Sometimes you plan things in life. And sometimes you wake up to a decision that surprises you. Two years ago, when I left this house, having fulfilled the single child’s duty of performing my father’s last rites, I did not realize that the next time I would come here was now, heavily pregnant, miles away from the nearest hospital. The fiery bougainvillaea that my father had planted himself still hugged the pillars in the driveway. He had said that they reminded him of me.
I never thought that I would finally leave the man I was living with for so many years, the man who was the father of the life growing inside me. I had wanted to, with all the gaslighting and the lies, the drinking, the sudden violence, but every time it happened, there were desperate apologies and wonderful gifts.
I convinced myself that the monster who pummeled me with his fists and slapped me so hard that my ears rang, was a mostly absent Mr Hyde to the shy, unassuming, ever attentive Dr Jekyll that was my partner.
I had really not thought that I would leave, but the last desperate attack, so close to the day when we would be parents together was more than I could take, and I left, early the next morning, my pummeled face covered in an old shawl.
And I came here, in this ancient house, my father’s grandfather built, the only place I could unhesitantly call my own.
And how easy it was to slip into a routine, to chat with Higgins, the old retainer and the equally ancient cook who came to make my meals, tending to the bougainvillaea, feeding the fish in the pond, sleeping on my father’s bed, ignoring the desperate calls and messages on my phone. How easy it was to feel safe.
He woke me by pulling my hair. I do not know how he managed to climb the wall or slip around the locked front door, or how he even managed to stay up given the stench of alcohol I felt in his breath. I had slept early, tired by a day when I had several attacks of severe cramps, knowing that I had to get to the hospital tomorrow. I woke up to the intense pain in my hair, sharp punches across my belly, the fetidness of his breath.
“Did you really think you could get away from me?” Mr Hyde whispered, as his hands closed around my throat.
I thrashed and pulled, the heaviness of him adding to the heaviness of my own body. I could feel my strength slipping away, a cold spread through me.
My flailing hand closed around smooth wood, the fighter’s staff my father used as a walking stick the last few months of his life, which outlived him and stood sentinel next to the bed.
My first desperate blow was weak, very weak, but the shock must have made him loosen his grip, and I could kick with both legs. My second blow, both hands on the staff, was much stronger. My third, my fourth, my fifth, my sixth, they were stronger, and faster, I went on and on, a madness engulfing me.
And then the contractions hit me with the force of a speeding train and I collapsed desperate and sobbing.
Higgins found me like that two hours later, cradling my sons, one alive, one who never stood a chance, covered with the blood of my children and of their lifeless father.
We weighed them both with stones and sank them to the bottom of my father’s favourite pond, my never born son, and the man who killed him.