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Ese was hysterical at the hospital. It did not matter that the doctor said Anita was fine but she was ready to break Bobby’s skull.
“How do you leave children in your care to answer a phone call?! How?! You should never have taken your eyes off them even for a second!”
She berated Bobby some more while he just looked on. He had tried and tried to apologize but she wouldn’t listen. She did not stop until some nurse came to call her to see her child. Bobby sat down and Teni who had been sitting with Kachi at some corner went to meet him.
“Hey, I’m sorry about all that. Are you okay?”
Bobby looked at her uncertain how to react. Her face looked familiar but he could not remember where he had met her. She had been really helpful at the park. When Anita fell and he saw the blood close to her head, he just froze. It was the lady and the guy she was with that helped get the girls in a car and drive to the hospital.
He saw the genuine concern in her eyes and something in him gave way
“I’m not sure if I’m okay. I feel really bad. It had been such a good day, I just had to go and mess it up. Man! This really sucks.”
“Don’t even start beating yourself up. Their mother has done enough of that already. Any more of that and there’ll be nothing left of you.”
Bobby smiled back.
“Thanks. I’m just tired sef.”
Teni rubbed his arm.
“You’ll be fine. I’m glad the girls are alright. Are you their uncle?”
He shook his head.
“Not really. Just a friend.”
He narrowed his eyes at her.
“I know I’ve met you somewhere before but I honestly can’t remember where. And please, I am not trying to hit on you.”
Teni laughed in spite of herself.
“Yes, we have met and why would I think you’re trying to hit on me?”
“I dunno. Women are very weird creatures.”
Teni shook her head.
“Well, I’m the lady that took your friend to the hospital when he had an accident. My name is Teni.”
Bobby’s eyes lit up as recognition hit him.
“Yeah! It is you!”
And then he sighed.
“I wasn’t very nice to you that day, was I?”
“You’re forgiven. I just thought you were a grouchy grandpa.”
Bobby smirked and she noticed the dimple in his cheek.
“I’m sorry. That wasn’t a good day for me. Unfortunately, today isn’t such a good one either. But thank you. Really, thanks for all your help.”
“It’s no biggie.”
She looked up and saw Kachi signal to her that he needed to leave. He had been on his phone all the time she was talking to Bobby
“I’ll be right back.”
She got up and walked to Kachi.
“Tee, I need to leave now. One of my guys in Lagos is having issues with customs. I’m bringing in some cars from Belgium and the customs people are trying to make trouble. I need to go back to Lagos tonight.”
Teni looked surprised. She checked the time on her watch and it was almost 7:00pm.
“Oh wow! Are you sure you’ll find a flight tonight?
“Yeah. I just spoke to Charly. There’s an Aero flight for 8pm and the pilot is a friend of ours. So they’ll hold the flight for me till I get there. It’s why I really need to hurry now.”
Teni could not believe her ears.
“Hold the flight for you?”
“Tee, I need to leave now. Let’s go please. The more time I waste, the more money I lose. Please, come drive me back to my hotel so I can pick a few things and then we’ll go to the airport.”
Teni was confused but she tried to comport herself.
“Alright. Let me just say goodnight to Bobby. I’ll meet you at the car.”
Kachi nodded and hurried out.
She walked over to Bobby and whipped out her phone.
“Sorry, I have to leave you. My friend has an emergency and is flying out to Lagos tonight so I need to get him to the airport. Will you be okay by yourself?”
“Sure I will. Thank you for your concern.”
“Can I have your number? I know it’s really not my business but I’d like to check on you and the girls later on.”
He typed out his number on her phone and handed it back to her. She told him to take care of himself and disappeared.
Kachi was driving back to the hotel and Teni was rather subdued.
“You alright dear?”
She nodded and kept her eyes glued to the window.
“This one you’re not talking to me. What’s the matter?”
Teni forced herself to return to the car.
“I was just thinking about the girls and the guy with them. He must really feel horrible. I would if I were in his shoes. Trying to do a nice thing for someone and then it all goes horribly wrong. That sucks.”
“Yeah, that really sucks. Anyways, get over it. It’s not your problem. I’m glad we were there to help. The guy looked so clueless.”
Teni was a little surprised.
“Kachi, he was in shock. Of course he’d be clueless.”
Kachi looked at her briefly then reverted his eyes back to the road.
They continued the trip in silence and once they got to the hotel, Kachi asked her to wait for him in the car while he raced to get his bag. He returned within a few minutes with just a backpack.
“Is that all you came with?”
He shook his head as he started the car
“No. I didn’t check out of the hotel so the rest of my stuff is still there. I should be back in a day or two.
I’ll drive to the airport and you can drive back home.”
Bobby sat in the waiting room long after Teni was gone. He didn’t know what to do. He felt really bad about the accident and it was clear in the way he sat with hunched shoulders and a faraway look in his eyes. Ese showed up almost an hour later with her two girls in two. She carried Anita who had bandages around her head and wrists in her arms while Anne walked closely beside her. Her face was expressionless as she spoke calmly to Bobby
“We’re going home now. Take care of yourself.”
He stood up and struggled to find the right words.
“Ese, I’m really sorry-”
“I know that. But it doesn’t change the fact that I could have lost my daughter today. These girls are my life. That’s something you’ll never be able to understand. Good night.”
She turned away and walked out of the hospital.
Bobby sighed and ran both hands over his head. He really wished he had taken the girls home after they had lunch. It was clear that Ese would never trust him again. The phone call should have been a quick one. It actually did not last more than 5 minutes and next thing he knew, someone was screaming. He sighed and got up as he picked his keys. He needed to go swimming or take a cold shower. Water always helped him calm his nerves.
As he drove home, he cast his mind back to Teni. It was hard to believe she was the same lady from the night of Kayode’s accident. She actually was pretty. Not in the manner of drop dead gorgeous but her beauty radiated in her eyes and in her smile. It was in her kind words and in her general manner. He appreciated how she took charge of the situation at the park when he froze and how she coordinated things even when they got to the hospital. He smiled. She seemed to be just like his mother. He wondered about the young man who had been with her. Probably a boyfriend or fiancé. They seemed to have quite some bond.
He thought about Ese and felt a huge stab of pain in his chest. It broke his heart to know that he was responsible for the panic and hurt she felt tonight. Again, he wished for the umpteenth time that he had just taken the girls home. He sighed and kept his eyes on the road.
Teni heard her phone ring as she drove back from the airport. It was her sister. She instantly remembered that they had not spoken since early that morning and she sighed. She answered and activated the speaker button on the phone, eyes still on the road.
“Hi darling, bawo ni?”
“I’m alright sis. You didn’t call back again.”
“Sorry dear, I’ve had a really busy day. But it’s not important. How are you? How are things with Deji?”
“Things are okay. I decided not to make any noise about it yet. Let me just wait some more. Sis, the truth is I don’t even have the power to fight. I don’t want him to leave me.”
Teni felt the knots instantly form in her tummy. The sadness and fear were very evident in her sister’s voice.
“Deola, calm down. If Deji leaves you then he is pretty retarded. You’re a special woman and I’m not saying that coz you’re my sister. I’m saying it because it is true. You should know your worth as a lady and carry yourself with as much dignity and pride as is equivalent. Any man who chooses to walk away from you is a fool. So stay put and give him another week. Let’s see how things play out. But whatever happens, you must not cry or show any form of weakness. Hold your ground. Do you understand?”
“Alright sis. Thank you. I feel better now. Are you driving?”
“Yeah, you can hear some static abi? Phone is on speaker. Let’s talk tomorrow darling. I still have a few things to take care of. Love you.”
Teni frowned when she hung up and said a desperate prayer that she and Deola were wrong about Deji.
Fifteen minutes later, she was home and decided to check in with Bobby. He picked up on the second ring.
“Hi Bobby, this is Teni, how are you doing?”
She heard the lift in his voice and it made her smile
“Hi Teni! I’m fine thank you. How you doing?”
“I’m very well thanks. Just got back home from the airport.”
“Really? That was fast.”
“Yeah, I stay along airport road anyway so, yeah.”
“You do? Where? I stay at Lugbe!”
“Oh? Lovely! I stay before Lugbe sha. Or after Lugbe, that’s coming from the airport. One of those estates just before the SSS quarters.”
“Oh that’s nice. Well, I’m home myself. Really beat. The girls gave me quite a scare tonight.”
“I’m sorry about that. How is the little girl?”
“She’s fine. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious enough for them to admit her. She didn’t lose too much blood. She had a bandage around her head and her wrists and she was asleep when they were leaving the hospital. Other than that, she’s fine.”
“Okay. And the mum?”
“Ha. She’ll never trust me around her kids again, that’s for sure.”
“Well, you can’t be too sure about that-”
“Naah. I’m sure. She’s been through a lot lately. Her girls are all she has left. What I did was careless and stupid.”
“Bobby, you know there’s no point crying over spilled milk right? Just tell yourself, this is how to not spill milk again and move on. Clearly, she’s important to you but it was one mistake so get over it and in time, I’m sure she will too.”
Bobby was silent for a bit and Teni thought the call had dropped.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
Bobby managed to find his voice.
“Yeah… Yeah. Wow. That is the exact same thing my mother used to say.”
He sighed. He had just been about to get into the shower when her call came in and now he figured it was time to go take that shower. He had way too many thoughts flying through his head and he needed to sort them out. He heard her over the phone again.
“Oh well, your mother is one wise woman then. Send her flowers for me tomorrow and tell her it’s from one wise woman to another.”
She laughed lightly expecting him to do same but was surprised by his reply.
“I’ll actually send flowers but that’s next time I’m in my hometown. My mother is late.”
“Oh wow. I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine. Thank you for all your help today. I’ve really got to run now. Need to take a shower. Water is my all-time never-failing therapist. Have a good night.”
She wished him same and hung up. And suddenly, she was not sure why there were knots in her tummy.
Ese got home and tucked Anita nicely in her bed. Anne who had been terrified by the accident as well, slipped into the big bed beside her sister and stared at her.
“Mummy, is she going to be okay?”
“Yes darling. She’ll be fine.”
Ese changed into her night dress and climbed into the bed as well.
“Mummy, you were yelling at uncle but it wasn’t his fault. It was me who asked Annie to run up the steps.”
Ese was not even in the mood. She was still very angry at Bobby for his negligence and she found it hard to believe that her four year old daughter was taking responsibility for his mistake. Her voice was firm when she spoke
“Anne, we’re not going to talk about this. Uncle should not have taken his eyes off you two even for a second. You were his responsibility. Now shut your eyes and go to sleep.”
The little girl knew there was no point arguing further so she did as she was told.
Ese picked up her Bible and turned the pages, looking but not really seeing the verses. She could not imagine what would happen to her if she lost either of her girls. Her phone beeped with a text message and she knew without checking it that it was from Bobby.
She finally gave up on trying to study her Bible and turned off the lights instead. She tossed and turned in bed for a while until curiosity got the better of her and she checked out the text message.
“I hate that I disappointed you today and made a huge mistake but you have got to understand. I’ve never had to do any bit of baby-sitting before. I have learned tonight however that I should never take my eyes off children under my watch. I hope you forgive me soon. My warmest regards to the girls.”
She rolled her eyes and typed out a reply quickly.
“My girls are not for you to experiment with. You’re not taking them out again. Good night.”
She wondered for a moment if she was being too hard on him but she discarded the thought. She needed to focus again on her girls. Right now, there wasn’t room for any other person in her life. They were all she had and she was all they had.