She arrived home at seven o’clock. Jeffery was seated on the sofa with his legs resting on the coffee table. He nodded when she got inside the house.
“What are we having for supper?” he asked.
Belinda walked over to the children’s bedroom to say hello to Iman and Hakeem. They rushed to hug her when she sat on the floor each spouting words about their day. Iman had her father’s eyes and someone else’s looks. Hakeem on the hand was the adorable male version of her. He was the youngest and the sweetest. Jeffery had been talking about having another baby. He called it the curtain call. They could close the chapter on baby-making and raise the children. She listened when he talked and snuggled closer for a cuddle, but never forgot her pills. He was ready because he had earned a promotion and had signed a five-year contract. The words flowed into her ears, pitched a tent in her mind and then were discarded as soon as she woke up. It meant nine months of piling on weight, cracked nipples, wearing a diaper for six weeks postpartum, and of course the snide comments from him ‘you are fat,’ or sometimes ‘we need to sign you up for gym.’ When the baby cried, those first three months of hell, meant she would sleep in the baby’s room. Jeffery asking every morning, ‘Is there any way we can get the baby to stop wailing at midnight?’ He would have his breakfast, leave at seven and return at nine in the night. She never confronted him about Millie, the slim young thing he spent diaper money on. She never confronted him about his working hours for somewhere along the way, she’d learned that there were better things like watching him choke on a fish bone.
She led the way into the kitchen and turned on the gas. Hakeem and Iman climbed on the counter top like they always did whenever she cooked. “What are we eating tonight?” Iman asked.
“I am making rice and beans.”
“You know they are eating chapati in Gracie’s house and it was all she talked about on the bus.”
“I can make chapati on another day when Gracie’s mom is not making it so you can also tell her all about it.”
“Yes, she thinks that they are the only ones who eat chapati. I will show her.”
The children talked about their day each one taking turns to prove they had the best experience. Jeff turned the volume up and she did not see the need of shouting to get his attention. Iman helped her set the table and they sat down to dinner. She listened to their talk even as she did the dishes and tucked them into bed.
She took a quick shower and changed into her night dress then slipped into the bed. Jeff turned to her as she settled between the covers and said: “Mother is coming to visit us next weekend.”
Belinda looked into his eyes. He smiled and then kissed her hand, “goodnight,” before turning to face the other side pulling the duvet along with him. She stared at his back long after and slowly slid down the bed and closed her eyes to embrace sleep.
Ushanga: Chapter one was posted here