A second chance

A second chance

© Folakemi Emem-Akpan

I was determined not to be like my mother.

Knocked up at age seventeen, foolish enough to keep the pregnancy even though the guy responsible quickly delegated his responsibility, then escape into a loveless marriage at age twenty.

I would not be like that.

Then I met Steven. Yes, I was sixteen. Yes, we were sleeping together. Yes, I was on the pills. And yes, I got pregnant. But there’s nothing wrong with being pregnant at sixteen if the guy loved you and you loved him back. Love is always the answer, right?

I got educated real fast. Steven shook his head, bit his lips so hard that a mustache of blood appeared, then pointed me out of his parents’ house. How could I be so stupid? Didn’t I know enough to use the right contraceptives?

I walked home in a daze, felt hot fingers of sunlight scratching at my face, the wind ruffling my hair. But my heart had gone cold, a coldness that was all absorbing, all knowing, all draining.

“Are you all right?” My mother was at the kitchen sink, peeling apples and carrots for three-year-old Joshua.

I nodded and found myself studying her face. She was thirty-three, mother of five, and abused wife. The corners of her eyes and mouth had started to develop a fine network of wrinkles, the right side of her face a deep purple from her last close encounter with my step dad.

I had started my adolescent years vowing not to become another Theresa, but here I was on the same fast lane my mother had taken, the one that points straight to hell.

I climbed the staircase, every step shorter, every step heavier, every step more uncertain. In the room that I shared with the twins, I pulled shut the window blinds, curled myself into the fetal position on my bed, finally gave in to the misery. The sobs started at the back of my throat, grew rapidly to engulf my whole body, spilled out of me in great, spooky gasps.

Later that night, I pulled out my suitcase from the back of the wardrobe, counted the coins and paper notes I’d stored over two years. Then the questions hit me.

 How much did an abortion cost? Which of my friends knew where to get one? How long after it would I be back on my feet?

I broke out in a sweat, felt my body alternating between chills and fevers. I pushed back the suitcase, curled up in bed again. As the soft tentacles of sleep encased me, I thought about my mother. She’d know what to do. I had to tell her. Yes, she’d be disappointed but she’d help. She knew what it was like to be a teenager and pregnant with a child the father did not want. She’d sympathise, help me get an abortion.

Sunlight streaming in through the window woke me. Tina and Tyra were still sleeping, back to back like two spoons in a drawer. Stretching, I got out of bed, not any less despondent than the day before. With a bladder full to bursting, I headed for the bathroom.

There was a splash of red in my panties. I closed my eyes and opened them again. The red stain seemed to have grown in those few seconds. Frantically, my eyes rose to the limp calendar that hung in the bathroom. My period had been due since the week before, and I’d begun to feel nauseous since the beginning of the week.

But I wasn’t pregnant, couldn’t be, what with the blood and all.

Near collapsing with relief, I sat on the commode, felt the tension ease out of my body.

Another chance. I’d been handed another chance, and there was no way I’d misuse it.

I was determined not to be like my mother.


  1. Phew! I can imagine a huge wave of relief coming over her. One moment all her world seemed to have crumbled, facing her dreaded fear, one that would mark her for life like Theresa, her mum, and another moment came with a huge relief that seemed to make the previous one a bad night dream. In that moment, she had learnt a great lesson. She is now one who truly understands what a second chance means. 🙂

    Great piece, Folakemi. Thumbs up. 🙂


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