It was exactly 7:00 pm and Zirwa laid still on the bedroom floor of her apartment. Mariam had insisted she stay with her, but her sister’s constant worrying was driving her crazy. All Mariam wanted to do was talk. Talk about her taking the pregnancy test, talk about separating from Dapo, talk about Patrick. This, coupled with the fact that her mother wouldn’t stop calling and messaging her, was becoming a constant nightmare. Dr. Ifi had probably called her to let her know what had happened, and she was just grateful her mother was out of town and wouldn’t be back for a few more days. All Zirwa wanted to do was breathe. She just needed a moment to take it all in and was grateful she hadn’t sold her apartment like Dapo had insisted before they got married. She’d lied to him and told him she had but, till today, wasn’t sure why she’d held on to it. She shifted a little and realised she still ached all over. Her arms and thighs hurt every time she moved, but thankfully Dapo hadn’t broken any of her bones. Her left cheek and eyelid were slightly swollen. She closed her eyes for a moment and felt his hand tightly gripping her hair. Then came the slap that forced her to fall on to the bed. She opened her eyes and allowed the tears to fall. What had she done to deserve this? Not once had she tried to make him feel like he wasn’t her King. Yet, he had turned her into a target.
She told Mariam she would let her know the pregnancy test result as soon as she took it. Dr. Ifi had given her a home kit before they left the hospital yesterday since she couldn’t bring herself to take the test immediately. She wondered what would happen if she was pregnant. How could she take care of another when she could barely find the strength to take care of herself?
Zirwa felt her phone vibrate. She looked at her phone screen and froze for a slight second as she saw Patrick’s name above a message alert. She slid the message open:
Hi Zirwa, I hope you’re ok… I would really like us to talk…
Before she could finish reading it, her phone started to ring. She hesitated, then answered the call. What would be the point of avoiding him?
“Hi Patrick… ”
“Hey Zirwa… I’m worried about you… Can we talk? I mean in person? I just want to see you… To make sure you’re ok…”
She took a deep breath.
“Ok… I’m at my flat… Do you remember the address?”
“Yes, I’ll be there shortly.”
Zirwa forced herself up and picked up a towel from the cupboard. She needed to put some ice on her face before Patrick arrived. Maybe if she tried to clean herself up, her bruises wouldn’t be so obvious. She stepped into the bathroom, and ran the shower to lukewarm water. She undressed, cautious of her wounds, and stepped in. Dr. Ifi had dressed some of the open wounds on her thighs and talked her through how to care for them until she fully healed. The water on her body felt good and hurt at the same time. She squeezed some body wash into her hand and gently massaged her body, feeling a few stings as the soap ran over some of her undressed bruises. Once she was done, she stepped out of the shower and grabbed her towel. She had left the AC in the room on all night so it was cold when she stepped back in. She carefully patted her skin dry, rummaged through some of the stuff she’d managed to leave the house with and slipped into a long night gown she found. She placed her towel unto the dry rack in the bathroom and her eye caught the pregnancy test kit she’d left by the sink. If she didn’t take the test now, there would never be a good time to do it. She removed the test wand from the packet and took off the cap. She peed on the test stick as instructed. As she waited she heard a faint vibration. She placed the stick on the packet by the sink counter and went back to the room to pick up her phone.
“Hi Zirwa, I’m outside the flat…”
“Ok, just give me a second.”
She’d come back to check the result once Patrick left. Pregnant or not, she knew she didn’t have a plan and needed one. But for now all she could manage was to take things one step at a time. She looked in the mirror by the front door. The swelling on her face was still obvious but she looked slightly refreshed. There was no time to ice it now. As she opened the door and Patrick laid eyes on her, his smile quickly faded.
“My God!” He reached for her face and she instantly took a step back.
She opened the door completely to allow him in.
“He did this to you!?” She had known Patrick five years and not once had she seen him this angry. Patrick reached for Zirwa’s hand.
“How could he do this to you?! What happened?!”
Patrick stepped in front of her and looked down to catch her gaze. Zirwa didn’t know what to say, she had told Mariam what had happened, talked to the police and filed a report about the incident, which had taken any dignity she may have had left, then she had to repeat the same story to her mother. She was tired of talking.
“I don’t know Patrick, it’s hard to talk about this…” He slowly pulled her closer to him.
“I’m so sorry I allowed this to happen to you. I shouldn’t have let you go home that evening, but I didn’t want to cause a scene, and you were adamant that you needed to leave. Is this what he’s been doing to you?” He looked at her with extreme concern.
“No, he’s never laid a finger on me until that night.”
The look of concern on his face made her nervous. She walked towards the living room and he followed her.
“Zirwa, I came to talk about us. But seeing you like this? This is heart breaking.”
Patrick took hold of her hand.
“I’ve been telling you how I feel about you for years now. I told you again during the night we spent together. I want to be with you. I always have, since the first day you walked into my office. But right now, I want to be here for you. To help you through this.”
She looked up at him, slightly comforted. But the last thing she needed was to get into anything that seemed like a relationship. She’d started working with Patrick at her father’s company right after graduating from university. He’d made his intentions known after a year, and they had a good bond at the time, but she didn’t want to risk getting involved with someone at work, especially since her father was the Director. She was already fighting the stereotype of not having worked for her position as a Project Management Consultant, and the fact that she was a woman surrounded mostly by chauvinistic men? She would have rather died than start dating Patrick. He’d taught her most of what she knew in the business and positioned her to become one of the top consultants in the firm, all within a few years. He’d supported her wholeheartedly, but if she hadn’t kept it professional her career would have died the moment she started dating him.
“Patrick, we’ve been at this for a while now. I got married, you started dating someone a few months ago. Don’t you think this is complicated enough?”
She released her hand from his grip.
“Zirwa, even if you push me away, I’d rather die than see you go back to that monster. As for the dating, the moment you tell me you’re ready, I will drop it all. These women mean nothing to me. I’m 31 and despite all the women in this city, I’ve refused to settle for anyone. The person I want is here with me right now.”
He took hold of her hand again.
“Look, right now, I need you to heal and know that I’m here… Have you had something to eat?”
She smiled at his thoughtfulness.
“No, I got in from the hospital and filing a police report last night, and I haven’t had the energy to do anything.”
“I understand. Let me go and get something for you to eat. I’ll call work to sort out sick leave for you tomorrow and I’ll take the day off.”
“Thank you Patrick, I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”
“Zirwa, anything for you.” He got up and made his way to the front door.
“Let me quickly use your bathroom before I leave.”
He made his way down the corridor. He’d been to the flat so many times and comfortably knew his way around. Zirwa felt her spirits somewhat lifted. Patrick was always quick to come through. Always consistent, both professionally and outside of work. But everything was just too messy right now and she didn’t want to think about being with him. Why had she even slept with him? She had allowed her weakness take over and she was ashamed. She should have known better.
“Zirwa, are you pregnant?”
She hadn’t realised when Patrick walked back into the living room and it took her a second to understand what he was referring to. Her palms became sweaty, her mouth felt dry.
“Oh my goodness… No, you weren’t meant to see that…”
“The test is positive, we were together just two months ago…”
Zirwa wished the ground would swallow her up. She couldn’t believe she was actually pregnant. This was too much. She knew from all the tests she’d taken that the result wouldn’t have shown so quickly if it was Dapo’s, and the fact that she didn’t have time to process all of this before Patrick found out…
“Zirwa, am I the father?”
This was it, her life was now over. She could barely say it:
“Yes… yes, you are.”