I wake up to noises at the door at 5:30 am on Sunday morning. I stretch out my hand and grope around on my husband’s side of the bed, in a bid to alert him to the noise. But he has left the bed. I decide that he’s probably the one at the door.
I groggily get up from the bed and pad to the sitting room to check. I see Ifeanyi at the front door, looking like he’s about to leave the house. He is maneuvering the suitcase he walked in with yesterday through the door.
“Are you going?” I ask needlessly.
He looks up at me. “Yes. I hope I didn’t disturb your sleep…”
“No. Where is my husband?” I look around the sitting room in mild confusion.
“Your husband…” he starts to say.
“What is going on?” My husband’s voice interrupts from behind me.
“Oh! There you are. Ifeanyi is leaving,” I say.
“Ok. Nna, ngwanu. Gbado anya, o?” my husband says to his brother.
Ifeanyi nods his acknowledgment.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here for a little bit?” I ask, feeling my heart suddenly go out to him at how he must feel after everything that has just happened with him.
“Bye-bye,” he replies instead from the verandah, before reaching a hand forward to pull the door shut after him.
“Chai! It can’t be easy for him,” I say, turning to my husband.
“No. But he’ll be fine. Come back to bed.” He stretches out his hand to me with a suggestive smile.
“Leave me joor,” I say, whilst taking the hand and stepping into his embrace. His warmth of his body envelopes me instantly. “We should be in church in a few hours, and we haven’t had enough sleep.”
“Mmhmm,” he murmurs against my lips. “No church today. God will understand.”
With the knowledge that there won’t be any church attendance today, I sleep in, waking up only when Gabby came to snuggle in between his daddy and me, around 9:50am.
Before long however, the entire house wakes up and moves from the bedroom to the living room. I am in the kitchen, tidying up after a hearty Sunday brunch, while my husband and Gabby are watching television in the parlour.
As I work, I recall yesterday’s incident, and I can’t wait to gist Chinwe all about it. Ijeoma too… But she hasn’t gotten in touch since she and her family left the shores of Nigeria like she promised.
How long does it take to settle down in Chicago sef? I muse, thinking about Ijeoma. This is one gist that would make her day – that is, if I can still call her a friend.
“Mummy, see your phone oh!” Gabby calls from the sitting room, cutting into my musing. “Muuuuumyy! See your phone e yinging oh!” I hear his tiny feet slap against the floor, as he approaches the kitchen with the phone.
I can hear the ringing now.
I wipe my hand on a towel, just as he walks into the kitchen, raising the phone to me. I stretch out my hand and take it just as the call ends.
“Thank you, my love,” I say, bending to give him a peck on the cheek.
“Yaa wehcom,” he replies, and happily skips back out of the kitchen.
I am in the process of unlocking the phone to see who called, when another call comes through. I stare at the ‘Private number’ on the screen for a beat, wondering if Chidubem has discovered that we tampered with his CCTV recordings, and is calling me to threaten me some more. I take a deep breath. Maybe, it’s not him. Not wanting to miss a call because of him, I quickly press the button that will connect the call, put it on speaker phone and wait.
“Hello?” a female voice calls from the other end.
“Hello, who is this?” I ask.
“Ha! No be fight na!” The caller chuckles.
“Oh my God – Ijeoma!” I holler, a huge smile breaking out on my face upon my recognition of the voice. “You will live long oh! I was just thinking about you like now-now-now-now-now.” I switch the phone back to earphone and placing it against my ear.
“Really? Onwe nke mere nu?” she asks with enthusiasm.
“Of course! But first, how is everybody… your husband? Have you guys settled?”
“Yes o, my dear. It’s not been all that easy oh! You start spending immediately you land. We had to lodge at a bed-and-breakfast for like three weeks before we could find a place. Then we had to start buying home stuff. Plus my husband’s classes had already started, so, we could only work on our settling after his classes.”
“Ewoo! Thank God you are all settled now. How is my daughter-in-law?”
“She’s fine. So, what’s the gist?” she says impatiently. “Is it about Leticia or Mercy?”
“Ahn ahn! Calm down now! There is gist on both of them oh!” I glance quickly at the door. I wouldn’t like my husband to overhear me talking about his brother’s recent misfortune with such glee, so I lower my voice as I continue, “But the juiciest is on Leticia. Which one –”
“I want the juiciest first oh!” she screams into my ear. I can imagine her almost bouncing on her toes in excitement.
I walk to the kitchen door and shut it. Then, pushing the kitchen stool to the far opposite end to the door, I sit, ready to dish the story.
“Ok. You know she and my brother-in-law got really serious, and started to plan to get married –”
“What?!” she cuts in. “And you let them? Or did you expose her?”
“Bia, do you want to hear this gist, or will you keep interrupting me?” I ask in mock annoyance.
“Oya, sorry. My lips are sealed until the story is complete. I will however write down all my questions and ask them later.”
“Better for you!” I say with a laugh.
And then, I proceed to tell her the whole story.
“You see why I am in love with Karma?” Ijeoma jeers over the phone, all the while cackling like a mad hen. “That bitch don’t play, mehn!”
“Kai! I wish you would have been there to see with your very eyes! The highlight of the day was when she was weeping profusely and rolling on the floor, begging Ifeanyi and our people to forgive and forget. All her snootiness and bitchiness were just gone.” I am laughing along with her.
“Oh! This is so rich! So, what about Mercy?”
“Hmmm, her own is about her boyfriend –”
“Sorry. Just one question…”
“Okwa ibiago? Oya, just one.”
“Do we know her boyfriend? Just describe him to me, so that I can have a face in my head while I hear the story.”
“No, we don’t know him, but his name is Chidubem – er…” I flail about for his surname. “I can’t remember his surname, but his father is like this big politician in Enugu State –”
My head snaps up at the gentle rap on the kitchen door.
“Hold on, someone is at the door,” I say to Ijeoma, rising from the stool.
I open the door to behold Mercy’s smiling face.
Oh boy! I hope she didn’t hear me mention Chidubem oh! I think, returning her smile with a bright one of mine.
I raise my index finger to her and point it at the phone in my hand. She nods and walks into the kitchen, gesturing for me to go on with the call.
“Hello…” I return to my call. “Guess who just came in?” I say with an excitement that I do not feel.
“Who else, if not that your Holy Nweje friend?” Ijeoma snipes, referring to Nkaiso.
“It is Mercy in the flesh!” I sing-song.
“What? What?” She is flustered.
“Yes oh! She just walked in,” I say, nodding to Mercy and mouthing ‘Ijeoma’ to her.
“Ha! She didn’t catch you, did she?” Ijeoma asks.
“No. Do you want to speak with her?”
“Hell no! Shebi you should have gisted me her own first oh,” she laments.
“Ok. Let me put you on speaker,” I say, my smile firmly in place.
“Hi Aijay,” Mercy greets immediately I press the speakerphone button.
“Hello, Mercy. How is everything?” Ijeoma returns.
“Fine oh! Hope you’re catching fun?” Just then, her face clouds over, and she adds in a wistful tone, “It must be fun over there.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Ijeoma says. “I have to go now. My baby just woke up.”
“Alright, dear. Till next time we talk,” I say, before ending the call.
Still smiling, I look up at Mercy, only to be startled when I see that her eyes have turned glassy with tears, beads of it dropping over her lashes down her cheeks.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” I ask, my smile disappearing in the presence of my alarm. I fleetingly wonder if she’d heard me talk about her boyfriend before knocking at the kitchen door.
“Chidubem was supposed to take me to America next summer,” she says. Then she gulps and breaks down into a quiet sobbing.
Heaving a silent sigh of relief at the thought that I’m not the reason she’s crying, I pull her forward into a comforting hug.
As I drive to Mimi’s place after dropping off Gabby at school on Monday, I realize with a stroke of conscience that I hardly ever visit her.
“Well, it’s not as if she visits me like that sef,” I mutter to the empty car.
I recall our discussion over the phone yesterday and this morning. Her stomach is still aching. She has being observing her bed rest, and has been throwing back paracetamol like it is food. And now, she’s thinking of taking gelusil. “Maybe it could be gas,” she’d said this morning.
Of course, I am having none of those self-medicating and long-distance calls to a doctor. So, here am I, mounting the short flight of stairs up to one of the bungalows on Golf Estate that is her home and rapping on her door.
A few seconds after my first knock, her help opens the door.
“Good morning, ma,” she greets, curtseying just a bit.
“Good morning, my dear. How are you?” I come in through the door that she held wide open for me.
“I’m fine, ma.”
“Where is your aunty?” I ask, turning to face her as she closes and locks the door.
“She is in her room. She said you can come in,” she replies, before leading the way to Mimi’s room.
My friend’s face lights up immediately she sees me, and she tries to get up from her lying position on the bed.
“No, no, no! Don’t get up!” I say, stretching out my hand to stop her from rising.
She looks a bit disheveled, and the dimness of the room, resulting from the drawn curtains, does not help with her pallor. As she lies back on the bed, she winces at a bout of cramps, clenching her teeth tight and contorting her face into a mask of intense pain.
I hurry the few steps from the door to her bed, and sit on the edge. Not sure where to rub in order to relieve the pain, I settle on her arm, muttering a barely audible ‘sorry’ as I knead at her skin.
Moments later, she relaxes as the pain passes.
“Is the pain this much?” I enquire.
“Yeah. And I think it’s getting a little bit worse each time. The paracetamol does nothing to ease it.”
“Hmmm, this one has passed bed rest oh!” I say. “Have you told your husband? What did he say?”
“I told him at that beginning time. He called my brother –” She cuts off her words with a sharp whimper as she is hit with another wave of discomfort. She bites her lips and her face distorts again.
“Madam, we’re going to hospital oh!” I declare, standing and looking around for decent clothes to put on her.
“My husband says he will take me when he comes back this weekend,” she says feebly.
“Weekend?!” I almost scream. “Weekend? Today is Monday oh! You want to bear this pain until Friday – abi Sunday? All join for weekend nu?!”
“Maybe I should take a stronger pain reliever like Ibuprofen…”
“Ibuprofen when you’re pregnant? Are you trying to commit suicide?” I rail, getting angry.
“It’s not okay?” she asks meekly.
My heart goes out to her. I walk back to her bed and begin to explain gently to her. “No, it’s not okay. None of all this is okay. These cramps, the paracetamol you’ve been taking – not okay! So, we’ll go to the hospital to discover what the problem is, okay?”
She nods, riding another wave of pain.
“What hospital are you using for antenatal?” I ask.
“I haven’t started, but we plan on using UNTH.”
“Ah! Ituku Ozalla is far oh, and you’re in so much pain. We’ll find a closer one.”
She nods again.
I find a flowing gown from her wardrobe and help her get up to a sitting position. Then I proceed to help her put it on over her flimsy nightwear.
“Can you try to stand?” I ask, dreading having to pick her up, considering the fact that I am pregnant as well. She had lost a lot of weight before she got pregnant, but I’m sure she’ll still weigh at least sixty-something.
She nods and holding my hand for support, gets to her feet.
“Good! Now, gently…” I say encouragingly, gesturing to the door.
She advances ever-so gently, bending slightly forward and reaching out with her hand to hold on to any and everything along the way for support, while I walk behind her.
Written by Adaku J.