Olisa was due to arrive at any time. He would hate to see her from a point of weakness. He did not like her very much. He had never liked the idea of adoption, but I wanted a child. He even hated more that I had chosen a female.
“Have all the orphan boys in the world finished?” he had asked after I told him my plans, but I insisted. I wanted to buy princess gowns and tell my daughter about her first period. I wanted girl time. Olisa was a darling girl, the best child that I could ever imagine. Yet, her father was distant. His mother was much worse. It was a miracle that she agreed to take the girl in after Obieze’s accident.
I cleaned Obieze up slowly while daydreaming of the previous night. I raised the wet towel over the scar on his abdomen and wiped the area around the dressing. Then, I moved slowly up his abdomen. Obieze had the perfect number of ripples along his midline, but it was Ike’s little pouch that rid my mouth of saliva and made my eyes cloud. Suddenly, his hands were everywhere all over again and I felt every part of him against me.
“Are you alright?” Obieze asked suddenly and I was red from my cheeks to my toes.
“Yes,” I replied and nodded. I was better than alright at the moment. I had begun to sweat slightly.
“You have not moved from that spot and you are wetting the plaster,” he complained. His voice no longer carried the warmth or concern it previously had. He was as irritable as he was yesterday morning and the one before that. Obieze had always hated to be the weak one and the restrictions he was forced to deal with annoyed him. “I thought the doctor said it should be dry.”
“Sorry,” I murmured as I mentally slapped my forehead. I needed to get a hold of myself.
Swiftly, I moved on to his hands.
Those hands…nothing like Ike’s but they still instigated thoughts of him.
I took a deep breath and shut my eyes for a few seconds. I needed to wake up.
“What is the problem?” Obieze asked again. The concern had returned to his voice.
“Nothing,” I replied, this time, with a louder, stronger voice. I could not let him suspect a thing.
“Are you upset that my mother is coming?” he asked me. He knew that the woman and I only maintained a civil relationship out of respect for him. I nodded. It was definitely a better cover story.
“At least, Olisa will be here. Maybe you can take her for a walk,” he continued. “You must be tired of this place.” I was, but I said nothing.
“Can you call her and find out where they are?”
I searched my pockets absently before it hit me. I was robbed the previous night.
Ike and I were robbed right after our makeup/make out session and I had completely forgotten all about it. How did I not remember?
I looked up to Obieze who was staring back at me curiously.
“Where is the phone?”
“I lost it last night. I went out late to get something to eat. It must have fallen out of my pocket while I was there,” I lied effortlessly. “I must report to the security in this hospital when I finish cleaning you up.”
“How late was it?”
“About 11. Before midnight.”
“You left alone? Are you not security conscious?” he asked as he tried to sit up too suddenly. He winced and laid back. I felt sorry for him but I refused to correct him. If he thought I left alone, then so be it.
“Take it easy, Obieze. You will soon hurt yourself,” I told him as I passed him a glass of water.
“I want juice,” he mumbled. I laughed and reached for the juice carton on the table. He could be a big baby sometimes.
“What will happen to all your contacts and customers?” he asked groggily as he closed his eyes. He still got tired very easily, but he was much better than the early days. He could sit up and move about, but his movement was still very limited.
“I will survive. I backed them up.”
I found a light cotton shirt which I knew was comfortable, although he disliked it very much, and I threw it over his neck. He protested weakly, but he eventually let me slip his hands through the sleeves. While he slept, I left the wards for the security house near the entrance of the hospital. I wanted to know if the security personnel had found the thieves. I doubted that they ever would, but I wanted to stretch my legs and I needed an excuse.
There was a different man than the one from the previous night. This one was much younger and did not seem as upset about the robbery as the old man.
“These young boys are dangerous!” he had spat out after Ike narrated the story. He had managed to leave out the activities that led to the incident.
“How can they steal a doctor’s phone? My own doctor! If I catch them, I will show them pepper,” he swore. I did not doubt him.
The younger one thought the phones would never be found, but he promised to do his part. I did not like him very much.
“Leave that phone and buy a new one,” he said flippantly. “You look like you have money.”
I was wearing a worn pair of jeans and an old pair of bathroom slippers, but I said nothing. I refused to address his rude remark.
“You need to mind the way you talk to people,” someone said from behind me. I turned too quickly and walked right into Ike.
“Doc doc!” the security man hailed. Everyone seemed to know him and it made me slightly uncomfortable. I tried fruitlessly to avoid Ike’s eyes as I murmured a flimsy good morning.
“Why will you say that to her?”
“Doc no vex o!” he said. He shrivelled like cellophane on fire and suddenly looked humble. “Na so I dey talk.”
“I was with her. We were robbed together,” Ike said. The scenario seemed very implicating, and although he was not obligated to explain, he felt the need to keep his reputation intact.
“We went out to find something to eat,” he said to no one in particular.
“Doc, I will try my best. You know I like you,” he said and scribbled something in the open notebook before him. I saw it as an opportunity to make my exit and I grabbed it. I slipped away from the table quietly and walked towards the corridor. I needed to reach the stairs as fast as possible.
Ike was faster. I did not expect any less from him, but I had to try to get away. It made me feel less guilty. I felt his hand on my waist and I flinched. He must have misread my pleasure for disgust because he dropped his hand like a log.
Put it back!
You are married, silly.
I had to kill the mood. Fast.
“How come all the security men know you?” I asked him. It was a terrible attempt at diluting the tension, but it worked.
“I always give them money. It’s the only way they agree to run errands for me.”
“How are you?” he asked after a pause. “You were so afraid last night.”
“I hope you slept well,” he said. It was impossible for anyone to ‘sleep well’ in a hospital especially when confined to a chair, but I lied. I had to.
“I slept well. You?”
He stood in front of me and his eyes told stories that his mouth could not. He shut his eyes tightly and pinched his nose.
“It was a quiet night until morning. I could not have asked for a better call.”
“Mostly because of you,” he continued.
I nodded again. I was so frightened that I would give everything away if I spoke. I tried to walk faster, but Ike caught my hand.
“I’m serious. I can’t stop thinking of you.”
A flash of white coat caught my eye and Ike suddenly dumped my hand.
“Good morning, sir,” he greeted. It was the consultant on Obieze’s case. I greeted him as well.
“How are you? I hope you are eating,” he said to me. I knew my eyes were sunken and my clavicles protruded meanly. Eating well was nearly impossible in a situation like mine, but I assured him that I was doing my best.
“Dr. Ike, I hope the other patients have been clerked by those house officers,” he said to Ike. Ike nodded and followed the man towards one of the wards. Relief washed over me and I scrambled towards Obieze’s ward.
I spotted Olisa first and as soon as she saw me, she ran towards the entrance.
“Mummy!” she exclaimed and wrapped her hand around my lean body. “I told daddy to call you, but he said you lost your phone.”
“But mummy, you are never careless. You always tell me to be like you and stop throwing my pencils away,” she said curiously. She could almost see through my lies. I saw her father roll his eyes from behind her. His mother was there too. The disgust was already evident in her upturned lips. Anger bubbled in my belly.
“I was careless last night,” I told her. “It will not happen again.”
I was truly careless, but not in the context she suspected.
“Ok mummy. I forgive you,” she told me innocently. At least someone had let me off the hook.
I turned to my mother-in-law and bent slightly.
“Good morning Mummy,” I said to her.
“Good morning. How is my son?” she asked.
“You can see him, ma,” I replied with fake politeness. She turned towards him and walked towards his bed. She raised her hand towards his neck and checked his body temperature.
“You are burning up Obi,” she said as she retrieved her hand. “Where are those incompetent doctors?” I rushed in panic towards him and placed my hand on his neck. I knew the doctors said a fever would be terrible for him. I looked up irately towards my mother-in-law. It was a false alarm. Obieze was frustrated too.
“Mummy, this is the fourth time you have touched my neck and I told you I was fine,” he complained.
“Kara, is my body hot?”
“No,” I reassured him. The last thing I needed was a frustrating mother-in-law and her sick son. “You feel normal to be.”
“I told you.”
His mother gave up and changed the topic.
“Is she feeding you well?”
I am right here!
My fake smile was in place and ever ready. I took deep breaths intermittently to remain calm. It was difficult, but I had grown a thick skin over the years.
“She is. She is taking good care of me,” he said to her. He glanced from Olisa to me and back.
“I know you have missed her,” he said. “You can take that break we talked about. You deserve it.”
I smiled at him and looked towards Olisa.”
“Ice cream!” she screamed. For a nine year old, she had a lot of energy. She ran to my side like a flash and held onto my jeans. I laughed at her familiar and warm smile and walked with her towards the stairs.
The eatery nearby did not sell icecream and we were forced to settle for yogurt. As a compensation, I let her have all the cake she wanted and she took a lot of it.
When Olisa had her sugar rush, I recognised it immediately. She was too active and uncontrollable. It took her a few slices of cake to get there and the switch up from the adorable girl I knew to the trouble maker I dreaded. I had only had two experiences like this one, after which I restricted her sugar intact. I must have gotten carried away.
“Olisa, get back here!” I shouted as she ran towards a table at the far end of the eatery. A couple in the middle of a heated conversation looked up towards her fleetingly and returned to their argument. Someone had forgotten date night and the other did not like it.
“Olisa, please,” I begged. “You are embarrassing me.”
The traitor did not care. She just could not sit at a place. When I grabbed her, she stood at a spot and bounced. She could not stay still. Suddenly, my anger was overtaken by fear and I rushed her back to the hospital to the children’s emergency ward.
A doctor met me at the entrance. Olisa was giggling and bouncing by my left while I narrated the incident to him. She looked at Olisa’s flushed cheeks and led us to a small room. She asked a few too many questions that dated back to my daughter’s birth.
“Is this the first time?”
“Was she delivered naturally or by a caesarean section?” the doctor asked.
“Naturally,” I said. I did not know how she was born, but I always hated admitting that she was adopted. She felt like mine.
“What do you do for a living?”
“How will that help her?” I asked in confusion.
“We need the records,” she replied.
“She is adopted. Are you happy now?” I retorted. The doctor mellowed and asked a few other questions before she left us.
A different doctor entered the room, still a female, but clearly much older and more experienced. The younger one was trailing behind her. She sat across the table and looked directly at my eyes. Quickly, she asked a few questions and proceeded to advice me on Olisa’s condition.
“There is no such thing as ‘sugar high'” she started and I was torn. Was she a fake doctor? I wanted a second opinion.
“I know it is difficult to believe, but recently it was discovered that there is really nothing like that. Children are generally hyperactive, some worse than others, but they will outgrow it.”
I wanted to dispose of her advice, but I realised that Olisa was no longer as excited as she had been. She was staring at the doctor too.
The woman mentioned more words about Olisa requiring a little rest. I was embarrassed that I had raised a false alarm. Dejectedly, I left the room with my daughter and walked towards the other side of the hospital where Obieze’s ward was. Just before I reached the entrance, I spotted Ike in his white coat with a dozen doctors. It was a small crowd, but he was the only one I noticed. He was speaking to an older doctor As if he could feel my presence, he looked up and his eyes found mine.
The world stopped for a second.
Then he winked.
I was certain that nobody in the crowd noticed it, but I did. It was mine after all.