You stare at the black tiles under your feet; at the contrast your fair feet and pink nail polish make against the dark shiny floor. Your shoes are outside the room because that woman had stared at your red shoes with scorn before shifting her gaze to the line-up of shoes on your right. You had silently obeyed.
You will obey. And wait- wait for their verdict, hope that they believe you and pray that you do not leave this house alone.
You had only wanted to numb your pain- press a cloth to your seeping wound. You only wanted to forget; to blur it out a little; it was only solace you sought. And the concave bottoms had promised to leave you deadened; abandon you comatose. But they had broken their promises- one and all. Not unlike Lanre.
Lanre had vowed you forever, you remember! In that crowded church with the famous pastor leaning over you. Your corset had imprinted lines of pain on your ribs but your heart had fluttered and skipped as Lanre promised to be with you- forever. You remember his nervous fingers pushing the gold band half-way up the wrong finger before correcting himself to the sound of jocular laughter. You remember.
So when he had gone, one minute here, next minute gone- like peekaboo gone wrong; you had known that you were over. It had felt like your chair had been pulled out from under you in the middle of musical chairs- one second dancing cheerily, the next- a crumpled crying mess on the floor. And it took you a while to regain your balance, but you have- it is why you are here.
You look up at the old clock making faces at you from the opposite wall. Five past three. You have been waiting for thirty-five minutes. Thirty-five minutes and the restlessness has relayed to your left foot which is involuntarily tapping itself against the floor. But you will wait.
Because waiting is not new to you. You had waited an extra month before the baby boy you and Lanre had created decided to make his appearance. You had waited through hours of labour as your son’s head crowned, then receded severally- ambivalent even in the womb. You had waited while they bathed and clothed him in the carefully-selected blue wrap before returning him to you as you smiled up at Lanre in that beatific way that said- “Look what we’ve done!”
So, waiting is your buddy. An old buddy that has a few shirts in the bottom drawer of your guest room. It is fifty minutes now but you pretend not to count; you catch your eyes returning to the peeled wooden door behind which your existence lies. Yes, existence, because if you leave here alone, you are ready to leave your body behind.
Your chin falls to your chest and you whisper another prayer. They need to give you this- so you can pay penance. So you can pile up plenty good to tip the scale over. If you could use one of the time machines Lanre had been so interested in, you would never have picked the first bottle of gin. Or the second or third.
You would never have left your son crying in his room in hunger because his mother’s head had a glorified position on the toilet bowl. You would never have passed out on the floor of your son’s bedroom to wake up to his wet dark eyes peering at you in question. You would never have locked him up because his crying aggravated your headache.
No. And when they came for him- Lanre’s family, you wouldn’t have screamed and broken things. You wouldn’t have sat there, afterward, staring as they packed up his things, your glassy eyes unfocused in inebriated disinterest. You would have crawled and groveled at their feet and promised to change. You would have sworn on Lanre’s grave to put aside your bottles and personal hell to focus on the living, breathing gift Lanre had left for you.
But it is why you are here now. It has taken you four months but you are here now- to pledge and promise and vow and swear an oath if need be- that you will never return to the despicable mess you were when they saw you last.
The door creaks open and your eyes widen as you take in the smiles on the faces of the men and the stern looks on the women’s faces. Your heart begins to contract and you fear you will have a heart attack but the small nod on Lanre’s uncle’s face makes you dare to hope some more. You scan the faces again and… ‘Junior’, he calls into the room behind him, ‘your mummy is here.’