Who Are You? - Part 4

The thin wail of a just-born baby pierced the room, as her mother gave a relieved sigh and fell back on the bed, exhausted. Nnedi smiled wistfully as she watched the nurse cleaning and weighing the baby in the corner of the delivery room. She wondered what was going on in Nkasi’s mind – the girl had become alarmed a few months ago when she found out Nnedi was pregnant.

“Madam, what will happen to me now? she had asked as she eyed Nnedi’s thickened waist.

Nnedi sighed. She had wanted to avoid this discussion until she could sort out the details in her mind.

“Don’t worry, Nkasi. Our deal still stands. After the baby is born, I will give you the N150, 000 as promised and you can decide what you want to do.”

A look of relief had flitted over Nkasi’s face and she nodded. “Thank you, Madam.”

Nnnedi listened to her heavy tread as she walked away, weighed down by the growing baby inside her. Nnedi’s dilemma weighed heavily on her heart. What am I to do? When she had concocted this crazy plan, she had no idea that she would get pregnant. After two years of being called barren, she had begun to believe it and had grasped desperately at what she thought was her only chance to become a mother – adopting her house help’s baby and lying to her husband that she was pregnant.

How was she to know that the news of impending fatherhood would transform her husband from the violent man who struck her in anger to one who spoke to her with something close to affection? Those few weeks following her ‘announcement’ were the happiest days of her marriage. She blushed when she remembered her body’s ardent response to her husband’s passionate advances. She must have gotten pregnant on one of those nights.

At first, she had feigned affection in order to sweeten her husband up so that he would let her travel to the village with Nkasi – the success of the entire plan depended on that. But, starved for love and affection, she had soaked up the tender words and gentle touches of her husband. She knew it wasn’t real – he only loved her because he thought she was pregnant. She knew all of that would vanish in an instant and he would beat her black and blue if he ever found out the truth.  Conflicting thoughts about her husband pulled at her heart – she hated the man who abused her and tore her down for his pleasure…who destroyed her spirit just because he could. But she had seen glimpses of the man he could be and she wanted to know that man…to love him and have him love her. Still, the rational part of her mind knew he wouldn’t once he found out the truth, and she didn’t think she could live a life based on the lies she had constructed.

What am I going to do? How do I explain two babies, or the fact that I’m still 6 months pregnant when I should be giving birth by now?

“Madam?” Nkasi’s feeble query made her realize that she had spoken her thoughts out loud. Embarrassed, Nnedi cast a glance at Dr. Chiz who had turned from examining the baby. Nnedi forced a smile to her face.

“Oh, don’t worry Nkasi. Just get some rest. I’ll go home now, but I’ll come back and see you again tomorrow.”

Nnedi thanked the doctor and was rewarded with a kind smile and his promise that Nkasi would be well taken care of. Dr. Chiz is such a nice man, she thought. He had always been patient with them during all the pre-natal visits and had taken his time to answer all their questions. Why didn’t God bless me with a kind, gentle man like that, she wondered as she walked the short distance from Jasman Hospital hospital to her parents’ home.

Sweating and winded, she pushed open the front door and heaved her girth up the single stair into the large living room. The walk had been more difficult than she thought. She turned on the fan and sat down tiredly. The fan turned lazily and barely stirred the still, humid air in the room. She picked up a magazine from the stack on the side table and fanned herself. She needed a cold drink, but the thought of walking another step was too much to contemplate so she decided to sit and rest for a bit.

She was dozing fitfully when her father burst into the room “Nne, Nne…are you home already?” His confused glance bounced around the living room before finally landing on her still-round stomach. She realized that he had gotten news that the baby had arrived and was expecting Nnedi to still be in the hospital with the baby. What have I done? Nnedi asked herself again. She had lied to her father, who had loved her and raised her in a Christian home. She had schemed with her house help and her mother to pass off someone else’s pregnancy as her own. She had given Nkasi strict instructions to stay in the guest house so as not to raise her father’s curiosity about the pregnant house help. She reminded herself that she had done it for a good reason. He would have killed me! At least the pregnancy bought me some time. She had done it for a good reason, she reminded herself again. But, was the reason good enough? As she watched her father’s confusion, she realized that she had to come clean. He deserved that much.

“Papa, please sit down. I need to tell you something.” As she waited for her father to sit, Nnedi braced herself for the difficult task ahead.

Her father listened in silence as she talked. The expression on his face tightened as she spoke of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, but still he never said a word. His mouth pursed as she spoke of her fears, and feelings of helplessness, but still he listened quietly until she finished. Finally, when he saw that she was spent, he held her hands in his.

“Nne, why didn’t you tell me? I’m your father. Why did you keep this all to yourself?

The combination of her childhood nickname, his gentle tone and his lack of recrimination for her lies opened a wellspring inside her. She fell into her father’s open arms and sobbed. The tears wouldn’t stop and as she cried, she felt cleansed. For the first time in a long time, she felt the stirring of hope within her. Desperate, she clung to that thin thread of hope and prayed that God would sort out the tangled mess she had created.

 

Onyih Odunze

This story is taking longer than I thought! Please come back next Sunday and see what happens when Nnedi comes face-to-face with her husband in the concluding part of ‘Who Are You?’!

Stay tuned after that for Sonia’s story (Grace’s sister from Marital Dance and Finding Grace). Thanks for reading!!

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