“Ifeanyi!” I call out for the fifth time, knocking on the door to Ifeanyi’s bedroom. I am determined not to leave the door until he answers me.
“Yes!” he finally answers, his voice revealing his irritation.
“Sorry, did I wake you up?”
“What’s the problem?” he growls. He is not going to make this easy for me.
“Food is ready,” I call out. “Can I come in?” I ask.
“No! I’ll get the food when I am ready.” There is a note of dismissal in the words.
I walk away then. I will try again when he is in a better mood, or when he is in a place where he cannot tell me not to come in.
“Hey! Keep off my man!” Chinwe barks at Mercy with a mock frown, making Mercy to burst out in an equally mock laughter.
“Oh pleeeeeze! I have my own man!” she sniffs. They both laugh heartily.
I observe them for a bit from the dining room area, where I am setting out food for them, before walking back to the kitchen to get drinking water and glass cups.
“Oya o! Food is ready. Let us do and start going to the hospital,” I call out when I am done setting the table.
They both made a beeline toward the dining table.
“Hmm! All these single ladies sef! See them scurrying like rats at the sound of food!” I tease, smiling to take away the sting from my words.
“Ehn! Ya buruwa!” Chinwe retorts, sticking out her tongue at me.
“Don’t mind her! As if she didn’t do worse!” Mercy concurs, rolling her eyes at me.
They dig in, after dishing the rice from the serving bowl.
“Oh. My. God!” Mercy moans. “What did you put in this food?”
“You mean, like rat poison or otapiapia?” I ask, feigning innocence. The truth is, I expected that reaction.
“You’re not serious!” She laughs, shoveling another spoon of the rice into her mouth.
“I added coconut milk anyway,” I supply.
“Wow!” Chinwe exclaims. “I am actually enjoying coconut rice. I normally do not like it.”
“I am a chef like that!” I say, feeling proud.
“But it looks like jollof rice,” Chinwe observes.
“Yeah, that’s the whole idea,” I respond. “You think you’re going to eat jollof rice, and then – BAM! Coconut rice!” I am grinning as I rise to go and start dressing up.
“Chai! See how my friend is talking about food as if she’s talking about something as exciting as shoes or clothes!” Mercy says with a chuckle. “What marriage has done to some people sha!”
The import of that statement hits me fully after I have entered my bedroom. For a few moments, I battle within me as I debate on whether to return to the dining room to reply her accordingly, or to simply ignore her.
Then, I remember my vow.
“So, which man were you two talking about?” I direct my question at Chinwe, who is seated beside me on the passenger’s side.
“When?” she queries.
“In the parlour, when I was setting the table,” I answer.
“Oh! That.” She smiles. “Chukwuebuka nau.”
“Chukwuebuka?” I ask, mildly confused. “Do I know him or about him?”
“Yes nau! Abi, have I not told you about him?” She turns fully to face me.
“Mba oh! I would have remembered!”
“Hmm? Well, he’s just a guy –”
“Babe, have you seen Jumia’s hot deals for the week?” Mercy pipes up from the back of the car, cutting short what Chinwe had been about to say to me.
“No, I haven’t,” I say.
“Yes, I have,” Chinwe responds at the same time.
“Uhm… I was asking Chinwe,” Mercy says.
I bite the sides of my mouth to stop myself from giving her a rejoinder.
“I have. What about it?” Chinwe says stiffly, her tone betraying her displeasure with the way Mercy brushed me aside.
“Did you see that hot red gown with black trimmings? That dress is a must-buy for me o!” Mercy gushes, oblivious to the tension. “In fact, I am buying it now,” she says, her fingers flying across the screen of her phone.
“Are you kidding me?” Chinwe gushes as well as she cranes her neck around to face her, caught up in the moment and forgetting her previous annoyance. “That dress is the bomb! Have you seen the Channel bag? It will go nicely with the dress. Chai! If to say Ebuka dey around, I for buy them o!”
“Channel bag? Let me look for it,” Mercy says.
“I love shopping with Jumia,” she continues, while operating her phone. “They know how to meet my certain needs.” A chuckle ends the remark.
“You sound like a shopaholic,” Chinwe says with a laugh.
“Well, I work for the money. Why won’t I spend it?” Mercy returns.
“Sha, be saving o! You never know when you will need it,” Chinwe cautions.
“You sound so like an old lady,” Mercy says. “This is the kind of thing I expect, maybe, someone who has kids to say.” She continues in a falsetto mimicry, “You never know when school bills will be called for.”
“Chii, allow her to ‘eat’ her money nau,” I say, chuckling mirthlessly. The hell if she’s going to succeed in making me feel disadvantaged, because I’m married with a child.
Chinwe laughs. “Abi oh?” And turning to Mercy, she says, “Nne, libe ego gi nnu? Onweedi!”
“Yes oh! I worked for it, so I’ll spend it anyhow I want!” she replies, the barb Chinwe sent flying right over her head.
What a waste, I think, stopping at the gate of 82 Division Hospital to have my car scanned, before driving in, and finding a spot to park my car.
I call Nkaiso, and she tells me they are close to the gate. So, I decide to wait for them at the car park. “We’re waiting for Nkaiso and Mimi to come, so that we’ll go to the ward together,” I explain to my companions.
“No problem,” Mercy says instantly, almost interrupting me, as she brings up her hand toward Chinwe to show her something else she found on Jumia.
“Ka m biakwa,” I say to them, stepping away from the car.
“God, please, give me the grace to keep this vow I made to you, and please, bring my friend Ijeoma back to us,” I mutter under my breath, when I am out of earshot of my parked car. I take a couple of deep breaths, steeling my resolve to be nice to everybody. Then, I walk back to the car, just in time to see Nkaiso’s car coming into the car park.
There are hugs and pecks and greetings as we all meet each other. The boisterousness is heightened for those who haven’t seen each other for quite a while. We chat animatedly as we walk down towards the wards.
There is an air of somberness and solitude around Ijeoma’s bed.
“Why is her nose covered?” I turn to ask the nurse who is bustling around her.
“She is now on oxygen,” she answers.
“Wait – oxygen?! Does it mean she’s getting better or worse?” I ask, feeling fear creep up my spine.
“Worse. She developed pneumonia.”
“Oh God!” I gasp. Suddenly unable to hold my weight upright on my quivering legs, I drop down on the straight backed chair right beside the bed. Tears leak out of my closed eyelids.
I feel hands on my shoulder. I look up to see Nkaiso and Chinwe flanking me and looking grim.
“She’s supposed to be getting better…” I choke out in a near whisper.
“She is getting better. Where is your faith?” Nkaiso reprimands softly.
“The doctor says she isn’t allowed to have visitors anymore, except family,” the nurse speaks up. She has finished with what she was doing, and is about to leave. “I allowed you all because of her sister,” she addresses the other women while gesturing at me. “But I am afraid, you all have to leave now.”
The five of us file out of Ijeoma’s room, and head straight for the reception.
Once everyone is seated at the reception, I excuse myself, and go off in search of Ijeoma’s baby.
Looking through the window into the neonatal ward, I see Godfrey standing and watching as a nurse feeds the infant. I wave, trying to catch his attention. He sees me, and comes out to meet me.
“I just saw Ijeoma,” I say without preamble. “How did the pneumonia happen now?”
“I don’t know,” he replies with a sigh. “I’m just tired of this whole thing. I have asked the doctor to tell me if I am wasting my time and money by letting her stay on in this hospital…”
“How can you talk like that?!” I exclaim, cutting him short. “Where is your faith?” I ask, using Nkaiso’s words on him.
“I’m done having faith. I’m tired. I have not had a good sleep or rest for the past how-many-days! I am stuck with a totally adorable daughter that I don’t know what to do with. All because of what? Because my wife refused to let modern medicine help her. It is not as if there was no money for CS. I’m tired of holding on, and praying and having faith and sitting beside her bed, watching and waiting for her to open her eyes, only for her to keep degenerating. I am tired!” he declares, before turning to stomp away from me.
I stand there, stock still, struggling to wrap my head around his words.
“Oh! And by the way…” – he turns back – “thanks for telling my mother-in-law about the situation on ground –”
“Yes, about that…” I start, cutting him off. “I want to apologise –”
“No, no. No need for apologies!” he cuts me off, with an eerily-bright smile, one which doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “If anything, you saved me the trouble of having to explain to her what happened to her daughter. So, thank you.”
He turns again to leave.
My shock has turned to alarm. What is happening to Godfrey? I stand there, not knowing what to do, or how to start talking the man out of this mindset of his.
“And…” – he turns again – “if she degenerates again, I’m signing to have the life support taken out from her. My heart cannot be broken any further.”
And this time, when he turns away from me and walks away, it is for good.
I leave too, and find my way back to the group in the reception. There is a mild argument going on. Mimi is telling Mercy off. Mercy has probably sent off one of her ‘married women with kids’ jabs, and Mimi is having it out with her.
I ignore the ruckus, and pull Nkaiso away from them, before proceeding to explain the situation with Godfrey to her in a nutshell.
“Let’s get back to Ijeoma’s room,” she says with a faraway look in her eyes. “We need to pray for her.”
“We are coming!” I throw back at the rest of the gang, while Nkaiso and I walk briskly towards the ward.
Written by Adaku J.
Glossary: Ya buruwa – Let it be
libe ego gi nnu? Onweedi! – Eat your money. Nothing is happening.
Ka m biakwa – I am coming.