Tayo Oludare watched her daughter lying on the couch. She had called her endlessly but had received no response. She looked at the wall clock, it was half past ten. Why on earth was she asleep with the rag in her hand? She moved towards her with the intention of slapping her back to consciousness when she observed that her daughter was indeed fairer; her skin looked translucent. Jumoke was even prettier, her hair seemed fuller and her nose slightly bigger.
Mrs Oludare sat quietly beside her daughter and tried in vain to still her beating heart. Her experienced eye told her that her daughter was different, in a motherly way. She reasoned with herself, trying to make up excuses for the change in her daughter but she found none.
“Jumoke.” She tapped her gently. “Jumoke!”
The daughter stirred and opened her eyes. “Mummy!” she said, getting up quickly.
“Sit down.” Her mother replied calmly.
“Mummy what is it?” the girl asked with the most innocent look.
Mrs Oludare’s heart broke, it was either her daughter was completely unaware or she was a good actress. Instinct told her that the former was the case.
“How are you?” she began.
“F… fine… Mummy what is it?”
The mother sighed. “I want to ask you something.” She cleared her throat. “And I want you to tell me the truth.”
Jumoke felt goosebumps rise all over skin. Her mother knew she’d slept with Lanre.
“When last did you menstruate?”
“Last month…?” Jumoke replied then thought about the question. It was then she realized that she had in fact not menstruated in the previous month. She sat up straight and began to count on her fingers and shake her head in confusion.
Fear gripped the mother’s heart. “Have you been having sex?”
The directness of the question left her mouth wide open.
“Just tell me the truth please!” her mother said softly.
Jumoke bowed her head and replied in a shaky voice. “Yes ma…”
Her mother put her head in her hands and let the tears fall, she had told herself that whatever the case she would be strong but now found it impossible.
Where did I go wrong? She asked herself.
“Mummy…” Jumoke said scared.
“How long has it been since you menstruated?”
“I didn’t menstruate last month…” Jumoke replied in a whisper, holding her chest in panic.
“I think you’re pregnant Olajumoke.”
“No….!” she replied shaking her head. “It can’t… it’s not possible. I only did it once Mummy!” she said as her voice broke and terror consumed her entire being.
“I can’t! I can’t! No, no, no…” she began to cry along with her mother who couldn’t stop shaking her head sorrowfully.
The next thing on her mother’s mind was the way forward. “Who?” She simply asked.
Jumoke shook her head and slid away from her mother.
“Jumoke, we don’t have time for this! Tell me who it was.”
“Who it was that did what?” Mr Oludare said coming into the sitting room with a piece of akara in his large hand.
His wife looked up at him and wondered how she would break such news to him.
“What’s going on Tayo?”
“I think your daughter is pregnant.” She replied in a low voice.
“What do you mean you think she’s pregnant?” he asked, throwing away his akara.
“I can see the signs all over her body and she missed her period last month.
Sola Oludare stared at his daughter, refusing to believe his wife’s conclusion. “Let’s go to the hospital.” He said dashing for the keys and heading out of the house.
Jumoke was standing with her hands folded behind her back, tears streaming down her face. Her parents were in front of her. Her mother was crying silently beside her father who stared blankly at the carpet. Korede was watching the entire episode from behind the curtain.
Her father cleared his throat. “So, who was it?”
Jumoke sniveled, the moment she had dreaded all the way from the hospital had come.
“Jumoke, I won’t ask you again.” her father said coolly.
“Lanre…” She replied weakly.
Mrs Oludare couldn’t keep it together anymore, she started bawling.
“Which Lanre?” he asked again.
Mr Oludare gasped and stared at the television blankly for a few seconds. “Lanre? Lanre?! Jumoke? Why?!” he suddenly yelled, got up in a flash and slapped her hard across the cheeks.
“Why?!” he asked again, tears choking his voice. “Why?!” he couldn’t help but ask as he finally grasped the reality of his daughter being illegitimately pregnant.
“I’m sorry Daddy.” Jumoke cried, touching her cheek but not feeling the pain there. It broke her heart to see her father crying like a baby.
Mr Oludare slumped on the chair and mourned the loss of his daughters’ innocence. He had always been proud of his little girl who seemed to carry herself with such grace and wisdom. Jumoke was the perfect daughter, always striving to be the best in her class, responsible and decent. She was a role model to much younger girls and he was the envy of several fathers. Where had he gone wrong? He wondered if there had been clues he had missed.
How did this happen? He asked himself.
Mrs Oludare felt like a failure.
This is all my fault. I shouldn’t have told her to go to Remi’s house. It’s all my fault.
“I’m sorry…” Jumoke said, full of shame. She couldn’t believe that she was pregnant, she had had sex only once. How could I have resulted into this misery?
Mr Oludare got up and walked out of the house. Minutes later, mother and daughter heard his car start and drive out of the house. Jumoke looked at her mother fearfully, hoping to find mercy in her eyes.
“I never thought that you would break my heart like this. You’ve destroyed your life! You of all people!”
“Get out of my sight.” She snapped and Jumoke scurried out of the room.
Jumoke stared at her hands, wanting nothing more than to die.
How can I be pregnant? It was just once!
Korede came in and stood by the door. She looked up at him and looked away, too ashamed.
“I warned you Jumoke.” He said. “Why? Why did you do this to yourself?”
Jumoke could only cry in response, suddenly realizing how much her life was about to change. She would not be able go to school until the baby was born. Lanre’s life would go on, and so would Remi’s. She felt a burden of pain in her heart, known that she alone would pay for the situation. All the dreams she had had now looked like nothing but a fairy tale. She would not be traveling nor doing any of the things she had said she would.
Korede watched his sister cry heart wrenchingly and compassion welled up inside him. He had come to say much more than he had because he had seen this sort of scenario coming and he had known that Lanre was trouble but he found that he couldn’t say much more than he already had. She was broken.
“Jumoke…” he went to her and held her trembling hands. “Stop crying… I’m with you.”
Jumoke rested on his shoulders and continued to cry.
Mrs Oludare sat in the living room of the Williams with her arms akimbo. Mrs Williams was her friend and she hoped that she would work with her to help Jumoke throughout her trying period but she wasn’t so confident that her friend would give her support. Still she had hope. She and Funke had been friends for years.
“Tayo, sorry I kept you waiting. I was on an international call. You remember my sister, Maria?”
Mrs Oludare nodded.
“She called. And you know Maria can talk! Anyway, I just had to hear her out- she complained about her children again. I mean those children are always giving her one grief or another! Such a sad life she’s living. And you know how long those kind of calls can be…”
She suddenly noticed her friend’s sullen countenance.
“Tayo, what is it? Why do you look so dull? Have you been crying?” she held her hand. “Tell me what’s going on!”
Mrs Oludare bit her lips hard to prevent herself from crying. When she had gained some control of herself she spoke. “We’re in trouble Funke! These children have put us in trouble.”
“What trouble? Which children?”
“Jumoke and Lanre…”
“Ehn ehn? What about them? Did they steal from someone’s shop?”
Mr Oludare laughed unenthusiastically, she probably would have preferred it if they had stolen. “No, worse than that.”
Mrs Williams didn’t know what her friend was going on about.
“Jumoke is pregnant…”
Mrs Williams’ eyes widened.
“And your son Lanre is the father.”
Now Mrs Williams’ mouth was wide open.