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“What?!” George roared.
“You can’t be serious” Bola’s face was as pale as sheet.
Nurse Chinwe blew out her bubble gum, making a pop sounds as she scribbled something on a large hospital book, looking totally unconcerned. “Well, I am very serious, madam” she said nonchalantly.
“Well, it can’t be. Doctor Felix can’t be on a trip; the doctor himself told us to come today” George barked as his eyes flashed in rage. He fisted his palms by his side, hoping he wouldn’t fly into pieces from excessive anger.
Nurse Chinwe raised her eyes slowly from the journal in front of her, looking up George with an irritated look on her face. “See mr man, come and be going. Ahan, what is it? I told you the doctor has travelled, what do you want me to do?” She hissed.
Bola’s eyes watered as she hopped nervously. She glanced back at Timothy who was seated on one of the hospital benches, then looked back at the nurse with a pleading look. “But… but my son is very ill… he grows weaker every minute. He needs to be treated, nurse, please”
Nurse Chinwe glared at George for a prolonged moment, then glanced at Bola before resuming chewing her bubble gum. “We have some student doctors in the hospital”
“What? I am not putting my son’s life in the hands of some quack untrained doctors who don’t even know the definition of malaria” George raved, his voice rang out, attracting stares from some people in the hospital.
“Bia take yourself and your son’s life out of here, before I throw you out; ogini?” Nurse Chinwe flared up.
“Oh no, please…” Bola pulled a raving George aside, casting a worried glance at the nurse and another glance at Timothy. He was now lying on the bench, not looking good at all.
George was beside himself with rage. “How can people be so heartless?” he stared at Bola, not really seeing her. “that doctor told us to come today knowing fully well that he would be travelling… So callous”
Bola pulled closer to George, lowering her voice as she spoke. “You have to calm down George, you can’t consistently lose your temper like this, Timothy’s best interest is at stake here”
George shifted uncomfortably. “What do we do, then? You don’t expect me to leave Timothy here, in the hands of God knows who, do you? And just look at that nurse. She’s the same as the other heartless nurses in this hospital”
“But what other choice do we have? We have to. And no, we are not leaving him in their hands, we are leaving him in God’s hands. It is not up to them to heal Tim, it is up to God.” Bola placed her palm gently on his chest. “Please George, we can’t afford to be destabilized now. We have to remain calm for Tim’s sake. He is feeling really bad that he is putting us through so much struggles, we need to hide our anxiety from him, George.”
George swallowed and nodded.
Bola smiled faintly. “Everything would be fine, George, we just have to keep our faith strong.”
Bola was right, of course. He was allowing the tension to get to him, especially considering the fact that he had just put his three children in the care of his pastor friend. He knew Pastor Peter well enough, but then, one could never really know someone, right? Frustration ate away at George’s insides. He hated being unable to do anything about this terribly unpleasant situation. If only he had money enough to take Tim to a standard private hospital… But no, this was all he could afford, or try to afford. Even the expenses in this government hospital seemed like an uphill task for him. But he would make things work; he had to make things work for Tim, for his family, for everyone.
George turned towards the nurse busy chewing gum at the reception desk and felt extreme anger at his own helplessness. ‘Give me the strength, oh God’
Loveth’s eyes slowly pushed open. It was just the crack of dawn. Why was her bed so hard and unfamiliar against her skin? She wondered. Her head pounded slightly as her eyes roamed the room in the shifting darkness. Tessy and Jerry lay asleep on a mat on the floor. Loveth didn’t remember ever seeing a mat in their house. The room was very unfamiliar; and why? why didn’t her mum wake her up for school?
Loveth frowned, several questions ran through her mind within splits of seconds, then the reality of the past day dawned on her. Loveth blinked, remembering all that happened the previous day. They were not in their house anymore. Her parents were gone; she wouldn’t be seeing Tim anytime soon… She sighed and lay back on the bed. She felt sick. Loveth ate next to nothing the previous day, Tessy and Jerry were not any better. Since Mr Peters’ two children were off to boarding school, Loveth and her siblings were the only children in the house. Loveth couldn’t help but think they would have been better with Aunty Lizzy. She was like a second mother to them and surely, Tessy and Jerry would have been much livelier with her than they were here. The previous night, they had been as quiet as a mule. Loveth didn’t know till now just how much she depended on their playful chatter; it went a long way in diffusing the tension. But then, Loveth wasn’t sure anything could diffuse the tension she was feeling.
Steps drew closer to the door. Loveth raised her eyes to the door as it creaked open.
Mrs Peters entered and frowned at the sleeping children till her eyes landed on Loveth. “Loveth dear” she called.
Loveth stood from the bed and knelt. “Good morning ma” she greeted.
“Why are you still in bed?” Despite her soft tone, her face looked displeased. “Don’t you do morning chores in your house?”
Loveth blinked. At home, Tim mostly did all that needed to be done while they prepared for school; she couldn’t say that now, could she? “Yes ma” she answered shortly.
“Good. Now, go and wash the dishes in the kitchen, and be fast so you can prepare for school”. She turned to leave, then glanced at Tessy and Jerry who were still fast asleep. “Tessy is not too small to sweep, is she?”
Loveth frowned. “Dust affects her”
Mrs Peters was about to say something then decided against it. She opened the door and walked out. Loveth released a relieved breath and sat at the edge of the bed for a few seconds. So much had changed within so short a time and she was having trouble wrapping her young mind around the spinning ball of change.
With sheer will and determination, she stood up and pushed her small feet into her rubber slippers. It wouldn’t do to have Mrs Peters come back to meet her on bed now, would it? A small lamp lit the sitting room, driving away the darkness. She lifted it, taking it with her to the kitchen.
Plates from last night sat in the sink, together with three pots. Loveth scanned round until her eyes landed on the stool. She dragged it to the sink and climbed to give her height advantage over the sink. She smiled when she thought of what Tim would say if he saw her now. He always teased her whenever she climbed a stool to do the dishes at home. Her smile wiped off. Tim wasn’t there and he wouldn’t be there for several days, she would have to get used to it.
Loveth always sang happily while doing the dishes, but not now. For the first time, Loveth stacked the plates in complete silence.
The foul stench of hospital woke Timothy from his dreamless sleep. His eyes popped open and everything swam as a wave of dizziness engulfed him. He blinked severally until his eyes settled fully on the dirty white ceiling overhead. The hospital smell grew stronger with every laboured breathing he took. It was a direct contrast to the nice and homey smell of their home. Timothy wondered if he would get used to it; wondered if he would get used to the smell of drugs, of blood, of everything that combined to give hospitals that awkward sickening smell. He missed home… He missed the softness of his bed against his back.
Tim felt someone beside him and saw his mother beside him. She sat on a chair beside him and her head was on the bed beside him as she slept off. Tears burned at the back of his eyes and he couldn’t stop them from rolling down his cheeks. The last thing he ever wanted was to put his mother through so much pain and struggles. Timothy didn’t see his father anywhere around but he knew undoubtedly that his father must be going through so much in trying to see that he was okay. Why was he the source of some much pain and turmoil? His siblings were gravely unhappy and it was entirely his fault. Timothy could not wipe away their sad faces from his head. He didn’t want to think of the tears he saw in Loveth’s eyes the previous day. The tears that she had fought so hard to keep at bay.
He swallowed as he raised his hand weakly. He lightly brushed off the hair that fell over his mother’s face, the way he had seen his father do so many times. Worry lines etched Bola’s face even in her sleep, making Timothy feel even guiltier.
Bola felt the hand on her face and opened her eyes. Tim’s face came to view and she jumped up, snapping out of her slumber.
“Tim?” she said in alarm. “Why are you crying? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” she stuttered, hoping at Tim’s tears with shaky fingers.
Tim nodded then shook his head. “I’m sorry, mum” he muttered as his eyes teared up again.
“Sorry? Sorry for what?” Bola muttered in confusion and worry.
“I caused all this? Everybody is worried about me… Everyone is suffering because of me… I..”
“Stop it, Tim” Bola rebuked softly, sitting beside Tim, on the bed. “Don’t ever blame yourself for anything, do you hear me?” she wiped at Tim’s face.
“But nothing. I don’t want to hear you saying it even thinking it, do you hear me? You did not bring this sickness upon yourself and I won’t have you blaming yourself, do you hear me?” Bola’s voice shook.
Tim blinked and nodded stiffly. Bola bent and kissed his forehead. “Thank you, mummy” Tim muttered. “Thank you for taking care of me”
Bola blinked back tears as she smiled. “Just be fine for me, okay? Be fine for all of us”
Timothy nodded. “Where is daddy?”
“He went to get… something. He’ll be back soon” Bola answered.
Fred smiled at himself as he sat behind the desk at B&B Properties. He hadn’t been this happy in a while. Truly one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune. He felt so sorry for his cousin; Timothy was such a sweet boy and an exceptional drummer even at his age, he couldn’t imagine anything bad happening to him. But boy! Doesn’t it just feel so good to sit in an office for the very first time? Though the office was Georges, Fred felt a sense of entitlement as he sat facing the large table filled with documents. The glass sliding door provided a good view of the road. Till now, Fred didn’t realise just how good the office was. Fred relaxed his back against the backrest of the wooden chair and breathed a sigh of contentment.
It had been years since he had been searching for a decent job for himself with his Secondary School Certificate but it had all been fruitless. The struggle had multiplied when he impregnated his girlfriend over two years ago and had to marry her. He barely had enough to feed himself, his wife and their two years old baby girl; it could only get worse now that his wife was already three months pregnant for their second child.
Though Fred had told George that he wouldn’t take any share from whatever he made, Fred knew that he wasn’t going to pull through with that. He was in charge of this office now and he intended to make something for himself in the process.
Someone approached the office and Fred adjusted himself on the chair. A couple entered into the office and Fred smiled at them.
“Good morning” he greeted.
The man looked at him cautiously as he and his wife responded to his greeting. “Are you Fred Uba?”
“That’s me. You can have your seat.” he gestured to the chairs in front and watched as the couple sat. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Well, I’m Mr Haruna. Pastor told me that he won’t be in the office for some time but I would meet you here” Mr Haruna explained.
Fred smiled. “That’s correct. I’m in charge of the office in his stead, is there anything you need?”
“Actually, he was working on a particular apartment for me, but I want to take my wife there to be sure she likes it before we pay.”
Pay! The word rang in Fred’s ears as he thought of what it would feel like to have real money in his hand. Not even a day yet and he already had a client! God is good. Fred blinked and nodded suddenly as he remembered something. “Yes… yes, he told me about you. It’s the apartment at Ilupeju bus stop right?”
Mr Haruna smiled, visibly relaxing. “It is”.
“Okay, are you ready to see it now?” he looked from Mr Haruna to his wife who had been watching them mutely.
“Yes, of course.”
Fred nodded, opened the drawer and pulled out the keys to the apartment. It was the only building George was fully managing, so he had the keys with him to show potential tenants. Fred stood and walked around the table. “Shall we go?”
The couple stood up and walked ahead as Fred followed closely behind with a big smile on his face.