“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep this up. I saw your mom this morning again and I ran.” Emeka said, a worried expression on his face.

“I know. Please be patient with me. I just need a little time to sort my feelings out.” Nkechi pleaded.

“You are too young to sort this thing out by yourself. You need parental guidance.” Emeka insisted.

“My mother won’t understand. Besides, what will I tell her I was doing outside the house by that time?” She asked.

“You’ll have to make something up. You can’t be allowed to go through this trauma alone.” He said, his face creased in a worried frown. She smiled and touched his face affectionately. He really did care.

“But I’m not alone in this. You’ve always been there for me.”

There was an awkward silence. Her soft caress sent shivers through him. That night, a pure cold rage he had never known had gripped him when she got to his house in such a mess. A look at her slightly reddened right eye, dusty clothes, dusty body, the trickle of blood from her legs and the vacant expression on her face told him what had happened. He had raved and ranted, temporarily losing his mind at the horror. Why would anybody rape Nkechi? Why were people so wicked?! She answered not a word to his twenty one questions. She’d had just asked to go to the bathroom where she was for a while. He passed her a t-shirt and a pair of shorts to change into after she’d had a bath. When she came out, she was still in a daze, shivering. Her light complexioned face had reddened immeasurably. There was a little gash across her right eye. Even when he applied a little spirit to the gash on her eye, she seemed immune to the pain. It was when he held her in a tight embrace that the tears burst forth. She wept and wept while he comforted her like a he would a baby. She finally fell asleep in his arms on the floor.

He remembered the way he felt that night. For the first time in his life, he felt he could commit murder and get away with it. If only he could get who did this, words would be inadequate to explain the gruesome pain he would make that guy go through. He was furious with her too for taking such a risk but now was hardly the time to trade blames. He lay awake listening to her quiet but laboured breathing while he imagined himself castrating the culprit in a hundred different ways. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, she woke with a start, struggling and screaming. It took quite an effort to subdue and calm her down. It was then he took her to the bed and gently encouraged her to go back to sleep after her many tears of fright. He decided there and then never to bring up the issue of what happened that night again. She really need time to heal. The next morning, he bought her the pill and told her take it. Weeks later when she told him she felt malaria symptoms, he knew immediately she was pregnant. He felt depressed when she told him she had forgotten to take the pill. Things got worse when her mother discovered and concluded it had to be him when she wouldn’t talk. They talked everyday since the incident and there was no telling now that a deeper bond had been formed between them.

“So have you decided?” He asked quietly.

“I’m going to abort it.” She said with conviction.

“That’s too big a decision to take NK. You shouldn’t take it on your own. You’re too young for that.” Emeka reasoned.

“My mother would never allow it. She’ll tell me its a gift from God.”

“And you know this how? Don’t assume. I’m sure she’ll understand the peculiar circumstances.”

She shook her head vehemently. “My mother is the strongest catholic you’ll ever know. She’ll never allow it for whatever reason.”

“But you are catholic as well, aren’t you? Don’t you think you’ll feel bad ending the life of an innocent child?”

She gave him a ridiculous look. “Are you seriously trying to make me feel guilty over my decision?”

“No, I’m just telling you the truth.” He said quietly.

She gave a short sarcastic laugh and looked away. Emeka couldn’t understand what that laugh meant but he didn’t have to ask.

“Haven’t you ever gotten a girl pregnant before?” She asked suddenly. The question was one hell of a jolt.

“What…what has that…that got to do with anything?” He stammered, totally taken by surprise.

“Why would you even ask me that?!” He continued, regaining his balance and getting angry at himself for letting her get him unawares.

“I’m was just asking. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” She said penitently, realizing he was angry.

“I’m not offended…but that was a quite a presumptive question.” He said, a bit relieved.

There was an awkward silence between them. He marveled at her once again. She was a wonder to behold. Too smart for her age; too damn smart. He silently vowed never to underestimate her again because of her age. He looked at her and couldn’t help but see just how beautiful she was. The little gash on her right eye had healed nicely and was barely visible. Her pretty eyes still shone brilliantly despite the eye bags which suggested she hadn’t been sleeping much recently. Regardless, she was still her smart and vivacious self. Her long flowered gown danced as the evening wind blew. She played with a mango leaf that she’d idly plucked. He sighed and gave in.

“Ok. I have and I had her abort it. But I was young and foolish then…I was in school. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody…you don’t have to make the same mistake I did.” He said.

“I don’t think you made a mistake. I think you made a practical decision.” She said quietly.

Again he was taken aback by her understanding and unbiased perspective. Boy! Have I got a live one here, he thought.

“Sometimes, I still feel guilt…” He said looking away. He had often wondered in his moments of reflection if his life would have been any different than it was now. The child would have been seven years old by now had he been courageous enough. The last he’d heard about Agatha, she was married.

“Emeka…I understand you perfectly but I really need you to understand me.” She pleaded softly. “I have struggled to subdue what happened to me and I’ve almost succeeded but this…”thing” growing inside me will always be a reminder.” She said looking at her stomach. She paused and looked away, her voice choking with emotion. Her hand caressed her stomach unconsciously.

“I want to forget that I lost my virginity to a rapist. Don’t I deserve a second chance?”

Emeka sighed heavily. He really couldn’t fault her. Her reasons were mature and iron clad. He tried a different approach.

“What if something happens? What if something goes wrong?” He asked feeling trapped.

“What could go wrong? Girls have abortions everyday.” She said laughing off his fears.

“That still doesn’t make me feel any better.” He said looking glum

“Would you prefer I kept the child? Would you raise the child with me?”

“I’m sure your mother will support you. That’s if she doesn’t make an exception to her rule against abortion.”

“I know my mother.” Nkechi insisted stubbornly. “She will never go against the doctrines of her faith for any reason.”

Emeka wanted to say something but felt tongue tied. He was dreading the prospect of being the one to accompany her to the table. What if something wrong happened? Especially now that her mother was so convinced that he was responsible.

“Nkechi, this line of thought you are towing is unreasonable. Its not safe. You have to inform your mother before you go ahead. I will not have a hand in this because if something goes wrong, my life will be over as we know it.” He said firmly.

She knew he was serious and was done arguing. The way his face became bare of emotion was a sign she was used to. Why wouldn’t he understand that nothing would go wrong? She felt tears well up in her eyes. He had just rejected her.

“Fine. I’ll do it alone.” She said in defiance like a petulant child, choking back her tears. She turned to leave but he held her back. A great gust of wind blew bringing a little dust and the unlocked gate of leading to her compound swung open. He pulled her to himself and she couldn’t hold her tears a longer.

“Why are you abandoning me now?” She sobbed.

“I’m not abandoning you.” Emeka said, alarmed that she thought that. “I just want to do the right thing.” He held her tighter and caressed her back. He felt her tears wet his shirt but he didn’t mind.

It was getting dark already. The mango tree provided a good shade from the prying eyes of neighbours who hung around their balconies and had a good view of inside her compound and outside where they stood. He made an on the spot decision.

“When is your mother coming back?” He asked suddenly.

“She’ll be home before eight.” She said, wiping her eyes.

“Ok.” He said falling silent.

She looked into his face in the creeping darkness. The shadows of the evening were cast on his face. His eyes shone with intensity. She always felt safe with him.

“You are going to tell your mother everything tonight.” He blurted out suddenly.

“But…” She protested.

“I’ll be with here with you when you do. Whatever you decide to do afterwards, I’ll stick my neck in.” He continued, ignoring her protest.

She wanted to protest further but she knew it was useless. His mind was made up. At least, he would be there. She knew her mother liked him.

“So will you at least come inside now? The mosquitoes here have been dealing with me since.” She asked, after a few seconds of silence.

He adjusted his satchel and hand in hand, they walked into the house.

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