The Neighbor’s Son
The clock ticked away, the dogs barked away, the crickets chipped happily and the frogs croaked noisily, their voice rising in a heightened frenzy.
And she lay still in her favorite position, sleepless and alone like she always did every night. The feeling in her was not one she could describe. The anger was palpable and the sadness was there alright. She was sure she was going mad. If only she could cry, that would have been better, no? But the tears dint come and she had learnt from experience that there was no need breaking anything in the house; that only gave her temporary reprieve. Worse, he would replace them the next day.
So lay on her back, staring at the dark ceiling until her eyes became adjusted to the darkness and she could make out the faint white lines on the light brown ceiling. It was all BS, she’d come to learn, of what they said about not being able to see in the darkness. If you only concentrated enough, you could pretty much see a lot.
She wasn’t sure how long she lay that way but at some point she realized she could not take it anymore. She stood up and dressed- still in darkness- checked to make sure her son was sound asleep and left the house. It was a cold night outside.
# # # #
Soft music drifted from the house along with loud laughter. Janet stood outside the door, trembling from the cold. Suddenly she wasn’t sure she wanted to go in there and see what awaited her. She was a timid woman whose confidence had dipped considerably and standing outside that door, hearing her husband roar with laughter and the other woman giggle girlishly wasn’t helping matters at all. She pulled her jacket tighter to her body and knocked. Her heart beat wildly.
“I’ll get it honey!” her husband shouted and was on the door in a minute, opening it wide.
The smile disappeared from his face.
“Janet…” he said unbelievably.
She stared at him and said nothing. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, knowing with certainty that her voice would give her away.
“Daddy, who‘s that?” the other woman asked in a voice that sounded musical and like a high teenager’s.
“Looks like we have a visitor.” Charles said quietly. If she dint know him so well, Janet could have sworn she saw traces of fear in his face and heard some in his voice too. The other woman was there in a second, the surprise evident on her face. It dawned on Janet that the woman knew who she was.
“Come in and Have a seat,” the other woman said sweetly. “What can I offer you? Coffee? It’s all that I have right now.”
Janet smiled and shook her head, speaking for the first time. “Thank you, but water would do just fine.”
To a casual observer the two women were fine, even sounding like two old friends. But they did not fool Charles. He’d been with enough women to know how they reasoned. Devil incarnates. The tension underneath was high and he knew he had to be on the lookout, just in case. He stole a glance on the door, cursing silently as to why he’d locked it. Janet dint miss the look and neither did the other woman.
“The fertility results are out,” Janet said out of nowhere.
“Sorry?” the other woman blurted,
“He knows what I’m talking about,” Janet answered calmly, staring at her husband all the while. She couldn’t afford to look at the other woman. Beautiful from the outside, ugly as fuck from the inside.
Charles tried to be calm, fidgeting in his chair. His jaw did that thing he always did whenever he was anxious.
“Janet, can’t we talk about this privately?”
Janet laughed sarcastically. “Privately? What’s private to discuss? This is our new woman, isn’t she? Everyone knows about your affair with her, so why do you want to be discreet now? After all it concerns her too. Her and your kids. Wait; did I say your kids? Sorry, I meant the kids you cater for thinking they are yours.”
She turned to look at the other woman and saw signs of real fear in her eyes.
“What are you talking about?” Charles asked darkly.
She withdrew an envelope from her bag and threw it on the table.
“There. Check for yourself.”
Charles and the other woman avoided the envelope like it contained the plague.
“Somewhere along the line Charles, your sperm count dropped. It dropped to levels where you can no longer make a woman pregnant. What I mean, this woman’s two kids you’ve so religiously been providing for aren’t yours.”
You could hear a pin drop.
The other woman opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, thought the better of it and closed it shut.
Charles felt like he’d been hit by a trailer. Slowly, he put his head on his hands. Janet looked at them both, waiting for the information to sink in.
“Naturally after getting this information I decided to do a DNA test for my son. Not that I had any doubt that the boy was yours, but because I dint want you having any doubts. And yes, he is your son alright. So, why am I here? I wanted to inform you, so that you would know what kind of a person you are dealing with. She told you they are your children. She lied.”
Charles turned to stare at the other woman, his look murderous.
“Honey, I’m so sorry. I had no one else. The father to the kid abandoned me.”
“And yet you still had the audacity to have another kid with him?” Charles asked through clenched teeth.
She shook her head miserably, her whole body trembling nervously. “The second kid’s father is different.” Her voice was quiet, almost inaudible.
Janet almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
“My God,” Charles said painfully.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated over and over.
“So, what about the one you are carrying in your womb right now?” Charles asked suddenly.
“She’s yours, I swear!” she was on her knees now, clinging to him desperately. “I swear, this one is yours!”
Janet wanted to laugh out loud, but she dint. The two of them looked so pathetic together it wasn’t even funny.
She opened the envelope and came out with some papers. Unceremoniously, she threw them on top of the table.
“I want a divorce.”
“I beg your pardon?” Charles asked incredulously.
“I said I want a divorce.”
“Darling, please don’t do this to me, I swear I love you!” he was pleading now, all cockiness gone.
“Love? Can you afford to talk about love? While your own kid goes to a public school and her kids, the kids you thought were yours, attend the most expensive schools? I just saw the bank slip that shows you deposited 600,000/= in her bank account. Fifteen years Charles. Fifteen years we have been together and you’ve never deposited a shilling in my account. You dare talk about love?”
She stood up and picked her bags. “Sign the papers Charles. I’m serious.”
She opened the door and left. She felt empty inside. She’d played this moment over and over in her head. Not once did it end up like this in her head. She’d thought the divorce would give her revenge, make her happy. But instead she only felt empty.
Nevertheless, she pulled her jacket closer and she pushed her hat down. She walked out of the place with her head high.
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