Lydia checked the time. 11:23 pm. Her husband, Dan, could walk in any time now. Regardless of his recent streak of staying out late, he made sure he was home by 11:30 pm.
She checked her phone to read the WhatsApp message she sent him early on.
“Danny, there’s something I need to tell you. It’s very important. Let’s talk when you get home”.
She could tell by the blue ticks that he had read the message, yet there was no reply. Though communication had been like this between the two of them for the last half of the last year, she hoped that he would respond to this message. Dan’s silence unnerved her. She imagined that he would be a tad interested in what she had to say. That would have boosted her confidence about the confession she was about to make, but the man Dan had become had a heart of ice – hard and cold. Nothing Lydia did could melt it.
It had been only nine months of marriage but hell was a colder place than the house they shared together. It was obvious that both of them were tired already. Lydia was even more tired because of the guilt that sat on her chest. She had carried the burden of her infidelity and its result for the past six months.
Her mind drifted to that regrettable day she fed her lust and gave herself away to a total stranger in a restaurant. It was a moment of weakness. That was how she described it, though it did not make her feel any better about what she had done.
“Peeeeeeeeeeep!” the familiar honk came from Danny’s car. Almost immediately, the room felt hotter. Lydia’s mind went blank – her rehearsed speech turned into echoing sounds in her head. Uncomfortable was too mild a word to describe her countenance. She curled her fingers around the thin fabric of her top; waving it in and out to create just a little air flow, but it was not enough. She was like an ice-cube in hot soup.
The wait between when Dan parked his car and when he entered the room was the longest Lydia had had her whole life, although it was only for three minutes. It was even longer than when she was waiting for her HIV test results earlier that day.
Lydia was standing twenty metres from the door when her husband entered. He still wore that depressed look that he had anytime he was around the house. He looked at her like the fire in his eyes had been doused with ice water. It made him look pale. She should be used to his appearance now but it still unnerved her.
Lydia was confused. She did not know whether to hug him, for she had longed for long for the warmth that came from his chest, or to kneel before him because she felt her mistakes had reduced her status of a wife to a servant – she did not deserve a hug from him. They both stood and watched each other like they were in a mannequin challenge.
“Danny, I’m sorry,” Lydia broke the silence finally. She took a step closer and continued. “I have wronged you greatly. And it kills me inside every day when I look at you. I know what I’m about to tell you has serious repercussions on our marriage but I’m ready for whatever the outcome may be. You and I know that it can’t be any worse than it already is.”
She paused to look at Dan who was not moved by any of the things she said thus far. Lydia wanted to stop talking to the statue in front of her but there was no point deferring what she had started. Her mind told her to finish her confession quickly and make it less dramatic. She went for it.
“I slept with another man and I have HIV.” She did not feel the way she anticipated she would, strangely. One of the main reasons she decided to confess was to have relief but the block of guilt on her chest did not move an inch.
It could be because of Dan’s reaction. He still stood there; his briefcase in his right hand and his suit resting on his left arm. He had the same dreary look in his eyes. He was standing right in front of her but he could as well be on the moon at the same time.
Or, was it because of how she made the confession? She felt she should have said more and gone for a more dramatic effect. She took three more steps towards her husband. She was in his face now. Because he was taller, she could feel his breathe on her forehead. It was heavy and in very quick succession. She looked intently into his eyes and whispered his name. That drew some reaction. A single streak of tear fell from his left eye.
She felt a bit of relief. She lifted her hands to lock him in an embrace and that also elicited a response. He put his hands out to signal her not to come any closer. She understood. That was the kind of reaction she was looking for – some anger, some disappointment. Dan walked past his wife making sure that their bodies did not touch as if to say he would contract the disease his wife had if he touched her. He went straight to the bedroom and Lydia could hear him lock the door from the inside.
Lydia woke up the next morning on the couch. There was a deep hollowness inside her – it seemed to have extended to the house. It was unusually quiet. It was 6.30 in the morning and Dan would have been preparing for work. He usually had the radio playing while he went about the house.
She went to check if he had left earlier than usual but the bedroom door was still locked from the inside. She decided to let him be. He needed to be by himself and figure out what to do.
After three hours, Dan had still not come out. Lydia started feeling uncomfortable about it. It was not healthy, and how long was he going to keep that up? She went and knocked at the door several times but there was no response. She listened through the door but there was nothing to indicate that there was any activity going on in there.
All of a sudden, the atmosphere around her started feeling eerie. The first thought that came to her mind was creepy. She ran out and called a neighbour who came and broke the door. Lo and behold! Her fears were right. There lied Dan’s body – lifeless and cold. His wrist was slit, and he had lost a lot of blood and lost his life too. Lydia was beside herself. She woke up in a hospital bed.
After some examination, the doctor asked, “Do you know you are six weeks pregnant?” Lydia nodded in agreement. “Did you get tested in a hospital?” Tears filled her eyes as she nodded in the affirmative again. “Then I’m sure you also know your HIV status too”. Lydia turned away from the doctor to hide her shame.
The doctor handed her a note. “I am so sorry. I really want to keep this from you but it is your right to have it so… here”. And he left.
“Lee, I’m sorry I had to break this to you this way. You did not contract the disease from your one-time affair. I had an affair on our wedding night. I caught the disease. I only got to know three months after. The damage was already done – I had already passed it on to you. That is why I have avoided you since. Please, forgive me”.
Lydia gave a loud cry and that was the last that was heard of her. By the time the nurses came to her bed, she had already given up her ghost.