Anulika waited until she heard the sound of the shutting door and the car getting started before she sat up on the bed, knowing that Dozie was off to work. She mumbled through her prayers as she wore her slippers and tried in futility to blink back the tears which threatened to fall. She was tired of kneeling to pray, and she was sure Dozie was too, as she had noticed for the past week since she started avoiding him, that he didn’t pray.
After brushing her teeth, she came back and sat down on the bed, still battling with the tears, a battle she lost, when she saw their wedding picture which sat on the bedside drawer, and broke down into heavy sobs.
Today was their wedding anniversary, their tenth anniversary, and the realization of that had caused her reclusion since last week. Dozie had tried to get to the root of the cause of her withdrawal, but she could not tell him. She was ashamed.
This was ten years of barrenness, ten years of guilt, ten years of a lack of fulfillment.
She knew she had the best husband and the best in-laws, but it only increased her guilt. Her mother-in-law was the one encouraging her. She see the way her in-laws try not to talk about pregnancy and babies in her presence to avoid her getting sad, and it makes her want to scream.
Why did they have to tiptoe around her? Why do they have to pity her?
She remembered the cause of her shame with a shudder.
It was when she and Dozie were still dating, and they were playing the 20 Questions game. He had asked her what she would do if she found out after being married that she couldn’t conceive. She had quickly rejected it.
“God forbid!” She exclaimed. “I will conceive. There is no reason for me not to conceive. Biko ask another question.”
Dozie had laughed at her vehemence, and the game had continued with him asking another question.
How was she to know that she would be unable to bear children? How was she to know that such a thing could happen to her?
She let her mind wander to what the doctors said for the first five years of their marriage.
“I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Onyeka but I see no reason why you can’t have children. The both of you are fine.”
Even though no one blamed her, she blamed herself, as Dozie’s past showed that he was not infertile. It was one of the first things he told her about himself when they were dating; he once had a girlfriend who got pregnant for him. They planned on getting married after she was delivered of the baby, but she and the baby did not survive the delivery.
Even as she sobbed, Anulika was reminded of the work she had to do. She was a Social Media Personnel, and her job gave her the opportunity to work from home, but it still meant she had work to do.
Sniffing, she pushed herself of the bed just when the doorbell rang.
Wondering who could be visiting this early, she quickly washed her face and went to the door to see her mother-in-law.
“Good morning Ma,” she greeted, surprised. She was the last person she expected.
When her friends heard that her mother-in-law lived in the same city with her, they asked her to prepare for war saying she would always have frictions with her. They preferred their mother-in-laws to live in the village and they would visit each other once in a while.
But the predictions were wrong.
Her mother-in-law never disturbed, not even in the slightest way. It was as though she was aware of what her friends said and was trying to prove them wrong. She has been Anulika’s rock since she realized she was infertile, always telling her to give it time, and time she did give it, and today was ten years.
She also never visited without first calling to inform her, except today.
“Good morning my daughter,” her mother-in-law replied. “I have a great day planned out for us. We are not going anywhere, but we can have fun.”
“O…Kay. I wasn’t expecting you though, I was about to get to work.”
“I know, it is a surprise plan, happy anniversary!”
“Thank you Ma, but I don’t know why we are celebrating. I just want to drown myself in work.”
“So Dozie was right?”
“Right about what? So he has started telling you our family problems, right?” Anulika knew she was being unreasonable, but she couldn’t stop herself. “If he had any problems, he should have told me and not go running off to you. I never took him for a mama’s boy, I must say I am dis…”
The order was said coolly, but its effectiveness was immediate.
“Shut up before you say something you’d regret, and realize you didn’t mean.”
Anulika has never seen her mother-in-law’s anger directed at her, but this time she knew she was close to seeing it. “I’m sorry, I did…”
“You have not welcomed me, but here you are, ready to start a fight,” Dozie’s mother cut short her apology. “You are so blinded by your pain and lack that you don’t treasure what you have! Dozie is my son, but he is a good husband. You have a good family, and you can only focus on the fact that you don’t have a child. I came to cheer you up as Dozie called me this morning worried sick about you, and here you are insulting him and me. This is not the daughter-in-law I fell in love with.”
Anulika tried to hold back the tears which were still brewing, but the last words her mother-in-law uttered broke the dam.
“I’m sorry!” she shouted through her tears. “I don’t like who I have become, but I can’t help it. I didn’t expect to be without children, ten years after my wedding day!” she ran to her room, banging the door shut.
She didn’t know how long she cried, or when she slept off, but she felt drained of energy when she woke up. She also felt a little at peace, more peaceful than she had been in years, apparently the tears needed to be shed.
The bedside clock told her it was almost 11 a.m., but she didn’t mind. The work could wait, besides today is her wedding anniversary.
She listened for any sounds that would tell her mother-in-law was still in the house. She heard nothing, but the pleasant aroma of chicken pepper soup which greeted her once she opened the door told her she was not alone.
“Mummy?” she called.
“I’m here in the parlour,”
Stepping into the parlour, she saw her mother-in-law sitting on the couch and reading a book. “Are you done crying? Or do you need more time?”
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, smiling in embarrassment.
“Come,” Dozie’s mother said, patting the vacant part of the couch.
“I’m hungry!” Anulika whined, shaking her head and looking in the direction of the kitchen from where the wonderful aroma came from.
“Sorry Nnem,” her mother-in-law said, getting off the couch. “Let us eat and after that I will tell you what I think you and Dozie should do to get your own child or children.”
Anulika almost asked that they talked first, but she held herself.
She was not up for anymore disappointments.
She has tried treatments after treatments, but nothing. She was no longer trying.
It took her ten years to get peace of mind about her condition, she was not about to go back to her former state.
She remained silent, saying nothing. Instead she allowed the thought of the chicken pepper soup fill her mind.
The story continues
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