…continued from UNFORGIVEN VIII
She told how she’d met Charles, in a night club on the day she turned twenty-two. Her ‘friends’ had taken her out to celebrate and she and Charles had hit it off almost instantly. He had been wearing his wedding ring that night, which was unusual and yet that was what had thrilled Ethel. She’d long since made up her mind to live the kind of life her Mum did but in a classier way. She didn’t sleep around with every Tom, Dick and Harry who had money, she picked her men. Older, married and damn rich. She didn’t want love so she went with married men. At least those ones had wives to have and to hold; all she did was stroke their egos and satisfy them how she knew.
At the time she met Charles she’d been single. Just ended a relationship with a former lecturer who wasn’t ready to meet her financial needs. Stingy man and not so good looking too!
Charles had been it. Many married men took off their wedding ring when hitting on a girl, not Charles. He’d confidently struck up a conversation with her and eventually asked her to dance. Their first dance had been breathtaking and intense. Their chemistry was instant and standing so close to him had made Ethel feel like she’d explode with longing. And yet they had not touched each other that first night. Not even a kiss. He’d dropped her off at her hostel and requested a date.
“You sure your Missus won’t be mad?” she teased, drunk.
“Definitely not as mad as I am for you,” he’d re-joined.
One date turned into two, then three and finally their fifth date they couldn’t stay off each other anymore. They sat in his car, afraid to touch before the passion exploded beyond control.
“What do we do?” he asked.
“We can’t go to my hostel. We can’t go to your house.”
“No. I don’t want that. We have to reach an agreement.”
“What do you want from me? A one-night stand?”
“Sweetheart, we’ve had one too many dates for this to just be a one-night stand.”
“Good. So you want more. And I want more too but not love.”
“Yes. I am not interested in falling in love with you and I want it to be clear. There isn’t going to be any love declarations blah blah blah. You have your life. I have mine. I will not sleep with anyone else while I’m with you, though.”
“Why not?” he was smiling, not believing that they were having this conversation.
“Because unlike some people, I do believe AIDs is real and I want to live awhile. Besides I will be too spent to juggle more than one guy, after I finish with you,” her voice was husky.
“So where’s the catch?”
“I want an apartment where we can meet. Then of course, my upkeep. I am, after all, to be your mistress.”
There and then the deal had been struck. The next time they met it was at Ethel’s new apartment and finally all their desires were sated.
Life with Charles was good. He treated her well; there was no time to fight because they knew nothing about each other to fight about. Everything about them was physical. Until ‘disaster’ struck.
Ethel became pregnant in the twenty-fifth month of their relationship. It was unexpected and obviously unwanted. A lot of blame went around; Charles blamed her, then she blamed him, he blamed her again until they realized they needed a solution.
Ethel didn’t want kids. Not with the kind of childhood she’d grown up with. She wanted a life free of encumbrances. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the thing growing inside her. Fear impeded her. What if she died? She’d heard stories of girls who went in for abortions and never came out the same. They were either dead or damaged. Did she want that?
She told Charles of her fears and eventually decided to have the child and give it up for adoption or something. She was that afraid to be a mother. Charles saw she’d made up her mind and stopped arguing with her and instead became more attentive to her. If she was going to be the mother of his baby, he’d better treat her right, he said.
It didn’t last long though because it was somewhere in her tenth week, she started having cramps and saw blood. She was alone at home that evening and had called Charles who immediately came over and took her to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that she’d lost the pregnancy.
It hadn’t hurt that much then. She consoled herself that it was answered prayers. She didn’t want the child in the first place so God had saved her and the child further grief. Charles spent more time with her as she recovered, treated her like a wife and not a mistress and it was during this time that Ethel realized she’d begun to fall in love with him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel like she actually belonged to someone. To him. She didn’t know whether it was the pregnancy that had made her go soft, all she knew was that she wanted more of him.
The second pregnancy had been planned by her, in the fourth year of their relationship. She’d done everything she could to get Charles to commit more to her; to fall in love with her but it hadn’t seemed to work. And truth was she’d begun to feel the pangs of motherhood. The first pregnancy had opened up something in her that made her rethink everything she’d formerly believed in. And it suddenly dawned on her that she wanted children, a family with the man she loved.
When she got pregnant this time, she waited till her twelfth week to tell Charles. She wanted to be sure that the danger of miscarrying the pregnancy had passed.
Charles froze. He yelled. He couldn’t believe she’d gotten pregnant again after the first mistake, hadn’t she learned anything?
She’d screamed at him too; excuse me for getting pregnant for you! I didn’t know I’d make such a terrible mother!
It’s not about you, woman! Don’t you get it?
Well, it’s my body and my baby and I’m having it. So prepare to be a father!
How far along are you?
And you’re just telling me now?
I wanted to make sure it stayed.
How come I didn’t notice?
Because you were too busy admiring my breasts that had grown bigger.
The shouting abated and Ethel tried to convince Charles that this was a good thing. They could start a family together.
Maybe that would’ve happened if the pregnancy had stayed. It hadn’t. A week later, the cramps came in fuller force that brought tears to Ethel’ eyes. For the first time in a long time as she doubled over in the toilet, vomiting and losing blood at the same time, she prayed. She asked God to save her baby. Just this once.
He hadn’t. Like before she ended up in the hospital, worse off than the first time because she was broken in body, soul and spirit.
Charles had dropped her off in the hospital and disappeared. She later found out that he’d paid the bills in advance. Her recovery had been slow and painful and the cramps had continued for a week. At a point Ethel had thought she was going to die.
She cried day and night for her unborn child and eventually she’d been discharged. When she got to her apartment, she found that she’d been locked out and Charles had left her.
It was like another nail in her coffin. Her man had left her without a word. She’d swallowed her pride and gone back to her mum.
That had been the lowest point of her life. She’d fallen into a depression so bad that she’d once attempted suicide.
It was after her suicide attempt that she packed her things and moved to Abuja.
“That’s it, Amaka. Charles showed up in church on Sunday and he’s Pastor’s step-brother. I didn’t know what to do,” she concluded.
“That’s not important for now. What I want is to get to the bottom of this,” she waved the paper in front of her. “Who gave you this report?”
“I don’t understand what that means. I recently got a visit from…er…Charles’ wife,” Ethel shrugged.
“Why would she give you this?”
“She said something about it telling me the kind of man Charles is. Tell me what it is.”
“It’s a medical report. Look, it’s dated 2010. Do you remember the name of the hospital Charles took you to when you had your miscarriage?”
“Er…that was when I had my second miscarriage. I can’t remember the hospital’s name.”
“Okay, wait. Look at this. The signature of the doctor that wrote this report. It looks like someone’s name. Does it look familiar?”
Ethel took the paper and stared hard at the signature. It was difficult but eventually she made out the name.
“Felicia…Umoh,” she read out slowly.
It was only when the name had escaped her lips that it dawned on her.
Oh. My. God
To be continued next week…
By Mimi Adebayo