She sat alone in the cramped parlour watching the Commonwealth games. Her heart was aflame with regret and shame but she couldn’t tear her eyes away or change the channel.
She watched Mary Bloomer wheel her self to the stand and graciously received her gold medal in the women’s shot-put event.
Nigeria’s national anthem was playing and Agnes looked on as Mary mouthed the words.
And, as she looked, she remembered.
She remembered Steve. Jovial, generous Steve, who was so sensitive and caring. Steve, the sailor that got her pregnant while on a brief stop at Calabar. He had left one misty morning to a destination unknown, leaving her single, pregnant and scared before she had a chance to tell him.
She remembered taking every pill, potion and concoction she could find to flush the baby out. Her job at the convent as a cook and cleaner depended on it.
She remembered the baby growing, growing and kicking.
She remembered that cold night twenty-one years ago when the baby came. She had her alone, a month and a half too early.
She had barely looked at the twisted legs and thin transparent skin. She dumped the child in a carton and ran.
The reverend sisters had taken the child in, she found out later. They had named her Mary Bloomer. They had made sure she went to school and developed her athletic skill despite her disability.
They had done all she had failed to do.
Many times she thought of going back, of reclaiming her daughter, of being a mother.
Many more times, she realised just how impractical it would be.
But tonight, in the dim dark, cramped parlour, she let the regret and shame set her heart ablaze as she sobbed into the beer stained rug.