OUR LADY OF FÁTIMA
Fátima feels ready. She walks out of the doctor’s office directly into a baby store, and the overweight saleswoman is the first person she tells. The woman congratulates her with a rehearsed smile and asks what her what she’s looking for, but Fátima doesn’t know. She just wants to step into motherhood.
She wants to tell her family, her friends, everyone, but something reminds her it’s better if she waits. Until the thirteenth week, at least, but maybe she’s there already? Her doctor forgot to say. It might as well be possible, she feels the baby inside her and she wants to tell her sister. Her sister, yes. Fátima remembers Mariana saying: “Someday you’ll have children of your own” the day her oldest was born. Fátima was younger and was there at the hospital during the entire labor, from when they started inducing to when they took Mariana away for the C-section. When she held her nephew in her arms for the first time she had thought “Yes, yes, I will”. She had been so ecstatic.
Her sister would understand.
Mariana asks her again and again “But who is the father?” and does not believe her when Fátima says she does not know. The conversation does not end well, and when she thinks about stopping by a bar to forget how awful her family is, she remembers she’s not allowed to, not anymore. The thought makes her happy again, and she decides to go out and have dinner at a nice restaurant instead. Terraço Itália or someplace like that, she has always wanted to go there, she kept on telling Carlos, waiting for him to get the cue and invite her, to maybe propose to her, but he never did.
She stops by her house to change into a flowy dress and flats, so she can remain comfortable while carrying the extra weight of the pregnancy.
Fátima calls and makes a reservation for one – no, two – and when the hostess asks if it’s a special occasion she says that yes, it is. She walks around her apartment, waiting until it’s time for her to leave, and starts thinking about how she will get her place ready for the baby. She’ll have to childproof it, get rid of some furniture, and maybe even move to a bigger space. Carlos said he wanted to have children, three of them, a big family once they were married. He wanted to marry her, but said that she would have to get serious about their religion first, to stop smoking and go through confirmation. Fátima thought he was asking too much of her, but she still went through confirmation. He left her anyway. Her hardwood vanity would definitely have to go. She couldn’t leave a child near that silver glass mirror.
She gets into a taxi and proudly arrives at the restaurant. She’s so excited she doesn’t even mind having dinner alone; in the past she would hide in the bathroom and eat in a stall to avoid having to sit by herself at lunch, but tonight she smiles through the entire meal, in her beautiful dress at the fancy restaurant. Her child has made her a better person already. The lobster is great, although she thinks she’s not supposed to eat seafood now that she’s pregnant.
The night is perfect and before she goes to bed she finally throws away the toothbrush Carlos left at her apartment. He was the only boyfriend she’d ever had.
Maybe she’s expecting triplets.
Fátima spends the rest of the weekend browsing the internet for information about her new life. She barely notices the time passing by, and suddenly it’s Monday and she has to go to work again. On the bus she takes the reserved seat for the first time, and the old woman sitting by her side talks with her and asks about the pregnancy. Fátima tells her she’s not married and will have to work to raise her children on her own, and the old woman remarks “You modern girls, doing it all by yourselves, you`re so brave”. When she says she’s expecting triplets the old woman’s eyes widen, and she asks her how she’s going to do it. Fátima does not care, she’ll find a way. She always does.
At work all her colleagues look at her and ask what’s going on, she seems so very, very different. They say pregnant women have a special kind of glow, maybe she’s glowing now? Mariana looked very tired all the time, and had people fetch her things and help her with everything, but Fátima is different. Even as children, they were different. Mariana had all the boyfriends and leather shoes, and would hassle Fátima, telling her to change, to be more like her, “You’re so strange, why can’t you just be normal?” But that was behind them now, she’s sure Mariana will help her when the time comes.
Fátima vows not to tell anyone else about it until it’s the right time. Then, in the afternoon, her coworker Renata leans over her cubicle to chat. Fátima tells her everything with the understanding that she won’t go around telling other people. Two days later, the entire company is talking about how Fátima is suddenly expecting triplets, that maybe this is why she started showing so fast, and Fátima hears Lourdes, the cleaner, telling lies about her and gets very, very angry. She shouts for a while, but forces herself to calm down. For the sake of the babies.
She regrets telling Renata in the first place, but she’s not to blame. There’s no way she could have contained all that inside her.
Her mom calls her by the end of the week. It starts off normally, “How are things going? When are you coming to visit?” but in no time she starts saying “So, I was talking with Mariana, she told me that…” and Fátima knows what is coming. It starts soon enough. They never care about understanding her, or even listening to her, all they ever cared about was judging her and trying to get her to change. But she’s a mother now, she has to take care of her own life and her children’s lives—she can’t waste her time dealing with other people’s problems or letting them get her down.
Fátima can hear her mom almost on the verge of tears, telling her “We only want what’s best for you”. She hangs up before she says something else. She’s crying too, she only wanted to feel supported. Nobody told Mariana to seek help that Sunday when she told them she was pregnant. They were all overjoyed, gave her hugs and started making plans. She was so smug, sitting there at her mother’s kitchen, her husband by her side, wearing a flowered dress and leather flats and making plans about the future like she was the only one entitled to do that.
Fátima had just gotten back from her time away, and her mom told her it would be good for her to help Mariana, to stay by her side and take care of her new baby nephew. Mariana agreed, and said that someday Fátima would be a mom too, everything would work out fine and she would be better.
Screw those bitches, they were never good for anything anyway.
Fátima lives in a bigger house now. The walls are white and she has less furniture, the vanity is gone, everything is childproofed. She feels ready. One night she just lies on her bed and one by one her babies come out of her. Their skin is pale blue and feels so soft, so soft. They have small eyes and little horns and they give her tiny smiles and she loves them, she loves them, she loves them.