Anjola went back home the next day.
Ugochi had insisted on giving her money to at least cover up for her trip back and after several halfhearted protests, Anjola collected the money. As they walked to the bus-stop, Ugochi looked at her and said, “Have I told you how matured you are? You are not like most sixteen year olds, Anjola. You are very special and I’m sure God has great plans for you.”
Her new friend stayed till she boarded a bus before she walked away, promising to call. Anjola however did not go to Aje but to the Adegbite’s. She hadn’t bothered to call first because she wasn’t really sure how she would explain herself.
When she finally stood in front of the door, she only had to knock twice before the door was opened and she found herself immediately covered in a big, sweet-scented embrace. Mrs. Adegbite had taken one surprised look at her and scooped her in her arms. And because Anjola didn’t really know what else to do, she cried. Tears of joy and wonder.
She had expected all sorts of reactions – anger, indifference, accusation – but nothing had prepared her for the open arms she got.
After they stood there for several seconds, she heard Victoria’s loud cry before she joined the huddle too as all three of them wept together.
When they finally ended the water works, Anjola stepped back and cleared her throat.
“I’m really sorry for what I did. I promise I’ll return every…” she began, trying to express the sincerity she felt.
Mrs. Adegbite shook her head. “Don’t mention it. We’re just glad you’re back.”
They did not mention anything about her disappearance after that, the conversation flowing easily around everything but her escapade. Only once did they make mention of it and that was when Mrs. Adegbite asked if she had called her mother.
“No ma. I’ll call her later.”
“Please, do that now. She has been worried sick.”
Anjola doubted that very much but obeyed. Her mother was surprisingly relieved to hear from her, although she was angry and had asked why she left.
“We’ll talk when I get back,” she told her but wondered if she should tell her mother the truth. But then again, what other option did she have?
After several hours of uncomfortable silence over her behavior, she decided to bring it up again. They had insisted they were not angry at her but the silence still made her feel guilty, probably even worse than if they had said something and she felt she needed to at least explain herself.
“I really didn’t know what to do anymore. I was so confused,” she looked at Victoria for any sign of protest but found none so she continued. “I just…the idea just came and in my desperation I grabbed it. I won’t lie to you; I haven’t figured everything out yet but at the clinic, I met a nurse and she said some things that just seemed to bring me to my senses. And as I walked away from the clinic, I had this feeling of the life growing inside of me and…I can’t explain it but it made me reconsider, it made me dare to…hope,” she looked into her friend’s eyes already glistening with tears.
“Oh, Anjola. We prayed for you through it all. I’m so grateful to God. He was the one working it all out. You have no idea what He saved you from,” Victoria said, holding her hands.
She sniffed. “I still have some questions about God, I won’t lie, but I think I’m willing to at least…try.”
Victoria nodded. “I understand.”
Anjola went to Aje the next day. She told her mother everything that had happened while she listened wordlessly, only registering the shock in her eyes. When she had finished her story, her mother shook her head, her face surprisingly devoid of the anger or contempt Anjola expected.
“And you didn’t tell me all this time. I suspected something was wrong but you’ve always been so…so on your own.”
Anjola couldn’t believe her ears. Was her mother saying she thought she was the one who had been distant?
“I…I thought you didn’t really care.”
“Why would you say that? I’m your mother!” Now she sounded angry. “Honestly, I’ve never really understood you. You’ve always been different but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m your mother and I care about you as a mother should.”
Anjola smiled slightly. Her mother would bite off her tongue before she told her she loved her but Anjola knew this was as good as it got and took it that way. After a brief hesitation, she stood up and hugged her – if there was one thing Victoria had taught her, it was giving hugs.
“I love you, Mum.” They were alone in the bar so she didn’t have to bother about how awkward it seemed.
It took a few seconds of shocked silence before her mother hugged her back.
“I’m sorry about what happened to you. I know I’ve not been a very good mother and I had my part to play in this. At least, if I hadn’t allowed you stay out so late at night….”
“It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault. I was wrong to walk that late at night and had blamed God for it but now I realize, it wasn’t His fault either. I just…I just have to wait and see what He has in store for me.”
Her mother stared at her and shook her head, “You’ve always been older than your age. I remember when you were about three and I had told you to stop calling our neighbour “Iya Moses” but to call her “Mummy” and you asked me, ‘But, how many Mummys do I have?’” Her mother smiled tenderly at the memory, her eyes taking on a faraway look. “You just seemed to grow too fast for me to handle. But I know you’ll be a better mother than I am.”
Anjola smiled. “Thank you ma.” She was tempted to seize the moment and ask her all the questions she had always itched to have answers to, like how she ended up this way, what happened to her father but she held her tongue. This moment was a fragile one.
Now was not the time.
“So, how long will you stay with them?” her mother asked.
“I don’t know yet. Maybe till the baby comes or maybe longer. I’m still not sure but I’m hoping something will come up. I just have to get away from here.”
She nodded “I understand.”
Anjola packed some of her things and spent most of the day looking for the most tactful, honest way to explain to Bose and her siblings that she wasn’t going to be around for a while. She only told Toke about the baby but decided to hide that information from Bose, knowing her friend. She wasn’t ready for the whole world to know yet.
They had cried, especially Toke but when she left very early the next morning, before the sun peeked in the sky, before any eye could see her, she knew it was for the best.
* * * *