“Jump rope”, was the favorite pastime of the girls of St. Margret’s High School. They jumped rope every chance they got; at recess, even though recess only lasted a few minutes, at lunch time and most times even in the afternoon, when school was dismissed.
Many afternoons Miss Hayes, the Principal, could be seen, literally shooing them off the school compound; this would be after she had allowed them an hour or so to enjoy this sport with which they were so obsessed. She secretly enjoyed this task, but would not let the girls know that. Eve was on to her though; she observed the warmth in Miss Hayes’ eyes and the kindness on her face, even when she was trying to be stern with them. She also observed the glitter in her eyes when she would sometimes unexpectedly jump into the rope. The girls would all begin chanting, “go Miss Hayes, go Miss Hayes”, of course Miss Hayes would not last long at the rope and they would all burst out laughing together.
Eve loved Miss Hayes; she always observed her with keen admiration. This was her secret; she hadn’t told anyone about it, not even her best friend Jan. She often wondered though, if Miss Hayes was as much on to her secret as she was on to Miss Hayes’. Eve longed for the same warmth and kindness which she observed in Miss Hayes, to penetrate her own life; she wished to feel the same thing from the significant adults in her life.
A Terrible Tragedy
A terrible tragedy had disrupted Eve’s happy and normal childhood. A tragedy no child should have to endure. You see, Eve’s mother had died suddenly, a few years ago. She was only ten years at the time, and could not understand why God would take her mother from her; to this day she still could not understand. The woman her father remarried saw Eve as a burden and a threat to her marriage with her father. This led to harsh and unfair treatment being meted out to her.
Eve’s father was no help. He spent long hours away from home, be it working or otherwise. He was never around when this woman mistreated her; this was understandable she guessed, because whenever he was at home she pretended to be nice to her. If he was home more often, then maybe life would be a bit more bearable.
On the occasions that Eve chose to complain to her father, he only sided with his wife, often he would tell Eve that she must have done something to incite the situation. Eventually, Eve just stopped trying to find solace in her father. What was the use she thought; God had taken away her mother and forsaken her, leaving her in this hell which she called her life, and so had her father. If God could forsake her, then it’s not surprising that her own father had too, and for what, she thought, tears stinging her eyes, a pound of flesh!
Oh, The Pain!
Eve was jolted from her thoughts by another excruciating pain, she really wanted to scream to the very top of her voice but she didn’t. Instead she gritted her teeth until the pain subsided. Soon, she slid away once more into her collage of thoughts. She was the best jumper in school; jumping rope had actually earned her most of her popularity. Whenever they picked teams, all the girls wanted to be on her team, she was always team captain. She was liked and respected by all her peers; they not only valued her skill with the skipping rope, but her opinions and advise as well. At school was the only place where she felt like somebody important, and she held that dear.
This particular lunchtime as they were picking teams, to begin their jump rope competition for that day, Jan had pulled her aside to tell her something in private. “What is it Jan?” She asked anxiously, eager to get back to the game. “My sister asked me to tell you something,” was Jan’s response. “Well then tell me, and make it quick, so we can get back to the game,” she had replied. “Well, you know my sister’s boyfriend right?” Jan started. “Of course I know your sister’s boyfriend Jan, come on what’s up?” “His friend John likes you”, Jan blurted out. “You do remember him don’t you?” Of course she remembered him, she meet him once before when she had been visiting over at Jan’s. He had caught her eye the minute she entered Jan’s gate. He was tall, had deep brown eyes, the smoothest skin she had ever seen, and a broad smile which revealed his perfect white teeth. She was attracted to him the moment she saw him.
“Eve, he wants you to meet him this evening at the park”. Jan’s voice brought her back to the present moment. “He what”? She responded. “He wants you to meet him this evening at the park”, Jan repeated herself. “Didn’t he go to Tobago to be with his parents?” Eve asked. “He did, and he is back now, living with his sister and her husband. He says he has glimpsed you in town a few times, he likes you, and he wants you to meet him this evening”. Eve thought for a moment, “I don’t know, I’ll think about it”, she said. “What time?” She asked Jan. “Five o’clock”, Jan responded. “Now let’s get back to the game.”
There was that pain again, a pain like no other, it was worse than anything she had ever felt, even worse than her menstrual cramps and those were bad. So bad that they sometimes kept her away from school, on such days she became very depressed, because she loved going to school.
School was the one place she felt accepted; it was unfortunate for her, she often thought, that school was not seven days a week instead of five. She let out a small whimper, sounding like a wounded puppy, but content with herself at how well she was handling the situation. Especially after all the horror stories her friends told her, which brought her sheer fright, but she was containing herself well.
The pain released her one more time and she drifted off yet again into her own thoughts, ignoring all that was taking place around her. The hustle and bustle, the cries, the sometimes raised or excited voices, even the occasional screams.
Falling in Love
She had decided that she should meet with John that evening at the park, and so she did. She remembers seeing the lean figure walking towards her. As he grew closer she felt her knees weaken. He looks so good, so handsome, she thought to herself. As they sat on a nearby bench talking, her pulse was racing and she felt warm all over. To this day she could remember his smell, as he had moved in closer to her, he smelled like soap and shampoo. Not the cheap kind though, the expensive stuff, the kind his big sister sends from America.
They continued to meet at the park, evening after, evening. They would spend hours talking about all kinds of stuff. It didn’t matter that John was seven years older than her; they thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. With John she felt safe, she felt secure, and she felt like nothing could harm her. In John she found solace, and a different kind of acceptance which she did not feel at home or at school.
She experienced warmth and kindness as she had not experienced since her mother died. She felt the void which was within her for so long begin to slowly fill up; she felt loved. Soon John began bringing her little gifts which she accepted with delight. He also gave her money, since her father barely paid her any attention anymore, worse he paid little attention to her needs. They were both in love and life was sweet. Well as sweet as it could be under the circumstances which she had to live. The circumstances almost didn’t seem to matter as much, anymore, she now had John. She was in love.
Eve was brought back to the present by a feeling of warm water about her lower body. Oh my goodness, she thought, I have gone and wet the bed; embarrassment flushed her face. She soon realized that this fluid which she felt was not urine. Goodness! Here is that pain again; this time unable to contain herself as well as the other occasions, she let out a howl, it sounded like that of a hyena. This brought the nurse running to her bedside. The pain was faster and more furious now and Eve could not stop screaming. Amidst her pain and emotion, she could hear hurried feet and urgency around her. Oh how she wished John was there, he had been her close friend and lover for months; this was more than she could bear, she needed him. Sadly John was not there.
“She’s fully dilated”, she heard one voice say. Then another said to her “Eve you are ready, all you need to do is follow my instructions.” It seemed like forever to Eve that she was following the nurse’s instructions to push and then stop pushing on her command. She felt like she would pass out, she was bathed in perspiration, her throat and her lips were parched, and all her energy was gone. She was beginning to lose touch with reality. Have I been jumping rope for days, none stop, she thought, why do I feel this exhausted. Then came the voice of the nurse, “this is it Eve, this is it the final push, come on.” With all the strength she could muster she gave one last push, and with that she felt something existing her body. “We’ve got the head, now here comes the rest of the body”, she heard the nurse say. “Oh , it’s a girl! You’ve got a beautiful baby girl just like you Eve.”
At those words tears began to roll down Eve’s face; a girl! she thought, a girl! Within seconds she heard the cry of this new baby girl. At this she cried even harder, filled with both joy and pain at the same time. What a special gift! It was November 23rd, her fifteenth birthday. She now held this new life in her arms; this bundle of joy. But where is John? Sadly, there was no John. Tears filled her eyes again. Though she tried to hold them back she couldn’t; they began to pour down her face like a river bursting its bank. Apart from when her mother died, she had never felt such great emotional pain.
Eve did not know when she drifted off to sleep; she did not know how long she had slept. She opened her eyes to find her father, Jan and a few other friends in her room. She surveyed the faces, hoping she would find John’s among them, but it wasn’t, her heart sunk one more time. She looked on as everyone cooed and aahed over her beautiful baby girl. Her heart swelled with joy at the sight of her. She did her best to answer all the questions of her friends, though she was still feeling so very weak from giving birth. Although she was glad for the visit of her friends, she was not disappointed when it was time for them to leave. She needed some time to think and to rest.
As she lay quietly in the dark, and as her new baby slept, Eve reflected once more on the journey that had brought her to this place on this 23rd day of November. What would her life be like now, she wondered, how would she care for this tiny infant, what would she teach her, she was but a child herself. She got out of bed and walked slowly but purposefully towards the cot in which her new baby was sleeping. Eve picked up her sleeping baby in her arms, she felt tears sting her eyes once more, but this time she held them back. As she stroked her baby’s face as she said, “welcome to the world angel.” Then she went back to bed and thanked God that she had after all decided not to abort her special birthday gift. She fell asleep that night with an assurance in her soul that whatever happened that they were going to make it.
My mother and I both share the same birthdate. She was 15 years of age when she had me. Having lost her mother at an early age she endured a tough childhood. This story is a tribute to her strength and resilience. I am thankful that in spite of the advice of others, she chose to give me life.