What is happening?
He quickly dropped the box containing the ring, gently let Laibe down and raced into the house to get his mother.
The old woman ran out of the building and towards Laibe.
Laibe was screaming, wailing, and crying altogether.
“eeeeh! Ahhhh! Mama ooo! Ooooh!”
Omachoko saw his mother wasn’t as worried as he was and he admonished himself to calm down, bearing in mind the fact that he is the man of the house.
The old woman smiled on seeing the water dripping down Laibe’s legs and held onto her, in a futile bid of stabilising her.
“Nya di Iye Ebi wa.” She ordered Omachoko to go call Ebi’s mother.
She sounded really urgent with the order, so much so that Omachoko started running out of the compound before he could stop himself. He wanted to ask his mother why Ebi’s mother should be summoned when Laibe is screaming out in pains. He wanted to suggest putting her in the car and racing her down to Aloma – where the nearest hospital is. Then he remembered that there is only one local midwife in the entire village and that’s who he was asked to go and bring.
“Of course. I know ‘I was held up in traffic’ would be your excuse.” He gave a disapproving look at the man who hastily walked over to his seat in the office. Dahunsi laughed, he had just a polo and midi-length trouser on.
“Now, that you know my usual say, what then would be my defence?”
The both of them laughed this time.
“Seriously mehn! I’m sorry, today’s game review was much and fans kept calling in. I couldn’t end the program abruptly.”
Ocholi shook his head as he stared back at his friend.
“When people like us are struggling to get a Master degree, just so as to gain relevance, children of the rich like you inherited the biggest Arts studio in Lagos on the platter of gold, yet you prefer to work as a radio Sports reporter c-m host? Incredible!”
Dahunsi smiled. “How was your flight, man? It’s been over five months since we last saw you within the borders of our beloved country.”
“Course work has been tight. My flight went well. I came in the last flight and the car from Lagos here should have taken me closer to Lokoja by now if not that you didn’t show up on time at your work place.”
Dahunsi knew Ocholi so well. He can like to hold onto one point and beat it for as long as possible.
“I wonder who is a son of the rich among the both of us. You are taking a master degree in Fine Arts abroad. Abroad o. In this economic recession, you still enjoy the luxury of flying in and out of the country at will.”
“You know I wouldn’t travel if I had nothing important doing.” Ocholi was on the defensive.
“Ehennn! Same here! You know I won’t keep you waiting if I had nothing important doing on Radio.” Dahunsi winked at him and he scoffed.
“Even your sales manager wasn’t on seat. You are leaving this place for your secretary to run, right?”
“No. You see, it’s too early. Moreover, people don’t usually buy art works in this part of the world. They, more often than not, come on tours and excursions down here. Only few, like you that your life is tied to Fine Arts, come to buy.” Ocholi eyeballed him.
“You haven’t told me who you always drop by to buy drawing sets for. Or don’t they sell it in your abroad school?” He sounded very sarcastic and Ocholi was ready to respond suit.
“They do. Ones with greater quality for that matter.” Ocholi waited till Dahunsi shot him an angry eye. He smiled victoriously before continuing, “…but then I prefer to buy it from you this block head. And don’t get it twisted, it’s for my younger sister!”
“Younger sister bawo? Are you not the last born of the Onoja’s anymore?”
Ocholi was just about to respond when the door creaked open. An elegant lady walked in. She was on little high heels, with hair flying down her shoulders. Ocholi stared at her absentmindedly. She was wearing a grey chiffon dress – it’s at knee level and fits her body perfectly in a way that displayed her endowed shape. Ocholi tried to distract his head from looking at her, but he couldn’t. Her cologne filled the entire room and just when her voice came through his ears, he felt his heart palpitating to the rhythm of it.
Her teeth looked scattered, yet produced a very sweet smile anyone would like to have a taste of, if solid.
He jerked up on hearing Dahunsi’s husky voice. He hissed out loudly. He had gone into a fantasy world as the melodious voice of the lady that entered pierced his ear lobes.
He opened his eyes to see she was gone.
“What was that?” Dahunsi demanded, putting a serious look on his face.
“What was what?” Ocholi feigned ignorance, sitting up on his seat.
“In love? Yes. I am in love! Love at all sights.” Ocholi cut in before his friend could finish.
“What? All sights or first sight? Kai! Ocholi, you are not serious!”
“You are asking me ‘why’? That’s my new sales manager for God’s sake.”
Dahunsi felt Ocholi was sounding unbelievable.
“And so? At least, you are married to Beatrice with a son. Don’t you want me leaving the bachelor’s league anymore?” Ocholi rose his right eyebrow and lowered the other one.
“I do. Of course. I mean… why not.” Dahunsi was stammering. “The thing is, she is new here, man and I even barely know her yet. I don’t know how to help you run this kind of parole.”
Ocholi smiled, displaying his handsome self even more clearly.
“I didn’t ask you to help me run any parole yet Mr Dahunsi.”
Now the former looked even more confused. Thought Ocholi was sounding like he was swept off his feet by the lady that just left here? Why is he now acting indifferent all of a sudden?
“I don’t understand you anymore, Ocholi.”
“Just create a platform for us now and step back.” Ocholi said, winking knowingly at him.
Dahunsi took in a deep breath as he picked up the intercom.
“Yes. Mr Oluwadahunsi on the line. Please take everything you came to the office with and come back to my office immediately.”
Ocholi smiled as he dropped the call.
“Being a boss isn’t good for you at all. Don’t you think that was pretty too harsh?”
Dahunsi covered his lips with his first finger when he heard the light knock on the door.
“That was so fast.” He said as the lady walked in. This time holding her bag firmly in her hand.
“You are the boss, sir.”
“Dahunsi!” he corrected
“OK! You are the boss, sir Dahunsi.”
Everyone, including Ocholi, laughed at her little show of humour.
“Alright. Meet Ocholi, my classmate at the federal university, Lokoja. He is currently undertaking his master degree abroad.” He stressed the ‘abroad’ and Ocholi felt embarrassed about it. More so that Dahunsi has never taken to mind the name of Ocholi’s school as he prefers the ‘abroad’ thing.
“Don’t mind your boss. I am Ocholi.” Ocholi cut in before his friend would spoil everything for him, seeing his overexcitement. Ladies are ultimately turned off by any little show of pride, however minor it seems.
“Nice to meet you, Mr Ocholi.” The lady stretched out her hand courteously and Ocholi took it.
“You are really beautiful.” He added, while holding onto her hand.
Dahunsi, at this point, didn’t know if he was interested in watching another episode of ‘the wedding party’ right now.
He looked as his sale’s manager blushed carelessly while his friend kept leering eyes on her. Ocholi should be described as ‘beautiful’ really, and it’s as if the weather ‘abroad’ is really doing some more magic on him.
Dahunsi cleared his throat and the both of them turned to face him.
“Ocholi here would like to discuss something with you.” He said and Ocholi felt shocked at first but maintained himself, leaving no clue whatsoever. “So you can take the day off and resume back tomorrow.”
Ocholi could see the confusion on her face but there was nothing he could do. It’s good to have a lady’s boss for a friend – on paving way for you. He smiled broadly as that mischievous thought popped in his head. He opened the car door for her and let her sit.
“Don’t worry, I am not really taking your whole day. I have to be in Ankpa today.” Ocholi said as he joined her in the car.
“Ankpa in Kogi state? That’s pretty far. You had better get going o, before it’s late.” She responded.
“How did you know Ankpa is in Kogi state?” Ocholi demanded with shocked eyes.
The lady smiled. Her smile is s£nsat!onal.
“Because I am a Kogite. An Igala.”
“Now this is getting interesting. And don’t tell me you are my sister, because I need you for something much more than that.” Ocholi confessed.
“Something much more than that? Something like what?” she demanded, her bold eyeballs looking straight into his. She has this charisma of an opened-eyed city lady.
“OK. Alright? Can we start by equalising the game?” He t—-t his car key into its hole and started it. He felt her questioning eyes staring unblinkingly back at him.
“May I please know the name of this beauty that my eyes has been longing to see?”
The lady smiled shyly. Ocholi is definitely getting her right buttons.
“You try at flattery by the way.”
Ocholi smiled. He didn’t know if that was supposed to be a compliment or an offence.
“My name is Umali.” She added.
Omachoko was pacing up and down the veranda in front of the house. Iye Ebi has been in there with his mother and Laibe for too long a time that he is beginning to get scared. He was at least wise enough when his mother gave birth to their last born who is now in secondary school. It didn’t take this long time. In fact, him and his father heard the cry of the baby few minutes after Iye Ebi went into the room. Whatever was delaying and prolonging this now was what he could not understand. The bad part is that no one was coming from the room to at least give progress report or anything of such. He has been hearing Laibe’s agonising screams and shouts from the room all along.
Just then, the scream seemed to die down and he moved closer to the door leading into the room where they were. He felt the impulse to push the door open, but that would be very wrong, as men are customarily never allowed to see a woman in labour. What was he supposed to do now?
The door opened and his heart beat increased greatly.
His mother stepped out and did not just close the door firmly behind her, she stood as though she could prevent anyone from entering. She looked as worried as she was when she came to meet him at the parking lot earlier this morning, just that she looked even more helpless. Omachoko wished he could pull out all the words off the old woman’s throat but it’s not possible.
After many minutes of deafening silence that felt like years to Omachoko, his mother finally spoke out.
“I nukpahiu ki a bi no.” she was almost in tears. She said Laibe doesn’t have the power to push. She said it was a bad sign and if care is not taken, they may lose her.
“God forbid!” Omachoko yelled before the last words were off his mother’s lips.
He can’t lose her.
She has to stay alive. She has to say Yes to his pending proposal. They have to get married and raise this baby alongside the others they would have together. He can’t bring himself to love another.
He can’t bear the thoughts of losing Laibe.
Not now. Not ever.
An idea came into his mind. Maybe he should drive Laibe down to the nearest hospital. He hadn’t liked the idea of giving birth in the house. It wasn’t even right to start with. What if complications arose? Where would be the next place to run to? That’s why mother and child mortality rate is on the increase in rural areas.
“Why didn’t I think this earlier? Why didn’t I take her when she was just starting the labour?” He blamed his head for not thinking smartly when needed.
Now it’s too late. It’s d–n too risky too.
He turned to his mother, she had tears in her eyes.
Just when he was about to open his mouth, he heard a loud sharp scream from inside the room. The scream came very loud and sharp and died down almost immediately.
His mother returned his questioning gaze with a more confused one. Without wasting any more time, he pushed her away from the door and entered the room.
D–n all restrictions.