Old Sins; A Fiction Story by Phidelia Imiegha

A feeling you can’t describe wakes you up at 2am. Yesterday, it was 3:15am when this feeling woke you up and you tiptoed to the bathroom trying not to wake your husband. You sat on the toilet seat and you cried, silent cries, your chest heaving, your hand over your mouth, trying not to make any sound as you offloaded your chest.

But the load came back, because now it’s 2am and you’re awake again, and you’re tiptoeing to the bathroom when you hear movement behind you. You turn around and your husband, Mike, is sitting up in bed, propped up on his elbow, rubbing his eyes.

“Where are you going?” he asks, “Are you okay?”

You nod even though he can’t see you in the darkness. You tell him to go back to bed; you say you’re just going to use the bathroom. He mumbles okay and falls back onto his pillow. You know he’d be asleep within a minute. You grab your phone from the table in the middle of the room, walk into the bathroom and shut the door quietly. You sit on the toilet and sigh loudly. Sometimes, your bathroom is your safe haven, a quiet sanctuary where you can be alone with your thoughts.

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You met Mike nine years ago at his cousin’s wedding and two years later you were married. He was charming and attractive and he had a good job. You both fell in love very fast and he was eager to start a family but life had other plans. With each passing day, you and Mike become even more distant from each other.

You only have sex when you’re fertile now, because the times when you had sex for pleasure has long passed. Now you do it because after being married for seven years, you still haven’t gotten pregnant once. And so, every month, you try to get pregnant, but ever so faithfully, two weeks after, the red roses bloom.

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Earlier in the week, your colleague took you to a prophetess who she said worked mighty miracles and performed signs and wonders; You took one look at the place that served as her home and temple, a dingy one room apartment in a building that looked like it was going to collapse anytime, and you laughed. You wondered why her signs and wonders hadn’t gotten her out of the slums. You shared this thought with your colleague and she eyed you and called it humility, or modesty. Or both.

The prophetess listened to your story and pronounced her verdict immediately after you stopped talking. She said you had greatly offended some people in your past. She said they were still angry and that their anger had turned into a rope that had tied a knot around your womb, preventing you from conceiving. You laughed nervously and asked her what her solution was. She said you had to search your mind, find these people and beg their forgiveness.

You, a university graduate, would normally not believe such nonsense, not when it was coming from an uneducated prophetess. But that feeling woke you up tonight and now you know you have to try.

****

You’re logged onto Facebook now, you know who you must contact. Rhoda Adeyemi. She was your best friend in secondary school but you haven’t spoken to her in about 15 years. You whisper her name into the silence of the bathroom and the memories come rushing back.

You and Rhoda were best of friends. You did everything together and shared every secret with each other. When you were in SS1, you developed a crush for a boy in SS3. You don’t even remember his name anymore. You told Rhoda about him and she cheered you on.

A few days passed and you found out that Rhoda had gone and befriended him. You confronted her and she told you that she had done it for you, to help you get close to him. You tried to believe her but she only got closer to him and soon there were rumors that she was dating him. She denied all of this and claimed she was trying to get him to like you. You got consumed in a jealous rage and came up with a plan to discredit Rhoda.

You wanted to cause a public embarrassment for her that would cause the boy to stop liking her. You crept into the housemistress’ lodge when she wasn’t there and stole some money from the wooden box you had seen her retrieve money from a number of times. You planted the money in Rhoda’s luggage and waited patiently. When the housemistress realized some money was missing from her safe, she conducted a hostel wide search, and the money was found in Rhoda’s box. You expected her punishment to be mild, labour and a few strokes of the cane during the morning assembly. But you were wrong. The headmaster and housemistress decided to make an example out of her.

After being flogged at the morning assembly and paraded as a thief, her expulsion was announced. You couldn’t breathe. For a moment, you considered speaking up and saying the truth, but the possible repercussions scared you, so you stayed quiet. When the assembly was over, you ran to the bathroom and threw up all your breakfast. You knew Rhoda would be escorted by the female teachers to the hostel to pack her things and then taken home by the school bus, so you remained in the bathroom for hours until you were sure she was gone. You couldn’t face her. You never said goodbye.

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You finally find her profile among all the other people who share her name and surname with her. You click on it. Your eyes go straight to her location; Texas, Houston. You are relieved, that means you can call her right away. Her phone number is on her profile. You punch the numbers into your phone, dial it and press the phone to your ears.

A lump grows in your throat as the phone begins to ring. You start wishing that she doesn’t pick up as you listen to the electronic beeps. You lose your courage and decide to end the call when you hear a chirpy voice on the other side of the phone call.

“Hello?”

You swallow hard and clear your throat before responding,

Hi, is this Rhoda? This is Ese.”

“Ese who?”

“Ese Ojeabu. From Stella Maria College.” You say.

You look down at your feet, the polish on your toe nails are chipped. You make a mental note to get a pedicure soon.

Oh!” Rhoda exclaims after a few seconds, “Ese! Oh my God, it has been forever! Wow! How have you been?

I’m fine, and you?” Your voice lacks the excitement that Rhoda’s voice is laced with.

I’m great! Wow this is so unbelievable! It has been like what? Fifteen years?

You laugh uneasily as you transfer the phone from your left ear to the right. It feels heavy and warm on your face.

Listen,” you say, “I called to tell you something important. Remember that time in SS1? When you were expelled….

Rhoda cuts you off, laughing and you picture her chest heaving from the laughter. You picture the girl from fifteen years ago not the woman on the other side of the phone.

See, babe, I didn’t take that money for real. I think someone set me up.” She says, the laughter still evident in her voice.

You pause for a second, you still have a chance to keep your secret, but you hear your voice betray you,

I know. It was me.

A pause.

What?

I was angry about that SS3 boy, what’s his name. I was stupid and I didn’t know it would go that far.” You say quickly, your voice breaking, eyes watering.

Please forgive me.” You add.

Another pause.

Jesus Christ.”

Her voice is no longer chirpy and excited.

Your tears are falling freely now.

“I need you to forgive me.” You say. You don’t recognize your voice because of how desperate you sound.

You hear a dial tone. You sigh and drop the phone on your laps. Your palms are sweaty and your lips are dry. You lick your lips and they taste bitter, like desperation.

You remember how you felt after Rhoda was expelled. He noticed you. The one whose name you can’t remember. He started hovering around you and offering to buy you lunch. You finally had the thing you wished for, and you couldn’t for the life of you remember why you ever wanted it.

 

Short bio: Phidelia Imiegha’s writing can be found on www.phideliaimiegha.com. She tweets at @thephidelia_

First published in Tush Magazine Issue 13

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