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Rose watched two nurses hurriedly wheel the injured man past her where she sat and straight towards the theater thinking there was something vaguely familiar about his clothes. Femi followed a moment later, stopping briefly to talk to her.
“I’m sorry Rose, duty calls. We have to carry out emergency surgery on that man as he’s lost a lot of blood. Meanwhile stay right here, I’ll be back for you afterwards. You can ask any of the nurses for some coffee and biscuits. If Ada comes down with news that Morenike is awake then go up and see her. Take care of you in the meantime.”
“Okay, Rose answered. I’ll be just fine.
Somebody tapped her on the shoulder and she reluctantly woke up. Femi was back.
“Hi there sleeping beauty, rested a bit did you?”
Rose tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn and then stretched languorously.
“What time is it?”
Femi glanced at the wall clock hanging above the empty receptionist’s corner.
“A few minutes past one.”
“Wow. I slept that long? I must have been really tired.”
“Yes you were.”
“Goodness me, you do look bushed yourself. Your surgery, how was it?”
Femi slowly shook his head. Rose’s sharp intake of breath indicated her understanding.
Femi shrugged, fatigue obvious in his every move.
“Me too. It’s sad but that’s the way the job is. We win some and lose some as well. I have some good news though. I hear Morenike is awake upstairs. Shall we go see her?”
Rose almost jumped off her seat, a smile magically manifesting on her face.
“Really? Halleluyah! When did you get the message?”
“Just now, as I stepped out of the theatre. He held up a small polythene bag. These are the personal effects of the deceased. I should drop them in the store for the nurses to check if we can find a number to get in touch with his family or something, but I guess I can still do that later when we are done with Morenike.”
Together they walked up the stairs.
Femi stood silently outside the door, listening in as the girls hugged and cried. He didn’t want anything that would unnecessarily startle or rile the patient since he couldn’t predict how she would act if when saw him, so he chose to stay out of sight until Rose signaled for him to enter.
Morenike was still weak, although the sight of her friend cheered her up a great deal. Rose didn’t waste any time before she started asking the burning question.
“But why my friend? Why did you do such a thing?”
There was no expression on Morenike’s face as she answered.
“Betrayal and guilt.”
“Betrayal? Guilt?” asked Rose.
“By whom? How? Guilt about what?” asked the bewildered Rose.
There was a lengthy silence in the room before Morenike ventured an answer, which came by way of a question.
“Did I ever tell you how my mother died?”
“Yes you did. In a car crash while she was on a trip to Zaria to buy stuff for sale, no?”
“Well, that was a lie. The truth is that we killed her.”
“You what? Are you okay babes? Do you want me to call the…”
“Don’t bother, I’m perfectly fine. I just need to unburden my soul to someone after all these years of keeping the ugly secrets.”
For the next half hour, speaking slowly but clearly with a deadpan face, Morenike told her friend about how she and her dad had committed abomination while her mother lay dying from her wounds. Rose could not believe her ears.
“He said he loved me, and that mom didn’t. That she wanted me dead, so that she could be free to chase after her multiple love interests. He said I was the only reason they were still together. I believed him too, maybe it was because of all I’d seen and heard while growing up or maybe it was because my young mind was seeking validation after what we did. He said it didn’t matter, that it would be our secret, never to be shared with anyone. He told me nobody would ever come between us, that we were always going to be one.”
Two tears wormed their way down her face as she continued speaking.
“We buried my mother and lied to everybody about how she died. After that night, we became regular lovers. The funny thing was that at first I believed it was normal, until I started mixing with other girls as I grew older. Then I would hate myself after each episode, but still I couldn’t stop. We moved houses afterwards, and dad’s business improved. He spoiled me silly with money and gifts and made me promise I wouldn’t fall in love with any other person but him. Of course I started disliking boys, and would hate any woman who came too close to him. After a while I hated all males. Maybe in my mind I hated him too, but was too hooked on him to notice.”
Rose was also shedding tears by now.
“Was that why you never allowed any guy close to you in the university?”
“Oh my God. You could have told me! You could have said something.”
“There was no way I could have Rose. I was in a prison, and my jailer was my own father. I was being pulled in two different directions by two equally powerful forces. He eventually stopped being intimate with me after I entered university, but by then it was too late. You can now understand how I felt when he announced his engagement. It was the ultimate slap on the face. In that instant I saw my mother’s blood on my hands. The weight of guilt was crushing and death seemed to be the only possible atonement.”
“Jesus! I feel like killing your father right this minute, like tearing him into so many little pieces. And he hasn’t even shown up. What kind of evil father is that? What kind of coldness must one have in his heart to defile his own daughter, and still refuse to bat an eyelid when she attempts to take her own life as a direct consequence of his actions?”
“Did you call him?”
“He called me, or rather he called your phone and I told him we were here. He said he was coming, but that was ages ago. If he really wanted to come, he’d be by your bedside now.”
Both girls went quiet, until a thought suddenly hit Rose. She opened Morenike’s purse and brought out her phone.
“You know what, here’s your phone. Call him now. I would have earlier, but I couldn’t unlock it.”
Morenike shook her head, but Rose was having none of it. She insisted.
“If you won’t, then I will. I will call him and let him know that he’s a sad excuse of a man for ruining your life without even having the decency to pretend he is remorseful, choosing instead to stay in the arms of his young fiancée while you lie here hurting, fortunate to have barely escaped death. Please give me your phone code.”
Morenike called out the phone code and Rose went to the call log as soon as the phone screen opened up. She pressed the green dial button with anger.
Both girls jumped in astonishment as a phone started ringing in response, right outside the door.
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