Kaine still wasn’t sure she’d heard correctly. “You are… pregnant?” She stared at Anwuli with confused eyes.
Anwuli blinked, wiped off the tears with her knuckle and nodded. “Yes, I am pregnant, Kaine. I am having a baby.” She added as if to make it clearer.
Kaine’s mouth formed a round O as she continued to gape at Anwuli. She didn’t know what to think—what to say. What was the right thing to say in these situations? How did it happen? She didn’t need to ask that. She knew how babies were made. Would the right question be—who was responsible for the pregnancy?
“Don’t judge me, Kaine.” Anwuli murmured, her voice imploring. “I know we were supposed to wait until we were married before having sex. It was how mummy counselled us. And I really wanted to. He was my first. My only.” Her tears came harder.
Overwhelmed with compassion, Kaine rose and went around the table to wrap a hand about her. “Of course, I’m not judging you, Anwi. How could you think that? You are my sister and I love you and will stand by you no matter what.”
Anwuli nodded, held onto her hand. “We met two days after our arrival in Johannesburg.” She started to explain. “Some of the cast and crew had decided to go to a nightclub not far from our hotel and they’d cajoled me into joining them. Whilst most of them danced or mingled with others patrons there, I simply sat in my corner enjoying my drink. He came over to where I was sitting and started chatting with me. Kaine, I swear he was the most handsome man I ever saw in my life. He was of mixed parentage and had this rolling, seductive accent. I was just blown away.”
Kaine nodded because it seemed like the only sympathetic thing to do. Being blown away and love at first sight were things you read in books not realistic occurrences. She’d never experienced either and doubted seriously their authenticity.
“He told me I was the most beautiful woman he ever saw.” Anwuli let out a soft laugh. “I guess if he had seen you, he’d have changed his opinion.”
Kaine made a dismissive sound because she really doubted that. While she knew she was beautiful, she always felt that her sister was a very lovely woman in her own right. Anwuli wasn’t too tall, just about five-seven. Which in Kaine’s opinion was the right height range for a woman. After all, who wanted an Iroko-tree for a wife? She was curvy too—had the full-figure men seemed to die for without being the least bit overweight. She had a lovelier, lighter skin tone. But her oval face with its pointed oyibo nose, full-lashed and naturally arched brows and small, round mouth was her best feature.
“He was so taken with me. He wouldn’t leave my side that night. Even went back with us to the hotel we were staying and then wouldn’t leave until I gave him my number.” Anwuli went on with her story. “His name is Tobi. It turned out he too was only in SA for business purposes. His family is into wines. They are hoteliers and run bars and nightclubs. The night we met, he was there checking out the competition. He asked me out and I just couldn’t resist him. He was so gentle, so refined, so fun and so full of life. He was nothing like we’re used to. He had this polish like he was royalty or something equally as important.
I fell hard for him, Kaine. I confess that I did. I was in love even before I knew I had fallen in love. He became the very air I breathed, the water I thirsted for, the only food I needed—he became my reason to live, to wake up every morning.” Anwuli looked at Kaine and pressed her hand. “I know you won’t understand this kind of love. It sounds impossible to you. But I promise you, it was real. It is real.”
Kaine stared at her sister doubtfully. She was right, she didn’t understand the kind of love where a human being took what should be the place of God in one’s life. Was it even possible?
“When he asked to know me completely—to make love with me—I hesitated but at the end, I gave in because I too seemed to crave him in that way. There was this hunger in me to be possessed by him and after I gave him my virginity, I didn’t feel like it was wrong or like he’d taken advantage of me. It felt so right. So perfect.” Anwuli’s eyes took on a dreamy look. “It was the most beautiful experience. Not at all wrong and dirty as mummy said it would be if we did it with any other man other than our husbands. It was a joining of not just our bodies but of our souls too. Oh Kaine, it’s an experience I wish for you too. One I know you will one day experience and cherish.”
Kaine made a noncommittal sound because at this time in her life, sex—or love making— was the last thing on her mind. But she asked the one thing that she was sorely curious about. “So, it happened only once between you two?”
Anwuli let go off her hand and brushed away a tear. “I wish I can tell you it only happened once, Kaine. But I can’t, because it didn’t. I spent a weekend with him and over that weekend, we made love many times.” She smiled a little. “I guess one of those times resulted in this baby.”
Kaine was silent for a moment, thinking. “But how are you sure you’re pregnant? I mean, it can only have been three weeks or even less.”
“Just hitting on three weeks since we’d been in SA nearly two weeks before I came back.” Anwuli sighed and rose from the small dining table to walk into the living room. She lowered into the couch and patted the space beside her for Kaine to join her. Waited until she did before she went on speaking. “My period is already two days late. Which is just about when the nausea and vomiting started. I guess I’m an early starter.” She shrugged. “I haven’t done a test yet but I know. I can feel it. I can feel the change in my body already.”
“But it’s supposed to be morning sickness not any-time-of-the-day sickness, right?” Kaine wasn’t sure why she was arguing. Except maybe she was wishing her sister wasn’t pregnant at all and wouldn’t have to have her future disrupted. “Maybe you’re not pregnant at all. Maybe I was right and it is Malaria.”
“I know, Kaine. I know. I can feel it.” There was no flicker of doubt in Anwuli’s tone.
The instant worry that slid into Kaine made her frown. “Then what are we going to do? What did he say? Have you told him?”
There was a small silence before Anwuli responded. “That’s the problem. By the time I got back, he was gone. I mean he’d already left for Cape Town before I travelled on some business. And when I called him to tell him that I was back in the city, he told me he was still in Cape Town and would be taking a chopper tour with some friends of his. And that was the last time I heard from him.” She blinked and sniffled. “I tried his number again and again but it just wasn’t going through. I sent him text messages, chat messages, emails—even sent a letter to the hotel he’d been staying in Cape Town. But when I called the hotel’s reception a day later, they told me he’d checked out days before. I just don’t get it. Maybe something went wrong on that chopper tour.”
“Or maybe he’s purposely avoiding you.” Kaine didn’t know when she voiced out her fear. But with it out, she couldn’t pretend that was not her thought. “Anwuli, he’s a man. Men act that way. They take advantage of an innocent girl and then they run when the going gets tough.”
“He’s not running from me, Kaine!” Anwuli objected. “He doesn’t even know about the pregnancy yet. I didn’t know about the pregnancy when I stopped hearing from him. Besides, he’s not the kind of man to run away—to abandon someone in need.” Anwuli reached for Kaine’s hand and grabbed onto it. “He loves me, Kaine. He told me so and I could see he truly did. It was in his eyes. In the way he looked at me; the way he treated me.”
“You said he was fun and so full of life, maybe he’s a playboy.” It was plausible. Many men, especially those with money, were usually like that. “It sounds like he has money and…”
“He’s not a playboy, Kaine.” Anwuli shook her head vehemently. “I might not have much of an experience but I know a playboy when I see one. And Tobi Kojo-Edwards isn’t a playboy!”
Because her hands were trembling and she was beginning to look agitated, Kaine squeezed her hand. “It’s alright, maybe I’m wrong. Calm down, Anwi, we have only to figure out how to handle this for now.”
And their first action had been to be certain beyond doubt there was a pregnancy. A home pregnancy test helped them achieve that. And with the pregnancy confirmed and Anwuli still unable to reach Tobi, Kaine’s certainty that the lover-boy had used and abandoned her sister became more definite. But she refrained from saying aloud what she believed as her sister was distressed enough.
And that was the part that was beginning to worry her more. Anwuli stayed curled up in her bed the better part of the day, punching repeatedly at her phone and crying every other hour. It scared her that she might do something harmful to herself.
Kaine knocked on her door and then pushed it open. She wasn’t surprised to find her sister curled up on her side, tears in her eyes even if they hadn’t yet slipped out.
She sighed as she sat on the edge of the bed. “Anwi, you can’t keep crying like this. It can’t be good for your baby.”
“I’m not sure I want the baby.” Anwuli blurted out.
Kaine stared at her. “What do you mean? Whether you want it or not, it is here and it’s not going away.”
“It won’t unless I make it to.” Anwuli struggled up to a sitting position. “Kaine, I am thinking I should have an abortion.”
Anwuli sighed. “Don’t look so shocked, Kaine. These things are happening every day. It’s not even as abominable as it sounds.” She shifted backwards and propped her back against the wall. “It’s another week gone and I still can’t reach Tobi. I don’t know what’s happened but I just can’t believe he’s abandoned me like this.” She bit on her lower lip to stop herself from crying. “It’s so painful. Kaine, it is so painful.”
Kaine climbed into the bed and pulled her into her arms. “I know, Anwi. I know this is so painful. But I’m sure we are going to be all right.”
Anwuli let out a dry laugh. “How can we be all right, Kaine? We’re orphans. Daddy didn’t have any brothers or sisters, just cousins. Your mother’s family don’t know of your existence and if they do, they have never showed they cared. And I never even knew my own father whilst mummy’s people are far away in the North and are not expecting a relation who’d be coming with an unwanted pregnancy.” Anwuli looked at her candidly. “We are alone, Kaine. We just have ourselves and I don’t think we should add a baby to the burden of this life you and I are living.”
“I know we’re alone, Anwuli but—”
“I have to keep working, Kaine.” Anwuli interrupted. “I am an actress. No one will give a job to a pregnant, upcoming actress. And if I can’t work, how will we survive? How will you set up a business for yourself?” She shook her head. “I’ve been thinking about it and I fear abortion is our only option.”
“No, it’s not!” Kaine rejected the idea. “I won’t support an abortion and I won’t let you do one. That child in there is your child and depends on you to give it life not kill it.” She hadn’t always been the type to object to things and hold onto her opinion but the last few days was teaching her that life was more than doing what you’re told and accepting whatever comes along. “You are keeping the baby and we will look after him or her when he or she is born.”
“Kaine nothing.” She cut off the argument. “I still have the money in daddy’s account and with the little I’ll be making from work plus your savings, I think we will do just fine until after the baby is born.” She took her sister’s hands. “Let us not offend God any further, Anwuli, lest He sets His wrath upon us, okay?”
It was a long moment before Anwuli nodded and murmured. “Okay.”
But that night when Kaine lay on her bed, sleep eluded her as she worried how indeed they were going to survive with a new addition to their family. An addition that would be needing more help than helping them who were already in dire need.
The next couple of months that followed taught Kaine that a pregnant woman was a completely different woman from a regular woman. Anwuli changed from the confident, go-getting, always-cheerful, ever-optimistic girl Kaine knew and grew up with to a constantly nervous, regularly-blubbering, forever-doubtful-of-the-future woman who whined and complained unendingly about the utter ugliness that was becoming her body.
She wasn’t becoming ugly at all, Kaine thought and never failed to tell her so. She was only filling out as pregnant women were wont to do and the added curves weren’t any way near ugly either.
But whatever her changes, one thing remained constant with Anwuli, she never stopped trying to reach Tobi Kojo-Edwards and she still refused to believe he’d used and dumped her so coldly. She tried his numbers every day and sent countless messages, but none ever got the delivered report and her calls never went through. It was like his lines have stopped to exist.
Kaine’s opinion was that Tobi Kojo-Edwards was a playboy who could easily afford as many new lines as he wanted and so, would never need to hang on too long to one. But she kept that opinion to herself and saved herself the heartache of hearing and seeing her sister cry wretchedly.
Another thing the pregnancy taught Kaine was that people loved a good gossip and everyone loved to have an opinion—solicited and unsolicited. Mostly unsolicited of course. Since pregnancy was one of those miracles that took delight in announcing themselves, it didn’t take long for the neighbours to figure out what was going on with ‘small’ Anwuli. And with their knowing, came a million questions and with the questions, a zillion opinions and then an uncountable varied versions of how ‘small Anwuli came to be pregnant’ filled the whole neighbourhood and soon, the entire small town.
It infuriated Anwuli, shamed her and gave her another reason to cry. But it only amused Kaine. Not in a way that made her laugh out loud but in the way that made her realise how sadly predictable people can be. And unlike her sister, she didn’t mind the added attention from small-minded people. They weren’t just important enough for her to care. She’d stayed in the town without much friends, so having the very few she had sneer at her and point fingers was no loss at all.
But like they usually said every cloud has its silver lining and this cloud brought with it a new and real friend in the person of her boss, the proprietor of the day-care centre, Juliet Ndudi. She was a young woman herself, although in her thirties, married and with two kids. But despite the difference in their status and age, and the fact that she was her employer, they kind of just grew close.
“How’s Anwuli this morning.” Juliet asked, sitting on one of the kiddies’ chairs.
Kaine poured out the plastic letters and numbers and sighed as she heaved up. “Certain her body will never be the same again and she’ll never do that great movie and be that superstar.” She rolled her eyes. “I told her you have two kids and still look great. She said you started out looking like skinny-diva me.”
Juliet chuckled. “Not that I object to the diva compliment but I was never as skinny as you. And I’m not saying you’re skinny either.” She winked. “It’s just moods. Hormones. Hers only seem to be drama-filled because she’s got to deal with a broken heart along with a pregnancy she never planned.”
“I know.” Kaine bent, picked up the fretful child creeping up her leg and started jiggling her. “I know she is really scared and devastated but I wish she’d stop bothering with that fellow. He’s just an ass who obviously took advantage of her innocence.”
“Or he might really be lost somewhere without anyone knowing it as she suspects.” Juliet countered. Then shrugged at Kaine’s frown. “Anything is possible. It doesn’t have to be that he deceived her and dumped her. He could really have loved her.”
“And where is he now?” Kaine returned the child to the floor, passed her a toy.
“That’s what we don’t know. But I do agree with you that she may need to stop over obsessing with reaching him and just focus on her baby. Stress is not good for her.” Juliet rose. “I’ll stop over at the house this evening and try to help you cheer her up. I’ve got a new collection of recent movies. That might help.”
“I hope so.” Kaine said fervently and waved as her boss strolled out of the nursery.
But it turned out Juliet’s movies would not be needed to cheer Anwuli up after all. By the time Kaine got home from work, she found her in their old living room reading a baby book they’d picked up a month ago at Asaba and eating the mixed fruit she’d complained about that morning.
“Hey, welcome back.” Anwuli tossed her a smile. “I made some rice. Jollof, your favourite.”
Kaine gaped at her. “Ah… are you all right?” She hadn’t cooked in weeks.
“Of course.” Anwuli beamed, rubbed her tummy. “Go and drop your bag, change and dish your food. I know you’re tired and hungry.”
Kaine didn’t move. What had happened to her? “You’re sure you are all right?”
This time she laughed. “Positive. But since you won’t go inside and undress, come here.”
Had she heard from Tobi? Dear Lord, that was it! “You finally reached him. Or did he call you?” Kaine strode forward and dropped into the couch.
“Who? Tobi?” When she nodded eagerly, Anwuli chuckled and shook her head. “I haven’t reached him—at least not since I tried last in the morning.”
“You tried last in the morning?” She stared. “Did you run out of credit?”
“Not at all. Actually loaded a card when I went to buy the fish for the rice.” Anwuli reached for her hand and then placed it on her bulging tummy. “I felt him this afternoon.”
“Him?” Kaine stared confusedly.
“My baby.” Anwuli clarified. “I felt him kick this afternoon. A little boot.” She laughed with delight and had Kaine’s mouth dropping open. “It was just a soft hit but I felt it like it was a punch and I was so shocked I almost dropped my phone.” She laughed again. “He kicked again soon after that and just before you entered now, he gave me another boot. I bet he was telling me his aunty was back.”
“He?” Kaine raised her brows. It had been this baby or it all these months and now, it was he?
“I know it’s going to be a boy. I can feel it.” Anwuli said happily.
“Hmm. I see.” Kaine inclined her head. “And I see his booting has certainly excited you.”
“It hasn’t just excited me, Kaine, it has changed me.” Anwuli corrected. “When I first felt it, I was shocked and then I was excited and when it came again, I was still excited but with the excitement came a sudden peace and I realised that I had a gift inside of me. A gift I have to take care off. To nurture and protect. To love and provide for. And the first provision I have to make is to ascertain he has a healthy and comfortable home inside my womb. And to do that, I have to be healthy not only in body but also mentally and emotionally.” She took the hand she’d placed on her tummy. “I’m done stressing over Tobi, Kaine. I won’t worry myself anymore. I am going to focus on my baby and prepare for his arrival.”
Kaine would have doubted her but for the light in her eyes that bespoke of the old Anwuli. She squeezed her hand. “I’m so happy to hear you talk like this, Anwuli. I know it’s hard but just focus on you and your baby and take it one day at a time, I’m sure things will work out.”
“I pray they will. But whatever the future holds, I will only concentrate on the present.” Anwuli promised.
And she did just that. Kaine never caught her again crying or agonising over her phone and she stopped whining about her increasing size but instead worked on some healthy eating habits to restrain the weight gain. Month climbed on top month and Anwuli stayed as positive as she’d promised and Kaine soon stopped worrying altogether and thanked God for the miraculous change.
When she went into labour, Kaine called Juliet. She arrived with her husband and they drove them to the hospital. It was as if the baby was impatient to come out to the world because Anwuli was wheeled straight away to the theatre the moment they arrived. And in a matter of minutes, she indeed birthed a gorgeous baby boy. Kaine was overjoyed as were Juliet and her kind husband.
Anwuli was too. At least for the first two months after her son’s birth and then the glum returned. Since many months had passed, Kaine suggested she send Tobi an email telling him about the baby.
The baby’s baptism came and Anwuli chose to name him after his father. She’d even registered his birth under Tobi’s family name not theirs. Two weeks after the email was sent, Kaine returned from an errand she’d taken Baby Tobi along to, to find the house empty and a letter waiting on the centre table for her—
I’m sorry I had to do this, Kaine.
But I really had to take this chance. Oguns—the director I last worked with—called me that he has a part for me in his new movie.
He’s going to shoot it in Accra, Ghana. Tobi is partly from Ghana.
This is my chance. Tobi might be in Accra or some other part of Ghana.
I must try to find him. I have to know why he abandoned me—Us, the baby and I.
I left some money in your wardrobe. USE IT.
Don’t try to call me. I left my handset behind, so you won’t be able to reach me.
I don’t want you trying to convince me otherwise. I MUST DO THIS!
I had to leave Baby Tobi. FORGIVE ME for that.
It was wrong; selfish. But I know he will be better off with you.
You love him as much as I do. Even more.
I will send more money as soon as I can.
I have not abandoned you both, Kaine. I am only looking for the man I love and the father of my son. I cannot rest until I find him.
Please don’t hate me, darling sister. Forgive me and don’t judge me too cruelly.
I love you dearly.
Kaine let go off the sheet of paper and sank into couch. She stared at the baby sleeping in her arms, oblivious of the fact that his mother had just left him. “Tobi, what are we going to do?” She asked, tears springing into her eyes.
“That is so selfish of her! So self-centred and damnably stupid!” Juliet paced and ranted in their small living room. “How could she abandon her less than three month old baby and race off to shoot a movie and run after a man she doesn’t know where he is?”
Kaine didn’t respond. It was more of a rhetoric question but even if it wasn’t, she didn’t have an answer to the question. She was as confused as Juliet and maybe, just as furious.
“How does she expect you to take care of the baby alone, eh?” Juliet ranted on. “Does she expect you to miraculously produce breast milk when he needs it?”
“Tobi actually prefers his baby formula to breast milk. He hardly ever suckles.”
“And so bloody what?” Juliet hissed. “Is that why she felt comfortable leaving the baby with you? And what about your having to take care of him alone? Who would help you? Your father’s cousins haven’t exactly been helpful since they disapproved strongly about the pregnancy and now they will even confirm their opinion that Anwuli was irresponsible to have gotten pregnant by a man who never cared to marry her.”
Juliet stopped pacing and flung down beside her. “My God, Kaine, do you know how hard it is to care for a child when there are two or more persons in a house let alone when there’s only you? How are you going to cope?”
“I don’t know.” Kaine lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know. But I’m going to look after him. I have to look after him. I’m all he has now. And he’s all I have.” She felt so sad. She couldn’t understand why Anwuli had to act to rashly, so thoughtlessly? “I hope I can bring him with me to work. You won’t mind, will you?”
Juliet stared at her for a moment before reaching out to gather her into her arms. “Oh, you darling sweet girl, of course you can.”
And so began her new life with Tobi. They woke up early, got ready for work and then left home at about seventy-fifteen am. They spent seven hours at the day-care centre amidst other babies and toddlers and then they returned home and started getting ready for dinner and for bedtime.
Kaine’s greatest relief was that Baby Tobi wasn’t a crying baby. So long as he was well fed and tucked in nicely in his cot, he never bothered anyone. He’d fretted the first couple of days after his mother left but he soon settled down again to his usual quiet, cheerful self.
Kaine was washing out his bottles whilst heating up soup for herself when she heard the knock on the door one evening three weeks later. She wiped off her hands on her jeans as she marched out of the kitchen.
“I wonder who that is.” She murmured to Tobi who was lying on his baby mattress on the floor by the dining table. “Maybe is Aunty Juliet who’s come check on us.”
She opened the door without asking who it was and almost stuttered as she stared up at the man standing in front of her door. He was tall, broad shouldered because he not only filled out her door-frame but he perfectly filled out the three-piece navy blue suit he was wearing. The skin of his angular shadow-bearded face was fair and the hair on his head dark and slightly curly.
It struck Kaine without her having to think about it that he was a very handsome man. Very handsome and very impressively dressed.
She swallowed and cleared her voice. “Ah… good evening, sir.” She offered a smile. But the man didn’t smile back and he continued to gaze at her with aloof dark eyes. Kaine felt a tickle of fear but squashed it. “Are you looking for someone?” She asked, firming her voice.
“Good evening.” His voice was deep and authoritative and it had a foreign accent. “I am looking for Anwuli Nwaolisa.” He pronounced the name like the ‘n’ wasn’t present.
Something clicked inside of Kaine. The fair skin, the curly hair, the accent and the vague recollection she had of the picture Anwuli had once shown her on her phone.
She swallowed again and gripped hard to the door. “Who are you?” Her fear was back.