Family Scapegoat

She took a deep breath and controlled the tears that fought so hard to spill out as her parents took another hour rebuking her vehemently for coming home late. She wondered when they would stop with the reprimand because her stomach was rumbling. She discreetly took a throw pillow to cover her tummy lest they found out that she was pregnant. If they did, they would kill her!

Her two sisters looked at her sympathetically as she listened to her parents complain for the umpteenth time on her roguish conduct. Susan envied her sisters. In her parents’ eyes, they were perfect. Emily was twenty years old, the first born of the three. She was pursuing B.Science degree and this made her parents blow the trumpet to whoever cared to know.

Her sister Beth was eighteen. In academics, she was the best of them three. She always topped in class. Susan and all family knew that as they awaited for her results of the just completed national exams, Beth would score a clean A. She wanted to pursue Actuarial Science. Although Susan loved her sisters, she felt her parents sowed discord among them by highlighting their strengths and condemning her weaknesses.

“What will it take for you to change your impropriety? Maybe we should stop paying fees for you and you can stay here roaming the streets.” Her father snapped.

“This one never appreciates what we do for her. While her elder sisters are busy in their rooms reading hard, she is out there like a street urchin.” Her mother said and they both laughed sarcastically. Susan glanced at her parents. Did they really love her? She had heard her father telling a friend that she had been conceived unexpectedly. They had been contented with just Emily and Beth and when Susan came three years later,a lot had been disarrayed. It had taken some time to accomodate her.

Ever since Susan could remember, she had felt as if she was expected to keep up with her sisters. Her parents compared her endlessly with her senior sisters.

“Susan, if you do not change your conduct, you will work for your sisters as a housegirl!” Her father said. She was especially fearful of her father. Her heart was beating because, coming home late was just the peeling of the first layer of an onion. She had realised two weeks ago that she was in the family way. She recalled telling her boyfriend who had bluntly told her to abort. Not that she objected. She could not keep the child whatsoever.

“Baba Susan ,let us just wish that she doesn’t turn out like our churchmate’s daughter, AnnMarie. Rumor has it that AnnMarie is expectant.” Susan’s heart stopped a beat. She pulled her pillow closer to her and fixed her eyes on the ground. She knew her father was glaring at her.

“Susan, I don’t want to see you near that AnnMarie from now on. I always see you hanging around each other. She could be the one taking you for rounds late in the evening to do wicked things. Heard me, Susan?” Her father said and Susan nodded her head.

Her father rose up, “I will not waste my time any more here talking to this one. I need some sleep . Good night girls.” He announced addressing Emily and Beth who were studying in the dining room. They chorused a “Good night dad!”

“Have your dinner and sleep,” Susan’s mother ordered her, “It’s all you want to do nowadays,sleep.” Susan was shocked her mother had noticed how lazy she had become. She had heard women were very quick in noticing baby bumps and symptoms. She had to abort the unwanted child as fast as possible.

She wished she could talk to her sisters about her dilemma but they had always been too busy for her. Susan felt like they belittled her and rarely had serious conversations with her. This led her to find friends elsewhere. She had found a friend in AnnMarie, an affable and agreeable agemate. They had met in church.

“That man can’t stop preaching, two hours already?” AnnMarie had said as they waited for the restrooms to be vacant.

“I know right! Glad to know someone is as bored as I am !” Susan said. The two became bosom friends hence. They invited each other to their homes, shared secrets and fantasies. AnnMarie even introduced Susan to her brother and were now secretly addressing each other as “siz-in-law”. AnnMarie had revealed to her some months ago that she had found a boyfriend. What surprised her was the news her mother announced. AnnMarie was pregnant too? Ted had asked Susan not to tell her sister about her own pregnancy but she wondered why AnnMarie would hide from her about hers.

Susan was alone in the living room. Everyone else had left to sleep. She was waiting for Ted’s text. He would inform her when they would commence their journey to the next town at the clinic famous for abortions. Whe he finally did, she went to sleep and massaged her stomach.

“I am sorry but I have to get rid of you. I can’t have you now.” She told her one month old foetus and slept.

When she woke up, everyone else in the house was up already. Her father, a school principal was preparing to attend a meeting with the local Mp on school funding. Her mother and sisters were cleaning the house thoroughly. Their mother’s friends were coming over.

“There is a theatre show performing the literature set books at the social hall in the next town. I want to go.” Everyone stopped to look at her. No one had seen her bathe but she was all dressed up.

“I thought you are not aware of it. It shows you are starting to get focused.” Her father said. “I am also going to that direction,let us go.” Susan wondered whether to feign a heart attack to avoid travelling with her father. They had planned to travel together with Ted.

“No. There is no way she would go like this. Let her go and have a shower first. My God, Susan. You are a girl, learn to be clean!” Susan hated to bathe but upon her mother’s admonition, she jumped to the bathroom quickly only to ask for her towel later from her sister. By the time she came from the bathroom, her father had already left.

“Your father has said that you should stay put in the social hall. That you should not dare get out of there, focus and learn!” Her mother instructed.

She met Ted waiting at the terminus. They boarded a bus and took the seats near the driver. Susan slept through the journey, as Ted listened to music through his earphones. As the bus channelled through the wavy road, Ted woke Susan up abruptly.

“What?” She asked irritably.

“We just passed your dad’s car!” He said apprehensively.

“Yea, he is going to meet the school financiers in town. We have to be watchful when we get there!” As she said that, her dad overtook them in great speed.

When Ted and Susan arrived at the clinic that fronted as a gynaecological clinic, both of them were pensive. Reality that they were about to commit murder started to hit them. They were directed to sit and wait at the reception for the doctor to finish seeing the current patient. Then a lady joined the receptionist. Throwing caution and manners out of the window, they engaged in heavy gossip, mostly about the patients that had been seen by the doctor.

“We might as well be the next to be gossiped about when we leave here ,let us listen.” Susan said to a bemused Ted.

“This is the sixth girl he has brought in!” They were now discussing the patient that was with the doctor.

“No! Cant he use condoms, that one?” The other quipped.

“One of his many girlfriends is my friend. She tells me that he claims that condoms make him itchy!” The two laughed out loudly but suddenly quietened when they realised they had caught the attention of many.

Ted and Susan threw glances at each other and laughed quietly. The gossiping friends had diverted the attention from their troubling issues. Then the doctor’s door clicked. Ted and Susan nervously stood and started to walk to the door. They were next.

Ted was the first to see them. Susan gasped and held her mouth. AnnMarie whiffled in shock. She was accompanied by Susan’s father who blinked quickly in disbelief. They were the patients being talked about.

Susan sat in the nearest seat and bent down, holding her back of the head with both hands. She remembered her mother talking about AnnMarie and her father suddenly having the need to sleep. She understood why her father had strictly instructed that she should not leave the social hall. It also dawned on her why AnnMarie’s stories about her boyfriend never added up. The boyfriend had all along been her father.

“May I ask what is going on here?” The doctor asked.

“Well doc. Family gathering here,” Ted said, with a sarcastic tone so clear in his voice. “My girlfriend is scared of her father to death because she is pregnant, yet her father is chasing and impregnating her close friends left, right and centre, one who happens to be my sister.”

“Shut up Teddy!” Susan’s father roared. “Do not forget that I am still your school principal. Respect!”

Ted clapped his hands and moved to sit near Susan who was still not out of shock.

“Sir, the guts! You impregnate my fifteen year old sister and ask for respect?” He asked. Susan’s father blinked again in quick procession.

The doctor asked them to get in the office. He closed the door behind them. When they got out, negotiations had been made, firm decisions had been supported while compromises had been allowed. It was a long drive back home.

Susan called a family meeting. She bravely announced that she was pregnant and she was keeping it. Her mother was red with anger. She wanted to tear her daughter into pieces for the embarrassment caused but an unusual thing happened. It caught her mother and sisters by surprise. Her father took the news with all composure. He calmed his wife and promised to take care of his grandchild.

“After laughing at AnnMarie’s mother all this time,yet the joke was on me!” Her mother sighed. Susan and her father threw glances at each other. AnnMarie had stood firm on her abortion. He closed his fingers that Susan would never reveal the truth. She on the other hand, was elated. She now knew where the adventurous streak in her came from. She was happy that she had something over him. She would never be frightened of him anymore.

“I need a glass of yoghurt dad,” She said and her dad walked to the kitchen and brought her demand. This was the sixth demand since they came home. When the rest went to sleep,he whispered to her agitatedly.

“You are pushing this too far, girl!”

“Daddy, remember what we agreed. You treat me well, I shut my mouth. If you don’t, I talk to mum about AnnMarie…”

“Shhh…dont mention her name!”

Susan’s father although had been unwilling at first to be pushed around, discovered that he liked being around his last born daughter. They had too much in common. He bought baby clothes for the coming baby and even protected her from pointing fingers of cynic people . He realised that he had contributed to his daughter’s mistakes. He had often condemned her and failed to see the good in her. She had sought solace elsewhere.

He realised that his waywardness had made her lose respect for him. Nonetheless, he was amazed that even after so many years of criticising her she had not whispered a word to the family, in revenge.They still held him with high esteem. He vowed to change and be the best father and grandfather that any child would wish for.

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