Alison sat immobile on the examining table, her eyes glazed and gazing into nowhere, her mind numb.
Doctor Shola looked at her through bespectacled eyes, his expression a mixture of exasperation and fatherly kindness. She knew what he was probably thinking. These young girls never seemed to be careful and take proper precautions, let alone practice any form of restraint.
“Do you have daughters, Doctor?” Her voice sounded wooden to her ears.
“Yes, I have two.” His answer was gentle.
“And after seeing girls like me, I’m sure you must be wondering what yours are up to. You’re probably wondering if, after everything you’ve taught them, they’re any wiser.”
He said nothing, his expression devoid of judgment and she looked away, catching sight of her reflection on the window pane. Her eyes were wild with fear and bewilderment. She had come in complaining of malaria-like symptoms and the doctor had tested her for malaria and typhoid and had asked, in an offhand manner, if she could be pregnant. She had answered, no. He had run the test anyway and she had refused to believe the result.
And then he had her lie down and pull up her shirt. She had felt the shocking coldness of the gel on her tummy before the pressure of the scanner. She had stared numbly at the jumble of black and grey images on the screen until he pointed to a small sac that appeared to be pulsating. A heartbeat, he said. Strong and viable were the exact words he used.
“So…you’re saying I’m pregnant?”
“Yes, dear. I suspected as much, given the date of your last cycle. Think back… a little over two months back…”
And she had. She knew all the whos, whats, whens, wheres and hows of this. Damn him and his smooth talk and liquid eyes. So much for being a ‘good girl’. What will my parents say? What am I going to do? The next long holiday isn’t not due for another 10 weeks and by then I won’t be able to hide anything.
“My dear…” The doctor’s voice crept into her thoughts and brought her head snapping back up.
“Uhm…yes…I was…with someone around that time. …” Oh God, I’m sorry.
The doctor nodded quietly. She looked back down, bit her lip and started swinging her legs in an odd rhythm. Then she abruptly swung herself off the examining table and stood in front of him, looking up into his eyes. “Doctor, I have to go and…think. I will be back within a week.” Then she deftly took her file and walked out of his office, heading to the receptionist to pay for her tests and consultation.
“And you are absolutely sure it’s mine?” he asked, eyes staring into space, his face a mask of blankness.
“Don’t you dare go into that old ‘it isn’t me’ routine. I am 3 months pregnant and you know exactly what happened three months ago, Michael. And no, don’t even bother trying to pin this on anyone else. Yes, it’s yours. Period.” Alison could almost feel him shrinking away from her, as though he wanted to wish her away.
“So what do you want to do?”
“Me? Why does it have to be about me?”
“Because it is in your body and you will have to carry it…or you might…”
“I might what, Michael?” she spat, her eyes flashing and her throat clogging up with tears. “Why don’t you just say it out loud? It won’t kill you, will it?”
“Calm down, Alison.”
“Screw calmness and screw you. Oh, I forgot, I already did that. That’s why we’re both here.”
“I didn’t force you to do anything then and I won’t do it now, Alison.” His clinical detachment hurt.
“No you can’t force me to get rid of it, can you? But that would be extremely convenient for you now, eh? My body is yours to have fun with but mine to handle everything else, abi? ”
“Don’t try and pin all the blame on me, Alison. This…situation is as much your fault as it is mine. I must admit that the ‘Daddy’ title isn’t something I had wanted so soon.”
“But you wanted the whole process that would lead up to being called ‘Daddy’, eh?”
She got up abruptly and picked her books, her eyes stinging with tears. He didn’t stop her as she walked away and she forced herself not to look back. She would not give him the satisfaction of watching her unravel.
Alison thought about how she would tell her parents, what she would go through in school as she began to ‘show’ and what to do with the baby after it was born. Her stomach churned and she felt nauseous. She wasn’t sure if that was a symptom of pregnancy or just nerves.
She was on her own.
The news did not go down well with her parents. Her mother wept on the phone and her father was terse and unforgiving.
“Well, since you decided to go and sleep with that boy then he can take care of you. Let him and his parents take responsibility because I most certainly won’t,” he said with an air of finality before handing the phone to her mother, who proceeded to cry some more.
Alison sat on her mattress, dejected with her cell phone in her limp hand, alone in the room with her thoughts. At 14 weeks pregnant there was a slight, almost imperceptible bump on her abdomen and her trousers were beginning to get a little snug. Her roommates had noticed the change in her and she knew that they were curious, whispering and then stopping as soon as she entered the room. Soon the whispers would inevitably spread outside her room.
“Wetin do you sef?” Omasan, one of her 5 roommates asked as she walked into the room, her books in her arms. Omasan wasn’t an overly curious girl, preferring to mind her business and distance herself from the other girls in the room. Alison had always thought her to be cold. Her personal question to Alison made her realize that her misery was evident.
“Nothing do me o.” Alison hoped her blithe answer would serve to discourage any more questions.
“Ehn? You think you can hide that your belle under your big shirts forever?”
Alison’s head shot up.
Omasan plopped down on her bed and turned to face Alison. “See, let me tell you something. Everyone knows now. I just feel sorry for you and that is why I am telling you. The other girls have decided to go and do amebo and now the whole school knows you are pregnant.”
Fresh tears rolled out of Alison’s eyes. Her humiliation knew no bounds.
Omasan’s eyes softened. “Look…you are no worse than hundreds of girls around. Is the father helping you?” Alison shook her head slowly.
Omasan exhaled, her eyes full of pity. “Are you keeping it?”
“Yes…I can’t…I’m too afraid to get rid of it. I’m already almost 4 months and I’m afraid if I try anything I might die, or something might happen and I’ll never have children. I’m afraid God will punish me.”
Omasan pursed her lips. “Punishment, ke. Look at what’s happening to you now. People are looking and pointing and saying all types of rubbish, like it’s only your fault. God doesn’t have to punish you. People around are doing that job well. And you’re punishing yourself too.”
“Maybe it is my fault.” Alison was heavy, physically and otherwise.
Omasan looked incredulous. “How? It’s funny but somehow in this society being the girl that gets pregnant is much worse than being the guy responsible. That’s very convenient.”
Alison felt bitterness well up within her. She thought about Michael and what he was doing at that very moment: probably enjoying his life, without a care in the world and maybe even knocking someone else up. She sighed and got up.
It was worse than Alison could ever have imagined. The first few weeks were filled with people openly staring at her, some with looks of pity and others with amusement and still others with self righteousness. She had been called into an office by one of her lecturers and had to endure a long winded speech about her stupidity and ‘loose behaviour’. She stopped going to church and fellowship because of how guilty she felt, and she kept blocking the attempts of the leader of the fellowship leader to talk to her, not answering his calls and refusing to meet him until he stopped trying altogether.
She hadn’t been to see the doctor and she was almost in her 5th month. There were times when, in the silence of the night, she would curl up on her mattress and try and will the baby to die, to be stillborn. There were many times she wanted to die herself.
She still continued receiving money from home- she was sure that was her mother’s doing. At least it was enough to keep her living.
She sat one day in her room, trying to read for a test with Loquat’sSwingset Chain playing on her radio. The room was empty and she was grateful for that as she wanted nothing more than to be alone. Then there was a knock and a girl opened the door, poking her head in.
“There’s a guy looking for you outside. One Michael like that.”
With that the girl left without giving Alison the chance to respond. Her throat dried up and her pulse quickened. What did he want? They hadn’t spoken for a very long time and she avoided him whenever she saw him, ducking into shadows and corners. She pushed herself up, her growing belly making it more uncomfortable for her to move around. She had long stopped trying to hide her condition from the girls, no longer bothering to undress in the dark and take showers late at night. She walked out of the room and downstairs to the lobby where all visitors waited. She spotted him immediately.
She walked to him and stood quietly, waiting for what he had to say. She felt the shift in attention as eyes bored into them- she had gotten adept at reading signs. People wanted something to talk about and she had just provided enough fodder to feed the fire of hostel gossip for a week.
She pushed her shoulders back, making her burgeoning belly more evident. Let them look and let them talk until they drop dead. She narrowed her eyes at Michael.
“What do you want?” She poured out her contempt.
He looked taken aback. “I just want to talk to you. Maybe we could go somewhere private?”
She let out a breath and shrugged her shoulders. “Private, huh? The last time we had a ‘private’ moment it didn’t work out too well.”
He didn’t answer as he turned and walked out as she followed closely, aware of the eyes drilling into her back, hearing the not-so-subtle whispers.
“Na ‘im be de guy wey give am belle?”
“You see? I know say na all these church girls wey dey do…”
“Is he the one?”
And then they were standing in front of his car. Michael rubbed the back of his head, looking uneasy. “See…I’ve been thinking…”
“Oh have you? How unusual.” She wanted to cut into him in any way possible. Sarcasm was as good a tool as any.
“Easy, easy. What’s all the aggression for? I’m here to make amends.”
“Amends? How can you possibly make amends for this? You have no idea what I have gone through in the last few weeks. My parents won’t talk to me, I am the subject of gossip from the lecture halls to the student beer parlours.” She paused for breath, ready to continue her onslaught. “You know what else sucks? Upon the fact that you denied me and this baby, the same people who abuse and insult me will hail you and pat your back.”
Michael lowered his head for a moment, as though trying to gather his thoughts. Then he spoke. “Look, about the denial thing, I’m sorry, okay? I thought you were trying to trap me. I was wrong…I want to help you.”
“You can move in with me.” Her eyes widened in shock and she opened her mouth to refuse but he held his hands out, stopping her. “Wait. Hear me out first before you refuse. I think you should move in with me and I’ll take care of you- Doctor, antenatals and all that stuff.”
“And after the baby arrives? What then?”
“I don’t know, Alison. All I know is that you’re pregnant and I’m responsible so…I’ll do what I can. At least think about it. What are your other options now? You want to go at this alone or you want my help?” Alison looked at him and saw no subterfuge, his expression frank and open. Her shoulders drooped in defeat.
She began to cry. First the tears rolled down her face in inconspicuous paths, then the deluge came. She started to sob, Michael’s image blurring before her as the tears ran down, this time in rivulets. She heard thunder in the distance and then it began to rain. Fat droplets of water landed on her head and she closed her eyes, unwilling to move, wanting the rain to wash her away. It increased from a steady shower to a downpour. She heard the pounding footsteps of students running as they tried to find shelter in the storm but something in her refused to move.
“Alison, get out of the rain!” She heard Michael shout. She didn’t respond.
“What, you want to stay out here and freeze to death?” His voice cut into her thoughts.
Wait. She had been here before, heard this before.
Thunder crashed again.
Alison opened her eyes and found herself standing at the foot of the stairs at Parole Hall. It was raining. What had just happened?
“What the…?” Michael stood in front of her, a shell-shocked look on his face.
She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. He shook his head as though trying to clear it of something.
“Are you okay?” As the question passed her lips, Alison was sure it was meant as much for her as for him.
“I’m fine… I think.”
She hesitated and he shrugged, walking upstairs. Alison started follow him but stopped as she heard the sound of wet, running footsteps. She turned around and saw Dora running toward her, soaked to the skin and holding her folder with lectures notes tightly against her chest, her bag swinging on her shoulder. Relief flooded her and she felt her legs go weak.
“Alison?” Dora’s face creased in worry. “How far na? How long have you been here?”
“I came to see you. Sorry I didn’t call.”
“Never mind that. Let’s go inside before we die of cold.” Dora peered past Alison to Michael, smiling. “Hi Michael. I see you’ve met my friend Alison.”
Michael gave a slow nod.
“Well…we’ll be going inside now. See you later.”
“See you Dora. And you too…Alison.” Dora fumbled with her keys, opened the door and entered. Alison made to enter, but before she did she cast one last look at Michael. He was still standing halfway up the stairs, regarding her with the same odd look he had given a few minutes earlier, and she wondered if he too had experienced that odd sense of déjà vu she felt. With a shake of his head, he turned and went upstairs.
“What was that between you and Michael?” Dora asked as they sat in the apartment later, dry and warm, sheltered from the pouring rain.
“What do you mean?”
“There was a…look. It was weird, like you guys know each other really well, like something had happened between you two,” Dora said.
Alison laughed. “Oh it was nothing. Really, it wasn’t. I was going to go to his place and wait out the rain but luckily you came along. He basically offered me shelter from the passing storm.”
Written by Sifa Asani Gowon
If you enjoyed this story, and you want to read more from this writer, visit http://www.sifushka.blogspot.com
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