We were young.
We were naive.
One careless mistake led to a turbulent situation.
‘I think I am pregnant,’ she said to me that evening.
We were under the German mango tree in my compound, eating mango and laughing out loud to a joke I told when suddenly she lowered her voice and flung it in.
My smiles froze on my face. I know what she must have thought—no better way to drop the bad news than in between laughter.
It’d cushion the shock.
But in this case, it didn’t. I think it only highlighted the anger— that abrupt end to a previous nice scene.
‘How do you know that?’ I asked her.
‘I know. My body has been doing somehow since.’
‘How is it doing you?’
She started to mention them: the terrifying signs of pregnancy—exactly how we were taught it in Biology.
‘Ok,’ I said, turning away.
‘Ok? Is that the only thing you can say?’
‘What else do you want me to say?’ I barked at her. I desperately sought a way to blame her now, to relieve myself of some of the guilt.
But I got nothing.
I had begged her for hours that night. She kept shaking her head, saying ‘no now’ and I continued to beg. Even when I entered, she was still shaking her head.
‘Emma, I’m scared,’ she was saying.
‘Don’t be!’ I told her. ‘I’ll be through soon.’
And truly I hadn’t lasted. I didn’t even do more than 10 moves before I saw that brief glimpse of heaven and the next minute my eyes had cleared out and I was me again.
So how come this pregnant thing now? As young as I am, with my immature fluid.
‘Are you saying it is me?’ I asked her.
Her eyes flew wide. ‘What do you mean by that, Emma? Did anyone else touch me except you?’
‘Are you asking me that?’ I said. ‘How can you say it is that small thing we did that night that made you pregnant?’
She stared at me. Then she held her ear. ‘Heeey! Emma, heeey! I warned you o, I warned you o.’ She started to cry.
‘Shut up!’ I said. ‘Is it not pregnancy? Did somebody die?’
She obeyed and turned quiet.
‘Tomorrow, we will go to Pascal’s shop. He will give you something to remove it.’
She shook her head.
This got me angry. ‘Why are you shaking your head like ngwere? Do you want to give birth at home?’
She was quiet.
I turned quiet too.
The silence dragged.
I turned and held her hand. ‘Don’t worry, inu, tomorrow we will go.’
She stared at me and finally nodded.
But we didn’t go anywhere the next day. Her entire family stormed my house that evening.
Worried, she had told her immediate elder sister, who, worried as well, decided to tell their eldest.
And that one was a tiger.
She was the one screaming,’ you must marry her o, you must marry her o!’ that evening.
‘I won’t marry her,’ I said.
‘Shut up your mouth there!’ my father barked at me. ‘Ewu! Mkpi! Mgbe ino na-apioyali piom-piom-piom (when you were meandering like a snake), you did not know that you will marry her! Mpama! Ezi Bida!’
And that was how I was forced to marry Beatrice.
In fact, I didn’t marry her. It was my family that married her. My mother, my sister and my elder brother.
It had amazed me how she even had felt comfortable with the arrangement.
Each time I saw her, with her belly bulged like someone who had swallowed obene, I felt all sorts.
Not particularly sad or angry, more like amused. Especially when people asked me, very normally as if 20-year-old boys get married all the time, ‘Kee maka nwunye gi? How is your wife?’
Slowly, her presence melted into normalcy— the swollen-stomach girl everyone called my wife that always sat spread-eagled on the veranda floor in the back yard watching Mama and Sister Obiageli prepare dinner.
One day, I walked in on them laughing out loud. My sister pointed, shaking her head —‘Emma, this your wife eh!’
I left them and walked away with my bucket of water.
She gave birth the day I wrote my Aptitude Test in UNIZIK. It had rained heavily that afternoon.
When I stepped into the compound, I saw no one.
It was Josiah, the tiny boy from Uga staying with an old woman in the adjacent compound that told me they’ve gone to the hospital.
‘Your wife is shouting, screaming “Jesus, Jesus” in the morning and Mama and your sister took her to the hospital,’ the boy said.
‘Okay,’ I said, walking into the house.
‘Will you not go and meet them there?’ he asked me.
‘Mba! This is our house, they will go and come back.’
Later that evening, I was on top of the German Mango tree in front of our compound when I saw Mama coming back.
She was smiling and walking as if she was dancing. She climbed the veranda singing ‘Omewolom ya, omewolom ya, ihe mmadu apuyi imeere…
I jumped down the tree and she turned and saw me.
‘Nnaa, you are back?’ she said.
‘Yes. Where are you coming from?’
Mama started dancing. She danced to me, and then went round me. Then she hit my chest. ‘Olitugo! She has climbed down.’
I was staring at Mama. There and then, from the glee she was swallowed in, I wondered if she had planned everything with Beatrice all along.
‘Ifukwa imi,’ Mama was saying. ‘Imi anyi! See nose! Our nose!’
She untied and retied her wrapper. ‘Ngwa, dress up, ozigbo, let’s go!’ She walked inside to carry a small bag.
I was smiling when I walked into the ward. Everything had suddenly felt amusing, that me, small me was now a father.
I saw the iron cradle where he was laid. My boy.
From the other bed, Beatrice was staring at me, a weak smile on her face. ‘O nwoke—a boy,’ she said, as if something would instantly change when I heard that.
‘Mama has told me,’ I said to her. ‘Kedu, how do you feel?’ I asked her.
Then I walked to the cradle. And I saw him. He was sleeping, tiny cute thing.
Mama hadn’t been wrong about the nose. It was really ours. Imi oja.
Instantly, something changed in me. I couldn’t quite place what it was, but I felt it, strong and deep. I looked at Beatrice with a small smile. She smiled back and looked away.
Later in the evening, Papa came with Brother Ejike.
“Nnaa, nkea tutulu gi nnoo atutu — he is your carbon copy,” Ejike’s wife said.
Our boy was some months old when I left for school.
He grew fast. Each time I came back, he had grown some inches.
The first time he called me Papa, I pinched his nose and asked him to say daddy instead.
I loved him, but I didn’t like the situation his arrival had caused. His mother was in the village, nursing him, not going to school with me. At school even, it shamed me to tell people that I was married.
We would have done this but the timing was wrong. Very wrong.
I was in 200 level when I started another relationship. With Mary, a pretty girl that could instantly bring Jesus Christ back with one lie.
Of course, I wasn’t entirely blameless either, the relationship had started off on a bed of lies in the first place.
I didn’t tell her that I had a wife in the village and she didn’t tell me she was in a relationship with about ten other people at the same time.
But at least I owe her some dose of gratitude. It was after the messy breakup that I thought to myself, WTF, I have a pretty wife in the village. Beatrice is easily the most beautiful girl in my town.
When I travelled home that period, I told Beatrice to discard the wrappers and get some nice chic dresses.
‘Give me money na,’ she said to me.
‘Gbam,’ my elder sister supported. ‘If you want her to start dressing like all those university girls, give her money! Nyeya ego!’
‘Don’t worry,’ my mother said. ‘I will collect some money from your father and give her to buy new clothes.’
‘Thank you, mama,’ I said.
‘But I hope she will not start wearing trouser and spaghetti like mmanwu ulaga.’
‘If she wear trouser, is it bad?’ I said. ‘Is it not her mates wearing it?’
I paid for her JAMB form the year I graduated. Our boy was almost five.
She got admission to study Science Education and I got a job, a small low-paying job at a local drug company.
We moved to the city together the next year, that was in early 2013.
Just this Easter, few weeks my sweetheart graduated, we had our White Wedding.
Our boy was our ring bearer.
Daniel Nkado penned down this piece.
Daniel Nkado is a Nigerian writer and the founder of DNBStories.com.
Get his books on DNB Store, OkadaBooks or BamBooks!
Special gratitude to Mr. Ken for deciding to share this story on DNB Stories.
Real names of people were not used in this story.