I didn’t know when I said it. The same Lagos that I didn’t want to go. But I had no choice. The shame, the trauma, the pain, they were all starting to overwhelm me. I could no longer walk in our neighbourhood. I could tell that, somehow, word had gotten out that I was pregnant. I could feel it from the ways their eyes feasted on me whenever I walked down the street. Probing eyes wherever I turned to. It was as though I had done the most despicable thing. I wondered which version of the story they heard. Did they understand that I was raped, or all they heard was that I was pregnant for a boy? Truth is, it didn’t matter to me anymore which version they heard, I just wanted to get out of the village and go elsewhere. If my mother insisted I must bear her her first grandchild, then I may have to relocate. I cannot possibly go around the village with a protruding tummy, when all my mates were busy st6ruggling to get into the university.
“Rosemary, do you really mean that? You want to go with me to Lagos?” Aunty Florence asked, totally shocked I had made such request.
“Yes, Aunty, I am very sure,” I answered.
“But I thought you made it clear you didn’t want to go to Lagos, why the sudden change?” she asked, a puzzled look on her face.
“Yes, Aunty, I know I said I didn’t want to go to Lagos because I was hoping mother would see things differently and get me a competent doctor that could perform a D&C without any hitches,” I explained to her. “But now that it’s obvious she is not interested in getting rid of the pregnancy and you’re also saying you can’t help me get a doctor to evacuate the pregnancy for me, then its better I leave the village because I cannot bear the shame of being seen with a protruding tummy when all my mates are looking for admission into the university. The humiliation is already starting to kill me, Aunty Florence, please, I beg you, take me away from here.”
Aunty Florence sighed. I could see that her eyes were filled with pity for me. She knew what I was going through, but there was little she could do about it. She was helpless.
“Listen, Rosemary, I know you very well, you’re a very decent girl. A good girl,” she said to me. “You didn’t ask to be raped. You didn’t plan to be pregnant, what happened to you could’ve happened to anybody. You were unfortunate to have been a victim of circumstance. But, like I told your mother not long ago, I cannot just take you with me to Lagos, I will have to inform my husband first. He pays the rent, not me. He needs to give me the go-ahead before I can take you with me.”
I nodded in agreement. “I understand you very clearly, Aunty, and I appreciate you. But please, when do you hope to return to Lagos and when are you going to be back?”
“I will be leaving in two days’ time,” she answered. “I have some goods I need to come and pick up here and take with me to Lagos. Hopefully, by the time I return, I would’ve spoken with my husband. So, whatever he says I will let you know.”
She stared into space for a few seconds and then continued. “Your mother will be here before I leave, I will let her know about what we have discussed. But like I said, everything really depends on what my husband says.”
Aunty Florence left for Lagos two days after our discussion. My mother came before she left and they discussed. Mother seemed pleased with me. She held me close for the first time since the nightmare began and hugged me. But I was unmoved. I was not doing this for her, I was doing it for myself.
The days that followed were very tough for me. I could barely sleep well. I could barely eat. All I was thinking about was when Aunty Florence would return and if she would bring good news for me from her husband. And exactly about five days after she left, Aunty Florence returned…..
The minute I heard a car honk right at the gate of the house, I knew it couldn’t be any other person but Aunty Florence. I jumped up from where I laid on the chair inside the living room and raced out of the house. And I was right, it was Aunty Florence. She was sitting at the back of the car, owner’s corner, like they used to say back then. I remember I used to wonder then why they would say somebody was sitting in the owner’s corner of a commercial cab, when its not her own. But all that paled into insignificance to me when I saw it was Aunty Florence that was seated comfortably in the owner’s corner of the cab. All that mattered to me was that she was back, nothing else did…
“You’re welcome, ma,” I greeted excitedly. She beamed a smile that didn’t reveal to me if she had good news for me or not. It was just a normal, regular smile, nothing more, nothing less.
‘How was your trip, ma?” I asked, trying very hard to conceal my anxiety. I could feel my entire body quivering as fear tugged at my heart, thinking she may have nothing but bad news for me.
“How are you, my dear, hope I met everybody well?”
“Yes, ma,” I responded, still trying to gaze at her face to search for answers. But I found nothing. “We are all fine.”
“Please, go and take the goods I bought from inside the booth and take them, insider,” she said to me. The driver, an elderly man, got down, opened the booth and I promptly took down the big bags inside and took them inside one after the other.
“Where is my friend, she has not returned from work?” she asked as she stepped inside the house. “No, Aunty, she hasn’t,” I answered, wondering how best I could get to her to let me quickly know my fate. But knowing Aunty Florence very well, she was not the type of woman you could hurry or pressure into doing things, she would take her time and do it in her own time.
‘Is there food in the house?’
‘Yes, ma, there is rice and beans,” I told her.
“Okay, let me go and shower first. Meanwhile, help me warm the food a little.” And just as she was going inside the room, she stopped and turned back. “I know you’re very eager to know what was decided with my husband, right?”
“Yes, ma,” I nodded.
“I know, I can see it written all over your face,” she said. “But don’t worry, we will talk about everything soon. I stopped by at your place on my way home, I spoke with your mum, she will be here shortly, then we can all sit down and talk, okay?”
“Okay, ma” I nodded, trying very hard to conceal my disappointment. “Why couldn’t she just tell me what my fate is? Why must we have to wait for my mother? The anxiety very nearly tore me apart. But I had no choice. No matter how much I begged her, she would not speak. I had to wait for my mother to arrive…
It was about two hours after that my mother arrived. Those two hours seemed like forever to me. But thankfully, she was finally here. I greeted her when she came, but the truth is, I was not excited to see her. It was my dad that I really wished I could see. I missed him so much. How I wish I could get the opportunity to hug and beg him to forgive me for all I’d put him through…
“So, tell me, my dear,” mother’s voice broke into my thoughts. She was talking to Aunty Florence. “What did your husband say?”