Stella watched as he blinked and seemed to focus again. Her mouth twisted into a cynical smile. “Something tells me I just jugged your memory.” She said. “Did you remember how treated me? Did you remember how you cruelly rejected me and threw me out of your house?”
She hated to hear his voice. She hated him. “SHUT UP!” She roared, jerking up the gun and pointing it straight at his head. “Shut the damn up before I blow you miserable, self-centred head off, you fucking bastard!”
Nicholas raised his hand as if in a plea. His eyes darted to the windows.
“He can’t hear.” When he gaped, she smirked. “Your security man—Musa. He can’t hear us. I read somewhere that this house is noise proof.” She swept a quick glance around the room. “It’s amazing what one can achieve with a lot of money. Money, I helped you make. You met my Uncle—on my insistence.” Stella chuckled, coldly. “He found you the job at an investment company. You made contacts and you made money and then you started your own company… and now there is the luxurious house. And a wife and baby on the way too.” She drew closer and bent towards him, the tip of the blade touching his chest. “Imagine how that makes me feel when I hear you talking about your son with her.”
He shifted backward but his fearful eyes did not leave hers. “Please, Stella, be merciful. I know I hurt you and…”
“Hurt me? Did you say, hurt me?” She barked out a laugh. “You ruined my life, you bastard! You ruined my life.” And because she was so tempted to sink the blade into his miserable heart, she stepped back and drew in a long breath.
She needed to stay calm. She wouldn’t kill him until she’d told him what he did to her.
More composed, she looked at him again. “It was might have been a boy too, the child I was carrying. I felt it like it was, as it grew.” His eyes widened in shock and she cackled. “Yes, the thing didn’t end that night because you rejected us. Do you want to know how your son ended, Nicholas?”
“You should know. It is part of the reason you are going to die tonight.” She cut in. “I was already two months gone the night you rejected us. I did not know I was pregnant at first. I was still so naïve and even more, I wasn’t expecting myself to become pregnant. I wasn’t on any contraceptives and you never liked to use condoms… you preferred skin-to-skin. I bet you still do.” she tossed him a twisted smile. “That’s how Celine ended up pregnant too, isn’t it?”
Nicholas visibly swallowed instead of answering.
She backed to the desk and propped herself against it. Her gun remained trained on him. She’d bought it off a criminal sort who lived two streets away from her house. It had been a risky business… but, what is life without a little risk?
“We weren’t using any form of precautions so pregnancy was inevitable. But I didn’t expect it. But when I found out, I was thrilled… and I thought you would be too.” Stella regarded the spineless idiot who had ruined her life and wished she could just do the deed already. “You did not only reject the pregnancy, you rejected me too. You cruelly broke up with me and watched me walk out of your apartment and out of your life. I thought you would come to your senses and call me. But you did not.”
Tears welled up in her eyes but she blinked them away with vicious fury. The time for tears was gone. “You didn’t come after me that night and you never did days, weeks, months and years after. But it only took me a week to realise what a fool I’d been. I was a fool, a naïve idiot. I should not have given you my virginity. I should not have listened to your false declarations of love and parted my legs for you.
But I did and now I was carrying the result of such an error. Only I did not consider our baby an error or that thing. I loved it—I didn’t know then if it was a boy or a girl—and frankly, I didn’t care much. It was my baby… our baby and even though you’ve been lying and deceiving me all along, I co-conceived that baby in love.”
“I wasn’t deceiving you all along, Stella. I cared for you too. I was just too young and … too stupid…”
“You weren’t too young. You were a self-centred bastard!” Stella snarled. “You had no morals, no compassion, no thought for anyone else but yourself! And don’t you dare interrupt me again, you fool!” She ground out the warning in a steel, venomous tone. “This is my story and you will listen to it with attention and without interruptions, do you hear me?”
He nodded, his eyes on the gun aimed at his head.
“Good.” She relaxed, her body but not the gun. And not her hold on the blade. “I didn’t know what to do after I left your place that night. I didn’t know what to do but I was sure of one thing, I didn’t want to abort my baby. And so, I left it… until my mother found out.
Stella dropped the cloth she was folding, startled. Her mother’s calls scared her these days. Her scrutinizing eyes terrified her and her repeated questions if she was all right tortured her.
“Ma!” She answered, dragging on the extra-size pullover she wore around to cover her bulging midsection. “I’m coming, ma.” She adjusted the pullover, making sure it properly covered her body and then stepped out of her room.
Before she entered the living room, she made the sign of the cross, not because she was a catholic but she just needed the sense of divine protection it brought.
“Yes, mum. You called me.” She said with forced cheerfulness coming to stand beside the single-seater her mother was sitting on.
“I did. Sit down.” Her mother did not bother to look up from the Bible she had open on her laps.
Stella sat down, on the next seat. Her heartbeat had picked up but she strove to remain calm. If she panicked, she might smell her fear.
“What is wrong with you, Stella?” Her mother asked, eyes still on the Bible
“Nothing. I see.” Her mother made a sound under her breath. It was the sound she made when she knew she was being lied to and Stella’s heart lurched and jumped. “So, why have you been wearing that sweater for the past three weeks or so?”
“You mean this pullover?” She wasn’t trying to correct her mother but she couldn’t think of any other thing to say.
Her mother only made the sound again.
“I… am…” Stella felt her teeth begin to chatter. “I’ve been feeling kind of cold lately, that’s why, mum.” She certainly was feeling cold now, so it wasn’t altogether a lie. “I think it might be Malaria, so I took some medications.” She added hastily.
“Malaria.” Her mother dipped her head. “I see.” She shut the Bible with a snap and Stella jumped. “So, it’s malaria not pregnancy, hmm.”
“Mum…” she staggered up from her seat. Her mother was watching her now. Her teeth was chattering and she was beginning to tremble all over. “Pregnancy, mum?”
“Lie to me one more time and I will show you that I have been in this world more than two decades before you entered it, you simpleton!”
Tears surged down her cheeks, she fell to her knees. “Mummy, I am sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“To do what, get pregnant or to have malaria?” Her mother snarled.
Stella pressed her hands over her mouth and wept into them. She knew that this day would come but she’d hoped… she wasn’t even sure what she’d hoped for.
“Answer me, you daughter of shame and discord!” Her mother howled, rising to her feet. “Tell me who you are pregnant for? Tell me when it happened? When did you start opening your legs for men to enter and go out as they please? When did you lose your honour and dignity and how much were your paid to lose it? Answer me!” She struck her with the Bible.
Stella whimpered but did not back away from the attack. She deserved it and she wished it was something heavier that would kill her. Now her mother knew, the flood of shame she’d been feeling mildly in the last two and half months became poignant and it flooded every fibre of her being.
“How can my daughter be pregnant? How can this be? Hei!” Her mother wailed and clapped her hands. “Do you know who I am? A deaconess in church; a Minister on God’s holy altar… hei!” She wailed again and struck her with the Bible, harder this time. “What have I done to deserve this shame? What did I ever do to you? Stella, tell me, what did I have do to you? Tell me, you shameless daughter of Satan, what is my crime that you would bring such shame, such a disgrace, such… such ignominy upon me? Upon your family!”
Stella said nothing. She had coiled unto the floor and was weeping agonizingly.
“And to think that I did not even know it until Mama Udoka, that gossipy, envious spurn of Satan who has been looking for my downfall, told me just this evening that I better check my daughter.” She clapped her hands in dramatic rhythm and wailed again. “Where were my eyes to see that my daughter—my own daughter was hiding her pregnancy under a sweater… my God, where were my eyes?” She threw the Bible on her and followed with a punch on her back before she grabbed hold of the pullover and yanked her up. “Get this useless thing off, let me see the evidence of shame you’re hiding.”
Crying uncontrollably, Stella tugged off the pullover.
“Hei! Hei! Hei! My enemies have triumphed over me and will surely dance on my grave o!” Her mother placed both hands on her head and did a dramatic dance on one spot. “How far are you gone, you useless child?” She queried, grabbing her and jerking her forward and backward.
“Four and half months.” Stella whimpered.
“Chineke mo o!” Her mother let her go and fell into a chair. “Four and half months? Did you say, four and half months?”
“And who is the father? What is he waiting for to come and pay your bride price? What is he waiting for to take you away from my house?”
“He…” she broke off and sobbed piteously.
But her mother only reached for a cup on the stool beside her and hurled it at her. The water and cup slammed her into the arm she raised to dodge the onslaught.
“Tell me what he’s waiting for, you shameless girl!” Her mother howled.
“He’s not coming, mum. He’s not coming to pay my bride price.” She cried, broken and filled with shame. “He rejected me and the baby and he…”
The slap landed on her cheek before she completed the sentence and it occurred to her that she hadn’t noticed her mother stand up, let alone raise her hand. She held her stinging cheek, massaging it as she cried.
“He rejected you and the baby. Of course, he rejected you and the baby. Have I not repeatedly taught you that a man never values whatever comes cheaply? Did I not warn you and your sister again and again about the dangers of sex outside marriage? Did I not?” She slapped her again and for good measure, pinched her cheek.
Stella didn’t mind the beating. It was what she deserved. She should have known better. She should never have fallen for Nicholas’ lies.
“Now what does he want you to do with a baby, eh? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“He asked me to abort it.” Stella sobbed.
“He asked you to abort it… eheh, he asked you to abort it and what are you waiting for?”
Stella snapped her head up and gaped at her mother. “Ma?” She couldn’t have heard right.
“I said, what are you waiting for to get rid of that cloak of shame?”
“Cloak of shame?” She stared at her mother in confusion. “You mean, my baby?”
“Baby kò, pikin ni.” Her mother hissed. “No daughter of mine will bring forth a child that has no father inside my house, never! If you are ready to be a mother, move to your husband’s house. Such an abomination will never happen in my house. What will the church say?”
Stella felt like she was having another nightmare. “The church? You are worried about what they will say concerning my being pregnant outside wedlock but you’re not worried what they’ll say about me committing an abortion?”
Her mother raised her hand and slapped her. “Shut up, you useless child! How dare you sound self-righteous and indignant when it is you who have led us into this situation? Listen to me and listen very clearly, you will abort that baby. You must abort it! I will not allow myself to be shamed and dishonoured. I will not allow you to bring shame upon your poor father and upon this family. We are respectable people. Your father is an Elder in church and your younger brother, the Youth Leader. Your sister is in the Choir and I am a deaconess.” She grabbed her and shook her. “You will not ruin our lives because you want yours ruined, do you hear me?”
“And I nodded. There was nothing I could do or say.” Stella blinked back the tears that hovered and ignored the ones that have slipped out. “My mother demanded that I not tell my father or anyone else for that matter about my condition. Two days later, she came to the school to pick me on the pretext of a family emergency and drove me straight to a clinic practically outside the city.”
She paused as she remembered. “It was a dingy place, obscure and filthy. But she made me go inside there. I was made to lie on this hospital bed and my legs were clipped up and the doctor grabbed this surgical instrument—a forceps, I found out later—and inserted it into me. I wasn’t giving anaesthesia or anything. I was left to stay awake and watch my baby ripped out of me in mangled parts. I cried and begged for my mother to help me… but she was outside, praying for God to have mercy on us.” Stella let out a loud, hoarse laugh. “She was forcing me to kill my child and was asking God to forgive us… imagine that! At the end, the doctor—I suppose I have to call him that—pronounced the procedure successful.
I cried all the way home. My mother told them at home that I was sick. For days, I bled and had to take antibiotics and blood tonics. Finally, the bleeding stopped and as time passed, the physical pain did, but the pain in my heart never healed. I resigned from my job as a teacher and started a small clothing business. It prospered and I moved out of the house. I couldn’t stand to be near my mother any longer. She was a hypocrite and together, we were both murderers.”
She looked at him. “So, were you too. But of course, you didn’t know it and even if you did, you wouldn’t have cared. Though I was doing well financial-wise, I wasn’t socially or emotionally. I had withdrawn into my shell and kept away from men and from relationships. That was until two years ago when I met Dozie. He seemed like God’s sent—he wouldn’t take no for an answer and persisted until I succumbed and started dating him. But there was no sex. I had learnt the hard way to keep my legs shut together and I explained to him that it was a personal vow after being heartbroken. He understood and didn’t pressure me. And we got married some months later. And that was when the troubles started.”
Stella stopped and stared down at the gun. She still had it pointed at Nicholas and if her hand ached from the stress of remaining horizontally outstretched in the air, she didn’t notice. But she noticed him. There was still fear in his eyes but there was also awareness. Awareness of what he had done.
“We started trying for kids almost immediately but I kept having miscarriages. A year went by and with it, five miscarriages and finally, we went to the hospital. The doctor’s verdict was simple—I had a damaged uterus. I was shocked, I was speechless and once again, I was shamed. Dozie was devastated. I hadn’t told him I’d undergone a D & C procedure. I never even told him that I had ever been pregnant and all of a sudden, he was finding out that I could never carry a child, that my uterine walls were too weak, too damaged to hold a pregnancy. Then as if to cap it all, I also had uterine fibroid that was life threatening and must have my womb removed immediately.”
She sneered. “Yes, standing before you is a womb-less woman. Shameful, right?” She didn’t wait for his response. She didn’t want it. It was time to finish this. “Dozie loved me but he could not take it—that was what he said, ‘I can’t take it, Stella.’ And he asked me to leave his house—our home. I left and went back to the home I once knew but which was never home anymore. My mother blamed me—in secret of course.
Before the rest of the family, I refused to say how I got pregnant and how I was forced into having the abortion that have now ruined my life. I said nothing, just withdrew again into my shell. I had the surgery and returned home. Then my sister delivered her own baby and my mother started to mock me, repeatedly. And that was when I found the drug and put her out of her misery.”
“It was painless. Died in her sleep, the doctor said. And everyone mourned the Assistant Parish Pastor who’d been a model Christian.” She sniggered. “That was four months ago. After the funeral, I knew it was your turn, so I began to look for you. It wasn’t difficult. The internet is a great help these days and it provided me with enough information. The rest, I discovered stalking you. I found out about your beautiful Celine and then about the upcoming wedding. Then I found out about the baby and I realised it was time you paid for your sins.”
She heaved up from the desk and tugged the blade into its scabbard behind her back. She pushed forward the Eames desk chair and beckoned on him. “Come sit here. This will be your throne of death.”
When he didn’t rise, she cocked the gun.
“Don’t you dare run and don’t waste your breath on a scream either. It’s pointless as you know. Just come forward and take your place.” She warned.
Nicholas got up, started towards her, then suddenly changed directions and scuttled towards the door.
She shot him, on the leg.
He yelped and fell forward on his face.
Stella hissed. “You were always a coward.” She walked to where he was lying sideways, holding his leg and whimpering and gave him a hard kick on the side. “Now get up, you spineless fool, and move to that chair!”
“I’m bleeding, Stella… my leg is bleeding.” He whined.
She kicked the leg, hissing when he yelped again. “Coward! Stop whimpering and move! Look at the mess you’ve made… idiot! Now get up!”
He whimpered, dragged himself up and hobbled to the Eames chair. When he sat down, she reached for the shawl around her neck.
“Please, Stella… I wronged you… I was wrong. Forgive me…”
“SHUT UP!” She ordered. “It is not forgiveness you need but freedom. Freedom from the misery you have brought upon your soul and freedom from the darkness that lives in you.”
She gestured with the gun. “No more sudden movements… or this will end more painfully than necessary, understand?”
He nodded, fear and tears gleaming in his eyes.
She smiled, wickedly. Then she gagged his mouth with the shawl and with what’s left of it, tied his hands behind the chair. “That’s better. Words are not required anymore… not from you, at least.” She smiled down at him, sadly. “I loved you and I gave you all I had to give. But you only took from me and you never gave back. And I ended up without my womb. There’s nothings inside here. Imagine that, nothing inside.” She touched her hand to her stomach, her eyes filled. “Does it look like I’ve got nothing inside here?” She looked at him.
He made a noise behind his gag.
“No, it doesn’t look like it.” She spoke as if she did not hear him. “I walk around looking normal and whole—but really, I’m just an empty shell. An empty woman—no real worth anymore. Of no value, no use… worthless, useless… empty.” She raised crying eyes to him. “You took that away from me. You robbed me of my womanhood. You took my very essence from me… and now, you want to have another.” She shook her head. “You want to have a child and go on with your life. I can’t allow it. I can’t.”
He shifted on the seat and she aimed the gun. “Move again and I’ll pull the trigger.”
He settled back.
“You destroyed me, Nicholas. You started this chain of events that ended us here. You started it by not taking responsibility for your actions…”
He made some desperate sounds.
She ignored him. It was time. “I wanted to kill you slowly… with cold-hearted precision… but now I can’t. I will make it quick… and painless.”
She stared into his eyes. He was making sounds, tears flowed from his eyes and they pleaded with her… begged her. “You destroyed me, Nicholas. I can’t allow you live.”
She came close to him and bent towards him. He was trembling. Trembling and crying. She raised the blade and plunged it into his neck. Blood spurted out, splashed on her hands, Nicholas jerked forward and tilted of the chair. He started to convulse, splashing blood everywhere and then, he became still.
The smell of blood filled the air and nausea rose, surging up towards her throat. She swallowed it and stumbled backward. She turned and staggered out of the room. She went down the stairs and then unlocked the front door and went through it.
Outside, a startled Musa yelped and jumped back at the sight of a gun pointing at him. He stared at her with confused eyes. Stella supposed he was wondering where she’d appeared from. She would have liked to enlighten him but it was time for her too. Today was judgment day for her and Nicholas and if her mother wasn’t already burning in hell already, she could join the Heavenly court of Justice.
She turned the gun, raised it, pointed it to her heart and pulled the trigger.
**So, it’s done. And my leave officially begins NOW… hehehe. Y’all have a great time with The Village Girl and if on Thursday you don’t see KD, don’t panic! You’ll surely see it another day *wink*. Cheers everyone and have a great, great week and half… adios amigos**