Laura hugged herself tighter. Tears blinded her eyes, pain clouded her heart. She paced, unable to remain still as she waited for somebody… anybody… to tell her something. Where were the doctors? All the nurses and even doctors that came around either had no info or just didn’t care. Would someone just tell her something? God! She hated LUTH. There was just too much pain. She looked round. What was taking Gloria so long? Gloria shouldn’t have to deal with so much on the day she just found her daughter but it had been one thing after another. Gloria had to rush over to the hospital admitting Margaret, since Margaret wouldn’t stay still, screaming ‘discharge’ ever since she heard of her father’s accident. Jane had gone out with Tess to get her something to eat, hopefully, that would stop the child’s incessant tears. And Laura? Laura was left to stand alone in the crowded waiting room, waiting. A thought came to her and she shook her head in an attempt to shake off the thought. No! She wouldn’t think of the worst. She couldn’t afford to. God knows she might die if anything happened to Mark or Frank. She tried hard not to remember the previous night. She tried hard not to remember the anguish in Mark’s eyes as he opened up a part of himself she had never seen. She tried hard not to remember the harsh hurtful words she had said to him and the pain in his eyes as she had told him that she hated him. By God, she did not want to assume those words would be the last words Mark would hear from her lips. Because despite it all, she did love him. Despite everything she heard and the terrible hurt feelings she had, she loved Mark dearly. Even when she had thought he was just her uncle, he had been everything to her. She couldn’t imagine what life would have been like for her after her mother died if Mark hadn’t been there to hold her strong. Or Frank? She had just found out what happened to him. She needed the chance to seek his forgiveness for all the wrongs she unknowingly committed against him. She needed the chance to show him the love that was snatched from him because of a silly mistake. But now…
Her lips shook and she took her hand to her mouth, biting hard on her fingernail as tears clouded her eyes. Darn it! She didn’t want to think these thoughts! She had been trying not to think. Trying her darnest to remain sane. To remove all thoughts from her brain and be the positive one, the optimistic one… but those thoughts just kept sneaking behind her defenses, clouding her mind until all she felt was liquid dread flowing through her veins. She had seen the car; it was a complete wreck. Being identical twins, no one could identify which was Mark or which was Frank but the person with the slimmest chance of survival was the person driving. The oncoming bus which developed brake failure had left its lane and rammed it on the car, the major impact on the driver’s side. And Laura had identified the car; it was wrecked version of Frank’s car. The only logical conclusion would be that Frank was the person driving. All her life, she had disliked him, even though she hated him, but now, she couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to him. Frank totally deserved a measure of happiness in his life. Every second that went by without news shattered her, increased her panic level until she felt she might come down with heart attack.
Laura wished Tito didn’t have to go. If only Tito’s past wasn’t so related to the present, she would be here. They could cry together, hold each other, and be scared together… anything, just anything that didn’t have her waiting all alone in the midst of unfamiliar people. She needed someone to hold her.
Laura looked towards the entrance of the hospital, hoping Jane would come back in with Tess. She could hold them both and whisper to them that everything would be alright, maybe with that, she would come to believe it. Maybe by taking care of others, her brain would be more focused on their feelings instead of thoughts of eventuality. But she suspected Jane was also staying longer than necessary purposely because she was also scared. The fear of losing someone wasn’t something even Jane’s witty self could handle. She felt for her sister. She was still too young to experience the pain of losing a parent. Acting as a substitute mother, Laura made sure Jane never felt the absence of her mother since Jane was only weeks old when their mother died. But Laura still remembered the pain she had felt when her mother had died and she couldn’t stand to lose two of her fathers at once. She might just die.
She blinked, sending her tears running down her cheeks and before she could lift her hand to dash them away, a warm hand came up her cheek. She blinked and then, he was there. Laura looked up at the deep concern in the face of the one person her heart had been craving for. While her mind had calculatedly expected to see Gloria, Jane, Tess or even Margaret, her heart had subtly craved to see the one person that could whisper words that she’d find herself believing. Her heart craved for those strong hands that could hold her secure and hold all her fears at bay. “Deolu” Laura gasped.
Adeolu’s thumbs wiped at her tears as he cradled her face between his large palms. Then Laura broke down… she couldn’t tell if it was the deep worry etched on Deolu’s face, the accumulated fear that she held in check, or the bone-deep relief she felt at seeing Deolu… she just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. “Oh Ad” she managed to gasp as Deolu pulled her into his arms, holding her shivering form tight against him as he cradled her head against his chest. “I’m scared Ad, I’m so scared” her voice shook as she spoke amidst her tears.
Deolu kissed the top of her head, holding her even tighter. He breathed in the scent of her hair, letting it wash over him. The tension he felt running through her body gnawed at him. He hated seeing her in pain, hated seeing her in tears, but it seems like that was all she was getting lately. “Shshshsh” he whispered into her hair. “It would be fine. They would be fine”
Laura had repeated those words to herself over and over. She had said them internally, she had said them aloud. But only now, hearing them from Deolu’s lips could she bring herself to believe them. Though they still had unsettled issues, he was definitely what she needed now. Relaxing fully into his embrace, she allowed his heat and distinctive scent wash over her fears.
***** Chris parked outside Mark Johnson’s house and Tito was out of the car even before he had killed the engine. He hastened up to catch up with her but she was at the gate before him and she gave it a not-so-gentle bang. Chris saw the sense of urgency that ruled her now. No doubt, she was worried that something had cropped up in the hospital. She was so tense. It annoyed and frustrated him that he could do next to nothing to ease her pain. Helplessness was not a state he handled well.
Tito knocked again, barely seconds after the first. The voice of the gateman came out pissed as he yanked the door open. His facial expression changed as he saw who was at the gate. “Ah… Aunty Tito, welcome” he glanced at Chris with interest. “Oga” he inclined his head at Chris in greeting and Chris gave him a small smile. “Oga no dey house o”
“Of course, he isn’t” Tito snapped. She pushed into the compound before Lukman could finish his speech. “Where were you when he left the house? And how come he did not take his car?” she still could not understand how her dad ended up in Frank’s car.
Lukman frowned at her. “Na Oga second come here o. after they don shout shout for inside finish, them come outside. Oga collect car key for the second hand, talk say na hin wan drive”
Tito blanched. For a full minute, she stared at the gateman as his words replayed in his head. “Who drove?” she managed to gasp as her heart thundered.
Tito shook her head. “No” she gasped. She wished she hadn’t gone online on her way to the hospital. She wished she hadn’t seen the level of damage done to the driver’s side. Her head banged as she hit Lukman. “Why did you let him drive? Why did you?” she yelled as she hit the gateman with her hands.
“Tito” Chris grabbed her, trying to calm her but she kept wiggling. Lukman staggered back, totally confused. “Tito please, calm down”
Tito whirled round. “He’s going to die” her voice shook.
“Die?” Lukman echoed in confusion.
Chris shook Tito firmly. “No, don’t say that”
There were tears in her eyes now and she made no attempt to stop them as they tumbled down. She stared intently at Chris, not seeing him but seeing Frank’s wrecked car. “He’s going to die, Chris” She had thought Frank was the one driving, since it was his car. But while she didn’t want Frank to die, she had been a bit hopeful since the damage was not as much on the passenger’s side. If only she knew. Tito grabbed her head. This could not be happening again. She might go crazy… heck, she was already going crazy.
Chris pulled her against him, holding her against his chest but she couldn’t stay still. She babbled on and on, couldn’t seem to stop. Unable to stand it anymore, Chris bent to do the only thing he knew could silence her. Covering her mouth with his, he kissed her.
***** Teju knocked softly on the door to the doctor’s office and heard a gentle ‘come in’. She opened and went in. The young doctor smiled at her, his eyes showing concern and affection. “Teju” he said in greeting. “I wasn’t expecting you today”
Teju smiled as she sat. “You look happy to see me, Hassan”
Doctor Hassan’s smile became cocky. “You are a pleasure to behold”
Hassan winked at her but his eyes remained on her, studying her. “Something’s wrong” he stated.
Teju nodded and swallowed, looking away from his all-knowing gaze. “I… I had to take my drugs twice today” she said, staring back at him. “I just want to be sure it won’t affect anything”
Doctor Hassan was silent for a few minutes. “What happened?”
Teju swallowed. “I used it in the morning and then…” she remembered the episode that took place not so long ago and swallowed. “…something happened and the pain came back, I had to take another”
Doctor Hassan leaned forward, rubbing the fingers of one hand lightly on his temple as he stared at Teju. “This isn’t good, Teju”
Teju released a shaky breath. “I know! I know it isn’t good, I just want to know if it won’t affect my baby”
“No, you don’t know” doctor Hassan’s voice came out harder. “This is dangerous, Teju. Every day you keep up with this makes it more dangerous for you and you know it”
Teju swallowed. She knew he wasn’t talking about the drugs. “Please don’t go over this again”
Hassan pushed out of his chair, went around the table and perched on it, before her, staring down at her. “I understand why you want to do this” Teju shook her head at his words. “But please, you have to think about yourself, Teju. The longer you postpone chemo, the harder it becomes”
“So what? You want me to kill my child with chemotherapy?” she surged out of the chair. “I knew I was down with Leukemia before I got pregnant. I chose this. Stop trying to talk me out of it” she blinked back tears. “Even with chemotherapy, I am still going to die anyways”
“That’s not true”
A sorrowful smile touched Teju’s face. “You know, it is. You know” she swallowed. “I can’t. I’d rather not go through that pain. This is the only way I get to be happy, Hassan… even if it is just for a short while”
Hassan stared at her for a while before looking away. His pain was obvious. Teju blinked back tears. She had found out she had Leukemia some months back. The news had darn near killed her. She had tried to tell Deolu on several occasions but she hadn’t been able to. She couldn’t stand him being in pain on her behalf, or worse, having to endure the pity people would definitely throw at her. Then, Mrs. Aderigbe had come with the proposal of bearing a child for Deolu. It had seemed like a terrible idea at first until she thought of it. She wanted a baby. She wanted an extension of herself to still draw breath even if she had to die in the process. And she knew. She knew Deolu and Laura would take care of her child. They would love and cherish him or her. Then she had agreed. And though she had known that she would have to endure their hate, it was still better… a whole lot better than pity.
“Okay” Hassan finally breathed, standing straighter. “Come here. Let me hold you for a minute”
Teju gave a weak smile as she went into Hassan’s arms. He had been a loyal friend for a while and since she discovered her ailment, she had come to confide and rely on him for many things. Female instinct told her that he had feelings for her. But she wouldn’t hurt him. He didn’t deserve to be with someone who was one foot in the grave. She held him tighter, feeling her lips tremble. It felt good to be held. It’s been so long she’d been sincerely hugged by someone who cared. It felt so good, she wanted to cry.
Neither of them heard the knock on the door above the thoughts rampaging their minds, but as the door creaked open, they broke apart when Teju heard a vaguely familiar voice.
“Doctor Hassan” Gloria’s voice called as she peaked into the office. She frowned as the woman with Doctor Hassan pulled back and she saw her face. Her Atinuke. “Teju?”