As Anita’s car disappeared into the distance Austin hurriedly retraced his steps back to his apartment. Tucking her pink nylon panty into his back pocket he shouldered open his unlocked door and paced into his flat. Dipping his hand into his rucksack lying beside his study desk he fetched his car keys and hastily made for the carport. Shortly afterwards he departed posthaste for Anita’s place
Austin rapped impatiently on the door but there was no response. He padded to the front window and peeked through the blinds. Still nothing! No silhouetted moving shadow. Everything seemed still and deserted in Anita’s apartment.
“Where could she be?” Austin gave a long weary sigh; and immediately his cellphone began to ring and vibrate. A soft smile of relief snuggled on his face as he reached for the phone in his back pocket. It was a familiar ringtone. His favorite! And a glance at the screen confirmed it. “Ma boo!” was splashed across the illuminated phone screen. His smile broadened as he answered the call on the first ring.
“Hello baby! I am truly sorry! Please where are you?” Austin spoke quickly in one breath for fear of Anita hanging up on him.
“Hello Sir!” The voice wasn’t Anita’s.
Austin’s grin vanished instantly. His face crunched into a scowl “Who’s this? Where’s Anita?”
“This is Nurse Bola.” The voice at the other end said. “I’m afraid Anita’s been involved in a road traffic accident, and we…”
“Where? How? When?” Austin cut in sharply his thoughts in turmoil. Cold sweat broke all over him and he began to tremble.
“Hello Sir! I need you to calm down and listen.” Nurse Bola said firmly and calmly. “Sir! Are you there?”
Austin managed to gain a little composure and taking a deep breath he spoke as calmly as possible. “Yes I’m with you nurse…hmm…?” His voice was still slightly shaky.
“It’s Bola, sir!” The Nurse chipped in.
“Bola how is Anita? And where is she?”
“She was brought to the hospital where I work. Unfortunately it’s not looking so good. She’s in ICU. We need you to come to the hospital ASAP, sir. The doctor will explain better!”
“What’s the name and address of the hospital?” Austin fought the tears burning in his eyes as a sudden feeling of guilt enfolded him.
“I’ll text the information to you now. Please sir, we need you to come right away!” Nurse Bola emphasized.
“I’m on my way already!” Austin replied and disconnected the call. Instantaneously, his phone beeped. He read the message and hurried to his car. “I am truly sorry my baby. It’s my entire fault.” He whispered as he got the engine started, and putting the car in gear he turned northward to the direction of the hospital address he’d just gotten and drove off.
By his navigation the journey to the hospital should take about half an hour or so. But with torturous feeling of guilt tearing at him and an unusually light traffic Austin made it in about a quarter of an hour.
Thundering into the hospital’s reception he almost toppled a nurse over. “Sorry! I am so sorry!” He panted as he steadied the swaying nurse. “Please ma, I’m looking for the ICU? My fiancée, Anita Thompson, was…”
“Mr. Austin?” The tall dark slim nurse cut him short, throwing him an inquiring look.
“Nurse Bola!” Austin gestured at the nurse.
Nurse Bola nodded her consent. “This way please!” She gestured and led the way to the doctor’s office.
Ten minutes later Austin was seated at Anita’s bedside, his hands held hers. His face contorted in grief and self-guilt. “I’m sorry baby,” he whispered amidst muffled sobs. “It’s my fault. If I had given you the benefit of the doubt and trusted you like you trust me this wouldn’t have happened.”
Nurse Bola placed a hand on his shoulder to console him. “Don’t blame yourself sir. Accidents do happen.”
“You don’t know what I did to her. I shattered her loving heart to bits!” He whimpered.
“Whatever happened has happened, now you need to be strong for her, for both of you!” Nurse Bola affirmed. Then she dug a hand into one of her pockets and held out a smart phone to him. It was Anita’s and it was ringing. “This person has been calling her for some time now.”
Austin not seemingly in the frame of mind for any phone talk simply shrugged his shoulders at her.
“I think you should take the call,” Nurse Bola encouragingly opined.
Reluctantly Austin took the phone and wiping his teary face with the back of his hand he took in a deep breath to steady his nerves. And he spoke slowly into the mouthpiece, “hello!”
“Hi, I’d like to speak with Anita?” The soft feminine voice asked.
“I’m afraid she can’t come to the phone now. Please who is this?” Austin tried to hide the sadness in his voice.
“Is this Austin?” The voice inquired instead. “Austin, this is Tony, I mean Tonye, Anita’s friend.”
“Oh! Tonye! Hi.” Austin paused and swallowed hard as a flash shot of last night’s events went through his mind. How could he have been so daft and brainless? He reminisced. Anita had given him her heart on a platter of gold, a woman who had lost hope in love and later found it again, how could he shatter her fragile heart? His eyes quickly filled with tears again.
“Hi! Austin. Where are you guys? I’ve been trying to reach Anita all day but she’s not been answering my calls. Is everything alright?” Tonye’s tone carried a heart-felt concern.
“I am sorry Tonye but Anita is in the hospital. She was involved in an accident this afternoon!” He replied sadly blinking out the tears gathered in his eyes.
“What? Oh my God!” was all Austin heard and the line abruptly went dead.
“Hello! Hello! Tonye!” He barked into the mouthpiece. But there was no reply. He tried calling back but the line was engaged.
He turned to return the phone to the tall slim nurse sporting a sparkling white skirt and blouse uniform.
“No,” the nurse shook her head. “I think its best you hold onto it. Just in case they call back. Let me go check on the other patients. I’ll be back to check on Anita much later.” She then leaned in to adjust Anita’s head on the soft white pillow, felt for a pulse, checked her vitals on the beeping monitors and made doubly sure the drip was going before gently nodding her head in satisfaction. She then strolled quietly out of the ICU.
When Tonye called back it was already dusk. Moreover, she wasn’t the one that spoke.
“Hello Austin! This is Jack, Tonye’s boyfriend.” A male husky voice said on the other side.
“Hi, Jack. How’s Tonye?”
“She’s a bit shaken but she’s fine. How do we get to the hospital?”
“I’ll text you the address!”
“Thanks Austin. See you soon.”
And the line went dead again.
Tonye could not fight back her tears as she cried uncontrollably in Jack’s embrace. “Honey, Anita will be fine. We’ve got to be strong for her and for Austin.”
“But the doctors do not even know how much brain damage she’d sustained.” Tonye buried her face in his brawny chest.
Austin had told them about the accident. “Traumatic Brain Injury!” was the medical jargon they’d had thrown in his face. And that’s exactly what he’d told Jack and Tonye. And Tonye was right; nobody really knows the extent of the brain damage, if any. All they are saying is, “the first 24-48hours are very critical!”
“Did you guys have a fight?” Tonye swung around to face Austin, breaking into his thoughts.
Austin’s teary eyes widened. He didn’t see that coming. And neither did Jack. He was absolutely stunned.
Nonetheless, Tonye fired on. “Tell me, why were you not with her? I knew she was going to spend the weekend at your place.”
“Take it easy honey,” Jack practically held her from lashing out at Austin, who kept mute as the tears cascaded down his cheeks. “This isn’t the time to be laying a guilt trip on anyone!”
“She’s right Jack. It’s my fault.” Austin mumbled softly, his face twisted in a grimace of pain and hurt.
“Come on dude! Nobody is to blame. It was an accident!” Jack snapped at him.
“An accident I drove her into!” Austin lowered his face into his palms. “Yes, we had a fight. I accused her of cheating on me.”
“Cheat on you? Who? Anita?” Tonye threw her fist at Austin. “I don’t think you know the person you claim to love!” There were tears in Tonye’s eyes but her voice was steady.
“I agree with you!” Austin replied remorsefully lifting his head. “I’m just getting to realize that!”
“Then why did you even think that in the first place?” Tonye panted in rage.
“I saw you guys at her place last night,” he intoned with eyes fixated on the two lovers and fingers pointing at them.
The two lovers exchanged quick glances before turning their gazes back at him, their jaws gaping in absolute astonishment. Stumped for words they stared at Austin in total unbelief!
“I thought Tonye was Anita. I don’t know how.” He buried his head in his hands. “But she sounded like her while you guys were…you know…having sex. I am very sorry!” Austin sobbed bitterly his voice sullen as he lurched suddenly to his feet steeling himself not to storm out of the ward. Right then he heard it.
The voice was soft and low-toned but distinctly audible. “My love!” Anita lifted her arm slightly at him beckoning.
Swiftly, Austin rushed to her bedside and took her hand in his. “Baby! I am here!” He whispered softly leaning his face to hers. But Anita slumped back to sleep. “Baby! Baby!!” he called repeatedly but Anita didn’t respond.
“Please, get the Doctor or the Nurse.” He gestured to the duo standing beside him.
Jack quickly dashed out. “Nurse! Doctor!” he yelled.
He soon returned with Nurse Bola following closely behind.
She swiftly swung into action after hearing that Anita came round just moments ago. She picked up her arm and wound her fingers around Anita’s wrist while her eyes were fixed on the breast watch she wore. Nodding her satisfaction Nurse Bola went on further to checked the readings on the beeping monitor. “Her vitals seemed to have improved,” she said as a light grin touched her dark brown lips. “Anita!” She called out and pinched her earlobe.
Anita moved her head away from the pinch, her face holding a faint grimace and her hand lifted slightly towards the painful ear. But she kept her eyes shut.
“That’s a good sign!” Nurse Bola’s smile broadened. “Let me get the doctor!” She hurried off.