Fish Brain Clan (6) Loretta
Odd one out, black sheep, ugly duckling—all names used to describe me during my childhood. I was the darkest and the fattest amongst my sisters and I had an IQ that alienated me from them because they were just too dumb to understand I was a genius.
Before I turned ten, rejection became a language I knew so well and I wore it like a dark shroud everywhere I went. My mother always made sure she reminded me that I delayed her transition from mistress to wife (I think she secretly wished, before she went to sleep each night, that she’d wake up the next morning and find that I’d miraculously grown a penis). My elder sisters, on the other hand, saw me as the reason their mother was driven out of the house, and took it out on me; and finally, my father looked at me as a constant reminder that his ignorance about the XY chromosome was far worse than his lack of it. In a house full of siblings, I grew up alone, lost in my school books, consumed by science and all things technological. Beauty came much later when all the baby fat gave way to a full bootylicious figure but by then I had gone through secondary school like I was flipping through the pages of a book I had read several times. I didn’t quite experience my teenage years with all its awkwardness and hormonal madness.
My journey to becoming a doctor began when my father got me into Unilag. Medicine was not just a course, it became my life and I immersed myself into it with all my heart. I continued being odd and distant, avoiding parties and the opposite sex. The most I had was a sloppy kiss from a guy my friends forced me to date and after that, I closed the book on the male gender entirely. Everything I knew about men came from medical books and action movies. I also did not know anything about my own species. For instance, I didn’t understand the joy girls got from shopping or why makeup and g-strings were such a big deal. Then the whole crying thing was the most annoying. Was it a law that a woman just had to turn up the waterworks when a man acted like an idiot? I doubt that I ever will grasp the concept of tears.
Amaka was one of such females, she was all drama. I can’t tell you how many nights she went to bed hungry and in tears over James. It was tiring and quite frankly, irritating, so when my dear friend, Kyenpia called me to set up a meeting to get Amaka back to James, I dove for it. It was my job to arrange a family get-together, invite my sisters and tell my father the right words about James that would get to his heart. At first, I was scared that Amaka was going to say no and go into her usual hysteria but it seemed her counselling sessions with Pastor Ishi had finally knocked some maturity into her. James was quite the charmer, though, and if I was normal, I would have caught me some James fever but men and their wahala… *sigh*.
So, James did not go on his knees to propose. He had Amaka sit on his laps while he popped the question. All my sisters were in tears (don’t know why) and my dad would have joined them if I had not sliced his eyes with mine. Anyway, it was a touching scene that I can say with all confidence, I was part of orchestrating and at the end of the day, Amaka is out of my apartment and back home, waiting for her prince charming to take her to their happily ever after.
Now, back to my uneventful life. That evening, during the whole saga, I was unbearably restless. I had this big secret I was hiding. It was something I was keeping, incubating deep inside me and it didn’t belong there. I told no one for weeks and I would have succeeded in keeping it all in if Ada, my eldest sister, had not pointed it out when she saw me in the kitchen dishing out food.
“What?” I asked with a shocked/innocent look.
She poked at my breasts and observed my face carefully. “You are definitely pregnant, Lolo. But don’t worry, I’ll keep your secret if only you hook me up with a plastic surgeon to do my liposuction for free.”
I sighed in relief. That was easy, but as she walked out of the kitchen, I shuddered for the millionth time when I thought about what keeping the baby would do to my life and career. Killing it was something I couldn’t bring myself to do because I was in love with Doctor Balogun, the father of the baby. His first name was Dayo and he was fifty-six years old and married. This was his first child. Finally, I was going to make him a father after twenty-two years of marriage, so how could I hurt him like that? Call me an adulteress but I have a story in my defence.
Professor Ogundayo Balogun MB ChB MD PhD FRCS was a professor of surgery and was renowned worldwide for his research in arterial disease. In medical circles in Nigeria, we called him the ‘king of hearts’. I met him three years ago when he came to the hospital to do some pro-bono work on four babies with heart diseases. Unlike my other colleagues, I went beyond being awed by his professional presence and let every bit of him fill me in the theatre as he fought to save the first of the four babies. I had idolized him for years and couldn’t believe I was finally meeting him in the flesh. A week later, he allowed me scrub in for the second surgery. It was music the way we worked together that night. To me, it was just he and I and that baby’s beating heart and I knew then that the connection was going to go beyond teacher and student. The last surgery was what brought us together. We lost the baby even before we started and when I saw him outside the theatre leaning on the rails and staring into the huge acacia trees before him with this dark look in his eyes, I reached out to him. We talked for hours and I was struck by his depth. When he went back to the UK, we kept the line open and each time he was around, we spent precious moments together.
Maybe it was my daddy issues coming out to play in a twisted manner or maybe because Dayo treated me like the intelligent being I was and not a body he wanted to roll under the sheets with but whatever it was, it was no denying that he was my first love. This is what happens when all your mates are falling in love and having boyfriends and you’re locked up in your room reading one book on surgery or dissecting a cadaver in some cold lab. I kept the relationship a secret from everyone, but my best friend, Bem, suspected I was seeing someone. When he confronted me, I denied it vehemently.
As I left my family home after wishing Amaka and James the best, I drove straight to Bem’s. I had to tell him the truth about what was weighing me; I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I thought of a million ways to break the news to him but I only came up with one and that was to just say it plainly without too much talk.
I parked my car outside his house and sat in for a long time until I saw him come out of his front door with a puzzled look on his face. I stepped out of the car and walked to him and he led me into his shipshape sitting room. Bem was a big, tidy teddy, with love handles on every side and a gut that sought to consume every beer in sight, yet he was one of the best gynaecology chiefs in the hospital and scored more chicks than all the hot doctors who cared more about their looks than their practice.
“Bem, I need an MVA done,” I said as I walked in. I didn’t really want an abortion and it wasn’t the best starting line but was I supposed to just announce that I was pregnant?
“You know I don’t do that. Who’s the patient?”
“Me,” I said.
“Lolo,” he sighed, “you have surgery in three hours, I have rounds in two. Can we both be sane before we go in and kill our patients?”
“I am pregnant.” My tone was firmer and his eyes narrowed at me, scanning my whole body from top to bottom.
“Lie down,” he ordered and I didn’t hesitate. I spread out on his couch. He read my pulse and proceeded to examine my abdomen with expert hands.
“Satisfied?” I asked and he looked at me in total shock, taking his hands off me as if the foetus in me had bitten him.
“The last time I checked, you were a virgin, Loretta. How did you get from being that to getting pregnant?”
“Long story. I can’t…” I sighed, unable to complete my sentence.
“Talk to me. Who is the father?”
“He is…Doctor Balogun,” I said slowly and sat up.
“The one and only.”
“WHAT?!” Bem’s tone rose. “Are you insane?! He’s married, Loretta, and old enough to be your father!”
“Let me explain–”
“Explain what? Explain what exactly? That he wasn’t just mentoring your brain, he was mentoring your vagina as well?”
“No! I love him!” I confessed.
“I don’t understand,” Bem whispered, his initial tone disappearing as anger turned to pain. “You have always been the smart one, the sensible one amongst your sisters. You kept yourself grounded. How could you do this?”
“I’m not a child, Bem…”
“Oh my God,” he laughed in irony, “my best friend is an adulteress.” He bent over me and looked into my face. “She’s a home wrecker.”
I pushed him and stood up.
“Did you think of his wife?” he asked. “Did you think of what you might be doing to her, of how you’re hurting her?”
“They’ve been separated for years and they’re getting a divorce.”
Bem laughed again and scratched his head in sheer frustration. “You know, for the first time, I wish some guy had screwed some sense into you and treated you like shit so that you will know about men and the lies they tell stupid girls like you! Somehow, all your schooling, instead of helping you, has made you insane… Oh, don’t look at me like that! I’ve known about you and Doctor Balogun for a long time! I was just waiting for you to work up the balls and tell me to my face! And for your information, madam secrecy, the whole of LUTH knows too!”
“You think I freaking care?!” I screamed back. “I don’t care what you or anybody else thinks! I love him!”
“You know what?” Bem walked to the door and opened it. “Get out.”
“Get out of my house, Loretta!”
“Telling you to get out. Leave jor.”
I walked out with all the dignity I could find in me and made it to my car in complete confusion. What was Bem angry for? The baby was neither growing in his womb nor was he the wife in question, so what was the big deal? I loved Dayo even though I knew it was immoral and illogical. My thinking was if my mother made it through as a second wife with a smile of her face, so could I. Yet Bem’s words plagued me like a gloomy cloud as I drove home. But I told myself he was wrong and I was right because I was in love.
At home, I took a shower and changed into something comfy but the moment I opened the door to leave the house, a woman old enough to be my mother walked in. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and was dangling her car key in her hand as she studied every inch of me. I didn’t have to be told that she was Dayo’s estranged wife.
“So you’re the one he chose,” she said with a sneer, a British accent evident in her voice. “I don’t know what he sees in Igbo women but quite frankly, I don’t care. My name is Yinka.” Her eyes finally looked into mine. “I’m sure Dayo has spoken about me and told you all sorts of long tales and you believed him, or else you wouldn’t have gotten pregnant.”
She placed her hand on my stomach and smiled. “Omo wa.”
“Excuse me?” I was stunned. No, make that double stunned. I pushed her hand away.
She smiled at me but her eyes held fire. “Loretta, you will marry Dayo and have this baby and many more for him. You will come and live with us in the UK and we won’t have any of that drama that goes with polygamous families…”
“Ehm…madam,” I said, trying to keep my cool, “see, I’m on my way to work and I don’t have time for any of this. Quite frankly, you and I have nothing to discuss. Please, leave.”
She smiled again and touched my cheek but I pushed her hand. “You’re my wife, Loretta. I am the one endorsing your marriage to Dayo because I made him. I own everything he has, including you, of course. Without me, he will be nothing and I’d be a fool to throw everything away because young blood is taking my place. I knew this day was coming and I have planned for it; in short, I can confidently say I worked as much as he did for you and for this baby. So, allow me repeat myself in case I wasn’t clear at first. You will marry my husband and have our babies because that is your duty as a second wife. Understood? Anyway, call me when he proposes. I will throw a party for you and formally welcome you to the family, iyawo wa.”
She opened the door and walked out and I stood there like an idiot.
© Sally@moskedapages Cover Design by @IamAyomiDotun
 Wahala – stress
 LUTH – Lagos University Teaching Hospital
 Omo wa – our child