Edet meets Lera in hospital; an old but unlikely bond re-forms
His eyelids fluttered open, and shut tightly again against the sudden pain, the piercing white light in the room. He groaned mentally, opened his eyes again after a moment. He squinted at a low white ceiling.
There were muffled voices somewhere around him; he tried to turn his head but his neck wouldn’t obey; feeling was returning to his limbs in tiny stabbing pin pricks, and with the return of feeling…
Pain flooded his head, legs, torso. He groaned.
“He’s awake!” A face swam into his line of vision, a middle-aged female face expressing concern and relief at once.
“Aspirin?” He managed through a grimace, his voice hoarse from disuse.
The face looked away at someone not in view. “Please get the codeine injection.”
A younger, familiar face joined the other, equally concerned and relieved.
He shut his eyes as he felt a pin prick in his left shoulder, the dab of a wad of cotton.
“Please change his drip and check his vitals” The first nurse said to the other, and started out of the ward. “Dr. Gbenga will be along shortly.”
“Trying to be a stunts man on our Nigerian roads, eh?” Someone sat at the edge of his bed.
His eyelids ungummed. Lera.
She had attended to him the last time he was in that ward,as was the case presently. They had become good friends.
She dabbed at his forehead with a wet cloth.
“Not advisable, bro.”
“Here again.” He managed in a croaked voice.
“Same ward, same bed” was the reply.”Same national hospital.”
She eyed him dubiously. “Not trying to kill yourself, are you?”
“That was rehearsal, believe me” he grinned.
“At this rate, you’ll perform the main act sooner than you expect.”
“What happened this time, Eddy?” She grew serious, concerned again.
He seemed thoughtful for a long moment, then shrugged lightly. “It’s usually a pothole or loss of control, isn’t it?” A slight pause.” I remember nothing.”
Which of course was ‘I don’t want to discuss this’ in ‘Eddy-speak’, she thought. She sighed and started changing his drip.
She’d met him barely a month before he left the hospital that first time but that had sufficed to forge a friendship bond between both.
The camaraderie had almost been instantaneous.
She’d never met someone she could so be her ‘crazy, anyhow’ self with. He in turn said that she was his ‘personal person’.
At some point, as they sunk into each other, she couldn’t even define her exact feelings for this crazily humorous, handsome dare devil with a certain James Bond appeal about him.
Sometimes he felt like a very good friend she was fond of; at other times, most times, she found some secret warmth in fantasising about a sudden, passionate kiss he might just spring on her as she leaned over to check his vitals one day or crushed naked against his powerfully muscular body…
She shuddered at the thought as she replaced the butterfly needle in his arm.
She suspected he’d known somewhat how she felt about him but he maintained things in ‘just friends’ mode, playing the original flirt but never getting to anything serious. That seemed to fuel her desire for him even more.
She’d watched him get discharged with muted feelings of regret, anger and frustration.
She called often afterwards, conversation mostly light and friendly but there were never returned calls — okay, he called for 9 minutes 8 seconds on her birthday– no sms or emails, nothing for a year plus.
At some point she’d ceased to obey the impulse to pick up her phone and dial ‘Ed Adonis’, letting time deaden the hurt and generally every feelings towards Ed.
But here he was again, bandaged all over as he’d been then- through the same accident.
Her heart stirred with deep concern ….and an old, familiar longing.
“How bad is it this time?” He asked.
She pursed her lips in thought. “One fractured left fibula, three broken ribs, multiple superficial wounds on the left thigh and torso, probably a mild concussion and ” she cocked a brow at him, smiled.” hopefully, a deflated ego.”
He started to laugh and grimaced in pain. “I was way ahead of him when it happened.” he said through gritted teeth.
“Same racing bet, Ed?” She cast him an exasperated look.
“We’re all on a race for money daily”He grinned back. “Like they say, ‘ish happens’.”
“Is what you’re trying to prove worth risking your life for?”
“Depends on the worth you place on life, isn’t it?”
They regarded themselves silently.
“I’m alive, Lera” he said after a moment, shutting his eyes. ” And that’s what matters now.”
Recovery was a speedy, seamless process. He was discharged in two weeks.
His body wasn’t just made to suffer injuries long.
In under a month, Ed could walk with only a slight limp; but mostly, he had to gulp a few ibuprofen tablets after extended walks to deal with the throbbing pain.
He’d gotten away relatively unscathed on both occasions of the accidents which damaged the vehicles beyond repair.
Of course, Ed being Ed, the doctor’s advice — the aspirins, sleeping on his injured side, the frequent ice bags for swellings, frequent cardio exercises– just mattered a little bit more than his last dump. So that wasn’t the reason why the doctor nodded in satisfaction whenever he showed up for the periodical x-rays. Naturally, he healed rather quickly.
By his tenth week, he was fully back to bench press exercises and sit-ups, to cure the only one malaise he recognised, flab. Flab accumulated from endless weeks of forced, agonizing bed rest.
Little gave him more satisfaction than what he coined an ‘action figure build’ — broad, taut pecs, well chiselled abs and rock-hard biceps glistening with the sheen of perspiration from work-out.
His weekend work out sessions were his favourite because they afforded him the luxury of time to punish his body with increasingly rigorous routines.
This Saturday he started a 3 minute rower at precisely 8:40am and moved into full body mobilisation with stretching exercises. By 9:00am, he shifted to a procedure involving a combination of dumb-bell curls and kickbacks.
He was half way through a full hip flexion routine when a shadow lengthened over him.
“Nurse!” He panted without breaking rhythm or looking up. “Are you not on duty?”
He heard a squeal of surprise and the owner of the shadow, Lera, stepped into full view. “How did you know it was me?”
She wore a black track cami on a red capri. Both clung to her body curves attractively.
“Wow” He paused and cast her salacious glance. “You look hot!”
“Flattery o!” But she squirmed in pleasure and sat cross-legged by him.
Her eyes roved over his huge pecs.”So what does it take to get a bod like that?”
“You mean get a bod like this to bed?” He grinned nastily.
“I thought your ego was road kill” she swatted at him with her towel.”Dirty mind.”
They both laughed.
“Genuinely surprised to see you here.”He leaned back on his elbows.
“I’m actually a member here” she returned. “But work has sort of taken away all my time.”
“And I’ve never seen you here for one day.”
He missed the look of apprehension that crossed her face briefly because he was dabbing sweat from around his eyes with a towel.
“I’ve probably been here just twice.” She forced a laugh.”But I’m on leave now and I need every novelty I can grasp while at it.”
“Everyone should live in a gym.”
“You sound like a gym freak.”
“We didn’t come here to gist.” He sprang to his feet and held out his hand to her. “Let’s get acquainted with the treadmills.”
He heaved her to her feet and guided her to the treadmill section, still holding on to her hand.
“So is it your chi that told u I was around?”
“If your body spray is my chi, then so be it.”
“It could have been anybody.”
“‘Anybody’ wouldn’t stand and gape at me exercise.”
“Ha!” She scoffed. ” I wasn’t gaping.”
“Yes, you were.” He grinned.
“Peacock, please.” She brushed past him, chuckling. “Let’s get down to business.”
He put her through basic instructions – starting off as a beginner at 1 to 2 miles per hour, letting go of the handrails, to avoid looking down while working- and then clambered on his own treadmill.
They jogged silently for several minutes.
“This is where I get off this bus”Lera said finally, in between breaths, started off the treadmill. The room seemed to spin before her very eyes and as she shut her eyes against the dizziness, sudden pain exploded in the small of her back. She cried out.
Her eyes opened a moment later to see a white ceiling, felt strong arms supporting her back. “What happened?” She sounded shocked.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the dizzy spell that follows after stepping off a treadmill, for a beginner.”
She tried to stand, gasped in pain. “Did something break?” She grimaced.
“Not that I know of.” She felt his fingers prod at her back, winced. “Nothing white is sticking out…”
“Leave me jor!” She remonstrated, shrugging off his hands as he laughed. She got to her feet cautiously and found she could walk. Instead she crumpled to the floor again, her face an expression of pain. “Can’t walk, Ed.”
Wordlessly, he scooped her off the floor lightly in his arms and started out of the gym. “I guess training for me is over for today.”
“I’m so sorry, Ed”
“No p.”He smiled. “You’ll need a deep heat spray and lots of rest.”
Outside, he gently set her on her feet so he could open the doors of his Corolla Ascent, helped her get into the front passenger seat. He went back inside for their gym bags.
Lera was still for a few seconds. Then with a side long glance at the gym entrance, she leaned forward to explore the pigeon hole and glove compartment of the car. Her questing fingers found a packet of Lemon flavoured Orbit with three fingers of chewing gum, photocopies of car papers, a half- used tube of lube, two metal spanners, and a couple of old business cards– nothing as juicy as the gym membership card she’d found in his wallet months earlier at the hospital. Her face registered disappointment. She paused briefly and then slipped a hand under the seat. She felt cold metal, traced a familiar outline that made her pulse quicken. She slowly withdrew a gun partly from under the seat.
It was an old revolver and although she knew little about guns, she wondered if it would fire. What did Ed do for a living? She thought, shoving it out of sight again.
He had the build and sometimes the persona that could belong to either a seasoned police officer or a high- profile assassin. Her mind suggested the former was most likely but that did nothing to quench the dread stirring in her heart.
She jumped when the driver’s door opened. Ed dumped both gyms bags in the back seat.
He glanced at her apologetically. “I actually couldn’t resist a short round of dumb bell press-ups I discovered some days ago, I’m sorry.”
All sense of dread or fear seemed to evaporate, now he was seating by her, smiling at her. This guy was definitely not a killer, she thought.
“Ed is not forgiven, the gym freak is.” She said.
“So what would Ed do to make it alright?”
Without missing a beat, she said: “Ed would give my poor back a deep heat kini ko massage, boil pasta and spaghetti sauce for two and (hold me tightly in his arms) make sure I’m comfortable before he leaves.”
“How about my bathing you as well?”
She laughed uncertainly, wondering if and wishing he meant that somehow. “If Ed can cope with the implications, yes.”
“And which are?” His lips curled in a mischievous grin.
“Watching a hot body without any other actions following.”
“What other kind of actions?” Without waiting for a reply, he asked:”I feel like heavy food now, do you?”
“Jevenik” she simply said.
They drove down to the restaurant where she ordered jollof rice, fried plantain, chicken and a pack of five Alive while he ordered semovita, white soup with fish and beef; they continued to her place.
She stayed alone in a tastefully furnished self-contained apartment.
Ed nodded approvingly as he stepped into the room. “Nice dig, chic.”
She trilled at him. “Thankee, massah.” Then “let me”, taking both fast-food bags from his grasp and disappearing into the kitchen.
He turned on the small plasma TV and slouched in a plastic chair with the remote control.
“Bad posture, dude.” She called from the kitchen entrance.
“Said who?” He sniffed. “Wow, what’s cooking?”
“Juju things.” She pronounced ‘things’ as ‘tinz’. “I’m about to jazz you up.”
“If evil smells that nice I’ll probably go to hell.”
“Get ready then .” She soon appeared with china ware on a tray, placed it on the table beside him.
“Woah” his eyes widened.
The relatively plain white soup Jevenik had sold him was now stocked with shrimps and oysters; thin tomato slices peeked out of the mound of semovita; at one corner of the tray sat a small bowl of red grapes and chopped mango.
“Jeez, do you own a catering school?”
She laughed delightedly at his pleasant shock.
He started eating quickly with a fork, only pausing now and then to drink from a glass of cold water. She sat across from him with her own tray of food, eating at a contemplative pace.
“Best meal ever.” He smiled at her when he was done. “Thanks, chic.”
By way of reply, she forked up a piece of shrimp, held it out to him. “More?”
“Death by over-feeding? Is that how the jazz will work?” But he leaned forward to eat off her fork.
He drained his glass and got to his feet, stretching his back.
She put her tray aside and accompanied him to the door.
“So what’s up for the rest of your evening?” He asked.
They faced themselves, standing almost close enough for body contact.
She shrugged. “Lots of indoors’ time reading and resting.” And after a pause.”You?”
“Sleeping mode o. Got some late night work to do.” He yawned.”Sleepy!”
“You sure you can drive home?” She inched forward just a fraction so that her breasts nudged him ever so lightly in the chest.”You could…rest here a little bit?”
He looked at her. “Oh,yeah?”
“Oh,yeah.” She held his gaze, a small smile playing on her lips.
They stood, eyes locked for what seemed like an eternity.
Then Ed leaned backwards, the movement barely perceptible but the message unmistakable.
“I guess we’ll see later then” she smiled congenially but her eyes mirrored muted hurt. “Good bye, Ed.”
“You’re one in a million, Lera” He squeezed her hand. “Thanks for everything.”
She watched him drive off, waving. Tears stung the corners of her eyes.