Nonso squirmed lightly in her seat. It didn’t feel as comfortable as it had when she first sat in it. Why had she picked today of all days to come for the women’s meeting at church?
“You see, as wives, we have a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders. Remember Abigail? She saved her husband by acting wisely to deflect David’s anger after her husband answered the king foolishly.”
There were nods of assent and murmurs of agreement.
“On the other hand, take a woman like Sapphira, Sister Biodun continued. “She colluded with her husband to lie and deceive the apostles about how much they sold their land for. What do you think would have happened if she had done the difficult thing and encouraged her husband to tell the truth?”
Nonso slipped out of her seat with a murmured “Excuse me” to the woman sitting beside her. She walked quickly through the double doors and headed for the restroom. Talk of truth-telling and wifely responsibility made her uncomfortable. She knew she was nothing like Sapphira. Sapphira had lied for financial gain – Nonso was just lying to protect herself. Well, I won’t call it lying…more like ‘omitting the truth’. Yes, that definitely sounds better. She was nothing like Sapphira, was she?
She pushed open the heavy bathroom door and stopped at the mirror for a moment, studying her reflection. Clear brown eyes stared back at a petite frame. Nnamdi used to joke that she was so tiny; he could put her in his pocket. The laugh lines at the corners of her eyes hinted at someone who loved to laugh…was there anything on her face to show that she was also someone who lied to her husband? Tendrils of guilt snaked their way through her for the first time. Getting the birth control wasn’t wrong, she assured herself. Yes, but not telling Nnamdi about it was, a small voice countered. You’re lying to him, making him think you’re both trying for a baby when that’s really not true.
“Who are you talking to?”
Nonso started. She didn’t realize until then that she had been pointing at her image and speaking aloud. Embarrassed, she smiled at Sandra.
“Oh, no one.”
“But, I heard you talking to someone just now”, Sandra persisted.
And what business of yours is it? Nonso questioned silently. Sandra was an inquisitive sort and Nonso made sure to keep her business away from someone who was well known for…passing information along, to put it kindly. That wasn’t entirely possible because news got around, but she didn’t volunteer any if she could help it.
“Well, I wasn’t talking to anyone so I’m not sure what you heard” Nonso said somewhat curtly.
Sandra huffed and looked askance at Nonso as she walked into one of the bathroom stalls.
Nonso sighed. So much for some peace and quiet to process her internal struggle. She quickly slipped out before Sandra could accost her again, taking care as always to cover the door knob with a paper towel as she opened it. Bathroom door knobs are so grungy, she thought as she crumpled up the tissue and threw it into a trash can down the hallway.
Her attention wandered all through the rest of the meeting and she left as quietly as she could during the discussion session. Her thoughts were centered on telling her husband the truth. She knew she had to do it. She just didn’t know how. Lord, please give me strength. As she drove home, she prayed that the fragile peace they had found wouldn’t be shattered.
The sun was high in the sky when Nonso pulled into their driveway. It was almost noon and she knew Nnamdi would be home from his Saturday morning errands. He had probably parked in the garage, so she left her car outside and fumbled through her key ring for her house key. A light breeze stirred the cool spring air and she pulled her corded jacket closed as she walked, mentally bracing herself for what she had to do. Filled with nervous energy, she opened the door and walked in, shedding her shoes and jacket as she walked through the front room.
She took the stairs at a run and gasped when she collided with a solid mass.
“Hey, what’s the rush baby?” her husband asked.
“Sorry, babe. I wasn’t even looking.”
“How did the meeting go?”
The meeting. How did the meeting go? The blasted meeting had stirred up things she would rather not confront. But, she knew that lies were not a recipe for a successful relationship. “It was really good”, she answered honestly. “It made me realize that I haven’t been fair to you…” Nonso was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she had gotten to the point. Hmm, maybe this won’t be so hard after all.
“You haven’t been fair to me?” Nnamdi asked quizzically. “How? Are you adding butter to my food and trying to make me fat, or pinching me in my sleep?” he asked teasingly.
Nonso dragged him away from the landing and into their room. There was no sense in postponing the inevitable. The bright sunlight cast shadows through the room and a feeling of deja-vu washed over her as she pictured the scene of their last ‘serious’ talk on the same bench, there in their room. She remembered the feeling of peace and contentment she’d had when she finally let Nnamdi know how hurt she had been by his absence during the miscarriage. She smiled at him as they sat facing each other, lightly holding hands. Rubbing his hands, she took a deep breath and started.
“Nnamdi, I’ve been lying to you for the past few months and I’m really sorry,”
Nnamdi was taken aback. His heart dropped and he wondered what Nonso was talking about. They had finally made their peace a while ago, and the atmosphere in their home was much lighter. Nonso laughed more, and the shadows around her eyes had almost disappeared. Almost. They still crept in, darkening her lovely eyes and making them water. It was especially hard for her to be around young mothers and their children, reminders of what she had lost. What they had lost. But, he had faith. He and Nonso had been trying for another baby and he knew God would answer their prayers and bless them again. One of these days.
He had really hoped they were finally on the road to re-building a meaningful and lasting relationship, but now she was talking about lying to him? A sense of sadness pierced him as he wondered why his wife couldn’t - or wouldn't - trust him. Hadn’t he shown her that he loved her? That he would do anything for her? He knew he wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes, like anyone else but she ought to know that he could be trusted. He could be leaned on…relied on for strength when things got hard. He deliberately let go of his thoughts and focused on his wife.
“Baby,” he began softly. “You know you can tell me anything, and I’m not just saying that.”
Nonso had seen the fleeting emotions on Nnamdi’s face and she made up her mind that she would never deliberately do anything that might hurt him, no matter how upset she was. They would still have their disagreements, but adding deliberate hurts to the mix would only make things worse. Lord, teach me how to love him, she prayed silently. She held tightly onto his hands and gave voice to the lies burrowed deep in her heart.
Nnamdi listened silently as Nonso talked and heaved a sigh of relief when he heard what she had been hiding. She was on birth control? That wasn’t so bad. She might have been having an affair or she had decided to leave him. After a few moments, his initial sense of relief gave way to anger and disappointment. She was on birth control! All this time, he thought they were trying to have a baby only to find out that she was actively preventing it! He flushed as he remembered how many times he had asked her why it was taking so long and she would always smile and say ‘You know you can't put these things on a timetable. Maybe next time.” But, she had been deceiving him all along! Why couldn’t she trust him? Did she think he would be upset that she wanted to wait? He pulled his hands away from hers; steeling himself against the tears he knew were sure to follow.
Standing up, he paced around the room a couple of times before resuming his previous position next to his wife.
“Why, Nonso? Why didn’t you just tell me that you wanted to wait?”
Nonso fiddled nervously with her fingers, unsure of how to answer. She had cringed when he called her ‘Nonso’ instead of the usual ‘Baby’, but she could understand. He was upset. He felt hurt. Hurt by the person he loved most in the world. There were so many words inside her…so many emotions churning and demanding to be expressed. She mentally rifled through them and chose to focus on the most important one.
“I was afraid, baby.” No ‘Nnamdi’ for him. No, he was her ‘baby’ and would always be. She felt a small sense of satisfaction that she had managed not to respond to his little dig. Hmmm, maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this, she smiled to herself.
Nnamdi’s puzzled look made hear realize she was getting sidetracked.
“You don’t know what it feels like – the excitement at finding out I was pregnant. Every day was a new experience and I soaked it all in, recording every tiny detail so I could share it with our baby whenever he or she was born.” She continued wistfully.
“And then all of a sudden, poof. It’s all gone. There’s nothing left but a broken heart and shattered dreams. I think the worst part was hoping that it wasn't real, and not being able to escape the reality…hoping that God would swoop in at the last minute and save my baby, but He didn't.” Her voice caught and she struggled to go on. "I still don't understand why", she whispered, almost to herself.
“When He didn't, it was…it was beyond devastating. It was the darkest moment of my life…I just didn't want to go through that again and I thought that if I got pregnant, the same thing would happen” she shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, as though to shield herself from even the thought of another miscarriage. She looked across at her husband, willing him to understand that it was pain and fear that drove her. She had never meant to hurt him. Never meant to lie to him.
“I just couldn't go through that again, babe. I just couldn't I’m sorry I lied to you. I was just...scared. I’ll go and see my doctor on Monday and get the IUD out, if...if you think I should.” A sliver of apprehension streaked through her as she made that promise. What if she got pregnant and the same thing happened? She didn’t think she could survive it.
“Stand and you will see the salvation of the Lord.” The scripture popped into her mind and she felt as if Someone had wrapped her in a warm embrace. She knew then that whatever happened, God wouldn’t let her go through it alone. She had rejected God the last time and that had only made her suffering worse. She had tried to heal herself, tried to bring herself to a place where she wouldn’t feel any pain, but it hadn’t worked.
She had only ended up feeling emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, shutting her husband out and almost losing her marriage in the process.
Nnamdi looked at his wife’s teary face as understanding dawned. They had both lost their baby; but while he was eager to move on from the pain, she was held prisoner by it. She had been the one that carried the child, the one who had shared her body with a baby that was born too soon. He didn’t know what she had gone through and he couldn’t judge her. Father, help me to show her that she can trust me. Teach me how to be the husband she needs, Lord. He drew his wife into his arms and murmured into her ear.
“No, baby. You don’t have to do that.” He pulled away from her and looked into her eyes to show her that he meant what he said. “You don’t have to get off birth control until you’re ready. I won’t rush you anymore, promise.”
The last tendrils of fear fell away from Nonso and Nnamdi could see the shadows in her eyes disappear in the brightness of her smile. His wife had finally been restored to him and he was at peace.
One year later…
Nonso loved springtime. The sun was bright without being too hot and the air was cool without being harsh. She loved the bloom of new flowers and the gradual re-greening of the trees. The car tires crunched gravel as they pulled into the church parking lot. They were later than normal and the parking lot was already full. Nnamdi drove around until he found a parking spot at the edge of the lot, next to a tree-lined hedge. Nonso gave Nnamdi a quick smile as she scrambled out of the passenger seat, adjusting her clothes. She smiled when she saw the buds peeking out from the tree next to where she stood. The trees were recovering from the cold, harsh weather and new life was springing forth. New life. She smiled again and adjusted her gele. She wasn’t normally a fan of the ornate headscarves but today was a special day.
“Oooga, booga, boo!” Nnamdi said as he opened the back door.
Nonso giggled as her husband exchanged baby talk with their son. Her strong, serious husband was now well versed in the art of cooing! She thought back to last spring and how God had finally brought them to a place of peace after all the turmoil in their lives. God had blessed them and today they would share their joy with their family and friends. Yes, God had been good. She smiled again as she reached into the backseat for her daughter. After a few fumbles, they had finally gotten the hang of taking the twins out and she stood patiently as Nnamdi expertly unfolded the twin stroller. They each placed their bundles in the stroller, making sure the car seats clicked into place before they made their way into the church. Nnamdi pushed the stroller, cooing as he went and Nonso smiled again. It seemed that was all she could do these days. The pain of the past had faded…the wounds healed. Scars remained though, but they didn't hurt anymore. Instead, they served as reminders of the journey God had brought them on. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. The sun warmed her skin and in the distance, she could hear birds chirping out a cadence known only to them. She wished she could be like them and share her joy with the whole world, singing at the top of her voice. Her dreams had been shattered, but a new dream had sprung from the shards, filling her with light and new life. She looked down at her children, caught her husband’s gaze and smiled again. Two new lives.
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