“Mummy used to say that I was good at keeping secrets.” Gemma was lying next to Matt but her eyes were focused on the blades of the fan on the ceiling. He listened, knowing that she needed time to say whatever was on her mind.
“She could trust me and tell anything and I wouldn’t tell a soul. Not my sisters because they would blurt it out after a few days.” She laughed at the memories.
“So I guess I am still good at it. Because nobody besides Roger and me know that I had an abortion.”
She felt Matt move slightly when she said it and his hand that had been stroking her arm paused for a long minute.
“When we moved here I was pregnant. I found out just before we left Trinidad but I didn’t say anything to Roger. I was excited you know, just married, moving to a new country. He was finally going to be a doctor. I thought it would be a present to him. I figured it would be the icing on the cake or something.”
Gemma finally looked away from the ceiling and turned her body to face him.
“But when I told him he was mad. I mean angry. He kept saying that we could not afford a baby yet. He asked me if I had done it on purpose and why I was being so naïve. It really shocked me. I was so ready for him to be jumping up and down so when he got vex I just sat there and couldn’t make sense of it. Next thing I know he was ringing around and finding out where he could take me to get rid of it.”
Both lay there looking at it each other. Somewhere in his head Matt thought that she would or should have been crying but her expression was unreadable. She simply narrated the story like she was talking about someone else.
“The next day we were at the clinic and making the arrangements. Now when I think about it I feel like it was a movie. It’s almost like I was watching myself go through it. You know we didn’t have a conversation the entire time? My voice disappeared when he got angry. I had never seen him like that before. I mean the whole five years we were together before that he had never got so vex before. Now the first time I see him mad it’s because I tell him I am carrying his child. The whole time I kept having these conversations in my head. I was asking myself why I was letting it happen. Why I was allowing him to kill our child. But I never said anything out loud. I just let it happen.”
Matt touched her face and stroked her cheek and then almost on cue a tear ran down her face.
“When it was over we started talking again but we have never talked about it. Then two years ago he announces that we should have a baby. So we tried and tried to get pregnant but it never happened. We even went to the Doctor and he said that we’re both fine. But no matter what we tried I never got pregnant. In my heart I know why. I know I’m never going to have a baby again.”
“So what happened this week?”
“He talked about us trying again and I snapped. I mean I just cried and cried that night. We never talk about the baby we killed, we never talk about the fact that I don’t think my body can conceive again. I know why, I know that am so tense and angry and scared inside that it’s like my body refuses to function. I know that when I sleep with him I am never there. My body is but my mind and heart is just locked off…. I used to love him so much Matt. It is like someone turned off it off. That day when I killed my baby I stopped loving him.”
And there it was. The reason why she could lie here with him so easily. Her husband was the one topic that they had never discussed. Today was the first time in eight months that his name had been spoken aloud. Now Matt had his explanation but yet nothing had really changed.
“Maybe its time to finally talk about it then.” He was trying to be the emphatic friend though his instinct was to say so many other things.
“What is the point? He acts like it never happened and I have encouraged it all. He doesn’t even seem to notice how different we are. His life is about work and I do what my duties are as a wife. He got a good deal. He knows he married sweet, quiet Gemma. I think that’s why he fell in love with me because I just do whatever he asks of me. The other night was the first time I have ever shown him my anger or my sadness.”
“So what is the point? Why are you still there?”
Gemma turned onto her back and pulled her hair away from her head, the locks forming a halo of hair on the pillow.
“I don’t know really. I mean what can I do? My family and friends at home think I am so lucky. They think we are the perfect couple. I have never told them the truth and I feel like I have to maintain that image or something.”
“That makes no sense Gemma.” He was moving out of the bed. He put his feet on the floor and began to massage his neck.
“Are you mad?” her voice was like a child pleading with a parent. He turned to look at her.
“No Gems. I’m not mad. I just…”
“I just think you have to make a decision.”
She looked away from him then.
“I can’t. I don’t know what to do.”
“You want to stay married to him? You want a child then go and fix your marriage then. Get counselling, scream at him, forgive yourself damn it! I mean you going to stay like this forever?”
He was mad. It was in his voice and in his body language and it made Gemma want to cry. They had been avoiding this conversation for too long. She felt like she was spending her life avoiding conversations. She got up and moved over to where he sat and lay her face against his back. It was cool and she could hear his heart beating within his chest. She wrapped her arms around his torso and he slowly relaxed into her frame. She felt his anger beginning to evaporate.
“I know I love you.” She told him.
The words had come out as easily as she had wrapped herself around him. Things that were usually so unnatural for her became easier when she was with him.
Matt had no response for that. At least he could not say it back. He could not love her, not when she was till married to him. But he could not think of a way to explain it that would not hurt her. She spoke for him instead.
“That’s why we have to stop doing this.”
Roger came back home that night determined to talk to his wife. Gemma had never acted that way the ten years he had known her. He had not been able to concentrate on anything for the last few days as his home felt like it was clouded with her anger and sadness. He was disappointed to see she was not there when he got in so sat in the living room waiting. But the wait made him think too much. Made him question why she was so against having his child. She had been pregnant before and though the time was not right then now they were both more that ready for a family. He felt the need deep in his heart whenever he saw a little boy or girl or baby in the hospital He imagined all the features their child could have and the sense of purpose it would bring to their lives. Now it was as though they were simply roommates and their marriage was barely acknowledged.
Gemma came in more than an hour after he had. She was in a white vest and puffy blue skirt and strappy heels that made me legs seem long and emphasised their tone. Roger forgot for a moment about all that he wanted to say as the need to kiss her suddenly overwhelmed him. He was embarrassed to think about the many months that had past since they had last been intimate.
She had been so immersed in sorting through the mail that she had not seen him there.
“Hey. I came back early.”
She looked both startled and annoyed.
“Ok.” She went back to the mail.
“We have to talk Gemma.”
“No. Not tonight.”
She looked up at him.
“Why do you suddenly feel like we have to talk?”
“Well the other night…”
“The other night I was upset and I’m sorry if that scared you. But there is nothing else to discuss.” She began to walk towards their bedroom and Roger followed
“Gemma come on. What about what we talked about. Why did that upset you so?” She threw her heels off in the direction of the shoe rack and dropped her bag on the bed.
“We are not getting pregnant Roger. I don’t want a baby.” He had been walking towards her but her words stopped him.
“I said that I don’t want a baby.”
“Gemma what the hell are you talking about?”
She took off her clothes and started to hang them up in the closet.
“Roger I don’t want a baby.”
Her plan on the journey there was to talk to him in the morning. She was going to sit him down and have a discussion about their situation and tell him how she felt. She had hoped that by the end they would be able to figure out what the next step would be. But now she had made the decision on her own. It was the truth though. She did not want to have his child. That chance had already come and gone.
But Roger could not be satisfied with her pronouncement. He pleaded with her to talk to him, to explain herself. They were in the kitchen now. She by the sink and he standing next to her. His hand placed gently on her waist.
“We had a baby once remember?”
He let go of her waist then and leaned against the counter.
“Gemma that was a long time ago and we had no choice.”
“We Roger? We? You never asked me what I wanted!”
He stared at her,
“What do you mean? We talked about it…”
“Oh God! We never talked about it. Never not once. You told me we could not have a baby then said we were having an abortion. Never once you ask me what I wanted.”
He looked so surprised by her words. Genuinely confused and she knew that it was sincere. Roger was a doer, thinking rarely came into it.
“I should have refused. You never held a gun to my head. But I wanted to make you happy.” For the first time since that night her voice broke and she felt the dam of emotion bursting to come out. She wanted to go back to Kensington.
Roger was staring at her like he was seeing her for the first time.
“So that is why you so angry? That’s why you don’t want a baby?”
“But… but what about what I want?”
She had no answer for him.
“Gemma, what about me?”
“I don’t want a baby Roger. You can’t change my mind about that.”
They had reached an impasse and one that made the tension in their home almost triple in size. Roger stayed in the kitchen staring blankly ahead. Gemma took a blanket and went to the other bedroom. She sat there weary and impossibly sad. She knew that Roger was battling to save them but what was the point when she had no desire to do the same?
Matt had contemplated not coming to work that day. He had actually stood by the bathroom mirror and argued with himself the pros and cons of staying away. But in the end his masculinity kicked in tenfold and he felt like a fool. This was not some epic love story and he definitely was not the heroine. He had a life to live with or without her. But yet she was all that lingered in his thoughts.
They had sat on the bed her body wrapped around his and her head laying on his back for a long time. They said nothing. He knew that this was probably the last time he would touch her like that and it hurt. This is what it felt like to lose someone, he thought, even as he felt her arms and legs wrapped around him. She loved Roger, despite what she said. Why else would she still be with him? Gemma was financially secure, more than capable of surviving on her own but yet she was still there with him. Matt realised that despite her confession of love, she must love Roger more.
When he strode into Brewster & Abbott, he looked like a man without a care in the world, grey slacks and tie and expensive Italian shoes and shirt so crisp that it looked it had just come out of the packet. He cracked jokes with the security guy and flirted with the administrators, using his drawl and eyes to their full potential. His calculation was that he could have a date for dinner by lunch time. As his friend Paul always said, the best way to get over one girl was to climb onto another. So his mission for the day was officially set.
But it corroded like a sandcastle when she walked into the 11am meeting. Blue wide leg trousers and dark shirt with her hair pulled back into a severe bun. He remembered the way she pulled his hair the night before and he was once again missing her all over again.
She didn’t look at him for two hours, no matter how many times he tried to catch her eye. She was made up like a professional but he could see she was tired and the sadness never left her eyes. But when the meeting was over she followed him into his office.
“I can’t do this.” she said.
She was leaning against the closed door, her hand gripping the door knob behind her.
“So what are we going to do?” Matt asked her from behind his desk.
He wanted to keep the distance.
“Is….Is this thing….Is it serious for you? Or just some fun?” It was another question they had never asked each other. He wondered now what they had spoken about in the last few months. He massaged his neck.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes it does!”
“Why? Have you talked to Roger yet?”
“It does matter Mathew. Please.”
“Did you speak to him?”
“I told you I loved you last night. Are you mad that I said it?”
“Gems you have things to sort out…”
She crumpled by the door, her face twisting into an ugly pained expression and tears running lines through her makeup. Matt was up and standing in front of her before he was even aware of it.
“Don’t cry. Gems baby don’t cry.”
“I talked him.” Her words came out in stammering sobs. “I said I did not want to have a baby. I told him…I…we didn’t even…I…..love you.”
So nothing much had changed. No conclusions had been made. But Matt knew that none of that mattered really. He wasn’t capable of finishing this thing between them, husband or not. He wiped her tears with his finger tips and placed his forehead on hers and whispered to her. He did this until she started to breathe normally again. Then he pulled his face away from hers and they looked at each other. He had forgotten where they were and even what time it was. He had officially lost whatever sensibilities he had been holding onto.
“Then leave him.” He said to her. “If you really love me then stay with me.”
Gemma looked up at him absently wiping her face with the back of her hand. It really was that simple, despite the long list of complications, it really was that simple.
“OK.” She told him “Yes”