You hold your breath as he comes through the back door, leaving behind a trail of white smoke. He kisses your cheeks and you cringe at the smell of his shirt until he laughs, not finding it amusing. He sits on the wooden stool. That's his cue for how hungry he is. You pretend you don't understand, pretend you don't even know why he is here.
He tells you to hurry up. You want to tell him to shut up and leave but you know you can't. Not with the slaps and kicks waiting patiently behind a sea of dark rainbows. Not with the tiny baby bump that he still doesn't know of.
"I'm almost done, baby." That's what you say to him instead because the baby keeps him busy enough to not practice his emotions on the back of your head. In stirring the stew on the stove, the bruises appear like matches, ignited, burning swiftly and you choke back the tears by biting down hard on your lower lips. You stop only because you taste blood.
"You are a bit slow." He tells you later as you set the table before him with foreign food and water and cakes. "I mean, you are usually slow but lately? It's a bit odd."
You hasten to the kitchen and wash your hands as though it mattered, letting the faucet continue to drip. When you appear by his side, you know it is time to tell him about the baby. You know it is time for him to learn about the small child, begging to be heard inside the cloud of flesh.
"What's that on your cheek?" He asks you.
You touch your cheeks. Your hand takes a leap at cold water on your face and you know the truth even before he voices it out.
"You've been crying." He tells you. He looks at you like he's just pronounced judgment and you ache to be like him, angry and loveless and cynical, but you are not that. He knows that.
"It's the onions." You say.
Maybe in a year or two, you can justify that lie and not feel bothered by the reckless comments of a million people. But at that moment, after the lie, you knew he was not going to like the news.
He gets up and throws back his chair. That's his cue that he is done and just wants to smoke anything you can find. You want to tell him that cigarette smoke isn't good for growing children but then you stop, knowing you haven't told him yet how one forceful night can generate a bump.
You wouldn't call it rape but when the mascara almost couldn't hide the scar and people were beginning to give you second and third glances of pity, you called it that. Exactly as it was: rape. But you won't tell him that. No. You won't tell him he raped you, tossed you like a worthless version of womanhood. You know he will not like the sound of that. You know the slaps that will follow before he tells you about his father who was a priest and his mother who had loved God so much she wanted to be buried along with Him. So you don't tell your husband that you think he raped you.
You will tell him you love him. You want to tell yourself it is just a stupid lie, one you made up to avoid the beatings but you know it is the truth. You still love him. Hard. You still love him even after June 4th. That's your cue for forgotten memories resurfacing like three-year-olds beneath a kitchen sink.
June 4th and he is kneeling where you now stand, with hands hidden in the pockets of his shorts. He is smiling. Maybe that part is made up now, strictly by your stitched up mind. You can't think of anything else he can be doing because you want to still love him even after everything.
June 4th and you're in the kitchen, cooking, laughing at the photograph of the both of you when you were young teenagers who loved each other like life was meaningful.
You are telling him, "I miss those moments. I miss us walking around the park, holding hands, and laughing." You forget to add baby. You forget to make him feel special and it's you who gets to pay.
You still do not know why but later, he hits you across the face and tapes your life alongside the photograph of you on the wall. You may have forgotten about the hunger and the bloody rug but not the scar on your left leg and the one on your face, hard like a map. He doesn't remember, you tell yourself when he never apologizes for that day.
"Happy birthday." He beaches this last part out as he drags his feet across the room and opens the windows.
You touch your face and nudge your baby. Be careful, don't let him hear you. That's what you tell the child before turning to face him. You've forgotten again. He still remembers though. He is your husband, how can he not remember?
"Thank you, baby." You tell him.
He smiles. Then he says, "I'm going to take you out to Sue's Kitchen. We are going to eat whatever you want."
"That's expensive." You say that only because you have to; because he has to know you care about his money even if you really don't.
"I love you. I will do anything for you." He says.
That's your cue to tell him the truth, to tell him about the baby bump you've been trying to hide under big skirts and faded T-shirts. You want to tell him, you really do but you do not want to spoil the evening with a tasteless joke. So instead you smile back at him.
He lights up a cigarette. You do not cringe. His lungs are his.
In the evening, he holds your hands. You notice how coarse his hands are. Or maybe it's your hands you feel under the softness of his foreign fragility. You sit in the part of the restaurant that holds light dim enough to hide fake smiles and tired frowns and he orders sushi. You hate it but you smile when he tells you to eat it. You still love him afterward.
When you want to go home, he holds your hands again. Home is where he takes you. Except there is no home left. There is a roof and door and windows and pots and plates. But the feeling behind true smiles has gone.
He tells you to take a shower. He lies in bed, waiting for you. You can't tell him no, it's been a month or two since he forced you; since you discovered the child growing inside of you. He will find out himself were he to see you naked and you know his reaction will end the baby.
It's time to say the truth. That's what you say when you stand before him, afraid of moving to the bathroom.
"I want to say something." You say to him. He stands up from the bed.
He looks at you, nods his head, says nothing.
"I fear you won't want to hear this."
He looks at you, shakes his head, bites his lips.
He wants to hit you. You know that you wait for it. He lifts his hand up. He looks at you. He keeps his hands down by his side. The child keeps growing.
"What?" He asks.
"I'm carrying your child." You say to him.
He moves away from you. You stop yourself from telling him about the night that dodged a month of forgetfulness and the rain that shoot out like stars on the night he took you. You stop yourself from loading the bullets on the gun of your pain.
He looks out from the window and catches a glimpse of starlight. He smiles. He doesn't.
"How can you be with a child?" He asks.
You pretend you don't hear the question.
"Why didn't I know of this sooner?" He doesn't scream at you. You wish he would.
"I did not know how to tell you. But I can't keep hiding it, can I?"
He turns to you. He leaps at you, pins you to the wall. He closes his eyes. He says nothing.
"Please don't hurt me." You say.
He lets you go. He breaths down hard on your skin. You still love him. Then he says, "Go get me water. I suddenly feel faint."
When you turn to go, he touches your cheeks but doesn't hit you. He will do it, you know. Maybe not now. Maybe not with the child with you. But he will touch you and you will still love him.