Amara stretched against her weary bones and rolled out of bed. She tiptoed to the window and drew the curtains, ushering in a flow of cold but clean air. It rained at night, just like the other nights, and now the tree branches sparkled with raindrops. She closed her eyes and breathed in the clean air, letting it fill her lungs before slipping out of her short black lingerie and hitting the shower. Moments later, she stepped out of the bathroom dripping with water because she forgot to carry a towel with her to the bathroom. She unhooked the towel from where it was hanging behind the door and was patting herself dry when her phone rang. She smiled when she saw who the caller was. Placing the towel on the bed, she picked up the phone from the top of her bedside cabinet and was going to answer when something told her he could see her naked. It was silly because there was no way he could see her yet it wasn’t a video call, but the feeling was overwhelming, especially since he was yet to see her naked. She placed the phone down and called him back after dressing up.
“Did I wake you up?” he asked.
“No,” she replied.
The phone was pressed between her left ear and shoulder as she zipped up her dress. It was a blue sleeveless dress with a low cut U-collar. She had at first worn a black dress but it made her look like she was going to a funeral, yet a funeral was the last thing she wanted to think about when going to see her mother in the hospital. So she settled for this blue dress, which was large enough to fit her now overgrown baby bump and short enough for her fine legs to sprout from, flowing like a river to her flat black shoes. The zipper proved stubborn, she had to use a little force to pull it up, sighing heavily thereafter.
“I miss you, sweetheart, can we do dinner tonight?”
“If there’s a way we can have dinner with me in the village and you in the city, who am I to say no?”
He laughed. “How’s mum?”
“Not good, not bad. For the last two days, I have gone to the hospital hoping she will finally open her eyes but nothing. The doctor says she is not in a coma, but it looks like a coma to me. You know what’s funny? The doctor yesterday kept telling me that I shouldn’t give up on mother yet, I mean, isn’t it supposed to be the other way round? Her not giving up on me? On Alexis? The worst part is I am yet to decipher why she is in that hospital bed, is it because of Alexis’ kidnap or that when she called to tell me about it, I blatantly refused to come home to help in finding him?”
“There you go again, I have told you not to beat yourself up because you didn’t refuse. And your mother doesn’t hate you.”
“You sound just like Masai.”
He cleared his throat. “Your mother will be fine.”
“Are you telling me this because you want me to feel better or because you believe she will,” she said, appreciative of the fact that he hadn’t let the Masai comment ruin the moment for them.
“You want the truth or a lie?”
“Because I want you to feel better.”
“I will see you this evening. We must have that dinner.”
“Are you serious?”
“Truth or lie.”
“Okay, stop playing.”
“Put on something sexy, alright? I am driving down there to your village.”
“I am pregnant. Me and sexy don’t rhyme at the moment.”
“You don’t have to because you and sexy are one and the same anyway.”
“Haha, Flirt! I need to go, James. Talk to you later.”
The air around the hospital reeked of drugs, despair and death. As Amara walked through the hallway leading to the ward where her mother was, she avoided eye contact with the sick and their relatives seated on the benches spread across the hallway. Most of them had hopelessness written in their eyes, reminding her of her own hopelessness. Her mother’s doctor stepped outside the ward just in time to see her approaching. She was petite, light-skinned and with large earrings dangling from her ears. Amara liked her the first time she saw her because she had a beautiful smile and heart. The doctor shifted the folder she was holding in her right hand to the left one and shook Amara’s hands. Her hands were frail, and Amara found it ironical that these were hands used to saving lives; lives of people with big and strong hands, nonetheless.
“How is she today?” Amara asked.
“Better than yesterday.”
“Really?” Amara’s eyes lightened up before she realized the doctor had only said those words because she wanted to be positive, not because her mother had improved in any way. The light in her eyes dimmed.
“Let me go in and see her. Is my aunt still here?”
“Yes, she was waiting for you to arrive before leaving. Look, I will attend to another patient and then be back here, okay?” She patted Amara on the back and walked away.
There was something about the doctor that Amara liked, and she suspected it was the way the doctor tried to hide the admiration she had for her. She was used to meeting people who after finding out who she was and what she did for a living, still tried not to be overly excited. So they smiled broadly in her presence but measured their words, carefully avoiding saying or doing anything that would qualify them as groupies. Her aunt, Marion, was seated on the edge of the hospital bed with a wrapper thrown over her shoulder when Amara walked in. Amara’s mother was her only sister, which was why she found no trouble in spending her nights in the ward even after Amara told her the day she arrived to go home and rest.
“With your condition, you need more rest than I do. How about I look after her at night and you do that during the day?” she had suggested, and Amara had agreed.
“I am sorry, I forgot to bring you breakfast, auntie,” Amara said, hugging her.
“Not to worry, am I not going home? There will be breakfast waiting for me when I arrive.”
Amara turned to her mother. “How did she sleep?”
“She slept well, something tells me that she will soon snap out of whatever this is. I had a dream last night that she had fully recovered and that we had even gone to the market to look for dresses to wear to your wedding. So you better hurry up and announce your wedding date otherwise that beautiful dream will go to waste.”
“Amara laughed. “There is no wedding. You people better find other weddings to attend.”
They chitchatted for a while before her aunt left. Amara sat next to her mother and took her hand in hers, fiddling with her fingers. Her mother’s fingers were stiff and frighteningly cold, Amara had to place a hand on her chest to feel her beating heart to ensure she was still alive. She then gently lay next to her, hand still on her chest. She always knew her mother’s fretfulness would one day result to this, and she blamed herself for not being upfront with her. Didn’t her mother tell her to always count on her when she was in trouble? Why hadn’t she believed her? She found herself silently talking to her father, begging him to not allow her mother; his wife, to join him. She fell asleep next to her mother until the doctor came in and tenderly shook her awake. Amara stepped outside with the doctor.
“Tell me the truth, will she be okay?”
“I believe she will be fine,” the doctor said, “Other than her not being able to open her eyes or speak, everything in her body is working fine. Don’t worry.” The doctor’s eyes then dropped to her tummy and said, “Congratulations, by the way.”
“Thanks,” Amara replied without a smile and later felt guilty that she hadn’t smiled because maybe the doctor felt her congratulations were not well received.
When James called later that evening to tell her he was in the village, she told him she wasn’t sure she wanted to sit in a restaurant and dine over a passionate conversation when her mother was lying in the hospital.
“I am sorry,” she said, “I should have told you this when you called. I just thought I would be fine.”
“You don’t have to apologise. Let me come to the hospital to see you and your mother.”
Amara knew her aunt would be back to the hospital soon and she didn’t want her to meet James because it would raise eyebrows. Her aunt knew Masai was the one responsible for her pregnancy and seeing her with another man wouldn’t augur well with her.
“You know what, I will come meet you in town and we can go home. I am staying alone at the moment.”
“How about your brother?”
“He is staying at my aunt’s place. I have cousins his age mates whom he is fond of so he is safe there.”
She met him as agreed and took him home.
“Did I mention you look gorgeous in that dress?” he said, holding a glass of water mid-air. She was facing the other side with her back at him, cutting onions. On the gas cooker, beef was boiling.
She smiled without turning to look at him. “You just did.”
He came and wrapped his arms around her from behind and she placed the knife down and turned around in his arms. They gazed at each other and she felt her lips twitch as if in preparation for a kiss. When he leaned in, she closed her eyes and remained still as his lips touched hers. He probed her mouth with his tongue and she let him do the kissing for a while before placing her arm on his shoulder and kissed him back. He caressed her ass and then lowered his hand to the hem of her dress, tracing her thigh with his fingers. He was about to touch her vagina when she pulled away from the kiss and said in a near whisper. “That should be enough, Masai, let’s stop there.”
He stopped, not only because she had asked him to, but because she had called him Masai. He stepped back and she blushed in embarrassment.
“I am sorry, I really didn’t want to—” she started but he cut her short.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he said with a smile, even though the hurt in his eyes betrayed him.
“Still, I am sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he said, leaning against the door. “You still love him, don’t you?”
“I am done with him.”
“But do you still love him?”
“It doesn’t matter, James, we are no longer together.”
He shrugged and went back to the living room. He barely touched his food that night and even refused to share a bed with her, preferring to sleep on the couch. She would have preferred for him to join her in bed, but she didn’t want to make the already bad situation worse. So she gave him a duvet and went to bed where she fell asleep quicker than she thought.
They did not say much to each other in the morning. Amara woke up early as usual and prepared to go to the hospital to relieve her aunt. James insisted on going with her. They were on their way when her aunt called and Amara was hesitant to answer at first. Her heart beating hard, she imagined something bad had happened to her mother and so she refused to answer. The air in the car grew thick with tension. James, who was driving, stepped on the gas and Amara found herself haunted the more, knowing that if her mother was dead, it was because of her. “Mama, I am sorry,” she kept mumbling.
“Your mum is fine,” James said. But his words meant nothing to her at that moment. By the time they were reaching the hospital, Amara was not only mumbling, “Mama, I am sorry,” she was chanting it like a song. James was worried that if it turned out that Amara’s mother was dead, Amara would lose her mind, and he was scared because he wasn’t sure what he would do. Amara ran through the hallway. People stared at her, wondering why a heavily pregnant woman was running. Some thought she was in labour, and it was the labour pains doing its wonders. She opened the ward door with so much force it startled her aunt who stood on seeing her.
“Why were you not answering your phone?” asked her aunt.
“What has happened to my mother?”
She bent over her mother and was about to shake her when her mother opened her eyes and smiled.
“How are you, my daughter?” Her voice was weak.
“You are alive!”
“Oh, you wanted me dead?”
Amara kissed her mother on the forehead and thanked God after every two seconds.
“That’s what I wanted to tell you when I called. Your mother asked for you the moment she opened her eyes.”
“I was scared something bad had happened, I am sorry.”
James was standing at the door, hands deep in his pockets, watching them. Amara turned to look at him and they smiled at each other. She turned to her mother; ready to introduce James to her but when she looked at the door again, James was gone. Seconds later her phone beeped with a message from him.
It read: “It does matter that you still love him. Sorry for leaving like that, I just wanted you to enjoy the moment without worrying about how to introduce me to your mother.”
(Story continues on Page 3, find the page number button below)