“…yeah, a great job you’re doing taking care of mommy. What do you know about love, daddy?”
His hands had moved rather fast when he dealt her left cheek two heavy slaps in quick succession, “I am your father,” he bellowed, “how dare you talk to me in that manner? How dare you? I gave you life, I put a roof over your head, it is my food that’s digesting in your worthless gut as we speak…” The last words had barely left his lips when the unthinkable happened, she had dealt him two slaps in return, one on his cheek, the other masked his entire face. Pereyi had reeled backwards and tripped over a side stool, losing consciousness for a few seconds. In his state of limbo, he had heard quick footsteps, then a door open and close.
“Bio,” The terrified yell had jerked him back to consciousness, “Bio!” He opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was his wife’s iro on the floor just by the door. He got to his feet as quickly as his 57 year old frame would permit and went after it. Afolashade was running out half naked as it was, the show of shame that had already happened indoors was enough, there was no need to make it a pay per view event. He picked the piece of cloth from the floor and caught up with his wife just before she got to the main exit. Restraining her and putting the wrapper round her waist was a task almost as laborious as the Israelites’ before the Exodus, but he succeeded in doing so anyway.
He had led Shade back inside and come out again. Looking up and down the street, the regular pot-pourri of activities, which included roadside stalls, vehicular and human traffic as well as many other activities characteristic of everyday life continued as they always had since he and his family moved in more than a decade and a half ago, but there was no sign of his daughter, Biomelebonye.
“She’s not picking the phone.” Shade had blurted out in tears when he entered the living room, “Where’s my daughter? Omo mi da, iwo olori buruku yi. Where’s my child you useless person?” She had thrown the phone at him with the intention to see him hurt, but he had snatched it out of midair and stared at the device, his device. Calmly, he had put the phone in his pocket and walked into the bedroom.
“Oga Pereyi.” He jerked his head up from his thoughts, the first thing his eyes fell upon was her breasts, they were full, they were inviting, and best of all, they were not Afolashade’s.
“Oga Pereyi, I just came to remind you about the meeting at 9 this night, MD says it is super important.”
“Thank you, Rosemary.” Pereyi grunted and fixed his eyes on her rear as she went to change into her uniform. Loyalty to his marriage was something he never toyed with, but the present challenges at home were too much to bear. A job that could barely foot the bills, a nagging wife who never appreciated his sacrifices simply because her friends had one pair of earrings more than she did, a son who had traveled abroad and barely kept in touch, and now Bio, who had just told him about her…
Suddenly, there was a loud rumbling sound, a sound like thunder that shook the windows of the building. He looked out the glass doors and noticed the orange hue in the skies as evening set in, there was no sign of rain. The power went out for a few seconds and came back.
“What was that?” Rosemary ran out of the changing room, her uniform half worn and held to her chest. When she got no reply, she turned and saw Pereyi staring at her. She turned again and ran back to the dressing room, her discomfort announcing itself as she went.
Checking the time now and looking out the glass doors, Pereyi gazed as the orange sun beamed its last rays and disappeared. He wore his glasses and leaned back in his chair, watching television and waiting for the evening batch of patients to come in.
The seven o’clock news had barely started when a bewildered young man burst through the door to the reception. He had on combat shorts and a blood stained under vest, he bled from what seemed to be injuries caused by finger nails, very sharp finger nails that had dug in an inch too deep.
“My wife, she’s in labour, come quickly, please.”
Pereyi stared at him through grumpy uninterested bespectacled eyes. So what if she was in labour? At least she got married before getting knocked up, and she was married to a man. Bio wasn’t married but she was stupid enough to tell him that she had strong attractions towards her boss in her office, some woman named Jennifer, and what was worse? Jennifer felt the same way. How many abominations could he deal with in one day? If he hadn’t been on duty that night, he’d be hunting this Jennifer down with a blowtorch and a chainsaw.
He stretched out and reached for a folder. Taking all the time in the world, he thumbed through the papers in it, every so often adjusting his glasses to keep them from falling off his nose, his mind in a billion places at once.
“Sir, my wife, she’s in labour.” The young man said again.
“My friend, you are in a hospital, stop raising your voice.” Pereyi said at the top of his voice.
“But you are…”
“Are you trying to teach me my job? Do I look foolish to you?” Pereyi asked, “Do you not see that I am trying to ensure that paperwork gets done? Where is the respect in the world today? My third child is about your age… I’m not surprised in any way, the whole lot of you—”
Before he could finish his statement, the young man who had been silent slammed his fist in the reception desk and threw a tantrum…
A few minutes later, some nurses were running down the hallway with a screaming woman in labour on a gurney and the insolent young man on their heels.
“Sir, we can’t let you in yet.” Rosemary’s voice floated to Pereyi from the door to the delivery room.
“You dare not keep my man away from me, you dare not.” The pregnant woman said and held on to the edge of the door like her life depended on it.
Rosemary continued, “You need to fill out some paperwork first, then it is up to you to stay by her side or outside—”
“He is staying by my side.” The woman yelled.
“Pereyi.” A familiar baritone voice spoke.
“Sir?” Pereyi swiveled instinctively in his chair to face the owner of the voice. He was the total opposite of Pereyi. Although pretty much the same age as he, this man was neater, more suave, looked richer and better put together. His grey hairs were silky smooth, unlike Pereyi’s which were matted and rough, even though low. “Mr. MD, sir.” Pereyi said, he was on his feet now.
“This is the fifth squabble I have had to wade in between you and my patients in a month, and indeed my patience is wearing thin. What excuse do you have this time for your insolence?” The MD asked.
“Sir, it is…”
“And do not give me that crap about your family. You aren’t paying tuition fees any longer, all your children are grown and out of school. Your wife, from what I hear, is a hard working woman, her market stall is proof enough, or so my wife says, so what really is the problem?” Pereyi opened his mouth to reply, but the MD wasn’t quite done yet. “I give you one last chance, just one. If you as much as make a clapping sound when killing a mosquito, you are out of here for good, do you get that?” Pereyi stayed silent. His phone vibrated in his pocket, by a stroke of luck, the device was on silent. “Are you deaf?” The MD asked angrily.
“But sir, you said I shouldn’t make a sound.” Pereyi replied.
“Don’t test me.” The MD said and walked away.
The reception phone rang and he picked, it was a request for an ambulance to be dispatched to an accident site. He contacted the A&E immediately.
The phone in his pocket continued to vibrate. He reached into his pocket and fetched his phone, it was Bio. Torn between answering the call and not answering the call, the father in him (actually, the thought of his wife nagging him) won the battle and he pressed the answer button. The conversation that ensued hit him with the force of a freight train.
“Good evening, sir.” A voice spoke frantically from the other end.
“Yes? Who is this?”
“My name is Jerry, sir. Please I don’t know who you are or who the owner of this phone is to you, but you were the only person I could call because your number was the latest on her call list.”
“What are you talking about?” Pereyi asked, his mouth had gone dry in a little over three seconds.
“This lady, whoever she is to you, was run over by a vehicle, sir. I’ve called the emergency number and they say there’s a hospital about twenty minutes from where I am and that they have dispatched an ambulance.” Jerry said.
“What? Where are you?” Pereyi yelled.
“I’m on the northern bye pass, the lonely hilly route that leads to Hill Nadir Hospital.”
Pereyi ended the call and shot up to his feet with urgency, he ran past Rosemary and the insolent young man; Enyinnaya or something of the sort, down the hall towards the admin area and entered it and went straight to where he kept his belongings. Without wasting time, he jumped out of his uniform and into his regular outfit. Grabbing the nearest phone, he contacted A&E to find out if the ambulance had gone, it was about to leave, he pleaded with A&E to hold the vehicle for a minute so he could come along with it. He explained his fears and A&E agreed to hold the ambulance for a minute and nothing more.
Pereyi ran through the reception again, past Rosemary and Enyinnaya, and out into the driveway to meet the ambulance.
The twenty minutes drive to the spot where the accident had occurred felt like forty years to Pereyi, he prayed fervently that Bio wasn’t the victim and that someone else had stolen her phone or something. When they arrived, his greatest fears were realized, it was Bio alright, with bloodstains all over her body. Pereyi went into a frenzy, helping and getting in the way of the paramedics and nurse who had followed. When they lifted Bio onto the gurney, the nurse held her lower limbs and gasped, the paramedic who lifted her torso also gasped. Pereyi looked from one to the other but no one spoke to him. They kept him from entering the back of the ambulance.
All the way back to the hospital, with sirens blaring, Pereyi was in a trance-like state. The moment they got to the hospital, the nurse jumped out of the van, her gloved hands totally stained with blood.
“Doctor, come quick, it’s an emergency.” Pereyi heard her scream as she dashed into the ICU corridor. A few seconds later, the nurse and doctor dashed through the swinging door, Pereyi caught a glimpse of Enyinnaya, he looked devastated.
Bio was rolled into several radiography rooms, and in a little over thirty minutes, her reports were out.
“Oga Pereyi,” the doctor began, “I hate being the one to reel all of this out to you, but it is necessary you know. The radiography and radiology results are out.” He breathed deeply and continued, “She was run over by a vehicle and trampled upon by what we believe to be the same vehicle as her skin and clothes still bear tire track marks, I guess the person must have rolled over her and in a bid to escape, rolled over her again. Her right knee is busted, the anterior cruciate ligaments are torn and almost severed, and she had a few broken ribs but luckily no punctured lungs. A few minor injuries on her body, and there’s also internal bleeding, we fear her spleen may have ruptured,” he flipped a page in the folder and continued, “and unfortunately, oga, she lost her baby, we have to evacuate the embryo soonest. Bose,” he said to the nurse with the bloodied gloves, “prepare the paperwork.”
Pereyi was jolted. “Baby? What baby?”
“Oga, your daughter was pregnant.” The doctor said slowly, “Didn’t you know?”
Pereyi’s world was set on pause