There is nothing Ejike hated more in life than waiting.
His scope of impatience knew no bounds.
He was not the guy to accept that stupid excuse girls usually give boys about sex— that ‘if you love me, you will wait for me’ kind of excuse.
The first girl he’d approached had said that to him and the next day he had oral sex with the girl’s best friend. Nkechi was her name, at that time a lot more willing and adventurous than her friend, Chidiogo.
But as he grew older, Ejike is beginning to realize now that he is no longer as impatient as he used to be.
His wife had said no to babies for years now, and, yet, he’d not taken any drastic action yet.
Had it been a time in the past, Sammy would have become a senior wife by now.
Even now that Ejike had stood at the veranda outside Rita’s door for nearly 20 minutes, waiting for somebody to come home, it struck him again just how much he’d changed over the years.
How much less impatient he’d become.
While a senior in secondary school, there was a time he was so horny and Nkechi was nowhere to be found so he approached a junior boy and asked him to suck him off.
The next day the boy came to him again, obviously seeking a repeat of what had happened the previous night. Ejike told him to go away and join his mates at the school chapel—it was time for night prayers at that time.
The boy stood there, staring, till Ejike repeated himself in sterner voice and entered the hostel.
Junior boys at that time could do anything to get away from the strict scrutiny that went on at the chapel where defaulters’ names [people whose prayer materials are incomplete] were written down to be punished the next day with some hard labour.
Ejike looked round now and touched the top of the raised platform beside him to check if it was dusty. It wasn’t so he sat.
Everything about Rita screamed neatness. He wondered how possible it was that the cement floor of the veranda was so neat it gleamed, as if tiled; how many hours and how much energy it must have taken to bring it to such an enviable condition.
The big water container and plastic buckets at the extreme end of the veranda all gleamed too, as if they were washed every day.
Something made the air to even appear scented in this place, extremely relaxing.
Turning away, he noticed the dull evening sun had somehow magically disappeared, making way for a new cloudy weather.
He wondered if it was going to rain. He was still on this thought when he heard the sound of the first drop of rain hit the zinc roof.
Soon more drops followed, raising dust outside and causing trees and shrubs around to sway.
He knew it was not going to be a serious rain, that kind of spontaneous dry season rains that always stopped as quickly as they started.
But, to his amazement, this one persisted.
And soon enough, the ground outside had become soaked and he could see some small pools of brown water forming here and there.
Some clothes hanging on a line above his head fluttered and fell.
He caught them, just quickly enough to save a white, light-fabric blouse from the ugly touch of muddy water.
He folded them all and put them in a wide bowl beside the blue water drum.
The rain continued for a while longer before finally dying.
A rumble of thunder was heard in the distance and soon after a motorcycle whizzed into the compound, carrying Rita.
Her light-brown blouse was partially soaked and some parts of her skirt too.
Her fairly long natural hair was damp too, falling down her neck in heavy, moistened strands.
Seeing her, Ejike rose.
‘Ejike, you here?’ Rita ran into the shelter of the veranda before opening her purse and extending a N100 note to the bike man.
‘Madam, I don’t have change o,’ the man said. He was completely drenched in the rain and even looked to be enjoying the light drizzle still coming.
‘Don’t worry, you can go,’ Rita said to him.
‘Thank you, Madam!’ the man said with a large smile.
Rita’s attention was already on her visitor, else she might have smiled back at him. They all liked to carry her—the neat Aunty who wore well-tailored clothes and spoke clean English, behaved nothing like a villager.
‘Oh dear, have you been waiting for too long?’ Rita asked Ejike.
‘Not that long, just about 30 minutes.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I don’t usually work this late, but I might be making a trip soon so I had to be sure all files and folders are fully sorted out.’
‘You are travelling?’
‘Yes.’ Rita pulled off the padlock she unlocked and pushed the door open. ‘Come in, dear.’
Ejike entered the room. He kept standing. ‘So where are you going?’
Rita flicked a switch on the wall at her left and the lights came on. ‘Can’t believe the lights are still on.’
‘Where are you travelling to?’ Ejike asked instead.
‘I will be taking Fiona back to her father.’
Rita turned and glanced at him but said nothing.
‘You will take her home and come back, is that it?’
‘I don’t know yet.’ Rita dropped her handbag on the other table by the wall, obviously where they ironed because of the folded towel on it.
She picked the towel now and started wiping her face and hair.
‘So you are leaving?’
Again, Rita paused in movement, staring distantly ahead.
Ejike stared at her.
Finally, she did something like shaking her head. ‘It’s not for me, Ejike, it’s for her.’
‘What then would you have wanted for yourself?’
‘I love the peace here, the freedom—’ She gently rubbed her upper arm. ‘—the touch of the rain, its indescribably fresh scent and the way people easily smiled too. I’m going to miss all of that.’
Rita’s eyes ran to Ejike.
‘Yes. Stay! She is a grown girl. Take her back and then come back.’
‘I have to make sure that she is alright.’
‘She is a grown girl. Or does her father eat people?’
‘Samson is never around. Never free, never thinks about anything else the way he does his business. I need to be there for her.’
It was his first time of hearing her really talk about her husband; Ejike felt a kind of gratitude. ‘So you won’t be coming back then?’
Rita took a deep breath. ‘That’s one of those things about having a kid. They have to always come first.’
Ejike stepped closer to her; the sweet, fruity scent of whatever fragrance she had used appeared stronger in the closeness. ‘I don’t want you to go.’
Rita’s eyes ran to Ejike at once. It must have been the sudden change in his voice, a new, deeper tone.
Before she could process any thought, Ejike held her face and planted his lips into hers.
A sudden chill swept over Rita.
She wanted to say no, she really, really did want to pull away, but Ejike’s grip must have been too tight.
Or, perhaps, the motivation to refuse was not strong enough.
So she stayed calm and allowed him kiss her, very gently—never like she had ever been kissed before! Or, perhaps too, there was something about his lips, something that made them very suitable for kissing.
And just about then the door of the room burst open, startling them.
Fiona dropped her lesson bag—flung it away actually—and ran back out.
For many long seconds, Rita felt no life in her entire system.
The nurse told Sammy the people she’d come for were no longer there.
‘What do you mean they are no longer here?’ Sammy immediately asked her.
‘They have gone to the Teaching Hospital.’
Sammy did not waste a second more on the nurse, or the nonchalant look on her face.
She picked all her bags and stormed off at once.
At the Teaching Hospital, about half an hour later, Sammy met Amaka outside, on the floor, face stiff, eyes wet and distant, nose running.
Phillip stood beside her, looking like a ghost of his former self.
Chinelo sat on the bench, thighs shaking, her wrapper undone and brushing the ground.
Sammy dropped her bag of fruits and kiddies’ provisions. ‘What is the matter?’
Nobody said a word.
Sammy’s voice rose. ‘Somebody say something to me, what is the matter?!’
Finally Phillip turned to her. ‘She shouldn’t have allowed him eat the cold food,’ he said—muttered.
‘I don’t understand,’ Sammy said.
Still, Phillip only repeated the same thing he’d said, in the same low, lifeless tone. ‘She should have told him no when he wanted to eat the cold food.’
‘Who are you talking about and which cold food do you refer to?’
Amaka turned. ‘How did cold food rupture his appendix na?’ she sobbed. ‘How? How is that? Somebody should tell me how o, because I don’t understand anything…’
She blew her nose into her blouse. ‘Somebody should tell me how…somebody should explain all of this to me now. How? I don’t understand. What is this?’
Sammy’s extremely confused face and open mouth shuttled between husband and wife.
Finally, a nurse approached and drew her aside. ‘Do you know them?’ the nurse asked Sammy, quietly, more like a whisper.
‘Yes, yes, please what exactly happened?’
‘They brought him too late; there is nothing we could do.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘The boy is dead.’
‘Oh okay, is that all?’ Sammy threw out.
The nurse sent a confused look to her.
‘Please show me to the doctor’s office.’
The nurse looked hesitantly at her before she pointed. ‘It’s that way. Second door on your left. It’s quite unlucky that Dr Patrick is not on duty today; only he would have done something. He is so good some people say he’s been blessed with the gift of raising the dead.’
Sammy left the tall and thin nurse who was on the edge of turning gossipy.
Inside the doctor’s office, Sammy met a round man in blue shirt and black trousers. ‘Doctor, is there any possibility that I might be pregnant?’ she asked.
The man stared at Sammy. ‘You have reasons to think you are pregnant?’
‘Just check me and confirm, please.’
‘Okay, you need to go down this hall and enter the door on your right. Someone there will attend to you.’
The old lady nurse Sammy met only asked for her urine. Sammy had thought they might need something more serious, like blood.
The test was fast and the result very disappointing.
‘No, my dear, you are not pregnant,’ the large nurse told her.
‘You don’t understand, I need to be pregnant.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘My friend, my very good friend, just lost a baby; I need to have this baby and give it to her. Please.’ The tears were flooding Sammy’s face now. She wiped at her eyes. ‘Oh God, that funny and innocent-looking boy! Wouldn’t have minded a boy like that as mine. I sure wouldn’t have!’
The old nurse only managed to shake her head. ‘You mentioned you’ve been urinating more frequently lately?’
‘Yes, yes,’ Sammy agreed eagerly. ‘Sometimes more than four times in the night.’
The old lady nurse took a step closer and felt Sammy’s belly.
Sammy allowed her. Anything that could somehow bring the news she wanted.
Finally, the nurse lady stopped and did something like shaking her head again. ‘You need to come back tomorrow for a proper scan.’
‘Okay, you are not certain yet, right?’
‘Not about the pregnancy—it is negative. But there is every possibility you might have fibroids.’