Boipelo Lecha is a storyteller and creative from Maun, Botswana. Her short stories challenge and explore ideas of identity, self-expression, representation, and the human experience.
You Saved Me
Tshepo wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep the baby. She thought the first test was faulty, so she took three more from three different brands. They all came back positive. She couldn’t even wrap her mind around the fact that she was pregnant. She used a condom. Even though he told her countless times that he’d leave his wife for her, she was not dumb enough to believe she was the only one. Sleeping with married men taught her that they rarely have just one mistress. Even without the contraceptives, it was physically impossible for Tshepo to get pregnant. The doctor told her that years ago when she wound up in the ER with a hemorrhage. Hours spent on a motel table at the hands of a furtive ‘doctor’ left her reproductive organs in shambles.
At first, she wasn’t going to keep it. After her diagnosis years ago, she thought she had come to terms with being barren. She was happy with her life. Tshepo no longer spent her nights scrolling through random women’s baby shower registries, and it had been more than ten years since she had anything close to baby fever. She was in the abortion clinic’s parking lot when she made the decision. She watched as women walked in and out of the clinic, but she couldn’t bring herself to get out of her car. Being in that parking lot brought back memories that had been safely tucked away. But sitting in that parking lot brought back the taste of the cheap whiskey the ‘doctor’ had given her. Despite her efforts to stop thinking about it, her mind kept taking her back to that night. She could feel the coolness of the rough rubber sheet that was haphazardly strewn on the wobbly table. Tshepo shut her eyes to try and numb away the excruciating feeling of being hollowed out. There was no way she would go through that again. She had to keep the baby.
Keeping the baby meant that she would have to tell him. Tshepo was almost certain he would want nothing to do with the child, but she wanted to give him the opportunity to make that decision for himself. Whether he was receptive or not, she was going to keep the baby. She didn’t bother to call before driving to his house. Tshepo had his wife’s schedule, so she knew his wife would be at work. The door hadn’t shut behind them before Tshepo said, “I’m pregnant.” He stared at her, eyes growing so wide that she thought they would burst out of their sockets.
“Is it mine?”
“Of course it’s yours,” she snapped. “You know it’s yours.”
He sunk into the recliner and dropped his face into his hands. “Fuck!” He screamed into his hands. “Fuck!” He stood up, cursed, sat back down, and cursed more. Tshepo stood by the door, unimpressed by his outburst.
“I’m keeping it,” she said decisively, interrupting his monologue of profanity.
“What?” he screeched, jumping out of the recliner, and standing so close to her that the minty musk of his cologne made her nauseous. His hands were balled into fists on his sides as he breathed heavily. His threatening demeanor only added to her stoicism. She stood taller, her resolve unwavering. He knew Tshepo was nothing like his wife. If he so much as laid a finger on her, she would fight back. Tshepo took a step forward, closing the space between them. She looked him dead in his raging eyes and firmly repeated, “I. Am. Keeping. It!” He opened his mouth to rebut, but she quickly interrupted him, “whether you like it or not.”
Tshepo didn’t wait to hear what he had to say. She opened his front door and walked out of his house. He yelled after her, begging her to come back inside and hear him out. She had a feeling that would happen, that he would try and convince her not to have the baby. But she had already made up her mind. She was keeping the baby.
A couple of days later, he called her and asked her to meet him. During their meeting, he apologized for his outburst and convinced Tshepo of how much he wanted to be a part of the baby’s life, even claiming that he would tell his wife. Tshepo wasn’t sure if he would ever really tell his wife, but that was not her battle to fight. She was not the married one, so she certainly wouldn’t be the one to tell her.
The pregnancy was tough on Tshepo. Her fractured womb caused her chronic pain, and she was so overwhelmed with fatigue that most days, she couldn’t even get out of bed. He was surprisingly supportive during her pregnancy. Even before the pain got unbearable, he would cook for her and check on her daily. He went to most of the appointments and religiously brought her new bottles of prenatal vitamins at the beginning of every month. Most days, Tshepo couldn’t leave the house, so she appreciated the level of commitment.
At her 7 months check up, Tshepo found out that her daughter’s brain was not developing the way it should. She was glad she brought her sister to the appointment because she would not have been able to bear the news alone. Tshepo was immediately put on bed rest and her sister moved in with her. Seeing as how she almost fell apart at the hospital, being alone would not be good for Tshepo.
A couple of days after being put on bed rest, Tshepo’s sister was laying out her prenatal vitamins when she found a couple of strange looking pills in one of the bottles. Unlike the other round ones, these three were hexagonal and lighter in color. She put them in the palm of her hand and showed them to Tshepo. Tshepo knew exactly what the pills were as soon as she saw them. They were the same pills she took years before in that back-alley motel. The sight of them brought a shiver down her spine, and bile started to rise to her throat.
“Where did you get those?” Tshepo asked, eyes still fixated on the pills in her sister’s hand. Pills like that were not easy to acquire, you had to know the right people to get your hands on them. They would also cost you a pretty penny.
“I found them in the prenatals but they looked strange, so I figured I’d show you.”
Tshepo didn’t realize she was crying until her sister sat next to her and held her tightly. She was shaking uncontrollably. Tshepo wasn’t the type of person that cried, so her sister didn’t know how else to console her. “He did this,” she managed between sobs. Tshepo’s sister sat with her, holding her as she cried herself to sleep.
She took that as an opportunity to call Tshepo’s OBGYN. She described the hexagonal pill to the doctor and their suspicions were confirmed. It was an oral contraceptive, and if enough was taken during the pregnancy, the baby’s development would be hindered.
Tshepo sobbed the entire way to the hospital. The 3 hexagonal pills were taken to the lab for testing as the doctor began administering various tests on Tshepo. Sure enough, there were traces of the hexagonal pill in Tshepo’s blood. Further tests suggested that by the time Tshepo gave birth, her daughter would more than likely be brain dead. “Can’t we induce labor now and have the baby incubated?” Tshepo’s sister asked. The doctor explained that with Tshepo’s medical history and the amount of stress her body was under, inducing labor could be fatal. Not only for Tshepo, but for the baby too.
There were no tears left for Tshepo to cry as her sister drove her home. Her mind was on overdrive as she tried to make sense of her reality. Tshepo blamed herself. If she hadn’t accepted his apology, this wouldn’t have happened. She should’ve been more skeptical of his sudden willingness to be a part of the baby’s life after having such a visceral reaction to the pregnancy. But, what kind of mother would she be to keep a child from its father? As much as she wanted to continue blaming herself, it wasn’t her fault. She couldn’t have known. There was no reason for her to be suspicious of him because he had been supportive throughout the pregnancy. Bile rose up Tshepo’s throat as she thought of all the times he came to ‘check on her.’ He was not being thoughtful. It was all a part of his depraved plan. She still couldn’t understand how anyone could do something like this. To their own child.
Tshepo didn’t remember climbing into bed that night, but when she woke up, she surprisingly had more energy than she had throughout her entire pregnancy. She laid in bed staring at the ceiling for a moment before quietly crawling out of the bed. She didn’t want to wake her sister, so she tiptoed out of the house. Luckily, her sister didn’t hear the car pulling out of the driveway.
Tshepo let herself into his house. She still had a key. As soon as she walked into the house, she was met with a high pitched and confused, “Who are you?” The owner of the high-pitched voice was a woman in a gray bath robe holding a mug in her hand. The wife.
Tshepo didn’t bother walking further into the house because she had a feeling she wouldn’t be there for long.
The name must have rung a bell because the wife froze, and the mug dropped out of her rigid hand, the porcelain cracking to pieces on the floor.
“What the fuck do you want?” She barked in a hushed tone that suggested her children were nearby.
From the front door, Tshepo told her, “I’m pregnant with your husband’s baby. He’s secretly been feeding me oral contraceptives to try and kill the baby, and I just thought you would like to know what kind of person you’re married to.”
The wife laughed so hysterically that she had to lean on the table in the foyer. Tshepo took that as her sign to leave. She silently drove to her house and pulled into her garage, making sure the garage door closed behind her.
“You saved me,” she said, smiling down at her protruding belly until she lost consciousness.