Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Rhema Aletor
I hate it when I can’t concentrate; I hate it when the shape of my home- made bread look more like an experiment than a delicacy. Angrily, I push the pan into the oven, no longer minding how the bread would turn out; they would definitely look like my mood at the moment, but I didn’t care. I turn my back on the kitchen and make my way to the living room, which is looking all scattered and unkempt. It’s barely past five in the morning; the whole house is still asleep, somehow, I can feel the motion of their slumber. Well, it was my job as usual to snap them out of it, but not yet, not yet; right now, I just want to lie down and have the silence to myself before my husband and children begin to pester me to set the motion for them for a new day again. The family cushion feels so soft against my back, I can literarily feel it massaging my back for me, but it doesn’t massage my heart. I close my eyes tightly and begin to brood for the day ahead. It was going to be a long boring one again; same routine, same people, same life. It’s not that I hate my life, I mean, it feels so
fulfilling and wonderful to have two adorable girls fighting to get your attention every now and then, and then a large bear-like husband look into your eyes each morning and night, telling you with all conviction that you were the best thing that ever happened to him. But I guess I am tired, tired of all the routine and ‘perfect life’. The clock ticks five, and I bound up from my sleepless slumber; my girls needed a bath.
The room that me and hussy share is a little way off Marcia and Marigold’s room; nothing really separates them, just a huge wall expanse. Their door is painted in shabby pink; a job they had both insisted they do by themselves, even though I objected, their father obeyed their request especially when Marcia threatened to paint his face when he was asleep; she always keeps to her words. On the door is a large sticker of box bunny with one cut off and his second tooth painted black, till now I still couldn’t get who led mission of the perfect mutation of poor box bunny, it was quite a questionable sight. My hand reaches for the door knob, but I change my mind. I want to creep into the blanket where hussy is sleeping and tickle him to start the day like I sometimes do; he always loved that. So I silently tip toe to our door and wait, to make sure he is not already awake. My heart is racing so fast in my chest, and I nag from deep within for it to just stay quiet so that I could hear properly. Is that a whisper I hear? Or is it just my heart beating? More whispers, and then a snicker. It’s then I know he’s making a call. He hardly wakes up this early, and why was he whispering? Naturally, I wanted to just open the door and wait for him to round up with his call and then give me details of what the talk was about, but funnily, I bend towards the peep hole and position my ears to whatever conversation he has on.
‘’…no way! She hardly notices much….’’ He laughs, and then whispers a cough. For a moment, what he’s saying is far from audible for me to grasp, then he whispers another cough, ‘’you were perfect the other time…know how…a man feel, I felt every pressure’ there’s a long pause and I hold my breath, struggling to get the nagging conclusion off my neck from what I just heard. ‘’I like that flesh…make it a little tougher though…you know why I can’t stay that late…tomorrow? Then that does it! As far as it convinces you…we should really go off now, she usually intrudes by this time, what a skinny mother hen!’’
I couldn’t take it anymore, whichever way; their chit-chat was coming to an end. I straightened, quietly and start walking away without bothering to tip-toe back, I can’t place what I feel; but I know I no longer mind him discovering that I have listened to his escapade. Back in the living room, I stretch myself on the cushion and rest my long slender arm over my head which feels suddenly hot, my eyes shut tight. For eight years I have lived a highly sacrificial life, giving up my dreams to live my life for my husband and children, hoping that some day, I’d get my dreams back up. I have lived each day as though I was created for them…created for him. Who could she be? Where in the world did she come from, after all the years I had stuck with my hussy? My back aches suddenly. Hussy makes me feel so loved, my whole life is knitted to his, he makes me feel we are a perfect match; he often tells me he could never live without me. Was I really a mother hen? Did I make him feel choked by always being available? I feel him standing behind me, standing like he is trying to understand what is going on. I didn’t bulge, then I hear him make his way to the kitchen; there was a little noise coming from there for sometime, then it stops, he is back to staring at me. Once more, he leaves.
I wake up a few minutes to seven; the noise coming from my girls shoots my eyes open. Quickly, I bound up from my slumber, how can I sleep over the rubbish I just heard? This shaming anger makes me walk angrily to the kitchen; the look on my face is probably what makes Marigold’s bread to drop from her mouth into her plate. The sight of chewed the food makes my stomach churn, their greeting makes no difference to me, and for the first
time, my hussy’s smile get’s me disgusted. Quietly, I turn away from the kitchen and make for the bathroom. Hussy had taken care of the kids perfectly, and I couldn’t even breathe out a thank you to him. At the moment, my mouth give way to all the disgust I had wrapped up in my stomach. The bathroom door creaks open; on his light blue shirt and black tie; he stares back at me at the mirror. There’s something about the way he cocks his head that makes me feel worthless, and then he opens his mouth to start speaking. But all I hear is a long drawly echo, and his face fades and reappears in the mirror; whatever happens next is of no importance to me.
I’m lying down on the only lounge chair we possess at the front porch, my legs are crossed, and my mind is blank for some minutes. How in the world did I allow this happen again? I thought I was done with having children; I couldn’t hide it from the doctor when he presented the news to me and my husband in a joyful note. Though my husband seemed all so excited about it, I shrugged in anger; he was only making it up…but then again, he could be happy because I’d be fatter by then. Good Lord! What was I thinking? I press my eyes together and try to squash the thoughts off, at least, I wanted to first of all mourn the fact that I was once again sentenced to nine months of farting and a long time after that of being home for someone else that was growing in me. Why did hussy get me pregnant again? Why did I allow myself get pregnant? I wanted a life more than ever; I was tired of living my whole life for hussy and my gremlin kids. To make matters worse, hussy was cheating on me. Who in the world could the lady be? I had passed out in the bathroom; there was no way for me to quickly check his phone to get the number.
As a child, I had always dreamed and fantasized about my wedding, but not my marriage. I dreamed of a man so tall and huge, with a straight face and well defined curves. On his tuxedo, he’d look even taller, and I’ll look like a fairy beside him. The flowers would be all pink, except for the flower in his pocket, which would be a shade of darker pink, and then we would dance right into the night until everyone fell asleep, but we would keep dancing. Though I never got half of what I got, hussy wasn’t far from matching the description of my perfect knight. When marriage thus began, I had to start dreaming in the course of it, everyday, I created a new dream for myself. Today, I had no dreams, only questions. Why would hussy want to cheat on me? A red car drives into my yard, and I see the face of Rhonda, my best friend. On black pants and a shady white top, she looks square and queerly cute. As she bounces up to me, her cheeks bounce in unity too, I smile at the fact that like me, she too is a stay at home mom.
‘’Whaddup woman?’’ she sits herself on my lounge chair, and the impact is so evident that I feel I’m about to fall in, ‘’I’ve been thinking about you all morning, and I knew I just had to see you. Conclusion, you look molested’’
‘’Good Lord!’’ I shake my head; Rhonda always had a way with words, ‘’do I look that bad?’’
‘’Uh-huh, looks like you want something else’’
‘’That’s not half as bad as the word molested ‘’ this, I let out in a cheerful note, for a moment, I want to imagine she hussy’s mystery lover, but the thought disgusts me.
‘’You look like you have two rabbits in your throat. How’s Marion?’’ she looks me in the face up close, ‘’I hope you two are perfect?’’
‘’Yes…we are.’’ I breathe in testily, then swallow, ‘’I’m pregnant- again’’
‘’That’s wonderful!’’ Rhonda throws her arms around me without effort, then withdraws, ‘’that’s good news isn’t it? How’s he taking it, when did you guys know about it?’’
It wasn’t a surprise that she would be happy, she loved children so much, ‘’only this morning’’, I say it rolling my eyes to dampen her excitement.
‘’I knew it!’’ she exclaims, ‘’I just knew it!’’
My ears prick open, ‘’you knew what?’’ my legs are now uncrossed and I’m leaning forward, she looks at me suspiciously and then withdraws.
‘’The nudge to see you so badly I mean’’ I can’t help but admit that she sounds a little bit awkward. One part of me wants to go on pestering her to get it all out of her, but my usual self just let it lie; I know I would have a double decked headache later. ‘’have you eaten something dear?’’
‘’Yeah…yeah, I should be asking you, you’re my guest’’ I struggle with the words, ‘’how’s Peter doing?’’
Her answer doesn’t stick to my head, but my mind is filled with the possibility of her cheating with my husband. I mean, just staring at her made me see all that flesh she possessed. Rhonda always seemed to have long discussions with my husband whenever she met him at home, and I foolishly always left them both together to handle themselves. She was saying something about her second son’s ability to start using the toilet himself, and how he was no longer afraid of it, when my phone rang, it was hussy. He called to find out how I was faring and assured me he loved me dearly and was looking forward to our third child. After the call, Rhonda bounced up, and told me she had an appointment to catch up with. Thanking her for her visit, I got up, but she told me not to bother, then she got to her car, got in, waved at me and she was off. I on the other hand just sat back, more empty than when I hadn’t seen her. I couldn’t just understand what was going on in my mind; I was probably so irrational that I no longer knew what I was imagining. How in the world could I think that Rhonda would be dating hussy? It just wasn’t possible, was it?
Back in college, Rhonda and I had our own unique principles- one of which was to never date a guy whom we knew his ex; no matter how long they were separated. Guys didn’t like me so much then, because they said I was too hard for them to get through to, but not Rhonda; she somehow had a way of getting the guys to herself no matter how tough she professed to be. I never could unleash that mystery, even after we finished college, perhaps she was just a social lucky flea, I always told myself. I get up from my lounge chair and make my way indoors, as I get to the kitchen, I begin to ask myself why I didn’t just follow her to know where she was going and what she was up to. But I shake it off; I have more important things to do; like make food for my family. Suddenly, I feel stupid; maybe I’d do what’s best for hussy, keep him hungry…but something in my mind tells me that’s the most foolish thing to do if I really wanted to keep my home. I set the water boiling, and head for the telephone; I was going to call his secretary. I dialed her number, but she wasn’t picking- two times. I laughed aloud to myself as strange thoughts began to cross my mind. I imagined her sitting on my hussy’s laps, and playing with his hair like I usually did. Pick up!
‘’Carlson and Taylor Industries’’ her usual sing song voice is shaky, ‘’your husband is in a meeting please, mind calling back later?’’
‘’A meeting for the both of you alone?’’ I ask quietly, trying to hide the sarcasm in my voice.
‘’Now that’s hilarious! I’m in the meeting with them as always, mind calling back in an hour’s time, it’s a brief meeting; they just got in’’ her voice sounds rushed, so I thank her and drop the receiver. Alison has always been fond of my husband, and she often times joined us in the office when I went visiting. I liked her a great deal, and I couldn’t help but admit that adding her to my list of suspicious persons didn’t make much sense, besides she was too skinny for hussy to give her a second look. My cooking is done quietly, and when I’m through, I realize it’s time to get my children from school.
‘’Mom! Why do you look so upset?’’ Marcia prods me as she gobbles down her vegetables, so that it sounds like, um, uyai goo uo uuk so upet. I look at her cute eyes and smile at her, she was always so observant. She looked a lot like hussy, but luckily passed for the female version.
‘’I’m fine baby, just a little tired’’ silently, I pray I sound convincing enough, ‘’so what did you guys do in school today, any homework?’’
‘’Yeah, Mrs. Pepper asked us to draw a cow in old McDonalds farm, chewing grass’’ Marigold put in quickly so that her sister’s mouth was left open, ‘’how do we make its mouth move mom?’’
‘’Dummy! It’s a static picture’’ Marcia laughed out loud, then her face went red, ‘’mine was math; I hate math’’
‘’You had better be liking it, you both should take a spice from you father you know’’ the vegetable I’m chewing, make a crunchy sound, and I hear Marigold repeat the same sound.
‘’Dad doesn’t like math!’’ Marcia exclaims.
‘’Does too; look how well he’s doing in his job’’ I let out with a smile of conviction ‘’Well, so many times, whenever he carries Alison, he complains to her about the awfulness in calculating, I even heard him tell her this morning that he loathed math back in school’’ In horror, I watch Marigold nudge Marcia, and whisper to loud for it to be a whisper, ‘’he said we shouldn’t tell!’’
For a moment I laugh out, thinking of how I would get the answers from their mouth. Hussy had never told me he was playing his secretaries driver, and how successful he was too in getting his children keep the secret this long. I lean forward, with a smile, ‘’How long has dad been playing the Good Samaritan?’’ they are both silent, and I laugh out, ‘’common you too! I know he’s been helping her, we’re in it together, and I’m really impressed at your ability to keep secrets’’
‘’He’s been picking her up since last week, said her car got bad’’ that was Marigold; she never could help herself when she was praised. Her golden hair, looked extremely bright and bouncy, and her eyes bulged with round innocence.
‘’very nice of him, I never knew he could keep up the good work, don’t tell him you told me; as it would spoil the game we are all playing’’ I watched them nod enthusiastically in child-like innocence. For the rest of the evening, we worked on homework; sums and drawings. Marigold’s cow looked like a fat thumb with legs and a fat mustache. But that was all I could give; luckily, she didn’t know the difference. Later in the night, right about nine, when Marcia and Marigold are fast asleep, hussy returns. As he places a wet kiss on my head, I grasp the smell of a woman’s perfume; I can also tell from the feel of his kiss
that he’s happy I’m asleep, but I’m not. The first place he goes to is the children’s room; I know the creak of their door; it’s different from ours’. He stays there briefly, and the next I hear is our room. Quietly, I get up from my cushion and tiptoe towards the corridor to make for the room. Successfully there without a noise, I immediately know he’s making a call again.
‘’…was a …derful evening…she was fast asleep…yes, later, goodnight’’ something tells me is a kiss I hear, but I’m not quite sure, so I step back quietly, and then walk noisily to the door, and pull. I fake a long yawn. Hussy looks at me with a deep smile, but makes for the bathroom; he locks the door behind him, leaving me standing in confusion. Angrily, I walk away, going back to the living room, to brood in anger on what just happened. Period, my marriage was falling apart, and I wasn’t bold enough to address it; hussy was cheating on me and that was the most painful part. Slumping into the cushion, I roll up my blouse and rub my lower tummy with my right hand. I grew up in what many children would call a perfect home; there was hardly any disagreement between mom and dad. Dad seemed
to be always available for mom, while mom smoothly played her role as a wife and mother. There were no fears that one day mom and dad would have reason to get a divorce, and true to it; they never did, through the years, their love seemed to even grow much stronger. At the moment, they were in Miami, touring the world and having a splendid time; why was mine, that was now barely eight years old growing so difficult?
‘’Hi love’’ he wrapped his hands around me, he had successfully washed the smell of
the perfume off his body, ‘’I thought you were fast asleep’’
‘’Maybe I was’’ I let out without opening my eyes, ‘’how was work?’’
‘’Good…that reminds me, my secretary told me you called’’ he held my hands tighter now, and I could feel the warmth in them, ‘’I was so occupied, I promised myself I would call you back but something kept coming up in the office, I’m sorry’’ I made no attempt to answer him back; all I had in mind was how to get away from him.
‘’How’s the new feeling all over again?’’ he asked me, causing me to pop my eyes open, but I was still very quiet, ‘’are you alright?’’
‘’I am fine…the new feeling is mutual’’ I said, and I got up from my lying down position, facing him in the face I breath deeply out, ‘’goodnight’’
So much for what I wanted to say; words and questions I wanted to pour out, but couldn’t get myself to saying them. Why in the world was I such a scared cat? That night, I don’t know how long I stayed awake, but I was awake enough to know that hussy did not come to bed that night.
Mr. Page is a man of 53, and he lives next door; an ex-naval officer, turned to a stay- at- home grand-dad. His wife was busy training the aged in martial arts, so her husband monitored their grand-son, whose parents were missionaries. I always spy on Mr. Page when I’m trimming the grass in the yard. Today, he had on a red tee shirt and blue jean shorts; he was alone, for the first time in many months. I can notice he doesn’t look as happy as I last saw him, but he’s humming a song to himself. I hear the notes coming in accentuating notes, and eventually became a steady husky flow. Immediately, he was up and dancing to a tune that sounded well blended with joy and vigor.
‘’Come and join me Eleanor’’ he called out to me, and I tripped, successfully not falling down; I sauntered my way to him with a guilty laugh, he danced to me, and we both danced in perfect glee, enjoying the tune of his voice, coupled with perfect steps that I could not help but follow. It was a perfect dance that made me feel I had dropped all of my troubles, and then we both collapsed on his front porch. We laughed, he rushed in to get us some water to drink; he returned with milk shakes. For a moment, we just sat down and drank quietly, lost in our own individual thoughts. The milk shake felt like a lubricant to my heart, as I could feel the soothing feeling glide through my chest, even when I thought of my husband, I didn’t feel much pain like I had been feeling all day.
‘’Milk has a way of making you forget your troubles, damn the whole alcohol thing’’ he winked at me, causing the wrinkles on his face to come alive. I smiled back at the fact that I had never come so close to him before, not close enough to notice that he was once so handsome in his youth, and that his smile brought a realization that life wasn’t as hard as it presented itself to be. ‘’I was once an alcoholic’’ he let it out with a smile, then shook his head, ‘’it was some damn life of bondage’’
‘’Funny enough, you don’t look it at all’’ I told him with a genuine assurance, surprisingly, he took my hand in his and squeezed it.
‘’Some scars heal fast, depending on what we do with them’’ his words hit me, but I told myself those words weren’t meant for me. Even though I prayed that he wouldn’t continue talking, I waited in anticipation for him to say something more, he looked at me with a smile that looked like he knew so much about me, ‘’my wife…she was always there for me’’ he took a long pause from his talk, and then asked me for my empty glass, he got up quietly, ‘’your grass is waiting for you, and please, become more professional when you are eavesdropping, okay? But your eavesdropping is always welcome…’’
‘’Oh! I’m sorry Mr. Page, I… I just enjoy watching you and your grandson whenever you are together’’ I apologized guiltily.
‘’I noticed, he’s away with his mom and dad, and I do miss him, as my wife is hardly here now’’ he said this too wistfully for me to bear.
‘’Mr. Page! Tell her you miss her!’’
‘’She has made too many sacrifices in the past for me, it’s time for her to find her life’’
‘’No way! She isn’t aware of how this is hurting you, I assure you that she’s also doing what she is doing because she thinks you are perfectly okay with it’’
‘’You should go Eleanor…your grass needs trimming’’
I nod in appreciation and stumble my way through back to my house, but I do not return to my trimming, I go in through the front door, and I can swear that his eyes are on me, as I struggle to open the door, I turn to confirm my guess, so I lean over, from the distance, he waves at me with a smile; the realization make me stumble and I trip and fall.
‘’Next time, peek better’’ Mr. Page shouts back at me.
Hussy returns early today, and I feel apprehensive. Marcia and Marigold are all around their father, and I don’t have the heart to disturb their joy. For once in a very long time, their father is back early, so I exercise patience, as I watch them from the dining table. There’s a stubborn smile across Marigold’s face as she refuses to let her sister have the fair share of dad’s horse ride, but her elder sister seems to understand, so she just sings along with them, once in a while pinching her younger sister, but manages to laugh about so that it wouldn’t look as serious as she meant it. The play drags steadily into the night, so I immediately take my place as a mother and usher them to their room; wild reluctance is written across their faces, but I ignore them both. All done, I return to the living room, to find that hussy is no longer there; he probably sneaked into the room when I was tucking the girls to bed. So, I walk to our room, wondering if I was permitted to query him for not joining me to tuck them in like we usually did before.
In the room, hussy is in the bathroom once again, so I have to wait. This time around, I pace around the room, waiting for him to come out; how in the world do I present my thoughts and suspicions to him? And then, hussy exits the bathroom, with his mobile, chatting away and laughing. I am forced to stop pacing about, and I stare in him in thorough disbelief, in anger, I snatch the phone away from his hands and put it angrily to my ears. I bark an angry hello, but get a dead reply; I look into the phone and discover that there is absolutely no one on the other line. He wasn’t making any call at all.
‘’What’s going on?’’ I ask him, and he has a smile on his face, ‘’please, I need answers; for days you’ve been acting strange; making strange phone calls, giving Alison lifts, coming back late at night…what is happening’’
Hussy looks at me with a shrug and moves over to the window. His silence makes me scared, as though he’s about to say what I greatly feared. ‘’I have been dying to get your attention’’ he muttered, and I feel totally lost, but he continues, ‘’you have been looking all upset like you weren’t happy to be married to me anymore, yet you weren’t saying anything. I have been making up all those calls…’’
‘’That I must say, sounds perfectly sick because, how in the world did you know I would be listening?’’ anger mats my voice, but I no longer care.
‘’Oh! I am always aware of the times you come into the room in the mornings, two days back; I heard your footsteps making for the children’s room, so I started talking. Yesterday night, when I got back, I knew you were feigning sleep, so I just went to wait for you, I knew you’d come through’’
My eyes are glazed with wrath, as I now look at him with utter disbelief, ‘’what about Alison? And how come you never told me you didn’t like math?’’
‘’The kids really did a good job!’’
‘’You involved the kids in this?!’’
‘’Sweetheart, you became too indifferent for me to handle, I guess you needed some spark’’ he told me soothingly, and was now very close to me, ‘’Alison was all part of it, to get the kids talking, and to get so confirm your suspicions. And so was Rhonda your friend; even though she backed out eventually, because, she couldn’t stand to get you sad. But she promised not to tell anyway…every single thing that happened was a hoax’’ I am
quiet, and I snap my fingers together again and again. My heart is more perplexed than I can explain.
‘’It’s all true, we should call them all right now so you would know…’’
‘’Before we do that,’’ I tell him with my hands up, ‘’who in the world was behind this heinous idea, that sounds too much like a big fat lie?’’
‘’Mr. Page’’ he lets the name out to me, and I feel astounded, but immediately, I begin to recall the discussion I earlier had with the elderly man, and the pieces fixed together; he had given me clues to prepare my mind, ‘’I have been sleeping in his house through the late nights. He kept his son indoor all day, because I told him you were going to do some trimming…’’
‘’You told him I was always staring at him too!’’
‘’I’m sorry I did, but how else could I get my sweethearts attention, when I felt so lost?’’
Without anymore words, I fling my arms around him and hug him with all I can give. I had had more than enough adventure than I had bargained for, whispering into his face, I say, ‘’life with you and our children is all the adventure I need’’ and I reach out to kiss him like never before.