As I sat waiting for the program to start, I kept thinking about the proper name of the secret home, its legality and safety. Even though I wanted a place to hide from the mocking world, I cared about my life and its safety as well. Rebecca assured me of good stay if I could keep to The Rules, but, to me, that’s conditional and not enough. I hated ifs before a necessity.
“I welcome you all to the First Evening Gathering.”
I looked up to see the man who attended to Rebecca and I that evening at the reception. He looked different in his traditional attire. His bulging stomach hidden within his loose kaftan, almost invisible. I wished I knew his name.
“Countless healthy babies get their lives forcefully terminated around the world each day before they could make it into the world. This happens at the same time married men and women desperately try in vain to have their own.” he addressed us – the pregnant girls and we listened, hypnotised by his eloquence. Someone else addressed the couples loudly and I tried in vain to eavesdrop what he was saying while listening to the speaker before us.
“Some of these couples,” he said gesturing at the men and women over at the couple’s row, a melancholic expression across his face, “have sought for years in vain to have their own kids. Do you know that most of them over there are the ones shouldering a sizeable portion of the financial burden of this home?” I drifted away from the speech to think about the possibility of those couples actually shouldering the so-called financial burden without an eye for the gain. I waved the thought away when I recalled I was only sixteen. My mom would always say, “what do you know Chetachi? You’re just a child.”
“We are here to protect the unborn babies and prevent the dumping of those innocent, helpless babies in the bushes, gutters and refuse dumps. We take very good care of you during this journey, to make sure that you and your babies are fine at the end of the day.” he paused to wipe the sweat beads all over his face.
Why does this home also keep girls like me whose family members do not know their whereabouts? A question popped up in my head but I refused it exit.
He continued in his speech smoothly, with flawless eloquence while questions, many questions in my head fought for a chance to be heard. Questions like;
What’s the name of this firm..company.. home ..?
Can I be allowed to return home whenever I feel like I don’t want to stay anymore?
Can I go out to visit my friends, go shopping?
Even though these questions had been answered in The Rules, they still pop up in my head.
I saw myself raising up my hand for a chance to ask my questions but was totally ignored. I recalled what ‘auntie’ said about asking questions and calmed down with plans to find out from her especially the name of the home.
Rebecca walked into the hall. I wasn’t expecting to see her again that same evening. Is she one of the staff? Was a question I asked myself. I would later find out. However, she looked stunning in her black evening dress, evidence of good living written all over her. A couple followed closely behind her holding hands – a stoutly built man whose female companion towered above. I watched them walk to the couple’s row and Rebecca took her seat behind them. I made up my mind to meet with her so we could talk. I would love it if she took me to her home.
After the man’s speech, a formidable man emphasized on the importance of standing by The Rules after a brief summary of its content. Next on the program was the interview. When it was announced I wasn’t so comfortable with it.
The interview period was exhausting. A plump woman in his mid-forties with a title and initials Dr.Mrs C. O as her name waved me to a seat and handed me a false name, Miss Gugirl, written in block letters on a pink sticky note. I looked at her questioning. She said that was my name and it’s meant to protect me. I didn’t go further to ask why because I suppose I knew why. She asked many unnecessary questions to which I either nodded or shook my head. Then the last question came;
“Would you like your baby to have a home and caring parents or be kept in the orphanage?”
I told her clearly that I wanted this to be over, have my normal life back and go back to school. I didn’t care a hoot about whatever they, the management might decide to do with my baby afterwards. She looked steadily at me and smiled as though she was amused.
“It’s okay,” she said.
Finally, she gave me a two-page document to sign and without going through it, I signed it. She wrote down her phone number in a yellow sticky note and said I should always come to her for a friendly chat anytime I needed to. I thanked her even though number was as useless as her name. Outgoing call was not allowed.
I searched the hall for Rebecca but she was gone. Thoughts of seeing her filled my mind. Apart from the need to go home with her, I needed someone to talk to as well. My interviewer promised to organise a meeting with Rebecca. But I was led away immediately after the interview before others began to leave the hall, I was already in my room casting a frequent look at the wall clock. At 9:15 pm, I felt the bump in my lower abdomen harden slightly.
As I lay in my bed tired and lonely, I thought about my parents and home and had to cry that even though I wanted a place to hide my shame, I couldn’t be allowed to live my own life.
No access to phone calls. That made me very sad. I never knew I could be this lonely. I wondered what next.