Engineer Lawal got to the hospital premises very early. He had high hopes about his sister’s recovery and also longed to see and the doctor that helped in saving her. He was so happy that his sister was no longer on the danger list and had been moved to a general ward. Unfortunately, his inquiry after Dr. Onifade from a nurse made him sad when he was told she was not around because she had been given two weeks off. This information almost killed his spirit, for he had looked forward to seeing the good doctor. However, he however promised himself that they would meet again before his sister was discharged.
He was about to leave the hospital premises when he remembered something he had brought for his sister. He opened his car quickly, jumped out and ran up the stairs. As he was negotiating the corner that would take him to the waiting room, he heard two voices. From the way they were laughing it seemed they were gossiping. A sudden dislike for the hospital came upon him. But for his sister, he wouldn’t have wanted to have anything to do with the place ever again. If they had not saved his sister’s life; he would have had her discharged and transferred elsewhere. Unfortunately though, they were reputed to be the best specialist hospital around. He was disgusted and wanted to move on but something stopped him. He stood quietly and listened intently.
Oh! Na wa o, na all kind of people dey this hospital” the first voice said,
“Hmmn, I know say you go surprise but, Oga Adekola don give Dr. Onifade query, say why she go do operation for that girl wey dem bring com some days ago, as I hear gan, na Dr. Salisu filed a complaint against Dr.Onifade” another voice said.
“Shei! Dem no want that lady have peace for here at all, if na me I for don run comot and look for better job, how much dem they pay am sef? On top which dem still dey sakara am shhhh,” The first voice said and hissed.
“My sister,” the second nurse continued, “na serious prayer we need for dis place, I hear say dem don tell am make she go ready as sack letter go come anytime, and I hear say bulldozer (that is the nickname for Dr. Adekola) wan befriend am and she no agree …. “what!”…. the other one took it from her, bulldozer toasted Dr. Onifade, Chineke that lady stupid no be small, no wonder I dey see her for the man’s …”.
Engineer Lawal felt nauseated and all the energy drained out of him. He did not even bother listening to what the gossipers had to say further. Instead of progressing he turned back and, unlike when he was coming up, he powerlessly descended the stairs like a fowl drenched by rain. When he got to his car, he opened it and sat down with one leg hanging out, thinking.
“My God” He kept saying over and over. “This place is 100% bad. No wonder that lady rushed out of her office! So, because she saved my sister, they’ve issued her a query. Why? Why should they do that? Is it against the code that young doctors should enter into the theatre? Oh my God!”.
His thought raced the length and breadth of his brain. He couldn’t get heads or tails from it all. A sudden hatred for the hospital greater than the first one came on him with a choking force that was so powerful. In fact, he felt like burning the whole place down.
One evening, a week later at Biodun’s house, a co-worker in the hospital = a matron - visited her. She asked how Biodun was enjoying being off and also about Innorie. After welcoming and giving the woman some snacks, she started chit chatting with the woman. All of a sudden the woman initiated a conversation about the hospital where they worked. Biodun was careful about what she’s said, considering the threat given to her. The woman who was a chatterbox told Biodun that a circular was passed round notifying the staff they would have to retrench some staff before the salary increment that they had all been expecting.
The woman told her that most staff members were unhappy while some had taken it upon themselves to write the management regarding the latest happenings. Some claimed the management are unaware that the branch was in need of more staff, as there was shortage of workers in the hospital.
Biodun was shaken but managed to control herself as they moved from one discussion to the next. After the matron had left, she sat silently and considered all she had just heard. “Should I resign or wait for the outcome of the letter written to the management?” was the prevalent question on her mind. She knew she was at a cross-road and the decision to take had eluded her. She thought of writing to her mother but she quickly erased the thought from her mind. She did not want to cause any alarm for the woman.
She thought of Gloria and Kunle who had travelled outside the country. Fredo had not returned to Nigeria, and those were her only friends. She thought of the matron but pushed it aside, laughing to herself, “I really need to be on the qui vive with the way my thoughts run these days. Imagine thinking of the matron who is a tale bearer and a real termagant. I’m sure she will tell all her pals about all she saw and heard here today.” She suddenly became lonely, extremely lonely like she had never been before. Unlike now, even during her ordeal with Lanre, there had been people around to help her. “Well I should count my blessings,” she thought as a way of comforting herself.
“Let me take it to God in prayer as he is the best guardian I could look up to,” she thought. She felt at peace with herself after she made that decision.
Some days later, a postman came to her house and delivered some letters. She was busy in the kitchen when the letters arrived, so she placed them down and continued her cooking. She was cooking, using her mouth to supply the necessary musical instruments. She seemed to be wading off boredom and suddenly the sound of the doorbell’s ring pierced the air. It shrieked again so she went to it. It was her daughter and her maid. She gave her daughter a kiss and, taking her by the hand, she delegated the cooking to the maid.
On getting to her room, she undressed Innorie and with another hand picked up the letters. When she picked up the first one, she burst into tears, forgetting her daughter was in front of her. She had always managed to keep her sadness and misery to herself, not wanting anything to destabilize the young girl. But today was different. She almost cried her eyes out. It was when she felt a tug at her leg that she realized her daughter was there. She quickly controlled herself, picked the girl up and started moaning in pain.
The letter was from Dr. Adekola, a real devil incarnate, an egotist and a cynic. He sent the letter to mock her for the reaction of her colleagues who had written to the management. Although they had not gotten any reaction, he was sure that they would all lose as he was certain she instigated her colleagues to write against him. He did not even consider that she was not around when it all happened. He told her in the letter that the jobs of her colleagues were in her hands as she could bail them all out by meeting him at a particular joint that evening where no one would be sacked. He went to a great length to denounce her pride, calling her all sorts of names.
“My God, save me from this man. He is troubling my life. Why must he do this? God, fight for me, fight God please,” she said as fresh tears cascaded down her cheeks.
Innorie became frightened since she had never seen her mother cry before, and looking at her mother’s red eyes, she also burst into tears, wailing. Seeing her daughter’s distress, Biodun quickly cleaned her face and started petting her. She did not even bother picking up the other letter. “I’ve had enough evil news for a day,” she told herself. She thought of taking a stroll so she went inside the bathroom to clean up.
She dressed in a simple shirt and skirt and held her daughter’s hand. She called to her maid, telling her she was going out for a walk with Innorie. She told the maid to pack some snacks for her daughter. She closed the door and went downstairs. Then, when was about go out of the compound, she changed her mind. She dropped Inno’s hand, went up the stairs and picked up her car key. She drove to a horticultural garden not too far from her house.
On getting to the garden she immediately succumbed to the wonderful healing hand of nature. Her eyes became relaxed as she showed her daughter different flowers and trees. She even made silly noises to entice and enchant the child and they both enjoyed the place. It had a soothing power that always amazed her, from roses of diverse colours to hibiscus, lavender, jacinth, blue bells, trees and even birds. The birds in the garden were so beautiful with colourful wings. Even the butterflies had lovely patterns that so much trilled daughter and mother. Innorie tried catching some of the butterflies. Then, to further thrill the child, Biodun followed her in the game. She looked around her in wonder, saying, “It’s as if this place is not part of our world. I’m sure here no ugliness can find its way in,” she soliloquized.
Lost in thoughts, she didn’t know Innorie had gone after a butterfly that really caught her fancy. Biodun was alarmed and start moving up and down the park in search of her daughter. “Innocenta” she called softly. Although she had not seen anyone since entering the park, she was double sure there were people there. The place was so big that fifty people could be there without seeing one another. She did not want to frighten the other visitors by raising an alarm but, like a mother, she started panicking, especially after ten minutes of searching for the child. She decided to go to the florists, but no, the guards at the gate were those she would approach.
She picked up her purse but left the small bag her daughter would recognize as she hurried towards the security post. As she neared the place, she heard a tearful voice calling, “Mumi, Mumi, Mumi.” She looked back and saw her daughter with her hand held by a stranger. “My God! Inno!” she called. As she saw her daughter struggling with the stranger, she moved faster towards them. Without looking up at the strange man she said,
“Thank you sir. I don’t know when she moved away. She must have been carried away by the beauty of this place. Thank you so much!” she repeated, taking her daughter from him. The stranger murmured his acceptance and was about to say something when both suddenly looked at each other’s faces.
“Oh my God! Fred!” Screamed Biodun, she left her daughter and both hugged tightly.
“My God” Biodun kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe it. When did you come back to Nigeria without informing me, oh my!” She held her breast and her eyes were as wide as saucer plates in surprise.
Fred felt so overwhelmed by Biodun’s display of emotion that he was dumbstruck.
However, when he regained his composure, he teasingly said, “Calm down Abbey, you’re getting me flustered. No wonder the kid looked familiar to me. She was chasing butterflies all over when she came to my side and she started crying. I decided to take her to the guards as I’m sure her parent must have been looking for her but, oh my! You look good, girl!” He embraced Biodun again.
Both stood gazing at each other wonderingly. Biodun took her daughter’s hand and the trio went to where Biodun’s things were. She brought out their lunch pack and shared it. During the snack, Inno slept and lay on a blanket on the grass. After Innorie was settled Fredo started speaking:
“Well, Abbey, I’m very surprised to see you, especially because that it used to be a foursome that we normally did here. I thought this place would be the last place you would come back to after all that happened in the past. Well, you’ve got a lovely daughter there and, well, please permit me to say I have missed a lot.” He looked towards where Innocent lay sleeping soundly to the lullaby-like sounds of the birds and bees.
“Hmmn, well,” said Biodun. “I love this place and it has a sort of healing and soothing power for me, which was why I couldn’t turn my back to it, just like I did to other things that reminded me of those times. Actually this is the first time of bringing Inno here, I mean my daughter. Her name is Innocenta- Remilekun, so I call her Innorie.”
Both smiled sadly as they gazed lovingly at the angel sleeping peacefully. Both remembered someone but neither of them mentioned him. Neither did they say anything about what happened. They only talked around the issue to avoid resurrecting a rotten ghost.
“Well, when did you get back?” Biodun asked brightly, trying to overcome the awkward moment and bring smiles to both their faces again.
“Oh, about four months ago,” Fred said.
“What! No Fred, no! You’re joking. Four months ago. How come you did not even contact me? That’s too bad of you, haa! I can’t believe this –” Biodun was about to launch into words when Fred, with a gentle pat on her shoulder, stopped her.
“It is not like that, girlfriend!” Fred took it from her. “I did not keep away intentionally. I tried looking for everyone. I was told Glo and Kunle were out of the country and that you’ve disappeared. But I didn’t try very hard, to be honest, so I’m sorry…. ” He was about to continue when he noticed that the spark had gone from Biodun’s eyes.
“What’s wrong Abbey, did I say anything wrong?” he queried.
“No, no Fredo. You’ve not said anything wrong. Well you see, I had to leave my new environment at the hospital because I wanted peace of mind. Even my mum doesn’t know exactly where I am living in Lagos. I only go to see her once every couple of months, although I do send Inno to her place more frequently. So, it’s not as if they were deceiving you when you asked about me. They’re not sure where I am. I’m so sorry.
“So,…. how is every one back in the states, your parents, siblings and fiancé, hmmn?
I’ve forgotten her name,” she said, smiling.
Fred told her that he had levelled with his fiancé as it was sure she could not really suit him. Worse still, the lady had a very annoying attitude towards Africans. She made him feel she was managing him because he was biracial and not completely black. He told her how he was shocked to know that she would never follow him to Nigeria.
“She’s a racist,” he concluded, smiling sadly.
Biodun expressed her sympathy and, after a few more chit-chats, told him she was ready to go. “Please, can I get to know your place?,” she asked. “I’ve been like a lost sheep since arriving. I can do with a known face, you know.”
He joked, giving her a pleading look.
Biodun said it was okay. Moreover, her house was not too far from the park. He was glad to hear this, so he carried Innorie who was still sleeping under the cool breeze and joined Biodun. They went walking out of the park.