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Episode 5

Tomorrow, Timothy returns to the hospital! The children had no idea. Since the previous day, with Loveth’s cooking, they played so much, even Loveth seemed to loosen up a bit. It was just like old times in a way, but then, it wasn’t. Timothy’s strength was very low, he couldn’t keep up with his siblings, and no matter how much he tried to hide his weaknesses from his parents and siblings, pain always finds a way of making itself known. Timothy had no idea what was wrong with him, Bola doubted he would even know the extent of his illness if she told him he had cancer. Despite his high maturity, he was still a little boy.

And every strained smile, every playful chatter with her children, awoke in Bola a pain too deep to quench. It was hard, keeping her emotions locked inside when all she wanted to do was scream her frustration to be heard above high mountains. It was hard crying only within the four walls of their small bathroom, allowing the water to disguise her tears as they beaded down her cheeks. It shouldn’t be her son, it shouldn’t be Timothy; it wasn’t fair that one so young and innocent had to go through so much pain. But life isn’t fair and they were made to learn to find the beauty in life’s darkness…

Bola almost never caught a whim of sleep. She was constantly by Timothy’s side, making his pain hers and giving the succor only a mother can give her child. George couldn’t give the moral support he usually gave Bola; heck, he was badly in need of support himself. He was stretched taut in his quest to be a better husband; a better father… They were in dire need of money, now more than ever and it was a constant source of frustration to know that he couldn’t meet up with his responsibilities as the provider of the home.

Bola walked into Timothy’s room and saw that he had fallen asleep. She pulled a wrapper over his small form, staring at him for a prolonged moment. Taking a deep breath, she walked out of the room, making sure she left the door open in case he woke up and needed anything.

“Loveth” Bola called aloud as she got to the sitting room. Loveth charged in from outside, her head popping through the door. “Call your siblings, I want to see you all”

Loveth nodded and seconds later, the three children came trooping through the door, chatting happily. It was a relief to see, although, Bola knew without being told that their excitement would die down in a few minutes. The children looked at her awkward smile and instantly knew something was wrong. Jerry was too young to understand much, but Tessy and Loveth were fast becoming accustomed to their mother’s mood swings.

“Sit down, children, I want to tell you something”

They all sat, looking anxiously at her face. Loveth had a small frown on her face. “What is it, mummy?” she asked as they waited for Bola to say something.

Bola smiled. “Children, you all know that your big brother hasn’t been feeling too fine lately, right?” they nodded stiffly. “Well, Mummy and daddy would have to stay in the hospital with Tim for a few days, until he gets better”

Tessy frowned. “Tim would be sleeping in the hospital?” she seemed confused.

“Yes baby, Tim would have to stay over at the hospital, so they can treat him very well and he won’t fall sick again” she explained as simply as possible.

Loveth stared at her mother. “But you took him to the hospital yesterday and said he’s getting better, why is he going to stay in the hospital again?” she accused.

Bola blinked and swallowed hard. If only they knew that Tim’s illness couldn’t be treated in a day… She should have waited for George to get back, this was becoming harder for her. “Yes, I know Lovey, but Tim still needs to be treated in the hospital so he’ll be completely fine. You understand that, right?”

Loveth’s face was hooded once more, looking blank. Bola wondered what she might be thinking or feeling. It had been so long since she heard Loveth sing. It was what Loveth was known for. She sang through anything, even composed new songs while doing house chores without premeditating it. Everyone felt she would turn out to be a very famous singer, one to be reckoned with… “Where would we stay?” Loveth suddenly asked.

“Let us stay with Aunty Lizzy” Tessy added with a glow in her eyes.

“Yes, Aunty Lizzy” Jerry seconded, his childlike voice ringing with excitement.

Loveth glanced at her siblings wondering how they could be excited over something that was so sad.

“No, you won’t stay with Aunty Lizzy, you’ll be staying with Pastor Peter” She had discussed this with George. Elizabeth’s husband was already back from his trip, keeping the kids with them might be a disturbance, especially since they didn’t have their own children. It was much better to keep the children with a pastor friend, at least, the children would be closer to their school. Bola watched as the faces of her children fell. This surely wasn’t going well at all. “You know, pastor Peter has two dogs, you like dogs, right?” The children stared at her with a sober look. Bola swallowed. “We’ll be back in no time, I promise”
*****

George walked around his office, waiting for his cousin. He wasn’t himself. All his sermons on faith were back to haunt him. Fear had evaded the cranies of his mind, pushing his faith out of the way. His eyes were heavy from lack of sleep. Where on earth was he supposed to get money for Timothy’s treatment. For the first time ever, George felt like less of a man. He was the head of the family; why couldn’t he fend for his family? His family was practically falling apart before his very eyes. Because of Timothy’s treatment, he and Bola had agreed to take the kids to a pastor friend’s place, to stay until Timothy was okay. Bola would have to stay perpetually with Timothy in the hospital while he scouts around for money. What if he fails and cannot provide the money for Timothy’s treatments when needed? What if Timothy pays the grand price, all because of his financial inadequacy? He didn’t think he would be able to live with that.

George swallowed, pulled back his old wooden chair and sat on it. He was into Estate management and letting; as a pastor, he did not find it easy. People saw ‘agents’ as fraudsters and liars but George had gone into it when money wasn’t forthcoming. His integrity had paid off, people trusted him and sought his services above all else.

George raised his head as someone loomed over him. He smiled at the landlord of the building and stood up.

“Good evening sir” he greeted.

Mr Lawal frowned at him. “Pastor, you look sick. Are you okay?” George swallowed, looking at the elderly man. “What’s going on?”

George took a deep breath and explained the situation on ground. Mr Lawal turned pale, staring at George with compassion. “Ah… You would have to pray very well o, Pastor. The same thing happened to my brother’s daughter two years ago, she did not survive it”

George’s eyes snapped up. Perfect! Just what he needed. George stood up, unable to keep still.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I had to say it as it is. But I’m sure your son would be fine, you’ve prayed for people with worse situations and they were healed” he smiled. “God listens to you”

George nodded wordlessly. The last thing he needed was to know that someone with Tim’s ailment was already dead. “Thank you sir” he murmured.

Footsteps approached and Fred walked in. George sighed in relief. He had to get this over with and go home. He suddenly felt the urge to check up on Tim. This was surely fear at work.

“Fred” Fred was a distant cousin from his mother’s side. George was several years older than Fred though. “I’m glad you are here”

Fred greeted George and the landlord, frowning slightly. “Is everything okay, brother?”

“No Fred. I need you to help me manage this place for a while. I wouldn’t be available for a while and I don’t want this place to be under lock and key. I’ll direct all my clients to you, so you can attend to them in my absence”

“Yes, of course brother, but where are you going? What’s the problem?”

“It’s Tim”

Fred frowned deeply. “What’s wrong with Timothy?”

George swallowed and explained Tim’s health condition to Fred. Fred sobered up. “Oh my God” he muttered. “You have nothing to worry about bro, you can count on me”

“I promise, any commission you make, we’ll split it equally”

“Of course not, brother, we are family. You need the money now, more than ever. You have nothing to worry about”

George smiled. “Thank you, Fred”

*****

“C’mon, give mummy a smile” Bola muttered with a weak smile on her face. We’ll be back very soon, I promise” Bola murmured as she crouched before her kids. Pastor Peter and his wife stood behind the children. Their small travelling bags and school bags had been carried inside but still, the children were not smiling. Jerry looked on the verge of tears. Barely two years old, Jerry was too small to be left alone. Tessy stared mutely at the ground, while Loveth had a deceptive calm look on her face. Her pride wouldn’t allow her show just how much this was affecting her; somegow, that was more heartbreaking than even Jerry’s tears.

George tapped Bola gently and moved her out of the way. He crouched before the children with a convincing smile on his face. “Don’t be sad now children, see, i promise, to bring you something when we’re coming back.” he stared into their eyes. “what do you want me to get you?”

“Cheese balls” Jerry mouthed almost instantly.

George grinned. “And you?” he asked Tessy and she nodded. Loveth didn’t make a sound. “Okay, I promise to bring you pleeenty cheese balls. Do you want that?”

Tessy and Jerry bobbed their heads as their eyes flashed with mild delight. “You be good children, okay? And do whatever big mummy and daddy tell you, okay?” They nodded and George hugged them all briefly. Tim stood with Bola, he had a pained look on his face. Loveth’s eyes lingered on him for several seconds. They stood just a few steps from each other, but it felt like a great wall had been erected, pushing them apart and severing the great bond that they shared. Throughout the short walk to Pastor Peter’s place, Loveth barely said a word to Tim. He was closer to her than even her parents, Loveth didn’t know how she would stay for days without talking to Tim.

George hugged Pastor Peter, thanking him profusely for his help. He turned to Tim and smiled gently. “Say goodbye to your siblings, Tim”

Tim blinked and walked forward. Despite his weakness, he mustered a bright smile for his younger ones. “Bye Jay Jay, bye Tess” he murmured. “I’ll miss you a lot. When I get back, I’ll tell you all that happened there, okay?” Tessy and Jerry nodded.

Tim turned to look at Loveth. She stared back at him, her mouth set in the stubborn manner he knew so well. Her eyes revealed nothing; he was surely going to miss her. “I’ll miss you, love”

“You’ll be fine when I see you, right?” she asked anxiously.

Tim smiled. “Yes”

“Promise?”

Tim swallowed and nodded. His eyes watered and he blinked severally. Big boys don’t cry. “You’ll make me another rice and beans when I get back, right?”

For the first time all evening, Loveth smiled. “The beans would be soft this time”

Tim smiled. “Bye Love”

“Bye T.boy” Loveth did not like the sound of goodbye. But she knew Tim had to go, he had to get better so they could go back to the way they used to be.

Bola wiped the tears that streaked down her cheeks. She hugged her children tightly, capturing their scent so it could wash away her fears and give her more strength. She kissed their heads and stood up.

Pastor Peter and his wife pulled the children back as they waved at George, Bola and Timothy. Jerry and Tessy soon started crying as the other half of their family retreated slowly. Loveth bit hard on her lip and blinked several times. She hadn’t cried since this started, she wasn’t about to start now. Her brother would be back. Tim would be back!

STARLESS NIGHTS

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