“OCHUKO!” Fred screamed as he shot off the bed in alarm. He inhaled deeply and exhaled, looking around at the bedroom and breathing heavily in alarm.
“What is it? Fred, what is it?” Bisiola asked, she was scared.
This was the first time Fred was ever going to spend the night with her in her house and even though Emem had warned her of the consequences of her actions if Bruce ever found out, she’d ignored her.
“I need to…I need to…talk to her…see if she’s…she’s alright.” Fred said getting off the bed and hurrying to take his phone.
“What is wrong with you? Why are you panicky?” She asked.
“I just dreamt about…about Ochuko…I dreamt that she was dead.” Fred said as tears sprung in his eyes.
“Mtchewwww!” Bisiola hissed. “I thought it was something important.”
“It is something important.” He spat at her. “Ochuko is my friend and I feel that she is in grave danger.”
“Run along …O ye knight in shining armour! I’ve always known you like that lady.”
“Look Bisiola, I am not in the mood for your nags.” He started.
“My nags? How dare you? This is my house and you just woke me up at almost one am in the morning, calling out another woman’s name in my bed. How do you expect me to feel? Do you want me to applaud you?” She yelled.
“Keep quiet!” He spat at her. “I won’t take this attitude of yours anymore. Just in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a very bad attitude.”
She got off the bed and made her way towards him till she was standing right in front of him.
“My attitude? Bad? You are mad!” She yelled.
“I am not in the mood for this…” He said.
“If you aren’t in the mood, then get your arse off my bed and out of my house!” She screamed.
“Definitely!” Fred said as he made his way to the wardrobe to get his clothes and the rest of his things.
Bisiola watched him pack his small bag and was expecting at some point for him to turn to her and beg her. That’s what Bruce always does. Isn’t that what all men do? She thought. She watched him silently and her heart broke to pieces, if Fred left her, she’ll die. Of all the men she’d ever dated-which were barely four in total- she had never loved anyone as she loved Fred and she knew she’d rather die than let him go. She wanted to apologize but pride didn’t let her do it. She’d rather stand and watch him leave than fall on her knees grovelling that he stayed. Fred finished with his packing and without turning back, he walked out of the room and out of the house.
Ochuko opened her eyes and the very first person she saw was the architect of her own misfortune. Immediately he saw her eyes open, Vuoke hurried to sit beside her on the bed.
“Welcome back my love…” He said.
She stared at him, her throat was dry and parched but she couldn’t speak.
“How do you feel? You were out for hours…we were all very scared.” He said.
“Water…I want…water…” She said in a low voice.
Her head throbbed painfully and she felt so weak and tired.
“I’ll go and get the nurse…” He said.
“How…long…have I been…here?” She asked.
“Since…since this afternoon my love…” He said then falling to his knees before her, he began to plead. “Ochuko, I hate myself for hurting you so much…I hate myself for being the one to always inflict pain on you. I am a monster and I do not deserve you but I beg of you…please…please…forgive me…please…” He begged.
Ochuko didn’t reply, her head was hurting and she was desperately in need of water. She looked at Vuoke, she had never felt so alone in her whole life. If only she could see Fred or maybe her sister, Princess but not her mother. She didn’t need anyone reminding her of the suicide she was about to commit in a few days when she would walk down the aisle with Vuoke.
“Get me…some…water…” She simply said.
He nodded and rushed out of the hospital room, eager to do her biding.
Nancy was trying to sleep when the call came in, she was so grumpy that she didn’t even try to sound nice over the phone. She had to be in church early tomorrow because she had choir practice before service. Her choir members had totally brutalized the special number for service tomorrow.
“What is it?” She croaked.
“Nancy, it’s Fred…”
She sat up and began to pat her hair and her face.
“Sir…oh sir…I am sorry sir…” She said.
“I should be the one apologizing for calling at this hour…please…I have been trying to each Ochuko to no avail and you are her assistant at the office. Could you kindly give me a number of a family member of hers? I want to speak to her urgently.”
“Yes…yes sir…I have the phone number of her sister, Princess…I can give it to you.”
“Thank you, please send it to me now.”
“But sir, do you want to call this night?” Nancy asked.
“Yes, I intend to call tonight, just send me the number asap.” He said and hung up.
Nancy breathed uneasily, would she be fired for answering her boss grumpily over the phone? She didn’t think so but then again, Fred was her boss, he owned the company and he had sounded impatient over the phone. What could have happened? Did Ochuko jeopardize the interests of the company in anyway? She’d thought that Ochuko was close to Fred, too close for that matter. Perhaps they had a misunderstanding. Well, it serves her right. She thought. Fred was just too much of a catch to have been snagged by Ochuko barely four months after he’d joined the company.
She opened her contact list and quickly sent Princess’s number to Fred, then plopping her pillows, she lay on her bed and tried to sleep hoping with all her heart that her voice didn’t embarrass her during service in the morning.
Princess couldn’t sleep, she sat on her big sister’s bed and went through all of her pictures. Ochuko wasn’t like all the other big sisters she knew. Even her friends testified to it that Princess’s big sister was the coolest. She was ever ready to listen to her complaints and she was so loving and nice.
“God, please…let nothing bad happen to my sister…” She whispered. “Please send her a helper…because something tells me that Vuoke is not good for her.”
Her phone rang and she looked at the caller ID, it was an unknown number. She wasn’t supposed to answer calls after nine pm but she answered this one.
“Hey, am I speaking with Princess?” A male voice asked.
“Yes…yes, you are.”
“Princess, I am so sorry to have disturbed you but I am Ochuko’s friend. My name is Fred…”
“Oh, I know you…I mean, I’ve heard of you. My sister said you’re her boss and you’re the nicest.”
“Thank you for telling me.” He said. “I have been trying to reach Ochuko to no avail. Do you know where she is?”
Princess began to cry.
“Don’t tell me…don’t tell me it’s true…don’t tell me she’s dead.” He said with so much panic in his voice.
“Oh no…she’s not…but she’s in a bad shape…she’s at the hospital.” Princess said quickly, wiping away her tears with her palm.
“Oh, thank goodness! How do I see her? What hospital is it?” He asked.
Princess quickly gave him the name and address of the hospital and when she hung up, she looked up at the ceiling.
“Thank you, Lord.” She said. “That was super-fast!”
“You did what?” Emem asked, yawning tiredly. She hated it whenever Bisiola came into the guest room at the middle of the night to chat.
“I told him to leave…was I wrong? Will he come back?” She asked.
“I don’t know…I don’t know Fred that well. If it were Bruce, I’d have given you an answer but not Fred.”
“This is the first time we’ve quarrelled and I feel so uneasy about it. It’s almost as though something is going to happen…it’s like I am going to lose him.”
“I don’t think you are…” Emem said, yawning again and desperately trying to get some sleep.
“Emem…please tell me that I won’t lose him…” Bisiola cried.
“You won’t lose him.” Emem said, resting her head on the pillows and closing her eyes.
“I wonder why that lady gets under his skin so much. Who is she anyway? A mere employee! She stands no chance against me because I am more accomplished than she is and I am richer. No man wants a woman who’d leech off him.” She said.
Emem’s snore replied her. She shook her awake angrily.
“Wake up! I’m talking and you’re sleeping.” She fired.
“I am sleepy! Can’t we talk in the morning?” Emem asked.
“I want to talk now besides, Bruce gets the whole day tomorrow…you know he’s coming here early to pick Zed and I, so that we can spend the whole day at Sheraton.”
Emem nodded and yawned again.
“If that Ochuko lady tries to cross my path, I swear I’ll kill her. I swear it!” Bisiola spat.
“Kill? Don’t scare me…” Emem said, still closing her eyes.
“To be honest with you, I’ve never felt this way about anyone in my life. Ever! Fred even wants to introduce me to family his and I’m this close to becoming his. No woman born of a woman will ever stand in my way.”
“Who are you? Macbeth?” Emem asked yawning again.
“Don’t take me for granted, Emem, I can be very dangerous.”
“I’m sure Fred will call you to apologize by morning and all this anger of yours will disappear. Sometimes, I’m worried that you might scare that guy away, with your attitude and all. He’s too much of a gentleman to understand how to be with a brash woman.”
“What did you just call me? Do you know that you are in my house and I can kick you out?” Bisiola spat.
“I know, your highness and I am sorry. I just want you to truly deserve Fred and for him to deserve you. If your coming together with Fred will cause any problems, then, you’d better stick with Bruce.”
“You’re mad ooo…you’re very mad! Shebi you’re engaged and your wedding is next year. So, your plan is for me to remain a single and an unwed mother for life. May God punish you!” Bisiola spat and stormed out of the room.
Emem sighed, she was grateful for a chance to get back to her wonderful sleep.
It was almost two thirty-am in the morning when Fred hurried into the hospital where Ochuko was. He went to the nurses’ station and saw no one there, however, a register was open on the table and he could see the names of the patients admitted and their room numbers. He saw Ochuko’s room number and went in search for it. The hospital was quite empty and he suddenly didn’t like the fact that Ochuko was here. The place could kill her if it hadn’t already. He reached her room door and pushed it open without knocking.
Ochuko was lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling when the door opened. She winced to think that Vuoke was back from his food search. She had told him that she was hungry and he’d dashed out like an animal, promising to bring her something to eat as soon as he could. Nothing prepared her for the person who’d stepped into the room and was smiling at her.
“Fred? Fred!” She said, surprised at her strong voice.
“Hey dear…” He said rushing to pull her into his arms and hug her tight. “I was so scared…I thought…I thought…” He said with a choked voice.
“I’m fine…who told you I was here?” She asked.
He broke the hug, looked at her and laughed.
“You would laugh if I tell you how I knew.” He said. “You were in my dreams.”
“So, I’ve started haunting your dreams huh?” She smiled.
“What in the world happened? I just spoke to you this morning and you told me about your bridal shower. What happened? Did you get involved in an accident?” He asked, looking at the bandage on her head.
“No…it’s…it’s…a long story. I’d rather not talk about it.” She said.
“What do you mean by it’s a long story. Tell me, what happened to you?”
Ochuko tried to force the tears in but they refused to stay locked up. She began to cry. He instantly knew.
“He…he did this? That…that monster of a fiancé did this to you?” He asked, horrified.
“Please…Fred…I don’t want any trouble…” She started.
“I swear I’ll smash his face in…” He started.
The door opened and Vuoke stepped in with a flask of food.
“Honey, guess where I got this food? You’ll never believe it.”
Fred rushed up to him and pushed him to the wall and without giving him a chance to defend himself, he repeatedly gave him blows on each side of his face.
To be continued…