Aunty Nwando and Fred were planning his proposal to Ekene. They were driving to a location she had suggested to check it out.
“Nna, slow down. You drive way too fast”, she protested, holding on for dear life to the dashboard. “I placed a tentative order for aso ebi for your wedding. Don’t send me to an early grave”, she snapped.
“Aunty Nwando, how possible is that? I have been driving for donkey years and never had an accident”, he boasted.
“Do you know what you’re saying? Slow down!”
He reduced his speed with a smirk. “Scaredy cat”
“Let it be! “, she let out the breath she had been holding.
“So, how’s business? “, he asked.
“We’re making money this year”, she sang.
He laughed. “Very modest of you!”
“For real. Since I joined the wedding planning committee in church as Ekene suggested, I get more aso ebi orders than I used to”, She smiled.
“Uh huh. My customer base has widened greatly. And the guests at the weddings get my contact. I give discounts to the brides from my church that make them refuse to patronize even family members in the same line of business”
Fred burst into laughter.
“That your girl is a keeper! We are blessed to have her as a daughter” Aunty Nwando adjusted in her seat as she spoke.
“Speaking of my girl, did you order the ring for me?”
“Yes. It arrives tomorrow”
“Good. Thanks. You’re the best”, he grinned.
“I am only doing what your mother would have done” She replied pensively.
“I miss her” Fred bit his lip
“I miss her too” They exchanged glances and looked away as their eyes pooled with tears.
Fred’s late mom had been Nwando’s favourite sister and best friend. She was impossible to replace and her memory still evoked tears, years later.
Ijeoma begged to be excused from work at lunch time so she could close early. The day had dragged, what with Benita announcing she was getting married. She wondered the man unfortunate enough to have been snared by such a bitter girl. Chike kept looking for excuses to come to her office but, did not speak to her. She ignored him. At 12 noon, she headed to the hospital to see her husband. That was after stopping to buy him lunch from an eatery. Her phone had been off all day as it was not charged. She hoped he had his charger so she could borrow it.
At the hospital, she parked and got out. Lifting her bag and the take out, she locked up and peered at her reflection in the car window. She looked lovely in a floral dress with a blue jacket. Hopefully, thus illness might be a turning point in their relationship. They could use it as an opportunity to work on their differences and renew the passion in their marriage. Ijeoma was smiling at her thoughts as she approached the reception and greeted the nurse. Who would have thought 3 months ago, that she would be considering reconciliation? Ndidi’s prayers must be working, she mused.
The nurse looked up as she greeted her. “Good day, how may I help you? ”
“I’m here to see my husband” She replied.
“What’s his name?”
“Magnus…..”, She began to flip through her records.
“No need. I know his room”
“Alright, then” She snapped the book closed and resumed the work she was doing rolling cotton into swabs.
Ijeoma made for the general ward. His bed was empty. She was puzzled. The sheets were gone and his locker was empty of even the toiletries it had contained. She headed back to the reception. Perhaps he had upgraded to a private room. She wondered how he hoped to pay for it.
“Sorry to bother. I didn’t see him” she told the nurse.
“When I wanted to check, you rushed off” the nurse scolded lightly.
“I left him there at 6am this morning”
The nurse got up and opened her records again.
Another nurse joined her as she was flipping through. “Angela, go and dress the bed in Room 5”, she instructed.
“I’m busy” she replied.
“Excuse me. Aren’t you the nurse I met this morning? ” Ijeoma asked the 2nd nurse.
“Yes. I am working an extra shift” she replied.
“Okay. I was wondering where my husband was moved to. The private ward?”
“Your husband? He was discharged 2 hours ago”
“Really? Halleluyah! So he’s fine now?” Ijeoma clapped in excitement.
“Didn’t he tell you? He was transferred to Dr. Jubril’s hospital”
“Dr. Jubril? I don’t know him”
“Hmm. Well, he left immediately”
Ijeoma was confused. How would he pay for a private hospital? Did he have money he was hiding? Is it that he was in such a critical condition that he had to see a specialist?
“You want to talk to Dr. Kola. He’ll explain better” she advised. Turning to her colleague, she wagged a finger “Angela, the bed is waiting”.
Ijeoma left them and headed for the doctor’s office. He was attending to a patient but she was allowed in before the next in line.
“Madam”, he greeted.
“Doc, why was my husband transferred? ”
“He requested it”
“Okay”, she heaved a sigh of relief. “I thought there was a complication”
“Not at all. I’ll be there to see him in the evening”
“Thank you so much. Could I have the address? My phone was off so he couldn’t tell me”
“You could call Miss Momah then. Though it’s easy to find. The hospital is in Surulere”
“Miss Momah?”Ijeoma was puzzled
“The lady who arranged his transfer? Pretty, fair, slim?” he described
“Okay. I know her”, she lied quickly.
“Could you give me her number?”
” I …..” “I can’t. My phone is off. Let me head there. Thanks”, she rushed out.
Regina was making a call in the hospital reception at AS hospital. Magnus had been admitted in a cozy private room and assigned a friendly middle aged nurse. She planned to spend just 2 hours with him but time flies when you are chatting with a man who understands you so perfectly. As she had done several times, she wondered how she had become so entangled with him. He just got her, in a way no one ever had. Most times, he read her thoughts just by her facial expressions. It was inconceivable that something that felt so right could be so wrong.
He had dozed off, so she decided to dash back to the office. She was calling her secretary to confirm some appointments when Ijeoma walked in.
“Let me get back to you”, Regina ended the call and turned to greet Ijeoma. “Good afternoon, Madam. You’re welcome”
“Who is your Madam, Idiot?”, Ijeoma shouted as she dropped her bag on the nearest chair.
“Pardon?”, Regina asked, puzzled.
“I asked, Who is your Madam?”, She had grabbed Regina’s blouse around her neck and squeezed it into a bunch. “You are sleeping with my husband so I have become your Madam? Are we not age mates?”
The 2 nurses at the reception had approached to intervene but one glance from her blazing eyes made them step back. Regina was red from embarrassment.
“To think that my sister in Christ is the snake that has been stealing eggs from my poultry! Onye ara! Pastor Shedrack must hear this! Onwe gi nno any other man you could have set your sights on but my husband? Ewu Gambia!” As she ranted, she tightened her hold on Regina’s shirt, her voice going an octave higher with each sentence.
“Madam, this is a hospital”, the Matron had appeared and was trying to wrest her hand from Regina’s blouse.
“Hospital? You allowed her to turn this place to a hotel so don’t just talk to me!” Ijeoma pushed the woman aside.
Dragging Regina with her, she began to make her way to the wards. “Where is the shameless man? Which room is he in?” she ranted.
By this time, the security had arrived and they stood in her way. “Let go of her, Madam” the first one pleaded.
Regina was unable to utter a word. She couldn’t even attempt to put up a fight as she saw that was the excuse Ijeoma needed to hit her. The 2 men were able to convince Ijeoma to let her go. However, she insisted on Regina following her to Magnus’ room. He woke up to a sea of faces. Regina looking mortified, his wife with a heaving chest, 3 nurses, 2 security men, 1 attendant, 4 patient visitors, and who knows who else.
Before he could say a word, Ijeoma went to his bedside and sat down calmly like nothing had happened.
“Sister Regina, please take a seat” She motioned to a seat in a chillingly soft voice. “The rest of you should excuse us. This is a private affair”
They stood still for 30 seconds in shock before filing out slowly. The Matron remained.
“Mr. Ozo, I want you to assure me that you will control the situation. We don’t want you disturbing the patients” She appealed.
He nodded, too shocked to speak. As the Matron left, Ijeoma stood up to shut the door behind her.
TO BE CONTINUED.
(Feel free to leave a comment. Click on the title)
*aso ebi : uniform fabric used to make outfits by family and friends during weddings
*onye ara : mentally deranged person
*onwe gi nno any other man: There just wasn’t any other man……
*ewu gambia : curse