After they made love, they just laid in each other’s arms with the sheet around them. They didn’t say anything for a while.
“Ricky,” Oleng called softly.
“Yes, love.” he responded softly too.
“Please don’t ever forget me. Please. Please promise me we’ll always be together no matter what.” He heard the tears in her voice.
He was touched. “I’ll never forget you. I promise to always be there for you. Never forget me too.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
“I promise too.” he affirmed and kissed her. He linked his little finger with hers and they both said like they always did whenever they made promises to each other.
“These promises we’ve made to each other will never go unfulfilled.”
He kissed her and continued kissing her until he heard his phone ring. It was his mum. It was time to go because he had promised his mum that if she called, he would come home. That was why she had allowed him out in the first place. He answered the call. She told him to come and put finishing touches to his packing and to remember that they were having a farewell dinner for him. He told her he would be home soon. She promised him she would continue calling until she saw him. He ended the call.
All the while he had been talking with his mum, Oleng had been crying. The dreaded moment had finally arrived.
It was already after six in the evening so she knew he had to go. She tried to stop the tears but they kept falling. They both dressed up yet she was still crying. Eric didn’t know what to do. He consoled, petted, scolded, kissed her yet she continued crying. He didn’t know when tears slowly dropped from his eyes also.
This was his best friend now turned girlfriend for God’s sake! In her tears, he told her that four years was just a matter of time. It would fly by soon and he would come back to her and not stay back over there like his brother to work. Or better still, he would send for her since he would be of age then so they would be together and finally get married.
When she saw the tears rolling down his eyes, she cried even more. To confound issues, his mum kept calling him and not knowing what more to do, he told his mum what was keeping him. He gave the phone to Oleng to talk to his mother. She shook her head slowly. He had to put the phone on speaker. The respect he had for his mum grew when she talked to his girlfriend like a mother and a friend.
Oleng stopped crying then. He thanked his mum and ended the call. She cleaned her eyes, walked up to him, gave him a hug and kiss on his cheek and wished him a safe trip. She was about walking away when he held her and passionately kissed her, then he hugged her, said goodbye and walked away without a backward glance.
When he left, Oleng crumbled to the floor and resumed crying. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that that was the last time she would see him.
When Eric got to the gate, he gave the gate man a huge sum of money.
“Sir, please, I’m traveling out to further my studies. Please take care of her. As you know, she’s always abandoned. Please always make sure she’s okay. Please make sure she eats and read her books. Make sure she isn’t sick and if she is, please take her to the hospital and take care of her. I promise to repay you when I come back. Please take care of her. Please.” he pleaded passionately.
“I go try my best.”
“Thank you very much, sir.”
“Thank you, sir”
He looked back at the house once more, shook his head and left. He put up a joyous front at the farewell dinner organized by his parents along with all his cousins that were staying with them. His heart was heavy especially as he knew his girlfriend was alone at home at a time like this. He felt hatred for her mum and Tessy for always abandoning her.
He called Zinny and Marvy then and pleaded again with them not to leave her all alone as he had done a day before. He and Oleng had gone to see them and his two friends to say farewell. He called his two closest friends also and pleaded with them again to take care of Oleng. Dave he knew would keep to his promise but he knew Eddy would be too busy getting down to fulfill his promise. He knew the girls in whatever university he chose to attend were in trouble with such a womanizer like Eddy.
God! He was going to miss such wonderful friends like Eddy, Dave, Zinny, Marvy and above all, Oleng. He kept recounting his friendship with all of them as he laid down on his bed to sleep. He didn’t know when tears rolled down his eyes. He was sure going to miss them. He promised himself not to lose contact with them. He wanted to call Oleng but he didn’t want her to start crying again. He would call her immediately he got to California, he resolved.
He however couldn’t call her immediately he got to the airport the following day because he had to make adjustments to his phone and sim card. When he was able to do this, she was the first person he called.
She was happy he had had a safe trip. Though she had stopped crying, she sounded sad. He was sad that she wasn’t happy because he was happy. Damian and Grandma Conrad gave him a rousing welcome.
Two weeks later, his parents went back to Nigeria. His mum cried at their departure. It seemed she realized then that she was going to leave her baby behind. Damian had to promise to come home immediately he could get a break from his place of work.
Though Eric missed Nigeria, it was fun to be with Damian again. They went everywhere together except his office though he went there a couple of times and had fun like they used to before the former left for the states. They realized then how much they missed each other. Eric even liked Damian’s charming girlfriend, Rachael.
Meanwhile back in Nigeria, Oleng tried coping without Eric. She managed to write her exams though she had to be motivated by her two friends. It wasn’t her best efforts but she felt her first and second term results would make up for it. She didn’t even mind if she was promoted to SS3 on trial. After all, the sun had left her world. She missed Eric terribly.
Though Zinny and Marvy came to her house sometimes, it couldn’t be compared to Eric who had come there almost every day then. Dave had come to visit once and she had seen Eddy outside a couple of times yet it didn’t make up for Ricky’s absence. Though they communicated every day, she felt his absence heavily. Every day after school, she chatted with Eric through yahoo messenger. He called her on the phone sometimes. If anything, their love was getting stronger.
He hadn’t started school yet since his WAEC results were not yet out and she was on hols so they had enough time to spend chatting. She pleaded with her mum to get her a laptop and a modem with an excuse of getting more information from the web in preparation for her WAEC but she refused. It was Tessy who however persuaded her to get one for her. For the first time since Tessy came to stay with them, she actually liked her. Great was her joy when her mum called her one day and gave her the laptop and modem with unlimited browsing. She actually hugged her mum; for the second time in her life.
The first had been the first time her mum had traveled and came back. The way her mum had looked at her then made her not to repeat it again. Joy made her throw caution to the wind that day. She however sobered up and apologized. Her mum had only nodded her head and gone inside. It didn’t matter to her though because now she and Eric could see each other through webcam which was what she had been after in asking for a laptop. They could say anything to each other; like how they were burning with desire for each other, the last time they had made love and how they wished they were together to make love again. They talked far into the night even when school began again.
They continued like that with him calling occasionally. Sometimes, when Zinny and Marvy came to visit, they would chat with him too. He introduced her to Damian’s neighbour, Yolanda. Since she wasn’t a beauty, Oleng wasn’t worried even though she noticed how cold the girl was towards her.
By November, Oleng knew there was something wrong with her. She kept throwing up and feeling sick especially in the mornings, her breasts were bigger and sore to touch. She couldn’t quite place what was wrong with her though she was suspecting something terrible but her fears didn’t allow her think of it. She didn’t tell Eric though.
“Oleng, what’s wrong with you? I’ve been watching you. This is the third time I’ve caught you throwing up this week.” Zinny announced with a worried look as Oleng washed her mouth and her hands in the wash basin.
She turned a pale face to look at her friend. “I don’t know. I think its malaria. I throw up whenever I have malaria.”
“Sorry. When did it start? Have you taken drugs?”
“Last week. Yes, I’ve taken drugs.”
“Good. Sorry ehn. Can you manage to the assembly or should we go to the sick bay?”
“No. I’m okay.” she proclaimed weakly as she straightened up even though she still felt queasy.
They walked quietly out of the toilet.
Oleng knew she had to find out what was wrong with her asap when during their lunch break, Marvy suddenly slotted in,
“Oleng! What’s the secret? Your breasts are getting bigger.”
“Really?” She looked down at them as if she didn’t already know.
“Yes. Look at your buttons. Your uniform is tight there.”
“I…I’ll be on soon.” she stammered as she removed her blazer from the back of her chair and put it on to cover them.
“Haven’t you been on for years? Your busts have never been this big.” Marvy extended with emphasis.
“Well, maybe I’m growing and leaving you girls behind with your swollen nipples.” she tried teasing.
She succeeded because they all burst into laughter and threw things at her.
She kept asking herself what was wrong as she continued to notice changes in her body. She even had to buy a new uniform because the other three were now tight at her breasts and waist. She didn’t want to ask anyone so she kept everything to herself. She didn’t even tell Eric though their relationship was waxing stronger.
She went for a walk one evening and saw a book shop. She went in on impulse and asked the kind looking elderly woman if she had a book that talked about changes in a girl’s body. The woman gave her a book called, ‘Every Woman’. She thanked the woman, paid for the book and rushed home to read it.
She threw away the book in shock when it confirmed her fears. She went to her mirror, lifted up her blouse and looked at her stomach. It was true that her period had only been dents of blood for three months now but she had thought it was because she lost blood when Eric had deflowered her. She was so scared she didn’t know what to do.
She ran to her bed, fell on it and started crying. No! She couldn’t be pregnant, could she? She wiped her tears and sat on the bed. She went to pick up the book again from the tiles, hoping it was a false alarm, but when she read the book again, everything said she was pregnant.
She hadn’t seen her period for three months now, her breasts were fuller, she kept throwing up in the mornings and sometimes during the day, she was putting on weight especially her stomach region and the thought or smell of some food irritated her to the extent she would lose her appetite. God! She was pregnant. She held her mouth and started weeping again.
Oh! She was dead. How would she tell her mother? If her mum found out, she would kill her because she had warned her before. Oh! How could she and Eric have been so careless? Foolish as she was, she hadn’t even thought of protection until Eric had brought that condom the second time they had made love. She was ruined! Her future was ruined! She was only fifteen for Christ’s sake! How would she take care of the baby? She didn’t even know much about taking care of herself not to talk of taking care of a baby. Would she even be able to give birth? She heard labor was very painful. She kept wondering about her future as she continued crying on her bed.
When she saw the beep on her system signifying that Eric was now online and wanted to chat, she ignored it. She thanked God it was a Friday because she didn’t think she would have been able to go to school the following day knowing what she now knew. She remembered school and cried anew. She would have to drop out because the school would surely expel her if they found out. She could just imagine the shame and embarrassment; ‘The school’s time keeper, pregnant.’
People would surely know Eric was responsible if they calculated between the time he left Nigeria and how far gone she was. She calculated herself and discovered that she could possibly be three months pregnant. She looked at her system and Eric’s, ‘Hello love, are you there?’ messages and ignored them. What did he want to tell her? Sorry for ruining her life? He was living it up in the States while her life was ruined here. She shook her head from such thoughts. It wasn’t his fault after all, she was the female involved, she should have taken proper care of herself and insisted on protection but she hadn’t been kissed before; she hadn’t known passion could make your brain numb.
She didn’t know once could result in pregnancy. She laid down there and continued crying. She was like that throughout the weekend. She however managed to go to school on Monday with the hope that it was probably a false alarm and she had been worried over nothing.
By December, she knew she was pregnant. Her stomach was now protruding a little. The bulge couldn’t be mistaken for over feeding. She stopped going to school then and shut herself in for fear of anyone discovering. She shut her friends out too. They kept calling her and sending text messages but she didn’t reply. She bribed their gateman to tell them she traveled whenever they came to look for her. Her mum was only at home in the evenings so she thought she was still going to school. Tessy too. The school didn’t ask because they thought she actually traveled as her friends had officially told them.
Damian flounced into his kid’s brother room with a basketball in his hand. He paused when he took in the dejected figure of his brother on the bed. His brow furrowed into a frown. Eric sat with tightened fists and a bowed head. He moved to his brother’s side on the bed.
“What’s the problem, kiddo? Why the long face?”
Eric sighed and lifted up eyes filled with misery to stare at his brother. “Damian, I’m losing her. She doesn’t chat much again and picks fights with me at the slightest provocation. I don’t know what to do anymore.”
Damian put an arm around his brother’s hunched shoulders.
“Are you sure you haven’t done anything wrong? Girls behave funny when they’re angry.”
Eric shook his head. “None that I can think of.”
Damian kept silent for a minute. “Tell you what. Why don’t you give her a break?”
Eric was scandalized. “A break? Our relationship is barely three months old. It’s too early for a break.”
“I know that but since she’s acting all funny, maybe that’s what she needs. Let her miss your calls and chats. Works with Rachael all the time.” He grinned.
Eric smiled a little. “I miss her a lot.”
Damian got up. “I know how you feel, kiddo. Say, why don’t you come with us? Yolanda, her brother and some friends of ours are going camping for like two weeks. It would cheer you up.”
Eric shrugged. “Okay, I guess.” He didn’t particularly like the way Damian’s neighbour, Yolanda was always all over him. “Will I be able to get network there?”
Damian grinned again. “Dude, this ain’t Nigeria. Let’s go shoot some hoops.” He threw the ball at his brother who reluctantly stood up.
Oleng continued in solitude until she couldn’t take it anymore. She called Zinny and told her she was coming over to the latter’s joy. She called Marvy also and told her to meet her at Zinny’s place. She made up her mind to tell them everything and to probably find out from them a way out.
Zinny and Marvy were already waiting for her outside the gate when she got there. They hugged her fiercely because they hadn’t seen her in weeks. They went up to Zinny’s room. Oleng didn’t bother with any preamble.
“I’m pregnant.” she announced coldly from the chair she sat on facing them on the bed.
“What?” Marvy screamed.
Zinny put both hands on her head in alarm. “I suspected it but prayed it wasn’t true.” She admitted ruefully when she finally found her voice.
“Are you sure? Maybe it’s a mistake or something.” Marvy was still in shock.
For an answer, Oleng raised her bogus shirt up for them to see the small bulge.
“Does this look like a mistake? I’m four months pregnant.” She confirmed sadly.
“Maybe it’s not pregnancy, maybe you’re sick. I heard liver disease makes the tummy big too.” Marvy countered, shaking her head.
“Marvy, I know you can’t and don’t want to believe it, I didn’t too but I had to face reality. I’m pregnant. I feel the baby sometimes or maybe it’s just my imagination sha.” Oleng tried holding back her tears as she saw Marvy eyes watering.
“Who raped you?” Zinny slotted in, full of anger but Oleng just shook her head.
“Why won’t you tell me who did this to you?
“Zinny please…” Oleng began but was cut off by the angry Zinny who got up from the bed and held her shoulders.
“Who? Don’t be afraid.”
“Ezinne!” Oleng yelled, standing up. “I wasn’t raped!”
Zinny was weak at that. She carefully went back to sit on the bed.
“Were you drugged?” Marvy enquired still in tears.
Oleng slowly shook her head and stared at the floor of the bedroom. “Eric and I were a bit drunk that night at their graduation party. When we got to my house, maybe it was the alcohol, I don’t know, he declared his love for me and I did the same. We started kissing and one thing led to another and before we knew it we made love. We both didn’t give a thought for protection then until he talked to his elder brother. We used a condom the next time we did it a day before he left. I don’t know what to do.” she informed her dumb founded friends.
“Does he know?” Marvy finally asked after the long silence.
“No, I haven’t told him.” Tears rushed down her eyes.
“O God! Oleng how could you? How could you and Eric have been so careless? I know love and alcohol intoxicates but for crying out loud, you guys should have prevented this.” Zinny angrily lashed out.
“I never knew I was going to get pregnant. I thought since it was my first time, nothing would come out of it. After a month and nothing happened, I thought I had escaped it. I didn’t know pregnancy symptoms doesn’t show that early sometimes.” she explained in tears.
Zinny looked at her in disbelief. “I never knew you were so naïve…God! This is our fault. We never discussed such things with you even when we knew your mum didn’t tell you things. You missed that puberty seminar and biology classes when you were very sick and have a boy as your best friend who couldn’t tell you such things…Eric should have known better.” She held her head, downcast.
“Stop looking for who to apportion blame on. I messed up. I’m supposed to be old enough to know such things. I was just too dull.” she wept.
Her friends went to hold her and comfort her “It’s not your fault, Oleng. It’s true, Eric should have been wiser.” Marvy put in.
“I’m still to blame, after all, Zinny is not pregnant even though I saw her kissing Eddy at the party and you Marvy, I saw you holding hands with Dave but you’re not pregnant.”
“That doesn’t mean we actually slept with them that night.” Zinny put in, “Eddy told me his true feelings for me and as you know he has a way with words so I got caught but I didn’t sleep with him that night because I felt it was alcohol talking in him…it was during our hols when he came to me to declare his love again, that I believed him. We’re now dating.
I didn’t know how to tell you girls because you all know he has always been a womanizer but he’s no longer like that. I’m sorry if it is your seeing both of us kissing that made you agree to sleep with Eric.” Zinny explained sorrowfully.
“Don’t apologize. It wasn’t. I love Ricky, so it happened naturally.”
“Dave and I were holding hands because we just felt like being together since everyone there had someone and we didn’t. I didn’t sleep with him and we’re not going out. We are just friends.”
“I understand.” Oleng quietly said.
“What are you going to do now?” Zinny asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you considering an abortion?” Marvy asked.
“No. I’m too scared. I feel I will die.”
“Not if it’s done by a competent doctor.” Zinny put in.
Oleng shook her head. “I can’t. The thought scares me a lot.”
“You have to tell Eric so you can both find a solution.”
“I can’t. Our relationship is now strained because of this problem. I don’t communicate with him like before. He’s going to start school soon so I don’t want to spoil it for him. One ruined life is enough.”
“Don’t say that. Your life is not ruined.” Marvy started crying again.
“I still insist you tell him so he’ll know what you’re going through alone…or better still, why don’t you inform his mother? She’ll know what to do.”
“I have to tell Eric first then. It wouldn’t be fair to just spring it on his mum like that without his knowledge and consent.”
“That’s true. You just have to tell him.”
“I don’t want to alarm him. Knowing Eric, he would want to come back to be with me. We’re too young to get married; otherwise he would have suggested we do so. It’s better for him to be over there than here thinking of how he’s going to become a father at such a tender age.”
“But what about you?”
“With the right advice and encouragement, I can handle it. See, I love Ricky very much so I can’t do this to him. I might probably tell him when I safely put to bed but not before.”
“Eric won’t thank you for this sacrifice you’re making.”
“I know but I believe the storm will be over then.”
“I hope so.” Zinny said and hugged her. Marvy did too.
They walked her home; each one lost in thought. They hugged again when they got to her place as if they wouldn’t see each other again. They promised to visit her after school the following day.