It is a sunny Saturday morning. Brigitte is still in her plain green flannel pyjamas. The top can hardly cover her bulging belly. She is busy cleaning their two small-roomed Wendy house. Her mother is already out at the nearby flea market trying to sell the products of her needle work.
Brigitte has just finished making her eight-year old brother’s bed when she feels a bolt of lightning strike her belly. She can hardly breathe. Her head is a lake of confusion. This cannot be a contraction!
When she revealed her pregnancy to her mother, the latter went mad at her for being such a disappointment to her. Brigitte was in Grade 11 and a brilliant student. She was the only spark of hope for a better future for the family, especially after the tragedy. When they had arrived in Cape Town from the DRC, it had not been easy for them to settle. Then to add to their misfortune, Brigitte’s father died in a car accident.
When her mother’s anger about the pregnancy had subsided, she warned Brigitte to go regularly to prenatal consultations for her sake and her baby’s. At her last visit she was told that her baby was due in a week.
Carefully Brigitte holds her belly between her hands, like a basketball player ready to score a goal. Slowly, she lowers herself onto the bed she has just made, both hands supporting her back.
By this time, her little brother who has been playing outside comes in panting, pours himself a cup of water from a bottle and sends it down his throat noisily.
“Clean up the floor, I’m not feeling well,” she begs her brother.
“It’s cold in here, I wanna be in the sun, I’ll sweep later.”
As he walks out out, Brigitte pulls herself together and grabs the collar of his T-shirt. “You’re not going nowhere… Ooooooooo!” She screams as lightning strikes again. It sends her to the floor where she sits, legs spread apart.
Brigitte’s brother is watching her in puzzlement.
“Hold my back … No, bring me my cell phone. I need to send a please-call to my boyfriend and another one to Mum, I don’t have airtime.” She forces the words out between her sobs.
The little boy is too scared to face all this drama. He disappears shouting, “I’m gonna call Maman Gode.”
Now, Brigitte has stopped crying. She wipes her face and slowly reaches for her baby’s suitcase to arrange it properly. She is convinced that her baby wants to be out today. There has not much of a preparation for this birth: half a dozen nappies, two woollen suits and a shawl knitted by her mother, three vests, three plastic panties and some toiletries.
Eventually when she feels some relief from the pain, anger builds inside her. Why does she have to suffer alone? Her boyfriend is still going to college. She had to stop after all the gossip at school about her pregnancy despite her vain attempts to hide it.
So it will always be like that. The woman has to pay the price alone. She remembers the comment that one of her teachers made about the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus. “She was supposed to be stoned to death. Where was the other sinner? Shouldn’t he have been stoned too?” Brigitte smiled wryly.He presumably had walked away a free man.
As she keeps herself busy packing the stuff neatly, her waters break. Her pants are wet. There is a mixture of panic and disgust in her. She removes her pyjamas, wipes herself with a towel, and changes into her bitenge outfit.
There has been no reply to her messages. Her message to her boyfriend could not be delivered. Her mother has probably ignored her message, too busy trying to make the money to pay for the rent of their Wendy house.
In no time, the little boy, Maman Gode (a neighbour and a close friend of Brigitte’s mother) and her husband arrive in their Renault 5 to take her to the hospital.
Maman Gode tries to comfort Brigitte, telling her that her mother’s labours used to be as quick as a fart. She tells her that she may have inherited this as well. Maman Gode locks the place and escorts her to the car where her husband is waiting, a his face anxious. Maman Gode asks the boy to go and play with her children at her house.
The little boy watches the car pulling away, shakes his head and mumbles, “I’m glad I’m not a girl.”