“I was just thinking.” Renuka remained in a daze.
“I find you thinking real plenty these days,” Nalini joked. “I come to tell you that you could go for lunch now, because I finish.”
Renuka thought for a moment before speaking. “I didn’t see Denesh a few weeks now and I was supposed to find out something from him.”
“He must be chasing down some innocent girl somewhere.” Nalini shrugged without any real interest.
Renuka looked up with her eyes wide open.
“Don’t look so surprised. I hear he was seeing some girl a while now, but I don’t know if he still with she or if he pick up a new one.”
Renuka smiled with relief as she recollected their secret meetings. “And what wrong if he seeing somebody?”
“What wrong is that I sorry for she. I hear is some rich girl from Gulf View and they going and get engaged soon,” Nalini said. “I think she family own a pharmacy.”
Renuka’s smile quickly disappeared and she placed her hand on the counter to steady herself.
“W…where you hear that from?” Renuka struggled to find the right words. “Is not like we ever see him with anybody.”
“Well, it look like plenty other people does see him because I hear he does be liming all over the place with she,” Nalini continued. “And I hear she real pretty too.”
“That doesn’t mean is a girlfriend. He must be just liming with some friends.” Renuka swallowed the huge lump in her throat.
“Is not like he doesn’t have a reputation you know. He does feel he is some kinda playboy.” Nalini threw her a sidelong glance. “You never hear about how he fool up a few girls who used to work here? As soon as they see the good looks and fancy car they does get catch. I only hope you don’t ever fall in that trap. I working here four years now so he know he can’t try nothing with me.”
Renuka could see Nalini’s lips moving, but she could no longer recognize any of the words that were coming out. Everything around her became a blur. She wished the earth would suddenly open up and swallow her.
“You feeling okay?” Nalini asked with genuine concern. “You looking like you just see a ghost or something.”
“I…I just feeling hungry, I will go for lunch now.”
Another month had gone by and Renuka still had not seen or heard from Denesh. She woke up feeling nauseous that morning and regretted feasting on that mango chow the night before. She managed to get through her workday, but returned home feeling even more depressed and irritable. When Mala came into her room to check on her that evening, she found her bundled up under her sheets.
“That’s it! I give you enough time to tell me on your own what going on. Now I will have to drag it out from you one way or the other.” Mala sat on the bed and leaned over her.
Mala did not need to say another word. Renuka sat up, threw her arms around her sister and cried openly. When she was all cried out, she related everything that had happened since she started work just over four months ago.
“I don’t know what to do again. Now he does pretend like he don’t even know me.”
Mala avoided saying what they both already knew. Instead, she offered her a comforting embrace. “The first thing you have to do is see a doctor, and depending on the results, we go have to tell ma and pa.”
“No! We can’t tell them, they go kill me!” Renuka protested. “How I suppose to face them after they find out about this?”
“I wish I could take away all of this pain, but it’s not something you could hide.” Mala took a deep breath. “Right now I just want you to try and get some rest and we go talk about it later. I going and bring a cup of tea for you because you didn’t eat anything whole evening.”
Renuka caught Mala’s hand as she rose from the bed. “I did really love him you know. I thought he did love me too, otherwise I wouldn’t have…”
Mala sat down again and wiped away Renuka’s tears. “You follow your heart and nothing wrong with that.”
“But I never shoulda listen to him. If only I did talk to you first.”
“Is no use worrying about that now, everything go work out.”
Mala closed the door behind her, and Renuka knew her sister well enough to know that she could no longer restrain her own tears that were already streaming down her face.
Renuka went to work each day and tried to resume some kind of normalcy to her life. Mala had accompanied her to the doctor that weekend. He had advised her to avoid any form of stress if she wanted to have a healthy baby. That was going to be a very challenging feat. The morning sickness persisted and she did her best to avoid drawing any attention to her condition while she worked. Her heart was filled with hope and joy when Denesh came into the store later that afternoon.
“Pregnant?” his eyes widened when she confronted him between one of the lanes. “You sure?”
“If you don’t believe me, you go know for sure in a few months.”
“A few months? You mean you keeping it? You can’t do that!” he said after his initial shock had worn off. “I’ll take you to a doctor and he’ll take care of it.”
“How you could say something like that?” She placed both of her hands over her stomach.
He grabbed a tight hold of her arms and shook her violently. “I’m not going to let someone like you ruin my life. If you tell anyone that I’m the father, I’ll deny it. I’m getting married as soon as I finish my Degree and you’re not going to get in my way. I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that!”
Without waiting for a response, he released her arms and cursed under his breath while he stormed off. Renuka stood frozen in shock. Her eyes remained fixed on him until he disappeared into the office.
Another week had gone by as Renuka struggled to get through each day at work. Only the thought of having a healthy baby got her out of bed every morning and throughout each day. She stepped into the small parlour on the junction after she exited the taxi that evening. She wasn’t feeling too well and went in to purchase a juice before she began the short walk home. She greeted the two elderly villagers who were there and felt their scrutinizing stares burning into her flesh.
“Ent that is Basdai small daughter?” One of them spoke in a hushed tone.
“My sister see she by the doctor the other day and she say how it look like she making child.”
The other woman opened her mouth and lifted her eyebrows. “But I didn’t know she get married, Basdai never tell me nothing.”
“She not married,” the other woman replied. “Some boy must be fool she, but I eh hear who he is. You never hear nothing?”
“No, but I sure is not nobody from the village otherwise I woulda know something by now. I wonder who it could be.”
“That’s what does happen when you let your young girl children go out and work. You doesn’t know what they doing when they say they going to work.”
“She not a bad looking girl. They shoulda marry she off as soon as she finish school. Ent she write exam together with your daughter?”
“Yeah, and look I done fix up she wedding already. If I was Basdai, I woulda hide my face.” The woman gestured. “None of my children go make me shame so.”
“That must be why we hardly seeing Basdai these days. I must go and look for she.”
“I hear the father nearly kill she with licks and tell she to get out he house but is she sister who beg for she. The father don’t talk to she up to now.”
Renuka had heard enough. She finished her juice and quietly slipped out without looking in their direction. She placed both hands across her swollen stomach and when she thought she was all out of tears, they started flowing again.
Vashti Bowlah is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago, and a participant of The Cropper Foundation/UWI Creative Writers' Residential Workshop. Her short stories, articles and poems have appeared in newspapers, journals and anthologies, and she continues to pursue her passion for writing, with special focus on the short story. She has won prizes and awards for her writing, including The David Hough Literary Prize awarded by The Caribbean Writer. She also freelances as an editor/proofreader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org