I was still reeling from what Ify had said. How could she get between the sheet with someone who had inflicted so much pains on her, it was incomprehensible. I wished i could read her mind, see what was going on in her thoughts? what happened to her heart? She was always the fragile emotional one, quick to forgive and slow to anger. I would never know unless i was in her shoes, knowing death was upon her door must have changed everything.
” Ify, When will you give your dad a call?”
” Am not ready for that yet, i don’t want any drama in my life now. I just want to be happy “.
” Okay. ” She had become so different, she wanted everything her way and on her terms.
” You know nothing has changed”.
” Everything has changed! you think twice before saying a single word to me! you are so careful not to hurt my feeling! How could you say nothing has changed!”
She was right and i felt so bad. I was only trying to make her happy. ” Am sorry”. I said, ” I thought you would at least string Jeff along before striking but everything happened so fast and am still trying to wrap my head around it”.
” I don’t understand it myself”
I knew she had closed off on me. Again.
Days came and went, i avoided Chiboy like a plaque, it was like i had lost all my emotions except for one, terror, the terror was less about dying than it was about shame, degradation and reject. How long would it take Ebere to get tired of me? why should i contact my father? if they could abadon me when i was healthy why will they embrace me now? now that i am a carrier of a killer virus! my future was a hazy mirage, always ahead but untouchable, i knew my life would depend on medicines and doctors, when i looked in the mirror, i saw only horror, panic, unfulfilled desires and ultimate defeat.
I would never walk down the aisle, i would never experience that special morning sickness, i would never feel my b00bies heavy with milk. No little girl to braid her hair, no little boy to kiss when he skims his knee playing ball. My life was over, declared so by a simple blood test.
My AIDS specialist had found out that my T___ cells were only 200, i was prescribed AZT and DDI . The stares as i walked into the AIDS Unit every time was full of accusations and something vile and dirty, it makes me want to retch. Everyone feels sorry for you, you are automatically labelled a s–t. I was encouraged to join some organizations that was sympathetic towards ‘People like you’
” Hello” i was propped up in bed. It was all i do these days. ” Good morning ma”.
” How are you?” Chiboy’ s mom asked.
I hadn’t seen her in months.
” Chiboy told me about your condition yesterday. Ndo”
My heart squeezed. ” Thank you ma”.
” He said you want to call off the wedding ”
” Yes Ma”
I heard her sigh in relief and i pinched my lips between my teeth to keep from crying.
” Ndo, God will see you through…..ewo! Why you na! Ehn! Why you! ” she wailed.
I could see her in my mind’ s eye, she was relieved i wasn’t going to shackle her son to a life of misery but at the same time she felt sorry for me but her love for her son was greater and even i couldn’t begrudge her that.
” Nne, Chidubem said he doesn’t have it…..is it true? ” she asked softly.
” Yes mommy”
I could hear her crying in the background, i don’t know if it was out of pity for me or in relief for her son but i was happy she felt enough emotion to shed some honest tears.
” Nne my pastor is a powerful man of God! he will heal you. I will bring some anointing oil for you tomorrow ”
” OK mommy… thank you”
I wished that i had her faith but i couldn’t delude myself. I needed to be realistic and ready for the worst.
The next few weeks revolved around going to this church of wonders and miracle or that mountain top of signs. How Ebere and Chiboy could also believe in such things were beyond me but i was all for anything. The pains were becoming unbearable, my bones ached, some days i stool till i pass out. One crazy pastor had even asked me to fast for three days! Mommy would force me to drink this holy water or that holy oil.
One evening i refused.
” What is going on”? Chiboy asked.
” She does not want to drink the anointing oil! Something that i bought for N50 thousand naira!” mommy said.
We were all in their house, Ebere was also there urging me to drink it.
I couldn’t help it. I broke down in tears. I had just finished a whole bottle of anointing oil and here i was being forced to drink more. I realized how my life had slowly been snatched away from me, it no longer belonged to me. I now live on other people’s demand and reasoning.
” Let her rest a bit mom, she will drink it later”
Mommy left the room muttering under her breath, clutching the bottle of oil to her chest like a little child. Ebere gave me a little smile before leaving the room.
” Baby am sorry,” he said locking the door.
I nodded. He scooped me into his arms and kissed me softly. It was like a mother kissing her child, the passion was gone and in its place was another sort of love, love for another human. He was trying hard not to think of the thing between us, trying not to allow it be a factor. He was really trying hard like we were normal couple and our life was perfect.
” look, i love you. I’ m with you and I’m not leaving. okay?”
I nodded again.
Ify’ s HIV had transformed our lives into a series of concessions and compromises. The usual sparkle of her eyes had been eclipsed by sadness, it made me realize the HIV wasn’t going to kill her. It was going to end her life. Life was indeed unfair, i remembered a funny incident that happened long ago. One of my sisters in hustling had come to buy food from Ify.
” Why you use public plate sell for me?!” She had shouted at Ify.” You want make i catch disease?”
I couldn’t help laughing, here was someone who constantly rode public d*cks. If she was so worried about contracting a disease then she had chosen the wrong profession. Life is a roller coaster ride, so unpredictable, one moment of happiness, a thousand nights of weeping. No wonder i found myself driving down a particular lane, i thought i would never do this, i thought this day would never come. I remembered the first day i saw her, i envied her flashy car, her designer dress and bag. The only strange thing about her were her tears, she had sat in her car in that parking lot sobbing her heart out.
” Are you alright?” i asked stupidly. Of course she wasn’t alright. But i envied her all the same because she was crying in a car and i was also crying silently inside while trekking and wondering where my next meal would come from.
” What do you want?! She had barked at me.
Maybe i should have left her with her rich problem but i couldn’t. My conscience wouldn’t allow me leave her there sobbing her heart out without trying to soothe her at least. Just like i couldnt resist coming back to meet Ify some ten years ago. My heart was breaking too on that fateful day but Ify’ s sobs called out to me and something in me had dragged my feet back to her and offered her my hankie.
” Why are you still here!?” She said jarring my thought back to the present.
I started telling her my problems. It was a trick i learnt early in life, to get someone to trust you with their problem, trust them with yours first. It makes them think you are both even and you can’t spill their secret because they also have something on you. It gives them a false security, I told her about Madam B, my poor parents back in arochukwu, My brief bitter sweet relationship with Dayo, how i had foolishly thought Dayo’ s love also equated mine. She was listening now, she had stopped crying.
” Am going to abort it”
She clasped my hands in_between hers sobbing anew ” Please give him to me, your baby……. i promise to give him or her a good life! Please help me”
I was stunned. How could she say i should give her my baby?, when it wasn’t a puppy we were talking about!
” Please listen to me…….listen to me please.” She blew her nose noisily into her hankie. ” Please say you will listen to me first”.
My head was spinning, the ground drew closer and she reached for my hand on reflex to steady me.
” Not now please. I …..can’t give out my child”
She nodded. ” Will you at least give me your contact details?” She brought out a sleek expensive phone. ” Please”. She gave it to me and i inputted my number, i gave it to her. ” What should i save it as?”
” Ebere, am Lola, i will give you a call” she said desperately.
I nodded and scurried away like a frightened rabbit. I tossed and turned all night, why did Lola desperately want my child? how could she even say such a thing? another part of me reminded me of my selfishness, why waste the poor baby’ s life when someone else desperately needed a child. I ignored her calls for days, Ify was also getting suspicious of the incessant calls and i decided to go see her.
” Please come in” the ebony beauty said. ” Have a seat”
She was so beautiful and tall, her left cheek was dimpled and her teeth were sparkling white. I envied her, her big fine house in Ikoyi, the fleet of cars in the compound, the living room was like something from a movie about royalties.
” What should i offer you? Fruit wine? juice……..”
” Am fine ” i said, my voice was thick with envy.
She stood before me nervously, she couldn’t decide if she wanted to hug me for coming or sit down in frustration.
” Please let get to the point”
She nodded and sat down. ” I appreciate you coming to see me…….i was so worried you would change your mind” she said tittering on the verge of tears.
” Am listening”
” I met my husband five years ago”
i could see the love shinning brightly in her eyes. Am definitely not giving her my child i vowed within me. Life was so unfair, why should some people have it all!
” He’s my world, my everything “. She went on, ” We walked down the aisle a year after we met and we decided to start a family right away. Our joy was filled to the brim when i became pregnant few months after our wedding….. but that joy was short lived because i miscarried few weeks later.” She sobbed out.
Nobody can truly have it all i decided, feeling her obvious pain.
” We have been through six pregnancies already. Before my husband got transferred i conceived again, we decided that i should stay back in Nigeria instead of following him from country to country. ”
Her hands trembled terribly as she reached for a glass of water on the table in front of her. ” My husband was so happy, he called his parents in Spain and informed them. His mother flew in the next day, she spent a whole week here! my parents were over the moon with ectasy.”
I braced myself for the obvious ‘ but’ i knew was coming.
” I lost the baby a week before we met. Have not told my husband yet…..i couldn’t do that to him again. ”
” Why don’t you go for adoption?”
Her eyes widened in shock.” That would be scandalous! My parents_in laws won’t have it! Our names would be on the lips of everyone! My God! we would never hear the end of it! ”
Rich people’ s lives wasn’t as rosy as i had thought. What was scandalous about adopting a child?
” Maybe you should try to conceive again”
” I was told my womb is weak”
” That was why you were crying in the park? The hospital park?”
” Yes. I decided to go to a place ( hospital) i wasn’t known. Please don’t abort your baby……..think of the life you want to terminate prematurely….please help out a fellow sister. I will pay you.
” Please don’t insult me! i have no use for your money!”
She got on her knees before me.” Am sorry, Ebere am sorry. Say you will help me please”.
” How do you plan to pull this off?”
” Trust me…..trust me i will. Just say you will help me”
I got up and walked out of the elegant house. For nine months i kept thinking of it, i thought of it every waking day. I lost sleep and appetite over it. A part of me wanted to reach out to Dayo’ s family but i knew they would never accept us, both the baby and I. Lola called me every single day, she was hoping i would come see her. After the baby arrived, i realized i couldn’t care for the wee scrawny thing without help from anyone, one early morning, i wrapped her in a warm shawl and took a cab to Ikoyi.
I didn’t give Lola a call, i was hoping she won’t be at home so i could go back home justified that i had at least tried. She opened the door immediately i rang the door bell, she said she looked out for me every day, she collected the baby, promising to keep her safe. I left without uttering a word, i left without a backward glance, i had left a vital part of me behind, i was afraid i would snatch the baby away from her and make a run for it if i had looked back.
Here i was driving down the familiar lane ten years after, it was like a map of the place had been etched into my brain, i remembered every building on the street, the color of each houses. A security man threw the gate open and ushered me in without any questions. strange. It was just like they had been expecting me.
” You are late” A tall handsome dark Greek god said.
He looked at the gold wrist watch on his hairy arm. I swallowed. My heart was at my feet now. Have i come to the wrong place?
” I don’t condone unseriousness.”
I gave him a blank stare.
” Ain’t you here for an interview? ”
” Is this the Williams’ s residence?”
He gave an exaggerated sigh. ” Yes! ain’t you here for the nanny job?”
” Yes” i heard myself reply, as i followed him into the household i had given sunshine to ten years ago.
To be continued