Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
An affair between 55-year-old widow Binta Zubairu and 25-year-old weed dealer Reza was bound to provoke condemnation in conservative Northern Nigeria. Brought together in unusual circumstances, Binta and Reza faced a need they could only satisfy in each other. Binta – previously reconciled with God – now yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage, the pain of losing her first son and the privations of widowhood. Meanwhile, Reza’s heart lies empty and waiting to be filled due to the absence of a mother. The situation comes to a head when Binta’s wealthy son confronts Reza, with disastrous consequences. This story of love and longing - set against undercurrents of political violence - unfurls gently, revealing layers of emotion that defy age, class and religion.
About the Author
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut short story collection The Whispering Trees (Parresia Publishers, 2012) was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014. The title story was shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013. Ibrahim has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. He is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). He was listed by the Hay Festival in the Africa 39 list of the most promising sub-Sahara African writers under the age of 40. He judged the Writivism Short Story Prize in 2014 and was a judge for the Short Story Day Africa Prize and the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize in 2015.
His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms won the $100,000 NLNG Nigeria Prize For Literature 2016
Season of Crimson Blossoms Extract: Taken from Chapter 1
Hajiya Binta Zubairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, Like a field of minuscule anthills, scaled her fence and landed, boots and all, in the puddle that was her heart. She had woken up that morning assailed by the pungent smell of roaches and sensed that something inauspicious was about to happen. It was the same feeling she had had that day, long ago, when her father had stormed in to announce that she was going to be married off to a stranger. Or the day that stranger, Zubairu, her husband for many years, had been so brazenly consumed by communal ire when he was set upon by a mob of intoxicated zealots. Or the day her first son, Yaro, who had the docile face and demure disposition of her mother, was shot dead by the police. Or even the day Hureira, her intemperate daughter, had returned, crying that she had been divorced by her good-for-nothing husband.
So Binta woke up and, provoked by the obnoxious smell, engaged in the task of sweeping and scrubbing. She fetched a torch from the nightstand and flashed the light into every corner and crevice. But deep down she knew the hunt, as all others before it, would end in futility.
It must have been the noise of her shifting the wardrobe that drew her niece Fa’iza, who, dressed in her white and purple school uniform, lips coated in grey lipstick, came and leaned on the doorjamb of Binta’s bedroom with the distracted air typical of teenagers. ‘Hajiya, what are you looking for?’ Binta, now busy rifling through the contents of her bedside drawer, straightened with difficulty. She pressed her hands into the base of her aching back and shrugged. ‘Cockroaches. I can smell them.’ Fa’iza made a face. ‘You won’t find any.’ Binta looked at the girl’s face and her eyes widened. ‘What kind of school allows girls to wear make-up as if they are going to a disco?’ Fa’iza had turned and started walking away when Binta called her back. ‘Come, wipe off that silly lipstick. It makes you look ill. And your uniform is too tight around the hips. You should be ashamed wearing it so tight.’ ‘Ashamed? But Hajiya, this is the fashion now. You are so old school, wallahi, you don’t know anything about fashion anymore.’ Fa’iza pouted and wiped her lips with a handkerchief. ‘You better put on the bigger hijab to cover yourself up or else you aren’t leaving this house.’ Fa’iza grumbled and, as if standing in a pool of fire ants, stamped her feet in turns. ‘The way you girls go strutting about all over the place these days, the angels up in heaven will have a busy day cursing. Looking at you, who would think you are just fifteen, going about tempting people like that. Fear Allah, you insolent child!’ Fa’iza went off to her room and Binta, determined to ensure compliance, came out to the living room to await her. Little Ummi was sitting on the couch stuffing herself with bread and tea. ‘Ina kwana, Hajiya?’ She smiled up at Binta. Binta moved to her and brushed away the crumbs that had collected on the girl’s uniform. ‘And how is my favourite grandchild this morning?’
‘Fine, Hajiya. Do you know what Fa’iza did when she woke up this morning?’ Ummi smacked her lips in a way that always made her grandmother think she was too smart for an eight-year-old.
‘No, what did she do?’
Ummi sidled up to Binta and whispered into her ear. Binta missed most of it but smiled nonetheless. Ummi sat back down and beamed.
Fa’iza emerged from her room pouting, her slender frame covered in the hijab whose fringes danced about her knees, her books swept into the crook of her arm. She pulled Ummi by the arm, barely leaving the child time to pick up her bag.
‘Won’t you have breakfast first?’ Binta put her hands on her hips and regarded the girls.
‘Later.’ Fa’iza was already stamping out with Ummi in tow. Binta shouted her goodbyes. And because the stench of roaches had faded from her mind, she wondered what she had been up to before the interruption.
She went back to her room and sat on the lush blue tasseled prayer rug. And just as she had been doing since she received the news two weeks ago that her childhood friend and namesake Bintalo had keeled over and died of heart failure, she spent time counting her prayer beads and sending off solemn petitions for friends and kin lost. She prayed for a full life and asked God to receive her with open arms when her time came. However, in the midst of this communion with divinity, the meddlesome Shaytan prodded her with reminders about Kandiya’s unfinished dress lying on her sewing machine. Binta had promised to complete it later in the day. She also had to go to the madrasa, where women were taught matters of faith.
After a quick shower, Binta rushed down her breakfast. Then she retrieved her reading glasses from the nightstand where she had placed them the night before, atop the English translation of Az Zahabi’s The Major Sins.
She oiled and cleaned the sewing machine stationed in the alcove where the dining table, if she had had one, would have been. Picking up Kandiya’s wax print blotched with nondescript floral designs, Binta pedalled away. The task strained her muscles. And her backache grew worse as she was fixing one of the sleeves.
It was almost time for the madrasa anyway, so Binta put on her hijab, hoisted her shoulder bag, locked up the house and left.