As she waited for the doctor that sunny noon, hoping against hope that she was wrong and her fears unfounded, Evelyn took a cursory glance at her life in the last two months and the events that had culminated into this moment; the moment of waiting for a test result, a pregnancy test result at a private hospital in the heart of town. She waved intermittently, albeit absentmindedly, at a baby who kept on smiling at her and even attempted climbing on her lap a couple of times, the only restraint being its ever apologetic mother who sat next to Evelyn in the waiting room.
As she tried hard to remember exactly when it all started, the genesis of her woes – confirmed and unconfirmed – her phone rang. It was her lawyer. She ignored it. They’d spoken a few days earlier and she’d reassured her that things were going to work out fine. The divorce proceedings were going to be concluded very soon, and she was going to be a free woman. Free to live and love again. Finally free from Philip, her husband of seven years and father of her six year old daughter. Theirs had been an abusive marriage while it lasted. After a one year paradise-like gig, things had suddenly taken an unexpectedly nasty turn. Late nights out, endless battering and a deliberate refusal to carry out his conjugal and fatherly responsibilities were the whips with which he’d flogged her for four years. Twice he’d beaten her into unconsciousness and her father had got him arrested and removed his progeny to his own house. On the two occasions, however, Philip had returned sober and penitent and had pled his way back into her heart. The abuse had continued until one day while trying to save her mother from been ‘belted’ to death, Flora had got whipped on the head by the buckle of her father’s belt and gone into a coma. A one month coma. That was the last straw… And for the first time, Evelyn had gone to see a lawyer.
Evelyn’s mind wandered through her days of gloom. It was all she ever did these days, wander off in thoughts. It was why the dinner stew went up in flames two days earlier, she recalled. Flora had come running from the study where she’d been busy with her homework, and had run past her as she lounged absentmindedly on the sofa, into the kitchen. Evelyn remembered having jumped after her daughter. The stew was gone. All burnt up.
‘Mummy, what’s wrong?’ Flora had asked innocently as she opened up the kitchen doors and windows for air and turned on the tap into the burnt stew.
‘Nothing dear,’ her usual reply.
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes sweetheart, go back to your homework, I’ll- I’ll make another stew.’
Everything was wrong, Evelyn knew and even now as she pondered it all in the waiting room, it couldn’t be more glaring.
‘Everything is wrong,’ she repeated aloud, earning a questioning stare from the woman with the baby. She turned and smiled at the baby again, who was now drowsing off to sleep in her mother’s bosom.
Philip Adeoye was a changed man, or so he professed. Six months into the divorce proceedings, he’d suddenly changed. He claimed to have met the Lord hence his apostolic turn around. He apologized for his wrong doings and begged for forgiveness time and again from his wife, daughter and father-in-law. His widower father-in-law however would have nothing of his supposed change. He’d got his daughter a house of her own, and a job too- Philip having insisted on her being a stay-at-home mum during the pendency of their about-to-be-terminated marriage. Chief Gbolagun also warned him to stay clear of his daughter and granddaughter or risk being issued a restraining order.
For Evelyn, it was good riddance to bad rubbish. There was no getting back together with Philip or putting the divorce proceedings on hold. But she had to tolerate him for Flora’s sake. Flora in her childlike simplicity had forgiven her father and would give the world to have her parents come together. Thus, from apology visits, he graduated to dropping in every now and then to ‘check on Flora’.
Evelyn’s phone rang again. It was Ray, her fiancé. Her heart skipped a bit.
‘Hello,’ she said into the phone. A wan smile lit up her face at the sound of his voice. Ray lit up her world any day. He was her ideal man, kind, considerate, tender and affectionate and knowing just what he needed to do per time to make her happy and doing it. She recalled the night before; they’d been out on a date. She’d felt like throwing up and had promptly excused herself to the rest room in the middle of the meal. The scene replayed itself in her mind’s eye.
Ray was already getting impatient by the time she got back to the table.
‘What took you so long?’ he’d questioned.
‘Nothing. The lawyer – my lawyer called. About the divorce, she needed to ask me some questions and knowing how much you hate to hear about all that, I just stayed back to answer the call,’ she’d lied.
‘Secret calls eh?’
‘One good secret call deserves another.’
‘What happened to the food?’ She’d noticed the table had been cleared.
‘Oh nothing. I just switched the menu,’ he’d announced excitedly. The waitress had arrived just then with his order of peppered snails and coleslaw and two large glasses of red wine.
‘You know how I hate cream on my cole slaw…’
‘Relax, it’s mayonnaise,’ he’d calmed. ‘I can’t believe you still don’t trust my meal ordering abilities?’
She’d smiled and apologized, reassuring him of her trust.
‘You were going to tell me about your secret calls and medical visits,’ she’d tried to carry on a conversation.
‘I insist. You promised remember?’
‘Okay, fine. Hmmmm, there’s bad news and good news,’ he’d dawdled, unlike himself.
‘Bad news first.’ She’d made a choice.
‘I had a vasectomy’
‘What?’ the steak had fallen off her hands unto her laps.
‘No, no it’s fine,’ he’d reassured innocently, oblivious of her predicament.
‘It’s a reversible vasectomy, I hadn’t met you then and I had no intentions of fathering a child with just anybody,’ he’d explained. ‘But now that we’ll be getting married once the divorce is done with, I’ve been speaking to my doctor about reversing the whole process. And the good news is that, it’s settled and I now have an appointment for next week.’
‘Oh my God!’ she’d gone into an uncontrollable tremulous fit and had asked to be taken home almost immediately, developing a sudden headache. All his apologies and sweet talk had fallen on deaf ears. He’d taken her home.
The rest of the night had looked like eternity. Eve hadn’t had a moment of sleep. Her thoughts had roamed even as her body rolled from one side of the bed to the other. Could she be pregnant? Reason told her she was.
‘For who?’ was the next question. She and Ray were intimate and she’d secretly hoped he was responsible. But what with the news of his vasectomy?
‘Mrs. Adeoye,’ the ward attendant stood in the doorway to the doctor’s office, matching the photo on Evelyn’s file to her face.
‘Madam.’ The woman with the baby tapped her to consciousness. She immediately conjured a smile for the baby but was redirected to the attendant.
‘No problem. The doctor will see you now,’ the attendant smiled and made way for her.
‘Oh, thanks’, she got up and smoothened her dress.
‘Hey Mrs. Adeoye,’ the doctor beamed at her excitedly, her eyes moving intermittently from the test result in her hand to her patient’s face as she motioned her to a seat.
‘Good good news, congratulations,’ she extended a hand. Evelyn was crestfallen. She could read the result boldly written on the doctor’s face.
‘You’re pregnant.’ The doctor announced needlessly.
Evelyn neither took the extended hand nor made any motion. Instead she wandered off in thoughts again. Her mind suddenly developing a strange aptness that landed her right at the genesis of her woes, precisely on Flora’s birthday.
Philip had come on their daughter’s insistence and of a truth, had been very helpful that day. He’d stayed back until the last of the party guests were gone, even reading Flora to sleep before excusing himself to leave. She’d thanked and seen him off to the gate when it had suddenly began to rain. Evelyn recalled clearly having offered him an umbrella, and then inviting him back into the house as the showers got heavier.
She’d gone into the kitchen to make some tea for them both, and had been shocked by the electric kettle as her hands were wet. He’d come to her rescue, taken over the tea and asked her to go in and change her wet clothes. She’d inadvertently tripped over Flora’s stack of gifts in the hallway as she made for the bedroom. Wounded and bleeding, he’d helped her to the room and applied first aid to the wound. And then he’d forced himself on her…
Evelyn wished this was the case but it wasn’t. Now that she thought of it, the events of that fateful night replayed themselves vividly before her eyes. He’d helped her into bed and bid her bye but no- she’d wanted more. She’d wanted him to turn on the cassette player, wanted him to wait till she had drowsed off to sleep, before leaving. She’d felt weak and vulnerable, and had held on to him- begging that he stayed with her. She’d clung on to him like a desperate orphan and he’d obliged her. The music coming from the cassette player had been the game changer. ‘Loving you is a mystery’. They both had history with the song. They’d played it all through their first night together, and on several other memorable nights. And on that particular night, it had thawed momentarily, the ice between the two lovers – ex lovers.
She recalled the momentary feeling of security, as she delved into his bosom, and he clutched her steady. She remembered the lightning which flashed through the room that night, and the accompanying thunder. And then, a power cut. Her lips quivered at the thought of what followed.
‘Mrs. Adeoye? Mrs. Ade -’ The doctor tapped the table in front of her.
‘Yes?’ she started.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Fine- I – I’m…’ An idea suddenly struck. She’d heard of failed vasectomies.
‘Perhaps if the dates didn’t match?’ She said aloud
‘How far along am I doctor?’
‘What? Why?’ The doctor was rather perturbed at her renewed interest.
‘Please doctor, just tell me.’
‘Oh no.’ Defeated again.
As she drove home that noon, Evelyn didn’t know what to think. It seemed as if the world, her world, was coming to an end. An avalanche of thoughts crisscrossed her mind. She was pregnant for a man she was about to get divorced from. Her mind wandered again to the events of the fateful night, and the morning after. She’d woken up strangely refreshed and guilty at the same time. He had left before she woke up. She’d hurried out of bed in search of him. He was gone. Flora was sound asleep in her own room. All the dishes from the other day had been done and the scattered gifts, neatly stacked. He’d left a note – ‘I’m sorry’.
He was later going to call during the day to apologise, poor penitent soul. Sometimes, Evelyn thought his new found sobriety was irksome. ‘I’m sorry I took undue advantage of your vulnerability last night and made you do what you wouldn’t have done. God! I feel so terrible. I am so sorry…’ he’d left her a voice message too. She could imagine the turmoil he must have gone through before doing so. He probably couldn’t take the inner torment anymore hence the message knowing well that her phone number was always on voicemail during working hours. ‘…contrary to what you may think, I never premeditated it, I wouldn’t do that for any reason, and I hope this doesn’t come in the way of the forgiveness I seek…’
Evelyn felt guilty too. She couldn’t fathom why she’d feel that way about having slept with her own husband. And yes, he was her husband, at least until the divorce was finalized. Something she’d eagerly awaited in the last few weeks. Perhaps it was because her heart now belonged to someone else – Ray. She smiled sadly at the thought of him. He’d only proposed to her the other week. She glanced at her engagement ring, which she’d religiously worn since then. He was the ideal husband, a stark contrast to Philip. He’d shown a great deal of understanding since they started seeing each other, never running out of patience. He’d met her father and adored Flora, only staying away from her birthday party in deference to her biological father. She believed he was right for her. But she also knew the baby belonged to Philip. Raised a staunch Catholic, abortion was not even an option.
As she navigated the roundabout, she wondered how she’d break the news – and to whom, for starters? Telling Ray was not an option at the moment. But then, she had to tell someone. Perhaps her father? Her dear father who wouldn’t let even a fly come too near her? Who’d been both father and mother to her since her mother died at twelve? Who’d helped her get back on her feet when she left Philip? Who wouldn’t even hear of Philip’s plea for forgiveness? She wondered how he’d take it. He was quite considerate and forbearing. But this time, Evelyn knew she’d gone too far.
‘You’re of more value to me alive and unmarried than married and dead – the dead lose that status immediately remember?’ Those were his words when she’d first left Philip. And when he’d come back penitent, he had two things to say, ‘The leopard never loses its spot. Once beaten, twice shy.’
‘What to do now?’ she sighed, fidgeting with the steering wheel as she slowed down to allow a pregnant pedestrian cross the road. The woman seemed happy; Evelyn traced her gaze to her happy husband and young daughter on the other side of the road, calling out to her to tread carefully. She’d have none of that, she thought. Ray could be the happy husband, but how could he father another’s child? Philip didn’t quite make the picture, but the baby was his. She sighed again. Flora could be the young daughter, but it was clear which of the two men she’d choose any day. As far as she was concerned, daddy and mummy were working things out and, Uncle Ray was just a nice family friend.
She wanted to make a call. She knew she had to make a call. But to who? And to say what? She stopped again, at a red light. Her phone rang. It was her lawyer. She picked up this time.
‘Congratulations, you’re a free woman!’
Image: Pixabay.com remixed