NEW BOOK ALERT: Blossom in Winter by Agnes Kay-E #WomensFiction
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
An abused wife flees to London with her baby to escape her husband, despite finding new life and romance, danger follows her.
Asma’u Verity Gambo desperately makes her way to London with her child to escape her abusive husband, Fabian. There, she becomes an executive assistant to the kind and handsome Clinton.
Escaping a second time, she’s found by construction workers hired to renovate the office building, Clinton takes her and the baby into his home. Alarmed by his rapidly growing feelings for Asma’u, he decides to test a theory of his – but he is mistaken for a former Czech gang legend who is presumed dead.
Meanwhile, Asma’u’s estranged husband, Fabian, has an affair with a woman named Lizzy who poses as an au pair. Lizzy reveals where Asma’u is staying and reports to Fabian, secretly putting Asma’u in danger.
With Fabian hunting Asma’u and Clinton in unexpected trouble with the law, their romance must take a backseat to the danger that follows them. She returns home. Finding herself in a complicated situation, her last hope is Clinton. To rescue her, Clinton must return to Aberfeldy to confront his demons.
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Asma’u braved the wind and stoically walked into the tall, edgeless building. She listened to the whispers of the harmattan wind whipping its clear walls and cringed; it sounded like wailing and screaming of pain mingled together. It felt like the desire for freedom but instead found the abominable and would like to unsee it; it portrayed her pain. It expressed her pain, offering her the freedom to curb it as well as revel in it. How else could she express the death of curious Aminu Joseph Gambo, her only brother Aminu and her mother, the genteel Mrs Aniebiet Verity Gambo aka Hajia Kinane. She sighed at the comfort their wailing offered.
Ahead of her were her teachers. While Ms Fontayn was the vice principal of their school, and Dr Mrs Ezinhe was the leader of the group. Mr Orume, the principal, excitedly left soon after he’d brought in their suitcases. She watched them zigzag around the other group of their party, her classmates. She had carried hers with great reverence which attracted Ms Fontayn’s attention and the suspicious Mrs Abdullah. While her teachers eyed her suitcase, her classmates had taken different angles of posture on the available seats in the airport. Drowsy with sleep as they were, it was a wonder that none of them fell.
She had seen an old woman in crutches vacate a seat and lurched towards it. The woman returned moments later, but Asma’u returned to get up much to the consternation of her teachers. The people around them had something unpleasant to say about a girl who wouldn’t give her seat for an elderly person, albeit that the elderly woman had laid claim to it first.
Asma’u heard them talk, but to her, they sounded like the dying rumbles that echoed through a thirsty tap. With her chin still resting on her knees, she looked down at her feet and counted her toenails. Her mother would never have let her wear the sandals she had on. But was she there to stop her from wearing them, or from carrying the silk sarong, the gold bracelet with matching earrings and necklace?
No. Her head was kissing the concrete floor of their living room and would soon clamour with arid dust. She cringed as thoughts of her brother lying awkwardly in her mother’s bathtub clawed its way into her thoughts. She fought to erase it from her thoughts, but it stood firmly almost as firm as her brother’s dark hand wrapped around their mother’s pink lace sarong. She wondered if he’d gone to get it for her because she griped about taking it; he probably didn’t want her to get in trouble.
She glanced at her classmates splayed around a long chair like a crudely arranged aisle. She had no friends in their midst as was expected. She wasn’t supposed to be on this trip in the first place, but her mother had other plans for the eve of her birthday. It was unfortunate, those plans too, most of it would have to wait, forever. She had questions. They buzzed annoyingly, in and out of her thoughts. Each time she plugged them, one after the other, still came forth like a bag with holes until she was no longer able to stop their barrage. She decided to focus on the people in the airport, especially at the man whose shirt barely covered his stomach, as he snored with his mouth wide open, dripping saliva. On a typical day, she would have found the steady cap on his vibrating head amusing. But yesterday’s event had overshadowed so much so that she could almost taste the blood in everything around her. She tried to control her breathing.
You can’t go back. She looked surreptitiously at her teachers and brought her emotions back in check. For if the teachers suspected that she wasn’t alright, they might want to take her back home then they’ll all know that she was now motherless and brotherless. She wasn’t going to cry in front of her classmates neither was she going to give up her seat. They were not her crowd. They were outsiders. They only had to know what she would tell them. And if she had to tell them anything, it would be that she had to follow her mother’s instructions. She sniggered at following her mother’s instructions.
More memories jettisoned. They sprung up like the spring in the middle of her mattress. Her mother had promised to change it as soon as they returned from Scotland.
“Make sure you have your jackets in hands,” she heard Dr Mrs Ezinhe say in a cringingly distorted accent. “It will be colder than usual when we arrive.”
“We live in Kano where it’s cold,” Tia, one of the IT girls in school, murmured, trying to undermine their teacher.
Dr Mrs Ezinhe continued, “your jacket will prevent your hearts from plummeting into the jungle of ruminating in the awful blight of ‘I told you so.”
The girls clamoured around, first in search of their suitcases then in search of their jackets.
“Well done, Asma’u Verity Gambo,” Dr Mrs Ezinhe said, without lifting her head from her book.
Asma’u heard her name but didn’t react. From the despise in the other girls’ words, she gathered that it was because she had her jacket with her. But she was holding unto her jacket because there was no space left in her suitcase.
“Girls!” Ms Fontayn cried excitedly. “It’s time. Come with me!”
Asma’u reluctantly left the comfort of her corner of the long chair and made her way clumsily to the queue. She was the last to join the line but somehow ended up behind Ms Fontayn.
Soon after they boarded the plan, Dr Mrs Ezinhe did a headcount. When she got to Asma’u, she asked with concern, “are you okay?”
Asma’u nodded and turned to face the window. She stared at the sun in its lustrous glory as it stood demurely defiant and boastful over the clouds and wondered why it had hidden Uncle Ramiu’s intention to possess what belonged to his brother. She tried to figure out how she got way up in the sky. Shaking her head, she ruefully sighed and let the waters of her memory break its banks.
Tired of her mother’s controlling ways, she went to the corner of the house, to the disrobed car sandwiched between their house and the boys’ quarters on double-decked tyres. Sitting on the weathered passenger seat – the only one – she mused. Wild with excitement, she stared at the skeletal roof of the car, imagining the places she and Aminu would visit with her father. He was coming home, right on time for her sixteenth birthday. He had promised her the best cake in the shop and a big party, and her mother would do well to stay out of it.
“Asma’u!” Hajia Kinane shouted from above her.
What does she want now?” Asma’u groaned, stamping her feet in frustration, then she heard her name a second time and shouted, “Ma!” before traipsing grudging towards the main house to meet her mother.
When she finally got to her mother’s room, her mother patted on the bed beside her and said, “sit beside me,”.
Asma’u pushed the round leather ottoman to the middle of the room and sat awkwardly on it.
“You can’t hate me forever,” Hajia Kinane started, sucked in air and exhaled heavily. “You know the excursions you keep talking about? I’ve enrolled you for the next one. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know I could meet the deadline.”
Asma’u stared at her mother, thinking for a moment that her mother had gone mad. She curled her hands into fists and got up abruptly wishing she could pummel some sense into her mother but remembered her grandmother’s threat. If she raised her voice, her grandmother, who was next door, would hear and send for the may-guard and his koboko. As her mother feared her mother-in-law’s vile tongue, she didn’t stand a chance, so she began to pace.
“My father is coming next weekend,” she said and bit back tears. “He’ll be here the day before my birthday with everything I need to throw my sixteenth birthday like every normal person my age.” She griped then paused and turned to face her mother. “The trip falls on my birthday. My birthday. I don’t even like horses.”
“What is going on?” Mrs Gambo, Asma’u’s grandmother, blurted out as she threw the door open without knocking.
“We’re good ma, aren’t we child?” Her mother had asked, poking her.
“No Mummy, we’re not! I’m not going to that stupid trip. If I want to see horses, I can go to the polo club in Zaria polo club. You know none of my friends will be on this trip that’s why you’re doing this. You enjoy making me miserable. My father is coming home, and you want me away. You just hate me, that’s what it is.”
Hajia Kinane crossed her arms and let out a long, tired sigh.
“Karamin, your father isn’t coming,” her grandmother urged and inched closer to the younger two. “Don’t raise her hope, my daughter.”
“Trust you take my mother’s side,” Asma’u muttered before she could stop herself.
“Eh!?” Mrs Gambo’s eyes bulged, her mouth hung open just as her hands flew to her head.
“Ma, don’t be offended. I’ll handle this,” Hajia Kinane said and scrubbed her forehead, suddenly looking exhausted.
Asma’u’s grandmother crossed her arms and waited.
“In private, if you don’t mind.”
Asma’u’s grandmother scoffed as she exited. “You’re spoiling this girl.” At the door, she spun and glaring at Asma’u. “Just because you have a mouth does not mean you have to use it anyhow.”
She rolled her eyes and would have clucked her tongue if her mother had not been in the room. As soon as her grandmother was out of sight, she turned to her mother. “Please Mummy, cancel the trip. I’ll do anything you ask of me, I promise.”
“You’ve been doing an outstanding job of that,” Hajia Kinane retorted sarcastically.
“Me I’m not going for any trip o,” she muttered under her breath and was about to stamp her feet.
“Behave yourself and sit down.”
Her mother’s tone of voice subdued her.
“Now listen! We’re supposed to all leave together but to cut the cost you have to go on the trip. We’ll meet you in two weeks.”
“Is my father coming?”
“Of course,” her mother said and pressed a solitary finger over her lips – an indication that what she said was never to leave her room.
She excitedly ran into her mother’s arms. Her mother held her a little longer than usual and brushed back her hair. She didn’t care. Her father was coming with them. That was all that mattered. She danced while her mother looked on. Suspicious, she stopped abruptly and turned to see her mother’s face, “But -”
“I’ve already discussed this with Miss Fontayn. She’ll take you to the train station. Don’t enter any train o! Aunty Habiba will come and get you at the train station. I wrote her a letter. When you meet, give it to her. Did you hear me?” Asma’u nodded. “Good. I will go and change the money which you will use for a taxi just in case she can’t meet you at the train station. Her address is in the white purse.”
“You said you’re all coming –”
“In the evening,” Hajia Kinane cut in and continued slowly, “it’ll be too dark for a young girl like you to be out and about. We’ve agreed to meet you at Aunty Habiba’s. You must wait at her place. You can roll your eyes all you want, but nothing I’ve said must leave this room.”
Hajia Kinane let out an exasperated sigh and stretched her hand towards the head of her four-poster bed. Not reaching it, she shifted into the bed and pulled something out from under her pillow. It was a blood-red, leather patchwork knapsack. “I’ve put everything we’ll need here.” She paused briefly, frowning. “Ehen, if for any reason Uncle Ramiu sends for me, remove this envelop and tuck it inside my pillow. Inside my pillow,” her mother pulled her ear for emphasis. “You cannot for any reason, miss your school trip or you’ll be left alone here.” Hajia Kinane sneezed and discharged her.
“What if the house catches fire?” Asma’u asked as she made her way to the door.
“Then, so be it.”
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