BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
DOWN IN THE MOUTH
“Somehow I feel responsible for Tee’s present condition, Licia. Our exams is in 2weeks and she is bedridden again. Her mum even called this morning to ask me if Tonia was having any emotional challenge I knew of. She told me the doctor said Tonia broke down due to extreme emotional stress. Meanwhile, Tonia on her own part has vehemently refused to say anything about what happened to her on Friday evening to anybody, including her mum.” Grace lamented on the brink of tears as she sat beside Licia on the bed holding a pillow close to her chest
“You don’t have to be too hard on yourself Grace, you did what you did out of frustration” Licia replied, drawing closer to Grace and patting her lightly on the back.
Licia is a course mate and one of Grace’s best friends, their closeness extended to Tonia as well.
For students with special cases like Tonia, their health cards for accessing the university’s medical centre requires the details of someone very close and also readily available to be reached in cases of emergencies like the event of Friday night. Grace hurriedly got to the school clinic -as students usually called it- that Friday evening after she was called up by one of the doctors on duty, only to meet her brave and fighting Tonia lying unconscious on the stretcher. Her hair rumpled, her body weak and feeble, her eyes were puffy and red from excessive weeping. All Grace could see that night before Tonia’s mum eventually arrived was a shadow of her friend’s self. The doctors punctured almost all her veins, as they kept trying to rehydrate and revive her, with numerous intravenous fluids and drips. Grace had to sleep over at the school clinic with Tonia’s mum. The cold black night pierced Grace’s very bones and a haze of fear surrounded her as she kept wishing and praying that Tonia would just get well immediately.
Finally, morning came and Tonia was still unconscious. Her father came to take her home to their family doctor. Grace asked to accompany them but Tonia’s mother admonished her to stay back in school that her friend will be fine soon.
“The more I think of it Licia, I feel I betrayed Tonia” Grace said as tears welled up in her eyes and began rolling down her cheeks like rivulets
Licia took a deep breath. She could feel the immense inexpressible agony Grace was in right now. She hugged her affectionately, ” See! If you continue like this, you will break down and we’ll have two patients in the hospital. You need to forgive yourself to be able to confess to Tonia, else you wouldn’t be able to face her when she resumes. I can understand what prompted your actions, but have a grip on yourself Grace” Licia persuaded, rubbing her back
“I didn’t like how Tonia treated Jerry…”Grace started as hot tears streamed down her face, “… the guy was too sweet and too kind for what she did to him, plus I’ve always had a crush on Jerry right from the first day Tonia introduced him to me. But then, the number three rule of friendship kept ringing in my head ‘don’t covet your friend’s property’ so I respected Tonia’s feelings. Just this last Monday, Tonia came crying that she is feeling horrible, that Jerry snubbed her and all that. I felt happy and thought Tonia was begining to realise her true feelings for Jerry, only for her to come into the room Thursday night of the same week o, with that brat called Ben holding her. l was sleeping as usual when they both came into the room so I tried to shut my eyes and ears from their conversation because it was irritating me. The last stroke that broke the camel’s back was when that son of a bitch started making empty vows to Tonia and as if that was not enough, my poor girl too was falling for his words. A wave of futile rage just swept over me and I got up, took my bath and decided to go tell Jerry my own true feelings for him without any second thought” Grace explained bitterly wiping off the tears on her face with a face towel, as an angry frown creased over her forehead all of a sudden.
Licia who only listened attentively, sighed.
“Could it be that Jerry told Tonia all what you told him?” she asked
Grace shook her head from side to side, smiling through her tears
“I doubt if he would. After I confessed love to him that Thursday night, he was quiet for a while then he hugged me warmly with just a simple statement ‘Gracey, your right man will come.’ I practically ran out of his room with mixed feelings, ashamed and happy at the same time. When I got to the corridor of our house, I saw and heard Ben saying some rubbish over the phone, probably to one of those his numerous girlfriends, who knows?”she bit her lip regretfully “I don’t know why some stupid people can’t stay off women for once!” she cursed and let out a loud hiss before continuing , “… I entered our room and saw Tonia sitting patiently and innocently waiting for that player. That alone crowned up my anger so much that my blood boiled within me. I couldn’t have been able to respond to Tonia’s statements in that mood, so I just ignored her and fell into my bed”
“But why didn’t you tell Tonia the tale, the tale about Omasirichi?” Licia queried
“Everything happened so fast, Licia. Will you believe it? Tonia hasn’t told me officially till now about it?” Grace said in the defensive, “…Well, that’s not enough excuse though but what can I do now? Will I be able to face Tonia when she returns?” Grace asked, her voice breaking as she looked at Licia in the eyes
“Well, we will cross that bridge when we get there. We may even have to talk to Omasirichi., so chill!” Licia replied firmly
I woke up and everywhere looked cloudy. The last time I remember waking up was last night and mummy told me they had to bring me down to the Federal medical centre here in Lokoja from my school’s medical centre, so that Dr Wale will manage me properly. I feel very weak and it seems only blurry images are focusing on my retina right now. Guess I’ve been sleeping all morning once again and that must be as a result of the drowsy effect of all the painkillers infused into my blood when I was rushed down to the school clinic before I eventually fainted.
I can almost remember nothing except that I ran out of Ben’s compound weeping bitterly. It got to a point on the road that I could barely lift my foot. It’s been long I had that hand-foot syndrome and am sure as usual, it initiated the crisis. I can remember struggling to carry my weight from the ground on that lonely road to my lodge when a figure lifted me into a car. I must have fainted after that because that’s how best my memory can serve me right now. My head still hurts badly with my whole body lying weak on this hospital bed. By the time I finally managed to force my eyes open, the person I saw startled me.
He sat on the chair in front of my bed smiling sweetly at me. His hair was dark and jerry-curled, his skin looked as though he never had a feel of our special Lokoja sun. I could dare to say he is in his twenties… and really looked smart on his grey shirt and brown chinos trouser. He didn’t dim his eyes as he placed them searchingly on me.
“Who are you and why are you here looking at me?” I asked rudely seething with anger because his continuous stare got me really uncomfortable. Needless to say am very allergic to intense stares.
He still wore that smile while responding to me,
“Am the guardian angel assigned to watch over you”
His joke didn’t come across as funny to me, it didn’t just sit well with me at all. But his voice took me a back a bit. He had this British accent that can only mean he must have lived there for a long time to completely have his voice modified into theirs like this. “I mean! Am not dead so I shouldn’t be seeing angels just yet right? And where is everybody? Mum and Success? Nobody was around. How will they leave their precious daughter in the care of a stranger”. These ran through my mind in a flash and as if he could read my thoughts, he answered them
“Yea! Your Mummy went home to freshen up and bring lunch for you, Success just stepped out to receive a call…”
The door creaked opened while he was still speaking and Success walked in towards me, talking out loud, “Ha! Finally, Sisi you are awake. I was worried you were going to sleep all day again” She said taking her seat after pecking me lightly. I smiled and looked on at her, demanding an explanation
“Oh! Uncle Tosin?,” she coded turning in Tosin’s direction “… He was the one God used to save your life on Friday night. He said he saw you gasping for breath, crying and screaming in pain on a lonely road, so he had to you in his car and drove to your school clinic. Thank God for his timely intervention o Sisi, any further delay at that spot, the doctor said you would have gone into coma.”
I heaved a sigh of relief, at last I wasn’t dead after all.
“Is that so?” I asked Success . Of course, I truly appreciate his benevolence but why is he here this Sunday afternoon again, all the way from Anyigba where my school is? Over 2hours drive? Or does he live in Lokoja too? And why is he just staring and smiling at me like he suddenly turned dumb.
“So what are you still doing here this afternoon Mr. Tosin, don’t you go to church at all from where you hail from? Or must you come back to see me?” I voiced out disrespectfully with no manners or courtesy at all, but he kept on smiling
“Ha Sisi, that’s no way to treat someone that saved your life. Seriously! Be nice” Success exclaimed, more like warning me
“Ok! Alright… Thank you!” I retorted bluntly without remorse and quickly changed the topic. “Success, I want to take a walk.”
“No Tonia, you are not strong enough to walk yet, the doctors insisted on intensive bed rest if you must regain your lost energy in the shortest possible time from now” The seemingly ‘dumb’ Tosin advised quickly before I could try to get up.
I eyeballed him and hissed out loudly. “What are you feeling like? Saviour of our time?” I just ignored him again while Success only kept watching me quietly.
It’s typical of me not to readily obey instructions. But I can’t totally take the blame now because I have been laying on my back for two days with drip firmly fixed on my hand. I needed to walk and I also needed fresh air so I tried to get up again but collapsed almost immediately into the bed. It’s now I realised that I was even weaker than how I felt initially. Thank God for the timely intervention of Tosin who quickly ran over to me and caught my head before it will hit the iron rim on the edge of the bed. His hands felt soft but firm, his eyes gazed straight into mine as he readjusted my head gently onto the pillow
“Honey, you forgot this…” Professor Arome Abuh said stopping his wife in her tracks as he approached her with the jug of fruit juice she left on top of the fridge in the kitchen. She surely forgot it there. Abigail quickly wiped her face and dropped the basket containing food and fruits on the tiled floor so her husband can fix in the jug as she fell tiredly into the cushion. He held her hands after carefully fixing it.
“Honey! You can’t continue like this. If we must keep everyone else out of this as we agreed all along, then you must be strong. Your tears break my heart, Honey” He consoled, squatting in front of her.
His words made Abigail sob even more. She was getting weak, her emotions were begining to take over everything she did. She had to cook this food again some moments ago because the first one got burnt due to her absent-mindedness. She feels really devastated at the moment.
“With all the innocence, life and beauty, why couldn’t God spare us all this ehn!? The thought of that list kills me. Why that list now, ehn? Why?” She questioned no one in particular as she wailed loudly
“I know Honey, I know the thought of the list is even more painful than the situation at hand but please try for me” Arome said, grabbing his wife’s shivering body as he gently kissed her hair.
She used to be his pillar at times like this. She was his only reason to bear the very many disappointments he had encountered all his life. Even at the face of Tonia’s deadly crisis, his wife’s undoubting faith kept him going. He ever hardly saw her giving up, in fact, he had never seen her this broken before. It broke his heart. Broke? That was an understatement, it rent his heart into pieces. He wished he could do something about Tonia’s health, about the list. He wished he could change everything. A tear dropped down his cheek as he hugged his wife closely. He stared into the ceiling hoping he would be able to view heaven with a little more persistent stare,
“God, we need a miracle, please!” He groaned as they both wept in each others’ arms.