I uncomfortably cleared my throat..

“I’m still maintaining that it is wrong though. I mean, you and I are not even a relationship”.

I don’t know, maybe I sounded a little too obvious that I was trying to get him to hit on me. Maybe I sounded a little too desperate to even entertain such a subject. He sighed.

“Okay, fine. I was just putting it out there. I’m not expecting you to respond today, because I knew you’d be shocked at first. Take your time”

Ah, he was not even willing to spend a second longer, convincing me to consider his idea. Wow!

“Uhm, so, at what time will you get here?”

I coldly tried to change the subject, because the phone call was like a heavy burden on my shoulders.

“Whenever you are ready, give me a call and I will pick you up”

Was it just me, or was the guy offish? He sounded different, like, a new personality has been switched on.

“Okay, sure”

I hung up. I didn’t want to be on that phone longer than I had already been. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the awkward tension I was subjecting my poor self to, by agreeing to help him with his little shopping. I was trying to be nice, and stuff.. I continued cleaning the kitchen, humming a happy song. When I was done, I went to my room and cleaned it too. I took my sweet time to do my cleaning, and took a long relaxing bath. Someone knocked on my door, just as I was stepping out of the bath tub.

“Who is it?”

I yelled. I knew it was always Mama and I in the house, but Chukwudi stayed there too. I couldn’t handle any more awkward moments.

“Its me, can I come in? I can’t hold my urine back anymore”

I laughed. She sounded like she had someone sitting on her tummy, making it hard for her to breathe. I laughed and invited her in. She practically rushed in and flew to the toilet seat. I’ve never seen anyone undressing in that pace before. I applied lotion on my body, admiring the reflection of my body on the mirror. I looked beautiful, with my newly developed stretch marks and a visible belly.

“Ah, thank you. I’ve been holding back for far too long”

She got up from the seat, flushed and walked over to the sink to wash her hands.

“I understand. I go through that a lot, especially now that I’m pregnant”

I giggled.

“I know how pregnancy messes with the urinary system. There’s still more coming”

She looked at me through my reflection in the mirror. I smiled.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what you mean by that”

I wrapped a towel around my body, and wore my slippers. After washing her hands, she walked out. I cleaned up after myself, and then went to my room to get dressed. It was a sunny day, with a bit of a breeze which was blowing a little harder for my liking. I wore a Pink and Yellow knee-length maternity dress, with a Yellow pair of pumps. The Yellow colour blended so well with my blonde-highlighted hair. The combination of Yellow and my blonde hair complimented my skin in an unspeakable way. I took my phone and called Bazukile, telling him I was ready for him, giving him my address and a bit of directions.

After about forty minutes, he called back, telling me he had arrived .. I grabbed my Black sling bag and dashed off. Mama was in the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

She looked at me almost like I was naked or something.

“I’m going out with a friend of mine”

I uncomfortably fiddled with my fingers.

“Please be back before sunset”

She firmly commanded. I swear, she thought we were some lead characters in a fairy tale story. Be back before sunset? Really? Why? Was I going to turn into an alien after sunset?

“Yes, mama. I will be back before sunset”

Yes, I promised to be back before sunset. I agreed to take her rules like a ten year old. I got to the car, and Bazukile was playing the melodic tunes of the late Luther Vandross.

“Hi”

I greeted as I stepped into the car.

“Hey. You’re so beautiful”

That guy! He just knew how to make a woman feel beautiful. He always reassured me that I was beautiful.

“Thank you”

I blushed and looked away. I could hear him chuckle, but decided to avoid eye contact. He started his car and drove off.

“So, where are we going to get these spices and herbs?”

I knew no place that sold spices and herbs, and I didn’t even know how to use herbs when cooking..

“I don’t know hey. I’m no chef”

Maybe that response came across as a joke, because he laughed out loud. I just maintained my smile.

“Okay, let’s search for them. We will find them”

To him, that was one big fat joke. I agreed that we would look for them till we find them. We got to town and went shopping. It was fun, more than I had imagined. We were talking and laughing, tickling each other in between. In fact, he was the one tickling me and playing with my tummy. When we were done shopping, he insisted that we go for lunch. I was still full from the fatty breakfast I had earlier, but he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

“Come on man, order something a little more filling than that”

We had a mini argument about it, until I got a little annoyed and he backed down. After finally ordering, the waitress took our orders and left.

“Hey, I’m sorry for coming across as bullying you. I just felt you needed to eat more, you know, since you’re pregnant and stuff”

The apology came at a right time, because my anger was slowly building up. I hated it when people saw it fit to control me and make decisions on my behalf.

“Its okay, as long as you promise not to do it again. Respect my decisions”

I looked straight into his glittering eyes. He nodded, cracking a smile.

“I promise. The last thing I need in my life right now is to piss a pregnant woman off”

He chuckled. I smiled.

“You better keep that in mind. Never, ever piss a pregnant woman off”

I laughed. He laughed too..

“I know hey. I remember when my late girlfriend was carrying our daughter. She was literally a ticking time bomb. One wrong move and she would explode”

He laughed even harder. My mind was caught in the “late girlfriend” revelation, so I just stared at him.

“What?”

He stopped laughing.

“Late girlfriend?”

I pulled the softest of tones. He looked down, trying to keep it together.

“Yeah. She passed away about a day after she gave birth to our daughter. She always suffered from high blood pressure. The doctors suggested to deliver the baby because her condition was worsening. Literally a day after the baby was delivered, she gave up on life”

His voice carried so much sadness. I stretched my hand and held his hand..

“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must have been”

He cleared his throat.

“My family has been nothing but supportive. My sister took the child as her own, and raised her up to be the beautiful and respectful child that she turned out to be”

I smiled.

“That’s nice. You are blessed to have a supportive family. Without them, you would have fallen apart”

I removed my hand from his. The holding of hands was getting a little awkward.

“Yeah, I would have fallen apart. Especially because her family blamed me for everything”

I gave him a blank stare.

“Because we fought a lot, and she was always mad and angry at me. I won’t deny the fact that I was not really the best boyfriend to her at that time. I partied hard, I cheated, I lied- I hurt her badly. I knew all of that would get to her, but death was the last thing on my mind”

Oh, wow! Trash! As nice and lovely as he was, but he kept revealing his trashy side as I got to know him more. The man was trash, a very lovable trash. I didn’t want to say anything about what he told me, so I just nodded and had my eyes wandering around the room. Our order arrived and we started eating.

“Uhm, so from then, I started appreciating pregnant women. It makes me feel at peace. I always see her every time I’m looking at a pregnant woman. Also, I’ve made a vow to be the best father to my baby. I visit her every other weekend, and talk to her on the phone everyday”

His explanation fell on deaf ears. I didn’t care. None of that would bring the poor woman back. I nodded and sipped on my juice. He started mumbling and blabbing a lot of things that I paid no attention to. I thought he once said he had no kids, but I wasn’t sure, so I decided to go with the flow. After eating, he settled the bill and we walked to the car..

“Are you okay?”

He asked, looking at me as I was silently walking towards the car, next to him.

“I’m okay, why?”

I looked at him too.

“You’re quiet, like you can’t wait to get the hell out of here”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m okay man, maybe I’m just tired. I haven’t had enough sleep in a very long time”

Maybe my explanation didn’t stick, but that was the best I could come up with. He decided to let it go. We got to the car and drove off..

“Thank you for helping me out. I now have to hire a chef to work his magic on these ingredients”

He sounded so proud, like he was doing the world a favour.

“You will hire a chef? Aren’t chefs expensive?”

That was my way of telling him that what he was about to do was really not necessary. To hire someone to cook for drunk people? Wow!

“I can’t cook, that’s the thing”

He explained. Again, he proved just how trashy he was. I endured listening to him, going on and on about how hectic his party was going to be. We got home and he parked right before the gate.

“So, when am I seeing you again?”

When was he seeing me again? How about never?

“Uhm, I don’t know. I’ll see”

That was the best I could come up with.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

I wished he’d stop asking me that. I was okay, just annoyed by him and his stupidity.

“I’m fine. I’ll see you around hey”

I stepped out of the car. He drove off as I was walking towards the house. Both Alex’s and Chukwudi’s cars were parked outside. I walked in through the back door and tip toed to my room.

“Mandy, is that you?”

Mama yelled from the lounged. I sighed.

“Yes, its me!”

I yelled back.

“Come this side!”

I sighed again. I was really not up for making small talk with Alex and Chukwudi, but I went there anyway. They were all there, and there was an old man whom I didn’t know. Overly annoyed, I looked at Mama, hoping for her sake that the old man wasn’t sent by Desmond.

“Sit down. I want you to meet my husband”

Oh no! The way I was so cross, my face must have been scary. The mission of trying to locate a smile, was almost impossible.

“Oh, I’m pleased to meet you, Sir”

I walked over to him and shook his hand.

“Pleased to meet you too. I’ve heard a lot about you”

Mama laughed out loud.

“Mandy is like a daughter to me, allow me to talk about her all the time”

The man also laughed. I sat on the single couch and crossed my legs..

“Mandy, I called you here to introduce you to my husband. He arrived about an hour ago. We, as the family, have decided to perform some rituals for Alex before he ties the knot”

Mama explained. I nodded..

“Mom, there is really no need for you to explain all that to Mandy”

Alex was still set on keeping me in the dark.

“Mandy deserves to know this. She’s part of this family too. And besides, she will be left all alone in this house”

Left alone in the house?

“Uh, what do you mean?”

Mama looked at me.

“We are leaving tonight, at midnight. Our healer is expecting us first thing tomorrow morning and we will spend two days there”

She explained.

“Which is really not necessary. I’m okay, I don’t need to see these people. I just want to get married, that’s all”

Alex mumbled.

“Alex, we’ve been through that already. You are going to see this man and you will do everything he tells you to do”

His father’s voice carried so much authority.

“So Mandy, please careful when you are alone here. No friends in the house, except for that Phila friend of yours. Please eat, as much as you can. Don’t roam the streets at night”

Mama laid out some rules for me.

“Oh, and, the alarm will be active. Please press the panic button if you’re suspecting a break-in”

She added. I giggled.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine. I can look after myself”

She shook her head.

“No, you need to be careful. The ambulance line should be on speed dial.”

I nodded. Later, Mama and I went to prepare dinner. She was so happy, her family was under one roof, in peace. She was the one cooking, and I was just helping with peeling and clearing up.

“You need to make peace with your father”

I couldn’t believe my ears. She knew how much I hated that man, and how I even hated discussing him. I looked at her.

“This is serious. No amount of cleansing ceremonies would cleanse you, until you make peace with your father. These kids are special, therefore cannot be born into hatred”

I pulled a chair and sat down.

“I can’t forgive that man. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness”

Saying those words came from a place of pain and misery. From a bleeding heart.

“Well, you might as well forget the cleansing ceremony because it will be a complete waste of time. You can’t ask for forgiveness from your elders when you have no room in your heart to forgive”…..