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NOMA’S DREAM – EPISODE NINE

NOMA’S DREAM – GRACE OCHIGBO

Patrick’s jerks and his face moves in the direction of the forcefully opened door. He watches with interest and concern as Akoji storms through the entire length of the outer chamber of the gym towards the inner chamber. The inner chamber is exclusive, more like VIP and Patrick only lets the big boys in there – Akoji and his high class clique of friends that is. Akoji usually has an issue or two with that. He always never wants a special treatment. None, whatsoever!

“We are all here for fitness training, working out and building abs, there’s no point in giving some folks a more special treatment than others.”

Patrick would smile at that statement. Akoji prefers to work out in the outer chamber because, to him, the rough guys from heart of town exercising there are more challenging to him than when he’s working out with his colleagues inside; men whose tummies are really struggling to stay back inside.

But today, right now, as Patrick is instructing one of his new trainees, Akoji just walks in and straight into the inner chamber.

Quite strange, Patrick thought.

But isn’t that the new thing about ‘Akoji’? ‘Strange’ is the new Akoji.

“You grip this with your hands, be sure to hold it firmly…” Patrick maintains eye contact as he instructs the curious man sitting in front of him. “You have to hold it very firmly, because…”

He’s almost completing the statement when a loud noise from the inner room set him on his feet and towards the room.

There, right inside there, he sees it – eyes still dancing from one corner of the room to another, just in case.

Akoji is sitting on the bare floor looking really frustrated. He tried to lift a weight that must have mistakenly fallen off his hands because the weight is still rolling down the marble floor to the left corner of the room. It’s a good thing it didn’t meet his legs. It would have been a case of multiple fractures that may even be beyond repairs. The surprising part for Patrick though is that Akoji seems the least interested and concerned about what’d just happened than he is about the television.

There’s a sleek black plasma television in the inner chamber of the gym. Yeah! Akoji has had a lot of negative things to say about it; about how much of a distraction it is to them. In fact, the television is still on that wall because the other guys didn’t buy Akoji’s ideas. But here, the same television holds everything Akoji is looking for in the whole wide world right now.

“It’s tradition. I love tradition. I’ve fought for tradition.  I make my men follow the laws of the land. I uphold virtues to the latter. Tradition is the melody of the soul. A place without tradition can be likened to a house without a roof, but merely being ‘tradition’ doesn’t make something worthy. Mbanu! We can’t just assume that because something is old it is right. It may…”

The TV suddenly goes off and that brings Patrick’s attention back. He finds Akoji with the remote.

“Why would you do that?” He queries, demanding an explanation. “The man sounds pretty impressive. His royal highness, the Obi of Onitsha…” Patrick recalls the title displayed underneath the man speaking on television earlier. “Our traditional rulers are just so on point. Gone are those days when a highly esteemed king cannot make a single sentence in English. The Onitsha people are blessed to have this man.”

“Yeah right!” Akoji rolls his eyes.

Patrick chuckles. “Why are you hating?” It beats his imagination. “And he was talking about some festival, right? Ofal…”

“Mr P, please keep quiet. You are disturbing my peace.”

That’s pretty harsh and Patrick swallows, changing the topic. “Alright then. So what happened? 200kg and you are on the floor?” He sounds unbelieving.

“I’m losing it man. Gradually.”

Patrick takes in a deep breath, moving closer to his friend. He finds a place on the floor beside him and sits.

“I can understand how you feel, AK my guy.”

“Oh! You do?” Sarcasm fills Akoji’s voice.

Someone had asked that their account be audited. Someone, whoever it was. It’s not strange – auditors come around the banks from time to time, but the last time they came was barely two months ago and their branch isn’t due for any auditing activities until another two years. There was enough time for him to pay for the money he’d secretly taken from the bank. He’d reassured Theresa a thousand times over that she’s safe and nothing would happen to her. But he failed in that. Or, should we say, several forces beyond his capacity had come into play?

By the time he got to the office that evening, all assess to the bank’s accounts had been blocked because the auditors were coming the next day; because they just had to come the next day and ruin his life and take it all away.

Patrick pats Akoji’s back gently. “You did the only thing you could think was right to do at that moment, Akoji. Don’t beat yourself to it.”

Yeah right!

He did the best thing he could think to do at the time. If that was his ‘best’ then, could his brain have travelled on holiday that day; the day he convinced Theresa to sign the document right there in his office? And Patrick sits here telling him he did the right thing. One right thing that just cost him his job and everything he’d ever worked for in the past three years, is that one a sensible ‘right’ thing?

The huge amount of money he gave out as entrepreneurship grant to Noma’s bake shop had been taken from the bank’s treasury. It wasn’t the fact that he’d taken money illegally from the bank he managed that really mattered; it was because he took it from the treasury account. A treasury account no one is allowed to touch or take a dime from no matter what. It’s been the tradition of the bank for ages now. Hence, only the manager and HR had asses to that account.

How he endangered Theresa too.

The young woman was apprehensive initially but he couldn’t see through the lenses in her eyes. She seemed to be seeing far into the future while all he saw was helping Noma; helping a young woman who’d come to fill up the entire space in his thoughts system.

The auditor’s findings, as stated in the memo sent to him, were all ready in two days and Akoji literally felt the gross disappointment in Mr. Yusuf’s eyes when he was summoned to a board meeting at the states headquarters. Mr. Yusuf said something about putting in assuring words for him before the chairman and almost betting on his first name that Akoji would never have any incriminating evidence against his name. Lo and behold, the auditors found a dent and Akoji had to go down for it.

His job was terminated right there at the panel; his official car and house were also seized. It had taken only twenty-four hours to move from being a city big boy to a broke nigga, needy enough to squat in Patrick’s dual purpose apartment – serving as gym and home.

“My greatest regret is Tessy. That lady trusted me.” Akoji digs his hand in his nearly empty hair.

Patrick scoffs. “Akoji, you withdrew everything left in your savings account, over 8million naira and gave it to her. Money she would not make in the next five years of faithfully working in that your bank.”

Akoji smiles in spite of himself. “I promised her, Mr P. I assured her that nothing would go wrong. But it did. We were both laid off. I owe her much more than I have given her already.”

Patrick burst into a laughter that doesn’t last long. “That’s your only problem AK, my guy.” Akoji’s eyeballs pop open. “You consider people far too much; way more than you consider yourself.”

“How do you mean?”

“If that lady gave a damn about anything at all; your welfare, your next decision, your next means of survival, she wouldn’t have taken that money from you. But then… ladies would always be ladies. It always has to be about money. Money over everything!” Bitterness spills in Patrick’s voice.

Akoji swallows against a tightening on his throat.

“I feel like a big failure and disappointment. Noma must not know about this.”

Patrick lets out an overdue chuckle. “So how are you going to hold it down for so long? Decline whenever she says she wants to come visit you? Because I’m sure you won’t want to bring her into this jungle.”

Akoji blows out hot air as the harsh reality flushes across his face.

That’s true.

He’s only been able to get away from suspicions of any kind in the past week because Noma has been traumatized. It’s the last moments until Hallie would go in for surgery. The D-day is tomorrow. He’d been with her all day; same way he did the day before and the day before the day before. He could afford to spend the entire day at the hospital, hugging her, teasing her, making her laugh, making her forget that something heavy awaits her. He surely won’t get away with this for too long.

Patrick is very right, he admits.

Noma hasn’t noticed that Akoji now takes keke to the hospital because he always meets her in the wardroom crying, deep in thoughts or sleeping. What becomes his fate after a successful surgery and mother and child are discharged from the hospital? What happens after Noma is back to her normal self and says to pay him a visit?

“No!” Akoji screams his thoughts out before he could stop it.

“What’s NO?” Patrick is genuinely concerned.

“I need to get another job as soon as possible, Mr. P. I need to get my life back on track before Noma finds out the miserable state I am in now.”

“That’d be so many goals to achieve in less than a week, don’t you think so?” Patrick says and the harsh reality makes Akoji’s jaw drop.

He pushes his weight against the wall in utter frustration. The pain he feels isn’t sharp like a needle point or a knife, it burns around his innards better than boiling water.  Everything feels scolded, messed up, wrecked.

“You know what I think, bro?” Patrick holds his stare. “Tell Noma everything there is to know before she finds out by herself.”

Akoji’s eyes pop open. There’s so much to tell already. Where is he supposed to start from? “Bro, you know I can’t.” He sits up a little straighter. “Telling her there was never a grant? That I pulled a fast one on my bank to get her some money she never demanded for? That now I’m paying for my fraudulent act by losing all I own? How am I supposed to say those?” He raises his left eyebrow, lowering the other one. “It would hurt her, Patrick. She may never trust me again. It would crush her. It would make her sick.” He sounds really sober.

“Have you forgotten that the best medicine for human is love?”

Patrick’s question comes through his ears like daggers cutting through a hard soil.

For a girl with a fragile heart like Noma, someone several knives have cut through her heart, so much so that the pages of hurt in there he’d not even been able to peruse halfway, he cannot bear to inflict more pain on her.

Love is the best medicine for humans?

“What if it doesn’t work, Mr. P.?” Akoji asks a question he considers really childish in his own opinion but then…

Patrick smiles, getting up. “Increase the dose.”

 

*****

 

The policeman salutes as he leads Agefu into the office of the DPO. The man in his late 60s, with deep rooted tribal marks cutting through parallel points on his face, looks at her through the upper part of the eyeglasses resting on the ridge of his nose. Agefu looks extremely wasted and as it appears, there’s nothing in her to be desired. A week with them in this station showed her how much power resides in the law. The persons she thought she knew, all the men of timber and caliber she’s had dealings with in times past abandoned her. All it had taken was a single phone call from her, explaining her predicament, and the next call would be rejected until her call became completely barred from calling their numbers.

Such is life.

People promise you heaven and earth, only to call the next cab to hell for you when you are stranded. She’d learnt her lessons the hard way.

“Miss Agefu, I called you this afternoon to relay a very important information to you.” The DPO says as soon as the sergeant who led her in is out of sight.

Agefu adjusts her loose dress. She’s lost a tangible amount of weight, evidenced by her prominent chin bones and welling neck. She could taste fear on her tongue as she is only trying really hard to stay calm.

“Your offence is still awaiting trial. It’s taking quite long for you to appear in court for several reasons, yet it’s a very big criminal offence in this country, and of course, all over the world, to attempt murder. In fact, real and attempted murder are evaluated to the same degree and are punishable under the law with usually gross sentences like death by hanging.”

Agefu feels her heart miss several beats as the words from the older man hit her like two edged hammer.

“What you should be doing now is putting your house in order as you prepare for your first, and maybe only, court appearance sooner than you think. I must advice you get a good lawyer to plead your case. There’s a little ray of hope for sentence of a limited jail term. But who can know the heart of the judge? We can only be hopeful.”

Agefu looks up and keeps her gaze there like she’s seeing something beyond the white ceiling or she’s counting every single fiber of the pliable woods double crossing the entire length and breadth of the ceiling. The man in front of her is sounding pretty too harsh. Her reality is harsh, she knows, but could use a little kindness right now.

So this is where it ends? She wants to ask, but the words could only come as high up as a quarter length up her throat

“Do you have anything to say, Miss Agefu? Any difficulty you want us to know about?”

Agefu remains mute, still staring at the ceiling.

Did the man just ask her if she had any difficulties? Seriously? Staying in a police cell for just a night can predispose the most flowery of lives to rock solid difficulties beyond imaginations. Then calculate the percentage of difficulty her entire being had amassed in the past week.

“If you are unable to get a lawyer, do let us know as soon as possible. One would be provided for you.”

Agefu glances at him, his serious facial expression as he speaks sounds dismissive. She heaves and gets up. Her head feels like an empty space hanging over her body and if it’s possible to take it off so as to take in fresh air for just a second, she wouldn’t mind.

“Again…” The DPO calls as soon as she holds onto the doorknob. Agefu carelessly leaves off, letting the door bang hard against its hinge, to face the direction the man is speaking.

“I see you are a young lady full of life. I don’t know what pushed you to attempt killing your fellow lady.” Agefu swallows painfully, regret clouding her heart. “But whatever it is, was not worth the move at all. No level of anger or pain is worth the blood of a fellow human, Miss Agefu.”

Agefu rolls her eyes. If the man has nothing less judgmental to say to her, she would prefer to be back in either her mosquito-dominated cell room, or straight to the gallows instead.

“I know I’ve told you the options we have, however, there’s a new development.”

Alarm sounds in Agefu’s head as the man asks her to come back and take a seat.

She reluctantly moves; each step feels like the first step of a long journey to freedom, well in this case, damnation. The DPO brings his two hands to rest on the desk, staring squarely into Agefu’s eyes and the latter could feel the last pint of blood drain out of her system.

 

****

 

10:23pm.

Noma says the time out loud. It’s either the day is dragging for too long or the night isn’t in any hurry to come by. Whichever way, she’s suddenly noticing terror in darkness a great deal tonight. Not as though the well-lit private ward of this hospital they are in has any shade of darkness whatsoever, where then is this gross fear emanating from?

Akoji had told her, when he was leaving the wardroom this afternoon, that he would return. In fact, she was the one that insisted he went home to shower. He had barely left her side in the past week and as much as her brain wonders if he had abandoned his job for her, she couldn’t help but feel more than loved by every of Akoji’s endearing gestures.

Only today, they’ve done some things together; put Hallie in a new dress together, ate breakfast together, called the police station together, read the PUNCH newspaper together where they saw an NGO, Gemstone Sickle Cell Aid Team founded by a particular Miss Grace Ochigbo, talk about the ordeals and way forward in curbing sickle cell disease in Nigeria. Gradually, without her realizing it, she’s becoming so attached and used to Akoji being around her that she wonders what her fate would become if he ever left.

Mrs. Gina had come in with food about an hour after Akoji left. The woman even stayed a while longer than usual with her and the whole time, through the forced conversations, Noma’s heart wishes Akoji would return before it’s too dark to come out of that end of town where his house is located. Minutes after Mrs. Gina left, Noma became saddled with an unsolicited-for responsibility of checking the ticking wall-clock right above her head in the last two hours. Bored and not wanting to let the thoughts drown her, she pulls out her phone.

Maybe she should call Akoji.

Maybe she should inquire about his whereabouts, just to be sure nothing had gone wrong somewhere.

Calling would make her look helpless, maybe desperate or insecure, to think of the least. He would return to her, sure, but that would be against his own volition. It would be because she called – because she begged.

No. She can’t call.

If the young man chooses to take out tonight to rest in the comfort of his bed other than the hospital ward room he’s been sleeping over all week, that is not entirely a bad idea.

She scrolls her contacts downwards, literally running away from where Akoji’s name is. As she scrolls, she stumbles upon a particular number. Sincerely, she’s been thinking she’d gotten rid of that number – including all others linked to it – from her phone the whole time. She stares at it deeply, as though that would translate her into the phone, to where the person is. Well, it may not exactly, but it did translate her into some other realm.

“Noma, please try to understand our decision, OK? It’s for the good of everyone.”

“So, how do I… I mean, how am I…?”

“Shhh! We have everything planned out, my girl. You will be fine before you even realize it.”

These voices replay in her head and tiny drops of sweats clog at her forehead. One of the redefining moments of her life – the very last conversations they ever had. Now the years have gone by and things seemed to have moved so quickly from where it all began.

She glances down at the screen of her android phone again. The number is still staring at her – saved in the usual way, only that it bears no usual meanings or feelings deep down in her heart anymore like in times past. She looks in Hallie’s direction and a choking pain engulfs her even more. Her finger moves to some tiny dots above the contact, tapping on it she moves her finger again until it rests on ‘delete’ and in the next few seconds, she contemplates whether or not to burn the very last bridge that has the capacity to drag her back to her past ever again.

 

****

 

Beatrice stands up from the front of her dressing mirror. She’s on an all-white flowery night dress. She throws the cotton wool she used to clean her face into a gold-pleated bin beside the dressing table and heads over to her king-sized bed. Suddenly, she hears her phone buzz and begins to ring. The first thing she checks is the time. Who would be calling the Lolo at this time?

“Hey, my boy!” She sounds so excited as she brings herself to sit on the bed with one leg still on the floor. “How are you, son and why calling so late?” She puts the phone on speaker so her hand could tie the rope on her dress.

“Lolo, I didn’t realize you now have call times.”

Beatrice smiles. “You know I always have your time. Why do you sound so pained?”

“Lolo, can we ever have a casual conversation one day without you trying to play the ‘seer’ on me?”

That makes Beatrice laugh. “Well, you may want to tell the seer what is wrong with you because she can see you pained and sad.”

Akoji smiles. Lolo is pulling his legs and he’s not about to fall for the woman’s trap. Not now.

“How is preparations for the festival?
Beatrice feels her heart miss beats. “Ehmm… uhmm? The festival?” She stammers. “It’s coming well. Really well.”

Akoji moves a little. “That’s good to know.”

Beatrice rolls her eyeball as if to say something but Akoji isn’t done shocking her yet.

“So I saw father talking about the festival on NTA network news earlier this evening.” He swallows so loudly. “How is he?”

“Who?” Escapes Beatrice’s lips before she could stop herself.

“Father, of course, Lolo. How is father?”

It’s as though a sack of ice load is resting on Beatrice’s head and dampening all the ideas in there.

“Are you surprised, mum?”

Beatrice tries to pull herself together. “It’s been more than four years you left here, Akoji. You ceased communicating with your father and just on very rare occasions do you deem it fit to call me. You transited from calling me mum to mother and then to Lolo, as though that’s all I am to you – all I’ve become to you. Lolo. You warned us not to call you unless you do. How wouldn’t I be surprised you are asking after the wellbeing of your father now?”

“Well,” Akoji pauses. “Let’s say I miss father. Or, seeing him on TV today makes me miss the good old days.”

Beatrice swallows, a lone tear drops down her eyes. “You should come see him, son. He’s a completely different person now.” Her voice cracks. “Your father needs you!”

“Good night, mum.” Akoji says softly and ends the call before his mother could respond.

Another tear drops down Beatrice’s smooth face as she tries to redial his number,

“Number you have called is switched off. Plea…” She throws the phone to the other end of the bed in provocation so much so that it’s a miracle it didn’t meet the thick white walls.

Here she was, initially thinking Akoji had finally found a place in his heart to let go. Alas! It is all fables. Some wounds, they say, are fresher by the years. Forgiveness is achievable, but to forget? That’s near impossible.

 

*****

 

Patrick trudges into the room, looking lost. He’s not sure if he’s fully awake or not yet, but he’s conscious enough to see his friend come out of the bathroom. Akoji rubs his white towel over his wet hair and moves in the direction of the wardrobe while Patrick watches on. The latter is truly lost and doesn’t understand why a bag is packed on the bed.

“AK, my guy!”

Akoji pulls a polo over his well-built abs and picks up a hair comb.

“I can’t handle it, Patrick. I’m sorry if I’m disappointing you.”

Patrick nods his head from side to side, coming to sit on the bed, right beside the bag. “No, AK. You are not disappointing me.” He pulls at one of the zips on the bag. “After all you told me last night, I think this is a step in the right direction.”
“I am taking the first bus, Patrick. I hope you will hold up just fine without me?”

Patrick didn’t realize how deep he’s gotten with Akoji until this moment; until now that the man is leaving. He hopes he can still keep a good life and standard when his encourager leaves.

“No plans of returning, I guess?” Patrick feels soreness on his tongue asking this. He’s not sure he wants to hear the truth.

Akoji slips his legs into a pair of sneakers and moves nearer the bed where Patrick is sitting.

“I don’t want to sound like the prodigal son right now.” He smiles and Patrick smiles too. Akoji’s smiles are infectious, anyone would fall for it. “But maybe home is where I truly belong. I want to learn to undo the past and push through thick clouds into a glorious future.”

Patrick quickly gets up and into Akoji’s arms as soon as he notices a teardrop down his cheeks.

“Now, promise me you won’t go back to the past.”

Patrick releases him from the hug. The past. His past. What he used to be.  Who he used to be – a chronic drug and alcohol addict but for the positive influence of his friend.

He’s come this far not to find solace in those anymore, he tries to convince himself inside.

“Yeah. Because I met you drinking to stupor still recently.”

“It was because you were mad at me, AK. I couldn’t bring myself to bear the guilt of pushing that girl to you.”

Akoji pats his shoulders, a weird smile dancing around his lips.

“And the girl, don’t forget what we said to do.”

Patrick snorts. “Are you sure about that, AK?”

“I’ve never been more sure about anything else.” He lifts up the bag; not so heavy but enough to make him bend over a little before taking it up.

“AK, my guy, please let our friendship not end. I have come to love you, man. You have such a sweet soul. God will keep you through your journey and help you manage whatever you will meet at home. I love you, bro.” He gives Akoji a side shoulder hug.

The latter smiles. “Mr. P. is suddenly emotional?”

Patrick gives him a nudge at his left side.

“So, is this where you leave off?”

Akoji blinks as the question is quite confusing. He doesn’t know what the guy mean.

“Yeah. Today is her big day.” Patrick says.

Akoji lets out hot air. He’d barely slept for just an hour last night. After dropping the call on his mother and turning the phone off, he found himself turning restlessly on the bed. So much burden that cannot be quantified with words clogged onto his chest.

His father.

The old man.

How be it that he would need him now?

If the man was a machete and he, a fallen tree, then it’s as good as putting one and two together. In his moments of reflection, Patrick had walked into the room and they had another two-hour long heart-to-heart talk. He had to open up, at least, the part he could still afford to talk about. It’s as though the things weighed him down as long as they remained locked up in his heart. And of a truth, sharing those things with Patrick last night opened his eyes to new perspectives he probably would never have seen in several years’ time.

Long after Patrick had left the room, and he laid staring at the ceiling, he made this decision. He made the decision and refused to think about one part. This part.

“If your leaving here has anything to do with avoiding a heart you are destined to be with, then you are lying to yourself.” Patrick continues seeing Akoji isn’t ready to respond.

“C’mon now, man! We both know why I’m going home. You also can attest to the fact that it’s about time, right?”

Patrick nods his head. “Especially on the day the lady you love would be most afraid?” He places a hand on his shoulders.

“I can’t face her with my new status, neither can I with this decision. None of the two options will make any good to her. Mrs. Gina would never forgive me for it.”

“You have to see her before leaving, Akoji.” Patrick says quietly. “It’s a necessity!” He takes the bag off Akoji’s hand and moves in front.

 

*****

 

Bright morning. The sun had risen earlier than usual. Or, could that have just been an illusion? Something she thinks happened because she didn’t sleep all night?

Whichever way, the long expected day is here. This morning, the day she’s avoided for a while, then dreaded and now witnessing. She’s been reading her bible in the past hours – her usual sure way to get off anxiety. Most verses are saying ‘be not afraid’, then she finds the best one, ‘let not your heart be troubled, believe in God and believe also in me.’

Noma closes the large bible and places it beside Hallie. She’s sore afraid. This surgery is a costly risk.  The doctor had told her that Hallie would either survive it and be fine or… well, or survive it. That’s Noma’s belief. That has been her confession. She’s refused to take any negative statement to heart. She’s ready to have Hallie come back to a normal state of health or even better than kids her age.

The last time she was watching an argument – an intense argument – on a soap opera and some so-called intending couples who had found out they were both carriers of the sickle cell gene few weeks to their wedding argued intensely about continuing with the marriage or not. At a point, she had to put off the television in gross provocation. She can’t believe some people are still at that petty level of reasoning. If she could call those couples, she would; just so to come see Hallie. To come look at her bundle of joy and cause of sorrow all wrapped in one. Perhaps they would understand that some risks are just wickedness given a different nomenclature. No degree of love is worth the risk of bringing a child into this world to suffer what Hallie has suffered in just her five years on earth.

People survive.

Yes.

Some carriers don’t even get to have any diseased child amongst their kids.

Yes.

But do we wait until the aircraft hits the pyramidal triangle before rushing to the market to buy life jackets? Do we wait until all is ruined before realizing that we could have done something differently that would save everyone the whole pain and trauma?

She gets up and moves over to place a kiss on Hallie’s sunken face.

“I love you, daughter. You are a fighter. Do this last one for mummy, baby. Once you survive this surgery, they say you could be completely whole. It’s a slim probability, baby, but I’m hopeful.” Hot searing tears pour down her face. “I know that soon you’ll be running across our house; bringing oranges for me from the refrigerator. You’ll join me while I blend tomatoes. While I…”

A tap on her shoulder interrupts her. She wipes off the thick tears clouding her vision to see Mrs. Gina, followed closely by Dr Ebiloma. She was in so much pain she hadn’t noticed them come in at all, until they’re right here beside her.

Noma slowly collapses into Mrs. Gina’s open arms and her entire being shakes in the older woman’s arms. Dr Ebiloma feels a dryness in his throat. The manner of pain coursing through Noma now cannot be quantified. He feels like joining in the hug and just rocking the young lady’s back as a father would his little princess, but cautions himself. He would be required to go into the theatre in a moment; he cannot afford any sort of emotional entanglement with his patient or patient’s relatives at the moment.

“Mumm…” Noma drags the words, her voice breaking her into pieces.

“You will be fine, my darling. God will keep Hallie for you.”

Noma feels something rip off in her heart. It’s as though some tendons have given way to the gush of tears flooding down her face. She feels as though she would drop dead in the older woman’s hands. She opens her mouth to speak but wails, only wails could come out.

What sort of painful life is this? All because of one child with sickle cell disease.

If she had an option to choose, she would never have considered it. But she wasn’t allowed to choose in her own case. They’d only come inside without a sign and suddenly her life turned upside down.

“Dr Ebiloma has assured us that they would do their best and Hallie would be just fine, darling.”

“I don’t need their best mummy,” she yells like a wounded tigress and turns to face Dr Ebiloma who jerks back in fear. “I need my daughter back, hale and hearty, Doctor. I need Hallie out of your theatre fine and alright.”

Dr Ebiloma slowly nods his head. That’s the much he could do right now.

“We would move her to the theatre in less than 30minutes. I just came to be sure we are still on the same page.”

Then it clicked. Noma’s eyes pop open and she lands it on Mrs. Gina.

“Mummy, Akoji and I said we would watch the surgery together. He’s not yet here.” Mrs. Gina takes in a forced breath as she watches Noma hurry over to pick her phone. “A minute, doctor, I have to call Akoji. He must be here with us. He said he really want to help me do this.” She smiles in spite of herself. He’s becoming the sunshine, lightening up every single fiber in her.

Mrs. Gina makes a sign and the doctor immediately exits the wardroom. Noma is still battling with dialing Akoji.

“Oh Network c’mon. Not now.” She hits the phone hard, as though to knock network in its senses. “Mum… I think…” then she notices the expression on the woman’s face before realizing the doctor is gone and they are both left in the room.

Her heart is threatening to pull out of its cage as Mrs. Gina draws nearer.

“What is wrong, mummy? What happened to Akoji? Hope nothing happened to him?” She screams in her own opinion but her words are barely audible.

“Someone left this at our gate this morning.” Noma snatches the already torn, and probably read letter from the older woman’s hand with shivering hands. “It’s from Akoji!”

A thousand and one things fly through Noma’s head as she wonders why Akoji wouldn’t call or text messages via SMS or on Whatsapp; why he wouldn’t come to the hospital to talk to her or better still, go into the house to talk to mummy other than leaving a letter at the gate.

She finally pulls the letter out and rips it open, almost tearing it in the process. As much as she tries to hold it in, the pain comes out like an uproar from her throat in the form of a silent scream.

“My dearest Finest girl…”

She reads on…

 

 

To be continued next Saturday.

Guys, I shed a tear while writing this episode. Please, know your genotype. Never let anybody confuse you that love is blind. Nursing a child with Sickle cell disease is enough to kill whatever love you think you have for your lover. Please.

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About Grace Ochigbo

Grace Ochigbo
Grace Ochigbo is a Christian, storyteller, inspirational speaker and the Founder of Gemstone Sickle Cell Aid Team, a non-profit organizations working to end Sickle Cell Disease.

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