STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola 

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Hi everyone, hope your day is going well. N.B: I want to know your thoughts on the ongoing series. Some dear readers messaged me privately,📲💭 stating that the ongoing series is highly  ’emotion draining’😨😧, some asked me to put in ‘more happy moments’😑… I would like to reiterate that this is a true life story, so cannot really be manipulated by my ‘magical pen’ ✒ . I am retelling a story written by life itself, so it can’t be like any of my past stories. So, I leave you guys to decide. Do we continue or discontinue Starless Nights? It’s up to you. Comment your choice and suggestions in the comments’ section, your comment counts. I won’t  leave you hanging though, here is episode 4.

Dear Ghostreaders 😒😡, my search light would locate you soon. 🔦 🔦 

Episode 4

Bola stood at the door of the hospital ward as tears streamed down her face. Her lips shook wildly and she made no effort to stop the tears flowing down her cheeks. She walked slowly into the room, staring at the hospital bed, just a few steps away. Her bloodshot eyes were blind to the two other occupants of the room, as she walked like a zombie towards the bed that held her interest. She got to the bed and stared through streaming eyes at the frail form of her son lying on the bed, unconscious. She ran her eyes over his pale innocent face as tears made a fast trek down her hot cheeks. No! She couldn’t accept this. Never in her wildest dreams and nightmares did she even imagine that her son would be a candidate of an hospital ward, looking like a complete shadow of himself. Leukemia… Cancer of the blood… The doctor’s words echoed in her ears, causing her chest to squeeze painfully until she was sure she could hardly breathe.

Bola took a deep breath and eased herself onto the bed beside Timothy, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest. She lightly ran her hand over his short hair as tear drops fell onto the top of her blouse. “Mummy is here” she said in uneven broken voice as her lips shook from the force of holding her tears back. “Mummy is here now, my son”. She bent and kissed the top of Timothy’s head lingeringly, her tears disappearing into his hair.

Bola straightened and wiped at her tears. “Nothing… nothing would happen to you, Timothy” she murmured as she stared at Timothy’s face. “I promise”. Her lips shook as despite her struggle, tears ran down her eyes again. “I promise you, my son” she cried, running her shaking fingers around Timothy’s hair.

Footsteps approached and Bola lifted her eyes to George. He looked completely shattered, looking every bit his age and more. Lines of worry and beads of perspiration shone on his forehead and his lips were tightly drawn against his teeth. Bola had left George with the doctor when she hadn’t been able to stand what he was saying anymore. She realized now that she shouldn’t have. George looked on the verge of tears and the only thing that kept him hanging there was probably his fierce male pride.

“George” she cried as she stood and held on to him like her life depended on it. She cried onto his chest as her tears created a damp patch on her husband’s shirt. “Oh George…”

“Shhhhhh” George held Bola so close, they could hardly draw a descent breath. Pain tore at his heart as he held his crying wife in his arms staring at his son, lying on the bed. It was all he could do not to burst into tears. “Hush now” he murmured into Bola’s hair, feeling the dampness of his shirt seer the shattered pieces of his heart. He could not accept it! He would not accept it.

George stared hard at Timothy. He knew just what cancer was and knew without a doubt that the survival rate was incredibly slim. But he could not accept it. His son couldn’t have leukemia. He couldn’t open his eyes wide and watch while his first fruit faded before his very eyes. Tears burned at the back of his eyes as he stared at Timothy’s pale body. He blinked back his tears furiously as his arms tightened around Bola.

“That report is a lie” Bola muttered amidst tears. “My son cannot have cancer. I refuse to believe it”

George swallowed and pulled back enough to look into Bola’s eyes. He didn’t disprove or approve her claim because he had the strong feeling that the report was accurate. “Everything would be fine. I promise”

Bola blinked, sending the tears on her lashes flowing down. “I’m afraid this is a promise you won’t be able to keep, George” her lips shook. “Nothing would be okay from now onwards”

George swallowed. “Don’t say that, Bola. Everything is possible with God, if I have to climb every mountain in this country to pray for my son, I will. Timothy would be fine”

Bola stared at George and nodded. She swallowed as he wiped at her face. Bola turned back and sat on the bed, watching Timothy like a hawk.

“The doctor said we can take Timothy home tonight and bring him back in two days.” George said.

Bola turned. “How are we going to do that? If Timothy would be admitted here, what about the children? This place is too far from home, the car has been at the mechanics for weeks with no money to repair it.” Bola continued blabbing as thoughts kept pouring in her head, making their situation more precarious. Worry took over her features. “How would we foot the hospital bills, George? I’ve spent almost all my capital on drugs. My God, what are we going to do?”

George swallowed, taking a deep breath. “I’ll take care of it.”

*****

Loveth watched her siblings play in the veranda of Aunty Elizabeth’s apartment. It seemed a century ago since she saw the bit of excitement. Loveth smiled, feeling like a child again, for the first time in days. She was so young but felt so old already. She had always loved to be called a big girl. She hated being called a child that she wanted to grow up so bad. She wanted to do the things adults did, feel what adults feel. But now, she wasn’t sure anymore…

She had seen the pain in her parents’ eyes, seen their excessive worry over Timothy, she had seen tears on her mother’s cheeks when she thought no one was looking. If that’s what it took to be an adult, Loveth didn’t think she wanted to grow up just yet. If only she could play like a kid again… If only she could be as naive as her younger ones, maybe she wouldn’t worry so much about Timothy.

Something crossed Loveth’s mind and she straightened, jumping to her feet instantly as she walked into the house. the tension at home had been so much the past few days, Loveth wanted to do something to alleviate it, and if what she had in mind worked, she was sure they would be little laughter in the house today. She had told Timothy that she would cook rice and beans, he would be in for a good surprise when he arrives, Loveth thought, smiling to herself.

“Finally, you are smiling”

Elizabeth approached Loveth with a smile. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going home”

Elizabeth frowned. “To do what?”

“I want to cook” Loveth grinned, looking all confident.

Elizabeth chuckled. “You… Cook” she shook her head. “can you cook? Can you even light a stone to boil water? ”

“Ahan, Yes now” Loveth lied. “I can cook very well. I can cook rice”

“Ehen” Lizzy folded her hands beneath her bosom. “So what do you want to cook now?”

Loveth could see that Lizzy was making fun of her but she didn’t care. She was so excited, thinking of the expression on her brother and parents’ face when they discovered she made their meal. “Rice and beans”

“Together?” Loveth nodded. “Sounds delicious already. Unfortunately, I can’t let you do this. What if you burn the house down or hurt yourself. No. You are too small to cook”

Loveth looked crestfallen. “No, but I can” she whined. “I told T.boy that I would make rice and beans but he said I couldn’t. I want to prove him wrong… and it would make him laugh”

Elizabeth stared at Loveth as her face took on that sober pout that always won her over.

“You can come watch me if you want, but…” she raised her finger in warning. “…don’t tell me what to do” she grinned. “I want to cook the food myself”

Elizabeth shook her head in wonder and laughed. “Okay, you win”

“Yes” Loveth hopped excitedly and Lizzy was glad she agreed to it. It had been a while she saw the child in Loveth. It was a relief to see.

“You be careful, okay?” she warned sternly and Loveth made a cross over her heart. “Go on now. Be careful putting on the stove, okay. I’ll watch your siblings for a while then come check on you. Dont add too much salt”

Loveth skipped out of the house and down the stairs, wearing a king-sized smile. She was as excited as a child who just got her first gift. She yanked open the door to their apartment and skipped all the way to the kitchen. “Rice and beans” she muttered to herself. Now that she was in the kitchen, she felt completely clueless. But nothing ever stopped her from achieving her goal, it wasn’t about to start now.

Bringing out the pot, she rinsed and set it aside. Filled the pot halfway with clean water, lit the stove and put the pot on it. Loveth stared at the pot on fire, wondering what would go in first. Would she put the rice and beans together at once? No. She vaguely knew that her mum always put one before the other. She smiled. “Rice and beans” Loveth muttered as she brought out the rice. She took a sizeable amount, washed it and poured it in the pot. She poured beans onto a flat tray and settled down to pick it. When I’m done picking out the dirt, the rice would be soft, so I can put the beans, Loveth said to herself, smiling happily. She pictures Timothy’s face and wished he would get back faster. Today, he would eat rice and beans made by me. Loveth grinned excitedly.

*****

Bola hugged her children so tight, she wanted to infuse them into herself. She wanted their distinct childlike scent to wash away her fears, wash away the awful news she got today. It was very dark when they arrived home and nothing gave her more joy than seeing her children, alive and well. She put a strained smile on her face for the sake of the children. They shouldn’t see her sad, they shouldn’t know that something was gravely wrong – especially Timothy. He couldn’t know; Bola couldn’t bear the thought of telling him he had cancer.

Timothy sat with them now, beside George in the sitting room as Loveth hopped beside him, wearing a suspiciously wide grin as she talked endlessly to Tim. Timothy smiled and answered Loveth’s numerous questions. Bola squatted before her children, inspecting them much more than she usually did. She couldn’t help it. “How are you? Did you enjoy yourselves at Aunty Lizzy’s place today?”

Tessy and Jerry bobbed their heads. “Yes mummy, we ate spaghetti and fish” Tessy said.

Bola smiled. She didn’t think she would be able to thank Elizabeth enough for taking care of her children in her absence. “Did you now? It was sweet, right?” They nodded.

Tessy turned suddenly with a big smile. “Loveth cooked rice and beans”

“What?” George and Bola echoed as their eyes flashed to Loveth.

“You didn’t” Timothy muttered, his eyes wide.

“I did” Loveth grinned at him.

“When did she start cooking?” George asked Bola, looking astounded.

Loveth looked at the priceless expression on Tim’s face and grinned so widely, her mouth engulfed her entire face. She gave him the ‘I-told-you-I-would-do-it’ look.

“You cooked rice and beans” he echoed, looking bewildered.

“Yes, I made dinner” Loveth had never been more proud in her life.

Bola sat on the edge of her seat. “Would you stop smiling, young lady? Who asked you to cook anything? Did you tell Aunty Lizzy before doing this?”

“Yes, and she let me”

For the first time since they arrived, George was smiling mischievously. Loveth surely took that trait from him. Bola couldn’t see what George was smiling about. What if Loveth had hurt herself with her little cooking experiment? God knew she couldn’t stand any more source of worry. “Tell me, lady chef, how did you cook it?” George asked.

Loveth looked uncertain now, as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “I put the rice on fire. When the rice was soft, I put beans. I put salt, oil, pepper, crayfish and Maggi. I did not know how many Maggi I should put but I put four” she stared at their faces, trying to justify herself. “The food is very sweet ooo…” she pointed out and blinked, looking at her fingers as her shoulders fell, “…but, the beans is not very soft”.

The was a brief silence, then everyone busted into laughter. Loveth didn’t like that one bit that they were making jest of her ‘hard work’ but she never felt happier. Timothy and her parents was laughing so hard. It had been such a long time since she saw that.

“Of course, the beans can’t be soft.” Bola muttered laughing. “You should have cooked the beans first”

It was the same thing Aunty Lizzy had said. Loveth sighed in defeat. “I thought, since it is ‘rice and beans’, I would cook the rice first.” she explained.

George shook his head with a smile. “You are something else” he muttered with a grin. He adjusted on his seat. “Oh well, I am very hungry now. Why don’t you serve us this delicacy, Loveth”

Loveth smiled widely, flashing her tiny white teeth as she stared at Timothy with a victorious look on her face. Timothy shook his head, unable to stop himself from smiling as Loveth marched into the kitchen with her shoulders high.

Starless Nights 

STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 3

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Episode 3

Bola wiped the tears that rolled down her cheek with her left hand as she bit hard on her shaking lips, almost drawing blood. She was on pins and needles, there at the waiting room of a family friend’s hospital, waiting for word on her son’s state. Bola wiped at her cheeks again as she stood up from the stiff hospital bench for the umpteenth time, feeling restless. She could hear the wild beating of her heart, she could see nothing but the tears that clouded her eyes; but when her gaze became clearer, all she could see was the image of her son lying painfully lifeless in her arms.

Bola blinked, allowing her tears to flow down her cheeks as she stared at the door ahead again, expecting the doctor to come through it but no one came. The scanty people sitting around the waiting room watched her with a sympathetic look on their faces, almost like they had already sentenced her son in their minds. Bola swallowed.

The hospital door flew open and George came charging through like a man going to war. Slight relief washed over Bola as she rushed into his arms. “Oh George…” she cried into his chest as he held her close. She had never been more happy to see him in all their years of marriage. She wanted his reassurance, the reassurance that everything would be okay… that she had nothing to worry about.

“I got here as fast as I could” George pulled away slightly as he looked straight into her eyes. “What’s going on? What is the doctor saying? Is Timothy okay?”

“I don’t know” Bola wailed, throwing her hands in frustration as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. “I… I have not heard anything… nothing” her voice shook furiously.

George charged forward, covering the distance between him and the nurse’s stand with his long strides. “Nurse” he called, facing the two nurses. He definitely knew them because he had visited the hospital several times, but now, he couldn’t even remember their names. “My son, how is he?”

One of the nurses smiled softly at George. “The doctor is with him now, I’m sure he is fine”

Her smile irritated him. How could anyone smile at a time like this? “Well, I need to know for sure how he is doing, I don’t want your speculation. Can we see him or the doctor at least?” He asked impatiently.

The other nurse took over with a sharp look. “Sorry Mr Rogers, we can’t let you in. And I must say, disturbing the doctor now wouldn’t do anything to help your son. Please be patient, sir”

George scratched his head nervously as he turned to his wife. His loss of control had only helped to increase Bola’s pensive state, but what could he do? A neighbour had rushed over to his office to tell him his first son had been rushed to the hospital. He had never been more rattled in his life. And now, his nerves were all over the place; how was he supposed to comfort Bola? He could see the shape of her teeth branded on her lower lip from excessive biting as she stared at him, hoping from one leg to the other. “What is going on, George”

“Please calm down, Bola” he murmured.

“Don’t tell me to calm down.” Bola snapped. “I was the one who had to bring Timothy here, unconscious. I called him and he did not answer… He didn’t answer me, George. He laid limp in my arms” she bursted out, sobbing. She blinked. “He looked…” she couldn’t finish it. “I… I am scared George” her voice shook as her face streamed with tears. “I am so scared”

George sighed as he pulled her into his arms. “Come here” he ran his fingers over her short hair. “Everything would be fine. Timothy would be fine.”

Bola nodded against his chest several times, wanting to believe those words. Hoping against hope that George was right. “The kids?” he asked. It was already dark outside.

“They are with Elizabeth” she answered. Lizzy was their neighbour. While they stayed downstairs, Lizzy and her husband occupied the apartment directly above theirs. There were two other co-tenants in the four flats compound but Lizzy was by far the nicest and most trustworthy. A pity that the couple were still childless after many years of marriage.

Bola spotted the doctor and flew out of George’s hands instantly.

“Doctor… Doctor” she rushed as they got to the doctor in no time. “Timothy, how is he? How is my son?”

The doctor smiled gently. “He is fine, don’t worry”

Bola sagged with relief and closed her eyes briefly. “Thank you God! Thank you!” George let out a relieved sigh, holding Bola firmly to his side. “Can I see him now?” Bola asked anxiously.

Doctor Gbola nodded slowly. “he is asleep now but you can see him. I’m sure he would be awake soon” he motioned towards a nurse and gave her some instructions. “Follow her” he finally said to Bola. Without batting an eye, Bola fell in stride with the nurse.

“I’d join you soon” George called after her. He stared at the doctor, knowing undoubtedly that there was more, he was just not sure he wanted to hear it. “Gbola, what’s wrong with Timothy?”

Doctor Gbola sighed and turned in the direction of his office. “Come with me”

*****

Loveth stared at her siblings and wondered how they could be so daft. They were both watching cartoon on the TV like nothing just happened some hours ago. Aunty Elizabeth had been able to talk Tessy and Jerry into believing that Timothy was just fine, that he was only acting drama earlier, when he fell down, gasping in pain. Of course, Loveth hadn’t believed a word she said. She might be a little girl but she surely wasn’t dumb.

Loveth walked to the veranda and looked down. Their apartment was still dark, the lights were still out, her parents and brother were not home yet. She wondered what was taking them so long… wondered if Tim was okay… What if something bad had happened? What if?

Loveth hugged her small frame as cold chill brought goosebumps to her skin. She heard footsteps and turned.

“Loveth” Aunty Elizabeth approached and bent fractionally to talk to her. “Why don’t you come and sleep with your siblings? They are dozing off already” she said softly.

Loveth nodded. “I am waiting for Tim”

Elizabeth sighed and squatted. “You didn’t believe that story I framed up, did you”

Loveth shrugged her tiny shoulder and Elizabeth smiled. She didn’t think Loveth would be that easily fooled. She was too bright and way too mature for that. Elizabeth put her hands on Loveth’s shoulders and pulled her closer. “But do you believe me when I say your brother is fine?”

Loveth blinked. “How do you know?”

Elizabeth smiled carefully. “Because I also fainted once before, like your brother. I am fine now, right?”

“But he was just lying there, he did not say anything even when mummy shook him several times”

Elizabeth saw the small girl fight the tears that came to her eyes and almost broke down in tears. Such strength in someone so small! For her sake, Lizzy kept her face straight. “I know my dear. But I promise he is fine. Timothy is a strong boy, right?” Loveth nodded “Good. Now, I want you to come in now and sleep, okay? You’ll see that when you wake, your brother would be back and bouncing”

A tiny ray of hope glittered in the girl’s eye. “Are you sure, aunty Lizzy?”

Elizabeth grinned. “Very sure” she stood and put her arm around Loveth, “Come on” she said, walking with her back into the sitting room.

*****

“What do you mean, Gbolahan?” George asked with a frown. “Surely, you must have detected something. Typhoid fever or something…”

Doctor Gbola sighed. “Well, I did everything I could, ran series of tests but we couldn’t diagnose the real cause of Timothy’s breakdown. I suspect it is a reaction to stress or sleeping pattern, but that shouldn’t have elicited such level of pain. You know this is a small hospital, I think you may have to take him to a bigger hospital, preferably a government hospital, since they have several machines at their disposal.” he paused slightly as George shifted in his chair. “But that may not be necessary. I’ll prescribe some drugs. If he improves after using the drugs, then you have nothing to worry about.”

George took a deep breath and swallowed. “How much are we looking at?”

Doctor Gbola smiled. He had known George for a while and he was one of the pastors Gbola had come to respect. “The drugs are all you need to pay for. I’ll give you a note to give to the nurse, they’ll give you the drugs at cost price”

George let out a breath as a small smile crept up his face. “Thank you, Gbola. God bless you”

*****

Bola opened her eyes heavily, feeling extreme fatigue like she had been grinding pepper throughout the night. She blinked severally and suddenly jerked out of bed as something flashed through her mind. “Timothy” she murmured as she rushed to the bathroom to wash sleep off her face. They had arrived home really late the previous night, it had taken some time for Timothy to wake up at the hospital and he had fallen right back to sleep when they got home. George had carried the sleeping children from their neighbor’s place into their beds, and after much prodding, George had been able to lull her to sleep.

Bola pushed her legs into the first pair of slippers she sighted – her husband’s – and quickly exited the room. It was just the crack of dawn. The night’s darkness was yet to lift off the earth. Bola picked the lantern at the passage and turned it up, till the orange glow spread out optimally.

Noiselessly, she opened the door her son’s room and sighted him on the bed sleeping peacefully. For a moment, his lifeless form flashed through her mind, causing her heart to skip wildly. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards his bed and heaved a sigh when she saw the steady rise and fall of Tim’s chest.

Bola sat at the edge of the bed for God knows how long, deriving pleasure in watching her son sleep. He looked so innocent and peaceful. She couldn’t imagine life without him – without any of her kids. Bola ran her fingers gently through Timothy’s hair and bent fractionally to kiss the top of his head. “Be okay for me, T.boy” she whispered. “Be okay for mummy”

Bola felt eyes on her and turned to see George watching her carefully from the entrance. She was surprised to find the room bright, she didn’t know she had stayed so long there.

She stood up. “Good morning”

George walked into the room slowly. His eyes rested on Timothy as he put his hand slightly against his neck to feel his temperature. Satisfied, he drew to his full height and peered at Bola. “You’ve been crying again”

She shook her head.

He cupped her cheek, tracing a wet line with his finger. Bola swallowed, she had no idea that she had tears on her face. She bit her lip nervously, looking at her husband’s shirtless chest.

George tugged her lips free of her teeth and leaned in, kissing her gently. For a moment, Bola forgot everything as she leaned into George, allowing her hands and mouth drive away her fears. As George’s kisses grew deeper, Bola suddenly imagined her children walking in on this sight and nearly broke into laughter. It is not everyday you find a pastor kissing his wife so passionately; what a spectacle they’d make. 

George pulled back. “It’s a relief to finally see you smiling”

Bola blinked. “There hasn’t been much to smile about lately” she ran the tips of her fingers over his chest. “What… did the doctor say yesterday?” she hadn’t had the boldness to ask last night, partly because she was scared of what the response would be.

George was silent for a while. “We may have to… take Tim to general hospital for a checkup”

Bola stared.

“Mummy?” Bola spun like a top at the sound of Timothy’s voice. His eyes were open, peering at his parents with a blank look.

Bola was at his side in an instant, sitting beside him on the bed. “Timothy my son, how are you? Bawo ni? How do you feel now?”

“Sorry mummy” he murmured as his eyes sobered up. He looked at his dad. “Sorry daddy”

Bola and George glanced at each other in confusion. “Sorry for what, Tim?” George asked.

“For… making you worry so much yesterday”

Bola released the breath she was holding and kissed the top of Timothy’s head. “You have nothing to be sorry for, T.boy. How do you feel now?”

“Do you still feel pain with in your chest?” George added.

Timothy lowered his eyes. “A little” he said. “I just feel a little tired. It would go soon”

Bola nodded grimly.

*****

Days passed. Each day adding it’s own measure of worry. Timothy seemed to grow weaker by the day. Bola and George grew more restless. Dark circles formed under their eyes as they barely slept at night; they were either praying or checking up on Timothy repeatedly. Timothy’s siblings were always by his side and Loveth’s eyes were eagle sharp, looking out for even the slightest change. Happy times dropped, worry sheated their faces. The days became dark, the nights grew darker…

Four days later, Bola and George Rogers took Timothy to the General Hospital for a checkup. After series of tests, they were asked to come back in two days for the result. George had always preached on faith, preached against fear and anxiety, but now, as they walked into the General hospital, George was at his rope’s end. He felt like an overstretched rubber band, ready to snap.

George walked into the overcrowded waiting hall of the General hospital, holding Timothy’s left hand firmly while Bola held Timothy’s right hand. They approached the nurses at the reception. “Good afternoon. We need to see doctor Felix, we have an appointment for today” he said, pushing their hospital card forward.

The nurses barely spared them a glance. “You have to wait like everyone else. We would call you when it is your turn” one of the nurses answered drily.

Bola shook her head as they turned away from the nurses. They quickly spotted an empty bench and went for it before it was taken over by someone else. Different people with unknown illnesses roamed around and the unsmiling nurses seemed to care less whether the people lived or died. They screamed at whoever tried to disturb their peace, preferring to chat freely amongst themselves rather than do their jobs.

Timothy leaned his head against Bola’s shoulder and she turned instantly. She put the back of her palm against his neck and her eyes nearly popped in alarm. Timothy’s temperature had risen drastically and his skin was painfully pale. “Timothy” she called sharply. “Tim? Are you okay? How are you feeling?”

Timothy shook. “I’m feeling cold”

Bola moved his head onto her lap as George shrugged out of his jacket and covered Tim with it.

George jumped to his feet and headed straight for the counter where the nurses sat, chatting freely amongst themselves.

“Nurse” George called. “Please,
we need to see Doctor Felix now, my son is very ill”

A gum chewing nurse looked at him blankly. “Everyone here is very ill” she returned.

“I know but my son needs immediate attention” he almost yelled.

“Listen young man, if you cannot wait for your turn, I’ll ask security to throw you out of here and-”

“Nurse”

George turned and sighed gratefully immediately he saw Doctor Felix.

“Follow me” Doctor Felix said, looking at him.

George rushed off to where Bola was and lifted Timothy in his arms. Bola matched the strides of her husband, not letting go of Timothy’s hand for a second.

*****

“I’m afraid we would have to admit your son” Doctor Felix said as they sat in his office.

“God forbid” Bola said instantly. “What are you saying doctor?”

The doctor relaxed into his chair. “Your son would have to remain here in the hospital if you want him to live”

George grew pale as Bola jumped to her feet. The doctor shuffled through the documents on his table and pulled out a white sheet from a file. “This is the result of the test we carried out” he pushed the paper towards George who stared unseeing at the paper.

Doctor Felix sighed. “I’m sorry, but the test result reveals that your son has… Leukemia” he dropped.

George swallowed as he raised his eyes to the doctor. “What is that?” he managed.

The doctor took a deep breath. “Cancer of the blood”

Starless Nights

STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 2

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Tuesday is here, everyone. To those who missed the info, please be aware that this series would be posted once a week (Tuesdays) due to circumstances beyond my control. Please drop your comments and share. Love you all. 

EPISODE 2

One hour after closing time, Timothy wasn’t back yet. Bola was beside herself with worry. She couldn’t keep herself calm as she paced the small confines of her roadside shop. Bola rubbed one sweaty palm nervously against the other as her eyes remained glued to the road, scanning every commercial bus that rolled by for her son. He should be back by now!

Bola came out of her shop, avoiding the small puddle of water on the floor – an aftermath of the downpour of rain barely an hour ago – and walked a few steps to the shop directly beside hers to check the time for probably the hundredth time. “He is not back yet?” Mama Ngozi asked upon seeing her.

Bola swallowed, trying her best to keep calm. “No” she said stiffly, her eyes on every bus her eyes sighted.

“Calm down, I’m sure he would be here soon, besides, he is just an hour late” she pointed out. “Don’t kill yourself before he arrives”

And if he doesn’t arrive? Bola swallowed. She was torturing herself beyond necessary but she couldn’t help it. Timothy wasn’t usually this late. At most, he gets back thirty minutes after closing hour. She never should have allowed him to go to school, especially after what happened the previous night. Bola bit her lip nervously as she walked back to her shop.

A bus pulled to a stop and her eyes instantly snapped up, scanning every passenger that alighted for her son’s familiar figure. Once again, she was left with increased fear and frustration when the bus rolled away without her son in view. She contemplated going over to George’s office to tell him but she didn’t want to add to his worries, especially since she wasn’t even certain if anything was wrong. She could hear the fast beating of her heart, the screeching sounds of cars rolling past the road, and something else… The familiar sound of chattering children made her turn to see Loveth and her siblings approach the shop. She was happy to see them but that only further heightened her worry. Timothy always arrived before his siblings. Bola blinked back unshed tears and put a plastic smile on her face for her children as they drew up to the shop.

“Good afternoon ma” they greeted unanimously as they trodded into the shop.

Bola smiled tightly, responding to their greeting without the usual enthusiasm. “How was school?” she asked more out of necessity as she removed Jerry’s small schoolbag from the small of his back.

Loveth smirked. “We had a new comer in class today”

Bola could tell with that simple look in Loveth’s face that she doesn’t exactly like the development but she was too worried to indulge Loveth now.

“Where is T.boy?” Tessy asked.

Bola raised her eyes to scan the road again and nearly sagged with relief as she spotted Timothy afar off, walking towards the shop. She had never been more relieved in her life. She smiled genuinely, for the first time all afternoon. “That’s him coming” she pointed in the direction and Loveth took off instantly. Bola released a sigh of relief as she took an apple from the shed and sliced it in two for Jerry and Tessy who were already complaining of hunger. They were obviously eating into her capital but there was nothing she could do about that. She couldn’t keep her children hungry because she wouldn’t dare touch her capital, could she?

Timothy drew up to the shop and Bola was up in an instant. The relief she felt at having her son in one piece was unexplainable, but she still wanted to know why a commercial bus hadn’t dropped him off like it usually did.

“Good afternoon ma” Timothy greeted, prostrating to greet Bola.

Arms akimbo, Bola shook her head. “My God, Timothy, you’ve almost given me a heart attack. I thought something had happened to you. You’ve never been this late; what happened?” she queried without even answering his greeting. “Why didn’t a bus drop you off at this junction?”

Timothy blinked and looked at the wooden floor of the shop. “I… I didn’t take a bus”

Bola frowned, not understanding. “What do you mean by that?”

“I… trekked”

“You trekked?” Bola’s voice rang out. “From where? School?” Bola couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She knew the distance to his school and could not imagine any sane person walking that distance. “Did you lose your money?”

Tim shook his head.

Bola swallowed and lowered her voice. “Then, why did you trek, Tim?” his siblings stared silently at the unfolding drama.

“I…” Tim raised his eyes to his mother. “There is no money at home, so I thought I should… save the money for my transport so we can use it” he put his hand into his pocket and brought out forty Naira.

Bola stared at Timothy, shocked beyond reason. Timothy had always been the sweetest kid she had ever met – a blessing that she happened to be his mother – but never in her wildest imagination did she imagine that he would do something like this. Something so thoughtful… Bola blinked back tears as she leaned forward slightly, dropping to Timothy’s height. “You… you shouldn’t have, Tim” Bola’s voice broke as she put her hand gently on his cheek. “It is the duty of your Daddy and I to provide for you and your siblings, you never should have trekked that distance, especially after what happened last night…” Bola took a deep breath. “Promise me you won’t do that again” she said sternly, swallowing the lump that formed in her throat as she kept her tears at bay.

“I… I just wanted to help” Timothy mouthed quietly.

Bola nodded several times. She should be telling him just how wonderful a son he is but she was so overwhelmed with mixed feelings. Her children shouldn’t have to go through such hardship. She had envisaged a happy and stress-free life for her children; never did she imagine that her son would have to trek to school in a bid to save money. “You trekked to school in the morning; you must have arrived school late”

“They did not flog me” he answered.

“Oh, my son…” Bola pulled Timothy into a tight hug, holding on to him like she never wanted to let go. She sniffed and pulled back. “How is your chest now? Did you feel any pain? Anything?” she asked seriously.

“No. I am fine, mummy” Timothy grinned.

Bola sighed in relief. “Okay” she rose to her full height. For the first, she collected the money from Timothy, palming it with a tight smile on her face. She took her purse and went to Mummy Ngozi’s shop beside hers to buy some food items. Minutes later, she returned to the shop with rice and some ingredients. “You kids should go home now” she said, handing over the rice to Loveth. She faced Timothy. “Prepare jollof rice for you and your siblings”

“What of you and daddy?”

“Don’t worry about us, okay? Just make sure you all are satisfied” Bola answered.

Bola watched her children shrug on their school bags and walk out of the shop. At last, Bola allowed the tears hanging on her lashes to break free. She stared at the disappearing back of Timothy, wondering just what she had done to deserve such an amazing child.

*****

Timothy ignored the sting in his buttocks as he walked home with his siblings bouncing along. He was really happy with himself. He knew his mother hadn’t exactly praised him or endorsed what he did but he had glimpsed that happiness in her eyes. That look that said louder than words that she was proud of him. That was all that mattered. It more than made up for the lashes of cane he got for arriving school late. Seeing his siblings happy at the prospect of good food was all he needed. He truly felt like their big brother.

Tessy and Jerry went ahead, running at intervals, carefully avoiding the water puddles. “How was school, Love?” Timothy asked Loveth who walked quietly by his side. She wasn’t her usual chatty self.

“We had a new comer today” she stated.

“And?”

“The whole class likes her” she frowned.

“You don’t?”

Loveth twisted her mouth. “She answered so many questions today, even my teacher likes her already”

Timothy saw what the problem was and hid a smile. “She must be very brilliant. That means you would have to read a lot for your exams”

“I don’t read a lot but I always come first” she said proudly.

Timothy smiled. Loveth wasn’t exaggerating. Even without reading, she always came first. But he didn’t want her to rely on that so much. He didn’t think this ‘new comer’ was a threat to Loveth but she didn’t have to know that. “That was before this new comer arrived. You don’t want her topping you in class, do you?”

Loveth’s eyes flashed. “Never. I would read everyday. Lydia is not taking my first position from me”.

That was the fierce determination Timothy was hoping for. And knowing Loveth, this ‘Lydia’ wouldn’t have a prayer.

They walked into the house and Timothy soon started cooking. “When would you teach me how to cook?” Loveth asked as she watched her brother put ingredients in the pot of rice on fire.

“You are still too young for that” Timothy answered.

“I’m not young” Loveth said aggressively. “You are just four years older than me”

Timothy noticed her emphasis on ‘just’ and shook his head. “Well then, when you are four years older, you’d be allowed to cook”

Loveth smirked, her small mouth moving to the side. “I would make rice and beans all by myself, you’ll see”

Timothy noticed that determined glint in her eyes and frowned. “Don’t go doing something stupid now.”

Loveth kept mute as she stared longingly at the bubbling pot of rice. She could already perceive the aroma. “It has been so long we ate meat” she said absently.

Timothy glanced at his sister and saw the wishful look on her small eight years old face. Tessy and Jerry finally entered the kitchen and he knew without asking that the hunger was digging deep. Inspiration struck and his face lit up. “You know what? We would eat meat today”

“We would?” He watched the faces of his siblings lighten up and he felt like a giant.

Timothy glanced outside. “Yes” he added some water to the pot on fire and put the lid. “Follow me” he said and walked out with his siblings on his tail.

*****

As the day wore on, Bola forgot all about her fearful inclinations and unease, all she could think about was the wonder which was her son. She didn’t know what her life would be like, without her wonderful husband and exceptional children. Despite the hardships they had to face, her children were her joy and comfort.

She went to George’s office which was just a walking distance from her shop and thankfully, was able to get some money from him. She left him to finish up for the day, bought some foodstuffs which would last a few days and finally closed the shop for the day. It had been an exceptional day and she prayed nothing would turn this day sour.

*****
The sound of cutlery rang out as the four children devoured their meals of jollof rice and snails. It was the sweetest thing they had eaten in a long time. Timothy was so happy the idea of snails had popped into his head. They had all gone out, including Jerry, searching for snails in the compound. Thanks to the rain that fell during the day, they were able to find a good number of snails, though they were all small. Everyone seemed to forget about hunger as they worked together. It was the most fun thing they had done in a while.

After soaking the snails in hot water, they all – excluding Jerry – worked on the shells, removing the meat inside after Timothy had shown them how. Now eating the deep fried snails, it almost tasted better than any other they had ever eaten. Timothy made sure he reserved some food for his parents, despite what his mother had told him.

They were eating and chatting cheerfully amongst themselves when Timothy felt it again. His spoon dropped noisily from his fingers as mind-numbing pain struck is chest, sending him breathless.

Loveth glanced at her brother. “Tim?” she called. “What is it?” her hands grew cold as she saw the same look she had seen the previous day in her brother’s eye. “Tim?”

Timothy tried to shake his head in a bid to dismiss the worries of his siblings, but the pain was too much. His gaze grew blurry as sweats pebbled on his forehead. Loveth ran over to his side as Tessy and Jerry crowded around them. Loveth tried to rub Tim’s chest the way she had seen her dad do the previous day but it only seemed to get worse as Tim doubled over, falling off the chair onto the floor as pain engulfed him. Jerry and Tessy started crying as fear and confusion settled. “Sorry Tim” Tessy said, crying in confusion as Loveth remembered the balm of yesterday.

She ran in search of it, willing herself not to cry as tears clawed at her lids. “Let us go and call mummy” Tessy cried out as Loveth returned with the balm and started rubbing it on her brother’s chest, but it didn’t seem to be doing the magic it did the previous day. “Tim…” she called over and over again. She was scared of leaving him. Scared that if she left him alone, something bad would happen. Timothy seemed to be falling unconscious and the noise of her younger ones crying was making Loveth crazy.

Suddenly the front door opened and she flew up. “Mummy” she yelled.

Bola flew into the sitting room, flinging everything in her hands carelessly. “Tim” she yelled as she pushed his siblings out of the way, lifting her son in her arms. “Timothy…”

STARLESS NIGHTS