She held the carton close to her bosom as she walked down the street. Sunrise was an hour away and the street was dead quiet save for the echoes of her slippers hitting the ground. She looked at her baby inside the carton, he was sleeping soundly. She watched his little chest rise and fall and tears flooded her eyes again, he was beautiful, he was innocent, she loved him too much, almost as much as she hated him. His long nose stood straight and firm, just like her father’s and she wished so much that it was not so.
She got to the orphanage and placed the carton carefully in front of its gates. She looked at her baby, still sleeping and kissed his forehead. She stood and took in a deep breath, then banged repeatedly on the gate and ran. She ran across the road and hid in an uncompleted building, from where she watched the carton.
She had not slept in months. At night, when she closed her eyes to sleep, she saw her father throwing his Bible at her, she saw her mother’s face, mournful. That day never left her memory. She had walked into the parlour, where her father was reading the bible and her mother was marking examination answer sheets.
“I have something to tell the both of you,” she had said. Her father closed the bible and smiled
“What is it?” he had asked, “Come and sit here with me,” in retrospect she was glad she had not done so.
“What do you want to say?” her mother asked not looking up from her work.
“I think I am pregnant,” she blurted out.
“What do you mean?”
“I am pregnant,” she said again, her voice louder this time.
“That’s not possible,” her mother said, pushing aside the answer sheets “you can’t be pregnant, you are still a little girl, you are a virgin.”
She remained quiet and looked to her father who just stared back at her without any expressions on his face. She had not seen her father not smiling before.
“Talk to me!” her mother was screaming, “who is responsible?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered
“Eh? What do you mean you don’t know? You were raped?” her mother was asking “Someone forced himself on you!?”
“I was not raped,” then her father threw his bible at her. It surprised her, one second he was sitting, unflinching, the next he was hurling his large bible at her. It missed her stomach by a few inches. She looked at her father, and he was no longer her father. The ever smiling church deacon was gone, replaced by a very angry man.
“So you are a common harlot,” he spat. “I am a Godly man, I cannot harbour harlots in my house, what would people say? Did you think of that before you went jumping from one man’s bed to the other? A deacon’s daughter pregnant out of wedlock and does not even know who the father is,” he was raging mad.
“I do not jump from bed to bed.”
“Chineke kpo gi oku.” he said. “You are no daughter of mine, leave my house. This house is God’s house, it cannot contain iniquity.”
“Don’t you ever call me that, you ingrate,” he was standing now, shaking all over. “I trained you well, very well and this is how you repay me? Drag my name through the mud? God forbid.”
Her mother arranged for her to go to her grandmother’s house in the village to live till she had her baby. Her father told the church that she had gone to do a pre-degree course at Nsukka. Her arthritis ridden grandmother took care of her, her mother visited a few times, her father never came. On the day she went into labour she prayed that God take her life or the baby’s or the both of them. They both made it, the doctor had told her that she had the most beautiful baby he had ever seen and for the first time in months, she was happy, then she saw that nose. She did not name him, her mother called him Godswill, her grandmother called him Chimdimma, but she called him nothing, he was just her baby.
From the incomplete building, tears running down her cheeks, she watched the carton. The minutes crawled past and light began to creep into the sky, her baby began to cry. She immediately wanted to run over there and carry the baby, to tell him how sorry she was, how much she loved him, to take him back home. But the gate opened and a woman appeared, the woman took the baby from the box, looked up and down the street, shook her head and went inside.
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