Author’s note: Hi there!If you missed the first part of the story, here is your chance to catch up!
‘I am pregnant with his baby’, the words hung in the air and I looked ahead blankly. I didn’t need to turn my head to see the concern in my mother’s face metamorphose into shock. ‘Oh my child, I am so sorry’ and then we both broke into tears. The last two weeks had been like that- we had synchronized our crying timetable. She cradled me in her arms like a baby- I wished I could be a baby again, with no worries, no anxieties, without this pain that seemed so deep, like a bottomless abyss.
I pushed the fried fish around in my plate. Even the fish’s eyes were full of pity. I didn’t have an appetite. Patrick had always said I was a picky eater, and he didn’t mind helping himself to whatever was left of my meal. Oh Patrick! I still kept hope alive that he would call me and say he was coming home, or that he would be sitting in the study, reading a book, or that I would hear him laugh or even call my name. The other night, I woke up at dawn and instinctively reached over to the other side of the bed. He wasn’t there, it was just me and the darkness- and the deafening silence…
The day of the funeral was drawing nearer. My baby bump was now rather visible and it was drawing just as much attention as the news of my being a widow was. I always pretended not to hear the whispers, ‘She is finally pregnant and the man has left her so tragically. Poor girl’. My doctor had advised me to avoid stressing myself out to avoid complications during delivery..so I ignored the whispers, smiled politely and tried not to cry too often. Except this one time! One of Patrick’s sisters, Cynthia, had not seen me since the pregnancy started showing. The day she did, she sneered at me and said ‘So you have managed to get yourself pregnant after all, and you waited until you had killed my brother. We would have to perform a paternity test to ensure that it is not your boy toy who-‘. She never got to finish that sentence, I gave her the slap of her lifetime and asked her to leave my house. The poor thing didn’t know I had it in me. She looked so bewildered as she walked out. That was the only time I disobeyed the doctor, but you would agree with me that she had it coming, didn’t she?
I had decided that I wasn’t going to write a tribute, because I didn’t want anyone else to read it on my behalf and I didn’t think I had the strength to read it myself either. Besides what I had to say was really for his ears only and he would never get to hear it. What was I going to say? ‘Today, our baby kicked when I put in your favourite jazz CD. Something tells me he or she will be quite the dancer. I really wish you were here so you could experience all of this with me. It is not fair that you had to leave just when the baby got here, it is not fair that I never got to tell you, that you never got to know on earth that you had made the Daddy team. By the way, I slapped your sister and it felt really good. Trust me, she had it coming. Anytime soon, our baby will be here. I still don’t know if it is a boy or a girl. If it is a boy, I pray he looks and acts like you. If it is a girl, I promise to dote on her like you doted on me. The house is empty without you and I miss you- all day everyday’. See? I couldn’t see myself reading this without breaking down.
On the day of the funeral, I woke up at 2am with a pit in my tummy. I was going to see his face again after all this while. I was worried that he would look different, that I might not be able to recognize him, that I would not be able to hold myself together. I wished I could go with him. Why did we have to part- and so soon? Ekow was the one who had seen his body and he was the one going to accompany the body to the church. I got there early with my mum and Esi, to see the body before everyone else got there. The church was so quiet, save the chirping of two birds from the ceiling. Ekow, Esi and Mummy stepped back as I walked to the coffin. The pit in my tummy got deeper. There he was- in his navy blue suit, my favourite suit. He didn’t look different, he looked like he was asleep. Apart from a scar right above his left eye, you could not even tell that he had been in an accident. His hair was still wavy, just the way I liked it. My hand trembled as I reached out to touch him. I really wished he would wake up, or that he would at least hold my hand and tell me that everything will be okay, that I won’t be all alone.
I don’t remember when I started to cry- maybe it was when I saw his face, or when I whispered hi, or when I reached out to adjust his pocket square, or maybe when I touched him. My heart was literally aching and my breathing was laboured. My brother embraced me and whispered that everything was going to be ok. I stood there for a long time, as if I wanted to engrain his image in my memory forever. And then I walked to my seat. My mother and Esi were seated on either side of me throughout the funeral. Ekow was basically the chief mourner, running around to make sure everything was under control. People from all walks of life were at the funeral- people I had never seen, people I barely knew, and our family and friends. Patrick was always such a people person.
I cried a lot at the funeral. Somehow I felt like it was ok to cry, to let it all out. The tribute from the children in the orphanage had everyone reaching for their handkerchief. Just before they closed the coffin, I walked up, planted a kiss on Patrick’s forehead and then I put the ultrasound scan picture in his breast pocket. His mother was wailing loudly, she also got up abruptly and embraced me. The tenderness of the moment was almost ruined because I almost burst out laughing when I saw Cynthia glaring at me. Ekow and five of the adolescent orphan boys carried the coffin to the graveyard. I wasn’t allowed to go to the graveyard- doctor’s orders. I stood at a distance, watching them shovel the sand over my husband’s body, my Patrick, and the pit in my tummy deepened even more. I whispered more to myself than to anyone else, ‘Goodbye my love’.
Two weeks after the funeral, we were all seated in my living room, eating my mother’s fufu and palmnut soup. Ekow had just shared a hilarious joke and we were all beside ourselves with laughter. I felt liquid on my thigh and I even thought it was urine as a result of laughing so hard. I looked down and realized it wasn’t urine. I grabbed my mother’s arm and whispered ‘my water just broke’. Our baby couldn’t have chosen a better day to be born- it was our meetaversary (the anniversary of the day Patrick and I met). Esi sprang into action mode and got me into the back of her black Mazda car. That car had been there throughout our time on campus- it had history. And now yet another phase of history was about to begin. I kept breathing in and out, and praying to God to preserve both my and my baby’s lives.
I brushed aside the beads of sweat on my forehead and pulled myself together. It was time. The doctor kept talking to me in a soft voice. I rallied all my strength together and pushed- for Patrick’s sake. It felt like forever before I heard the shrill cry of my baby- our baby. I smiled to myself because Patrick would have said the baby had opera singing potential if he were here. And he was here-at least in my mind’s eye. Mummy, Ekow and Esi were also right there beside me the entire time.
The nurse put my baby in my arms. So little, so precious. ‘It is a boy!’, the nurse announced with satisfaction. He wrapped his tiny fingers around my smallest finger and looked up sleepily at me. He had his father’s eyes and his wavy hair- I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I smiled down at him and said, ‘Hi! Your name is Patrick- Patrick Adabla Jnr, and your dad and mum love you very much.’
©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2014