Slivers of pain needled Regina’s abdomen as she tottered down the alleyway, a short distance away from the other girls. The night was balmy, and the moonlight illuminated the strain on her rouged face, as she clutched at her midriff, wincing as each step she took seemed to aggravate the cascade of pain weighting down on her pelvis.
“If na shit dey worry you, go shit am commot quick-quick,” Arya had snapped at her with a sour look when she noticed her discomfort earlier. Regina had been exhaling through her mouth and skittering in her corner beside the road.
“Reggie, stomach upset is bad for business o,” Blessing had interjected in a more condolent tone.
“What will I do na?” Regina groaned. “I can’t go back to the hostel. It’s too far. And my Mercedes customer will soon get here.” She tipped her upper body forward and gripped her fat thighs as she rode another surge of agony.
Arya recoiled from her. “No shit am for here, you this geh!”
Blessing pointed. “Okay, see that corner. Go there and do it sharp, and come back. Here, take this” – she rummaged in her purse, retrieving a crumple of tissue – “use it and wipe yourself clean before you come back.”
Regina came to a stop in a spot in the alley that was suitably concealed from the view of the Friday traffic on the major road. She hiked up her skirt and squatted. Before she could give in to the urge to push down on her pelvis however, her phone began a muffled peal from her purse. From the ringtone, she knew who the caller was before she fished out the device.
“Regina, where you dey?” a snarly voice, made hoarse by years of nicotine abuse, growled into her ear.
“Tiga, I’m not far,” she whimpered. Tiga was her pimp – a man you didn’t want to catch you slacking on a business night. “I’m easing myself somewhere nearby. Ask Blessing, she’ll tell you.”
“Do quick abeg,” the man growled. “And make sure say you clean all the nyama-nyama commot for your nyash before you show face.”
The phone clattered out of Regina’s hand to the ground as a particularly nasty wave of pain surged through her body. She gasped and tipped backward. Her pudgy hands fell to the ground just in time to break her fall and her entire body tightened as she pushed at the burden in her pelvis. She gritted her teeth against the scream that had been building up and strained with all her might, her face flushed. Her clenched fingers grappled with the macadam, as she strained so hard the sinews on her neck stood out prominently.
And then it was over. She gave one final push, one which produced a wriggling, wet bundle. A piteous wail cut through the air, loud, halting and plaintive, the sound Esther realized would haunt her for a very long time to come. Without looking at the child, she retrieved a pair of scissors from her purse, reached below her and snipped off the umbilical cord, severing the connection between her and the child. Then she threw a hurried look around, spotted some rags lying close by and snatched them up. Steeling herself with purpose, she swaddled the baby with the rags, a somewhat cocoon of warmth that instantly silenced his wail. He gurgled, a sound that caught at Regina’s heart and made her pause to look at her child.
She’d been too afraid of Tiga and an abortion to let on that she’d gotten pregnant. And she had been able to keep her secret to term with loose-fitting clothes and the fact that she was naturally a very voluptuous woman. While the other girls though she was eating too much, she burgeoned with child.
She stared at the bundle in her arms, taking in infinitesimal features, the tiny nose, the soft mouth, the lashes that cast shadows on the round cheeks, the wisps of dark hair that was a curly mop on his head. He gurgled again, and Regina’s heart constricted. She felt a sting behind her eyes as she reached a hand forward to feel the softness of the baby’s cheek.
Her phone pealed again, shattering the tenderness of the moment. It was Tiga again. She began talking the moment she answered the call. “Tiga, I have finished. I’m coming now. Abeg no vex!”
“Your customer dey here! If I never see you here in the next two minutes eh…!” And he hung up.
Briskly now, the prostitute quickly laid the bundle in her arms down on the ground before proceeding to wipe her thighs and pubic area clean. Then she straightened, adjusted her clothing and turned to determinedly walk away from the baby who had begun to cry again.
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