I glanced at my watch and sighed as I looked up at the queue. Normally I would scroll through my phone as I waited for the line to keep moving but knowing Jessica, she would never forgive me if I was late.
“I hate period week,” I whispered as I looked at my trolley which only had a box of tampons, panty liners and painkillers. Every single person in front of me had a full trolley but refused to let me skip the line. At first, I was disappointed since I only had three items, but I understood their frustrations. We had all been standing for about 30 minutes because one boy’s parent who was to pay for his school supplies was taking time to make the payment.
I pulled out my phone from my pocket and dialled Jessica’s number. Being the “I told you so friend,” I knew she would be frustrated but it was better, to be honest than to keep her waiting. Jessica always hated the fact that I was so used to shopping on weekends because it always affected our meet-ups.
As I held up the phone to my ear I felt a quick shove and before I knew it my phone was on the floor. Just as I was about to yell at the girl who was on the floor struggling to gather her things, I noticed the birthmark behind her ear.
“Stella?” I blurted.
She looked up quickly with a stunned look.
“Me and this loudmouth,” I thought as I covered my mouth in disbelief.
“How do you know my name?” She asked.
I remained silent for a few seconds trying to come up with a lie that would make sense.
“Excuse me? How do you know my name? Have we met before?” She asked.
“Sorry! You look so much like my niece Stella,” I lied as I flashed her a quick smile.
“She has the same braids as me?” She asked while still maintaining her confused look.
“No, she also has a birthmark behind her ear,” I replied.
“I’m sorry for bumping into you,” She responded while handing me back my phone.
Before I had the chance to say another word her phone rang. She gave me a small smile and walked away as she picked up the call. I watched her as she joined a queue not that far from me.
I couldn’t believe how much she had grown. The longer I stared at her, watching her facial expressions change, the more I wondered whether Eugene had ever told her about me. Not about our relationship but about the role I had played in her early life.
I was so used to the narrative that babies are born when two people are ready to start a family and so there is always this atmosphere of love. However, for Stella it was different. During my early twenties, I never held relationships with such high regard until I started dating Eugene. He was in his late twenties and had established his life so well that the only thing missing was the love of his life. As I got to know him, I was so convinced that our relationship was forged in the stars because of how healthy it was.
We talked daily, and spent so much time together and even during arguments we would always find a way to sort things out. The only problem we had that we could never seem to sort out was whether we would be parents someday. Eugene loved children so much that he would always jump at any opportunity to babysit his friend’s children or the ones in his family. This sparked his desire to be a dad.
I on the other hand was not ready to be a mother. I had grown up in such a dysfunctional family where love was shown through normal actions like a parent paying for school fees or buying you clothes. Something as simple as a hug was treated as too much affection so it was so rare.
This made it hard for me to desire to be a parent because I always feared that I would mess up my child emotionally just like I was. I also always felt like having a child was a huge responsibility which I wasn’t ready for. In as much as I knew this was heavy for Eugene, he always tried his best to hide it. Anytime anyone mentioned children he would also change the subject so I wouldn’t get uncomfortable.
After dating for four years, he proposed and although the question of becoming parents still crossed my mind, I never brought it up. Eugene was the love of my life and thinking about letting him go was just too hard for me. As we transitioned from being boyfriend and girlfriend to being each other’s fiancé our relationship started having problems. Eugene was always stressed about work and would constantly take it out on me whenever we would disagree on minor issues.
With time we formed a habit of him going for a drive to cool off and me going to bed to sleep it off. The following day we would calmly talk about the issue and come to an understanding. This worked for a while but as the arguments got heavier Eugene turned to drinking. This resulted in him coming home at midnight or 6 am.
Seeing that I was always having arguments with him it became hard for me to raise his behaviour as an issue since it would make matters worse. However, just as I thought it had started to become a problem for us Eugene changed abruptly. I was confused at first but decided to bask at the moment since it had saved me the trouble of us having to argue again.
As the weeks went by our relationship became better and we settled on a wedding date. Everything was amazing until the day Jessica arrived at our doorstep heavily pregnant. I’m sure you’re wondering who exactly Jessica is.
Eugene always had a dream of opening up his photo studio and after saving up for years he finally did. As his studio grew, he started receiving bookings from high-end designers who wanted shoots for their clothes. Jessica was one of the models that Eugene loved to work with because she always knew the right poses and angles.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Eugene would cheat on me. Yes, Jessica was gorgeous but, in my mind, our love was more powerful than any temptation. Yet here I was staring at Jessica who was carrying my man’s child inside her.
Eugene who I knew was standing behind me didn’t say a word. To stop myself from crying I convinced my mind that it was a drunken mistake, and he was equally shocked. However, that was not going to change the fact that they were going to have a child together. A full human being that is half her blood and half his.
My first thought was to run upstairs, pack my things and leave without saying a word. But as I turned and looked at Eugene, I couldn’t imagine taking off my ring and forgetting all our moments together. So instead, I let her in, and we had a long conversation about boundaries and how they would both co-parent the baby.
A month later Stella was born and looking into her eyes I felt something change inside me. All the doubts I had about being a parent had suddenly been washed away. The first few weeks were hectic since Jessica and Eugene had formed a routine which involved Stella alternating homes. Sometimes I would find myself taking care of her more than her own parents since Eugene was always busy. At first, I didn’t mind, Stella was so much fun to be around but with time I started to feel more like her mother.
Jessica went back to her job fully which meant her nanny would always be in charge of Stella. This didn’t sit right with me given that she was barely a month old. However, I knew that speaking up would cause drama so I would offer to stay with her whenever I was free. This became the routine as I watched her grow each month.
By month three I was so used to being with her that sometimes I wished I was her real mother. Things didn’t feel as heavy, and I was getting the hang of being a parent. Sometimes I would even imagine how she would be throughout the years. All the birthdays and school functions I would attend. This fantasy was cut short the day I ended up getting a cold and so did Stella.
I had never handled a baby being sick, so my first thought was to try home remedies for colds like I was used to. The problem was they didn’t do much for her fever, so she started crying which had me in panic mode. To avoid complications, I called Eugene, but he was busy, so I opted to take her to the nearest hospital.
My thought was they would quickly respond to my issue and check up on her. However, the hospital staff roamed around like it was no big deal telling me to wait. The more I felt her burning up the more I panicked and eventually I ended up having a panic attack. One of the nurses quickly grabbed Stella from me as another nurse took me through breathing exercises. When I finally calmed down, I noticed Eugene’s missed calls and messages. I called him back and informed him about where he was.
Immediately he arrived I opened my mouth to explain but before I could utter a word he asked me where Stella was. I started looking around and this agitated him.
“You lost my baby!” He yelled which left me stunned.
“I was having a panic attack and they took her from me,” I replied.
“Why didn’t you call Jessica?” He asked.
“I figured she was doing a shoot, so I just brought Stella to the hospital myself,” I responded.
We both looked around as Eugene held his head in frustration. Eventually, the nurse who took Stella came back holding her. I rushed to hold her but before I could reach out for her Eugene stopped me. He held out his hands and the nurse gave him the baby.
“We managed to examine your baby and it’s just a mild fever. With antibiotics she should be okay,” The nurse said to me.
“She’s not the mother,” Eugene responded which left me shocked.
“The doctor is ready to see you and will give further advice,” The nurse replied as she shifted her eyes to him.
I didn’t know what was more disappointing, the fact that Eugene said I wasn’t Stella’s mother or how weirdly things were being run at this hospital.
“Kindly lead the way,” Eugene said in a serious tone.
The nurse started walking and Eugene followed her without even saying a word to me. I followed them closely behind and once we got to the doctor’s office; he walked in with the nurse. Just as I was about to walk in, he closed the door.
I turned around to find the people around me staring at me, which made me feel more embarrassed, so I left. An hour after I got home Eugene arrived but without Stella.
“Where’s Stella?” I asked.
“With her mother, I have so much to do this week,” He said.
“I have taken care of her for weeks Eugene and you can’t trust me to stay with her because I didn’t give birth to her?” I asked.
“You need to stop behaving like you are her mother. She has a mother!” He snapped.
“Who is barely around to take care of her she leaves her with the nanny,” I responded.
“If you want to care so much for a child, give birth to your own!” He responded.
“You cheated on me and got a child with another woman. I accepted, forgave and spent time loving Stella as if she was my own. Today you stand here and tell me to get my child because she got a fever?” I said holding back my tears.
“I never asked you to take care of her. I’m heading to bed it’s been a long day,” He said with no remorse as he turned and walked up the stairs.
As the tears streamed down my face, I knew it was time to accept that I was no longer needed here. The next day I packed my things while Eugene was at work and left my ring on top of the table before I left. As much as it hurt it was a necessary step.
I finally got to the cashier and paid for my items. As I walked out of the supermarket, I looked around to see if she was still around and spotted her standing with Eugene. He was still as handsome as I remember. The two were talking and laughing which warmed my heart. I had the sudden urge to walk over and say hi, but I had promised myself to stay away. Seeing Stella again made me happy and reminded me of all the moments we shared. Although my relationship didn’t end in marriage at least I could finally see myself as a mother someday. Hopefully, soon I can have my own beautiful experiences with my own bundle of joy.
“Jessica is going to be mad but knowing her love for gossip. This incident will soften the blow,” I thought as I walked out of the mall.
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