This story is by Ioana Maria Nistor and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It had been 3 weeks since she found out, the longest month in her entire life.
She hadn’t told anyone yet, not even her mother or her best friend Maia, and worse, she hadn’t told him.
They had been dating for 8 months, the longest she had ever dated a man. She didn’t pay attention to the men that were waiting in line for her hand; all she cared about was her family’s welfare and her dream of moving from her small hometown to the big city. The thought of finally being on her own and free from the responsibility of taking care of her brothers and sisters 24/7 was appealing.
It was 1981 in Romania.Ana was the oldest of her 6 brothers and sisters, she was 19. She came from a poor and conservative family. Her parents counted on her to keep the house and keep her siblings safe while they were working in the fields to make ends meet. Not only was she the good girl with the good grades, but she was also the pride of her mother who raised all her children on faith. Ana was also wildly beautiful, graceful and captivating. Strangers were mesmerized by her tall frame and slender body, her long, chestnut hair, and piercing green eyes.
Ana was ready to take on the world, it was about time to put herself first and move to the city to pursue her education.
One day, one of her first days in the city, she met HIM; she met Nikolai. Maia introduced them.What was just an ordinary walk on a sunny day with her friends turned quickly and irrevocably into “THE DAY”.
There was something about this 22 years old, charming, intelligent, tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed, and jovial man.
She started to pay attention to him. Days passed ridiculously fast, her love for Nikolai became bigger than the city, bigger than her dreams.
They spent a lot of time together, going out for parties and barbeques with their friends, but she sadly learned that she was not his only love. He also loved to drink a little too much and this turned him into a cranky, selfish, suspicious man who had to be right all the time and who cared too much about what other people thought or said about them, especially about her.
“That dress is too colorful.”, “What would people think of you wearing this dress?”, “You don’t want to look frivolous!” or “I don’t think you need to continue your education. I don’t see the point…I earn enough money for both of us.” These were some of his favourite remarks to throw at her after a couple of drinks.
Hearing these words, she would often frown and sigh.Her green eyes would sorrowfully stare into his blue eyes while she would elegantly and shyly defend herself. This gradually started to break her spirit. Despite everything, when the vapors of alcohol evaporated and the witnesses were gone, he called her “my fairy” and revolved around her like Earth revolves around the Sun. She was his sun and he was her Earth and everything fell into place once more.
She knew all about his dark side. She was there every time to take the hit, and it hurt. Somehow, she still adored him. She still fed herself with the smell of his skin and lost herself in his arms. Nevertheless, she could hear a faint voice inside her trying to warn her about what was to come.
After 8 months, Ana became more and more conflicted about her relationship. They fought quite often. One ordinary morning, she found out that she was pregnant.
Her entire world started to shrink. All of a sudden, her life back home in the small village, taking care or her younger brothers and sisters seemed like heaven. Was she being punished because she wanted a life of her own?
It was 1981, society wasn’t forgiving with women who didn’t obey their men, or it’s rules. What would a pregnant 19 years old woman without a husband look like? All her life she had been told that having a baby out of wedlock was a sin, shameful and social suicide. After 3 agonizing weeks, she finally decided to talk with her mother.
“ Mother, I am in pain and I need you. Three weeks ago I found out that I am pregnant with Nikolai’s child. I want this baby, but my gut tells me that marrying this man is a mistake.”
Her mother dropped the cup she was holding in her hand and stared blankly through Ana for a few moments that seemed like forever. After a while she said:
“Ana, this is not how a woman should behave. Women should marry their baby’s father and stay in their marriage no matter what! If you won’t marry this man, you will bring shame upon yourself and our family. If you keep the baby and you choose to be a single mother, everybody will reject you. You will even have a hard time finding work. Is that what you want for you and your baby? To live in shame?”
Ana couldn’t breath. She felt her world collapse right there in that very moment. Her mother had always been strict, but, she too, was a woman.
Ana had hoped that her mother would see beyond the rules of the society, that she would see another woman in need if not her daughter that needed her mother.
“No, I didn’t want this, but it happened. What I want is for you to encourage me; for you to stand up for your daughter!”
Her mother began to sob as if she had no choice.
Ana cried her eyes out for days, scared and devastated. She couldn’t eat; she couldn’t speak. She would wake up at night, shaking and feeling anxious. She was alone in a world in which everybody, including her mother, rejected her.
She had always followed the rules, but this time it felt wrong! She was the good girl, but she was not ready for marriage. She was also not ready to be a pariah. In her heart she knew that Nikolai wouldn’t see past his traditional beliefs about women. This was his only fault, but for her it would have been fatal. She also knew a divorce was another reason for people to stigmatize her.
Nikolai had not seen her in days. Every time he tried to reach out, she just kept avoiding him. He tried to talk to her over phone, but every time they talked, she seemed distracted, absent, and cold.One day he just showed up at her door unnanounced.
They stood there in silence for a few moments that felt like hours. Nikolai took her hand and then pulled her towards him. He missed her.
They sat down on the grass. It was a beautiful spring day. Ana told him about the pregnancy, but, just before she could say another word, Nikolai kissed her so passionately that Ana remained speechless. Nikolai jumped back to his feet, excited and happy as if he just found his life purpose.
Nikolai said “ You have made me the happiest man! Let’s get married! Let’s be a family! I haven’t loved anyone the way I love you. Give me the honor of being your husband and our baby’s father. I can change.”
Ana hadn’t seen him acting like this before. She believed him. All her dark thoughts vanished in that very moment. The doubt turned into hope; she decided to keep the baby and marry him.
They looked like the perfect newlyweds, both young and fearless. The best days were ahead of them. They had a big and exquisite wedding. Her mother was overjoyed and proud.
She was once again the good girl who followed the rules. Society opened its forgiving arms to welcome her home. She was not the black sheep anymore. She felt relieved.
It had been 5 months since the wedding. Ana became very fond of the little miracle that grew inside her, but the fears about her marriage came back to haunt her.
Nikolai’s affection for drinking didn’t go away. His pride of being her husband turned into a subtle form of suffocating and selfish emotional abuse. He always had to change something about what she did, wore, or said, and of course it was her fault that men admired her.
He was the man of the house and she was just his beautiful pregnant wife who was waiting for him to come home. He liked to party and it gave him comfort to know that she was always there waiting for him.
One ordinary evening, he got home just to find an empty apartment. Her clothes were gone; her books, her smell, she was gone.
On the table, she left a wrinkled piece of paper that read,
“I would rather commit social suicide than die little by little in this marriage.”