I backed into the wall behind me and slid down slowly. It was finally too much. As my butt hit the floor of the hospital ward, I held my head in my hands and wept. Yes, I wept. My life that seemed promising at the beginning of that day had now spiraled into a deep abyss. This was not hell, no. Hell would be way attractive, this was the bottomless pit. I realised that the doctor would share even more damning news.
She waited for my tears to abate, mrs Leigh. Clearly, she had witnessed such melt-downs before; besides, I had behaved in similar manner on our first meeting, so it was not new to her.
‘Akin, that’s your name right?’
I raised my head and looked at her. My eyes were soggy red, threatening to release a torrent of tears. Yet, only a drop had formed at the corner of my right eye, I cleaned it with my middle finger.
‘Akin, can you hear me? I want you to listen to me very carefully.’ She fixed the scan result at the base of the cradle and held my gaze. The child, temporarily forgotten.
I looked to Sonia, she looked away, hissing as she did so.
‘Akin look at me, what is your problem? Why are you having a midlife crisis here, if we can call it that seeing as you’re still very young…’
My hand slowly rose, yes, of its own accord pointing at Sonia.
The doctor’s head turned towards Sonia and then back at me. ‘Look at me, hear my words. What is your problem?’
I heard her, but I was lost in my own world. Everything had come full cycle, my indiscretions had come back to haunt me. There was Mrs Leigh, my first. Sonia had carried and delivered my child without my knowledge; Trisha wanted a child of her own. And of course, I couldn’t rule out any weird news from Tina. I knew I was doomed.
‘Have you been listening to me?’ It was mrs Leigh breathing on my face worried for no apparent reason. ‘You need to snap out of it’
Yeah, right. I thought, snap out of it, did she think I wanted to be in this state? Spiralling into the darkest places. Then she did what most good doctors do. She slapped me.
I jumped and glared at her. ‘What!’
She was relieved and went back to the cradle. Sonia had been watching the whole drama from where she sat and when the doctor got to her child, she questioned the doctor. ‘How do you two know each other?’
I expected that the doctor would shrug and wave off her question with a flick of the hand, instead she smiled and answered. ‘I picked him up in a bar. Sadly, he wasn’t All that.’
Sonia’s eyes lit up, I coughed, and Mrs Leigh shushed me up.
‘It wasn’t that he may not have done what I wanted, but he kept muttering a girl’s name. I knew he was one of them hopeless romantics so I left him be…’
My mouth was a big O, I was focused on her lips as the words parted them and offered succour to my already damned soul.
‘… Yes, what I did not tell u the next morning was that we never had sex. I was once in love and know of its power. I was supposed to tell you that we did not do it, but you started sneaking around my bedroom, so I took off my nighties and showed you proof we had had a wonderful time. I’m sorry.’
Sonia coughed loudly, eyeing both of us. This wasn’t what she had imagined when she gave me the address of the hospital.
I leapt up. The most damning memory that I had was about the adultery. And now, with those sweet words from Mrs Leigh’s mouth, I was free of the shackles of damnation. I did the unthinkable.
I grabbed her and bent her over, then french-kissed her. It lasted…, I don’t know how long but the doctor was sufficiently embarrassed, I was happy I had one leg out of the tangle, and as I turned around, a hard faced Sonia was staring at me. As if to judge me, the child also coughed.
I turned back into a well timed slap, I was almost knocked off my feet. Thankfully, there was the cradle, and I held it for support.
‘Never in your life, do that again. Are we clear?’
I looked into her eyes, and though her words sounded tough, her eyes had lit up with an expression that women give men who they want to have coitus with. I nodded.
Sonia coughed again, ‘Doctor, can you please attend to Olivine?’ She was getting impatient with me there and probably wanted the doctor and I out of the room.
‘Olivine? That’s her name?’ I was indignant. ‘That’s a crappy name to give a child, besides, she deserves a Yoruba name.’
‘No,’ the doctor interjected and looked up from the sleeping child. ‘She deserves an Urhobo name.’
We responded in unison (Sonia and I), ‘what!’
I could see the look on Sonia’s face, she could see mine, ‘what?’ I repeated reacting faster. ‘How can the child I supposedly sired be Urhobo? That’s like Delta no?’
The doctor sighed, she had revealed one too many secrets. And she knew it. ‘Sonia’s husband came to town, he had germinated his sperm and when he heard that she was going the way of artificial insemination, he delivered the sperm sample to me.’
I heard everything she said, but her first words had me. ‘Sonia is married?’ I saw the free leg go back into the tangle and I fell deeper into the hole.
‘Was. I’m divorced and can do anything I want to legally.’ Sonia offered the explanation she didn’t need to.
I turned to Mrs Leigh who nodded.
‘If you are divorced, why did you state single on your forms? That’s criminal.’ I was in a desperate situation.
‘Yes, I thought about that, and since I’m using my maiden name Oboh, it made sense to say I am single don’t it? Besides, who wants a girl with a lot of baggage?’
I was stupefied. I closed my eyes for a long time wishing I would wake up from the back dream. When I opened my eyes, they were still there, staring queerly at me.
I cleared my throat. ‘So the child’s not mine?’ It was a question addressed at the doctor.
She shook her head, ‘unfortunately no. It belongs to her husband.’
‘So how do you explain the resemblance?’ I pointed at the cradle and let my hand fall slowly.
‘She probably was thinking a lot about you whilst she was pregnant, the doctor pointed at Sonia. The child saw the picture and was transformed that way. She probably would pick up resemblance of her father or mother, otherwise, congratulations, you have a replica.
Sonia was holding her head. ‘So this was Dafe’s ace? This is why he kept telling me I would see reason soon.’ She raised her head, a murderous rage on her face and she jumped at the doctor to attack the hapless woman.
I stepped in between them and broke off Sonia’s attack with my right shoulder. Instantly, my brain showed me it wasn’t a very inspired move as a tear escaped my right eye and I winced I pain. I pushed her away and held mrs Leigh steady.
‘Are you okay?’ I asked looking into her eyes, she was visibly shaken, otherwise, I could see that she would survive the shock.
I let her go and turned to see Sonia weeping on the baby she had believed she had me, but somehow, my personal god had cheated her. I felt like Kratos serving Athena and despising the other gods. I went to her and knelt before her.
‘I’m sorry for all that happened between us, I was a fool. I thought I was enjoying where in actual fact I was wasting my life and yours away. Please forgive me.’
She breathed deeply, stifling mucour that had started forming in her nostrils. ‘Please just go. At least now you are free.’ She pushed me away, planted her head on the cradle and let herself go. She wept profusely.
I stood there for a little while until Mrs Leigh – the doctor, placed her hand on my back. ‘There’s nothing you can do here anymore, I suggest you go find that girl and make amends. Not many people are this lucky.
I nodded. Then left the hospital ward and went after her. She had finally told me that she loved me and I had pushed her away, it was time to give that ring to Imole.