Nkechi gazed at the paper in her hands with a mixture of joy and trepidation. For ages she had waited to see these words. It was exhilarating and yet terrifying. Two days after she missed her period she had bought a pregnancy test kit from a pharmacy near the market. Rex pharmacy was just down the street, but she hadn’t gone there. No. She had deliberately chosen a drug store where she was not known. Then she had waited until her husband left for work before she stole into the bathroom as though a camera watched her move to urinate into an empty Vaseline container that had been washed again and again. She dipped the strip into the urine and with her stopwatch proceeded to wait the recommended thirty seconds. Her heart raced with the passing seconds, but before she could collapse with anxiety, two lines appeared telling her she was pregnant. To be absolutely certain, she had gone to the hospital where blood was taken and after an hour she was given the paper she now had in her hands.
She took her time about making lunch. Thick egusi soup with cow leg, shaki, dry fish and stock fish just the way her husband liked it with pounded yam. Next she took her bath, put on a dress, and splashed a bit of perfume behind her ears.
He came in a little after 6:00 pm. “Something smells good,” he said with a grin. “And someone smells good, too,” he added as a whiff of perfume went to his nose when she gave him a hug.
“I’ve run your bath, why don’t you freshen up while I serve dinner?”
“Dinner smells good. I think I’ll just eat first,” he said, going straight to the table.
Nkechi served dinner on her best plates.
“What are we celebrating? he asked the moment his eyes fell on the tray.
“Why not eat first?”
“I can’t. Curiosity won’t allow me to enjoy the food. Come on, tell me.”
“Here,” she said as she dug out the laboratory report from her pocket. She held it out to him with a smile on her face.
“Is it mine?”
The question remained unanswered and her outstretched hand fell as a defeated look came to his face. He shifted back his chair and stood up.
“What?” she asked, drawing out the question. “We agreed.”
“No, we didn’t,” he said.
Nkechi stood up angrily. “We talked about this the day we came back from the hospital.”
“We talked about it and you suggested it but I never agreed.”
She frowned, confused now. “You didn’t agree initially, but when I pushed further, you agreed.”
“I never said yes.”
“You didn’t say no either.”
“And you thought my silence was a yes?”
“Then you should have known better,” he said, leaving the table.
Nkechi followed close to his heels. “You really expected me to stay childless because you can’t father a child? If the situation had been reversed, you would have married a second wife.”
“Then you don’t know me.”
“You can say that now.”
“Do you know how it feels for me to know you have been with another man. If you thought I agreed why didn’t you tell me when you found someone?”
“I wanted to spare you the pain.”
“Well, you failed,” he replied.
“Come on, Chima, this is the way of our people. Our people don’t approve of adoption.”
Chima turned back angrily, grasped her shoulders and shook her. “I am not our people, I am Chima.” He let go of her and stormed off into the bedroom.
Nkechi heard things falling and being kicked, but she remained where he had left her.
Finally, the bedroom went silent.
Nkechi walked softly into the bedroom. “Chima…,” she called to him quietly. He lay face down on the bed.
“Who was he?” he asked, raising his head from the pillow.
“He was nobody. Nobody you know. He is out of our lives.”
“He is not out of our lives if his baby lives inside you.”
“This could be our baby. It will only be his baby if you allow it.” She sat on the foot of the bed and gently touched his leg. “Please don’t make this worse than it is. It was nothing but business. He doesn’t matter.”
“You don’t understand.”
“I think I understand that it makes you feel less of a man.”
“And you made it worse by sneaking behind my back.”
“I thought you understood that I wanted this. I want to go through pregnancy and childbirth. If I can, why shouldn’t I? It could have been the other way round.”
“If it had been, I would never have gone behind your back.”
They sat like that for a long time. After a while he stood up and went to the wardrobe. She watched him bring out some of his clothes.
“What are you doing?” she asked. “Where are you going?”
He continued to go through his clothes.
“What are you going to tell people when they ask you?”
“I am merely moving into the guest room and don’t think for a second that if I wanted to move out the opinion of people would stop me.”
“You know all I did to get this pregnancy before having to do this,” she said.
Four years of trying for pregnancy had taken its toll on them, but Nkechi had borne the brunt of it. Orthodox and herbal drugs had been taken. Churches and prayer homes had been visited. Ritual baths and midnight incantations, fasting, and feasts. Someone only had to recommend a place, the next moment she would be there. It had gone on and on until now.
Chima stopped at the door, then left the room as Nkechi watched. There was still opportunity for him to turn him around, she thought, holding her hand to her abdomen.