“Take your time.” I whispered to her
She nodded vigorously, still weeping; but calmed down after a while.
“I rushed him to the hospital, but he was dead by the time we arrived. Only my husband, our lawyer and my other son really knew what happened. We told everyone else that he had fallen down and injured himself. We had to hide the truth to protect ourselves from what my lawyer called eggshell skull liability.”
I pitied her, this woman who was so driven by reputation that she had sacrificed the memory of a dead son. But I remained quiet and tried to keep my face expressionless.
“After all that, our lives really took off. Seyi became a real writer and I had a company to run. Around this time, Seyi wanted us to have another child, but I wasn’t interested. Although I told Seyi I was not ready because my company was expanding very fast and that won’t give me a chance to do a pregnancy, the real truth was that I was afraid of having children after killing one already. I did not even trust myself to take good care of the remaining one. Seyi was disappointed, but he finally agreed. Just to be safe, I even had some of my eggs frozen so that the option of having another child would not be entirely close.”
She stared up to the ceilings, what Americans call a thousand-yard stare.
“That whole Bola experience made me try to be more caring for my only son, Shola. I tried to give him any and every thing he wanted. He was really the apple of my eyes.”
“Yes, he’s dead?”
“But that is not what your husband is saying –“
“I read that. He must have disposed of the body.”
She did not answer immediately
“Some days before this fight took place, Shola fell ill. The hospital said he had a multi-infection of typhoid and Malaria. That was hugely surprising to me as he always drinks good water and eats well. His father was away on a book tour to Uganda so I called to tell him about the illness, and he promised to cut his visit short. Anyway, they said Shola had those and he was admitted, but when he was not getting well as quickly as he should, so a doctor at the hospital recommended a blood transfusion. The thing is, Seyi was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, before he fell into his en vogué atheism, so he did not believe in blood transfusions, but I do.
And when I saw that Shola really needed it, I decided not to tell his father and go ahead with the transfusion. I really did not want to preside again over the death of another son. After the transfusion, he recovered significantly, and was discharged: my assistant brought him home, where I was waiting with is favourite meal”
“That is good, right?”
“No it wasn’t. Later in the evening of the day he was discharged, Shola got worse very fast, the fever came on suddenly. I was confused, because he had seemed fine and chipper earlier. I grabbed the bag where the medicine and bills from the hospital were, to check if there was a drug he should have taken and had not, when I saw something that destroyed my life. In the bag was the transfusion slip which had not been shown to me before, where information about the transfusion was printed on. It said that my son was A+, and had been transfused with A+ blood. But in truth, my son was A-, a fact I was as sure of as much I could be as because every health detail about him I had committed to memory and I could state offhand; so he had gotten the wrong blood.”
She looked as if she was about to weep again.
I held her hand.
“I graduated from Uni as a Science Lab Tech student, so I knew what would happen in a delayed reaction haemolytic case like that. He went into shock shortly after, as his organs, deprived of blood, began to shut down one after the other. The only thing was to make his passing easy. I did that, as I cried like I had never cried before. My marriage was effectively over, because I had cost Seyi his two sons, and I had caused the death of his second son by going against what I knew he would refuse. I was the worst mother and wife in the world. Sometime in the early morning, Shola passed away. I texted my office to tell them I would not be in that day and that no one should bother searching for me, then I switched off my phones –disconnected from the world. I sat with his body through out that day as I waited for his father to arrive. He did that evening.”
“Was that the day the attack took place?”
“Why didn’t you take the boy to the hospital?”
“I knew in the situation he was in, the closest hospitals to where we lived in the suburbs would reject him. Hospitals did so for my mother; when she had the diabetic shock that killed her. It was too late for us, madam.”
“But you should still have tried…where was that maternal instinct, that refusal not to be known as the woman who lost her two children?”
“You do not know fate…you do not understand having the assurance that whatever you do will only hurt those you love. Why fight, when you realize you are only delaying the inevitable. It would have happened eventually…it would have…I tell you…I was a bad mother, a cursed one – ” Her voice trailed off, lost in the vast shame that filled her.
I decided not to pursue the matter, because I thought she was trying more to assuage the heavy guilt she felt by justifying her actions to herself. There is no psychosis worse than fighting yourself.
“Your neighbour said she did not see anyone home till she saw him come home, then she had sounds of a struggle, and when she came to investigate she saw you almost dead on the floor.”
“Liza is not just my neighbour; she is my friend and employee. She has copies of the keys to our place, that was why she was able to enter in. When Seyi came in, he expected to meet a recuperating boy; instead he met a dead body. I tried to explain to him what happened, but he was too far gone. He let all of the frustrations he’s been holding against me through these years, since Bola died, boil over: normally, he is not a bad guy.”
“So he lied about meeting only a pool of blood and wide open, unbroken doors when he got home?”
“I think what happened must have been that after he attacked me, he panicked and left, just long enough for Liza to have gotten in and saved me. Was Liza the only one to have seen him come in?”
“Yes, she said she had been paying particular attention to your place because of your unusual absence at work.”
“So it’s her word against his?”
“It was, but with your testimony, he will be convicted for sure.”
“Seyi did explain away Shola, and I don’t know where the body is. That disputes my words.”
“He said the person you let in, after attacking you, must have stolen away your son. He is even issuing a public plea to help locate Shola.”
“I had him wrong. He did not panic after attacking me; he went to dispose of the body. Seyi is very intelligent, so I guess he must have put the body where no one will be able to find it, for him to start playing tricks on the public. Liza played into his hands by getting in after he left.”
“But we can nail the bastard now.”
She was quiet, again.
“Can I get some water, the talking has parched me.” She looked tired as she asked
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
I stood up and exited the room to get the water.
When I got back five minutes later, Mrs Willan had a weak smile on her face while blood gushed out from a vicious slit she had made on her left wrist with a carelessly placed stirrup hook.
I shouted, back into the hallway where I had just come in from, for help then ran into the ward to get something to staunch the bleeding, as my mind roiled with utter confusion and anger.
Her voice came to me: “It’s better this way, no one will miss me. I am an orphan, my children are dead, and my husband wants me dead.”
And I found myself replying, just under my breath: “You coward!”
As I clamped a used dressing on her wrist to stem the blood, I realized that if she died, the case against her husband would collapse, and our star witness, Elizabeth would be in danger of becoming the accused. Elizabeth was the only stranger with a set of keys to the house – it could be argued that made her the assailant.
To worsen matters, she could be charged with kidnapping as well, because as a married woman who had fertility issues and no children, she had motive to kidnap the child and assault the mother.