“What?!” I scream into the phone, unable to believe what I just heard. “What did you say?” The volume of my voice climbs more than a few decibels.
“I said that Mrs. Anachunam is awake, ma,” the nurse repeats.
“Oh, thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus…!” I say repeatedly, tears leaking out of the eyelids I’d shut and lifted heavenward. My left hand is up, waving my gratitude to God.
“Ma!” Nurse Nkechi’s voice draws me out of my preoccupation. “Could you reach Mr. Anachunam? Or will you come around?”
“Of course!” I bellow in delight. “Of course, of course!”
The line goes dead at that.
Looking at my phone time, I see it is a few minutes past 9pm, too late for me to go off on my own to the hospital, with no one in the house to look after Gabby. I don’t even have any faith in Ifeanyi and his floosie.
I wish I had a help, I muse inwardly, thinking of what to do. Then, I remember a text message GTBank sent me some time ago about airtime top-up. Scrolling through the messages in my phone, with my fingers trembling in excitement, I find the text. Dial *737*1000# to top up airtime directly from your account. I try it, transacting for N500, and it works!
Smiling, I proceed to call Godfrey. His number isn’t going through. I try Ijeoma’s number, hoping he’ll have the phone in his possession. It rings, and no one picks up.
Next, I try my husband’s number.
“Sweetie, where are you nau?” I whine when he picks up.
“Just in front of the gate,” he replies with a chuckle.
Headlights flash in the sitting room, reflecting in the kitchen, as if on cue.
I walk to the sitting room and open the front door, noting the absence of the two lovers from the living room, and the lack of any noise coming from the guestroom. I wonder fleetingly if they have left the house, to avoid facing my wrath after my phone call. Dismissing them and refocusing on the thought of Ijeoma’s waking, I wait for my husband to come out of the car. My impatience gets the better of me, and I walk out of the house to meet him.
“Guess what?!” I shriek, throwing myself into his arms immediately he shuts the car door.
“What?” he asks, staggering to gain balance under my weight. “Is Ijeoma okay now?”
“Yessss!” I hiss excitedly, stepping away from him and doing a little dance. “I just got the call right now. Take me to go and see her, please?”
“It’s too late oh! Her husband should be there now. Tomorrow, you’ll go and see her,” he declares.
“Her husband’s number hasn’t been going through. He doesn’t even know she’s awake,” I protest.
“Let me enter the house first now!”
“Ewoo! Sorry dear. It’s over-excitement that is worrying me,” I say apologetically, leading the way. “But, can you believe it?!” I exclaim again. It feels good to have someone share the joy I feel with me.
“I instantly knew it was about Ijeoma when you didn’t wait for me to get out of the car. I just prayed the news would be good,” he replies, showing just a modicum of excitement. Which is okay. He isn’t one to get overly excited about things. “Let me eat first, then, we’ll go to the hospital,” he finally says.
I set out the food in record time, muttering as he settles at the dining table, If only he’ll eat very fast.
“Oh my God he picked!” I scream, raising a finger to quell my husband’s questioning stare at me from the driver’s side as I speak into my phone.
“Hello, Godfrey?” I say tentatively.
“Hello, who are you?” He sounds groggy and tired.
“It’s me. It’s Ada!” I say, and with enthusiasm, I add, “She’s awake!”
“Again?” he groans.
“What do you mean, ‘again’?” I ask, confused.
After some seconds of silence, he grunts, “Which Ada is this?”
“Adaku now! Your wife’s friend,” I reply, my confusion solidifying into fear. I hope Godfrey hasn’t turned a psychotic bend.
“Oh! Ada…” he sighs. “How did you know to reach me on this number?”
“Ijeoma uses it to call me sometimes,” I reply. “What’s going on with you?” The concern is apparent in my voice.
“I’m just missing my wife!” he wails. “This child wakes up every hour like clockwork. I’m just tired.” I’m still assimilating his words, when he asks, “Have you heard from the hospital?”
“Why is you phone off?” I ask instead.
He groans, “I am scared of getting any more bad news. Please, don’t judge me. I have prayed…”
“She’s awake,” I cut in.
It takes some ten seconds for the news to sink in.
“What?!” he screams, making me jerk the phone away from my ear. “Wait – was that what you were saying before?!”
“Yes! She’s awake!” I scream back, unable to contain my excitement.
“I’m going to the hospital immediately!”
“Are you not far away?” I ask, thinking of the location of their house on Agbani Road.
“No! I’m close by. I am at Trans Ekulu, my cousin’s house.”
“Ok then. See you there. We are already on our way, my husband and I.”
The oxygen mask that made Ijeoma look macabre and closer to death’s door is gone, and so are the beeping machines. Ijeoma looks gaunt, her face drawn as though someone (or something) sucked the moisture from it.
She lies still, her eyelids shut, breathing audibly through her mouth and nose. Her respiration is a faint rattling sound that unnerves me to listen to.
“I thought they said she is awake?” Godfrey asks in a whisper.
“I wonder o,” I mutter, lifting my shoulders in a bewildered shrug.
The three of us – my husband, my friend’s husband and I – are standing in the room, staring at the still form lying supine on the bed. Just then, a brief commotion at the door draws our attention away from Ijeoma’s sleeping form. Dr. Ngozi has just walked in with a nurse.
“Good evening, doctor,” Godfrey and I chorus.
“Good evening.” She is all smiles, a cheery disposition that confuses us some more.
“Doctor…” Godfrey begins. “I was told that she is awake…” His voice trails off, while his hands gesticulate, flailing in the general direction of his wife.
“Oh no, she’s just sleeping,” the doctor answers with a subdued laugh.
Hian! She never taya to sleep? I think sardonically.
The doctor steps closer to the bed, and does some quick examination on her patient.
She is still bent over Ijeoma, when a scratchy, unrecognizable voice cuts through the atmosphere in the room.
“Where is my husband?”
The voice startles us into immobility for, perhaps, two seconds, before we quickly move forward, gathering close to Ijeoma’s bed.
“I’m here, darling,” Godfrey says, leaning close to his wife. The doctor moves back to make room for us. “I’m here.” He lifts Ijeoma’s head gently, and holds her very close to his chest. His face is already wet with his tears.
My husband, the doctor and I fall back to let them have their moment.
“What of our baby?” she asks in a more recognisable voice.
“She’s fine. She is just a mini you!” Godfrey says, chuckling.
Ijeoma attempts to chuckle with him, and breaks out into a mild cough. The doctor and I instinctively start toward the bed-stand, where stands a bottle of water. But Godfrey has already reached out his hand for it. He hands the bottle to Ijeoma, after unscrewing the cover.
She takes a sip.
“They say I should take it easy and drink lots of water,” she murmurs, taking another sip. Her voice is starting to gain some strength.
“I was so worried about you,” Godfrey heaves, taking the bottle away from her and putting it back on the bed-stand. “Don’t you ever pull this type of stunt again!” he warns her in mock sternness, smoothing back her hair from her temples.
I see her smile wanly up at him.
“What about Ada?” she asks.
“I’m…” My throat closes up. I swallow hard, and try again, “I’m here.” I approach the bed. “Thank God you’re okay…”
She stares at me for a moment, the wan smile widening some more. I take hold of her hand. Squeezing my fingers, she husks, “Hi…”
“Hi…” I reply, blinking back tears and squeezing her fingers back.
Just then, my phone rings, shattering the moment. I silence the device without checking to see who is calling.
“I hope you’re up to some yummy coconut rice and peppered chicken!” I announce then, brandishing the poly bag in my hand containing a food flask.
“No, she can’t have any of that,” the doctor speaks up. “She can’t eat any solid food for now, till she has bowel movement.”
“Oh no…” Ijeoma says in a slight wail, lifting her hand to dry pretend tears from her cheeks.
Everyone in the room laughs at her theatrics; someone’s sense of humour has evidently recovered as well.
“I could eat that, though,” Godfrey interjects, stretching out his hand for the bag.
“No oh,” I say jokingly, pulling my hand and the bag away from his reach.
“Shhh, keep it down!” the doctor admonishes, enjoying the camaraderie.
I catch my husband’s eye, and he signals me to be conscious of time by tapping the back of his left wrist.
“Nne m, I have to go,” I say to Ijeoma, handing the bag to Godfrey as I speak. “Gabby is alone at home.”
“Eiyaa. Shey you’re coming tomorrow?” she asks.
“Of course. And I’ll come bearing a bowl of akamu, since you’re now a baby,” I say, chuckling.
Ijeoma laughs. It is a weak sound, but it warms all the caucuses of my heart when I hear it. Driven by a need to hear it again, I add, “Your baby has started eating swallow oh! And you’re here sipping watery akamu.”
She laughs louder. It truly does warm the heart, that mirthful, almost-forgotten sound.
“Alright then. Please, come early. I want first hand gist on what has been going on in my absence,” she declares.
I smile. My friend is truly back to life.
“Why didn’t you make your presence known?” I ask my husband, checking my phone to see who called me back at the hospital as we drive home.
And then I barrel on without waiting for his answer to my question, “Hah! Why is Nenye calling me this night? Five missed calls!” I promptly start dialling her back as I ponder out loud, “I hope everything is alright o.”
Written by Adaku J