No sooner had Parks walked in the door than Thandi started with her questions.
“Did you find out? Is that little bitch pregnant?”
He walked to the drinks cabinet and poured a whisky into one of the new crystal glasses Thandi had ordered. She bought things all the time. It was like there was a dark empty hole inside her that she was trying to fill with things – new things, expensive things. But that hole was too deep – it could never be filled, no matter how many things she bought.
“Is the girl pregnant?” Thandi asked again.
Parks nodded. He had thought of lying, but she always found things out in the end. He was surprised when his wife did not look angry. Far from it. In fact she looked pleased.
“You saw her?” she said. “You saw she was really pregnant?”
“No … I mean yes, I saw her, but I couldn’t tell. She was wearing a big coat.”
“What do you mean, you couldn’t tell?”
“It’s winter. She was wearing a thick jacket over her school uniform.”
“You spoke to her?”
“Not to her … to another girl. But everyone knows at school … ”
“You spoke to another girl. I told you!” Her voice started rising.
“It’s not what you think. I asked her about Busi.”
Parks poured another large whisky and filled up the heavy-bottomed glass with soda for his wife. He brought it to her as she sat on the couch.
“She told me that Busi was pregnant,” he mumbled.
“And you are the father …”
Parks sighed inwardly. Here we go again, he thought.
But then she stopped talking, did not rant on as she usually did. She stretched out her legs on the couch. Parks squeezed into the small space left, and they sipped their drinks in silence. “I’ve been thinking, Parksie,” she started.
Parks felt apprehensive. He didn’t like it when his wife started a sentence with these words.
“I’ve been thinking. Maybe this can work out after all. That baby. It’s yours, isn’t it?” She poked him with her toe. “Isn’t it?”
“Well, I was in the shops today and I thought about it all. I’ve decided that I want the baby.”
Parks spluttered on his whisky. “You’ve been at me from the beginning about getting rid of it. Now you want it?”
“Yes,” she said, “I want it. It makes sense. It’s the only way you can make up to me for what you did. It’s the least you can do. I want her baby when it’s born. You are the father, Parks. Do you understand?”
“But … but …” he was still shocked. Now this baby was something that she wanted, instead of hated?
“I need a baby,” she said. “I’ve needed a baby for a long time. And now you’ve got one for me. We will get that baby, do you understand? We need a baby.”
How could he not? He understood only too well how Thandi held the strings to everything. If he didn’t get Busi’s baby, he would be out. There would be no more job. There would be no more nice home or big TV …
“I want to see her. I want to meet this Busi.” It was the first time she had spoken her name. “You will arrange it.”
Parks downed his whisky. He felt his body begin to ease. He flopped down onto the couch and pressed the remote button to activate the flat-screen TV.
“We can’t force her to give us her baby.”
“Your baby,” said Thandi.
“Money talks, Parks. You should know that.” She put her hand on his arm.
He didn’t trust her. The next moment she could be shouting again. Her moods went up and down, faster than the Cobra roller coaster.
“She will need money. How is she going to look after the baby? Has she got family?”
“Only a mom in Jozi and an elderly granny.”
“Soon she will be all alone, with a baby, while her friends are out having fun. Believe me, she will take the money and give us the child.”
Parks watched Generations on the big-screen TV. But he couldn’t concentrate. He wanted to watch the soccer, but Thandi had taken the remote and flicked the channels. It was her TV after all.
He got up and went to his room. It was meant to be a guest room, but it was the one place in the house that Thandi had let him use freely, as his office. Sometimes he would go in there just to get away from her voice.
When he opened the door, his jaw fell open and he breathed in sharply. The whole room had been rearranged. Instead of his desk there was a baby’s cot, with a yellow crocheted blanket, a cupboard with baby things. Even new curtains with little yellow ducklings on.
He went over to the cot and picked up the crocheted blanket. The blood ran cold in his veins. He recognised it. It was the blanket Thandi had crocheted for her first baby, the baby she had lost. The booties were the ones that her baby’s feet were meant to fill. She had kept these things all these years, unbeknown to him. He had assumed she had thrown them all out. But here they were, waiting for Busi’s baby.
“It’s going to be the baby’s nursery.” She was standing so close behind him he could smell the whisky on her breath. “I want you to paint it cream, because we don’t know if it will be a boy or a girl. A cream-and-yellow colour scheme. Cheerful,” she said.
He expected her to say something about keeping the baby things all these years. But she said nothing.
Parks stood silently. Memories of that fateful day had come flooding back. They were driving to the bottle store, Thandi in the passenger seat, and he was watching a young schoolgirl walking along the pavement. So sweet and beautiful, so different from his wife who was haunted by nightmares and fears. His eyes had wandered off the road. A truck had come around the corner. Thandi had screamed. There was a terrible sound of metal crunching. Thandi was lying on the road, bleeding. He had thought she was dead. But then she had lifted her head. There was lots of blood, too much blood. And at the hospital came the news that she had lost the baby and would never be able to fall pregnant again.
All these years it had sat between them like a dark shadow. Part of her had never forgiven Parks.
“Now you are going to SMS Busi and tell her where to meet you …” she said, slurring her words. Parks’s stomach tightened.
Do you think it would be a good idea for Busi to give up her baby to them? Why?