“June is very sick. You need to come to see her. She wants to see us.”
I got the text at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The message was from one of the three musketeers. The three musketeers was a writers group that we had formed when we were in high school. We were four writers who hung out together, wrote mills and boons type of stories, and gave them to the others to read.
I asked my boss for permission to leave the office and went to the hospital to see June. My friends the musketeers, Njeri and Sela were waiting for me. It was only June missing. We hadn’t seen each other for a year. We had finished high school then campus together then scattered. I saw June’s parents seated in the visitor’s area waiting for visiting hours which would be in 15 minutes.
We hugged but nobody was smiling. I whispered, “what’s wrong with June?”
Njeri answered, “a botched abortion that led to blood poisoning! Part of the baby was left inside the womb and it started rotting leading to blood poisoning”
I asked, “do her parents know?”
Sela said, “not yet!”
We stood there not speaking as I tried to absorb what I had been told. We all felt the guilt, it was collective. ‘Why didn’t we stop her?’ was the question I asked myself and I know my friends asked themselves too.
At 4 pm we were allowed in to see June. She looked awful. Her face and body were swollen, and she had tubes in her veins. Her legs and hands from what I could see were turning black. June was in pain, we could tell. We could see the pain in her eyes.
We all tried not to stare at June so we busied ourselves trying to put away the fruits and junk food we had brought for her. Her parents were praying over her, they were so religious and they were praying to God for a miracle of healing. When they were done they stepped outside to give us a moment together.
We approached the bed. June spoke with difficulty. It took her a couple of minutes to say just that one sentence. “Tell my story. Don’t let this be in vain.”
With those few words, June died.
**** In high school we were inseparable. We had ambitions. We would all be writers and create a writers club that would rival the ones in the USA. We ate, slept, and dreamt books. We were always writing or reading. We used to be called the four bookworms but we called ourselves the three musketeers. We were all for one, and one for all.
We left school and hung out together. We came from different places but we always met at least once a week to exchange books or go shopping or just have lunch. We all passed our exams and were admitted to do degrees in literature.
During that 1 ½ year before we went to campus Njeri, Sela and I used to go out together to the rave. June couldn’t because her parents were so strict and religious. But when we went to campus June had freedom. We enjoyed going out. It was a new experience for her and she soaked up the party experience. She soon became wilder than us. We tried to talk to her to slow down but it was like she wanted to make up for the time we had to party before her. She took to booze and having sex she was a fish out of water. She wasn’t promiscuous; she had a boyfriend, who was a fourth year.
When we had been in university for about a year we went out to party as usual. First, we passed through the local.
June said “I have something to tell you. I am pregnant!”
We sat there not sure what to say. Were we to be happy or sad? We had just started our second year and had 3 more years to go. We all sat there thinking about how this pregnancy would ruin June’s life. She would end up being out of school for a year and even when she came back things wouldn’t be the same.
I asked, “What does Tom say?”
June started crying “Tom says that’s it is none of his business. He said he is not ready to be a father. He isn’t interested in me anymore anyway. He has a new fresher he’s dating anyway?”
We sat there stunned. Not sure what to say. We just hugged June and comforted her.
Sela said, “so what will you do?”
“I can’t tell my parents about this. They will be so disappointed and it will ruin my life. I need to get an abortion!” said June.
We sat there thinking through the implications. I don’t remember who asked, “how much will it cost?” June said she would find out. We were too distraught to continue with the rave so we went back to the hostels.
The abortion was to cost 8 thousand. We took June to a doctor that had been recommended. Apparently, the doctor did abortions all the time. The doctor did the abortion and June went home to recover. She told her parents she wasn’t feeling well.
That one singular event brought us closer yet in paradox it started the crack that eventually lead to the breakup of the three musketeers. We were joined together in the guilt of what we had done but at the same time the righteousness and justification of it. *** At the end of second year, June was pregnant again. She had been taking morning afters like they were popcorn. We had tried to warn her to use the pill, injections or condoms. She would listen to us sometimes but sometimes she would go out and party and end up as a chips funga.
When she got pregnant at the end of the second year she came to us again and told us. She asked us for money. I refused. I had been having nightmares about the first time. I had watched a video about how abortions were carried out and I had felt the guilt ever since. Sela and Njeri gave her money and went with her. By that time Sela had also had an abortion which we also helped pay for.
We argued. We said terrible things. I told June she should be more responsible. Hadn’t I told her this would happen? She hadn’t listened. I told her you can’t keep having abortions like that. She told me I was acting all self-righteous. She said, “if I wanted a lecture on morals I would have gone to my parents!”
After that our friendship was over. We met in class or at the rave but we were never friends again the way we used to be. We became acquaintances. By the time we left campus June had gone through 6 abortions. She never seemed to learn. When she’d end up pregnant she’d just go to her boyfriend at the time and get money to do the abortion. By the time we were in the third year, she was a mistress. Having rich boyfriends who would spoil her and who would afford to pay fees for an abortion.
The Three Musketeers did not survive the strain of the second abortion so we all went our separate ways. I was still close to Sela. She often talked with regret about her abortion and when we finished university and got a job she went for counselling.
4 years after campus here we are. June is dead and she asks us to tell her story. Her story is the story of many. A story of campus and college girls. A story of working women who don’t want to be burdened with a baby because they are building their careers. It is the story of married women with one too many children who don’t want another child. It is the story of a primary school girl or a high school girl forced by a parent to have an abortion so as not to bring shame to the family. It is a story of a girl in Kenya. It is also the story of a girl or woman in Africa, in USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. It is the story of a woman making a choice that in the end may make her lose her life.
This is June’s story but it is also my story. The story of an enabler. It is the story of many. I stand at the pulpit of the church. June was once one of my best friends. She made a mistake, many mistakes never thinking of the consequences. “Should we have asked her to have the baby?” I ask myself as I get ready to deliver my speech, “should we have told her not to get the second abortion?”. The guilt inside me builds and the tears start flowing as I read what I have written.
My tears, pool in my eyes at the mention of your death. They balance on my cheeks as they stream down. Then there’s a flood of love drops, teardrops that gush down my face.
I can’t believe I will never see your beautiful smile again. Never joke with you. It makes me sad that your life was cut short in the prime of your life. I feel the pain that you will never see another sunrise or sunset. Never see the beautiful blue sky.
It is funny how we think we will live forever yet we die a little each moment that we live. There are so many friends that have gone before you and each broke my heart. Now my heart aches for the ones that death stole from us.
I hope you knew that you were loved. I hope you know how sorry I am. Sorry that I let our friendship die. I wish I had been a better friend. I wish we had kept our motto, one for all and all for one. You are gone but you will never be forgotten. Goodbye, our fellow musketeer.
This story is a work of fiction. But right now somebody somewhere is making the decision to have an abortion. It may be the first one or the first of many. People rarely talk about abortion in the open. Maybe it’s time we did. Maybe it’s time we talked about it in public. Abortions are happening every day. You probably know somebody who has had one. Let’s talk about abortion, safe abortions and all the issues and stigma surrounding it.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at email@example.com.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat