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Eric felt as if his intestines were playing a knotting game. He writhed in pain and held his stomach. He heaved and emptied the contents of his stomach on the ground.
“You’re going to be alright, Eric. You won’t die. I promise you.” He heard Damian’s frantic voice from a distance. He couldn’t even open his eyes. He felt very weak. Where was he?
“Oleng…Oleng.” He whispered before he went into oblivion.
How could he do this to her? Oleng wondered when Eric still didn’t reply her. How could he abandon her at a time like this. She knew it was scary being told that you were going to be a father at sixteen but he would have thought of her also and what she would be going through. After two weeks and there was still no message from him, she had to agree with her mother, Eric had abandoned her.
Joy was hers when she finally got a message from his line. She was however shocked beyond words when she read the message. It read,
“Oleng, I got your message. So you actually want me to believe the pregnancy is mine? I’m too young to be saddled with an unwanted baby even if it is mine. I have a bright future ahead of me. So terminate the pregnancy and forget about me. Eric.”
Oleng became numb. So Eric had gotten her message and ignored it. He had deliberately switched off his phone and abandoned her and now he wants her to not only terminate the pregnancy but forget about him also.
That she would surely do! She tore his portrait from the wall, took it to the backyard and burnt it. She smashed the laptop and phone against the wall in anger.
Emptiness took over her after that. Her mum had to force her to eat for the baby’s sake since she was bent on keeping it. She seriously began contemplating having an abortion after all, there was no need keeping the baby now that the father didn’t want it. She just lazed and dazed around all day.
She heard commotion in the living room one afternoon and strained her ears to hear what was being said. Tessy had finally come back home.
“Go inside right now and pack your things. You were supposed to be here with my daughter not gallivanting around Nigeria. If you had stayed with her instead of abandoning her to juvenile delinquency, she wouldn’t be pregnant now.” Her mum yelled.
“Don’t blame me. If you had been here like a mum should, no stupid boy would have come near her. What am I? Her body guard? So I won’t go to school again and live a normal life because you have a foolish nymphomaniac for a daughter.” Tessy threw back at her which earned her a hot slap.
“Shut your foul mouth! How dare you call her that? Are you not supposed to be like an elder sister to her, to talk to her about such things and advise her? You think I don’t know you don’t even talk to her.”
“And what did you do about it? Nothing! Did you correct me? No! Don’t lay the blame on someone else’s door. You’re to blame for everything. I’ll leave. It’s not as if my parents can’t educate me. You just offered to do so.” she spat out and walked away.
Tessy packed her things in tears. She was going to miss her freedom here and her expensive way of life. Bitterness took her to Oleng’s room before she left. She felt little pity for the dejected figure lying helplessly on the bed.
“So you’re pregnant, hmm? You really are very foolish. You should have come to me instead of telling your mum. I know a good place where they would have removed it for you without any qualms. So that handsome half-caste is responsible? I knew you were more than friends. Well, this is goodbye since your mum has asked me to leave all because of you. Good luck in being a mother.” she jeered and banged the door behind her leaving Oleng to start crying again.
A week later, towards Christmas, her mum forcefully came to take away her damaged laptop and her phone.
“Stop fooling yourself. Just accept the fact that he has abandoned you. Let this be a lesson to you. Take cue from me. Now you know why I call all men bastards! It’s a pity you are learning this at a very young age.
Why do you think I didn’t want him here? To spite you? I knew this would happen. I thought you respected and feared me enough to heed my words but your foolishness prevailed. Now you are facing the consequences alone. If I were you, I wouldn’t allow a man come within five feet of me because they are all heartless bastards!
Get ready. Next tomorrow, you’ll leave for Calabar. You’re going to stay with my sister, your aunt, Vien. I can’t bear to see you like this. Besides, you need antenatal care.” With that, she took away her daughter’s only means of communicating with her remaining two friends.
Oleng felt it was a good idea to leave because Port Harcourt didn’t appeal to her anymore. She felt it would be better to stay where at least she would be shown some love. The few times she had seen Aunt Vien had been joyous ones. She was very nice and caring. So she packed a few things leaving behind everything that reminded her of Eric. They got to Calabar quite late that day.
Thus her life in Calabar began.
“Happy new year Oleng!” Aunt Vien joyfully told her as she entered the room.
Oleng focused her gaze elsewhere when her aunt sat beside her on the bed.
“Happy new year to you too.” she said without enthusiasm.
Her aunt ignored it and continued, “Your mum called. She said to wish you a happy new year.”
“I don’t have a mother.” Oleng countered.
“Please don’t start today of all days.” she said in a sad tone.
“Sorry.” Oleng apologized.
“Now, what do you want to eat? The girls and I prepared fried rice, salad and fried chicken but we also have afang soup in case you prefer eating pounded yam or fufu.” she jovially told her niece.
Tears welled up in Oleng’s eyes. How could two sisters be so different? Her mum and Aunt Vien were sisters alright though they didn’t look alike. Aunt Vien was a very sweet person. She was nice and friendly. Tall and chocolate skinned though plump, she was beautiful. Her gap tooth made her more captivating whenever she smiled which she enjoyed doing. Ever since her mum brought her there the previous month, she had never for once blamed her for being foolish enough to get pregnant. She had accepted her as if it were a normal thing that she was pregnant.
Aunt Vien and her husband from Akwa Ibom no longer lived together. Due to her inability to give birth to a male child after four girls, her husband had opted to marry another wife after complications of giving birth to her last girl had made her incapable of conceiving again. She had not been able to withstand seeing another woman in her matrimonial home, so she had left their house in Uyo and had come back to Calabar, her place of birth.
The funny thing was that her husband had two girls and no boy from his second marriage. He regretted his hasty decision of going to marry a second wife but Aunt Vien refused to go back as long as the other woman was still there. Her daughters had not agreed to go with her to Calabar, having lived in Uyo all their lives and were schooling there. They came to visit her occasionally and spent Easter, Christmas and New Year breaks with her.
Three of her children were nice to Oleng; Anietie- the eldest, Edidiong- the nicest, Mfon- the introvert. Emem, her age mate hated her and didn’t speak to her. The first and only time she had spoken to her was when they had first met when the latter had come to her room.
“So you’re the Oleng, my cousin. The one wey carry belle? Do you know that I wonder that with so much publicity on condoms, people are still foolish enough to get pregnant? You were greedy, weren’t you? You wanted it whole. See where it has gotten you now. And that your mum had to bring you here to be a burden to my mum. To all of us in short because now you have my room to yourself because there is no way I am going to share this room with you. I no want make you vomit for my body. Mama Baby!” she had jeered wickedly at her and left the room, leaving Oleng to cry her eyes out.
Emem usually made nasty statements around her about spoilt people who engaged in sex at an early age which really hurt Oleng as she intended. Oleng tried not to mind her because her elder sisters were nice to her. They accepted her the way she was. Edidiong had been the one to comfort her the day she had caught her crying over Eric.
“I’ve tried to forget him,” she had sobbed. “I’ve blocked my mind from thinking about him but he keeps coming. How could he betray me like that? We were best friends. We planned on getting married in future yet he abandoned me when he knew I was pregnant. His own child for that matter. We made so many promises to each other.” she had bitterly wept.
“It’s okay, Oleng,” Edidiong had consoled. “Guys are like that. It’s a pity you fell for him. They promise you the whole world but run away at the slightest sign of trouble. Don’t worry, you’ll get over him. Just give it time. Time changes all things.”
Oleng had been very grateful to her ever since for understanding. Life wasn’t so unbearable there because Aunt Vien and her children with an exception of Emem of course were nice to her.
She came back to the present and remembered her mother. Not once had her mum called her to talk to her. She sent messages through her sister. She had taken her phone so she couldn’t communicate with her friends, Zinny and Marvy whom she missed so much. Eddy and Dave were out of the question. She missed her friends so much she wished they were there with her. Zinny would have made mincemeat of Emem and Marvy would have made good friends with Mfon since they were so alike.
Her aunt had registered her in antenatal classes but she had refused to go there again after her first visit. The women and the doctors had embarrassed her with stares. They had wondered almost loudly what such a young girl was doing there. She had heard whispers from some pregnant women that she had probably been raped. She had wept all the way home despite how her aunt had consoled her.
Her aunt had called her mum who had sent down money for a private doctor to come and see her regularly since she refused to go back to the hospital. She had also sent money for new clothes since the bulge had grown bigger as she was five months gone and baby things. That was all her mum was good for; sending money since Aunt Vien was just a teacher.
She followed her aunt to the living room after much persuasion where the girls were making noise about the nollywood movie they were watching. Emem burst into rude laughter when she saw her in front of her mum. Mfon nudged her to be quiet.
“Edi love, please get Oleng her breakfast.” her aunt instructed.
“Sure.” She got up from her chair.
“Please I can get it myself.” Oleng protested.
“Don’t worry, Oleng. I’ll get it for you. Just sit down.” she advised going to the kitchen. “By the way, what do you want to eat?” she called from the kitchen.
“Bring rice for her.” Her mum called out to her as she made Oleng sit carefully on a chair.
Mfon and Anietie tried not to look at her for her not to be embarrassed but Emem stared at her mockingly. Oleng lowered her eyes. She felt ashamed indeed.
“Please Edidiong. This is too much. I can’t finish it.” she complained when her cousin brought her a plate heaped with fried rice, garnished with salad and three pieces of chicken.
“As usual, the queen of the house dey complain.” Emem taunted.
“Shut up, Emem.” her mother chided.
“Try to finish it. Remember you’re eating for two. Do you want your baby to be as small as an ant?” Edidiong teased.
“Actually, I don’t care.” Those very sadly spoken words touched everyone in the room except Emem of course!
Oleng continued to live with her aunt in peace except when Emem visited. Time flew and her pregnancy was now nine months old. Her mum for once didn’t talk to her all the months she was in her aunt’s place. She didn’t mind since she was used to such treatment. The doctor examined her and said she would be able to put to bed naturally and if she couldn’t she would undergo a cesarean section.
She woke up early on the thirtieth day of April feeling pains. She ignored them and didn’t tell her aunt until late evening when the pain became worse. Her back felt as if there was a heavy wood on it. Her waist was killing her. Her aunt rushed her to the hospital when she told her it was as if she had urinated on her body which meant her water had broken. She kept lamenting that she didn’t know that labor pain was like that. After hours of tough labor, she finally gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the early hours of the first day of May. She cried tears of joy when she heard her baby crying.
Aunt Vien was very happy. She kept saying that Oleng had finally broken the girl jinx by giving birth to a boy. Her parents had given birth to two girls; her sister had given birth to her, Oleng while she had given birth to four girls. So it seemed there was no male child in their family but Oleng had proven them wrong. Oleng felt it was Eric’s gene since his parents had given birth to two boys also.
At that precise moment, Eric lifted his head from his book and stared into space. He couldn’t explain the immense joy that had come over him all of a sudden. A smile curled his lips and lit his face like a light bulb.
“And Mr. Moody finally smiles. What’s tickling your fancy?” Damian’s gaze rested on his smiling brother.
Eric turned to look at his brother on the sofa. “I really don’t know. All of a sudden I feel like dancing…and all I can think of now is Oleng.”
Damian sighed. “Eric, it’s been five months. I think you should forget about that lying cheat.”
“Easier said than done.” He sadly replied.
After Oleng’s few minutes of sleep, she was made to breast feed the baby. She cried tears of joy while doing so. The baby looked so much like Eric. He had his family trait of very fair coloring. Though the baby still looked red, Aunt Vien told her the baby would be fairer than normal. Oleng knew he would look like a half-caste like his dad. Aunt Vien noticed that the baby had her nose. She asked her what she would call him.
“Eric, after his father even though he abandoned us,” she replied weakly and sadly. “If he had been a girl, I would have named her Erica.”
Aunt Vien smiled. She told her she had called her mum but Oleng had closed her eyes after the baby finished nursing hungrily and was taken to his cot.
Oleng woke up to find her aunt crying profusely. She grew alarmed.
“Aunty Vien, what is it? What’s wrong?” she fearfully asked but she just continued crying. She looked into the baby’s cot but her baby wasn’t there.
“Where’s Eric? Where’s my baby?” she clutched her aunt’s hand who shook her head vigorously and continued crying.
“Where is my baby?”
“He’s dead.” Aunt Vien finally said in between sobs.
“What?” she screamed. “No! What have you done with my baby? I want to see my baby. Eric! Where’s my Eric?” Oleng yelled hysterically upsetting the drip on her hand.
Aunt Vien ran to call the doctor while Oleng continued yelling. The doctor and some nurses came in then.
“Calm down please.” The doctor advised.
“Doctor, where’s my baby?” Oleng yelled with tears rolling down her eyes.
With great sorrow and shaking his head, he replied, “There was a sudden complication with your baby. He couldn’t breathe. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck when you gave birth to him but we managed to remove it but it had already affected him.”
“But he was okay when I held him.” she reasoned, still in tears.
“Yes. It was a delayed effect. He suddenly had trouble breathing and finally died. I’m sorry.”
“No! No! No! Where’s my baby? I don’t believe you. You’ve killed my baby. Eric, where are you? They have killed my baby.” she wept hysterically and had to be injected before she calmed down and slept but before she slept she muttered, “I’ll never forgive you. You’ve taken my baby away from me. Eric, they’ve killed our baby.”
If Oleng had been considered moody before she gave birth, well, after the death of her baby, she became worse. She became withdrawn. When she was discharged from the hospital, she wanted to go back to Port Harcourt so she would stop being a burden but her Aunt would hear nothing of it.
So she continued to stay with her though she spoke no word. She would stare into space as if she were in a trance. Nothing Aunt Vien did or said could get to her. She had to complain though that her breast felt heavy because of the unsuckled milk. Aunt Vien helped her out.
In desperation at all her failed attempts at bringing her out of her shell, her aunt told her mother to come over. The latter didn’t mince words in telling her to snap out of it when she came.
“You should be happy that you’re not saddled with an unwanted baby. Now you can go back to school and get on with your life. Don’t you know you would have found it difficult to get married? No man would want to be saddled with a child that is not his- a male child for that matter! So you should be grateful to God for saving you from such an incongruous situation. Instead of mopping around, get a grip on your life and start preparing to write your G.C.E. exams by September and since it’s too late to enroll WAEC exams for you, you’ll take that next year. You must gain admission into the university next year. Have I made myself clear?” she asked the still figure on the bed.
“Oleng! I’m talking to you. Have I made myself clear?” she asked her daughter who just ignored her. She walked to the bed and roughly shook her daughter who leapt up in anger.
“What is it? Why can’t you just leave me alone the way you did when I was pregnant? I know you’re happy that my baby died so that you can continue to control my life the way you want. Well, I’m not in your house anymore and I’m not going back so please just leave me alone. I’ll resume school whenever I dim fit and not at your own command. So just go back to Port Harcourt and continue to live your life without me as you’ve always done.” she threw at her mother and laid down on the bed again, turning to face the wall.
“Oh, so you feel we are equals now for you to talk to me anyhow because you’ve given birth to a child the way I did even though yours died. So you want to continue to useless your life pinning away over that fool and his bastard child. Let me tell you, you won’t succeed! You’ll write that G.C.E. and WAEC even if I have to drag you to the exam hall myself. I’ll send your books down and everything you need for the exams. I’ll be here by September. Make sure you are ready.” With those sternly spoken words, she walked away leaving her daughter numb.
She didn’t bother to spend the night but took the next flight back to Port Harcourt.
Vien shook her head. Her sister was still as insensitive as ever towards her daughter. If she had known, she would have refused to breast feed Oleng so many years ago and to agree to take care of her till she was two years old. Maybe breast feeding and taking care of her own daughter would have softened Linda’s heart towards Oleng. Poor Oleng! Aunt Vien tried talking to her to forgive her mum for her rash behavior but the latter with tears in her eyes told her,
“Like I have told you so many times, Aunty Vien, I don’t have a mother.”
Oleng lightened up a bit but was still a bit moody until Edidiong talked to her.
“See Oleng, it has happened, it has happened. It is time for you to move on. I know it’s hard but you just have to try. You can’t continue living in sorrow all your life. You’ve got to move on. Frankly, I think it was God who actually took the baby back so you could move on with your life.”
“Then why did He allow me to get pregnant in the first place?” she countered in tears.
“Did you do anything to prevent the baby from coming?” she retorted.
Oleng lowered her head and shook it.
“You see?” Edidiong continued, “I’m sorry to say this but the baby would have become a burden to you. You’re just too young to be saddled with a baby and you know my mum is too nice and will shoulder your responsibilities and that of the baby without complaining. So please take your mum’s advice and start all over again.” she wisely advised.
“Thank you very much.” was all Oleng could say.
Great was her aunt’s joy when she told her she could enroll her for the G.C.E. Oleng dived into her studies with great vigor. She had to read extra hard since she did not attend SS3. She studied very hard with all the books and materials her mum had sent her. Her cousins helped her study also. She tried very hard to put away thoughts of Eric and his dead son behind her. It was hard but she focused on her studies.
September came but her mum didn’t show up much to her joy. She wrote the exams and waited to write the WAEC. She had changed from being a science student to a social science student. She felt with so much turmoil in her life she couldn’t read medicine anymore and she secretly hated doctors now. She felt their carelessness had killed her baby so she opted to read banking and finance. It was tough for her because she had been in the science class before she dropped out but she managed to cope. She burnt the proverbial candle. Her aunt, ever encouraging had enrolled her in a lesson.
The results of her G.C.E came out and she made some papers but didn’t make some. She wrote the UTME also. She took WAEC to complete her papers.
She wrote the post UTME exam at the University of Calabar and before she knew it, she had gained admission into the university at seventeen. She truly felt grateful to God for helping her out because it was tough business getting into the university these days. She knew some of her then classmates hadn’t gained admission. She was grateful to her aunt too who had pulled some strings because the registrar was related to her husband.