December 2, 2013
Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
She woke up with a start. She quickly assumed a sitting position and, in same fashion, pulled a pillow close. The room was obviously dark, but for Kathryn, it had a darker shade the first few seconds of her being awake.
Slowly, she could make out: the edges of her bed, the rotating blades of the fan above her, the curtains that fluttered to the breeze from the slightly open window, the door of her bathroom . . .
The bathroom held a special appeal for her, though not for any of the purpose one would, traditionally, go there. The appeal soon became a pressing need as she struggled to keep her lips together. It had been a while she last woke up with her mouth filled with spittle. Kathryn gently pushed the blanket from her feet, and eased herself off the bed. As she walked towards the bathroom, the almost ever-present gloom that now characterized her life proved to be a faithful escort. Kathryn was already used to that particular agony of her sustained depression. She could remember it had, first, started as a constant worry that she was about to die. With time, her concerns had moved to David. For weeks, it had been her tradition to walk into David’s room while he slept, just to ensure he was still breathing. Kathryn had noticed a small patch of wetness on his shorts and sheets on one occasion. Days later Susan had showed up as a close friend. And Kathryn’s worries had intensified.
Kathryn spat out the warm fluid in the bathroom sink, and turned the tap on. But her thoughts remained on Susan, and, particularly, on the girl’s visit the previous afternoon. It pained her that she couldn’t even remember the dress Susan wore. Kathryn wished she had not merely walked passed them to her room and to other worries. At the time, she had stilled her concern with a quick glance at the crotch-point of David’s trouser—nothing seemed out of place.
Kathryn heaved, knowing the call she had received as she walked up the stairs to her apartment that afternoon had not allowed her the chance to be wary. The screen of her phone had displayed the name: Dr. Wallace.
“Hello.” Kathryn had said immediately she pressed the green button on her phone.
“Hello, Miss Brown. How are you?”
“Strong.” Kathryn replied, desperate to keep her voice calm and steady.
“That’s good.” Dr. Wallace commented. “Sorry about the delay concerning the test result.” He paused, expecting a response. He got none. “Still I’m sure the wait, for accuracy, was worth the trouble, if any. Its good news, Kathryn.”
Kathryn remained silent.
Kathryn feigned a chuckle. “I was waiting to hear the good news.”
“Ok. Its benign, Kathryn—the lump. You don’t have breast cancer.” His voice clearly revealed it was a happy, welcome development. Kathryn’s soft chuckle didn’t reveal that much. “Though the lump has to be removed.”
“Nothing to worry about. Its usually a simple procedure.”
“Will tomorrow be convenient for you to come to the hospital—just call it routine check-up.”
“Ok. Bye Kathryn. See you tomorrow. Have a lovely Sunday.”
The sound of running water teleported her to the present. She noticed that some of the water had splashed off the sink to the floor. As Kathryn turned off the tap, she figured that her constant worry about dying had ceased when it progressed from being a persistent thought to a welcome desire.
As Kathryn made to reach for the bathroom mop to clean the droplets scattered on the tiled floor, she slipped and fell. The last thing she saw before it all became dark was her blood that trailed down the edge of the bath tub where she had hit her head.
David sat silently as he was being driven to school. James Salako, his mum’s colleague at work, had showed up at the hospital quite early, and soon offered to drive him, first, back to the house to take his bath; eat breakfast, bread with tea—which he barely touched—and to dress up properly for school.
The first terminal examination was scheduled to begin that morning in his school—Marguerite Benoît College—else he would have stayed away, at least for the day. He wanted to be with his mum. Though he knew that even in the absence of his examination, she still would have urged him off to school—to face, unknown to her, his personal concerns.
Mum, he muttered under his breath. David felt a fresh run of goose bumps as he recalled: the scream, the quick dash to her room, and the sight of his mother lying unconscious in her bathroom. He had merely stood there unable to move, unsure of what would be termed ‘appropriate’ at the moment. While he stood there, David thought Kathryn had committed suicide.
“Here we are—Marguerite Benoît College.” James Salako said as he brought the car to a stop, almost in front of the school gate. “All the best in your exams.”
David smiled. “Thanks. And your French don’t sound bad.”
“Ah! That’s a compliment that will sustain me all day. Thanks. I’ll come pick you up after school.”
“Ok.” David said as he shut the car door. “Bye.”
“Don’t worry, son. Your mum will be fine.”
David simply nodded.
He called me son, David thought as James Salako drove off. He wished he had a true father-figure in his life, someone he could freely talk to, especially with the quiet but equally disturbing rumour in his class that he was gay. As David walked into the school, he wondered what new angle Susan had brought to this claim.
Broad Street, Marina, Lagos
Simeon shut the door behind him, and walked to his seat. He exhaled deeply as he laid his head on the files he had just dropped on the desk. The first end-of-year meeting had started much later than the schedule time, and as expected, had dragged on well past closing time.
Still Simeon knew the board meeting was only a minor contributor to his exhaustion.
Simeon raised his head as he heard his phone ring.
Simeon brought the phone before his face. It was Kathryn’s number but a young male voice had answered.
“Hello. My name is David. My mum is Kathryn.” Simeon heard when he brought the phone to his ear.
“My mum requested that I make this call.” David paused briefly before he continued. “She—fainted in her room this morning; she’s awake now.”
“Is she at home?”
“No. Graceland Hospital.”
“What’s the address of the hospital?” Simeon asked, same time grabbing his car key on the table.
“A moment, please.” David said in response before he started with the address.
Smart boy, Simeon thought as he took the address. He sounds matured beyond his years. Simeon guessed Kathryn had raised him just as she wanted: her child and also her confidant. Simeon had not seen David and this was the first conversation they would have, yet Simeon had already developed a special liking for the boy.
“And how are you doing, young man?”.
David sighed. “I’m holding on fine; I can’t say that much for my mum.”
Graceland Hospital, Lekki, Lagos.
Simeon walked into the room carrying a chilled bottle of freshly pressed fruit juice.
“Thanks for coming.” Kathryn said as Simeon sat close to her. Simeon only smiled. He had hoped he would find David in the room, but David was not there. Simeon took Kathryn’s hand in his and squeezed them tightly. He smiled again as he stared intently at her head with a bandage wrapped around it. Kathryn smiled back and slowly turned her gaze.
Simeon watched on as Kathryn reached for a card on the table by her side.
”That’s Dr. Abdul Zakari; I mean the card.” Kathryn swallowed hard as she placed the card before Simeon. “Miss Ibeh gave me his card; the doctor is reliable.”
Simeon picked the card and studied it.
Kathryn continued. “You may choose not to provide support for David’s upkeep; that’s not the reason I’m doing this.” Simeon nodded. His eyes still fixed on the card.
“Miss Ibeh has made an appointment with the doctor. David is not aware of this arrangement. And I don’t want him to.”
“And how many persons are aware of . . . of this arrangement?” Simeon asked.
“I can’t tell exactly.” Kathryn said. She smiled as she noticed Simeon’s facial expression at her last statement. “Did I say something wrong?”
Simeon shook his head. “No, you didn’t.”
Kathryn chuckled. “You, Miss Ibeh and I are the only persons I’m aware of. I don’t know who you’ve told; that’s what I meant.”
Simeon heaved. “Ok.”
Kathryn wanted to ask if his wife was aware, but she restrained herself.
They heard the door open and both turned towards it. Simeon stood when he saw a nurse approaching. Her presence reminded him that he had been allowed only some minutes with Kathryn.
“I’ll take my leave now.”
“I’ll check on you again.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll likely be discharged tomorrow morning.”
As Simeon walked towards the door, he allowed his mind drift to his wife’s emails he had read the previous night and the little findings he had reached about Miss Ibeh and her foundation. The foundation’s website revealed Zachary Hospital as one of its partners. Simeon smiled broadly. Zachary Hospital was owned by Dr. Abdul Zakari, an old friend of his.
Simeon knew a lot could possibly go wrong if he choose to do nothing and allow the DNA test alone to decide the outcome of the whole drama.
Time to pay an old friend a visit, Simeon thought as he took a final look at Kathryn and slowly closed the door of the room.
To read the previous episode, click on this link: www.naijastories.com/2015/04/illusion-episode-6/