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Anette stared at herself in the mirror. It was her 31st birthday. Years back, when she was still blossoming from puberty, she had so many big dreams. She was going to start her own clothing and cosmetic line. She was going to crush the beauty empire and build her own.
Until she found out she was pregnant. That was a downer for sure. Her mother was not exactly surprised or disappointed. She had only sneered that she was indeed her daughter; that the apple really didn’t fall far from the tree. With that she had laughed and gulped down the cheap wine in the glass she was holding. That was sixteen years ago.
She was going to do better, Anette told herself. Her daughter Anita was fifteen now; which meant she was her in the most gullible state in future past. She had to sit her down and warn her about making the same mistakes she made.
Anette came out of her room expecting a heartfelt ‘happy birthday’ from her daughter only to be met with her brooding self.
“Good morning to you too, sunshine. Everything alright?”
“I wish…I have to step out for a short while. Will be back soon.”
She was already out of the door. She sighed and let her arms down, her hands hitting her thighs with a slapping sound. It seemed she would be having her birthday breakfast by herself.
She sat down and smiled in satisfaction at her neatly prepared English breakfast. If there was no one to celebrate her, she would celebrate herself. Her phone rang when she took the first sip of her tea.
“Happy birthday, dear. How old are you now? 32 or 33?”
“31, mum. You know it’s 31.”
“I see…31 is a good year. It was for me by the way. Do you want to know how my year 31 was like?”
“No, mum. I don’t want you jinxing the year for me, thank you.”
She heard a rueful laugh from the other end of the line.
“Sorry; you still haven’t forgiven me for year 21, huh?”
“Please don’t remind me. Thanks for calling, mum.”
“Wait; how’s Anita?”
“Woke up on the wrong side of her bed apparently. She stepped out without wishing me a happy birthday.”
“Oh that must have hurt. I can remember the number of times you wished me a happy birthday…”
“Okay, I get it. Bye, mum.”
“Wait. I’m preparing a special dinner for you so come over with Anita, okay?”
“Oh that’s thoughtful of you, mum. Thanks.”
“Be sure to be here.”
“When have I ever passed on food? Will definitely be there. See you soon, mum. Bye,” Anette said and hanged up.
Anette loved her mother Anna but she could be a pain in the neck most often than not. She seemed to enjoy seeing her life mirror hers especially the unfortunate incidents. Anna has been divorced once and has broken up with more than a dozen men already. She would invite her to dinner to meet the new man at least twice a year. She stopped going after boyfriend number seven.
Anette herself had also had her fair share of bad relationships. The only one who was good enough was married and such hookups could only last a while but she was sad to see him go. Why don’t good women want to share their good men? Sharing was caring, right?
Anette took a photo of her breakfast and shared it on Facebook and as an Insta story. If her own daughter was too preoccupied to wish her happy birthday, perhaps her online friends would spare some seconds to wish her.
Hours later, Anita came home in an even fouler mood. She was storming to her room when she stopped abruptly and went to hug her mother.
“Happy birthday, mum. Sorry I forgot to wish you in the morning.”
“It’s okay. I appreciate it as long as you remembered dear,” Anette said, tapping her back.
Anita pulled out of the hug. Anita pulled out a small gift bag from her handbag and gave it to Anette.
“Oh baby, thank you.” She took out a cute box from the bag and opened it. It was a gold necklace.
“This is really nice; thanks Annie.”
“I’m glad you like it. Will be in my room,” She said and turned towards her room.
“Granny says she’s making birthday dinner for me so we should swing by. Hope you don’t have plans tonight.”
“No, no plans. There aren’t going to be a lot of plans for now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. It’s been a while since I saw Granny by the way. It will be fun,” Anita said and turned again.
“Annie, I was thinking that we two get to sit down and chat…you know, woman to woman.”
“Sure, yeah. Want to go lie down for a while.”
“Okay, eaten something already?”
“Don’t really have an appetite. Will join you for lunch.”
“Great. Will call you when it’s ready.”
“Thanks, mum,” Anita said with a thin smile and walked into her room.
Something was off with Anita today. Teenage blues, she assumed. So what was she having for lunch? Since there was no son of man to take her to lunch or buy her flowers and chocolate, she had no choice but to plan and prepare her lunch herself. If this was how some of the so-called feminists lived in the name of being self-sufficient, then it sucked. She should have held on to breaking up with Jerry until after her birthday. He was silly to a fault, no doubt; but he knew how to dote on a woman when the occasion arose. Maybe she should call him. He would come running for sure. Nah, only dogs return to their vomit. She was better than that.
“Aww…look at you! Looking so big and beautiful!” Anna said as she hugged her granddaughter Anita.
“Nice to see you again, granny. You’re looking hotter than I last saw you.”
“Because in her head, she is 29,” Anette said.
“Hey, I’m in my forties which is technically the new 30 so I’m dressing my age,” Anna said.
“Loving the aroma, Granny! Looks good too! Are you a gourmet chef now?” Anita said as she sat.
“Getting there, love.”
Anna and Anette sat down. Anette opened the wine bottle and poured into the glasses. Anna sipped and winced.
“What is this?”
“Non-alcoholic, mother. You know Annie is still underage.”
“Is she?” She glanced at her granddaughter who bit her lower lip.
“Something tells me she has already tasted the good stuff.”
Anette looked at her daughter. Anita gave her an innocent smile.
“Let’s say grace, shall we?”
The three women held hands and Anna said grace. They started eating.
“Annie, are you alright? Don’t you like the food?” Anna said as she watched her picking at her food.
“Sorry, I think I’m full.”
“Already? You didn’t each much during lunch either. Are you feeling unwell?” Anette asked.
Anita looked at mother and grandmother. She felt sorry for herself. She wiped a tear that fell on her cheek.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
“What?!” Anette exclaimed. Anna dropped her fork with a gasp. The disappointing looks on the two faces broke Anita’s heart.
“Oh no,” Anette said as she covered her face. She was too late. Her daughter had joined the single mother bandwagon.
“Wow, I sincerely thought you’d be better at this mommy job than I was, Anette,” Anna said. When Anette glared at her in response, she got up.
“I think this deserves some real wine,” she said and went to fetch a bottle. When she returned to the table, Anita had emptied her glass.
“What are you doing, mum?” Anette asked Anna as she made an attempt to pour red wine into Anita’s glass.
“Giving her wine. What does it look like?”
“Yeah with a growing fetus in her womb. If she had the guts to play the adult game, why deny her the adult drink? Drink up, dear. This is your first and last till you deliver,” Anna said.
“Are you going to empty that?” Anna gestured to Anette’s glass. She took it and downed the contents. Anna poured wine into her glass and sat. She took her glass and poured.
“How did this happen?” Anette asked calmly after she had drunk some.
“What do you mean? How else could that have happened?” Anna asked and sipped her wine.
“I mean was it a one night stand or an affair with a boyfriend or did someone take advantage of you?”
“I have a boyfriend,” Anita replied.
“Late last year.”
“I see. I thought you told me everything.”
“I wanted to see where this would go before letting you know…”
“Yeah and now we all see where this is going,” Anna said sarcastically and sipped again.
“Was he your first or have you been sexually active for a while now?” Anette asked, her heart aching that she was asking her questions a little too late. Her sweet Anita was only 15 for crying out loud.
“Why didn’t you think of using protection? It’s not that expensive, you know?”
“He said he would pull out; that it was safe that way.”
“Silly teenage boys,” Anna said.
There was silence for a while; the only sound in the room being the tapping sound of Anette’s manicured nails on the table.
“I was hoping this teenage preggie curse would end with you, Anette. For goodness sake, I’m not 50 yet and I’m about to be a great grandmother! Geez, what did I do wrong?”
“You don’t have to worry about that, granny. I…I don’t plan on keeping it,” Anita said. She saw the color drain from both faces.
“Okay, that’s a new one. Why, your boyfriend now realizes he’s in no position on being a baby daddy?”
“No, not that. I’m not ready. I’ve my whole future ahead of me. I admit I didn’t think this through but it’s not too late to apply common sense, right?”
“And your common sense is telling you abortion is the way to go?” Anette asked in surprise.
“Don’t trust what your hormonal mind tells you, honey. They are mostly not exactly true,” her grandmother said. She had emptied her glass and was pouring herself another one.
“Wow…this wasn’t what I was expecting to hear on my birthday,” Anette said and exhaled deeply.
“I’m sorry, mum. I know you wanted better for me. Sorry I didn’t live up to it.”
“This is not the end of the world, honey; don’t stress yourself. I had the same feeling and so did your mother and look at us now, we are still surviving,” Anna said.
“Yeah but I wanted her to do more than survive, you know. I wanted her to thrive. Enjoy her youth without the challenges of early motherhood. I was so late…there was so much I needed to teach her…” Anette said regrettably.
“Don’t punish yourself, dear. The harm has already been done. Let’s see how we are going to figure it out which by the way rules out abortion. We might be early mothers but we are definitely not baby killers,” Anna said, her tone getting slurry.
“I agree with you but it seems you have had too much wine,” Anette said.
“Wine makes the heart merry, my dear. It’s my coping mechanism.”
“Annie, I understand the pressure you’re under but I wouldn’t recommend terminating the fetus. It could lead to…”
“I would go to a proper clinic, mum. Not one of those quacks who would rip my womb along with the fetus.”
“It’s not just the physical complications I’m worried about, dear. It’s the emotional torment that comes with it. A friend of mine had one and I witnessed how haunted she felt by the experience. I wouldn’t want that happening to you.”
“So you want me to deliver this baby? How am I…we going to raise it?” Anita asked, fear dancing in her eyes. She was hoping they would agree to the termination which would save all of them time, energy and money.
“We will find a way…we have done it before, haven’t we?” Anna said to her daughter, holding her hand. Anette smiled and squeezed her hand.
“What if I don’t want to? I’m scared,” Anita said.
“I know it’s scary but things will get better. It will get worse first but it will get better also,” Anette assured her and took her hand in hers.
“We will get through this.”
Anette watched helplessly as her history began playing out as her daughter’s future. Anita’s boyfriend wasn’t happy with Anita’s decision to keep the baby. He tried convincing her to change her mind. One day when he came over, Anette did what her mother had done 15 years ago.
“Young man, if you don’t want the baby, you can go. You’ve already ruined my daughter’s life enough. I won’t let you lead her to the slaughterhouse. But know that, when she grows to become someone bright and important for which I know she will, you have no right to call her your daughter. Is that clear?”
The threat seemed to have put the fear of God in him as he said he would do his best to be there for the baby. She watched him go. She knew he wouldn’t stick around for long. Hers didn’t.
How she hoped things would be different this time though? Was it too late? Was her family’s fate set in stone? Only time would tell.
© Josephine Amoako 2019