If a bomb had been dropped around me, I wouldn’t have been as shocked as I was at his last words. My ears were throbbing as Cornelius’ voice darted around in urgency, like a dagger piercing my belly.
Is this what life has been reduced to, Cornelius? I asked, my voice becoming solemn.
My breath came in sharp pants. He was looking at me, his eyes boring within me; So many words unspoken.
Read also Crux part one
In silence, he pleaded that I hide his shame. In silence, he begged that I allow him feel like a father, to accept his brother’s seed and continue the family legacy.
No! I screamed. My hand banged on the table.
The lid of the ceramic plate crashed to the ground. I got up from my seat and headed for the bedroom.
No… No… Baby… Think about this. Think about you… About a baby growing in your womb… An infant suckling your breast. Think about motherhood… Lydia! He screamed in urgency as he tried to block my path.
I swirled out of his grasp and walked into the hell bedroom, banging the door after me.
That night and several after it, depression became my companion. I was haunted by the promises that Cornelius had painted: the yearning of my soul to carry my own child and nurse my own son.
One morning, I walked into the balcony where Cornelius was standing and overlooking the neighborhood. I stood there for minutes… My mind raging at the absurdity of my decision. A deep sigh escaped my lips as he turned to me.
I will do what you want, Cornelius. I said. ****
Four days later. 9:20pm. I was sitting in front of my dressing mirror. My body knotted in tension. Cornelius’ hands were massaging my nape.
You can do this… For us. Cornelius said.
I stared at his reflection in the mirror. His eyes were sad but hope burned in them.
This is the only way… He said again, smoothing my white silky nightgown with his hand.
Memories lit his eyes. This was the nightgown I had worn on our wedding night. I wondered if he remembered. A knock came on the door. The wine glass almost slipped off my fingers. I raised it to my lips and gulped the entire content. I needed more than courage that night. I needed intoxication.
Cornelius opened the door and shook hands with his brother. Both avoided eye contact and Cornelius walked out of the room after casting me a last plea.
Benjamin looked exactly like his brother. His broad chest blocked the view of the door. He walked towards me, his hands unbuttoning his shirt. His eyes glued to the floor. I almost made for the door but the alcohol played tricks on me. In his face, I saw Cornelius. In his eyes, my husband lived. I got up and reached for him, my hands peeling the layers of his clothes. My kisses erased his discomfort and soon we were on the bed, drowning in the sea of sweat and music of groans. This was better than I had ever had it.
Few minutes later, drained, spent, we laid far apart with our faces to the ceiling. Our groans were long drowned. Silence stretched between us. I rose. Shame crawled at me. I reached for my night gown and threw it over my head. My feet slipped into my slipper, I walked to the door to my husband’s embrace, my hand rubbing my stomach.
“God be merciful, that I am already with a child. I prayed.
I reached the door. My hand turned the knob. I stepped outside. My leg stepped on a hand on the ground. I staggered backward, holding the wall for support. My eye stared in disbelief at the sight of Cornelius in the pool of his own blood.
Written by CHIOMA NGAIKEDI.