Let me give you a scenario to chew on. You know the nosy woman in the Nollywood film who always goes to visit the clueless mother of Caro and, after examining Caro like a lab specimen while she serves drinks, turns to Mama Caro and says, “Mama Caro, can you not see that that girl is pregnant?” This nosy woman with x-ray vision is Aunty Vick.
And I am pregnant. A pregnant, teenage undergraduate.
It’s a few weeks old and I have morning sickness. I stay hidden in my room most mornings, emerging only after my mother leaves for work. I am lazy and irritable, and how have I never noticed that our house smells like raw eggs? I am afraid. I am tired of trying to act normal around my mother. I’m failing, but not horribly. Not yet. She is distracted. I am thinking of an excuse for going back to school before resumption. I worry about the baby’s father; about what he will say when I present him with this new reality.
My hell just got hotter; Aunty Vick is visiting.
I have never liked her enough to smile at her, but today I do. It is a wan smile, but maybe it will fool her. I step to the side, opening the door wide enough to fit her massive frame. She sniffs at my greeting, plops her bag of goods at my feet and waddles into the living room. I pick it up and follow her, leaving the door to swing shut behind me.
In the living room, she collapses into the couch and we both pretend not to hear it creak. I place the bag on the floor gently beside her, wondering what she has brought to sell this time but not really caring.
“Let me call mummy,” I say, glad to have a reason to leave her presence. She reaches for the TV remote and as I climb the stairs I can make out the soundtrack of a Nigerian movie. I knock on my mother’s bedroom door and poke my head in just long enough to deliver my message. Then I disappear into my room. Moments later, I hear my mother skip down the stairs and I exhale.
I’m starting to drift off into a pensive sleep when I am jolted awake. My mother is screaming my name from the living room. I go into a panic, look around the room for an escape route. Those darned burglary proof bars! God knows I would rather hurl myself out the windows. There is nothing in my room with which I can kill myself; I will have to face them. I can just see Aunty Vick, her eyes wide with the scandal of it, and that hint of malicious satisfaction she would try to hide from my mother.
I consider pretending not to have heard the call; but in typical fashion, my mother bellows out my name again, decibels louder. I make the sign of the cross – for the first time in years – open my door and go down the stairs to the living room.
“Yes, mum,” I whisper.
My mother barely raises her head.
“Get drinks for Aunty Vick.”
As I leave, it’s Aunty Vick’s eyes that follow me. My mother is busy rifling through the bras, camisoles and panties Aunty Vick is selling. I enter the kitchen and quickly blink back the tears that well up in my eyes. I get the drinks – Aunty Vick’s favourites, Guinness stout and a can of malt – place them on a tray with a glass and walk back to the living room, counting the seconds as I go. With shaky hands, I set the tray down on the stool beside Aunty Vick and straighten up to leave.
“Open it and pour for me!” Aunty Vick orders. I open the Guinness.
“Hmm. I’ve been looking for something like this o,” my mother says, holding a black camisole up to the light from the windows and examining it. “But laziness hasn’t allowed me go to Balogun. Now I’ll be able to wear that lace top I got, thank God. It’s just been lying there.”
Aunty Vick growls her approval. “You have good eye. This one is very high quality; it will last you well.”
I glance up as I start to fill the glass with malt. My mother is examining a nude coloured bra that is clearly too small for her; Aunty Vick is examining my hand pouring her drink.
“Tutu, this one will size you o. Shebi you are 32B,” my mother says.
I mumble something incoherent, set the can of malt down on the tray. Aunty Vick’s eyes are on my chest as I stand up straight. I pretend not to notice, but sweat is forming on my upper lip. I flee from the living room.
I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn to look back at the two women. As I feared, their heads are close together now. They are sharing something secret. Aunty Vick’s eye catches mine. And just like that, my life becomes a Nollywood script.
Uche Okonkwo loves a good story, whether she’s reading or writing it. She works as an editor and freelances in her spare time.