This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
(The old couple came in this morning and were pretty excited because the doctor had told one of the nurses to sit me up a little on the bed. She’d helped me up but since I am a bit numb on my right side, she only tilted me somewhat to be comfortable on the bed. My breathing had stabilised a little bit. I think I’m coming up. I’ll come up… sooner than later. I was even able to pronounce ‘ahh’!
Did you just scream, ‘really’?
That had come out when the nurse held me the wrong way earlier. The stings of pain that was coursing through my brain made me say that. It’s good progress… uhm! Pretty cool.)
“Doctor, I’d like to take her out…” Ajifa said to the astonishment of the doctor who just left off Unekwu’s hand.
“How do you mean, madam?”
Ajifa smiled. “She’s been constricted to this bed for several weeks now and in this room as well. I want her to go out. Anywhere. Even if it’s within this compound. I just want her to breathe the fresh air outside… that’s all.”
The doctor swallowed. “It’s appreciated that your daughter is really responding to treatment and recovery is rapid, ma’am, but I don’t want us to push things. She still needs intensive bed rest. I, as a critical care doctor, would still see her at least for another week or two. After which she would undergo several therapies which include speech therapy, rehabilitation, occupational therapy…” he counted his fingers while talking. “…stroke rehabilitation, physical therapy… there is a whole lot with stroke recovery, ma’am, and different specialists will handle the various stages. We need much more to exercise patience, as I’ve always told us.”
“Oh… You don’t get it, do you?” Ajifa sought confirmation from the doctor. “You see, doctor, I know my daughter. Keeping her in here would do her no good as much as letting her see the world would. I promise she would be fine.”
The doctor shrugged. He said some things about due process and about why Unekwu shouldn’t do more than sitting up on the bed just yet. He tried all his persuasive mechanisms, both the ones learnt in medical school and afterwards but when he saw the woman was adamant, he turned to the nurse.
“OK then. Nurse…” he motioned to the young lady beside him, ordering her to get the wheel chair and few more persons to help Unekwu onto it.
“We appreciate you, doctor!” Ajifa said politely.
“Anything for you, ma’am! Bear in mind that the speech therapist is the first specialist she would see. And I think he would start in two days now.” he hesitated. “Unekwu is starting all over again, madam! There are lots of things she needs to learn again.” With that, he excused himself.
Ajifa’s face followed the doctor till he was out of her sight. The pain in her felt milder now. At least, her daughter could get off the bed after all these times. She drew closer to Unekwu. Her face was as it was placed all along. The right side of her face drooped downwards, disorienting her pretty face. She looked extremely numb to her right hand side, but one could see strength fighting it’s way to the exterior via her eyes.
Unekwu was a fighter… always been a fighter, so it’s certain that this also shall pass.
She giggled excitedly.
“That’s it, Man of God. Being in Nigeria over the last couple of months had been an entirely different ordeal for me, and…”
“Especially being in Lokoja, the hottest city in the world.” Pastor Festus interrupted her and that set her on a longer trail of laughter.
“You can say that again, Man of God.” Her American accent came up strongly, making it sound like she said ‘mehn ‘o guard’.
Pastor Festus leaned forward to place his both hands on his desk. He stared straight into Angela’s eyes, looking sincerely concerned. He’s become fond of this young lady since the first day she’d walked right through his door. She’d been on the queue for counselling that fateful afternoon and after speaking with her for an hour and half, he knew he’d gotten a new baby to feed spiritually. Angela had been very open to him, talking about her background, her battles, fears and ordeals in life. She even went ahead to talk about her emotional struggles and how she fell deeply in love with a Nigerian man she met here in Lokoja who now seemed distracted from her for some reasons.
That’s exactly how she’d put it.
“He was very much in love with me too, Man of God. He said it and I felt his sincerity. He was ready to make me forget all the hurts in my life, especially about my parents and sibling. Until recently, I don’t know what happened, he suddenly lost interest.”
Pastor Festus had nodded in a manner that appeared as though he related very well with the lady’s condition and even went ahead to pray a short prayer for her that God would bring the young man in question back to her in his time. Angela had been frequently visiting the office in the past week and he’d gradually come to see her as one of his, especially bearing in mind that she was an orphan. He felt the spiritual obligation to father her. An obligation which he didn’t hesitate to take up. It’s good that his role as a father to Angela would purely be spiritual as the young woman in front of him had all the financial strength and political power anyone could ask for.
“I hope you are enjoying your newly found faith in Jesus and of course, the church?”
Angela smiled, displaying her beautiful dentition. “Absolutely, Man of God. Absolutely. I started foundation class already.”
Pastor Festus sat up in excitement. “Oh wow. Are you serious? How has it been?”
Angela’s smiles grew wider. “Very great, sir. Very great. I can’t wait to finish. I’d like to join the media unit immediately…”
Pastor Festus was about to say one more thing but the tap on his door distracted him. “Come in …”
Debby Adams walked in majestically, having the aura of a well tutored waitress, that’s aside her smartness and gorgeously matched beautiful colours. She looked far too younger than her age.
“Debby Adams. Most hardworking woman!”
Debby Adams felt extremely flattered as the pastor called out to her. She was hardworking, that’s unnegotiable, but having pastor voice out those accolades to her every now and then? That was quite flattering… no… embarrassing.
“Thank you, Pastor!” she said politely.
“You know what, Debby Adams? I don’t know how many times in a day I thank God for gifting someone like you into this ministry. You are an asset, ma. The Lord bless you richly.”
“Amen! Amen, daddy!” Debby Adams spread her hands out to receive the prayers. “She’s here, sir.” She added quickly. Someone needed to stop pastor before he’ll break lose into a full-fleshed hour of prayer.
“Oh. Please, let her in.” Pastor Festus’ face lit up as he said this, flashing a little smile at Angela. He was about returning to where he left off with her when the door opened, presenting Vera.
Vera wore a plaid blue trouser and a peach shirt, properly tucked in. A flowery piece was tied hanging down from her chest while her handbag hung carefully down her left hand. She looked like one of those bosses from the female nation.
“Good afternoon, daddy!” she said almost immediately she entered into the office.
“Vera, my darling. How are you today?”
“I’m fine, daddy.” She hesitated. “Mummy asked me to quickly get the bag for her. I took a cab from the office. He’s waiting outside.”
As if she said that to deliberately put the man on his toes, he punched the intercom and Debby Adams appeared almost immediately.
“Please, give her those stuffs mummy got earlier.”
Debby Adams disappeared behind the door before the words left off the pastor’s mouth. Vera hurried after but Pastor’s voice interrupted her.
“I’d like you to meet the latest addition to my daughters. Angela… meet Vera…” Angela got up and walked the short distance to give Vera a hand. “Vera is another awesome lady we are blessed with in this place. I’ve had the best ministerial working relationship with her father for over 35years now…”
“Wow!” was all Angela could say as she walked back to her seat. She couldn’t place it if Pastor Festus flattered just everybody he met or if he actually meant all he said.
“Nice to meet you, sis!” Vera said, her tone unsettled. “I’m sorry I’m in a hurry today. Maybe some other time…”
“Of course!” Pastor Festus cut in. “You will see more of her after she joins the media unit. It may interest you to know, Angela, that Vera is the assistant head of media ministry.”
The both ladies smiled at themselves as though seeking who’d be first to make a comment.
“Wow!” Angela voiced out again.
“You should get going, Vera. God bless you!” Pastor Festus called out to the Vera that had left the room from the beginning of his statement. He was still smiling broadly but it gradually diminished till his face became flat and bare, showing no expression whatsoever on it. He readjusted in his chair again, bringing his hands to rest on the table as before while boring inquisitive eyes into Angela’s
“So…” he started.
Angela swallowed her curiosity.
(I am enjoying being outside. I don’t know how long, but what I know is that I’ve been restricted or constricted… whichever… to a bed for as long as I know. Now it’s good to be outside with this woman. She’s friendly, right? She is. She was telling me to hold on, to fight on, to try to get back with my life. I wanted to ask her what my life used to be. And where I dropped that one life because I feel like some people just kidnapped me and had brought me to a place I’m supposed to believe just anything they say. That’s not even a problem for me anymore. Not as if I have a choice.
A young man had come to join us some moments ago. We were barely at the back of this large hospital building when a nurse led him to us. He’d felt elated seeing me on the wheel chair that the woman pushed. He’d bent down to hold onto my hands, staring at my face for nothing less than fifteen minutes. Was that a tear I saw drop off his face? Yes. It was a tear. He’d moved his lips but I couldn’t make out the words from him this time. The long and short was that he’d taken over pushing the wheel chair from the woman and we are finally at the back of the hospital. A serene, flowery atmosphere. The scent from fresh flowers gushed into my nose and I couldn’t have wished for a better place at this time of the day.)
Ajifa and Caleb turned quickly in the direction of the voice. Caleb felt somehow uncomfortable as she walked towards them. He bent his head to avoid eye contact.
“How did you know we were here?” Ajifa queried as Vera lifted her leg to avoid a thump in the little walkway amidst the flowers.
“Her nurse described it.” she said with all smiles. She then came over to hug Unekwu. “Sweetheart, I’ve been excited about a lot of things in my life; the day we finished high school; the day daddy bought my first car; a lot of things, baby, but not many things have topped this feeling I have seeing you out of that hospital room for the first time in many weeks!” she pecked Unekwu’s left cheek. “I miss you so much, Unee… I do…” she was almost breaking down in tears when Ajifa, seeing it wasn’t helpful, decided to quickly intervene.
“Where is the bag, daughter?”
Vera jerked back up on her feet.
She behaved like Caleb wasn’t there or better still, she didn’t notice him an inch. “In the ward room, mummy!”
“Thanks dear. Sorry for the stress. I see you left work straight to the church office?”
Vera nodded in the affirmative, putting her little finger in her mouth like a shy baby.
“Eyaaa… sorry. How is the condition of your car now?”
She shrugged. “Well, it’s still at the mechanic. I’m doing cab for now.”
Ajifa wanted to say more, but deciding against it, she led the way out of the garden in the direction of the hospital. Caleb wheeled Unekwu and Vera walked right beside him while struggling to ignore his presence completely. Which was good. Caleb didn’t know what he would say to her either. They could hear Ajifa mumble some admiration about the flowers, aesthetics and about the decoration of the hospital environment being adorable and all but they were both lost in the world of their own. They couldn’t help the deadening silence as it stood tall between them both. As they entered the ward room, the tensed atmosphere Vera felt seemed to lighten. She’d taken her mind off Caleb; off his loose fitted shirt rubbing her sides. She had taken her attention back to Unekwu; back to what life would become when Unekwu eventually come around. How she didn’t know what she would do at the end of it all. She would be glad, that’s sure, but she’d also feel like a traitor right and the earlier she got that sickening thought off her mind, the better for everyone.
“I think you should go rest after a tiring day at the office, Vera. I’m staying the night with her.” Ajifa smiled at Vera.
Vera wanted to heave a sigh of relief. Apart from the fact that her parents had talked about having something rather important to discuss with her when she gets home in the evening, she felt like she was choking in this room with Caleb beside her. She needed fresh air and leaving was the best way to get one.
“Thanks mummy.” She wanted to say something else but couldn’t find the words.
As she turned her back to leave, she prayed and hoped that the woman wouldn’t change her mind – like suddenly get concerned about the state of her car and asking Caleb to drop her off. She was still battling with this possibility at the same time trying to hasten her footsteps when she heard,
“Did you say you came in a cab?”
Oh no. Not again. Not now! She heard her mind scream.
“Yes… ehmmm… yes mummy!” she stammered. “…but not to worry, I’ll find my way.” She turned back to leave again but Pastor Ajifa wasn’t letting her go after all.
“Caleb, please do you mind dropping my daughter off?” Vera felt like fighting something around her at that suggestion. This wasn’t cool at all.
“Oh no, mummy, I’d be fine.” She persisted.
Ajifa smiled again. The smile was quite mischievous this time and Vera knew better than to raise any cause for alarm.
“Caleb… you don’t have to come back. I’ll like some time with my daughter tonight… alone. Good night, children!” Ajifa said on a note of finality, practically waving them off.
Vera walked out the door hurriedly and wished she didn’t get to sight Caleb over her shoulders as he walked tiredly behind her.
Victor took his eyes off the spiral-banded bunch of white papers in front of him. He’d been sited here in the sitting room going through the scripts for their ongoing production. They needed to cut out some irrelevancies from the project now at post production stage.
His mother smiled at that statement. Whenever Victor was in the mood to jest, he mimicked Pastor Festus’ voice.
“I thought you said you are over with the location shoot?”
It was Victor’s turn to smile and he did generously. His mother had become familiar with a lot of film production terms so much so that she knew shooting at locations was almost climax for a project? That’s too impressive.
“Yes ma’am. We want a short film and after first editing we are getting forty-five minutes, I want it to go lower than that, that is why I’m going through the script again.”
Debby Adams shrugged and headed in the direction of the kitchen.
“I hope you made something for your mother though, because I’m starving.”
Victor nodded without taking his eyes off the book. “Mother should stop getting used to son cooking for her o. I’ll soon be on my own.”
The woman smiled proudly and started walking away. Inasmuch as she would miss her only son any day, it will be her greatest honour to follow him over to a get a daughter in-law. It’s her dream.
As she walked tiredly, she remembered something and stopped.
“By the way, why is that your new friend always coming by the office recently?”
Victor’s face pulled out, then it relaxed knowing who his mother was referring to. Angela had driven him home sometimes in the past week and even obliged to come in, not until he insisted though. His mother was at home that evening and in the woman’s little mind, she just concluded her son had finally brought home a lady. He didn’t bother to explain neither did he stop her as she gave Angela the warmest welcome then.
“I guess she’s trying to gain her footing in church.” Caleb threw the answer out carelessly.
Debby Adams took a calm breath. “Pastor is very fond of her. She was at the office again earlier.”
“Oh cool!” Victor turned to face her this time.
He didn’t know why the woman was going about the same cycle. He knew Angela would go to the church today to see pastor again; he knew she’d like to join the media unit after foundation school; he’d been knowing virtually all her movements in the past weeks since they started talking. Himself and the team were even at her arts centre two days ago and Angela, if not for anything, gave them the best treat of their lives. Imagine using someone’s facility for a movie location which normally the team should pay for but instead the owner took everyone out for lunch afterwards. It was so wowing and being the first time for the team, the guys are not even over talking about it yet.
“I think the girl is wonderful too, myself.”
Victor heard his mother’s voice from the entrance of the kitchen.
He smiled lightly in the physical but was laughing and rolling on the floor in his mind. Surely Angela had her reasons for trying to get close to the pastor and church generally. He’d taken her there in the first place. However, he also had his reasons for coming so close to Angela and as time would reveal that reason, he didn’t know if Angela would be glad she ever met him at all. For now, he’d just take it all slow, equations are better solved step-wisely and his method was an almighty formula.
He killed the car in front of the gate. The drive down here had been extremely quiet. The silence that sat between them would have felt usual save that the thoughts from each other’s brains were spilling into the exterior in the form of sweat – sweating in an AC tight car. Vera’s eyes had this look, this regretful look Caleb could connect with and it was obvious she couldn’t wait to be dropped at her house because she was almost opening the car door before it completely came to a halt.
She turned a squeezed face at Caleb on realising that the car doors were locked. Caleb glanced at her for a minute and took his face away. Vera tried to push the door again and this time could feel her temper rising.
“Vera…” Caleb called out, not turning to look at her at all.
“Not now, Caleb. You were only asked to drive me home!” she spat, interrupting him.
Caleb swallowed against the lump in his throat. Something was making it literally hard for a statement to come out. He would force it notwithstanding.
“Not now? When, Vera? When are you ever going to say as little as a hi to me? It’s been three weeks, Vera… three weeks of seeing and snubbing, three weeks of playing dumb around each other.”
“No, Caleb.” She paused. “It’s been three weeks of forcing a kiss on me, Caleb..” she let out a sarcastic laughter. “…three weeks of almost getting me into trouble. We were almost caught, damn it!” she yelled.
“Almost, Vera…” Caleb’s voice was slow. “…almost but not caught.”
Vera stared at him as though he had bugs crawling out of his ears. “Do you even know what that means? Her dad and mum and the doctor would have caught her best friend in a compromised position with her fiancé. What does that tell you? Did you really have to capitalise on my vulnerable emotions?”
Caleb picked something from his jaw while Vera spoke.
“The truth of the matter is that you used … rather you capitalised on my own vulnerable emotions. You did… or should I say, it was a two-way traffic?” He spread out his lips, forming a smile.
Vera snorted. “It’s not funny, Caleb. Sincerely, it’s not. And I don’t want you coming around me. I don’t want trouble.”
Caleb looked at her as though he couldn’t believe she had this sore fear in her throat. “What are you afraid of?”
Officially, Vera was trying so hard to keep her anger locked in. The guy beside her, was he sane at all? Asking what she’s afraid of? Are her fears not obvious?
“Look here, Caleb. I’ll say it and listen good. I know you’d hold me to the fact that I kissed back, that I didn’t push you away, or slap you as I should have reflexively done.” she bit her lips. “There are no two meanings to that gesture save that I was extremely emotional that day. Whatever happened between us was a mistake. A mistake I regret.”
“OK then!” Caleb answered coldly, carrying no expression on his face. He pressed on the central lock to open the doors while still staring out through his side of the window.
To Vera’s amazement, she didn’t hurriedly open the door as she should. She didn’t know exactly what she had expected as answer from Caleb, but definitely not ‘OK then’. It sounded nonchalant. It sounded like he didn’t feel any way bad that she regretted it – their escapade. Perhaps she was expecting him to say he didn’t regret it. Or better still, tell her not to say negative stuffs altogether, but here he was, dismissing her with an ‘OK then’. Was she just supposed to leave like that or she should give him a handshake, or maybe a hug and tell him that she was sorry for yelling at him?
‘what is wrong with you, Vera’ she hit herself to reality. ‘What are you doing to yourself?’
These questions begged for answers in her mind as she gently opened the door, hoping Caleb would stop her or do something… just anything.
She got down and adjusted her shirt, she’d loosened the tuck-in on her way to the hospital from the church office. She stepped away from the driveway as Caleb started the car and drove off without looking at her.
She felt her heart break.
This was weird, she knew.
Catching her breath after some minutes, she trudged into her massive compound. She needed to talk to someone, anyone… the earlier she did, the better for her. Unekwu was her gist and gossip partner. Now that Unekwu wasn’t available, her mother should be the best bet. But, how would her mother understand that…
“We’ve been waiting for you!” her mother’s voice interrupted her thoughts and staggered her backwards. The scenes around her had been out of focus as she was lost in thoughts so she didn’t notice them on the couch right in the sitting room.
“Oh! My princess looks extremely exhausted. Work coupled with being nanny for your friend is taking a ton on my precious daughter…”
Only then did Vera notice her father clearly. The man was home today? So early? That’s serious. Was that why her mum insisted she returned earlier too.
“Aren’t you going to greet us?” Mrs Williams’ voice called out to her again, as she looked obviously baffled.
“Come over here my princess, come and sit beside daddy!”
‘What’s going on’ was the question on Vera’s mind and it spilled out before she could stop it.
Fred Williams and his wife waited till their daughter took the space between them. Vera sat on the edge, her face carrying questions they were not in a hurry to respond to. Soon, Fred Williams cleared his throat and sat up, taking Vera’s hand.
“My beautiful daughter. How are you?”
Vera scoffed. “I’m fine, daddy. What’s all these?”
Mrs Williams smiled. “How is Unekwu this evening? I called her mother and she said Unekwu was recovering pretty fast.”
“Yes mum. But what’s all these for?” Vera was impatient and they could tell.
“We don’t want you to get annoyed, but as the adage says that what an elder could sit and see, a child may have to climb mountains and may not even see it sometimes…” Now Vera wondered when her father suddenly started using parables in the place of scriptures but it wasn’t long though before the usual. “…the bible says, there is time for everything and a season for everything under heaven.”
Vera swallowed. Praying hard to survive this suspense without yelling out.
“We’ve watched you grow to become this beautiful and highly brilliant lady that you are. I must say that you are my most treasured possession.” Fred paused for split seconds and continued immediately. “But when it comes to starting a family… your own family, you don’t do it by shutting out all potential young men that come your way.”
Vera rose her face in shock. Her parents didn’t just hurry her back home and kept her sitting when she should be having a shower, only to talk about choosing husband, did they?
“Yes daughter. We’ve built a high class for you. You are a beautiful princess, deserving of a prince, but you can’t even know any deserving prince if you don’t give anyone a chance.” Mrs Williams added, her voice convincing.
“To stop beating around the bush, daughter. There’s this young man that found his way to my office last week. He talked about how much interested he is in you. He said he’d spoken to you severally but you never took him serious. And when I checked all reasonable statistics, especially the part that included his ability to take care of all your needs, I saw he was capable and well able.”
“What?” Vera jerked up, but didn’t stand up.
“I need you to understand, princess, that you are under no obligation to accept him. I just feel you should meet him in a more open way than your usual uptight attitude towards potential young men!”
Vera couldn’t believe her ears but she was not going to make any show here. It was just to meet, right? She’d meet. It’s embarrassing enough that her parents would recommend husband for her.
“OK, dad. I’d meet with him and get back to you.” she moved her eyes from father to mother. “Can I at least go upstairs now?”
Her father smiled. “Not so fast, sweet. You may have to meet him now. He’s here”
Shock and surprise added to the fine lines around Vera’s face. It was that bad that they would bring him to the house after all.
“Dad!” she voiced her shock. “Mum!” she turned to the woman. “You had to bring him over to see me in the house? Is that how much you are in a hurry to get rid of me?”
“Far from it, daughter. We only want the best for you!” a sweet smile danced around her mother’s face. Vera was turning to her father when he saw his hand tapping the screen of his mobile phone.
A minute and the door to the visitor’s room, which was just opposite where they sat, creaked open. Vera’s mind was racing as she hoped for her parents’ sake that they wouldn’t insult her person by the man they’re bringing. The person seemed to be taking his time behind the door and as he stepped out and walked towards them, Vera could wish for nothing more than the ground opening and swallowing her up.
Sometimes, the most unlikely persons hold our forever.
To be continued next Wednesday.
Thanks for following!
Friends, I’m back to busy schedule again. I can’t post twice a week anymore. Please bear with me. I promise all episodes are long enough to feed and last you a week long. I love you guys. Thanks for the support.