Immediately Kathryn sets her eyes on her bundle of joy, she forgets the pains of a protracted labour. So she’s now a mother like her sister/friend, Alice? The Lord’s name be praised! Alice has been so lucky, having been delivered of her baby less than two hours after she drove into the hospital. Some women are just so lucky. But she’s grateful to God. The baby looks every inch like Dave.
That is the first thing the men noticed as they cluster round her. “It’s obvious I have a very strong gene,” Dave says proudly. James swallows hard. It’s only virile men that can boast like that. Not him.
He wonders if he can ever feel comfortable when issue of virility is being discussed. He resolves to do everything medically possible to become a real man. It will cost him a fortune, he knows, but he won’t be daunted. Kathryn, looking so weak, feels for James. She knows he’ll be hurting so much, listening to Dave’s talk. She glances at James and he looks at her that very moment.
She tilts her head ever so gently to assure him of her support. James understands. A smile flickers across his face. “You are so lucky, Dave. But I think she will resemble Kathryn as she grows older. Look at the well-sculptured nose. You ain’t so endowed. Moreover, it will pay you better if your daughter takes after your beautiful wife and your son takes after you.
That way, you have the best of both worlds,” James says. They all laugh. So like James when he’s in his element. “You’re right my man. You make real sense for once,” Dave says laughing. They all laugh.
It is a sincere laughter. “I make sense when I’m not drunk and lately, I’ve been living a teetotal…when I can afford to, that is. You must be a superman to bear my burden without grunting,” James says and they laugh again. Kathryn gives James a quizzical look and he nods slightly, indicating that Dave knows about his predicament. So they all seem to understand what he is talking about and are glad he is getting over the self pity. However, Dave wonders how his wife, Kathryn, got to know about something James told him just a few hours ago.
Is he missing something? He remembers the issue of his wife’s car key being with James and the fact that James knows that she had an accident. He feels very uncomfortable.
He will get to that later. Right now, he prays that when the truth of the paternity of Alice’s son is made known, it won’t erupt like a volcano. Alice’s son looks so much like him.
Only a blind man will not know that their family blood runs in him. Of course, it’s an advantage to James for those who do not know their secret, but not for those who know. Perhaps, only Alice is in the dark regarding James’ health profile. It will be best if she knows so that she will mind her steps. He will do that at the earliest given opportunity. It’s better to be prepared, like the Boys Scout.
A nurse announces that the new mother and her baby are ready to be moved to the ward. The men cluster around Kathryn as she is wheeled to the postnatal ward – a two-bed private room where Alice and baby are.
Alice and her baby are asleep. The nurses make as little noise as possible in order not the disturb them. They talk in hush tones as they make mother and child comfortable and then leave afterwards. Kathryn yawns and the men decide to leave to enable her catch some sleep.
“This is the beginning of sleepless nights,” James says. “Yeah, for all of us,” Dave whispers and kisses his wife. They check the babies in the cots and leave. About an hour later, Alice wakes up and is surprised to see that the other bed is occupied. It takes her a while to remember that she’ll be sharing the room with Kathryn.
“Kiki…Kiki…Kiki,” she calls out gently. Kathryn opens her eyes. “Boy or girl?” she asks Kathryn who is trying to sit up. “Mama na girl o,” Kathryn sings, and they both laugh weakly. “Na boy I get here o,” Alice says. “So we’ll swap then. You wanted a girl and I wanted a boy, remember?”
Kathryn says and they laugh. “Sis, you are very lucky. You dropped the thing in no time. Unlike me that saw my ears with my eyes! Labour pain no get part two. But the joy of having the baby in your arms afterwards, obliterates all the pain,” Kathryn says.
“You are right. But don’t think a short labour period means less pain. I’m sure the pain of 12 hours were packed into one for me. But we thank God. What if after all the pain, we have no babies to show for it? Now you know the pain of those who have still birth or lost their babies after birth. Let’s thank God,” Alice says. “You are right sis,” Kathryn says. Her mind is pushing her to ask Alice a very pertinent question. How she came about her pregnancy!
It occurs to her that Alice couldn’t have know that her husband couldn’t impregnate a woman. After all, she believes that her husband has children out of wedlock.
“How about James’ children with that woman?” Kathryn begins. “Do I care? I have my own child now. Let him go have a dozen more children for all I care,” Alice says. “Hmmmmmmm…what if he did not bear those children? What if the woman lied to him?” Kathryn says, trying for an opening to what she actually wants to talk about. “As if I care now,” Alice says.
“What’s the state of affairs between you and your husband now?” Kathryn tries another opening. “State of affairs? Did it change from what it was yesterday or this morning? I hadn’t seen him for days till I met him here in the hospital. In fact, I was surprised to see him here,” Alice says. “Well sis, there’s fire on the mountain o. I can’t hear this and hide it from you. I learnt James has issues and can’t have children,” Kathryn says, breathing out. Finally, she has it out.
“Was that what you were discussing in that discreet hotel…? You said what? He has problem with procreation? Who told you? It’s a lie. He had children from that woman,” Alice says as the import of Kathryn’s words hit her. She feels like cold water has been splashed forcefully on her face on a particularly dry harmattan morning.
Oh the other hand, Kathryn feels hot and cold at the same time as the scene in the hotel’s car park -the accident et al -plays out before her again. So it was Alice’s car in that car park after all?
What did she see? Did she see her with James? Who else saw her? What did she come to that discreet hotel to do? To meet with the father of her baby? They stare at each other, lost in their respective thoughts.
Dave and James perch on bar stools, sipping from flutes. They’re in a bar across the street.
They’ve had a very hectic day. It was after they left the women in the private ward that they remembered they had not eaten for hours. They were ravenously hungry and moved to the bar to have a bite. After the meal, they popped Champagne. Yeah, it’s time to celebrate. They’ve called members of their families and friends to share in the good news.
Dave’s parents are over the moon with joy. What a double blessing! It calls for celebration. “I can’t believe I’m a father now. It’s like a dream,” Dave says happily. “Yeah,” James squeaks and clears his throat. James looks up and regrets his earlier statement. The look on James face says it all.
“Hey, my man! I understand how you feel but you can’t afford to wallow in self pity. What you need is solution to your problem. Fortunately, no one will know that you have such challenge now your wife has given birth to a baby. You don’t have to announce to the whole world that…by the way, how come my wife knows about it? I just got to know about it some hours ago and couldn’t have told her. I know you two are not exactly kissing cousins, so you couldn’t have told her.
Who else have you discussed it with? You shouldn’t go about telling people…”
Dave trails off as he remembers his wife’s dented car booth, the fact that James knows about it and even has his wife’s key in his pocket. All the solid and liquid in James’ system travel downward in one fluid movement. Sweat beads appear on his forehead.
“Wanna ease myself,” he says, sliding off the stool. “Sure,” Dave says after James who is already heading in the direction of the loo. After easing himself, James leans on the corridor wall. Those questions from Dave ruffle him. How does a man skirt around such questions?
If he even succeeds today, will he keep skirting such questions in future? As he makes to join Dave, fluid rushes downward again and he goes back into the loo. After draining himself the second time, he musters courage and strides into the bar.
“Yeah….you were saying…” James says, perching on the bar stool. “Yeah, was actually wondering how my wife got to know about your secret and she didn’t inform me. I feel it’s strange…very strange.
To think you just told me about it when it has become public knowledge,” Dave says casually. He’s actually fishing for information. His mind is beginning to play tricks on him. He’s suspecting monkey business. James relaxes a wee. “It’s actually my most closely guarded secret. Apart from the doctor…or could the doctor have told somebody?”
James asks. “Doctor? Why would your doctor divulge your secret? To who? Of course, doctors don’t do such. They can talk about a nameless patient’s challenge,” Dave says.
“Sure…sure,” James strutters, frantically searching for another explanation. He creases his forehead, pretending to be thinking of how his secret became public knowledge and willing something to happen that will end the present conversation.
And something did happen! Fortunately, his phone rings and he gratefully pick it. If only he knows who is at the other end!
So much questions! I sure want the answers and more. If you also do, let’s meet here on Sunday.
Send your observations to: julietbumah@ gmail.com