Illustration by Đỗ Dũng
By Trần Huyền Trang
The night before Hoài was thinking about getting a divorce, she was dreaming a queer dream. An image of a baby formed in her womb. But all her doubts had also grown bigger in that befuddled dream.
In the dream, Hoài ran and ran as far as the eyes could see and all around was a veil of mist, blowing cold at her face. Hoài failed to catch the arms of her two children so as to run together. She only knew that she was with child.
Then came when was broken down at lightning speed. Out of the blue sky, she raised her pale arms to rub her belly, trying to press the crisscrossing cracking lines on her skin map, on which there were the death and living lines which were known only by her and her baby, without a husband. Nobody else!
Hoài’s principles said it was impossible that way; it was completely not the truth. She would have to have her baby with him, for she was pregnant.
Not a day went by without her taking medicine. Her two children, a daughter named CàRốtand a son named Su Hào, were heavy enough to bend her shoulders and she felt unable to raise them up, whereas her husband was still indulging in booze with ease like a teenager. In between her bony shoulders there appeared two hollow eyes. Her once glossy long hair looked dead due to her two births without a caring husband. Many nights she had to calm her crying child down amid the loud snores plus the smell of alcohol from her husband; yet he did not pay any heed to it. Her life had gone by day in and day out until she came to a milestone of ten years. At times, she looked at her reflection in a vase of water behind the house and asked herself how could she go on? It seemed Hoài had not overcome any obstacles; things had gone by her, leaving sadness and pain. For her, happiness was only a blink of an eye. Pain was the scar after each surgery. Unwilling to have them, but these scars would stay by her side for all her life and she found it impossible to rub them out, except for through death. Now at 30 or a bit older, her forehead had innumerable wrinkles ploughed deep down with suffering and hard-working days. Her smiles were used only to console her children and encourage them to study better and eat better. When her husband was home, he was boredwith her because she did not know how to flatter and act sexually in front of him like those girls at restaurants and motels. Yet, she also felt disgusted and had no lust for him. Her husband’s life was nothing for her as he was always busy with his house designs, but she did not know if these designs belonged to the modern or classic schools.
When at school, Hoài was not good at maths, but she was excellent at literature. Her teacher often said to her that if she followed a literary career, her life would be a nightmare! Yet, she passed the university exams and studied literature, and then she had got involved in writing. She was suffering only because she could not read people’s minds. Now, she continued writing articles for papers to earn some money to feed her children. The money her husband gave her monthly could only sustain them for a fortnight. From the bottom of her heart, she did not want to take money from her husband.But, if she did not take it, he would spend it all on himself!
She remembered the day when her husband took her and her children to one of hisfavourite restaurants to celebrate their ten-year wedding anniversary. She did not like the food there, or the way the girls served her husband. One girl swung her hips, another threw out her chest. All these things were very unpleasant for her eyes.Hoài drew her husband’s attention to the girls’ impudence because their children were sitting with them.
“No problem! The service charge will be included into the bill, so let’s enjoy it to our heart’s content!”
Hoài thought she would never go with him to celebrate anything like that again, if she was stuckwith him for another ten or even twenty years. Hoài made up her mind to keep that child in the womb.
Hoài did not tell him anything about the child in the womb. The divorce application faded from her mind whenever she touched her belly. She only wondered why she had been so careless to get pregnant again. Why, why and why!
Sometimes, she found it so hard to breathe that she fainted. Her mother sat by her side and heaved a deep sigh:
“I thought my fate was bad, but yours is even worse!”
Hoài tried to contain the tears oozing from her eyes. Whenever she was with child, she always had morning sickness. What she was scared of most was her husband’s smell. It was the same this time. She tried to avoid being near him when he was at home. She always asked her daughter to prepare food for him as soon as she heard his motorbike at the gate. One night, she left the door unlocked because she did not want to be with him and the next morning, he scolded her:
“Why didn’t you lock the door? A thief could have come in!”
“Except for me and children, is there anything precious in this house for a housebreaker? They don’t care if I open the door wide at night!”
Her husband looked bitterly at her for a moment and then went away. She saw some make-up on his shirt, but she ignored it. For years now, she had kept silent about his infidelity in an attempt to live with ease. As an educated woman, she did not want to spoil the family atmosphere for nothing.
For now, when she had morning sickness, she looked paler and so tired that she could not drag herself to the hospital. She was bedridden as a result. So, all the house chores were taken care of by her mother.
All the nights after the 15th of the lunar month, the moon was on the wane. There were only a few lights glimmering in the distance on the vast sky. These lights seemed to be trying to light up the sky for a moment before they died amid the clouds.
It seemed her future baby had telepathy with her son Su Hào. She had dreamt many times of its entire form in her womb, but principles had obstructed her from fully seeing it. All of a sudden, she heard it saying:
“Could you take me to enjoy the moonlight?”
Whenever she dreamed of her baby, it invariably asked her to take it to look at the moon. At times, Hoài saw the moon exploding in the sky in smithereens like a breaking glass. The baby stood dumbfounded like a statue, grasping tightly her fingers.
Hoài’s belly got bigger with every passing day. Suddenly she got a nosebleed, many times a day. Her mother cried, asking Hoài:
“Let’s visit the doctor, my dear! Do it now, my daughter! You’ve got to think about your child inside you.”
Hoài nodded and intended to wait for her husband to take her to a private doctor, but in vain. He had not been home for several days now. Even when he was at home, he just went to bed and slept like a log. He did not know that he was going to have another child.
Eventually, Hoài was determined to ask her husband to take her to the hospital. All around her eyes were black and blue. She could not breathe because of two blood clots in her nose.
Her husband could not believe his ears when he heard his mother-in-law saying his wife was pregnant. When she was lying on a stretcher, she even heard him grumbling:
“Oh, God! Why are you sostupid? What a pity!”
Hoài could not explain anything to him now. She was now going to enjoy her beautiful baby. That familiar ash-coloured cloud was appearing before her eyes at the end of the sky.
Out of the blue sky, her husband yelled at the doctor:
“Are you crazy? My wife is pregnant, so why do you say she has cancer?”
The doctor brushed him aside, trembling with fear.
“It’s truly sad. Look at these test results. If she had gone to see the doctor sooner, the situation would have been better.”
Hoài saw her husband had collapsed on to the floor like a rotten tree, but she could not console him now as she had done to him in the past ten years. She raised her cold hands towards that lonely moon at the end of the sky./.
Translated by MạnhChương