I’m reposting this because the one posted on Friday was actually episode 23 and not 24. Please bear with me.Thanks Omotayo for bringing it to my notice.
Things weren’t going to go as easy as she’d thought. Miss Sharon sat quietly in one of the chairs in the reception area and observed. The hospital had four floors and it was extremely busy, unlike Amazing Grace. She could bypass the nurses stationed at the reception, but in what ward was she supposed to find Lucy? She could call Ochuko to ask him the ward his daughter was in, but she already knew his reply. ‘Why are you making thing so difficult for yourself?’ he’d say, ‘meet the nurse at the reception and do as I told you.’
She hated to accept defeat, so she sat patiently and watched. Something would come up – a breakthrough idea or an inspiration from God. Only God could help her achieve the task at hand. She closed her eyes and said a short prayer, backing it up with faith large enough to move mountains. One thing she wasn’t going to do was knock on each door of the wards in search of Lucy.
A gracelessly thin patient came to sit next to her. The man turned to her, flashed her a sickly smile and mouthed his greeting. She bent her head in response. She hated the man for coming to sit with her and mostly because he looked like an AIDS patient. She didn’t want to be recognized by anyone. She picked her package and moved down the next six seats. The man didn’t take his eyes off her, he smiled at her still like he understood her reason for relocating. To hell with him.
She noticed one of the nurses at the counter sorting through files on the demand of the doctor standing beside her on the other side of the counter. She longed to hear what he was telling her. He could be Lucy’s doctor and he had come to get some vital patient information. She looked the patient’s way and found him still looking at her. He still had that smile on his face that seemed to say, ‘I know what you’re up to, young lady.’ She could shoot off his milky eyes if she had a gun. His stare, above everything else, got her moving to the counter.
As she neared the counter, the doctor began hurrying back the way he’d come. She almost called for him to stop, but thought better of it. She was glad the nurse he’d been talking with hadn’t noticed her, she was already chatting with her colleague. It occurred to her then that nurses always had time to chat, like it was part of their job description. So far, it was only the thin patient that have acknowledged her presence. Hopefully, he’d be too sick to utter a word if the need for testimony ever arose.
She relocated to another seat still, this one several seats away from him, and chose not to notice him. Time was slipping away, the longer she sat waiting, the faster it slipped away. There was nothing to do about it, however. Better safe than sorry, she thought. She’d wait for the breakthrough idea or divine inspiration. One way or the other, it would come. If it doesn’t, then she’d act, but something would come nonetheless, just like it always did. Miss Sharon sat with her heads bent and waited.
* * *
Wunmi was finally stuck. The haunch, or instinct, or whatever it was that had rode her this far was completely gone. PUFF! into thin air, and here she stood stranded in a busy Lagos road in the heart of the night. It would do her a lot of good to sit on the waiting bench of the bus stop she was at and stretch her legs. She was exhausted. She was hungry too, everything she’d eaten at that nice old woman’s place was gone just like her haunch. She couldn’t sit on the bench and rest awhile, though it was empty and called to her, neither could she stop at any restaurant to have her tank filled.
The most pressing of her needs at the moment was to break down in tears. She was close to it, a little more paces and the taps would turn open. She couldn’t understand how something so urgent that not attending to it at the moment seemed more punishable than death would vanish like it never existed. Her mind was a dark room and she was stumbling around for that peephole in the door at the far corner.
She walked down the road, yearning to ask passers-by directions to her destination. There was no destination however, so she walked on. As she turned into an unknown street, she remembered thinking of Lucy all the while she was in the bus. She tried to revive that thought – which at that period was complete, with the main worry always on focus – but could only remember turning over the hot jug of water on Lucy in her fright.
There was something more…
Ochuko had rushed her to the hospital.
That was true, it was the only reasonable thing to do at such circumstance. And then, he had told her never to come close to him. But that was not the part she wanted, it would be impossible staying away from him, by the way. Focus, she told herself, Think only of little Lucy.
There was nothing more to think of Lucy other than she was in an accident and rushed to the hospital.
Miss Sharon had dumped her in an old woman’s place. She was supposed to take her Blessing’s mother; she tricked her instead.
That was it. There was the link – not all of it, but a good part of it – to the thoughts (the force) that had propelled her onward. She held firmly to it. A passer-by brushed her hip with his and was apologizing for his recklessness but she didn’t notice. She kept walking. She was beginning to catch the flow all over again.
She was heading to the hospital. Yes, that was where she had in mind all along, only she didn’t know the particular hospital. She approached the next passer-by and asked if there was a hospital in the street they were in. He made a face and demonstrated like a deaf mute, then hurried on. She didn’t blame him, replying strangers in Lagos have led to loss of lives and property. She asked the next person she came across. The lady politely answered that there was one in the street before the one they were in.
She ran back the way she’d come, the sense of urgency diffusing in her. She got to the street and walked it down, hoping the lady knew the area well. She decided to reach the end of the street before asking another stranger. The few people she saw in the new street threw curious glances at her, they would be making conclusions in their minds. They didn’t matter, nothing at this point mattered, except the hospital.
The lady wasn’t wrong. Almost getting to the end of the street was a four-storey hospital. Healthy People was the name, and it looked to her like the kind of hospital a man like Ochuko would choose. She stopped to catch her breath. She was here at last, no doubt in her mind about it. When she was sure she had gained back her composure, she climbed the stairs and pushed open the glass door.
* * *
The old woman finally had a night visitor. She’d been waiting for him most of her life and now he was here. He had promised to come back when the time was right. Now, as she sat under the canopy of a mango tree with him by her side, she thought she could perceive the rightness in the air. For once, her joy was complete. She beamed with smiles as he whispered in her ears. She laughed to what he said, it was damn funny. Everything he’d ever said to her was funny. He was the love of her life. The world had tried to take him away from her but here he was, smiling at her the way he always did.
Very few things have changed in his appearance. He was greying in the beards and on the head of course, but he always kept that one cleanly shaved. He limped a little now and the lines on his forehead, which only appeared when he was stressed out, were prominent now. There were little lines too at the corner of his eyes. He was still handsome, nonetheless.
“My lady, pick a suite of your choice and we’ll spend the night there.”
She smiled at him, it wasn’t the jeering kind she always gave Sharon. This one was sweet and soft, the kind that had won his heart. He still was a man of style. His pointed shoe sparkled under the light of the orange security bulb, his perfume was rich and classy, and his gold watch was genuine. He was wearing a light cotton shirt that was unbuttoned to his belly, displaying well-tanned skin yet to be invaded by creases. She hadn’t stopped loving this man, and she never would.
“Take us back to when we were young. Remember Naid hotel, where you first got me laid?”
He laughed, the sound rich and euphonious. It ricocheted in the still night, bringing it awake for the time it lasted.
“I remember perfectly well. That night, you scratched my back like we were wresting. I still have the marks.”
“I want to see those marks tonight.”
“Then you definitely are prepared to get laid again tonight.”
She crossed her legs and shook it for a while, a coy smile on her face. He knew what it meant.
“I’ve finally taken care of Rita. Don’t tell me how you took care of the bastards I had with her. They are bad memories to us now.”
“Sharon left here this morning, she might come back tomorrow morning if she succeeds with her mission.” She looked at him, his smile unflinching, and a little fear crept into her. “She would never step her feet in this place again, would she?”
“No, my lady. She’s stuck and she would never get out of it.”
She had gotten things rolling, but he knew the progress more than she did. He had a way of knowing things.
Thirty years ago, she’d been forced out of his life by family members who wanted the best for him. She had given him their first child through caesarean operation and it had almost cost her life, but the poor girl never lived a second in this world. She had been dead in her womb two days before the operation. His family had chased her out of their home the instant she was discharged from the hospital. They called her a witch and promised to stone her to death if they ever saw her near him.
She had almost killed herself in her grief if not for his intervention. He had fought for her way back to the house but at the end, he had to choose family over her. His father had threatened to kill him if he pushed his demand. His father was a notorious thug in Southern Ijaw who was feared by the whole state, he would do as promised and feel no remorse afterwards. He choose his life over her, however, she was his life.
He married Rita months later and she gave birth to Blessing and Sharon, children she never saw. They were both taken from her at birth. She was presented with dead children in both cases after her rest from labour and told long tales by the midwives. Her man had arranged for the children to be given to her. She raised them herself without their parents, raised them in hate. His family wanted children, Rita gave them children who were as good as dead since they never set their eyes on them, yet they never called her a witch. They never threatened to stone her to death for killing her children. In her case, they understood it was misfortune and believed God would answer her prayers.
Her man had lived with a woman he didn’t love for years’ and hidden her. As the girls grew, her hate increased. She pretended to like Blessing and even gave her blessings to her when she got married but Blessing had been too nosy. She had always asked the whereabouts of her father and never believed he was dead. Somehow, she dug out their wedding pictures and discovered that the man who visited occasionally and claimed he was a relative was actually her father. Blessing had hated her from that day and proceeded to find her man wherever he was to demand why he abandoned and lied to them.
Somehow again, she got to find out where he stayed and immediately embarked on a journey to his place. She had been travelling down to Bayelsa to meet him in the house he lived with Rita. She knew the whole truth would be revealed and her plans over the years ruined. The resemblance between mother and daughter was too glaring. Blessing had lied to her husband that she was travelling for business purpose, she wanted to unravel the truth herself. That was the type of lady she was, always thinking herself brave. She couldn’t let it happen, so she arranged the accident that killed Blessing.
Sharon, unlike Blessing, was still a kid, all she wanted was her love. She had given her the terms for the love: she had to kill her sister’s child. The little girl made her remember Blessing, she was twice as nosy as her. She asked too many questions and was always happy. She needed to understand that pain is a living element of life. It had to be experienced every day.
“How did Rita end?” she asked.
“She was growing weaker by the day, her grief was eating her up. She never stopped crying for her dead children. At some point, she started having severe pains in her joints. She could barely climb the stairs on cold nights. I took her to the hospital and the doctor said it was arthritis. So, three days ago, she called me to carry her down the stairs. I knew it was the opportunity to do what I’ve always wished to do. I took a hammer and hit her on the back of her head till she died. I rolled her to the base of the stairs and called the hospital.”
He crossed his arm around her neck and pecked her on the cheek. “I couldn’t wait to be with you, my lady.”
“Nothing can stand between us now.”
“Unbelievably, Rita didn’t die instantly, can you imagine that? She was in coma until today. The doctor called me this night to inform me of her death. We’ll celebrate it, my lady.”
“Of course we would. There’s every reason to celebrate. Your father is dead, Rita is dead, and Blessing is dead. Sharon and Blessing’s kid, you said not to worry about them.”
“They’re dead. Not yet, but before the rising of the sun tomorrow.” He stood up and took her hand. “We are alive, we’ve dined with pain and torment so long, and I’m sure it’ll take a very long time for death to find us.”
“It still has business with the young, it won’t worry about us in a long time.” She got out of her chair and into his embrace.
“I feel like we are still young, my lady.”
“You haven’t aged a bit, hotty. I don’t know about me.”
“Your breasts, from what I’m seeing, hasn’t sagged yet.”
“And I assume your third leg still knows how to play the game.”
He smiled at her and led her towards the gate. “Ijaw men’s third legs never stop playing. Let’s get to Naid and see if you won’t be awed by the wonders I’ll perform.”
“Is there anything you want me to pick from this place?” She looked over her shoulder at the house she’d spent a great part of her miserable life.
“Everything in that house is the past. We are together again and that is present. Now, we’re about to step into the future. Do you want a reminder of our terrible past?”
She turned to him, tiptoed and kissed him. She felt full of life tonight, and young. She linked her hand around his waist and they stepped out of the gate.
* * *
Doc Al sat in his reading room at home that night, trying not to get mad at his wife. She was doing what he hated the most – nagging. After an annoying day at work, all the hospitality she could offer him was questions.
Honey, you were supposed to come back home last night, why didn’t you come back?
If something came up, why didn’t you inform me on phone?
Do you know how lonely I felt alone in this big house last night?
Do you still care about the way I feel?
Have you started seeing another woman?
That was the one he hated the most, the one that drove him into his reading room. He had never raised his hands on a woman, he wouldn’t start now. The woman found it very difficult to interpret his mood. On nights when he was totally irritated (like the night she served him the saltiest beans he’d ever eaten) she always demanded for sex. On days he was in his happiest of moods, she was either too tired for outings, or she was ill. There’s also the issue of his alcohol consumption. Before they got married, they usually hung out in bars – he had met her for the first time in a bar. Now, she hid every beer he kept in the fridge and gave him sermons on abstaining from friends that drink.
She was still the sexy woman he had married, but the sexiness was hidden behind the monster she’d become. She no longer cared to know how his day at work went, she had suddenly grown too selfish, only concerned about herself and things that affected her.
He was tired of her; that was the plain truth. And since that day Sandy stepped into his office, he’d been seriously considering things. He was considering divorcing his wife, considering looking for a doctor job in a different location. The later wouldn’t be hard to find, only he needed a lady to be with him. Sandy was the only lady who fitted into the picture of his new life.
He brought out a medical journal and flipped the pages. The desire to study was gone, it never was there in the first place. Kabirat knocked on the door. He could distinguish her knock from that of their son. Hers was rapid and violent, like she believed she could make the door disappear by doing so.
“Honey, what are you doing inside there?”
Now what kind of question is that?
He shuffled the pages of the journal faster and noisily so she would understand he didn’t have her time yet. All he wished for at the moment was his peace.
“I’ve served your food on the dining. It’s getting cold oh. And I want us to eat together.”
“Honey,” he called back in a calm voice. “Please don’t wait for me, start eating. I’ve got to tidy up things here.”
“Can’t you do it later during bedtime? Though I’ll like us to spend the night together, I’ll understand if you tell me you’ve got to tidy up things in your reading room.”
“So what is it you can’t understand now?”
“I didn’t say I can’t understand your reason, all I’m saying is that you should consider that I took my time to prepare this meal. I want to watch you eat it, I want you to tell me if you like it. When was the last time we sat as family to eat? I can’t even remember.”
“It’s not a long time. It was that day Ramon overturned his bowl of soup on the table.”
“How many weeks ago was that?”
“Kabirat, why do you ask so many questions? Just go and eat your food. When I’m done, I’ll come and eat my meal and I’ll tell you what I think about it anytime tonight. If you’re asleep, I’ll wake you up and tell you. Is that—”
“Fine. Fine. Fine.” She interrupted. “I understand clearly. I’m history now, abi? I’ve given you a child and suddenly I now look very old and unappealing to you. Did you eat in the other lady’s place?”
“See! I don’t like it when you accuse me of seeing someone else oh. Don’t get me angry this night!”
“Oh, you think I’m not angry, ehn? My husband doesn’t come back home when he’s expected to and when he eventually does, he gives no explanation and expects me to be happy, ba? I’m stuck here at home and all I think of is to please my husband and he comes back and undermines my efforts, he comes back and give me a cold shoulder and you expect me to be happy, Al Ameen. Tell me, what is wrong with you?”
He took a mental note of a point in what she had just prattled. He had to make sure Sandy had a job. If she doesn’t have one, he’d engage her with something. Being a housewife was eating his wife up, tearing her into pieces and scattering her ugly remnants about. He wouldn’t make such mistake again.
“You don’t want to answer me? There’s no rest for you tonight until we sort things out together as family. Hope you’re hearing me, Al Ameen? I’m not going to leave this door.”
He opened the door and she fled back a few distance. He closed the door behind him and made his way towards the dining.
“Are you ready to eat now?” she followed behind him, making sure to maintain her distance. The look on his face was frightening.
He sat down on one of the dining chairs and drew the tray closer to him. She chose the chair opposite him.
“Wouldn’t you ask me what I prepared?”
He lifted the lid of both plates. “Semovita and Egusi soup.”
He dropped the lid aside and stretched out his hands to her; she tentatively gave him her hands. He said a little prayer then washed his hands. She watched him mould a ball of semo, dip it into the soup and swallow it. She watched his Adam apple bob once to acknowledge the passage of the ball and smiled.
“It’s very delicious.” He complemented and got to his feet.
She never anticipated what was to happen. The smile on her face faded slowly as the realization of what he was about to do came to her.
“You’re not going anywhere this night, Al Ameen!” She jumped out of her chair.
She wasn’t fast enough. Her husband sprinted to the living room, grabbed his car keys from the centre table and made for the door. He banged it shut behind him, locked it from outside and waited for her to arrive.
“I think it was a mistake coming back home.” He said when she finally reached the door. He turned around and marched straight to his car.
She would spend the rest of the night crying, that was not his concern. There was a fish outside that belonged to him, he was going to get it right away because he had just acquired a new aquarium for it.