Ochuko’s eyes opened and all she could see was a bright light.
“Where am I?” She said.
Her voice echoed. She stood up and looked at her frame on the bed, she saw some doctors hovering around her body and she knew she was dead. She wanted to cry but she couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried to force the pain out from her body, she couldn’t. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have a body anymore. She stood there staring at her body on the bed when she felt someone beside her. She turned, it was her late uncle, he had died when she was a child.
“Pa Tom…” She said in a whisper.
He smiled at her, he didn’t speak.
“Are you here to take me with you?” She asked.
He smiled again but he didn’t answer.
Pa Tom was her mother’s eldest brother whom she’d fondly remembered as a child for the sweets he always bought whenever he came to her house. She turned to look at her frame on the bed in the hospital again and by the time she turned back, he was gone. She began to search for him everywhere but she couldn’t leave the confines of the room where she lay for fear that she might leave her body behind.
“I need to take my body with me…” She said aloud. “I can’t leave it here.”
She hurried to her body on the bed and watched a nurse wrap a light bandage around her head.
“Ochuko! Wake up! Come let’s go!” She called.
Her body lay still as though it wasn’t ready to listen to her.
“Ochuko…please come with me…uncle Tom is waiting, he is waiting for me.” She said sounding quite childish.
Her body lay still and unmoving on the bed, she didn’t know what to do.
Vuoke was speaking to the doctor when Ochuko’s mother ran into the hospital with her sister on her heels.
“Vuoke! What happened? Tell me…what happened to my daughter?” She wailed.
Vuoke turned to regard his future in-laws.
“She fell…she fell…” He said.
“Did that stupid dog of your landlord, chase her about again? I’ve told her to tell you to tell your landlord to chain his dog! Why would the dog do this to her?” She cried hysterically.
Vuoke regarded her in silence, his landlord didn’t have a dog and neither did he. He suddenly realized that Ochuko had been lying to her family about the beatings.
“It’s not the dog ma…it’s…it’s the stairs of my house…it was dark and she fell.” He lied, hoping with all his heart that he would be the only one in the room when Ochuko regained consciousness. “Meet the doctor…ma…” He said introducing Ochuko’s mother to the doctor.
“Doctor, please tell me that she will be alright. Her wedding is in less than two weeks already.” Her mother cried.
“We have checked for internal bleeding and found none. Right now we’ve dressed her wounds and she’s on pain killers at the moment but she is still unconscious.” He said.
“My God! What have my enemies done to me? Oh my God! I knew it! I knew that someone was behind all this from the start. When my daughter clocked thirty and she still wasn’t married, I knew that someone was behind my misfortune. This…this has just confirmed it…” She wailed.
Princess cried beside her mother, she looked at Vuoke and something told her that he wasn’t being truthful. She’d seen the way her sister watched her words whenever she was with him and she knew that since the wedding preparations began, Ochuko had become jumpy and sad.
“Can we see her? Please…I want to see her.” Princess sobbed.
“No, the doctor said that she should be left alone…” Vuoke started.
The doctor opened his mouth to speak but Vuoke quickly asked.
“Isn’t that right doctor? Shouldn’t she be left alone at least for now?”
“Well, only close relatives and family can see her and I can only allow one person at a time.” The doctor said.
“I am her mother, I will stay with her.”
“I am her sister…I will stay with her.”
“I am her fiancé…I brought her to the hospital. It is only right that I am the first person she sees when she wakes up.” Vuoke said quickly.
“Well, I guess you all have to decide amongst yourselves…please excuse me.” The doctor said and left.
Vuoke looked at Ochuko’s mother and sister.
“Please, let me be with her…I promise to update you…” He said.
“No! I need to be with my daughter…I need to know that she is fine.” Ochuko’s mother insisted.
“Mummy, we still have a wedding to plan and you are incharge.” He started. “Let me take care of this.”
Ochuko’s mother looked at him and nodded.
“You’re right Vuoke, the wedding is happening soon and we haven’t even finalized on everything.” She said. “I’ll just go in briefly to see her…”
“Okay, let’s go.” He said.
Princess followed them behind and as she walked, she kept throwing glances down Vuoke’s way. He was acting strange.
Fred was wearing his shoes when he sat up with a start, it was as though something had snapped in him. Bisiola looked at him, she wondered what was going on with him.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yes…I’m fine…I just felt a bit strange…” He said.
“I felt some kind of tremor run down my spine. I’ve never felt it before.” He said.
“Do you want to see a doctor?” She asked worriedly.
“No, I’m fine…I guess my body is trying to tell me something but it has nothing to do with my health.” He said.
“Okay then…let’s go. It’s almost three pm and we need to check the site now that it’s still daytime.” She said.
“Hmmm…sure.” He said.
They both left the house hand in hand. They soon got to the car and drove out of the compound. They had just crossed the third mainland when Bisiola said.
“I forgot to tell Zed that I’m going out…I should text Emem.” She said.
“Oh, that’s true. I don’t want Zed thinking that I’ve whisked his mom away.” He said with a smile. “By the way, why don’t I see Zed as often as I used to. When we just started seeing each other, he’s always awake whenever I’m around but now, it seems like he’s always asleep whenever I’m in your place.”
Bisiola looked at him in silence; putting Zed to sleep whenever Fred arrived or sending him to play in his room with his nanny was a ploy to keep Zed away from Fred because he was a chatty little child and he could tell his dad about an uncle Fred and that would be trouble.
“He plays a lot at his school so whatever chance he gets is to sleep.” She said quickly.
“Hmmm…okay…” He said.
“Besides, you should move into your new place already. Aren’t you tired of staying with your parents until now?” She asked.
“Are you trying to tell me that you don’t want us hanging out at your place anymore?”
“That’s not it and you know it.” She said. “It’s just that I keep wondering how long it’ll take for your apartment to be ready. I’d rather we hang out in your apartment than at my place because I don’t want Zed walking in on us someday.”
“And why haven’t you introduced me officially to him as your boyfriend?” Fred asked.
“These things take time honey, it’s not easy for a single mom to introduce her child to a man in her life. I want to but I want him to be ready.” She said.
“Well…do so quickly because I’d like us to take him along when you come to meet my parents. I want them to accept the two of you as a part of my life.”
She looked at him and smiled.
“I’m touched. You’re a good man, Fred.”
“Well…I try…” He smiled.
“You’re being pompous about it too…” She laughed and playfully poked his arm.
They drove for twenty more minutes and stopped at a construction site. Fred turned off the ignition and Bisiola looked at him.
“Is this the place?”
“Yes…it is.” He said. “I’ve been here once but my driver brought me.”
“Impressive! This place is quite large.” She said.
“Yes, there were two buildings on this land but my dad insisted that we pulled them down in order to erect a new structure.”
“Your dad sounds wise.” She said.
“Yup, he’s one of the wisest men I’ve you’ll ever meet.” Fred said in pride.
They both alighted from the vehicle and Fred took her hand in his. Just as they were about to go in, some workers stepped out of the building holding their pans of sand and one of them bumped into Bisiola.
“What nonsense! How dare you? You filthy thing!” She screamed.
Fred looked at her, he was alarmed at her attitude.
“Hey…it was purely unintentional…. calm down…” He said.
“What do you mean by calm down? Doesn’t he have eyes?” She screamed at the man who was trembling with his pan in his hands.
“I dey sorry ma…I dey sorry…” The man said.
“It’s okay, please get back to work.” Fred said and taking her by the hand, he dragged her into the building.
“Why did you forgive him just like that?” She spat.
“What do you want me to do to him? Take a cane and flog him?”
“You should fire him…you should ask the contractor to fire him!” She hissed.
“Now, you’re acting like a spoiled little girl. Grow up! It’s not everything that needs a heavy hand, sometimes, we need to be calm.” He admonished.
She dragged her hand from him and glared at him in anger. The contractor chose that moment to appear.
“Good afternoon sir, I was thinking you wouldn’t come.” He said.
“Yes…I was held up.” Fred stammered, he glared at Bisiola and turned to regard the contractor. “Where is your team? I’d like to see the job so far.”
“Please come with me sir.”
Fred turned to Bisiola, asking her with his eyes to follow him but she didn’t budge.
“Let’s go then.” He said to the contractor and walked away.
Bisiola watched Fred leave, she fumed under her breath. This was one thing she hated Fred for and it was the fact that he never supported her whenever she raved at people. She stamped her foot on the ground and growled silently, she was going to make him respect her whether he liked it or not. She was still standing there when someone bumped into her again and poured some sand on her body. She screamed.
“Are you guys mad? Is there some kind of a riot of idiots running about this place?” She yelled as she turned to face the person.
The elderly woman who had tripped with the pan of sand looked at her, it was her mother. Bisiola couldn’t speak, she stared at her mother in silence, and her mother stared back. Her mother looked skinnier than the last time she saw her and she looked quite ill. As they stood there and stared at each other, a young girl rushed towards them, it was Tosin.
“Mummy, let’s go…let’s continue our work.” Tosin said.
Bisiola was tongue-tied, her sister and mother looked like some sort of skeletal framework, they were dirty, dishevelled and they looked unkempt. At that moment, Fred and the contractor rushed up to them.
“Bisiola, I heard your scream…are you okay? Is everything alright?” Fred asked.
“Sorry sir…my mother…just accidentally poured some sand on her…” Tosin said with fear in her eyes.
“Are you okay?” Fred asked Bisiola.
“Can you send your driver with your other car to take me home?” Bisiola asked Fred. “Today is not a good day.”
Fred watched her walk out of the site and turned to look at the woman and her daughter. The girl looked scared but the woman had an unreadable expression on her face.
“What did you do?” The contractor shouted. “Mama, if you know that you are weak for this job, tell your boss so that he can replace you. I won’t have you causing problems for us here.”
Bisiola’s mother nodded and looked away.
“It’s okay…it was all a mistake…” Fred said quickly.
“No sir, I really think that the woman should give it a rest. There are more able-bodied men and women who are looking for this kind of job…”
“No, I insist that she continues working…” Fred said and looked at Bisiola’s mother in sympathy. “Are you okay ma?” He asked.
Bisiola’s mother looked at him and nodded.
“Good…” Fred said and turned to the contractor. “Let us go.”
Just as he was turning to leave, Bisiola’s mother placed her hand on his sleeve. Fred looked at her in alarm, he wondered if she wanted to ask for money.
“Thank you.” She said then after a short while, she added. “Abeg when you enter market, nor use long throat carry the fish wey you see for untop counter, e get better ones wey dey inside bucket.”
Fred stared at her, he didn’t understand a word. He nodded and turned around to follow the contractor into the building, as they went, the contractor said.
“I’m guessing you do not understand what she said.”
“I really don’t know whether to be alarmed or worried.” Fred said, bringing out his phone to call his driver.
“Well…in a nutshell, what she means is that you should be careful when making a choice…” The contractor said. “Do you think she’s some sort of a psychic? This is the reason I don’t like to hire older people, most times, their blessings or curses stick like glue.”
Fred nodded silently and picking up his phone, he dialled his driver’s number.
Bisiola stood outside the site and leaned against Fred’s car. What sort of a coincidence was that? She wondered. Why was her mother and sister here? Wasn’t this place far from the shabby house they lived in? Why did they seem to follow her about all of a sudden? What does this mean? She wondered. She closed her eyes and leaned her head on the window of the car, wishing with all her heart that Fred’s driver would hurry.
Lilian sat with her baby and stared at the family doctor she used to visit as a child, he looked at her and said.
“I have never heard of this before.” He said shaking his head. “If your husband is of AA genotype and yours is AS, then, your child should be either AA or AS. Are you sure that your husband isn’t AS?”
“I am sure doc…we redid the test when we found that baby Laura has sickle cell.” She said in worry. “My husband accuses me of cheating on him and I don’t mind combing the ends of the earth to prove my innocence.” She said.
“This is really confusing…” The doctor said looking at the test results on the table before him. “I have looked at this tests over and over again and it’s obviously right.”
“What do I do doctor? What could be a reasonable explanation for this?” She asked.
“Where did you have the baby?” He asked.
“At the same hospital where I’ve been having my kids for years.” She said.
He pondered and looked at her with furrowed brows.
“What are you thinking doctor?” She asked.
“I could be wrong but there might be a possibility that this is not your child.” He said.
“What? How? I mean…why would you say that?” She asked in alarm while looking at the child in her arms.
“You said it yourself that you both marvel at her complexion and her features which are not at all similar to yours or your husband’s.”
“Yes…we do but kids look different and…” She started. “We can’t decide based on looks alone.”
“I think that perhaps unknowingly, your baby was switched in the hospital where you gave birth.” He said.
“Switched? You mean…that…that…I might have another person’s baby in my arms? This child might…might not be mine?” She stammered as she the baby in her arms.
To be continued….