Nigeria's Leading Fictional Story Blog: Seven months pregnant, Due date, Brocade, Black Shoes, My wife, Couple, Child, Five hundred thousand Naira, Beat, Kill, Cheque, She smiled broadly
“Yes, this is my wife,” Benjamin said to the couple. I was seven months pregnant at this point and he was hustling to find a couple to adopt my baby. Foluke hardly visited at this point. Well, if she did, I did not see her at all. Maybe she met with Benjamin elsewhere. “How are you?” The couple asked me. “Fine,” I said. I wanted to smile, but I guess my face had forgotten how to. Even though I could not see my face without a mirror, I was very sure that an ugly frown was standing bold and tall on my battered face. “We’ll treat your baby well,” the man’s wife said. “Thank you,” I replied. “Your husband says you are seven months pregnant?” “Yes. I am due in two months.” “We will pay you two well,” the man said. He was dressed in white brocade and a well-polished pair of black shoes. Everything about them smacked of wealth.
Before they arrived, Benjamin had warned me ominously. “If you don’t behave yourself, I will kill you and the baby after they leave,” he had said holding his hear in a desperate attempt to hit home the urgency of the couple’s visit. “They are willing to pay as much as three hundred Thousand Naira if it is a boy and two hundred thousand if it is a girl. You must behave yourself. Smile and make it look like you are truly my wife.” I nodded. By now, I had lost every power in me to fight. I just wanted to deliver the baby. My body had grown beyond words. My belly bulged out like Mount Kilimanjaro. I could hardly walk without grabbing my back. “What do you say?” He asked me menacingly. “I will smile nicely to them,” I muttered.
“Okay, we have to leave now. My wife has a few things for you,” the man announced. His wife walked to their red Mercedes Benz and returned with some boxes. Later on I found out that they contained milk, assorted fruit juices, frozen chicken and malt drinks. My world! I needed those things desperately. I had been feeding on brown-looking rice and skinny yams with hardly anything else but oil and salt for months. I wondered what the baby would look like at birth.
“This is for you,” the man said as he handed Benjamin an envelope. He grabbed it with a smile. “And this is for you,” he said handing me one. “God bless you,” I replied. I quickly tucked the envelope under my ‘wrapper’. As soon as they left, Benjamin came asking for the money. “It is not yours,” I complained. “It is mine. You are mine and everything you own is mine,” he replied with an audacity that made you want to blow his brains off with a pistol – if only I had one. “I am not giving it to you,” I insisted. I was already thinking about my exit strategy after delivering my baby. It was obvious that I would not get a penny after the couple paid for my baby. Benjamin was so greedy that I was very convinced that he would not give me a penny after the couple paid us.
“Give me that money now or I will beat you silly,” he warned. “Go ahead…beat me. I am willing to die for that money. If you kill me, then the baby dies with me and you will get nothing,” I said with unusual confidence. I knew he needed the settlement for my baby so badly that he would not dare risk anything happening to the baby. Reluctantly, he went inside, unpacked the boxes and began to devour the milk first. He too was craving those. “I have not had a decent meal in a long time, Benjamin. Don’t you think you should save the milk for me? If I deliver a malnourished baby, of which I know I will, they will not pay good money for him or her,” I explained. I could see him pause to think about it. The money was so precious to him. He dropped the tin of powdered Peak milk and left the room.
I can still hear myself saying, “Thank You God!” I pounced on that milk and gulped every grain of the first container down. I devoured it like a vulture tearing dead meat off bone with ravenous appetite. I drank every kind of fruit juice and malt drink that I could lay my hands on. I did not know when I fell back on the bed and passed out. The feasting continued for me for the next two months. When I checked the envelope, I found out that the couple had given me ten thousand Naira. While cooking one night, I wrapped the money in a waterproof bag and hid it the small store room where Benjamin’s chickens slept. I made sure to wrap it in four different water proof bags. I was sure he would never look for it there.
As my due date neared, Benjamin grew more excited. His ticket to life dwelt in my womb. He relaxed a little bit. At least he stopped following me everywhere. I thought of running, but I couldn’t get far. I was too big and too tired to run. Besides, I had no clear idea where I was. I had not stepped out of the compound in nearly nine months. Finally, Foluke visited. I could tell she and Benjamin had been in touch with each other all the while. She had come to take her piece of the pie. She came with another girl. The new girl was about my age. She looked awfully terrified.
“I can’t believe this is all coming to an end,” Foluke said to me. She smiled broadly, but underneath her smile, I could clearly see evil. “You will have your baby and then we can return to Lagos. You parents will at least stop crying over you,” she said. “Yes…I am really excited,” I replied. There was no need to divulge my feelings to her. I needed to get out of that hell hole by all means, so I needed to be careful. “What is your name?” I asked the new pregnant girl. “Atinuke,” she answered. Her eyes were misty. Fear was written al over her. I guess my sufferings over the past year from my first pregnancy to the second one had toughened me up. All of a sudden, I felt older and more mature. Atinuke could not say a word without crying. “You will be alright, okay,” I said to her. I could not wait for an opportunity when Foluke and Benjamin would be away so I could tell her to get ready to run or prepare to die in that terrible house.
The wealthy couple visited again just before my expected due date and they brought some more goodies with them. Lucky Atinuke – she managed to get some decent food early on in her pregnancy. “We would like to talk to you and your wife,” the man said. I could hear them talking outside while I lay inside. Benjamin had tried to talk to them about money with Foluke behind my back, but the man would have none of it. “Foluke is my wife’s sister, so she can represent Abimbola. She is too tired, you know,” Benjamin said. “No, I want your wife present,” the man insisted. Reluctantly, they came into the room where I was resting. Atinuke had been hidden in the next room, which was a mere store. I felt sorry for her because the heat that evening was unbearable. She must have been roasting in there. “We wanted to let you know that we will be paying you and your husband five hundred thousand Naira for the child,” the man said. His wife nodded affirmatively. “That is for a boy, I guess?” I asked. “No, for either. We don’t mind if it is a boy or a girl. We have been waiting for a child for many years now. We’ll take whatever God gives us,” his wife cut in.
My eyes got bigger, but I managed to hide my surprise. Benjamin stared menacingly at me. He had been lying to me all along. “Thank you very much,” I said. “You are welcome. Is there anything we can do for you apart from that?” “The man asked. Out of nowhere, an idea popped into my head. “I would like for you to write us a cheque. I don’t have a bank account – when you live in a place like this I guess you don’t need one,” I explained. My father had once told me that big amounts money did not belong to the house… “They should be in the bank,” he had said. I was going to fight for every penny of the money just to make sure the hoodlums, Benjamin and Foluke did not get to keep it all for themselves. I was no particularly keen on the money – my freedom was far more important to me, but somehow, I felt I needed to stop the evil act they were about to perpetrate. I had to make them work for the money if they were going to have it.
“Can you open a bank account in my name and my husband’s? A joint account?” I asked them. “Yes. We will do whatever you want.” “We can’t keep such money in the house here,” I said. “We will be alright, Bimbo,” Benjamin retorted. “No, my dear. It is not safe,” I answered. “I think your wife is correct,” the man replied. “Please bring the papers tomorrow and we will all sign it. Open up the account and pay a cheque for that amount you mentioned into the account.” “But how do we know the money is there?” Benjamin contested. “I know you are an important man, sir,” I replied. “You must know people in the bank. Please help us do it quickly. If you can pay the money there before the child is born, that would be great. If for any reason the whole thing does not work, you can easily have your friends in the bank send the money back to you. This na Naija, I am sure you can make that happen.”
The woman glanced at her husband and he nodded. “Yes, I can make that happen,” he said. “Good. Make it happen tomorrow. We can all go to the big city to confirm that the money is the account. Once the child is born,” I will hand him or her over to you.” “We are pleased with that,” the couple echoed. “Your wife is a wise woman, Mr. Benjamin,” the woman said. Benjamin smiled artificially. I could tell he was boiling, but there was nothing he could do.
“What are you up to? Are you out of your mind? I am going to kill you!!!” He shouted after the couple had left with the promise to return with the account and the money in it the next day. Foluke stepped in between us. “If you harm her, we will not get anything,” she said. ‘We?’ I thought to myself. I don’t remember you carrying a baby in that your flat belly, I could not help but wonder. I did not dare say that to her. No, not at this time. She managed to coax Benjamin outside. They walked out of the compound to converse. “You have to be careful what you do. If you make the couple suspicious, we all get nothing,” Foluke explained to him. I had crept to the edge of the raffia wall to eavesdrop.
“But what do we tell James?” Benjamin asked. James? I thought to myself. What James, for goodness sake? My mind was running helter-skelter. “If we let them put the money in the bank, how do we get our cut and James’?” He repeated. “As soon as the couple takes the child, we will all return here and you will beat the hell out of her to sign the check for you to withdraw all the money,” Foluke said. “Once we withdraw the money, we’ll split it. By the way, James believes the whole money is three hundred thousand, so you and I have extra two hundred thousand extra to split between us. Use your brain Benjamin. Let us get the money first. By the time you beat her like a machine crushing wood, she will sign that cheque and the money will be hours ours.” I could not see her face, but I could tell she was smiling maliciously as she laid down her plan to him.
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