Anjola shivered slightly as she made her way through the busy Oshodi market. The weather was not particularly cold and she was wearing a long sleeved shirt, yet she shivered. Her feet hurt, her head hurt and her heart hurt. The boisterous air around her added to the consistent pound in her head; impatient drivers honking at each other, tired conductors calling out destinations, their words running into each other like a child tripping over untied shoes laces, vendors marketing their wares and occasionally yelling at someone and other random sounds that could only be described as noise.
Her stomach rumbled angrily, twisting into itself so much it hurt. She had not taken anything since she left the house that morning except for a biscuit she managed to buy earlier and now she felt like her knees would buckle beneath her. It did not make it any better that her appetite seemed to have tripled lately.
She wasn’t sure where she was going, all she knew was that she needed to find a private clinic that looked small and hidden. There had been no one to ask where she could find an abortion clinic and now that she had spent about twelve hours trawling the city with no results, she realized her plan was not a plan at all. And her brain was too tired to come up with a plan B.
It was getting dark and she would have to find a place to sleep when it got any darker since her experience with the night had taught her that it wasn’t safe staying out late. She gave a cynical smile. It wasn’t like it mattered; after all what could be worse than what she had already suffered?
“Aunty,” a child of indecipherable descent grabbed at the hem of her shirt, reaching out an arm imploringly, obviously asking for money. She shook her head and pulled her shirt free. The girl tugged at her again, pleading with her large brown eyes and following her as she made her way through the crowd.
“Stop it!” she all but yelled at the little girl. Her heart constricted a little as she saw those eyes cloud over. She couldn’t afford to part with the money she had but something about the girl – who was about Remi’s age – called to her. Anjola sighed and fished for a change in her bag to give her.
The little girl received the money eagerly, smiling widely to reveal brown teeth. As Anjola watched her hop off, she knew the girl was probably going to spend the money on something as useless as sweets. And she wondered fleetingly why someone would bring a child into the world if they were not ready to take care of them. She quickly dismissed the thought.
Anjola veered aimlessly into another street. She had no idea where she was going except for the fact that she was in motion. She passed by a stall, eyeing a sumptuous looking display of fries and her stomach grumbled in protest. She really needed to eat but she had already spent too much on transport and wasn’t sure if what was left would be enough to get rid of the baby and keep her head above the water till she could get something to do.
After a little struggle, she finally bought akara and fried yam, her stomach receiving the food with gratitude. And it was only then she was able to feel her body calm down and her brain kick into gear. She found a small bench beside the stall and sat to think.
Okay, so she needed to find an abortion clinic without getting herself in trouble. Or more preferably a drug that could do the job just as well without harming her. She had heard too many stories of abortions gone wrong to make her want to be extremely careful or even reconsider the whole thing.
After going through part of the city with no results, she realized the best way to go about it would be to ask. Who to ask was another matter entirely. She thought about it for a while and decided the best person to ask would be someone who would need such services. A sex worker perhaps? Anjola shook her head, hardly believing herself. Never would she have thought she would come to a point in her life where she would need a bad friend so much. How had she gone so low? How did her life get this messy? It made no sense.
Anjola quickly moved on and had passed through six blocks before she saw it: a small, private clinic squeezed in between two large buildings. It was so hidden that she probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. Maybe God was finally on her side.
She took a deep breath as she approached the clinic, forming a reasonable explanation in her head to give whoever she found there. She would just ask them if they did abortions and if they said no, she would run as fast as she could before they did anything funny. That couldn’t be so hard, could it?
* * * *
“Shouldn’t we at least do something?” Victoria finally spoke up, looking from one worried face to the other. Mrs. Adegbite and her husband exchanged a look.
“We’ve already done something,” Pastor Adegbite answered patiently.
“Yes, pray. But now what?”
Victoria shook her head. What more could they do anyways? She and Mrs. Adegbite had gone to Anjola’s place that morning but had not met her there. They met her mother who told them Anjola had disappeared that morning.
“She left this morning. We woke up and did not see her again, her bag gone. She left some of her clothes and a note behind,” the woman snarled at them like they had somehow kidnapped her. She fished through her handbag and waved a note in their faces, “See?”
Victoria took the note and unfolded it.
I’ve left. Don’t look for me.
She looked at Mrs. Adegbite and saw her own shock and sadness mirrored on the older woman’s face. They had tried calling her to no avail and had no idea where she could have gone.
“We’re really sorry about this madam. But do you know any of her friends that might know where she went to?” Mrs. Adegbite asked.
“After all I’ve done for that stupid girl, this is how she repays me. What would people say?” the woman muttered as though she hadn’t heard her speak. “That was how her father too did, just disappeared. What would she say is her problem? If something bad happens to her now, what would I say? I’ve always known her way was not pure, that girl. I suspect she’s already pregnant and was going to ask her this morning before I saw she was gone. I knew she was just a pretender and now the truth is out. Stupid girl. She thinks is me she wants to disgrace abi? Is herself she will disgrace. Nonsense!”
She raised her head and looked from Victoria to Mrs. Adegbite like she was seeing them for the first time. “And you people, where are you from sef? Are you her church people? Is that what you teach her in your church? To be running away?”
“No ma. We just want to help her,” Mrs. Adegbite replied, reaching out but returning her hands back to her side when the woman eyed her maliciously.
“Well, you have tried. Come and go and be going. Anjola is not here.”
“But if you could show us her friend we – “
“I say be going!” she barked, pointing to the entrance of the bar. And suddenly Victoria understood why Anjola would want to run away. This woman did not have a mothering bone in her.
They had left immediately and returned to the Adegbite’s, spending several hours in prayer. Even Emmanuel, the Adegbite’s youngest child, had joined them in the prayers. She had called her mum and Uncle Chidi to also join the chain.
It was until later that afternoon that Anjola remembered to be worried about the money that had been stolen. And even then, she knew she would trade all she had if only Anjola could come back. She just needed to find a way to replace the money because they needed it to set some things in place for the outreach. She’d probably take a loan from her mum.
The Adegbite’s had gone to church for Bible study, leaving her alone. She had insisted on staying back, in case Anjola came back. Of course it wasn’t necessary, she just wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere and they knew this but said nothing.
Victoria called Elena, her classmate, to tell her she would not be able to make it for the tutorial. She wondered why all these had to happen when she preparing for her exams; the last thing she needed right now was a poor grade. Her last semester had been below her expectation and she had hoped to meet up with this semester and had indeed begun well till the issue with Anjola started. It wasn’t like she regretted ever getting involved with her, far from it, but she only wished God would give her the grace to go beyond the limitations.
Maybe she just needed to learn to trust God more. Her dad had always told her that.
“You worry too much Vic. You like to take matters into your own hands but you have to learn that grace doesn’t work that way. There is something about grace that makes you restful. Don’t prod it, don’t push it. Just let it be.” her father had told her one night after she had complained to him about Sophie’s attitude.
“I know but I mean there has to be a working on my part at least. Isn’t that what faith is about?”
He smiled calmly, his eyes gleaming with a depth of wisdom. “Yes, there is a working. But a working by grace.”
She sighed as she remembered his words. It hadn’t really made much sense then but now she considered it. The scripture from Philippians chapter two verses twelve and thirteen she read that morning came to mind:
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.”
The scripture before it had talked about working out their salvation with fear and trembling and she had wondered how such seemingly opposing truths could be put together in one sentence. She had been in such a hurry that morning that she hadn’t waited to get full understanding before she muttered a quick prayer and left. But now, with no one around but her, she decided to check the scripture again. She turned on her phone and opened the Good News Bible app to Philippians 2:12-13;
“…So then, dear friends, as you always obeyed me when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey me now while I am away from you. Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose.”
Victoria gasped as she read the words, light suddenly flooding her heart.
“Wow!” she mouthed. She had never seen that scripture like that before and all of a sudden it made sense. God was always at work such that whenever His purpose was fulfilled, it was Him who had worked it out. Yes, she had to work but even her working was through God so that she could never take the glory because God had been at work all the time.
That was what her dad had been trying to tell her. That was what Pastor Adegbite had tried to tell her earlier when he had told her to ‘wait’, that was what Uncle Chidi had tried to tell her that day of the outreach when he’d told her, ‘…it’s not about you.’ And that was what she need in her studies. That was what she needed to have a consistent walk with God.
She needed to learn to trust in God and not in her own strength. She needed to understand that it was all about God and not her, to realize that even at those times when it seemed her work yielded results, it had been God working all along. Not her.
Victoria felt the most absolute kind of peace flood her heart. Greater that even that time when she had re-dedicated herself back to God. She said a brief prayer and sighed, willing her heart to trust completely in God for the first time in a long time.
So Victoria sat back and put to practice a most fundamental part of her trust in God.
* * * *
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