Tony stood at his door dressed in a black V-neck T-shirt and a grey pair of shorts which had many large pockets. He gazed at the thick dark clouds gathering in the sky and wondered if the approaching downpour was going to match the hailstorm in his heart. For days, his heavy heart had weighed him down he was unable to walk without a slight bent. For days, he had gone to bed hoping that morning will come with calmness and assurance he so much needed and desired. But just like January which you wake up hoping that it will be gone, the sadness and confusion in his heart lingered for a little longer, like a visitor who had overstayed his welcome.
It was ironical that he wasn’t sad because things were not going as expected. On the contrary, everything was falling into place. He was supposed to be happy that Danny had received acceptance from Clair’s parents. That as he stood there, waiting for the rain to hit the soil with the fury of a scorned woman, Clair had already moved in with Danny because he had managed to convince her parents after they refused to let them get married before she put to bed, that Clair was better off with him. That he got her pregnant, and that it was only fair he took care of her even if he was going to marry her at a later date. Tony was supposed to be happy that now he could be with Eve. But he wasn’t happy.
When the first raindrops gently hit the ground, he curled his wrist and glanced at his watch. He wondered what was keeping Eve who had called earlier on to tell him that she was coming over. He stared hard at the gate which was a few metres away as if by staring hard, he was going to magically make Eve appear. To his amusement, she appeared, hastily walking through the gate. The rain had increased in intensity and he cheered her on as she tried to run but thanks to her now bigger tummy, her run wasn’t any better than her walk. By the time she reached the door, her blue floral Dirac was dripping wet. He took a step back when she tried to hug her.
“I truly love you, but you are not going to hug me looking like you have come straight out of a pool. You will have to change into something warm first.”
“Really? Whose fault is it that I was rained on? Aren’t you the one who just stood there and watched me labour to run instead of running to meet me with an umbrella?”
“You know I have no single umbrella in this house.”
“Also, not my fault. So you are going to hug me as I am or I won’t let you touch me ever.”
“You with your threats.” he winked at her, “You sound like my mum.”
“Considering your mum is a very pleasant woman, I will take that as a compliment.”
He chuckled, took a step closer and pulled her in for a hug, groaning as he came into contact with her cold and wet self. She whispered in his ear, “Good boy.”
Most of her clothes were in his house so they both went in and changed, made tea, and sat on the couch, smoke snaking from their cups on the table. They had also dragged a duvet from the bedroom as an additional way of keeping warm and making themselves cosy. On some random TV channel, an Indian Movie was on. Neither of them was following the movie but during those brief moments when silence took over, they both glanced at the TV to watch. Some chap in an oversized blue shirt and reading glasses—clutching a a stack of books in his hand—was watching this lady they both assumed he had feelings for as she chatted up her friends in their college compound. Then the girl in a really short dress turned around and their eyes met, but instead of this chap walking to her to confess his love for her like other (normal) men do, he broke into a song complete with dancers no one knew where they came from.
Tony looked away from both the TV and Eve and mumbled something unpleasant about the scene.
“Is it really possible that someone hasn’t already told Bollywood movie producers that these musical scenes are completely unnecessary and, most of the time, outrightly annoying? I mean, how are you expected to seriously follow the plot if the actors and actresses keep on switching to being music stars?”
“I think the musical scenes are lovely. They make their movies different.”
“If by different you mean unnecessarily long and tiresome, then I completely agree with you.”
“But since when did you start caring about Bollywood movies, you don’t even watch them.”
“Well, on occasions like this when I am too tired and lazy to reach out for the remote, I watch them.”
His tone was as flat as a board when he said this. Even the ridicule that characterised his voice not long ago had vanished into thin air. Eve could tell that there was something else other than the musical scenes in Bollywood movies bothering him. In any case, that’s how he was, complaining about things that really didn’t matter when he had something big eating him up. She stared in his eyes and the glitter in them was nowhere to be seen. His face was also lacking any facial expression. And when he smiled, it wasn’t the kind of smile that stretched to his eyes as his smiles normally did. Unfortunately, also during these occasions, it wasn’t easy to get him to open up. He was a difficult man sometimes.
But even then, Eve did not think even for a second that his sadness had anything to do with their relationship. As far as she was concerned, everything was fine. She continued glaring at him even as he gazed past her, willing him with her eyes to look at her and he did, only he couldn’t hold her gaze.
“Tony, what’s wrong?”
But even he knew that from the way that ‘nothing’ came out, like a mild cough that catches you unaware, he wasn’t convincing enough. But he was willing to stick to that ‘nothing’, at least for that moment. How else was he going to tell her that he suddenly wasn’t happy with the way things were happening? It all started days after Clair moved in with Danny. He called his mother, eager to share the good news with her. He had been waiting for this moment all his life because her mum was the one person he would do anything to earn her approval. So when Danny showed up, he held on, waiting to see if indeed he was going to save him from this Clair mess and now that he had, he couldn’t wait anymore.
He picked up his phone one evening and called his mum, who, as it was her norm, teased him the first thing she answered her phone, “You only call me when you are in some form of trouble, so whose daughter have you impregnated again?”
“I haven’t impregnated anyone’s daughter, mum. I am actually calling to let you know that things between me and Eve just got better.”
“Really. Clair is in love with someone else. As I am talking to you now, she has moved in with him.”
“Someone else? What about her pregnancy?”
“She moved in with him with it. Apparently, you can’t leave your pregnancy behind when moving in with someone.”
Her mum chuckled, “This is not the best time for jokes, Tony. The last time I checked, Clair was allegedly carrying your baby.”
Knowing his mum, she wasn’t going to stop until he told her the whole story. And since things were good, and her mum always found ways of telling if he was lying, he did not think it necessary to hide anything from her. He told her everything as it happened, including the fact that Danny had accepted responsibility for Clair’s pregnancy even though he knew that he(Tony) was likely to be the father of the unborn baby. Her mum listened keenly, careful not to interrupt. It took the sound of her soft breathing to know that she was still on the line. When Tony was done with the narration, he said, “But it’s all good, especially since Danny can’t father a child himself.
There was a long silence after he said this Tony thought she had hung up. But she hadn’t.
“Does she know?”
“That you might still be responsible for Clair’s pregnancy?”
“Mum, now that everything is finally falling into place, I wouldn’t shoot myself in the foot in the name of telling Eve the truth. There is no guarantee she will be okay with it.”
“It’s not like that mum. Eve and I have been through a lot and what we need now is time to relax and enjoy ourselves.”
“Tell her the truth. She deserves to know that the baby her sister is carrying might be yours. Besides, do you want to tell me that the Tony I gave birth to and raised, is completely okay with leaving the child he might have fathered to someone else? You really want me to believe that deep down, you don’t think that what you are doing is wrong? I know you have made some serious mistakes in your life Tony but this will be your biggest ever.”
“I should have known it was a bad idea telling you this.”
“Actually, you should have known that it’s a bad idea to keep such things from the woman you claim to love. You should know that eventually, the truth will come out no matter how hard you try to hide it. And Tony, you should be ashamed of yourself for even considering letting another man take care of your mess.”
That phone call ended unceremoniously. Tony thought that his mum was nuts. But slowly, the truth of what she said began to sink in. When he went to bed, eyes half closed, he thought about everything his mum said and hated to agree that she was right. That love built on deceit and convenience was no love. It was also the first time his mother had spoken to him in that manner and now that he thought about it, he couldn’t blame her. She had single-handedly raised him after his father disappeared into thin air and so, obviously, she wasn’t going to just sit there and watch him walk away from his responsibility the way his father did.
However, there was a silver lining somewhere. His mother was in support of his relationship with Eve. That, she had no problem with. It was the lies that she was not okay with and he knew that if he did not tell Eve the truth, his mother was going to.
“Tony, you know I don’t like it when you keep things from me,” Eve was saying. He turned to look at her and with a forced smile said, “I am not keeping anything from you, my love.”
“Yes, you are.”
They held each other’s gaze for a while before he stood up to leave the room, promising to be back in a few. Eve watched him disappear and then turned her attention to his phone which he left lying on the couch. Until then, she had never thought of rummaging through his phone in search of malice. But she felt that she had to. Somehow, she was convinced that she would find something on his phone that would give her a clue of what was going on. Or maybe not. But she had to at least try. So she picked it up and because Tony cared less for patterns and passwords, she went straight to his messages, scrolled through them and just as she was about to give up on finding anything substantial, she came across this suspicious thread between him and this nameless person. She opened it and right there, she found what she was looking for.