“Mummy!” my son screamed from outside at the top of his voice. I didn’t blame him, he was late for school and I was sitting in front of the mirror, trying to use makeup to hide my swollen eyes.
I had spent most of my night crying. I couldn’t help it, today was his birthday and all I could do was think of him, my dearest husband.
It’s been three years since the pandemic took him away, three years of misery for me. I remember like it was yesterday when I got a call from a health official; he called to tell me that my husband showed the symptoms of the virus and is now in quarantine, and I could not see him until they dim it safe. I was so devastated, though I always knew there was a high possibility since he worked as a scientist in the lab where they tried to find the cure. The hardest part was explaining to my three year old son why his father won’t be around for a while, but promising him he was going to see him soon. I never kept that promise.
Few months after, I got another call, the place where my husband was quarantined caught fire and there were no survivors. We could not even have his body. After months of waiting to see him only to hear he was dead, it broke me, but I knew I had to be strong for my son. Sometimes it feels like the pandemic that put all our lives on pause is not over yet, at least not for me.
“Yes honey,” I screamed back then took one last look at the mirror before running to meet him. He had his arms folded while stomping his right feet as I approached, making me smile. He looked just like his father.
I got to his school, then gave him a big kiss on his forehead before letting him go. I watched as one of his teachers took him by the hand and led him into the school. Before he was out of sight he turned and waved, he always did, so I always waited.
Immediately after, I drove to my workplace. My work as a system manager in a telecommunications company helped distract me from the loss of my husband. I walked into the sereneness of my office, then sat down and took a deep breath. I put on my computer and saw a new email, then opened it. The words I saw left me dumbstruck: Your husband is alive.
I texted back a billion questions. Who are you? Where is he? Can I see him? But there was no reply. If this was someone’s idea of a joke, it wasn’t funny. After three days without a reply, I concluded that it was indeed a joke. I felt stupid for believing it in the first place, my husband had died in a fire, he was dead and I needed to accept it.
About two weeks later, I got another message from the same person telling me to meet him at a junction in two days if I wanted answers. Of course I wanted answers but it would be stupid of me to meet up with a stranger just because I’m desperate, so I deleted the message.
Two days later, I found myself at the junction; I was more curious and desperate than I thought. About an hour later, a man in a black jeans and black hoodie walked up to me and I knew immediately that I had made a mistake. He noticed the fear in my eyes then said,
“Mrs. Madu, don’t be afraid I won’t hurt you. My name is John.”
“Were you the one sending the emails?”
“I am and I’m sorry it took me a while to reply, I just needed to be discreet.”
“Where is my husband?”
“I’ll take you to him,” he said and motioned for me to move, but I didn’t. I still didn’t trust him, but I was too desperate not to be trusting.
“Okay,” I said and moved. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice how uneasy he was. He kept looking around like he there was someone watching, then I remembered he said something about having to be discreet. “Why did you have to be discreet? Is my husband in some sort of trouble? Where has he been all this while? Is he…”
“I promise, I will answer all your questions, just trust me and I know it’s a crazy thing to ask cause we just met but you have to,” I nodded in agreement then we kept on walking.
We got to a driveway and entered a black tinted car; I wondered why he just didn’t park closer to the junction, but I didn’t ask. After hours of biting my nails and imagining our meet up, we got to the front of a tattered multiple story building. Every inch of me wanted to run inside and check every room, but I might just get lost, so I was patient.
He directed me inside and once I got in; I gasped at the sight. The inside was nothing like the outside. There were beautiful chandeliers, glass doors and to my surprise, men and women in lab coats.
“This is a secret organization,” he explained. “The outside is a camouflage so we can blend in.”
“What do you guys do in here?” I asked, still taking in the beauty. “And why is it a secret?”
“We help keep the world safe by detecting strange viruses before it becomes a pandemic. We’ve also been researching for the cure of diseases like cancer and HIV.”
“You guys do a lot of outstanding work here, why is it a secret?”
“Let me just say some people are against outstanding.”
“Why… Or you know what just show me my husband, please.”
“As you wish,” he said and smiled. We entered an elevator to the third floor of the building. As we passed the hallways, I began to feel nervous. What if he was not in love with me anymore, what if he was no longer the man I fell in love with? We got to the front of a door that needed John’s fingerprint, before he put this hand, he turned to me and said like he had been reading my thought, “Just so you know, the man behind this door is the same man you married.”
I took a deep breath and smiled at him, I really needed to hear those words. He put his fingerprint, and the door opened. It was a lab, probably the biggest and the fanciest I had seen so far. From where I stood I could see about five people in a lab coat and safety goggles, concentrating on, I did not know what.
“Is he there?” I asked, and he nodded with a smile. My intention was to run, but I could barely move my legs, I walked as fast as my legs could to him. I was almost a halfway through when one of them, a woman saw me, the others noticed her staring and turned, including him. Our eyes locked and my legs stopped. The world stopped. The others suddenly felt invisible, the room felt too small. He removed his goggles slowly then his hand gloves and started walking up to me and so did I.
We finally got to each other, tears in both our eyes, none knowing what to say, we might not have known what to say but I definitely knew what to do, I dropped my handbag in my right hand on the floor and slapped him making all of them gasp.
“I deserved that,” he said, and God that voice, I had missed it so much. I wanted to scream at him to explain himself, but instead I pulled him into a tight hug and cried into his shoulders while he cried into mine.
We went to a room for privacy, and we just sat for a while saying nothing.
“Would you like me to get you anything?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I’d like the truth, I want to know why you let me spend three years thinking you were dead, why you put me in the position of having to explain to our son, why he can never see his father again?”
“I’m sorry I had to do it.”
“Few years ago, I got an email from someone telling me that the organization I worked with was the reason for the pandemic, their plan was to create a virus, make people suffer then provide a solution so they look like the hero and make money from it. I didn’t believe it so I did my investigation and I found out it was true, but unfortunately they also found out that I was unto them. This organization were the people that reached out to me, they found out I was in trouble and came up with a plan to fake my death.”
“You could have told me, I was your wife, I am your wife.”
“You think I didn’t want to, That was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I knew I needed to do it. If they found out you knew I was still alive, they would have tortured you till you told them where I was. I don’t know if you know this but the first year of my death you were being followed, they suspected I faked it because there was no body to prove I was dead but if I was alive, you would know.”
I buried my face in my hands, taking it all in, “So why are you telling me now?”
“Because I’m done hiding, before I died, I gained some information that could incriminate them, throughout the years we’ve been building a strong case against them without their knowledge and I think we’ve gathered more than enough evidence to bring them down, I just wanted you to see me first before everyone else.”
“So you’re coming back to life?” I asked, and he smiled.
“I am, I’m coming home, that’s if you still want me,” he said, desperation clear in his voice.
“You know three years is a long time,” I said, and he nodded, afraid to hear my next words. “But it’s not enough time for me to stop loving you.”
I could kill for the smile on his face right now, I could kill for this moment. Things might not be as they were before, but at least we’ll be together. I won’t have to hug my pillow while I sleep in the night or talk to the mirror about how sad I felt, I won't have to be alone anymore.
It took less time than I thought to take down my husband’s ex company; it was overwhelming, but we had each other. After the whole thing; I took a deep breath, my life was coming back together faster than I thought.
“Mummy!” My son shouted from downstairs. It was Sunday, and we were prepared to go for the early morning mass. I put on my red lipstick, grabbed my bag and went down to meet my son.
“Where is your father?” I asked and just then he walked in from the kitchen with a bottle of water in his hand. Once he saw me, he stopped, a huge smile appearing on his face.
“You look stunning.” he said, then walked up to me and placed a kiss on my lips.
“We’re going to be late for church.” my son said, and we laughed.
I took my son outside and waited by the door as my husband locked it. He put the key in his pocket, then turned and took my hand. Even as we walked together with his hands in mine, I still could not believe it was real. The pandemic was finally over for me.