Lilian stared at the stark face of Ijeoma. “Ma, are you okay?”
Ijeoma shook her head. “I want my husband.” She said. Lilian hurried to her phone on her desk. She dialed Apham’s number and was glad when he picked it on the first ring.
“Is anything wrong with my wife?” He asked as soon as he picked the call.
“She says she wants to see you. I don’t know who called her now, but she doesn’t look so good.” Lilian rushed out. Her legs were tapping rapidly against the ground.
“Who?” His voice took a dangerous tone. “Did anyone come to see her?”
She tried to say something, but the only words that came out were “Uhm, Sir, erm-”
“I taught I instructed that no one should see her?” Lilian could hear his feet hit hard against the floor. Probably going down a staircase.
“Yes sir. Its her mother that came to see her.” She said deliberately leaving the other man. When he got here, she would explain properly.
Apham had stilled when he heard the nurse say her mother. “Is she still there?”
“No, she left. She came when your wife was unconscious.”
A sigh of relief escaped his lips. He resumed his descent down the stairs. “Okay. I will be there tomorrow. Stay with her till then. Don’t worry, I will compensate you.”
“Okay sir.” Her heart trembled as she pocketed her phone. She was going to have another night shift. She turned to Ijeoma, and was relieved to find her asleep. She was surprised however, by the trail of tears already drying up on her cheeks. After checking Ijeoma’s vitals, she returned to her seat and pulled out her phone to dial a number.
The voice on the other side was gruff. “Babe.”
A smile played on her lips as she said, “How is my favorite person in the world?” Her voice dripped honey.
A groan. “What happened again? Night-shift?”
“Sorry bae,” she said, “I will make it up to you.” She lowered her voice.
“I wanted us to watch a movie tonight. I finally subscribed to my Netflix account and there would be light this night. Today is Friday, why does it have to be today of all day?”
Finally, Lilian thought. “Well, it’s just today. We still have tomorrow and the next before you go back to work.”
He sighed. “Alright. Make sure you have something to eat, and not that thing they sell in the restaurant there.”
She chuckled, “I will. There is ewedu and banga soup in the fridge, you can use any of them to prepare what you want.” Lilian frowned slightly. She had prepared the two soups last night and had barely had time to properly taste them. She hoped they would taste okay as she had cooked them with heavy eyes.
When the call was over, Lilian slumped down on her desk. She thought of her boyfriend of four years. Oye worked as a security man in a hotel. It was rare to get him home at night especially during the weekends. She had looked forward to falling asleep with his arms around her.
She was excited about the prospect of getting engaged to him before the end of the year. The last valentine, he had been on duty and couldn’t meet up with the candlelit dinner she had prepared at home. She had gotten the idea from one of the videos she saw online. Rather than the oyibo dishes that had been prepared for the boyfriend, she went with efo eriro soup and Amala, Oye’s favorite. She had slept off in the living room waiting for him to return, even the candle had burned down completely. Oye had returned in the morning filled with apologies and sweet talks as she rewarmed the soup and served it to him as breakfast. Her expectation that day had been that he would propose to her during the romantic dinner, even going as far as to get an expensive manicure. He said nothing on the topic of marriage. She took it as a cue that he probably wasn’t ready to get married. She was, however, prepared to wait. For how long, she didn’t know. He probably wouldn’t let her wait for too long.
Apham got to the hospital in the middle of the night. He’d had to call Lilian to be able to be let into the hospital premises. Ijeoma was sleeping when he arrived. He waved Lilian aside. Lilian understood that he wanted some private time with his wife, and walked noiselessly out of the ward.
Apham took Ijeoma’s hand in his when they were finally alone. He kissed it, and all the cold front he had put up in front of other people fell. His body shook with the power of the stress that he had been facing.
Ijeoma woke up to that familiar scent and a her hand enclasped in warm hands. She put her other hand over the enclasped hands. “Babe.” Her voice was soft.
Apham looked up and straightened to pull her into his arms. The tears he had been holding in was unleashed, dropping on the white pillow. Ijeoma patted his back, she too gave into tears, muttering “It’s okay.”
It took a while before they stopped crying, but they remained in each other’s arms. Ijeoma moved to make space for Apham on the hospital bed. Apham laid down beside her.
“When was the last time you cried?” Ijeoma said with a chuckle, when they had both settled into a comfortable position.
Apham’s chest vibrated as he hummed. “When you wanted to break the engagement, four years ago. You may have forgotten, but I have not.”
Ijeoma sighed. She drew patterns on his shirt-covered chest. “You had knelt down pleading. But I was so furious that day. I was angry that you didn’t say anything before engaging me. I had to go against the wishes of my family to get married to you.”
“Do you regret it?” Apham held his breath.
She shook her head into his chest. “No, I don’t. I don’t regret getting married to you, but I regret the way things got with my family. I wished it had gone differently.”
“It’s my fault,” he said quietly.
“Yes, it is,” Ijeoma’s voice held no blame. “My mother came to see me.”
“Do you think they know everything?” Her eyes were clouded with worry.
“I’m not sure. Who will tell them? We’ve been cut off from them for a while now.”
“Then who told her about this one?” She frowned.
She raised her head. “Why? When? I thought we agreed not to let them know about all these?”
He sighed and pulled her to lay back on his hand. “I don’t think it is advisable to keep this between us any longer. They still don’t know about the first two times and I have also told my father about it.”
“What did he say?” A wary look covered her eyes. She recalled the call she had gotten hours ago.
“We are still talking. I still have to give him another call.”
“Angela called me this evening. She says daddy wants us to come to Abuja,” she muttered.
“What?” His eyes went wide. “Why did she call you? I thought you blocked her number?”
Ijeoma shrugged. A shadow of silence fell upon them. Both of them traveled back in time to the period when they had just gotten married when Ijeoma got to meet the woman that was Angela.