As if the phone had turned a live wire, my hand began to vibrate violently and the phone fell off my hand; I was shivering as though an iced water was poured on my body. I quickly picked the phone up, trying to compose myself. Dr. Maxwell looked startled and puzzled at my outburst.
“What is wrong?”
“Not…not…nothing, sir,” my voice disappointed me as much as I tried regaining composure.
It was as if an invisible hammer was banging on my head in a quick succession. The phone was ringing again – Festus was calling back. How would I tell him I was also pregnant? Oh, what a misfortune …. what a mess have I gotten myself into? I dropped the phone and hunched over the table with my hands supporting my cheeks. I was trying to fight back the tears that was pricking within my eyes.
“You haven’t answered my question, Sharon.” Dr. Maxwell’s voice raised with curiosity.
“Nothing, sir.” I said, shaking my head. Now my eyes became pregnant with burning tears. I couldn’t help it, but let it roll over my cheeks and splash on the table.
I brought out a white hankie from my handbag and wiped away the stream on my face and those on the office table
“I have to leave now,” I said in a plain voice as I stood up, adjusting my cloth, “it’s a confidential matter … And I wish you wouldn’t t let my parents know about this pregnancy for now.”
“Oh, I am afraid, I can’t assure you of that,” he said with a naughty smirk, while adjusting his eye-glasses, “ I’ve been working with your parents for over 15 years, and I can’t afford to ruin my reputation by concealing your true symptom.”
On hearing that, I didn’t utter a word. I picked up my handbag and slammed the door behind me. When I got inside the car I made up my mind to tell Festus once and for all. I brought out my phone, wondering if to text him or call him. The present situation was a bitter dilemma. Would I become a rival with Elizabeth if eventually she gave birth? Dr. Maxwell was right. My parents wouldn’t allow me to do anything that would risk my life as the only fruit on their tree. The solitary fruit that must not be harvested by fingers of the greedy wind, which is untimely death… I wish to carry Festus’ baby in my womb, but this was too early. And It was not Festus’ fault in anyway… I caused it. As a woman, I was supposed to ask him to use a protection, but I had failed to… I failed because of the sex drive that had overwhelmed me.
“Hell to that imprudent sex drive!” I said, my eyes loading with tears again, “why on earth did I do this to myself? Whyyyyyyyyy!”my voice broke off into a sob. I thought for a while and I concluded on using a voice call.
“Sharon, I… I’m so sorry about that,“ Festus said immediately the call went through, “You didn’t let me explain how it all happened before you terminated the call earlier on.”
“Festus, just listen to what I’m about to say,” I said in a low mournful tone, “I was in our family doctor’s office when your call came in. The doctor just confirmed that I’m three weeks pregnant.”
“You…you…you…d…don’t…mean it!” His voice staggered as if he had a lump in his throat; he was apparently shocked. Then his voice sank with a notable pressure, “You’re really pregnant…Serious or joking?”
“Festus, I am not joking. I’m very confused right now.”
“Why is all these happening? Why my God?” I managed to hear Festus’ fading voice. I was not sure if he was still handling the phone because his voice had receded to the background with lament.
“Hello! Hello!! Are you there?” I asked, but there was no response. I waited until about a minute before I heard his voice clearly again.
“Baby, I really want you to carry my child in your womb, but this’s not the right time,” Festus’ voice sounded very grave, but somehow tearful, “I don’t know if God is inflicting punishment on me with this Elizabeth of a girl. I don’t want her … I hate her! Although, I am not sure if I’m really responsible for the pregnancy until a test is carried out on the baby when she gives birth. So, what do we do about it?”
“I don’t know. The doctor is going to tell my parents and…and…..” my voice trailed off in anguish.
“Talk to me, baby. ”
“…my parents might not allow me to abort it.”
The next thing I heard was a long loud breath. He said he didn’t want me to abort the pregnancy either, and neither did he want me to get hurt because of him. I smiled to myself. Maybe he was afraid because of what he heard from Kingsley. He concluded that we should put everything in God’s hand since the situation was beyond our control. Quietly, I prayed that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb wouldn’t share the same gene with Festus during DNA test. If I was going to be a rival with a girl; not even a useless and arrogant girl like Lizzy.
On the following day Alfred arrived at exactly 11: 27 am. I could see him getting out of a land rover jeep through the security monitor in my room. Mum and Dad had already known about my pregnancy. Dr. Maxwell already told them on phone even before I got home with the result on the previous day. Throughout the night I was reproached severely by Dad and Mum for being careless with myself and selling myself cheap to a nonentity. Inevitably, my parents didn’t dare to talk about abortion. Dad had insisted on transferring me to our house in the UK in two months’ time. I would give birth to the baby and further my education there. But nothing was said about Festus. Perhaps they wanted me to give birth to the child and later get married to Alfred as planned. I didn’t believe Alfred could come here after Dad had told him last night that I was pregnant. He had spoken with Dad for about twenty minutes, and I supposed he’d agreed to marry me with the pregnancy. If not, how would he come here today?
The knock I heard on the door stirred me out of my thought. I rolled down gently from the bed to open the door.
“Omalicha nwa! Are you still sleeping?” Mum asked before I could open the door, “you need to dress up. Alfred is here.” She said as I opened the door.
“I know,” I turned away, folding my arms across my chests, a defiant grimace on my face, “ I’m coming.”
“Why are you behaving like this, Sharon?” Mum chided me. She would address me by my real name whenever she was annoyed with me. She would either call, ‘Treasure’ or ‘Omalicha nwa’ (beautiful baby) “Despite that you’re pregnant, Alfred insisted on getting married to you. Don’t you know that a man would only agree to marry you with pregnancy if he has a true love for you? That…that wretched boy purposely impregnated you because of your father’s wealth. Over my dead body will you marry that gold digger!”
“Mum, Festus does not act like a gold digger,” I said firmly, still turning my back at her, “in fact, I have tested him on that severally, and he passed all my test. He loved me regardless of my father’s….”
“Will you shut up your filthy mouth!” Mum interrupted me, and mimicked all I had just said in a slurring and irritating manner, “what has come over you? That boy must have used something on you, because you brain seems to have turned upside down. If you like come downstairs, If you like stay there.” With that, Mum left my room.
In a little while, after dressing in a yellow skimpy skirt and armless blue top, I made towards the stairs to attend my fake fiancée. He was sitting comfortably in the couch, a black suit on his huge dark-skinned figure, his mouth turning agape as he saw me climbing down the stairs. He rose to his feet with a look of surprise on his face. I put on a smile as I walked towards him.
“Oh, see you, you’re so big!” Alfred exclaimed , spreading his arms apart as if to measure my frame, “I wouldn’t have recognized you if not for your pics on Facebook,” he turned to my parents between his fresh mirth and said, “and she is just as beautiful as ever.” With that, my parents burst out laughing at the opposite couch, their faces beaming with bliss like a full moon.
“Thanks. You’re looking good too.” I said as I embraced him.
Sitting close to Alfred in the couch, I began to search my brain thoroughly for all I could ask him to feign interest in him, just to deceive my parents. I did not want to be defiant in Dad’s presence. I asked about his trip and his business in New york.
“Thank you, baby, glory be to God. Business is moving on fine,” he said fervently, rubbing his palms together. He began to blab on about the harshness of Nigeria climate in comparison to the one abroad. And he finally remarked that he would never allow our child to stay in Nigeria. Just as my brows furrowed in puzzlement, he added, “I mean the children we gonna have after our engagement in the US.”
On hearing that, I masked my bitter feeling with a broad smile. How sure was he that I was going to marry him, let alone having babies with him?
One of our maids, a slender teenage girl, placed two bottles of whisky and wine glasses beside the flower vase on the center table. Dad and Mum stood up at that moment.
“Feel at home and have fun, my son,” Mum said as she made towards the kitchen while Dad went upstairs, “the food will be ready very soon. You’re going to have an African taste today.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Alfred mouthed, a smile of fulfillment on his face.
When it was only me and Alfred in the sitting room, a thought surged into my mind. I needed to let him realize that I never had a single feeling for him. But how would I do that in a polite manner? Now Alfred was staring intensely at me. I was avoiding his gaze by searching endlessly through my phone.
Alfred cleared his throat and said, “So, how is….”
“Oh, Sorry, I have some things to discuss with you,” I intentionally broke into his speech.
“Go ahead, feel free,” Alfred said, waving his hands to urge me, while adjusting the collar of his suit.
I asked him if he was familiar with adage and parables, and he nodded affirmatively.
With that, I adjusted on my seat and turned to him. I started by gesticulating with my hands like a counselor, “Let’s assume you ’re riding a horse to a long journey, and suddenly you see a stream nearby…You decide to stop in order to feed your thirsty horse since the next couple of miles is a desert. If you get to the stream, and your horse refuses to drink, what would you do?”
“That means the horse is not thirsty. I will just take her away and embark on my journey.”
“But if I were you, I would pull the horse’ mouth and force it to drink,”
“Hell no!” He glowered at me as if I was a witch,” That would be so ridiculous and barbaric!”
“Yes, of course.” He said, wearing a look of assurance.
“That is exactly what my parents are doing to me.”
In a low one, I explained to him that I was the horse, while my parents represented the rider who wanted to take a horse to the stream and force it to drink.
I took a long breath, tilted my head and continued gently, “The fact is that I already have a lover and he is the one responsible for my pregnancy. I…I don’t want to waste your time … my parents want me to get married to you, but my heart is for someone else. ”
When I revealed my face to look at Alfred, there was a shocking look in eyes. I could hear his breaths pulling and dragging spasmodically.
“And w…why…why didn’t you tell me all these while?”
“I couldn’t.” I shook my head from side to side, “I don’t know how to tell you.”
Alfred sighed, glaring at me in disgust, “ I can’t just believe this! I just have to leave.” He jerked to his feet like a soldier and picked up his car keys from the table.
I didn’t say any word. He stopped abruptly at the doorway, turning to look at me, his eyes were as red as a glowing coal in a dying fire.
“Aunty Sharon, the food is ready o,” I heard our maid’s voice from the dinning, “Is oga going? Come and eat your food before you go!”
“Who is going?” Mum asked all the way from the kitchen. Before Mum could get out, Alfred had pulled his car towards the road that led to the gate. Mum asked me why he left without informing anyone.
“He left something at home,” I said plainly, while filling the two wine glasses, “he will be back shortly.” I covered my mouth to suppress the hiccup in my throat.
“Are you sure of what you’re saying? At least he would’ve just informed me.”
“I think that would be a waste of time, Mum,” I smiled. “ Don’t worry, your son-in law will be back soon. Okay?” I winked at Mum playfully. Mum smiled back at me.
During the night Dad became very angry with me. He was aware of all I said to Alfred through Mr. Peters, Alfred’s father. Alfred had refused to receive Dad’s call until around 7pm when Mr. Peters called and expressed how disappointed he was. I saw Dad pleading with Mr. Peters on phone that I didn’t mean what I said to his son. I began to wonder if there was something else behind my marriage to Alfred.
About 10pm I decided to take my used cloths to the washing machine at the third floor. I could hear arguing voices coming from the exterior balcony which was very close to the laundry room. It was Mum and Dad. I crept to the corridor. I peeked at them and hid myself by the door, soft drinks on the table before them. I wanted to know what the argument was all about.
“I don’t want this child to transfer the wealth on her to that wretched boy!” Dad said, “you know that any man that wins her heart is a lucky man forever. If the person is poor, he will become very rich in a blink of an eye once he starts staying under the same roof with her.”
“Yes … I know; according to her destiny,” said Mum.
“And you know Peter’s effort before this girl could stay alive back then. I just wish to marry my fortunate daughter to his son; just to pay him for his effort.”
“So, what do we do when she is blindly in love with Festus, en? Me I am tired of all this o.” Mum said in a nagging tone.
“I have to act fast on that…maybe I should separate them spiritually when physical effort is not working.”
I felt my heart struck having heard that. Spiritual effort? Many questions needed answers in my head. What effort did Alfred’s father make to keep me alive?
“Dad, I have overheard you!” I cried as I appeared to them at the balcony, “I would rather commit suicide!”