Anna had a simple yet elegant face. She walked with her chin up, head always held high. Her visage accentuated with light make-up, pale old rose lipstick so she won’t seem desperate. She represented the beauty of the masses in her stature. A strong woman with conviction, for she grew up in poverty, being the youngest amongst six siblings. She cursed her life in the slums and vowed never to return under the economy’s harsh statistics.
Anna walked to her front door, a white sling bag on her shoulders with diapers and feeding bottles. She took a quick look in the mirror and marveled how she was pregnant and beautiful. She was past her due date and it didn’t seem to bother her. Anna with her controlled emotions, a house filled of shouting annoyed her. For she was reminded of the past, a past she had long forgotten. She was different now, stronger, and independent. She had visions, plans.
She reached for the doorknob and heard it clicked. The baby sleeping in the crib woke up, cried tremendously. Anna checked her slim silver watch, she was still on time. She breathed in deeply, turned back, picked up her ten month old son, Tristan, cradled him in her arms, and headed to the bathroom. Her son was still crying while Anna knocked on the door.
“Ally.” Anna firmly said as if commanding her to get out with just stating her daughter’s name.
There was no answer. Anna knocked rigorously, pounded on the chestnut colored wooden door. Tristan’s sobs crescendoed, echoed through the walls of their two storey house. The baby even started kicking, flailing his arms, and his mother’s grip loosened. This time, the bathroom door opened, revealing her eldest daughter, Ally.
Ally had been there for more than fifteen minutes, headphones on both her ears, music playing loudly. She looked more like her mama. Ally had her make-up on, lipstick, but elegance was something she needed to culture.
“Take your brother. I have to go.” She spoke softly, her voice was so tender yet you know she meant what she said.
“Ma.” Ally protested.
Seeing her daughter’s appearance made her infuriated. Anna was disgusted at how Ally looked, displayed herself. But, Anna was self contained as she mildly put, “Cancel your date with Mark and go heat up Tristan’s milk.”
“Ugh!” Ally stomped her feet in defiance. She felt obligated to look after her sisters and brother. Still, she fired up the stove and took out the milk from the fridge.
Anna passed Tristan to her; in an instant his crying stopped. The baby was more at ease in Ally’s embrace. Anna wasn’t always home, she needed to provide for her family. Who would want to oppose? Anna was a good provider. She gave her children education along with the things they fancy.
“I haven’t seen him in two weeks, Ma. I need a life! I’m dying to talk to him.”
Anna checked her watch once more. She couldn’t spare more minutes or she would be late.
“Oh, are you in a hurry now, mom?”
“Ally, look after your sisters. Stop screaming, you’ll wake them up.”
Cecile was twelve, Rachel was eight, Marianne was six, and Tristan was ten months old. It was the perfect birth spacing. The little one in her belly though, her plans were forgotten; she fell in love, love and that mesmerizing tale. Love at first sight turned one night stand suddenly became an internal unspoken agreement in respect to ones moral, and to another’s purpose.
Anna may have strayed from giving her family a long term arrangement with the upper class society, but she made a radical come back, anything not to dive back in poverty. Look at her, a past due belly without any hint of worry. She had perfected apathy with an ego. She marched into the streets with pride, in her face, there was security. People stared, she didn’t care, and she didn’t give a damn. She was minding her own, chin up, head high. She knew she wasn’t alone.
She hailed a taxi and instructed the young driver to take her to the hospital. For that afternoon, she was scheduled for a C section. The cab driver was polite, but he kept glancing back at his passenger. A glance was all that was needed; he was charmed by this woman. He meant no disrespect, but he couldn’t stop himself. What a woman! He silently gasped.
Anna’s phone rang, it was an unregistered number. She answered the call, never hesitated. The young cabbie tried not to listen to the private conversation.
“Yeah. I’m on my way.” Anna smiled when she recognized the voice.
Lucky bastard, the cabbie thought.
“No, no. I’m fine.” She gazed at her white sling bag. “Yes, all here babe.”
The cabbie stole glimpses of her on the top mirror. He watched her mouth curled as she chuckled. “You do? Me, too, I love you. Hurry up.” His heart melted condensed with her allure, trapped in an immediate fantasy land.
The cabbie’s journey to dream land was cut short when he stopped by the hospital entrance. Anna handed him the fair. He nonchalantly brushed his fingers on her palms. She looked at him with those fierce eyes that had witnessed so much, he felt scared, sorry, and embarrassed. Anna stepped out of the taxi, before she closed the door, the cabbie said, “I know you. You don’t have to wear that mask.”
She just stared at him, ignored his remark, and walked inside the hospital. There were rather more important things in her mind than entertain a puny driver. Anna was more than ready for her surgery. She had done it a couple of times, Cecil, Rachel, Marianne, and Tristan. Ally was her only normal spontaneous delivery.
Anna heard the surgeons scrubbing as she laid on the cushioned operating table. The instruments were set and checked, her surgery started. White light illuminated her belly. She felt the cold sponge soaked in Betadine. Its smell charged her nostrils. She gazed at the wall clock in front of her, 4:24.
“Scalpel.” The surgeon ordered. Like a concert master, the orchestra started to play, the sweet violins and a harp’s solo. The surgeon made a vertical cut through her skin. He went deeper into her fats and muscles. The sound of suction tubes drowned inside Anna’s head, for all she heard was music and glamour. The smell of her flesh burning never once bothered her. She knew her soul had already departed to hell.
“Retractors.” The surgeon spoke gently. Anna anticipated the arrival of her little darling while metal retractors were inserted on both sides of her belly. She felt their hands pulled on both ends, almost feared her flesh would rip apart from the force. But, fear she never showed. She was brave, always had been. Why play the cowardly part now? She thought.
They made another incision in her uterus. The buzzing of the suction machine became louder. A nurse came in with another suction machine. There was too much blood. Until everything stopped, the orchestrated music in her head was gone. It was replaced by a newborn’s faint cry. Anna looked at the clock; it was ten minutes to five. They finished stitching her up. She remained poised as her vision doubled. She felt dizzy. Her breathing was shallow and diminishing. She heard her baby’s cry, this time it was stronger. Anna smiled a genuine one. No more masks. It was the sound that tore down her wall, a tear rolled down her cheek as she faded with the light.
The baby’s father never came. He had a family of his own like Anna’s other kids. And it didn’t matter; she never cared as long as those men rained her family with financial support. Anna, all through her life carried shame and security in elegance.
Ally wept in tears by the stairs as Mark left her. In her hand was a positive pregnancy test. Out the door was the love of her life. She felt scared, betrayed, unloved, undeserving, and ugly. She stopped crying, just sat there wondering, staring at whatever caught her eye. She was still unaware of what had happened to her mother. Her siblings were asleep. This was the calm before the storm, that unusual silence.
A taxi parked by Anna’s house. The young driver went out and knocked on Ally’s door. She was greeted by the terrible news. The cabbie bowed down his head. He couldn’t look at her when he told her, “Your mother’s gone. I’m sorry.”
Terror ruled Ally’s mind. Her newborn brother was still at the hospital. How was she going to support her brothers, sisters, and the one inside her? The cabbie empathized with Ally. She put her arms around his neck and cried. He felt how vulnerable she was. He couldn’t leave her. Ally kissed his neck like she did his beloved Mark. From then on, Ally became her mother, another same life cycle.
Monday, May 19, 2014