Maxwell was instantly hit by a thunderbolt when Alberta told her she was pregnant. “You are pregnant?“.“For who?“, Maxwell asked looking completely confused. “I am pregnant for you, Max”, Alberta said and started crying all over again. “And you beat me up even in my condition, Max, how could you be so heartless?“, Alberta added amidst sobs. Maxwell was completely confused at this stage and he wondered in his mind about who beat who that night. Maxwell sat on the edge of the bed totally shattered and dumbfounded. He rested his head against the wall while he tried to console Alberta…. Before long, Ben aggressively woke him up. “Maxwell, Maxwell, I thought you said your paper was at 8:30 am”, Ben started. “It is already five minutes past 7 am”, Ben added as he pointed to the wall clock in their room. Maxwell hurriedly jumped onto his feet and started preparing to leave the hostel to the examination hall. He had dozed off while sitting on the edge of the bed. Soon, he was ready and took off without checking to see if Alberta was up from bed or not. Maxwell was an intelligent student and did not have to study hard like average students so he took his examinations and general school work a lot easier than most of his colleagues but when he was handed the exam question paper, it was as if he had been robbed of all his intelligence. He looked at the exam paper in disbelief. He wanted to turn in the paper after the required thirty minute sit-in period and walk out of the exam hall but when he looked around him and saw everyone busily ‘battling’ with their paper, he took a deep breath and quietly said, “My name is Maxwell and I am not going to embarrass myself like this”. That being said, he chose the questions he believed he had fair ideas about and attempted to answer them to the best of his ability. As he scribbled freely, he paused intermittently and the thought of what ensued the previous night coupled with Alberta’s present condition flashed through his thoughts and distorted his attention from giving his best answers to the already difficult questions. After two and a half long hours, the invigilator yelled, “Stop work!“. Maxwell dropped his pen and had an unsatisfactory smile on his face as he looked around and saw people smiling genuinely at him knowing full well that he was one of the good students in the entire hall. Deep down Maxwell’s thoughts, he knew his answers to the questions left much to be desired and he knew his professor was going to be highly disappointed with his submission. Maxwell quickly walked out of the examination hall past a gathering of students who were busily engaged in a banter as to what answers best suited the questions asked. Maxwell did not want to suffer a heart attack so he plugged his earphones in his ears and quickly rushed to the shuttle terminal to hop onto the bus heading towards his hostel’s direction. When he got there, Alberta was all alone in the room and she was looking more beautiful than ever. She had held her hair back revealing a shiny forehead and she wore Maxwell’s favourite T-shirt. Maxwell’s roommates had gone to write their afternoon paper. “How did the paper go?“, Alberta asked Maxwell immediately he entered the room. Maxwell looked at her in anger but kept his cool and responded, “Oh, it went well”. “I prepared some rice, would you want me to serve you with some of it?”, Alberta asked, walking up to Maxwell who was standing in front of his wardrobe trying to place his shirt on a hanger. “I am not hungry”, Maxwell responded coldly. “You have not eaten all day and I know you are hungry so please eat something for my sake”, Alberta pleaded. “Okay, just give me two spoons of the rice with a little stew on the side”, Maxwell ordered. Alberta quickly rushed to the balcony to get Maxwell’s food. Maxwell ate in silence and Alberta knew why he was that moody. “Max, from the depths of my heart, I want to apologize for what happened yesterday”, Alberta started. “I didn’t mean for all those things to happen”. “I was really upset that was why I did what I did”, Alberta added. Maxwell continued eating in silence while Alberta spoke. “Say something, Max”, Alberta said and placed her hand on his shoulder. “We cannot undo what has already been done, can we?“, Maxwell said, chewing his meat with his mouth full. “The harm has already been done so we just have to move on and act mature about it”, Maxwell added after swallowing the meat in his mouth. Alberta felt bad about her actions and on a daily basis, asked for Maxwell’s forgiveness. Alberta stayed on with Maxwell on his campus till he finished all his papers and they both left his campus and went home for the vacation.
During the vacation, Maxwell was always in his room or sitting alone in the hall watching TV. He seldom spoke to anyone and always all the time; he went about his chores absentminded. His mother noticed that Maxwell’s behavioural pattern had changed. One afternoon, while Maxwell sat in the hall alone watching a TV program, his mother sneaked up on him and stood behind him for minutes. “Maxwell, is everything alright?“, Maxwell’s mother asked. “Mum, you startled me”, Maxwell responded as he jumped out of the couch and quickly turned to see who the voice belonged to. “Maxwell are you okay?“, Maxwell’s mother asked who was herself surprised by Maxwell’s reaction. “I am fine”, Maxwell said. “I don’t believe you”, Maxwell’s mother started. “I have been watching you quietly ever since you got back from school and it appears you are always indoors which is very unusual of you”, Maxwell’s mother added. Maxwell knew that his mother was going to engage him in a boring lecture if he continued to be moody so he had to think up something to take his mother’s mind off the accurate suspicion she had about him. “If I have a problem, you would be the first person to hear about it, mum”, Maxwell said, trying to give his mother some assurance. “I would go out with my friends tonight if that would make you happy”, Maxwell added while trying to smile. That night, Maxwell went out alone and pondered over the situation he and Alberta had created. He knew that all hell was going to break loose if his parents found out that Alberta was pregnant so he resolved to keep it a secret from them. As he walked along the road alone, he recalled a phone call he received from his mother during his first few days in the university. “Maxwell, you are now a full grown young man so if you have unprotected sex, chances are you going to impregnate someone’s daughter”, Maxwell recalled his mother saying. “I know you know what a condom is so if it happens that you are going to have sex, please use a condom”. Maxwell recalled being embarrassed when his mother gave him that lecture and vowed he was never going to have unprotected sex. Now, he had done the very same thing his mother warned him against. “I am such a big disappointment”, Maxwell thought to himself as he entered his house. Maxwell was in constant contact with Alberta. He told her to stay put while he figured out how they were going to get out of the mess they had created. He sternly warned Alberta not to mention that she was pregnant to anyone. “Maxwell, I am scared”, Alberta confessed one night when Maxwell went to visit her. “I am almost a month pregnant and you still haven’t said anything concerning the pregnancy”, Alberta added. “I believe that the people in my house are beginning to suspect that I am pregnant owing to the constant change my body is undergoing”. “I don’t want any trouble so please act fast before you put me into trouble”, Alberta said. There was never a day that went by in which Maxwell did not try to figure out plausible ways of solving the mess he had created. One night, Maxwell was with Alberta when Maxwell’s mother called him and asked that he come home to help her out. Apparently, Maxwell had only been at Alberta’s place for only thirty minutes and he knew that Alberta was going to flare up if he told her that he had to leave. “Albie dear, something has come up and I have to go home and do something for mummy”. The moment Maxwell finished his speech, Alberta blasted off, “I knew you were going to come up with some flimsy excuse the minute you answered that phone call”. “Max, do you even care about me?”, Alberta asked. “Do you know it is your baby that is growing inside of me?”, Alberta queried with tears starting to roll down her cheeks. “It is not what you think”, Maxwell started feeling bad about the comments Alberta passed. “I know you are taking in a lot by just being pregnant and I really appreciate what you are doing now”, Maxwell said as he tried to console Alberta. Soon, he managed to convince Alberta and she allowed him to take his leave. When Maxwell stepped out of Alberta’s room, he looked at his phone and he realized that he had missed three calls from his mother. He hurriedly dashed home and met his mother in the living room. “Where were you?”, Maxwell’s mother queried when he barged in on her in the hall. “I know you went to see that girl”, Maxwell’s mother said. Maxwell’s heart missed several beats as he anxiously waited to hear the next comment that was going to come from his mother. “How is she, by the way?”, his mother asked. Maxwell struggled but managed to let out the words, “She is fine”. “But why do you ask?”, Maxwell curiously added to get further clarification. “I am just asking”, Maxwell’s mother said. Maxwell heaved a sigh of relief and quickly assisted his mother with fixing dinner.
Two weeks passed and still, Maxwell had not given Alberta any feedback as to what he intended doing about the situation. One late afternoon, while still at home, Alberta called Maxwell and sounded very lively. Maxwell was surprised about Alberta’s behaviour. “You sound very lively today”, Maxwell said as he adjusted himself in the seat. “Is there any reason?”. “Don’t you know?”, Alberta queried. I want you to take a guess and call me back”, Alberta said and hang up the phone. Maxwell called his sister, who was out of the house and asked what was so special about that day. “Today is Alberta’s birthday”. Maxwell’s sister revealed. “I hope you didn’t forget”, Maxwell’s sister enquired. “The last time I forgot her birthday, she didn’t speak to me for a whole week”, Maxwell’s sister added. Maxwell knew he was in trouble. He quickly jumped out of his seat, went into his room and started searching his jeans pockets for money he kept and any loose change which he could salvage. He looked at the money he was able to gather and he knew it was woefully inadequate to buy a birthday present that could appease Alberta. He was turning in circles in his room when his mother knocked on his door. She let herself in without prior permission. “What is wrong with you?”, she queried. Maxwell stood still and responded, “Today is Alberta’s birthday and I don’t have any present for her”, Maxwell said. “Is that why you are walking in circles like a prayer warrior?”,Maxwell’s mother asked sarcastically. “Yes”, Maxwell replied. “I have three bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling wine in the kitchen cabinet”. “Bring them so we select one for her”, Maxwell’s mother added. Maxwell quickly rushed to the kitchen and in a flash; he was back in his room with the bottles of wine. “I think she will like the apple-flavoured one”, Maxwell’s mother said. She took the other two bottles and left Maxwell’s room. Instantly, Maxwell dressed up and started for Alberta’s house. When he got there, he cleared his throat instantly Alberta ushered him into her room and began singing his own cover of the ’happy birthday chorus’. Half way through his performance, his phone rang and he paused to answer it. After answering the call, he continued his performance and ended it on a very pitchy note which made Alberta cover her ears. “How did you know it was my birthday?”, Alberta asked, trying to find out who told him. “I just know things”, Maxwell said boastfully. “Albie, I know this is a very special day for you but I am needed at home and I have to rush back home”, Maxwell said as he handed over the bottle of Sparkling wine to Alberta. “If there is still time, I would come so we celebrate the birthday in grand style”, Maxwell added. Alberta did not utter a word and watched Maxwell leave her apartment. Maxwell rushed home and assisted his mother with supper. He could not thank his mother enough for ‘saving’ him. It took longer than usual for supper to be ready. When the food was finally ready, Maxwell quickly changed his clothes and rushed out of his room. When he opened the gate to step out, Alberta was also about to enter his house. “I don’t need your wine if I can’t feel your presence when I need it the most”, Alberta said and placed the bottle at Maxwell’s feet and turned to leave. “Alberta, come on”, Maxwell started. “Don’t do this now”. “As you can see, I was on my way to your house”, Maxwell said. “I am sorry, Maxwell but it is too late”, Alberta said and started walking away. “Don’t you dare follow me, Max!”, Alberta yelled. Maxwell recalled the incident that occurred on his campus and quietly picked up the bottle of wine and went back into the house. Maxwell placed the bottle of wine in the hall under one of the seats to prevent his mother from setting her eyes on it and enquiring why it was not sent. Maxwell sat in one of the seats and before long, he dozed off. He woke up the next morning to find his mother standing over him with the same wine bottle in her hand. “I thought you sent this bottle of wine to Alberta yesterday”, Maxwell’s mother started. Maxwell began to fumble and immediately, his mother knew something was not right. She called Maxwell’s sister and asked her to give her Alberta’s phone number and she dialled the number. “Hello, Alberta, this is Maxwell’s mother”, Maxwell’s mother said. “Didn’t you like the bottle of wine Maxwell gave to you?”, Maxwell’s mother enquired. “I did receive it but I gladly returned it”, Alberta responded. “Why did you do that?”, Maxwell’s mother asked. “I think you should ask your son because he knows why I did that”, Alberta answered. “I am talking to you and I know I could have asked my son but out of curiosity, I wanted to hear from you personally”, Maxwell’s mother said. “So tell me, is anything the matter?”. Alberta took a deep breath and said, “Mummy, I am pregnant and Maxwell is responsible”….. THE HEAVILY GUARDED SECRET HAS BEEN LET OUT OF THE BAG. HOW WOULD ALL THE PARTIES INVOLVED REACT TO THIS SHATTERING NEWS?