▪ ♠ ▪
IS it that I can’t count properly, or that I have forgotten the exact date?
I frowned and started my count again, using the calendar on the wall of our bedroom since the 2016 calendar encrypted to the back of my notebook has failed me.
I got to the date and found that I have gone past it by eight days.
No, it can’t be! I turned from the calendar and grabbed my pen and notebook. A slow and steady count will uncover any errors I must surely be making. I began my numbering from the first day of my last cycle, entering each date in a linear format until I arrived at the date for today—and I was still eight days late.
Maybe it was just late. These things happened, didn’t they? The pen fell off my hand as I felt my heart begin to pound. It was only a case of being late, nothing else. It can’t be anything else. Dear Lord… Virgin Mary…
I stumbled to a stop and swallowed my quick sob. I couldn’t even pray. What will I ask God even if I dare pray? Lord restore my period? That should be my prayer, not so? After all, it was missing and when something’s missing, we ask Him to help us to find it, right?
But maybe it wasn’t missing. Maybe it was just late in coming. That had to be it. My period was not missing, it was just late. I inhaled and pushed my knuckle against my eyes to wipe off the tears that had formed. Not missing, just late. And it will come back in a matter of days. Maybe even before tomorrow morning.
Soothed, and yet not really soothed, I picked my pen, put it back in its place and went ahead to finish the chore Sister Mary-Cynthia had assigned to me.
But it was still missing ten days later.
I had taken concentrated lime in little water to help it along and yet it still did not come back. I’d chewed some leaves I heard Awele, my classmate, say restored menstrual flow and still it did not return. Just two nights ago, I had taken eight tablets of the Panadol remaining in the sachet Sister Mary-Joan had given to Theresa, and had denied I never saw it when Theresa demanded its whereabouts, yet I haven’t seen so much as a drop of blood.
“Is that why you are crying?” John-Bosco looked at me with a sneer on his face after I told him.
“And why shouldn’t I cry?” I demanding, sniffing and glaring at him at the same time. “If my period is really missing, don’t you know what that means?”
“Ehen, that you are pregnant and so what?”
My mouth dropped open. “Did you just say, ‘and so what’? John-Bosco, are you asking so what about me becoming pregnant at fifteen years old and just in S.S. 1?”
“Keep your voice down.” John-Bosco shushed me and threw a glance in the direction where other catechumens were busy answering the call-register. “It’s not a big deal. You think you’re the first girl who has ever missed her period? No way. Big girls miss their periods all the time but they find a way to take care of it, so no one knows.”
“Take care of it? God forbid!” I snapped my fingers over my head. “I cannot do abortion.”
“And who said anything about abortion?” John-Bosco made a hissing noise. “You think you are carrying a baby now?”
I stared at him in puzzlement. “Ehen, if I am pregnant, then of course, I am carrying a baby. What else will be inside my tummy?”
“Chai, Margaret, you’re too local, abeg.” John-Bosco chuckled derisively and shook his head pityingly at me. “See eh, it’s not a baby that’s inside your tummy yet, it’s just blood.”
“Yes now. You think babies start forming immediately they enter a woman’s womb?” John-Bosco chuckled again. “That’s not how it works. It is only blood until like two months later, and then that is when it starts to form into a baby. That is why it is first called a ‘foetus’ and not a baby.”
“Eh-eh.” I wasn’t quite getting it but I wasn’t as scared as I’ve been the last few days. “So what you are saying is that the blood in my womb will dissolve and my period will return, abi?”
“It will dissolve, but we will have to help the process.”
“Help the process?” I didn’t like the sound of that. “How now?”
“There’s a small drug I will buy for you and…”
“Ah, drug? No oh, God forbid!” I snapped my hand over my head again and shook it for emphasis. “I can’t take any drug oh. What if it kills me?”
“It won’t kill you. And stop raising your voice!” John-Bosco tossed another glance over his shoulder and then turned to glare at me. “Why are you like this now? Are you a baby? I thought you were a wise and big girl but it looks like you’re very dull.”
“I am not dull.” I was affronted that he would think me so. “You are asking me to take a drug I don’t even know, and you don’t want me to be worried that it might kill me?”
“It won’t kill you!” John-Bosco hissed out. “Do you think I will give you something that will cause you harm in anyway? Ahn-ahn, Margaret, you should know better now. You know I love you and will never wish you harm.”
Chastised and mollified, I sniffed. “All right, I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that I’m afraid and I don’t…”
“You have no reason to fear.” John-Bosco interrupted and gave me a quick soothing pat on the back. “It’s just a small tablet and all it will do is flush out the blood and then you will be fine again.”
“Just flush out the blood?” I was apprehensive again. I couldn’t help it. “But won’t that make me to start bleeding too much?”
“No, it won’t.” John-Bosco said firmly. “It will only flow like your period and in a matter of few days, it will stop. In short, it wouldn’t have been anything at all if you had told me when you first observed your missing period instead of wasting time.”
“I didn’t tell you because I was hoping it will come back on its own.” I defended, pouting.
“That was your mistake. Still, it’s not too late. I will get the drug and you meet me behind the market tomorrow to take it. Okay?”
But I couldn’t meet him the next day. Whether it was my sin catching up with me, or God saving my life, I would never know. But that same evening when we all returned home from catechism, I fell ill. And by the next day, it was serious enough that Sister Mary-Cynthia decided she was taking me to see the doctor.
And that was where I met my waterloo.