When his arranged marriage went haywire, James has to juggle from being a father to his eleven months old son, keeping his job, finding love in the strangest place, maintaining a balance and peace between his family and that of his in-laws, who are lost in the battle of power and authority.
James slammed his brakes in front of Bright Stone Hospital, Lekki, and hooted his horn persistently. The security man at the gate lifted the iron bars and gave him a pass-card; he nodded at him and drove straight to the emergency building. It was unbelievable to him, rushing into that hospital with emergencies two times in one day. He stopped and Helen hurriedly stepped down, beckoning on two nurses who walked briskly towards her. She whispered to them. They rushed back in and returned with a stretcher. They transferred Queen from the car to the stretcher, and wheeled her inside the emergency room. James stepped down and just then, Doctor Charles walked out of the emergency building holding a briefcase in one hand, with his stethoscope and sparkling white lab coat on the other hand.
“Was that your Queen, James?” he asked, confused. “What is going on with you? Did you enter into a fight with her?”
James looked at Helen and then back to Charles. “Get her treated now, would you?”
“I’m not on call for the next thirty minutes,” Charles said. “And Loveth finally agreed to go on a date with me. I can’t miss that,”
“You know what? Let me hide my wit caller identity and call him with my phone. They need to know where she is,” she suggested, again.
James was shocked. Was Helen just being smart or criminal? He stared silently at her with a confused smile, wondering what caliber she was made of. The phone fibrillated in his hands yet again and brought him back from his reverie. She grabbed the phone from his hand, looked at the screen and paused, confused.
“She saved her father’s contact with Smith?” she surprisingly asked. Her eyes were full of dishonour. “What daughter saves her father’s number with his first name?” she muttered again. It was to her a proof of Queen’s arrogance. “She sure does not have regards even for her own folks,” she added, before James grabbed the phone from her.
“That is not her father,” he said, looking at the screen. “Smith is her younger brother. You were right, they are looking for her. When the call ends, call him back and tell him what happened and where she is,” he returned the phone to her.
As they both waited for the call to end, Helen adjusted her phone’s call setting, hiding the caller identity. James, however, was preoccupied with his confused perception of Helen’s untold traits. The call ended and Helen took a deep breath, ready to dial. But James halted her.
“I will do it,” he said, as he pulled out his phone from his pocket and dialled Smith’s number. As the phone rang, his heartbeat increased. Finally Smith answered and he swallowed hard.
“Hello, Smith,” his voice shook. “Your sister was involved in an accident and is now on admission at Bright Stone Hospital. I just thought you should know, and please inform your father.” The words rolled out of him like a properly rehearsed line in an actor’s script; even he did not believe he said them.
“What? Who are you?” Smith asked over the phone, alarmed. His voice showed how restless he was. “What have you done to my sister?” he added, still with a hasty tone that yelled for an immediate answer.
James was shocked. Smith didn’t have his number, a knowledge which boosted his confidence.
“Calm down, young man,” he was very diplomatic and confident. “I said she was hit by a car. I got your number from her phone.Bright Stone is the hospital. I don’t have answers to other of your questions.”
“You hit my sister? Look, if anything happens to her, I will…” he was already fuming with rage; his voice was that of a father scolding his delinquent son.
“I did not say I was the driver,” James corrected, attracting a mild glance from Helen. “It seems you are very angry, I will leave you to that,” he dropped the call without waiting to hear what Smith has to say. He took a deep breath. Smith’s ignorance of the caller was a lot more helpful, but something still did not add up. His emotions were still running and he couldn’t place it on anything.He looked at Helen, who smiled proudly.
James loved her and really appreciated how she stood by him, but the idea of hiding his caller’s identity left a troublesome dent on his heart, something he never ever considered an option. In fact he made a policy never to answer a call from any unknown number. To him, that part of phone’s function was made for liars and criminals and he just couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was, maybe, not a criminal but a good liar. He stared absentmindedly at her for seconds, wishing it was all a figment of his imagination.
“What?” she bellowed at his staring eyes. “Did I do anything wrong?”
The last thing she would want was to offend James, who to her was next to God. Her plans and dreams were finally realized, even without much of her labour, and she was not ready to throw it all away because of some childish stubbornness. So she wouldn’t hesitate to apologize if James’ mood swing was due to her doings.
“You did nothing!” he said.
If there was any element of truth in his suspicion, then he would need to watch her a bit more closely, and alerting her now would definitely place her on a pretentious ride with him. “I am just thinking about earlier at home, in my bed. You were amazing,” he said pulling her closer and kissing her. “I really enjoyed every bit of it,” he added, as he unlocked his lips from hers. She blushed and withdrew from him.
“Not here,” she giggled. “And Junior needs to be fed.”
“Yes, you are right,” he said letting her free.
Helen opened the car, pulled out the basket and moseyed into the hospital, while James stares at her back, emotion mixed with love, fear and confusion. He sighed as she disappeared into the hospital, entered his car, drove to the car park and narrowed his car between two Toyota SUVs. He turned off the ignition and opened the door. Highlights of the day replayed before him as he stepped out: he lost his job, his son got seriously injured and now he just knocked down his wife; all in one day. His head felt heavy, goose bumps covering his body. He felt suddenly cold with fear of the unknown. He envisioned what his life would have been if Queen was never forced on him. He had a life full of hopes and aspirations, dreams which were mainly centred on family: a big happy home; where no one does anything without others. He wanted a peaceful family; a model to families that desired peace. He didn’t understand why and where that dream crashed. He tried so hard to work out his marriage when it dawned on him that Queen was to stay. He condoned all her excesses and flaws; her poor cooking skills, inability to arrange the house and, worst, her nagging attitude and eagerness to tag corrections as an insults. He would apologise even when she was wrong, plead and make all kinds of promises just to make sure that peace reigned. And the day he stood his ground like the man he was, trouble would erupt, which would eventually lead to a fight. He blamed himself partly for falling for her seduction. If he didn’t get her pregnant, he would have maintained his stand against the marriage, but the pregnancy made his opinions void.
Then he remembered Helen and smiled: she was the only good thing that happened to him that day; and maybe also since he was forcefully locked in bondage with Queen in the guise of marriage. His smile was however short lived, as the unknown feeling of Helen’s undiscovered side flooded his mind. ‘She sure was only trying to help,’ he said to himself, dismissing the thought of Helen being a criminal. He heaved a sigh of relief, alighted from the car soberly to go and check on his son, and maybe later, Queen.
As he strolled towards the emergency unit of the hospital, he saw patients being wheeled around with relatives soberly reflecting on the survival options of their wards. The emergency building was alive with many activities; the type he would not want to get involved in. He shut his eyes for seconds trying to evade the reality before him. As he reopened his eyes however, a car sped in and parked hastily in front of him.He shook his head in pity.
‘I wonder how many of this you guys see in a day,’ he thought again, ignoring the car and heading inside. A voice bellowed his name from the same car that just drove in. He halted as the voice came the second time. He turned, and saw Smith alighting from the car. He shivered, arrested by fear. But with Smith’s steps pounding towards him, his heart got calmed even more. He swallowed hard, composed himself, ready to beat off any argument Smith might come up with.
“What happened to my sister?” Smith asked, scurrying to him in confusion and fury.
“Accident. Hit and run driver I guess. But she will be fine. The doctor said she will be fine,” he faltered, wondering if the years Smith spent in the UK made him forget how to greet his elders and also how he was able to still recognize him even at night but did not have his number.
“You guess?” Smith hissed, looking around so as to find an answer to his sister’s whereabouts, then he footed inside. James stared at him a bit, shook his head, and moseyed behind him.
“Do you know where she is?” he asked without looking back.
“Not really sure. But we can find out,” James replied behind him.
“It is your entire fault, you know,” he muttered after walking in silence for a while. Then he stopped and turned, facing James, who halted the moment he started speaking. “If you didn’t let her go, if you did not put her at this crossroads, she wouldn’t have had that argument with our father, and probably wouldn’t have run away. You caused all this,” he said, sternly. His voice portrayed disappointment and pain, throwing respect out. The only thing he cared about was protecting and defending his sister.
James gazed at him for a while and chuckled. “I am the one on crossroads, not your sister. Anyway, you know nothing about my marriage with your sister,” he moved closer to him. “So I would not discuss it with you. I will go check on my son and do let me know when you find out where she is,” he walked out.
“Junior? Junior is here too?” Smith asked, with a kick on the teeth.
“I told you, you know nothing,” James replied and walked down the hallway.
Smith sighed as he went. A nurse walked towards him, he inquired and followed her in.
E.C Michael, a graduate of Theater Arts, is a passionate writer who believes that stories should blend with education so as to help correct social vices in the world. His watchword is edutainment.
He writes screenplays, novels, short stories and essays. When not writing, he is blogging or watching Game of Thrones and Designated Survivor.