“Anjola, you know you have to go, not just for the baby but also for you,” Victoria said, sounding exasperated.
They had been debating the matter of her ante-natal, with Anjola refusing to step her feet into the hospital for care and Victoria insisting she do so.
“I don’t want the baby,” she repeated for the umpteenth time.
“I know. You just….” she sighed. “Anjola, please.”
“Come on now! It’s just once a week. And Mummy has asked you to stay with them. That would even be easier for you.”
Anjola shook her head vigorously.
“Kai! You are stubborn o. It’s only Mrs. Adegbite that can handle you,” she sounded so frustrated it would have been funny if the topic had not been something so serious.
The look Anjola gave her could have sent cold water tipping over 80OC. Victoria got the hint and sighed.
“I’m sorry Anjola. I know this is really hard for you. We just want the best for you, that’s all.”
Anjola stared out the window but said nothing. The sun was already dipping into the western sky, taking its light and warmth with it. She could hear Segun and Pelumi’s voices mingled with the other kids outside. Their mother had stopped them from going to the field when some of the Aje boys had gotten into a bloody fight over a match played there. It had been a miracle her brothers had not been injured or arrested by the police (even though they were not quite eighteen. They usually just bundled all of them away before finding any of them was under aged) who kept close tabs on Aje because of its frequent cases of violence. At least, that kept them at home. Remi and Bolu were with their mother at the bar.
“’Why?’ There is no day I don’t ask myself that question,” her voice sounded distant, like it belonged to someone else. She turned to Victoria, “If I can just get an answer, I would find peace. I would let all this rest and accept my fate.”
Victoria drew closer, “I’m sorry Anjola,” she opened her mouth as if to say more but closed it again. Then after a while she said, “You should continue your counselling with Mrs. Adegbite.”
She nodded wordlessly and blinked back tears. She was surprised she still had any tears left after all she had expended already.
They talked for several minutes, with Victoria doing most of the talking and Anjola was glad to find the warmth of their friendship was back, replacing the awkward stilt that had ruled their relationship since the incident. They stayed on safe subjects and after a while, Anjola found herself smiling when she told her about how her younger brother had tried to make her stay at home by hiding her phone.
“Bolu does that too sometimes. Not hiding my things of course. But he’d grab my leg and cry till I feel guilty for leaving. Usually I have to tell him to help me get something in the house so I can escape. When he comes back and finds me gone, he’d cry and cry,” she smiled fondly. “But he falls for it every time.”
Victoria laughed, “Kids are so funny.” Anjola smiled wistfully and nodded, remembering her own condition. “Yeah. And so adorable.” Would her baby be adorable too? She immediately shook off the thought.
They fell into a comfortable silence.
Victoria glanced at her watch and sighed, “I’ll have to go very soon. I need to get back to school to read for a tutorial I’ll be taking tomorrow evening. Our exams are beginning next week.”
“Oh. All the best,” she said, meaning it. And suddenly she remembered they had also started their SSCE exams but she couldn’t write it.
As if reading her mind, Victoria frowned, “I thought WAEC exams have started?”
Anjola nodded reluctantly. “Yeah, practicals.”
“Oh. I think you can still write it now. Didn’t you register?”
“But wait o, how come your mum allowed you to stay at home?”
She gave a bitter smile, “Whether I go to school or not is not really her concern.”
“Wow,” Victoria mouthed. “But I think you can write it; you are not really showing yet.”
“I don’t know…” her voice trailed off.
“I’ll talk to Mrs. Adegbite about it. I’ll drop by her place from the bank tomorrow morning.”
Victoria nodded, “I have to pay in some money to the account for the outreach. I told you about it, yeah?”
“Well, we’ve been having money come in and that’s just amazing. God just has a way for providing for His work.”
Anjola nodded and they continued talking for a while.
“Errm…do you…have a restroom here? I’m really pressed.” Victoria asked and Anjola directed her to toilet at the back of the house, intentionally staying back even though she knew she should have accompanied her.
Immediately Victoria was gone, she worked very fast. She picked her bag and started to look through. She felt really guilty for what she was doing but didn’t think she had a choice. There was no way else she could get the money because even if she had to work, the pregnancy would have gotten really obvious before she could gather enough money for an abortion. She knew Victoria and Mrs. Adegbite would know the baby was gone but she planned to just disappear. Start afresh. And she needed money for that.
Anjola, what are you doing?
The small voice came through, very subtly, very quietly and she paused a little. Why was her mind playing tricks on her now? They had reasoned the whole thing out and hoped for money to come and this was the opportunity she needed. Why was her mind betraying her now? Or was it her mind?
She shook it off and sighed when she found the stack of money in Victoria’s bag, pulling out some, stashing it quickly under the bed and replacing the rest carefully. She felt terrible for doing this to Victoria who only wanted to help her but her mother was extremely careful with her money. In fact, Anjola had never really considered stealing till now.
Anjola, what are you doing?
That quiet voice again. The voice was separate from the gnawing guilt and a little less forceful. It felt more like a knowing. She wasn’t sure what it was but it gave her pause.
Then a thought crossed her mind; could it be God? She dismissed the thought immediately it came. Where had He been all along? Besides she really didn’t think God would want to speak with her now. Not after all she had done and been through.
She heard footsteps outside the door and quickly settled back, plastering a neutral look on her face. She knew Victoria would find out eventually but she had to at least delay the discovery till she was safely out of reach and hope she forgave her.
“Woah! You have some really funny neighbours,” Victoria chuckled, settling in, totally oblivious to the war going on inside her friend. “There was a small queue and this guy was like ‘I go allow you because you be fine girl,” she giggled again, like this was some kind of joke.
“Don’t mind them. Hope you didn’t give him your number though?”
Victoria gave a startled laugh, “What? No.” She winked, “He didn’t ask.”
Anjola shook her head, smiling. “You’re not serious. I’m sure he would have regretted it if he did anyways, as you would probably preach to him till he starts running from every fine girl he sees.”
They both laughed and it felt really good. Anjola’s laugh was weak and unnatural but it felt good.
“I’m glad you think so. Because funny enough, I don’t see myself as such a bold Christian. I used to really dread talking to people about Christ.”
Anjola was genuinely shocked. “Really?”
“Yeah, really. A testimony to what God can do with a life that allows Him.”
And somehow, even after she walked Victoria out and bid her goodbye, those words kept ringing in her mind. Or could God really bring something out of her life? Well, whatever He wanted to do could hold on till she was rid of the baby.
Because only then could she start afresh and hope to see something come out of her life.
* * * *
It wasn’t until Victoria got to the bank the next day before she found the money was gone. She had had little pause when she brought the money from her bag and noticed it felt lighter but her brain was quick to dismiss it.
But the cashier handed her the money back, shaking her head. “It’s not complete,” she said in a monotonous tone.
Victoria looked at her bored, unsmiling face and shook her head, “I’m sorry what?” When the lady said nothing, she collected the money and began counting it herself. And indeed, it was short of several notes.
She searched through her bag frantically and turned to the woman, shocked, “But it was complete yesterday! How come?”
The lady’s facial expression didn’t change. Not a muscle moved on that stoic, heavily made-up face.
“Wetin dey happen now! Abeg move,” an impatient customer yelled at her from the back and the others took the cue, grumbling at her.
“We are going to work now!” another woman barked and she was tempted to tell them to shut up for a minute or two so she could think. Her mind was speeding so fast she wasn’t sure what she was thinking. She took a deep breath.
Pay in the one you have.
The small voice whispered through her heart and she immediately felt peace wash over her. Yes, God was with her and she loved when the Holy Spirit always came through for her at times like these. It was something she had been enjoying for a few months now; that daily direction from God.
She quickly apologized to the cashier and as many of the customers who cared to listen and made for the Customer care to get another teller. She paid in the money after a brief wait to allow some of them pay in before she did.
As she walked into the warm morning, she started to think over the matter. Where could she have placed the money? It couldn’t have been in her bag because she had checked. And surely, Clara – her roommate – could not have taken it. Not even as a joke; she was playful but too reasonable and mature for that. Or did it fall in the bus on her way to the bank? No, it couldn’t have. She had kept it in the zippered pocket of her bag so no. Besides, the money was bundled together so if it had fallen or been misplaced, all of it would have gone.
No. This was deliberate.
The subtle voice came and she knew it was not her mind or her suspicions. It had to be God; because it did not bring with it any kind of anger or bitterness. Just a quiet knowing. And she was shocked.
She immediately picked her phone to call Anjola but her line was switched off. Or should she go to her place?
She wondered what Anjola would want to do with such an amount of money. Victoria knew it had to be something really urgent and serious for her to steal the money because even in the little time she’d known her, she knew Anjola was no thief, or someone given to frivolities. Then what? She immediately began to pray for her silently, ignoring her own deep hurt for what Anjola had done.
She called Mrs. Adegbite to tell her she’d be coming. The hospital was not too far from the bank so she took a bike. They needed to do something about Anjola.
Again she wondered what could have driven her friend to such a desperation.
And when the answer came, it almost knocked the air out of her because only then did it all make sense: her insistence on not going for ante-natals or staying with the Adegbites, her constant whine about not wanting the baby, her recent theft… It all made sense.
Because Anjola was going to have an abortion.
So I plan to post more often on the blog, especially non-fiction.
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God’s grace to you!