“Hello? Mrs. Anderson on the line. Who’s this?”
“Good. It’s Cheryl.”
Mrs. Anderson sprang up from her seat. Cheryl! Her daughter. Her only child. She had not heard from her for 8 years! Eight solid years! Well, not like it was entirely her fault, but she was always blaming herself. Her husband had a problem with some of his co politicians, and one of them, who was his best friend, advised him to relocate his daughter. Cheryl has since been staying with her Mum’s unmarried friend. Mrs. Anderson often sends money to her friend for her daughter’s upkeep but has never been able to speak to her child. On one occasion, she had flown down to Lagos to see her child. She didn’t even inform Betty, her friend. She boarded an airport taxi and it was on her way to Betty’s house that she called.
“Hello. Betty. I’m in Lagos and on my way to your house.”
“WHAAAAAAT?????!!!!!” Betty had screamed.
“No, not at all. It’s just that Cheryl is not around now.”
“WHAAAAAATTT????!!!!” It was her own turn to scream. “Where did she go to? What’s the point of coming to Lagos then?”
“You should have told me you were coming nah. Cheryl went on an excursion with her school. They just left yesterday. Had it been you told me you were coming, I would have cancelled her trip. Is there any problem by the way?”
“N…no. I just wanted to see my baby.”
“Cheryl is no longer a baby o.” Betty laughed. “She’s fourteen already.”.
“Please give me her phone number.”
“She said doesn’t even want a phone o. Very disciplined girl.”
“Oh. Please call me when she’s back.”
“I will. Won’t you come over to my house?”
“N….no. Thank you.”
“Oya nah. Bye bye.”
“Bye.” And their lines went dead.
Nancy couldn’t believe she has not seen her daughter since the girl was 7. She has never spoken to her even. Her motherly instincts kept telling her something was wrong somewhere but she couldn’t place it.
And now, Cheryl called her! She couldn’t believe it.
“Baby! How’re you doing? How’s everything? How’re you? Oh! Cherry Baby, I missed you!” She ranted on.
“Indeed.” The cold reply Nancy got from her daughter quenched some of her excitement.
“Baby, are you alright?”
“Please cut that Baby scrap off! Really? After dumping me like a piece of trash for more eight years you’re coming to call me Baby? Are you okay at all?”
Nancy felt her heart burning. “Cherry?”
“Please don’t Cherry me!” She spat out. “Now you can’t have another baby you’re looking for me, right? The rejected stone!” She gave a bitter laughter.
This was getting more serious. “See, Cheryl. This is your Mum on the line. I….I…think there’s a mix….a mixup somewhere. I’m Nancy. Your….your Mum.”
“Mum my foot! I rather die than have a filthy whore for a Mum!”
“Please shut the fuck up and listen to me! Really? You think we won’t find out? I just pity the poor man who still stuck to you even after you had a baby for another man under his roof!”
“Shut up! You couldn’t even live with the product of your adultery. You kicked me out like a filthy piece of thing. And now you can’t have another baby you’re going back to your vomit. Eww! You disgust me!”
“See, Cheryl, I don’t know who put all these into your head, but believe me, they’re lies. Lies from the deepest parts of hell.”
“Interesting. Tell me more.”
Nancy overlooked the sarcasm in her daughter’s voice. “Cheryl. Please can I come over? Let me explain things. Please.”
“Keep your explanations to yourself. I don’t need them. And for your information, don’t bother calling this line again. I’ll block you off once I’m done making this call. I would never have called. But I did anyway, just to let you know how useless you are as a Mum and how you’ve failed as a woman and how you’re unfit to be part of humanity. I hate you so much, Nancy Anderson.” And the line went dead.
Nancy felt as though her bones were pulled out of her body. She easily slumped onto the floor like a piece of cloth.
Her Cheryl. It would have been better if Cheryl hadn’t called at all. She felt hot tears trickling down her cheeks. She knew she had failed as a mother by not seeing her child for eight years. But then, those accusations, where had they come from?
This is not the time to cry! She shunned herself. She quickly dialed Betty’s number. Betty picked at the seventh ring.
“Ah ah! Nancy, this one you want to kill my phone battery.” Betty laughed.
“Betty, please this is not time for laughing.” Nancy said, pacing the length and breadth of her massive bedroom.
“Really? What’s up?”
“See, my daughter called…..”
“This is not a “Praise God” matter.”
“It is o. Cheryl calling you is a big miracle.”
“It’s not. You just can’t believe what she said to me.” She was tearing up already.
“What happened? What did she say?”
And with her hankie constantly dabbing at her face, Nancy told her her conversation of just few minutes ago. When she was done, the other end was still quiet. “Betty? Are you still there?”
“Yeah.” And all was quiet again. After several seconds, Nancy called out again.
“Say something for God’s sake!” She cried.
“How’re you feeling now?”
Nancy was a bit taken aback. “What do you mean? How on heart am I supposed to feel?!”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.” Betty’s cool voice sounded so dangerous and that frightened her.
“Really? How bad?”
“Wow. I see. And do you like feeling very bad?”
“No. And I don’t understand where we’re heading to with all these.” Nancy’s initial tears was now replaced by curiosity. She dabbed at another tear trickling down her cheek.
“You’ll soon find out. Have you ever heard that revenge is best served cold?”
“Betty! What’s going on?”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t!” Nancy was ready running out of patience.
“That’s so bad. I’ll remind you then. You remember any one called Ken?”
“I know many Kens.”
“Which one comes to mind easily?”
“Your boyfriend?” Nancy was trying to wrap her head around what her friend was saying.
“Oh! You remembered! Interesting. I’m not surprised though. You remember your little fling with him? The fling that I’m still paying for even as I’m speaking to you?”
“I….I’m honestly confused Betty. What are you talking about?” She sat down at the edge of her bed.
“I’m just trying to refresh your memory on some things. Relax.”
But she couldn’t relax!
Ken had asked Nancy out, and when she asked after Betty, he said she was indisposed and therefore couldn’t come. Naturally, as a friend’s boyfriend, Nancy didn’t think there was anything wrong with the hangout, a hangout that later turned out sour. Ken was filling her ears with stuffs like, “I’m ready to end my relationship with Betty if you’d give me a chance……You’re the kind of woman I’d rather spend the rest of my life with….You’re everything and more I’ve ever asked for in a lady…..Blah blah blah.” And without even replying him, she abandoned the ice cream she was eating and left the restaurant. She blocked off his number and severed every tie she had with him. She didn’t tell Betty because she felt Ken would come back to his senses. Which never happened.
But Betty didn’t know of all these! Her own part of the story:
Ken was this guy she met when she was at crossroads, her dad’s death, financial problems, school fees issues and just after a hurtful breakup. She had found succour in Ken and had tied all her life dreams around him. No thinking of anything without Ken featuring, “I’ll make my hair tomorrow after Ken would have…….” Just like that. Occupying herself with him. Hinging her future with his. And after five years of dating, she decided to get pregnant for him –to seal the relationship. After all, they’d still get married, the baby was just to facilitate the wedding processes.
Imagine her joy when she stepped out of a hospital with her pregnancy test reading positive. She couldn’t contain her joy. She went to the nearest ATM, withdrew some cash and headed straight into the market. She was going to treat the love of her life to a sumptuous meal. Toast to the little life growing in the inside of her!
All the way to Ken’s flat, she had this smile on her face. Cheerfully greeting everyone on her way. At a point, she even thought she felt the baby kicking, but come on!, she was just two months gone. Her smile however froze on her lips when she entered Ken’s apartment and saw him drinking, heavily. Something she’s never seen before.
“Sweetie! Are you okay?”
Ken just ignored all her entreaties to make him talk, and after some time, he blurted out in anger.
“Why don’t you carry your ill lucked self to another place?! Why can’t you be half of what Nancy is?! Nancy has been your friend since time immemorial, yet you can’t even meet up with you standards! I wonder how she’s managing to be friends with a numbskull like you! I don’t even know why I’m wasting my precious time talking to a lost cause like you! Just get the fuck out of my life and never do I want to see your miserable self around me!”
To say she was shocked was an understatement. She was momentarily paralyzed. But she didn’t break down.
She just walked back to her house and prepared her food. She ate to her satisfaction, had her bath and took a long nap. Four weeks after the incident, and Ken hadn’t checked up on her. She just went to a doctor and asked for an abortion. An abortion that took both the foetus and the womb it was living in. And that was when she cried.
“So, Nancy Anderson, don’t you think it’s just fair that I have Cheryl to myself, considering the fact that you can still have as many children as you wish?”
Nancy was, by now, sitting at the foot of her bed, hands on her head, her phone lying on the bed, on a loud speak out. The tears burning her eyes vehemently refused to fall to her cheeks, no matter how hard she blinked. “Betty, please.” She didn’t even know how to start explaining what really happened to this bitter friend of hers.
“She’s my only child. And you know I’m having complications getting pregnant again.” And like she rightly thought, her devil of a friend was not moved.
“The more reason I should keep the child! And, oh!, don’t even bother involving the police, both you and Cheryl will be dead before I’m even convicted. And as you know, I have nothing to lose. I think Ken is in a better position to explain this to you, but he’s currently in a psychiatric home and currently without a family” And she gave this laughter that assured Nancy that this was no joke.
Even after the phone hung up, Nancy couldn’t get herself up from the floor. She sat there, crying, till late in the evening when her husband came back.
It all began to make sense to her. Betty’s “unavoidable absence” from her wedding. The mysterious death of Ken’s family. Her inability to communicate with her child for more than eight years. She wouldn’t be surprised if Betty had been the brain behind the problem between Anderson and his colleagues, the brain behind the subsequent relocation of Cheryl. But who would have thought that Betty could orchestrate all these? Sweet Betty?! She shuddered.
Anderson was as sympathetic as she knew he would be. He consoled her, took her out for dinner, and did everything within his power to cheer her up.
“In the due course of time, our Cheryl will be back.” And he printed uncountable kisses on her still wet face.
FIVE YEARS LATER
Anderson and Nancy had adopted twin siblings, a boy and a girl. That was five years ago, when the twins were just babies.
They were in a mall and Dante and Beryl were running around the mall, having the fun of their cheerful lives.
“Buy me that doll, Mum! It’s cute.”
“Woah! This car is really big. You promised to get me a car, Dad. Remember?”
“Come over here, Mum!”
They occasionally had to call the children to order, but every five minutes after the warning stare from Nancy, they’d continue with their running around and noise.
On their way to the car after shopping, Anderson noticed Nancy was on the brim of tears. “Hey! What’s up?”
And with her voice thick with emotions, she said, “She is 20 today. My Cheryl is having her 20th birthday without me.”
Anderson sighed. “I thought you wouldn’t remember. See, we have Dante and Beryl with us. They don’t deserve being relegated to the background while you go on mourning Cheryl. For God’s sake, Cheryl isn’t dead! And our twins are the best anyone could ask for.”
He took her purse from her and drew her close and dabbed at her tearstained face. “And you know you shouldn’t be bothering this little baby growing in you. I’ve told you, our Cheryl will come back in due time. Okay? Now give me one of those smiles I fell in love with before I even had a chance to talk to you.”
And even through the tears, she smiled a very beautiful smile and involuntarily rested her hands on her already bulging tummy.
Thanks for reading 🤭❤
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