Olivier looked down at her belly and shuddered at the thought of carrying a human being inside. How time flies! Last month, she was alone in her room dancing and giggling in celebration of her seventeenth birthday. Today, she was not only pregnant for her step-mother’s brother, she was about to commit murder. Her step-uncle, Tony had called it abortion but Pastor James had always said that girls who committed abortion were murderers and had blood in their hands. Olivier didn’t want to have blood in her hands but Tony had insisted that this was no murder.
‘Murder is when the baby has reached its second trimester. Now it is just foetus and has no life in your uterus.’
Trimester. Foetus. Uterus. What on earth was he talking about? Olivier wondered. He was in the university but spoke astonishing grammar, using big words that her father who was a medical doctor and her step-mother—that wicked woman—who taught at St. Peter’s School didn’t know.
Tony had handed her the bottle with the blackish liquid for the abortion.
‘Is it painful?’ she had asked him, the anxious beads of sweat in her forehead shining at the coloured light in her room.
Tony shook his head. ‘It is absolutely painless. You drink it tonight and you will piss the pregnancy in the morning as urine.’
It was so easy.
‘You think the baby is a boy or girl?’ She smiled shyly at him.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he snapped. ‘Just drink this.’ And he quickly left the room. It was awfully risky to sneak into Olivier’s room with his sister in the kitchen.
Olivier didn’t eat dinner nor did she help Andy, her five-year old step-brother and Sandra, her three-year old step-sister do their home works. She stood before the mirror on her room, studying the reflection of her bare belly. In her hand, she held the black-content bottle.
She didn’t know what to think. Tony had said it was no murder and he must be right. He had told her that one sixth of the world lived in China and that the moon had no light of its own and only reflected the sun’s. He had been right on these. He must be right on abortion too.
She looked at the bottle and sighed for the thousandth time and a cold stone tumbled down her spine. What if I die? She thought. Her mother had died delivering her second child. Olivier was four then. Perhaps, she as her mother’s sole offspring would also get killed with the child she was about to remove.
She sighed. She walked to the bed and knelt down before it. ‘Sweet Jesus,’ she prayed. ‘Please don’t let me die.’
Her step-mother entered the room. She never knocked. She always just walked in. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked, her hard unforgiving lips twisted forward like a spear.
Olivier hid the bottle by her side. ‘I am saying my bed-time prayer.’
‘Have you eaten?’
‘I am not hungry.’
‘Before I count one, you run to the kitchen and carry your food! Witch, you want your father to accuse me of starving you.’
Olivier rolled the bottle under her bed and rose to her feet.
# # # #
Tony entered the kitchen to return his plates as Olivier was taking her food out.
‘Have you taken the medicine?’ he asked in a whisper.
She said no.
‘Why?’ he asked, his eyes shifty, like two unsteady bulbs.
‘What is the matter?’ Olivier’s step-mother asked. She had appeared like a spirit, no one saw her enter the kitchen.
‘She said she has headache,’ Tony lied.
‘Do you have headache?’ the woman barked. No sane headache could resist this hard voice.
‘It is not serious,’ Olivier said.
‘Have you taken medicine?’
‘I don’t want anybody to accuse me of not taking care of his daughter o,’ she said, loud enough for the entire neighbourhood to hear. She stamped away.
‘Make sure you take the medicine before you eat,’ Tony said without opening his mouth.
# # # #
Tony was restless. He stood in his room, pondering. He should have thought about condom. But the mistake had been made. Now, he wouldn’t let it ruin his future. Olivier’s father was his sponsor in school. If he found out about Olivier’s pregnancy, he would throw Tony out and Tony’s dream of graduating into a great pharmacist would hit the last rock. He was sure he would find the cure for Aids, but not if he left school in his third year. No, he wouldn’t let that happen.
He picked up his hand-held phone and dialled Olivier’s number but she didn’t answer the call. It was time to frighten her, he decided.
Olivier was angry with Tony. He had been very kind to her, so kind that she was sure she would cry when the university lecturers’ strike was called off and he returned to school. But during this one week, since she told him of her pregnancy, he had become another person, and not the soft spoken friend and lover she was used to. She remembered how kind he had been to her; she didn’t want to go to bed with him, but he had convinced her with raw kindness.
The first time they did it, it was very painful but he was so kind and endearing, she continued to endure the pain for him, to please him.
‘It is very painful,’ she had complained on the first day.
‘It is because you are not used to it.’
Then she saw the blood. ‘Jesus! See blood.’
‘It is because it is your first time.’
They did it the next day, still painful but she never complained again.
He had answers for every issue and he was so calm and unoffended even when she hit him or raised her voice at him. Although he was nine years her senior, he forgave her rudeness. Not anymore. He was the one being rude now, and she wouldn’t take the medicine until he apologised to her.
A small tap sounded on her door. It was ten pm, her step-mother had retired for the night and her father who was in night shift at the hospital wouldn’t return before six am. Tony put his finely cut face inside then began to walk quietly in.
‘What do you want?’ she snapped.
His face crumbled. ‘Have you taken the medicine?’
He nearly hit her. ‘Are you crazy?’
She caught her breathe then looked up to the stranger she had called love.
‘Do you want to ruin my future?’ He shook her shoulder.
‘You are hurting me.’ She forced her shoulder free and stood up. He grabbed her wrist.
‘Are you mad? Do you want me to lose everything? Can’t you use your head for once?’
She felt betrayed by his tone and her resolve not to take the blackish medicine hardened.
‘Leave my room,’ she ordered.
He didn’t hear well. ‘What sort of nonsense is this?’
‘Leave or I will shout.’
He was rooted on the floor.
‘If I count three and you are not gone…?’
He didn’t budge.
‘One… two…’ she stopped abruptly when she saw the kitchen knife in Tony’s hand. He smiled evilly at her.
‘Get the bottle now and drink the medicine!’
Her jaw dropped. His heartless eyes frightened her more than the knife. He came nearer and placed the cold steel of the knife on her neck. ‘Get the bottle, baby girl.’
The icy edge of the knife on her neck blew shivers down her spine.
‘Get the bottle.’ Tony’s voice was rough.
Olivier picked up the bottle under her bed. Slowly, she opened the seal. She lifted it to her jaw then stopped. The smell cut through her nose like blade.
The door was pushed open and Olivier’s step-mother appeared at the door.
Tony who had his back to the door had managed to bring the knife down when he heard the door move.
‘What are you doing here, Tony?’ the new comer asked.
If she came in, she would see the knife he was holding before him. ‘I brought her medicine for her headache but she wouldn’t drink it,’ he said, his voice, surprisingly calm.
‘Now, take the medicine,’ the step-mother roared.
‘Ma, the medicine is very bitter. I have been taking it for two days now and it isn’t working,’ Olivier countered.
‘You are lying,’ Tony attacked. ‘You never took the medicine. That is why I am here—to make sure she takes the medicine.’
The step-mother didn’t know whom to believe.
‘He is threatening me with the knife,’ Olivier said to add to the tension.
‘I collected the knife from her,’ Tony responded sharply, ‘she had always joked about suicide and I wasn’t comfortable when I saw her with the knife.’
‘What! Olivier, you want to kill yourself!’
For a moment, Olivier thought she had been trapped.
A surge of inspiration stabbed at her vocal cords. ‘The medicine is evil.’ Olivier cried. ‘I will rather kill myself then take it.’
The step-mother walked in. ‘Let me see the medicine.’
Olivier handed over the bottle.
‘Where did you get this from?’ the step-mother asked her brother.
‘I am a pharmacist,’ he said.
‘You are a student,’ she corrected.
He nodded. ‘But the medicine is genuine.’
‘Ma, let him drink a little.’
‘I don’t have headache,’ he snapped.
‘Go back to your room,’ the woman ordered Tony. ‘I will keep the medicine.’
Olivier couldn’t suppress a smile.
‘I will need it,’ Tony said tersely, ‘It cures everything for me; I only gave it to Olivier to drink a little.’
‘You are a pharmacist, you can make another.’ Olivier sneered.
‘Yes Tony, make another one.’ The step mother turned to Olivier. ‘Get panadol for your headache immediately!’
The others began to leave the room. ‘Tony,’ Olivier called. He turned. ‘Good bye.’ She winked.
‘It is actually good night,’ Tony said. He was sure that this wasn’t the last of it.
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