Three months past. The baby grew healthy in Nkechi 's womb but still, because of her moderate figure, nobody knew. Her stomach had protruded but the moderate weight gained made it less obvious. At school, they were in the middle of a new term and Nkechi did her best to cope. It was not easy, but she had to. Even as far gone as she was, she still couldn't believe she was pregnant. Her feet were swollen and so were her body and face. She felt more like she was carrying a disease than a baby.
Her best friend and only confidant, Bose, was no longer in the school. She had moved north with her parents due to her father's transfer. Nkechi missed her. There was no other person she could talk to or make friends with. She become withdrawn and lonely both in school and at home. Her teachers noticed it and asked her parents if all was well at home.
"All is well." Her father said to the principal.
"I still think you should sit her down and talk to her." The proprietress advised. "I feel something is wrong."
On getting home her parents, in a bid to find out what was wrong, sat her down and talked to her. "Nothing is wrong. I'm fine." Nkechi denied.
"But even at home you're not yourself." Her mother complained. "You used to be more happy and more lively. Now you are always looking down casted. You won't even lift a finger to assist in the house. You don't smile with anyone and you are always by yourself. You can't tell me nothing is wrong."
"And your proprietress and school teachers are complaining." Her father added.
"Mummy, daddy, I'm fine." She insisted. Seeing that there was nothing more they could do, they let her be.
On a fateful Sunday morning, the entire family went to church. After the service they said hello to some family friends before getting set to go home. However, Nkechi was nowhere to be found.
"Where could she have gone?" Mr. Okoji asked, impatiently.
Her parents and siblings searched everywhere until they found Nkechi sitting in a back office with her Sunday school teacher. She was an elderly woman in her mid-forties, about 5ft tall and slightly fair complexioned.
"Oh! We were worried." Her father said as he joined them.
"My apologies sir; I should have let you know she was with me." Her catholic mother said. "I will let you go now." She said to Nkechi. "But I will see you at home later in the evening."
That evening, her Sunday school teacher, true to her promise, visited the Okojis and it was then she told them that their daughter was pregnant.
"What are you talking about?" Her father asked, frowning and sitting up.
"I know it’s hard to believe but consider her moodiness, the weight she has gained and her stomach. It’s not protruding so much but I noticed something was not right. She was at a corner, crying her eyes out when I found her. So I took her to the back office at the church to talk to her. She opened up to me but begged me not to tell you. She's very scared. This is an important matter that shouldn't be hidden. She said the only person who knew right from the start was one Bose. But since Bose is no longer here, she has no one to talk to. Maybe..."
“Nkechi!" Mr. Okoji yelled, impatiently.
Nkechi who had been eavesdropping on their conversation ran back to her room. Her mother had to go in to coax her to come out.
"We are not going to beat you." Her mother promised. "But we want the truth."
Happy that she wouldn't be flogged, she followed her mother to the sitting room. Her father was so tempted to curse her, to take up his cane and flog her but, he could not.
"How many months pregnancy is that?" He asked Instead.
"I'm not sure. I don't even believe I'm pregnant. Maybe it’s a mistake." She denied.
"Who is the father?" Her father asked again.
Nkechi didn't talk. Instead she looked down at her feet while rubbing the back of her hand nervously.
"Have you lost your tongue? Who is the father of that child in your womb?" Mr. Okoji yelled even louder. His raised voice alerted the other children and they all came out to know what was happening.
"It's that stupid boy, isn't it?" Her mother said coldly from where she sat. "The boy I saw you kissing outside that night is responsible. True or false?"
"True." Nkechi replied almost in a whisper.
For the rest of that night, hell was let loose. Her mother and father scolded her, her brothers frowned at her. They were truly disappointed in their sister and what she had done. Her sisters hissed at her and said a few hurtful words. Nkechi felt like the whole world was against her. She cried her heart out for the rest of the night.
The next morning her mother, having excused herself from work, took Nkechi to the General hospital. Tests were done and her mother was told that the pregnancy was seven months old.
"Seven whole months; and I did not have even a clue about what was going on." She thought, sadly. She had been too busy with work and other family matters. "If only I had paid more attention to her since I found out about Alex." She thought again, being hard on herself.
"I still think I'm not pregnant." Nkechi said when she saw the expression on her mother's face. "I feel sick and I have gained some weight but still, I don't think I'm pregnant."
"You don't think so?" Her mother frowned. "Wait until we do the scan. Maybe you will believe then."
From the General hospital, they went to a private hospital with better facilities. There a scan was done, revealing the child in the womb. For the first time in seven months, Nkechi saw what was in her body. It was then she truly believed that she was pregnant.
"I want to abort it." She cried to her father that evening. "I can't be a mother now and I don't want to drop out of school. My final exam is just a few weeks away. Please daddy, mummy."
"You should have thought about that before getting yourself pregnant." Her elder sister said. She had just come home from the university, only to meet the drama.
"You can't abort that child." Her father said, looking thoughtful. He was sad about what had happened but there was nothing he could do.
"Your pregnancy is 7 months old, Nkechi. Abortion is out of the question." Her mother said.
"But it’s still possible. The doctors can give me an injection to induce labor. I can go into premature labor and the child will be born still...”
"In other words, you want the baby dead." Her father said, shaking his head. "That baby will live, my dear daughter. We can't try to correct one wrong with another. I don't believe in murder."
"No buts. You have disappointed us and shamed this family. But we will support you. You will have that baby. You never can tell what purpose God has for that child."
"Daddy I want to go to school, please." Nkechi cried.
"You will go to school, after you've given birth." Her mother said.
"But everyone will laugh at me. They will say I'm mother to a bastard."
"You will have to learn to ignore people." Her elder sister said.
"And we will change your school. Don't worry about that." Her mother promised
The days that followed were hard on her. Nkechi cried from morning till night. Although everyone still felt angry at her, they started to accept her condition as well as support her in whatever way they could. She was their sister and they loved her, no matter what. They said encouraging words to her. And whenever she was crying, her brothers told jokes, just so she could laugh. In view of her condition, her parents had to pull her out from school. They gave her all the care and support she needed, but Nkechi was still down casted. She couldn't come to terms with her pregnancy.
To be continued...
Karo Oforofuo. November 2015© All Rights Reserved