“Are you guys staying longer? I don’t have any leftovers in my refrigerator, but I can cook up something real quick,” I say after a bit of silence.
“Nah! I have to get going,” Chinwe says, tossing back the remaining wine in her cup and rising to her feet. “Let me go and put myself together for work tomorrow.”
“Me too,” Mercy says as she pours more wine into her cup.
“Ah-ah! You want to finish the wine? Ada hasn’t taken any o,” Chinwe admonishes.
“No. You can drink it all up,” I interject hurriedly to Mercy. “I am not supposed to be taking alcohol anyway.”
“Hmm? Why?” Chinwe asks, as Mercy upends the wine bottle into her cup.
“You know… you know…” I say, winking.
A beat passes, and then Chinwe’s face brightens into a beam. “Ah!” she exclaims. “Good news!”
“What? What good news?” Mercy asks, dividing a confused look between Chinwe and me.
Ignoring her, Chinwe breaks out into a song. “Onuru akwa nwa, eeh… Onuru akwa nwa mee ngwa-ngwa…” She begins to shimmy a bit to the tune of her melody.
“What now! You guys should tell me joor!” Mercy hollers petulantly, cutting off Chinwe’s singing. “Where is the akwa nwa? What’s going on? Why –”
“She’s pregnant, dumbie!” Chinwe informs her.
“Ooohhh!” A smile splits its way across Mercy’s face. “That’s so cool! I call dibs on godmother!”
“Mba oh! Back off! Don’t even try me!” Chinwe barks, with a menacing scowl.
My phone rings. I grab it from the centre table and move towards the kitchen, away from the bickering duo.
“Nne keekwanu?” Nneamaka’s voice comes through the speaker.
“I dey, my dear,” I answer, feeling a rush of pleasure at the sound of my friend’s voice. “Long time. Wetin do your number na? I have tried and tried to reach you to no avail.”
“Nne m, no network in this village oh! You have to climb one small mountain to make calls. And even then, it’s only airtel network that you can get.”
“Ewoo! Sorry. How is your mum?” I ask, remembering the reason why she is in the village. Her mother had another bout of illness which required her attention again.
“She’s getting better, my dear.”
“Ella nko?” I enquire about her child.
“You guys should do and come back oh! You have been missing all the fun around here, plus Gabby has been disturbing me about Ella.”
“Ella too oh!” Nneamaka chuckles, before mimicking a little girl’s voice as she says “Mummy, I want to play with Gabby.”
“Heu! Nwa m oh!” I say, laughing along.
“Sadly, we won’t be coming back to Enugu to stay.” She sighs.
“What? Why na!?” I ask, alarmed.
“My husband has been transferred again,” she says, sounding as sad as I feel about the news.
“Oh no! Where did they post him this time?”
“Chai! That’s sad.”
“I’m tired of all these up and down packing joor! I have decided to either get a job once we get to Anambra, or start up my catering business, so that I don’t have to follow him around. I can’t do this anymore, I swear.” Her exasperation is clear in her voice.
“Sorry, my dear. I feel you. How I wish you’d already set up your business in Enugu sef!” I sigh.
“Me too oh! Anyway, till we come back to pack now. We’ll see.”
“Ok, dear. Bye. Greet your mum for me.”
“She will hear. Bye,” Nneamaka says, ending the call.
I walk to the sitting room. “Nneamaka is leaving Enugu for good,” I announce to Chinwe and Mercy.
The two of them ask in unison.
“Her husband has been transferred to Anambra State,” I say, sitting down heavily on an empty sofa.
“Oh no!” Mercy says.
“Must she follow him?” Chinwe asks.
“What will she be doing in Enugu now?” Mercy responds. “It’s not like she has a job…” Her voice trails off as she turns to me to ask, “Or does she?”
“No. She just concluded her training to be a caterer and was going to start a catering service. Guess she’ll now do that in Anambra.”
“She better oh! Make she no dey follow man upandan like that oh!” Chinwe cautions.
My phone rings again. A cursory glance at the screen reveals the caller as Ifeanyi.
“Hello!” I greet cheerily.
“Why do you have a Blackberry if you won’t answer your pings?” he responds in a chiding tone.
“Hian! If your message is urgent, why would you send it in a BBM message?” I return. “Oya chere, let me check the pings.”
“Don’t bother. I want to come over. Hunger has removed my eyeballs.” I begin to laugh as he goes on to ask, “Is there food?”
“I am about to cook now sef. What do you want to eat?”
“Stay there and be laughing, inugo – until they call you to come to the hospital that I have fainted from lack of food.”
“And that will my fault how?” I rejoin, still very much amused. “Biko, gwa m what you want to eat jaré!”
“Anything at all! I’m just hungry for food, not any particular food item.”
“Ok now, be coming,” I say, before ending the call. Then I immediately navigate my phone to Blackberry messenger to check the messages he talked about.
“Who was that?” Chinwe asks.
“My brother-in-law, Ifeanyi,” I say, peering at my phone screen. “He’ll be coming here soon…” My response sputters off when I gasp at the sight of my BBM messages.
”What?” Chinwe asks.
“He says that he misses staying here. Inukwa? I don’t miss his presence here oh!” I rise from my seat. “Oya nu. Let me see you guys off and start cooking, before he comes around.”
“Yeah… I think I’ll just stay and eat something before leaving,” Mercy says, rooting her compact out from her bag.
“Ehen! Shameless geh!” Chinwe exclaims with a clap of her hands. “Because you have heard that Ifeanyi is coming, okwa ya!”
“Ah! Why will you talk like that nau! I just don’t want to cook this evening. Besides, am I not a single lady, ready to mingle?” Mercy smiles into the compact’s mirror while batting her eyelids.
“Kai! Obere ashawo!” Chinwe says, snapping her fingers at Mercy, causing Mercy and I to erupt into laughter. “I’m going jaré! If you like, sleep over.”
“Mercy, oya, see her off, let me start cooking. No plenty time to waste,” I say, lifting the tray containing the empty wine bottle and the used cups and heading to the kitchen, as my friends make for the door.
“We’re here to see Mimi. She had a surgery on Tuesday,” I say to the nurse at the reception.
“We don’t have any Mimi in our ward,” the nurse replies, looking slightly befuddled.
“But we called her before coming,” Mercy says. “She’s still here.”
“Look, we brought her here,” Chinwe chips in, “and I personally was here until the surgery was done. She was placed in Ward B, Room 13. Check your records, she is here.”
“Or, you can let us go to her room since we know the place,” I add.
“Oh! Wait!” the nurse exclaims as she stares at the computer screen before her. “You mean Chidiomimi?” She turns her inquiring gaze to us.
“Chidiomimi?” the three of us chorus our confused response.
“Ehn! That is the name of the woman in Ward B13,” the nurse says. At the persistent confusion on our faces, she adds, “Okay, tell me what surgery she had, let me be sure.”
“It was a case of an ectopic pregnancy,” I reply.
“Ehn! That’s it. Chidiomimi Arigbe,” the nurse affirms.
“Oh!” Chinwe laughs. “Clearly, she removed the ‘Chidi’ from her name and went with the ‘Mimi’. Yea, she’s the one we’re looking for.”
“Ok. You guys can sign in here” – the nurse points at a big hardback notebook on the counter – “and go on in.”
The three of us scribble the required information inside the book, and thereafter, march along the corridors to Mimi’s room. We meet her in good spirits. She is evidently very pleased to see us. As we chitchat, she tells us that she will soon be discharged, as soon as her blood level improves.
“But, Mimi, why didn’t you tell us that your name is Chidiomimi nau?” Chinwe queries with a smirk trembling on her lips.
“My God!” Mimi gasps. “Who told you that?”
“Oh, just the nurse at the counter,” Chinwe says with wicked amusement.
Mercy and I are already chortling at her teasing.
“Ooom! I’m sure my husband registered me with that name!” Mimi wails. “I don’t know why he won’t agree to stop calling me that!”
“What is wrong with Chidiomimi?” I ask.
“Duh! What is not wrong with Chidiomimi?” Mercy interjects.
“Thank you! Ask her!” Mimi crows.
“The name is too old school nah,” Mercy continues. “I’d shorten or change the name if it were mine, biko!”
“Umuaka a sef!” Chinwe tsk-tsks.
“Who are you calling ‘umuaka’?” Mercy retorts with mock annoyance.
“I can see you have company!” a deep voice cuts into our banter from the door way, causing us to turn.
Mimi’s husband is standing there bearing a heavy-looking cellophane bag. The man looks very different from the way he’d looked the last time I saw him – less stressed, well put-together. He comes in, followed by Mimi’s help, who is bearing a shopping bag.
“Good afternoon, sir,” Mercy, Chinwe and I chorus our greetings.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” he greets back.
We fall silent as he relieves himself of his burden on the bedside locker. Then he collects the shopping bag from the help and brings out the food flask inside. He takes the spoon and walks to the sink at the extreme end of the room to rinse it. When he returns to his wife’s side, he gently helps Mimi to sit up, placing pillows behind her to prop her up. Then he opens the food flask and proceeds to feed her.
There is something so intimate about his ministrations to his wife that instantly makes me feel like an interloper.
Chinwe must have felt the same way, because she clears her throat then and says, “Uh, sir, we will be going.”
Mercy and I nod in acquiescence and stir ourselves in readiness to leave the room.
“Ah! I hope I’m not pursuing you ladies oh!” he responds, looking half apologetic and half relieved.
“No sir, we’ve been here a long time already,” Chinwe replies.
“Oh! Ok then. Thank you once again for saving my wife’s life.” He divides an appreciative look between Chinwe and I. “I know merely saying thank you doesn’t cut it, but…”
“No problem, sir,” Chinwe cuts in gently. “Mi – erm, Chidiomimi” – there is a mischievous twinkle in her eyes – “is my friend. What we did, we did it for us as well.”
“Don’t let me catch you there!” Mimi threatens, chuckling.
“With which leg?” Chinwe jokes. “Bye-bye jaré! Do and get better.”
“Bye. Get well soonest, babe,” I say.
“Bye.” Mercy says waving as we leave the room.
“Aww,” Mercy says immediately we shut the door behind us. “He’s so nice to her.”
“Yeah,” I affirm. “I’m actually relieved to see him taking care of him like that.”
“Me too,” Chinwe concurs.
“My first impression of him was that of a nonchalant buffoon of a husband,” I add.
“Me too!” Chinwe concurs again with a laugh. “Anyway, thank God our Mimi is in good hands.”
Moments later, we are traipsing across the car park to where our cars are parked.
“I’ll ride with you,” Chinwe says to me.
“Is your place not closer to mine?” Mercy asks, hiking her brows at Chinwe.
“Ehn! But I need to discuss something with Ada.” At Mercy’s frown, she adds with a laugh, “About her Aunty Esther oh!”
“Oh! Ok!” Mercy says with a smile. She exchanges air-kisses with us before moving over to her car, leaving Chinwe and I to walk to mine.
Written by Adaku J.