By Kemboi Victor
Tony Alfayo walked about at the reception of Jamboni Maternity Wing petrified, distressed and looking very tired. For about a day and half now, he had been here waiting for Olivia, his wife to give birth, but she had not.
What kept him in anguish is Olivia’s life, which Dr. Lelei, her obstetrician had confirmed was in danger with that of her unborn. She had therefore been transferred to the cesarean section early in the morning for surgery, and now, that made him worried. It is in that room that Olivia had lost all her children in the past and if that is not enough, she had almost lost her life there in the last pregnancy.
Now, a myriad of questions lay in Tony’s mind. Why did she have to go through all the pains in every pregnancy? Was it a punishment from God or it was a curse from their people? He thought painfully, desperation taking the better part of him. Since morning Dr. Lelei had been telling him that doctors were trying everything possible to get Olivia and her child’s life out of risk but was that really going to happen? Was Olivia going to survive the operation? And was there a possibility for the unborn to live this time round? He asked himself. Only if that happened, he felt a new era would start.
For a long time, Olivia’s inability to give him children had widely separated him from his mother, Grace, who had been blaming her for all the miscarriages, the still births and the deaths of his children. She had claimed Olivia was cursed and in fact, she had refused to visit her during the period of her pregnancy and on the day when her labor pains had started. As a result, Tony alone had struggled to take Olivia to hospital, after his maid who would have gone with him left a few days ago complaining of too much work.
And so Tony was here alone battling his own problems. Some time back, he had doubted whether Grace was really his mother or a step stock mother from the way she was treating him. She had all the ability to give him and Olivia motherly love, but she had never minded them. Instead, she hated Olivia so much, blaming and accusing her for her inability to give her grandchildren. For one or two occasions, she had referred to her as a witch and a snake because of this.
Tony wondered what Olivia had done to her to deserve such names and once, he tried finding her friends to talk to her, with hopes that she was going to change. That bore no fruits nonetheless. Her friends came back singing the same tune as Grace, laughing at both Tony and Olivia, and calling Olivia a witch, mocking them for their childlessness.
He believed if he had siblings maybe things would have been better. Sadly he had no father to speak to having died many years ago when he was a toddler as his mother had told him. The only relatives that could have talked to her were his uncles except that these uncles were alcoholics and Grace undermined them.
Often drowning in alcohol, they would leave their poor homes early in the morning in search of chang’aa and return late in the night screaming and staggering into their homesteads, and at times spending the better part of their nights in the gutters with flowing sewage.
There was no way Tony could have depended on them anyway and as a result, he decided to permanently move out of his village and live in town, to avoid his wicked mother. To him, his mother had decided he was an orphan. He also decided that he had no mother. Perhaps stray dogs ate her up after he was born or something of that sort.
Grace couldn’t leave him still. She would always demand money from him despite the wickedness. The previous night she had phoned Tony while he was in hospital and sadly, when Tony told her he was in hospital because Olivia was about to give birth, she could not preserve her venom on Olivia.
“Ooh, that witch of yours has been pregnant and her stupid children have been dying? Who doesn’t know that they are going to die?”
“Don’t speak about my wife like that mum. You hate her so much, yes, but please do not dare speak about her like that again. It’s not her fault. It is God that gives children and we all depend on Him for fertility and wellness,” Tony had said angrily, but his mother could not give an ear to that. She continued; “If I were you, I would not watch after a woman that does not give birth to live children.”
Tony could not bear the words and he hung up the phone and ignored her subsequent calls. He felt like the world had abandoned him. If it was not for Olivia’s sake, he thought he would have committed suicide that evening. He just wished life came to an end.
Now as he waited for any news to come from the C-section, he took off his crucifix and held it tightly in his right hand, praying silently for a miracle to happen, and praying to God to change this script. His wife was going to go through it successfully and his child, he prayed, was not going to die this time round in order to shame his mother and her friends.
The doctor came out shortly and a wave of curiosity mixed with anxiety made him follow him to his office. With his eyes now seeming bigger than before and his facial muscles frowned with a lot of distress written on it, he demanded an answer, a better answer. Was she out of risk? He asked.
“The doctors are giving her all their efforts. Let us wait for thirty minutes more,” the doctor replied. This is what he had been telling Tony since last evening. It had now become an irritating chorus to Tony’s ears.
“How long are these thirty minutes?” He asked the doctor, suddenly becoming very angry that he started trembling, gnashing his teeth with anger. He demanded to see Olivia, whether Dr. Lelei liked it or not. He started leaving, but Dr. Lelei called him back.
“Be patient please, Mr. Alfayo. She is about, let us give her more thirty minutes,” he repeated, refusing to grant him permission to the labor room, or show him where this caesarian section his wife was. He looked at Dr. Lelei, his hands shaking a bit. Unable to do anything, he gave up and squeezed out two teardrops of pain from his now red eyes, and thought something was wrong with the doctor.
“Just relax Alfayo, your wife would be out of danger,” Dr. Lelei continued to console him. However, Tony left banging the door, clicking. He will wait; he decided and went to his car. He will wait from there, he decided. He didn’t want to speak with anyone again.
Thirty minutes expired. Then it became an hour. He decided to go back to the doctor again, and demand the truth. But before he was at the office, the doctor came out rushing with one of the nurses that had entered a little while ago, before him. When he tried asking her about his Olivia, the nurse glared at him blankly and left without a word.
What is wrong with some people? He asked himself as he went back. He kept on looking from the reception the movement of these medics that he was sure were handling Olivia; hoping to see one of them coming to bring him news.
That did not happen either. The thirty minutes which he had been given expired again and time kept on ticking.
A nurse came and called him some minutes after noon.
“How is she?” He asked. But unconcernedly, the nurse also stared him nonchalantly, and asked him to follow her as she returned. Tony followed her and in his mind, he concluded that these nurses had been trained to be rude on their clients or had been cautioned not to speak to him.
He just followed her, not knowing where he was heading to or what news he was about to hear, his mouth shut, his mind concluding that something bad had happened, and his ears ready to receive sad news. It was either Olivia was dead, or had given birth and the child had died, or both Olivia and the child had died. His legs weakened and the entire body started sweating as series of other questions appeared on his mind again. Why was he going through all this pain? Had God turned against him? And was this God that people said was alive really there? He couldn’t understand.
He entered in and his eyes clashed with Doctor Lelei’s. He was now smiling unlike the dumb nurse that had come to call him, standing next to him as if ready to take Dr. Lelei’s instructions.
Tony looked at her and her face was still sad. It seemed like she had become ugly too. Now, whose face was he going to believe? The doctor’s or the nurse’s? He became confused. He stood there with his fist clenched as if to release it on someone, probably the now ugly nurse or the ever-used-to-procrastinations and annoying doctor, his eyes now seeming bigger than usual; and blood red, sending fear.
“Please sit down Mr. Alfayo,” the bug eyed Dr. Lelei said, “Your wife at last has given birth to beautiful twins. You can now smile,” he said.
Tony could not believe his ears. But he shouted instantly, that his prayers had at last been answered. He smiled and something warm rolled over his entire body and made his muscles and mind to relax. He felt good and with instance, he wanted to confirm it with his eyes too.
“Where is she?” he asked, disbelievingly. “I must see this,” he added.
“Well, come,” Lelei said and both went to the room Olivia had been nursed at. They found the nurse that had stared him initially so carelessly busy helping Olivia, who seemed to want to sleep, or rest. Beside her were two beautiful babies, also sleeping near her.
“Yes!” He exclaimed. “Thank you God, glory and honor belongs to you,” he said, feeling overwhelmed. He went and touched Olivia on her forehead, but Olivia closed her eyes and fell asleep. He moved closer to her attempting a lip kiss which failed because of Olivia’s restlessness, but still, he kissed her forehead.
“I hope God will keep these two for me this time round,” he said, and kissed Olivia once more.
They will call the two girls Joy and Blessing, he said. At last, they had brought joy and blessing to his family. For the first time he will shock his mother to death too, with the news of their birth.
Even without thinking, he quickly fished out his phone, took a number of pictures of Olivia and the twins, and quickly sent the pictures to his mother, through Whatsapp.
Let her die, he thought. Then, he sent her a follow up text message telling her to check the pictures of the grandchildren she had been demanding. From there, he decided to ignore any of her calls or messages. All he wanted now was Grace to regret her wickedness. He resolved to shame her and give Olivia and their blessings whatever they would want. At least for once, they would be happy. Olivia too would regain her health, her shape and energy again.
They left hospital at last and drove away to town happily, where they bought some items. Joy and Blessing needed some clothes. There was need to stock the house with enough foodstuffs too. And lastly, he wanted to have Olivia rest from pain and exhaustion. At about 5 p.m. they drove to their house in Racecourse, a few minutes to from town.
Meanwhile, Grace was struggling to believe the pictures she had seen. The kids were so beautiful. But was it true that Olivia had given birth or she had stolen someone’s children at the maternity? Had she really given birth to twins? She asked herself. Everything seemed to be false and she thought and thought and thought until midnight without believing. She did not feel sleepy thinking about the twins painfully, plus the insults she had laid on Olivia for years. Not even little sleep formed in her eyes and she stayed awake until some few minutes to dawn.
She woke up three hours later feeling very guilty for being so wicked to Tony by hating Olivia, the love of his only son. She made up her mind to go to Tony’s home to ask for forgiveness.
At about 9 a.m. she took a cab which dropped her at Tony’s gate at about 10 a.m. However, she found no one to receive her there, despite the text messages she had sent Tony informing him of her visit. All her phone calls which she had made to Tony had gone unanswered too. The padlock at the gate guarded the entrance prohibiting her to enter in as its bosses had ordered. As a result, Grace was left with pressing the alarm severally to disturb the owners hoping that Tony came and opened the gate for her.
Inside, Olivia and Tony were in contention. Tony wanted to go and open the gate but Olivia didn’t want.
“Please, she is going to hurl out insults on me again. Just tell her we are not in,” Olivia convinced Tony. She seemed to be so stressed by the alarm too, aware that it was Grace that was calling for help.
She won over Tony’s heart anyway. Tony at last decided to block his mother out for the sake of his wife’s happiness. She had led her through enough pain or so he thought. He went to the gate and decided to speak with her outside.
“Kindly mom, Olivia doesn’t want to see you. Please go, we can talk on phone,” he said, handing her some money for her fare back home and her shopping. However, Grace did not take the money. She insisted on entering in and knelt down and started to plead as she moved towards Tony.
A few passersby got startled by this and they stood along to get a grasp of events.
“Forgive me my son,” she said holding Tony’s knees and hiding her face between his legs. The crowd outside gathered and some started murmuring as others stared them with their eyes and mouths wide open.
“Did she say my son?” another woman asked her friend.
“Yes, I think I heard that. Can you imagine this wicked man is blocking his mother from going in! These town men are so wicked,” the other one replied.
Then suddenly, another man supporting himself with a walking stick, possibly in his mid seventies walked towards Tony and decided to intervene. “Let her in and listen to her, my son. You just forgive her of what she has done to you, so that your sins too could be forgiven,” he said.
Tony felt like he was now attracting unnecessary attention and passersby could get deep to the roots of their problem and explore the whole story fully. His neighbors could start treating him as an irrational man so he let his mother in, warning her not to speak ill of Olivia, unless she wanted trouble to start. He closed his gate as soon as his mother entered and held his head with both hands, thinking of what Olivia was going to say inside. How was she going to react?
Both entered the sitting room and Olivia started to cry. Grace knelt down instantly, and started to beg for forgiveness. For a second Olivia looked at her and remembered the names—witch and snake, which Grace had called her before; during the time she had lost her sixth child. She couldn’t stand it. She looked at her, and sobbing intermittently, she stood up and said, “I will never forgive you Grace. I will not forgive you.”
Grace moved with her knees and tried to touch her. But being irritated, Olivia went away saying, “You called me a witch, a snake, a woman that gives birth to dead children, a useless woman…and you expect me to listen to you?”
Tony did not say anything. He only looked at his mother who was struggling to follow Olivia; and then to Olivia who continued to walk away from her, sobbing. She went and sat outside on the stairs at the entrance to their house crying as Grace stood behind her leaning against the door, feeling so remorseful. Tony followed Olivia and tried speaking with her.
Olivia cried for hours while Grace looked at her fearing to speak to her or touch her again. And every time Tony went near her trying to soothe her, she increased her sobs, saying Grace was wicked to her.
For a long time Tony spoke with her, holding her lovingly and asking her to forget the insults. Although it took so long, Olivia calmed down. At last, she decided it was time to let go all the pains. She will forgive her, she decided. Grace was still her husband’s mother whether she was good or evil. She thought, rose up, and walked back inside, and stood at the door looking at Grace. Grace no longer was able to say anything and for a moment it became difficult to see her face.
She struggled dying with guilt and shame. Then suddenly, Olivia tumbled her last teardrop, heaved and moved towards Grace and hugged her, and said sobbing, “I have forgiven you.”
Grace too fell on her knees thanking God. Her biggest sins had been forgiven and she decided that she wasn’t going to be wicked again. Olivia pulled her up and both walked into the living room where the twins were sleeping. That made her feel like she had started a new era in her life.
© Kemboi Victor 14/8/2018