Featured in the Christmas Again Anthology, Edited by Chimeka Garricks, featuring talented writers such as DrSwag
Yes Titi hates it when she gets into this mood, and on a day when she has nowhere to go. It is a public holiday. She groans and rolls on the bed, squeezing her thighs together, and shuddering at the resultant pleasure wave flooding her. Her hands move towards her chest and pinch an erect nipple. Her eyes fly open in horror and she springs from the bed. She thinks to herself: I need to leave this house now.
She hurriedly dress, choosing a lemon green chiffon gown that reaches just below her knees, and decides on a black wedge shoe. Her hair is done in a high bun and she applies lip gloss to her lips. She steps out of her house toying with the idea of returning to her parents’ house. She knows her mother would tease her about fighting hard for independence but not wanting to cut the “umbilical cord” and she discards the idea.
When she stands in front of the dark brown gate, she hesitates. She knows she shouldn’t be here, not in this state.
Turn back now! She hears the familiar guide issuing instructions.
Dare is surprised to see her as he opens the door. “Hi babe, this is a nice surprise! I thought we were meeting later in church.”
She doesn’t answer, but stares at his naked torso, fighting the impulse to run her hands all over his body. She has never seen him naked before, and she wonders why it had to be today of all days that she would walk in on him without a shirt on.
Turn around now and leave. The voice is louder.
She walks towards him instead, and hugs him.
“Titi, are you okay? Is everything alright?”
She nods and burrows into him.
Moments later, they are both naked on his bed, breathing hard. Dare pauses, poised in between her legs.
“I’m not sure we should do this.”
“I know. But I want to. I have waited long enough. It’s no big deal, others do it all the time.” Sensing his hesitation, she adds “and I know you want it too.”
“I want you too” he sighs “but I don’t want to be the guy that makes you break your vow of chastity before marriage to God. You may think you want it now, but you will hate me afterwards and I can’t live with that.”
She nods. And bursts into tears. He holds her as she cries and whispers soothing words into her ears. They stay that way for a while, she sitting astride him, while he sits cross legged on the bed, his hardness pressed against her core. She starts to move against him bringing herself to climax.
When she calms down, she feels some wetness on her thighs and springs up, eyes growing to the size of saucers. “Did you – Did you…” she trails off, her heart pounding in her chest.
He shakes his head. “No. No, I did not. At least not inside you. There was no penetration.”
She sighs with relief. And bursts into tears again. This isn’t how her first sexual encounter should go; her worrying about penetration and getting pregnant. And definitely not accompanied with guilt, like a child stealing meat from a pot of stew. She dresses quickly and rushes out of the house leaving behind a bewildered fiancé.
She dreams of babies all week long, the same dream, night after night. It dawns on her as she wakes up that morning and notes the date – 17th of April – that she is one week late. She begins to cry.
She dials Dare but he doesn’t answer. She tries again, and he answers after the fourth ring. “Hey babe, I was just stepping outside the shower. Good – ”
She cuts him off. “I am pregnant.” Her words impregnate the atmosphere between them with silence. And then births sobs. “Dare, I am pregnant! Did you hear me? Say something!”
“I – I – how?” He stammers, and then realizing how stupid the question is, adds
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I don’t know. But I know that I’m one week late, and I’m never late. What am I going to do? I can’t be pregnant!”
“Okay. Calm down. Maybe you are not pregnant. Here is what we are going to do: you will pick up a test kit on your way to work and do the test tomorrow morning. For all we know, it might be the recent stress at work, coupled with your MBA project and finals that’s responsible for the delay.”
She wants to believe him as he tries to explain the reason for her missing menses.
Missing menses! She laughs, startling her fiancé on the other end of the line, who is asking if she is alright, panic infused into his voice.
Alright? Of course she isn’t! Who ever heard of a pregnant 28-year-old virgin, whose only sexual contact was with a drop of stray semen escaping to fertilize an over-eager ovum?
“Are you still there?” Dare’s uncharacteristic high-pitched voice jolts her out of her reverie.
“You are probably right. Maybe I am getting worked up for no reason. I will pick up a test kit on my way to work and take the test tomorrow morning. And hope for the best.”
“Sounds like a plan. It will be fine, Dear, no matter what happens I will be there for you.” His voice is like a caress. She closes her eyes and nods. “I have to go now, Babe, I’m running late. Talk to you later?”
“Okay. Bye”. She opens her eyes and stares at the phone long after the call has been disconnected, the outline blurring as tears well up in them, spilling down her cheeks.
She can already feel the presence of a new life growing inside of her, in a way only a mother can, and knows without a shadow of doubt that her life is about to change. Still, she hopes.
She was wrong. Not about the pregnancy, but about the magnitude of the change that would happen.
When she broke the news to Dare, his response had been quick, in that his tone that conveyed finality and brooked no argument.
Take it out. His words. Like he was referring to the thrash bag in the kitchen. Or a dead cockroach in the bath tub. Or a malodorous decomposing rat caught in a trap.
Dare was passionate and focused and he would not allow anything to derail him from his life’s goals. And that included her pregnancy. He made that clear.
“And if I don’t take it out?”
“Then I will deny the pregnancy. After all, I am not the only guy you are close to. There is Joseph, who even the blind can see, worships the ground you walk on. Maybe all that attention got into your head and you had a lapse in judgment. It won’t be too difficult to make it stick”
Her eyes widened. She had always known he was ruthless when confronted with obstacles; she had watched him crush his opponents before. She just hadn’t imagined she would be on the receiving end.
Seeing her reaction, he softened. “Babe, you know I love you and I cannot wait to build a life with you and have babies together. I cannot think of any other woman to be the mother of my children.”
He paused and exhaled, and moved closer to her. “But not like this. This spoils everything we have worked hard for”
She noted he used “we”, but she knew what he really meant was what he had worked hard for.
“If you get rid of this pregnancy, then we can forget about the whole incident, an unfortunate accident that shouldn’t spoil our future. We will still have many more pregnancies to celebrate. Plus, we are lucky now that it’s very early, just a couple pills would take care of it.”
For a moment she wanted to trust his logic and rely on his strength, to allow him fix everything.
“I can’t, Dare. I can’t. It is enough that I broke my vow to God and sinned, adding murder to my list of sins isn’t what I want to do.”
Dare pulled back. “Well, in that case, we are over. I’m not willing to ruin my whole life over one mistake. We didn’t even have sex for God’s sake! I’m not sure we can even call it ‘fornication’. If you decide to keep it, I will not be taking responsibility for it”
The next months passed in a blur, like an action sequence played at one and a half speed.
First, had been the reaction of her family to the news. Her father had stopped talking to her and had forbade her mother from doing so, and when she had disobeyed, had moved to the guest room, neither speaking to her nor eating her food. It was the only time Titi had ever seen her parents quarrel, and it had lasted for three months. It was when her mother had fainted during a church service, from starvation – which she called marathon fasting – that the cold war had ceased.
Then, the church elders had asked her father to resign as senior pastor. It was too big a scandal: the daughter of the senior pastor, and head of the children’s unit, and secretary of the youth organization had gotten pregnant for another man while engaged to the youth pastor of the church. And worse, she can’t say who the father is. At least that was what they believed.
When her father refused, a faction broke away, Dare amongst them. Titi joined another church because she couldn’t bear to cause more problems for her father by constantly throwing her sins at the few faithful worshippers who remained.
Only Joseph remained, among all her friends. Like he promised her when she opened up to him, he was with her every step of the way. He followed her to every doctor’s appointment and took her shopping for the baby items she would need. He also spent many nights with her, holding her when she couldn’t sleep and assisting her with house chores.
Soon, the rumors started. He was said, by some, to be the father but had been too ashamed to own up. Others sneered, called him a love-struck puppy who could only have her because she needed a man – any man – to cover her shame. The rumors hurt her, and she knew hurt him too, even if he didn’t show it.
Then, one day, her father called out of the blues. He wanted her to come to the house for lunch. She was seven months pregnant. After lunch he took her for a walk and apologized for alienating her and abandoning her at a time when she needed him the most. From then, he had become more involved, although there was still the distance.
“It isn’t easy for him, you know” her mother had told her on one of the days she came to visit. “He has been planning your wedding since you were a little girl, and when everything fell apart, he was devastated.”
“I didn’t know that.” she replied. She had always thought that her father was angry at her because of the scandal she had caused and how it affected the church.
Everything was going so well until the afternoon of the 24th of December. She was going through her Facebook timeline when she stumbled on a picture a friend posted. It was the wedding picture of Dare and Dupe, one of the teachers in the children’s unit Titi had previously headed.
A sharp pain gripped her mid-section making her double over and then she felt her dress get wet. In the labor room, the labor pains were intense, but not compared to the pain in her chest. She had no reprieve, the periods in between contractions were filled with the pain of her heart being shredded into tiny pieces of mangled flesh. Unable to hold it in, she began to scream; pain and fury and shame mixed together into a cocktail inflaming her.
When things began falling into place with her family, she had started to nurture hope that Dare too would come back to her. She had begun to dream of watching her child grow in the loving hands of its father, and she not having to go through the shame of being the woman with a child out of wedlock. But now, her hope, like a tender sprig, has been uprooted and left to rot.
When the child is born, she turns her back to her. In that moment, overtaken by sorrow, she thinks of the name “Mara” as a good name to christen the child. The child has brought nothing but sorrow and shame and pain. She wonders why she decided to keep the baby. If only she had listened to Dare, things will have been different.
In the private room where she is transferred to, Joseph comes to visit. He has been in the waiting room all along but had not been allowed to see her. He walks to the cot and carries the baby in his arms, smiling and making cooing noises.
Then he walks towards her and sits by her bedside.
“She is you,” he says in a soft voice.
In that moment, she sees him – his fair complexioned bearded face lighting up in a smile as he looks adoringly at her baby, the light dancing in his soft brown eyes, his quiet understated strength – all of him, and her breath catch in her throat. And she begins to dream new dreams.
She reaches out to take the baby from his hands and holds her for the first time. Once in her arms, she feels the current of love flowing from her heart, where she had kept it locked up, to her hands and enveloping the baby in a force field of pure affection. The feeling is exhilarating and she laughs.
“She is your Christmas present,” Joseph says, in a whisper.
She nods. “She is the best present ever.”
She pauses as a thought crosses her mind “Joseph, I want you to be the one to give her a name”
He looks at her, mouth agape. “What? Are you sure?” He struggles to compose himself and she smiles reassuringly.
“So, what name will you call her?”
“Ireti” he replies, after a moment. Hope.
The name is perfect, she thinks. She looks at him, and in his eyes, she sees hope.
The hope of a new beginning.
The story is published in the 2017 Christmas Anthology: Christmas Again
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