No one ever had a heads up before their world fell apart. There was never a warning to the coming of bad news. One second your life had balance and the next second, you couldn’t tell the very reason for it.
Belema discovered this a day after she’d spent a fine evening with her husband celebrating Valentine’s Day.
The day, it was a Friday, and a public holiday because of the Elections that would later be postponed, started in its usual manner. Though the children were not going to school, she still woke up early, bathed and fed them, and then went to drop them off at their grandparents’ where they would be spending the weekend.
Her girl… Belema didn’t like the term ‘maid’, so preferred to call Amen her girl. Amen had vomited the evening of the day before and Belema had found her crying in the kitchen that morning, so she took her to the hospital after dropping off the children.
The doctor ordered a pregnancy test which both amused and worried Belema. She didn’t think Amen was sexually active yet, but then you never entirely knew anyone.
The test came back positive. Belema was shocked. Amen started crying. They went back home in that individual state.
“Who is responsible?” Belema couldn’t think of anyone who might be. The girl hardly went anywhere except to run errands and assist her at the store.
“Aunty, I’m sorry.” Amen whimpered the words.
Her crying was beginning to irritate Belema. She realised now that the girl might have suspected her condition which explained her crying in the kitchen that morning.
“Amen, who is responsible for this pregnancy? Who have you been sleeping with?”
“Aunty, I didn’t want to do it. I swear I didn’t want to do it.”
She was only nineteen, an apprentice with a seamstress and now pregnant with a child. Disappointment mixed with Belema’s rising irritation.
“You didn’t want to do it, but you did it. Now, you are pregnant and I need to know who is the boy responsible for this.” Was it Nduka who owned the store next to hers? They were rather friendly.
“I begged him not to do it. I begged him but he wouldn’t listen. He wouldn’t listen when I told him it was not good.”
“Did he force you?” Was she raped? Belema’s shock returned.
“Uh-uh.” Amen shook her head. “Not rape. But I told him it was not good.”
Relief shivered through Belema. She wasn’t raped, thank God. “So, who is he? Stop crying, Amen, and tell me who he is. I need to know, so we can make him take responsibility.”
“It’s… it’s… oh God!” Amen crumpled on the floor and cried harder.
Belema’s heart skittered in a flutter of fear. Her head started to tell her something but she shushed it, refusing to believe such monstrosity.
“Who is he, Amen?” The punch of panic made her yell.
“It’s Uncle. Aunty, it’s Uncle. I told him… I told him it was not good. I told him oh.”
Uncle. Belema stared at Amen. The girl was crying uncontrollably now.
“Which Uncle?” She knew. Oh, she knew, but had to ask.
And even as she waited for the confirmation, she begged silently for it not to be true.
“Uncle.” Amen raised her head and looked at her in a way that said ‘the Uncle you know’. “Uncle Mike.”
“Oh God!” That was all Belema could say.
When they said that all men cheat, Belema never believed it and didn’t even now. But she knew now the pain that burned a hole through your heart when the man you’ve spent nine years of marriage cheated on you.
“How could you do this? Why?”
“Belema…” He looked at her, and then turned away. “It was a mistake. It happened only a few times.”
“Only a few times.” How many times exactly were a few times?
“That is such a poor excuse, Mike.”
“I’m not making excuses. I’m just telling you that… that it isn’t something I did always.”
“Not something you did always but only a few times.” How could she feel disgust, disappointment and pain all at the same time? “Mike, she’s our… our maid. She’s only nineteen; half my age. If you wanted to sleep with someone, why her? Why in this house?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.”
She raised her head and looked at him. While he looked remorseful, his response had sounded nonchalant. “It just happened that you had the urge to sleep with the girl I brought to help out in the house. It just happened because you were thinking with your dick and not with your head.”
“It happened because I am a man. These things happen. Men have needs.”
At that very instant, she hated him. “I hope you know women have needs too.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing.” She didn’t know why she’d said that. “So, what are you going to do about her? She’s pregnant for you.”
“Ah…” He seemed to think about it. “I think we should take her for an abortion.”
“Abortion? You want to kill your unborn child?”
“Belema, everything that happened was a mistake. She would tell you that I haven’t touched her in the last three weeks.” He tried to take her hand, but she shifted away. So, he dropped his. “I realised what I was doing was wrong and tried to make it right.”
“You finally realised it was wrong to sleep your maid. She said she told you repeatedly that what you were doing was wrong, why didn’t you realise it then?”
“Keep your voice down, Belema. Please.”
She didn’t realise her voice had risen. Belema exhaled and tried to calm her flaring temper. She didn’t want a fight. It wouldn’t solve anything.
“Mike, you talked her into doing this. You cajoled her into sleeping with you. Now, you want to put her through an abortion?”
“I know that too is wrong, but if she has this child, what will happen to us, to our family?”
“You would dare ask me what would happen to our family?” She wanted to slap him; to beat him up if she could. “Did you think about what would happen to this family when you were sleeping with her a few times?”
“No, you didn’t think about it. You didn’t think about us. You didn’t think about me, your wife. You were too busy fucking another woman to think about your family.”
“Belema, stop shouting. The children will hear you.”
“I don’t care who hears me. Do you think that this will stay hidden? Pregnancy doesn’t hide, Mike. It announces itself.”
“That is why I’m suggesting we remove it. We don’t have to let this disrupt our life”
“That is such a funny thing to say, Mike. Don’t you see that our life has already been disrupted? That pregnancy changes things.”
“No, it doesn’t have to, Belema. I made a mistake. Let me right that mistake.”
“By killing an innocent baby in the womb?” Belema shook her head. “I don’t support abortion and you know it. Besides, this is your child and I won’t have its blood on my hands.”
“I don’t want this child, Belema.”
“I’m sure none of us do. But it’s coming and we can’t change that fact.”