Wednesday, 30 July 2014
SPOKEN FOR 02
Kemi shut her eyes as the infant cried non-stop, louder than the sound of the small generator that powered the apartment. The child was hungry, and the mother had refused to feed her. Kemi hissed and reached out for her ear phones, and then she plugged them in her ears.
Yes, she couldn't deny that despite all the hatred she had built up towards her own daughter, a part of her wanted to reach out and calm her down. She hadn't really held the baby since they had been discharged at the hospital. Her mother dropped in some times to help take care of the baby but of late, it seemed as though her father had found out about what was happening and he now forbade her from even going to church on Sundays, because he knew she would always stop by and spend some hours at Kemi's place.
She thought about what she wanted to do with her life. She couldn't just let the child take away every hope she had for the future. Kemi opened her eyes and went towards her shelves where she had kept some of the money that her mother had given her to take care of herself and the baby. She had been thinking of going to buy a GCE form so that she could take her O'Levels at all cost. She had been counting the fifth note in the wad that she had brought out when the baby stopped crying all of a sudden. She breathed in a sigh of relief for the quiet it brought, but then there was something weird about it. She dropped the money and walked towards the small crib where the baby was placed. The child wasn't asleep. She lay there, eyes open, staring up into the ceiling, wimping. For the first time, Kemi begun to notice the semblance this baby shared with her. She had her big and round eyes, and her pointy wide ears. But the baby was bequeathed with all the beauty that Kemi had been denied. It was not understandable how something beautiful could share that much striking likeness with something not beautiful.
Kemi reached out and picked up the baby. She wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. Maybe the baby was hungry, sleepy, had pooed or had peed. She could feel the baby's high temperature. The child was sweating, and wimping like a wounded dog. Kemi hissed again, thinking of what to do. She was confused. She was still her mother's own baby. She didn't know what to do with a sick child. Immediately, she dashed for her phone and dialed her mother's number.
"Mummy!" Kemi said, trying not to panic.
"Yes, what's the matter?" Her mother replied.
"The baby is sick...it's running a high temperature and it's just making funny noises. What should I do?" Kemi said. She was afraid. She didn't like the child, but she didn't want her to die...
In about an hour, they were all at the hospital; the grandmother, the mother, and the baby. Her mother had
left the house despite her father's threats on not letting her back in if she went.
Kemi and her mother sat in the empty seats inside the doctor's office, as he examined the baby.
"How often do you feed your baby?" The doctor asked Kemi.
"I gave it some milk yesterday afternoon." Kemi said.
"What?! Yesterday afternoon?" Kemi's mother screamed, looking at her child unbelievably.
"I slept off..." Kemi replied.
The doctor was going to say something but then he kept shut.
"You need to take good care of her. She's not feeding properly. Breast feeding her exclusively will keep her very healthy. For now, we will have to do some other checking up to be sure everything is okay with her." The doctor said, after some time.
"By the way, what's her name?" The doctor asked Kemi.
She looked at him, then looked away. She didn't know the name of her child. She didn't even have a proper pronoun for her. She called the baby It.
"Where's the birth certificate?" He asked.
"It's somewhere in my house..." Kemi stuttered.
"Ejo sir," Her mother hissed. "The baby's name is Folorunsomi."
He gave Kemi a look which she couldn't really decipher if it was meant and directed at her for her irresponsibility, or maybe it was mere pity that she was a teenage mother.
Kemi's mother had decided to spend the night with her daughter and grand daughter. She didn't mind what her husband would do. What was the worst thing that could happen? He already had another family outside their marriage.
She finished bathing the baby that had obviously not been bathed for some days. As she dried her little body in a soft white towel, she tickled her cheeks. The baby giggled and chuckled, excited at the way her grandmother was playing with her. She dressed the baby up in her diaper after a dump of silky white powder, and then put her inside a onesie, then she placed her in the crib.
She saw Kemi at one end of the bed, crying.
"You really should be crying for neglecting this baby." Her mother said, walking towards her, and sitting beside her on the bed. She held Kemi's hand in hers, and then placed her daughter's head on her shoulder.
"It's okay, my baby. Every thing will be alright, sogbo?" She said softly.
"Mummy, I don't want to be a mother yet. This baby has just disrupted my life! I have a long way to still go in my life. Will any body ever want to date me or marry me because of that!" She pointed at the crib.
Her mother had had enough. She had already hit Kemi hard in the face with a slap before she could even realize it.
"Can you even hear yourself talk? How different are you from your father who disowned you?" She yelled at her.
Kemi burst into louder sobs and more tears.
"It's not fair!" She cried. "This is not how I want to live!"
"Nothing is fair in life. You are in this situation, so deal with it. You have to grow up and own up to your responsibilities!"
"I want to take my O'level exams and go to the University." Kemi said.
Her mother sighed this time.
"I can't take the baby to the house because of your dad. Who will take care of her?" She said.
The baby interrupted them with her crying. Kemi turned back and looked at the crying child from the crib, but she didn't stand up to go and cuddle or feed her. She hissed.
Her mother went over to the crib and carried the baby, then begun to rock her gently in her arms. The baby didn't give in. She cried louder.
"She's hungry, Kemi." Her mother said.
Kemi stood up and went to the kitchen then she came back with a feeding bottle of amateurishly diluted milk.
"Is that what you feed her with?!"
Kemi was about to reply her mother when the older woman came closer to her and placed the crying child in her arms; where the child belonged.
"Breast feed her." She said.
Kemi hesitated but then, after much battle within her mind, she finally unbuttoned her chiffon blouse.
"Mum, please turn to the other side or close your eyes..." Kemi said.
Her mother laughed.
"You don't want me to see your breast. Hahaa...I am your mother, I used to bathe you!"
Kemi shrugged, and then, let the child feed from her. The baby clung to it like her life depended on it, drawing every bit of the natural milk she needed to survive. Kemi couldn't take her eyes off her. She couldn't believe how another person was relying on her absolutely! Then she begun to see it...she was responsible for this child. She was mother.
Her mother saw it too. That was when she stood up and excused her self, giving Kemi the chance to live and relish that irreplaceable moment.
The next morning, Kemi didn't want her mother to leave. It felt like boarding school all over again, when her mother had taken her to start JSS1 far away in Ipetumodu, and had left for Lagos. Kemi had wept and cried for so many days, till reality begun to dawn on her that she now had to live and grow up with other children, and would only get to see her parents on visiting days, which they hardly went for anyways. Her mother tried to go for some...but her father had never showed up.
"Mummy can't you move out of that house and come and live with us?" Kemi said, holding her mother's hand like a toddler.
"I have to go back to my husband, my dear, and to your sisters too."
"But he doesn't even love us."
Her mother raised her hand half way in the air, meaning Kemi had said enough.
She sighed, and finally hugged her good bye, knowing her persuasion would do nothing to change her mother's mind.
"Please call me when you get home. I also want to speak with Kitan and Kofo. It's been a while. I miss them." Kemi said as her mother got into her Toyota.
"Okay o!" Her mother laughed.
The time was 11.30 AM.
The time was 6.30 PM when Kemi glanced at her Disney princess wrist watch. She had still not received the phone call that her mother had promised. She was starting to get worried. She had called her mother's phone but it was switched off. She tried after some time again, but it was the same response.There was no body she could call at home. Her younger sisters didn't have phones, and calling her father was a no-no.
By 7.15 PM, a call finally came through.
It was her father.
Her heart skipped a beat, then a couple more. Why was he calling her?
"Hello..." She said, calmly, building up her courage.
"Kemi..." It was Kitan's voice. She was whispering.
"Kitan...what is it?"
What she said made Kemi realize that Kitan had not been whispering but that she had actually been sobbing.
"The Police came to the house. Mummy had an accident on her way home..."
"What?!" Kemi screamed, not minding if the baby was asleep or not.
"I stole Daddy's phone to tell you."
"Is she alive...is she okay?"
"She's at the hospital. They said she is unconscious. Daddy has gone to the hospital. He forgot his phone in the house."
"Oh God!" Kemi said.
"I'm afraid, Kemi. Kofo has been crying since. We don't know what to do. We don't want mommy to die. Why are bad things happening in our house?" Kitan cried.
Kemi had started to cry too. She ended the call and took in a deep breath.
She left the baby in the house, locked in, as she ran to the main road to get a bike that would take her to the hospital. Kitan had told her the name of the hospital. She knew where it was. It was just about three bus stops before her house.
She had been trying to explain to the nurses at the reception about whom she wanted to see when her father walked straight out from the corner that led to the inner parts of the hospital. Kemi was silent.
"She's in this hospital because of you. Because of your irresponsibility and stupidity!" He started. The look he had given her was one she could never forget. It housed so much hatred and disgust. He raised his voice at her so high that it crept underneath her skin to make the hairs on her stand in fear.
"You're a disappointment, Kemi." He said.
She swallowed her saliva, not knowing what to say. Her head was bowed down, not in respect, but in shame. She wanted to say she was sorry, and to apologize for everything that had happened, but the words wouldn't come out.
"Excuse me sir!" A nurse ran towards them, followed by the doctor that had been speaking with her father a few minutes ago.
"Yes?" He replied, as though he already knew what they had come to say.
"Sir...we're sorry. She...your wife didn't make it. We just lost her, I apologize." The doctor said, without any feeling or look of an apology on his face. It seemed like a rehearsed line that he told all his patients' relatives each time he had to deliver bad news. Kemi looked at the doctor, her head spinning out of confusion.
"Oh." Her father said, nodding his head.
He looked at Kemi, with a more disappointing look than the previous one, then he walked away.
"I'm sorry dad." She finally whispered, almost choking on her tears, but he had walked away, out of the hospital, and out of her life.