Sitting on the rugged rocking chair that she had always sat on at her balcony, Antonia stared at the moon that was illuminating a shimmery light among the clouds. She stared absent mindedly at the paths the light made between broken lumps of cloud and marveled at how they looked like a map being drawn. She fixed her gaze on the star studded skyline and couldn’t fail to notice the beauty of the shooting star, and how slowly the sky was clearing to bring in a new day.
Her sleeping baby boy made a cooing noise in her arms and she made a “shush” sound to silence him. She realized that she needed to put him in his cot. She walked barefoot, ignoring the coldness of the tiled floor that she stepped on. As she laid her son to sleep, she remembered that she hadn’t given him his cough meditation, but she didn’t wake him up.
“Just a few more hours and it will be morning. I will give it to him when he wakes up” She said to herself and battled briefly with the slight guilt that was forming in her mind. She was doing her best in this motherhood thing that was new to her, and in as much as she wasn’t doing it perfectly, she knew that she loved her son.
She sat down on her computer to send an email to her husband who was out of town to tell him that she couldn’t wait for his return home. He had been away for eight days, and Antonia missed him terribly. He was a loving man and always showed his affection by buying her expensive gifts with a lot of public display of affection. She liked every minute of her marriage.
Her phone vibrated in the pocket of her jeans. She ignored it at first, thinking it’s a message from her network provider. It went on and on. When she removed it and stared at the huge screen of her cell phone, she couldn’t recognize the number.
“Hey, who am I talking to?”
“Hello, don’t tell me you deleted my number.”
She recognized the voice immediately, and she was awash with many emotions; chief among them a lingering fear of the uncertainty that this phone call brought.
“Karen, where are you? I lost my phone and had to replace my sim card. Why did you take so long to call me? I have missed you.” Antonia asked while twirling her hair.
Karen laughed. The boisterous laughter that she always had back then when they were staying together. That unmistakable laughter that masked the pain that she had gone through while growing up. Even when she had told Antonia of how many times she had attempted to end her life and the many days that she stood staring at the busy streets, wishing she would just dive in front of a moving car, she always concluded her stories by giving a hearty laugh that would confuse those who didn’t know her well…laughter was her escape, her way to fool the world that all was well, even though those close to her knew that she was broken on the inside.
And here she was, calling Antonia, four years after they last saw each other.
“Antonia, I am calling to ask you if you have seen it…” She said in a drowsy voice. It was obvious that she was drunk. Her voice had a sleepy drawl, of someone who had over indulged the previous night.
“Seen what?” Antonia asked.
“The paper – Have you seen it?” she asked.
Antonia didn’t understand. From the other end where Karen spoke, there was a loud hoot, and the sounds of vehicles moving rapidly.
“Where are you? “ Antonia asked concerned.
“Errrm, I got a morning gig. These days I do a 8 to 5 job. I am a good citizen, shifted my into being a better person.” She said and let out a loud laughter that scared Antonia.
“What paper are you talking about Karen? And what is in it?”
“I know you have seen it, quit toying with my mind, and don’t be like that. You got married to a wealthy man alright, but don’t forget us down here. You were once here ma’…”
Antonia could feel a wave of anger rise in her. She didn’t know why or where it came from, but she didn’t like the suspense that Karen was creating in her mind.
Sunrises are known to be cathartic, to be a significant representation of a new dawn…and the sunrise outside her window was intense. It was about 6:17 am when Antonia stepped out of her house, leaving her son still peacefully asleep on the cot. It was still slightly dark when she stepped into the chilling cold with her blue earphones concealed under her hooded trench coat.
The newspaper vendor was still laying out the newspapers on the stand when she arrived.
“Give me today’s publications. All of them…” she said.
The vendor gathered several newspapers and handed them to her in a small heap. She took them hurriedly, and rushed towards her house. The streetlights cast an eerie shadow of her as a tall being rushing towards the unknown. She stopped, and ruffled through the newspapers. There was nothing much…politics, celebrity news, development, just the normal things. She was beginning to think that Karen had gotten her worried for no reason, until she saw her photo splashed beneath a headline.
Exposed: Minister’s wife was once a prostitute.
Her heart sunk. All the words lumped into some form of jumbled up text that rose from the face and hit her hard.
She walked on…
Her shadow followed her.
Thup! Thup! Into the rising morning…
She held her hood and started running towards her house. The shadow ran too…like a past that refused to disappear. She increased the volume of the music in her earphones, trying to block the dawning reality. In the haze of her mind, she wondered who could have revealed what she thought was her well guarded secret. For four years, she had kept the lid closed tight, she had moved to a different town…she had changed her number and started over…she had even changed her name for heaven’s sake!
“Oh No, Karen…you didn’t…” she thought to herself and called the number from her call log. She got the busy tone. She tried over and over until she felt a hot liquid slip from her eyes. She wiped using the corner of her sleeve and more kept rolling, like a waterfall.
She continued dialing.
She dropped the newspapers she was carrying and they scattered into the wind, like ash thrown in a gale. In different directions her story went, but she didn’t care.
She dialed Karen again. This time it went through.
“Did you tell them?” she whispered while her entire body shook, from the cold, and from a feeling that burned her belly.
“Are you insane?” Karen responded and gave a hearty laugh. Antonia paused.
“How did they know? Someone must have told them…”
“Yes, someone must have told them….but not me bitch. I cant do that on a friend.” Kare said.
There was beep on Antonia’s phone. An indication that there was another call coming through.
It was her husband.
Her voice trembled when he asked her where she was.
“Running errands…” was all she could say at the moment. She made a few steps forward before the reality hit her…
The lid had fallen, and she had to do something. So she turned and ran in the opposite direction. She pressed the volume knob of her music player and the music blasted in her ears. She wanted to listen to a song that would fill her with hope, desperation, release, sorrow…
By the time she arrived at Karen’s door step, a place that she once called home, a place she had sworn never to go back to, it was dark. The skyline shone in neon colors and the rusty iron sheets reminded her of just how much the place had remained unchanged.
“Why did you come?” karen asked when she opened the door.
“I couldn’t face my husband. I couldn’t Kare. He is a church minister…it would have brought him so much shame.
“You came with nothing ~ what about your son?”
Antonia leaned forward and embraced her, and a strong sob rocked her body. For the first time since she saw the paper, she remembered her son.
Meanwhile, at the same rocking chair that she had sat on that morning, Anthony sat while watching his phone. When it rang, he sprang to it and laughed.
“I am sorry, I was in a meeting, I should have called you earlier.” The sub editor of the paper said.
“No problem sir. You did a good story. I loved it. Every piece of it was delicious. What a scandal.”
And they both laughed.
“But Sir, you have known this from the first time you met her, why did you decide to expose her like that, aren’t you a man of God?”
Anthony laughed so loudly.
“ She didn’t know that I know…and that’s the interesting bit. I donno why I did it. I guess there is a little evil in all of us.
“True…” the sub editor said.
Then they both hung up. And the sun sunk deeper into the sky.