It was one of those cold November nights, Adanna had gone into the bathroom to have a shower when she saw it, red blood trickling down her fair thighs. Alarmed, she tugged down her towel from the hanger and clumsily wrapped it around her petite frame.
She had never seen anything like it before, she didn’t even know what it meant but she knew she had to go the hospital and she had to go now!
“Baby!!” she called out to her husband as she stepped out of their bathroom and into their bedroom, clinging onto the white towel with both hands. She walked out of the room with blood trailing the tiled floor as she went down the corridor. Her husband was not in the sitting room upstairs so she braced herself to begin the journey down the stairs, the air condition blowing cold over her bare shoulders.
Weakness crept up on her with every step she took. “Ba..b..y..” her voice was growing faint, her strength failing her.
What is happening? She thought to herself, what’s going on
She climbed to the end of the stairs, she could see her husband a few miles from her, sitting anxiously at the edge of the sofa, elbows resting on his knees as he watched the match playing on the TV screen before him in high volume, no wonder he didn’t hear her calling.
She suddenly felt dizzy, she could feel her strength leaving her body, she was going to fall, oh! She was going to fall.. “Ba..by” she called inaudibly, her grip weakly loosened from her towel and she fell backward with a heavy thud.
Joseph jerked his head in the direction of the fall. “Adanna!” he jumped, running towards her fallen body. “Jesus!” he exclaimed, quickly scooping her naked body into his arms. “Ekaete! Ekaete!!!!!!!!”
“Sir!” the maid ran to the sitting room. “Jesus!” she exclaimed, hands flying to her mouth.
“Grab the towel, fast!”
The dumbstruck maid instantly obeyed.
“Cover madam, hurry!”
She picked up the towel and awkwardly spread it over Adanna’s body, Joseph did not wait for her to properly tuck the edges to her sides before he spun around and began to brisk towards the front door. Ekaete ran ahead of him and pulled the fiberglass door open.
“Get my keys!” he ordered, suddenly remembering he had left them behind. The maid did a quick about turn to the sitting room, scooped the keys from the center table where it was always kept and ran out to the car.
Joseph was waiting with Adanna in his arms, blood drizzling down her legs in larger quantity.
“Open it fast!”
Ekaete intensively fumbled with the keys, successfully unlocked the car and tugged the back door open.
Joseph quickly but carefully laid his wife on the back seat. Ekaete ran to the gate and pulled it open. Joseph shut the car doors, got in the driver’s seat, started the ignition, shifted the gear into reverse and reversed through the gate.
“Get in!” he called to Ekaete. The young girl hastily pulled the black gate close and hopped into the back seat, gently lifting her madam’s head to rest in her laps and off Joseph sped, through the tiled streets of Gwarimpa.
“Madam, sorry” Ekaete consoled a distraught Adanna, squatting beside her hospital bed, tears forming in her own eyes. “Ei don do Ma, God go give you another one”
Adanna let out a fresh wail, holding the tissue Joseph had earlier given her to her running nose.
“It’s okay babe” Joseph said from where he stood against the wall, watching his wife as she sat up in bed, crying inconsolably. “You’ve been crying since last night, just stop crying you hear?”
The door pushed open and a doctor walked in, accompanied by a nurse.
“Doctor” Joseph greeted. Ekaete rose from the floor to give way to the doctor and nurse to step to Adanna’s side.
She slowed her crying, sniffling repeatedly.
“How are you feeling today?” the doctor asked.
“Sad” she replied. Dabbing at her nose, new tears ran down her cheeks.
“It is expected. Do you feel any pain in your stomach?”
Adanna shook her head.
“Any discomfort? Excessive bleeding?”
She sniffed. “No”
“That’s alright” He turned to Joseph. “She can go home today, just endeavor she takes her drugs and she will be fine”
“Doctor, when can I get pregnant again?”
The doctor whirled around to meet Adanna’s sad questioning eyes. “As soon as your body is ready, let the bleeding stop and feel strong first”
“Thank you so much” Joseph said, calling back his attention. He held out his hand.
The doctor shook it, “You’re welcome. Take it easy” He patted his shoulder and walked out of the ward with the nurse following behind.
Adanna let out a fresh bawl and Joseph moved to her side to console her.
Adanna sat on the gray bedroom window seat, looking out into the yard of their home. Her weave was uncombed, her eyes puffy from crying, a box of tissue sat in her thighs, the already used ones littering the floor beneath her.
The door pushed open and Joseph walked into the room. He exhaled heavily at the sight of his wife, placed his briefcase on the floor and sat down at the edge of the bed, unknotting his tie.
Adanna’s gaze remained outside as her husband undressed. He completely got out of his work clothes, wore a white tee over himself and pulled on a black jogger.
She kept still.
“Baby, how long do you want to keep doing this to yourself? It’s been way over a week since we got back from that hospital yet you still wake up every morning, sit on that window seat, cry till night falls, it’s all you do….” He spread out his hands in emphasis. “How long are you gonna keep this up, huh?”
“It was my first baby” she spoke quietly from the window “It was my first baby. I carried him for five months. Five good months!!!….”
He breezed to her side, sat at the left end of the seat and lightly held unto her folded leg “…and God would give us another one! You need to stop worrying so much seriously. Get out of these clothes, take a shower, eat something. You can’t keep doing this, I mean it”
She finally turned her head to stare at her husband. “My baby died…”
“It was a miscarriage”
She fumed, tears forming in the corner of her widened eyes.
Joseph shrugged. “It was just a miscarriage”
Her lips quivered “Do you even care?”
“Psssh!” he scoffed, rising from the seat.
Adanna climbed down and began to follow at his heels. “Ever since we lost this baby, you haven’t shown an iota of emotion. You go to work, eat, watch TV like nothing ever happened…”
“I’m not having this conversation” he pulled the door open and stepped out unto the corridor. Adanna followed right behind him.
“Oh yes, you are! We are going to talk about it..”
He mounted the stairs and she climbed down at his heels. “You talk about how I haven’t had a shower, I lost my baby, OUR baby!!! It took us three years to get pregnant and all you are concerned about is me taking a bath! If you weren’t watching that match on such high volume, he probably would have still been here!”
Joseph shook his head, stepped off the stairs and strolled into the sitting room. Adanna kept close, nagging as they went. He dropped into the couch and reached out for the remote control.
“Go on, watch TV..” an enraged Adanna spat, standing with one hand planted furiously to her waist. “That’s what you know how to do, run away from our reality..”
Joseph shook his head, he pressed a button on the remote control to change the channel.
“You didn’t carry him in your tummy so I don’t blame you, but leave me alone to grieve my baby!!!” she yelled, whirled around and stomped up the stairs.
As soon as the door clicked shut upstairs, Joseph angrily flung the remote against the wall.
“Good day sir, you asked for me”
“Oh yes I did, come in”
He moved away from the door and took the empty chair opposite his boss’s large desk.
“Joseph,” the aged man began, leaning forward on his desk. “You are one of my favorites around here, I like you, but lately your work has not been so impressive. You omit numbers, forget to do your assignments, leave your computer logged in, you ignore customers as well as your colleagues. I mean, even the weekly report I asked you to do is still undone. You are distracted. Why?!”
“I’m so sorry sir, I’m just experiencing some difficulties at home”
“Well, you better fix it because you can’t keep up like this. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you take your leave to sort things out?”
“No please sir, I don’t want to be at home all day right now. I need this distraction”
He leaned back into his swivel chair and studied Joseph’s expression.
“ I will do better sir” Joseph assured him.
“I will, thank you, Sir”
As Joseph closed from work that day, he got into his parked car and sat in dwell for twenty minutes, contemplating on which way to go. He had always gone straight home after work. Every day he went home, had his dinner which was prepared by Ekaete, climbed upstairs to his bedroom, walked by his grieving wife sitting on that window seat to the bathroom, took a shower, went back downstairs and got lost in a low volume TV. It was all he could do to keep himself from thinking, from drinking, from staying out late into the night.
But not today. Today, he would take the long way home.
He turned the key in the ignition, wound down the side window, inserted a disk of Dan seals in his stereo, rested one arm on the open window and the other hand on the steering wheel, shifted the gear into drive and drove aimlessly around Abuja, the cool evening breeze blowing gratuitously across his sad face.
His heart was heavy, his lips unsmiling.
After driving about for over 50 minutes, he pulled up on a lonely street and let out a loud wail, stomping his fists angrily against the steering.
The house was dead quiet when Joseph returned home that night. Ekaete who had opened the gate waited behind him as he locked the front door.
“Sir, make I bring your food?” she asked as he turned to walk further into the house.
“Go to bed, I’m not hungry” he said in motion.
“Okay sir” the maid turned around and began to head to her room.
Joseph stopped as he stepped on the stairs. “Has madam eaten?”
The maid turned back around. “She chop indomie for afternoon”
He heaved a sigh. “Goodnight” and resumed climbing the stairs.
Adanna was seated up in bed, arms crossed against her chest as Joseph opened the door and stepped into the warm room. “Not sitting at your spot?” he remarked rhetorically. He set down his briefcase, cellphone and trudged to the wardrobe.
“Where are you coming from?”
He looked back at her over his shoulder, said nothing then returned his gaze to the wardrobe, pulling its doors open.
An enraged Adanna stood up from the bed to stand behind him. “Where are you coming from?”
He got out of his work clothes except for his briefs, he turned around to face his wife.
“Adanna, I’m really tired, I just want to go bed, can you get out of my way? Please?”
She didn’t move. He lightly brushed past her, causing her to stagger off for a bit. She regained her composure and followed him to the bed, feeling pained.
“I can’t live like this anymore. I cannot continue to carry the pain of our loss all by myself and I definitely would not accept these late nights, it’s 11:pm for God’s sake!”
“Goodnight Adanna” he yanked the duvet over his head.
She reached down and ripped it off his face.
“Don’t do that” he warned sternly.
“Well, I’m talking to you!”
He got out of the bed, grabbed a pillow, the duvet, snatched his phone from where he had placed it and went downstairs to sleep. Adanna did not go after him this time, she sunk back to bed and began to cry.
She resented Joseph for not caring enough. She resented him for not hearing her that night she called out for him. Maybe if he had heard her soon enough, they wouldn’t have lost their baby. She resented herself for reasons she could not explain, she resented the house, she resented everything!
She was angry, sad, depressed.
As she sat there in tears, a thought caused her to jolt to her feet. She bit her finger thoughtfully, if he was really cheating, then she needed to find out.
“He is with his phone downstairs…” she thought out loud. “What can I do, what can I do? Think, think!” she snapped her fingers anxiously.
She paced the floor, clueless on what to do when her eyes fell on his briefcase. She breezed to the black bag, knelt before it, clicked it open and withdrew his laptop. She moved quickly to the bed, shooting glances at the closed door, praying he dosen’t come walking back in. She powered on the device and waited for it to boot.
The screensaver came on, it was a picture of Joseph and herself sitting in the sand at a beach in Lagos. It was the first picture they ever took as a couple, surprised he still had it but determined not to be distracted, she went into his Whatsapp. She opened each of the ten ongoing chats including group messages, there was nothing there. She decided to go to his Instagram, after all it was where they had met five years ago. Maybe he had gone back to chat up other girls. She checked his direct messages, still nothing.
She shot her eyes at the door, bit her finger, desperate for an answer
“Oh yes!” she snapped her fingers.
She opened the app, there were too many mails. “ I can’t possibly read all these” she muttered to herself.
Grateful for another insight, she scrolled to his search box located at the top of the mails and typed in ‘love’, eight messages popped up, all from a particular address, her heart dropped.
She paused, suddenly losing the zeal to open them, she stared blankly at the screen, not sure if she was ready to read what was within those emails.
Unsure, she pressed down the backspace button till the entire word was deleted.
Not completely ready to give up, she typed in, ‘miss…’ she hadn’t completed the sentence when 5 mails popped up, all from the previous mail address. More enraged now than scared, she clicked the first mail open and begun to read.
Tears formed in her eyes as she read line after line, motionless. Determined to see it all, she typed back ‘love’ into the search box and read the messages she had earlier been too afraid to open.
So there it all was, what she had never imagined, never thought was going on.
She couldn’t move, the tears won’t stop running. She sat in dwell for five minutes, no longer afraid if her husband would walk through that door.
Finally summing up the courage to stand, she put the laptop back into its bag. As she crouched down to keep it back in its place, she noticed a photograph lying face down at the bottom of the box, something she hadn’t noticed earlier. Confounded, she picked it up with shaky fingers. Slowly, afraid of the unknown, she turned it over, she gasped as the image came face to face with her.
She sobbed softly, letting her eyes linger over the photograph.
When she pulled her weight off the floor, she trudged downstairs to her husband. He was on his phone, punching away.
She watched him from the stairs for a few seconds, the photograph dangling in between her fingers. Still unaware of her presence, she moved to his side.
He turned his head to look up at her, staring down at him. “What?!” he asked, then he saw it, the photograph, in her hands.
She lowered herself to the centre table beside him and rested her elbows on her knees.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked a staring Joseph.
He shrugged a shoulder.
She felt the tears coming to the surface, she swallowed hard. “I didn’t know..” she lifted a shoulder and let it drop “..all along I thought you didn’t care, I thought I was alone, I felt alone.” She paused before continuing. “I went searching for answers on your laptop, thinking you were cheating but I found those emails instead. Why didn’t you say anything?”
He shook his head, shrugged.
Adanna moved to his side and knelt beside him. “Those emails, how long has it been?”
Joseph swallowed, suddenly feeling vulnerable. “A few days after we got back from the hospital..” He paused, trying to fight the mist that was forming in his eyes. “It hurt, he was our first baby and if only,…if only I had heard you calling out for me, earlier, maybe, just maybe he would still be here”
A tear escaped his eye. Adanna reached out her finger and wiped it off while allowing hers to cascade.
“..I was a mess, work didn’t make sense anymore, nothing did, I needed to cope somehow, I needed help, so I found an online grieving group led by this therapist and I registered, chatted her privately and that was how the mails began, she sent those everyday to help me cope. She said it was okay to talk about how much we love and miss the baby, it was okay to reminisce, imagine what could have been..”
Adanna’s teary eyes stared into her husband’s darting misty eyes, her arm resting firmly on his chest. Her heart was filled with emotions, emotions all too overwhelming to explain, she had never been more in love with him than now, sitting at his feet, watching him be vulnerable, grieving their son
“..Men feel pain too you know?” She nodded before he continued, “we simply carry it differently”
She realized that now. She dropped her head to the photo in her grip. “He was five months old here” she remarked.
He scoffed sadly “I always carried it with me..”
“Look at his tiny feet..” she smiled regretfully “he would have been so perfect”
Joseph nodded, beaming doefully. “I’m so sorry I left my volume so high that day…” Adanna lifted her gaze from the photo to his sincere face. “Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder the difference it would have made, if I had just heard you the very first time you called..” He scooped her right hand in his palms “I’m so sorry baby and I’ll do better going onwards, I will communicate better, let you in, grieve together, I promise”. She pulled her hand out of his palm and held his face, looking him straight in his eye “Sweetheart, It’s not your fault, I guess it was meant to happen” she tried to console him. “I don’t want you blaming yourself, I only said those words out of anger, as I needeblame blam someone for the hurt I felt”.
She rose from the tiled floor and climbed into the sofa, he wrapped his arm around her and she rested her head on his beating chest, holding a finger to her lips “I love you so much” she muttered.
He placed a kiss in her hair, rubbing her arm softly. “I love you more”.
WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY.