Ambrose stooped his head forward, rested elbows on his lap and took a deep breath. He’d known Justin to be a smart guy who’d closed million-dollar deals in a matter of hours, built himself an
enviable family fortune from scratch, and at thirty-seven, had claimed a spot in Forbes magazine for the top 40 under 40. But to study a woman’s brain required a different intelligence, not learned
in school. It required an inborn discernment which even the geniuses of this world wouldn’t be taught. It was as simple as that—you’re born with it or you just don’t have it. Ambrose believed he
was one of the lucky few with this gift. Justin didn’t have an iota of it.
Otherwise, there was no explaining Justin’s blindness. It didn’t require even a fraction of a second for Ambrose to see through Katelyn’s ploy when she asked Gisela to move into their house. Poor
girl! So naïve she’d accepted the offer. Ambrose couldn’t blame her. It was an opportunity to be closer to the father of her unborn baby. Besides, he didn’t see how Gisela would resist the thrill
of the luxurious life Justin’s home presented. She’d tested it while visiting Olivia. But Ambrose regretted Gisela’s denial of the danger that lurked with such a move.
For sure, Justin should’ve known Katelyn suspected his affair and stopped Gisela from moving into their house. How stupid of him to believe Katelyn did this so Gisela would help Olivia more with
Ambrose shook his head and smiled when he remembered yet another absurd thing Justin had said: that Katelyn was even considering adopting Gisela as their daughter. Wonders never ceased!
A nurse passing by snapped Ambrose out of his reveries. A week had passed since his wife was admitted to the hospital and Christmas was fast approaching. The festive season was supposed to be a
time to look back, take a deep breath and take stock of the year’s hits and misses. A time when the harvest was ripe in the fields, flowers blossomed and chargrills dotted homesteads in the village
where Ambrose celebrated the big day with his family. He’d bought the Christmas tree, but before he purchased the gifts for the children, a dark tide had turned on his family.
Ambrose turned toward the bed. Elizabeth lay motionless, battling for her life. She hadn’t sustained serious injuries from the fall but was admitted after failing to regain consciousness. The
doctors had run many tests, and some results hadn’t come out.
He slid his stool closer. His gaze fell on her pursed, parched lips. Tears rushed in his eyes. An X-ray had revealed a slightly enlarged kidney. What could that be? He anxiously awaited the
many test results. He ran a finger across Elizabeth’s cheek. “It’ll be fine, honey.”
She raised her head, and after glaring at him, relaxed back. Ambrose bent and wiped her cheeks. She’d respond to the doctors’ inquiries but hadn’t spoken to him since regaining consciousness. He
“Honey, you don’t have to worry about anything. David and Carol are good at Katelyn’s place.” He raked his hand across her hair and leaned forward when her lips twitched. But she didn’t speak.
Just... glared at him. A pang of guilt churned in his chest. He kissed her hand. “Honey… I love you.”
She pushed him away. “Honey, my foot. Go tell that to one of your mistresses.”
“Baby, I’m sorry. You’re mistaken about the other day. It was just a men’s talk between me and Justin, which meant nothing.”
“Jeez, so Justin impregnating Gisela and you being afraid to do an HIV test means nothing. Huh?”
“Honey, it’s not what you think. Lemme explain…”
Katelyn entered the room before Ambrose could finish his sentence.
“Go!” Elizabeth said. “Just leave me alone.”
“What’s going on?” Eyes wide, Katelyn moved past Ambrose and leaned over Elizabeth. “Take it easy. Don’t get worked up. It’s not good at the moment.” She waggled her finger at Ambrose. “Give us a
Left alone with Elizabeth, Katelyn claimed a spot on the same stool Ambrose had used. She dropped her chin on her palm and leaned forward, gazing between Elizabeth’s face and the IV in her bony
hand. “What’s up?”
“He’s a beast… I—I—I was a fool to trust him.” Her voice cracked. “Excuse me...” She swallowed hard.
Katelyn pressed her hand. “It’s okay.” She poured Elizabeth a glass of water. After she drank, Katelyn asked, “What has he done?”
“We trust men blindly and they exploit our naivety.”
“It’s wrong to generalize. Not all men are beasts.”
“Holy shit!” Elizabeth flinched. “They’re all brutes except those in fairy tales.”
She wouldn’t blame Katelyn for trusting Justin when she’d also been a victim of Ambrose’s lies. She saw her own innocence reflected on Katelyn’s face. If only her sister knew! Justin was worse - a
pretender who’d impregnated their daughter’s friend and still had the guts to look Katelyn in the eye and lie about loving her.
The pulsating and throbbing pain, which had stopped after a dose of morphine an hour ago, bounced back across the side of her tummy. She puckered her brow and pressed her lips. “Oh, Jeezus… my side
hurts.” She groaned and passed a hand across her stomach. “They say one of my kidneys is enlarged… uh, can you imagine he impregnated Gisela?” Elizabeth gasped for breath.
Katelyn leaned back, mouth agape. “What! How could Ambrose do that?”
Elizabeth raised her head, peered in Katelyn’s eye and without a word, lay back.
Not Ambrose… but Justin. He impregnated Gisela. The moment you stop trusting him blindly, you’ll realize you’ve been living with a leopard in a sheep’s skin.
Katelyn straightened Elizabeth’s flimsy hospital gown, which had pulled up as she turned in pain. “I’m sorry... But don’t let that stress you for now.” She smoothed the quilt under Elizabeth’s
side. “You could be mistaken. Did Ambrose confess to it?”
Elizabeth dropped her jaw and struggled to look her sister in the eye. She feared Katelyn would collapse if she discovered the truth. “We’re so gullible as women,” she said, hoping to pass the
Katelyn straightened. “Here comes the doctor.”
“Hey.” The doctor waved at Katelyn and tucked a folder under his arm before focusing on Elizabeth. “How are you today?”
“Ouch.” Elizabeth jerked sideways, holding her side. “It hurts so bad.”
Under the doctor’s instructions, a nurse brought in assortments of a syringe, needle and small bottles of medicine on a silver tray.
“Ah, I hate this,” said Elizabeth, as she watched the doctor connect the needle to the syringe.
After a while, the doctor injected one medicine after another through the IV. “Sorry, ma’am. Just a little discomfort and the pain will clear.”
“It’s okay, thanks.”
“In about an hour, we’ll do a small surgical procedure to manage the pain.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “What procedure? It’s that bad?”
“It’s the morphine pump implantation. You’ll be able to give yourself small doses as necessary whenever you feel the pain.”
Elizabeth hated how Katelyn tried so hard to stop herself from crying. She’d seen the same ominous look on Katelyn at the deathbed of her eldest son, who died an infant.
“Is your husband around?” asked the doctor.
Elizabeth’s heart raced. “Doc, is there a problem? Why d’you need him?”
The door opened, and Ambrose stepped in. Perhaps he’d been at the door, following the conversation. “Hey, Doc.” He extended a hand.
“Hey, some results are out,” said the Doc, looking at a form in his hands from under his goggles. He turned to Katelyn. “Please excuse us for a minute.”
“No, don’t go.” Elizabeth tugged at Katelyn’s hand. “She’s family and has to be here.”
“It’s okay. I’ll stay,” said Katelyn. She rubbed the back of her sister’s palm.
The doctor’s cheeks puffed as he exhaled. “Okay, she can stay. Tell me, when did you first notice the swelling?” The Doc pulled a seat closer to the trio. “Seems like it’s been there for quite some
“It… it’s a little over six months when I noticed the swelling for the first time... Err… then it disappeared… and reappeared a few weeks later.” Elizabeth stopped when Ambrose cleared his throat.
“Six months? Honey… you’ve never mentioned.” He took Elizabeth’s hand.
She pulled her hand away. “At first it wasn’t painful, but for the last few months, the pain has been severe… mostly around my lower tummy… What do the test results show?”
The doctor took out a printout from his folder. “So… from what I can tell from your, your reports, it sounds like you have fairly advanced cervical cancer. Stage four.”
Elizabeth’s throat tightened. “Whoa! Whuh-huh? What? I have cancer?” She looked at Katelyn, then Ambrose, and back to the doctor. “What—what, does a stage four mean?”
The Doc traced a finger on the printout. “Stage four means the cancer has spread outside of the cervix to other organs. Looks like its spread to the bladder. This probably explains why you’ve been
having lower stomach pains.”
“Doc, but there’s something that can be done. Right?” Katelyn pressed Elizabeth’s hand.
“Unfortunately, at this stage of the cancer, we don’t do a good job curing it. We have a lot of treatments but the goal of treatment is to deal with symptoms to improve overall survival but we know
we can’t cure stage four cervical cancer.”
Ambrose lifted his eyes. “Are you trying to say nothing can be done to cure my wife?”
“Well, we can improve the quality and quantity of her life but we can’t make the cancer go away at this point.”
“The devil is a liar. There’s something that can be done,” said Katelyn.
The Doc cocked his head and tilted his lips. “What we need to do today is to get your records from the radiation oncologist in because seems like there’s some information missing.”
Katelyn rubbed her forehead. “And why make conclusions on incomplete information?”
The doctor pulled another paper from the folder. “Ma’am, I understand this wasn’t the news you were expecting, but the preliminary tests we’ve conducted show she has cancer.” He read through the
papers in his hand. “Well, we’ll repeat your staging to see where your cancer is now. And, like I said, one of my concerns is that there might be a spread of this to your bladder and other areas.”
Elizabeth’s heart pounded harder. “How long do I have?”
“God forbid. Honey, don’t say that.” Katelyn rubbed Elizabeth’s hands. “You’ll beat this.”
“Oh my God!” Elizabeth sighed, tears rolling freely down her cheeks.
The doctor wanted to speak but stopped short, perhaps giving the patient time to cool off. “Sorry… err… I know it’s a lot to take in...” He paused again. “We’ll give you the best medical care
Trembling, Elizabeth tucked herself under the blanket. “I-I-I have cancer?” She wept bitterly.
“I’m sorry. We’ll do the best we can to ensure you’re comfortable,” said the doctor.
Ambrose removed his cap and switched it between hands. “It’ll be fine, honey. You’ll beat this.” He tucked the blanket on the edges.
Katelyn blew her nose, wiped her eyes and never let go off Elizabeth’s hand. “Don’t worry about the kids cause you’re going nowhere. Cancer cannot defeat you.”
The Doc adjusted his glasses. “We’ll put you on radiation therapy—“
“No, I don’t want. Let me die in peace.”
The doctor moved closer. “Sorry, ma’am. This is necessary to destroy the cancer cells.”
“Who survives radiation?” Elizabeth rubbed on her wedding ring. “I wish I didn’t know… maybe it’d have been easier.”
“It’s good to know ma’am. When detected early, cancer is treatable.” The doctor looked around. “That’s why smear tests are encouraged to detect cancer early.”
Elizabeth struggled to sit up. “Are you trying to blame me for not doing a smear test early enough?”
The doctor lowered his eyes. “Sorry, ma’am, that’s not what I mean.” He flipped through the papers in his folder. “What I wanted to say is, radiation will help a lot in stopping the cancer cells
from spreading further.”
A barrage of questions ensued, and it was only after another hour had passed that the doctor left.
“You did this to me.” Elizabeth turned to her husband. “You brought me cervical cancer.”
Ambrose jaw dropped. “Honey, what are you talking about?”
“All those women you’ve been sleeping with.”
“Honey, please, you misunderstood everything.” He reclined on the edge of the bed. “Honey, sweetheart—“
“Just go away, please. Leave me alone.”
Katelyn leaned over and cuddled Elizabeth’s head in her arms. “Honey, I’m so… sorry.”
“Oh, my God. He’s killed me.”
Ambrose stepped back and leaned on the windowpane.
Elizabeth groaned and disentangled from her sister. “Why didn’t I see through his lies all along!”
She’d have come out of bed, but her strength failed her. Instead, she curled into a ball beneath the quilt, leaving out only the hand connected to the IV.
Thirty minutes later, she shoved the quilt aside. Ambrose was now sitting on the floor, his tear-stained eyes swollen and red. Katelyn was still shaking with sobs on the stool beside her. Faced
with a terminal illness and death, Elizabeth shifted her priorities. Yes, Ambrose might be the reason for her illness, but she could undo nothing. Her thoughts went out to the kids. They needed
their daddy when she’d be gone.
Her eyes met with Ambrose’s and fresh tears started streaming down his cheeks. At that moment, everything took a different meaning for Elizabeth. What she’d overheard between Justin and her husband
didn’t matter anymore.
“Honey, please come.” Elizabeth stretched out her hands to him. “Take good care of the kids.”
After disentangling from his wife, Ambrose sat and watched the sisters cuddle each other. A pang of guilt rose in his chest. His wife had been suffering in silence for all this time! How had he not
heard her groans at night? At some point, Elizabeth had even narrated to the doctor how on one occasion their son, hearing her cries, came over and slept in their bed. He had, Ambrose, been too
drunk to notice anything?
But more than anything, the fact he could be responsible for his wife’s illness crashed him. All the women he’d been having affairs with came to mind. But none had cancer! They were all healthy.
Amanda was in fact a nutritionist, Kayla a doctor, Michelle a model. Yes, she was skinny, but yeah, that was expected of a typical model. Who then? It couldn’t be the lovely Julie. Oh, wait a
second. She’d once confided in him her family had a history of cancer. Her mom died of ovarian cancer and that very day, he was escorting her to the uncle’s burial, who’d also died of cancer.
Damn it! He shook with sobs and blew his nose. Elizabeth coughed, and he turned towards her. Oh no, she was dying. No, he’d killed her. He walked out to the nurses’ station. “Excuse me, where’s the
“In the doctors’ common room. Kindly have a seat and I’ll get him for you.”
Ambrose sat, but in a second, stood and started pacing. When he saw the doctor coming his way, he didn’t wait but dashed to meet him.
The doctor switched his folder to the other hand. He’d changed into another apron, probably about to do another round in the wards. “Hey, can I be of help?”
“Doc, I’m, err… This can’t be true—“
“Sorry, come with me.” He led Ambrose to an empty room next door. “Please have a seat.”
“Thanks, Doc, you can be frank with me.” Ambrose slumped on the couch, stretched his legs and crossed hands across his chest. It had been a tiring day. “How bad is she?”
The doctor gritted his teeth. “It’s not good. She’s in stage four.”
“Really?” Ambrose clasped hands under his knees, resting his chin on them. “How long does she have?”
“Well, clinically, she’s got less than a month. But things do change.”
“Doc, there must be something you can do. She can’t just die like that? We have two small children.”
The doctor moved closer and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Take heart. You need to be strong for her… and the children. Like I said, we’ll do all in our power to ensure she’s comfortable.”
“She never mentioned she was sick... I should’ve noticed. Yes, she’d changed, but I thought she’d just neglected herself and many times I castigated her for not taking care of her looks….”
The doctor squeezed his shoulder.
“Doc, are you telling me she has no chance of survival? At all?” Ambrose buried his face in his hands.
The doctor scratched his head. “I’m so sorry.”
“Ah, um, doc, is it true a man can make their wife have cervical cancer?”
“She thinks I’m responsible for this.”
“Oh, well, has she told you why?”
Ambrose squirmed in his seat. “Uh-oh, it’s because, err, she overheard—She thinks I’ve been sleeping around.”
“I can’t say you’re the cause but, yes, men can be carriers for cervical cancer and can spread it between women.”
Ambrose reclined on the arm of the couch. At first, he’d thought they would discharge Elizabeth in a day and longed for the beach party he’d organized with Justin before heading upcountry for
Christmas celebrations. The prospects of gorgeous women in bikinis and bras, whiskey on the rocks under the moonlight; the assortments of sweetmeats, roast turkey and his favorite spare pork ribs
and asparagus… He wouldn’t miss that for anything. Then suddenly, what was a minor accident had led to this - less than a month for his wife to live! Was he dreaming?
And now, to think he was the one responsible for her sufferings, and eventually death!
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