One Friday evening, mother left the house and was to return late at night. I had the house to myself. I figured that Tolu had not been to the house. I invited him to keep me company. This would be the first time I spend time alone with a guy, at the house. Mother had not even met Tolu. She had no idea that I even had male friends, or so I believed. But she had once counselled me about relationships with the opposite sex and venereal diseases.
Hearing Tolu’s knock at the door made my heart skip a beat. I graciously opened the door for my august visitor. He was a tight-fitted shirt, yellow in colour, and a blue pair of jeans. “How you doing, baby?” he asked, wearing his disarming smile, on entry into the living room. And yes, he called me ‘baby.’ We had come that far.
“I’m fine, great as a matter of fact. Should I get you something to drink? There’s coke in the fridge.”
He declined. He said that he had drunk a bottle of soft drink before coming over. Funnily enough, the drink I was to offer him was purchased from his restaurant. Nonetheless, a seeming gentleman, he was very gracious in declining offers. His etiquettes, being a guy, impressed me.
Even though a bit nervous, I was very happy to have him in my house. It would have been nice if mother got to know him, but I wouldn’t dare invite him when mother was around. I couldn’t tell what her reaction would be. I never really knew what to expect from her. She had a certain streak of unpredictability. When I was younger, she caned me anytime I broke her glass wares in the kitchen, but not when I burnt her expensive lace with a pressing iron.
Tolu and I did some catching up, talked about random things, cracked witty jokes, till we ran out of things to say. An awkward silence ensued. Tolu then asked about my mother, about where she was. I told him she wouldn’t be home anytime soon.
He subsequently lunged forward to sit closer to me. My heart thumped. I did not exactly like how close he was sitting to me. But I stayed put. I latently prayed that he would not make any stupid move.
“So tell me more about your family,” he said.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, somewhat relieved.
I elaborately talked about my family, about mother most especially, but soon ran out of things to say again. An awkward silence came to bear again. This time around, however, Tolu and I gazed at each other, as though waiting for who would raise another topic for discussion. But he said nothing, neither did I.
I looked away. Tolu lunged forward again and locked his lips against mine. The spontaneity of his kiss amazed me.
“Stop!” I said, freeing my lips from his. “What are you doing?” I asked, as if it was not obvious.
“What do you mean? I thought you liked me.”
Tolu’s corny remark disgusted me. I was not going to lose my virginity that evening. I was most certain.
“Of course I like you. But I think it’s time for you to go,” I retorted, protecting my honour. A certain pride soared within me as I uttered these words. Deep down within, I knew I was doing the right thing, and it felt good to know so.
Tolu seemed surprised. “Ok, I’m sorry if I went faster than my shadow. I thought we were already there.”
I made him leave nonetheless. The evening was already very weird, as it were.
Mother left home to return back late a few weeks later. I invited Tolu again, because I had been bored that day. Tolu arrived promptly, and this time, took the bottle of coke I offered him. We discussed extensively again. He seemed even more humorous to me than he had been the last time he visited. All through, we never talked about what happened the first time he visited.
But the unanticipated―or was it anticipated?―happened on Tolu’s second visit. He made another attempt towards intimacy with me. He changed his strategy this time around. Rather than catch me off-guard, as he did before, he told me how much he adored me and would like to take our relationship to the next level. I listened, saying nothing, as though tongue-tied. His honey-laced words were just so sweet to listen to, as they proceeded from his sugar-coated tongue in torrential amounts.
His hands soon were all over me, exploring sensitive regions—on my nipples most especially, which made surges of sexual excitement run down my spine. I may have tried to resist but was strangely powerless to stop him. My knees went weak as I felt his lips against mine and his hands on my nether region. I moaned in ecstasy.
Mother’s warnings about venereal diseases and teenage pregnancy were of little consequence. It did surprise me that despite my wariness the first time Tolu deemed it fit to still try his luck. But perhaps I wanted it too. I let him have his way with me. It was lost that day: my virginity.
Tolu and I never had sex again. Nonetheless I discovered I was pregnant precisely a month after having that one time experience. As I remember, I was to scour pots and pans in the kitchen sink. Mother had complained about piling of pots and pans in the kitchen sink, and said that I should make certain to wash the pots and pans immediately after use. It was nine in the morning. I fell ill and started to throw up.
Sometime later, I found that the illness only came in the mornings. I told myself it was probably malaria. But all the times I had malaria, the illness took effect in the evenings and not in the mornings.
My morning illnesses continued, and there soon were changes in my body—my hips widened and my bust line grew inches bigger. It dawned on me. I was pregnant. I was among the rare percentage of people who took in despite protection. What was I going to do? I had to verify. I bought the pregnancy stick to pee on, from a pharmaceutical store. It read positive. My life was about to take an unexpected turn. I could feel it. I knew it.
Amid all this I kept seeing Tolu. I did not tell him what was going on. How was I to divulge such unseemly news to him? While taking strolls together, I would try to tell him but end up not doing so, until one Wednesday. We were beside his restaurant. “There’s something I want to tell you,” the same old way of disclosing bad news. He looked at me with concern. Then, without thinking further, I blurted out “I’m pregnant!” breaking eye contact with him thereafter.
“You’re what!” he exclaimed. ”But we…. only once!” he cried out in dismay.
He looked at me, straight in the eye again. “Tell me you’re kidding.”
“I’m damned serious. Why would I joke about something like this?”
He scowled. He looked away from me. “You know the right thing to do. Do it or find the father of your child. ‘Cause it’s certainly not mine. Not ready to be a father.”
“And that is supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what you heard! Terminate the pregnancy or find the father. I can help you with the money to go about it.”
My pregnancy started becoming visible. I wore big blouses to conceal it. I did so until mother’s friend, Aunty Ifeoma, came visiting. The woman, with her x-ray eyes, could tell that I was pregnant on the spot.
“Nji!” mother yelled, after Aunty Ifeoma put the thought of me being pregnant in her head. “Are you pregnant?” she asked, with her two hands on her head. “You are pregnant. Your breasts have increased. Your hips have… How could you be…? How did this happen, right under my nose?”
Barely could I say a word. I stood two arm’s length away from her, where her hands could not easily reach my face, because a slap was almost inevitable. Mother was devastated; heartbroken, to say the least. I had wound up making the same mistake she made in life—having a child at a young age, outside wedlock.
Mother asked who got me pregnant. “Who did this?” she said, pointing at my tummy and breathing heavily. I said it was Tolu. She did not even know who the Tolu was. She did not even know my pregnancy was conceived on her sofa. How could she have missed this? She must have thought. “Njideka, why have you done this to me? Why?” she asked, in tears. Teardrops rolled down my cheeks as well.
She would drag me to Tolu’s house the following day. Tolu’s mother would be available. In effect, Tolu would be sent for. He would flatly deny the paternity of my pregnancy in the presence of his mother, making me look like a fool. “Tolu!” I would cry out, in frustration. Mother would slap thrice for being so stupid.
I would consequently drop out of school. I would stay indoors as my pregnancy grows further. Neighbours would covertly jeer at me when I come out to take the evening breeze. I would once overhear someone say “and we thought she was responsible; we never knew she was this irresponsible.” I would wonder if I am really irresponsible. I would wonder if the word “irresponsible,” a new tag on me, would be untagged later on. But no, the child I would have would inevitably tag the word to me perpetually. People who find out how I had my child would be able to see me as nothing but irresponsible.
I would push and travail in pain as my child goes through my pelvis, almost disfiguring my used-to-be perfect figure eight. I would be filled with joy when I hold my one day old, my little boy, who looks so much like his father. He would, one day, grow up to be tall and handsome like his father. He would have his father’s wits and perhaps etiquettes.
But he would grow up without a father, a seeming jinx in the family. This would give me much concern, though I would have one consolation: I birthed a boy and not a girl. The jinx of having children outside wedlock at a young age, whose fathers denied responsibility of paternity, would be broken. At least, I would be able to make bold to say I broke the jinx, plaguing mother and me.
The reality of my situation would dawn on me however—the stigma of having a child outside wedlock, as a teenager, which I would live with forever, which mother perhaps still endures; the vicious neighbours who would consistently gossip and gawk at me; the possibility of never walking with my head held high anymore. I would face all this after my discharge from the maternity ward.