Mama na (my mother)!!!” Maryam exclaimed joyfully. Her mother smiled and stood up to hug her.
“Young lady, you gave us all a scare” Hajiya Bello said waggling her finger at her daughter, a worried look covering her face.
“Not eating? The doctor said you were dehydrated? All because of what? If it is the job maybe you should stop. Your dad will get a better place in Kano” Hajiya Bello spoke. She always went off like that, one of the few signs her children used to detect when she was troubled.
“I am sorry mum” Maryam said meekly.
“Your father was frantic, he almost came down here himself if not because of some meetings he could no avoid. He asked me to bring you home” Hajiya Bello said.
“Ah no oh, am fine. Daddy worries to much” Maryam said quickly. She had work, she wasn’t feeling ill and she definitely didn’t want her dad dotting over her.
“I see” her mother said quietly looking at her “and should your father also not worry about this your Ayo of a person?”.
They exchanged glances and Maryam quickly looked away hoping her mother did not read her expression.
“Maryamu? Yorubawa!!! Allah Ki ya ye (God forbid)” her mother held her head in her hands.
Maryam didn’t look up. It was so annoying how her mother could read her but now was the time or the place for this.
“…And how is our patient doing today?” Maryam smiled weakly as she watched the doctor walk into her room, ‘Saved by the doctor’ she thought.
“I’m fine thank you ma” she said.
“Thank you once again Doctor Amaka for all your efforts” Hajiya Bello said smiling gratefully.
“Haba Hajiya, ba damuwa (there is no problem), aiki ne kawai(it is just work)” the doctor replied.
“Ah, Ki na gi Hausa (you understand Hausa)?” Hajiya Bello exclaimed excitedly at the doctor’s response which made her smile even further. She nodded.
“kadan kadan (small small)” said the doctor as she finished her checkup on Maryam.
“Awww that’s nice. Can I see you for a moment please” Hajiya Bello said.
“Why not. Let us talk in my office” She said.
“We will continue our discussion later” she said with a stern face to her daughter then followed the doctor.
Maryam breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn’t ready for the unavoidable fight that was coming. She shook her head. Then remembered her dream.
She started looking around for her phone.
“Oh thank God you are awake” Priscilla said as she poked her head into the room. Then she walked in.
“You have been sleeping since and your mom wouldn’t leave your side, same thing with Matthew. Una family sha” Priscilla said excitedly as she brought out her phone. She was glad Maryam was finally fully conscious as she had been drifting in and out of consciousness since the previous day.
“Pris what of Kevwe? Any news? Why are you pressing phone now?” Maryam asked irritated.
Priscilla didn’t answer as she waited for the call she was making to connect. Maryam shook her head. The others must have commanded Priscilla to call as soon as she was awake.
“How far?” Priscilla said, “Yes she is awake. You want to talk to her abi” she paused “okay hold on” and she passed the phone to Maryam.
Maryam placed the phone to her ear, “Hello”.
“So I travel and you no chop food? You no drink water? The small water wey you get inside body you come dey cry am out. Something is wrong with you” Kevwe shouted from the other end.
“KEVWE!!!” Maryam screamed with joy, tears rolling down her eyes. Priscilla smiled.
“Shut up joh yeye girl” Kevwe said jokingly “you got me worried love” she said in a calmer voice.
“YOU got me worried” Maryam retorted.
“How plane go crash when I dey inside? I go jump now trust Warri pikin” Kevwe mouthed.
“I’m just happy you are alive. I couldn’t bear the thought” Maryam said and started to cry.
“Wetin dey worry this one now. You want your mama to come Lagos come kill me? I hear she is forming mother hawk there” Kevwe joked. She knew Hajiya Bello well.
“No mind her. Gist dey” Maryam said quickly remembering about Ayo.
“I go call you for evening, make I continue my observation. Be like these mumus go need small honesty session” Kevwe said.
“Boss lady, go girl” Maryam said cheerfully.
“Take care love, bye” Kevwe said and ended the call.
“Thank God” Maryam exclaimed, relief flooding her body.
“She threatened to send assassins if I don’t call her” Priscilla said smiling.
“Thanks dear, I needed that” Maryam said stretching to hold Priscilla’s hand. “Where are the others?”
“They went to bath. We all called in sick but I had to go home first to get food for you so as I came back they left” Priscilla explained, “but they should be back any moment” she quickly added.
“Okay. But you all didn’t need to call in sick. You know that line can’t be used regularly” Maryam felt touched her friends would such a thing. “And Tokunbo with his evil boss” they both laughed.
“Abi. But no biggy joh. Seems he and Teju have made up. Before you ran into the living room and nearly died on us” Priscilla started filling Maryam with all the news so far. “Then Justin broke up with Michelle this morning. Seemed she pulled one of her selfish accusations. Something about him not coming over. Didn’t get much as per it was just his side of the conversation I could hear”.
“Good riddance joh, She is such a hand full. To think I was siding her” Maryam said irritated.
“My mom heard me call Ayo’s name” Maryam said out of the blue.
Priscilla looked confused. “So?” She said.
“So Ayo is Yoruba!! My parents are tribalistic!!!” She raised an eye brown looking at Priscilla. She could see Priscilla connecting the dots because she then exclaimed.
“Oh!!! Your mom heard you call Ayo’s name” she repeated with understanding. “What are you going to do?”
“First I need to know if his people are okay ….” Maryam started but was interrupted by what was supposed to be whispering from outside her room.
“…..don’t tell her not ye….” One voice started.
“…. She will find out any ways” a voice that sounded like Tokunbo’s cut.
“But you can hear how happy she sounds. Its too soon” the other voice said. It was Matthew.
“Guys I think it is too late for that” Maryam’s eyes caught a head peeping through the door. Justin.
The three of them walked in looking very uncomfortable.
“Hey you” Matthew attempted a cheerful greeting.
“Don’t do that. You know better” Maryam said quietly. “What is wrong?”
“It is Ayomide” Tokunbo said.
………. ………. ……….
He couldn’t believe he was here, in this predicament. The accident had been terrible but he still had hoped. It had happened on the ground after all, maybe they sat on the other end and maybe they got out in time, maybe…….
Once he got the call to come down to Lagos hope started to dwindle. He arrived at the hospital his mom and daughter where. After basic treatments they were left unattended, fighting for their lives all because no one was there to pay the bills to admit them. He was so furious but there was no time. It was late and thankfully traffic was light, he quickly got them to a private hospital in Lekki.
Tokunbo had recommended it. He sat down in the waiting room close to the ICU. His mom had just got out of surgery, the doctor had said she would survive. Unfortunately there had been no updates on his daughter who had sustained more burns and was bleeding internally.
He felt the blame weigh in on him. He was to blame for all of this, him and his stupid surprise shopping spree idea. He was to take them but as usual work affected his plans and not to disappoint, his mom said they would go and he would meet up. He started to cry. He thought of Maryam, he had been calling but somehow had always missed her, either she had gone to sleep or was not to be disturbed. At least she was okay and so was her friend. At least some part of his world wasn’t scattered. Tokunbo had told him she would be discharged in the evening. It was a quarter to twelve. He had to call the office and his brother.
His phone rang. A wave of joy swept him.
“Hey babe” he sounded exhausted.
“Ayo what is this I am hearing? Is it true? How is your mom? What of your daughter? How are you coping?” Maryam poured out the questions in one breath.
“Sweetheart please calm down” Ayomide said “I just got you back, I can’t lose you to another collapse”
“I am fine. How are you and your family?” Maryam asked.
“Momsi just came out of surgery, they say she will survive. Wunmi is still in surgery, I am just pray to Allah that she makes it” he said quietly.
“I’ll pray for her too. Be strong, my friend will bring food for you. Please take it easy” Maryam replied.
“Kevwe? No now, don’t stress her, she has been through enough already” Ayomide said.
“She offered” Maryam replied. “The hospital is near her restaurant. Please eat, you need your strength”.
“I hear you. Don’t faint again oh” he tried to joke.
“I promise I won’t. Stay safe for me” Maryam ended the call.
He smiled and dropped his phone. He needed that call. Now all he needed was news about his daughter.
……….. ……… ……….
“I can’t believe we are having this argument Maryam” Hajiya Bello stood, hands akimbo in the center of the room.
It was the three evenings after she had been discharged. She even went to work today. Her mom who had been staying in her uncle’s house all this while and had been spoiling them all silly had come to see her one more time before she left for Kano the next day.
Justin and Tokunbo had practically fallen in love with her cooking, remembering how she used to send things down while they were in school and they frequently teased Maryam to take over once her mom had left. The gang had all got used to her frequent advice about bad company and how they should keep together and face their careers, they actually enjoyed it. So everyone had cleared out once they started hearing raised voices.
“Mum I am not saying am going to marry him but he isn’t a bad option” Maryam replied.
“Maryam these arguments you are bringing do you think your father will listen?” Her mother cautioned.
Maryam sighed “Mommy what is it? He is a devout muslim, he has a healthy career, he is responsible…”
“He is also Yorubawa. MARYAM BELLO do you want to bring shame to me?” Her mother shouted.
“What of Aunty Hauwa? Didn’t she marry Matthew’s father? She even converted” Maryam argued vehemently.
“Are your aunty and father in good terms? Ask yourself that”, Maryam’s mother answered “oh because your father is nice to Matthew? You know nothing little girl”.
Maryam folded her hands and started crying. She didn’t understand all this. Did it matter? What was the big deal. Ayo was in Lagos pray and watching his daughter fight for her dear life and all her mom could think of was this.
Hajiya Bello looked at her daughter, her precious child. She hated when Maryam cried. She had gone down this road with her son. It hadn’t ended well for him. But Maryam was her father’s favorite, maybe she could change his heart, maybe for once he wouldn’t be so hard. She decided to approach it from a different angle. She sat down on the bed and held her.
“Maryamu I love you. You know this” her mother said, Maryam nodded, “you also know that in truth I don’t care who you marry as long as he is God fearing and treats you right. This Ayo boy sounds like one but you and I know your father. Gaskiya I am not going to say anything again but I need you to think about it”.
Maryam looked up to her mother. Sincerity and understanding filled her eyes. She knew her mother would support her if she told her she wanted to get serious with Ayo. Her father on the other hand….
“I choose not to spend the last hours of my stay here with you in anger or bitterness. I hope you choose wisely and I pray it all works out insha Allah” Hajiya Bello said finally. Maryam hugged her mother.
“Thanks mama na” Maryam said “I know I can always count on you”.
“If you like fall sick again oh. I won’t be able to save you from your dotting father. Your father will ship you to Kano” her mother teased.
“I have a feeling Justin will pack his bags and follow. He loves your food” Maryam said and she and her mother laughed.
“He looks like a good boy. All of you. I’m happy with the friends you have chosen. And your cousin, growing up to be a man” Hajiya Bello smiled.
“He said his boss hinted that he will recommend him for promotion in his next appraisal” Maryam said proudly.
“Great. Maybe that will touch your father’s head and make him patch things with his sister. You do know that was how your father started before he branched out to do business?” Hajia Bello said.
“Daddy was in the banking sector?” Maryam was shocked.
“Yeah for like a year plus before he shouted at his boss and resigned. We hadn’t given birth to you then” her mother said tapping Maryam’s nose playfully.
“Are you serious? Give me the gist mum please!!!” Maryam said as she settled in to listen to her mother.
……….. …………. ………….
It had been an eventful two weeks Kevwe thought heading to the dining area of the restaurant where she was to have a meeting with the staff. Once again she was glad to say ‘Thank God it’s Friday’. She looked forward to heading to her apartment on the island. Lagos always had drama with it but the drama in the restaurant was outstanding. It reminded her of the Tv show Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s kitchen and after two weeks of observation she had drawn up a report, hence the meeting. Her boss wasn’t going to like her report at all if this meeting didn’t help. He was sure to sack a number of people and these Lagosians and their crazy nature, she didn’t want anyone burning down the restaurant. So she had come up with a plan, an idea Maryam and Tokunbo had given her and against her better judgment she took it.
She had walked in amidst a lot of eye rolling and disrespectful looks and comments from all around the room. Elderly staff feeling insulted a young girl was forming boss, younger staff with eyes of envy or jealousy she couldn’t tell. She faced the elderly folks and kneeling down she said,
“Ejò e ma binu (please don’t be offended)” in the worst Yoruba intonation possible. A couple of people giggled, most went silent.
“I didn’t want to come, I felt a much older and experienced person should be here because of you” she said gesturing towards the elder staff.
“For years you have served diligently. But things are changing and my oga whom most of you know is a serious business man. Ejò Ni tori Òlòrun (please because of God) hear me out” she said then kept quiet still kneeling.
This was Tokunbo’s plan. “There is something with Yorubas and respect”, Tokunbo had told her and it seemed to work. A number of staff started whispering until an older woman hushed everyone.
“Keep quiet joh” she shouted. It seemed she was well respected because everyone did. She turned to Kevwe; “omo dáa dáa (good child) stand up. You are a good person. We felt insulted when we heard management sent you but we didn’t know you were well trained” she said and a number of people nodded in agreement. “Let us hear what you have to say”.
Kevwe sat down and proceeded to explain the problem the restaurant was facing, all she had observed, changes needed, the removal of unserious staff and the rehabilitation of the restaurant as a whole. There was an uproar especially from the younger staff. Fear of losing a job, desire to cause chaos just for the fun of it and some true concern. She calmed everyone down and asked for what the staff wanted from the management. This part was Maryam’s idea. This brought a whole new calm in the room. And one by one even the younger staff chipped in on the list of what they wanted. At the end of the meeting there was still talk of scam and pretense by management from some of the staff but Kevwe knew she had gained some allies. If she was going to stay six months her she needed them. Her report to her boss was sure going to change.
She packed her things and closed the office for the day. She just had one more thing to do before she headed home, go and see Ayomide.
“Hey girl” her phone had rang as she boarded a cab and it was Maryam.
“how far?” Maryam greeted.
“I dey go see our husband” Kevwe joked.
“Stop am oh.” Maryam scolded.
“Dey there dey deceive yourself. How Una dey now?” Kevwe asked.
“We good. Can’t wait for Ayomide to bring his family back. He said if the doctor gave the go ahead they would be back by next week. There is a private hospital in Maitama that would handle his daughter’s case” Maryam said “how did your meeting go?”.
“O girl some were still skeptical oh, but I think I won a couple of hearts and reduced the number of sack letters at least. Una too try for me” Kevwe said.
“Nice” Maryam said cheerfully.
“How Tokunbo and Matthew now? And is that idiot still disturbing Pris?” Kevwe enquired cautiously.
“Hmmm first let me answer your question. Toks is good oh, him and Teju won’t free us, Matthew is busy as usual and you know Pris is off that guy” Maryam answered. “To answer your unasked question Justin misses you and no he isn’t dating anyone yet”.
“Hmmmm okay” was all Kevwe said.
“You miss him?” Maryam asked.
“Yeah, but such is life onto another gist joh” Kevwe quickly tried to change the topic. Maryam knew her friend was using work to hide her emotions. She smiled sadly.
“My dad wants to send me a car” she said excitedly.
“So na when I comot for ABJ your popsi decided to pull that stunt abi. And I wanted to be his second wife oh. I change my mind” Kevwe pretended to sound hurt. Maryam laughed.
“You no well” Maryam said.
“Chick I go soon reach, make I save credit. Will call you when I reach house” Kevwe said.
“Okay. Send my love to him” Maryam said.
“See person wey no dey claim interest” Kevwe said and ended the call.
It didn’t take five minutes and the driver was in front of the hospital. Kevwe stepped out, paid the cab driver and walked in. She headed straight to the area where the ICU was. She passed a room and kept going, then stopped. Wasn’t that Wunmi’s room she thought? She walked back. It was, but it was empty. She walked in, a strong antiseptic smell stung her. It seemed it was freshly cleaned. Did they move her? Did the doctor approve of their transfer? She brought out her phone as she walked towards Ayomide’s mother’s room dialling his number. He didn’t pick.
She reached and knocked on the door then slowly opened it. Her heart stopped for a moment, she hoped what she saw was wrong. Ayomide raised his head from his mother’s laps, both of them crying. She didn’t need to be told. Wunmi was dead.