Elwin stopped writing and took out a fresh sheet of paper. He started writing out the calculations for how much social debt a wife could pay off if she didn’t work during the pregnancy. He looked at his results. Blinked firmly. Checked his calculations. The thorn in the side of his head throbbed. He stared at the results. His vision grew blurry. He turned the page aside with confusion. He must have made a mistake, he thought, and dismissed the calculations. It was a good offer the Kelites had, they are after all the savours of the world he recalled. It wouldn’t make sense for them to push a debt system that couldn’t be paid back. It was only a matter of time before the Delphorians atoned themselves into salvation. “I need to have more faith,” he told himself and resumed his writing.
While the $20,000 pay out for me was tempting, I just didn’t want to live alone. I remembered the nursemaids from the nursery and I wanted to live with a woman because I imagined they would be just like Agatha. When I arrived here at the apartment complex I was informed that a new wife would be allocated to me in the following month. For my first month as a freeman I explored every nook and cranny of my new apartment and apartment complex. I found that my dorm mate Erian from school whom I hadn’t seen in seven years also lived here. But what fascinated me the most was the women.
There were women, real women walking around the apartment block. Before now all I had experienced of women were the crude drawings the boys had passed around to each other in school and in the labour college. These women were flesh and blood. They had hair, breasts, legs, and such heavenly faces. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to any of them. I was too shy, each time one came near me I had to look at the ground and try to hold myself together against the rattle of emotions shaking me up inside. I spent a whole day once sitting in my study looking out the windows just peeping at these beautiful creatures I had not seen since childhood.
In a month, a woman would come to live with me as my wife. What would she look like? Would she be as kind to me as Agatha was? It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be, as for how she looked, there was one woman who stood out more to me than any others: the blonde woman who sat almost every day in the atrium working feverishly away reading and examining papers. She wore her hair in a tight bun and there wasn’t a trace of the thorn lines that spoiled the faces of the other women. Her skin was clear and polished like porcelain. I wondered if maybe this woman would be my future wife. I thought about it so often that I started believing that she would have to be the one. That one day I would return home from a work shift and there this woman would be waiting for me.
One day I did arrive home and there was my wife waiting for me. She had a short but wide body, a small narrow head, little beady eyes, and a double chin. She smiled and introduced herself as Holda and proceeded to laugh and giggle at me. She told me how she was so looking forward to living with me. I had never seen a woman shaped like her before. I couldn’t speak. I wanted to tell her to leave because I wanted to different woman instead, but I was too afraid to say anything. No, I wasn’t afraid, I felt horribly guilty. What I had wanted was a beautiful blonde woman, but what I had gotten was a fat ugly woman. I had committed the sin of judgement. I had compared two different people and expressed a preference for one over the other. I had discriminated. I had committed the cardinal sin of my race. I was not a good Delphorian, grateful for the education, care, and protection of the Kellites. My soul was as black as my ancestors for at that moment I hated Holda purely because I was conceited enough to think that I might have some say over the choice of my wife.
Holda explained to me that she was an experienced wife and had been with five husbands previously. She had had no trouble producing five healthy children and that I was fortunate to have such an experienced and well bred wife for my first time. She said that she could easily pay off her remaining social debt but had decided since she had so many fertile years left she would not work this time and focus on staying healthy by eating and not pushing herself too hard.
As she spoke, describing her virtues and accomplishments the guilt inside me just intensified. How could I demand someone better than Holda? Was she not a perfect example of Delphorian wholesomeness? I bit down hard on my disappointment that she was not the woman I wanted, and humbled myself by saying that she was the woman I deserved. The wages of thought crimes war disappointments. I resolved myself that I would try to love my wife.
Holda ended up keeping her word and spent most of her time either at home or out shopping. I spent every day going down to the labour queue and taking whatever work I could get with a renewed energy, but over time I realised I just wanted to work more because it meant less time at home. I just felt uncomfortable with her, especially after the first time she screamed at me. In the early days I would try talking to her, but she wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. She would talk over me or pretend not to hear me at all. She had plenty to tell me and got angry with me if I wasn’t listening to her properly.
I tried to love her. I tried with all my heart to see Holda’s full beauty.
Elwin paused and read through what he had written with the shallow focus of a sleep deprived man. He corrected the odd typo and adjusted the occasional word. He reached the end and considered what to write to finish it off for Rebekah.
But in the end, I hate my wife. She is stupid, cruel, and ugly. I don’t want to make a baby with her. I want my children to have a better mother: A mother like Agatha.