“Aahh! Oohh! Ooohohohohoho! This is painful o! What is the meaning of this now, eh? Who did I offend? What have I done? Oh God! Take this pain away from me please! Aahh!” Chinwe cries out, delirious with pain.
“Sorry now,” I console. “It was just an accident. Ozugo!” I have her hand in my right hand, and Gabby’s hand in my left.
As it happened, Chinwe’s line did not go through after her colleague, Vivian called me with it. After panicking for a short while, I decided to go to her office and ask to see her, hoping that her phone was stolen and that the thieves were using it to prank-call her contacts.
It was a very difficult decision, taking Gabby with me to Chinwe’s office, and then the hospital, because of hospital nyama-nyama infections. So, I held his hand firmly in mine while at the hospital, to ensure that he touched as little as possible.
“Nothing is just an accident,” Vivian pipes up behind me. “Everything that happens has been programmed in the supernatural –”
“How is this helping?” I snap, swiveling on the hospital stool on which I am sitting to face her.
“Sorry…” she mutters.
“Sorry I screamed at you,” I say seconds later, feeling contrite. “She’s in pain” – I nod at Chinwe – “and the only things you should say for now are words of consolation. And I still do not agree the fall was programmed. She just had an accident. It could happen to anybody.”
Vivian simply nods, making me feel even worse. I am still observing her, noting how she is silently praying in tongues. Her eyelids shutter every now and then, and she makes jerking movements with her arms and head as she prays. Her generous bosom trembles like jelly as she moves. She is wearing a V-necked top, and has a camisole under the top, which probably hides a good portion of her cleavage. Some part of the crease visible between her breasts is however still left open, and I can’t help but notice that the white camisole has a tell-tale slack and finger dirt marks, signs that betray the fact that she must have been pulling it up now and again, probably in a bid to cover up more of her cleavage.
Just then, three doctors bustle into the room, followed closely by a nurse, who is wheeling a gurney.
“The x-ray room is ready,” the nurse announces out of breath, as she places the gurney beside the examination table on which Chinwe is lying.
“And we have to move her,” one of the doctors says.
“You should get out of their way,” Vivian observes, looking at me.
“Oh, sorry,” I mutter to the doctor closest to me, getting up from my stool and scurrying out of the way.
The three of us – Vivian, Gabby and I – are seated in the reception, waiting for Chinwe’s x-ray to be done. I am so tired that I yawn every five minutes or so. I have the mind to leave the hospital at this time, but it just doesn’t feel right.
Chinwe’s phone is locked with a code, so I cannot scroll through her contacts to find who else to call. I know for a fact that her parents stay in Lagos. Her sister however lives and works in Akwa-Ibom; this was her status the last time Chinwe told me about her.
I yawn yet again, clenching my teeth, and making a decision to wait until I am sure Chinwe will be alright, or until one out of the number of people Vivian claimed to have called comes in.
I glance briefly at Gabby, watching as he is entertained by the Talking Tom on Vivian’s phone. Again, I regret the way I snapped at the other woman earlier. I begin to think of a way to get her into a conversation, in order to be sure that we are cool.
Just then, a man, tall, dark-skinned and well-built, bounds into the reception area. He looks flustered. He glances anxiously around, and then makes a beeline for the nurse behind the reception desk.
My attention is piqued by this guy, because he reminds me of someone I am supposed to know, or perhaps someone I know from a distance. I am not very sure, but I keep staring at him, as I will my brain to make the connection.
“I’m asking for a Chinwe Okonkwo,” I hear him say to the receptionist. “She was brought in some moments ago…”
I turn to look at Vivian, to see if she knows him. But she is engrossed in her Talking Tom game with Gabby; another little girl has even joined them, separating herself from her mother seated two chairs away. The three are giggling as Tom repeats their words in a comical voice.
“Vivian,” I say in a low, urgent tone, gesturing to the man before the receptionist when she turns to face me.
“Hmm?” she says, turning back to face me after observing the guy for a second.
“He just asked after Chinwe. Is he your colleague?”
“No, I don’t – Wait!” She gently disengages from the children and rises from her seat. “Erm, excuse me,” she says as she approaches the reception desk. “Are you Chukwuebuka?”
“Yes!” the man replies, turning away from the receptionist nurse and coming towards her. “Were you the one who called me?”
“Yes. Chinwe is in the x-ray room.”
“What exactly happened?” he asks.
I can see that his eyes are focused nowhere near Vivian’s face. His gaze appears to be arrested by her chest.
“She fell down the stairs, and we don’t know yet if she has a fracture,” Vivian says, aware of the man’s stare and self-consciously pulling up her top to conceal some more of the spill of her generous bosom. “We are waiting for them to finish the x-ray.” She gestures to me in a desperate attempt to move Chukwuebuka’s focus from her.
I smile and stand, thoroughly amused, as he reluctantly drags his gaze away from her breasts to look at me.
“Chukwuebuka…” I say, my smile in place, “your name has been floating around for a while now. It’s nice to meet you at last.” I extend my hand for a handshake.
“The pleasure is all mine,” he says, taking my proffered hand and smiling right into my eyes. He is very good looking when he is up close. “And you are…?”
“Adaku,” I say, averting my eyes from the disconcerting look in his eyes. I suddenly have a smidgen of an idea how Vivian must have felt seconds ago when she noticed his stare on her cleavage.
“Oh yeah! I have heard a lot about you too,” he says, still holding on to my hand.
“Okay,” I say, forcefully withdrawing my hand when it became obvious he wouldn’t release it. I am suddenly unwilling to engage him in further conversation. And I wonder if I can leave now, since the great Chukwuebuka is here.
“Trust me,” he continues, leaning toward me and winking conspiratorially, “all I have heard about you are nice things.”
I find myself smiling at his charm.
Just then, a groaning Chinwe is wheeled out of the x-ray room. We move toward the party at once, with me picking up Gabby, and we follow the attendant doctor and nurse into the emergency room.
“Thankfully, she did not break any bones, but she has internal injuries from the fall,” the doctor begins without preamble.
“Praise the Lord,” Vivian heaves, relieved.
Chukwuebuka had gone around the gurney, and is now holding Chinwe’s hand and wiping at her brow with his handkerchief.
“So, now what, doctor?” he enquires, looking up at the other man.
“We have to admit her,” the doctor answers. “Who is signing her folder and paying her deposit?” He divides a look between the three of us.
Vivian and I in turn look pointedly at Chukwuebuka, who suddenly begins to look ill at ease. He takes his hand away from Chinwe’s, puts both of them inside his pocket, only to bring one out with his handkerchief, which he vigorously wipes his face with.
“Erm… how much is the deposit?” he asks, trying valiantly to conceal his nervousness.
“Excuse me, I have to take this call,” the doctor says picking out from his pocket his ringing phone. He places the phone against his ear and is already speaking into it as he walks out from the room.
“Go to the reception,” the nurse instructs, “and they will tell you. Then, go to the cashier and pay. Only then will we admit her.”
“Ok then,” Chukwuebuka says. “I’ll be right back,” he directs lovingly at Chinwe.
“Nne, let me get going,” I intone just then. “You are already in good hands,” I add, referring to Chukwuebuka’s retreating back.
“Ok,” she says with a wan smile. “Thanks for coming out.”
“You would have done the same if it were me. If not for Gabby, I would have stayed some more,” I say, trying to quench my guilt at leaving her.
“No problem. It’s not even very safe to let him stay here,” she concedes.
“Ngwanu. I will call you later.” I squeeze her fingers comfortingly. “Gabby, say sorry to Aunty Chinwe,” I say, turning to my son.
“Shoyiihear?” he pipes up, waving his hand at her.
We all laugh before I leave the room.
It is almost 7:30 pm by the time I park my car in the compound. Ifeanyi’s gwongworo is also parked in the compound, and there is a Toyota Sienna settled next to it.
I sigh, as I remember that the Sanhedrin is supposed to gather for me this evening. They must all already be here, it seems.
Loud, raucous laughter sounds from my sitting room as I walk toward the front door. I pick out Leticia’s husky voice from the laughter. Sighing again, I knock on the door.
Leticia opens the door.
“Hi! Welcome!” she says in a high pitched voice that exudes excitement, whose falseness only someone like me can discern. She opens the door wider for me to step through with Gabby in my arms.
“Thanks,” I say sardonically. “Good evening,” I toss at Ifeanyi. He nods in acknowledgement. I turn to Uncle Donatus. “Good evening, sir.” I find myself instinctively holding Gabby close as a shield. Against what, I didn’t know.
“Ehee, nwa m,” he replies.
“Hope your journey was smooth?” I enquire.
“Ndi uno kwanu?” I continue my enquiry.
“Ha dicha mma.”
“Nno, sir,” I finish, before turning to leave the sitting room and look for my husband.
Sounds coming from the kitchen inform me that he is in there. So, I make a detour immediately I left the sitting room.
“Sweetie,” I greet, dropping Gabby to give him a hug.
“How is your friend?” he asks.
“She is fine. She didn’t break any bone. Her boyfriend is there with her.”
“Ok. Help me bring out this wine and some glasses.” He gestures to the wine bottle on the kitchen table.
“Ok, dear…” I start to say, then notice that Gabby has taken a handful of the groundnuts my husband had placed in a tray with garden eggs, and is about to shove them into his mouth. “Gabby! No!” I scream, startling him and making him drop the nuts on the floor.
“Let him to eat now,” my husband says to me, bending to offer him another handful from the plate.
“Mba! Ka m kwoo ya aka first,” I say. “We’re just coming from the hospital now!”
“Oh! Ok.” He drops to one knee, and speaks to Gabby, “Let mummy wash your hands first, you hear?”
Gabby looks down thoughtfully at his hands for some seconds, and then bursts out singing, “Squishy, squishy, squashy, give your hands a washy…” He lifts both hands to me, waving them enthusiastically.
My husband and I chuckle as he lifts the tray containing the garden eggs and the groundnuts and heads out of the kitchen.
“I just want to say that I am sorry for all that I did to offend you,” Leticia is saying to me, as the five of us are seated around the dining table, which is where the meeting had held immediately after dinner. “I need us to be friends,” she continues, “since we’re going to be sisters-in-law.”
I watch her face closely as she speaks to ascertain if she is being sincere or mocking. I can’t exactly tell. The woman must have finessed her acting skills, I think sardonically.
“So, what do you say?” Uncle Donatus prods when I don’t say anything to Leticia.
“Umm…Ok.” I shrug. “I accept your apology.”
“Good!” Uncle Donatus beams. “I want both of you to be best of friends. Our people say that peace leads to progress. If there is to be progress in this family, you all have to live in peace, and peace lies solely in the hands of women. So, you both,” – he shares a glance between Leticia and me – “have to be at peace.”
Peace… Family… Progress… How rich coming from you, I think, eyeing the man with perfectly-concealed dislike.
Aloud, I say, “Ok sir.” I stifle a yawn and wish this meeting will end already.
“Ahem,” Ifeanyi speaks up, staring at my husband and me. “I want to formally inform you that I have gotten an apartment. So, I will be moving my stuff tomorrow. And I also want to thank you for everything.”
Ha! What is going on here? Why is everyone forming nice? I think to myself, not at all buying this. But I play along when I say, “You are welcome.”
“The meeting went well, no?” my husband observes as I get ready for bed.
Our guests have retired to the guest rooms.
“Yes o! But why were they being so nice? I was expecting a full-scale war against Adaku. I don’t trust their words o.”
My husband chuckles, before saying, “I made sure they were nice and civil. Before you came back from the hospital, I told them pointblank that they cannot upset my wife anymore, and that if they weren’t cool with that, they could piss off.” Then he shrugs with a smile, “Well, not exactly with such words.”
I burst out in mild laughter. “That explains it! Whichever words you used, you’re my hero.”
I sidle up to him for a quick kiss.
Then I say, “I think I left my phone in the kitchen. Let me go and get it. I need to call Chinwe.”
Hushed voices stop me as I make my way through the corridor to the kitchen. The voices are coming from the sitting room. Tiptoeing, I move close to the sitting room entrance and listen.
“It is better for everyone this way, inugo?” comes Uncle Donatus’ voice. “You are already in the family, so, there is nothing to worry about, oh?
“Nsogbu adiro.” I am startled to hear Leticia respond. “Just make sure you keep everything under control until the wedding is done.” The tone of her voice is not one of deference you’d expect a woman to address her future in-law with. She sounds authoritative, familiar, almost as though she and Uncle Donatus have some sort of relationship other than the one apparent to everybody.
What is going on?
The leathery squeak of the sofa alerts me to the fact that someone is getting up, or moving. Whichever it is, I have no wish to get caught eavesdropping. So, I quietly hurry on to the kitchen. I make it back to the bedroom without further incident, all the while pondering on the meaning of what I’d just overheard.
Walking into the room, I see my husband studying the used pregnancy test strip.
“It’s like I spoilt your surprise,” he says.
“Spoilt my surprise how?” I reply, closing the door.
He raises the strip and I see the second stripe. It is very faint, the stripe, so much so that it was easy for me to miss the first time.
“Oh my God!” I gasp. “It’s positive!”
Ozugo – It is enough
Ndi uno kwanu? – How are the people from home?
Ha dicha mma – They are all good.
Mba! Ka m kwoo ya aka first – No. Let me wash his hands first.
Nsogbu adiro – There is no problem
Written by Adaku J