfully.

Aunty Gloria let out a faint sigh and then, sat on her bed, seeing how scared Hauwa was.

“Alright, sit.” Her tone was much calmer.
Hauwa obeyed without hesitation.
“I'm sorry I scared you.” She said, watching the expression from her eyes. “The man downstairs is Mr. Williams, the 'Oga' (boss) of this house.”

Hauwa opened her eyes wide. She did never met the oga before, although she had been confused when she hears madam tells Aunty Gloria to take care of Oga and there wasn't any oga in the house. This has often baffled her but she always put it off.

“I know you are confused,” Aunty Gloria cut through her thought. “Oga had an accident three years ago which led to the stroke, so since then, he's been confined to the basement to live in. You see, Madam wanted to take him to a facility but I begged her to let him stay here since Madam would never go and check on him. I have since then bathe him, fed him and helped him out.” She looked up at Hauwa who was tongue-tied.

“I don't understand Madam at all; I have been living here almost since little junior was born and have seen how oga has been the best man to her and her son. He worked so hard to acquire all these properties to take care of his family and at the first chance, Madam just left him to his fate.” She said, feeling sorry for him.

“But why are you doing this?” Hauwa asked; she couldn't understand why she has to pick up her mess. Why she had stayed for these years, taking care of a disabled man.

Aunty Gloria smiled. “If I had gone at the first chance I had, that man would have died.”

“But, what's the point of living in that state, even his wife does not care for him, why should you?” Hauwa asked. She knew she was going beyond her boundaries. Since, she got to the house; she had always restrained herself from speaking, knowing how she's been often told about her loud mouth.

“As I said, Oga is very nice; he is so different from Madam.” She looked at Hauwa.

“I had a son once; he was very sick with leukemia so I went out to look for a job which I got. The salary wasn't great but I get to take care of my son. He was living with my sister while I work here to earn enough money for his treatment. After several months of battling with the sickness and not enough money to give him the treatment he required.” Her face filled with sadness. “One day, I was so sad and angry at everything; I started to cry and shout at God while in the kitchen. I couldn't understand why God would allow such a thing to happen to my son knowing how I have struggled all my life with no one to take care of him, except me. I was broken in tears and didn't know Oga had come into the kitchen; there wasn't suppose to be anyone at home during this time; I was so engrossed in my suffering that I didn't notice.” She stood up and walked quietly to the other side of the room as her mind went back to past.

“Oga came quickly to me and lifted me up from the floor, he told me everything would be fine and asked me to stop crying. That day, oga went with me to see my son in the hospital and paid for all the required procedure he needed to get better, he paid everything.” She smiled briefly.

“He was there when no one was there for me, he helped me; but two weeks later, I lost my son, he was only fifteen and I lost him to the cold hands of death.” She said sadly.

Hauwa felt a sharp pain in her heart. She sat there in disbelief, staring at her.

Aunty Gloria wipes the tears coming down her face and walked back to Hauwa.

“You see Hauwa, even though I lost my son, Oga still did something for me, he tried his best for my son and to that, I am deeply grateful. Since then, Oga remained very good to me; although he was not able to save my son but he saved me. I was loosing myself, I was almost going insane when I lost my son, I wanted to die but Oga was there for me. So you see, I cannot leave him now, not after all he did for me, I can't.” she said firmly.

“I'm sorry about your son,” Hauwa said. “I am so sorry.”

Aunty Gloria looked at her with the most soothing smile and then, walked to wardrobe and brought out an envelope.

“Here,” she gave it to her. “Open it.”
Hauwa was surprised but she did. To her shock, she found an examination form in the envelope.

“I have always found you sneaking into Edward's room to read some of his school books, especially the ones with entrance to the university. You have talked several times on furthering your education once you save enough and each time you talk about school, your face is always lilted up in joy.” She smiled at her.

"Aunty, this is an entrance examination form to go to the university.” Hauwa said, shock and confused.

“Yes, I want you to fill it and take the exams.” Aunty Gloria said.

“But how, I mean, how?” Hauwa asked, confused.
“You leave that to me but trust me, you will go to the university, God will bring all your dreams to past, he will cause you to excel beyond your own imagination.” Aunty Gloria said to her.

Hauwa was in tears; she never expected this. Although, she's been sneaking to read textbooks and entrance examinations books from Edward's room but her furthering was only a dream and never thought it would come to past, even now, she had no idea how it would but seeing Aunty Gloria's determination gave her strength and assurance.

“Now young lady, go to bed; we'll talk more tomorrow, okay.” She smiled and walked to her own bed.

Hauwa was filled with shock; she lied quietly on her bed, holding the envelope to her chest. That night, all she dreamt about was being in the University.

………………………….
Several weeks after this; Hauwa had been studying day and night for the entrance examination; As Aunty Gloria assured her, she gave her daily plan on when to do her chores and created enough time for her to study without being caught. Hauwa was glad for this; being a very intelligent student herself, she made sure she studied very hard and learn quickly.

One day, she was having her shower in the afternoon, when she noticed something strange. For weeks now, she always suspects someone watching her in the bathroom through the door hole. But this day, she was definitely sure someone was there. Although at first, she had thought the event with Mallam Abu had made her paranoid so she took some measures to make sure nothing like that never happened again.

She left the water running and put her towel around her; then, she noticed a small tube coming through the down part of the door, it looks like a lens tube but couldn't make it out. Immediately, she took her weapon from where she hid it and forcefully opened the door, there, she saw Edward with a camcorder in one hand and the lens tube attached to it. He stood there frozen, staring in shock at her, seeing the knife in her other hand, he carefully withdrew backwards.

“What do you want?” she shouted at him.
Edwards was still in shock, staring back at her.
She knew the boy was up to something but couldn't make out his plan until now.

“You want this!” she shouted, pointing at the towel wrapped around her body. “Or you want this?” she pointed the knife at him.

Just then, the door opened……
To be continued.

………………………………..
Gloria stood there, stunned and mystified at the scene before her. She had heard Hauwa's voice in the hallway leading into the room but seeing her standing there in her towel and pointing a knife at Edward was beyond comprehension.

Hauwa became dog smacked seeing aunty Gloria looking bewildered at the scene. She looked from the knife back to her and saw the horrific look on her face.

“Now, you were saying,” Edward's voice jolts her. “Why don't you do what you had in mind?” He jeered at her. Of course, she wasn't going to use the knife, she only wanted to scare him and let him know she isn't intimidated by him.

“Gloria!” he called out, “Kindly tell this 'slut' who I am.” Edward said in utter contempt.

Hauwa could see the irritating look on Aunty Gloria; she was definitely repulsed by his attitude.

“In this house, I am the boss; I can ask you to do anything,” he looked hard at Hauwa. “And you can do nothing to me.” He said arrogantly.

Gloria became more irritated than before; she looked angrily at him, hissed and walked out of the room.

Hauwa smiled at herself, she had watched him go on and on about himself and feeling so pompous. She saw the shock on his face when Aunty Gloria left the room without uttering a word. She smiled once again to herself and changed to the horror look she had before Aunty Gloria interrupted. “You were saying.” It was her turn to jeer at him.

“Now listen and listen well; I don't care who you are and what you have. I actually don't give a damn about you. You can do all you want in this house for all I care but the next time I catch you peeping at me in the bathroom or anywhere else for that matter, I will so make sure you don't see again with those eyes.” She stared into his eyes. “Now, Mr. Edward, could you kindly leave my room.” She said confidently at him.

Edward looked at her in utter confusion; he was dazed at her confidence. At first, his impression of her was that of a village girl but the girl standing in front of him was different. She had something in her, something that commended respect. He took his face away and quickly gathers his thing and walked out of the room.

Hauwa inhaled deeply in triumph. She had not expected her boldness or any of the things she said to him. Even though she had nothing, no wealthy parent or anything to her name but she was not about to be taken for granted by anyone. She knew this was not her final destination and will not let anyone or anything trample her down.

…………………………………
It's been few months now, Hauwa has been studying hard for her entrance exams and thanks to Aunty Gloria; she's been helping her achieve her dreams.

She was glad madam is always on one trip or another since she is planning for Edward to travel abroad to further his education. Hauwa always cuss under her breathe each time she hears madam talking to some agents about her son's traveling. She felt she was only wasting money on him since he does nothing but watch his despicable videos and plays video games all day. During these trips out of the house, Hauwa would sneak up to Mr. William's room and watch him while he sleeps or clean his room. Since Aunty Gloria told her about his incident, she felt so sorry for him and wishes things would turn around.

On this particular day, everyone was out of the house including Aunty Gloria who had gone to the market. Hauwa went into Mr. Williams's room; she found him lying helplessly on his bed, staring away into the thin air.

“Hello,” she greeted him while Mr. Williams only stared at her with his hands flapping around. He had no control over the movements. Hauwa moved closer to him.

“I'm sorry to bother you sir but I was just alone in the house and thought you might need some company.” She smiled at him but his face was still blank of any expression.

“I'm not sure if we have been introduced but my name is Hauwa,” she smiled at him. “I am working here as a maid.” She paused for a while wondering why she was actually in his room but part of her felt comfortable in there.

“Let me share a secret with you,” she whispered to him. “I know I'm only a maid but I'm planning to go to the University, I want to study to be a physiotherapist.” Her face lilted up in joy as she shares her dream. “I love to work with people; you see, I have seen so many lives waste away in illness because of lack of care; I want to do something about it, I want to change lives, give them a new purpose, a hope to look forward to.” She went on and on about her aspiration. “Now Mr. Williams, I think I should make a deal with you; I'm going to help you and you are going to help me. I will make sure you walk with your two legs some day,” she smiled profoundly at him. “I know I'm only a child but watch what I will do when I have all the knowledge I need, but you will have to do something for me too.” She looked into his eyes. Part of her knew he could understands her, somewhere in his heart was still alive and he knew what she was saying. All of her life, she's seen people treating disable or helpless people as if they aren't there, she wants to make him feel alive again, relate to him as if nothing was wrong with him. Her first plan is to lift up his spirit, make him come out of the depression that has settled upon him.

“So, what do you say, are you interested?” she smiled at him. Just then, she heard the door open and Aunty Gloria walked in.

“I'm sure Mr. Williams would like you to pass your entrance exams first before you talk of a deal.” Aunty Gloria walked up to them.

She was frozen at first when she saw her come in but relaxed after seeing her smile. Aunty Gloria always has her way on sneaking on people.

“Now, off you go young lady and let Mr. Williams have his rest.” Aunty Gloria said to her, without hesitation, Hauwa took to her heels out of the room. She really doesn't understand the relationship between Mr. Williams and Aunty Gloria; her devotion and care for him is effortless. Despite Madam's behaviour to her, she never stopped helping Mr. Williams, she still respects him as if he was well and there and never for one day felt discourage at her duties towards him.

…………………………..
It was the day of the entrance examination. After studying so hard, Hauwa was satisfied she had answered all the questions completely so she went ahead to submit her papers. She realized she's been gone for a long time and didn't want Madam to get back home without her being at home. Few minutes to get home, her heart started to pound so fast, the anxiety of just taking an examination and the fear of being caught settled on her. Entering the compound, she found Madam's car parked inside, there, she became more agitated then ever. She held the loaf of bread she had bought coming in; that was the plan just in case madam gets home before her, they would plan that she had just stepped out to buy some bread.

She decided to go through the back door that leads to the kitchen but to her surprise Madam was waiting in the kitchen and it looks like she was actually waiting for her.

The angry look on her face scared her to death.
“Where are you coming from?” she shouted, raising her voice. Immediately, Edward came into the kitchen with the smirk look on his face.

“Have you gone deaf?” she slapped her in the back. “I have been in this house for almost thirty minutes; where have you? Is this how you go out on endless journeys when I'm not at home? You go around with the useless boys on the street, is that it, harlot?” she shouted at her.

Hauwa shivers in fear; madam hitting her as she shouted angrily made her more scared than ever. She went on her knees, trying to shield her face from the hands that were furiously attacking her.

“I will not have this kind of behaviour in my house,” she continued to shout when Gloria ran into the room. She had been pacing in the hallway since madam came into the house and asked after Hauwa. She lied to her that she just stepped out to buy some bread but madam knew she was lying so she waited patiently in the kitchen for her return. Gloria couldn't to hear the soft scream and begging from Hauwa, so she ran into the kitchen.

“Please madam,” Gloria stood between them, going on her knees. “Please madam, she will never do that again, please…” she begged while madam stood breathing heavily. “It's all my fault, I shouldn't have sent her out…” she begged madam.

Madam looked angrily at both of them and scoffs. “I don't know what you two have got going on but I will find out and if any of this repeats itself,” she pointed at Hauwa, “you are out of this house.” She hissed and walked out of the kitchen with Edward smiling after her.

Hauwa wept bitterly on her knees. Madam has always slapped her once in awhile but never has she received such a beating before in her life.

“Look at me.” Aunty Gloria took her into her arms. “Look at me.” She brought her weeping face up. “You are not going to give up on me Hauwa; you will not let this put you down, ok.” She looked into her eyes. Hauwa sobs quietly as she listened to her. “These are tough times dear and it will pass; I promise you, it will pass.” She took her into her embrace and patted her back whist she continued to cry on her shoulder.

Hauwa stayed in the kitchen until she was sure madam and Edward were off to bed. She was so sad but part of her felt at peace. The fact that she had just taken an entrance examination was like a step towards her dream and with the help of Aunty Gloria, she is determined that nothing will stop her from achieving her dreams.

………………………………….
It's been few months since she took the examination; Hauwa would always go outside to check if they had any letter; she had instructed the security man to let her know if any mail come in for her, in fact, she specifically wrote her full name on a paper for him to compare with any letter that comes in and keep it for her. During this time, Edward had traveled to the United State to continue his studies and Madam had gone with him for few months to help him settle in. This time away gave Hauwa enough time to brush up on her studies; fortunately for her, Edward left his laptop at home so she practiced it on it and taught herself everything that will help her.

She was in the living room one day when she heard the door bell, she went quickly to answer it and found the security man standing there with a brown envelop in his hands. She knew instantly what it was, without any word; she took it from him and went back inside to find Aunty Gloria.

“It's here,” she gave the sealed envelop to her. Aunty Gloria knew what it was since she's been so anxious for several days about the result.

“You should open it,” Aunty Gloria passed it to her but she folded her hands in hesitation. “Take it Hauwa.” She said.

“No please, open it, my hands are already trembling.” She whimpers in fear.

“Alright,” Aunty Gloria inhaled deeply. She was trying not to show any sign of fear but her heart was pounding so fast. She brought out the paper and read for few seconds.

“What does it say,” Hauwa spoke out staring at her to read the expression on her face.

“I think you should read it yourself.” Aunty Gloria passed it to her.

She took it whilst her face was still fixed on Aunty Gloria.

“You made it girl!” Aunty Gloria smiled profoundly at her.

“What!” Hauwa gasped. She read the score and immediately screamed out in joy. “I made it!” she shouted in joy, throwing herself on Aunty Gloria. “I made it! I made it!! I made it!!!” she continued to scream. “Thank you Aunty, thank you, thank you…” she hugged her and then, ran out of the room down to the basement.

“I made it Mr. Williams.” She shouted in joy. “I made the score, I made it.” She put the paper forward to his face. She noticed what a smile on his face but she wasn't so sure. “I am so happy Mr. Williams, I am so very happy. I am on my way to the University and of course, on my way to help you get better,” she smiled at him. “I made it!”

……………………………….
The excitement and joy lasted for a week and then, the thought of actually going to school while Madam is in the house, without her finding out became the problem. Another issue was the funding, she had no idea where the money would come from; her monthly salary was out of the question since madam pays Mallam Abu who gives it to her parent. Aunty Gloria kept assuring her that all will be well and that God will provide all of their needs. Another thing Hauwa is yet to understand is the issue of God in their lives; Aunty Gloria always tells her about the existence of God but she never considered it. Although, she had been a Muslim from birth but even as that, she wasn't a practicing Muslim but another thought of 'another God' was something she wasn't about to consider.

Few weeks later, another letter came in for Hauwa, she wasn't sure what to make of it since she had already received her scores but was astonished when she read the content of the letter. It was a full scholarship to study Physiotherapy at a prestigious University in Lagos. She was shocked for several minutes when she read the letter, although, she knew her score was very high but she had not expected to receive any scholarship, in fact, she had no idea such was given. Aunty Gloria was so overjoyed and excited when she read the letter; she knew it was God's answers to her prayer. Things were looking bright now, with this new information, Hauwa was determined that nothing would stop her from achieving her dreams.

…………………………………..
Days were turning into weeks and weeks turning into months and months were almost a year. Hauwa had started University; Madam's traveling to the State made it easier on her and when she's home, Hauwa would either wait for her to leave for the day or not go to class for that day and that meant she would have to study extra hard to meet up. Things were looking good for her.

Towards the end of the first year, she realized she would have nothing much to do during the holidays so she made a plan. She searched every local hospital in the town, anyone who is willing to offer her some form of internship job, in fact, she had told them she wasn't interested in the pay if they are not willing to pay her but she would like some experience to help with her studies. Being an intelligent girl in school, her lecturers were more than willing to support her application with some recommendation and her progress in school spoke of itself. Finally, after weeks of searching and applying, the Lagos state teaching hospital was willing to give her a three months trial. She would come in three days in a week to work in the Physiotherapy department.

Hauwa wants to be the best in all she does so she continued to work very hard. Everything she learnt back in school and in the hospital, she could come home and relate back to Mr. Williams. Gradually, she was gaining his attention, she found him more responsive to her and one particular day, she heard him call her name. Hauwa was taken back when she heard her name, she wasn't sure she heard right but when he stammered again, trying to pronounce her name, she knew definitely, he was talking to her.

Hauwa watched carefully as the doctors worked with the stroke and accident patients, the exercises done on them. Then, she would come back home and with the help of Aunty Gloria, they would put Mr. Williams on his wheelchair and massage his legs. After weeks of trying this, Hauwa was becoming weary when she didn't see any result, so one day; she spoke to one of the doctors who had taken her under his wings. She asked him if he could attend to someone on her behalf, just to do some general check-up and x-ray to determine the extent of his injury. Doctor Emmanuel was more than willing to perform this check and luckily, Madam was on her usual trip so they hired a bus where they took Mr. Williams on his wheel chair down to the hospital.

Doctor Emmanuel diagnoses- he is definitely suffering from stroke- an illness in which part of the brain is suddenly severely damaged or destroyed. This results in loss of function of the affected part of the brain. It usually causes weakness, paralysis of the arm and leg on either the left or right side of the body, twisting of the face, and in some cases other effects which may include loss of balance, and difficulty in swallowing. He stated that if he had been taken good care of after the incident, he would have gotten better, so he advised he be admitted to some rehabilitation programs so that proper activities such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and recreational therapy can be administer to him. Hauwa knew this was not possible but she is willing to do everything possible to get him better, which was her deal with him.

Hauwa took him back home and started her research on helping him; she decided to focus on leaning more about occupational therapist, which would provide exercises and proactive to help him do things he could do before the accident such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing and walking. Also to help in speech language skills.

She devoted her time and attention to this, the more she read and learnt at the hospital, she more she was determined to help Mr. Williams. Something should have been done a long time ago but Madam just left him to die; a heartless and wicked woman. Maybe because she knew her husband is an only child and his parents have passed away which meant no one would be coming to check on him. She just wanted him useless. Hauwa couldn't understand why she would just leave him all alone with proper help. She knew there was more to this but her main concern now is to get Mr. William better.

………………………………..
A year later; there has been a tremendous change with Mr. Williams; he's able to stand on his own with an aide of walking stick. His speech has improved and his confident was returning. During this time, Hauwa laid strict guidelines for his daily exercise and Aunty Gloria helped and supported her when she's not home. The relationship between the three was distinct and unique especially with the fact that they had to keep this away from madam at Mt. Williams's request. He said he wasn't ready for her to find out until he was fit and properly okay. Aunty Gloria and Hauwa respected his wishes and hid this from Madam when she's home; not that she really cared enough about him to notice any changes in her husband's recovery. She goes into his room once in a while and sees him just lying on his bed; she would look around the room and find something to complain about to Aunty Gloria for not cleaning enough.

Aunty Gloria has left to ignore any of her behaviour, she knew she was somewhat frustrated about life and the only way she could survive is to moan and complain at everyone.

…………………………
Hauwa has been working very hard to be the best she could. She would always throw extra hours at school and at the hospital to learn and work better. She is selfless, dedicated and determined to be the best she could. Things were working better at home, every success and improvement she saw in Mr. Williams was an indication of how far she's come and she was determined to do better.

During this time, Hauwa was struggling with something different in her; she felt she needed something better, more like a void in her that needed to be filled. She wasn't so much interested in material things so she knows what she desired is much greater than any material need. She had searched and searched but she knew within her that something was definitely missing. Sometimes she wakes up very happy and other times, she's terribly sad for no reason, a kind of uneasiness settles on her and the search has been unending with nothing to come out of it.

One day she was working a Saturday shift at the hospital; she had received a message from one of the nurses that Doctor Emmanuel would like to see her.

She knocked on his door and carefully opened it.
“Oh Yes, Hauwa,” Doctor Emmanuel said to her, “Come sit.”

Hauwa smiled shyly and sat in front of him. Doctor Emmanuel has taken so much likeness to her dedication and commitment to her career. After working with them for almost one year with no pay but has remained steadfast and hardworking, the administrator in the hospital decided to give her some money every month for welfare and transportation. Over the months, she has become a valuable asset to the hospital and all the patients have taken likeness to her. She has her way of getting them on track and her encouragement was always near to anyone that needed it. She made them believed in themselves and lifted up their spirit when they are down or discouraged.

Hauwa stared back at Doctor Emmanuel, she felt something was wrong.

“Hauwa.” He called out.
Hauwa jolts at the sound of her name.
“I have something I have been willing to tell you dear,” his expression confirm this was quite serious.

“Firstly, I will like to ask you a question; do you believe in God?” he asked looking straight at her.

At that question, Hauwa relaxed a little, she let out a sigh.

“Well, I think I do,” she answered, unsure of her what to say.

“Hmmm, you think you do?” he smiled. “My dear, it's either you do or you don't. You see, I have been watching you for quite sometime, you are intelligent, brilliant, lovable; You have everything you need to soar high in this world but you are missing something.” His face fixed on her for few seconds.

Hauwa felt uneasy about the conversation. She's heard story and talks about God but never considered thinking about it; after all, all that she is now has been her own doing. She's made it this far without any God in her life and sure doing well.

“You are missing 'God' Hauwa. No matter the success you have in life, no matter how great, wealthy or comfortable you think you are and have no God in your life, you are nothing!” he looked straight at her.

“Now dear, I'm not talking about any religion; I am talking about accepting Jesus Christ into your life, I am talking about the Saviour who died for you and me. There is a void in your life, you need God to fill that, you need his peace in your life. Listen girl, he has brought you this far; all that you have or you are is not your own doing. Before you were even conceived in your mother's womb, he knew you, he called you by name.

Hauwa straightened in her seat; every word he spoke was piercing through her. It's like a knife cutting through every bone in her.

“There is more to life than what we see her; there's 'eternity'; that is where you and me will spend the remaining part of our lives when we die. Have you ever considered what will happen to you after this world? Do you know where you will go?” he searched her face for few seconds. “I'm sure you've heard of heaven and hell before, the question is where you will go after this earth, heaven or hell?” he paused again to search her face for answer.

“Except a man is born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; except you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, you will not see his Kingdom. You know, most time when I see you at work, you look so happy, there's something about you that even makes everyone around you happy but I don't see peace in you, I see someone struggling to live everyday, someone trying so hard to be the best they can be. But with Christ, you don't have to struggle- there's a peace that is beyond comprehension. A peace you cannot fathom, a joy in you heart that he gives freely to you. My dear, you have nothing to fear when you are in Christ, your future is secured with him. He will take the pain and hurt away from your life and give you so much joy you can never imagine.”

Just then, Hauwa busted into tears, every word he spoke pierced more into her. She needed God in her life; all her life, she had thought everything she did or have has been as a result of her handwork and intelligent but no, it's all been the Master's plan. God has been watching over her even when she didn't know him; he has loved and cared for her. Although, she's had her own share of tough times in life but God has helped her through every one of them, standing here today is as a result of his love for her. She continued to cry as she felt an opening all over her, like she was seeing things as she ought to have seen them; the void in her life needs to be filled with God, she needed to know this God who has been so gracious to her. She's been abused but here she is today, she's be looked down at and here she is today, she's been beaten and told she wouldn't amount to anything but here she is today; she's been broken but he mended her back together. He has watched over all her these years, here she is today.

Doctor Emmanuel told her more about Christ and led her to him. He prayed with her and asked her to speak to God as she would talk to a friend. Hauwa knew she has so much to learn and she's definitely going to learn more about God. After the prayer, she felt a peace within her, she knew something was different; a kind of feeling you know it's there within you but can't explain with words, she knew God is present in her life.

…………………………….
David Williams watched quietly as Gloria helps him with his activities; Hauwa has given instructions on the exercise to be done daily. She is so strict to these guidelines that sometimes she would forget Mr. Williams was her boss. Since she was out today, Gloria would be helping him.

“I think we've done …..enough for …..today.” David stressed out the words as he gently made his way back to his bed with the aid of his walking stick. Hs speech has greatly improved these past few months, although he sometimes stammered.

“Oh no, we still have few minutes to go,” Gloria warned.

“I am….. tired.” He said sitting down.
“You know how Hauwa gets when you don't finish you laps.” She dropped the laundry she was folding and walked to him.

David smiled at her. “Hauwa..is ….not … here.” He smiled. He knew he could get away with anything when it comes to Gloria; she still somehow respected the fact that he was her boss even though these couple of years has made things close between them. Gloria had been the one who took care of him while lying helplessly in bed; she would bathe him, empty his urine bowl and everything he needed to be done. She has become more that a house-help to him.

“Help me…please,” he said as he carefully lifted his legs onto the bed which Gloria gave him a hand to. He wasn't strong enough, although he's been taking few steps with the walking stick which has been rather tedious and painful but considering where they are coming from, Gloria knew he is far better.

She placed his legs properly in bed and tucked him in. David looked at her; he tried to hide the uneasiness as his heart raced. He has been thinking a lot about Gloria for months now and he knows the feeling wasn't going anyway. He was gradually falling in love with her, a love that filled his heart, a love he could not question but his fear was if she felt the same way. He had carefully hid this from her as not to make her feel uncomfortable towards him but his heart was longing for her.

Gloria felt his hands on her as she was leaving his side.

“Gloria.” He called out.
She looked at him but David became tough-tied. The eyes staring back at him made it impossible to utter any word. He swallowed. He stared into her eyes as she did for several seconds; he wanted to pull her into his embrace and thank her over and over again for all she did for him. He wants to hold unto her and never let go.

“Thank…you…”he stammered.
“Oh…” Gloria said shyly.
“Really…., thank you… for…everything…” he looked into her eyes. “You have done so much…for me Gloria…..” his hands were trembling, Gloria quickly covered his trembling hands with her other hand.

“God!...I wish…I…can…tell you every…..thing in here; you have done so much for me…Gloria, I…am ….so grateful…”

“You don't have to thank me sir, you were there for me when I needed you, you are a good man sir and you deserve every good thing.” She smiled shyly.

“You are the… good…thing….for me…” he whispered. “I…love…you…Gloria…” he said looking straight into her eyes.

Gloria was taken back at his words; she stared into his eyes, unable to utter any words.

“I'm…in…love….with …you.” he said to her.
Just then, the door opened.
To be continued.





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