STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 6

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Welcome to another Tuesday y’all. Please read, comment and share. Thanks.

EPISODE 6

“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.

“George…”

“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 mummy…”

“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.

STARLESS NIGHTS 

STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 5 

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Hi everyone, thanks to you all for your week-long  feedbacks, I appreciate it. The series would be continued and I’ll try to pen down on the emotions. (it’s affecting me too). Please don’t forget to drop your comments and share. Dear romance lovers, I’ve got you covered. 😉 Love you all and happy new month. 

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 

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