The door gave way slowly as Anjola hesitantly opened it to walk into the clinic. She was greeted by the familiar smell of antiseptic and drugs and a flood of lights that almost blinded her. The interior of the clinic looked so much better than what was presented outside it.
Anjola crossed the tiled floor to the reception, taking deep breaths to calm her fraying nerves. The woman behind the desk beamed at her, her smile rivalling the luminous lights above.
“Hello! Welcome,” she greeted a little too cheerfully. She looked to be in her thirties and had a kind of face that made you feel at home even though there was no immediate beauty to be seen. Her uniform was a crisp white and held a green name tag with the label: “Ugochi”.
“Good evening ma,” Anjola looked around. The nurse was alone at the station and the waiting room held about six people who seemed more interested in what was happening on the TV before them than a bedraggled teenager. She lowered her voice, “I just want to make an enquiry.”
“Okay. How may I help you?”
Her tongue felt heavy. “Errm…I was kind of wondering if you…err…if you do…if you can help a person get rid of a pregnancy?”
Anjola watched as the woman opened and closed her mouth several times, her eyes dilated. Her round face was suddenly a quilt of expressions, but she quickly recovered and cleared her throat.
“Well, could you wait while I find out?”
Anjola gave her a suspicious look. If she was really a nurse in the hospital, why did she need to find out about their services? Except she was new.
“Ahh…I just want to know first.”
“Yeah, I get you. Just sit down. I’m coming,” and with that she stood up and disappeared into the room behind her, leaving Anjola unsure of what to do next.
There was something about the way the woman had reacted that didn’t seem right but she couldn’t be sure. After all, the least she could do was say no and allow her go. She just wished this would all end and her life would be free from so much drama.
She picked a sit close to the station to wait for the nurse. She did a quick survey of the clinic and wondered if they could at least allow her hang around for the night since she obviously did not have anywhere to go. Whatever happened tonight, Anjola was sure of one thing at least:
She was not going back home.
* * * *
Ugochi breathed deeply as she stared at her image in the mirror without actually seeing it. She needed to act fast before the girl ran away, she needed to do something but was unsure what exactly needed to be done.
“Lord, what do I do?” she asked for the fifth time since she entered the restroom, willing her heart to be still and listen for direction. This was a critical moment and she knew whatever she did now would affect lives; either for better or worse.
Ugochi Okoro had spent several years after school without a good job. All the places she had worked had been less than her desire and qualification and it had been a dream come true when she finally got a job as a nurse at Topaz Clinic last year. She later discovered that the clinic performed abortions but she knew she could not afford to quit the job, not with her siblings in school and her parents in retirement. She had made her stand on the matter very clear to the hospital authorities and they had done a good job of keeping her away from any of their affairs as far as abortions were considered. Until today.
Her partner who usually handled such matters had developed a sudden migraine and had to go home, leaving Ugochi alone at the station. And it was so ironic that it was today of all days that this girl had chosen to come.
Ugochi knew she could not stand by and watch the girl have that abortion but what right did she have to stop her? She couldn’t lie and tell her they didn’t do abortions and she would definitely get fired if her boss found out she wanted to do anything to jeopardize their work. And he would definitely find out; he had eyes everywhere. Besides, he had warned her before when she had tried to preach to one of the girls who came for an abortion.
“I have told you and I would not say it again: keep your religious sentiments to yourself. As far as this hospital is concerned, you work for me and not Jesus. The next time you try such a stunt, I’ll have no choice but to relieve you of your job here,” he had said, his face taut with a quiet anger she had never seen before.
Since then, she had tried to mind her business as much as possible but it seemed God had other plans. It was a different matter if she had not been aware of the girl but now with the ball in her court, she just knew God was waiting for her to do something. But what did He expect? It wasn’t like this girl would be the first of those who walked through their doors for an abortion so why was this different?
And if she lost her job, how would she survive? She had spent too long in search of a good job to know that she would be deceiving herself if she thought she could easily get another job. It didn’t make it any better that she hardly had any savings to live by till she could try to get another employment. There was always an expense to make before she could think of saving.
Obey. No matter what it will cost you
The voice came, quiet and unforceful, whispering through her soul and making her heart thump rapidly.
“Arrgghh! Lord, why are you putting me in this dilemma. Why? Couldn’t you just let me stay safe and comfortable for this once? Just this once!” she whispered brokenly, battling with what she knew was right.
What I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
The scripture from Deuteronomy 30:11 she read yesterday came to her heart and she sighed again and stood straighter, her decision made.
There was no use for belief if it could not be lived out.
* * * *
Ugochi finally came back, her face carrying a somberness that hadn’t been there earlier. Anjola stood up and walked up to her.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Okay, Anjola,” the lady repeated, pronouncing the name in a way that made Anjola wince.
“Just call me Jola.”
The nurse smiled, “Alright. So Jola, I want to ask you a question and I need you to be very honest with me,” she began and then continued, not waiting for an answer. “How old are you?”
Anjola felt herself shrink back. She should run away now if she had any sense but she found herself replying, “I’ll be seventeen next week.”
“Why do you want to have an abortion?”
“Look ma, I just want to know if you do it. That’s all.”
“Jola, I won’t lie to you, we do abortions. But I don’t want you to do it. It is wrong and you know it. I don’t know your story and I know you must have been through a lot to have to come this far but whatever it is, it’s not too late to turn back. I beg you. Please. You are carrying a life, a whole generation inside of you,” she paused and looked around, lowering her voice as she leaned closer to her. “I have seen enough girls go in and out of that theatre and I can tell you this much, they never look the same when they come out. Their eyes, dead. Many of them have suffered untold complications and much more untold emotional damage. You think you are damaged now, wait till you kill a child and have to live with that for the rest of your…”
“Nurse Ugochi. What’s going on?” A man in a white lab coat suddenly appeared behind her, his face unsmiling.
“Errm…she just wanted to make an enquiry,” the nurse replied, looking alarmed. And Anjola knew right then that this woman was in trouble. She knew this was her chance; she could easily tell the man what she wanted and get it done with it but somehow she couldn’t. What Ugochi had said rang loud in her heart. She hadn’t told her anything Anjola had not told herself before but somehow it jarred her. At least enough to make her want to think it through.
“I just wanted to know if you do eye tests,” she lied. The doctor looked from her to the nurse and then back again. Some of the people at the waiting area had left the TV to stare at them.
“By this time?” he asked, his shrewd eyes gleaming behind his thick lenses.
“It’s okay,” Ugochi said to her and then turned to the doctor. “She wanted to know if we do abortions and I was just telling her not to do it,” she looked him square in the eyes.
He was livid. “Nurse Ugochi, to my office. Now!” He started to storm away but stopped to address Anjola, “And you, please follow me.”
Anjola stood there for several seconds, unsure of what to do. If she left now, she would have to face a world of uncertainties. But if she followed him, she could at least be rid of the burden she was carrying. Wasn’t that what she wanted? Yet was she ready to carry a burden of guilt? Which was better?
Before she realized it, she was already walking away and with each step she took further away, she knew this was what she ought to do. She shouldn’t do the abortion. No, she wouldn’t. How could she have even considered killing her baby? Her baby! The thought of it filled her with a warmth she hadn’t felt in a long time. Her very own baby! She would have murdered her child. This wasn’t who she was. Coming this far had felt so utterly foreign and unnatural to her.
Anjola stepped into the cool night and breathed deeply. She didn’t know what to call the sudden rush of warmth that flooded her heart, maybe motherly instincts or whatever, but it made her suddenly appalled at herself. She was seeing herself as though from a different set of eyes. Yes, she had been violated and her life had been turned upside down by the lemons life tossed at her but this child growing within her did not deserve to die. Her child for God’s sake!
She thought of going back to her place but decided against it. Or maybe she should call Victoria? No, what right did she have to do that after what she did to her? The only way she’d be able to face her friend would be to somehow get the money and give it back to her with all kinds of groveling.
There were several shops close to the clinic, most of them still in business. She spotted an empty stall and sat on a bench there. She thought of calling Mrs. Adegbite but that too did not seem very convincing to her. She had offended them and did not know how they could ever forgive her. They had tried to help her and she had thrown it back in their faces. She had taken for granted the love they had shown to her because she had been too blinded by her own pain to see anything else.
She heard footsteps approaching and jumped slightly, then settled back when she saw Ugochi walking towards her.
“I knew I’d find you around,” she said, smiling.
“Yeah. What did the doctor say?”
“I was fired,” she sat beside her on the bench.
Anjola gasped. “Woah. I’m really sorry.”
Ugochi smiled, shrugging. “I would have quit if he hadn’t fired me.”
“To obey. No matter the cost.”
She didn’t have to say more because Anjola understood. And that, more than all Ugochi had said to her that day, made an impact on her. This woman was boldly living out what she knew to be true even though it clearly cost her a lot. It had to be something serious for her to be willing to sacrifice her job for it.
“Are you a Christian?” Ugochi suddenly asked, peering into her face.
Anjola gave a wistful smile. “I don’t know.” She found it surprising that she would ask her such a question. People did not generally think a person who wanted to commit abortion would be a Christian. Or maybe she meant if she attended church. “I sometimes go to church. But I doubt if that’s what you’re asking.”
Ugochi chuckled. “You’re right. I didn’t mean if you attend church.”
She shook her head. “I really don’t know.”
There was silence for a while before Ugochi asked; “Why did you want to have an abortion? What’s your story?”
Anjola stared unseeingly at a poster on the wall, wondering where to begin and how much to tell her. Well, she didn’t have much to hide anymore anyways.
“I was raped and I got pregnant. And because I couldn’t bear the pain and shame, I dropped out of school, stole my friend’s money and ran away from home.”
Ugochi gasped. “Dear God. I’m so sorry.”
“This happened after I gave my life to Christ.”
“Oh. And let me guess, you’re now blaming God for everything?”
Anjola looked at her and said nothing.
“Jola, I know this may sound patronizing because I don’t know what you’ve suffered but God did not do this to you. In fact, He has been the one looking out for you all along.”
“Then why didn’t he stop it from happening? Why? If only I can know why. I keep asking and no one seems to have a good answer. They just tell me, ‘God knows best’ or ‘All things work together for good’.”
Ugochi looked at her sadly. “I don’t have an answer for you either but I think you just have to let go of your anger at God and trust Him. God is good and righteous. We live in a fallen, sinful world so these things will happen but God is still very good.”
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I wish I can believe all these but anytime I try, I find myself drawn back by these questions.”
“If you are honest with yourself, I think you will find that through all these, God has been looking out for you. God has done you no wrong and you don’t really have a right to be angry with Him. In fact, I see why He should be angry with you still He keeps looking out for you. If you cannot find any reason to think God is jealous over you, what happened tonight is one reason,” Ugochi held her hand in hers. “I wasn’t supposed to be the only one on duty tonight but somehow God made it so and brought us together. He saved you from a lifetime of heartache and possible complications or even death. Jola, God loves you.”
Anjola felt tears pressing against her eyes. “My life…is such a mess. All my dreams…”
“Place them in God’s hands. Put your life in His hands and trust Him to bring beauty out of it. That’s more than you can do for yourself.”
She shook her head. “How can you even say all these? You just lost your job because of Him!”
Ugochi nodded. “I’m glad I did. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a privilege to give up anything for the one I love.” She chuckled, “And to be honest, I’m encouraging myself as much as I’m encouraging you.”
She smiled. She loved this woman’s genuineness, it was so refreshing. She reminded her of Mrs. Adegbite. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Where are you sleeping this night?”
Anjola looked around the stall and shrugged, “This place isn’t so bad.”
“Are you kidding me? God forbid I’m alive and you’ll sleep here! You’re coming home with me.”
Anjola felt her heart soar, relief flooding her. “Hope that’s not too much trouble?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’d be an honour.”
“Thank you so much!”
“Well, thank God. Thank God.”
* * * *
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