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The dinner was served by me. We ate in silence. He didn’t want to talk about the taste of the food, he preferred to eat as quietly as possible. I was growing weary of his recent behavior. I could no longer hold any more of this agony of conscience. Then I started thinking on how I could confess my sins to him; he needed to know that I have had many abortions, he needed to know about the baby I gave birth to, but because I wasn’t ready for parenting I went and dropped her at the gate of an orphanage home; offering her up to an ugly fate, he needed to know how often I had taken abortion pills, he needed to know the count of men that I had slept with. It wasn’t going to be easy. I feared what his reactions might be. It’s better I tell him myself and release myself of the agony than he learnt of my secret from outside. All these thoughts thronged my head all through the night.
My worst nightmare began the following day. I stayed home today because I have an appointment with the hospital. I came into the sitting room when I have dressed up and was ready to go. I walked straight to the center table to pick my car keys.
‘Ijeoma!’ I shouted, as I stood in front of the mirror at one corner of the large room, titivating my hair.
‘Yes Maa!’ she answered standing at my back.
‘I want to go to the hospital,’ I said. But when I turned to leave, I noticed something irritating on her shoulder.
I ran my finger over a scaly whitish patches on her shoulder when I drew closer.
‘This must be ringworm,’ I suggested, raised my eyes which met her ever unsettling eyes.
‘Go and prepare, you must follow me to the hospital. You need a check-up and possibly medications.’
‘Ok maa,’ she said and sprinted back into the room.
I opted to take her to hospital to avoid her sharing the skin disease to the rest of us and again to do some other confirmatory test.
‘This is a perfect opportunity to confirm my fears,’ I reasoned. That mark I saw on her neck the other day was at the exact position and was the same mark I gave my daughter fifteen years ago whom I left at the gate of the orphange. After some minutes she came out and we drove down to the hospital.
At the hospital, we are seated with our family Doctor. A very chubby man and very handsome; his hair neatly and decently shaved into punk and he looked more handsome in his customized lab coat that had his name boldly written on the collar. When he came to where we sat, he squatted and with his white gloved hands, he examined the patches on her skin, went back to his seat and scribbled some letters down on a piece of white paper.
He reached for the head phone of the intercom telephone that was on the table and said sofly, ‘Please come over to my office. We have a patient who needs some mycological studies.’
The next minutes Ijeoma left with the Laboratory Scientist to where they would collect her samples leaving me and the Doctor in his office.
I slouched over his table and spoke on a low tone.
‘Doc.’ I hope you still have the copy of my DNA test results?
‘Yes. Why do you ask?’
‘I need you to run a DNA test on that girl. I want you to try a match on both results, please! ’
The Doctor placed another call immediately to the laboratory scientist about the new development.
As we drove home I thought about many things; about how she would feel if she turns out to be my biological daughter, I wondered how my husband would react, I wondered how I would feel after all the evil I had inflicted on her, not to talk of her future which I have destroyed. I would not forgive myself. When I brought out my phone, I saw up to twelve miss calls and a message and they were all from my husband. My phone was on silent mode. I opened the message, and it reads, ‘Why would you take her to the hospital without my consent? Since when have you started taking authority into your hands in this house? I want you to come back home immediately with her as soon as you receive this message.’
I honestly don’t understand the message. My husband has never talked or sent me this kind of message. He sounded as though he had a secret he was trying to cover, he sounded as though my taking ijeoma to the hospital was a threat to him. I turned and looked at Ijeoma. She was looking nervous. She quivered. Even when we were under the AC of the car, she perspired heavily. I was sure she felt uneasy. The way she looked at me, the way she wriggled her body gave her away cheaply. I had wanted to ask her if she have had any relationship with my husband in my absence but I couldn’t because I was still trying to figure out what the result of the tests would be.
It was only when I told my husband why we went to the hospital that he calmed down, his claws sheathed back, his burning rage came down, his hairs that stood on his brightly colored skin some minutes ago lay down flat, his harsh and loud tone mellowed down drastically. He concocted a flimsy reason to justify his actions and the message but I was too busy and occupied with the thoughts of what the outcome of the result might be. I was still thinking about what the result might say. I could not sleep in the night. The thought of the incubating test kept hunting me.
‘What reason would I offer to my husband as to why I had kept such a secret from him after all these years? How would Ijeoma react if she latter finds out that a monster like me is actually her mother?’ I reasoned all these through the night as I held unto my chest as though they were falling off.
The past two weeks has been a hell for me. Throughout these periods I had suffered a great deal of agony of conscience. I was emotionally unbalanced. My sudden change of character towards Ije was a surprise to her and my husband. She doesn’t have to eat once in a day any more, she doesn’t have to do all the chores all by herself, she doesn’t have to feed only on stale foods, she doesn’t have to wear all those tattered clothes. I stopped beating her. She now follows us to see TV programs seated on the same couch, eating popcorn from the same cup. She now has the right to go take a wine in our bar at her own discretion. I changed her wardrobe from clothes right down to her shoes. In fact, she started tasting the life of a queen in our home. I started calling her my daughter. All these changes were a surprise to her. It was an amazing experience for her; it all gave away in her demeanor. I did all I could to appease her even when the results are yet to be released.