Lilian sat before doctor David, the man who’d helped deliver her baby through caesarean section. She watched him pick up file after file and go through them meticulously. He was wasting her time. She had hoped to enter his office and step out a few minutes later with answers but he had held her for longer than thirty minutes already. She’d left her baby, Laura, with her friend whom she was squatting with for the meantime and she had promised to be back soon.
“Have you found anything yet?” She asked impatiently.
Doctor David looked at her.
“I deliver a lot of babies on a daily basis and…”
“I can remember vividly that on the night of my delivery, I was the only woman…” She started and stopped as she seemed to remember something. “Yes, I remember entering the room and seeing another woman there but I was in so much pain that…that I didn’t even stop to look at her…” She said thinking and trying to remember the face of the other woman with her in the room.
“It’s been months since your delivery and to be honest with you, I really can’t tell whether you had a girl or a boy and there are no facts stating whether your babies were switched or not.” He said.
“I have delivered three of my babies in this hospital…including my present baby. How can you say you do not know the sex of the child I had or whether my babies were switched or not?”
“Madam, that’s nothing but a mere speculation. Do you have proof of it? I believe in proofs…you know…”
“What other proof do you want? Didn’t I show you the genotype tests? What are you saying?”
“Sometimes, these genotype tests read wrong.”
“I did the test thrice! Don’t speak to me like I’m an illiterate when I’m not!” She fired.
“Madam, there’s really no need to get agitated.” He said as he brought out a file and opened it. “Here’s your file…and it states here that you had a healthy baby…it doesn’t state whether it’s male or female but I’m sure it’s the nurses mistake. She should have stated it.”
“Yes she should’ve. Who’s the nurse? Can I speak to her?” Lilian asked.
He looked at the file and saw the nurse’s name.
“It states here that it’s nurse Clarity that was on duty that night. Her signature is here.”
“Then if her signature is there, why did she omit to write the sex of the baby?”
“I have no idea but I can assure you that our nurses are highly trained and that this was just one mistake…” He defended.
“I want to see the nurse.”
“Clarity is no more with us. She stopped working here the day after your day of delivery.”
Lilian looked at the doctor, nothing was making sense to her.
“Wait…she what? Why?”
“Perhaps she got a better offer elsewhere.” He informed.
“Isn’t it suspicious that she left the hospital only a day after my delivery? I am sure she knows something. I want to have her contact details.” She insisted.
“Contact details? That’s private information…” The doctor informed.
“There is nothing like private…this involves me and my child. I need to find out the truth.”
“Then, I’m really sorry that I cannot help you.”
“Haven’t you thought of your reputation? Aren’t you scared for this hospital? Do you want to make this case bigger than it already is?”
“Madam, we are used to social media rants. Perhaps you have a huge following on Twitter or Facebook and you feel you have the power to speak but the truth is, we can’t be afraid because this hospital is known by all for its credibility. We are very trust worthy.” He said.
“I think it’s time you told that to the police.” She fumed as she stood up and left the doctor’s office.
Princess stopped walking as soon as they stepped out from the hospital and her mother turned around to stare at her.
“Princess…come on, let’s go!” Her mother said.
“I don’t want to leave my big sister here alone.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! Your brother in-law is with her.”
“He’s not my brother in-law yet.” She said.
“Of course he is, Ochuko is getting married to him soon.” Her mother said.
“They are not man and wife yet.” Princess insisted.
“What is wrong with you, Princess? Can’t you act like you have sense for once in your life?” Her mother spat at her.
“I have sense and the fact that I’m not ready to budge from here doesn’t mean that I am senseless.”
“Come, let’s go…we have a lot of details to take care of before the wedding.”
“What wedding? The wedding of a woman who’s not regained consciousness since we got here? What if sister Ochuko doesn’t wake up even after her wedding day?”
Her mother’s eyes widened.
“May God punish you for what you just said. I don’t care that you are my daughter but may God punish you!”
“God can’t punish me for stating what might happen.” Princess said stubbornly.
“Ochuko will wake up, she must wake up!”
“What if she doesn’t?” Then she added in a low voice. “What if she doesn’t want to?”
Her mother stared at her as though she’d gone mad.
“What…why won’t she want to wake up? Does she want to miss out on the biggest event of her life?”
“Who knows?” Princess said. “Didn’t you see her lying on that bed? She looked so peaceful…too peaceful mom. Perhaps she’s happier where she is.”
“Look, Princess, I am going to slap your face if you don’t follow me right this minute.”
Princess looked at her mother and said.
“I noticed that my sister has been sad these past few weeks. She is not even excited about her own wedding. Don’t you think there’s a problem?”
“That’s nothing! It happens to all brides-to-be and even for the men as well, they begin to have cold feet when the wedding is approaching.”
“I don’t think this is cold feet mom, I know what I saw…” Princess started.
“Will you come with me and stop talking rubbish? I still have to drop off asoebi at Madam Renata’s shop and it’s already late.”
Her mother stormed off and Princess hesitated a little before following her behind.
Fred’s parents sat before the television and watched their favourite TV show. It was the first time in years that they’ve sat together and watched anything. They both laughed at a funny scene and Fred’s father said.
“I wonder where they get these characters that are so hilarious.”
“They cast them of course.” His wife said.
“Oh true, I forgot that you used to participate in stage plays during your younger days.” Fred’s father said.
“Yes, I used to and I miss those days.”
“Nothing stops you from going back, you know…” He said.
“I know…” She said.
“I remember how Fred used to love going with you for those stage plays.” He said.
“There was a day he almost ran out from backstage on to the stage…thank God, Meriah, my good friend and stage manager caught up with him before he could do the unthinkable.”
They both shared a laugh.
“Life has been good to us, hasn’t it?” Fred’s father asked.
“Yes…it has…” His mother said in reply. “Do you know that of all our kids, Fred is the only one still attached to us?”
“Well, yeah…considering that he’s the last boy. Jameson is so focused on his medical career that he barely has the time to even call or text.”
“The girls call from time to time but they are busy with their families. I wish they could come and spend time with us here in Lagos.” His wife said.
“Yes, me too.” Fred’s father answered.
“Do you know what I think? I think Fred has someone serious in his life and I’m glad. I am happy that he met her here in Nigeria so that he can stay here and start a life here. I’m excited to meet her.”
“Are you serious? He has a girlfriend?”
“Yes, he hinted it to me a few weeks ago and he said something about introducing her to the family.” She said. “He also said that she’s a single mother.”
“A what? Single mother?” Fred’s father asked in alarm.
“I see no problem with it whatsoever. I respect single mothers a lot, it’s not easy to raise a child alone.”
“I understand that perfectly but…c’mon! A single mother? What happened to the ladies without baggage?” Fred’s father said.
“Baggage?” His wife asked.
“I mean the child…” He said. “The child is a baggage.”
“Do you have anything against single mothers?” Fred’s mother asked.
“No I don’t but I don’t want a single mother for my son…I refuse to accept it!” Fred’s father said.
“Well…thankfully, it’s your son’s choice to make and not yours.” She said.
“When he gets home, I will have a word with him concerning this.” Fred’s father said. “Fred will not marry a single mother…and that’s final!”
His wife shrugged and reverted her gaze on the television.
The day was dark and cloudy, the skies were grey and foggy. The whole atmosphere was mournful and solemn as the casket was lowered to the ground. Fred stared at the casket being lowered and shut his eyes in pain. How did this happen? What was this all about? How could she have died, just like that?
“Can we have a representative from the deceased’s office? Please say a few words before we commit her to mother earth.” The minister said.
Fred took a step forward, he could only take a step because the grave site was crowded with a lot of people dressed in black and looking as sorrowful as he did.
“Err…this is shocking for me and I believe that I am speaking for my staff as well. The late Ochuko…I can’t believe that I’m about to speak of her in past tense.” He stopped to wipe his tears with a handkerchief. He dragged in a long breath and when he exhaled, he continued. “Was…the best person I was ever privileged to meet. I’m not saying this because she’s no more…” He sniffed. “From the first day she admitted to everyone at the office that I was handsome till the last day we spoke over the phone, Ochuko had been a light…a shining light and it’s such a waste that after living just thirty-one years on earth, she had to go.”
A wail was heard from the crowd and some whispers.
“Ochuko, we will miss you…I will miss you…a lot. I wonder who’d tease me endlessly at work…I wonder who’d call my phone just to ask silly questions…my heart is so heavy and I honestly don’t know what else to say. Why wasn’t I there for you when you needed me the most? What was I doing when you left this world? My life will never be the same without you, Ochuko…and I pray that your soul finds rest…” He sobs loudly.
Someone gave him a pat at the back. The minister continues.
“In life, there are times and season…a time to be born and a time to die. A time to sow and a time to reap…”
All the words became a blur as Fred crouched to the ground in tears. By the time the heavy weight of sand fell on the casket, he felt as though he was choking…he couldn’t breathe.
To be continued…