It was 8:43pm. Shola sat beside the bed. Pastor Keji had gone home for the night and Deb had gone to find them something to eat. The doctor had brought them to a post-surgical ward where he had explained to them Joe’s condition. A lot of medical terms she hardly heard through her sobbing; but the bottom line was simple – Joe was in a critical condition. They were going to watch him for a while before deciding what next to do. Deb suggested flying him out of the country, the doctor said it was a good idea, but he would need be stabilized first. Shola looked at Joe, he looked quite frail. He’d lost a lot of blood and was being transfused. He was so still, she had to really look to notice his chest rise and fall with each breath which seemed to be forever apart. “You will pull through this, Honey. This too shall pass.” She said squeezing his hand.
It was noon on the third day that Joe opened his eyes. Deb came to get Shola from the waiting room where she was having a nap; she practically flew into the room to find Joe staring at her. She smiled and he smiled back. Her heart leapt for joy she almost passed out. She knelt beside the bed while Deb went to get the nurses. “Hello, Love.” she said, “Hi.” he replied, barely audible. The nurses came in and she had to give room. They were asked to wait outside when the doctors arrived. Quickly she sent a text message to Pastor Keji informing her of the latest development. She’d replied, promising to come immediately she left the office. The only downside of it all was that she now had to inform the police. Since she and Deb had claimed complete ignorance of the incident, saying they had simply dropped him off when two vehicles started shooting at each other and Joe had taken stray shots.
The police needed Joe’s explanation of what happened. Two men have been found dead in the Xterra. Another, who was tied up in the trunk of the SUV had died on the way to the hospital. Deb had found out the last one had been Razak. So that left Joe as the only witness. They needed any information he could provide to help their investigation. Maybe a description of the other vehicle the ladies said sped off. Deb and Shola had claimed to be too far and that it was still dark so they could not give a description on the vehicle. She did not want to bother about that, they would cross the bridge when they arrived at it. When the doctors left, the girls returned to Joe’s side and were content staring and smiling at him. Once in a while, he’d say something and they would respond. This went on till he slept off.
The next day, Shola and Deb kept the routine. Sometime around 4pm, Shola was alone with him when he abruptly said “I should have taken the deal.”.
“What?” She said not believing what she just heard.
“I should have gone to Mali myself.” he added.
“No, dear. You did the right thing.” she said kissing his cheek.
“I’d have delivered and all this would not have happened.”. Shola nodded biting her lips while she held back the tears.
“I would have saved us all this nightmare. But I turned it down.” he went on. Now the tears were trickling down; she had an idea of what he would say next.
“But I turned it down. I turned it down because of you. I really wanted to do right by you…for you. For our sakes and those of our future kids.” he said.
“I know, Honey. I know, and I love you for it.” she said as sobs shook her body.
That day, the fourth day after Joe was shot, they had been talking quietly when he had suddenly told Shola he was tired and needed rest. “Okay.” she had said smiling until she realized his breathing had gone still. She called his name and shook his shoulder slightly, he made no response. She jerked out of her seat and put her ear to his chest, listening for a heartbeat – there was none. She had screamed “Nurse!”. The nurses had rushed in and had quickly sent for a doctor. She had crumbled to the floor as they tried to resuscitate him without success. Shola was beside herself with grief. Deb, who had been out getting food for herself and Shola had returned to meet the commotion. She had to pin Shola to the floor to keep her in one place. The nurses had to administer a sedative to calm her.
The last thing Shola remembered was the injection stab to her arm as she screamed Joe’s name while looking at his face from the seat Deb had held her in. The next few days were a blur. Deb handled all the things pertaining to the body. Pastor Dipo had left work to come take Shola to their place where she stayed for a few days before moving to Deb’s whose house was closer to her work and who would be more available to look after her. Everyone had been supportive: Lola, Ambrose, other colleagues, her siblings and mum. Even her dad had made out time to come see her and condole with her. The story she told them all (aside Kola who knew the truth) was that Joe had been a victim of a failed armed robbery attempt on the highway.
Shola jerked out of bed and ran into the bathroom. She’d been awake for a while crying like she had been doing for the past 2 months since Joe’s death. She had not been to work for a few days; she had been down with malaria. When she was done throwing up, she rinsed her face and sat on the bed. Deb walked in, fresh from her morning run. “Good morning, dear. You’ve been crying again.” she said noticing Shola’s freshly rinsed face.
“Good morning, Deb.” Shola replied getting up,
“I’ll fix breakfast.” she added. Deb stopped her,
“After this.” she said, waving two sachets before Shola.
“You think…” Shola was saying. “Ah, ah, ah! Just do it.” Deb cut her short. Shola snatched the sachets from Deb and stormed into the bathroom. “Stubborn goat!” Deb tease. “Shut up, jooor!” she threw back laughing.
Shola blinked hoping one of the two lines on the PT strip would magically disappear. None did. Both lines were solidly present like they had been on the previous strip she had used. She gasped, letting go of the breathe that had stuck in her throat. On wobbly legs she exited the bathroom holding both strips in her hand. Deb hurriedly got up from her sit-up exercises, she didn’t need to take a look at the strips to know what the result was. The look on Shola’s face was enough evidence. Deb didn’t know whether to be happy or sorry for her, she simply hugged her and let her cry on her shoulders. Shola was the little sister she had always wanted. Deb had willingly taken her in, something Dave had also suggested. She loved having Shola around, though the girl hardly did anything but go to work, chores, sleep or read.
The next day, the girls were having breakfast when Shola’s phone beeped. As she read the SMS, a cloud came over her face. “What is it?” Deb asked moving closer to view the screen. Shola simply handed her the phone. She read it:
“Hi. I have been thinking and doing some investigations. I would have you know he does not love you. He is merely using you, taking advantage of your feelings and loyalty. You know too much about him and that’s why he keeps you. Don’t be fooled by all the money and material things. I know you are a smart babe. Will call you later.”
Deb looked at the sender again; it was ‘Dekunle. In the past two months, she had got to learn almost all there was about Shola and knew pretty well who he was. From the tone of the SMS, it was apparent he had not learnt of Joe’s death. Deb was so pissed. The tears she saw running down Shola’s cheeks were fuel to the fire that the SMS had ignited in her heart. She hit the ‘Reply’ option and furiously typed a response, then hit ‘Send’
“God punish you, Kunle”
It said. The moment she placed the phone down on the table, it rang. The caller ID told her it was ‘Dekunle. Deb snatched up the phone and left the table, “Let me deal with this vermin.” she said heading into the bedroom.
“Hello.” ‘Dekunle’s voice came to her over the line when she picked up. “Hello.” she responded.
“Shola, why would you send me such a….” he was saying when Deb jumped in.
“Listen, asshole, the next time you call or text this number, I’ll make sure you are castrated, after you are dealt the beating of your miserable life.” she said.
There was a slight pause before he managed a stuttered “Who is this?”
“Do not get off her case, you’ll find out who I am” she replied coldly, then hung up before he could make any reply. She returned to the living room to find Shola still silently crying. She went over and held her in hug. “Its alright, dear. Its ok.” she said. “What did I ever do wrong? What did I do to deserve all of this?” Shola cried. Deb’s mind went back to all Shola had been through from the time the others fled the country, through Joe’s two hospitalizations up until this point.
That night, Shola lay awake in bed she knew the worst had past. She had also survived meeting with Joe’s mum. It had been eight days after Joe’s death; the meeting had rattled her. Joe’s mum had been cold and distant; it went beyond grief for her son, it was a kind of distaste for Shola. The woman, who arrived two days after Joe’s death, had not spared her any time or attention aside when she had sent for her to ask how long she’d been dating Joe and whether she was pregnant. It was the second question, which she answered in the negative, that reminded Shola of the fact that she had not taken the emergency contraceptives like she had planned to. She had consulted with Deb the moment they were in the car and on their way home. “Don’t freak out. Let’s just wait and see how it turns out.”
Deb had replied. “Deb?” Shola called the moment Deb stepped in.
“You’re still awake.” Deb said sitting on the bed beside her.
“Do I tell Joe’s mum?” she asked.
“That you are pregnant?” Deb asked in return.
“Yes.” she replied.
“Darling, trust me, you don’t wanna do that.” Deb said getting up and falling into her own bed with a sigh.
“Really?” she pressed. “Your life will take on all sorts of complexities if you do.”. Shola gave that some thought. She had not even decided if she was keeping the pregnancy or not. She had never been down all of the roads that meeting Joe again had put her on. She decided to give it some thought. None of her confidants or close family members would suggest or support a termination and she found she was quite unwilling to take the risk too.
In the morning, alone in the house, Shola got out Joe’s travel bag. In it, still, were his clothes and personal effects. His iPad – password unknown and the pistol she had hid in it after the shooting were also there. She picked out the items she sought and put the bag back. She got her laptop and connected to the internet, placing the other items on the bed too. She picked up the PSVita and went to the folder Joe had named ‘drapes’. One after the other, she logged on to all 6 accounts. A quick sum of the figures she found made her shake her head in awe. Carefully, methodically, she began to transfer all the funds to her 3 accounts. She had been left enough money to take care of herself for a very long time if she never worked. She was crying happy tears by tears by the time she was done.
Adorned in a pretty red dress, she got the pistol and wrapped in a paper bag, got in the Crosstour and drove towards the mainland. On the Third Mainland Bridge, she pulled up, put on the hazard lights and stepped out taking the paper bag with her. She walked to the rail and dropped the bag into the water below, as the wind whipped her hair around. She thought she caught a whiff of Joe’s perfume in the air as she walked back to the car. It was time to live the life Joe wanted for her. Her child would be born exactly where Joe had wished.
:::::::::::::: 12 Years Later ::::::::::::::
“E se, Sister mi. Thanks for having them over” Kola said as his two sons ran into Shola’s living room. “Not a bother at all. At least they’ll keep Joe company this holiday, while I can focus on meeting a few orders.” She replied. It was always fun, although a little challenging, having Kola sons over. The siblings spoke for a while, mostly about Shola’s Interior, home fixtures and fittings business. As Kola drove off later, he shook his head. Joe, his nephew, named after his late dad was a spitting image of his dad. A very smart but not at all sociable kid. It was a miracle he got on well with his younger cousins. Shola never married. Kola didn’t even think she dated anyone after the death of the senior Joe Erhabor. Everyone had tried and failed to convince her to marry. “Well, as long as she’s happy.” Kola murmured knowing Shola had done pretty well for herself.
The book “AGAIN” Written by – Greg Emuze is now available for purchase and download on Okadabooks Here’s the link: http://okadabooks.com/book/about/8293