While queuing for lunch, I saw Jamal walking towards the platoon three waiting line at the kitchen. I knew he was looking for me so I quickly dodged and left the queue. Id never seen him anywhere close to the kitchen since our first day in camp so I knew he didn’t eat there. People like him ate at mami market alone.
I felt foolish for feeling something for this guy who took advantage of me. Everything seemed confusing at that moment because I thought deeply and felt if he’d actually taken advantage of me, would he still come searching for me?
The only reasonable conclusion was that he enjoyed sleeping with me and he wanted more of the cookie which was why he came searching for me. Ifeoma, how did it happen?’ Franca asked. Instead of answering, I burst into tears. The girls quickly came forward to console me. If only I had known there and then that those tears were actually preliminary!
After camp, Ngozi, Franca and I were posted to Ede town.Jamal tried his possible best to see me before we got the posting, but I kept hiding from him. I was too ashamed of what we had done and felt he would see me as a cheap girl.On our last day in camp, Jamal and I finally met once again.
I was trying to hail a bike to the Catholic Church family house which served as a makeshift hostel to corps members pending the time each Corper would find a suitable apartment to rent. Suddenly, I felt those supple hands on my shoulders. Though I was yet to see him, I hadn’t forgotten the smell of his comforting perfume. It was the same perfume he Wore on that night. I turned around to see Jamal’s smiling face.
‘My queen, what have I done to deserve this from you? You have done nothing, I replied with a straight face.”Then why have you been avoiding me?” ‘Nothing, I just wanted it to end there.You got me drunk and had your way. Was that not enough?What else do you want from me?” I asked accusingly.’More of the free sex I guess?
If that’s what you want, I’m Sorry too disappoint you because you won’t get it!” Without waiting for his reply, I hopped on the bike with my heavy leather box on my lap and told the impatient bike man to zoom ofi. As the bike man maneuvered the bike away from the camp gate, Jamal chased the bike, asking for my number but I declined as the rider zoomed off.
That was the last I saw of Jamal. I was posted to teach Geography at Baptist High School, Ede. Three weeks after resuming for duty at the secondary school, I started feeling nauseous. It was like I had a worm stuck in my throat and it was trying to get away. I bought some Tomtom sweets from a nearby kiosk believing it would stop the nauseating feeling, but it just did so temporarily.
Immediately after the assembly that morning, I began feeling dizzy and nauseous again. I started vomiting as I was heading to the principal’s office. Two female teachers came to my aid then I passed out. I would have concluded I had a fever but when I was revived few minutes later, the first question the vice principal asked me when I was alone with her in her office was, ‘When last did you see your period?”
I would have laughed off such question but it scared me and I felt guilty like a thief caught in the act. It took a long time before I could go home and when I eventually did, it was in shame.
I knew I had put my family and myself to shame. Mum was disappointed in me when she first saw me with the disgrace, which had formed a bulge in my stomach. She cried profusely and abused me for putting the family to shame. The bad part of it was that I didn’t just get pregnant, I got pregnant for a man I didn’t know, whose family I didn’t know and I didn’t even have his contact.
The worst part was the fact that my family’s religious doctrine frowned at abortion. Even if I had thought of it, I knew my mother would never agree and she might disown me if I brought up the idea. When my father’s family heard about my shameful pregnancy, they pounced on my mother and me just like a lion attacking a helpless, wounded antelope.
Mum couldn’t defend herself when they accused her of being incapable of taking care of their brother’s children. As much as mum protested, a family meeting was held in the village and they resolved to sending my siblings, Victor and Vivian, to live with family members in Anambra because they believed mother was not just incapable of taking care of us financially, but also morally so she had to be relieved of her motherly duties. She had to live alone in Ibadan thereafter.
Consequently, in order to make ends meet, mum started selling fresh vegetables at Orita market while I sent to her part of my monthly allowance which wasn’t enough to take care of my unborn bastard and me. To make matters worse, my kind of pregnancy was very rare.
It was as if the child was bent on punishing me because I was almost always ill and I threw up every bit of whatever I ate till I became very lean. Three months later, I went for a Community Development Service meeting. While having the CDS group meeting, I started feeling dizzy and nauseated.
I rushed to a nearby shrub to vomit and that was how I met Azeez. Though I didn’t want to pay him any attention, he remained adamant and I was glad I gave him a brief audience. Azeez became my only friend during my service year. I found out that most of the youth corpers at the local governnment had already found out how I got pregnant.
I became the laughing stock but didn’t allow that to distress me. I kept only Azeez as my friend knowing Ngozi and Franca were responsible for spreading the news. The peak of it all was when I read of my news on a social blog. Though my name was withheld, the story it was telling was of me.
I gave it a deep thought then went to the local government inspector, Mr. Oyinlola, a be spectacled faircomplexioned man in his mid-foties. I told him what happened. I saw the man as a father who was always willing to help corpers out with their troubles. The man consoled me and promised to help me get Jamal.
It was a pity that all I knew about him was just his first name Jamal. Two weeks later, Mr. Oyinlola called me into his office when I had just finished signing the payment voucher for the next month. He said he’d checked and double-checked his own list as well as the list of all corps members that camped during the batch I belonged to but there was no Jamal.
My heart started racing fast on hearing that information. It felt as if my womb was compressed and it could no longer hold the growing foetus. I woke up to find myself in the hospital faced with the realization that I would have to carry the shame and burden of being a single mother for the rest of my life.
Immediately, that childhood dream, which almost all young girls had, of getting married and having a big societal wedding in a sparkling white wedding dress which I dreamt of died in me. Knowing it was a grave offence to engage in sexual activities in the camp, Mr. Oyinlola advised me not to take the case to the state coordinator’s office because I might end up being punished for having sex with a total stranger while in camp.
Though I lost hope of finding Jamal, Mr. Oyinlola went further to speak with the man in charge of records and asked if he could allow me go through the profiles of all Corps members that camped at Ede.
The man refused to comply with the excuse that going through almost three thousand profiles just to identify one person via a passport photograph would not be an easy task for him to perform. Mr. Oyinlola tried his best for me but we still didn’t find Jamal.To be continued…..