Baby Merchants 6

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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.

Baby Merchants 5

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I rushed through The Rules with high interest as I waited for madam to come clear the table as promised and for ‘auntie’ to take me to The Gathering. And like thriller, it spread its captivating tentacles all over me and made my whole world of freedom disappeared. I gawked at the content, numbered not less than twenty with subs. It dawned on me that where I was, was a highly restricted and secured place, not in a way that could be appealing to anyone, but terrifying.

Rule numbers one and two grabbed my attention the most:

  1. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST YOU TALK TO OR WITH ANYONE (BOTH WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THIS HOME) OTHER THAN THE STAFF ASSIGNED TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. YOU SHOULD BE PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN DANGER BY DOING SO.
  2. NO MOVEMENTS BEYOND THE WING YOU STAY IN for AS LONG AS YOU STAY HERE. EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS AVAILABLE WITHIN YOUR REACH: ASK FOR IT AND IT WILL BE GIVEN. YOU COULD BE PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN GREAT DANGER BY DISOBEYING. MAKE IT EASIER FOR US TO PROTECT YOU.

Well, by now I had realized how I walked myself into a prison cell. All I wanted was a place to stay for a while to hide from the mocking world. I thought about Rebecca, who could be tucked away somewhere in Trans-Seculu, having a sound sleep in a house she owned. Why didn’t she take me to her house? I could pay her and could never be a burden. In my desperation to secure a place to stay, it didn’t occur to to ask her for the favor that flood my mind. I wished I could be given a chance to get in touch with her.

“Why? Have you conducted any tests on her?”

“No, doctor.”

“Do that first thing in the morning. She hasn’t submitted anything to prove she qualifies to stay here.”

I could clearly hear them talking, standing very close to my. The man opened my door without any prior signal and walked in and it hit me – no privacy. What man would dare enter my room in my father’s house? Doctor entered and Auntie followed meekly. They both walked to my bedside where I lay on my back clutching at a copy of The Rules. I dropped The Rules on the bed to focus on them and greeted him, he responded and looked at The Rules wearing a frowned face.

“Miss Janet, The Rules is not for everyone. It’s for those who are qualified to be here.”

“I didn’t know she wasn’t qualified Doc,”

“Did you receive any document in her name?”

Yes Doc.

“Did you check if there was anything to show if she’s pregnant? Please be careful next time.”

“But I presume that anyone whose file gets to me qualifies.” I watched the second drama since I arrived and wondered why they didn’t mind my presence.

” Will you stop talking and start listening,” he shouted

“Yes Doc.”

“One more thing, it should be given during the first evening gathering after orientation and the necessary instructions,”

Yes Doc.

The moment I heard I was not supposed to it, it made sense to me; I shouldn’t be reading that all by myself – I should need someone to make some explaining and tell me why I should be confined in a cellar for eight months. Doc. extended his hand and gently took it from me and asked me to follow him. I got up from my bed and followed him with no hint of where he was taking me to and in less than a minute we walked into a highly equipped laboratory where a very meek and humble girl bent over a microscope.

“Conduct a pregnancy test on her Miss Clara,” She took my urine and inserted a test kit in it.

“Positive Doc.,” she said, and he smiled, nodded and walked to the door. I followed, and he led the way into a mini hall with dark blue plastic chairs where many other expectant mothers both girls and young women were sited in the right row and men and women who looked like couples sited in the left. The others sited behind them, looked like the workers, among them were madam and auntie. I looked at the high table and saw the first man I met there the time I walked in with Rebecca. His protruded mid-section seemed to have enlarged to an extent from uncontrolled evening meal.

I read the theme of the evening written boldly on a flier; THE FIRST EVENING GATHERING in red print and white background. I looked back and saw the girl whom I saw at the reception. I tried to smile at her but she wasn’t looking at me. A guard came to me and warned me to keep my head steady and mind my front. I obeyed.

Baby Merchants 3

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The night was fast approaching and I was leaning on a Honda Civic parked in front of Fontana Hotel, thinking about how stupid I had been to have left my comfort zone and cozy bed to a harsh life. I was about to take the next bus to my friend’s house when a young woman-Rebecca walked along to take her car.

Having being refused hotel accommodation because the receptionist said that the last time she checked, I was way too young to be booked in unaccompanied, I was stranded and going back home to face my mum who should already be combing the town for me, was not the option.

I told Rebecca everything as though she was me and fortunately, she understood my plight and said she would take me to a SECRET HOME.

Perfect!

Exactly what I needed -A secret home where mum and dad would not find me easily.

Without a second thought, I embraced her suggestion and we hopped into her car to get there.

She halted in front of the building – a complex bungalow, almost swallowed by high walls that fenced it. She stepped down and I followed with my eyes glued to the unique gate and wondered if anyone could ever break through it.

Perfect!

Rebecca stood aside to make a quick call. After a while, a man peeped through a tiny hole of the huge black gate and quickly opened it to let us into the spacious compound.

We walked the two minutes from the gate to the main house and stepped into an office where a man with a large mid-section was sited talking with another woman and a pregnant young girl.

The girl looked disappointed and sad.

“I don’t want to spend the next one year here, you promised to take care of me until this was over,” it was said forcefully and everyone looked up at the girl who appeared not more than 15 years of age.

” You are safer here than my home and your stay wont be up to……..the woman paused to look at the man for assurance but got a blank stare.

“It won’t take up to a year as you think. Calm down,” the woman said as she extended her left hand to squeeze the girl’s shoulder gently.

I forgot myself completely as I watched the interesting drama.

Suddenly, the girl got up and I was able to notice her growing bump. She hastened to the exit as fast as her legs could carry her, but a hidden door opened and two tall black men emerged from a room.

The man at the table nodded and one of the men approached her, forced her into a dark room and the door closed behind them.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared, neither did I think it was a sign of dark side of the secret home! The scene didn’t change my mind about staying there. I was so desperate.

As I was still thinking, the man at the table spoke up.

“Is she the one?”

“Yes” Rebecca replied while I kept looking from one to the other desiring to be involved.

“How old is she?”

“16”

“Her Baby?”

“Two months”

“Okay” he said as he directed his gaze to my tummy then to my face.

“Young lady, this as now your home. Feel free.”

“Thank you sir,” I said.

“Do you have any question to ask?” He asked wearing a fake smile.

That was fast. I felt like I should be given a chance to say something.

“Do I pay you? For feeding, accommodation and other things?”

“You do not pay anything. We work with donations from good people out there.”he said and moved uncomfortably in his chair.

“Take her to her room.” He said to the same men who had taken the other girl who were already standing there.

Rebecca approached me. “It’s completely safe here, all you need to do is follow the rules”, she nursed my cheek and took her leave.

“Rules? What rules” I asked but she had gone.

To be continued….

Baby Merchants 2

I felt something coming up my throat. It brought a very unpleasant feeling. I tried to resist the urge to spew but it came all the way up to my mouth. I ran, to the bathroom adjacent to my room before it reached my clenched teeth, put my face in the basin and threw it all up and felt better. My mum was at the door waiting. I walked past her as fast as my legs could so she won’t have the chance to ask questions but it didn’t work. She followed me to my door and asked why I had been hiding in my room lately. “Is everything alright?” “Yes Mum. Please give me some few minutes. I will join you.,” I said abruptly without looking into her eyes and hastened to my room I closed my door once my whole frame managed to get in and the sleeve of my top got stuck in the door. I yanked it out and got a turn sleeve walked to my bed and lay on my back. I felt the bump in my lower abdomen, It’s a small bump like a quarter of my fist. I looked up the roof and searched as though the solution to my problem had been embedded therein and then went into a serious battle with my conscience. “Tell your mother, you can’t do this alone,” said the tiny gentle voice. “She’ll always be the one who would slap you with her right hand and cuddles with her left. She won’t kill you if you do, And she’ll also be the one who will know how to talk to your dad about it.” I turned to lie on my right side. “But you know your mother quite well,” said the stronger commanding voice, “She won’t give you a pat on the back for opening your legs for someone you’re not married to. She’ll disown you, for getting pregnant in the process- at seventeen and your dad will shoot you in the head and go to jail.” The voice became stronger. “Think about your dad, who has a laid down plans for your future. You are his only child. It matters a lot to him that you get a good education and a very good career and he’s ready to spend even out of his retirement to make sure it happened and now you spoilt it all. He doesn’t deserve to hear this, you’ll only break his heart and sicken him with the worst news ever.” The gentle voice became tinier. “It’s very hard. It’s very hard to hide anything from family. Not this kind! Every secret might be hidden for a while but soon enough in a day you do not expect, it will somehow leak out from the secret box and every one will be like, “What? Can’t believe you did that. And to even think that you hid it from your family! Your own family! But if you tell it now, they’ll be like, “why did you do this?” and once you cry for pardon, everyone let’s go. It’s family. Family never forsakes you. Go now! Go tell your mum!” Then came the big coarse voice. “Run away! Run!” I got up from my bed and walked downstairs. It came again, right before my mum, I couldn’t hold it back, threw up again in the hall way. She moved closer and gave me such blade sharp look and nearly cut me to pieces. “What is happening to you Chetachi? Are you pregnant?” she asked after putting my bottom carefully in the sofa. “No mama!” I gave her a look that said, “how on earth do you think such, hell no!” I shook my head vigorously and cleaned my lips with the back of my hands to cover up my lies but I noticed she was not deceived. But you know, she didn’t want to push it right away because she was sure to seek professional help. “We need to see the doctor. Get dressed let’s get going. Right away. It can’t wait. I’ve been watching you for a week now. You’ve changed.” She said. I went back to my room. I thought of what to do. I didn’t think going to the doctor with her was a good idea. There was were the secret would be laid bare. I had already found out what’s wrong with me and going there would reveal it to her. I quickly dressed up and packed few of my things into a soft bag, sneaked down the stairs and sneaked out through the back yard. I didn’t know where I was going nor what I would to do when I get there, I only needed to move away and keep my secret from them. I couldn’t face my parents with such news. I would likely send them a mail once I was far out of sight. I kept walking without stopping, praying that no one I knew surfaced. It was a three minutes walk to the bus station that seemed very long. I thought about my friends, which one of them would be able to take me in. They all were still staying with their parents and it’s not wise going to stay with them – my agemates. Money was not my problem, I had enough with me in addition to the one in my account, which could be enough to take me for months. I was sure my dad would not fail to send money to my account. I thought about renting an apartment but wondered how living in it alone would feel like. It had to be somewhere far away from my town and and hidden away. I had to adjust to the rough life that destiny had thrown at me.

Baby Merchants 1

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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 character. 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.