Beep ! Beep! Beep!
I reached for my phone at the head of my bed. My body felt like it had been run over by a dangote trailer. How could two little girls be so much work? I don’t know what i hoped to achieve by going there in the first place. Lola was gone, how do i lay claim to my child with no evidence? how could i even uproot the little child from the only home she had known for ten years?
” Something came up, please come on Thursday. Apologies for any inconvenience. Thanks. Ayo Williams.” From dark and handsome.
I couldn’t believe i had saved his number as dark and handsome. Ayo. The name rolled off my tongue over and over, the room felt hot suddenly. I got out of bed, how could he make me feel hot with just a simple text.
Ify was silent during breakfast, her breathing was laboured and there was a new blistering purple sore on her wrist. Her eyes were fixed on her plate while her hand toyed with the food in it with her fork.
” What is wrong?”
” I called my dad yesterday.”
I relaxed.” That is wonderful sweetie, what did he say?”
” He wants to see me”
” That is good, when is he coming? ”
She shook her head. ” He doesn’t know about the HIV”
I covered her hand with mine. ” Give him a chance, okay?”
In the evening i drove down to the AIDS Survivor Support group address Ify had given me. The building was a grand house in Lekki. I wondered if i had come to the wrong place but i honked in front of the gate despite my doubt. The gate was opened by a chubby friendly security man. He directed me to park my car and walk to the main house.
The door was opened by a pot bellied middle aged man. He welcomed us warmly and i could hear Ify gasp beside me.
” Come in, am doctor Debola and i am AIDS survivor”.
We followed him into the beautifully furnished room, the chandelier caught my eyes first. Instead of a center table or an art work there was a big mat spread in the center of the elegant sitting room. Five people were seated on it gisting, two men and three women.
I could see a collection of people at the dining area, some were thin as straw, some were robust and beautiful. They were talking animatedly. No frown on any body ‘ s face. They all called out greetings warmly.
” Hi am Ada and i am a PWA ” one of the women seated on the mat said.
Ify smiled at her warmly and turned to me.
” It means Person with AIDS.”
I also gave her a warm smile. The man that welcomed us at the door clicked a spoon against a glass cup and the others came into the living room and found a spot to settle down.
” We have new members in our midst tonight. I will start by introducing myself first, my name is doctor Debola, i have a private hospital and i am AIDS Survivor”. ” You are on Emeka, and the next person beside him follows”
The young teenage boy smiled at us brightly. My heart sank. This young boy of not more than fifteen is also living with such deadly virus.
” My name is Emeka and i am AIDS survivor. I have had the virus since birth. ” I need a girlfriend! ” He beamed at us.
The others clapped loudly.
” My name is Kofi and am a survivor with full_blown AIDS. I need a cure!” A skinny dark skin man shouted in anguish.
The very thin woman next to him said ” My name is Rachel and my husband gave me the virus. The bas.tard is died now and i need Justice!” She screamed in anger.
Doctor Debola came over and patted her on the back.
” Am Toby, I’ m HIV symptomatic. I am a survivor and am angry. I need cure!” He was so delicate i was afraid he might break into two.
” Am Susan and i was a s–t. I am a survivor with HIV, no symptoms. I need acceptance! ”
The others clapped for her, it got to Ify’s turn and she said in a quiet timid voice ” My name is Ifeoma, am a survivor. I have HIV, low T_cells and no symptoms and i need……………….I need my happy ever after.”
They clapped for her and all eyes fell on me. I swallowed hard. ” My name is Ebere………I was a s–t and i am HIV Negative. I need a cure for Ify and advice”
They clapped and cheered me loudly.
” Let’s start. ” Doctor Debola said.
Ada began. ” I have been seeing so much death going on around me! I have lost so many friends and my little boy! Nobody even wants to come to the funeral! we are not animals! ”
” I have lost both of my parents and my relatives won’t have anything to do with me! All I want is some love and understanding! all I want is a girlfriend! ” Emeka shouted.
Ify leaned closer and gave him him a peck. He blushed and grinned at her.
” I want my wives and kids! I want my family back!” Doctor Debola shouted.
” I don’t want to die! I have three little girls!” Rachael cried out.
” I want an HIV reorientation for my people! The stigmatization is heartbreaking in Togo! Nobody wants to buy or sell to you! they won’t even reply your greetings! I want to be buried on the soil of my motherland but I won’t be allowed to cross the border! I need a cure! I want to see my little girl before i die ” Kofi howled.
He was given hugs by everyone around him.
” What kind of advice do you need Ebere?” the kind doctor asked
” I gave a woman my baby ten years ago and i want her back now. I want Ify to meet my child, I want us to be a family now ”
” Is Ify your wife?” One of them asked suddenly.
” No, my sister ”
‘ You have a big fight on your hands Ebere ” The doctor said. ” Sometimes things are better left as they were ”
Ify sq££zed my hand and my eyes brimmed with tears.
I was shocked to see the doctor who had broken the bad news of my illness to me, at the AIDS Survivor Support Group. So he had been talking about himself on that fateful day! but he had altered the story to give me hope, to give Chiboy hope. Hope was all i had left…… I clung to it desperately in the middle of the night when my bones aches, when a part of my face starts swelling for no reason. I hoped that death won’t sneak up on me when i least expected it.
That was why i had given my dad a call. I had picked up my phone and dialed his number before i could get cold feet. I felt like a little girl again……..i wanted approval. I want love and hugs. I wanted my dad to accept me.
” Hello. Who is this?” he answered in his thick ibo accent.
” Dad” i whispered.
There was silence in the background until i heard a scratching sound, a distant sound of tears and laughter.
” Nne, Ify? ”
” Yes it’s me.”
He was crying now and i felt awkward not knowing what to say.
” Nne where are you? i want to see you “.
I disconnect the call and switched off my phone.
But after my discussion with doctor Debola who had contracted the virus through a needle stick injury at work, i realized just how much i had missed my dad. I texted him my address as Ebere drove us back home that night.
Early the next morning a knock sounded at the door, i walked slowly, my breath was coming out in pants. I opened the door and froze.
” My baby!”
Dad enveloped me into his arms crying like a baby. Mom stood awkwardly, she tried to touch me but i drew back.
” Ify…… am sorry” she said.
I gave a little tired laugh. Dad sat down still holding me in his arms. Mom went on her knees.
” I know i have lost the right to call you my child and i don’t except you to forgive me but please give me another chance. Please don’t push me away,i did my best combing everywhere for you.”
” Yea when Toby died! you were looking for a replacement! please stand up! i have nothing against you and you are right! you have lost the right to be my mother!”
She sobbed silently on her knees.
” Ify please…… i know we have wronged you greatly but please forgive us. Your mother has been through a lot and she is a changed person now.”
I stood up angrily.” She has been through a lot!?,do you have any idea what i have been through?! I was raped and kicked out in the middle of the night!”
They both gasped and mom’ s sobs became louder.
” Do you have any idea what have even been through?! how i managed to survive for the past ten years! you both ruined my life! I will never get married! i will never become a mother! i won’t get to see my children graduate! I won’t even live to see my 30th birthday! ”
Dad got up and took me into his arms, we were both crying.
” What happened to you Ify? are you sick? I will fly you overseas for treatment, am so sorry my child. Don’t talk about death Nne, you are still so young and there is no illness without cure as long as there is money.”
” This one has no cure dad”
” Ify we will fly you oversea, you will be OK” mom said.
I shook my head. ” I am HIV_ positive”
Their eyes widened in shock, Fear, horror and denial.