She saw him waving at her through the hospital window as he entered the private ward coming towards her. He was excited, holding their four year old son who was equally enthusiastic to see his small sibling for the first time.
Mildred managed to smile despite the discomfort she felt when the one day old daughter pulled her nipple to suckle.
“Look son ,see the newest member of our family. So beautiful.” Hiram said to his son Bruce. Mildred watched him, and a twinge of guilt stabbed her for a second and then disappeared.
Hiram was a good father. He took great care of his son and already seemed charged to take responsibility of his daughter too. Mildred wondered what he would do if he found out the truth. She shuddered at what she would lose if he found that the children he dotted on were another man’s.
But he did not suspect a thing, even after the two came out with a fairer complexion compared to his conspicuous melanin. Fortunately, she was fair in complexion herself, very fair.
“Another light skinned one, they take after you darling but the eyes are definitely mine!” He said confidently with a proud grin on his face. She nodded, with a tired smile. Hiram took the cue, she was fatigued and needed some rest. He placed the little girl in the small cot next to her mother’s bed and with his son, left their mum to take a rest.
She argued with herself that she had no choice. She had messed things up the first time by having a careless fling with her ex boyfriend. When she fell pregnant that time with her first child, she had no idea who the father to her unborn baby was until she gave birth to him.
As soon as she set eyes on the infant Bruce, she knew he was not Hiram’s but Dr Wilson’s. However, she had to reignite the affair with her former lover when her husband started talking about baby number two. She wanted to fool him by having children that resembled each other.
Three years after the birth of her second child, Hiram started another talk of baby number 3. She tried to resist but the odds were against her. She had to find Wilson, again. By now, Wilson knew what was going on. He played his part, like the man he was and like he predicted, Mildred disappeared only for her to give birth nine months later. But Wilson had a family he did not want to lose, so he shut his mouth and moved on with life, burying Mildred’s secret deep within.
But the truth always struggles to unearth itself, no matter how deep one buries it.
It was a lazy Sunday. She woke up and checked on her children who were fast asleep and would probably wake up late in the morning. Then she went to the living room downstairs and tuned to their favorite radio show as Hiram joined her in the kitchen where they prepared breakfast.
The radio host always discussed interesting issues that involved marriage.Mildred and her husband would listen keenly, throwing comments here and there, laughing at the jokes made and then singing along the 80s and 90s music that frequently interrupted the hot discussions. Nevertheless, if Mildred had known the topic of discussion that Sunday, she would not have tuned in to Old Sch Fm.
“Good morning listeners, I hope you enjoyed Michael Jackson’s Thriller song. So our topic today is, Is it true that many men bring up children that are not biologically theirs without their knowledge? Call us on this number **** and let me hear what you have to say about this! Meanwhile, do listen to one of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits I wanna dance with somebody! ”
Mildred who was washing utensils at the sink froze when she heard the host’s voice booming through the speakers of their radio.
“Whoa, whoa! What a topic today!” She heard Hiram announce excitedly. She turned and saw him frying the eggs happily dancing to Whitney Houston’s song. He always was a morning person, all jovial and ready for a new day.
Mildred knew listening to the radio that morning would ruin not only that day but their whole marriage. She had to do something fast! She stealthily moved to the back of the house and switched off the main switch and then heard him exclaim in disappointment.
She sighed in relief and came back to the kitchen ready to express her disappointment at the unreliable electricity company but her blood ran cold when she saw her husband dancing around to some music from his phone. He had decided to listen to Old Sch Fm through his phone. Then they heard the last born child wail. Hiram who had finished preparing the eggs offered to go check on the three year old Vince. Mildred ran back to redirect the main switch, then ran back to change channels on the radio.
“Yes please, reduce the volume just a little bit. I think its the radio disturbing his sleep.” Hiram said behind her.
“You know what, let’s just switch everything off so that they all sleep well.” Mildred said as she turned off the radio. Hiram agreed but started to search for his earphones. His love for radio would be the end of her, she thought.
“You know, on second thought, let’s just listen on low volume.” She said as she thought desperately at what to do. She watched as her husband whistled gaily as he prepared the dining table. Then suddenly she wondered why she was afraid, it was just a morning show debate meant for entertainment. Hiram would possibly take it just for that. So she decided to listen on and act cool where need be.
“So my dear listeners, are we men being deceived by our wives into bringing up children that we did not father? We have our first caller, Joe. Joe what’s your take on this topic?”
“Yes. My name is Joe and I am a sad man today. I realized that the girl I called my daughter is not mine but the watchman’s. All this time, my wife has been cheating on me with our watchman. Can you imagine?”
Mildred heard Hiram roar in laughter and she laughed out loudly too, but her laughter was feigned and nervous. He signalled her to be silent as they listened to the second caller.
“Ok.Thank you Old Sch Fm for taking my call. Ok. I am Phillip and I will give you a story of my uncle. My uncle got sick and needed a kidney. Then shockingly, none of his five kids was a match but funny enough, his nephews matched and one of them donated to him. When he got well and did his investigations, he discovered that none of his kids was his. Not even one was his blood! Can you imagine!”
“What?” The radio host exclaimed, “My dear listeners, it’s getting hot in here, call us and tell us more about women who lie about the paternity of their children. The next song is Aaliyah’s One in a million. Enjoy as we prepare to resume our hot topic today. “
Mildred realized that her husband was unusually quiet. He was not even mouthing along the lyrics of Aaliyah’s song that he had sang along so many times before.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” She asked.
“Nothing, nothing, why do you ask?” He said. Before she could answer, they saw the three children groggily walk towards them. They had a habit of waking each other up. Mildred pulled out the chairs for them to have their breakfast as she kissed them one by one. She watched from the corner of her eye as they embraced Hiram too who responded with an additonal kiss on their cheeks.
Hiram was watching her watch him. He did not want her to suspect that the radio station had lit some suspicions about their children. He did not want to reveal his doubts in case he was wrong. He threw quick glances at the three children who were now eating cheerfully and wondered why none of the three had his ebony skin.
The thought of being sick and failing to get a donor from one’s immediate family really nagged him. He imagined what it must have felt like for the ailing uncle realizing on his sick bed that his wife had played him five times. Hiram resolved to do DNA on his three children, just to be sure, without his wife’s knowledge. He knew somebody who could help. For now , he would act his normal.
“Let’s switch this radio off, too much noise.” He said agitatedly, and from the corner of his eye observed his wife’s response. She did not give away any reaction, but he did not know how merrily her heart danced behind the impassive countenance.
The following day, Mildred did not notice the sudden disappearance of the toothbrushes of her children and their abracadabra return in the evening. She did not know that Old Sch Fm had planted seeds of doubt in her husband about their children. But luck was on her side.
As he sat up from his chair, he recognised the sharply dressed man walking on the corridors of the hospital. Dr Wilson wondered whether the man that Mildred left him for thirteen years ago was unwell. He saw Hiram smile at the sight of someone. It was his colleague Dr. Gedi. Gedi worked at the DNA department. He watched as the two shook their hands like bossom buddies and then move away to a more quiet place.
Wilson’s heart was now racing. He knew what Mildred’s husband’s wanted from Dr Gedi. He did not need to be told that the small parcel that Hiram gave to Gedi were samples of the three children’s dna. He called Mildred who became hysterical at the news.
“Calm down I will think of something.” Wilson said. Mildred knew she only had those words to hang on otherwise her life would fall apart. “Damn Old Sch Fm!” She thought. As for Wilson, he knew that pulling wool over Hiram’s face would be a very onerous and perilous task. It could cost him his job and his marriage too.
One week later, the results were out. The letter came to Hiram’s office. He felt his heart pounding when he realized what the letter meant. It would mean his whole marriage life had been a lie or it would mean he had been such a brute to doubt his wife.
“No, I will not open this letter,” he said to himself as he stashed it in his briefcase . He was not ready to feel any emotion of hate or guilt so he decided to sink his mind on making a better life for the three children he had called his own since their birth. What you don’t know does not hurt, he consoled himself. But it was not that easy.
As he drove home, he thought of a better plan. He arrived and met his wife in their bedroom and then placed the letter on his wife’s dressing table. He was keen to watch her reaction.
She felt her heart skip a beat. Wilson had stopped picking her calls, therefore she did not know what the contents of that letter were.
“What’s this?” She asked her husband trying to be calm, noting that the letter was unopened. She wondered whether he had his copy. She searched his face for any anger or hurt but saw nothing.
“Open it.” He said. She tore the envelope slowly, unaware that her husband’s heart beat faster than hers. She read through the letter silently and looked at him with a poker face.
“What does it say?” He asked, unable to read her face.
“The truth.” She said and threw the letter at his face walking out angrily. She banged the door behind her and then took a deep breath in relief. She heard his footsteps approaching.
“I am so sorry. I did not mean to doubt you. I just wanted to be sure. All men feel that way, trust me. Please forgive me.I knew even as I did the test that those three are my flesh and blood.”
She did not want to start a fight. It was a close shave.
“Tell you what, why don’t we have baby number 4?” He asked. She did not resist.
Nine months later, he came to hospital, with three children, excited to see their new sibling. He took the little bundle in his hands and smiled at his wife.
“Heaven has favoured me on this one, he will be black as ebony, like daddy but this long nose is definitely not mine but mummy’s.” He said. She smiled and nodded. He was right on this one, this was his son, his flesh and blood.
“This one doesn’t need a DNA test, ” He whispered to her ears and laughed at his own joke. She planted a smile on her face. She knew such comments from him and others would be the price to pay for her sins.