Short Story: Baby Fever.
Emotan did not like her Father very much.
He was loud, brash and petulant, only showing more than a perfunctory interest in her when she brought home good grades from school; what he called the ‘fruits of his labour’.
Emotan’s mother was a beautiful paradox: outspoken in one breath, and her Father’s pushover in the next breath.
Emotan made it a point to date men who were the opposite of her father. They were fair and wiry where her father was dark and stocky. They were emotionally available where her father was distant and manipulative. She had never seen her parents be affectionate with each other. Once, she saw her mother swat a mosquito off her father’s arm. He had shouted at her for hitting him, and her mother visibly folded into herself.
He was also a talker, a Professor of Economics at UniBen dissatisfied with the system who loved to tell tales about the past. From his stories of the Civil War, you would have thought he had been a General in charge of troops at the time, when in actual fact he had been 10 years old when the war had broken out.
Emotan had remained in Abuja after she completed her National Youth Service to get away from her parents, and had no intention of moving back home. She was caught unawares when her mother called her first thing one Monday morning to say ‘Ogbebor brought another woman to the house’. Emotan almost asked ‘Who?’, because she had never heard her mother call her father by his first name in her 25 years on earth.
Over the next few weeks, she endured tearful phone calls from her Mother with updates about how her Father was losing his mind. Emotan was not sure what her Mother wanted her to do. So she just listened.
After three months the story changed: ‘I’ve left his house. I’m at your Aunty Evarista’s house’. Emotan knew then that she had to go Benin to find out what was going on. Her mother and her Aunt were close, but they were very similar; both passive-aggressive gossips. Things had to be very bad at home for her Mother to choose the Aunty Evarista option. A few weeks under the same roof would be the death of both of them.
Emotan took a day off from her job at an Ad Agency and left Abuja for Benin on a Friday morning in February. Her brother, ‘Mudia, picked her from the airport. ‘Welcome, Sis!’ he said as he hugged her; she tried not to choke on the scent of his body spray. He was 22 years old-a recent graduate-and had the lanky build and confidence of youth. Emotan tried not to let her panic show as he manoeuvred their Father’s ancient 504 through Benin traffic. The car was obviously being held together by the grace of God and with no apparent shock absorbers; she felt every bump on the road to their house on Wire Road.
‘Aunty, welcome’. Emotan stared at the beautiful woman who opened the door. She realized that she knew the woman; she lived a few streets away and was also in their church. Emotan nodded and walked in, her childhood home suddenly feeling surreal with this strange woman encroaching upon the space.
‘Where’s my Father?’ ‘He’s inside. Let me call him’. Emotan watched the woman walk into her parents’ bedroom.
‘Emotan? What happened?’ Her Father emerged from his bedroom, frowning. He was wearing his house uniform of white singlet and black shorts.
‘Daddy. Why is Mummy not here? Who is that lady?’
Emotan had never spoken to her Father in such a direct manner, and she marvelled at her own boldness. Her expression was neutral, but she felt her toes curl in her black pumps and sweat drip down her back in her purple ankara dress.
Her Father sighed heavily. ‘Sit down’. Emotan did as he asked, and he sat down beside her, which was strange.
‘Well’. He cleared his throat. ‘Well, your Mother and I seemed happier in the last few months, but all of a sudden, she became very difficult…so difficult. I asked Ms. Ezomo to come and start taking care of the house since your mother refused to do anything anymore. After some weeks, your Mother packed her things and moved to your Aunt’s house’.
Emotan stared at him, and turned to look at Ms. Ezomo who had just walked past them into the kitchen. She was wearing a blue wrapper and white blouse. Her blouse was see-through; her white bra was visible.
Emotan looked back at her Father, who shifted his gaze from hers, looking sheepish.
She was about to ask her Father what kind of care Ms. Ezomo was providing to him when her phone rang.
It was her cousin, Omo. ‘Sis, Good Afternoon. Your Mum is ill. My mother said you should come over now’.
‘You’re so fat now, how will any man like you like this?’ was Aunty Evarista’s greeting to Emotan when she got to her house on Ekenwan Road. A few years ago, it had been ‘you’re so skinny, no man will like you like this’. Aunty Evarista was consistent in her inconsistencies.
‘Good Afternoon Aunty’, Emotan said through gritted teeth as she stepped back from their embrace. ‘Please, where is my Mother?’
‘She’s in the room. It’s good that you are here. Come’. She turned around and Emotan dragged her feet behind her, admiring the patterns on her Aunt’s kaftan but also wondering what was wrong with her Mother.
Emotan stared at her mother blankly.
‘I’m sorry, what?’
‘I’m pregnant’, repeated her mother.
Many thoughts raced through Emotan’s mind. Her mother was 49 years old, so pregnancy was not impossible. But…her parents were having sex? Those two people? Seriously?
‘Oh, my dear, don’t be’. Her Mother’s eyes were unfocused, darting left and right, but her skin was smoother than Emotan had even seen it. With her unkempt hair, she looked like a crazy person with good skin.
‘You’re an adult so you should know these things…your Father and I had not been intimate in almost 5 years, until recently. Your Aunty said I should seduce him; that maybe it would make him less angry with me all the time’.
‘Evelyn, I said that you should sleep with your husband; I didn’t say you should get pregnant’ quipped Aunty Evarista.
Emotan’s Mother glared at her sister, adjusted her wrapper on her chest and then continued speaking. ‘I don’t want to bring up a child with him again. I’m tired. Osamudiamen will soon go for his Youth Service. I have some money saved up. I’ve taken indefinite leave from work. I will rent a place. I’m even happy that he brought that woman into the house…’
Emotan watched her mother make new life plans whilst she stared at her, dumbstruck.
‘I will move on with my life. Don’t worry about me’.
Emotan felt sorry for her Father for the first time in her life.
‘Your Mother is pregnant?’
‘I want to talk to her’.
‘She’s sleeping right now. I will ask her to call you when she wakes up’.
There was a heavy silence, before he finally spoke.
‘Okay, okay’. Her Father sounded like a boulder had been dropped on his head.
Emotan ended the call and rubbed her eyes, then she turned to look at her mother seated beside her who was wide awake, looking lost in thought.
‘Mummy, fasten your seat belt’.
‘Oh okay. Thank you my dear’. Her mother fastened her seatbelt and then rubbed her stomach, smiling.
The cabin crew on the flight to Abuja were carrying out their final checks before take-off. Emotan had impulsively decided that her mother should come back to Abuja with her to think things through, and to avoid strangling Aunty Evarista in her sleep. Her mother’s mood had improved dramatically, and Emotan had changed her own return flight from Sunday to Saturday, and booked a seat for her mother as well.
Emotan watched distractedly as their plane taxied down the runway, wondering what her Father’s reaction would be when he found out that she had absconded with his pregnant wife to Abuja.
Ivie M. Eke 2019.