Her voice cut through the background sounds of the rain hitting the iron-clad roof of the Tantalizers on Allen Avenue. “I didn’t…thank you for coming.”
He looked at her face; nervous fluttering of her lips putting in his mind an image of the small bird that smashed itself against his room window all those years ago.
Strange thing; that bird. He was in his room reading a Pacesetter – The Cyclist; it was, when the loud thud! intruded on his peace and quiet. He’d looked up; alarmed, in time to see a bird careen drunkenly off his window and disappear below the edge.
Running downstairs excitedly, he went round the house to the back and saw the bird fluttering weakly, blood spraying from its mouth in spurts as it tried to breath.
“I think…I think we should just end it now. We’re both grownups –“
He hated the look in her eyes, hated the way it stripped him naked and poured hot coals on his conscience. But it wasn’t my fault! he protested.
“You’d told me you weren’t ready for a child…I should have just listened.” Her eyes darkened, and then gleamed with the sheen of unshed tears. “I should have listened.”
He watched silently as her eyes filled and spilled the excess down her smooth cheeks. Her mouth remained the same shape, their upper curve rapidly filling up and letting go of the fluid that didn’t want to stop coming. He could feel his nails biting into his palms underneath the table; shoulder muscles screaming from the pressure of their tight bonding. He exhales loudly and tells himself to relax.
“I understand you don’t love me anymore – I didn’t love myself when I was informed of the abortion sixteen weeks into the pregnancy. But I…I’d hoped…” she finally acknowledged the tears, reaching up and scrubbing her face with the sleeve of her blouse. The permanent pout of her lower lip beckoned to him quietly – and he scolded himself in silent rage. Are you crazy?!
“I’ll come and move my things out…I’ll move them out sometime next week. Just – try and forgive me, okay? I hurt you, and I have no excuse. I’m sorry.”
The cutlery made a rattling sound as her thighs jostled the table, and he reached out a hand to stop her. She sniffed, bumped into the back of the chair as she tried to move quickly, tension lines on her face showing why she was hurrying. In fact, her face looked as though it was coming apart – mouth like Julia Roberts’ when crying. She finally swung out from behind the table, and hurried towards the exit, clutching her bag to chest with the fervor of a mother hugging a reluctant child.
He hurried after her, catching her at the door as she stood for a moment watching the downpour. Allen looked abandoned at that time, no Keke Napeps or okadas or evening taxis cruising slowly, no Danfo buses hoping for the unfortunately soaked passenger who would pay anything to be carried out of the rain. He stood beside her silently, looking at her freshly relaxed hair – and started to unbutton his shirt without a word.
“What are you –“ she started to say, and then gasping as she involuntarily swallowed some rain as a sudden gust of wind blew it over them. He shrugged his shirt off and shivering slightly in his LUX undershirt, put his arm around her and covered both of them with it.
She closed her eyes, tiny nostrils flaring as she inhaled the most familiar scent in the world to her. Gently he moved her into the rain, and with an ease born of practice they stepped together towards the bus stop.
He moved his arm around her waist as they climbed the blockade in the middle of the road and she leaned into the embrace. She put her arms around his waist and he could feel the heat of tears as they spilled from her eyes onto his chest through the vest, and he winced guiltily. The sudden cold of the rain touching his neck alerted him to the fact that his shirt was rapidly getting soaked. He hustled her gently but quickly across to the corner of the road towards Ikeja City Mall to put her in a taxi for Ojodu Berger – where her auntie Sola stayed.
They stopped on a spot just barely past the traffic lights but she did not let go of him. He tightened his clutch around the shirt as another gust of wind threatened to blow it out of his hands, and he leaned out of it, hands waving in recognition of a moving yellow neon sigh which said ‘Taxi’.
The back of her shivering hands touched his as he wrapped the damp shirt around her before quickly hurrying to address the driver of the cab he’d stopped. Quickly he negotiated with the man, and beckoned to her when he and the driver had agreed.
His fingers sank into the wet fabric of his as she turned away, walking on dragging feet towards the taxi that would take her away from him. Say something! his head said angrily, anything but watch her go away from you –
“I love you,” he blurted out abruptly. She froze as her fingers touched the cold metal of the door handle but she did not turn. Her shoulders were hunched as though she was afraid of something behind her.
“I love you,” he said again, looking down at her. Suddenly he realized he was standing right next to her, and he spent a brief moment wondering how he got there. “I’ve never seen anyone cry so much, the last few weeks we were together. Why did you let yourself suffer like that?”
The streets light shined in her eyes as she blinked up at him. “It helped me keep going. The pain was all I had.”
“No. You had me. Why didn’t you talk to me?”
Her eyes shimmered again. “I was feeling guilty…I didn’t know what to say. And you would come home and look at me so unhappily, blaming me…”
“I never blamed you for anything. My wife was dying inside and she didn’t need me. What do you think that felt like?”
She blinked rapidly, pushing out water from her eyes. In spite of the rain, she looked up at him, with a funny expression in her eyes. “Did you say you love me – as in present tense?”
He smiled and pulled her to him. She came into his arms, fitting in like she belonged there.
She said something but the taxi’s horn drowned it out. Quickly he opened the door for her, helped her in before getting in himself. “What did you say?” he asked after he shut the door.
“Take me home.”
Please remember our friends the grieving Kenyans in your prayers. Have an amazing week!