It was easy for the news to spread like wildfire. After all, I couldn’t really hide my disgrace; it was made evident by the bump on my stomach. I was a nineteen-year-old about to give birth to a bastard child in a community where no one tolerated immorality. Yes, no one tolerated it but they all partook of it. Hypocrites, that is exactly what they were. A community of hypocrites!
I had seen firsthand the indiscretion of those who now looked down on me with disdain. I had even covered up for a few who could not look me in the eye in my most trying period. I was avoided, like my protruding stomach was some kind of communicable disease. I was stupid to assume they would understand; I was a fool to think they will change their mediocre ways and accept me even as I had come to terms with my mistakes. I could stand the insults and the disgusted glances that were thrown at me but it ached my heart to see my mother suffer the same fate. It also hurt to see my father complain about the rate at which he was losing customers. They were the proud parents to the young lady who couldn’t keep her legs closed. Also, they now bore the tag of parents who couldn’t train their children to follow the norm society had created.
The last time I spoke to anyone I once called a friend was two weeks after my return. Fola and Bimi had paid me what was more like a condolence visit. Little did I know it would be their last. I had been three months down the road and already had a small bump. Bimi had baptized me with insults on how I had been foolish to keep it that long, she had given different ideas on how I could have gotten rid of my little growing problem. She made it clear how much disappointment she felt towards me because of my choices. According to her, I was supposed to be the smartest one amongst us but there I was acting dumb. Fola, on the other hand, was more pitiful and kept asking me why I didn’t use protection. I didn’t need another person reminding me of my mistakes, I was very capable of doing that on my own. I simply muted Fola and Bimi in my head and allowed my mind drift to thoughts of how to put everyone out of the shame they were now feeling. One of the nurses where I was getting prenatal care had started complaining about how high my blood pressure was and had even taken the liberty to talk to me to ignore the vile comments and glances people threw at me. I wasn’t the first young girl to get pregnant, she had said and I most definitely won’t be the last. But the talk couldn’t change anything. The people around weren’t the problem, I was my own problem.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
It has been exactly four months since I returned to Eruwa, which meant my child was fast approaching its 8th month in my womb. Yet, not one day passed that I didn’t re-live every moment that led to me finding out I was pregnant. In my memory, it was like it all started yesterday.
It was my first year at the university and the first time I was going to be so far from home. Of course, I had gotten a glimpse of the world outside Eruwa when I went to Lagos before heading to school. I was pretty young, so my parents ensured I went to see how life outside of home could be before sending me off to Ilorin. All was normal in my school life until I met him. Olukorede, the father of my unborn child who now wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. It all began one hot afternoon. I had been returning from one of my Linguistics classes and Tola, my roommate, came into sight. She was in the company of three young men but I was in dire need of one of her textbooks. I walked up to her and she ended up introducing me to all her friends. To avoid being rude, I smiled and waved at the guys before asking for what I wanted and excused myself. I had been totally oblivious that one of the guys had been ogling me while I was talking to Tola. At least, that was until Tola returned to the room later that evening.
“Arewa, the finest!” She screamed as she entered the room. It was what she always called me because according to her, I was petite and had a pretty face.
I sat up on my bed and looked at her.
“You just came with your natural hair and big butt and stole the attention of my friend,” she said with so much glee as she climbed on to my bunk to sit beside me.
I gave her my confused look not actually understanding what or of whom she was referring to.
“Why are you looking at me that way?” she asked.
“I’m confused, that’s why,” I replied
“You’re confused about what? You made him drool and you’re here acting confused,” she said and rolled her eyes.
“I did no such thing,” I said defending myself.
“In other words, you’re saying you didn’t notice him looking at you up and down?” she asked and I shook my head.
“I’ve always known you were blind. Anyways he asked for your number.”
“And did you give him?”
“No, I told him I would have to ask you first,” she answered.
“Good. Don’t give it to him. I don’t want any boy trouble!” I said sternly.
“Ah! But he has money.”
“That is not my problem. Just don’t give him, please.”
“Yes,” she said through her nose before jumping down to go to her own bed.
After that night Tolu tried to bring him up in every conversation we had. I did my best to either ignore or change the topic every time. I was doing a pretty good job until I bumped into him at the canteen one afternoon.
“Hi,” he said as he tapped me on my shoulder.
I turned around to meet a face I knew was familiar but couldn’t recall.
“Hi,” I said back with a confused face.
“Korede, Tolu introduced us a few weeks back,” he explained clearly understanding what was going on in my head.
“Oh! It’s been a while.” I exclaimed.
“It’s been a while because you gave Tolu strict instruction not to release your number to me. You don’t step out of that hostel so much. In fact, you’re almost invisible in this school.” He lamented.
I couldn’t hold back the laugh that jumped out of my mouth.
“Let’s just say I’m here for school and not the extras it comes with. So all I do is class and books and church,” I said just before my order was passed to me.
I got out my purse to pay and he stopped me.
“Don’t worry. Bills on me.”
“I can handle myself.”
“I insist. What drink will you have?”
“Just water. Thank you.”
He got me a bottle of water and placed it on my tray and went ahead to make his own order. And that was how it all began. We had lunch together that day and every other Wednesday in the weeks that followed. Yes, I gave him the number he had so badly wanted. We got closer over the weeks that ran by and lunch dates turned to dinner dates and movie dates. Then one day, he finally summoned enough courage to ask.
“Arewa, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” he said as we walked towards my hostel after an adventurous day at the waterfall.
“Seriously, what might that be?” I asked.
“So we’ve gotten really close over the last few months. I feel you’re a really awesome person to be around.”
“Thanks. You’re not so bad to hang with either.” I giggled.
“Not so bad?” he frowned his face. “What does that even mean? I’m awesome to hang around.”
“Come on. You know what I mean.” I said giving his arm a light nudge.
“Of course, just pulling your legs, shorty.” He smiled.
“So?” I stopped in my tracks and turned so I stood in front of him. He towered over my petite self.
“I was wondering if-” he stopped and scratched the back of his head like he always did when thinking.
“If?” I asked.
He coughed then continued.
“If you would like to be my girlfriend.”
I just stared straight at him. I was shocked he asked.
“Everyone already thinks we are dating so why not just make it official.”
“Do you think we are ready for that? It’s such a big step from where we are.” I explained.
“I am ready. That’s exactly why I’m asking you.”
“Can you give me a few days to think about it?” I asked and he agreed.
Three days later, I said yes to his question. That was no surprise to anyone, it was pretty much expected by everyone who was familiar with the both of us. As far as relationships went, we had it really smooth.
I wasn’t one to engage in quarrels or arguments, so I always avoided them and I apologized once something happened even if it wasn’t my fault. Everything was going smooth, at least for me, till Korede’s complaints six months into the relationship. He didn’t like the fact that we were waiting. It was an issue we faced a few nights when I’d sleep over at his place. I had told him I wasn’t ready to go down that road at the beginning of our friendship and he had always respected that. It didn’t really matter when we were just friends but as a couple, he felt it was part of those things we needed to explore together. He would try and cajole me with sweet words, he would spend the quiet nights playing with my hair telling me how pleasurable it would be. He would take his time explaining how the union of our bodies would be perfect, how we were a match made in heaven. I had my way of talking him out of those fantasies but after a while, my tricks started failing me. I was not sure if it was because my feelings for him were getting stronger or his libido needed satisfaction, so I caved. No, I didn’t open my legs up to him; I wasn’t bold enough to go that far. I simply let him do everything else that was termed sexual to me but never penetrate. He started to wake a side of me I never knew. While he pleasured me, I was always sure to return the favour as well. We would rumple the sheets and stain the walls with sweat. He was always happy to hear my screams of pleasure.
As memorable as those moments were, they were short-lived. Another fight stirred up just after our second-semester exam. It was the night before I was supposed to return home. He called and asked me to bring my stuff over so we could spend the last night together and I agreed. The night was going smoothly. I had prepared his favourite meal — eba and efo. We had eaten and made jokes about stupid things that happened during the exam. We hadn’t had that much fun together for over a month, all thanks to me. He was my distraction so I made a rule not to see each other till we were both done with our papers. I needed to concentrate and it was hard doing that with him around. This night was to make up for the last month. It was no surprise when he finally kissed me. I knew the dance already. In fact, I had perfected it. I took my shirt off and then his and we went to playing. He touched and licked me in ways that drove my senses out of my body. Our dance was taking its usual form until he pulled out a condom.
“Korede, what is that for?” I questioned.
“Come on, love. You know we are going to have to do it someday.” He replied cunningly.
“But, I’m not ready.”
“If I let this be up to you, you just might never be ready. I’m not going to see you in a long while. Give me this parting gift.”
“Korede, I’m not ready to have sex. Not yet.”
“Arewa, please don’t start. Just let us do this and enjoy ourselves. Don’t let the vibe die down.”
And that was all it took to flip my switch. I grabbed the sheets and covered myself before heading to the bathroom to wash up.
“Arewa!” he called after me as I left the room but I ignored.
After showering, I got into one of his shirts and shorts and squeezed myself to one side of the bed. Most of the night was spent crying while he snored carelessly in his sleep. When morning came, he kissed me goodbye but refused to walk me to the bus station.
Few days after I got home and still no call from him, I decided to call. As usual, I ended up apologizing for everything. He was reluctant at first to listen but later forgave me. The holidays were about two months and I knew a lot could happen in such a time but we talked every day. So it seemed like all was well until I got a call from Tolu, one late evening. It wasn’t unusual for her to call. But then she asked if I and Korede were still together and when I said yes, her replies got weird. She advised me not to drag my return to school since the timetable for the new semester was out. But I knew her far too well, there was definitely more to the story and I was only a week late to school. I did my best to hurry my parents into getting my things for school and was in school by the weekend. She was missing when I arrived which was not unusual. I unpacked and called Korede to know if I could come over and he bluntly told me not to since he was busy. I respected his choices and stayed in the hostel.
Tolu refused to comment on anything. The days turned into weeks and Korede and I still hadn’t had a chance to hang out. I heard he had got a new car and could only confirm it over the phone. I was beginning to worry so I confided in Tolu.
“Tolu, please can we go for a walk.” All she had to do was look at my face to understand why I didn’t want to talk in the room.
“I’m guessing this is boy related,” she asked as we stepped out of the hostel. I nodded.
“He’s been avoiding me since I got back to school. I don’t know what to do and I’m scared to just show up at his place.”
“I get this feeling he is cheating.”
She let out a big sigh and gave me a look that confirmed my suspicion.
“That’s not important. Finding a way to fix this is what is important. You need to go see him or at least give him a surprise on his birthday.”
“He only wants one thing and I’m not ready to give it.”
“Then think of something else or let him go.”
She was right then. If I couldn’t fix it, I had to let it go. But I was adamant. I went over to his place only to meet him with company. It broke me to see someone else lying in his lap. She knew who I was because as soon as I stepped in, she grabbed her stuff to leave. I did my best not to turn it into a fight. We talked about what had been happening and he didn’t deny. He defended himself by saying he had to get what I wasn’t ready to offer one way or another. Tolu’s words kept ringing my head at that point. I should have walked out and ended things but instead, I apologized and promised to work on myself. I was in love and couldn’t stop myself from displaying a high level of stupidity. The next week was used planning how to give my flower to him. Tolu was of much help. She had tried to talk me out of it because she felt any guy who won’t respect my choices wasn’t worth it. She finally agreed when I didn’t stop pushing.
I arrived at the party in a little black dress and leopard prints stilettos. The shock on his face was amazing. I had make-up on and my hair was worn straight. I walked up to him and whispered in his ears
“I have a surprise for you when we are done with the party.”
The party was loud and not my kind of thing but I did my best to blend in. He knew me well and noticed when I was tired and gave me the key to his room I went up took a shower and prepared his surprise. An hour after I got to the room he arrived and met me nude on the bed.
“Is this my surprise?” he asked.
“No, this is,” I said and stood up and pulled him to myself. I kissed him deep and started to tug at his jeans.
“Are you sure you want this?”
Something at the back of my head was screaming no but I said yes anyway. After that night, sex was a normal thing whenever we were left alone. All of a sudden he couldn’t keep his hands off of me. It was a routine that happened every weekend till the evening I called to tell him I missed my period.
“Be calm. It’s probably just a delay from the contraceptives you took,” was his reply. But this delay didn’t come to an end and I finally took a test. Positive. He told me to get rid of it. I actually got to the clinic but ended up running out because I couldn’t muster the courage to do it. Since I was stubborn, he abandoned me and that was how I found myself back at home.
That was how I found myself now sitting by the river bed with a blade in my hand. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision. I had contemplated this moment for the last three weeks. I sat at the mouth of the river with my legs in the water. I couldn’t take the shame and pain anymore. My mother was looking even paler with each passing day. The grey hair on my father’s hair was covering his once black head. I cried just thinking about what I had put them through. I had concluded weeks back that they were better off without me. And since then I had come to this river every day thinking of a way to rid them of their burden. I improved my grip on the blade. Mother wouldn’t find my goodbye note till late at night when she starts looking for me to have my dinner. It would be too late.
I pulled my knee up and cut behind the both of them and watched as the blood flowed out slowly. Next, I cut my wrist, three cuts on each arm. I dragged myself into the water and waited for life to drain itself out of my body. I have no clue what would happen next but I really hope my parents are happy when I’m gone.
I learn to live my life as everyday comes but still controlling the elements around me. I’m not perfect but the more I strive towards perfection the more things fall in place