I was pregnant. That was the reality that hit me when Sister Mary-Cynthia took me to see the doctor and several tests were conducted and the last being a urine test.
“What?” Sister Mary-Cynthia screamed when the doctor made the announcement.
The scream caused the doctor to jolt and sent me to my feet and scurrying to a corner of the doctor’s office, clutching my dress against me and wishing the ground would open and swallow me up.
“Did you say she is pregnant?” Sister Mary-Cynthia’s voice shook with disbelief. “You mean—pregnant as in has a baby in her womb?”
I wished there was another kind of pregnant and that the doctor would acquiesce that that was my ailment. Somehow I saw this pregnancy as an ailment.
But I was out of luck because the doctor nodded like a lizard competing for head dips. “That is what the test says, Sister. But please calm down. Please calm down.”
His voice was soothing. But I wasn’t soothed and I didn’t think that he succeeded in soothing Sister Mary-Cynthia.
“She’s just fifteen, doctor. She only started just senior secondary school.” The disbelief in Sister Mary-Cynthia’s voice was amplifying. “She lives with me… with us… at the convent. She is a good girl. She has to be a good girl.”
My eyes filled with tears. Sister Mary-Cynthia always believed in me. She always wanted the best for me. She always wanted me to be the best. But I have disappointed her. That is what I have done, disappointed, and I think, hurt her. I felt bad.
“Young people make a lot of mistakes, Sister. It is sometimes part of their growing up process.” The doctor looked at me. I saw compassion in his eyes and my tears slipped. “There is so much temptation out there. Teenagers are more susceptible to them because of their age and the stage of growth they are going through. They are curious and want to know so many things.” The doctor shook his head. “I am sure she didn’t envision that this is where she would end up.”
“But… I taught her that sex… that fornication is wrong. I taught her that a good woman should keep herself. I taught her that sex should only happen in marriage. Did I not teach her well?” Sister Mary-Cynthia stared confusedly at the doctor. “Did I fail as a teacher? Did I fail as a mother? Is it because I am not naturally a mother?”
“No, Sister, you did not fail. You take these children in as your own children and you and the other sisters bring them up the best you can. Don’t blame yourself.” The doctor gently patted Sister Mary-Cynthia’s hand. “It is not your fault. These things happen to us too who are parents to children we birthed and are nurturing. It is not because we fail, it is just the times that we are in. Children are more curious now. They are bolder with their curiosity.”
“What should I do?” Sister Mary-Cynthia sounded bewildered. “What are we to do with her now?”
“I…” The doctor broke off whatever he was going to say and looked at me. “Margaret, who is responsible for the pregnancy?” He asked.
“John-Bosco.” I mumbled, my sobs making my voice croaky.
“John-Bosco who attends catechism with you?” Sister Mary-Cynthia spun her gaze at me.
I nodded. “Yes, Sister.”
“But…” She stopped. “The hows and whens and wheres don’t matter anymore. The deed has been done and the consequence has become.” She got up. Wearily, I noted. “Let us go home, Margaret.” She looked at the doctor. Her face was so sad. “Thank you, doctor.”
“Take it easy, Sister. There is always a solution to every problem.” The doctor counselled.
I wondered what will be the solution to mine.
At home, I saw Sister Mary-Cynthia take Sister Mary-Joan and Sisters Mary-Anna and Mary-Stella into our home chapel. I knew they weren’t going inside to pray. No, she was taking them inside to enlighten them of the latest development. She would tell them that one of the girls they were bringing up was pregnant. She would probably tell them that they had failed in their duty. They would be shocked. They would be disappointed. They would—
That was the part I didn’t know—what they would do with me?
I sat, heart heavy, tears shimmering in my eyes, on one of the stairs in front of the house. I was thinking of my fate. Of how I came to be befallen by such a fate. If only I hadn’t been reading those romance novels. If only I hadn’t listened to John-Bosco when he said I was beautiful. If only I hadn’t gone to meet him behind the market when he asked me to come. If only I hadn’t parted my legs and allowed him to come inside of me.
I jolted at Theresa’s quiet call and quickly wiped off my tears. “Yes? Is Sister Cynthia calling me?”
She shook her head. “No.” She was eyeing me curiously. “Why are you crying?”
I dropped my head. “Nothing.” I could feel the cloak of shame already.
“What did the doctor say?” Theresa asked. “Is it typhoid?”
I wished it was typhoid. I wouldn’t have minded if it was cancer—not that I knew what it really was at that time, only that it killed people. But I wouldn’t have minded cancer being the ailment the doctor found in my body.
“No, it’s not typhoid, Theresa.” My eyes filled again. “It is something worse.”
“Worse? Ah!” Theresa slapped her hand against her chest and stared at me fearfully. “What is it? Did the doctor say you were going to die?”
Die? Now wouldn’t that be better?
It was Assumpta calling me.
I at once knew she was calling me on behalf of the Sisters.
I staggered off the stair. “Yes?”
“Sister Mary-Cynthia said you should get ready. You are going with her to John-Bosco’s house.” Assumpta informed me.
“John-Bosco’s house?” Theresa looked from Assumpta to me. “Why would you be going there, Margaret? Did that stupid boy do something to you?”
“I have to go and get ready, Theresa.” I brushed past her and went into our room. Changed my dress and put on a better pair of slippers. Then I came out.
Sister Mary-Cynthia and Sister Mary-Joan were already outside waiting for me.
“Let us go, Margaret.” Sister Mary-Cynthia said. “We have to see John-Bosco’s parents.”
“Okay, Sister.” I looked at Sister Mary-Joan. Her face was completely turned away from me. My heart sank. “Let us go then.”
We left the convent, and since John-Bosco’s house wasn’t far away, we were soon there. John-Bosco’s father and mother welcomed us. They were happy, and I think honoured, to have Reverend Sisters in their home.
“This is such an amazing surprise, Sisters.” John-Bosco’s mother glowed with pleasure. “Please sit down. What can we offer you?” Not waiting for their response, she yelled. “Ebube! Come and buy malt for the Sisters and mineral for Margaret.” She beamed at me. “You will drink Fanta, won’t you, Margaret?”
“Don’t worry about drinks, Mama John-Bosco.” Sister Mary-Cynthia smilingly declined on all our behalf. “We will have drinks another time.”
“Eh, you’re rejecting drinks the first time you are in our house, Sister? Why now?” John-Bosco’s mother looked disappointed.
“Forget the drinks, Nnenna. I think the Sisters came here to tell us something important.” John-Bosco’s father intervened.
“All right.” His wife nodded and sat back in her chair.
No one said anything for a minute.
Then Sister Mary-Cynthia said very quietly. “What I’m going to say is going to be very shocking to both of you. It has been shocking for all of us—for the Sisters and I, I mean.” She clasped her hands together, as if to draw strength from the gesture. “Margaret here is pregnant.”
“Eh?” John-Bosco’s mother blurted out.
“Pregnant for John-Bosco.” Sister Mary-Cynthia finished.
“Ewo!” John-Bosco’s mother shouted.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.