I AM SO SORRY
I’m certain that by the time you read this letter, you’d be feeling equal parts of pain and anger. Dare I say rage even.
But I just couldn’t hold on Nate.
My body is ruined and my soul is devastated. The man I love, who made life more colourful for me, is gone. I watched life slip out of him in a slow, laborious breath. And in that moment, a great chunk of me died too.
Then the doctors tell me there’s too much fluid in my brain. I’d end up a vegetable!
That was the final blow.
Some well meaning nurse told me to hang on for the sake of my son. But Nate, surely it’d be cruel to subject my child to the agony of watching his mother blankly stare at life, half living, half dead.
I can’t do that to him. You, of all people, must understand my reasons for this.
So, I entrust him to your care Nate.
Don’t be angry with me, please. Forgive me.
Most of all, forgive yourself.
I’m not under the influence of any drug as I write this, so don’t think you have a loophole. I’ve never been more lucid as I make this decision. There’s no one else alive I can trust to raise my child except you.
Yes Nate, I mean it!
When the lawyers tell you the news, and give you my child whom you refused to set eyes on since childbirth, please don’t leave him on your doorstep. Or send him to an orphanage. I’d hunt you forever if you do that.
Raise him. Be his uncle and be his father. Love him as I know your beautiful heart is capable of doing.
But again I beg of you Nathan Okeke, it wasn’t your fault, forgive yourself. If you don’t, you will never be free.
I love you, Nate.
It was just the two of us. Now, it’s just you and my son (and, I pray, the woman you’ll allow your heart to love.)
Till the day we get to sing together again with the heavenly choir, just live!
With deep love,
PS: His name is Nathan. That’s how much I believe in you.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read the letter written by a dying woman. In those words, I could feel her gut-wrenching agony at having to depart from this world, leaving her son behind. I could almost see the tears that inevitably ran down her face as she penned down the words in a pain-weakened handwriting.
I would have loved her if I had a chance to meet her. The phrase “I’d hunt you forever…” made me sure of it.
“Oh Nathan. I’m so sorry!”
I was aware that snot was most likely running down my nose and I probably looked like a weeping mommy gorilla, but I didn’t care at that moment.
I felt like it was my own family that had just been wiped out.
Nathan stayed silent.
After dropping the bomb that NJ wasn’t his child, Nathan had walked into a room and emerged with the worn letter few minutes later (by the way, a part of me felt like some diviner, to have rightly guessed that the baby’s name was Nathan. But…moving on…).
“When….When did you find out they were dead?”
“Six days ago,” He whispered, still staring blankly at nothing.
“Six da…Oh! You mean when the lawyers came…”
“I received a message on my phone first, telling me my sister was dead,” He cut me off angrily, “I called back immediately, demanding to know what sort of sick joke that was. Her lawyer answered. Even sending me a picture of her lifeless body, dead for two weeks already.”
I could see he valiantly struggled to hold back tears, and my heart thawed just a bit more. I couldn’t imagine what he must be feeling.
“I rained down fire on him for informing me so late. He said he was acting on strict instructions. I rained some more fire for that statement. That’s crap as far as I’m concerned. I rushed to the mortuary where he said they kept her.”
At this point, he swallowed heavily, finding it difficult to continue.
“And I saw her. Just lying there. Body ravaged by what seemed like hundreds of wounds. Colder than death. Her husband by her side. He died with a grimace of deep pain etched on his face.”
And for the first time (maybe the last too), I saw silent tears roll down his cheeks.
Instinctively, I knew that alluding to the tears in anyway was a wrong move. So I stayed silent (or tried to anyway. Sitting still is almost impossible for me. I was actually tapping my feet noisily on the floor).
Suddenly, Nathan raised his head, scrunched up his nose and asked;
“What’s that foul smell?!”
I burst out laughing at the expression of utter disgust on his face (…such bad behavior, but I do it a lot. Laugh in the middle of serious moments…)
He threw me a thoroughly irritated look.
“I’m sorry, that was inappropriate. But your face… It’s priceless!” I gurgled in between snorts of laughter.
After I’d calmed a bit, I only had to look at him once more and I burst out laughing again.
“Don’t tell me that’s you?” Nathan asked.
“I’m insulted!” I responded, eyes wide in mock affront. “Of course not! That’s your so… I mean, NJ pooped.”
Nathan’s eyes widened in horror as he looked at his pristine, white sofa.
“Oh c’mon! It’s poop Nathan, not the end of the world.”
“My sofa is ruined.” Nathan lamented, tears forgotten as he fell back tiredly on the armrest of his chair. (At least, NJ had made him forget his pain, however briefly).
“Stop being melodramatic.” I said, rolling my eyes at him and rising to pick up NJ where he still slept peacefully.
“He has diapers on. If you’re lucky, that gooey, smelly, brown poo hasn’t spilled out onto your sofa yet.”
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”, said Nathan, throwing a resentful look my way as I gently lifted the baby, checking to see that the poo hadn’t in fact spilled out (Unfortunately, it hadn’t. Sigh! Maybe next time.)
“Me? Enjoy? Not at all.”
I bent down to bundle up NJ’s baby carrier. As I stood, I caught Nathan staring at his nephew, the look on his face one of shock, regret and fear.
“Don’t do that, Nathan. This little man is not at fault in any of this and you know it. Your sister made a choice, for whatever reason she had, and her son had no say in it.” I ranted, so sure I was spitting fire from my eyes at him. “So don’t you dare project any pain or blame on this child.”
Nathan looked away, properly chastened. For the moment anyway.
“Now, because I’ve already been so magnanimous, and because I understand that everything is still fresh and you’re still in shock, I’ll keep caring for NJ.”
I could have sworn I heard a soft sigh of relief. I turned and walked towards the door.
“But Nathan, I give you a week to fully decide what your next course of action is. Maybe two, considering that you’d need to make burial arrangements.”
Nathan looked up sharply at that. Obviously, he had not thought in that line yet.
“Yes, that is necessary too. But only two weeks, Nathan. Two weeks. Afterwards, we meet. We decide.”
And I walked into the sunset.
The next week found me standing before my boss, Lady Frances, on a Tuesday morning, valiantly trying to sell my strong reasons why I should be granted a two-month maternity leave.
Crazy you might call it, but either I did that or I outrightly lie or I outrightly quit.
Like I had mentioned before, the money was needed in our present economy, and I had never been very good at telling a baldfaced lie.
Proof, immediately I returned to the office, I marched into my boss’s office and told her every unpleasant detail of the actual reason why I was absent the previous week.
“So you see ma’am, I might not be his real mother, but I’m all he has now…”
“Ms Habika! Zip it!” Lady Frances instructed firmly.
I immediately clamped my mouth shut.
Lady Frances stared at me in the ensuing silence.
“Habika, you’re one of the most spacey, overly dramatic, loquacious human being I’ve ever met.”
I wasn’t sure if that statement required an answer, but I chose the right path and kept quiet (to think I had ever considered her nice. Hah!).
“However, you also manage to be a detailed, efficient and smart young lady. I’m not sure what flaw in your design made that possible, but it is commendable.”
She leaned forward, fingers tapping impatiently on the table top.
“I’ve seen firsthand your irrational love for children. You cuddle the filthy children of the traders across the road without any concern for your health. So I’m not surprised that you foolishly jumped in headfirst to care for a child you have no connection to.”
Wow! She had no qualms whatsoever about insulting me to my face. However, I needed a favour, so I held my tongue.
She glanced down at the screen of her laptop, then said;
“I’m leaving for the UK on Friday. And I’ll be gone for a month. Since you’ve always worked directly with me, and I’m not willing to pay the expenses involved in taking you along with me, I give you one month to sort yourself out.”
I blinked hard several times. I couldn’t believe what my ears had just heard. I thought I’d have to fight tooth and nail to be granted my request.
“Nothing to say for once?” asked Lady Frances, one tattooed eyebrow disappearing into her fringes.
“You said I should zip it,” I responded, the mischievous part of me finding expression in a crucial moment.
“Oh for goodness sa…”, she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air in exasperation.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Really, I’m still just trying to digest this.”
“You asked for it, didn’t you?” she questioned, looking at me warily.
“Yes I did, but still…”
“Whatever.” She replied, waving off my explanation. “You resume back here a week before I return. If you’re even a minute late, you’re fired.”
“Thank you so m…”
“You’ll work half day today and full day tomorrow.”
(Really, everyone seemed to enjoy cutting me off mid-sentence)
“Your ‘maternity’ leave starts Thursday.”
“Thanks ma’am, I really apprec….” I began again.
(but of course…)
“That will be all, Ms Habika.”
Oh well, at least I’d negotiated a great deal from my daring honesty.
When Lady Frances said I’d work a full day the following day, boy did she mean it! (As usual, the nosy janitor gave me no sleeping space. I began to suspect Lady Frances paid him extra for that.)
By the time I got home at 7pm, the baby sitter I hired and NJ were both grumpy and irritated.
“Nothing I did could get him comfortable Miss. He’s been fussy all evening”, Ify the babysitter complained, gladly handing NJ over to me as soon as I walked through the door.
“My little darling,” I cooed to him, dropping a sloppy kiss on his sticky face.
He recognized who held him and gave me an adorable, gummy smile that lifted my spirit. It felt so good knowing that we had sufficiently bonded in the short time we’d spent together.
The little man needed assurance that he was loved and that the faces around him wouldn’t keep changing.
“Well, I’m off now. But you owe me for the extra hours.” Ify said cockily, her greedy hand stretched toward me (Teenagers these days, no manners. Or mercy).
I dipped my hand into my bag, pulled out some money and gave it to her.
She stared at the cash for a moment, then as if deciding not to protest, she just shook her head, blew NJ a kiss and left.
As I moved around picking up toys and dirty clothes, there was a brisk knock on the door. I placed NJ in his high chair, and he immediately started crying. I picked him up again and rushed to answer the door, praying I didn’t look like a drowning rat.
It was Nathan.
And his first words to me after another four days of not seeing each other were;
“You’re required to attend the burial ceremony with the child.”
Can you imagine that?!
So I simply did what any sane woman would do in that situation.
I slammed the door in his face!