Belinda watched Womako trudge into the makeshift bathroom behind their home.
“Woman! Where is my hot water!”
Belinda didn’t have the strength to remind him that their power had been cut–a souvenir for owing 3 months of bills, nor the patience to explain that she had to conserve fuel for meals.
She sighed instead and said “I’m sorry Woma, please just manage it.”
She heard the clash of metal and stone amidst her husband’s grumbling. They had been a reasonably happy couple before but the disease outbreak had changed things. Woma had to work longer shifts, coming home exhausted and irritable. She couldn’t remember the last time he played with her or the last time she felt him on her thighs.
Now her days were a cycle of watching him rush of to work, grouchy welcomes and loveless nights. Her fledgling bush-meat business was on hold and Woma hadn’t been paid in two months. The government had promised to pay more as hazard allowances to workers in the health facilities affected by the disease. Nothing had been done about that yet.
Woma walked past her into the house. He had hoped to change the thatch and mud hut to a proper house, but now, such talk was fantasy.
She waited a while then joined him in the room. The plate of rice and soup was untouched. The jug of water was empty though and Womako was not in the room.
She flicked aside the curtain to see him prostate on a mat in the adjoining room. They hoped it would be their children’s room, someday, but now it housed the occasional cousin from the village and Womako’s old books.
“Woma, what is it? Are you well?”
“Wait. Don’t come closer. I started feeling unwell on my way back and I don’t know. I have called Willie to come and take me back to the hospital. But that will be after he takes you to the motor park and puts you on a bus to the border. Under the mattress, you will find $300, I want you to take the money and travel to Ghana. Stay with your sister there and get tested if you feel any illness.”
“Woma what are you saying? How can I leave you now?”
“You must Bella. You have suffered enough drinking every potion and pill trying to get pregnant for the past three years. Visited every healer, seer and saviour, what they didn’t tell you was that you were fine. I am the one that can’t fill your field. I am the one without seed.
Now, there is no need for me to make bad worse. Do as I say. May God keep you and may He forgive me.”
“But what about the house? What about our plans for the new plot of land?” Bella asked in a tear choked whisper.
“Land and houses are for the living Bella. If I live, we will see. But now, I want you to pack, Willie is coming.”
Willie came and took her to the park. She got to Ghana safely. A week later she was told Womako’s ashes were buried in their backyard.
She waited for her own illness to begin. It never did. Instead she put on weight and lost two shades of tan. And many nights she would lay awake thinking. She would imagine herself a judge and Womako an accused. Should she hate him for the three years of lies? Should she acquit him for an act of uncommon courage? The arguments would rage for and against before sleep would whisk her away, to awake again to the toils and troubles of another day.