I adjusted myself on the seat, like one waiting to hear information that could make or mar her life. Well, in a way, what I was about to her could make or mar my life. The whole meeting was about my life, the very beginning of the next most dramatic phase of my life.
“We have to get Rosemary prepared,” Aunty Florence had begun. “She will need to buy a few things, personal stuff that she will need,” she explained. “And the next step, and I know you will not like this one, will be to inform her father that she will be going with me to Lagos!”
“Ah! But, Florence, you know he won’t agree to the idea,” mother responded. “Even now, as I speak to you, he is insisting I go and bring his daughter home from wherever I have taken her. He wants her home so that he can get a doctor to terminate the pregnancy.”
“Where did you now tell him Rosemary is?” Aunty Florence asked her.
“I told him she’s with my family, I did not tell her which of my family member she is staying with,”
“But, still, you cannot take his daughter away to Lagos and not let him know about it?” she insisted.
“Listen, Florence, we have gone over this before and I have told you to leave everything to me,” mother assured her. Aunty Florence was quiet. She clearly was not comfortable with the arrangement.
“I don’t like this, Aunty, it’s not right,” Aunty Florence complained. You could see it in her eyes that she was under big pressure to do her sister’s bidding. “I just hope this will not lead to any serious trouble later o, because I don’t want my husband’s problem at all.”
“I am assuring, Florence, there is no problem, or is Rosemary not my own child again? Did I steal her from somebody?”
Aunty was silent. She was weighing the situation in her mind all over again. Mother was silent. She was waiting quietly for Aunty Florence.
“It’s okay, so you will know how to handle her father, right?” Aunty Florence asked gain.
“I will only tell him she’s still with my family, that’s all. And by the time his anger comes down, we will talk about the situation and maybe then, he will have a change of heart and everything will return to normal again,” she guaranteed. There was a confidence with which she spoke that baffled me. You would think she had in her hands the entire script of my life and knew exactly how everything concerning my life will play out.
“Okay, then, so I will leave you to handle that end,” Aunty Florence returned. “I will be leaving for Lagos in a few days and she can go with me once everything is ready. Both of you can sit down and look through her things and see the things that she will need to buy so you can buy them for her. Very soon, she will need to start buying baby things and prepare for life as a young mother.
At that point, tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to control myself and stop the tears from rolling down my face but it was a futile exercise. I just couldn’t stop them. To hear them talk about me becoming a mother totally shattered my heart. Me? Become a mother when my mates will be in the university? I stared up into space, hoping the heavens will come to my rescue. But nothing happened. Nobody came to rescue me. Deep inside of me, I cried even harder, still, I was left to my fate. This cross, I will have to carry all alone, all by myself. There was nothing I could do anymore, the die is cast now. I was about to take the very first step of the most dramatic days of my life…
Mother did not allow me to see my father. I stayed back with Aunty Florence and her friend while she returned home to prepare my things for the trip. When I asked her if I could go home to see my dad, she gave me a scathing look and followed it with an irritating hiss.
“Go and see your father for what?” she’d spat, her eyes burning into mine with contempt. “So that he can start his troubles again and prevent you from going where you’re going?” she asked, growling at me.
I kept quiet. I had had enough of her venom. There was no point trying to convince her to see things my way, otherwise, she could just start another one of her tortuous tirades.
Finally, we were ready to leave the following morning. And it was going to be very early. I could scarcely sleep that night. Sleep totally eluded me. There was a cacophony of thoughts in my mind and voices in my head all at the same time. Is mother doing the right thing? Is she doing this for me or for herself? Is this about her looking forward to being a grandmother or really because she was scared God could punish me severely by making me lose my life if I went ahead to procure an abortion, like the one I did almost turned out? Was it God that made my abortion attempt almost backfire or it was purely coincidental? Questions, questions and more questions waiting for answers. Deep inside of me, I doubted if I would ever find the answers to some of these questions.
I had always looked forward to visiting Lagos someday. That was the dream of most young, bright eyes girls in the village. I had heard some really astonishing stories about Lagos and how pretty the girls look. We were told that if you were an ugly girl, if you get to Lagos and mingled with the right crowd, you would become transformed into a beauty overnight and people won’t be able to recognize you again. I didn’t know whether that was true or not. But I knew I always said that if I was ever able to come to Lagos, I was not going to look for ways to become a beauty overnight and mix any kind of crowd, I would stay on my own, work hard and take good care of myself because as far as I was concerned, I was a stunning beauty. Very few girls could match my beauty in my school and neighbourhood. And the few that did couldn’t match my brain. And now, to think I was now heading to that same Lagos shattered, miserable and pregnant just simply broke my heart. What a sad twist of fate it was for me.
It was already early morning before I started to doze off slightly. But it was too late for me. It was time to start packing and leave. Aunty Florence had arranged with a cab that would come and pick us up from home and take us to the garage where we would take a bus going to Lagos.
“Get up, Rosemary, it’s morning, go and start preparing,” mother’s voice barged into my sleep as she woke me up. She had also passed the night at Aunty Florence’s house, possibly just to ensure that I didn’t change my mind at the last minute.
About an hour later, the car arrived and Aunty Florence and I entered inside. Mother had thanked Aunty Florence a thousand and one times for doing her what she called ‘help of a lifetime’ and promised her she would repay her back one way or another. She told me to be of good behaviour and assured me she would come to visit me in Lagos before I put to bed. But I barely paid her any attention. Nothing she said made any sense to me. She tried to hold me but I broke free from her hold, told her goodbye and entered inside the car… I did not look at her again till the vehicle drove away…