TWO GRACES – GRACE OCHIGBO
Read previous episode here http://www.awokoinsight.com/story/two-grace/two-graces-ten/
Grace Philips stared at the lady in front of her with displeasure colouring her eyes. Everyone looked unbelievable to her for obvious reasons. She’d dropped Ben’s phone hurriedly like it burnt her hand after all she saw. It hadn’t taken up to ten minutes to dress up and hurry out of the house. Initially, she contemplated going round the back to inform Ben she was leaving – leaving with a capital “L” but decided against it. She was leaving, anyway. Leaving for good.
Tears welled up and poured out from her eyes as she gently opened the iron gate of the compound in her bid to hurry out. Thankfully, a bike man rode past just right on time and she joined him without a care in the world how puffy her face must look. She cautioned herself to stay put; a lecture must be delivered to her junior colleagues in few minutes.
As soon as she alighted at the place where her car was packed securely over the night, she took out another minute to fix her face.
Everyone must know by now how that a little makeup kit was part of the seats in a lady’s car.
Well, it’s good to know it now.
After touching her face with light makeup and confirming from the mirror that she looked as ravishing as someone that woke up right on top of one of the rivers in heaven, she drove at high speed to her office.
The final year students were already littering the corridor of her office. A chorus of “Good morning, Ma” filled the air as she approached them and two of the students came over to collect her handbag and laptop bag respectively.
She collapsed onto her seat in no time and motioned everyone to find a place to seat. Thankfully, they were only five students in this group and so it was easy for each one to get a comfortable place to sit.
“So, good morning all.” She started and continued without waiting for any response whatsoever. “I apologise for coming late. I had an emergency at hand.”
If the word ‘emergency’ had a mouth or two, it would cry out in defiance of itself how wrongly it’s been used by, especially, doctors as mere cover up.
“So how many presentations am I taking today?” she motioned to the group representative.
Students have come to some sort of acknowledgement of a not-completely-wrong fact that ladies are better off as group representatives. While some lecturers think female students to be highly diligent and dutiful, others prefer to see a smiling, soft toned, gorgeously statured creature always before them than the otherwise. Whatever school of thought works for anyone, Grace Philips have come to one conclusion, “there are only female class reps in the whole of OAUTHC.”
She knew that’s a risky generalization but it’s what she sees she can analyze, right?
“Eunice and Ayo, ma.”
TWO? Grace’s eyes popped out. There was no way in the world she was going to take two presentations this morning. Not in this state.
“Okay!” she managed to say, out of the thousand words that spilled down the runway of her mind. “Can the first person begin already?”
She pulled her laptop out of its bag and set it on the table in front of her while on the opposite side of her office, a young slim and sharply dressed lady stood in front of the interactive screen showing her PowerPoint presentation.
“Good morning, Ma. Good morning, colleagues. My name is Jide-Aina Eunice and I will be presenting on the topic…”
And that was the last thing Grace Philips heard. Her mind wandered all the way back to that cool evening she told Grace Oladele about love not being for her and the incredible scenario that happened just the day after. That one experience made her reconsider her opinion; perhaps love could be for her after all. She can never forget the words of the old couple; the accompanying minutes thereafter of bumping into Dr Ben Afang and acting like a little girl that just threw away the candy of her crush; and how everything looked like history now.
How time flies.
As the thoughts continued to sip in, she noticed sweats appear on her forehead. She hopes to get past today without misbehaving.
It was a mild applaud that jolted her back from her thoughts and she sat upright on her seat.
“Why are you clapping again?” she asked, looking frankly lost.
“I am done with my presentation, Ma.” Eunice responded with a sense of fulfilment and pride.
“Really?” Sarcasm filled Grace Philips’ voice. “And that demands a worthy applaud, right? Because your colleagues are the judge of your performance.”
“No Ma. I …”
“Keep quiet.” Grace Philips’ raised her voice in a fashion that was strange to even her. She knew she needed to stop talking at that point but the force pushing her was greater by far. “Have you seen one who’s able to critically judge her own performance before?” her tone sounded more unkind than ever before.
Eyes of the students penetrated her skin like sharp knives. She’s the one that insisted the last time they had a presentation that everyone must clap at the end of anybody’s presentation whether it made a lot of sense or no sense at all. She had always been about appreciating the little in people so as to bring out much more and even the very best in them. Here she was attacking Eunice for accepting to be appreciated, not even her colleagues that clapped.
“For them to clap for you, I have to certify that you merit it. Is that clear?” she forcefully picked up her iPhone and replaced it back with the screen faced down. Perhaps, her provocation grew with seeing Ben’s consistent calls coming into her phone over and again. She swallowed against a tightening on her throat and tried to maintain composure before facing the young medical student again.
“Alright, so mention five precipitating factors of hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state aside sepsis and perhaps, trauma.”
If eyes carried gun, she would have been dead with the number of bitter two eyes looking in her direction alone. She cared less anyway.
Eunice glanced at her lecturer’s face and removed her eyes almost immediately. She saw something she’s never seen on any of her several encounters with her most admired female consultant surgeons before. Dr Grace, for all she knows, was the definition of discipline, yes, but coated in a measure of sweetness that mesmerized all her students.
Why she sounded pained and harsh today beats everyone’s imagination.
Or, was her presentation topic a bad memory for the older woman?
The presentation topics were randomly distributed for crying out loud.
How was she supposed to know her consultant would pick offense?
On a second thought, she’d noticed Dr. Grace never made a comment in her presentation from beginning to the end. She was seated right there on her seat staring at the interactive screen but her mind was definitely not in that office. In fact, the question she just asked serves as a confirmation to Eunice’s suspicion as the question was in no way related to the topic of discourse.
Who was she to state the obvious anyway?
“Perhaps, gross silence after being asked a question is part of those factors?” Grace let out a light smile that didn’t get to her face.
“No Ma’am.” Eunice responded immediately, shifting her weight from her left to the right leg. A wind of unease gushed over her entire system. “Precipitating factors of hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state are…” she held her both hands forward, using the right to count on the left fingers. “Trauma?” her shaky voice was barely heard
“Don’t joke with me, young lady!” Grace Philips furrowed her forehead into a crease.
“I’m sorry, Ma.” Eunice apologized.
Frankly, she knew it but preparing for this presentation had her mind on the topic of discussion and its related areas. With the tension everywhere now, all ideas seem to disappear and to make matters worse, Dr Grace already listed the only two points coming to mind – trauma and sepsis.
She took in a deep breath. “Insulin…”
“What happened to insulin?” Grace cut in when she was dragging her word.
The student jerked backwards, fear filling all openings on her face.
“You are clinical three right, group rep?”
Opeyemi, the group rep, jumped on her feet as though her consultant’s words lifted her. The entire atmosphere in the office was as heated as the core of a microwave oven.
“Yes Ma!” she responded, using the last energy she found in her.
“Which is your last rotation?”
“Pediatric surgery, Ma!”
And as though that set petrol on a struggling little flame of fire, Grace sprung onto her feet and the eager eyes of the students followed her. “This is your last rotation?” she didn’t require an answer for that question. “You are due for you final MB in less than a month and you’re here completely stolid dull to percussion?”
Everywhere became so quiet that even any attempt to breathe would be heard.
“What sort of doctors do you plan to be?” Pure anger could be tasted in her tone right now. “By now you should be reeling out the precipitating factors of HHS at spinal level effortlessly until I have to beg you to stop. These things should be at spinal level.” She paused to catch her breath. “If you don’t know this, I wonder how much more vacuum there is in your cranium.”
More deafening silence sat in the room. Her eyes were flaring and palms moving too rapidly for proper coordination. Everyone saw gross provocation colouring every single part of Dr Grace Philips eyes. The sort of provocation that they couldn’t tell what exactly could be the precipitating factor.
It was surely more than Eunice’s understandable inability to answer her last question.
“I hope you know that you can repeat a posting if your consultant is not pleased with your performance?”
“We are sorry, Ma!” came out loudly from the students.
Some stood up while others slid down from their seats to kneel.
“It’s not a matter of being sorry.” Grace yelled at the top of her voice. “We don’t want doctors that would be telling patient relatives, ‘we are sorry, we lost him. God gives and God takes away yen yen yen…’ cos of your own gross incompetence’” She looked at one of them, “We want doctors that know what they are doing. We treat, God heals but we must treat competently too.”
She walked round back to her seat.
“Now, leave my office.”
“Ma?” They chorused.
They didn’t see that coming. None of the past unfolding events warranted this.
“Everyone of you must be ready for your End of posting first thing tomorrow morning. I’m giving you just one more grace. Get out of my face.”
With chaos set all over the place, everyone staggered as they hurried out of the office almost falling over one another at the door.
Grace could hear her heart beat loudly and her palms felt like she’d placed it over a heated coal in the last minute. As the door hit its frame after the students, a stream of tears poured down her eyes in a manner ten cities would conveniently drink from.
How one man can wreck a whole life!
Ben removed the phone from his ears and stared at it as though to be sure he wasn’t daydreaming.
He continued calling on Grace from the backyard where he did his morning routine,
“You have to hurry up, babe. You are super late.” He said over and over again until it dawned on him that he was getting no response. At first, he thought she was just too engrossed with dressing up to hear him. She was in the other room after all and that wasn’t so close to the part of the backyard he was. But after walking to the window still to greeted with silence, alarm rang in his head.
“Grace! Grace!” he called all around the house yet no response.
The morning wasn’t particularly the best time to play hide and seek, he affirmed. Pushing the door to the visitor’s room and seeing no one, he dashed towards the gate and outside the compound. She wasn’t anywhere around at all. He couldn’t imagine Grace Philips leaving the house without saying goodbye. That would be really strange.
He rushed back into the house to pick his phone. It was still on the table in the visitor’s room where he’d left it on his way out. Large drops of sweat moved down from his head to the back of his sports T-shirt. His body screamed at him to sprint down to the street, to spend the energy that kept piling in regardless of his inability to use it. Even his face felt tight, like smiling just wasn’t an option anytime soon. His usual calm had been replaced by a pool of ideas, each one more worrying than the last.
Her leaving without notice meant two things; she may have forgotten to say goodbye or she was pissed. If she forgot to say good bye – which can never be the case – he was safe, but if she was pissed, then it’s either of two things; she must have heard something or seen something. If she’d merely heard something, he was pretty safe. There’s a way to maneuver that. But to have seen something? He’s undone.
She wasn’t picking his call. Damn it!
He threw the phone onto the bed and collapsed right after it.
In a moment, his past few months came flashing right before him. He knew this day would come only that he didn’t see it arriving this early. This is too early.
Grace Oladele opened the door to their bedroom. He was standing in front of the window with his hand firmly holding onto its rod. She paused in her steps. He had a breaking point for his patience. At that moment, he gets blinded by a five-course serving of rage that tasted bitter, yet surprisingly satisfying. She watched as he stared with full attention at the street view from up there as though counting every single sound on the busy roads. The muscles in his face tightened the more as his mind brooded over the last few minutes.
Grace held onto the frame of the door. Her husband was so lost in thoughts he didn’t notice her walk in.
She’s done it again.
Only that this time, she didn’t know what was best to do at the moment. Very few things pisses Isaac off.
Taking calming breaths, she walked over to where Isaac was standing with his back towards her as though she stepped on hot coals. On getting closer to him, she made the sign of the cross before stretching her hands to wrap around his waist.
“You really do think I didn’t notice you tiptoeing, huh?” Isaac’s voice startled her so much so she almost tumbled over.
He grabbed her with his manly hands before anything else and Grace Oladele closed her eyes.
“Isaac, I’m sorry!” she muttered, trying to press her body hard against his.
He turned away from her. ‘Cos her face made him smile. ‘Cos she was his weakness and he can never stay mad at her for long.
“I’ve told you to stop doing that over and again. It irritates me, Grace, don’t you understand that?”
Grace pulled herself up so as to get nearer his lips but he was reluctant.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I could blame it all on Omojo, but she’s only a little kid. I take responsibility for it, Honey. I should never have spoken to you like that.”
She switched to the facial expression that gets his button the most.
“Baby, I’m sorry now.” She teasingly hit his chest. “You’re mad at your wife because of your daughter. You knew me before her o.”
That statement made Isaac smile. His wife would forever be his wife – manipulative in a romantic way.
He lowered his face until his forehead hit hers.
“You this girl, stop getting me upset. Don’t let the devil use you to fulfil the heart cry of my village people.” He sounded stern amidst pleasant smiles.
Grace let herself stand secure in his warm embrace. “No village people anywhere, Honey. Even they know I love you, my boyfriend!”
Isaac frowned. “Boyfriend ke? You should be kneeling and saying ‘my lord’.”
That threw Grace into a long trail of laughter.
She couldn’t have asked for a better man as her husband. Except she doesn’t apologize, then would provocations be prolonged. Even in those scenarios, he finds a way to make peace. Once, when she was so stubborn and adamant, Isaac came round back with a bouquet to make peace. The man legit never want anything to threaten his peace of mind and he invests everything possible to sustain it including damning the very destructive ‘manly ego’, if need be.
“How about now that I’m laying down, my Lord?” she winked in a leering manner
“This girl…” Isaac dragged the “L” with him the whole length from the window to the bed making it sound like “–elu”.
Grace giggled loudly as her husband drew nearer until…
“Mummy, aunty Grace is here!” came loudly from the door.
She hadn’t locked the entrance door when she entered.
Her friend and bad timing though!
She let out a breath of frustration as she pulled herself up to sit properly on the bed. At the drop of a hat, Isaac picked up Omojo and they both hurried out of the room and downstairs as though the visitor was more important than what she just interrupted.
Grace Oladele cursed underneath her breath while searching for her slippers. Closing the door hard behind her, she concluded she was not going to let Grace Philips hear the last of the session her impromptu interruption just ended but turning to see Isaac climbing up the stairs towards her with Omojo now on his shoulders and hand-in-hand with Ethan, she could infer something had gone wrong.
Trying to stay calm, she waited eagerly for Isaac to get to the end of the stairs but her patience failed.
“What happened, Honey?”
Isaac bore no expressions whatsoever on his face. He merely let his daughter down and opened the door. After asking the little girl to go in and play with her brother, he shut the door firmly.
“She’s not good at all. She’s in the visitor’s room.”
Alarm rang in Grace Oladele’s head.
Not good at all?
What happened to her?
These and many more questions tormented her head the more before Isaac came to her rescue.
“I reckon she wants to talk.” He placed a soothing hand on her right shoulder. “Don’t worry, honey, the Comforter will help you to speak the right words of comfort to her soul. There must be a reason of all places she chose to come here, right?”
Grace Oladele nodded, finding her voice. “Right.” She bit her lips. “Would you come with me, Honey?”
“Nah…” Isaac said, holding onto the doorknob and attempting to open it. “I have kids to take care of.”
“Alice is still around, Honey!”
Isaac smiled. “That was just a joke, baby. And Yes, it’s still No. It’s friends’ time! Remember nothing comes in between the Two Graces? Not even Isaac.”
She smiled amidst her confusion. “Indeed.”
Gradually with passing time, she seemed to be moving past the sacredness of their friendship. They shared everything until Grace Philips decided to run a monopoly.
How she constantly inserted ‘Don’t worry about me, I can take care of myself’ in every two lines of their conversation. It’s yet another time to share a piece of one another. Hopefully, no one would be burnt up in the process.
With this, she descended the entire length of the stairs and walked gently into the visitor’s room where Grace Philips reportedly was.
He turned off the road into the adjoining street. The road was narrow and rough with pot holes deep enough to swallow the height of a kid. He moved as gently as possible knowing his madam had zero tolerance for a shaking car.
“Do you want to lose all the bolts in my brain?” she always cries out whenever the car shook vigorously as a result of the bad roads.
Most times, the driver wondered if bolts were what truly held our brain in place or the woman was just being figurative. Whatever the case, he drove as professionally as possible always. If that’s the only way to repay his boss, the late Major, who was a very benevolent man to him and his family, he’d do it over and again.
Eju Philips stepped down a few meters from a wide open field. Canopies of different designs coloured the field. The live band was doing a great performance, she could tell. As she drew nearer, the head of the band began to call out her name in a melodious song. She couldn’t resist dancing and of course, spraying some currencies as the band came to crowd her while singing her accolades. Thankfully, two ushers came to her rescue in no time. The female collected her designer handbag, a gift from her surgeon daughter, while the male usher cleared the way for her some inches in front.
“My friend, you came!” came the excited voice of a woman dressed in a glistering purple long dress and adorned by diverse shades of expensive coral beads.
“Rahina is my daughter too, omaye!” Mrs Eju replied, taking her friend in for a warm embrace.
They heard the band singing something about ‘a man who has friends being a blessed man’ and they both smiled. Those people were experts and can brainwash just anyone into spraying his or her last dime.
Mrs. Eju greeted some of the women and men on the high table beside her friend before taking her seat.
At the small canopy few meters from the one she’s in, she saw the bride smiling broadly at her. She smiled first and waved at her.
“Why not let’s go there?” her friend cut in, seeing what was going on.
“Oh. I can?” Mrs. Eju sounded really surprised.
“Why not, sis? Come, and I will lead you there.” The woman got up and took Eju Philips hand as they walked the short distance from their own canopy to where the new couple were seated.
She and the bride’s mum had been friends from those days in the army barracks. She’d lost her husband way earlier than Eju Philips did and came to see the latter as more or less an older sister who she could confide in and talk to about just anything. Eju Philips had been that ear to her, even up to now.
“Mummy Gideon!” the bride staggered while hurriedly running into her warm embrace.
“Easy, daughter.” Mrs. Eju said. “You look so gorgeous, my baby girl.” She embraced her again. The bridegroom also stood up and greeted Mrs. Eju Philips all smiles. They exchanged some warm pleasantries and she prayed for them shortly before returning with her friend to their canopy.
As she sat down to enjoy the remaining part of the wedding reception program of her friend’s daughter, she had only one burden and prayer in her heart – that soon, friends and family will gather in her own house to celebrate this way.
“In Jesus name, Amen!”
Heads turned in her direction. Only then did it occur to her. She just voiced out her thoughts without knowing it.
Grace Oladele pulled Grace Philips closer. She’d cried so much in the last couple of hours that silent groans now replaced tears. She would sit calmly for a few minutes and then, like a knife pierced down her spine, she gets uneasy again, shifting from side to side on the bed.
“I saw everything, Gray. Every single thing.” The partly closed tap in her eyes burst open again. This time using all the muscles and tendons in her system as its pumping system.
“Take it easy, baby girl…” Grace Oladele held her friend’s shivering body.
“So I was what then?” Grace Philips started, breaking away from the hug.
She’s been asking herself and answering this same
question rhetorically in the past half hour since Grace Oladele came in. “An
available-to-be-used piece of worthless material?”
“Don’t talk that way, Gracey! You’re not and can never be a worthless piece of material. You are a special woman, my really special wo…”
“Special?” sarcasm filled her voice in the same manner with which tears clouded her eyes. “He didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me.” She paused. “Oh, he did. I guess he did.” She smiled amidst her tears. “He must have told me one of those moments of my stupidity.”
Grace Oladele took in a deep breath. She had become a woman of little words in this circumstance reckoning that her friend needed, more than anything else, a medium to vent her anger. It’s more therapeutic to personally admit wrongdoings than when someone tries to point them out to you. She reached out to Grace’s face and tried to steady it in her direction.
“Gracey!” she called softly.
“Uhmm? What? You told me, right? Yeah. You did!” Grace Philips let out a sad laugh.
She hesitated. “Look baby girl, I know you are hurting and sad but you have to at least tell me what happened. What happened? What did Ben do to you? What did you see?”
The pain takes over a portion of Grace Philips’ brain, as if dealing with it was energy expenditure enough, without the effort of new thoughts. It stole the part of her that wanted most to share with her friend right here.
The emotions of loss are that way, right?
Death, abandonmen or betrayal, they all lead here, right?
She heard Grace Oladele call out but all that was infinitesimal to the torment her mind was conceding to, unable to bring a thought to completion. Everything feels messed up, and act or not, she was in more pain that she could have ever imagined possible.
A bullet would be a mercy right now, or maybe a large bottle of poison.
“I want to use your restroom.”
Grace Oladele thought that request was weird, or was she just overthinking?
Her friend was acting like someone who’s lost her mind right in front of her.
“You have to excuse me.” She added.
Grace Oladele swallowed. “Of course, I won’t go into the restroom with you but I’ll wait right here until you come out. We have a lot to talk about, yeah?”
“Yes.” Grace Philips pulled her weak self up. “A whole lot. Still you have to excuse me.”
The seriousness in her tone made Grace Oladele know better than to push any further. Something inside her rebelled against leaving her friend all alone right now but here was Grace Philips insisting.
“Look babe, just to be clear…” Grace Oladele turned a serious face to Grace Philips. “I may not have the details of what transpired or whatever whoever did to you. But you must realize you have your whole life ahead of you and one heartache is not the end of the world.”
With that, she opened the door somewhat angrily and shut it hard behind her.
As the door closed, Grace Philips’ mind screamed out as the pain drove through her back. Every thought she just had became confused as the burning pain licked her up like scorching fire. She wept with deep sorrow. The pain was deep within her heart, stinging and burning, almost as if her chest bones were smoldering, and in the far distance thought she’d heard an evil laughing. Just then her eyes caught her phone on the left top corner of the bed.
She had not only checked through Ben’s phone this morning, she’d also taken out a particular phone number. She walked tiredly to the point her phone laid on the bed and picked it up. She scrolled down her contact list until she found it. Fear coursed through every fibre in her yet her mind dared her to call, what may become the most dangerous decision in her entire life yet.
To be continued.
What do you think Grace Philips found in Ben’s phone to make her hurt this much cos me sef hi ham nor hunderstanding (in Falz voice).
Look guys, I will keep apologizing. Lol.
I’m sorry for all the delays. I’ll make it up to you somehow (don’t ask me how).
My first story, BLINKERED (theme on Love and Sickle Cell Disorder) is currently being adapted into a short movie that would be out in 2020.
Look forward to it.
Follow my NGO page @gemstonescat on instagram for updates on release date, links to watch as well as behind the scenes.
You can also follow me on instagram @graceochigbo and Twitter @graciouselara, even though I almost never go there. #coversface
What am I forgetting to say?
Ehen! I love you all!!!!
Please leave a comment and share.
If you are yet to read NOMA’S DREAM (prequel to TWO GRACES), please follow this link to read…http://www.awokoinsight.com/nomas-dream/nomas-dream-episode-one/
Bye for now!