She woke up to strong baby kicks instead of the tugging pain she expected in her lower abdomen and a sound that hissed and beeped at interval. The white sheets and tall screens of St. Andrews hospital gave the room an eerie feel.
A nurse was standing in front of her bed, asking her something that she couldn’t piece together. Her head felt like one of those mornings she had been forced to get four hours sleep because of house chores.
It was dark outside. Midnight dark.
Abike knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep without hearing from her children.
The nurse squeezed her hand gently. “You bruised your face when you fell, don’t worry, the swelling should go down soon.” Her tone was almost quiet, the type people use when trying to be affectionate. “You sprained your ankle too.”
A gentle touch and worry over a bruised face and sprained ankle.
“If only you know what I’m going through right now.” She wanted to say, choosing to ask of her children instead. A blurry image of Leke holding her hand as they wheeled her into an ambulance came to her. She remembered being attended to by doctors and nurses. She remembered the intense light overhead but couldn’t remember seeing Foluke. “Do you know if my children are here?”
“I told them to go home earlier. I’m sure your… friend said he would drop them off home and come back. Let me check if he is still here.”
Abike realised that the nurse was referring to Wale when he walked into the room. It was seeing the children behind him that brightened her mood, forcing her in an almost sitting position as they hugged.
She felt shooting aches all over her body when they hugged her. Shooting pains that were worse than the ones that afflicted her after those rogue Slimtastic gym sessions. Wale told the children to, “be gentle.” Even without her saying so, he seemed to know she was in pain.
The children talked over the other. They told her it was Foluke that found her in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Wale and Leke had returned to the sight of her on an ambulance stretcher and Foluke crying.
“I only went to the shop, Mum. I wanted to get you some chocolates.” Her daughter said.
Wale passed the girl a bag.
She took out an opened box of chocolate and put it on the bed. “Sorry mum. Leke ate some when he got hungry waiting in the visitor’s room.”
“Thanks Princess,” Abike caressed her son’s head. He had wound his slim hand around her right wrist. The contrast of her dark skin against his lighter one pleasing to the eye. She could tell his sister’s statement embarrassed him. “I know you were both worried but I am fine now.”
Wale pulled the chair beside the bed towards him and sat on it. “They told us visiting time ended ages ago but the children didn’t want to leave without seeing you.”
“I can’t take my eyes off your lips, Mum. They are really huge,” Leke said grinning.
“Are they that bad?” Abike felt her lips with her hand. They were swollen. Inflated to almost twice their size. She turned to her daughter who was leaning on her bed.
“They are not that bad, Mum. Just stay away from the mirror.”
She laughed with her children because it felt good to be able to laugh with them again. Realising it was a silly thing to do when parts of her body grumbled their disapproval.
“Thanks for bringing them.” She smiled at Wale.
He seemed uncomfortable as their eyes met. Or perhaps she had imagined it.
“I’m sure you shouldn’t be using those lips, Abby,” Wale winked. “I need to get the children home. Mosun is cooking special Nigerian delicacies according to her.”
“That’s not good,” Abike said quickly. The niggling pain in her back made her want to move to her side. She wondered how to tell him that Mosun –who was newly made single because her husband’s midlife crisis decided to start a decade early – was seeking a companion. She wanted to tell him too that it was in his best interest to wear his wedding ring as absence did not equate to divorce. He had a wife and daughter that he loved in Lagos. For now though, there were other issues on her mind. Issues that kept trying to push through her temporary contentment.
“What do you mean that’s not good. Abby?”
“I am really tired.” She yawned, a sign the children took serious because they hugged her and were soon half-dragging their uncle with them after promising to visit in the morning.
She felt calmer after seeing her baby on the screen during her ultrasound. When they told her she was expecting a boy, her tears fell lavishly.
As the children had visited her that morning with Mosun at visiting time, she pulled the sheet to her neck that afternoon not expecting anyone to visit her and was enjoying the calm until she felt someone tap her shoulder.
Angie Hayes held a bag of grapes that she dumped on the white table that had the gossip magazines the children brought earlier on it. Her face was not as warm as that of her morning visitors though. Her eyes were frostier than usual as she took a seat in the only chair in the room. It was hard to believe that the woman had given birth to Marvin who didn’t seem to know how to frown.
“Mrs Hayes…” Abike sat up.
“You don’t seem pleased to see me.” She squeezed her face like someone that had sucked on sour Haribo sweets by accident. “Your husband was pleased to see me. Do you remember him? The man you promised to love and cherish.”
“He asked you to come and see him?”
“He was hoping you would have come to see him by now. All he kept talking about was you and the kids.”
“Do you know what he did?” It took all of her strength to restrain herself from screaming at the woman.
“Yes. He told me about the young girl that seduced him. He told me she had been after him for a while, texting him sweet nothings but he is sorry that he cheated…”
Abike shook her head. “Did you speak to his lawyer because I’m sure his lawyer would have told you how old that young girl is?”
“My son said he didn’t know how old the girl is.” Her mother-in-law whispered. “Girls these days dress like adults and they grow quicker…”
“She is eleven years old.”
Angie Hayes’ face did not change. And in that moment, Abike was glad that the woman had refused when Marvin told her that his wife would like to call her Mum.
“Have you considered the fact that she might have lied about my son forcing her.” Forcing was pronounced without force, as if the word was reflecting its opposite.
“What are you saying? That a girl of eleven years old wanted to be assaulted?”
“My son is not a liar. I believe his side of the story. I believe that the girl has some sort of agenda and I’m going to be in court to support him,” she slapped the edge of her seat with one of her palms. “The question is when will you go and see him. He needs you and I’m sure it will give him the boost he needs if we both go together this Friday.”
“I’m sorry, it looks like you will be there on your own.”
“You are refusing to go and see him? He is going to spend months in remand waiting for his court case. He needs your support.”
“He is a paedophile!”
“You are heartless.” Angie Hayes stood up without her eyes leaving Abike’s. “I’m going to sue for full custody the minute that baby comes out. No one deserves a mother like you.”
She started to walk towards the door, stopping when her hand gripped the door handle. “Your mother does not agree with your actions by the way. She must have raised a different child.”
Abike rushed to her phone when the door closed behind her mother-in-law. She didn’t want any of her family or Saheed’s family in Lagos finding out what her husband did. This was why she didn’t tell her mother. Something she now suspected Angie Hayes had done. Although from their discussion, it didn’t seem like Marvin told his mother much, omitting that he had abused Foluke and assaulted the girl in Liverpool.
After sneaking into the bathroom, she checked her messages. There was one text message from her mother, typed in haste as always.
My daughter i don’t know what your husband has done to you, what matters is your role as his wife. His mother said the police arrested him for something he didn’t do and you have refused to go and visit him. What kind of a wife are you when you can’t be there for him. Remember, what i always told you Abike omo akanni, a good wife will support her husband, no matter what. Remember this man was willing to marry you with two children.
When Abike woke up in a cold, wet bed that night she knew something was seriously wrong. It was the same type of feeling that gnawed at her before the police arrived the day they took Marvin away. Even before the cramping that made her buzz for the nurses, she knew.
Pamilerin arrived at midnight. He was as small as a newborn kitten with fingers that curled into each other like curly fries. His frail limbs were just slightly bigger than her thumbs.
She blocked out the voices and figures in the room to be alone with him. Yes, he had been born asleep but he was still her baby. She needed one long cuddle before saying goodbye.