“What are you saying, Mama Amen?” When she found her voice that was all Belema could to think to ask.
“I no fit keep Amen for here. I no want the wahala or disgrace.”
“You don’t want the wahala or disgrace?” Annoyance shoved aside shock. “So, it’s me who should take the wahala and disgrace, eh? Is that what you are saying? Is this even a plan between you and your daughter? Did you ask her to seduce my husband, so she sneak her way permanently into my home?”
“Seduce? Which kain talk be dat one? Abeg, Sister Belema, you know who I be, I no fit plan with Amen to commot another woman from her husband house. I no fit do am. God forbid!” She snapped her fingers over her head. “I be Christian. True Christian. I no ever sleep with man until I marry my husband and since im die, another man never touch me. Na wetin I teach this useless girl be dat – to keep her body for her husband.”
Belema believed her. She wasn’t the kind to plot evil against others. She was a simple woman and kind of heart. Besides, Amen hadn’t seduced Mike. It was the other way round.
“I’m sorry I said what I did.” She had to apologise to the other woman. “I know you can’t have planned this with Amen.”
“I no plan am. No be wetin I send am she do so. I no know wetin push Amen enter this bad thing, but as she carry am come, na so she go carry am go.” There were tears in her though she wasn’t crying. “Na small fish business I get wey I take dey train my other three children. You know how things be for this house. Na you dey send me money and food sometimes sef. I no fit do you bad thing, Sister Belema. But I no go fit carry this one. I no bargain to carry this kain load at all.”
“I understand, Mama Amen. That is why I’m assuring you that we will look after Amen and the baby.”
“No, no assure me. Na Brother Mike give am bele, so make im carry am do wetin im want. I don give am to am.”
“You’re giving her to him as what?” Belema was bemused, baffled and tired. The entire matter was draining the strength out of her.
“I no know. Anything im want make im take am do.” She shifted her gaze to focus on Mike for the first time since Belema explained their reason for being there. “Brother Mike, na you, abi no be you give Amen this bele wey she carry so?”
Mike said nothing, only kept his eyes down.
“Abeg, answer me, Brother Mike.”
When Mike wouldn’t speak, Belema snapped. “Answer her. Own up to what you did before the girl’s mother.”
It took almost a minute before he murmured. “I am responsible for the pregnancy and I’m very sorry for doing this to her.”
“Me too I sorry say you fit do my pikin this kain thing and treat your fine like this. But na so life be.” Mama Amen looked sad and disappointed.
“I’m sorry, Mama Amen. Please forgive me for deflowering and impregnating your daughter. I am also very sorry for betraying my wife.” His face was wreathed with contrition as Mike spoke. “But we can resolve this another way. I can’t keep Amen in my home. It’s not right and would be an insult to my wife. Please, just see reason with us. I beg you.”
“To be honest with you, Brother Mike, this thing wey you and my pikin do dey pain me well-well. And e dey pain me for Sister Belema. This good woman no deserve am at all.”
“I know, Mama Amen. That is why I am trying to save her further pain, insult and embarrassment.” Mike said.
“Me sef I no wan cause am too much pain again, but I no fit keep Amen for this house. People go talk and I no ready for dat kain talk.” Mama Amen shook her head. “Na this thing oyibo people dey call consequence. When una dey do am, e dey sweet una but na the consequence be dis and na two of una go carry am.”
She faced Belema. “Sister Belema, no vex for me abeg. God know say my heart pure when I tell you say no be wetin I send my pikin go do for your house be dis. I no wan cause you wahala, but Amen no go fit born for this house. I no born for my mama house, so she no go do am for here. Make una carry am go back. She and una go decide wetin una go take her and the pikin wey she go born do. I don talk finish.”
And Belema realised that indeed that was her final word, and the beginning of the end for her.
She didn’t know what to do exactly, but she knew she needed to step away and think. The man she had loved even before she married him had broken her heart and jeopardised their life and happiness. The girl she had taken in, treated with affection and respect, had betrayed her. She was hurt, sad, confused and needed to decide how to handle things.
“Aunty, please don’t go.” On her knees, Amen repeated her plea for the third time. “Please, don’t leave me here with Uncle. Please.”
She wanted to hit her, order her to shut her mouth, but somehow, she couldn’t work up enough anger to back such reactions. She was too weary.
“Amen, what exactly will I be if I stay?”
“Uncle’s wife. You are his wife. I am nobody. Please, don’t go. People will say I drove you from your house.”
Belema managed a weak laugh. “Is that what is bothering you, what people will say about you?”
“No, Aunty, it’s not.” Amen shook her head. “But they will say it and I don’t want you to leave your house because of me. Aunty, it’s me who should go. It’s me who did you wrong. It’s me who should be disgraced, not you.”
“I am not disgraced, Amen. I am hurt and very disappointed in you and my husband. In any case, where will you go? Your mother doesn’t want you back.”
“I don’t know where I will go, but I will leave and won’t again come back.”
For the briefest moment, the temptation to agree with her and send her away to wherever she decided to go lurked in her heart. But that would not only be harming Amen, it would also be harming the innocent child in her womb.
“I can’t throw you out, Amen. My conscience would never accept bringing harm on you or your baby.”
“Aunty, I don’t want this baby. Let’s abort it and let everything go back to normal.”
What a foolish girl, Belema thought, almost amused. What a naïve, foolish girl.
“Amen, do you think anything would ever be as it was before? You think after this, things will go back to normal?” She pushed aside her packed suitcase and sat on the bed, vaguely wishing she could close her eyes and somehow blank out this nightmare. “Nothing will ever be the same again, Amen. Not between you and I, and not between my husband and I. That is what betrayal does, it changes everything.”
For a minute, or maybe more, Amen didn’t say anything and stopped her sobbing.
Finally, she murmured and with eyes full of such realisation and regret that it touched Belema. “I have ruined my life. I have destroyed the only family that cared for me. I am sorry, Aunty. I am very sorry.”
It was the first and truest apology and odd as it might sound, it soothed Belema’s pained heart in a mild way.
“Go and get yourself something to eat. You have to be taking care of yourself now.”
She nodded, got off the floor and walked to the door. “Aunty, please forgive me. I beg you to find it in your heart to forgive me.”
“I will learn to do so. I’m not happy now, but with time, I’m sure I will forgive you.”
“Thank you, Aunty. God bless you.” She opened the door and walked out.
Belema closed her eyes and breathed. If only they could undo it.
The door opened and Mike entered. Seeing him, Belema stood up and reached for her suitcase. Her heart held him more responsible, so she didn’t want to speak with him.
“When are you coming back?” He asked her.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going for good, Belema?”
“I don’t know.”
“I can’t live without my children. I can’t live without you, Belema.” He took her hand. “I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t want her.”
“You wanted her enough to sleep with her and impregnate her.” She stepped away from him and lifted her suitcase. “You can come see the children anytime at my mother’s. Goodbye for now.”