“Two was more than enough,” Alice said, tears pouring down her cheeks. She patted them with the palms of both hands trying to dry them, but only managed to spread the salty stream down her jaw onto her neck.
I tried to hold back the ones threatening to burst out of my own eyes but let go when the effort turned futile. “We’ll just have to do our best to—”
“To what?” she interrupted, pounding my torso with her fists. “This is all your fault. Why did you have to insist on a third?”
I grabbed hold of her hands and pulled her toward me to stop the assault, and she buried her face on my bare chest. “How was I supposed to know this would happen?” I said.
She pulled back and screamed: “There must’ve been someone in your family with this curse! Why else would she be born like that?”
“There was no one, Alice,” I said. “It’s not genetic.”
She sought refuge against my chest once again. “You had to have a girl. Two healthy sons weren’t enough for you,” she said softly as though to herself, the warmth of her breath burning a hole in my flesh.
“Please, don’t say that!” I said, putting my hand under her chin and lifting her face to gaze into her eyes. A world of sorrow stared back at me, but I felt I had to be firm if a shred of our life as a family was to be saved, and I stressed: “You’ve been accusing me of something that you know is not true. It’s been over a year, and every day we wake up to the same debate. But you’ve outdone yourself this morning—the sheets are still warm, and we’re already arguing.” I paused with a sigh and then said the words I knew she didn’t want to hear. “You wanted a girl just as much as I did.”
She gasped and opened her mouth as if to deny my statement but closed it without uttering a word.
I wanted to add: ‘You’re making me dread waking up every morning’. But instead, I said, “Can’t you be glad we have such a pretty daughter?”
“Yes, she is beautiful. It’s a shame she’ll never get to appreciate her own beauty,” Alice said, her reproaching glare fixed on mine.