Chike took a deep breath before turning the door handle of his house. Ronke, his neighbor, had called him while he was still in his office that he had a still born and his wife, Amaka, had eloped from the hospital with another woman’s child. She added that his wife had refused to accept that her child did not live and when no one was looking, she made away with another woman’s child, mysteriously going pass the security without notice.
Ronke said the parents of the stolen baby were angry since all suspicion and the CCTV evidence pointed to Amaka. Ronke warned him that she was being forced to bring to their house an entourage of the doctor who delivered Amaka’s still baby, the father of the stolen child and two police men. They were on their way and she wanted him to manage the situation before they arrive at his house.
He turned the steel lever and entered gently. Amaka was nuzzling the baby swaddled in the sparkling white cloth he remembered to have bought for their expected baby, who happened to not have made it into the world alive.
Amaka was cuddling the child slightly too tightly for a newly born. She seemed over protective and possessive of it. Turning to see who was able to come through the locked door, she was first struck with shock, frowned in suspicion and then relaxed into an uneasy excitement at discovering it was her husband. ‘Darling! You’re back.’ She went to meet him with the baby. She looked quite sick from all she might have been through in the day: labour and the shock of realizing the child was born dead, and then stealing and escaping with another woman’s child. She was not only physically worn out but also psychologically dented. ‘Surprise! At last, you are now a father. We are the parents of a bouncing baby boy.’
‘Honey, how do you feel? You look tired.’ Chike tried to be as concerned as he could muster without exciting a panic.
‘Of course, I should be. I’ve just had a baby.’ Amaka said releasing the baby from her chest and holding him out on her palms for Chike to see.
|Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash|
‘You shouldn’t cuddle him so tightly since he’s only a day old.’ Chike made to take the baby. But, slightly suspicious of his lack of enthusiasm, Amaka withdrew the baby again to her chest, ‘Perhaps you shouldn’t carry him too since he’s too tender to pass around.’
Chike mustered up a smile to allay her doubt. ‘But I’m his father and it’s just two of us here.’ Yet Amaka stepped some distance away from him cuddling the baby a bit too tightly again. “How do I handle this as it appears she would get frantic?” he thought.
They had been married for ten years without a child and Amaka had been assaulted and insulted by his own mother and siblings who called her barren, as well as had been humiliated by some of her peers who taunted her state of childlessness. When she eventually got pregnant she flaunted it back at them to shut their mouths, but not for good now that she has lost it.
‘Amaka, let me at least see my son.’ He moved close to her and the baby. ‘He must look like me.’
After a brief consideration, she again proffered the swaddled baby in her palms for him to see. ‘He doesn’t look a day old.’ He commented. ‘He looks like a few days old baby. Why is that?’
Unaffected by his question Amaka kissed the baby and went to put him in a cot. ‘That’s because he’s healthy. Let me make supper so we can celebrate.’ She said putting the baby comfortably in the cot.
‘Why do you have to do that when we have a maid?’ he asked as he moved to the cot too.
Walking towards the kitchen she replied casually, ‘Oh, that. I sent her packing.’ Shocked, Chike frowned, ‘But why now that you need her most to help with the chores and the baby?’
In the kitchen, she called out her response, ‘I don’t need a house help to take care of my husband and baby; I’m quite capable and strong enough to do that myself.’
Looking closely at the quiet baby in the cot, and the baby looking back at him with big and bright black pupils, the little one seemed to be wondering who this other new face was. ‘That wasn’t what you said when you asked for her initially.’
‘I was depressed and frustrated then, remember? With your mother and sisters threatening and insulting me at the time, I wasn’t happy and lost the heart to take care of the house.’ She called out again from the kitchen.
‘The baby doesn’t look like us,’ was his first attempt at broaching the topic of kidnapping and hoped it would not spark off the gun-power immediately. He and Amaka were fair in complexion, but this baby was dark and did not look like he would acquire anything near their complexion when he grows.
‘Don’t you think it’s too early to decide that being just a day old?’ she still sounded calm as the clang of kitchen utensils sounded as normal as they usually did whenever she was in the kitchen.
“Okay, that started fine,” he thought and attempted further. ‘We don’t have any dark complexion in our families, how come he is dark at birth?’ Craning her head out from the kitchen door, she smiled confidently as she told him that ‘My great grandfather was as black as a charcoal.’ And returned fully again into the kitchen. ‘I think it’s the recessive gene stuff, you know about genes, don’t you?’ She seemed to have gotten back her confidence thinking now that he knew nothing about what she had done and that she had every excuse planned to give him.
There was no more time and Ronke would arrive at any moment now with the police. He had to straighten this out with her to ensure an amicable return of the baby. He moved to the kitchen and asked, ‘Amaka, how did you manage to go to the hospital and back with the child? Did anyone help you?’
Amaka left what she was doing and turned to him. She stared into his eyes but could not ascertain if his innocence was genuine. ‘Ronke helped me all through.’ She said plainly and returned to her chore.
‘And where is Ronke now?’
Not turning to him anymore and getting slightly nervous again, ‘probably still in the hospital or …’
‘Why would she still be in the hospital and not you and the baby receiving care?’ But Amaka would not answer. Instead, she got more nervous and clattered the utensils loudly, backing him. ‘And Amaka, why would the doctor just discharge you without your family to pick you and the baby?’
‘Because I asked to be discharged anyway! I don’t like hospitals and I didn’t like to stay there any longer than was necessary!’ She shouted in answer, and then turned to him, her wide eyes daring and cruel as she asked, ‘Why all the questions?’ Her voice has deepened into its base.
There was no point prolonging this anymore; Amaka was losing it and he would take care of that after returning the child. ‘Ronke called me and told me all that happened. The police and some other people are on their way to arrest you and claim the child. I want us to give him back and I’m sure God will give us ours in due time. The important thing now is that you’ve proven to all that you’re not barren.’
Her face had turned red with rage at his words. ‘My child did not die,’ she spelt out through clutched teeth. ‘They showed me a still birth and gave my baby to the other woman, and so I took back what belongs to me.’
‘Honey, this baby is not ours. Let’s wait again and I’m sure that this time it will not be for as long as before; ours will come.’
‘This one is mine and I’m keeping him.’ She walked angrily past him, out of the kitchen and to the baby’s cot.
‘Please, Amaka, the police will be here now and we can’t …’ Sharp knocks on the door startled them and the baby began to cry.
‘This is the police!’ A voice from the other side of the door shouted, ‘open the door please.’ It sounded more like an order than a polite plea.
Amaka carried the baby and cuddled him more possessively, swaying and kissing him. ‘I’m not giving him away.’ She gritted, and meant it.
Chike was at a loss of what to do, and knew that there would be a lot of struggle before Amaka let go. He only hoped he would be able to convince his fellow man [who owned the baby] that his wife needed help and not prison.
© by Ifeanyi Oluwafemi Chukwudi – Jan 31, 2011