He watched his wife come down from her car, her driver opening the door for her. He was waiting at the entrance of their home, a huge smile on his face. Stephen just got admission into the university, and his wife had hurried home to join the family in praying for him, as he was packed and ready to leave. The house phone started ringing. It rang insistently. Uchenna woke up to his alarm ringing.
It was a dream. A wonderful dream though. He woke up, and took his Bible to the parlour for his quiet time. During his prayer, he asked God to make his dream come true. As he rose up from his knees, he realized it was time he asked Rita what she wanted to do, before her restlessness started. He was studying the story of Joseph, wondering how God trained him through tough times, and still made his dream come true, when Rita came out.
‘Good morning’ she greeted, sitting by his side He held her by his side,
‘Good morning. Hope you slept well?’
‘I was sleeping well until your alarm rang. Once you left the room, I woke up too. I just finished my personal devotion. Let’s have the joint devotion so I can get breakfast started.’ Uchenna laughed,
‘Sorry about that, the alarm also interrupted my dream. I will tell you about the dream after the devotion.’ After their prayers, Rita dragged Uchenna to the kitchen so he could tell her about the dream while she cooked.
‘When did you become so playful?’ Uchenna asked, laughing.
‘I have always been playful. You were just too busy to realize it.’ Rita answered, without thinking. Uchenna fell silent
‘could it be true?’ he wondered. He quickly discarded the thought and focused on their discussion
‘Well the dream was a good one, and I wished I didn’t have to wake up.’
‘Tell me’ Rita requested, which Uchenna did. After the dream, Rita exclaimed
‘Wow! You mean I had my own car, and a driver?’
‘And we had our own house again?’
‘Yes a better one’ Uchenna sniffed into the air ‘I think your rice is burning’ he announced, causing Rita to run to the cooker, while he used the opportunity to escape from the kitchen. He had some thinking to do. Later in the afternoon, he asked Rita
‘Darling what do you want to do for work? I don’t want you getting restless’ Rita looked up from the game she was playing on her phone and asked
‘Is it really up to me to choose?’
‘Yes. I want you to do something you will enjoy going to in the morning.’
‘I may have to go back to school if you put it that way. But I have this idea of owning a chain of stores selling household products. The name will be associated with cheaper prices, even if it’s just a little different from the price of average seller, but anyone can bank on the fact that it will be cheaper at RINA STORES’
‘Rina stores? You already have a name?’ Uchenna asked, raising his eyebrows.
‘You have no idea how long I have waited for you to ask me what I wanted to do.’
‘Really? Why didn’t you tell me you had a plan?’
‘You don’t know how I feel each day when I see you dedicated to selling akara. I know what you sacrifice and it looked so insensitive of me asking you to start up a business for me.’
‘You are missing the basic point Rita. I am the man in the house, I should be the one providing. It’s not a thing of pride, it is my job. You can help, but it is mainly my duty. Please don’t feel pity for me, it makes me…’
‘Pity? The last thing I feel when I look at you is pity. I feel honoured to have you as a husband. I feel blessed that God gave you to me. I never feel pity. I am proud of you. Each day I kneel to pray, I thank God for you, and for our struggles. God has shown me the man you truly are through our challenges, and I am grateful for that.’ Uchenna was temporarily tongue- tied, he had never seen his wife speak so convincingly. He suddenly felt like he had grown inches taller, like he could conquer the world.
‘Thank you’ was all he could say. He was grateful that he was not viewed as a failure.
‘So tell me your plan about the store, RINA STORES’ he said, changing the subject.
‘You didn’t even ask me what
“RINA” stands for’ Rita said, pouting.
‘Sorry dear. What does it stand for?’
‘It’s a combination of our names. The first two letters of my name, and the last two of yours’
‘That’s good. I like the sound of that. So tell me your plan, so we can get started.’
The rest of the afternoon was spent in planning. The future was looking brighter for Uchenna and Rita.
‘This chocolate Stanley keeps giving me is making me fat and lazy. I don’t feel like going to work today’ Ngozi murmured as she struggled into her skirt. She was alone in the house, Stanley had travelled for a business meeting. She knew she will be bored to death if she stayed home, so she dragged herself to work. By break time, she knew she had to visit the clinic. As she stepped into the hospital, the first thing she asked was which doctor was on duty. A new female doctor, Evelyn, had been employed who clicked with Ngozi from the first encounter. Learning that it was Evelyn on duty, Ngozi walked straight to her office.
‘Hi!’ she greeted after entering the office on Evelyn’s call to come in.
‘Hey! Please sit down’
‘Thank you, how is your day going?’ Ngozi asked, doing small talk.
‘Very well, thank you. How is yours going?’
‘It could have been fine, but I think I am coming down with something. I suspect it might be too much sugar in my system. My husband keeps buying my assorted types of chocolate and I can’t seem to be able to say no. I also get weak easily these days…’ After listening to Ngozi for a while, Evelyn asked ‘are your clothes getting a bit tighter?’
‘Yes! How did you know?’
‘It’s my job. When last did you see your monthly flow?’
‘I don’t know, maybe two months ago.’
‘Is that normal?’ Doctor Evelyn asked, looking intently at Ngozi.
‘Maybe not to other women, but it is to me. Sometimes it happens that way’
‘Alright. I’m going to prescribe some drugs for you. Make sure you take them, and please tell your husband to stop the chocolates, on doctor’s orders. Also, if by the third month you have not seen your flow, and you still get weak, please come and see me.’
‘Okay’ Ngozi said, waiting for the prescription note.
‘I also wrote out where you can get the drugs. Please try to get them there.’ Evelyn handed her the note.
‘Okay, I will. Thank you.’ Evelyn watched Ngozi walk out of her office, hoping it was what she suspected. She had heard about Ngozi’s long years of marriage without a child, and though she suspected Ngozi was pregnant, she didn’t want to raise her hopes only to have them dashed. Maybe she should… She quickly called the reception
‘Please call back the lady that just left my office.’ She quickly wrote down the test for the lab attendant before Ngozi got back to her office.
‘Come in.’ she called out at Ngozi’s knock.
‘Sorry I called you back, but I think you should run this test.’ She handed her a note ‘Just go to the lab and show this to them, they will carry out the test.’ Ngozi looked at the paper,
‘I can’t read a thing on this. Hope I am not sick?’
‘No you are not. They will tell you when to come back for the result, when you do, bring it to me.’
‘Okay, thanks’ Ngozi walked out of the office the second time.
‘Please let it be positive’ Evelyn whispered.
Olanma and her mother arrived Lagos tired and hungry. The villagers had cried and visited until the moment they had to leave for the park. They had not been able to sleep, and the bus was a bad place to sleep. Chidinma picked them up with her new car. She hugged Olanma’s mother
‘Mama welcome to Lagos’
‘Thank you my dear. How are you?’
‘I’m fine Ma.’ Turning to Olanma, Chidinma announced ‘You will sleep in my house tonight, then tomorrow you will move in to your house.’ She motioned to her driver to put their luggage into the car.
‘Are you sure that’s okay? I don’t want to disturb your peace. Does Obinna know about this?’ Chidinma raised her eyebrows
‘I’m sorry’ Olanma apologized, realizing how she sounded ‘I just don’t want to crowd your space.’
‘Please stop before you get me angry.’ Chidinma said. Then turning to Olanma’s mother said
‘Mama please come into the car, so I can take you to my house where you can rest.’
‘Thank you my daughter’ she said, ignoring their quarrel, and entered the car. Olanma entered after her.
‘Good, Obinna is home’ Chidinma said when they got to her house. She also recognized Chidi’s car, and hoped he brought good news. When she got inside and saw her husband’s face, she knew the opposite was the case. The greetings were done with forced cheerfulness, with Chidinma hurrying through the introductions. She decided to serve Olanma and her mother their food in the room. Her husband needed time alone with his friend.
Olanma was talking to her mother, but her mind was somewhere else. Chidi. She had seen the look of being lost in his eyes, and she wanted to know what was wrong. She decided to go downstairs to help Chidinma in the kitchen. Hopefully she could hear something.
‘Mama, you can bath and rest, let me go and help Nma in the kitchen. Her mother nodded, already on the verge of sleep. Olanma headed downstairs.
‘I wish I never picked up that call. How do I live with HIV? I have disappointed God, I have disappointed man.’ Olanma recognized the voice, and felt her heart break.