Friday, January 19, 2018

Honorable Mention 2014 Christmas Contest: The Second Son

December 29, 2014 by  
Filed under 2014 Christmas, Contests

by Debbie Roome

Debbie-RoomeDebbie Roome was raised in Zimbabwe and later spent fifteen years in South Africa. In 2006 she moved to New Zealand with her husband and five children. She loves to write stories that touch people’s lives and turn them towards God. She has won many awards for her work, including twice placing first in the Rose & Crown Novel Writing Competition. Debbie is often asked to share her life story and her experiences as a writer.

The Second Son

The birthing hut crowded in on us, three women brought together by the rhythms of life. A kerosene lamp burned to my right and the air was laden with sweat and the stench of childbirth. A baby lay next to me but I realised something was wrong. Fresh pains gripped me, knotting my abdomen. A gush of water and then a second son slithered into the world, attached by a rope of flesh. Sizani’s eyes gleamed in the dull light, her wizened limbs black as charcoal . “This is bad luck. You know we cannot let him live.”

Marlene flinched. “Why not?”

“If he lives, someone else in the family will die. It’s a curse.”

The baby wailed then, a thin sound like the whistles the village boys carved from sugar cane. It mingled with the distant sound of singing from the church. The missionaries had taught us about another baby who was born at Christmas and now they were celebrating His birth.

I reached down for my second son but the midwife pushed my hands away. “No! You mustn’t anger our ancestors.” She limped towards the low entrance of the hut.

“She’s gone to get a lump of earth,” I said. “She’ll force it down his throat.”

“Do you want me to stop her?”

Voices swirled in my head, arguing, fighting until I looked up at Marlene, her hair a pale mist and eyes blue as the summer sky. She’d only been in the village a month, working at the clinic, but I trusted her. “Take him. Take him where he’ll be safe. Don’t ever bring him back here.”

I never saw her again but I think of my son every Christmas, wondering if he grew into a strong man like his twin. I never told Jabu about his brother and in spite of the old midwife’s warning, no one in the family died after I gave my child away.

As for me, my body has let me down. A virus dwells in my blood and it has robbed me of my husband and my strength. I lay on my bed most days, waiting for death. Neighbours bathe and feed me and Jabu visits often. He came by last night and said he’d heard a preacher named Jonah who prays for the sick is in town. “Mama, I’m going to take you there tomorrow.”

I can’t see the point but he arrives with a van and lifts me into the back. The journey is excruciating. I feel every jolt and my bones ache deep inside. At the hall, Jabu and his friend carry me inside on a thin mattress. I doze off during the carol singing, but jerk awake as the preacher walks onto the platform.

Everything seems to freeze.

Jabu sees it too and I hear the sharp rush of air as he inhales. Thoughts tumble through my mind and for the first time in thirty years, I feel a deep comfortable peace settle across me like a warm cloak.

“Mama!” Jabu whispers but I shush him.

“Later,” I say. The preacher’s words fall on the barren spot in my heart and as he talks about the miracle child God sent at Christmas, I know that I’m seeing my own personal miracle.

Jonah prays for the sick after the meeting and I’m happy to wait until last. Finally he approaches my mat on the floor, his face damp, wiping his brow with a cloth. When he sees Jabu, he stands still, silent, taking in this man who appears to be a perfect copy of himself. Then he kneels. “Is he your son?” he asks.

“He is.” I struggle to get the words out.

“Marlene told me I was a twin,” he whispers. “She said I could never go back, wouldn’t tell me where I was from, but I’ve prayed for years that I would find my family.”

I lift a hand to touch his cheek, emotion surging within. “I’ve prayed for you too,” I say. “I asked that the missionary’s God would keep you safe.”

He leans over and takes me in his arms as Jabu squats down beside us. In the background, the choir sings softly.

“Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

I look at my two sons as they stare at each other in wonder. They have an entire lifetime to catch up on – a lifetime that would have been denied one of them if I had not given him away. I may not find physical healing tonight but my heart is whole and my family complete. God has given me the best miracle I could ever have asked for.




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