The air in the cramped room was pungent. The man that followed Apham into the room carrying a carton of Indomie scrunched his nose. Apham ignored the smell, but his nose twitched visibly from time to time. He watched the woman on the bed with a cold expression. He didn’t even feel hatred towards her. He was empty of all feelings. The woman on the bed was aged and wrinkled. She could hardly move, a drip was connected to her hands. Her eyes were sharp though, they followed Apham into the room, barely recognizing the other person in the room. Her face showed signs of struggle. She wanted to stand up.
Apham saw the struggle in her eyes. A cold smile appeared on his lips. He dismissed the man who was more than happy to leave the room.
The bed the woman was laying on was very low, so Apham bent down to look her in the face. He wrinkled his nose when the smell of fresh urine hit his nose.
“Why did you have to be so wicked?” His voice was unhurried. The yellow bulb that hung on the ceiling came on with a spark. In the distance, some children shouted “Up Nepa”. The rusted fan that stood beside the bed made a screechy sound as it whirred to life. He eyed the noisy fan and then pulled the plug away from the socket. The woman’s face took on a deadly look. She must be planning his death, Apham thought as he met her look head-on.
“You cannot do anything again.” He taunted. He stood up, enjoying the feeling of looking down at her. “When you are on this bed, in this room, you cannot do anything, to me or to my wife or any of your children. How many of them are even left? Take a look at yourself now, are you not ashamed that this is where you are when one of your sons own expensive homes around the country? And just look at what became of you. How do you feel? I mean, after you and your husband killed their siblings, did you think that they will still want to have anything to do with you? Unfortunately, you ruined them before they could even start walking.” He scoffed to himself. “Why do I even bother? I’m sure that the first chance you get, you will go back to ruining people’s life. Whoever did this to you must have a serious grievance against you. I can see it in your eyes, you keep praying for death, but it keeps on slipping out of your reach.”
He gestured at the cartons of provisions that were packed at one side of the room. “These are your provisions for the next month. If the helper takes some, allow her to. Taking care of you is as difficult as it can get.” Clothes lay haphazardly around the wardrobe with doors already off the hinge. He looked at them. The floor had layers of dust that had become one with the carpet. He had told Kate, the helper to clean the room several times, but he always met it in a condition worse than before. He couldn’t complain. Cleaning the woman every day was asking her to do too much.
His phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller. A somber expression settled on his face. He rejected the call and placed his phone on silence before returning it to his pocket. He gave the woman one last look and then left the room with swift steps.
As he left, a tear fell from the woman’s eyes. Another followed slowly, until her whole body shook and her mouth opened in a voiceless cry.
When Ijeoma opened her eyes, the sun was setting outside. The windows had been opened to let in light into the room. The scent of processed lemon was heavy in the air. She heard the chirp of a phone followed by a concealed laughter. She looked in the direction of the noise. It was the nurse that had been taking care of her before. Her ears were plugged in with earphones and she watched her phone with sparkling interest. Ijeoma made attempts to get her attention but it was to no avail. She would have given up, but the scratchy feeling in her throat prompted her to try to stand up from the bed. Pain spread through her abdomen as she sat up, she winced loudly in pain.
From the side of her eye, Lilian noticed movement and jumped up when she what Ijeoma was trying to do. Her phone that had been connected to its charger plugged into the extension cable on the table fell to the ground, dragging with it the glass of water that had been near it.
She ignored the sound of the breaking glass and rushed to Ijeoma’s side. “Are you okay? What do you need?” She propped up the pillows and settled Ijeoma back on the bed.
“Water,” Ijeoma groaned out.
Lilian reached for the glass of water, and helped her to take gentle sip, rubbing her back as she swallowed.
Lilian hovered around as Ijeoma looked down at her body. “Do you feel uncomfortable anywhere ma? I will get the doctor for you.”
Ijeoma shook her head slowly when Lilian stretched her hands to lift the landline that sat on the small bedside table. “I’m okay. Can you open the windows?”
Lilian frowned. “Do you feel hot? I can switch on the air conditioner.”
“No. Just opened the windows for me.” Ijeoma’s voice was tired. Lilian hesitated before she slid the windows open. She felt a blast of hot air. She was confused as to why the woman preferred warm air than the cool air from the air conditioner. She felt the beginnings of heat. She rubbed her underarms, her lips pouted when she felt a patch of wetness there.
But when she saw Ijeoma breathe a sigh of relief, she ignored her own discomfort. If she was happy with it, who was she to complain.
“Are you just going to stand there moping at me?” Ijeoma said.
Lilian shook her head furiously as she returned to the table. She made a face at the mess around the table. She picked up her phone, grateful that she had bought a waterproof phone case. She set about arranging the place. When she finished, she turned to look at Ijeoma to make sure that she was alright. After asking for water and that the windows be opened, she had not said much. She was surprised to see her watching her. She didn’t even look away when she caught her look.
“Who is paying you to take care of me?” Ijeoma asked.
Lilian blinked with confusion. “I don’t understand ma. I work in the hospital.”
“When I was unconscious, three people visited me. My husband was one of them, but I knew when he left. He hasn’t returned since then. The other two, who were they?”
Like a deer caught in headlights, Lilian could only stare at the woman on the bed. Her mouth opened and closed. And all she could think of, was the two hundred thousand that had found its way in her bank account.