Honey good morning, are you not going out today?’ No reply. Rita moved closer to the bed, and touched her husband.
‘You are not feeling good. Your body is really hot. Uchenna. Uchenna?’
‘Just some feverish murmuring told her he was conscious. ‘I might have to go to the stand today. I don’t want the soaked beans to go to waste.’ She thought to herself. She quickly walked to where the beans is usually kept. She saw that the bucket was empty and packed. She walked back to the bedroom to see Uchenna trying to sit up.
‘Where are you going to? Obviously you were so tired last night and didn’t remember to soak the beans. Thank God for that. Let’s get you to the hospital.’
‘I… am… fine’ Uchenna struggled to speak. His throat felt dry and his head felt like it was been hit by a pestle. He tried to stand again. He needed to pee.
‘Uchenna, you are not as strong as you think. Please sit down’ Rita hated it when Uchenna got sick, he always tried to remain strong, frustrating her efforts. Her parents had travelled home for some reason, her children had just left for school. She was supposed to be heading to the superstore, but her husband needed her. The superstore was not a sound success yet, but it showed promise. She was still trying to build up her clientele. She couldn’t afford to spend time away from the store, but her husband needed her. She discarded all thoughts about the store, and focused on getting Uchenna to the hospital. She quickly got water and a towel, attempting to reduce her husband’s body temperature.
After series of shouts, Uchenna finally agreed to Rita take care of him. Maybe his feverish mind recognized her growing anger. Rita struggled to drag her husband out of the house. He looked like he was ready to lose consciousness at any slight opportunity. She couldn’t afford that. Half conscious, her husband was very heavy, unconscious, she doubted she will be able to lift him. She got him outside and hailed a cab. After bargaining back and forth with the driver, they agreed on a price. The driver helped her get Uchenna to the back seat. As Rita strapped on the seat belt, she realised that she was not able to afford a taxi some months ago. ‘Thank you Lord’ she muttered as the driver drove out towards the hospital.
Typhoid. That was the diagnosis, as Rita had suspected. Uchenna was admitted, against his wish, but Rita knew he had to rest and get proper treatment. She watched him as he slept, with the intravenous drug dripping down into his hand. She needed him strong and well by her side. She faced what she had been avoiding for a while. It was time he stopped the akara business. She knew there was no standby job for him, but she knew it was time he moved on or he will accept it as his fate, and she knew better. How to put it to him posed a problem. She knew he held on to frying akara because it gave him an opportunity to provide for his family and feel like a man, but she knew he was more than that, he was meant to be more. The business was meant to be a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
‘God show me how to tell him’ she whispered absent mindedly, as she stroked his other hand. The doctor had said the typhoid must have been at high levels for it to bring Uchenna down. She watched him until she fell asleep on the chair. The entrance of the doctor woke her up.
‘Sorry to disturb you. The test result shows what I suspected. Your husband must have been ignoring the signs for it to get this bad, but thank God it is not worse.’
‘Thank you doctor. I didn’t see any sign of sickness, apart from his tiredness which I took to be the norm because of his job. But I hope he will be fine? And soon?’
‘Yes he will by God’s grace, we can’t say how long it will take though. We have to watch his improvement after this dose then we will know what next to do. And I hope you know you don’t have to remain here. You can go and come back later, maybe cook for him.’ Doctor Sylvester hoped the last line of his comment will do the trick. He was used to worried wives, and he looked for ways to get their minds not to worry. ‘When he wakes up, he may feel hungry, and will want to eat the food you cooked.’ It worked. Rita nodded her head and started gathering her things.
‘Please if he wakes up before I return can you call me?’ At the doctor’s nod, she wrote down her number and gave it to him.
‘Thank you’ she said as she hurried out after kissing her husband’s forehead, like he’d do to her.
She was about rushing out from the house with the food when Stephen returned with his siblings. Stephen proved to her each day that the best way to make a child act like an adult, was to treat him as one.
‘Good afternoon Ma’ her children chorused
‘Good afternoon and welcome my children.’ She replied.
‘Your food is in the kitchen.’ She informed them. As expected, her younger children ran to the kitchen but Stephen stayed back
‘Mummy, why are you at home? You should be at your shop. And daddy is not at the… the shade.’ It has always been a thing of confusion to Stephen as to what he should call where they sold akara. Sometimes he called it a shop, sometimes a site and today he chose shade.
‘Your dad is at the hospital, and I had to take care of him, so I couldn’t go to the store. You have to take care of your siblings.’ Rita expected him to act afraid but, as is becoming the norm, he surprised her.
‘Will daddy be okay?’ Despite his attemp at bravery, Rita heard the tremor in his voice and felt a little relieved that he was still acting his age.
‘Yes he will be fine. Just do your homework and help your younger ones with theirs, then take care of the house. There is stew in the pot so in the evening you can boil rice.’ Stephen nodded
‘Help me take care of daddy.’
‘I will, my dear’ Rita said, tears filling her eyes. The past year have been tough on all of them, and Stephen was aware of everything, which was why he felt the fear she had felt in the morning. The fear of losing Uchenna. ‘I will come back in the evening. Lock the gate now and don’t open the door for anyone except me.’
On getting to the hospital, Uchenna was looking far better. He was sitting up and watching the television, boredom written all over him. When he saw her his face lit up
‘Hello handsome’ she replied, ‘you look better, thank God. You made me scared’
‘I’m sorry my dear. It was not intentional, I don’t even know how it got suddenly bad.’
‘I just thank God that you are better. I brought your favourite food.’
‘Yay! It’s been long I ate your food. I’m tired of eating my own food.’ That was when realization dawned on him
‘you didn’t go to the store today.’ It was a statement, not a question.
‘I couldn’t leave my husband’s side, just because of business. Although I was tempted to’ she joked.
‘I know you were. You are an igbo woman aren’t you?’ Uchenna laughed, then sobered up. ‘Don’t worry, your customers will wait for you.’ He opened the food and started eating. After a moment of silence, Rita decided it was time to bring up what was on her mind
‘Honey, I’ve been thinking, isn’t it time you stopped the akara business?’ She looked away as she spoke ‘I know this is not the best time to bring it up, but I don’t think you should go back to the business when you leave here.’ Uchenna kept quiet, eating slowly. The thought had occurred to him, but he had ignored it as he saw a need to set his wife up first, before he thought of his own business. He realized that he had kept quiet for too long and asked a question
‘What will I be doing?’
‘I don’t have it all planned out, but you can start with resting, then we plan something. I know the store can’t deliver yet, but it is showing promise. We have saved some money, let’s plan and not get used to you staying at that level.’ Uchenna felt himself getting tensed and the food didn’t look interesting anymore. He knew that Rita will feel bad if he dropped the food, so he tried to get the topic over with. He asked another question
‘Have you prayed about this’
‘Then let’s see what God has in mind. I won’t rush back to the business after being discharged, and I will also be praying.’
‘Thank you my husband. Thank you.’ Rita could see God’s hand in the discussion already, yet she prayed on ‘Lord please show us what to do.’
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Two days later Uchenna was discharged. As they walked through the hospital corridor, they heard a shout
‘Uchenna! Uchenna!’ They turned, and Uchenna shouted
‘Kels my man! Kelechi my personal person!’ They hugged and patted each other’s back the way men do.
‘Long time! How you na?’ Kelechi asked
‘I dey o. I just dey. How your side?’ Uchenna asked then remembered his wife who gazed on with interest
‘Honey meet my friend and colleague back then where I used to work. Kelechi, meet my lovely wife Rita’ After the greetings Kelechi announced,
‘guy na your papa born you. You enter my mind since last week’
‘Wetin happen wey I enter your mind?’ Uchenna asked.
‘I dey travel, and I wan sell my business. But I wan sell am to person wey no go rubbish am. Na you enter my mind’
‘Which kind business?’
‘Dry cleaning business. I don register am, I get boys, just say I need to travel.’ Uchenna turned and looked at his wife, then turned back to Kelechi.
‘Guy, I just dey comot for hospital, I tire. Make we meet discuss the business later. Give me your number’
‘No qualms’ They exchanged numbers and hugs again, then went their separate ways. Once they got into a taxi, Rita exclaimed ‘O my God! Is that the answer to our prayers?’
‘We can’t say, let’s pray more.’ But Uchenna felt goosebumps all over his body. He felt deep down this was an opportunity for him. ‘But it sounds too good to be true’ he thought That is how grace operates . The voice was loud and clear. ‘Let’s pray more’ he said out loud as the the taxi driver took them home.
The story continues…