Right to Live
She looked across the table at him.
Head bowed slightly over the plate, contemplating the soup as if it were an unknown galaxy discovered after centuries of painstaking research.
Why don’t you eat? What are you thinking about?
Since moving into this suburb house 4 years ago, they had not yet reached an agreement over where to dine, he preferred to eat on the terrace, while she always insisted on sitting at the table, with white handmade appliquéd cotton tablecloth, long candle sticks, her mother's china and the ceramic vase his mother had brought for them from Italy.
Should we really have done that?
Have done what?
More gazing into the depth of the soup plate
Come on, tell me. Do you want to drive me nuts?!
How could we be so sure that things weren’t going to change for the better?
I don’t see what you mean, is it ‘can you read my mind’ quiz championship?
We had to give it a chance to live! However hard it might have been for us…for you, we should have let it live!
Tim, are you going to be difficult again?
Don’t Tim me! I hate it when you talk to me in that bloody school mistress way!
Spoon dropped on the table, napkin clutched in the trembling hand. Since when his hands had begun to tremble so badly?
We did all that to change our life Tim, there seemed to be no other way to take care of our debts and settle things at that time. But it was 4 years ago, and you said you would try to put everything behind!
A dark shadow creeping into the hesitant blue eyes.
Yes Tim, four years. Don't you remember?
A wicked smile twisting the pale lips, chalky white teeth flashing in the dark lean small face.
Knowing you, you must have felt pretty lonely during those months that I had to stay in that building. You never told me who your lover was then, or still is? Mighty Samuel, huh?
It must have been his baby, not mine. Yes…it very well could be his .Isn’t it ridiculous, defending another man's right to fatherhood?
There has never been another man….
Shut up now! What do you take me for, a complete fool? You never told me how you really got to learn about that brilliant plan of Jackie Samuel and his men at exactly the right time. Don't give me that college mate rubbish again, you meant more than that to him. I never liked the way he used to stare at you.
The room suddenly getting too stuffy, too warm. The smell of soup unbearably sickening.
Were you worried about your waistline? Were you afraid of not getting slim enough again after giving birth? Or Samuel was too busy killing people and not feeling fit enough to become a father?
Samuel never touched me after our college days. Even if I asked for it, he wouldn’t agree. He was finished with me, why can't you understand? He had heard about you and I living in the same neighborhood, and whom could he trust more? It was a great opportunity for us also, and yes, exactly at the right time. Tim you had nothing to do with the killing and you very well know that. How did you want to stop them , with your bare hands? Samuel would have had them kill you as well. And how on earth could you guess she was pregnant? You'd never have learnt if it was not revealed it in that special report after the robbery.
Drops of sweat rolling down the already wrinkled forehead. Eyes shining with fever and excitement.
I remember calling you several times in the evenings from the phone booth nearby, but you never answered. Where were you? Chilling out with college mate Samuel or looking for a clinic specialized in cheap abortion?
You didn’t want that baby more than I did. We both agreed that it was decidedly not the best time for having it. And have you really forgotten that the clinic was recommended by your mother’s friend? It was nobody’s fault that things went wrong .I almost bled myself to death, but it is only the baby that you care about!
Blue eyes widening at the unexpected bitterness of her words, the trembling hands clasped together with knuckles whitened.
Let's talk this over here and now for the last time, ok Tim? They asked you to make a report of when the husband used to leave for work and come back home every day, who visited them, how many times a day the woman went for shopping,… for 3 month and then you were instructed to call Samuel on 17th morning as soon as the husband left home. They assured you no one would be hurt. It was pure bad luck that the husband came back much earlier than usual, and …. they had to kill them both, all would be spoilt otherwise. But you were not supposed to accompany them. Why did you? Samuel told me later that you had threatened to make a scene if they didn’t take you in with them. Had you fallen in love with that woman? Did you want to take care of her, to make sure she'd be safe? God had you already charmed her into going to bed with you?
Bony fingers clenching and unclenching restlessly. Words coming out as if needing immense force.
She was not beautiful, but a good woman. A good wife. A woman with whom you'd like to make home. Very neat and orderly. She'd have made an excellent mother if those bastards hadn't done her in. I remember my mom saying you'd never be a decent wife. She knew your type. But that baby had a right to live; you could have fought Samuel over it. You would have no difficulty in persuading me either, I was really hopeless because of our damn debts but if you really wanted to become a mother, nothing could stop you. Why didn't you try? We could name her Isabel after my mother….I am quite sure that it was to be a girl.
Tim, was it your baby? Is that why you can't get over it? Jesus have I been blind all these years? What were you planning to do, running away with her afterwards?
You don’t understand! She was not happy with her husband, she had never been happy in her life; her parents were migrant workers, hardly earning enough to buy her clothes and other stuff. She wanted to be a mother; she wasn’t a heartless bitch like you, killing your own baby so cold bloodedly!
Now stay where you are! You can't leave just like that, I won’t let you get away I am telling you…
The ceramic vase shattered into tiny pieces, the white cotton tablecloth stained red all over.
Picking up his spoon, he began to eat.