“Nurse Abigail, well done o” Jane waved with one hand as the other held the phone to her ear. Even after they had all been cautioned not to address each other on first name basis and instead use each person’s surname while at work, Jane seem to be the only person still faulting that order. When asked why, she bluntly says, ‘their surnames are too indigenous and hard to pronounce’. Being the ‘baby’ of the hospital, everyone just let it slide. It’s even good enough she has the courtesy to put ‘Nurse’ before the name.
Who would kill her if she decides to address everyone only by their names? Perhaps she would say then that adding ‘nurse’ is too long for her.
The two nurses flashed a coy smile at her in return before she continued wriggling her waist as she walked out of the nurses Bay.
“Your colleagues again right?”
Jane smiled as the expected question came through her ears.
“Yea! I saw this coming and trust me, you never disappoint me. Anyway, I needed to greet them”
“Of course you do!” Max responded with sarcasm. His voice went so low, it almost became a whisper.
Jane giggled as she leaned her back against a pillar just in front of the building.
“Tell me you are jealous of my colleagues again, Max?” Jane asked, it came like a statement though.
“C’mon! Why not? They get the luxury of seeing and being with my dazzling angel all day long while I wallow here in loneliness…” Max muttered, sounding sober and pathetic already. So pathetic a tone that it got Jane laughing real loud.
“Max! Maximillian! You have to stop already. I don’t want people thinking I’m losing it o. Don’t forget this is an hospital.” she cautioned, holding her ear with her hand as though he could see her from where he was. She was still smiling. Her innocent, charming and pure smile… Guess, everything had a touch of Max in it after all. She cleared her throat as something was about choking her as a result of excessive laughter and continued,
“That’s the price you pay when you are too much in a hurry! I mean, who becomes a consultant at twenty-six, Max?” Her eyeballs rolled upwards, staring at the ceiling as though addressing it.
“Maximilian Eneojo O…”
“Keep shut my friend!” Jane ordered playfully before he could finish calling his surname as boisterous as he started. She knew that would be his answer, it has always been his answer actually.
Max is everything in one these days, to her, with her and for her. It really feels adorable not only that they had known each other for like forever but also that they would live together forever and a day more.
“ Seriously, Goddess…” Max started. Jane blinked her eyes at the mention of ‘Goddess’; she had warned Max in futility to stop addressing her that way. The young man, on his own part, feels and keeps insisting that she is too beautiful to be a mortal so much so that inasmuch as Jane wished they was something she could do, she had to live with the name for the main time, if not her whole life.
“… I have no regrets reaching the peak of my career at this astounding young age actually. Especially that everyone can justify me, that’s what happens with having extremely elite parents.
Not as though your parents helped matters as well. It’s fulfilling though! People see you and share personal issues with you. Goddess, there are lots of tales for you. Serious, exciting ones.
That would be whenever you come here or when I come down. I doubt my own side though…”
“And why is that?”
“Well… you have more time in your hands at the moment and…”
“ Work huh?” Jane cut in on him and she waited for a reply only to hear him take a deep breath in. She continued,
“…Look here Max!” she dragged the last alphabet in the name with emphasis that it almost sounded like M-aaxe, “…You have to start making conscious choices, sensitive decisions between this relationship and your job!”
“C’mon Goddess, we are not going there again right?” Max sounded very much uneasy as he said these words.
“We are o. We are going there. In fact, we are already there big time, the earlier the better and…” Jane started getting loosed slowly, taking a good posture that would enable her vent out her frustration better but she barely finished the words in her mouth when Max interrupted her,
“Oh! Not… again! I… am… sorry… Goddess! I have to go now…” it was hard letting those words off his throat.
“What?” Jane yelled involuntarily, before she could stop herself.
“I’ll make it up to you my Queen.
I promise…” he motioned the nurse making eyes sign language in front of him to go open the door, “…and… I am not joking… Believe me… Take care right! I love you” Max fumbled those words off his mouth like they were hot burning coals that he needed to get rid of as soon as possible. He waited for few seconds… split seconds, obviously for Jane to say her own version of their ‘I love you’ anthem, as it’s their tradition.
Jane just stood looking vacant, like she was lost in thought and in a world of her own, somewhere she couldn’t be reached. She removed the phone from her ears and stared at it angrily till the line went dead. She felt like smashing the phone on the concrete stairs in front of her. She has become too enraged and angry already. Turning her back, she headed into the building before she would do something harmful to herself. Maybe someone more elderly will save her from this trauma.
Maximilian readjusted in his seat, displaying the full poise of a well-trained doctor he is, or better still, youngest consultant in the Lugard house Hospital. Most people call him lucky, others call him the ‘brain box’, but he only see all he has amassed this early in life as a product of grace and God’s blessings on his little self. Frankly, the kind of speed he had in this career and professional pursuit sounds very impossible in the ears of others. In fact, some doctors who were already senior registrars when he was only a house officer still at the same level but for him now the story has changed. They seem to have remained there while he climbed cautiously on their back to where he is now.
Working in the State government’s hospital, though demanding, seem to be the best thing that could ever happen to any man in his sight. There were times while treating, he kept wondering how vulnerable those mouthed politicians could become right in front of him.
No one can better explain than him in particular. He could recall the apprehension he felt the first time he was asked to come and treat the state governor some times ago. He couldn’t bring himself to believing it as it sounded too real to be true. It was like a childhood dream coming true.
“How are you doing today, Doc?”
He rose up to receive the hand stretched forth to him
“I’m pretty well sirs…” he said, offering them a seat at the other side of the table he is sited on. He waited till they were both comfortably sited before taking his. “…and I hope it is coming through all along?”
One of the men pulled a deep breath in and glanced quickly in the direction of his friend sitting beside him. His glance was so quick one would think something tortured him from within.
“I… I… I really don’t know what to say doctor…” He managed to voice out after a while.
Max sat up from his seat. His hands were fixed into one another tightly as he dropped them on the table; the position he always takes whenever he is about to pay keen attention to his patients. For him, it awakens all his senses, especially the sense of sight. His gaze needed to be fixed on the man talking as part of correct medical observation, bearing in mind the fact that eyes don’t lie.
“Can you just try? Just say it as it is. Anyhow.” Max tried to plead with his eyeballs still penetrated deeply into those of the man sitting at the edge of his chair nervously. His face bare some shades of helplessness and that was somehow discomforting to Max as his eyes begged him to talk faster.
“Things have gotten too messed up than estimated now” was the first response from the man that sent Dr Max into a long train of deep thoughts.
Udale dropped the text in her hand immediately her ‘work-daughter’ as she fondly referred to Jane walked in. “Power of a praying wife”, one of her favourite books. She is reading it for the fifth time already and she finds it fascinating all the times she read it.
The older woman kept a curious and concerned look on Jane, for obvious reasons of course. Jane never wears a long face no matter how bad things get at the office or how busy the day has been for her. She cheers and lights everyone’s countenance up all the time. Jane had this inner joy streaming from her inside all the time and seeing her sinking into the padded chair right now, with face as dour as an unyielding rock, was a call for big concern.
“If you perhaps voice out what is eating you up, only then will I be able to come to your assistance.” Udale said after watching the young nurse turn from one side to another restlessly on her seat for several minutes.
Jane swallowed bitterly. Her eyeballs were red and watery. She shouldn’t be doing this now; when in a pained mode, she would rather return to her shell -somewhere secluded – without distraction to settle herself by herself. Why she chose to come to the matron’s office this time was not such a clear idea in her head. The anger keeps spilling out, like acidic juice pouring and ulcerating a smooth surface. It feels as if someone’s trying to ruin her life, be a burden to her on purpose, as if the universe is in on some plan to ruin her. At this point, she knew she needed to vent out her frustrations, explain all these feelings to someone, just anyone that can at least connect to the tussles of keeping a distant relationship.
“Mummy, Max frustrates me even more these days…” the stream of tears formed in her eyes had started to flow now, she was crying this time, “… at times I feel selfish for complaining, for lamenting, and for wanting too much but here I am… I am dying inside from hurt and pain.” she ran her right hand through her long dark weave, scattering the once neatly combed hair.
Udale who was looking at her in awe initially smiled broadly when Jane started crying,
“Inasmuch as I don’t know our dear Max, at least I know he calls you for long hours every day right?” Udale pointed questioning eyes towards Jane and she responded with a deep sigh before talking,
“Long huh? It is long but very shallow” she wiped at a tear drop. Udale drew out the drawer of her table, pulled out a handkerchief from the pack and handed it over to Jane, “I want something deep and real, a kind of heart to heart conversation but patients won’t let me have time with my man. I need something tangible and deep…”
“Apart from the fact that your story was everywhere in this office when I returned from leave, I’ve also stayed here for quite some time to testify to its absoluteness.” Udale’s smile did not disappear even when seeing Jane wasn’t going to smile, no matter what, today.
Jane hit her hand hard on the wooden table and got up. She walked over to the shelves just beside her madam’s side of the table and like someone standing up in search of something she wasn’t finding, she walked back to and fell back into her chair tiredly again.
“You know what, Mummy?” she started, casting her gaze on Udale, “…dad and his are best of friends. Their children must get along – so they said, so they wished. We didn’t object, we already loved ourselves from way back. Waiting back here for him while he ran his residency, or what is it even called again?” she questioned, “… yes! Residency na. Residency and consultancy in faraway Houston. In fact, it is one of the biggest sacrifices I have made in life for anyone…” her first finger is on the side of her wet lips, “…now he is done and all, yet I have to compete unfavourably with all these patients and appointments mantra, how long more will I do this?”
Udale cleared her throat with that little smile still dangling somewhere around her face. The girl’s situation which she isn’t just getting aware of – she was quite close with Patron Odaudu, Jane’s father, her predecessor and though official, they had at one point meandered into that line of discussion before, is somehow similar to hers. She had been the one praying, at those times Matthew was at home jobless, that God should provide him a good job. Now the job is here, with all its mouth-watering fringe benefits, but it’s taking a long toll on their marriage big time. At this point, she has to select her words wisely. Whatever she will say to this young girl right now might determine a lot of things and she can’t afford to ruin her relationship with the unknown Max. There is no wisdom in rattling with her too.
“I think the question shouldn’t be much about how long more. It should rather be, ‘How much more am I ready to sacrifice myself for this man I claim to love?’. This is what will lead you better.”
Jane opened her mouth to talk immediately but as though a second thought popped up in her head, she closed it back. She cleaned her eyes with the back of her hand. This part of the speech has been haunting her even before now.