Lilian twirled the lollipop in her hand, humming as she walked into the ward. She flashed the bodyguards a friendly smile, frowning when their stone expression didn’t react to it. She had given up on saying ‘Good morning’ to them but still couldn’t help passing them without regarding their presence. It was indeed a sunny morning, and she would not allow their inanimate reception to her friendliness to ruin her day. She entered the ward with reinvigorated enthusiasm but was brought to a standstill by the figure sitting beside the patient’s bed.
“Mr. Agba?” she asked, as she could only see the back of the person.
“Shh!” The man turned his face to her, a finger on his lips.
She frowned, and with caution, she hurried to the bed. “Excuse me sir, you’re not supposed to be in here,” she said in a fierce whisper.
He cocked his eyebrows at her. “She just went back to sleep now. You should keep your voice down.”
Lilian looked at Ijeoma. Her breathing was normal, her face showed no signs of unease. She let out a sigh of relief. “May I ask who you are?” She folded her arms and looked down at the man. The look on his face frightened her, but she maintained a defiant expression.
He stood up and turned to face her, his hands in his pocket. He looked at the name tag on her chest. “Lilian, is it?”
She blinked when she saw where his eyes were. “What…what are you looking at?” The defiant expression dropped to be replaced by a flustered one.
With a smirk, his eyes returned to her face. “Nothing in particular, so Lilian… can you make my visit a secret between us?” He lowered his voice bringing his face closer to hers.
Lilian cleared her throat uncomfortably and took two steps back. “I’m sorry sir, but I cannot do that.”
“Really?” He pulled the chair away from the bed to the middle room and sat down, crossing his legs. “How was your trip to the bank to cash the cheque?’ He asked in a lax voice.
“Eh?” She stared at him dumbfounded. “How did you know?” Her tone was defensive.
“So, what were you saying before? A secret?” He winked at her.
Lilian thought for a moment before she shook her head. “You cannot threaten me that way. The woman only paid me to make sure that her daughter gets the utmost treatment.” Her voice shook at the end of the sentence.
“Well, are you sure her husband would want to hear that?” His eyes softened as he looked at Ijeoma on the bed.
Lilian frowned. “What is wrong with her mother visiting her? She must have been worried about her.”
“Then there should be nothing wrong with you telling her husband that she came by-” He smirked slowly. “Or did she tell you to do otherwise?”
Lilian shook her head furiously. “You cannot threaten me.”
“Well, sorry angel, that is exactly what I am doing. Or were you expecting another cheque from me?” He waited a bit, when she didn’t say anything, he continued. “Well, I’m sorry. That is out of the plan. Its either you keep quiet or you lose your job altogether.”
Lilian’s mouth opened and closed. She could hardly piece two words together.
“Make your choice.” He looked at his wristwatch. “You just have two minutes.”
Lilian stared at the man, her eyes brimmed with intense dislike. “Is that even a choice? Well sir, you have succeeded in threatening me. I hope you have a nice day. Do well not to return here.” She huffed and returned to the makeshift desk that she had set up in the ward.
The man stood up with a smirk. He walked over to the desk, and dropped a card on it. “This is my card, call me in case there is an update on her condition. I will also need your phone number as well.” He picked up the writing pad on the table and tore a sheet from it, and slid it to her.
“Sorry, sir. I don’t give my number to strangers. You can call the reception if you need any information. I’m sure that they would be obliged to answer any question you have.” Lilian’s tone was cold.
“Really? Do we have to go come back to this every time?” His eyes twinkled with mischief.
She pressed her lips together and released an exasperated sigh. She snatched up the paper and quickly scribbled on it, flinging it at him. It fluttered to the floor.
He looked from the white paper on the ground to her, a small smile playing on his lips. “You’ll be hearing from me, soon,” he said, then added in a sombre tone. “Make sure no harm comes to her.” He tipped his jaw at the woman on the bed.
Lilian was surprised by his last words, but before she could say anything, he was already striding out of the ward. A groan from Ijeoma had her rushing to the bed. In a few minutes, she had forgotten about the annoying man that had been in the ward.
Gabriel fished out his phone from his pocket as soon as he got into the car that had been waiting for him at the entrance to the hospital. The other line picked up on the second ring.
“You went to see her,” came the gruff voice.
“She looks worse than I had expected. You promised that it wouldn’t happen again. What happened this time?” His voice rose as he spoke.
Apham let out a tired sigh. “She was returning home from the ante-natal centre when it happened.”
“I keep regretting letting her get married to you. She has seen enough to haunt her for years. How long do you think it will take for her to get over it this time?”
“I don’t know. I wanted to send her out of the country, but it seems the problem is not as simple as we expected it to be.”
“That’s what you should have done a long time ago. Not when she is now a former shell of herself.” He breathed deeply. “I warned you before, didn’t I? I told you that if she gets treated less than she deserves, I will take her from you and no matter what she does, I won’t let her leave my side for one second. This was the last chance I gave you.”
On the other side of the line, Apham rubbed his forehead wearily. He never knew a day would come that he would regret marrying Ijeoma, if only there was a way to turn back the winds of time. “No matter what it takes, I will make things right this time.”
Gabriel’s voice was grim as he said, “You better do.” Then hung up the call.
“Take me to the office,” he told the driver. The hospital was a long way behind, but when he looked in its direction, the warm expression was back in his face.