February 26th, 2013
We sat in near silence in the small meeting room for over 30 minutes. Near silence, as it was punctuated with Ebika’s tears. I just sat there, watching her helplessly. Ebika wasn’t a crier! She was an action woman…a tough cookie! This wasn’t like her at all!
“Babe, if you don’t stop, you’re going to get me started oh!” I threatened, except it wasn’t quite a threat, as my voice was already shaking. Watching her was breaking my heart.
“I’m so sorry, Faith,” she managed to say “I shouldn’t be stressing you like this.”
“What’s wrong????!” I asked, fully exasperated at this point.
After a lengthy pause, she responded quietly “I had an abortion this weekend…” she smiled sadly “Saturday, to be precise. That was why I couldn’t follow you to Ejiro’s house.”
My eyes almost popped out of their sockets. An abortion??!!
My reaction finally made Ebika laugh. “Look at your face! I knew you would react that way.”
“Babe, who…what…how…?” I stuttered lamely. It occurred to me that, truly truly, I knew absolutely nothing about her personal life. Nothing. Zilch. Nada!
It had been her long time boyfriend who had been responsible for the pregnancy. And by long time, she meant lonnnnnggggg time, dating back to her University days. Like my neighbor Nwando and her fiancé Obinna, this guy had been Ebika’s first love, and they had been inseparable in their Uni days, and even afterwards. But unlike Nwando, whose relationship had ended when her man left the country, Ebika’s had ended when her boyfriend had decided to marry someone else.
The lame excuse had been that his parents didn’t want him to marry an Ibo girl, and since he was from a polygamous family and competition was stiff, he couldn’t afford to rock the boat. So, he had to do their bidding. That would have been all fine and good, if he had just left her alone. But no, Demola had kept her hanging, with the belief that he would only stay married to his wife for as long as his father was alive, as he didn’t want to risk being disinherited. He made her believe that she was his only love, and that he was only tolerating his wife.
And so, she had become a bona fide mistress. Because of him, she hadn’t encouraged any suitors, and had been waiting for years, for the time when she would finally be with her man forever.
The years had rolled by. From the twenty six years of age she had been when Demola married, she had soon turned thirty, and was now staring 35 in the face. Alas, Baba Demola, despite being in his 80s, had refused to kick the bucket…until about a year ago. She said she had come across his obituary in the newspapers, and apart from being overjoyed, had been surprised that Demola, whom she had seen just the night before, had never cared to mention it to her. When she confronted him about how he could keep such important news from her, considering this was what they had been waiting for all these years, he had come up with yet another lame excuse of being so bogged down with funeral preps, that it had slipped his mind.
Then things assumed a new dimension, with Demola procrastinating breaking the news to his wife, that he was leaving her for his longtime love. If his wife wasn’t sick, it was his child that was sick…there was always something to justify the delay.
But Ebika had waited patiently. Until she found out she was pregnant.
It wasn’t her first pregnancy. In the 9 years she had been waiting for him, she had terminated 5 other pregnancies. But this time, with the perceived main obstacle in their relationship removed, she was determined to keep this baby…and she had told Demola so, in clear terms.
And that was when the volcano had erupted. He had told her there was no way he was leaving his wife and kids, whom he loved dearly. He had told her she was a fool to think he would do otherwise, and that, in fact, she was one of many women he was seeing.
The scales had fallen from her eyes, and she realized that she had wasted the better part of her prime years on a man who had been playing her for a fool.
“For a little while, I was determined to keep the baby, and damn the consequences,” she continued “I was going to tell his wife everything, and I would have demanded he cater for us completely. House in Banana Island and everything!” the latter part made her laugh.
“Then what changed?” I asked.
“Phillip’s proposal video.” she answered, with a sad smile “That video touched me to my core. It made me see that I had been settling for less for so long. Your brother’s fiancée looks the same age as me, but there she was, getting a romantic proposal from a man who loves her,” she shrugged “So, I decided I had to let Demola go.”
And by letting him go, I knew she meant his baby as well.
That was when I realized that it wasn’t Demola she was crying for. She had already come to terms with that loss. No, she was mourning her baby. And I immediately could relate with the hollow sadness she was feeling.
I didn’t have the words to comfort her…I didn’t have the words to say. So, we just sat in the meeting room, arms wrapped each other, and wept together…for her loss…and her misplaced love.