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Now, the 14th episode…
TUESDAY, 15TH JULY 2014
4.00pm – St. George’s Hospital, Ikoyi
Dr. Aluko sat in his large office filled with books and some medical tools. He was tired. Today had been very hectic for him after going through one surgery to another, barely having time to rest in-between. His fingers were tired and his eyes drowsy. He yawned, grateful his shift was finally over. A knock on the door got a reluctant response from him.
The door opened and a head peeped in. It was the Head Nurse. “You have a visitor sir. Can she come in?”
Dr. Aluko scowled. “Can’t you see my shift is over? I cannot see anybody now. Please refer her to another doctor.”
The door opened wider and the nurse came in fully, closing the door behind her. “I did but she insisted it was you she wanted to see. I am sorry you are tired, but she said she would not leave until she sees you. She is a bit stubborn.”
“Is she one of our registered patients?”
“Oh!” The doctor sat straight and adjusted his overall. “You should have told me it was her. She is one of our Diamond Patients. Please send her in.”
The nurse nodded and left the room. A minute later, the door opened and she ushered the Patient in. When Dr. Aluko saw Lola, he became perturbed when he saw the look on her face. Immediately she sat down, he got down to business.
“Good evening, Mrs. Williams. You don’t look well. Is the nurse not taking good care of you?”
“Good afternoon, Doctor. I must thank you for creating time for me.” Lola settled fully into the chair. “Nurse Titi is doing her best. But you know there are some things she still cannot do for me.”
“That was why I wanted to keep you here, but you refused. How do you feel?”
“Well, I have this occasional pain in my stomach, but that cannot be compared to the pain in my heart.”
“Your heart? What is the problem?” The doctor brought out his notepad and pen. “You know you can tell me anything.”
“You can put your note and pen back. This isn’t something your medical knowledge can cure.”
“Is this about Charles?” Dr. Aluko knew his Patient and her family issues too well. “Did he refuse to be a donor?”
“Well, technically, yes.”
“What do you mean ‘technically’? You have told him, haven’t you?”
“I did tell him or tried to, but he stated clearly that he would not come down to Nigeria any time soon because of his business interests.” Lola’s hands shook slightly. “You will not even believe that he called my husband’s younger sister to come and take care of me in his stead. How thoughtless of him!”
“You are agitated, Mrs. Williams, and that is not good for your health. I have told you that you need to keep your calm always, especially at this time.”
“How can I keep my calm when my own flesh and blood is treating me as if I am nothing but a piece of bone?” The veins in Lola’s throat throbbed with pain. “To think he is all I have now is something that is even more hurting. I wish I had another child I could turn to right now.”
Dr. Aluko did not know how to respond. He could handle matters relating to physical health, but when it came to emotional health, he could hardly treat even himself. “I am sorry you feel that way, Mrs. Williams. But we cannot keep waiting for you and Charles to be on the same page. We have to look for an alternative. Don’t you have anyone else?”
Lola quickly cleaned off the tears at the corners of her eyes. “That is why I am here, Doctor. To ask you if there is anybody you can recommend. I am ready to pay any amount to this person.”
Dr. Aluko was taken aback. He had not expected that. “Unfortunately, I cannot do that. The donor must be someone close to you because your antigens need to match, or else it will be very risky. Getting a commercial donor is difficult and against my professional ethics.”
Lola sank lower into the seat. “That means I am going to die then.”
“You will not. Can’t you think of another person in your family or your husband’s?
“Don’t you get it, Doctor? I have kept this as a secret from everyone. Once they hear of this ailment, a tussle will begin for the inheritance my husband and I have sweated all our lives for. Do you know the problems I faced from my in-laws after Tobi died, especially when they learnt he willed everything to me? No, telling them is not going to happen.”
“So there is not one of them you can trust?”
“No.” Her response was curt. There was no way she would go through the trauma she went through after Tobi’s death. This was why she had distanced herself from her in-laws. They had always been trouble.
Doctor Aluko did not know what to do. He sighed deeply. “Okay. I will get across to my contacts and see if we can find a couple of people that can donate. Hopefully, we can get one who will be compatible.”
“That would be fantastic, Doctor. I suggest you do that on time, now that I am ready to do the surgery before I change my mind. I don’t even mind having to fly to India even if I have to throw up all the way. And I also hope there will be no heart attack this time.”
The doctor smiled assuredly. “Don’t worry. You will be fine. The surgery is also very easy to perform.”
Lola stood up to leave, feeling a whole lot better. “Thank you, Doctor. At least I know there is still hope for me, even if it does not come through my son.”
“I trust you are using your medications well.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Good. Once I get any info, I will let you know.”
“Thank you, Doctor. You have been more than a Doctor to me. You are also a friend and lifesaver. Thank you so much.”
Doctor Aluko smiled. “And the pleasure is mine.”
As soon she stepped out of the office, Lola felt a surge of elation pass through her. No hope was lost after all. God would provide a way for her, even if it was through a total stranger and not her son. He would not leave her to die. She walked out of the hospital and towards her car full of hope and faith than she had ever had in recent times.
“How the meeting go, Madam?” Emeka asked as he opened the door of the car for her.
“It went very well, Emeka. Thank you.” Lola replied sweetly.
Emeka smiled in response and when he got inside the car, he asked. “Na house we dey go so?”
“No. Not yet. We have just one more place to visit. My lawyer is expecting me at 5.30pm and I do not want to be late.”
“No problem, Madam. We go reach there now now.”
“Just don’t speed too much.” Lola settled comfortably into the seat with a smile on her face.
Things were taking shape little by little. She would get a compatible donor and have the transplant done in no time. No one would even know. Her phone rang and she smiled when she saw who it was.
“Hello, Bola. How are you doing? Hope you are resting well.” She listened to her caller and then she laughed hard. “No, not at all. I am fine too and will be home soon.” She listened again. “I am not sure but I don’t think I will make it back before 9.00pm. I am on my way for a business meeting now, so don’t worry if you cannot wait up for me. You can go to sleep if I don’t come back early.” She grinned. “Thank you for checking up on me. That’s thoughtful of you. Bye for now.” She cut the phone, the smile not leaving her face. “Isn’t she a nice girl?” She asked Emeka.
“Who?” Emeka asked, not sure who she was referring to.
“Bola. The girl I brought home from the hospital.”
“She dey rude before but e be like say she don change.”
“Yes, she has. All she needed was to be put in the right direction. I have plans for her and can’t wait to share it with her when I get home.” The excitement in Lola rose even higher as she pictured the joy on Bola’s face when she gives the young girl the news. But first, she needed to see her lawyer and put all legal things in place. It was time she started that Foundation she had always wanted, her vision of taking poor girls out of the slum and placing them on their feet, giving them a chance at fulfilling their dreams by placing them on life-time education scholarships. And Bola would be the first recipient of that. How more exciting could that be?
8.00pm – Lola Williams’ House
Bola was very tense. She did not know why the people in the house had refused to have an early night today of all days. Even Dupe, who was always busy, had been sitting in front of the television for hours as if she had nothing else to do. ‘Madam’ was not around so everyone was in a relaxed mood. Only Bola wasn’t. She needed everyone to retire early, but it did not look like it would happen soon.
After the scary call from ‘Chairman’ this afternoon, Bola had thought of finding a way out of the dilemma she had been put, but there was none. And she was getting really frightened. Time was running out on her. She had been given twenty four hours to do what her father’s captors demanded or he would be killed. As much as she did not like Baba, she was not ready to lose him. Excluding little Tomiwa, he was all the family she has got.
Chairman’s demand was simple. Get some costly jewelry out of the house and bring it to him at an undisclosed location tomorrow morning. He would call her to finalise where in the morning. And she had been strictly warned not to tell anyone or else she would lose her father. She did not have a choice. She knew Mrs. Williams would have some very expensive jewelry, considering the ones the woman had been wearing all these times. There were some Bola was sure would cost a lot of money. Perhaps if she could secretly lay her hands on them, she would be early enough to save her father’s life. But was she ready to betray the very person who had shown her kindness and given her life some value? What if she confided in the woman? She doubted Mrs. Williams would want to part with any of her jewelry. Plus, she did not want to involve the old woman more into this mess. Already, her residing in the house was causing trouble and who knew what more would come after this. One thing was certain, if she was able to get some of those jewelry, there would be no coming back into the house. She would have to kiss this life goodbye and run away as far as she could. And what about Tomiwa? Would she want to take him back into the dirty life they once lived? She shook her head. No, she would leave him here. This was the life she had promised to give him. And she had fulfilled her promise. He would have a good life, get the best education, grow up to be an accomplished man she would be proud of. And she? Well, she might keep running all the days of her life. She did not have a choice. She had to save Baba. He was family.
Her eyes strayed to the corridor behind them where the master bedroom was located. She wished everyone would just stand up and go to sleep, so she could gain access into that room. She glanced at the wall clock. Mrs. Williams had said she would not make it before 9.00pm, leaving a grace period of less than an hour for Bola to make the move.
“Is nobody feeling sleepy?” She yawned in pretence. “I am. We should all go and sleep. Plus Mrs. Williams must not meet you sitting in front of the TV, doing nothing.” She faced Dupe and two other workers. “You know she doesn’t like idleness.”
“You are right.” Dupe replied before turning to the others. “Madam must not see us sitting us like this o!”
“And she can come in any moment from now.” Bola quickly added. She stood up with the help of her crutches and walked towards the television, switching it off before anyone could object.
Everyone stood up hastily and said their goodbyes as they left the main house to the boys’ quarters.
“Are you not going to sleep too, Aunty Bola?” Tomiwa asked his sister as he fought to keep sleep away from his eyes.
“I will lie down here and wait for her to come before I go to sleep. You just go and sleep. I will come and meet you soon.”
“Okay.” Tomiwa rubbed his sleepy eyes as he walked towards their bedroom.
Bola laid on the sofa, waiting patiently for silence to take over the house. Once everywhere became quiet, she got out of the sofa stealthily like a cat and headed straight for the room where what she wanted laid. She was worried about one thing, though. What if Mrs. Williams had locked the door? Still, there was no harm in trying. If she did, Bola would have to devise another means.
She walked silently along the corridor to the bedroom door. She had never been to this side of the house and was a bit scared. When she got to the door, she cautiously placed her hand on the handle and tried to open the door. To her surprise, the door opened without any resistance, as if it had been waiting for her. This was too easy, Bola thought. Guilt started eating into her mind, but she waved it off. This was for Baba. She either did this or risk losing him. She doubted if she would be able to live with the guilt of his death if she failed this mission.
Once inside the room, Bola stood still for several seconds after she put on the light, amazed at how beautiful the room was. She had never been into a more spacious, more elegant bedroom. The gigantic bed which was in the middle was surrounded by art works and the marbled floor sparkled against the cream wall. On the wall laid portraits of Mrs. Williams and her husband. One of them was a picture of the couple playing in the beach when they were much younger with Mrs. Williams looking vibrant and very much in love. Concentrate, Bola! She chided herself. This was no time to get carried away by photos. You are here for expensive jewelry, not useless photos.
Bola headed straight to the big three-drawer mini-cupboard below a giant mirror by the bed. She was sure she would find what she wanted there. And when she opened the first drawer, she was right. The amount of Jewelry there was something she had never seen before. And they all sparkled and looked beautiful. Bola became confused. She did not know which to pick. Truth was the jewelry was so much that she was sure Mrs. Williams would not notice if anything got missing. Why would she keep so much jewelry in the house without locking her door? Did she trust her house-helps enough not to steal from her? What kind of silly trust was that?
She picked up one long neck chain and chuckled at how it sparkled in the light. So this was what it looked like to be rich? To have so many accessories and not be able to wear some of them in your lifetime. She dug her hand further into the drawer and her hand hit something hard at the bottom. When she searched for it and brought it out, she was shocked at what she saw. It was a wedding ring that had little diamond crusts around it and with a sparkling one at the top. This would definitely cost a lot of money. Bola could hardly breathe at her discovery. The fact that it was below the heap of jewelry showed Mrs. Williams did not need it and might not even notice its absence. How perfect!
But this is wrong, Bola! You shouldn’t do this.
I don’t have a choice.
You do. You can choose to confide in Mrs. Williams.
If I do, Baba will be killed. I cannot risk that. It’s just a ring that she doesn’t wear anymore. At least, I am not harming her.
You are stealing from her and betraying her. That is harm enough.
Bola shut her eyes against the guilt crawling up her skin. She was betraying the woman who had sacrificed a lot for her, throwing her only chance at a good life into the wind. She slid the ring into her finger and it fit perfectly as if it belonged to her. Bola wondered if she would ever get anything this lovely and expensive as a wedding ring. Or if she would ever get a ring at all. This ring could be Mrs. Williams’ most treasured item. This was a mistake. She shouldn’t be doing this.
Your father will die if you don’t.
But it is wrong. I cannot steal from her.
Mtschew! Like she will know. Look at the amount of jewelry she has. She will never realize the ring is missing.
But it is her wedding ring.
And it is your father’s life at stake. Can you live with the thought that you could have saved him but you did not? That it was your negligence that killed him?
No, I cannot allow Baba die because of me. She hid the ring in her pocket and carefully sneaked out of the room. As she quietly closed the door after her, she sighed sorrowfully. The deed was done and there was no turning back.
George rolled from one edge of the bed to the other in agitation. Today had not gone too well for him. He had woken up with a slight headache, had hit another car on his way to work, had received written query from the Director when he arrived later than usual, had failed to submit the proposal that was long overdue and received another query for that, but top of all, had been bugged relentlessly by annoying phone calls from his mother-in-law. It was as if the more he was determined not to pick her calls, the more resilient she was to talk to him. It was not like he did not want to talk to her, he just did not know how to start explaining where things went wrong. The fact was things went wrong from the beginning, from the moment he refused to tell his wife the truth about himself. And it kept getting worse with every passing day of silence.
His phone rang again and he grumbled when he saw it was the same person calling. Maybe he should just pick the call so she could let him be. He picked the call. “Good evening, ma.”
“George, why are you doing this to me?” Mama headed straight into the hard talk. “What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment you are giving my daughter?”
“Mama, if you can just listen to me…”
“You sent her packing out of her matrimonial home because of something that is no fault of hers.” Mrs. Adesuwa spoke amidst tears.
That caught George’s attention and he sat up in bed. “What do you mean?” Did she know about his problem?
“You brought another woman into the home my daughter built with her life all these years. Tell me, George, is that fair? All because she could not bear you children.”
“I made a mistake, no doubt, and I have rectified it. I sent the woman packing out of my house and wanted Pauline back.” George replied, the hurt boiling in his heart. “Only for me to get to the hospital, thinking I could beg my wife to come back, just to find her all cuddled up in the arms of another man.”
“Another man?” Mrs. Adesuwa sounded lost. “Which man?”
“Oh! I see she hasn’t told you of her new boyfriend.”
“Pauline has been dedicated to you all her life. She would never cheat on you.”
“You think so?” George scorned bitterly. “Why don’t you go ask her yourself? Of course, she may lie to you the way she has been lying to me.”
“I know my girl. She can never do such a thing. She can be stubborn sometimes, but she will never cheat on you. It was you who cheated on her by bringing another woman into your house.” Mrs. Adesuwa was insistent. “And you should come over to my place to apologise to her right away.”
George gave a mocking chortle. “Apologise fire! I am not coming down to Abeokuta to settle issues between myself and her in her parent’s house. No way! Tell your daughter to come back to Lagos and we shall settle things under my own roof.”
“It may not be as easy as you make it sound.”
“What do you mean?”
“I heard her talking over the phone to a lawyer. She was asking about the divorce process, George. Pauline is really frustrated right now and when she is like this, she takes some foolish steps. This is why I have been calling you. To try to convince you to come down so we can settle this issue once and for all.”
“Ehn…. So she is working on getting a divorce?” George felt some sourness on his tongue. “She can go ahead. Our marriage was a mistake from the start anyway. I should not have married her. I made the greatest mistake of my life eight years ago when I took her to the altar.”
“Don’t say that…”
“I will say it over and over again. She did not love me at all. She was only pretending. That is why she has been making sure she does not get pregnant.”
“Ha! George, don’t say that. My daughter really wants to be pregnant, to build a family with you. But…” Her voice trailed away. “Never mind.”
“But what?” George jumped off his bed. “Is there something I should know?”
Mrs. Adesuwa sighed sadly and her voice went a notch lower. “There is something you should know George, something that happened to your wife some years back.” She sniffed as sorrow overwhelmed her. “Promise me you will never tell her I told you. But I just feel that as her husband, you have every right to know and I hope this will make you change your mind about the whole thing and come for your wife.”
It was moments like this that made George uncomfortable. He had a gut feeling he would not like what she was about to tell him. “I am listening.”
For the next five minutes, George listened to the terrifying trauma that happened to Pauline nine years ago and with every word, his heart sank deeper. Why didn’t she ever tell him about this? To think that they lived as husband and wife for eight years and she kept such a deep secret from him? Knowing this before now would have changed everything… How was she able to live with such pain without letting him be a part of it? He could hardly blame her because he, himself, was guilty of same. He had never told his wife that he would never be able to have children either, that his sperm count was so low that the doctor had said only a miracle could change that. And he had got married, hoping the miracle would happen. He had got married sterile to a woman who would never be able to bear children, which was no fault of hers. Why had they not been truthful to each other from the start? Being sincere and open would have rid them of all the years of pain and rejection they had suffered together. What a loss!
“So that is why she cannot give birth.” Mrs. Adesuwa concluded amidst tears. “My daughter lost her womb to that incident.”
“Who are you talking to, Mama?”
Mrs. Adesuwa turned slowly to see her daughter standing behind her in the shadows of the late evening.
“Who are you talking to about me?” Pauline asked in anger, fear clear on her face. “Is it George you are talking with? Have you spilled my life to him?”
Mrs. Adesuwa tried to hold her daughter. “Pauline, it is not what you think.”
“Did you tell him I cannot bear children, that my womb is destroyed and that is why he doesn’t have a child?” Pauline stepped back in fury and scared she could do something really bad to her mother. “Did you tell him what happened to me that fateful night and does he hate me more now more than ever?” She burst into uncontrollable tears as she turned and walked away.
“Pauline, wait!” Her mother ran after her.
“Leave me alone!” Pauline cried out. “You have hurt me greatly, Mama, and right now, I really don’t know the difference between you and George. I don’t ever want to see the both of you again!” She stormed back into the house.
“What is happening here?” Her father stood in the door way, wondering what the noise was all about.
Pauline ran past him without saying a word. When he saw his wife and the phone in her hand, he took a guess. “You have spilled the beans to her husband, haven’t you?”
His wife looked like she had just been caught stealing.
He condemned her outright. “You this woman! Didn’t I tell you to leave them alone? But your chatty mouth will not. Now you have destroyed everything. Now hand over that phone to me!”
His wife took some steps towards him and handed over the phone without objection.
He took a look at the phone and found out the ongoing call was still on. “Hello, George. Are you there?”
A disenchanted George spoke into the phone. “Yes… Yes sir.”
“I don’t have much to say to you as I see that my wife has done that for me. But this I have to say to you. Stop being wimpy and be a man. Whatever happens after now is in your court. If you love your wife in spite of what you have been told, then come and get her. If not, then stay away, but I promise you that if any further hurt comes to my daughter, this earth will not be able to contain you and I.” He cut the call.
George trembled intensely as he ruminated over what just happened. He fell on the bed and took deep breaths. He knew what to do. First thing tomorrow, he would travel to Abeokuta. He would bring his wife back home and they would talk. They would talk and be open to each other for once in their marriage. And they would start again. Things would take a new turn. They would try to build what they had crashed. Together. As it should have been from the beginning.