For Want Of A Child – 17

for want of a child

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“I go like kill pessin sha o.”

Frank sighed and rested his head against the wall, moving gently so as not to jostle Igo who was asleep across his thighs. He was tired; his eyes and arms were heavy but every time he closed his eyes he saw an image of Fola trying to speak.

He shuddered.

Priye, hands in his shorts pockets was pacing back and forth angrily, mumbling to himself. Frank wanted to tell him to keep quiet but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He was thankful Priye hadn’t been with them when they went in to see Fola.

He probably would have brought the hospital down with his screaming.

“Where she dey? Where dat elephant dey, ehn Frank?”

“Priye,” Frank whispered, “calm down jare. You know say Igo dey sleep sha?”

Stopping in his tracks, Priye looked down at his friend’s thighs – at the woman fast asleep on them. “Where Sofia dey?” he whispered.

Frank shrugged. Priye looked at his friend – and then at the sleeping woman. “Ol’ boi, na hot ewa agonyi dem go take baff you,” he snorted.


“Frank, how we wan do dis matta now?”

He opened his eyes to find Priye and Igo regarding him with two completely different expressions. Priye’s was impatient; Igo’s was worried.

“Are you okay? You’ve been mumbling in your sleep, apologizing to someone named Sofia. Who’s that, by the way?”

Priye grinned. “Wetin I talk? I no tell you? When man begin dey – YEPA!”

Frank stood and stretched, grinning down at Priye who was rubbing his smarting ankle, the ankle Frank just kicked. Igo cocked her head to the side, a question on her face as she looked from Frank to Priye and back again.

Frank shrugged. “Which matter be dat, Priye?”

“I wan know as we go dey look after Fola ni,” Priye answered, hopping on one foot after the other. “All of us no fit dey here together; Uncle just call me make I show for villa. E be like say dem wan settle the land matter finally.”

Frank nodded. “No wahala. You dey go your waka. I go call James make e come stay here small – then I go carry Igo go her house make she dey go her shop, from dere go my own go freshen up. I go come back come relieve James.”

“But you know say dis work no be our own o, you know. If I begin provoke now call somebody her name gan-gan you go dey yarn opata.”

Frank ignored Priye, instead walking towards the nurse station.

“Excuse me nurse…” he addressed the first white-wearing figure he found bending over a computer behind the reception desk. “I’d like to make enquiries about a patient please.”

She looked up, another confirmation of the slang nurses are beautiful. Smiling, she asked for the name of the patient, greeting Igo and Priye politely as they walked up beside Frank.

“Hello nurse! Ol’ boy, I think I’m about to be sick! Person can request for a special nurse, shey?”

The big beautiful woman tried not to laugh at Priye’s antics as she scrolled through the computer, searching for the patient Frank had named. “Mr. Akanji…Mr. Akanji…” she muttered, squinting at the screen. “Oh. Yes…Akanji…burn victim…”

Her voice trailed off into silence as she read the case file. And then, all traces of the smiles that previously adorned her face gone, she spoke. “He’s stable now, though he’s still being heavily sedated. The doctor just finished the morning rounds, and say he’s no longer in critical.”

Igo closed her eyes and muttered ‘thank God’ while Frank nodded, feeling relieved. His eyes scanned the walls for a clock. Finding one he looked at the time; eight past seven.

“We need to go away for a few hours – they’ll be somebody around in case he wakes up and needs anything – “

“That’s okay, sir. Just take this your friend along when you’re going.”

Priye’s smile widened. “But o, isn’t this a hospital? Don’t you treat sick people here anymore? I’m sick – I need help!”

Frank tried not to laugh. “Let’s go jo,” he said, grabbing Priye’s arm and pulling him along roughly. “Thank you,” he said to the nurse over his shoulder. He could hear her giggle at something Priye was doing – and he moved quickly, dragging his ‘sick’ friend after him.


“Thank you again, Igo. Having you there made a lot of difference.”

They were in front of her house, a bungalow affair in a quiet neighborhood. Igo’s head rested against the headrest, and she looked at her ex-husband, a somewhat somber smile playing around her glistening-in-spite-of-the-harmattan lips. “Of course, Frank. Like I would be anywhere else.” There was a pause while she continued to look at him. “What happens next? Who’s taking care of the financial aspect of this thing?”

“Well, the doctor told me Fola’s wife paid a deposit of five hundred thousand already, and if there’s any more required, I’m sure between me and Priye we can cover it – at least for the moment. I wish it hadn’t come to this sha,” he concluded.

She touched his shoulder lightly. “You know if you need anything – ANYTHING – you can always ask me, right?”

He smiled at her and patted her hand. “I know, Igo. Thank you.”

She nodded, and then leaned forward and kissed him before opening the car door and getting out. And then, she leaned through the window.

“You…em, want to come inside? I could make you some breakfast…”

Frank was tempted. He really did not want to be alone; Igo’s presence was a balm.

But there was Sofia to think about. “I really shouldn’t,” he said. “Thanks anyway. Definitely some other time.”

Igo nodded. “That would be nice.” Standing away from the car she said, “My love to Sofia,” and darted into the house before Frank could hide his surprise. Laughing softly, he started the car and drove away.


“Hey babe,” Frank said into his phone as he opened the door.

“Hi darling,” her voice was heavy with sleep.

“Exams are over now, shey? The thing to be doing is sleeping, abi?”

“Abi o. I cannot come and die na; after all I am not the first graduate from my father’s house.”

“Hehehe.” Frank wiped his face and closed the door behind him before flicking the light switch. No power. He sighed.

“Is something wrong, Franklin honey?”

“Em…no – well, yes there is.” He paused. “I lied to you last night. I didn’t come home – in fact, I’m just getting home now.”

“Franklin! Why would you do that? Where were you?”

“I was at the hospital with Fola. His wife poured boiling oil on him.”

Her scream was loud enough to wake his neighbors two blocks down the road. He didn’t want to imagine what was happening in her house.

“Oh my God! Franklin! Are you okay? Where are you now? Why would she do that? Is he okay? What’s happening – “

Over her excited chattering he heard a door slam open; he could hear a deep growly voice, sounding concerned. And then his girlfriend spoke; “Calm down daddy. Frank’s friend had an accident.”

“Where are you now?” she asked him.

“I’m just getting into the house. I want to rest a little, freshen up and head back out there. His wife is nowhere to be found and we haven’t contacted his folks – though now I’m thinking maybe I should. They deserve to know.”

She sighed. “Sorry, babe. I’ll come be with you as soon as – “

“Isn’t today your mother’s trip?”

“Yes it is but – “

“There’s no hurry. Stay with her; spend time with her till she leaves. I’m sure Fola isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I’ll always be here.”

She was worried. “Are you sure? I could come see you, and then we – “

“Honey, don’t worry about it. See your mother off, and then we’ll talk okay?”

Sighing softly, Sofia replied. “Okay. I’ll try not to worry.”

“Don’t. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Tell her I said safe journey, okay?”

“Okay dear.” She sighed. “I’ll talk with you later, love. Bye.”

He nodded – and then realizing she couldn’t see him he hastily said “Bye!” and hung up.

Frank removed his shirt and closed his eyes.


He just wanted to rest his eyes for a few minutes – but when he opened them again the sun was down, power was back and his phone was screaming.

“Yes?” he said into the phone, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He couldn’t believe he had slept that long; apart from the shadows that hung around the room like living things there was also the loud rumbling in his stomach. He closed his eyes and focused on what the voice on the phone was saying.

“Oga Frank, I don dey call you since. Oga Folly don wake up, e dey ask for you.”

“Okay. I’ll be right there.”

Disconnecting the call, he put the phone aside and jumped up. If he had been a bit more patient, he would have seen several missed calls – one from a particular number. But he wasn’t and he didn’t.

Not that it would have made any difference.


“Fola, Frank. How are you feeling?”

The thing on the bed groaned and Frank had to remind himself it was a human being; his friend, Fola aka Folly pumping, the fine boy of their graduating class.

The burns were no longer visible; bandages covered half Fola’s face, his entire chest are and left arm. The sickening smell of antibiotics hung heavy in the room like cigarette smoke; Frank noticed the IV attached to his friend’s arm.

“How…do I…look like…I’m feeling…?”

Frank shook his head, turning away as hot tears burnt his lids. “You look like crap,” he said, and grinned at his friend. The facial muscles twitched – and then, Frank realized Fola was trying to smile. “Very…funny…”

His voice was like a rough whisper of sound; like when jeans-clad thighs rubbed against each other. The bed’s weight dipped as Frank sat down, and he held his friend’s undamaged right hand.

“I’m so…high…they say they’re….pumping me full of morphine…I can’t feel anything…” He looked at Frank. “How…how…bad is…it…?”

Frank swallowed. “That doesn’t really matter now. What happened?”

Fola sighed, and a tear spilled from his one left eye. “Man…Stella o…Stella did this to me…Stella…my own wife…oh God…”

Frank could barely contain himself, and it was all tears in Ward 9 for a while…


“Apparently, he came home late from some office something, smelling of alcohol and perfume – maybe even a lipstick stain or two. They had an argument about it and he said he hadn’t been doing anything untoward.” Frank sighed and rubbed his eyes, stretching the arm holding the phone to keep it from cramping.

“I guess she got tired of his excuses, and you know Stella and her temper. Only this time they weren’t excuses. He was telling the truth. She asked him to sit to dinner – insisted in spite of his claim to have been well fed at the party. So he sat, and instead of dinner – or at least food, she served him hot oil.”

Igo’s gasp was a compliment to his own sigh. “How could she…? Oil! God…”

“Yeah. It’s all just…” he rubbed his eyes again. “He just kept crying, Igo. The whole time I was there, he was crying. I didn’t know when I joined him myself. The bandages help though, he doesn’t look half as bad…”

“Who’s there with you? Have you been able to reach his family?”

Frank hit his head. “I forgot! Thanks for reminding me. Let me do that now, I’ll call you back.”

He disconnected the call – and then realized he didn’t have any of Fola’s people’s numbers. He scratched his head for a bit before walking towards Ward 9.


“…okay, Kunle,” Frank said and cut the call before leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. The call with Fola’s family had been stressful; from his mother’s screams to his father’s deep inaudible grunting. He had kept the information to a minimum; all he said was their son had been in an accident, but still…

And they kept asking where his wife was.

He sighed. Where is Sofia?

He looked at the time before dialing her number; 9:13 pm.

The phone began to ring. He closed his eyes, expecting a click and ‘hello’ from the other side.

No such luck.

He dialed again. Same thing; long ring, no pick.

Worried now, he typed a text; Where are you? Are you okay, has your mum travelled? Let me know what’s going on. I’m worried.

He read through once and hit send.

After a few minutes, he dialed again.


Frank stood in the exact spot he met Sofia in, smoking a cigarette.

Smoke from his nose, mouth and the cigarette drifted towards the fluorescent bulb, wrapping it in a hazy kind of halo. He looked at it and at the flies hovering around it, and for a moment wondered if they were the same flies that were flying around that night he met Sofia.

They couldn’t be. It was raining.

She still wasn’t picking; still hadn’t called back. There was the temptation to be worried but he couldn’t afford the luxury. Igo had asked him to call back after talking with Fola’s family but he thought the better of it. It bothered him slightly to find things were still that vibrant between them.

Like that is going away anytime soon. Ah. Who am I kidding?

He pulled on the cigarette and mentally applauded Fola’s father for coming with another of his sons; Fola’s younger brother. None of the girls had been allowed to come; the mother had fought and screamed to no avail. The man wanted to see just how bad it was before involving the women.

Frank could still see the man’s face as he stood looking down at his son; the son he could barely recognize. As much as he tried to contain his emotions, the senior Akanji made no attempt stop the tears as they flowed down his seamed cheeks and into his beard.

At least, his family is here now.

He was tired.

Where is Sofia?

As though on cue, his phone started to ring. Extinguishing the cigarette, he eagerly pulled the phone out of his pocket but was slightly disappointed when he saw the call wasn’t from Sofia as he’d thought, but from a number he didn’t know.

He sounded subdued when he said, “Hello?”

“Frank?” It was a voice he didn’t know, but something about it sounded familiar. What got his lower belly churning however was the watery, quavering quality the voice had.

The person; the older man who was speaking had been crying.

“Who is this?”

“Frank,” the man cleared his throat. “This is – I am Sofia’s father. I’m sorry – there’s been an accident…”

Seun Odukoya

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