“You know how ma does always tell we what she dream and that it mean something?” Renuka snuggled closer to Mala. “Like the other night when she dream all she teeth fall out and she say something bad going and happen?”
“Ma always dreaming about something,” Mala laughed.
Renuka paused for a second. “You believe that?”
“About the dreams? I don’t know, maybe. Why?”
“Something happen today?” Mala asked softly. “I know you wouldn’t want to hurt the baby. Remember what the doctor tell you?”
Renuka nodded. “I don’t understand why people does have to be so cruel. I didn’t know this was going to happen to me.”
“I always tell you not to let other people control your life. You didn’t do nothing wrong, so stop behaving like is your fault.”
“But is my fault for being so stupid.”
“And stop saying that because as soon as your baby born, you go forget about all this, you go see.”
Renuka’s lips took the form of a smile as she envisaged her baby. “You think so? Maybe it go be a girl and I could dress she up in pretty clothes.” She paused with a faraway look in her eyes. “I go name she Hema, I always like that name.”
“You want to go shopping for baby clothes this Saturday after work? We go buy everything for you and the baby.” Mala was encouraged by her sister’s smile. “But we buying only white and yellow, just in case.” They both laughed.
Renuka’s heart was filled with renewed hope and she was now anxious to get through the rest of the week.
On Friday morning Nalini informed Renuka that Mrs. Maharaj wanted to see her in the office. She had no idea why she was summoned, but she had a gut feeling that it was instigated by Denesh. His mother thought no woman was good enough for her son, especially not a mere employee. She had only been fooling herself. Renuka climbed the flight of stairs to the office and Mrs. Maharaj wasted no time on idle talk. She informed her that they were cutting back on some expenses and since she was the newest employee, they would have to let her go. Renuka knew better. Mrs. Maharaj thanked her for her service over the past few months and paid her two weeks salary.
Whatever doubts Renuka had about her dismissal were confirmed when Denesh arrived just after she gathered her personal belongings. He seemed surprised to see her there and made every effort to avoid her. Their eyes met for a moment but she turned away. It took every ounce of willpower for her to avoid a confrontation.
“Where you going?” Nalini appeared in front of her and pointed to her handbag. “What she tell you?”
“She say how business slow and they cutting back on some expenses, but she go let me know whenever they need more staff.”
“But how she could do something like that?” Nalini’s chest rose and her nose flared up. “I going and talk to she.”
Renuka stopped her. “Is all right. Is not like I can’t get a next job.”
“But you does work so hard and all the customers does like you.”
Renuka stared through the glass window of the office where she could see Denesh talking to his mother. “Sometimes people does do what they feel is best for them.”
She bid a final goodbye and walked out the door, leaving Nalini to stare after her in disbelief.
Renuka did not return home immediately. That was the last place she wanted to be. She spent the rest of the day walking zombie-like along the hilly streets of San Fernando, browsing through the stores at random. It felt like a better option at the time than being alone.
She arrived home late evening and greeted her mother in the kitchen. She had a glass of water and retired to her room. She dropped onto her bed and hugged her pillow so she could be alone with her thoughts. Her eyes rested on the doll she had played with since she was a little girl, and then shifted to the cricket bat; the same one she had used to help win many trophies for her school’s cricket team. Her entire world had crumbled before her and there was no one to fix it. Her mother had accused her of bringing shame to their family and her father continued to treat her like an outcast. The villagers were gossiping about her, and filling in the blanks when they didn’t have the facts. The boy she thought was in love with her wanted nothing to do with her anymore, and she was just fired from her job.
She knew Mala must be very disappointed in her, although she would never show it. She was her only solace throughout her ordeal. Renuka felt the sudden pain and discomfort inside her belly. She pressed her pillow closer against her midsection and curled up her legs. The pain grew sharper. Her eyes rested on the doll again and lingered for a moment. The image of the doll slowly faded away.
Mala sat next to her sister’s bedside in the hospital ward. Renuka had been sedated earlier and slept through most of the evening. She started to stir and murmured inaudible words that Mala could not recognize. Then her voice grew louder and the words became clearer.
“Hema! Hema!” Renuka’s eyes remained closed and her hands were outstretched.
Mala shook her and her eyes flew open. Mala then cupped her hands around Renuka’s tear-stained cheeks and tried to calm her. Renuka’s eyes flitted around the strange surroundings searching for recognition.
“You in the hospital. Your baby didn’t make it.” Mala explained.
“No!” Still dazed, she attempted to climb out of the bed. “I want my baby!”
“Ma find you in your room this evening. You was unconscious so they bring you here.” Mala pointed to their parents who were looking on, neither one knowing what to say. “The doctors say they try everything.”
She shook her head repeatedly. “No! I didn’t lose my baby. Is Denesh who take she! I just see him!”
“No one took your baby, you were dreaming. You had a miscarriage.”
“No! No! I know it was he!” She covered her ears with both hands and screamed. “Hemaaaa!”
The nurses heard the commotion and rushed to Renuka’s bedside. They sedated her and she drifted off to her own subconscious world.
Mala and her parents returned to the hospital ward the next morning. Renuka was staring at the ceiling and her wrists were strapped to the sides of the bed. Mala paused to speak to the nurse who explained that Renuka had a reaction to the sedative and had to be restrained for her own protection. Mala asked if the wrist straps could be removed and the nurse agreed. Renuka acknowledged them with a brave smile.
“Is my fault Mala, this happen because of me.” Renuka’s pain was reflected in her swollen eyes that had lost their sparkle. “I keep wishing for everything to be like before and…and that is why this happen. But I woulda take good care of the baby, I woulda be a good mother.”
Mala sat on the edge of the bed and held her sister’s head against her chest. “You go have a next chance someday, when the time is right.”
Renuka gave a faint smile.
“You see you have two visitors?” Mala gestured to their parents and they moved closer.
There were no further exchanges among them at that moment, only the sadness and remorse that were reflected on their parents’ faces. Before any more words were spoken, the state and suffering of their younger child was enough to bring them to tears. ♦
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