Parks lurched up the path, dreading having to open the door and face Thandi’s rages and tears. The paving stones were playing tricks on him and he stumbled. He couldn’t remember how many whiskys he had knocked back at the tavern to drown his feelings of shame and humiliation.
Thandi rushed to the door as he opened it. “The baby’s bottle,” she said. “All warm and ready. Where is the baby?”
“Busi’s mother was there,” he said. “And I couldn’t see the baby anywhere.”
“You were always a quitter!” Thandi screamed at Parks. “You should have forced them to give it to you.”
“I don’t know where it is, Thandi. It’s gone. And they’re watching out for us. It’s over.”
Thandi gripped his arm and squeezed it. She was surprisingly strong. “We will watch. We will go to her house and we will take the baby when she is out.”
Those words sobered Parks up. He remembered the last terrible scene when Thandi had come home with a baby. Someone else’s baby. Luckily it had been sorted out, and they had not pressed charges. But it had been a close thing.
“Thandi. We can’t take it. Remember what happened last time.”
“This is different. This baby is yours.”
“But, Thandi, she is the mother, she–”
“You’re not listening to me!” Thandi shouted. She threw the baby’s bottle onto the floor, and it bounced and rolled under the table. “You bring me that baby or else you’re out!” She headed towards the glasses. Last time she had flown into a rage with him she had broken them all. He grabbed her, pulled her back.
“Thandi! Her mother mentioned the police! You don’t want that again! Remember when they locked you up for the night!”
He could see his words had hit home. Her face crumpled. “You’re so selfish,” she said. “You would have got the baby if you cared for me. You don’t love me – you just use me for my money.”
“That’s not true, darling,” said Parks, stroking her cheek. But it sounded unconvincing, even to him. How had he landed up like this? He should have taken it as a warning when Thandi’s uncle had hardly wanted lobola. He had just wanted the marriage to go ahead, even though they were both so young and hardly knew each other. And then he had discovered after the wedding that Thandi was three months pregnant.
Parks had been furious, even more so when Thandi wouldn’t tell him who the father was. But he had had his suspicions. Thandi had been brought up by an aunt who never went out of the house, and an uncle who threw money at Thandi as if he was paying for some terrible sin. When Thandi’s uncle had died a few weeks later and left them his money, Thandi had refused to go to his funeral. That’s when he knew what the uncle had done.
But he, Parks, had still felt lucky. He had never imagined being rich. And now here he was with lots of money. It had felt like his life was beginning again. He had even accepted that he was going to be father to another man’s child.
Then the accident had happened …
Thandi started to cry.
“I need that baby,” she said, “and I need you to get it for me. Otherwise I don’t know what I will do.”
“It’s going to be OK,” said Parks, as he fetched her a drink and soothed her. He felt a deep relief that her rage, like a storm, had passed. She would not kick him out, at least not now.
“You are so good to me, Parks – I don’t deserve you,” she said. “We will be a real family soon, with a baby, and everything will be different, I promise.”