BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
Spending the whole revision week on the hospital bed wasn’t easy for me, there was no group discussion and no time to share ideas with course mates before exams. I could only imagine what my fate would have been if this exam wasn’t spaced at all. Even the one-day space seemed like split seconds to me. And the so-called nocturnal haemodialysis sessions is not helping matters at all. I have to finish up my readings during the day, all because of night sessions in the hospital. Thank God Good Shepherd medical centre is not so far from our school plus if not for the nice Matron assigned to me, baby Jesus knows I would have been fed up by now. Am trying my best though, at least the two exams I have written thus far were quite simple, I just pray it remains so anyways. Aha! What kind of strange welcome back attitude has Grace been giving me?
“Gracey! What is wrong? Or what could I have possibly done this time?” I asked and left combing my hair in front of the mirror to stand before her. Oyeah! She must tell me why she is so cold towards me lately which was absolutely unlike her.
Grace took in a very deep breath. I could see the disturbed look on her small round eyes and could also hear her heart throbbing loudly. Perhaps she wished she could melt into the floor as I fixed my eyes on hers so she quickly buried her face in the text in front of her. I dragged her face back in my direction
“Gracey! Talk to me. I am not so comfy with your dull countenance ever since I got back. Or is it because I no longer spend the night here? You know how it is with this damn dialysis sessions. I have to just sleep in their nurses bay every night for now. It’s for convenience, don’t you understand?” I queried, already sounding provoked. Of course, I expect Grace of all people to understand my plight better.
She swallowed. “No Tonia, it’s not about that Dear, Seriously I too need you to be faithful to your treatment, I need you to be OK for me Sis, I want you to be fine” She said, grabbing my hands. Her voice already started breaking and a teardrop rolled down her smooth cheeks. This made me felt even more uncomfortable right now. I haven’t seen our ever-happy and easy-going Grace shed tears before.
“Gracey, what is the matter?” I asked taking my seat on the second chair beside her, I began patting her back lightly
“I am sorry, Tee”
Now someone is begining to toy with my mind so I sat up and faced her squarely
“Sorry!? For what?”
“I confessed it. That night I left you and Ben here, I went to confess it…” She stammered and that got me overtly nervous as she seem to be having difficulty with spilling those words off her throat.
“Confessed what!?” I exclaimed, holding her shivering shoulders
“I confessed to Jerry. l confessed to him that I loved him. Really, I don’t know if that was what made you collapse, I don’t even know if you found out but I know one thing and that is the fact that I feel so ashamed of myself right now Tee” Grace kept sobbing as she tried to voiced out.
I heaved a loud sigh of relief and hugged her tightly. I still don’t understand why she is feeling this horrible. I mean! What is the big deal anyway?
“It’s OK Gracey.” I managed to say
“I shouldn’t have done that to you Tee, we are more than this. I feel so terrible right now like I heartlessly betrayed you!” She continued, refusing to be consoled as her jaw rested on my shoulders. She shook like a chicken beaten under a heavy rain in front of me so I just continued rubbing my hands slowly on her back
“Gracey, it’s OK. And don’t haunt yourself for nothing, that didn’t lead to my collapse. I didn’t even know all these anyway.” I tried to console her.
Grace hastily snapped out of the hug as though something hit her. That made me jerk a bit. I could see her eyes puffy and red. “That idiot by the name Ben irritates me to my bones Tee, I can’t stand him…” She opened her eyes wide and raised her upper eyelid in a stare. Her eyeballs pulled down together as she spoke with so much hatred in her voice. “..his presence was what pushed me out to Jerry’s place that night. Gosh! I really hate that guy” Grace spat with so much bitterness, letting out a long hiss
My memory quickly flashed back to that Thursday night when she left the room without uttering a word to Ben. Oh well! I quickly relaxed into my seat, this unfolding series promises to be intriguing.
“Gracey! What has Ben done this time?” I asked her sarcastically.
“Omasirichi Oregbunam!” Was what she gave as the reply to my question. I gave her a kind of look that could make the lion himself nervous. She understood that and quickly started explaining better
“We call her Oma for short. Myself, Licia and Oma made up the three most-talked-about soul-sisters back then in our first year. She was a very curvy, fair and beautiful Igbo lady like this o. The idiot now promised Oma, love, and went even as far as marriage. That was just second semester hundred level, so you can see the extent of his craftiness” She gave me the questioning look and I shook my head appropriately before she continued,
“We tried to talk Oma out of it, but she foolishly let him deceive her. Deceiving girls for him looks innate. They both continued for few months until the worst happened!” She paused and bit her lips spitefully.
“What?” I let out uncontrollably as I was already too nervous. She placed her hands on my thighs in the ladies’ gossip fashion.
“Oma came to Ben’s house immediately the doctor confirmed her pregnancy only for her to meet another oyinbo girl there. As if that was not enough, Ben still had the nerves to deny ever having anything to do with her… Na so our madam take waka from this school o. She gats keep baby ni and the trauma will be too much because that was just our second year” She explained and spitted the concluding part in pidgin English just in a bid to lay more emphasis.
I stood up, took my eyes from her and concentrated them on the ceiling. It was a mixed feeling for me in here now. In as much as Ben got the better part of my sadness, I also feel very disappointed in Grace for hiding such a deep occurrence from me all this while. Grace got up and came over to me
“Am sorry Tee, I should have told you earlier” She started, trying to explain, “The thing between you and Ben happened so fast like a pendulum in motion. You also became quiet and very private about a relationship for the first time in our friendship. By the time I could catch my breath, you both already outran me. I am very sorry Baby!” She apologised pathetically and I swallowed with bitterness too pulling out my handkerchief and using it to wipe the tears off her face before drawing her closer for a hug.
“Jerry truly loves you Tee, he really does” Grace said as we hugged. She sounded so sure of her statement. I took a deep breath and held it. Even when the statement hit me like an arrow, it is a gross impossibility right now if she knew what I knew.
“Jerry has proposed, Grace…” I voiced out slowly, “…he has proposed to Lara.”
Grace turned mum immediately she held me and stood fixed to the tiled floor like a pillar.
I walked into the streets sluggishly, drowned in my own thoughts. The usually lonely street to my house looked even more deserted this morning. Only chirpings of birds and insects could be heard. Everywhere was littered with only fallen leaves. I looked to the end of the streets and not a single person could be spotted. I haven’t picked up Ben’s calls, or better still everybody’s calls, since I left him that day. I have been wondering about what step to take next. Guess this latest revelation from Grace just gave me an answer to that dilemma. I paused for a while under a shade, picked my phone from the pocket of my cardigan and typed ‘IT’S OVER BETWEEN US’ in my message folder, scrolled down to Ben’s number and pushed down the send button. Then I switched off the damn phone in provocation and threw it inside my school bag. The turnout of events in my life over the past one month has really been devastating. I have made a covenant with my heart though that it won’t get too emotional henceforth, at least for the sake of my health. lf not for this long conversation with Grace, I planned to be in the library first thing in the morning. It’s almost noon now and trust the sun in Kogi state, it is shining at its full strength already as though someone dared it. Unfortunately, there are no bike men in sight also and I can’t possibly trek the whole distance down to the Library this hot morning.
This is the point where I had to pray silently in my heart. “God please I need a lift.” That said and done, I trudged forward and just like an instantaneous miracle, I heard the sound of a car from behind me.
“Could it be a ride? Oh God, let it be please” I muttered beneath my breath as the car pulled up beside me.
“Hello Dear” came the voice.
I turned to see a smart looking young lady about my age in the car. “Oh no! It’s a lady! Ladies rarely gave lifts to their fellow ladies” I groaned within me as she wound down the glasses of her red volvo C70 Convertible. One could bet the car never trod the much talked-about Nigerian roads before from the way it glowed.
I smiled back at her
“Sorry miss, am headed towards the faculty of Nursing and am a bit unfamiliar with this terrain, where is the route please” She asked politely.
I cursed my luck. C’mon, all I need right now is a free lift and not to be an atlas or compass to some stranger. Then a thought just popped up in my head and I immediately turned to face her
“Yes, it’s just two more turns to your right from here. If you don’t mind, I am going to the library myself and the library is just before the College of health sciences” I opted stylishly demanding a lift. Pride aside, I can’t let this opportunity pass me by.
“Of course, of course!” she responded hurriedly unlocking the car doors, “…please do come in”
Tada!! I hopped into the well air-conditioned car without hesitation, before one could say Robinson Crusoe. The song “ijoba orun” by Lara George played softly from the speaker as I fastened my seat belt and placed my tired head on the head rest of the chair.
“Wow! Boy! This is the real life…” I thought within myself, relaxing even more into the seat “…this is a girl of my age cruising a very beautiful and expensive ride, my dream car for that matter, and am here disturbing my big head about some stupid emotions” I impulsively let out a loud hiss before I could stop myself.
The lady looked over to me “Oh! Am sorry, I didn’t see that pot-hole early enough” She apologised. She must have mistaken my hissing to be as a result of the hole she just entered. For real? Who cares about pot-holes on the roads anyway? When Naija roads are attractively-decorated and well packaged death-traps.
“Ha! No, sorry I was just thinking aloud” I said defensively
She smiled, releasing her right hand from the steering and stretching it towards me
“I am Oluwatoyosi Adewale, Toyosi for short”
“I am Tonia Abuh, Tee for short…” I replied, shaking her hand warmly “…nice to meet you” I said in a rather formal tone
“Same here Dear” She responded before stepping on the accelerator
You know how it is sometimes when you get so engrossed in reading that you didn’t even notice time? That was what those past questions I was attempting did to me. It’s already 6pm and am just leaving the library, in fact the Library attendants practically chased me out. Can I still go home anymore? The dialysis session begins in less than an hour. It’s a good thing there are motorcycles everywhere now, so I’ll just get take-away foods from the cafeteria close by and go straight to the hospital instead.
“You are just in time young lady, a little more delay and you would have missed me” The matron said to me immediately I alighted from the motorbike. I think it’s because a junior nurse was still speaking with her that she hasn’t left yet, if not her car door was already opened so I thanked my stars. She has been taking my sessions since I got back to school on Saturday. She is very nice, caring and receptive as well. She redefined my view of matrons because I used to think they were extremely unapproachable, judging from my past experiences anyway.
“Good evening Mummy” I greeted and bent slightly to show respect.
“Evening my dear. Am sure you are alright. I have been on night shifts all the while and I will be off duty for the next one week which fortunately collided with my annual leave, so it’s more like a long holiday for me.” She said, showing excitement in her tone
“OK ma!” I replied with a quick smile as she gave me a light side hug
“Come, let me introduce you to the new nurse that will take over your sessions in my absence.”
“Ma?!” I exclaimed
“Yes daughter. Don’t worry, the nurse is very warm too, young and skilled in the job though recently joined us but I’ve seen excellent virtues already and am sure you will both have a great time together” She tried convincing me with her hands holding mine firmly as she led the way into the nurses bay.
Am not asleep so I can’t be dreaming just yet. This couldn’t have been the nurse the matron just talked about. I mean? How is that possible?
We both exclaimed in shock at the same time like we planned it. Even before the matron could start her introduction.
To be continued.