“Do you want some tea?” asked Siana, grabbing Yulia’s sleeve. If Siana hadn’t done that then Yulia would have remained staring at the children.
“Yes!” said Yulia, “I would love a cup of tea.”
“Let’s go,” said Siana and led the way to the living room. The day was a bit too cold to enjoy their tea in the garden.
They were talking about things randomly when Siana heaved a great sigh and put her teacup down. “Yulia, I have been worried about something for a while now,” said Siana, “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Yulia, “If it is something I can help with, go ahead.”
Siana fell silent for a long while. Yulia felt worried and couldn’t take the quiet anymore. “What is it?” she asked, “Tell me.”
“Okay,” said Siana, “Then I am going to ask away, alright?”
“Okay,” said Yulia, “Go ahead.”
“Well, yes, in a way,” said Yulia, “Everyone changes some way or another. But I don’t understand what you might be specifically referring to.”
“My appearance,” said Siana, miserably, running her fingers through her hair, “Have I changed drastically from the time I was pregnant till now?”
Yulia didn’t understand why Siana was suddenly asking about such a thing. “Why are you asking that? What’s going on?” asked Yulia, “Is it because of Alan?”
“How did you know?” asked Siana, wide-eyed in surprise.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” said Yulia, rolling her eyes. The pregnancy and Siana’s being obsessed about her appearance could only relate to one person.
“Is it really that obvious?” said Siana.
“What happened, Siana?” asked Yulia, “Did Alan say something? What made you think in this manner?”
Is he having an affair…? There was no way one could know another person completely. She would never have expected Alan of such a thing, but you never know.
“Uh, the truth is…,” stammered Siana. She closed her mouth again before resolving to let it out. “I don’t feel good like I used to.”
“How exactly do you mean?” asked Yulia.
“About our love life as a married couple…,” Siana faltered, embarrassed. But Yulia waited calmly for her friend to regain her composure and continue.
Siana had shared everything about her life with Yulia, the most intimate details. She didn’t need to feel uncomfortable with Yulia. “Tell me, Sia,” urged Yulia, “What did Alan do to make you feel this way?”
“He keeps avoiding to do it,” said Siana, finally.
“Is it because of his curse?” asked Yulia.
“Well, he is getting regular check-ups and the doctor said that he seems to have recovered completely now,” said Siana, “But when I want to do it….” Siana picked at the loose skin on her fingernail, “Whenever I try to initiate it, he keeps avoiding me. I heard from other wives that the husbands have a change of heart and lose interest in their wives when they get pregnant and have children.”
“So, is there a possibility that Alan might be involved with other women?” asked Yulia.
“No, it’s not that,” said Siana, “I feel like he has grown colder towards me. He doesn’t want to make love to me anymore. It’s strange.”
Yulia let out a sigh and fell into deep thought. It was certainly an issue and she was worried about her friend. However, she couldn’t think of any other reason. Yulia would have been suspicious if there was any other woman in the picture. But seeing that it was just Siana and Alan, she couldn’t think of anything.
“Did you talk to him about it?” asked Yulia.
“Yeah,” said Siana.
“What did he say?” asked Yulia.
“That he is just tired and that he just wants me to rest and doesn’t want to exhaust me.”
Yulia recalled Alan’s behaviour on the day of Siana’s delivery. He had been so nervous at Siana’s screams stopping abruptly. He had been so concerned about Siana that he had only asked the doctor about her wellbeing. He had burst into tears when he had finally seen Siana.
Is it because he is worried that Siana might get pregnant and would have to go through something like that again? But Siana can just take birth control. That doesn’t really seem like a strong reason to reject…. Yulia stopped abruptly.
“Sia, can I ask you something personal?” asked Yulia.
“Do you plan to have a third baby?”
“Yeah, I do,” said Siana, “You know how lonely I was growing up as an only child. I want my children to have each other.”
“Have you talked about that with Alan?”
“I have,” said Siana, confused.
“And what did he say?”
“He asked if two weren’t already enough,” said Siana.
“What about birth control?” asked Yulia, “Did you mention that to him?”
“Not really,” said Siana, “Only a long time ago when you and I talked about it and bought that tea. I haven’t really mentioned anything about it.”
“So, there has been no talk of birth control or delaying pregnancy between you two?”
“No, not really,” said Siana.
Yulia was convinced now that Alan was worried that Siana might suffer giving birth and she might die. He didn’t want her to be pregnant again. But since Sia didn’t mention birth control or any other way to delay pregnancy because she wants another child, he is trying to abstain.
Yulia wondered if she should tell this to Siana or leave it to herself to figure it out. Maybe she should let the people involved have a conversation and resolve it between themselves. But Siana thought of something else. She had assumed that Alan was no longer attached to her.
Yulia sighed. I don’t think this can be left to fester. She explained everything to Siana. Siana was very surprised at this revelation. “Is that really true?” asked Siana.
“No,” said Siana, “I thought he liked kids because he is so affectionate towards Liz and Allen.”
“That’s true,” said Yulia, “But it might also be because they are his children, and he loves them. But Alan loving his children and worrying about you suffering through pregnancy with all the risks are two separate matters.”
Siana fell into a deep thought. Yulia could see that she hadn’t thought about it in this way. “Anyway,” said Yulia, “Just talk about it with him once again. It’s just my guess but try once, okay?”
Siana nodded. “Okay,” she said firmly. Yulia was relieved because Siana finally looked a little surer of herself than before.
* * *
After Yulia left for her estate, Siana thought about what her friend had told her. So, Alan was scared of me getting pregnant and suffering and he kept avoiding me. I never mentioned protection or birth control to him because I loved children.
She had never considered that this might be the case. But it did seem plausible that Alan was scared of losing her. She was relieved but also embarrassed to think that Alan had lost interest in her.
If Yulia’s guess was right, she had been unintentionally forcing things on Alan. She wanted another child but not at the expense of staying away from Alan. If he didn’t want any more kids, then so be it. Besides, she had Liz and Allen. They were enough.
She understood why Alan was scared. She had felt like she would die from the pain last time she gave birth. If it was Alan suffering like that, she wouldn’t have been able to bear it. I will initiate it this time, and if he rejects, I will ask him whether Yulia was right. Siana made up her mind and played with the twins in the nursery while she waited for Alan.
* * *
Alan returned a little late in the evening. Siana welcomed him with a kiss. He kissed her back,
“You look happy today,” he said, “Did you do something fun?”
“Just talked with Yulia and played with the children,” said Siana.
“Oh, so today was the day Yulia came,” said Alan, “Where is she now?”
“She went back,” said Siana, “I told her she could spend the night here, but she refused. She said she would be more comfortable in her own bed at home.”
“Hm. Nothing you can do about that,” said Alan, “How are Liz and Allen?”
“I just put them to sleep,” said Siana.
“I will wait till tomorrow morning to go see them,” said Alan, removing his coat.
Siana stared at him as he removed his coat and loosened his cravat. He looked at her and their eyes met. Siana looked away. At her bewilderment, Alan became curious.
“Sia,” he said, “What is wrong?”
“Oh, nothing,” said Siana, “I was just surprised when you looked at me.”
“And why is that?’ he asked.
“I, uh…,” stammered Siana and laughed awkwardly. He finished changing into his pyjamas and lay on the bed. Siana jumped on top of him with each of her legs on either side of his waist.
Alan looked up at her. Siana leaned down and licked Alan’s neckline that was exposed through the collar of his shirt. Siana felt Alan’s jaw clench and he lightly pushed her hands away. He had rejected her yet again. Siana couldn’t help but tear up.
“Not today either?” she asked, shaken.
“I am sorry,” he said, “I am so tired. Let’s do it next time.”
“When Alan?” cried Siana, “That is all you ever say. It has been two months since the babies
Si and you haven’t touched me even once. It is like you don’t want to touch me at all.”
“Sia…,” said Alan, sadly. He looked embarrassed but Siana wasn’t going to back down today. She needed an answer. She was determined to get one.
“Please be honest with me,” said Siana, “You don’t want me anymore, do you?”
“What? No, Sia…,” said Alan.
“Is it because you don’t feel anything towards me anymore?” asked Siana, “I am not attractive to you anymore, am I? So, you can’t even bear to touch me.”
Alan was taken aback at her outburst and her straightforward questions. He tried to comfort her. “Sia. Why would I do that?” he said, “What made you feel like —”
“What made me feel this way?” she repeated, “You always avoid me. All you say is we will do it next time, that you are tired. Every time I initiate it because I want you, and you push me away saying you don’t want to give me a hard time. Is it because your curse has been lifted and you have completely recovered that you don’t need me anymore? You don’t love me anymore?”
“No, Sia,” said Alan, “Listen to me. That is absolutely not true. I love you. I will always love you. You are my wife.”
“Then why do you keep pushing me away?” asked Siana.
“I, uh…,” mumbled Alan. He didn’t know what to say. He tried to smile at her then thought better of it and clamped his mouth shut. Siana faced him and gave voice to her thoughts.
“Tell me, please,” said Siana, “Is it because you don’t want me to get pregnant again?”
“Please, Alan,” said Siana, “Tell me. Is it because you are afraid that I might die while giving birth that you are avoiding making love to me?”
“Then what the hell is it?!” exclaimed Siana, “Just tell me! If you don’t dislike me or find me unattractive or if it isn’t your fear of me getting pregnant, then tell me what is it? Just tell me the reason.”
Her voice faltered with her tears. The sadness and frustration that she had bottled up exploded. She tried to blink away the tears threatening to flow again.
“Tell me. Why do you keep avoiding me?” said Siana, “You wanted me every day before my pregnancy and after that, you don’t even want to touch me. So, what am I supposed to think of that?”
Alan realized that he could no longer avoid her questions. He fell silent for a long while before he opened his mouth to speak. “You are right,” he said.
Siana looked at him, eyes full of tears. “I am sacred of you getting pregnant again,” he said, “I have been avoiding you because of that.”
Alan saw that Siana was on the verge of crying again so he hurriedly continued with his clarification.