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Fraudulent Fertilisation

Episode 83

Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapMar del Plata, Bosque Peralta Ramos
Saturday 3 March 1990, 10:00

“Good afternoon, madam, my name is Sebastián Ruiz, court officer... I’ve brought a court order, I’d like to speak to Juana Artigas, is she at home?”

Juanita’s mother turned to stone on the threshold of the door. She didn’t understand what was happening, but she had a feeling it wasn’t any good. She quickly called her daughter:

“Juanita! Someone’s looking for you!”

Juana Artigas appeared. She immediately realised that something was going to happen to her, she was expecting it. Accused of fraud against Roberto, she had been let out of prison, but if she was found guilty, she would almost certainly go to jail.

“She’s paying a high price for her boundless ambition,” thought Roberto.

Only Burán and the court officer had gone; Rocío had considered it prudent not to attend. Frightened, almost on the verge of hysteria, Juanita asked:

“What... What’s the matter? Why are you here, Roberto?”

“To take the boy away,” he answered.

“No! Please, don’t take him!” said Juanita with a desperate shriek, “Forgive me for everything I’ve done to you! Don’t take him away...!”

“You should have thought about it before, it’s too late now. What happened is not my fault, it was all your own doing. Now allow me, stand aside...”

She blocked their way:

“But, I’m not going to be able to live without my son, now that I’ve got him... I can’t leave him...”

“You’re not leaving him, I’m taking him off you, it’s as simple as that.”

“But I’m his mother...”

“No doubt about it, Juana, but you’re forgetting to say what kind of mother you are; the worst kind, undoubtedly.”

“I’ve changed my ways, I swear! Leave him with me, I beg you! I’ll bring him up well, don’t give me any money if you don’t want to. You’ll see I’m telling you the truth, don’t leave him without a mother, he’ll reproach you in the future.”

“Do you think so? Even after reading the criminal proceedings?”

“Would you really show him? Would you?”

“I’ve always thought there’s no better education for children than to tell them the truth. Why make exceptions? What did you expect me to tell him? That you’re a wonderful mother? I couldn’t tell such lies...”

“It was a mistake, Roberto, you have to understand, I let Esteban persuade me, I didn’t want to do it...”

“Of course! I’m sure you were forced...”

“Please! As if I didn’t know you. You’re too cold, you’re not easily led... You do everything of your own free will after calculating everything down to the tiniest detail. You didn’t hesitate to use the child to get rich, you didn’t care about him at all.”

“No, Roberto, I tell you that’s not true! That was at the beginning, but then...”

“Then you cared a little bit more, you would even have been capable of raising him... With my money, of course... You’re rubbish, it disgusts me to be near you. Where’s my son?”

“Wait, Roberto, we can go back to square one... I keep Agustín and you go on like before, all right? I don’t want so much as a penny from you, but let me keep him, I implore you!”

“Regrettably, I can’t take pity on you, what’s more, I’ve got no right... Make do with visiting him three times a week, the judge granted you that.”

“Why...? Why do you say you’ve got no right?” asked Juanita, crying.

“Because it’s my duty to think about my son: he needs me, I’d never leave him with you, you’d poison his soul.”

“Roberto, don’t judge me, you know I had a hard childhood, I really suffered. Life made me like this, I admit I can change...”

“Look, if your life was dreadful, I don’t know, that’s your business. But you’re not going to ruin my son’s life... You’re so wretched, if someone shot you, they’d be doing humanity a favour.”

“We’ve got a child together, you shouldn’t be talking like that...”

“That’s true, it’s the only thing that binds us. But it’s because you defrauded me, I don’t intend to forget that little detail...”

Juanita straightened up, she seemed to regain her composure.

“Roberto, we can’t deny this fact, I’m going to go on seeing Agustín, why can’t we be reasonable? Let’s talk, let’s come to an agreement.”

“All right, but on a very clear foundation. The child stays with me, and you have to acknowledge your guilt. Show that you’ve really changed your ways, then we’ll see.. But all the same, I’m making no promises, you’ve embittered my life...”

“Don’t complain,” murmured Juanita, “you’ll have the child.”

“Yes, so what? I earned it! I fought on his behalf with honesty...”

Juana was calming down, her calculating brain was fully functioning again. She spoke to the court officer:

“Mister Ruiz, show me the order, please. Don’t think I’m going to allow you to strip me of my child, I’ll never let you take him!”

“Look, madam, it’s nothing personal, I’m fulfilling a court order and it’s my duty to carry it out correctly. You’ll have the right to defend yourself before Judge Bisson, or appeal to the Chamber if deemed necessary, but for now, you’d better resign yourself. If you don’t give me the child, I’ll take him by force. We’ve come with two policemen, they’re downstairs, it’ll only take them a minute to come up. Read this, you’ll see that I’m authorised to request help from the police. Don’t be stubborn, you’ll pay tomorrow for your resistance today...”

“What do you mean? How will I pay?”

“Of course,” explained Roberto, “the judge will weigh up your conduct, don’t forget your visiting rights can be curtailed, or perhaps cancelled for good. You’ve got a thousand defects, but you’re not stupid... Don’t come the innocent, you understand everything only too well. Well, don’t delay me any further. The boy, where is he? I want him now!”

“He’s... inside, in my... room. When will I be able to see him?”

“Let’s cut a long story short,” answered Burán, “I’ll read you the sentence, listen... ‘Thus, in principle, unless the parties agree a different regime, Ms Artigas is granted permission to visit her son on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 14:00 to 19:00’. Is that clear?” Roberto went on speaking. “Stick to these rules, I won’t cede an inch more than I have to. And I warn you, be careful! I know you’re a heartless woman, without any goodness. If I see you doing anything to harm me or the baby, I’ll destroy you. You’d better not do it, you’ve already played with fire too much. I’m going to try and get them to sentence you, I want my experience to serve as an example, so that there’ll be no more like you or Álvez. You played with my life, you threatened my life, and Julieta’s too. The years you’ve got left won’t be enough for you to repent.”

“Right, Doctor Burán, shall we go in?” said Mister Ruiz.

“Let’s go in...” answered Roberto.

It was a small room, Agustín was in a cot, sound asleep.

“In spite of all I’ve gone through to gain my father’s rights, I feel like a thief,” thought Roberto. He took him in his arms and kissed is cheeks. It seemed to him that his face was turning into Juanita’s, moment by moment... He tried to shake off that image as if it was a nightmare, but he saw it again... “I’m seeing visions,” he said to himself, “I must be patient, give myself time to get used to a radically different way of life. I’m a bit old to be raising a child, it’s like starting over. It won’t be easy, but I must do it.”

They left Juanita’s house, separating her from her baby. Victim of a real nervous breakdown, she desperately wanted to retain her child. Even Roberto, against his will, pitied her. Ruiz held her, while he literally “ran away” with the child.

“Let’s go, quickly,” he said, and off they went.

When they got outside, Roberto felt that nothing was the same as before. Agustín had changed everything.

Translation: Peter Miller (© 2002)
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Copyright ©Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990
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Date of publicationNovember 2002
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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