I hastened across the near busy road at Ajao Estate; being careful though of any on coming vehicle. My eye was on Tetrazinni. I had to walk a kilometre down. I struggled with fatigue. As down-depressed as I was; I still felt famished.
Inside the fast food joint (eatery), I ordered a plate of fiesta and a cup of ice-cream. I sat devouring the meal mechanically as I looked around the place without actually seeing anything. I wasn’t even aware of the aromatic smells emanating from the attractive looking snacks and dishes.
As anxiety-ridden as I felt; all that my eyes kept seeing was the handsome face of Roland. My sweet Roland. My fiancé of over two years.
How do I tell him about the fear in this tender heart of mine. I would die if I lost Roland. We have come a long way. Everyone had prophesied that we would be the perfect couple.
We met at our NYSC in Lagos. He was actually sitting by me in the bus that was heading to the orientation camp. I had never seen such a good-looking young man neither had I felt the tingling sensation my body sent when he had smiled at me then. I had noticed his eyes were constantly on my bust area where I had worn a slightly hugging white T-shirt that had been further contoured by the padded bra I had on beneath.
After months of dating Roland I came to know him as a man who loved beautiful things. And then I realised that my breasts was the most important feature that Roland loved of my body. I wasn’t surprised. When I was blooming in my adolescence; my breasts and my hair were my favourite features. My girlfriends would confess how much they envied me; they told me that I could pass for an Indian maiden; the pretty face, the rich long hair and the upright full breasts.
I did a lot to take very good care of these assets; maybe that was why I had so many boyfriends in my past but none had I loved as much as I did my beloved Roland. For me; he was my God-sent. Keisha Cole had described him straight-on for me with her track title; Heaven Sent.
I work as an executive secretary to an advanced looking man named Ike Amechi. He was a very shameless man who thought just because he was successful every woman was cheap. Every morning when I got to the office; he would bathe me with hungry stares. When he addressed me; his eyes would be forever glued at my bust area. It did nothing to him being a married man with kids. Though his wife and kids were overseas. Many a time, I thought of quitting the job, A chance came for me to do just that. It happened this evening.
I had closed for the day and was packing up to get a snack or two here; when Mr. Ike became bold.
“Miss Amaka, we must stop acting this casual to one another. You know we are more than that—-”
“I need to be on my way, Mr. Amechi sir” I hastened.
“You know I have an engagement” but that terrible man was oblivious to everything I said.
He simply made a rush towards my hurrying figure. I yelped as he grabbed at my busts but I was happy that I had fought him wildly and made his expensive BB model mobile phone fall onto the ground and had him distracted. Then I had made a dash for the door as I felt his hands slacken. If Roland knew, he would stop me immediately from going back to the work.
I look into my plate; the fiesta has been all eaten: my ice-cream cup stands empty. I wondered how come. I hardly felt myself devouring any of these things. I searched my mind thoroughly; why didn’t I leave the job since it pained me that I could not tell Roland about Mr. Amechi—but I knew the answer. I could not leave. The life-shattering news came to me just yesterday and I needed financial aid to take care of it.
My hands automatically went to my busts as I tried feeling them. All my eyes could see at that instant were pretty ladies moving about with cleavage opened blouses. They had no problems. They were healthy. I was sick and doomed. That I loved most was threatening to be taken away from me and yet these beautiful ladies at the ‘eatery’ get to keep theirs. I burst into tears trying my best to stiffle the sobs as I got busy with my hankie.
At that moment, I looked up and see this male seated opposite me alone; staring at me with distraction or maybe quizzically. I turned away grabbing my handbag and dashed towards the rest room. In there at the immaculate corner; I stand facing the wall mirror by the cink and I cried my heart out; fogetting that any moment some lady might bump in.
A while later, I feel quite strong and quickly opening the door to go out; I see this strange man who had been gazing at me earlier. He stands by a corner as if waiting for me. We stare at each other for a long time. I fight to hold down my anger and surprise. He seems quite uncertain to dare approach. I breeze passed him in silent hostility. I feel him watching; disarmed.
I begin kneeling in front of Roland. He looked very surprised. I hold him lovingly and he holds me back instinctively.
“What is it darling? What is it?”
Roland sounds panicked. The tears start to betray me now. When I got home, I had decided to tell Roland about my plight. I would not sleep with Mr. Amechi even if he had to compensate me with millions. My beloved Roland had ways of getting financial help for me. I quickly search my handbag and get the pink slip of paper. I hand it to him. He hesitantly collects it in fear.
“I came from the hospital yesterday” I sniffled “The doctor diagnosed me with—c-cancer.”
Roland mopes at me without even looking into the paper.
“It’s approaching the fatal stage” I stuttered with the sobs. “She says I must be at the hospital this week so we can start the process towards the mastectomy treatment—”
“What?” Roland whispers in disbelief.
“R-Roland darling. They want to get rid of both breasts—”
Roland pushes me off slightly as he gets up and walks mechanically towards the window. He stands there in a daze looking out the starlit night skies. I cry bitterly as I stand and rush towards him holding him from behind tightly; burying my face on his back as I press in on him.
“Baby. She says I should confide in my loved ones. That I need all the support I can get. This week is all I’ve got”
Roland swirls around to face me. He seems so distressed. Roland suddenly grabs at my hands.
“Amaka do you know what this means?”
We look at each other stunned.
“Your hair, your breasts—-the money.”
“Roland, I beg you.”
I sob broken-heartedly.
“Help me. I need your love at this phase of my life.”
“Oh my God, Amaka.”
Roland breaks. I feel him hugging me ever so closely. I cry out in relief and sorrow too. We hold onto each other tightly.
“Forgive me, my love.”
“Look at me, sweetheart” Roland says. I slowly look into his eyes. I see that he has tears in his eyes too. He slowly leads me back to the bed. We sit holding each other.
“I will fight with you.”
“Oh” I cry out with emotion. He slowly places a finger on my lips. We smile.
“I will see you through this. Leave the bills to me. Tomorrow we alert your parents. Is that okay, darling?”
I cry out happily as we hug each other. Roland kisses me like though we were just meeting for the first time.
The week I was in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital; I was touched with so much tears and love from loved ones and friends. Roland was very supportive and romantic sending me flowers and gifts. He had talked to Mr. Amechi about my not being able to appear at work. I felt a pinch of guilt knowing that I still held secret the unruly act of my boss. The most beautiful gift I received was from some women’s right NGO. They sent me glossy souvenirs and get-well-cards with very pink ribbons done prettily on each. From the gifts, I read that the pink ribbon symbolised women’s fight with breast cancer.
I was between this world and the next during the surgery and I was placed in extensive care. Roland was true to his words. He stuck with me throughout that trying period. When I regained conciousness with the sickening feeling that both breasts had been removed. I noticed with my heart in my throat that Roland started to look drained during his visits. I prayed to God that we would continue to be strong for both of us. I was surprised to learn that I had been in hospital for some few days but it seemed like forever to me. Gradually, I started to see my hair falling.
Roland sat with me one lovely night. He had been extra-sweet. He gave me a long and gentle kiss as he held my hands lovingly. I had taken to doing a little make-up so that I could look a little presentable as sometimes I had my head tied with a scarf if I didn’t feel like wearing my black wig.
“Baby, why? You look so happy tonight.”
“You will be well, Amaka” he says gently. I smile with tears in my eyes and I see that he has tears too. I quickly wipe his tears with my palms. Roland slowly holds my hand down after kissing it.
“Amaka, I will not be here any much longer” I was taken aback. I try to hold him but he holds me back gently but firmly.
“I’m leaving you, Amaka. You must forgive me for I have stayed with you all through this period.”
“No baby!” I scream as Roland quickly holds me tightly to himself. I sob uncontrollably but gradually I quieten down in Roland’s warm hands that was slowly growing cold.
“Amaka, I have thought this situation out. I can’t stand the aftermath. I can’t love you like this—”
He disentangles from me. I have never seen Roland look as distressed.
“Is it because of the hospital bills you’ve exhausted?” I wail. Roland shakes his head bitterly.
“I love you, Roland. Please don’t give up now.”
“I love someone else.”
It came suddenly. I halt looking wide-eyed at him with disbelief.
A young male doctor in overalls appears at the doorway. “Mr. Roland, please she needs her rest.”
Roland stands. His eyes are misty with sympathy at me. “I—I have to go, Amaka.”
The worst day of my life – I see my beloved Roland turn away and leave my presence—forever. I sit rigid. My tear-blurred eyes see the image of the doctor approach my bedside slowly. He looks familiar but I have just lost my love. I feel my body shaking with spasms. The doctor holds me.
“Miss Amaka. I am Dr. Kaycee Peterson—the man you met at the fast food house—please don’t allow anything to interfere with getting well—You are loved by so many people.”
It was then an intense sorrow attacked me. I screamed and screamed. A million tears overflow. Dr. Peterson looks panicked. Instinctively, he holds me more tightly and comfortingly. Dr. Peterson had taught me a rare lesson about men after Roland left. I realised that some men were humble to the point of accepting a woman the way she was. Some say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but I say it is true love. Dr. Peterson was very different. He stopped me from falling into chronic depression. I was sorry for my cold attitude towards him at Tetrazinni.
Name – Helen Enyiema Ekukinam
Country of Residence – Nigeria
Biography – Helen Enyiema Ekukinam took a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the Delta State University, Abraka in 2005. And attended Pefti Film Institute where I studied scriptwriting for three months. I am currently working on the production of a screen play as well as engaging in online short story competitions.