Aunt Tammy and Nkem Isaac’s wife were hosting Veronica to a Victory party. The venue was a private beach owned by one of Jeff’s clients. Bobby was also invited and he came along with a colleague, Kufre. Veronica and Bobby came in her car after stopping over to buy drinks. They were all casually dressed. Veronica looked fetching in white shorts and a print blouse, her long hair loose. Jeff was dancing to music provided by the beach band, when she approached carrying a small package. He stopped and stood still, grinning as he stared unashamed.
“Hi Jeff!” Veronica greeted him with a hug.
He winked as he released her and spun her around whistling.
“Why? Why are you causing cardiac confusion? ” he joked.
Nkem and Tammy burst into laughter.
“What is cardiac confusion?” Veronica asked.
“It is a line from a local movie Aunt Tammy saw and told us about,” Nkem replied. “How are you dear? You look great.”
“I am fine, thanks Aunty. Good afternoon Aunty Tammy.” She went over to hug both women.
Bobby came forward and said hello, before introducing his friend. They sat on the mats on the ground and began to sway to the music as well. Jeff drew Veronica to sit beside him. Tammy and Nkem exchanged glances and smiled.
“That’s a nice top, darling. Yellow is your colour: Right, Jeff?” Tammy turned to Jeff mischievously.
“She would look great even in raffia,”Jeff replied.
“Raffia?”Veronica shrieked. “Is that what people wear in your village?”
“I would have you know that my village is a small town. We are classy and refined. Ask Aunt Tammy and Nkem. They don’t even remember their own villages cause they have fallen for mine.”
Aunt Tammy cleared her throat loudly.
“Do you dispute it?” Jeff asked.
“No, how can I?” she said, laughing.
“What you mean, Jeff, is that there are no mud houses in your village?” Bobby asked.
“Of course we have a few. After all, our culture is unique to us. What I mean is that we have every modern convenience available, constant electricity, potable water supply, and good sanitation. ”
“See marketing! Veronica, I hope you can now see that you belong with us?” Nkem asked.
“I am reviewing my options…” she replied, tongue-in-cheek.
Jeff clutched at his heart in mock horror. “Doc! I am about to pass out.”
Everyone burst into laughter.
“It must be the cardiac confusion, ” Bobby joked.
“Please, I will have nothing to do with a cardiac patient,” Veronica said, rising to walk away in jest.
Jeff rose and gave chase. She was a good runner so he was soon panting, pleading with her to slow down. The rest of the group cheered as they ran. When they were out of sight, they began to serve refreshments to Bobby and Kufre his friend. Aunt Tammy had cooked up a storm and the young men were ravenous. Nkem was still heavily pregnant and had a great appethite. She dug into the coconut rice with gusto, stretching out her legs on the mat to give herself more room. The band was in a shade by the coconut trees, rendering the songs they had requested ahead of time. Mats had been spread on the sand by the water just beyond the point the sea flowed to. They had flasks of food, drinks, baskets of fruits and pasteries behind them.
Soon, they spotted Jeff and Veronica riding quad bikes along the shore. They were laughing as they raced, Jeff in the lead, Veronica protesting that he should have slowed down for her. The group cheered as they sped past, calling out encouragement to both competitors. Bobby finished his food and went for a swim. His friend could not swim so he stayed back to converse with the ladies. They had seized the opportunity to drill him on whether he was saved or not and when he could not convince them that he was, they set about to ensure that he did not leave without hearing the gospel.
Veronica had stopped by a grove of trees to catch a breath. Jeff joined her, offering her a bottle of water.
“Thank you,” she said.
“For being there that Tuesday. I don’t think I have told you how grateful I am. God bless you.”
“Well, you already know my little request. Now, you can grant it,” he said, holding her hands solemnly.
“That would be?”
“Exclusivity. I can’t bear the thought that any other man is lurking in the background, waiting for me to offend you or be too caught up with work, for him to swoop in like a vulture. ” He made a face.
“Why vulture, why not a hawk or eagle? ”
“Eagle my foot!” Veronica laughed.
“I am serious,” he said as he turned her face to his, gently.
“Jeff, I have broken up with Buchi, though there was nothing to break up really. He was even relieved: that he wants to face his career and all, as he hopes to become a surgeon in four years.”
“Surgeon? Chei! Who am I and who is my father that I should compete with a surgeon?” he asked comically. “Father, deliver me!”
“You are not competing with anybody.”
“VeeVee, I know we just met but I feel like I have known you forever. I want to take things slow but I feel like that will confuse you as to the depth of my feelings. That’s why I send a text rather than call sometimes. I feel like I am bothering you.”
“I do like the texts,” she said with a smile.
“Can I call you honey or is that presumptious?”
“I like VeeVee.”
“Was that a rebuff? O, you are hard on me.” He turned away in mock pain.
“Everything good will come.”
“Have you read that book?”
“Yeah, I loved it.”
“So, there is something I have been meaning to ask. It led to the breakdown of my last relationship. What are your views on abstinence?”
“I think it is necessary for a christian relationship. Any man who cannot respect that does not have anything to offer me,” she stated.
“My ex actually laughed in my face for being less than a man. She said something must be wrong with me for not wanting to make out with her, ” Jeff said, wincing at the painful memory.
Veronica stared at him, mouth agape. “You mean a lady found a man who respected her body and she made fun of him? Is she a christian?”
“She is. ”
“I don’t get it. We are like the maid that opened the door for Peter in the bible and when the people who had been praying for his release heard he was the one, they said it could not be. She was very wrong and I apologize on her behalf,” she said earnestly.
“You don’t have to…”
“I do. We ladies keep complaining that there are no good men out there. When we treat them this way, how many will remain?”
“God always has a remnant.”
“Speaking of remnant, we had better go and get some food before we get apportioned the ‘remnant’. I don’t trust those two young men,” Jeff said rising.
“I agree. Besides, I have to leave soon. Duty calls.”
“I thought you had the day off?”
“Just half of the day, unfortunately. ”
“Well,” he said pulling her into a hug. “I will maximise the time to show you how I feel about you so that when you go back to work you will be unable to wipe that grin off your face.”
“Which grin?” she asked, frowning.
“That one right there!” He made a silly face that got her bending over with laughter before running off.
She gave chase, her steps light, the wind in her hair, her face wreathed with smiles.
Cassandra was dancing very seductively, with Abel. His brother Perez was so high he had passed out in the hallway. The venue was an exclusive club on the Island. It was owned by a friend of Hinnow who often used his services as a DJ. The occassion was the birthday of Perez’ catch, Raheedat. She was a 49 year old divorcee who had a lot of money to spend and loved to spend it on younger men. Rasheedat was once married to a very prominent oil baron. When he moved on, he left her one of his companies to manage. Perez had approached her to sponsor his movie because the budget had exceeded what Cassandra and her mom initially provided. She gave him more than he asked for. He warmed her bed in return.
Rasheedat was a buxom woman, very fair, with tatoos on both arms and a gold tooth. She loved to imbibe alcohol to excess but when he introduced her to cocaine, she realised what she had been missing. They were going steady, with Perez spending all his time with her when he wasn’t shooting. She had a daughter who was 16 and away in school, so they had her house to themselves often. Her cars became his, her servants were at his disposal, she even gave him a credit card to purchase whatever he desired. At the moment, she was lying on a couch, oblivious to the fact that the buttons of her blouse had come undone. She was in a drug-induced haze.
Abel was thirsty so he stopped Cassandra and led her to the bar. They sat on the stools and nursed the drinks they had ordered.
“Turn up or what?” Abel yelled over the loud music Hinnow was producing.
“Turn up for real,” she agreed.
“I love that song,” he said, referring to the song playing.
She nodded and struck a pose. “Like you love me?”
“How can? I love you more than the world, baby”
“Love you too, baby,” she purred, leaning forward to kiss his lips.
He grinned and reached for his pouch of cocaine. Placing it on the counter before them, he began to knead it with the sharp edge of his pocket knife and then spoon small quantities into his nose. Cassandra declined to join. She did not like the effect it had on her the one time she had tried it, so she never took it again. It was about 3 am. The party was winding down and a number of guests had left. Cassandra was making out with Abel in a corner. Perez and Rasheedat were still sleeping.
Suddenly, there was a shout and a whistle. Armed men forced their way into the room which was actually the VIP section and began yelling at the merry-makers. DJ Hinnow had just left to take a leak, though he left the music on. The men identified themselves as members of NDLEA, the Nigerian drug law enforcement agency. Prodding those who were sleeping with their rifles, they yelled for everyone to kneel and raise their hands. Arrests were quickly made. Abel was screaming at the men, telling them they had made a huge mistake that would get them fired. One other guest was sober enough to offer to pay them off. However, they were all handcuffed and bundled into a waiting van outside. In total, they were seven. Perez and Rasheedat had to be carried out still semi-conscious and thrown into the van. Cassandra was crying, asking to be allowed to call her mom. The manager of the night club was arrested as well. Shortly after, the van zoomed off.
Veronica had to report daily at the station, as a condition for her bail. That morning, she was on her way back from the station when she received a call from Nurse Anuli. She parked to take the call.
“Hi, Anuli, what’s wrong? ”
“Good morning doc. Are you on your way?”
“Dr. Korede just slapped Ifeyinwa.”
“What! Why would he do that?”
“I just found out that he usually requests drugs from the pharmacy which he does not use on patients. She refused to dispense them so he lost his temper.”
“Why am I just hearing this?”
“The girl said she was waiting for you to settle down after your ordeal. She actually has evidence of a list he wrote and signed, so she knows what she is talking about.”
Veronica was silent, fuming. She could not believe that Dr. Korede could descend to such a level.
“How is Ifeyinwa?”
“She was crying and shouting but I took her outside just to douse the tension.”
“What of Matron Ngwanu?”
“She said Ifeyinwa is lucky she is not the one she insulted; that she would have given her the kind of blows power Mike used to knock out his opponents with.”
“Power Mike? I think that woman is mentally unstable. Let me speak to Ifeyinwa.”
There was a pause as Anuli handed the phone to her.
“Ifeyinwa?” Veronica said.
“Yes, doc,” she said, sniffing.
“Don’t cry again, okay? I will handle the mattet when I arrive. You did the right thing and I am happy with you. Just wipe your tears and go back to work. Can you do that?”
“Yes, doc. Thank you.”
“Alright. Don’t speak to them or reply when they say anything. I will be there in 20 minutes.”
Veronica ended the call and spent 2 minutes praying for wisdom. She had tolerated the excesses of some members of her staff to the point of being seen as weak. It was time for her to step up. The experience of detention had taught her a lot and she intended to use that knowledge. She was a hospital CEO, not Mother Theresa.
TO BE CONTINUED. CHEERS, DR. N