He was everything I wanted in a man: smart, ambitious, good looking, and single. I wanted him. But a lady waited for the man to make the first move.
While I waited, she came for a visit and I introduced them. He offered to entertain her since he was on leave. I agreed without thinking about it. A big mistake.
Her eyes were glowing like light bulbs after a week in his company.
“I like him. I mean, I don’t know much about him, but I like him.”
“He’s too old for you.”
In my shock, my intended firm rebuff came out as mild chiding.
“He says he’s thirty-one. That’s not too old.”
“It is when you are twenty. Seeing the effect he’s having on your good sense, you won’t be spending time with him anymore.”
“He said he likes me too.”
My head blanked. My thoughts froze. He liked her. The man I wanted liked my baby sister. He liked her, not me.
When I could think again, I stormed to his apartment and confronted him.
“Rume, what is this nonsense? I entrust my sister to you and you decide to seduce her?”
“You know I would never stoop to taking advantage of a woman, Nse. Nothing happened between us. Nothing yet.”
“What does that mean?”
“I like her. I think I’m falling for her. I know I’ve only known her a few days and she is young, but my feelings are real. They are strong.”
“No!” The denial first screamed in my head before it leaped out of my mouth.
“Nse, I promise you, I’m not looking to play with her.”
“I don’t care what you are looking to do, Rume. She’s twenty. Too young. Too innocent. My God! How can you do this?”
“I can’t help my feelings. They exist of their own volition.”
The simple answer sliced through my heart, cut deep and left a scar. He had feelings for her. Feelings that happened without any effort from him. We’ve worked together, been neighbours at the staff quarters, shared fun moments, and those feelings never grew for me.
It wasn’t denial, but a decision this time. No, my little sister wasn’t permitted to take the man I wanted. And he wasn’t permitted to have her, when I should be his.
Desperate to keep them apart, I sent her back home the next day. Then I called our father, our strict father, and hinted that she might be having fanciful ideas about my neighbour. My male neighbour.
It worked. Dear Father demanded she delete his number from her phone and severe all contacts with him.
“Why did you do this?” She asked when she called me.
“I’m looking out for you. Men like Rume are too experienced for you. Do you think you’re the only girl he’s told he liked? Don’t be naïve, Hope. Best if you forget him altogether.”
To Rume, I had a different story.
“It was an holiday crush, I’m sure. She’s young, easily excitable and highly impressionable. Now she’s back with friends her own age, all is forgotten. It’s the way of youth.”
“But she was supposed to stay two weeks, wasn’t she?”
“My father asked her to come home. She’s the baby of the house and he’s protective of her. Anyway, I’m sure you will forget her soon enough. It’s how you men are, moved only by what you see.”
But he didn’t forget her. And she didn’t forget him. A year later, my father passed on, and he found his way to my hometown, where they reconnected.
Eight months later, she announced to the family.
“He proposed, and I said yes.”
And at that moment, when happiness sparkled in her eyes like the diamond on her finger, I hated her.
I came up with all kinds of objections.
“She’s too young.”
“Twenty-two is not too young. I married your father at twenty-one.” My mother replied.
“We are talking 2019, not some dark times in the eighties, Mum. What about her future? Her career, or is she not supposed to have one? Do you know how men treat women who come as liabilities?”
“Nse, you don’t have to worry that your baby sister is getting married before you. It doesn’t matter. Every flower has its time to bloom.”
“Please, Mum, don’t insult me. I don’t care if she is getting married before me or not. I am only concerned about her as any sister would be. We hardly know who this man is.”
“But he’s your colleague, your friend. You introduced them.”
“I know him as a co-worker and a neighbour, but do I know him enough to let my sister marry him? No. He’s been in a hurry over this from the beginning, why is that?”
“He loves her. Nse, stop fretting. I think your sister has found a good man, and we should be happy for her. I like him, you know.”
And so my objections made no difference. They got married, he made it possible for her to serve in Lagos, and as the cliché went, they lived happily ever after.
I learned to move on, even met someone and started dating. I didn’t forget, or forgive, but I stopped wishing a car would run over her and leave her mangled body on the middle of the highway.
That was until she came to my office, brimming with barely suppressed excitement.
They’d been married three months and such a thing was expected. But, once again, I was shocked.
“Yes.” She laughed like she couldn’t help the flow of joy. “Rume says we shouldn’t tell anyone yet until after the first trimester. But I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I called Mum. I came to tell you.”
“How far along are you?”
“Nearly seven weeks. I’ve been to the hospital. Gosh, I’m so excited. I’m going to be a mummy, can you believe it?”
“Yes, I can.” I remembered my duty and pushed myself to smile, to hug her. “Congratulations to you; to both of you.”
“Thank you. I have to run though. I’m meeting Rume.”
“Okay. Congratulations again, and thanks for sharing the amazing news with me.”
She left, and I slumped into my seat. The old hate returned. I had no power against it. I should be the one married to him. I should be the one having his child, not her.
It ate at me, the hurt, the hate, the dark desire to make her suffer.
I called her a few days later.
“We have to celebrate. It’s the first baby in the family. Come over. I ordered cake from Cake House.”
She came. I opened a bottle of non-alcoholic wine, we ate cake, feasted on chocolate and talked about possible baby names. Then she knocked off.
I’d slipped a pill into her wine. But she wouldn’t sleep long. She had a system that didn’t stay unconscious for too long, no matter what. So, I had to work fast.
I retrieved the pack of Misoprostol from my handbag. Adjusting her head, so it tilted upward, I pried open her mouth, and slipped eight pills under her tongue. Then I held her mouth close.
When I was certain they’d have dissolved, I shook her awake.
“I think it’s time to head home, sleepyhead. Pregnancy hormones already taking their toll on you.”
“I slept off. Sorry.” She sounded groggy. “I have an awful taste in my mouth.”
“Wine, cake, chocolate and sleep. A bad mix. Suffered it too. Here’s juice. Take a sip.”
The next evening, she lost the pregnancy. Rume called me to the hospital.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. I must have jinxed it.” She said.
“No, don’t say that. What did the doctor say?”
“See? You’re not responsible. No one is. Pregnancies are more prone to miscarriages during the first trimester. Don’t worry, you will conceive again, and this time, it will stay. I’m sure of it.”
I didn’t feel satisfaction, but guilt. And then remorse. I shouldn’t have killed my sister’s baby. It was so unnecessary.