Lillian sat on the bed, her body still damp from the bath she just had. She wanted to have her body creamed and rest for a while before she changed into her cloth. Just then, she heard the door knob turn.
“ you could not knock” she asked with her back to the door, she didn’t know who it was but she knew it must be one of her maids.
“Forgive my manners, if you wish I could go back and knock”
“Richard?” she didn’t get to turn before she called his name; she would recognize his voice even if he only said a word. She hugged him so well even though the baby-bump was a barrier.“ I have missed you” she confessed. “You didn’t tell me you were coming?” she asked him as they separated.
“I must tell you something” he sat her down and knelt before her, holding her hand. “Very soon you will be having our baby; I just wish I could see him”
“Richard?” she looked frightened, immediately the air in the room changed “what are you saying, of course you would see him.
“Am sick Lillian, my heart” he looked away from her before he could continue. “It is not failing, it failed.”
Tears found way to her eyes. “Please tell me this is not true” she knew he had attacks, but she did not want to believe he would leave her that soon.
“It is, am dying.”
Lillian shook her head in disagreement. “No, this can’t be. No, no” she screamed.
Mrs Badmus had been staying with Lillian for over one month; Richard had insisted that she come to Nigeria against her wish. She wanted to stay with him, to take care of him, but he had told her Lillian needed her more. She was in her last trimester and she needed someone to look after her.
Lillian was still screaming by the time she got to her bedside. “Lillian” she called, she had to wake her from her sleep before she stopped. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Where is he, he was here” she started sobbing. “He told me he was sick” her sob found rhythm.
Mrs Badmus sighed. She knew that she had had one of her dreams again. Softly she replied. “My dear, it was just a dream” beyond the dream was reality. Her son was sick, she was close to tears, but she knew if Lillian saw her tears, she would be more disturbed, and she had promised Richard to make her happy whatever the case may be.
Lillian screamed again and this time, it was not the dream “I think my water just broke”
For the first time in a long time, Mrs Badmus really seemed to be confused. Everything was happening so fast that she could barely think. “Oh Jesus, we need to get you to the hospital” she stood up immediately and helped her get out of bed.
“Richard, Richard, where are you?” she sobbed as if Richard had gone into hiding immediately the water broke. “You said you wouldn’t leave me”
Transitorily, she pulled herself together; she couldn’t afford to show any weakness, at least not then.
“I will call him, just be strong for him, he would want you to” she untied Lillian’s towel and helped her change into a gown; she figured that she had slept off after bath.
By the time they drove to the hospital, it was quarter past seven. Immediately, she was taken to the delivery room. Lillian kept on saying she wanted to see her husband.
It took Mrs Badmus three hours before she could get in contact with Richard. He was the one that called them every day, but it was hard now, since he got back into the country. Before she was able to speak with him, she had to speak with the receptionist and to Richard’s doctor.
Richard had requested that he came back to the country to continue his treatment, because he knew his wife was due. If it was going to be possible, if he still had the strength, he wanted to see her and his baby.
It was almost seven hours now; Lillian could still not have the baby by herself, the doctor advised that if in another one hour she did not have the baby herself, it would be better if they operated her so as not to lose any one of them. He knew Richard was not around and he knew why, so he asked his mother to come and sign just in case the operation would be needed.
Mrs Badmus, not a callous woman though, refused to sign the papers. “Doctor, I really can’t sign this. I am not in the position to do so. It is either her husband or member of her family” she said, trying to wave the signature.
“Madam, you are not her husband but a family, so you are eligible” he stated. “Save her and the baby, please”.
“Okay. However, I need to inform her mother” she stated. Even if she would sign, she knew she must not do so without the consent of Lillian’s family. If Richard were around, he could have done that without informing any member of the family, including her, because he owned Lillian and the unborn.
He nodded. He understood; even what she left unsaid. “Be fast about it please” the doctor sounded and looked calm, he had of course handled situations like this, definitely not once or twice, it was his fourteenth year in medicals.
Mrs Badmus hurriedly left the doctor. She ran to the reception where Lillian’s mother and the rest where. Every one of them was in fear except for Lillian’s mother who looked a bit calm. But studying her closely, one would discover that the fear she is trying to conceal is greater than everybody’s brought together. Of course, one would understand the fear of a mother who might be about to lose a child and another child.
Debra and john followed Mrs Badmus to the doctor’s office. John was the only male member of the family present. When they got to the doctor’s office, he explained to them how Lillian had suffered from previous miscarriages and how necessary it was for her to be operated on.
“I told her husband that she may not be able to give birth on her own. She is weak, even her womb.” The doctor knew there was no much time, but he had to explain to them what had transpired between them while they were expectant.
“Doctor” john started. “Do you guarantee that she would be fine after the operation?” he did not need to know what had happened; he was interested in what could happen.
“And the baby Yes.” He confirmed. “Only if we don’t delay”
“I will sign” john volunteered. “Where are the papers?”
Debra could not say a word. She just sat there, although she heard every word they said, but her mind was not there, it was with Lillian.
Just then, Mrs Badmus received a phone call and it was from Richard’s doctor, he had told her to come and pick her son. But if she must go to pick him, she needed more support, definitely not john’s, because neither he nor his mother knew what exactly was happening with Richard. She knew if she asked him to come along, he would, but there would be too many questions for Richard to answer. Moreover, as it was, she could not let any other person leave the hospital, not at that crucial moment, not when the papers had just been signed.
Whom could she call? Richard had no friends, at least not one very close. She told Debra and John that she needed one hour to go pick Richard.
Debra knew there was something more than they had told her, but she could not place it.
Forty-five minutes later, Mrs Badmus arrived the hospital with Richard. His driver had gone with her and she could not have driven there all by herself, not when she was tensed.
Within the forty five minutes, a lot had happened, with Lillian and with Richard.
The doctors needed someone to sign, and John did. Ordinarily, Lillian’s doctor knew from the onset that the chances of her having the baby on her own was slim. He made them see a reason that having an operation now was different from what it used to be. But the couple believed in miracles. They had told him she was going to do it on her own.
He waited. He waited for more than seven hours, there had been no miracles. After John signed the papers, the operation was supposed to commence some forty to sixty minutes later if Lillian could not have the baby on her own. But Lillian insisted she was not going to have an operation. The doctors could not go on without her consent.
Ordinarily, Lillian’s yes or no should not stop the operation from being carried out in as much as someone signed the papers, but maybe the doctor in charge was actually hanging on for a miracle, the miracle Lillian hoped for.
Medically, if Lillian could still try to push, she had small chances of having the baby, but she had gotten tired so there was no choice.
Lillian was in pain, great pain. But she didn’t want to be operated on. She insisted on seeing her husband. The doctors dialogued with her brother, John. John agreed that she be sedated until the operation was over. He advised the doctor not to inform their mother.” she would not go against Lillian’s wish” he stated.
Richard placed his head on his mother’s chest on their way to the hospital. Words couldn’t express his feelings, he could only show it. He lifted his head. She held him back. “You need your strength” as if the strength he needed was in her bosom. But somehow, she felt she needed to hold him like she used to when he was a child. Like how she used to when he was scared, and to hold him how he had held her when she lost her husband, his father.
She couldn’t help the tears from her eyes as memories flashed her mind. “I don’t know what happened, it is not yet time” she didn’t know what to say, but she knew she needed to say something.
Richard nodded. It was all he could do that moment.
“The baby was supposed to come in two weeks’ time, she screamed from her sleep, when I woke her, her water broke”
Richard heaved a sigh “maybe because I do not have that much time” he smiled wearily. Now, he had managed to sit up and looked his mother in the face. “I had another attack this morning” He wanted to tell her everything that had happened to him. How he had seen and escaped death. How his doctors had said he was still living by grace, and how he had accepted fate, his fate “I need to use your phone”
Debra received a phone call. It was from Richard, she knew he probably wanted to talk to his wife, but he only said few words.“ tell her to be strong for me” that was all he could say before his voice would give him out.
The words needed no subject introduction. She knew that already. He wanted Lillian to be strong for him. Little did he know that she actually needed him in order to be strong. She told herself that he had a lot of explanations to give when she saw him.
Richard and his mother arrived just in time to see Lillian wheeled to the theatre and Lillian was looking so weak. By the time Richard was allowed in, she was looking as if she was going to pass out any moment. It did not cross her mind to be angry at him for not coming sooner; instead she reached out to touch him.
He could still smile, so he did. “I am sorry” he appealed as he held the hand stretched at him. He was not only sorry for coming so late. He was also sorry for many things he could not change. “John signed” he affirmed as if Lillian had asked him who did. “You will be fine” he assured.
She smiled wearily. She had not done that in hours except scream and moan. “Stay“she said feebly.
Richard looked at the doctor for approval. If he knew anything about operations and theatre, it was that nobody can stay except if permitted, which was rare.
Lillian screamed as she felt a sudden pain. She was all covered in sweats. Now she started pushing even when she was not asked. The doctors where already bringing out their tools forgetting the presence of Richard. Every medical personnel inside the theatre surrounded Lillian.
The surgeon in charge stretched his hand, and a scissors was handed to him. He picked a balled cotton wool with it and dipped it into a basin of mentholated spirit which had just been opened. He was about to clean up the part that would be cut open when he was cut short by one of the nurses.
“Doctor! The baby’s head” she had said vaguely, probably because she was surprised or she was not sure of what she saw.
He did not understand what she meant until he actually checked and saw the baby’s head. He immediately dropped the scissors and ordered that she be helped to push.
In less than twenty minutes, what didn’t happen in the last eight hours happened. Lillian gave birth to the baby, it was a boy. The medical personnel were still over her, the placenta was yet to come out.
Richard had grown very weak; all the while, he held Lillian’s hand. He felt her pains because she clutched so hard when the pain was much. He wanted to sit down to regain his strength, but he knew there was no place he could sit in the theatre and he could not walk to the reception, it was just too far.
It was not until the placenta came out that they congratulated Lillian and Richard. The nurse that held the baby did all the necessary things and the baby cried.
Lillian forgot immediately the pains she had gone through in the past hours. She wanted to hold him before they took him out to be washed clean, so they gave the baby to her, still in her blood. “He looks like you” she murmured during her breath. She showed him to Richard.
Like Lillian, he was covered with sweats, the doctor was too busy to discover that, and those who did, only thought he was tensed because of his labouring wife. He could not hold on any more. He wanted to hold his son, He wanted to talk, to tell her he was the smallest and most beautiful being he had seen but he could only open his mouth to gasp. And he fell.
“It must be the sight of blood” the doctor tried to convince Lillian as the others ran to where Richard’s body was lying. He didn’t want to, but he had to, if not she was going to lose a lot of blood in her frenzied state. So he tranquillized her.
She stood up from where she was lying, walking haphazardly she managed to get to where Richard was laid. She walked so not because her body had not become fit yet or was still feeling pains of delivery but because her heart was not fit.
She held his hand, it was fast becoming cold. Two doctors came in and took her away; her doctor and Richard’s.
Doctor Li had arrived in no time immediately he was told about Richard’s fall. He had offered to talk to Lillian about her husband. While he was taking her back to her hospital room, her family followed closely behind. She looked for answers in their eyes; she found none to her unasked questions as they stealthily took their eyes from hers.
She obeyed instructions and lay quietly on her bed. She didn’t want to talk, she could not find her voice but she asked with a shrug and her stare. Just before doctor Li started, a nurse came in with her baby; with outstretched arms she collected the crying baby form the nurse. Two other nurses came in, one with her baby cot and the other with a bowl and tower. They excused Lillian from the doctor. The first nurse collected the baby from her as the other two led her into the bathroom for breast wash.
Having washed her breasts, Lillian came back in and fed her baby who went back to sleep almost immediately. Lillian’s mother had come inside after the nurses carried the baby from his mother and laid him in the cot one of them wheeled in. Debra sat by Lillian and held her hand.
Lillian knew the meaning; she knew her mother was saying I am with you. She slowly returned her gaze to doctor Li who started talking immediately.
“Richard suffered from heart attack. It started some years ago, he didn’t take it seriously, and he had said it was stress. It got worst two years ago. We had an arteriogram on him to know where the blockage occurred when he had the attack again”
Lillian remembered he had one few years ago. She observed the tense he was using, past, Richard had passed.
“Unfortunately the affected area wasn’t blocked but it was damaged.”
Lillian shut her eyes to conceal her shock. She felt her mother’s tight clutch. She sighed heavily. When she opened her eyes, Li continued.
“Ever since, he was been placed on stability at the cardiac intensive care unit every once in a while”
That explained why he travelled often, Lillian thought.
“We could not a fine a cure” he continued. “But only hoped for a miracle which actually brought him this far”
Lillian stared into space, she knew Li was still talking but she could not hear him. She drowned herself in thought. Now she wished she had asked for a fourth phase to her marriage, at least another phase that starts with an heir and her husband by her side. It was then she knew there could have been a fourth, and the best, but she was blinded by the third that she couldn’t see that there could actually be a fourth with a child or children.
From what doctor Li left unsaid, she discovered that her husband should have passed months before, that living till he did was something they could not explain, a miracle, the
kind her own doctor could not explain when she had her baby. And it dawned on her that Richard had probably hanged on to see them alive, her and her son. The thought of that made her smile feebly and her tears fell.
She opened her eyes to reality. Everything was there except the doctor. Her mother was holding her hand. Her baby was laid asleep in his cot and with her other hand; she cleaned the tear that rolled to her cheek. “Is he gone?” she asked her mother who had suddenly gone misty eyed.
Debra could not answer her daughter; she could not even look her in the eye so she redirected her gaze to the baby.
As if it was to confirm everything she had seen so far in her abstraction, Doctor Li, Richard’s doctor whom she had never seen, came in with her own doctor. Her heart would have ran out of her body had it still being there, but it only came back when Li said “I think we found his pulse”.
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