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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

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