Xhiz stood in the corridor, resting his back on one of the many poles that supported the flat roofing above the corridor. It was still twilight, dark enough that the corridor was hidden in shadow, perfectly obscuring him from view as he waited. He’d left school at five thirty and endured an hour of morning traffic so he wouldn’t arrive too late and now here he was, almost two hours later, kept waiting by Kike. He glanced at his phone’s screen again and fought to tweet another rant.
He watched the LUTH maternity ward from his vantage point, surprised at the sheer number of women waddling in from the hospital’s parking lot, their arms steadied by doting husbands, sisters, mothers and other familial relatives and he felt a small pang of guilt. He knew he should have gone to Kike’s house to pick her up instead of taking the easy route and coming to wait for her here like she’d suggested. She said she knew how Nigerians never knew how to keep their mouths shut and she didn’t want anyone falsely assuming he was the idiot who knocked her up.
‘That honour is exclusively for Saanyol.’ she’d joked bitterly.
He was such a coward for letting her convince him it was for the best.
‘I’m better than this’ he thought to himself and made his way to towards the maternity ward. As he drew closer he noticed a woman hunched forward on one of the benches, breathing heavily. There was something familiar about her, something he couldn’t quite place his hands on even though most of her face was obscured by her loosely draped head scarf. He walked over.
Kike raised her head and spotted Xhiz. She took a deep breath and tried raise herself but pain lanced through her leg and up her spine and she winced. She instead extended an arm towards him. Xhiz took it and lifted her up as gently as he could. He led her through the ward into the loud waiting room filled with heaving and sighing women.
“By the way, what the hell is this getup and why are you wearing a wedding ring? I barely even recognised you. You look like one of those haggard wives from Fuji house of commotion.” Xhiz whispered at her.
She rolled her eyes. “I have a size 46 waist now, it’s not as if I can just reach into my wardrobe and pick out a random pair of skinny jeans and put them on. Besides, these nurses don’t roll their eyes as much when they think you’re an unfortunate underage bride instead of a stupid teenager with an unwanted pregnancy.”
“What happened to you?” Xhiz asked.
Kike sighed. “Slept on my foot last night. Now it’s swollen. Pregnancy woes.”
“Why didn’t your dad bring you?”
Kike pretended not to hear him, instead turning her eyes towards the overhead clock. It was a little over seven thirty which meant she still had some time to wait before her name was called, a little time to catch up.
“How was moving into the hostel finally?” she asked.
“Good good. Farhad’s clothes are always all over the place and he never seems to remember where he kept something after using it but other than that it’s not nearly as bad as I feared.”
Xhiz took out his phone and tapped it diligently, his brief but regular chuckles interjecting the silence between them. Kike felt her curiosity rise under a current of annoyance. He was supposed to be here to keep her company; she didn’t take too well to someone else taking his attention from her. She reached over and snatched his phone out of his hands and held it away as he lunged and tried to steal it back.
“Kai! Kai! settle down jor, can’t you see I’m pregnant?”
“Kike, please give me back my phone.” Xhiz begged.
“Not until you tell me what is making you giggle like a vagina.”
Xhiz scowled at her and lunged for the phone again. She ducked out of his path at the last second and Xhiz fell forward, onto the very pregnant woman sitting next to Kike. The woman turned and glared at the both of them and they immediately took their seats, chastened. The woman’s withering gaze settled on Kike and she clucked loudly before turning away.
“Shebi you see what you caused.” Kike hissed, “Oya, I promise I won’t look at your phone if you tell me what you’re hiding.”
“Hand over the phone and I’ll tell you.” Xhiz bargained.
Xhiz sighed. It was worth the try. “Okay,” he began, “Remember all those people that flooded my DMs fishing for information after that whole Luminous nonsense?”
Kike nodded. “Well, There was one of them that I started DMing regularly. I won’t tell you what his handle is, but sha when everyone else finally got bored, he didn’t. He said he’d known about everything before it blew up and had been looking for a way to talk to me.”
“Is he a faggot?” Kike quipped. Xhiz raised an eyebrow and she rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Don’t start with your politically correct nonsense, you know what I mean.”
“No, he is not Gay. At least that’s what he said. Like his third DM after we started talking, ‘No I am not gay, and no I’m not interested in sleeping with you’ were his exact words. He says he wants to be my friend and so far he’s been quite interesting. Even though every now and then he goes creepy on me.”
“Creepy? How?” Kike interjected.
Xhiz squirmed. “He kind of is intense with a lot of things, asks what I’m doing, talks to me a lot, asks me to send pictures of myself every now and then, not nudes sha. And well, he brings random handles of people of twitter and asks about their sexuality and wants me to use my ‘gay contacts’ or whatever that means to find out about them and stuff. I’ve asked why before and he said he’s just curious.”
Kike gawked at Xhiz, letting everything he’d just said sink in. Eventually she sighed and handed his phone back to him.
“So all this has been happening in your DMs. You must have a lot of time on your hands.”
Xhiz gave a guilty chuckle. “Well, he’s on my Whatsapp now. Been for a while. You know, with everything happening with us, it’s good to have someone I can just talk to. He’s a relief from all the drama.’
‘Oh?’ Kike cocked her head. ‘Do you know what he looks like?’
‘So why do you trust him?’
‘Then Chibuzor, why are you letting this continue? I know I’m no model for good decisions, I mean look at me in my mother’s clothes pretending to be married so people won’t question my pregnancy but make e no be like say I no tell you; this ‘thing’ wey you dey do with this ‘guy’ no go end well.’
Kike turned to the sound and raised herself up so the nurse who’d shouted her name would see her. The nurse’s face lit up with recognition and she beckoned.
“Just think about what I said.” Kike said, before turning away and limping over to the consultation room.
He watched her go, his nerves all a tingle with a sense of foreboding. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Kike was right but he wanted to give Larry the benefit of the doubt, it was only fair.
The chatter began immediately she entered her department and followed her as she took her time navigating the stairs up to her class. It was as though they all forgot she was pregnant when classes ended for the day and had to reenact the whole charade of gasping in surprise when they saw her, staring at her as she passed and gossiping afterwards. She did her best to ignore them, focusing instead on her hurting leg and favoring it as much as possible. Having to go back home and change into age appropriate clothing had taken more time than she had anticipated, a risk she would have gladly taken if it wasn’t Mrs Arigbede class.
She finally reached the floor and took a moment to catch her breath and ready herself. She went to the door at the far end of the lecture theatre, cringing as it gave a screech when she pushed it open. Heads swiveled, looking for the source of the distraction and widened when they settled on her. She lowered her head and shuffled to the nearest person with a chair.
“Please can I share?” she asked under her breath.
Kike froze in her half crouch as Mrs Arigbede’s scratchy voice reached her. She straightened slowly and faced the woman’s sly smile.
“Come forward, I asked them to keep a seat for you in front so that you don’t have to stress yourself squinting to see the board or straining to hear what I say all the way from over there. Pregnancy doesn’t deserve any more stress than necessary.”
Kike gave a grim smile and headed for the front of the class. The only thing that could be heard in the deathly silence that took over the hall was the slap-slap of her sandals as she took her time coming down the path between the columns of seats. She knew they were all waiting to see if she would slip or something more embarrassing would befall her and she was determined to disappoint them. She got to the front of the class without event and thankfully sank into the plush chair usually reserved for visiting lecturers. Mrs Arigbede gave her a smile and turned back to the board and began to write.
“See, I like Olasinde’s determination.” She remarked loud enough for the entire class to hear as she copied out the day’s notes. “Normally girls just disappear to their villages when they allow one stupid boy trick them into getting pregnant. But not Olasinde, she’s such a strong girl. When I was pregnant, leaving my bed to go to the fridge was torture. But then again, unlike her I was sensible enough to get pregnant in my husband’s house.”
The class erupted with snide laughter. Mrs Arigbede who usually never tolerated any disturbance in her class faced her board squarely and pretended not to notice. Kike shriveled in her seat, kept eyes firmly on the board and copied, unexpected tears brimming under her lashes.
It took all of Kike’s strength to drag herself up her street, through her gate and down to her front door. She fumbled in her bags for her keys and let herself in, stopping by the door to pull off her sandals and rub her swollen foot. She reached down and froze when she noticed the beautiful pair of black patent platform heels with vibrant red soles. Surprise shook her as she realised it was size 29. There was only one woman she knew who had feet that small. Anger surged through her and flushed her cheeks and she trampled her way past the foyer and into the moderately sized living room.
‘LINDA! What the fuck are you doing here?’ She spat at the woman sitting on the couch furthest from her, her youngest brother on her lap.
The woman smiled and dropped the boy, squeezing a one thousand naira note into his grubby palm and whispering that he go play inside. She stood up, ran a hand through her expensive Brazilian weave before addressing Kike.
’I came to offer my condolences. Your father called me.’
She felt the baby move and her hand instinctively flew to her swollen abdomen. The nurse had told her to avoid getting unnecessarily agitated. She took a menacing step forward and growled.
‘Thank you for coming. But I don’t why the hell you presume coming back is a good idea. I thought you said you wanted nothing to do with us.’
Kike’s mother blanched. ‘I said I wanted nothing to do with your father, not you. You’re my baby, and I will always be here for you. Your father called me and told me you need my help.’
Kike cocked an eyebrow. ‘Me?!!! Need anything from you?’
Linda replied, unfazed. ‘He told me your child’s grandmother had offered to raise the child for you and you refused. I’m quite comfortable with your step father and we have no children. I can help you with the baby when it comes, and care for it until you’re ready to take over…”
‘Yeah! Like I’ll believe anything that comes out of your selfish, self-serving mouth. You think you’ll just reappear after five years in your Brazilian weave and your Louboutins looking a unilag whore and expect me to put my child’s life in your hands?
‘Do I look like a fucking idiot to you? You think I’ll let you fuck with my child’s head like you fucked with mine? You cheap-‘
‘SHUT UP YOUR DIRTY MOUTH THERE!’ Mr Olasinde bellowed, suddenly appearing from inside the house. Kike grew quiet, her anger ebbing just as quickly as it had risen. She realized she’d actually been screaming.
Kike’s dad turned to her mom. ‘Linda, I thought I told you to not come and agitate my daughter. What is this nonsense?’ he turned to Kike. ‘And you Kike, I have told you, no child of mine will have an abortion, neither will I raise anyone’s bastard in my house. I married one whore and raised another; I have done more than my quota of goodwill for humanity. So you better decide what you’re going to do.’
Kike looked from her father, to her mother and suddenly felt alienated from the both of them. She dropped her head and fled to her room, locking the door behind her. She heard heated words from beyond her door and wondered if it wasn’t better that her parents had divorced. She banished the tears that were threatening to fall and stiffened her upper lip. Nobody was going to force her into doing anything. Those days were gone. Plus it was Saanyol’s baby too. Just because he was in rehab didn’t give her any right to do with his child as she wished. She sighed, it was time. She picked her phone and dialled the only American number she had stored on her phone but had never called. The phone rang twice and was put through to a switch board.
“I’d like to speak to a patient, Saanyol Terwase please.”
“Hello, who’s this?”
“Saan, its Kike. Please don’t cut the call, I have something important to tell you.”