Her lips quivered as she struggled to get the words out.
She was so nervous I actually felt sorry for her. You would not know it from my expressionless face though. In fact, I suspect my stare probably did not help matters as she averted her eyes, and fiddled with the hem of her skirt.
Ajoke was sitting across from me in a busy eatery, shaking like a chihuahua, because she was asking for permission to date my ex.
Marry him actually, because things had got quite serious between them, and he had expressed his intentions to take the next step .
She would have come sooner but she had assumed he was merely on the rebound, and did not take his advances seriously until she found herself developing feelings for him. Then he had taken her to meet his parents, and his parents had approved of her.
I would have scoffed at the mention of his parents if my chest did not ache from the knowledge that Adoga had taken that big step with her.
He had done so with me too, but instead of that being the beginning of our marital journey, it marked the beginning of the end of our relationship.
I was incredibly nervous the day Adoga took me to meet his parents, but they took to me almost immediately. His mum especially. She insisted I sit beside her during dinner. We talked and laughed so much throughout the entire dinner that anyone who walked in at that moment would assume I was her daughter.
By the time we were lounging in the parlour and looking at Adoga’s baby pictures, I could already envision a happy future with his father and mother as my second parents.
“Adoga was such a troublemaker. He would make mischief and then blame it on one of his siblings.” His mum joked, pointing at a picture of Adoga’s younger brother crying.
“I’m right here Mum. Don’t talk about me like I am not even in the room.” Adoga said, feigning annoyance.
“After 9 months of pregnancy and 24 hours of labour, I can talk about you however I want!” She retorted.
Adoga rolled his eyes like one that had heard that line many times.
I giggled, concurred with her and added that childbirth was no easy feat.
She laughed at me and asked how I knew.
I started to respond but caught a look from Adoga and halted mid-sentence.
He had not told them.
His mother saw the look and her smile faltered.
“What? What is it?” She demanded. Her eyes darting back and forth between Adoga and me.
Adoga averted his eyes, and scratched at his right temple – a telltale sign that he was thinking of a lie.
I was not going to be party to it.
I had never lied about it, and I was not going to start now; especially not with people I hoped to have a lasting relationship with. They would find out sooner or later anyway.
“I have a daughter.” I said solemnly.
His mother’s smile disappeared altogether as the blood drained from her face.
Her husband’s expression was one of surprise, then he became unreadable.
The awkward silence that followed was only uncomfortable, the words that Adoga’s mum said when she had dragged him off to the next room, however, were utterly humiliating.
I was certain she wanted me to hear her, considering how loud she was speaking.
A woman who thought me the perfect daughter-in-law mere moments earlier, now used words like “loose” and “no home training” to describe me. All because I had a child out of wedlock.
I was your textbook “good girl” by Nigerian standards. Never said a bad word to people, never missed church, was respectful to my elders, could cook and clean. I had even made a promise to God that I would remain a virgin till I got married, and was doing a good job of it until I met Iheanyi. I fell hopelessly for him and against my better judgment, had unprotected sex with him because I was so sure we were going to get married, and I believed him when he said a woman could not get pregnant on her first sexual encounter.
Well, I did; he did not marry me, and I chose to have the baby – a decision that I do not regret, but one that I have suffered for in more ways than one.
People who knew looked at me with either pity or disgust, some of my married friends treated me as if I would go after their men if given the chance, and a lot of suitors walked away the minute they discovered I was a mother. I even got approached by married men who expected me to jump at the idea of being their mistress because I could not possibly take care of a child on my own financially.
It had been a long road, but I finally met a man who saw me, and did not care that I already had a child.
Alas, the same could not be said for his parents.
I smiled into my glass of orange juice as I thought of the irony of the situation. I had never had sex with any man before Iheanyi, and I swore a vow of celibacy after him. I had not even slept with Adoga and yet, his parents were happy to accept a lady who had not only had various sex partners, but more than a few abortions as well – just because there was no child tugging at the seams of her skirt.
Ajoke’s past did not make her a bad person. She, like me, had been unlucky in love for some time. Every man she had dated had been an unrepentant cheat, and she continually fell victim to their lies. She was a good girl that had been hurt one too many times, and she deserved to be happy.
It was just interesting that I, who did the more “Christianly” thing of letting the child live, was the one who was considered unsuitable.
I took another sip of my juice. Slow, deliberate.
I knew Ajoke was in absolute anguish as she sat there, waiting for my answer.
I wanted to hate her, but it was not her fault.
I wanted to hate Adoga, but he was willing to fight his parents and I was not.
I wanted to hate his parents but what would that change?
I wanted to hate Iheanyi but the bastard gave me a beautiful gift that I could not imagine life without.
Besides, hate never got anyone anywhere.
I sighed and finally set my glass down.
In truth, Ajoke did not really require my permission; and I knew that her asking for it was more about her satisfying her conscience than salvaging our friendship. Nonetheless, she asked – which proved that my approval meant something to her and for that reason, I gave it.