I enjoyed going to Sabo market with mother because I enjoyed the smell of raw cow meat. It was odd but I liked it. Standing there listening to her haggle over the price of a slab of meat always interested me. Mother was a petty trader and a very ambitious one. She conceived me during her third year in the university and her parents disowned her. They didn’t disown her because she was pregnant, it was the calibre of man she chose that unnerved them. She had to discontinue her education because my father had just enough to educate himself and there was a plan for her to continue once we had a steady life. Mother had to adjust with living below her high class background but she never left her ladylike mannerisms behind. She always told me “Mobola sit like you have a secret to hide, walk like a proper lady, never slouch and never let anybody put you down.” I would try my very best to adhere just to see her beam with pride.
One day mother never made it back from her stall at Tejuosho market and father was worried. Then we got a call that there was an accident and mother died. The news broke my father. The job he had gotten as a bricklayer at a construction site because the job issue in Lagos was disheartening was lost because he had become an avid drunk. I sold wares whenever I could to put myself through school. I couldn’t afford the privilege of new clothes so whatever I had I tried my best to manage. My hips developed and my breasts sprouted so my clothes became tight. The other girls at school would gather and whisper about me and call me a slut because my uniform was always too tight. Parents advised their children to shy away from me because they tagged me as a bad influence.
Life wasn’t looking up for me. Father was getting more aggressive by the bottle and spirits; he began raining insults and hitting me whenever he got the chance. Then I met Ikenna. He was the new neighbor in our face me I face you. He would smile at me and compliment me. His arms became my hiding place. I spent as much time as I could with him because he shielded me from the troubles of the world. “Omalichanwa, see your ripe pawpaw face. God wasn’t tired when he made you oh”. No one had ever made me feel so good about myself in a long time. He promised to take care of me, he said he was going to America soon to get a job and that he would come back for me. Ikenna taught me how to kiss and for awhile that was all we did. Then one day he unzipped my skirt and I was shocked. He told me to calm down and he promised to take good care of me. I trusted him. I opened my secret up to him against mother’s warning and he entered me, I asked him about protection and he told me not to worry. “You only get pregnant if I enter when you are on your period”. Ikenna knew best. We were like that for three months until I realized I hadn’t seen blood for a month. I ran to Ikenna’s room and he reassured me. I fell asleep in his arms. The next day I left for school, I came back and Ikenna was gone. There was no trace of his belongings and I haven’t laid eyes on him ever since.
I dropped out of school while in my final year and gave birth to my daughter and named her Ayotomiwa – she was illegitimate but she was still my joy. I worked harder than I ever had. The other girls laughed at me but I never got weary. I own a bakery now, I live a stable middle class life, Tomi is 7 years old and I tell her the same thing Mother told me “Tomi sit like you have a secret to hide, walk like a proper lady, never slouch and never let anybody put you down.”