The drumbeats resounded in his head as he jogged on the well-worn path he’d jogged on for 23 years, 6 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, and 5 hours. He loved every tree and each of them had an inscription from the well-worn sharp edge of his army knife. Some had his initials and 3 had the initials of the 3 girls who had stolen his heart briefly and dumped him for someone better (according to them). He had reserved the last tree on the path for his first child. He hoped it was a girl. Girls were his favorite but he didn’t mind really. Maybe a boy or girl but preferably a girl. He didn’t want to be greedy when others were struggling to have one.

He heard a car honk some meters away and turned but there was none. He frowned slightly and continued. He could hear his breath from underneath the drumbeats. They were harsh and not in sync to his music. He was breathing hard because he hadn’t run for 3 months but felt like it this morning because he’d been cooped up indoors for so many months as a result of the c-19. He’d felt feverish one dawn and taken a painkiller. He was ok for a week until he woke up being unable to breathe. His girlfriend had immediately called 112 on suspicion that he had c-19. He’d told her it couldn’t be because he’d been super careful to avoid being infected and felt it might have had to with the alcohol and roasted pork he took in when he met his friends earlier.

She had ignored him and still called 112. It took her 2 hours to finally get someone to answer the phone and told the lady on duty what her suspicion was. Even when the lady tried to downplay the symptoms by telling her that just being unable to breathe without any other symptom didn’t mean Doug had c-19, Gwen had been relentless and insisted he got checked. She’d called an ambulance service herself and promised to pay extra if they came for him. The van was at their house in less than 30 minutes. 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital, the nurse checking him had confirmed that though it would take some days to be sure, he was certain Doug had c-19.

He’d been on admission for 10 days and released to go home with the admonition to be under self-quarantine. It had been tough because Gwen was pregnant and currently living with him after her apartment had been flooded and renovation was too expensive. His was a large studio room too but they had tried to observe the social protocols as much as they could. Then last month, she felt nauseous suddenly and threw up. They ordered a pregnancy test via delivery and they confirmed that she was pregnant.

Yesterday, she’d felt incredible pain and he’s rushed her to the hospital only to be told she was 9 months pregnant. Both of them had screamed? 9 months pregnant? It was a cryptic pregnancy? He’d thought she was less than 2 months pregnant but 9? That had blown his mind. The nurse had suggested letting her stay overnight for observation. He went back home but missed her so much that he’d been unable to sleep. After visiting her in the morning to check if it was ok, he’d decided to jog the rest of the way home.

He heard the sound of the car again and saw a white Tundra truck barreling its way through the path. Suddenly remembering what happened to Armaud in the States, he quickly veered off the track into the nearby trees and ran as if he was being watched by a sniper. He knew he was being silly. No way would anyone in the truck gun him down. Neither was he dressed like a burglar or anything but he just wanted to play it safe. He ran until he reached a street and stopped. He listened for a minute and couldn’t hear the truck again. He exhaled shakily and with sweat glistening on his face, slowed into a jog. He would have to take a longer route home but it was better than being uncertain of his safety.

His phone beeped and he checked, “hello Mr. Douglas, your girlfriend has delivered a baby girl. Could you come back and check on them?”

Without a thought, he turned around and ran towards the hospital, a silly grin on his face.


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