The telephone rang. It was a call from his mother.…
By Egboka Ozioma
“Diana!” mama yelled, hitting her exposed laps which where sprawled on the bed.
“Diana!” mama called again, this time hysterically.
Suddenly throwing her hands up, she swayed herself, bending low to gather her wrappers and stop them from revealing her ‘dross.’
“Mama wait nu, ya kwuri, don’t shout! ” Mama Aisha, our neighbor, cautioned her.
Moving over to the bed where she lay, she observed her closely, touched her forehead, and her chest.
“She’s warm! ” she announced, much to the relief of my mum and I.
“Pour her water, ” I whispered, quite unsure of myself.
“Hmm baabu mana, she’s pregnant, her baby will catch cold. “
I wondered if that was really true, it didn’t make sense… but does Diana’s long sleep make sense too? Nothing makes sense anymore.
Just then Rasheed, our taxi driver neighbor rushed in. He had driven over quickly to take Diana and her seven-month pregnancy to the hospital.
“Insha Allah, she’ll be fine! ” Mama Aisha said prayerfully, tapping my mama in an encouraging manner.
“Amin Jesu, ” mama answered slowly, sniffing her nose as she struggled hard not to cry.
“Amin Jesu, ” I whispered too. Slowly, I went over and held my mother, rocking her like a baby as she cried softly.
“Amin Jesu, ” several others in the room chorused moodily,” Amin Jesu “
“Rebecca, call Amos. Let him… know his wife fainted, ” mama said to me, her voice breaking sorrowfully.
Slowly, I stepped out to make the call. The kind which I never dreamed I would make in my life.
“Hello, Uncle Amos… “
Few months earlier
Beautiful things make the heart rejoice.
Such was the excitement that goshed through me when Diana called me that afternoon.
“Rebe rebe! “
“Shoo, but sister, I told you na. I don’t want Rebe again na! ” I protested over the phone excitedly.
Sister Diana as I called her, though a reserved conversationist, had few moments when excitement washed over her and overshadowed her quiet mien.
Growing up, she had always called me Rebe instead of Rebecca even when she was angry, all my playful protest to remind her that I was no longer the sandal-eating, naked Rebe she carried as a baby, met her soft, quiet resistance.
“I’m pregnant, ” announced, acting like she didn’t hear what I said.
“Ehhh! You say? “
“Hahaha, you heard me na… I am pregnant, ” she sang it this time.
“Haaa, sister Diana so fast? You’ve got no patience ooo. Uncle Amos is on fire! “
“Abeg abegi, ankali! I have to go; I don’t even have airtime!
Without waiting for my response she cut the call.
I understood, she and I were very close and so she had told me first. But, she would have to tell my mother.
Smiling ruefully, I danced a little, and went ahead to the kitchen.
Few months later, the call that came across greatly pierced our bubble of joy.
I was still in the realm where you’re dreaming but still aware of your surroundings, that realm of being half asleep when my phone rang. I heard the sound like it came from a distant region.
Reaching out like a zombie, still not fully awake, I pressed the answer button.
“Diana is sick! “
“Ehmm mad, looking at your lab result… I see you have high blood pressure. But well, not to worry… “
Immediately, I tuned off. High blood pressure? At 28? Slowly, she stood up and in a blink of an eye, staggered out of the office like a sleep walker.
The next 3 months saw Diana at home instead of her matrimonial home. She had lost her youthful glow and it had been replaced with a mature beauty.
“Diana, what are you going to do? ” I asked her one morning as I helped her make her hair into braids.
“Do I know? Well sha the doctors said to check up on my blood pressure when next I go for antenatal. “
I kept quiet and thought. I wasn’t sure if I should say what was in my mind. Sometimes, saying your mind may look like you’re being paranoid.
I observed her face from the rectangular mirror which she held on her laps. Nobody else admires herself more than Diana. I observed as she turned her head to the left, giving me space to work my magical hands on her full, jet black kinky ‘virgin’ hair.
She had no powder on so the pimples stood gratefully on her cheeky round face. Her red solid, thick lips complemented her tiny ‘china-like’ eyes, with the sparkling white eyes contrasting sharply with her caramel colored skin.
“Diana, you’re beautiful, ” I said, drawing a sharp breath.
She laughed, throwing her head backward, disrupting my hand movement, ‘ Rebe baby, wait until you see my baby first.”
Hearing her say that, I felt my gut constrict and the sharp pain pierced through my tummy.
“Please, ehmm let me come fess, I am coming. “
Quickly I went to the toilet, and sat on the seat. I allowed the pain to pass; fear gives me nerves.
I do not understand it but,” why do I feel like not going to see my niece? “
“Who said it’s going to be a girl? ” my mind yelled.
Frustrated, I grabbed my head,” Allah! I can’t loose my niece! “
The thought of loosing my only sister open the flood gates, and I cried. The tears washed rivers down my face and I shook with the force of it.
Gaining some level of control, I cleaned my face with my skirt ends and adjusted my house scarf. Standing up, I froze!
“Which niece were you crying about Rebe? “
My head pounded and my heart skipped rapidly like the mythical goblin in the famous Merlin TV show.
“Ehmm. Niece. You say… ehmm niece, walahi, I don’t know! “
She looked steadily at me as if trying to see my soul.” But what’s making you cry, someone’s child died? “
Quickly, I retied my wrapper and hurried outside,” please come let me finish this hair, I must go and see Jacob, we need to talk. “
“You were crying because of Jacob? ” she asked calmly, trying to catch up with me as fast as her bulgy stomach would let her.
“Sister Diana! I will tell you everything later na. Haba! “
“Including the niece part, ” she chirped and I nearly passed out.
How do I tell her? How can I tell her that she had preeclampsia?
How do I tell her that the reason why she’s in such pains, and so swollen was as a result of the dangerous rise in her blood pressure had resulted into preeclampsia?
How can I tell her that when her husband arrives the tomorrow, she would need to make a decision; a terrible choice between her unborn baby and her life.
But I looked back at her, she still carried along with her beautiful nonchalancy: I want to swallow a cow!
“Amariya! ” I hailed her; a painful grin on my face.
SHE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW
The sun was a lazy gold color, shadows trailed behind their owners like dwarfed ghosts.
Diana tapped her feet as in response to an unknown song, the shadows outside seemed to be bearing down on our hearts with a wicked energy; it was crushing us.
“We have to do as the doctor said, ” her husband said solemnly after taking a deep breath.
“But, the baby nko? Ahhh Allah! ” Mama said, sobbing.
“It’s better to pour away the water than to break the pot for fetching, ” Mama Aisha whispered, holding her breast as if trying to keep it from falling. The others aside Diana nodded.
“Who is talking about pouring water away?” I quickly added. I wondered why they were being pessimistic.
Diana turned and gave me a knowing stare, her eyes trying to pass volumes of messages too deep to decode.
“Doctor didn’t say we will lose the baby, ” she quietly said startling everyone.” I shall have a life child, the doctors said she’s going to be fine. “
“Honey, she? Who said it’s a she? ” her husband asked, a glint of hope shining in his eyes. Those were the first sentences to be spoken by my sister since their return from the hospital. The young man probably felt relieved.
“Twisting the end of her wrapper as she sat cross legged on the floor, she replied without raising her head, ” Rebe said so?”
“Haba mana, Sister, I only hoped so? ” I said. I was afraid she was beginning to act strange.
“It’s a girl, ” she maintained stubbornly,” just like me. “
I watched her and hope with all hope for a miracle.
If wishes were horses, I would have hoped preeclampsia away.
The days following, the doctors monitored her seriously.
Her joints held under siege by oedema refused to give in.
The pains that racked through her small body couldn’t break her.
Diana, a fighter, she fought. Not just for her life but for her baby girl.
We fought with her too. Side by side, we stood and by love, we clawed away at fear, depression and death. Until we began to see changes…
As I sat in the outpatient department, I watched every movement of the doctors and the nurses.
The usual smell of death (like I would have told Diana in normal times) didn’t seem to bother me.
“You have to sit down small na, brother, ” I told her husband. He shook his head like a depressed red agama lizard under a frustrating turbid weather. He had been pacing since he came in after I called to tell him that sister Diana passed out.
“Please may I talk to Mr… “
“Walahi, talk gaskiya. Talk mana, it’s me, ” her husband yelled at the doctor who just stepped out.
“Ehmm, you see, the preeclampsia was ehh actually getting… uhhh… reduced and she had begun to recover rapidly. “
On hearing that, mama who previously sat with her legs spread wide apart in sorrow on the bare floor, jumped up with a strange youthful agility.
The doctor frowned, and adjusted his glasses.
My heart danced a drunken dance, and refused to settle.
Her husband smiled, and rubbed his palms together… ” since we are here sir, let’s carry on with the surgery you suggested last week.”
I watched, unconsciously holding my tummy.
“That won’t be necessary, eh she was recovering but… we didn’t notice she had a weak heart… I am sorry, but we tried our best. Her heart just parked up. “
That was the last thing I remembered before everything went from gray to pitch blackness.
It’s been few weeks now, but I still hear Diana sing in the kitchen.
I still hear her laugh in our bedroom.
And, I still answer to a sweet voice calling me Rebe.
Rebe is my name, and she’s Diana. My sister and my best friend.
Egboka Ozioma popularly known as Ozibekee on social media is a Science teacher with a keen eye for detail and stories. She’s a seasoned writer and has written numerous articles and short stories on different issues. Her writings come alive, jump on your skin and make you feel like you’re living them.
She’s also trained in the fundamentals of digital marketing and can be reached via email@example.com or +2348038832572