Happy Birthday Penny – Part II

Happy Birthday Penny

“Why are you doing this Penny? Why?”

You know why. Now go to sleep. 

I am not sleepy so I pop sleeping pills. You do what Penny tells you to do – this is the last thought in my mind before I drift off to sleep.

Tomorrow arrives. Penny arrives with it. I wake up to find her seated at the foot of the bed. It is the eve of d-day. She takes me through the rigors of the day:

Clean out your closet and arrange your clothes properly.

Clean the house. You will not have the nerve to do it tomorrow. You don’t want to leave your mother the task of cleaning up afterwards.

Get the drugs from the chemist. That shouldn’t be so hard?

“Penny, I really don’t think my mother can handle this. You said you were happy, remember? We don’t have to do this”

Do you think I am stupid Mike?

“I don’t think you are stupid.”

I know about that colleague of yours. I have seen how the two of you look at each other. I have seen how she likes to smile at you and how she touches your arm every chance she gets. I have seen it all Mike. Is she the reason you asked me to…

“Claire? You are being ridiculous! She is not the reason for anything. She is not a reason at all…”

Is she the reason you asked me to have an abortion? 

“I thought we agreed…we were not ready for a child”

YOU were not ready for a child! Do you need a recap to jog your memory? 

“That is not nec…”

Man marries wife. First year of marriage, wife falls pregnant. Husband becomes distant and wants nothing to do with the pregnancy! Husband asks wife to have an abortion because he is ‘not ready for a child’ –  cites job insecurity. After great consideration, wife agrees to make an appointment with the doctor. Only to change her mind when the time comes. She comes back from hospital with a mission to change husband’s mind. Days go by. She plans her strategy. Calls it ‘Project KeepTheBaby’ – #hashtag and all. She is however not prepared for what she finds: Husband’s letter of promotion dated months ago. Job insecurity was a lie. What then was the real reason for husband not wanting a baby? – wife wonders. Wife comes to the most logical conclusion – another woman. It is always another woman!

How am I doing so far, Mike?

“You have no idea what you are talking about.”

Woman’s name is Claire! A colleague of husband! Wife confronts Claire and she admits that husband promised to divorce wife and marry her. Wife checks into hospital. Determined now more than ever to terminate the pregnancy. She wants nothing to do with husband, or the pregnancy, anymore…

“S-stop it Penny. Stop it!”

Wife procures an abortion!

“Penny please stop!”

 Things go south…what happens next, Mike?

“Don’t do this Penny. I beg you…just….please…”

WHAT HAPPENS TO WIFE WHILE HAVING AN ABORTION, MIKE!?

“She dies Penny. You die!”

There is silence. The teary eyes are mine.

I want my birthday present. Do you hear me?

“Yes.”

“I hear you”

Do you know why it is important for you to join me?

“I am sorry… I have said it a million times before. I am sorry. Please forgive me…”

Do you know why it is important for you to join me?

“I know.”

Why?

Silence.

Say it Mike. SAY IT!

Penny carries a storm in her voice.

I am shaking.

“So that I can, so…so that I can see the child…our child”

Get ready to face your daughter. Are you ready for that? Do you think you can ever be ready for ANYTHING Mike?

“I…I…yes. YES. I can, …”

Happy Birthday to me then!

Penny is right. I have to man up now. I need to make things right with Penny and my daughter. I was selfish before. I only thought of myself and what I wanted. But that was the old Mike. This Mike, the new Mike, will lay his life down for his family. My family needs me now, and I will be there for them.

D-day is here – I die today. I am at the chemist to buy the drugs that I need. The pharmacist knows of my insomnia. I have been buying sleeping pills from him for a while now. He has no way of knowing that I intend to use the pills today for purposes they are not intended for.

“Beautiful day isn’t it?” I say to him as he packs the pills

“Sure. Beautiful day” he replies.

“It is my wife’s birthday” I say.

“Nice…what do you plan to do for her birthday?”

“I plan to give her a very special gift.”

He looks at me for a while.

“Well then. Here you go” he hands me the pills. “Happy birthday to your wife”

As I walk back to the house, I watch the sun rise higher and higher in the sky. I pluck a few flowers and smell them as I carry them with me.

I inhale deeply through my nose and mouth. Life is so beautiful.

I reach the house to find Penny sitting on the bed. She is wearing a black dress.

“Isn’t it too early to dress like that?”

You are the one carrying the flowers…

I put the flowers on the nightstand.

“Ok. Let’s get this over with, shall we?” I say as I head to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water.

When I come back, it is to find Penny standing, watching me.

Alcohol. Not water.

I return the glass of water and come back with a bottle of whiskey

“Happy?”

Much better.

“Can we get this over with?”

Ok. Go ahead. I await your arrival with open arms. 

She smiles.

I stand before her. We look at each other; the living and the dead, soon to become both dead.

She nods.

Go ahead.

I open the plastic container that contains the pills and pour half of them in my hand.

Would you like to call your mother?

“No.” I had thought about it.

Note?

“No.”

Ok.

I take the bottle of whiskey in my other hand, ready to gulp it all down. With one swing of the hand, I throw the pills into my mouth and drink a good amount of whiskey. The whiskey sweeps the pills from the corners of my mouth and slides them down my throat. It cuts my throat like a knife. When every pill has found its way from my mouth down to my stomach, I drain the remaining pills into my hand and shove them into my mouth once again. More whiskey follows. I almost finish the whiskey but my burning throat laments.

I put the bottle down and climb into bed.

Penny stands at the foot of the bed watching me.

Does it hurt?

“A little, yeah.”

Don’t worry. It will end soon.

“Penny?”

Yes, Mike.

“Happy Birthday”

My stomach is exploding inside me. My head is spinning faster than a whirlwind.

I close my eyes.

I grit my teeth.

I see Penny’s face.

Rest in Peace.

***

This article was first published on the Storymoja Festival Blog

Illustration by Elsardt KigenElsardt is a talented artist and a senior student of The Arts and Design at The University of Nairobi. He has won several Art Competitions including ‘Experiencing Kenyan Heritage Through Art’ (2013) where he was accorded a visit to the UK. 

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