Gisela was asleep when Justin entered the bedroom. On a cot beside the bed, Thomas Coral licked his little fingers, his shiny eyes wide. Justin lowered his face closer to the boy. Then ran a finger
along the baby’s nose—so similar to Gisela’s. But nothing resembled Justin. Could it be true? Ken was the father? Cold shivers swept through him.
He glanced at Gisela. Shit! Did he even know her? What if Martha was right? Then Gisela must’ve known the truth all along—women always know it. How he’d made big plans for them!
The baby was supposed to cement their love.
Just looking at her tied his stomach into knots. How wretched. Rage, hate, and regret churned in his heart. What the hell was he thinking when he left his wife and children for her? How evil could
Gisela be—to hoodwink him all this time? It was painful watching her. This wasn’t the same naïve girl he’d boned all those months earlier.
The tiny fingers rubbing on his pinky drew his attention back to the cot. The boy’s gaze met his. The purity in those eyes melted his heart. No doubt, these are my dad’s eyes. Look at those big
eyeballs. It was as though Thomas knew Justin’s heartache and was eager to dispel his doubts. He fought back tears and lifted the boy to his chest.
I’m sorry, son. Martha’s wrong.
He pecked the baby’s cheek. “It can’t be that you’re not my son— “
“What’s going on?” Gisela jumped out of bed. “He’s innocent. Give him to me.” She held out her hands.
“Gisela!’ He handed her the baby. “So you’ve been lying to me all this time?”
She sat back. Pressed the baby’s mouth on her breast and adjusted herself against the pillow. “I dunno what you’re talking about.”
He focussed on her. “Martha told me everything.”
“Oh, that witch! How can you even believe her?” She gasped. “Just because the baby has a birthmark means nothing.”
“What about the birthmark?” He pulled a stool and sat.
“Do we really have to talk about this?” She rocked the boy. “So you don’t trust me?”
He stroked his mustache. “It’s not about trust.” He grimaced. “Is this my baby?”
“Oh God, I can’t believe you’re asking me this.”
There was a catch in his voice. “Yes, I want to know the truth.”
A brief silence followed. He balled and relaxed his hand. Beads of sweat collected on his forehead. Why did she betray his love? Love! What was love anyway, if not an illusion people
tended to believe in? The only thing he’d gotten from it was shame, pain, and loneliness.
He raised his voice. “Aren’t you gonna answer me, huh?”
Love and hate for Gisela suffocated him. He gasped. Each broken part of his heart still missed her. Why couldn’t things just be the way they used to be? Truth be told, he’d never had such
good sex. But his pride scuttled his reminiscence. What a betrayal! Is this how Katelyn felt about his cheating on her? Ugh! Everything seemed meaningless.
He walked to the wall where her portrait hung. “Is this how you repay my love?”
“Honey!” She burped the baby on her shoulder. “Please don’t allow Katie to use Martha to hit back.”
“Just stop it. Katie wouldn’t stoop that low.”
“You heard me.”
She returned Thomas on her lap. “Are you trying to project your guilt on me?”
“No, but I can’t forgive what you’ve done.” He paced. “I’ve made her suffer because of you and now I’m not even sure if this is my--”
“What! I did nothing.”
“You lied to me.”
She pressed the baby to her nipple which had come out of his mouth. “Honey, please. Let’s talk about this soberly. I thought you loved me?”
“Please don’t talk of love because to you, it’s just a word. You know nothing about it.” He narrowed his eyes. “And don’t ever drag my wife into your mess.”
“Excuse me? My mess? Has she bewitched you?”
He punched the wall. “Stop it!”
“Are you threatening me?”
Are you the same destitute girl I’ve helped and even bought a house?
His jaw dropped. “Is this how you talk to me?”
“I love you and I want this to work, but I can’t force you. I’ll not allow you to disrespect me.”
“I better go to the streets to fend for my kid than be disrespected.” She pulled the shawl to cover the baby’s legs. “Let’s do a paternity test if that’s what you want.”
“Yes, that’s what I want.” He swallowed hard. “I asked you from the very beginning if you were sure the baby was mine.”
“And I told you the truth. From day one.”
Damn it. She was right. She’d told him Ken spent the night at her place a few days before Justin visited. But his infatuation for her had blinded him. He always knew it was a mistake. As a married
man, he ought not to have fallen in love with her. He’d destroy his family and if history was anything to go by, nothing good came of such relationships. He’d known things wouldn’t end well, and it
had just been a matter of time.
He stroked his mustache. “What am I supposed to think when you behave like this?”
“Behave how? I was honest with you. You knew Ken was my boyfriend when we met, but there wasn’t anything serious between us—”
“So Martha’s telling the truth?”
She dropped her gaze. “Of course not.”
“I trusted you blindly.”
She raked a finger across the baby’s hair. “You didn’t want him. All you wanted was an abortion.”
A stripe of blood streaming down her leg caught his attention. He shuddered. “What’s that?”
“Please call the nurse,” said Gisela, shaking.
Justin left after the nurse assured him there wasn’t anything to worry about. All Gisela needed was a change of pad. He went to spend the night at his matrimonial home, resolved to see a doctor
friend the next day to arrange for the DNA test.
The queue to the doctor’s office moved slowly. Justin paced. Unable to wait any longer, he dashed to one of the receptionists’ desk.
Without looking at him, the receptionist punched on her laptop. “How can I help you?”
“I’m here to see Dr. Parkinson.”
“He’s engaged.” She pointed her pen at the queue, then continued typing. “They’re all here to see him. Please wait your turn.”
“I have an appointment.” He handed her his card, which she took and placed on her desk without reading it.
“Next?” she shouted.
A second receptionist on the other side smiled at him. “Hello sir, are you Justin?”
“Yes, that’s me.” He moved to her desk. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Not at all. Just a sec, he’s finishing up with someone.” She smiled at an old lady coming out of the doctor’s office, then turned to Justin. “I’m very sorry, sir. Doc gave me your details but I
hadn’t seen you. Please go in.”
“No worries. Thank you.”
Parkinson greeted him at the doorway to his office. "Hey, long time! You’ve cut weight. Looking younger than you did at the university.”
Justin pulled the doctor into a hug. “Indeed, Long time! You haven’t changed either.”
“Glad to see you.” Parkinson buttoned up his long white apron and closed the door.
“Man, it’s been long. How is business?” Justin adjusted the doctor’s collar. “Who’d have thought back then these village boys would own a piece of this big city?”
Parkinson laughed. “I wonder what happened to the likes of Max. They’re the ones who belonged to this city.”
“University life can be so fooling. He managed a pass and is now a primary school teacher.”
“Ah, how is Ambrose. It still amazes me how you guys ended up marrying sisters.”
Parkinson shook his head.
“Back in the day, a skirt wouldn’t pass that man. I hope he’s changed. Otherwise I pity his wife.”
“Who? Ambrose? Never. He’s still the same guy. Cassanova.”
Parkinson pulled a magazine from the shelf. “I read their story here. He got a very resilient wife.”
Justin focussed on Elizabeth’s image on the magazine’s cover. “Oh, she’s suffered a lot. I’m happy she’s in remission.”
“Her story’s so encouraging.”
Justin looked around his friend’s office. Painted cream with one floor-to-ceiling window, overlooking an orchard. On the leather-covered desk sat a Mac Book Pro, a notebook lying open, a framed
photo of Parkinson and his family, and a few papers under a dove-shaped paperweight. Behind the desk, a swivel chair still puffing up from Parkinson’s weight. In a corner, the air conditioner was
blasting at medium.
“Please have a seat.” Parkinson gestured towards an armchair in front of his table. He sunk in the swivel chair and bent forward. “Wow, tell me. What brings you to this part of the town?”
“Um, where do I start.” Justin sighed. “What I want to tell you is strictly confidential.”
Parkinson assumed a serious face. “Of course. I wouldn’t be a doctor if I couldn’t keep secrets.”
Justin pulled his seat forward. “I’m sure the rumors of my affair have already reached you.” The doctor nodded and Justin continued. “She gave birth and, ah, I want a paternity test done.”
Parkinson dropped his eyes to Justin’s knuckles, which rumbled as he cracked them. “Of course, that’s okay. Um, does your wife know--oh, err, the baby's mother?”
“The baby has to be brought here for us to take the sample.”
Justin laced his fingers over the table. “Look, my reputation’s at risk here. Let’s do this from my house. I’ll cater for any costs.”
“Ah, don’t stress. I’ll send my staff over. We can then do a swab for you before you leave.”
Justin leaned back. “That’s ok. Send someone who’ll observe confidentiality.”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“How long will the results take?”
“Excuse me.” Parkinson called to a nurse who’d tucked her head at the door. After briefly giving her some instructions, he sat back. “The results take about two days.”
“That’s long. It can’t be sooner?”
“No, let’s not take chances.”
Justin plopped an elbow on his knee and bent forward. A few seconds passed in silence.
Parkinson came over and sat on the other armchair. “Hey, what’s up, man?”
“Man, this was a big blunder.” Justin straightened. “I just don’t know what came over me. Katie sacrificed everything for me and the kids. Will she ever forgive me?”
He looked at Parkinson’s picture with his wife and their three boys, all smiling. The guilt of his infidelity sat not on his chest but inside his brain. What he’d done he couldn’t undo. No one
would understand how sorry he was. Only in his silent prayers would he speak his heart to God and beg for His mercy.
“What I’ve done is so awful.” He lowered his head. “I feel so horrible.”
“Take it easy.”
“I’ve really hurt Katie and I only hope she can forgive me—“ He stroked his mustache. “I don’t know what I’ll do if she doesn’t.”
Parkinson tapped him on the shoulders. “Just ask her for forgiveness. It might take time but she’ll forgive you.”
“Will she really forgive me? I don’t know if things can be the same again between us. Would you forgive if it were you?”
Parkinson hooked his feet around the legs of the armchair. “I don’t know. Would you?”
Justin raked a finger through his hair. “Before, I wouldn’t, but after what I’ve gone through, I’d easily forgive. Man, I’ll never ever do this again.”
“Lemme ask, why d’you want the DNA? You suspect her with someone else?”
“Um, it—it’s a long story… I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, what if the DNA confirms the baby’s yours?”
“I’ve not thought about it that way. Let’s just wait for the results.”
“Take your time and think things through. If he turns out to be your baby, you got a responsibility to him too, just like your other kids, and his mom. Don’t make any hasty decision.”
The image of Martha at the club rose to his mind. She was more than confident. There must be something she knew. What of Gisela? She was worse. Her face, tone of voice, and general behavior
vanquished all of Justin’s hope.
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