A Knotted Heart
Silence filled the room as Taiwo’s eyes tried adjusting to her surroundings. A monitor rested beside her bed and while struggling to sit up, she noticed and IV taped to the surface of her hand. The spot was a little sore but the headache, nausea and abdominal pain had ceased. An exhausted breath escaped her lips as she scanned the room. The door opened and in sauntered a woman wearing a white coat. She watched the woman skim over her vitals then down at her.
“How are you feeling?”
“Any abdominal discomfort?”
“No. How did I get here?”
“Ambulance brought you.”
“I remember being in pain, but it wasn’t anything life threatening, right?”
“First off, you were very dehydrated hence the IV. You haven’t been taking care of yourself. Now, prior to this visit, when was the last time you’ve had a thorough check-up?”
“I’m not fond of hospitals so I don’t go if I don’t have to.”
“I see. Along with dehydration, you did have an…issue.”
“What was it?”
“I really don’t know how to tell you this in a sensitive way…okay… have you noticed any changes in your body lately? Appetite? Weight gain?”
“Okay. What about your last menstrual cycle?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t document it. Why?”
“Perhaps it would be best if your husband was here to join in on this conversation.”
“I’m not married. Just tell me what the complication was. It’s my body, I can handle it.” The doctor moved closer and held Taiwo’s hand, patting it, serving her a painfully pitiful expression. She momentarily adverted her eyes and settled them back on her patient.
“I’m sorry to inform you, but you’ve suffered a miscarriage. I know this will be a difficult time for you, but there are excellent support groups-”
“Wait a second,” Taiwo cut in, “I wasn’t pregnant. You must have mistaken me for another patient.”
“I’m sorry but you were. I can understand why you didn’t know, you definitely weren’t showing.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s going to take some time to process this information, but I promise you, everything will be alright. We also wrapped your feet in gauze, you’ve cuts over the soles of your feet.” Whatever the doctor said next, the words fell on deaf ears. Taiwo began trembling and hyperventilating, gripping her sheets tightly. Inaudible words sputtered across her lips. She clenched her chest and slumped deeper into the bed and sobbed. In an instant, bouts of anger, rage and disbelief pushed her onto her feet on a path toward destruction.
The only thing in reach was a small nightstand that she trashed, scattering the drawers and its contents all over the floor. In her insanity, Taiwo hadn’t noticed she’d ripped out her IV as drops of blood dotted the cold sterilized floor. She’d turned into a mad woman, screaming and yelling, storming around the room cursing God and her existence until she was a spent delusional lump, balled into the corner of her room.
With the help of additional nurses, the doctor scooped Taiwo up from the floor and placed her back in bed. There she stayed in a deep sleep for two weeks while her vitals were monitored. When Taiwo finally came to, the sun was no longer shining and the evening sky was beginning it’s descent into darkness. She hadn’t felt so worn out in her entire life and she was still exhausted. Bumping her arm against a cold railing sent a shiver through her body and made her toes dance. The cuts on her soles felt tight as she flexed her toes and rolled her feet around.
Taiwo was more than ready to go back home as this hospital or any other hospital reminded her of death. People came here to die and get cured. The times she visited the hospital of friend or family only resulted in death. It was no different for her, the baby she didn’t know she was carrying died and she couldn’t help feel it was her fault. These thoughts of loss she’d rather not think about, ever again. Pushing the button for assistance, a nurse posted by her bedside was ready for any requests she had.
“When can I get out of here?”
“It’s nice to see you’re awake. You’ve been down for quite a while.”
“I want to leave.”
“That’s probably not a good idea. I have to talk to your doctor first.”
“Forget it, I’ll check myself out.”
“Look, I know you’re just doing your job but I can’t stay in this hospital another minute longer.” Throwing her gauze wrapped feet over the side of the bed, Taiwo stood to her feet and winced. The slashes in her soles were still tender but she was determined to leave this hospital no matter what. “Where are my clothes and shoes?”
“I’m not sure.” This nurse was stalling, wasting her time but if she didn’t want to get her things, Taiwo decided to walk out with just her gown on, butt cheeks and all swaying in the wind.
Kicking aside piles of clothes, Taiwo grabbed the only pair of clothes still resting of their hangers. Jeans and an oversized t-shirt it is. Work is what she needed to pass the time because she wasn’t ready to deal with the devastating information about her miscarriage. The crunch of glass and ceramic cracked under her weight and pieces skidded across her white tiled floor.
Checking the contents in the refrigerator, the only thing edible was eggs and bacon. The carton of milk had long spoiled and grey fuzz was growing over the Jollof. Chucking the rotten food in the trash, she tied it off in a bag and ferried it to a larger garbage bin outside.
Gliding back inside to wash her hands, the sound of rushing cold water sparked an image behind her eyes of her baby being flushed from her body. Shutting off the water, she dried her hands and went to search for her clutch purse. Breakfast would have to be had before she made her way to work.
The first fast food place that same in sight was stopped at. Taiwo bought an overpriced fruit salad, chicken sandwich and cup of water and consumed it just before pulling into a parking space at her job. She exited the car with her purse slung over a shoulder and walked toward the building. As she stepped off the elevator, the familiar scent of warm paper and ink, coffee and a light mix of cologne and perfume mingled in the air. Everyone greeted her with bright faces and warm smiles. She didn’t care to smile back, but nodded.
“Long time no see.” Shaw said.
“Hello Mr. Shaw.”
“You’re still adverse to calling me Tolbert?
“I’m just being respectful.”
“You call Connor by his first name.”
“He can be difficult some times.”
“That’s all I have to be to get you to use my name? Done.”
A tiny smile pulled at the sides of her face and felt her spirit lift but soon plummeted to the depths of darkness when Connor appeared from his office. Shaw turned after watching a frown form over her face. He saw Connor then looked back at Taiwo blank faced. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“No. Thanks for asking. Now if you’ll excuse me, looks like Connor wants something.”
“Okay then. Try to have a good day.”
The closer she got to Connor the more she adverted her eyes, keeping her gaze forward as she passed him. She could tell he was staring at her because her skin was getting warmer by the second. Connor watched her breeze by him like a phantom, carrying on with her business silently. There was definitely something going on with Taiwo. Dark circles were making gradual progress under her eyes, she looked more tired than usual and her once rigid posture was now was hunched. Following her steps back into the office, he shut the door behind him and walked into her office.
“Get un-busy. What’s going on with you? Why won’t you look me in the eyes?”
“Didn’t know I had to.” she replied wearily.
“I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Do you have something work related for me? If not, I want to be left alone.”
Connor bit back the need to put her in her place. She was the one keeping this ever-growing distance between them. He was at his whit’s end trying to accommodate her needs. Exhaling, he grudgingly filled her in on the progression of Brontë clothing.
“Preparations are already under way for the Paris fashion show. I need you to go there and represent Brontë clothing, after all, your name is also on this collection. That’s if you’re feeling up to it.”
“Fine. When do I leave?”
“In three days. Your ticket is in my desk. Don’t forget to get it after work.”
Okay? That’s all she had to say? Clenching his jaws, he pushed himself from the door frame and gave Taiwo her wish, he left her alone. No sooner than he took his seat, and employee entered telling him Amanda Cooling was waiting to talk to Taiwo. Upon hearing Amanda’s name, Taiwo left her chair to meet her former boss. Someone hadn’t let her beyond the elevator probably to quarantine the hateful miasma she carried with her.
“Taiwo! It’s so good to see you.”
“I have work to finish. What do you want Amanda?”
“I’m here to apologize. I’ve realized the error of my ways.”
“Your company is unraveling at the seams, isn’t it?”
“I’m willing to double the pay you get here and add more vacation days. I’ll even give you half the shares to get you to come back on my side.”
“Your side? I’m going to have to decline. I have it better here. Have a good day Amanda.”
By the sound of things, Amanda hadn’t gotten her way. As tempted as he was to know what was going on, he stayed planted at his desk pretending to look over a contract. Soon, Taiwo entered and passed by his desk without a word. Reaching Paris was a breeze since she took sleeping pills on the flight over. A flat surface was her best friend and she wouldn’t have gone through with flying had she not committed herself earlier in this clothing line. There was no way she was going to back out.
The first evening was spent with Linda, Connor’s Creative Director. She assured Taiwo everything would go off without a hitch. Taiwo examined the outfits that were to make its appearance on the runway, giving the okay. Even the empty arena where this gathering was to take place was electrifying. A part of her was nervous but twisted with anticipation for the big day. The obsidian catwalk was polished, not a scuff was in sight. The lighting and curtains were hung and positioned perfectly. The turn out was to be a huge one judging by all the floor space below. Once she had her fill, Taiwo took a taxi to the hotel Connor had reserved for her. She was told she’d be staying in V.I.P suite. Her luggage was taken from her and was escorted to her room. A complimentary dinner was made just for her even though the kitchen was closed for the night.
Though she knew the gesture was on Connor’s behalf, she knew she didn’t deserve to be catered to, not after the way she has treated him. Still, she was appreciative. But how could she bring herself to tell him she killed their baby? It’s something he wanted for a long time, he’d hate her if he found out. So she made the decision not to tell him. The only other person who knew was the doctor and she was sure she wouldn’t say anything. Sliding down in bed, resting her head against the plush pillow, her eyes closed to reality and drifted to a world far from her own.
The following morning, Taiwo’s sleep was interrupted by Linda throwing back the curtains letting in sunlight. The bright light washed over her face causing Taiwo’s already shut eyes to squint against the piercing rays. Rolling over pulling the covers over her head, she tried to get herself back into the state of slumber.
“Get up.” Linda snatched the sheets from over her body and the crisp air-conditioned room washed over her skin causing goose pimples. “You have a fitting. Mr. Fletcher specifically charged me with making you look like you.”
“What does that even mean?”
“You’ve been wearing very unflattering clothes as of late and it’s time for you to get back to yourself. Up, up.” This woman ordered Taiwo around as if she were her child and when she hadn’t moved quick enough for her liking, she was dragged from bed and hit the floor.
“If you ever pull anything like this again, you’ll regret it.”
“Oh, will I? I’ve raised five children by myself and have heard every threat in the book. So if you don’t have anything refreshing to add, stop wasting my time. I won’t coddle you like Mr. Fletcher does. Raise your arms to the side and keep them there.”
Though Taiwo was disgruntled, she did what Linda ordered her to and stayed silent until she was asked a question, which was never during fitting. Connor obviously wanted her to wear traditional clothing during the show since she was the face of the line. Linda instructed Taiwo to tie the red scarf around her head and style it as she normally would. She was then pushed into a full length mirror with Linda glued to her side looking her over. “Undress.”
“What’s going on with you?”
“Did Connor instruct you to question me as well?”
“No. There’s a drastic change in you since we last met. What is going on?”
“You’re going to kill yourself not opening up to anyone.”
“What do you care?”
“I don’t want to see Mr. Fletcher hurt, he’s like a son to me.”
“I get it, I’m not good enough for him.”
“I wasn’t thinking that at all. You must have something that interests Mr. Fletcher for him to go to the lengths he has for you. Now what is your problem? If you think I’m going to give up asking, you have no idea how far I’ll go to protect those I love. Spit it out young lady.” Turning away from Linda gave Taiwo just enough time to quell emotions that would be written all over her face, but her breath betrayed her. Not even her own mother cared enough to ask her how she was feeling yet all she wanted was to lean on someone’s shoulder. Firm hands clasped her shoulders and spun her around to a genuinely concerned face. Shame burned in her face as tears fell to the carpet. No matter how many times she tried to break away, Linda held her fast and firm.
“I can’t tell you anything. Let me go.”
“Neither of us will leave this room if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
“You’ll just go behind my back and tell Connor. I can’t afford to trust you.”
“Maybe you can trust me or maybe you can’t, but you’ll never know unless you give me a chance.”
“If I tell you, you can’t tell Connor.”
“I don’t keep secrets from Mr. Fletcher. We’ve always been open and honest with each other, but I’ll hear what you have to say first, then I’ll decide.” Taiwo wanted to release this burden from her shoulders but how could she be sure Connor never finds out? What if by chance he did and it completely decimates their relationship? Maybe, just maybe this woman wouldn’t stab her in the back. “You can trust me Ms. Yona.”
“I’m just tired and I don’t know what to do. I just need a break and no matter how hard I try, things always stay the same. All the responsibility rests on me. And the baby…he’s going to hate me!”
“What baby, and who’s going to hate you?”
“I killed Connor’s baby! It’s all my fault.”
“Oh dear. You couldn’t have done such a thing. Start from the beginning. How far along were you?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t even notice I was pregnant until I ended up at the hospital. The doctor said I had a miscarriage, but I know I killed the baby-”
“Stop right there. You didn’t kill your baby, anything could have happened in the gestation cycle. No woman can prevent a miscarriage, it just happens sometimes. I’ve had two miscarriages before successfully giving birth to my first child. Don’t blame yourself.”
“Connor wanted a baby, a family. What am I going to tell him? How can I tell him?”
“Listen to me, the first thing we need to do is make this fashion show a success, then we will figure out the next step but Connor needs to me informed. It’s only right. I promise I won’t let you go through this by yourself. Just trust me, everything will be alright. For now, pick yourself up, you need nourishment. I’ll order and you eat every morsel that’s prepared for you, got it?”
” Call me Linda from now on.” Taiwo half listened to Linda place an order while she curled in a ball at the center of the bed. Linda was having none of it, pulling her back to her feet and pushing her into the bathroom. Hot water sprayed from the shower head and began to fog the glass mirror. Taiwo stood still while Linda undressed her and led her into the shower. Linda was soaking wet while trying to wash Taiwo’s body. She listened to her cry soul wrenching tears she once shed when she lost her babies.
She could identify will the shame and fear that her husband was going hate her. He hadn’t hated her but insisted he was tired of trying and failing to have babies. The result was the breakdown of their marriage but lucky for her when she married again, she birthed five healthy babies she wouldn’t trade anything in the world for. One thing she could clearly she was that Taiwo shouldn’t be left alone in her severely fragile state. She was barely hanging on by a thread and who knows what she would do once they left Paris. She stayed close to Taiwo throughout the day and made sure she ate and slept soundly.
The next morning they went out for a walk, or as Linda called it, sight seeing. Every other moment while silence crept on them, Taiwo burst into tears and having to pride left, she let them flow. Lind rubbed her back and hailed a taxi that drove them back to the the hotel. Majority of the morning and afternoon Taiwo lied in bed staring out at nothing until her companion fell into her view.
“Why are you still here?”
“Because you need support, dear.” There she went again, tears spilling into the pillow. Linda thought her crying was better than having her pretend everything was alright. She couldn’t let her stay in bed forever though, she had to get her dressed. The show was two and a half hours away and everything needed to be perfect, she needed to be perfect even though she was broken on the inside and it was Linda’s job to make it happen. “You need to get dressed and make sure you tie your hair up like you did last time. Get moving. When I come back, I expect you to be fully dressed and ready to go. Don’t disappoint me.”
Once Linda exited, Taiwo scooted herself to the edge of the bed, pushed herself up and walked toward her hanging outfit. The colors were fire engine red and the borders trimmed in gold. The scarf was identical and her feet would be clad in sleek black high heels.
Undressing was arduous but as she glided in her clothes piece by piece, she felt a little more like herself. It’d been a while since she’d seen herself like this. Twisting and wrapping her curly hair into a massive pineapple was reflexive, her hands had a memory all their own. Slipping into heels was a task; she’d worn heels before but nothing this high. She could make it work for the sake of this one day. By the time Linda returned, Taiwo was fully dressed with clutch in hand. “You look stunning and elegant, as you should. Come, we don’t want to be late.” The ride to the show was quiet until they drove up to bright lights, flashing cameras and buzzing guests.
“Don’t be nervous and smile.”
Stepping outside the limousine, a camera and a woman with a microphone approached her and asked who she was wearing. Thankfully Linda stepped in just as the feeling rushed over Taiwo to bolt.
“She’s wearing Brontë and Yona. Surely you’re heard of this fresh designer.”
“There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Brontë’s fall line. What can you tell me who Brontë is Ms. Yona?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. I was just lucky enough to work with the company.”
“Surely, you can tell us if he’s male or female. There’s absolutely a mystery to the face of Brontë.”
“It’ll have to remain that way. I’m sorry.”
“We hope you enjoy the fashion show. We must get inside.” Linda kindly waved off the nosey entertainment correspondent and pushed forward into the building. Once inside, Taiwo’s eyes widened in surprise at all the people flitting about. There was even more chaos backstage as models were putting the final touches to their makeup.
“This is amazing.”
“Blows me away every single time I’m here. Let’s meet the models from your line.” Linda took her by the hand pulling her through the busy and tight crowd of models and stylists.
“Aren’t these other models someone else’s?”
“We’ve split the Fall/Winter line. Brontë will walk first, after that Brontë & Yona models will take the stage to show case your designs. We’ve switched it up this time around to something more fresh.”
“My name is on the tags?”
“Oh course! Connor didn’t take any credit for your designs. All revenue from your line goes to you. Didn’t you know?”
“After the models walk we’ll close things out and introduce ourselves. They already know me but will be very curious about you. Think you’re up for it?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Not really.” She was served a reassuring smile and even laughed a little. The whole night from start to finish was mind numbing. All the models walked with pride but it was extra special for the models who represented the essence of what it looks like to be African. Taiwo forgot all her troubles the whole night right up until they boarded the plane the next morning back home. The high that coursed through her body had worn off and again crept in her fears.
©Copyright privatethoughtsmadepublic. 2016.
Next chapter here, By Design (13)