Before I met Uche and started eating the forbidden fruit, I had said severally to my ‘carefree friends’ in my usual high pitched voice, “avoid sex before marriage. It will ruin you and your future eventually. Focus on furthering your education instead.” I said it with such boldness as a preacher would from a pulpit because I was still,’the good girl’ But when he came along and brain-washed me to believe that he was out for a lasting relationship, I allowed him access to my very core. First my heart, and then? my dignity–the sole reason why I held my head high before those mischievous bad boys who targeted hard- to- get girls and with tremendous ease like with single snap of fingers, got them, used and dumped them with teary eyes and broken hearts. Uche’s look from a distance could be very deceptive; one could swear by his life that he was an angel, but then, he was a dangerous wolf in sheep’s clothing, with rotten, pretentious chatacter. For an average girl like me, life had begun only when there’s a boy in the picture for an intimate relationship and in few cases, platonic. In my own case, I was so convinced that with him I would be heading towards the later. But then, along the line, the relationship went in different direction. We ate the forbidden fruit and I became the one who got nature’s unfair punishment while he continued on his normal path of life. My mum had sat with me one evening, when the lining of the horizon had swallowed the orange sun and the fowls had blindly begun their journey back to the barnyard. In her absence, Uche had sneaked into my room and sneaked out before her arrival but then, when she came back and saw me with an unusual attitude which I couldn’t suppress; a wild smile and equally unusual widespread arms, she gave me some good disarming stare that forced my eyeballs to avoid hers. She then blinked and walked passed me without a word to the living room. “Who is he?” She had asked and I felt like a chicken in the deep freezer. Before I could think of a lie, my heart began to beat abnormally fast. I looked up sharply, opened and closed my mouth without a sound, surprised that she knew he came around. “I passed through all these during my time Chetachi, and now that I know better than you, stay away from him. It’s a warning. I don’t want to see him around you again,” she said. I had pondered over what she had said for a while. “Thank you mama” But then, that was just to end the talking section because, from that very moment, I made up my mind to keep the forbidden relationship a secret. When he finally put me in a family way and rejected me, I was battered and at the same time terrified to discus my situation with my mother. My father had a gun and would definitely shoot me dead; not exactly but something like that. I made plans to find another way to solve my problem without getting them involved. ~~~~~~ To be continued.. ~~~~~~ Excerpt from my work, Baby Merchants.