Date released:
July 17, 2021
Category:
Short story
Photo credit:
Engin Akyurt

A Woman's cross

The night the first rains came was when I finally found the courage to tell Chike that he was going to be a father. It was in the darkness that had covered our room with a thick blanket. Amidst the sound of heavy winds starting to pick up outside that I re-knotted my wrapper for the umpteenth time, letting the moisture on my lips dry, several thoughts ran through my head as I sat beside Chike's sprawled form just a few meters away from me. The lightning that came with the rain gave me sufficient light to stare at his handsome face. Chike, the man I had married because I thought he was the kindest man I had ever set eyes on.

The sound of thunder clapping in the distance jerked me away from my thoughts and settled my mind on the real matter at hand. Chike moved his legs a little, sneezed three times and then turned his face in the direction of the wall. I took this as my cue to wake him up, but the fear rising in my chest wouldn't let me do it. Why was I scared? We've been married for five years now with no children.

Chike yawned again and then opened his eyes, throwing me into shock. I pursed my lips as he stared at me for what felt like five minutes. Then, he sat up suddenly, rubbing his eyes hard as if that would drive all his sleep away.

"Sweetheart, why are you not sleeping?" He yawned loudly for the umpteenth time in a way that always seemed to disgust me. I sighed, re-tied my wrapper over my chest and then turned to face him, letting the tears that were threatening to fall down my cheeks have their way.

"Sweetheart, why are you crying?, you know I hate it when you cry."

"I'm pregnant, Chike."

"What? What did you say?" He got up from the bed, clutching his head tightly.

"Uka, what did you say?"

"I said I'm pregnant, I have been feeling sick for a while now, so I decided to see pharmacist Nancy, and she asked me to do a pregnancy test which I did and the result came out positive."

Chike started pacing and then suddenly fell on his knees screaming and laughing so hard, almost startling me. He ran to my side and hugged me tightly and when he saw that I didn't return his hug, he stopped and stared into my eyes with an intensity that moved me to look away.

"What is the problem, Uka? You should be overjoyed. At least Mama would let you breathe now. Should we call her?"

"Chike, I am scared. I don't know how to be a mother."

"Everything is going to be fine. At least you have me. We will figure out everything together." He pulled me into a comforting embrace that made my heart feel warm for the first time in a long while.

The weeks that followed saw me starting to embrace the changes that were beginning to occur in my body. Although it was a life-changing experience, my mother and Chike's mother, who were overjoyed, made sure I lacked nothing and that I showed up to all my ante-natal appointments. With all the activities going on, I was starting to feel better and convinced myself to believe that everything would be fine. The day the sky fell and all but crashed on my head was a day I would never forget. I had just come back from the market where I went to buy foodstuffs to make Chike's evening meal. I was in my second trimester, so I could still do a few things without getting tired.

In the kitchen where I sat on a tiny stool my mother had given me as  part of my wedding gifts, my baby decided that he no longer wanted to be my baby. The blood trickled down my thighs and settled in a pool at my feet. I did not panic at first, but when the blood would not stop, I grabbed my phone from my bag on the kitchen counter and called Chike. He drove like a mad man to rush to my side, evidenced by how much he was sweating when he arrived and lifted me from the ground. I passed out then.

The next time I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital, and I knew that because the strong smell of disinfectant sat strong in this place. Chike was sitting at my bedside, asleep. I moved a little and felt a sharp pain in my lower abdomen. The first thing I noticed was that my belly was flat and I had no evidence that I was ever pregnant. The tears started to fall in torrents, and then my chest heaved; the pain was unbearable. This was God punishing me, and I knew it. The guilty feeling that I thought I had gotten rid of appeared again and refused to budge. I tapped Chike so hard you would think he was the reason my baby died. He woke up and took my hand in his.

"Sweetheart what is it?"

"God is punishing me. The baby was not yours, Chike. I slept with your best friend. I did not mean to, I promise, but he seduced me.

"I know Uka..."

"What do you mean by you know?"

"I asked him to. I knew I was infertile. It was the only option. I'm sorry, baby. I love you."

Time stopped at that moment. I could not believe what I had just heard. My heart started beating fast, the scene replaying in my head, the guilt I had felt all along, the pain I had suffered. The air in my lungs suddenly left, and soon I was breathless. I felt myself sink into the darkness.

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