Salim, a teenager desperate for the attention of the woman he thought he loved, desperate to be exactly like his father or whatever he was told about him. A boy who grew up without his father or any father figure was always looking for something to validate his existence and his mother knew this hence why she paid more attention to him than his brother but it was not enough.
The bottomless pit that was the void in his heart meant that nothing would make up for his father’s untimely death. He was smart not just school smart but he was enough to tell a pattern in one’s thoughts as quickly as possible.
He knew how to stay away from trouble and people because he already understood his emotions; he understood that he was as sensitive as they come and the hurt of a father he never met was hard for him to get over talk more of the hurt of a living being that could keep turning the knife of pain repeatedly. This was the reason he seemed mature, his self-knowledge but it wasn’t maturity it was the fear of pain, and then came Biola.
“What is your name again?” a female paramedic asked a young lady in an ambulance speeding to the hospital “Shirley!” the lady replied helplessly terrified at the amount of blood that was gushing out of Salim’s body “what did you say happened to him?” the paramedic asked as she tied up Salim’s bleeding leg while her partner tried to resuscitate him “I don’t know…i…i… I just saw him lying in the middle of the road”
Shirley watched them steadily unaware of her gnashing teeth. She wondered what could have happened, how someone could have been so cruel to hit him and run away. Shirley Amasike woke up that morning singing and giving thanks for her amazing life; she had an amazing job that paid well, a fiancée who proposed to her a night before and parents who were visibly proud of her and what she had become especially her upcoming change of marital status.
She spoke to her fiancée every morning before going to work but not that morning because he didn’t pick his phone and she didn’t care “maybe he is sleeping in late today” she thought as she got dressed. When she got to work her boss’s phone call removed the smile on her face; a cash of five hundred thousand naira was missing from his office and she was the prime suspect since she was the last person to enter his office the day before.
As she defended herself confidently knowing that there was no way they could prove it was her, her bottom drawer was opened and the money was in there; the shock she felt made her fall to her knees “someone is setting me up” she cried and pleaded but no amount of tears was enough to gain a listening ear, she was fired immediately and thrown out of the office building like a common criminal.
Shirley cried for hours in her car before driving to her fiancée’s house to tell him what happened but when she got to his house she met him with two girls throwing a naked party. It was unbelievable that the man who had just declared his great love for her in the most romantic way the night before was leading another life with other women; she was too weak to scold or throw anything at him so she ignored his desperate explanation and went to her car for another round of tears, she sat there for hours.
It was past eight at night when she was ready to drive herself home and tell her parents how wicked the day had been to her then her car broke down twenty minutes away from home; she had no more tears for that moment of frustration so she laughed instead, took her handbag, car particulars and started walking home.
It was these series of unfortunate events that led her to the express way where Salim laid down fighting for his life. The ambulance arrived thirty minutes after they were called just before Salim went into a cardiac arrest; they questioned her about him, his age, allergies and cause of events but she had no answer for them
“Something keeps making noise” the second paramedic pointed out as they continued to stabilize Salim “I think it’s his phone… oh my God! His phone!” Shirley was glad to finally get in touch with someone who knew Salim, she ran through his back like a vacuum until she saw the phone crying for an answer.
It was still his mother and she was calling for the thirtieth time “hello” Shirley answered with a very shaky voice and the moment Mrs Adamu heard her voice she screamed “what happened?! What happened to my son?!” Shirley was shaken by Mrs Adamu’s reaction to the words unsaid and began to cry “I think he was in an accident” she managed to squeeze out her lips adding the address of the hospital they were going to.
Salim was unconscious but stable, it was a miracle that he was still breathing after the ordeal he had just experienced but the storm was not over.
Within fifteen minutes Mrs Adamu and Amin were in the hospital, Amin had never driven that fast in his life at a point he got scared that they might hit a stationary vehicle; because his sight was a bit blurry from tears but each time he slowed down a little his mother screamed at him to go faster.
Salim was already in surgery when they arrived, so they were told to wait. Being cut with a blunt knife would have been easier for Mrs Adamu to bear than to sit and wait with no information about her injured son. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days; Mrs Adamu’s phone was blaring, she wondered who was calling at that time of the night but did not answer it; she didn’t even take it out of her bag to see who was calling hoping that after one ring the person wouldn’t redial but the person did.
The phone rang five more times and she had had enough when she took out the phone from her bag and slammed it on the wall “who was calling?” Amin asked his distraught mother “I don’t know” “oh mother” Amin went to her and held her as tight as he could, within thirty seconds his phone started vibrating in his pocket, it was Biola… she was the pestering caller.
It was midnight and she had just woken up from a night mare, the dream made her scared and unnecessarily cold and all of a sudden she couldn’t get Salim out of her mind; so she decided to call his mother to find out if he arrived home safely.
But the more she couldn’t reach her the more worried she got, thankfully Amin answered his phone “hello” he tried to sound normal so that Biola wouldn’t suspect a thing but his normal voice gave him away “why aren’t you asleep?” she asked as if he was a little boy, he couldn’t think of a lie to tell quick enough so he just told her everything that had happened.
Biola was crushed, she immediately blamed herself for Salim’s predicament because she believed that if he didn’t come to see her at all he would have been fine “I am on my way” she said and cut the phone, she looked over at Umar who was sleeping helplessly strong out on drugs, got out of bed and rushed into a dress; glad that it was a Saturday and she could stay with them as long as she wanted.
“My daughter, please go home… you have tried for us” Mrs Adamu said to Shirley who sat with them in the waiting room and had already told the police all she knew “don’t worry ma…I’m fine” she responded forcing a smile “thank you” Amin who sat next to her said to her covering her palm with his “we will never forget this” her eyes locked into his, unable to speak and unable to take her hand away from his, she sank into the chair.
“Biola! You came” Amin stood up, Biola rushed to him and began to cry “I am so sorry for this” she said then knelt astride in front of Mrs Adamu and buried her face in her thighs as she cried profusely, Mrs Adamu held her and they cried together “my dear, it will be well with Salim, it will be well with my son” she said holding Biola’s face in both hands.
The doctor came informed them that the surgery was successful but he was put in intensive care and that it was a fifty-fifty chance of recovery “can we see him now?” Amin asked “not now he is still too fragile for visitors” “please, let me just see my son… only five minutes” Mrs Adamu begged and the doctor agreed to give them ten minutes with him but only blood relatives “this is his sister” Mrs Adamu said holding Biola to her and Shirley was internally happy to hear it, to hear that the beautiful girl that made Amin light up when she walked in was his sister.
Mrs Adamu looked at her unconscious son, the monitor connected to his heart and the oxygen mask. She touched his hand and it was very cold then she covered his upper body with a blanket that was covering only his legs. Amin stood opposite his mother looking at his brother’s giant foot peeking out of the blanket while Biola stood close to the door frame just watching the family reunite.
She felt as if it was a thousand years since she last saw Salim because it was hard for her to reconcile the boy who held her in his arms like a man to the person lying almost lifeless on the bed. None of them said anything to each other; they just watched Salim and two minutes to the end of their visit he opened his eyes half way and clenched his mother’s hand as if someone was pulling him away
“My Salim” she said gently as Amin knelt beside the bed with a smile on his face “you know I cannot play ball by myself” he said touching his brother’s temple; they didn’t say more and as much as they wanted to scream for joy that Salim was awake silence presided, their minds conversing love with each other until it was time to go.
As they walked away from the room Biola snuck back in to get a little time with him alone; Salim turned his face and a smile showed through the corner of his eyes when he saw her “I am very sorry that this happened to you… I am very sorry” she said holding his trembling fingers, Salim was happy to see Biola, he was happy to know that she cared for him since speaking was impossible for him at that moment he shook his head nudging her not to blame herself for what had happened.
“I will see you tomorrow okay?” she touched his cheek and headed towards the door but before she was completely out of the room the machine began to beep very fast; she ran back to him to see what was going on and within thirty seconds two doctors and a nurse were in the room “you have to leave, you are not supposed to be here” one of the nurse led a reluctant Biola out
“What’s happening? She asked via a terrified voice” but the nurse said nothing, she shut the door in Biola’s face. Biola ran to Mrs Adamu and Amin to tell them what was going on and they all ran back to Salim’s room; just as they got to the door the monitor was making a final long beep and the doctors and nurses were still.
Mrs Adamu looked at the monitor, her son and the doctors and opened the door to meet the doctor’s words “time of death …. 2:45 am” “Nooo!” Mrs Adamu screamed and fell to the ground. It was a hellish day, it took ten nurses and ward attendants to calm Mrs Adamu and the only way they could do it was to give her two hours alone with her son’s body.
Amin just stood on one spot unable to move, it was like his feet were nailed to the ground; as if he was drowning or being chased by a shark but he still didn’t move and Biola sat down and watched television in the waiting room. There was a sitcom on and it made her laugh so she laughed as hard as she could and slept off on a bench in a hidden corner of the room.