A few weeks after the next orientation programme, we were having a community development meeting very close to another CDSgroup whose members were discussing like chatterboxes. Though I didn’t know what they were discussing, it became obvious that they were talking about the girl that got pregnant while in camp and couldn’t find the corpps member who impregnated her.
I really pitied her as she walked towards her group whose members stopped talking the moment they saw her. It was obvious they were talking about her before she arrived because they all stopped talking when she got there.
She joined and greeted her group members.
Two of the group members whispered to each other then started giggling until the president called them to order. With belief that I have seen enough, I concentrated on the discussion in my own CDS meeting. Barely five minutes later, I noticed the pregnant corper rushed out of her group to a nearby shrub and she started throwing up. She immediately created a scene and gave other CDS groups the opportunity to gossip about her. I pitied her more as she was throwing up.
I figured she was having a serious difficulty vomiting whatever she wanted to throw up. I quickly went to buy two pure water sachets, and went to her to render assistance. II was surprised when she pushed my hand away as I offered her the water. Corper weeee o sorry, I said though I didn’t expect or wait for her to reply ‘waaaaa o’ which was the usual form of solidarity greeting among Corps members. “Take this water and clean up yourself, I went on. I expected her to accept my gesture but the reply I got was, Leave me alone. I don’t want your water.’
Her response made me know she was lonely and passing through a bad case of the heave which is making her react in such a manner. Nonetheless, I was not ready to leave and so I insisted on helping her. Come on, take the water. You need it O and you know that.’ She accepted defeat and took the water from me. After cleaning up, she was ashamed to return to her CDS group because most of the corps members and most of her CDS group members were standing behind us murmuring ‘sorry’ while some other corpers were staring at her from a distance.
Some of the corpers who didn’t know her and thought she was ill1 were getting the gist that she was the corper who got laid while in camp. I noticed she was ashamed so I led her off to the road so she could take a bike and return home. While standing and waiting for the bike, I introduced myself to her as Azeez and she said her name was Ifeoma. When a bike came around, I noticed she was feeling dizzy and I offered to accompany her to her house.
Though she refused my offer, she was not strong enough to shove me off as I mounted the bike behind her. I was glad I did because en route her lodge, she either leaned on the okada man or rested her back on me. We got there safely.
After helping her into her room, I offered to render more assistance. She hastened to assure me that she would be fine and told me to leave. That was how we became friends.
Ifeoma’s predicament remained an eyesore to her and she frequently cried whenever she was alone or thinking deeply as she regretted her actions and mistakes. On two occasions, I entered her room unnoticed and found her wearing a forlorn look while soliloquizing. On one of those occasions, she attempted to take an overdose of abortion pills.
It was fortunate that I came in on time to stop her. From that day, I made up my mind to become closer to her. In time, she started opening up and having a renewed belief in life.
Ifeoma and I spend most of our days together. While I spent the weekends attending lectures for a professional courseI enrolled for, Ifeoma was learning crafts initiated by the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme popularly called SAED. Even then, I took out time to pay her frequent visits. It got to the stage that many corpers started floating another rumour that I was responsible for her pregnancy. Friends accused me right to my face that I was responsible for her pregnancy.
They nicknamed me ‘oko oloyun’, meaning the husband of a pregnant woman. I ignored the hear say and accusations and focused on my friendship with Ifeoma. I found Ifeoma to be a well-mannered and respectful girl.
Although she was an Ibo girl, she knew and practised the nitty-gritty of Yoruba customs and tradition. I speak and understand my native Yoruba language and a bit of Hausa language.
Because Ifeoma was Igbo and could speak Yoruba, I considered people like us as the real Nigerians. Ifeoma and I got along well and formed a close bond. I pitied her so much because the pregnancy seemed to trouble her a lot.
She was almost always in pain, spitting or vomiting while having to deal with the stigmatisation attached to her pregnancy by fellow corps member.
They constantly called her names behind her back and to her face. Some even said she didn’t know the man responsible for her pregnancy because she had sexual affairs with many men.
Despite her condition, Ifeoma was serious with her primary assignment. While she taught at Baptist High School, I taught Government at Oba-Laoye grammar school. Barely three months in that school, I noticed that one of my students had a crush on me.
Though the girl looked pretty small and I felt it was a despicable act to have anything other than educational studies to do with her, it was not news that fellow male corpers do engage in illicit sexual act with their students.
As much as I tried to avoid the girl, she always had one excuse or the other to come to me, even in the staff room. It got to a stage where colleagues in the staff room noticed her advances. Most of them advised me to take the advantage and sleep with the girl but I refused to heed their advice. The girl named Suurat started using gimmicks to find reasons to visit me at home but I did not give in to her schemes.
Two weeks later, I started feeling some discomfort in my stomach. It got worse and attracted other pains, forcing me to go to the doctor. There I found out that I had typhoid fever. I was given some medications and injections so I couldn’t go to sch0ol to teach. Some of my colleagues came by to wish me speedy recovery while others sent text messages or called my mobile device. I then called Ifeoma to inform her of my sudden illness but found out she had unexpectedly travelled to Ibadan that morning.
I lay down on my bed that night. I was too weak to get up from the bed not to talk of getting food to eat s0 as to use my medication. I was thinking of how to gather the strength to go outside and see if I could send a kid in the compound to get me a loaf of bread when a soft rap on the door interrupted me. I was glad that at least I could send whoever was at the door to get what I would eat.
Yes please come in, I answered the person at the door. As the person squeezed into the room, I raised my head. It was Suurat. I was not surprised to see her at my doorstep because one of my colleagues who visited said Suurat had been worried when she didn’t see me in school for some days and she had started making enquiries about where I lived.
Seeing me made her even more worried.
‘Ahhhh oga, e pele,’ she said, kneeling down beside me. After exchanging greetings and wishing me a speedy recovery, I told her to help me buy a loaf of bread so I could eat on time and use my medication. She quickly dashed out of my room.
Suurat returned barely minutes after she left. It was as if she’d run to and fro because she was panting when she got back. Then she told me she wanted to takee her leave. I was glad she wanted to leave early, but was surprised to see her show up barely an hour later with ingredients for soup. She washed my pot, which had a sour remnant of soup in it, washed the dirty plates and cooked me a pot of delicious vegetable Soup.
I was surprised to see her cook so well. When she finished cooking, I looked at the time on the wall clock and it was 8:30 pm. She sat by me and urged me to get up and eat a little ‘eko’, a Nigerian jell made fromcorn flour, with the vegetable soup she prepared. It was the perfect food for someone on a sick bed. I got up and managed to eat up before lying down to rest a little. I woke up by 2:00 AM to find Suurat sleeping by my side on the bed. I woke up because of the heat and was perspiring.
There was power outage, which was rare in Ede. I was about to get up from the bed when power was restored. I looked at Suurat by my side and she was fast asleep, then I slept off again. Before I woke up the next morning, she had woken up, cooked rice and washed my dirty cloths. ‘Uncle ekaaro, she knelt and greeted me. ‘Kaaro,’ I replied. ‘Suurat, why didn’t you go home yesterday? What do you want your parents to say? Won’t they be worriedly looking all over for you?” Solemnly, Suurat replied that her parents wouldn’t be looking for her because they died a long time ago. She told her aunty whom she lived with that she would pass the night in my house because I was on a sickbed.
Suurat explained to me that she was an independent tailor who worked at home in the evenings after school and she was also the bread winner of the family comprising her aunty and her younger sibling, Mujeeb. Consequently, she had considerable freedom at home. Suurat stood by me till I recovered: cooking, washing, and running errands for me. I began to like her, especially when she told me she would be twenty years old by the end of the year.
I was convinced she was mature enough though still in secondary school. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to give in to Suurat’s scheme to lure me into bed. She came visiting one evening after I had just seen Ifeoma off and was returning to my abode.
I saw her waiting for me by my doorstep. Shortly after I walked her in, the clouds started gathering and a violent storm started followed by thunder and lightning. It was obvious that it would rain seriously. I remembered that I washed some clothes and they were still on the line at the backyard.
I told Suurat that I needed to get them off the line before the rain started, but she should help me shut the louvers because particles and dust were being raised and might come in. She offered to get the clothes, and she ran to the backyard. I quickly went in to shut the louvers. She was yet to get to the backyard when the rain started pouring down as if God himself was angry.
By the time she got back, she was dripping rainwater and shivering as she clung to my clothes with half of them already wet. I hurriedly took the clothes and handed her my towel. It was obvious that she had to change into some fresh dry clothes so I went to my wardrobe and got her one of my t-shirts and three-quarter shorts. Then I left the room to give her privacy to change and also separate my wet clothes from the dry ones.
When I returned to the room, Suurat was lying on the bed firmly tucked under my blanket. I went close to her and saw her shivering. Anyone would have caught a cold if caught up in such a heavy downpour.
Her lips were visibly vibrating from the cold then she started sneezing. I quickly got my mentholated Robb, and gave it to her hoping it would relieve the sudden cold and nasal congestion. She collected it from me and said she would be okay as she applied the ointment to her nose and rubbed her sides then returned it to me.
I asked her if she would like to take a hot beverage and she nodded her head in agreement. I went to the stove at a corner in my room, lit it and put a kettle filled with water on it. When the tea was ready, Suurat got up from the bed and walked towards me. I found out that she wore only the t-shirt and left the three-quarter shorts on the bed. Walking towards me, my eyes made contact with her smooth toned tighs.
I quickly looked away and offered her the cup of hot cocoa drink. She took the cup and thanked me then diluted the tea with water from the halfempty sachet of water on my table in pretext that it was too hot. Suurat gulped downed the content of the cup almost immediately then went back to bed.
‘Uncle, please help me bring that Robb,’ Suurat requested in Yoruba. She said she was still cold and wanted me to help her rob her back with the mentholated ointment. I took the Robb and went to her. As she raised her cloth facing me, I found out that she had no panties on.
To be continued.