My Short Stories

Fiction

Story by Lee Su Min

She was Mona Lisa never Mother Mary

An Imminent Mother

Chapter 1

Desmond saw her again.

“Mother Mary, I implore you, my life is in your hands, please answer my prayer. I have only one life and I want to put it in your hands. Please save his life.” Desmond could almost hear Molly.

There were usually a lot of people at the Holy Ground Church on Sunday. Most of them came together as a family whereas Desmond often went alone. This was because he believed in meeting with God alone. He prayed alone. When he was with people he couldn’t pray. Words just couldn’t flow out of his mouth fluently.

Although he had an altar at home where he prayed, he believed in going to Mass at least once a day. He didn’t have any specific requests yet. But this was an example set by his mother. She prayed fervently and she told Desmond that she was praying hard for him to find a wife. Desmond was not married yet although he was nearing forty.

This church sang the hymn that Desmond liked, it moved him, so he liked going back to Holy Ground Church although as Catholic you could attend Mass at any other venue. Methodist churches have less rituals but the Homily in Catholic churches were shorter, so that Desmond didn’t have to spend too much time away from work.

After the usual Mass, he decided to pop in at Mother Mary to talk to her privately. Wearing her white gown with the blue sash, she looked regal and tall. Desmond told her about himself, what he was doing, and what he didn’t want to do. She listened quietly without a word. She was a statue anyway so she couldn’t argue. A good listener.

Chapter 2

Desmond always approached Mother Mary whenever he found that he couldn’t confide in anyone else.

There were one or two interruptions. Molly came in and stood in between the statue and Desmond. She rubbed her hand on the pure white porcelain. He ignored her and continued to talk to Mother Mary. After a while he walked to the side and knelt. That was when she first noticed Desmond.

Desmond talked to Mother Mary for another five minutes. He saw Molly knelt there with her head bowed almost touching the ground. When he decided to walk away she was still there, but Desmond decided to leave to go back to the clinic. Sometimes he worked on Sunday.

Chapter 3

From church Desmond went straight to his clinic. Contrary to most doctors’ clinic, Desmond’s clinic was not clinical at all.

Three receptionists sit inside a desk sharing two computers and a printer. Karen was the one who usually attended to Desmond. And then there were Lucy and Catherine. All three have similar profiles, they were all married with children and about the same age between thirty and forty. Desmond has no favourite. Karen’s attendance was chosen amongst them. You could say that Desmond was not interested in women except for the babies in their stomach. Until he met Molly.

Further inside the reception is Desmond’s office. There was another small room next to it, apart from the fairly large waiting room. You could choose either green tea or Ceylon tea. Desmond forbids coffee as caffeine was harmful for the foetus. Karen was his private nurse. It was a successful sole proprietorship earning at least half a million dollars a year. They closed only during the Chinese New Year for two days, and even then, if a patient had to give birth during one of the days, Desmond had to come around to do the delivery.

Nobody can time birth. But so far, none of his patients have given birth when Desmond were at a New Year’s Eve reunion dinner with his parents.

Yes, he still lived with his parents. That was because he was not yet married. Desmond has had at least three girlfriends, but he found none of them suitable. After a while he got tired of them as he realized that all they wanted was a one-way ticket to permanent retirement. He knew that he was extremely eligible as he was a gynaecologist. His motto was that any woman within the child bearing age was his potential patient.

Many patients told Desmond that he had very good “bedside manners.” He didn’t know what that meant; it just came natural to him. Perhaps his patients liked him because he talked to them in plain ordinary English and not Singlish.

When you spoke to someone in Singlish you gave them the impression that you were condescending. Desmond could speak Chinese too, but it was not his mother tongue. Unless he was in a predominately Chinese environment Desmond didn’t open his mouth in Mandarin.

Desmond had decided to go on a holiday that year. He planned to visit the Lourdes in France. Lourdes is a quiet town three hours away from Paris by air and then by car it was another two and a half hours. Stuart had flown in from London and gave him a jug of water from The Lady of Lourdes to drink when Desmond had an accident and almost died.

Chapter 4

At the time when he was lying in the hospital a priest came to visit him and gave him some “Lourdes” water. This water has powerful curative ability. It tasted like any other water. It was actually water from the holy tap in the church compound at The Lady of Lourdes in France. Father Damien emphasized that it was not ordinary water.

Desmond Song believed in it and swore that he must find its source. He got the surgeon the head of the department in the hospital to attend to the scar on his face and then he got himself discharged within two weeks.

After he left hospital Desmond booked tickets online for one. He decided he had to pay a visit to the actual pilgrimage. He was singleminded and scheduled one flight out of Singapore directly to Paris and then from Paris to Pau Airport. He even managed to book the transfer from Pau to the hotel online. He wanted to make his confessions overseas at The Lady of Lourdes in case the priests in Singapore could not keep their mouths shut.

As a doctor Desmond knew that patients should never be discharged. Once he got one appointment he made sure that his staff followed up on calls. His target would be a safe delivery for both mother and child.

He has done caesarean, IVF, as well as other fertility treatments. Karen was always in the room when Desmond attended to his client. It was important that a third party should be around during consultation. He couldn’t install his CCTV as it was a maternity clinic and privacy was of the patients was of utmost concern. So that Karen became his alibi.

After he had managed everything he became very contented with himself and he relaxed a little. Often in the afternoon there were less patients. He took out his cell phone and started to talk to his friend Stuart in U.K. again. Desmond had known Stuart since he studied medicine nineteen years ago. At that time London was still showing “Mouse Trap”, and Desmond wondered if he could drop by Stuart’s place en route to France.

Desmond hadn’t seen Stuart for six years. The last time they met was in Singapore.

“Any chance of meeting soon?” Desmond typed.

No reply came. Stuart might be offline. He threw the cell phone aside and decided to go through his case notes. It was lunchtime, so the reception knew not to allow anybody in. He was always happy with himself as his accuracy for timing a delivery had been one hundred percent correct.

Chapter 5

Food was plentiful in Singapore, and every pregnant woman got to eat what she wanted, or rather, what the baby wanted. None of his patients were malnourished. He prescribed extra iron tablets for them and made them come at least once every four weeks. They paid for his services and he delivered their babies. It scared many pregnant women to think what will happen if his clinic closed.

Desmond went to his side table and poured a glass of water from the jug, then added a vitamin C tablet. He watched the tablet dissolve and then drank the liquid immediately. Vitamin C loses its efficacy if you did not drink it at once. It had been Desmond’s habit to take one after lunch each day. Desmond was a doctor, so he was good at looking after himself. Tomorrow I must go to the pharmacy and buy some magnesium tablets.

Magnesium tablets were good for soothing the nerves. Desmond have been finding it a little difficult to fall asleep these few nights recently. The tablets were supposed to relax and make him calmer. He didn’t know what he was worried about. Probably he had been a bachelor for too long, and being single without a companion could be quite taxing on the nerves.

It was true that sometimes late at night you really wanted to talk to someone about your problems. Friends were always on hand, but not if they were married.

Remaining single was his choice. So far Desmond had dated three women: the first left, the second, and so did the third. He found that there was no ideal wife. Desmond told himself that he must talk to Mother Mary again and surrender this problem to her. His parents had been asking him when he would be bringing the next girl home.

And so after work Desmond made a special trip to see Mother Mary again.

There were about thirty Catholic churches in Singapore, so there were at least thirty such Mother Mary statues in Singapore. But he particularly liked the statue of the one in the Holy Ground Church. This Mother Mary seemed to be smiling at him whenever he looked at her. Her face was fatter, and her eyes not so small. They were a little darker and larger, more lively and responsive. Her face also had more colour, and she gave him the impression that she could hear him. Maybe she could.

Chapter 6

Desmond saw Molly again.

But this time he could not hear her. She bowed her head low, and she had a headscarf. The headscarf was white lace, and she had another scarf around her neck. Her dress was white, but the scarf was multicoloured. Desmond was most attracted by her scarf. He thought about putting it around a snowman and taking a picture with him.

So he waited. He stood near her. As there were people around, he could not get close to her. After a while she knelled down for a long time. Desmond could see that she was completely oblivious to his presence and of the people around her. She was in a world of her own. He became a little jealous of her.

How could anyone be so completely in commune with God?

Desmond watched her in silence until after she had finished. Then he followed her out of the hall and out of the church. He had forgotten what he had come for. Once out of church, she turned a corner and he lost sight of her.

Frustrated, Desmond went in to church to find Mother Mary to pray again. This time he only managed to pray the rosary. he had lost his words. Desmond did not know what he should pray for.

When he went home he turned on the television straight away. Hong Kong was having demonstrations and it was not the first time in recent history. Desmond had been there before in peaceful days, but now after this he doubted it would ever be the same again.

At dinner his parents were silent, and he knew what was on the tip of their tongues. Since he broke off with Bee Ling they wanted to know if  he had found someone else. Desmond was not in a hurry to get married. He saw pregnant women every day and helped bring dozens of babies into the world each week.

Desmond was acutely aware that once married, romance would die off and all that came was responsibility. Love was only exciting in the beginning. He has had three courtships. He knew that women put on a mask when they saw him. For one, they already have makeup on when they went out with him. Especially with Bee Ling, he dreaded to see what that face looked like after a wash and cleanse.

Chapter 7

Today as he walked into the clinic Karen came after him, “I have somebody by the name of Elizabeth who cancelled her appointment five times, shall I turn her down the next time she calls?”

“Did she leave her phone number behind?” Desmond asked.

“No, she refused. That was why I am asking. She was most uncooperative.”

“My policy is to see every patient,” Desmond said.

He enjoyed his work, and in all his years of practice he has never had any problem with any pregnancies. Many women came to him and conceived after a few consultations. Desmond Song did planned parenthood, fertility treatment right down to delivery.

“Why don’t you put her through the next time she calls? I will talk to her myself.” he walked into his room and started work.

Most women who come to Desmond were happy about their state of affairs and were looking forward to the birth of their child. But he had also encountered a few who asked him to do abortions. It was an unpleasant job, but Desmond knew that he had to do it when the patient insisted on it.

“The father doesn’t want the child” was always the reason.

Desmond had managed to talk three of his patients out of it by asking to speak with the man. Abortion wasn’t difficult and was easier than labour as labour was only half time. He felt lousy whenever he had to perform such a task.

But so far he had done two such cases. That was why he had been going to Mother Mary every day recently. Since his baptism and confirmation as a Catholic a year ago, Desmond had listened to Homilies where the priests said abortion was a sin. It was prohibited in the Catholic faith.

He had already lost his concentration so that one of his patients haemorrhaged so much blood during the caesarean section that she needed several blood transfusions. But thank God both mother and child were fine after twelve hours of labour. He talked to Molly rather than Mother Mary more often.

Chapter 8

Finally, Desmond decided to go to Father Damien for confession. Although he did not perform the abortions when he was a Catholic, he felt that he had to come clean and plead God’s forgiveness. Some offences you could not plead ignorance, so that Desmond felt that he was guilty under the Catholic law.

Desmond waited at the church office for the church worker to tell him when Father Damien would be free. He wanted a long session with Father Damien, so he asked for his schedule. He needed to elaborate on his medical practice and why he did those abortions in the first place.

As far as legality was concerned, all the doctor needed do was to get the patient to sign a consent form. But in the eyes of the Catholics, human life began at conception. So that Desmond became a sinner at once when he performed the abortion.

But Desmond did not agree on this theory. He studied hard for his medical degree, and even if he did “murder,” it was done to a fetes, an unborn child. The “baby” before it was born was not yet a human being.

Abortions were illegal when they were done at twenty weeks.

One woman sat in line at the clinic for four hours to get to see Desmond, some even waited for three or four house outside his waiting room.

When Desmond did those abortions, they were done before the second trimester, which was before the pregnancy was into the twelfth week.

Now that Desmond was a Catholic, he felt that he shouldn’t do it anymore. For this he had to pray to the Almighty that he did not have any walk-in patients that looked for him to perform this kind of service.

Desmond almost forgot that he was supposed to ask Mother Mary to pray for him. He was a new Catholic, new to the rites of this faith. He often forgot to pray with the rosary. He put one by his bedside, one in the drawer in his office, and he had one in his car in the glove compartment.

Whenever Desmond prayed he just said whatever came to his mind, although Catholics were supposed to follow the Hail Mary and to finish the whole chain of rosary beads. He liked the beads, they shined, and he was often tempted to buy them when he browsed the bookstore located just outside the sanctuary, on the right as you came out.

Chapter 9

Especially with the latest fad following Trumpcare in America defunding Planned Parenthood, Desmond saw it as a clear signal that abortion was not welcomed.

At 7:30 p.m. Desmond rang the church bell at the foot of the hostel and waited for Father Damien to come down. He was surprised to find him in casual shirt and pants. Normally he saw him in his robes during the Mass ceremony. Father was casual, ready to take in any confessions. Desmond hoped he didn’t give Father a shock as he began with the words:

“Father, I am a sinner.”

Father Damien didn’t flinch at all. Then Desmond qualified himself by saying that he didn’t actually murder. Father listened and then told him to say four decades on the rosary. And then Father began,

“We are not masters of our own destiny. It was only in retrospection selection that we know that we should have done something, or shouldn’t have done something.”

Desmond argued.

“Father, before a foetus was formed, it was not a human yet. I don’t subscribe to the theory that life begins at conception. For one, the baby could not live on its own outside the mother’s womb.”

Father Damien merely shook his head. Desmond sensed that he was not wanted anymore, so he made an act of contrition,

“You must be tired after a long day. I shall take my leave now.” “Come and see me if you still have any doubts,” Father said again.

Chapter 10

Something made Desmond look for Mother Mary again. He decided to pop by the statue and talk to her. Maybe to ask her to pray for him to know how to turn down requests for abortion in the future. He had been known to be a good doctor, for being caring, and the fact that he never turned away patients.

One good thing about having someone like Mother Mary to talk to was that she was always available for you. Even with his own mother Mrs. Brown, he had to wait for her to finish the dishes after dinner before she would attend to him.

And then he saw her at the statue again. She was alone. And wearing the same scarf. He walked up to her and he stood behind her. Desmond heard her.

“Mother Mary, please tell me what to do, oh God, forgive me if what I am doing is wrong, let him die if that is what you want,”

Desmond could gather by then that this woman had a lover who had left her, and that she wanted him dead. His sympathy was for her, and he wanted to tell her it was all right to wish somebody ill if that person had treated her badly.

Desmond stayed with her. He watched her anguish. When she stood up to leave he quickly walked out behind her. She walked fast, and he walked fast too. This time I mustn’t lose her.

Her scarf swung back and forth as she walked and he almost wanted to grab hold of that scarf to stop her from walking away. Finally, Desmond caught up with her - “Excuse me,” he said.

“Stay away from me!” she shouted back immediately, without turning back.

“Could I talk to you?” Desmond asked.

“What do you want from me?” came the immediate response.

“Nothing,” he said.

She stopped, and he saw her face for the first time. She was very fair. And her makeup was perfect. By that he meant that she did not look made up. Her long hair was curled at the right places. It was really nice except that she looked angry. Maybe she was angry at me for stalking her.

“Sorry,” Desmond began.

“You want to hear my story?” she looked at him, almost like a challenge.

Chapter 11

That was how they spoke for the first time.

“Wait for me here, let me get my car,” Desmond ordered her. He showed her his car keys. Then he made a calculated risk, walking away down the steps to the car park, hoping that she would be at the driveway when he swung around. Thank God nobody was blocking the exit so that he could drive up easily.

From far Desmond could see the scarf as it had become her signature. He stopped the car right in front of her to show her that he was the driver, and she opened the door to climb in.

“Where would you like to go?” he asked her once she got in as he had no idea at all. He wished to hear her story badly, although he never got a chance.

“Just drive along and I will tell you where to stop.”

Desmond released the brake and put his right leg on the accelerator and started driving slowly. At the end of the side road, just as they reached the main road, she told him to stop the car, and she opened the door and let herself out.

“Hope to see you again,” she smiled and slid off.

Chapter 12

Desmond Brown had to take a glass of wine to make himself fall asleep that evening. He couldn’t shake off the image of the woman with the scarf. He knew that this woman was in some sort of turmoil, her mood changing like that. She looked angry one moment, and the next she was smiling. He wanted to hear her story.

But when would I meet her again?

The next morning, he woke up late. Thank God it was a Sunday and also that there were no deliveries. Sunday was a day for worship, so automatically he went to the Holy Ground Church after he has had his coffee and toast.

He shouldn’t have been eating before Mass, but he told himself it was okay. Desmond arrived just before the priest marched in, and he didn’t see her. Throughout the service he was looking out for her. She was recognizable with that scarf of hers. He told himself that he must look more carefully and perhaps that she had changed out of the scarf.

The Homily wasn’t long enough to be boring. As usual, Desmond placed fifty dollars in the offering bag. He knew that to be a large sum, but he earned quite a lot of money. He was in some kind of midlife crisis. His conscience had woken up, and he realized that there were some things he shouldn’t do, like abortions.

But he had never said no to his patients. If something went wrong during pregnancy it would have to be his job and he always managed to save both mother and child.

Desmond had been seeking an answer those days, but the Bible was completely silent on that. He had already gone to Father Damien and spoken to him about it. Confessions were strictly confidential. He knew Father wouldn’t tell a soul. His clinic could never release the names of the patients whom he did abortions for.

Chapter 13

True enough, when Desmond went back to work on Monday, Karen went in to tell him that the lady by the name of Elizabeth who had cancelled her appointment five times now told her that she wanted to come in for an abortion straight away. Luckily Karen was diplomatic, and told her that Doctor Brown was on leave and weren’t due to be back until the following Monday.

He breathed a sigh of relief and went into his room, leaving the door open as he waited for his coffee. His room overlooked the entrance to the Brown Ginger Garden and he could see streams of people walking in and out of the large front gate. The basin is strategically installed below the window and just at the right height for Desmond. He used two soap gel. One is the conventional Dettol and the other a floral scent. Dettol which is primarily being used as a disinfectant gave Desmond a clinical smell. He used the gel with the floral scent to rinse off the hospital smell.

Desmond had this clinic set up in this building since he started operating as a gynaecologist for fourteen years now but he had never been to the garden grounds.

But he used the gym and did his exercises in the Slimming Floor, and he confined himself to just there. It was located in the same building. He liked it because he need not drive out of and also that he could have his shower immediately after exercising. Doctors usually have very clean habits.

He was alarmed by this “Elizabeth” case. If it had been before, he would have offered her his professional services. But this time around since he had decided against abortion, he told myself he was going to confront it. I would have to tell her myself that I was not doing it anymore.

Quietly, Desmond rehearsed the things he would tell her, and how he was going to put it to her. He had not seen this “Elizabeth”, and he had no idea how she looked. In any case, she couldn’t be very old. Was this her first child? Desmond wondered.

Chapter 14

After work he went straight to church again. Now that he had been to see Father Damien once, he knew that he could drop by the hostel and ring the bell downstairs to look for him. Desmond took the risked that he may not be in when he arrived unexpectedly. He was hopeful. As he sat in the waiting area downstairs, he prepared his speech.

Desmond wanted Father to understand him and to tell him what to do. He was contemplating shutting down his medical practice and going overseas for a permanent retirement, although his trip to The Lady of Lourdes hasn’t come up yet. Then he saw something on one of the chairs - a scarf. The colourful scarf! It was the same scarf!! No one wore a scarf like that but she. It must belong to Molly.

Desmond’s heart almost leaped with joy as he picked up the scarf. Its’ owner would be so happy to see it returned. So she went to Father Damien for confessions too!

Desmond Brown was not going to give it to the lost and found. He knew to whom the scarf belonged. And he thought he knew where she was. Maybe she was with Mother Mary again. Immediately he walked out of the waiting lounge and headed straight towards the statue. She must have been there.

Yes, she was. Desmond saw Molly again.

Chapter 15

“Mother Mary, please tell me what to do. I want him. I don’t wish him dead. Please, let me have him... I know that I can wait...” Don’t tell me she was waiting for her lover to change heart?! This time there was no one else around her, and she was loud enough for Desmond to hear. He walked up and instinctively he put his arm around her on her shoulder. She shrugged a little. He knew that she was feeling the chill.

The scarf was in his trouser pocket, and he was not about to show it to her. He just wanted to hold her there and comfort her. Desmond could see that this woman was distraught. Ever since the first day he saw her, she seemed to be in pain.

Desmond has seen women screaming at the top of their voices, shouting, cursing and swearing, especially during labour, but he never saw them sad. The thing that struck him about Molly was that she was sad. She was not depressed. That meant that something bad was happening to her.

Desmond saw that he was alone with her, and that there were no one else in the vicinity. He took another bold step forward and put his other hand over her and turned her around. She did not resist. He could see traces of makeup smudged by tears on her face. Desmond used his thumb to wipe off the tears. She looked at him. And for the first time, he thought she noticed him. In the past she was talking to him, but that she was just speaking to someone else, and without directing her words properly at the other person whom she was talking to.

There was a frown on Molly’s face, and she looked a little puzzled. Desmond almost wanted to kiss her, but he wasn’t sure if she was ready for this yet. It was clear that she was in love with someone. Desmond just wanted to shake this sobbing woman out of her misery.

Chapter 16

After two confessions at Mother Mary Desmond learnt to resign himself to fate. He was almost afraid to go to the clinic now for fear that someone might call in to ask him to perform an abortion.

The practice which he was once so proud of, now he saw it as a platform for sinful activity. He wanted to share his agony with someone. And so he stood there with Molly and he hugged her, trying to console her, yet actually consoling himself.

For a long time, they just stood there, staring at each other until they heard some footsteps up the towards the statue. Then they broke away. Desmond remembered that her scarf was still with him.

“Your scarf is in my car,” he said.

“Oh, okay, let me have it back then, I thought I had lost it.”

Now there seemed nothing else for them to do except to walk to the car park together, and actually he was afraid that she might walk away and disappear again. Suddenly he felt her hold his hand, and she said,

“Can you marry me?”

Surprised, Desmond thought that he was dreaming. He looked at her and he said, almost immediately,

“Of course, since you asked me.”

He didn’t want to tell her that he was in love with her yet, although at that time he already knew. From there they held hands, and he drove her straight to Takashimaya, where Tiffany’s was. Desmond brought her to the section where the rings were displayed, and he made her choose the most expensive diamond ring.

He almost rang Karen at her home to tell her that he would be taking off for his honeymoon from tomorrow onwards. But then he remembered his strings of appointments booked since January.

Desmond sent Molly home. He saw her to the door and said goodnight to her as he prepared himself for his new image as a married man.

Chapter 17

Desmond finally got an appointment with Elizabeth. On her own initiative Karen subscribed for caller ID for Desmond’s clinic so that when Elizabeth rang again, she got hold of Elizabeth’s telephone number and called her back. Karen rang Elizabeth three times to fix for the appointment and also reminded her to come in. Desmond only got to know that she was waiting outside when Karen sent in the patient record card with the name “Elizabeth” on it. No surname, no age recorded, and no address either. Karen put it on his desk whilst he was attending to another patient when Elizabeth arrived.

Desmond kept his cool as he tried to recall his prepared speech.

He knew that he would be facing opposition. He almost rushed through the earlier patient. He imagined Elizabeth to be a quick tempered, vivacious lady, who would storm out on him if he refused her request.

She may even threaten to harm my business. Desmond was not sure. He wondered if he should ask Karen to stand in as he spoke to her. But then he realized that the conversation had to be in confidence. So he waited anxiously as his next patient pushed open the door.

Chapter 18

Desmond saw her. The same face, the same curly long hair, and the large eyes. He paused, then he took a deep breath, and he wanted to open his mouth. He was lost for words. For a long time, they both stood staring at each other. From the expression on Molly’s face, Desmond knew that she didn’t expect to see him. Well, neither did he expect her. “So, you are pregnant?” slowly he began, trying not to show his true feelings.

“Yes,” she replied almost in a whisper.

“Nope, I am not going to do this,” immediately Desmond retorted, without giving Molly a chance to elaborate.

He saw the look of disappointment come on her face, and she gave him a look of reproach, almost angry. Molly didn’t say another word. Then she walked out of the consultation room, back into her own world, as when before she came in. Desmond walked over his desk and went after Molly. He saw the faces of Karen and the other patients that he has not yet attended to, he ignored them and rushed out of the clinic. Molly was so fast that he lost her at the lift lobby.

Chapter 19

Desmond tried to call her. He rang her mobile, but there was no answer. She had left me she would not marry me now. Desmond started telling himself. Then as he thought about it, he came to his own conclusions:

If she did not tell me she was pregnant, that meant that she wanted to get rid of her baby and marry me, which is what was happening now. She should have told me about it. So she was dishonest. Desmond tried to reason himself.

But then if I were she, under the circumstances I wouldn’t mention it either. She was clever to make me marry her to begin a new life. But then I loved her too. I was the one who solicited her. I was the one who started it first. If I had not laid hands on her that evening, we wouldn’t have hitched up.

Was it my fault? I couldn’t say that she was not attractive. Would I have accepted her proposal if I had known that she was pregnant? I was overjoyed when she wanted to marry me. I bought her the most expensive diamond ring at Tiffany’s, I booked us a twenty-one nights’ tour to Europe. I was planning on buying an apartment, as I did not want to continue to live with my parents after marriage. And even if she did not propose to me, I would have proposed to her under ordinary circumstances. I knew I was besotted with her. I still have her scarf and I plan to keep it forever.

Now the situation was complicated. If we married I would have to be the father of her unborn child. Come to think of it, who was the father? She didn’t tell me, and I didn’t think that she would even if I had asked. But I couldn’t be raising a child fathered by someone I didn’t know. At least I needed to know the background.

But anyway, I loved her and I was prepared to marry her. For one, I already knew that her lover didn’t want her anymore when I met her, and I didn’t mind it at all. This was a woman who had it hard, and I felt for her.

Chapter 20

Desmond recalled the image of Molly standing at Mother Mary, her thin shoulders twitching as she sobbed uncontrollably. There and then he swore that he wanted to give her a good life.

If she had wanted to call Desmond back, she would have done so by then. She must have seen Desmond’s missed call. Desmond rang again and again, but she did not pick up his calls anymore. Then Desmond decided that he would give her another half hour. Maybe she was busy with something else. NO! GOD! It occurred to Desmond that she might have gone to see another gynaecologist, since he did not want to perform the abortion on her.

Desmond Brown wanted so much to tell her that he still loved her, that he would take over the baby no matter whose child it was. Now that she knew that he knew about it, Molly must have been heartbroken thinking that he didn’t want her anymore. He didn’t want to help her to abort, but he wanted her. Abortion was against Desmond’s principles, and that was why he refused Molly’s request.

But if she wanted it, would Desmond do it? Desmond was not the only gynaecologist in town, and if she wanted an abortion she could always go to another doctor. Perhaps she would just do it, then afterwards go to Father Damien for confession. Desmond wondered what would be the penance.

He knew that many Catholics continue to sin day after day. They were sinners. They were just human beings, and they couldn’t help themselves.

Oh, God, where had she gone to? Why couldn’t she return my call?

Desmond swore that when he met her the next time he would tell her that he was prepared to do the abortion on her. They were supposed to start their lives afresh as a new couple and leave the past behind them.

She was the mother. She should have the right to decide on the fate of her unborn baby. After all, you only needed the mother’s signature on the consent form.

Chapter 21

Molly lay on a single bed. The room was large but she was the only one inside. Nobody was there because she told no one about what she was doing. There was a clock hanging right on front of her on the wall. She could still see the time even without glasses.

When the nurse came in to give her an injection, she asked,

“Is the doctor coming?”

“No, you take this first and if it is too painful, press the bell.”

Molly said nothing.

And then the pain came. Like a bad stomach ache, it felt like labour but Molly knew that it was too soon for that. The foetus was not yet three months old.

Finally, after a three hour wait, the nurse came in again.

“Push,” she said.

Molly pushed hard together with the nurse, and after some struggle, the two of them managed to get the foetus out. The nurse put the piece of flesh on a receptacle by the side of the bed and she walked away without saying a word.

Then after another long wait, the doctor came in looking disgusted. Molly didn’t know why he was so late in attending to her.

“Am I not paying him for this?” she asked herself.

Finally, the doctor spoke to her and told her that he would write her a note on this procedure. Molly heaved a sigh of relief and glad that it was all over.

Chapter 22

As Desmond was thinking and walking around the streets aimlessly, he realized that he had lost his cell phone. Perhaps he had left it in Gucci, or Fendi, or Tiffany's. Desmond drifted in to Tiffany’s to see if he could find something, not knowing what he wanted.

God! So now even if Molly returned his call she would not be able to get him on the phone. He remembered ringing her while he was at Gucci, then he rang her again from Fundi. Yes, it must be at Tiffany’s. Desmond quickly went back to the boutique and asked the doorman to look for his cell phone for him.

There were a lot of shoppers around, and when he went back with an empty look after having spoken to some of the salesgirls at the counter, he knew that it was gone. It was an iPhone 6, no one in their right mind would return it.

He left Tiffany’s in a daze, all the time wondering how to retrieve the lost connection. He had not brought Molly to his parents’ place yet, as he had wanted to marry in Europe first with the blessing of the priest in The Lady of Lourdes, so there was no way she could contact him through his parents.

 

Chapter 23

There was no reason to. Desmond looked at his watch and realized that it was almost 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow when I wake up in the morning, I would go straight to my service provider and get a new phone with the same SIM in order to have my line reinstated so that she could call me.

Desmond couldn’t sleep the whole night. He waited for time to pass. Every minute was like an hour. He tried to turn off the air conditioning to deprive himself of air so that he could fall asleep. And then he was wondering why the hands on the clock on the wall did not move. Eventually he came to the conclusion that the clock had stopped and that he didn’t even realize it. He was always using the iPhone to tell time. And when Desmond knew that he could not fall asleep anymore, he went out to the balcony to sit down.

He did not turn on the lights, as he did not want to wake up his parents. As he sat in the dark waiting for dawn, he realized that he had sinned against God. God read our minds. In his heart he was ready to sin. He was prepared to forget about the Law just for the sake of love. Was he so weak? So easily manipulated by a woman? He chuckled at himself and then drank coffee till sunrise.

Dawn came. So the next day. And then another day went by. But Desmond never received that phone call he wanted.

Yes, Molly did call back. When he reinstalled his SIM, there were two calls from her. She did make the return call. But he did not answer them. He didn’t know who held his phone during that short interval. He used his new cell phone to call Molly again, but this time he heard the voice messaging saying that the number he was trying to call was no longer available. Like a lost soul, he could not think anymore. he simply went straight to Mother Mary at the Holy Ground Church again.

But Desmond couldn’t find Molly there. He knew that she wouldn’t go there anymore. He knew that he had lost her trust. He had betrayed her by not rescuing her from her predicament. All she wanted was to begin a new life with him. And that he had turned her down. Desmond had rung her, and she had returned his call, but once more Desmond had let Molly down. For the first time in his life he felt useless.

Yet he needed to carry out his professional duty. He was beginning to view delivery as a chore. When Desmond was delivering his second patient for the day, he found the woman’s labour to be too long and was unduly impatient. The music he chose for her delivery he almost wanted to fast forward. When the baby finally came out he was relieved that both mother and child were fine and apart from “Congratulations,” he had nothing more to say.

We were not our own masters. Very often we have no control over our fate. Desmond had lost this woman that he loved, perhaps irretrievably. He wanted to curse God, but he ended up cursing himself. The statue of Mother Mary used to be his refuge, but now he no longer knew what to say to Mother Mary. He thought that she could still hear him, so he simply said,

“Mother, please find her for me.”

The colourful scarf was not in his car anymore. Nowadays he wore it over his shoulder. Some people asked him if it was the latest fashion, but he wore it so that he could be spotted from a distance, in case she happened to be around. His alibi Karen has resigned, so has the others. Apart from that, Desmond opened his clinic twenty-four hours now and sleep inside his consultation room.

Desmond Brown has once asked a beautiful woman to marry him. They were actually engaged. She told his clinic that her name was Elizabeth. Desmond never met with Father Damien again for he knew that the man’s prayer could not have been as besieging as his. If God would listen to Father Damien, why won’t He listen to Desmond Brown? One day, Elizabeth might appear at his door again, with or without her child.

It was up to God’s providence.

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