Leaving Jamie was one of the easiest decisions of my life. When you’re 15, pregnant for your boss’s husband and your family lives from hand to mouth and barely so, then leaving with a 3month old baby won’t be much of an option if it can be avoided.
I had no skills to speak of. Mrs Amadi was my saviour, she delivered me from a the pain of poverty and the clutches of hunger. She gifted me hope. She appeared almost from nowhere and chose me, a random child of nobody, 2nd of eight children, to return with her to the city. My parents would have given me to almost anyone at that point anyway. There was nothing left to feed on, given that the last of the lands had been sold to finance papa’s fondness for the bottle. We lived on people’s charity and the occasional menial labour we chanced upon.
The food was ample, the shelter was a mansion(I had a whole room to myself!), the clothing was surprisingly scanty but many(I’ll explain this oddity as we go on). All in all, I was in paradise and I couldn’t imagine what I had done to deserve it. It was a wonderful dream and I had no intention of waking up, ever. So I worked very hard. I took to my chores with glee. I bargained extra hard at the markets so I could return with “change” to my mistress. I would bend over backwards to prove my worth. I learnt to conduct myself properly so as not to embarrass her in front of her guests. She enrolled me in school soon enough. My fortunes soared.
Mr Amadi was a rather quiet man. An astute business man whose opinion was widely respected and sought after in his field. The baffling thing was how much madam tried to get me in his radar. I mean, it always felt like I was caught in the middle of a game they were both playing and somehow I was costing everyone points without even knowing how. Each time Mr Amadi came in, madam would quickly send me to perform some chore or the other that would intrude into his privacy. It made me mildly uncomfortable but that wasn’t a luxury I could afford. So I shrugged it off and did as I was told.
“Chimere! Go and clean the bedroom.”
“But ma I already cleaned…”
“Go and clean it again. And be sure to dress the bed and dust underneath it too.”
“But Oga just…”
“I said go in there and clean! And take that wrapper off your waist. Wear those shorts I got you last week ok?”
To be fair, Mr Amadi did his best to stave off the inevitable. He tried not to stare too hard as my rather short shorts strained across my recently blooming puberty body. I tried not to bend more than necessary but those ridiculous shorts won’t be reined in. He expressed the appropriate amount of interest in my schoolwork as madam made me present every homework and project to him for appraisal. He only perked up when I presented my art project to him, declaring that I may have found my niche. My art and design teacher was even more effusive with the praise. She took me under her wings and helped me execute projects that were far beyond our class scope. That won me some more praise from Mr Amadi but only just.
The quarrels were getting louder. Madam seemed impatient, like I wasn’t quite serving the purpose for which I was introduced into he game. I worked even harder and tried to anticipate her every demand. I even insinuated myself more into Mr Amadi’s life, partly because it made her happy and also because I felt it would win him over somehow. I bought his favourite fruits. I arranged his food when serving like I saw in the movies to make it more attractive. I polished surfaces unnecessarily till they gleamed and glinted. The rows only got fiercer and louder.
Then one day, Mrs Amadi had had it with us. She was resigning the game and I had automatically lost all value. She declared in the presence of Mr Amadi that I will be going back to the village first thing tomorrow morning. I wept profusely. Begging everyone that would listen. I asked for another chance to right whatever wrong I had done. She told me to go and pack my things and get ready to travel early in the morning. I eventually stalked to my room and tearfully got my meagre belongings together. They argued in hushed tones for a while, then few minutes later, Mr Amadi came in with a resigned look in his eyes. I begged him nonetheless. He held my weeping form for a while then he went straight to it. He told me to take my little shorts off. I was confused and I quickly balked at the idea. He quietly explained it to me, this was the price. If I do this, I get to stay. I immediately stripped completely. It was over in a little while and except for the awkward moments after, things strangely went back to normal after that.
Nothing was said about the whole drama the next day. No one said anything about shopping me off to the village. My dream was back on course, and the rows sharply reduced. Mr Amadi was, however, a regular visitor to my room after that. He gradually lost his reluctance and got even more demanding. His shyness slowly evaporated and soon enough, he was the one demanding that I come and remove invisible cobwebs from his room.
Madam suddenly had a problem with Mr Amadi’s summons. Yet when I tried to evade them, she got visibly upset. I was stuck in a no win situation and I just didn’t know how best to proceed. Then bam! I got pregnant. When she found out, I experienced the most amazing about face of my lifetime. She became sweet, caring and motherly. Mr Amadi even got me a private art and design tutor recommended by my school teacher. One of the best few months of my life at the time was the pregnancy phase.
I gave birth to a handsome baby boy and their joy was infectious. I was so happy. Mrs Amadi named him James. It amazed me that they were so happy given the circumstances. But of course my happiness was short lived. 3months later I was given an ultimatum. Mrs Amadi said I had a decision to make, leave with Jamie or leave him with them to raise as their own.
I wondered briefly where they expect me to take a 3month old. I couldn’t possibly return to that hellhole. Aunty Agatha, my design teacher was my only help. I gave her the money the Amadis gave me as transport fare home. She got me an internship with a popular designer.
Jamie would be 10 now. I think about you a lot these days Jamie. Would you understand? Will I ever find you? The Amadis moved away soon after I was ousted. I make dresses with my name on them now Jamie. Your mama made good. I’m sorry I couldn’t take you with me Jamie, I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough. When I find you, I really hope you forgive me. I hope they haven’t poisoned your mind against me. I hope someday I can make them pay for all the time they cost us. But they did save me from that hellhole. Maybe I’ll let you decide Jamie. Maybe if they did you right, maybe we can forgive them both. Love, Mom.