The stigma will be unbearably immense, I decide, so I summon Gina’s number on my phone. She’d said to call when I make up my mind. I don’t want to confess to Father; his pious heart may fail and his congregations’ faith in him may waver. Mother will grab her breasts and fall backwards. It will have to be backwards, the same way she fell when someone brought news of Uncle Tobias’ sudden death in a car crash.
“It’s not yet a child after all,” Gina had scolded, “just a mushy clot of blood and water conniving to disgrace you and ruin your future.”
Recalling those words took care of my indecision. I look at her name – Gina Love – sitting indifferently on my phone’s screen, take a deep breath, and thumb the green button.
We choose tomorrow…
I grab her hand as we approach the rusty gates of the compound, suddenly unsure of myself.
“What?” She turns and shoots me an impatient look.
“I’m not sure I want to do this, Gina.”
She shrugs and turns to go. “Then tell your parents you’re pregnant for the choir master. Simple.”
“Gina please, wait!” She stops. “I’ve not done this before, so I’m scared.”
She walks slowly back to me. “I understand. I was also scared my first time.”
My jaw drops sharply in shock, my eyes widen.
“Yes, I have. And it’s better to do it now before it’s late. When you go home after the semester, your parents won’t notice. Just break loose from this obstacle and live your normal life again.”
I look at her. She gives me a nod of encouragement, then a wan smile of assurance. I feel more confident as I give her my hand and let her lead me through the rusty gates.
We step into the strong smell of disinfectants; a small room that is the reception. Some young girls are sitting on the chairs, their faces betraying different emotions: shame, defiance and indifference. Indifference is chewing a gum loudly, apparently blasé.
“Ashawo,” Gina whispers to my ears in explanation and guides me to a seat. We sit and wait.
My heart is clogged with fear. I think of the many girls who have threaded this path and did not return the same. I think of my parents. If this ends badly, what will they say? What will people say? I have looked at girls who have aborted babies with contempt. Raised the way I was, I have conveniently condemned them to eternal damnation and divine torture.
Of all sins, this was the one I didn’t think I would ever commit. I never imagined I would be confronted by the temptation, so it had no place on the to-do list of my mind. But now, it seems the most natural thing to do; the only path that slices a circle through this labyrinth of emotions and back to my former life—a path through which I must thread.
I’ve heard of girls whose boyfriends accompany to places like this and I wondered what the world was coming to. But today, on my day, I am alone. I want Mike here. His presence may not be analgesic, but it will dignify my misery and make me feel less like an unclaimed luggage in the middle of an empty motor park.
There is no Mike. He had exhumed many lifeless excuses so he could avoid today. I think of him as a pyromaniac. He has set me on fire and has climbed a distant tree to watch me burn. He will climb down only to check whether I burned properly or not.
Gina nudges my life back into the reception. A doctor is standing some distance away from us. It is our turn; my turn. I look at Gina, the sharp sting of stifled tears peppering my eyes as though they are powdered glass. She gives me that supportive nod again, stands up with me and follows me down the passage, after the doctor. God bless Gina.
But I know she cannot go all the way. There will be a point of separation; even a man’s shadow does not follow him to the grave. So as her footsteps begin to fade, as my heartbeat becomes almost audible, I decide not to look back in order to help her save face. Ahead, the doctor walks through a door and signals that I follow. As I take one stiff step after another, I mouth frantic prayers to God, asking for His grace, reeling off one promise after another in exchange for His mercies.
About the Author
Nnamdi Nwaigwe was born and raised in Aba, Nigeria. He presently lives in Owerri. His short story, ‘No Time’, has appeared on Brittle Paper.
About the Illustrator
Aishah Ahmad and is a 17 year old from Quebec, Canada. She goes to college for Accounting & Management Technology. She loves sports, cooking and most certainly loves art! You can follow her on Instagram.