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“An abortion?” Frank was incredulous.
He was standing outside a hospital emergency ward, looking at Igo. She was angry – trembling even; in her agitation. Inside the ward was Efe; asleep due to mild sedation.
She was the subject of their argument.
“What does a woman her age want with an abortion? Why would she want to do that?”
Igo looked at him. “I was hoping you would be able to tell me.”
Frank allowed a surprised expression cross his face. “Me? Why would I know anything about – “
“Oh – don’t play games with me!”
They were attracting stares – and not exactly the pleasant type. Frank gently took Igo’s arm – but she snatched it out of his grasp.
“Calm down. This is a hospital – and we’re this close to causing a scene.”
This time when he took her arm she didn’t resist. He led the way down the corridor and towards the stairs – which were usually abandoned as long as the elevator was working.
As soon they went round the corner and out of sight of the occupied passageway Igo snatched her arm from Frank and turned on him, looking like she wanted to take a bite out of his behind.
“She managed to call me before – before collapsing.” Igo’s hands were clenched – she was breathing rapidly. It was a struggle for her not to yell – to scream; but she managed to keep her voice down. “She kept calling your name over and over.” She leaned into Frank. “Want to tell me why?”
“Calm down first. Why did she collapse – ?”
“She’d had an abortion, Frank! She used some pills – but for some reason they didn’t work like they were supposed to.” Igo stepped close enough to Frank that he could smell her – smell her. “Why would she be calling for you and not her husband, Frank?”
He heard her – but didn’t exactly hear her.
Efe had an abortion.
“Why would she have an abortion? I mean – was she pregnant?”
The look Igo gave him was insult enough – but not enough for her. “No, she overate.” She pulled her hair and glared at him. “I so want to hit you right now! Tell me – why would my dying friend be calling the name of my ex husband?”
But Frank was hearing her through a layer of water. Efe was pregnant. I made a woman pregnant. I can – actually impregnate a woman.
But she went and aborted it!
He didn’t know whether to be glad or sorry.
What Igo said finally sunk in. He looked at her – and seeing her distress, felt guilty. “Well, he started, unable to meet her eyes. “Maybe she called me because – I think I might be the one responsible for her pregnancy.”
“So you’re not denying it? You – you – “ Sobs threatened to choke her and she stopped talking, trying to swallow whatever was caught in her throat. “Frank – how could you?”
“Look – “ he began, stopped. And then started again. “Look – it was a mistake – I didn’t mean for any of it to – “
There was a flash – and then a crack that seemed to be coming down a long tunnel; there were spots in his sight – but it wasn’t till he tried to speak and his cheek hurt did he realize what happened.
Igo had slapped him.
“How could you Frank? How could you?” She put fingers to her mouth, distress evident in the tears as they spilled down her face silently. “Do you know who is lying in that bed, Frank?! My best friend! My – “ she realized she was yelling and stopped. Chest heaving, she took a few shaky breaths.
“Were you trying to hurt me, Frank? Was it your way of saving your ego – to rub it in my face that you could get another woman pregnant?” She folded her arms and came close enough to touch him. “Tell me. I want to know.”
Frank expected to get angry – he wanted to shout in her face that she had no right to judge him. But when he tried to access that feeling, all he could find was an empty, yawning chasm. No matter how he felt, he genuinely did not want to hurt her.
“This had nothing to do with you, Igo. You might not believe this – but my world no longer revolves around you. I wasn’t trying to hurt you or get back at you for anything. It just happened. And at least – “ he bit his tongue.
Igo wasn’t going to be put off that easily. “At least – at least what?”
“Look, Igo – “
“You better say whatever it is you want to say now o. Just say it.”
“Okay. I was going to say ‘at least it didn’t happen while we were together’.”
Igo looked genuinely surprised. “You waited till – “ Pause. “What does that mean? What is that supposed to mean, Frank? Are you suggesting – “
“You have no right to judge me, Igo. Answer me this – who is Dapo?”
She only looked more surprised. “Dapo….? Who is…” And then, surprise turned to realization – and with realization came fear. “Oh my God…”
Afterwards, Frank would say that he had felt as though someone had taken his heart and tore it in two – right down the middle. But right there in that moment, all he felt was sadness.
A deep sadness unlike anything he’d felt since the divorce.
Frank blew smoke into the post-rain night air, disturbing the insects flying about the security light above his head – and thought.
I didn’t even know it was raining till I got here. I swear I like the way I feel – at least physically. Cold outside, hot inside.
How about emotionally?
He had no answer.
The area of the hospital he was in didn’t have too much activity – they had moved Efe out of the emergency section and into the wards – which suggested she was stable. So he decided to take a walk to a less-busy area.
He wanted to smoke and think in peace. Besides, he needed to get away from Igo.
Efe had gotten pregnant and her husband wasn’t around – hadn’t been around for a while. So, it was his. He had gotten her pregnant. What else was she to do but remove it?
She should have told me; he argued with himself.
Told me – so that what? She’ll carry the baby till inception – and hand it over to me?
Yeah. I see how that would have turned out.
And now, Igo is madder at me. But I don’t blame her.
He drifted back to their conversation a few minutes before…
“So – who is Dapo?”
Igo looked like someone let out all the air in her – in fact; she looked like a deflated balloon. Now, she was hugging herself and her voice had become almost inaudible. She tried once to look Frank in the eye – but she couldn’t hold his gaze.
“She told you about that?”
He nodded somberly.
She sighed, leaning against the wall and closing her eyes. “It was only a matter of time.” Inhaling softly, she continued. “Dapo is someone I worked with – he was a younger colleague – “
“Ah,” Frank interrupted bitterly. “A younger colleague.”
“His age had nothing to do with it! It happened at a time when I was feeling low. We hardly saw each other – me and you – we practically lived together like strangers. He just happened to be available – “
“So you slept with him.”
Igo nodded. “It was only – “ Frank cut her short with a brief wave.
“Please,” he said, “spare me the details.” He sighed. “And here I was feeling as though I had done you wrong by letting you go – but at least I never stepped out on you. Not once. Not while we were husband and wife.”
He started to walk away – and then he came back. “I’m really sorry for what happened with Efe – it just happened. Call me when she’s awake, okay? I’ll be outside.”
The sound of her sobs followed him. And for a while, it was the only sound in the world.
“Can you please not smoke?”
Frank was pulled back into the present by the request. He looked to his right, into the darkness where the voice had come from – and saw a smallish figure huddled on the bench he’d refused to sit on. He leaned forward, trying to pierce the darkness with his eyes – when a rattling cough startled him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled as he dropped the cigarette and stomped on it, sending sparks flying all over the place. He looked up – and reared back, startled because the figure was now standing beside him.
It was a girl…well; a woman.
She was staring at him unabashedly, and of all the things he could think of; the one thing that came to his mind was how beautiful her eyes were. They were clear and limpid; the kind of eyes that always seemed to hold unshed tears. He wasn’t even interested in what the rest of her looked like – he was content just looking at her eyes –
Frank came out of dreamland. “Ehn?”
His eyes followed her hand as she pointed at his feet – at the several smoked cigarette butts that surrounded them.
“Oh,” he nodded. “You can say that.”
“Who do you have here?” She looked horrified for a moment. “Please don’t tell me it’s a child.”
“Heh,” Frank snorted. “I wish.”
He shook his head. “No…it’s not a kid. I don’t have one of those.” He paused. “It’s a friend – it’s just complicated.”
“Oh.” She sounded relieved and he wondered why. “Well, I am here for my crazy brother.” Her voice was a weird mix of anger, fear and frustration. She shoved her hands in her pockets – and Frank noticed, for the first time she was wearing jeans and a man’s shirt.
“What happened to your brother?”
Her small shoulders lifted beneath the shirt. “He’s – “ she paused and looked at him. “He’s a drug addict. He uses heroin and codeine – among other things. Smokes like the exhaust of a danfo too.” Her eyes danced away, faltered – as though unsure of their next step – and then made their way back to his face. “Why did I tell you that?”
“I don’t know. You’re lonely; perhaps?”
She hugged herself – and then offered him her right hand. “Sofia – with an ‘f’.”
Frank started, wiped his right hand on his thigh and took her cold hand in his. “Frank. Pleased to meet you.”
He squeezed her hand softly and let it go.
The silence became uncomfortable. Several times, Frank caught her looking like she wanted to say something – but then she thought better of it and kept quiet.
This is crazy, Frank thought. I only just met her.
“You still haven’t told me what happened to your brother,” he said finally.
“Oh. Okay.” She ruffled her hair. “He had a seizure – passed out in the bathroom. He almost drowned too – I mean he would have if I hadn’t spotted him in time.” She shuddered. “What is wrong with him?” she said angrily.
“I wish I could – “
His phone started clamoring for attention, screaming as though all the demons Christ sent into the pig that drowned went into it.
Perfect timing. That’s Igo, I’m sure.
Sure enough, it was his ex-wife calling. Her voice was dead when he picked the call. “She’s awake – and she’s asking for you.”
He disconnected the call and turned to Sofia. “Your friend is better?” she asked.
At his nod, a smile broke out on her face – and Frank couldn’t but notice how she came alive, fatigue and depression dropping off her like a discarded bra.
“I am pleased to hear that.” She shifted her feet – and turned away. “Well, good-bye and my regards to him – or her.”
He nodded, feet dragging as he walked away.
Written by Seun Odukoya
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