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 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.