Three years later, Biodun was in her sitting room bouncing a young girl on her knee who was playfully pulling her hair. The girl, christened Innocenta Remilekun, was fondly called Innorie; the toddler looked chubby and beautiful. The room was furnished neatly but not too expensively while it had all that could make the life of an unmarried mother comfortable.
From her clothing it seemed she had just returned from her office. Her doctors’ overall coat was on her lap while her shoes were still on her feet. A robust young lady came out of the kitchen and curtsied, greeting her mistress.
“Welcome ma, what can I offer you ma?” she asked.
“Oh, afternoon, I’m not particularly hungry, thank you”. She replied.
She gave Innorie to the maid and went into her bedroom. She slowly undressed and thought about all that had happened before and after delivering her baby. She felt a great urge to revisit her past, so she went to a drawer where her university day’s photographs were kept. She brought them out and critically examined them. She could not help being grieved when she saw herself laughing with Lanre in some pictures.
Biodun grieved especially for herself, thinking about how Lanre, with little help from herself, had messed her life up. But what actually caused the pity-party was a letter sent by Gloria. She (Gloria) informed her friend that she had travelled with her fiancé (Kunle) to the United States to do some shopping in preparation for their wedding. The ceremony would take place early the following year. She thought of Rolake, Lydia and other colleagues of hers. Even Fred had gone overseas for his masters and PhD. She felt alone in the world. Not even the thought of her family brought her solace.
She remembered the harassment and insult she had been receiving from men since she delivered her baby two and half years ago. Presently, a director at the hospital where she was working had started paying unnecessary attention to her and ogling her. She had never thought a doctor could be a victim of sexual harassment in her place of work. She also thought that it must be just a fantasy that would pass when someone else caught his eyes since he was a well-known Lothario but it seemed she was wrong on both counts. Nothing had however, prepared her for what the man had done to her that morning.
A note was sent to her which requested her appearance in the Medical Director’s office immediately.
Dr. Adekola sat at his table reeking of alcohol. On entering and perceiving the gin, Biodun unconsciously checked her wrist watch and noted it was just 10.00am. Well, it’s a well known secret, the man is a Dipsomaniac. Summoning all her courage, Biodun approached him wondering why on earth she was sent for. It was well-known at Faith Hospital that no one that was ever called into that office and came out laughing. Biodun remembered this and was pensive.
“Take your seat doctor!” Dr. Adekola said.
Biodun quietly perched on the edge of the seat waiting for whatever was coming but the man seemed to be in his best mood. Instead of going straight to why she was summoned that early, he asked;
“Would you like some coffee?” looking lecherously at her.
“No, thank you” Biodun quietly replied.
“What’s wrong, can’t I offer you drink?” he asked. “Or are you fasting?” He gave her a ridiculously embarrassing wink.
“Yes sir”. She lied, not interested in having a drink with him. She knew he was like gun powder and any negative response could trigger him. So she opted for the lie.
Fortunately the man shrugged and went straight to the reason for the unexpected invitation. He told Biodun he was interested in her and would like them to be friends. Biodun was frightened but, as her profession demanded, she kept a calm face and gently told the man that they were already friends since they worked in the same hospital.
“No, no doctor stop patronizing me, a colleague is different from a friend,” he said.
Biodun tried taking it lightly but the man was persistent, so she shut her mouth as if she was listening listening to him further.
He told her how beautiful, cute young and intelligent he found her with a dedication to her work that was not common in ladies of her age. Because of all those qualities, he would like to go into a relationship with her and this would be a deal in which both would profit, he promised. It would mean getting fringe benefits and increased allowances from time to time, despite his drunken state, he enunciated smiling.
He told her that the relationship was meant to be a camouflage for the real deal. Seeing her puzzled look when he mentioned a deal, he smiled as he shed more light on it. He explained to her that there was a particular leading pharmaceutical laboratory that needed patients to test their drugs on.
“You see it is a big deal, really really big deal; a top notch secret particularly. These patients - especially those with hopeless cases - are taken to the Krismotab lab, just for a day or two. Those used are usually the aged with serious ailments, those with life threatening diseases having a life expectancy below a month. Accident victims with no families, those who had aborted with these quacks and had developed some complications and other patients which you will have to use your discretion to determine.” He paused looking at her intently.
“Another thing you should note is, when there are specifications from the lab for a particular medical case, you will have to get them someone from any of your patients list. This is why, at times, some patients are missing from the ward for a day or two. I would have gladly kept you out of this deal but as you know, Dr. Uswan is retiring soon and among our newest intakes you are the most intelligent and hardworking.
You would have to update such patient’s medical files with the regular treatment they should be receiving while they are on their sojourn. So see, there is no need to look so white and stricken, I know it’s out of the blue, but I’ll give you grace to go home and think about it. Where do you think the hospital got the money to import all the equipment and machines that made us the number one specialist hospital in the south-west? I can boldly say we are better equipped than UCH. See, it’s not as bad as you think. I can cite cases of patients that have benefitted from this, so it’s sort of helping the medical world in its research to rid men of diseases”.
Biodun was so shaken in spite of her confidence; she didn’t know what to say for almost fifteen minutes as different thoughts ran marathon in her brain. Is it the heartlessness and cruelty of these people or how they are betraying the trust of their patients? No wonder their bills are so cheap, she thought.
From what the man had said, it was not a recent practice, so there was no need to tell the man the consequences and evil in this behaviour. Rather, she hoped telling the man to drop the idea to involve her would not be like squaring a circle. She inhaled heavily.
Choosing to be subtle, she calmly explained why it would be foolish of her to engage in office romance. As for the generous offer and deal, she expressed her gratitude but said she was quite comfortable with her current salary. She almost thanked him for considering her worthy among her colleagues, but out of fear of betraying her real emotion and incurring the wrath of the doctor, she shut up. Dr. Adekola was at first silent as he listened to all Biodun had to say. Then, realizing she might not easily succumb to his needs, he decided to be mean with her just to have his way. Changing his tone of voice he barked,
“Don’t you have any sense; can’t you realize I want to lessen the burden on your head? I only want you to play around with cash to especially take care of that beautiful daughter of yours.
Or don’t you want to give her the best of everything? What would you lose after all, Madam? Some of your colleagues have done it and they are still enjoying the reward without anyone the wiser.”
He smiled like a wolf that had just succeeded in luring a goat into its den. He wondered what she would say but was shocked out of his senses when Biodun stood up angrily with eyes blazing like a hungry lioness.
“Don’t compare me to others sir, I don’t sell my dignity and conscience for a mesh of porridge”.
He leered “Well, listen, whether you sell it or not you have no choice here cos from now on your stay in this hospital will be in-conducive. I know you’re a die-hard so we both can play the game. From now on, you are doctor in name only as you will never be called to perform any checks on patients nor have patients referred to you even if you are best qualified for them. I believe I don’t need to tell you that what we’ve discussed is best buried in this room. I don’t want headstrong people like you; you’re a bad influence on the innocent sheeps’ as it is.. He smiled devilishly at the irony.
“Imagine the nonsense! Don’t play the holy Mary at all. I risked my position and life when I vouched for you and assured the ‘team’ that you’ll play along. Yet you’re giving me this? As it is, your daughter and yourself are no longer safe considering you’ve heard about this. Though, for now, I’ll let you be. But you will be watched 24/7. Any smart play you’re dead. But, before that, torture -the kind you’ve never imagined. They may even have you imprisoned, slandered and ensure that your medical license is revoked. It’s your pick.”
Biodun became mad. “Ha! I’m in for real trouble, why me?” Her thought raced. Dr. Adekola who however was studying her like a scientist studying his guinea pig saw the hesitation and confusion on her face and decided to use it for his benefit.
“Abbey, come on, it’s not that hard and neither is it unheard of.” He did his cracked glass laughter again. “I know you’re a good girl and this must be shocking, s, I give you the next three days to come and give me a reply, hmm! You see I’m fair, so go and ...”.
Biodun did not even allow him to conclude what he was saying. She snapped like a too strung wire. “I’m not thinking over anything. I’m a qualified doctor and I can’t be threatened. I’m not a quack, and I know my right go offer this to those half-baked who swarm you” She looked at him contemptuously as she stormed out.
It was almost difficult for her to concentrate throughout the remaining hours of her shift. It was thanks to her training as a doctor that she could contain her tumultuous emotion for the remainder of the day. However, she lacked her usual boisterous manner of approaching her patients.
She drew her thought back to the present. She was really confused and troubled but had decided to consider things more carefully, considering that the man was on a high horse. I’ve got to cross this Rubicon, she thought. Moreover I’ve promised myself never to be intimate with a man unless I’m married to him and I believe all that the man was telling me about money, salary increase and so on are all Barmecide’s feast.
The thought had not digested when another side of her screamed “Who told you that? Stupid girl, he wants to help and both of you will gain like he promised. Be less selfish girl, be less selfish. Think of Innorie; she is growing rapidly like a fattened calf. Moreover, she would be moving from day-care to crèche and with your ambition that you’ll give her the best education, where will you get such money? Do you think your pittance doctor’s salary is enough to take care of your needs in this country, especially as an unmarried mother?” The voice stopped as if gathering breath to further battle her.
“Also, your house rent, salary for the maid and other things you’ll both need. You better thank your stars he even considered you. Timid scared rabbit that you are! You won’t lack again. Just do it once and ask for forgiveness. Then you will be swimming in money happily ever after, and moreover it’s not written on the forehead. No one would know. Think of all you can do with that money. Mind you, don’t imagine those threats as the prattling of a drunkard. From where I stand they are not empty. You don’t cross men like Dr. Adekola and his malefactors.
Your daughter will become an orphan and you are too young to die. You have no say. Agree do it for a while then resign.” Miss Self-First enunciated.
“No, no please don’t listen to that!” Miss Practically-Sensible countered. “If you do it, will you be able to live with yourself? What if the arm of the law catches up with all of you? Forget that hoax about using the research to help humanity. It’s criminal and you know it; think well before landing yourself in soup.” Her thought was in disarray. She considered both choices and decided to play safe by writing to the man, appealing to his sense of reason,n and await the consequence of her action.
This decision seemed to appeal to both sides waging war in her mind. They quietened a little. She carried her daughter from the crib. She crooned to her and watched as her chubby cheeks danced in laughter as bathed her with slippery saliva, her favourite way of communicating affection.