“Are you okay?” Cynthia turned the car CD player on.
Mma nodded. “I okay, ma.”
But she still appeared not to be, the way she folded her arms on the strap of seat belt crossing her.
At Maryland Junction, the lights blinked yellow and then turned red. Cynthia slowed the car. She looked at Mma. “Do you like the song?”
Mma moved her head ever so slightly in something that looked like a nod.
She felt nothing about the song. A female voice was singing in a happy tone, telling someone, her man obviously, not ever to think that he was irreplaceable, that she could have another him by the next day.
Finally Mma concluded the woman was a good singer only her English was too complicated. She wished she would render, with the same smooth, joy-filled voice, Chioma Jesus by Sister Amaka Okwuoha.
She thought about her mother now, how she always sang along to the song while sweeping in the morning, her voice sometimes towering above the original singer’s. Sometimes she held the long broom still in one hand and danced around.
She thought about her younger brother, the way he would run to call her to come and see the way their mother was dancing. They would stand aside, watching, smiling and cackling. Onyiudo Ekemma would look at her children and wink at them, her waist still moving to the song.
A fluffy lump formed in Mma”s throat and she struggled to push it down.
Cynthia looked at her. “You don’t look ok. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Ma. I fine. Thanking you.”
Cynthia pulled a face and turned back to the wheel. The car was moving now.
They didn’t talk again till she parked at a corner of the round space in front of Bimacs Specialist Hospital.
Inside Dr Hope’s office, she examined Mma’s face, asked her some questions before she called in a nurse.
Mma followed the blue uniformed lady to get a urine sample.
Dr Hope first used the rapid U-check test and the result came back positive. She ran a confirmatory using another test equipment and it was the same result.
“It’s positive,” she said, turning to Cynthia. “She is pregnant.”
Cynthia nodded, her lips compressed in an expression that meant she wasn’t very surprised.
“Your house girl?” Dr Hope asked.
Before Cynthia could answer, Mma nodded quickly in response to the dark-skinned doctor’s question.
Dr Hope had large white eyes, made bolder even by the penetrative, quick-judging character familiar to those in her profession. Her black-rimmed glasses did not mask anything.
“Mma, wait outside the door, please,” Cynthia said.
The door closed behind her and Cynthia turned to the doctor. “How safe is it for her to have an abortion?”
Dr Hope twisted her lips in reflection. “We didn’t run any definitive, but she is obviously still in her first trimester. What did Richard say?”
“She has to have an abortion.”
“What of her parents?”
“She’s got none. I will sign the documents if there is any.”
A small knowing smile walked past the doctor’s face. “Is your fiancé somehow involved?”
Cynthia didn’t say anything.
“As long it’s safe, Doc, you must get rid of that pregnancy.”
Dr Hope stared at her and then scrunched up her mouth. “At least we will need the girl’s opinion.”
Cynthia inhaled deeply. “Ok.”
When Mma walked in, she didn’t allow the doctor to finish before she said, “Yes. I doing it.”
If Dr Hope was surprised she didn’t show it. The people in her kind of profession tended not to show much emotions. “Do you not want this baby, Miss Mma?” she asked.
“I not owing the baby. The people owing the baby not wanting it and I not stopping them.”
Mma didn’t talk. Cynthia turned away.
Richard had told her not to do anything rash. “If it’s confirmed she’s really pregnant, bring her home and we will know what next to do.” He’d said to her that morning. She’d replied him only in her mind.
“I want you to know you have other options,” Dr Hope said. “You can consider—”
“I not want. Removing the baby so that I going back to the village.”
Dr Hope’s eyes stayed on Mma a little longer. She removed her glasses and tapped her thumb with it.
Thirty minutes later they were inside an enclosed room.
Mma now wearing a blue hospital gown lay with legs apart on the elevated bed. Dr Hope held an ugly-looking piece of equipment.
The sonogram obtained some minutes ago had confirmed the procedure was safe for Mma. Dr Hope has taken her time to explain to them, though they never seem to get all the terms right; viability, uterine wall, first and second trimester, local anaesthetic, ectopic and non-ectopic pregnancy and manual vacuum aspiration.
Cynthia stood near the door watching. There was something indecisive about her eyes, something that expressed her discomfort with the scene.
Perhaps it was the metal equipment in Dr Hope’s hand. She finally told Dr Hope to stop just before she could plug in the device into Mma.
“Can you give us a minute, Doc?”
Dr Hope tilted her head. She finally nodded and pulled off her gloves. She hung her coat and left the room.
Cynthia walked close to the bed, staring down at Mma.
Mma stared blankly ahead, hands crossed on her belly.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Mma pretended not to hear her. It was like one roasting a bush rat and still asking if it was ok.
“Do you really want to do this?”
“You don’t want the baby?”
Mma shook her head.
She managed to twist her face to look at Cynthia. “Nnanna saying when I coming to Lagos that he making decision with you. I agreeing before coming.”
Cynthia heaved a deep sigh. “So you saying you doing this for us?”
“I the one doing the mistake before. Nnanna not forcing me to spreading my legs for him. He not forcing me.”
For a period neither of them spoke.
“I think we all make mistakes. Let me tell you something, Mma.”
Mma twisted to her again. She made to sit. “Is ok if I sitting up?”
Mma sat up, back to the wall. “Ok. Telling me.”
“I once nearly slept with a man old enough to be my father at a party.”
Mma shook her head in surprise. “Telling me what happened?”
Cynthia smiled drily and nodded her head. “The old man intentionally got me intoxicated and slyly guided me into his room. My friend, Vanessa, called Richard. He came quite on time. I was already naked on the bed when he arrived…according to them.”
Mma crossed herself. “Chei! Foolishing old man. Very foolishing.”
Cynthia smiled again, this time in amusement.
“Liking that Ichie Mbanefo in my village, always calling small small girls and giving them biscuit and sweet and then asking them to rubbing his fat stomach.”
“Trusting me na, one day he calling me inside his parlour and giving me biscuit and sweet. I eating his biscuit, finishing everything well well. He saying I following him inside and he giving me more. I saying ok, let’s go! I entering the room with him. As he removing his shirt I just using my hand and grabbing his odogwu—” Mma clenched her fist in demonstration.
“He screaming Jesus, Virgin Mary, Amadioha but I not leaving him. I telling him to giving me the bag of biscuit and giving me sharp sharp. Bag of sweet, he saying carrying sharp sharp.”
Cynthia laughed. “Get up let’s go.”
“Ah ah! We not doing the operation again?”
“No. And it was never an operation.”
“You blaming me? I wearing this long cloth and the doctor woman wearing hand socks. When Papa doing operation, he wearing the same thing.”
“Your father had operation once?”
“Yes. He later dying, they saying the doctor not stitching it well.”
“I’m so sorry about that.”
“Is ok. I has longing well well.”
Doctors don’t show emotions easily but when they told Dr Hope that they have cancelled, both her surprise and confusion showed fully on her face.
As they drove home, Mma wanted to tell Cynthia about last night when she’d caught Stella eavesdropping on them but she hesitated.
One thing is sure, she now felt safe with Madam and it gladdened her.
Their journey back wasn’t as dull. Often and on, Mma pointed and asked what that was. Cynthia would explain and she would say something that would make her laugh.
Back at home, inside the kitchen, Stella poured half glass of vodka inside a kettle. She unwrapped the cannabis she’d bought earlier into the same kettle.
When it boiled, she poured the “cannabis brandy” into a mixture of four juice flavours. She added ice cubes and stirred to mix.
Richard turned his eyes at her when he drank from the mixture. “What’s this?”
“You should just have gotten me a glass of juice instead, don’t think I need alcohol now.”
“It’s normal, sir. I added just a shot of vodka with plenty of mixers.”
Richard took another sip of the drink. It had the hard and soft, sweet and sour, taste of cocktails. He dropped the glass beside him and picked up his paper.
An hour later the glass was empty and he was sprawled on the couch, snoring loudly.
Stella came out, now in her loose night gown. She bent and guided Richard up and slowly into the room.
Cynthia drew the curtain and they entered.
“Thanking you very much, ma.”
Cynthia turned to Mma. “What for?”
Mma smiled. “Thanking you for everything.”
Cynthia patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry you will have your baby here. And do you know that I’m pregnant too?”
Mma’s eyes bulged. “You carrying pregnancy too?”
Cynthia smiled and winked. “Yes.”
“Hey! Nobody will knowing o. Seeing your body and nobody will thinking it at all.”
Cynthia was smiling.
“So two pregnancy in one house.”
Stella heard their voices from inside the room. She quickly wore back her gown and covered Richard up with the blanket. She crept out of the room into the kitchen. Given some more minutes and she would have completed her scheme.
When Cynthia got into the room and saw Richard, now only in his white singlet and boxer shorts, snoring away in drunken sleep, she moved closer and smelled his mouth.
She wrinkled her nose. She took out her iPad and took his picture. Later she would post it as her display picture on Blackberry Messenger and change her status to “Boo Boozed-Up” with a lot of *beer and *kiss smileys.
Later that afternoon when Richard woke up, eyes all glazed and head throbbing, Cynthia laughed out hard at him.
She was lying on the couch, one leg over the other, her slate-looking iPad held upright on her chest. Her Blackberry was on the carpet blinking away with red. She wore a loose-fitting blue T-shirt and white shorts that stopped at her thighs.
Richard was scratching at his head as he walked dazedly to the couch.
Cynthia raised her legs. He sat and she dropped them back on him. The bright red paint on her toe nails created the impression of a modern day witch. She had the confusing skin colour of neither fair nor dark.
“We were away at the hospital and you decided to booze up a little, abi!” she said with a teasing smile.
“Where is Stella?” Richard said.
“Must be in the kitchen, why?”
“She said the drink had only little alcohol, how come—”
Cynthia hummed, pulling down her cheeks in amused surprise. “So you want to blame the poor girl now?”
“No. I asked her.”
The quizzical look remained on Cynthia’s face.
“Seriously I did and she said—”
“Anyways, the pregnancy test was positive.” She cut in.
For once Richard’s eyes showed vivid awareness. He exhaled noisily, rubbing his face over. “So what next?”
Cynthia tapped a few times on the device, watched her message get delivered before she dropped it face down on her chest. “She’ll keep the baby.” She twisted herself to pick up her Blackberry.
“How come suddenly you’ve changed your mind?”
Cynthia puckered her lips, her eyes, coated with mild irritation, on Richard.
“Yes. Only some hours ago and you were practically going to cut open her belly and take out the foetus yourself.”
She took back her eyes. “Come off it, Richard, I’m not that evil. I mean I’m pregnant too. I put myself in her shoes.”
“That’s very—” Richard searched hard for the right word.
“Generous?” Cynthia threw in, giving him her peculiar double-wink smile. She picked up her iPad.
Richard smiled. “I will say thank you then.”
There was a dull beeping sound. Cynthia tapped at the iPad screen to open her new message. She read it slowly. “There are conditions though,” she said.
Richard turned to her. “What?”
“Yes, there are conditions attached to the acceptance. And they must be followed to the letter if everything is to go normal.”
When Cynthia started listing the terms just as the message had borne them, Richard wondered if an abortion wouldn’t have been the easier way out.
Copyright © Daniel Nkado 2014. All rights reserved.
Consented personally by the author to be used on Alifediary only.
Daniel Nkado is a Nigerian writer and journalist, author of bestselling Ola – The Tale of a Young Moon Maiden and founder of DNBStories.com.
Interact with him on www.dnbstories.com or @danielnkd on Twitter.