I heard distant voices in the background and someone shutting the door, followed by silence.
My eyes opened and squinted again from the bright lights that hit my retina and gave me a tough time recognising that I was in a hospital ward. I tried to sit up but my head refused to follow my will. It felt like lead against my skull. I groaned from pain and bit my lower lip as the thoughts of my last few conscious hours flashed back. Tears trickled down the sides of my eyes on to the bed as I sobbed.
Thankfully the door opened and a young nurse walked in with a broad smile that felt like home. The name tag on her uniform read Ruth.
“How are you feeling?” She asked while placing a hand on my forehead.
“Where am I?” I ignored her question.
“You don’t have to worry about anything ma’am.” She grinned and felt my pulse. “You’re at Dr. Sam’s hospital. We have been waiting for you to resuscitate since a gentleman brought you here some few hours ago. He said you slumped at a pharmacy nearby. You know… Barkmed’s Place.”
Her voice was soothing, I thought. “I need to leave here at once.”
She had gone to use the intercom to inform the doctor i had regained consciousness. I made to stand up and felt the pound on my head intensify. That was when I also realised I was on drip, hence had my right wrist fastened to the edge of the bed.
“Don’t do this to yourself ma’am, at least not until the doctor has certified you are okay. We need to identify you please.” She spoke with such calmness that defied my thoughts of a typical Nigerian nurse. She didn’t appeal to me like those that would spank and yell at someone for not pushing so hard in the delivery room.
“Look, I just need to leave as soon as possible.” I winced. “Lemme just leave here please.”
“Please ma’am, the gentleman who brought you here said he’s under instructions…”
“Instructions from who?” I defied my pounding head to rant.
“…From the manager at Barkmed’s Place, where you lost consciousness.”
I sighed with relief and relaxed. Ruth seemed relaxed as well.
“Can I have my phone please?”
“Yeah sure. We would have reached out to someone but we’ve not been able to identify you, besides your mobile phone has been locked or we would have reached your…husband or anyone else.” She said as she handed me the phone. I wanted to wonder how she knew I was married when I remembered I had my rings on.
I didn’t know who to talk to. My family was out of it as I didn’t want to cause any form of panic.
I didn’t care about my status anymore, I needed help and was going to ask for it, even if it meant putting it up on social media. I wasn’t the first after all.
When I unlocked the phone, I realised I’d had twenty seven missed calls, Collins alone ga e me twenty. I was sure the others were from his friends’ numbers.
“Thank God.” Ruth looked at me inquisitively as I was glad they hadn’t taken any of the calls to inform Collins about my location.
“I’m sorry we missed the calls that came to your phone. That’s why I was asked to come and get the phone.
“There’s no problem at all.” If only she knew what was on my mind. I called the only person that could understand what plight I was suffering at the time, the only person I should never have called. What face did I have… What guts? But that was the Hobson’s choice.
The shock in Vera’s voice was almost palpable but the love and wanting was perspicuous.
“Hello love,” her soft voice emanated benignly as the line clicked open.
I lost my vocal cord and my senses turned off.
Only one thing happened. I broke down and sobbed.
“Fifi what’s the matter with you?” She asked with a tone of urgency. I couldn’t bear it anymore and hanged up.
Vera called back and at the third ring I picked up and continued to sob. With so much persuasion, I told Vera where I was and why. I could feel the panic in her voice as she told me to hang on, that she’d call back.
I’d hardly taken the phone off my ear when the doctor walked in, a smallish elderly man in his mid sixties with eye glasses that sat on his nose, farther away from his eyes. He had a way of looking over the rim of his lenses and wore a healing smile. I doubted if people would ever die in this hospital. He examined me and began asking about my identity but I told him he shouldn’t worry, that I could take care of myself.
Vera called back and before the doctor could advise against taking the call I was speaking into the phone already. Vera told me she had excused herself to book the first flight to Lagos the next day. I felt the tears begin to pour out again. She had just put to bed, she was not supposed to travel but she insisted on coming.
“This is exactly what you should avoid in your present condition. You need your loved one around you right now… Your blood pressure is on the high side.” The doctor advised.
“Doctor, you asked for my loved ones right?” I nodded and continued. “She’ll be here tomorrow.”
Before 9am the next morning, the door to my ward opened and Vera poked her head round the door with her angelic smile. I didn’t know how to deal with the guilt that pierced my heart as again tears rolled down my cheeks. I sat up and wanted to stand but she walked in and called out.
“Don’t worry baby I got you.” She had some bags with her which she laid down at the foot of the bed and came to hug me. We tangled in a tight embrace and cried… She had added weight from child bearing.
“I missed you dear…” She kept saying into my ears as Ruth watched on from the doorway. She had brought her to my ward.
For the first time in my life, I kept nothing from someone in a story about me. I bared it all to her and we wept together. I begged her to find a place in her heart to forgive me.
“You’re such a joke, I didn’t come all this way to judge you or pour out my grievances. I came to see my beauty again. I came because I would never wish anything bad to happen to you.”
Vera’s words cut through me. I leaned forward and hugged her now chubby self again.
“How about the baby?” I asked. “You shouldn’t have left him.”
“He’s in safe hands with my mother in-law. I called D yesterday and told him about your call last night, he just called his mum to come and take care of the baby while I come check you out.”
“Oh my God, you’re blessed dear.” I said, happy for my friend for the very first time.
“You too baby.” She began to unpack the things she had bought. “By twelve thirty, I’ll call D so we have a video chat. He has been asking after you.”
We did the video chat with Desmond and later, I took time to narrate my entire ordeal of a marriage to my best friend. When I was done, she was crying uncontrollably. She revealed how Collins had come with his apparatus that night that made her not to settle with him. He’d almost raped her that night if not for the hotel management. She apologized for not telling me all that earlier but swore she would have told me if she had known I was seeing Collins.
She swore to take me with her, that I had no business with Lagos anymore. She had a return ticket waiting for 17:45. She called to book for me too.
My discharge from the hospital was finalised and we thanked the manager of Barkmed’s Place for his hospitality and also the doctor. On our way out I asked Vera to hold on a bit as I saw Ruth arriving the hospital for her shift. She bared that warming smile I thought could resurrect the dead. I beckoned on her to come and give me a hug. While we hugged, I removed the rings, my engagement and wedding rings, and slid them into her hand as we disengaged.
“It costs a fortune. Sell it and do something nice with it.” It felt better that way.
“This is your wedding ring ma’am?” She managed to say amidst her confusion and surprise.
“Yes darling, they don’t guarantee a great marriage, do they?”
She shook her head slowly and I patted her back and joined Vera. I never looked back again.
The flight back to Port-Harcourt was warm and about the coziest and most fulfilling thing that ever happened to me.
On arrival at the airport, Desmond was waiting. After we exchanged pleasantries, he smiled and announced. “Someone is here to say welcome.”
I shot him an inquisitive stare before I spotted Dickson walking through the busy ajar glass doors.
“Did you come with Dickson?” I asked Desmond who shared a knowing smile with his wife. “You guys are mischievous finally.”
They burst into laughter as Dickson arrived and gave me a hug after a brief moment of don’t-know-what-to-do’s.
I never returned to my estranged husband at least not until the court case for a divorce commenced a few months later. Three months into the case, he was reported to have committed suicide with a suicide note explaining his dwindling life. I quickly withdrew my court case and claimed all his properties which were left to me as his direct beneficiary. I sold off the already waning company and other properties which he owned including the flat in which we had lived and moved to Port-Harcourt to start my pharmaceutical company. The money was unbelievably huge, I realised, after selling off the properties. Vera suggested we rather partnered to knock off other competitors and I quickly bought the idea. I invested half of the money in Vera’s business and we became 50-50 partners in a global pharmaceutical business.
Although there was not an epilogue in the beginning of this story, I’d beg to add a prologue…
Here in my study, finalizing the weird experience I had in the name of marriage, as a result of my greed and hatred for what is good, my husband is here and has been, to always pat my back and cheer me up- ‘us’ if you might want to count the baby growing inside of me now. He thinks I’m a good writer but sometimes also thinks I’m utterly awful too, such a split personality. I fondly call him Down also or Dick, though it sounds like a regular name but I prefer that to Dickson which appeals to me more like a “baby dick” as against his huge below.????
I’m sure he might want to say a word or two.