Akunna had read every pamphlet on when to do and when not to do. She gathered all the fliers she had and kept them in a small box in the one-bedroom cubicle she lived in with her three children. That space was her parlour, bedroom and dresser; she kept a stove outside the room. Everything she had was a result of goodwill. The small brick house was from a church member who pitied her and her children when they realized that the chorus leader lived with her children and her on and off husband in a thatched house. Her flamboyant, sometimes oversized clothing were from rich friends who were in need of space in their wardrobe. Clothing not befitting to Akunna, were thrown in the bin. She never refused them from the givers because she knew they saw her as a beggar, someone to make them feel good about themselves and their life's purpose, and beggars had no choice. Even though she never begged, she just never refused. The last gift, a mattress that she appreciated, was riddled with bedbugs which made life unbearable for herself and her children, so she threw it away.
Akunna was not lazy. She had tried everything to provide for her children; baking, cleaning, you name it, but it was never enough. Her hope for a big breakthrough was her Christian album which she hoped to launch but didn't have money for a studio recording.
Akunna read everything about family planning; she loved her husband Azubuike dearly but knew he was a no good who would never step up to his responsibilities. Any money that entered his hand was either used to purchase weed, booze or spent frivolously on the rumbling buttocks of a club girl. When they had their first child, Akunna prayed it would be her last. She swore never to have sex with her husband before and during ovulation. She marked all her calendars, dotted all her i's, and crossed her legs closed for business. As a strong catholic, she firmly believed that using contraceptives was a sin and that it would hinder her prayers from going up to God. It was as though the devil had studied all her plans and found a way to lure her husband into the house the night she conceived their second child. She laid on the floor of her room in a wrapper, her buttocks protruding when she felt strong masculine hands on her. She shouted the name of Jesus, turned to see her husband naked and erect. It was as though a blessing and a curse. God had answered her prayer by bringing her husband back to her and making her attractive to him again, but it was a curse because of the timing. Because how could she trust that he would stay to take care of the next seed he would plant. Akunna saw her husband lay beside her; he began to touch her in places hands hadn't touched in a while. She enjoyed being touched, and she was touched.
It was no longer about reading. Akunna knew that learning to plan a family had to be teamwork. But it was never going to be possible to educate her foolish husband, whose poverty-stricken father had eight children that somehow survived and whose poverty-stricken grandfather had 12. so instead, she learned how to say "No". She practised severally while washing her children's clothes; whispering to herself phrases like, "It's that time of the month, I am unclean" or "I am too tired, I broke my hip cleaning a client's house." The night she conceived her third child, she made all the excuses in the world but Azubuike, ripped apart her satin nightwear, - a gift from her wealthy, barren friend Nkoyo. He shut her mouth and inserted himself inside her, his breath reeking of weed. Akunna did not scream, he was her husband, and she had not had sex in a long time. She tried to enjoy it for the 30 seconds it lasted. When he was done, she went to wash herself thoroughly, hoping her hand would travel faster than his sperm.
Akunna found solace in prayer, she knew she was a child of grace, and somehow, she would survive, and her children would reward her for all her suffering. She was sure that three was enough. She had planned her hustle with three children in mind. She would run mad if she had another child. She did not believe in abortion; all Children were gifts from God.
Her husband was at home because he was broke. He sold her stove to buy alcohol. Now, she uses firewood to cook. That night, her husband touched her, but she did not budge. She lay on the floor with her legs crossed. He fought, but she held herself. He beat her, but she did not move. He began to choke her but as painful as it was, she found pleasure in leaving the world than having a fourth child. Akunna, almost passing out, let him be, and he had his way with her. That was how she conceived her 4th child. She was dead on the inside. She would never know how to love this child. She had confided in her rich friend Nkoyo and told her everything from her failed husband to her failed marriage. "Sell the child to me. I will pay for everything from your feeding to medical bills. When the child is born, you can tell people it was a stillbirth. I will make sure everything is carried out in secret," Nkoyo said without flinching. Akunna, teary-eyed, stared at Nkoyo, and for a moment, that was something she could consider, an act of mercy to this child.
She knew what she was going to do. She would have to hustle for four now. But first, she must change the locks to her house or run, to where she can never be found.
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