HALF IS ALL IT TAKES IV by Engee Mbah
‘What did you hear?’ I ask, wondering why he is shouting.
‘So, you are holding out on me, only to be sharing to other people, abi?’ He says. I am puzzled.
‘Shebi, one of your other boyfriends has scored?’ He continues.
‘What are you talking about?’ I ask, just to be sure.
‘Don’t even pretend you don’t know what I am talking about. Are you not pregnant?’ His voice gets louder. I am beginning to worry that my mother can hear him.
‘Where did you get that idea?’ I sound puzzled. How on earth did he hear this?
‘I have my sources. Oh, you think my girlfriend will live in another state and I won’t keep an eye on her?’ He replies.
‘Monitor her, you mean?’ I say.
‘Whatever you want to call it.’ He answers. I am pretty mad, right now and from the look on my mother’s face, I guess she is wondering who I am having such a long talk with.
‘I don’t have time for this ,right now.’ I say, ending the call. I zip the bag I had packed my personal effects in. I have clothes at home, so I don’t need to pack clothes.
‘Who was that?’ My mother wants to know.
‘No one you know.’ I answer, slinging the bag over my shoulder. We head out to my mother’s car, a black Murano.
The journey home takes about two hours and through out this time, I am in a dark mood. Charles’ call just solved the dilemma of whether to tell him or not. No way is he going to believe that the pregnancy is his.
I hate staying at home. I have no normal friends. The only friends my parents let me have are from our church and they are all “sister Angelicas”. The only thing they want to talk about is the Bible, Pastor’s last sermon, the end time and stuff like that. I can’t go anywhere without explaining why I need to go.
After three days at home, I feel like clawing my brain out of my skull, out of boredom. It is on the third day that Stella calls.
‘Babe, how far, now? You no dey try o. You no even fit call person.’ She says, as soon as I answer the call.
‘Dem dey forbid you to call me?’ I reply.
‘How you dey? Where you dey?’ She is her usual, exuberant self.
‘I went home.’ I reply.
‘I want to ask you something.’ I say, before she can speak again.
‘Did you tell Charles about what happened?’ I ask. I am in my parent’s sitting room, so I don’t want to use the word pregnancy.
‘About what?’ She asks. I stand and move to the corridor which is vacant at the moment.
‘The pregnancy, now.’ I clarify.
‘Ah ah. What is bringing this one now? Why would I tell him?’
‘He called me a few days ago. He knows and thinks there’s another guy. You are the only person that knows about the pregnancy. So, I am asking you again, did you tell him?’
‘I am disappointed that you even have to ask, but no, I didn’t.’ She replies.
‘Okay.’ I say, but I doubt her, still. She ends the call, probably angry, or pretending to be. I turn to head back into the sitting room, to find my mother standing in the doorway. I wonder how much she heard.
‘We are ready to eat.’ She says. We both head to the dining table where my father is already seated. We both take our seats, my mother and I. My brother’s seat is vacant. He is currently serving as a youth corper in Osun.
My father says a prayer and we start to eat.
‘What’s this talk about a pregnancy?’ My mother asks, after a while. The food I swallow, gets stuck in my throat and I grab water, gulping as though my life depends on it, which it probably does.
‘Are you pregnant?’ She asks, as soon as it looks like I won’t choke to death.
‘No.’ I answer, in a feeble voice. My mother’s brows furrow and she keeps looking at me as if expecting me to say more.
‘You are, aren’t you?’ She says.
‘Of course, not.’ I say, with a laugh. I was going for a credulous laugh but my laugh had a nervous ring to it.
‘She is.’ My father says, still eating his food and not even sparing me a glance. Dang it! They caught me. Now, comes the killing, I think. My father drops his spoon and laughs derisively.
‘Like mother, like daughter.’ He mutters.
‘Joe.’ My mother calls him, in her ‘shut up’ tone. My brows rise. My mother never uses my father’s name. It’s always, ‘dear, this’,’dear that’. At the moment, I am more interested in what my father means by his statement.
‘Tomorrow, I am taking you to the hospital for a pregnancy test.’ My mother tells me.
‘Mom, there is no need. I am not going.’ I say.
‘I didn’t ask for your input. Dear, aren’t you going to say anything?’ My mother looks towards my father.
‘Say what? She’s your daughter. Better still, go and ask her father.’ He says, his voice low. There’s a hush moment round the table. My mother is looking at her plate of food.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I want to know.
‘You might as well know. You are old enough. You aren’t mine.’ My father replies. I am beginning to feel like I am in one of those annoying T.V series.
‘Meaning?’ I inquire, my mind rejecting the significance of his statement.
‘Your elder brother is mine. You are not.’ He replies, still calmly eating his food. One look at my mother’s face tells me this is no joke. She is staring at her plate of food and biting her lip.
‘Where did I come from, then?’ I want to know, shocked and curious; shocked that my mother with all her religiousness and deaconess status had cheated on my father and curious to know what on earth was going on.
‘I went for a six month professional course abroad and your mother slept with my then, best friend.’ My father tells me. This is the most conversation I have had with my father for a longtime. Now, he is chatty all of a sudden.
‘Who is he?’ I ask, feeling like I am in an alternate universe where everything is upside down.
No one answers. For a longtime, there’s silence. I stand, to go into my bedroom. My plate is still half full but who can eat after such an evening? I pick up the plate of food, to go and cover it up in the kitchen.
‘We’ll go to the hospital, tomorrow.’ My mother mutters, as I leave. I don’t reply. They can clear the table when they are done, too.
Early the next day, my mother wakes me with light taps on my leg.
‘Get ready, so, we can go to the hospital before I head to the office.’ She says.
‘I am not pregnant.’ I lie, fully intending to get rid of it, as soon as I can.
‘Don’t annoy me this morning. Get ready. And God help you if you are pregnant because I will skin you alive.’ She says. I sit up on the bed.
‘Like you have room to talk.’ I mutter.
‘Excuse me?’ She asks, with a murderous look on her face. Wisely deciding not to repeat the statement, I ask a question.
‘Who is my father?’ I inquire. My mother looks away.
‘I am not going anywhere with you until my curiosity on this matter is satisfied.’ I say, with much more boldness than I feel. I have always been somewhat scared of my mother. She is overbearing.
‘I am not a child anymore. I deserve to know.’ I say, when she doesn’t answer. She still doesn’t look at me or say anything.
‘What is his name? Where does he stay?’ I ask.
‘Enyinna Odum. He stays in this town.’ She finally replies. My brows rise.
‘Does he know?’ I inquire. My mother nods.
‘And I never met him.’ I state, suddenly feeling unwanted, lost, confused.
‘We agreed it would only confuse you, that he should wait until you are an adult. Besides, he has his own family.’ She answers.
‘Newsflash, Mummy, I have been an adult for four years.’ I tell her, sarcasm creeping into my voice.
‘It just got more difficult to integrate him into your life as time passed. It was easier to leave things as they were.’ She says.
‘Easier for you, you mean.’ I am reply. She doesn’t say anything.
‘Go, get ready. Let’s head to the hospital.’ She says, after some seconds of silence. She’s back to domineering mother mode. She leaves my room and I head to the bathroom, trying to devise a means to get out of going to the hospital.
I peel off my night wear and pull down my pant. There is a bloodstain in the crotch area. That’s when I notice the burning sensation around my waist. That’s when I recognise the significance. With the drama and revelations of the night before and this morning, the discomfort that usually notified me of an impending period had been pushed to the periphery of my mind. I hadn’t even considered it could mean this. I am on my period!
‘Ahhhhh!’ I yell my excitement. I am still dancing around the bathroom when my mother pushes the door open.
‘What is that yelling about?’ She pokes her head in.
‘Nothing! I am trying to have my bath for Christ’s sake.’ I say, indignantly. There isn’t an atom of privacy in this house. It’s just so annoying.
‘Are you on your period?’ My mother asks, her gaze on my lap. I can feel something running down my lap. That’s probably what she’s looking at. I nod.
‘You should have said something, now instead of letting me worry that you could be pregnant.’ She scolds.
‘I’ll get on to work, then. We will talk in the evening.’ She says, before closing the door.
Relief floods me and I am floating on bubbles of happiness for the rest of the day. It doesn’t last, though. My mother comes back in the evening and says, ‘You are meeting him tomorrow, your biological father.’
Never it be said that my mother doesn’t take care of business. She has always been one to take responsibility for her actions and mistakes.
Anxiety fills me at her words. I mean, what if I don’t like him? And worse what if he doesn’t like me?