The Second Wife – Episode 26
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
Wednesday 18th August 2004
Rumuola, Port Harcourt
B.B’s phone rang and he looked at the caller ID. Oroma. He thought of ignoring her and calling her later in the day but when she called twice more, heanswered her call wondering if it had anything to do with Biobele.
Her voice was weak as she informed him that she had been admitted at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital. Only two days ago, she had informed him that she had gained admission to study medicine at the University of Port Harcourt.
Biobele had spent last Friday in his home but had returned to her mother on Saturday morning. She had felt betrayed that her mother had left her alone with him and had Ese not slept over that night, Biobele probably wouldn’t have spoken to him. The agreement for this weekend was for Oroma to pick Bio up from her vacation lesson on Friday and bring her to his firm. And he would ensure that she was back to her mother on Sunday immediately after service. Oroma had added that he had to ensure that Ese was there until Biobele got used to being with him.
‘What’s wrong with you?’
‘I was involved in an accident on my way to pick up Bio and the doctor insists on keeping me here for days.’
‘I’m sorry about that.’
That meant that Biobele couldn’t be with her.
‘I need a big favour. Can you to pick Bio up from school today and bring her to the hospital?’
That would be interesting.
B.B drove down to Biobele’s school. It was about half an hour after closing hours. He found her with one of her teachers.
‘I’m worried about mummy,’ she was saying. ‘She’s never late.’
‘I’m sure she must have been delayed in traffic.’
The child shook her head.
‘Uncle D.D lets her leave in time so she can pick me up. I think something’s happened to my mummy.’
They both looked in his direction as B.B approached them. Biobele leaned into the woman, looking at her father.
‘I’m B.B Briggs, Biobele’s father,’ he introduced himself to the teacher.
‘Biobele’s daddy?’ she turned to the little girl for confirmation and Biobele nodded.
‘Where’s mummy?’ Biobele asked her father.
‘Mummy couldn’t make it so she asked me to pick you up and take you to her.’
‘I want mummy,’ Biobele insisted.
Seeing that he was not going to make any progress with her, he called the teacher, Miss Ann, aside.
‘Biobele’s mum was admitted at BMH today,’ he explained to the young woman. ‘I need you to convince Biobele to come with me.’
‘That would be breaching protocols,’ Ann told him. ‘The parents usually let us know ahead of time who would be coming to pick up their children once they can’t make it.’
‘She’s my daughter.’
‘Yes, she is, but I don’t have the mandate to release her to you.’
There had been situations where parents having a terrible divorce took the children of the marriage in order to punish the other spouse, and so the teachers were very careful.
‘She can go with you but I’ll have to come with you just to be sure.’
You’d think he was a paedophile!
Despite her teacher’s presence, Biobele sat in the back seat, strapped in her seat and looking suspiciously at her father. Her mother had informed her that she would be spending the weekend with daddy and Aunty Ese but this wasn’t Friday!
B.B drove to the hospital. Oroma had been sedated and was asleep. Biobele rushed to her mother’s bedside.
‘Wake up mummy. Don’t leave me alone.’
‘She’s only sleeping,’ B.B assured her.
Biobele ignored him and tried to wake her mother up.
‘The doctors gave mummy some drugs to help her sleep and if you wake mummy up now, she’ll be hurt. Do you want to hurt her?’
The little girl shook her head, her eyes still on her mother’s unconscious body.
‘Good girl. Mummy needs her rest. She’s going to be okay.’
Bio’s eyes remained on her mother. From what the doctor had said Oroma had suffered a head trauma. Her head was bandaged and an arm was in a cast. She was being kept in the hospital as a result of the head trauma just to be sure that there was no internal bleeding.
The doctor squatted in front of the child who looked at him with an interest she couldn’t help. He was a fatherly figure and inspired trust with his friendly face.
‘Like your daddy said, your mum is going to be okay. I’m Dr Otonye Richards and I’ll ensure that your mummy will be okay.’
‘She’ll be taking me home today?’
‘I’m afraid not, dear. We need to keep mummy here for a few days to make sure she’s okay.’
‘Then I’ll stay with her.’
‘You’ll be staying with daddy,’ B.B told her.
She shook her head. ‘Mummy told me she was going to see you today,’ she said, ‘what happened to her?’
Biobele was looking at B.B as though she suspected that he had pushed her mother down a staircase.
‘She was in an accident, baby. But she’ll be okay, just as the doctor has assured us.’
‘I’ll stay with mummy. She stays with me when I’m sick.’
‘I’m sure she does, but not today.’
‘I’ll stay with mummy.’
She was just as stubborn as he was, B.B thought. Dienye would be better at dealing with her. However, Dienye and Soki were leaving for Abuja in the morning for a JCI northern conference and once they were back, Soki would be leaving for law school in Lagos. That worked to his advantage though because he had no doubt that Biobele would want to move in temporarily with Dienye and Soki.
‘You need to go with your daddy so that your mummy can rest,’ Ann told Biobele.
B had totally forgotten about the teacher.
‘Once mummy is fully rested, she will be glad to see you,’ Ann continued.
‘She’ll be all right if I leave?’ Biobele asked the doctor.
Dr Richards nodded.
‘And you can see her once she wakes up.’
Biobele kissed her mother’s cheek and reluctantly allowed herself to be led out of the room.
B.B dropped Miss Ann off at Rumuosi before driving to the Home with Biobele. He had called Dienye earlier and he had agreed to meet them at the Home. Biobele didn’t utter a word to him but just looked out of the window from her position at the backseat. She looked so sad he wanted to reach backwards and pull her to him but knew she wouldn’t appreciate that. As much as he couldn’t stand Oroma, the bond between mother and daughter was undeniable. Oroma had to be doing something good for her daughter to love her so much. How could he have imagined that he could take Biobele away from Oroma even for her own good?
He took his eyes off the road for a second or two to look at his daughter. Her eyes were closed and she was muttering a prayer.
‘Lord please keep mummy safe. Make her well again so she can take care of me. I love mummy very much and I want her to be all right.’
B.B pulled into a spot in front of Oroma’s apartment. Biobele climbed out of the car and raced into the Orphanage. B.B stepped out of the car locking the doors. He intended to pick up a few things for Oroma and Biobele’s clothes for the rest of the week.
He strolled into the building where Biobele was with Dienye and giving him a summary of what had transpired.
‘Mummy wasn’t moving.’
‘She was sedated,’ B.B corrected, for the information of his best friend.
‘The doctor says she’ll be well, but I’m scared, Uncle D.D.’
‘Your mummy will be all right, Bio my love. I have no doubt about that. She would never leave you alone, you should know that.’ Dienye assured her, then to his best friend. ‘Hey.’
‘Hey. We need to sort out Oroma and Biobele’s things. Biobele will be staying with me until Sunday.’
Biobele shook her head. ‘Can I stay with you and aunty Soki?’
‘You should be with your daddy, darling. Soki and I are travelling tomorrow and we won’t be around for some time.’
Biobele looked crestfallen. Dienye looked at his best friend questioningly.
‘She thinks I intend to keep her away from her mother for good,’ B.B explained. ‘Perhaps you can convince her that spending a few nights in my home isn’t going to give her nightmares for life.’
‘That’s not my place, B.B, but yours. You should get used to your daughter. If you can’t convince her you many never be able to do so.’
Biobele whispered something into Dienye’s left ear and he laughed out loud.
‘What?’ B.B queried.
‘You have your job cut out for you, my friend.’
‘I’m not taking you away from your mummy,’ B.B assured the girl.
‘Cross your heart?’
B.B scowled at her and Dienye held back a laugh. A little child was getting him all hot and bothered, and it was a funny sight.
‘Cross my heart,’ B.B said reluctantly. ‘Now let’s go pack your things and mummy’s things and we’ll get lunch. Your mummy will have my head if you go without lunch on my watch.’
‘I can just imagine what Oroma would do to you,’ Dienye laughed.
‘You’re amusing yourself at my expense.’
‘You can’t blame me. You’re a terror in the courtroom but a tiny child just brought you to your knees. That’s not good for your reputation my friend.’
B.B glared at him.
‘Let’s just get this over with.’
The apartment, B.B noted, was very neat. He followed the child to the bedroom where she put her folded clothes in a travelling bag, picking up her shoes, toys and her books. She had a wide range of ‘lady bird’ story books. Then they proceeded with Oroma’s things. He selected two dresses for her from the few clothes in her closet as well as a pair of grey shorts and a t-shirt. Biobele dragged another travelling bag from under the bed. Inside it were tree tops and skirts long enough to cover the subject matter and small enough to make a man’s eyes pop. He figured these were clothes from her past profession. He could easily imagine the commotion she would cause in those clothes.
‘I don’t think your mummy would be needing these,’ B.B told his daughter. ‘The dresses will be better.’
Oroma regained consciousness, her head throbbing. She lifted her good hand to her forehead, feeling the softness of the bandage wrapped about her head. Her arm and her head hurt. Where was she?
Her eyes adjusted to the blinding light in the room with white walls. She was in a hospital. What…then she remembered. She had left the orphanage early in order to run a few errands before picking Biobele from her vacation lesson. She was involved in an accident around Garrison area. The driver of the taxi she had been in had been arguing with one of the passengers sitting in the front passenger seat and had taken his eyes off the road. By the time he returned his attention to the road, it was too late to avoid a collision with the parked truck ahead of him.
Oh my God, she hadn’t picked Biobele from school. And then she recalled calling B.B to do so. Where was her baby?
‘Bio mummy!’ she called out, wincing.
‘Calm down,’ a voice said as she felt hands on her shoulders restraining her.
‘I need to see my daughter. Where’s she?’
She battled a dizzy spell in an effort to get out of the bed.
‘Where’s my daughter?’ she repeated, anxiously.
‘Biobele is fine,’ she was assured.
‘Where is she? Where is my daughter?’
‘Her father took her home but they’ll be back later.’
‘B.B was here?’
‘He went out with your daughter.’
‘I need to see my baby.’
‘And you will.’
‘I want my baby.’
‘You will see her but first of all you need to relax before you hurt yourself.’
‘No, I want to see her first.’
A nurse moved in on her with an injection. Oroma struggled but the hands that held her shoulders were stronger.
‘Have no fear, miss. It’s just something to calm you down.’
‘I don’t need to calm down,’ she blurted out as she felt the needle prick her flesh and go in. ‘I just want my baby.’
‘And you’ll see her before you know it.’
It took a few seconds for the medicine to put her to sleep. Even Oroma couldn’t fight its potency.
The next time she woke up, it was to find the dearest face in the world watching her. Her daughter. Her precious daughter.
‘Biomummy,’ she whispered.
Biobele hugged her mummy fiercely. Oroma winced as the child’s hug ignited a pain on her injured arm but she was too glad to see her daughter to care. She wrapped her good arm about her daughter returning her hug, burying her face in her daughter’s woven hair.
‘Careful Bio, you’ll hurt your mother, Oroma heard B.B warn.
‘Daddy and I came earlier, mummy but you were unco –uncon-’
‘Unconscious,’ B.B supplied.
‘Unconscious. I was so worried mummy. I thought you’d-’
‘Die and leave you? Never my baby. You’re stuck with me.’
‘How are you, mummy?’
‘I’ve been better, baby. The doctor gave me a pain killer so I don’t hurt like I did before.’
‘But we’ll be keeping you for 48 hours,’ Dr Richards told her.
‘48 hours. Surely you can’t keep me here. I need to take care of my daughter.’
‘I’ll take care of her,’ B.B assured Oroma.
‘But I’m her-’
‘I’m her father remember?’ B.B interjected. ‘I’ve moved her things to my home.’
Oroma’s eyes widened in horror and B.B quickly added. ‘She’ll be with me until Sunday. I’ll make sure that you see her every day, okay?’
‘You don’t have any other choice but to trust me.’ he smiled. ‘Look on the bright side. Since you’re not that badly hurt, I don’t need to be compelled to be nice enough to invite you to stay in my home until you’re completely healed.’
Oroma wished this was a dream which she would wake up from. But it wasn’t. However, she had to trust B.B. In all her 26 years, the only time she had been on admission was when she was about to give birth to Biobele. She hated hospitals!
‘Isn’t 48 hours too much doctor?’ she asked wincing. It did hurt to talk. Although she had been given something for the pains, she still felt slight pains but she would never let go of her child.
‘We need to keep an eye on you. Fortunately for you, there are no shattered bones but we’ll be keeping you because of your concussion. And -’ he raised a hand to silence Oroma as her lips parted to argue. ‘Don’t argue with the doctor unless you’re a medical practitioner yourself.’
She wanted to argue but thought better of it. Instead she faced B.B saying. ‘You’ll take good care of her?’
‘I intend to so concentrate on getting better. I brought you dinner,’ he told her, adding as her eyes narrowed suspiciously. ‘And it isn’t poisoned.’
‘Thank you,’ she said at last. ‘And thank you for picking Biobele up from school.’
‘It was no problem at all.’
A silent Biobele followed her father home that evening from the hospital. She was worried about her mother and wasn’t particularly happy about being left alone with him especially with Aunty Ese absent.
B.B wasn’t sure what to talk to her about and certainly didn’t like her silence but as her father he had to find a common ground. After supper, he turned on the cartoon channel which caught her interest. He stayed back and watched a few cartoon clips with her. He would admit that they were quite funny but he couldn’t believe he was doing this! Well, anything for his daughter.
‘You watch cartoons too?’’ Biobele asked finally.
‘This is my first time in a very long time,’ he admitted and could have sworn he saw a small smile appear on her face before it disappeared.
They continued watching the channel until he broke the silence by saying:
‘I know you miss your mum, but she’ll be all right.’
Biobele looked at him and then back at the telly, nodding slightly.
‘We’ll see her first thing in the morning,’ he continued.
He released a breath he hadn’t even realised he was holding.
‘I know it would take time getting used to me as your father,’ he told her. ‘But we could start as friends.’
She looked at him again, her expression asking if he wasn’t too old to be friends with her.
‘Your mummy and I are still working on an arrangement that will be beneficial to you,’ he continued. ‘I want you to know that whatever decision we make, we do so with your best interest at heart.’
‘Okay. Thank you.’ She responded.
Three words. That was an improvement. He would have to make do with that, for now.
As he had promised, he took her to the hospital the next day before heading for her school and after he had picked her from school. He drove Oroma home when she was discharged from the hospital on Friday. Although Biobele didn’t say much to him, it was a good sign when she joined him in the car moments later and after embracing her mother. He had expected her to say something about needing to spend the weekend with her mother since Oroma had just been discharged from the hospital but she had said her goodbyes and joined her father in his car without any complaint. Oroma had looked at him in surprise but had smiled, letting him know that she was okay with it.
To be continued