Chris glanced at Tito and back at the road. Mouth set, clenched fists, veiled eyes staring out of the window… Perfect! Chris thought. He had surely overdone it this time. Of course, she would be angry; who wouldn’t? He never should have hurled her over his shoulder like a bag of unwashed rags; where had the idea come from anyways? He couldn’t believe he had done that. But it was surely the challenge he had seen in her eyes, the unmistakable dare, testing his limits and capabilities. He had enjoyed the feel though, Chris thought with a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Her soft flowery perfume had drifted so gently into his nostrils. Her punches, well-aimed had carried surprising force, he was fairly sure his back was a little sore. When he had dropped her on the passenger seat of his car, he had half expected her to jump out, hit him, slap him or rain curses and on him but instead, she had gone mute; she had been mute all through the way back to the hospital.
At first, Tito had been fuming with anger. It showed in the set of her face, the tightness of her closed lips, the fisted hands propped on her laps… But as they went on, moving closer to the hospital, some of the anger seemed to dissipate as she resumed the posture she assumed on their journey from the hospital – looking out of the window.
Perfect! Chris thought again. He had chosen the perfect time to get her angry. Just when she didn’t need the extra tension, he had gone ahead to infuriate her with his alter ego. He knew if he had talked to her calmly, sensibly, made her see the folly in driving to the hospital, she might have given in to him, but what did he do instead…
They arrived the hospital without a single exchange of words. Immediately Chris pulled up in front of the hospital, it was like Tito was released from a spring. She grabbed the bag containing her father’s clothes and turned to the door, ready to flee.
Chris’ hand shot out instantly, grabbing her hand before she got the door open. “Wait” he hastened. With her back to him, Tito shot Chris a look. “Listen, I’m sorry, okay?” Chris said. “What I did was stupid, I know, but what would you have me do?” he gave a slight shrug. “You were not in the right frame of mind and you know it”
Tito slanted her head. Chris’ smile turned cocky. “Besides, I got my fair share of punishment; you were a lot heavier than I anticipated” he joked.
There was a brief awkward moment where Chris smiled at his subtle joke and Tito glared in response, not seeing the humor in his statement. With a sigh, she turned towards Chris fully. Her eyes were cold and unreadable as she looked straight into Chris’ dark eyes. “Leave my hand” her voice finally clipped icily.
Chris’ hand snapped away instantly. He did not even notice that he was still holding her. Her voice had been so cold when she spoke and he could see that she wasn’t done yet. “What are you doing?” she asked with a small frown. “We are not friend” she stated emphatically, looking into his eyes. “We are not friends, we were never friends, we would never be friends. Know why?” she raised her brow. “I hate you. I always have, always will. Now, I know you want to come in” she said with a strained smile. “Come in if you want, the hospital is a public place. But don’t pretend you are coming in for me. I don’t enjoy being lied to as much as you enjoy lying to yourself”
With that, Tito opened the door and pushed out, slamming the door.
Anger welled up in Chris as he watched Tito walk away towards the hospital building. His hand clenched around the wheel as fury burned bright in him like he had never felt before. His self-control was one thing he prided himself with but time and time again, Tito always irked him till he was almost spitting fire.
A voice of reason told him that Tito hadn’t meant what she had said, that what she was going through was making her utter words that she did not mean. But everything that was sensible told him otherwise. He had never seen eye to eye with Tito. Every time he had a cause to stay within an arm’s reach of her, they always ended up arguing over one thing or the other. By every indication, she meant everything she said and even more. And he had no idea of what he had ever done wrong.
But as he watched her walk away, he muttered something under his breath. What on earth was he still doing there? Why on earth could he not drive away? It annoyed him more that despite it all, despite the insults and that stabs on his ego, he still noticed the hesitation in her steps as she drew closer to the hospital entrance. He noticed the slight pause in her strides; he noticed the tiny veins that became visible on the slender hand holding the bag. He was drawn to her pain, he concluded. Sympathetic perhaps.
With a small oath, he turned the car around in a full circle and backed into the parking lot. I would just go in to check on Laura, Chris concluded as he pushed out of the car, marching to the entrance of the hospital. With that thought came a slight frown. It was odd that he hadn’t exactly thought of Laura for the past hour. Well, putting up with Tito leaves little room for thoughts, Chris concluded as he walked on.
***** If only an iota of what she said to Chris was true… Tito moved into the hospital thinking she was the most unfortunate idiot that ever lived. She never should have said everything she just did to Chris, and the mere fact that she did, after all he had done for her today was beyond terrible. God knew if Chris hadn’t shown up to get her out of the hospital at the time that he did, she probably would be somewhere locked up in a mental ward. Everything from the past had flashed before her, fear had paralyzed her brain. She had seen it all again – Daniel being wheeled into the hospital in a pool of blood while she raced after the stretcher, grabbing the bloody hand which was so pale and cold. The nurses had forced her back, held her back while they wheeled him away. His blood had been everywhere. On the floor, on her clothes, in her head. It took being in this hospital to see it again, like it had only happened yesterday. And if Chris hadn’t shown up and tactically got her out, she wasn’t sure of what would have happened.
He had been terrible; humiliated her beyond measure by hurling her over his shoulder, but weirdly, she had been touched by what he did. Touched that he would go that length, risk her fury all in the bid to protect her. She never should have paid his kindness with those cold words, but that was exactly what she did. And she knew why she had said those things to him. She knew why she had always been hard towards him. She knew why he was intentionally shielding him from getting too close to her. She was protecting him… protecting him from the evil that was her.
All thoughts of Chris faded as the door of the hospital opened and she pushed in. The smell assailed her senses and she tensed, closing her eyes briefly. You can do this, she told herself. The effect was not as strong since she had entered the hospital just few hours ago. The first is always the worst. Taking a deep breath, she took few steps, scanning the numerous faces for Laura. Then she froze.
Alarm bells went off in Tito’s head as she saw the scene before her. She saw Laura quite alright, but she wished she didn’t see her. She frowned deeply, taking slow steps towards the scene ahead of her. Her heart raced and she felt a familiar chill overtake her as she watched Deolu struggle with a crying and gesticulating Laura. An elderly doctor hovered over them, looking impatiently down at them through his recommended glasses. She could barely make out Laura’s words above the screaming in her head.
Tito walked like a robot towards the scene and stood before them. Laura didn’t notice her presence and Deolu was too busy trying to get Laura to calm down that he didn’t see her. Tito rolled her eyes to the doctor. She advanced towards him until they were almost eye to eye. “Take me to my father” her voice was cold and distant, almost lifeless.
The doctor regarded her oddly, almost like he thought she was mad. “What father?”
“My father! Take me to my father now” she yelled.
“Tito” Laura suddenly noticed Tito and went to her, holding her hand as she wiped at her tears. “Tito, please calm down”
“No…” Tito let out a weird broken chuckle. “I am calm. I just want to see my father, where is he?” she demanded, glaring at the doctor. “Where is my father?” she yelled, her eyes filling with tears. As the doctor opened his mouth to get a word out, Tito shook her head. “He is dead right? He is dead too, isn’t he?” tears fell from her eyes as she shook her head.
Chris touched Tito. “Tito…”
Tito whirled round, seeing Chris only barely. “I told you… God! I told you… you said he wouldn’t die; now he’s… he’s…”
“I didn’t…” the doctor began.
“Who is dead?”
Laura turned, blinking away tears. Suddenly everyone was there – Gloria, Margaret, Teju, Chris – even Jane stood just inside the hospital door, she seemed frozen in place with little Tess in her arms, too scared to move closer. “Who is dead?” Gloria demanded again, looking pale as she charged forward. “Where’s my husband?” she demanded.
“Take me to my dad now, I need to see my dad” Margaret yelled about to cry.
“Would you all shut up?” the doctor suddenly boomed glaring at the people swarming around him. “Would you let me get a word out?” he exhaled when finally, everyone seemed quiet. “No one’s dead.” That seemed to get everyone’s attention.
“They are both alive” he finally announced. “… but barely” he added. “They are both in coma. One of them might just have a chance, but the other, the one who was driving, I am sorry but, his chances of survival are very slim. Shred of glasses from the car sliced into his body and though we have successfully removed all the glasses…” he sighed. “He is in really bad shape.”
Another late post. 😢 I’d post twice Next Week also. Tuesday and Friday. The series is wrapping up. Do share and comment.