FOR BETTER FOR WORSE
HEAD TRAUMA CENTER, USA
The twins were playing in her backyard. David who was always weak after running around, ran to her panting, telling her Daniel was sticking his leg into a muddy pool in her tomato garden. She called Daniel’s name but the mischievous boy hid from sight and wouldn’t come out. Finally, she left the kitchen and went after him and the moment she stepped into the garden, darkness that started like a smudge in the sky spread above her in a rapid surge and she heard a frightened scream. She turned around to see who amongst the twins had screamed like that but she discovered she was no longer in the garden but a graveyard. At her feet was a tombstone in marble and engraved on it was: Daniel and David Igwe. Came Together. Died Together. Gone to Heaven Together. RIP.
“God forbid!” Jamila sprang up, waking from her nightmare. She looked around her and noted that she was sitting alone. The entire waiting room was dead silent.
“Ma’am?” a female voice called and she turned to face a young nurse who had just emerged from Daniel’s room. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes,” Jamila nodded and stood up. “Can I go in now?”
“Yeah, sure but you can’t stay too long, though. We only let in one person at a time and his parents are already there, so…”
“I won’t stay long. Thank you,” Jamila said through a tired smile and walked in. Luke and Emem were both asleep. Exhausted from keeping her eyes open for three whole days, Emem finally closed them about an hour ago and Luke who had been sleeping for almost three hours before that didn’t look like he was going to wake anytime soon. Earlier in the day, David was transferred to a specialist hospital where he was under strict medical observation and there were talks of an imminent surgery if his condition didn’t improve. Jamila secured her veil around her body tightly and in prayer, she counted her beads, moving her lips silently. She too was exhausted, having shuffled from one hospital to the other throughout the day, the stress was beginning to bear down on her weighty body. It was already 5am and yet Daniel made no signs of life; he just lay there like one long dead. She sighed, pulled a chair and sat beside him.
A song had been in her head all day. She hummed it to David earlier as he lay on his own sick bed, smiling weakly at her. He had held her hand and tried to hum along but his staccato breathing prevented him, so he smiled instead and every now and then, asked if his brother had woken up. Finally when the drugs he had been administered began to take effect, he begged to be carried on her laps so he could sleep and she promised that if he could just close his eyes, she would carry him like old times and hum him to sleep. The moment he shut his eyes, he went into deep slumber and she sat there for long, watching him until a nurse asked her to leave. Now here she was beside his twin, the song still on her mind, stuck in her throat. Maybe if she hummed he would hear her deep in his dreamless unconsciousness and it would stir up something and bring him back.
She reached out and touched his hand and it was cold. Tears instantly came to her eyes. He felt dead. Her little boy didn’t feel alive. He really was gone.
This was her boy, her little angel. From the moment he and his twin were born, she had fallen in love with them immensely. Not able to have kids of her own, she took care of her siblings’ children as if she had birthed them herself. They dumped the children on her the same way they dumped the load of all their problems and she never complained. She was the female version of her father. They both were generous, cheerful givers, holding nothing back, willing to give their all and not care if they got nothing in return.
“Ma’am?” the nurse had come back. Jamila looked at her and stood slowly. She planted a goodbye kiss on Daniel’s forehead. She hadn’t yet made her peace, yet she whispered, “good night, Daniel. We will one day meet in al jannah.” She walked slowly to the door, tears blinding her vision from seeing him properly. Rigorously she wiped her tears with her veil as if trying to erase the agony she was feeling within and as she stood by the door and gave him one last look, she doubted if she could remain when the machines would be disconnected in less than an hour. How could Emem be sleeping so peacefully when her son would soon be taken by death’s angel? Surely the twenty-two year old mother of two knew something none of them knew because some sort of peace had come over her but Jamila didn’t care. No mother should be sleeping at a time like this. Ignoring, the scolding eyes of the nurse, she turned towards Emem to wake her and it was then she caught a slight movement in the corner of her left eye. So slight it was it could have been her imagination. But she saw it again and when she turned to see what it was, her mouth flung wide open. Daniel was staring at her with open eyes. After the first two seconds of shock, fear crept in for another two seconds and a thought crossed her mind that he was dead, that he had opened his eyes one last time and passed on. But the EKG was still beeping in rhythm and his fingers were clutching and releasing his robot. She tapped Emem, rushed to Luke and shook him firmly but quietly, afraid that any noise might push the boy back. Luke sat up immediately and turned to her.
She pointed and he followed her finger as it rested on his son.
“Daniel?” he whispered and Emem sat up with a spring.
“Daniel!” Jamila rushed to the child but like Emem held back from holding him, scared that they might hurt him.
“Daniel, can you hear me?” Jamila asked.
“Nurse!” Luke called but it seemed the nurse had gone to call the doctors and seconds later, a doctor and a couple of nurses rushed in and pushed them all out. Thirty minutes seemed like two hours as they waited restlessly for the doctors who eventually wheeled Daniel out to another room where no one was allowed in. Two hours later, Doctor O’Grady came out to meet them.
“How is he?” Luke asked and the doctor smiled.
“He’ll make it.”
Emem burst into tears and Luke held her. “Can we see him?”
“Not yet, we are running tests still but he keeps calling for his brother. Have you found out how David is doing?”
“We will, but what happened? How did he wake up?”
O’Grady shrugged, “never seen anything like this in my life. Your son was dead, sir. That I can bet my career and life on.” He shook his head, “but this other thing…this is nothing short of a miracle. When we are done, we’ll let you see him.” He smiled and walked away.
“I want to go and check on David,” Jamila offered, “and maybe get you people something to eat.”
Emem nodded in gratitude and Jamila walked down the hall to the double doors that led outside. There was still that hum on her lips as she hurried out and all the exhaustion from the past few days instantly disappeared. The moment she pushed open the doors, past a couple of guards she never remembered seeing, she stepped into a myriad of reporters outside. She almost lost her step and leaned backwards into strong hands that held her. It was one of the soldiers in her security detail. He pulled her through the crowd of screaming foreign voices and she was almost tempted to stop and answer their questions about whom they were now calling the “miracle of the decade” but she remembered her father’s stern warning about American pressmen, so she released a smile and fell into the car the soldier led her to.
Three Months Later
MIRACLE OF THE DECADE: A FIVE YEAR OLD WAKES UP FROM THE DEAD. AFRICAN JUJU OR CHRISTIAN GOD? WHO REVIVED DANIEL’S BRAIN?
ARE OUR DOCTORS INCOMPETENT? WHY LABEL A COMA AS BRAIN DEATH?
SPIRIT! A LITTLE BOY’S WILL TO LIVE AFTER DEATH.
Jamila smiled to herself as she pushed away several popular, foreign magazines and newspapers whose headlines she had being going through on her bed back home in Lagos. She had only returned from the States two hours ago and longed for nothing but to stretch out and have a good sleep. Her boy was okay and so was she; it was time to move on to the next phase which was to take a much needed and carefully planned vacation. She wanted to visit her mother (Hajiya) in Sokoto to eat meals like tuwo shinkafa and miyan kuka, to inhale the dustiness of the northern air from the Sahara, to feel the sun burn her face and spend time with old friends from school. Luke will accompany her and stay for a week and it will be like old times because Hajiya would spoil them silly and retell tales of her simple life before she met their father and became his first wife. At this point, Luke will either be snoring away or reading a newspaper with feet stretched out on his mother’s laps as she groomed him. Yes, Jamila will enjoy her long vacation at home. The simple life was surely priceless…
Someone was banging on the door very loudly. Jamila sprang up, wrapped herself in her kimono and rushed out. She hurried downstairs and unlocked the door, letting Evelyn in. It was raining heavily outside and she was soaked through and through and was already causing a poodle of water where she stood.
“Ev, what is the matter?”
Evelyn looked round, her eyes scanning the ceiling and walls hysterically.
“They are hearing us. Everything we say and do, they are listening,” she whispered.
“Yes, I know,” Jamila smiled warmly. “They record everything. It’s for our own good. Why don’t you come upstairs and change into something dry and then we can talk?”
“No!” Evelyn moved away from her touch, “no, I can’t stay. I have to go back before Sam starts looking for me.”
Jamila narrowed expert and scrutinizing eyes at Evelyn starting from the top of her head and when she got to her mid-section she discovered the woman’s dress was stained in blood that the rain had somehow not washed away.
“Ev?” she took her hand, “come with me into the toilet where no one can hear us and you can tell me everything.”
Evelyn scanned the place one last time and allowed Jamila lead her into a guest toilet a few feet away from them.
“Okay, you can talk to me now.”
Evelyn squeezed her face beyond recognition and burst into tears. Jamila put her warm, cuddly arms around her and did her best to calm her. A few minutes after, Evelyn pulled away, sniffed and blurted, “Sam is a killer!” she looked at the light bulb above and continued, “he killed my sister.”
“And I’m taking her to the police as evidence. I’m reporting him!”
“Evelyn, relax and talk to me. What happened?”
“I will tell them everything! I will tell them all about you people and how you all kill people! I will tell them!”
With that she opened the door and ran out.
Related Posts–> For Better For Worse (Emem)