Because of the traffic, the journey to the hospital felt like a whole day. Deola, who normally was Driving Miss Daisy behind the steering wheel, went all Fast and Furious as he gunned down the highway with speed. He had taken over the wheel because I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. I was pretty distraught over the news of Khalil being in the ICU.

“Move over!” he had ordered.

I was beside him on the passenger seat and Ivan was in the backseat; the three of us were lost in our thoughts of just one person: Khalil.

Deola found a space right outside the hospital’s main entrance and I spotted Aliu sitting on a low concrete wall. He glanced in our direction, recognizing my car, his gaze latching on to mine as Deola pulled up. He got up and started walking toward us. I got out and moved to meet me. He walked straight into my arms, and we clung to each other. I didn’t give a damn about the people around staring at us. I felt Aliu shaking and I held on tighter.

“Thank you…” he said between sobs.

I couldn’t hold back my tears either. God! How I love this man. I had missed everything about him.

“Shh…it’s alright, Ali. I’m here now,” I whispered against his shoulder.

When we stepped away from each other, Deola clapped him on the shoulder while Ivan hugged him. He looked exhausted and haggard, tired to the bone. His face was pale. His beard, which was always combed, was rough and untidy. His shirt was inside out and he was wearing a pair of two different sandals on his feet.

A car horn tooted behind us. We moved out of the way for the vehicle to drive by.

“How is he?” I asked, taking his hand and moving towards the wide entrance of the hospital.

“They won’t tell me much. The last nurse I spoke to said they’re still running tests.”

“What happened?”

Khalil had gone to his room to fetch something, and in his usual fashion, he had been running. On his way back down to the living room, he tripped and tumbled down the stairs. Aliu had heard the tumble from the kitchen and had met Khalil at the foot of the stairs unconscious, with a big gash behind his head from which blood oozed. He had hit his head hard.

The four of us went through what felt like endless corridors. At the entrance to the ICU, Aliu opened the door for the three of us and let us in. A male nurse looked up over the counter of the nurses’ station as we approached. Aliu explained to him that we were all family members. The nurse looked at us like he knew that was a lie but nodded anyway.He said only two persons are allowed in at a time. So Ivan and Deola told Aliu and I to go on ahead; they’d get their turn later.

Outside of the waiting room was a long hallway with three different sets of sliding glass doors, each leading to long rows of ICU rooms. We reached the hard-lit room: an open unit with two beds. There were no windows. Khalil had been placed in one corner, and Aliu made it more private by drawing close the curtain that separated the beds, even though the other bed was empty.

I froze in the doorway, trying to make my brain accept what I was seeing. I’d imagined him lying like a pale sleeping little boy in his hospital bed. I knew he had a head injury, so intellectually, I should have known better. But the sight of him had me shaking all over again.

His head was dressed in white bandages. A thick pad covered where I guessed the gash was. Another one covered his left eye while the upper and lower eyelids of the other eye were almost black and swollen.

“Oh, my God,” I breathed. “Oh, Khalil. No.” I felt fresh tears rush to my eyes.

Life-sustaining equipment filled the area around his bed, making it look like a spaceship. Monitors mounted on the stands showed yellow waveforms and green numbers blinking and quietly beeping. The ventilator connected to an incision at his larynx made a small huffing sound every time it pumped more oxygen into his motionless body. Several IVs meandered from his arms, connected to bags, some with clear liquid, some with red, hanging on stands by his side.

“I’m scared,” Aliu whispered beside me. “I keep telling myself I shouldn’t be, that it’s going to be all right soon. But it isn’t, is it?” He looked at me, his eyes searching my face.

Deep down inside me, I was afraid, but I had to be strong for him. I needed to be his rock. Right there and then.

“You remember that time we had a big fight in your bathroom, and you had in your hand this bowl of water that you threw on me before storming out of the room?” He nodded and I continued, “Right after you walked out and went downstairs, Khalil came into the bathroom to see me drying myself up. He hurried back out and returned with an extra towel – his towel – and he said, ‘Don’t mind my daddy. He’s a big baby.’ Then he quickly added, ‘Don’t tell him I said that.’”

We both chuckled lightly. I took Aliu’s hand and looked him in the eye. “Your son isn’t done dealing with us just yet. He might be unconscious, but we both know he’ll find his way back to us.”

Aliu looked at me with renewed hope in eyes. Then he gave me a teary smile. “I’m sorry, Moe,” he husked. “I’m so sorry I broke my promise to you. I don’t know what came over me that day. I just blacked out and wasn’t thinking straight. Please, babe, forgive me.”

As he held my hands, his manner earnest, I felt every pore on my body exude forgiveness. I couldn’t not forgive him. It came easily to me. If I could forgive the six guys that did me wrong in the past, why couldn’t I forgive this man I had come to know and love with every fibre of my body?

“I forgive you, Aliu.” His expression broke and he pulled me into such a tight hug, I had to murmur in an amused tone, “Easy there, mister. I’ve got to breathe.”

He released me and went over to Khalil’s bedside. He sat down on the blue plastic chair next to the bed and took his son’s hand. He held it against his cheek as he watched the boy’s face.

“Khal? Uncle Moe is here now,” he said in a low tone.

There was no response. Khalil’s swollen features remained in repose. I doubted the boy could hear his father.

Aliu looked up at me, still holding his son’s hand. “They say he feels no pain. He’s stable, and all the equipment helps him breathe. Come closer. Here,” – he gestured to another chair by the bed – “we’ll sit with him and keep him company. There isn’t much else we can do. Nurses will be coming in all the time, and the doctor too.”

“Have you spoken to him?” I asked as I got seated.

He slowly shook his head and looked at his son as he spoke, “He’s been like this all the time I’ve been here. No change.”

We listened to the beeps and the rhythmical huffing sound coming from the ventilator. It wasn’t possible to know if it was day or night in the room; it was like we were in a bubble.

I looked at Aliu’s deeply concentrated profile, suddenly understanding what it felt like to be scared of losing a loved one.

“My mother called a meeting last week,” Aliu said, cutting into my thoughts. “And because she had enough shares in the company, she was able to get the board members to vote my father out as the CEO. My sister is the president now. I have my company back. She gave it back to me with no strings attached.”

In spite of the present circumstance, I couldn’t contain my joy and I gave out a soft sound of joy. I got up, intending to go over to him and hug him, and just then, an alarm went off. It was louder than the beeps I’d earlier regarded as normal.

Within moments after the eruption of the noise, the door was jerked open and two nurses hastened into the room. As they bustled about Khalil’s bed, a third one came to us and gently asked us to leave the room. My heart was racing and I looked at Aliu as we stepped out. His eyes reflected my fear. As we walked out into the hallway, a white-coated doctor sped past us into the room.

The last thing we saw before the door was shut on us was the grim-faced doctor issuing instructions as he commandeered Khalil’s bedside.

***

I roll over on the bed and snuggle against my warm, cuddly pillow. My big, warm, cuddly, sexy pillow. I blink open my eyes and smile as I languidly move my hand forward. Demola lets out a soft hum as I slip my hand under his shirt and run it slowly up his chest.

I am leaning forward to claim his lips in a kiss when something heavy drops from the sky on us.

Demola and I are startled properly awake as the weight squirrels into a comfortable position between us.

“Khalil!” I groan as Demola lets out a low rumble of laughter before rolling over unto his stomach, Khalil rolling with him to end up sprawled on my back. “What have I told you about knocking?” I say in a scolding tone.

Khalil waves his arms and legs, trying to make like an angel on the sheets, on Demola’s back. “Um, that I should do it?”

“Yes, that you should do it.”

“But I was getting bored and tired of waiting for you two sleepy heads to get up. I want pancakes,” he demands.

“What do I look like, your butler?”

“No. If you were my butler, you would have unpacked my toys by now.”

“You know, ever since we came over to Demola’s place for the weekend, you’ve been acting like you think you can get away with anything.” I sit up in the bed to glower at the cheeky grin he is giving me. “Tah! You’re not that cute.”

When Khalil recovered from his head injury, his father, Aliu broke up with me. He couldn’t stand that he’d broken his promise to keep me safe and not be anything I had encountered in the past. He had pleaded with me not to hate him. I couldn’t even hate him even if I wanted to. The man gave me two years and nine months of unparalleled bliss. I would forever cherish the memories and everything we did and shared together.

My friends didn’t take him breaking up with me and his reasons for doing so benignly. Deola was furious, read him his rights, actually called him a coward. Ivan punched him when the contention got heated between them, and thereafter, he began claiming he hated Aliu for what he did to me. I knew that couldn’t possibly be true.

“I hate him on your behalf,” he’d reiterated one afternoon in Deola’s living room. “To hit you and now break up with you?! I can’t believe you didn’t leave a mark on that his bald head when he slapped you. Or set off that his immaculate bear-bear while he was asleep. That way, he’d know not to mess with you or anyone else for that matter.”

Deola cackled. Yes! He cackles. Then he said, “And what would that have solved? Nothing. Look, Moe, I don’t know how you do it but I’m legit proud of you. The way you forgive easily, it blows my mind. I don’t think most people would ever let go of anyone that hurt them. I’m impressed, hon.”

I did think of getting back at everyone that had hurt me. Toyosi and his cousins, Chima and his friends. Aliu. I found out everything I could about the six sex offenders and I knew where to hurt them the most. I knew how to destroy Aliu. But to what end? I would never have been contented. I would only end up being bitter and making every guy that came along pay for the sins of others. Besides, my religion preaches that I should forgive my transgressors.

It was what I did. And I am genuinely happy.

I met Demola on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge when I was out running with Ivan and Deola. Unbeknownst to me, we’d followed each other on our alternate twitter accounts and I had ignored his DMs when he slid into it with grace and persistence.

Somehow, we clicked even after I played hard to get for four months. And what I have with him is way better than what I had with Aliu. We’ve been dating for a year now.

Aliu is also in a relationship with someone amazing. They are away for the weekend. Khalil was supposed to go with them but the boy wanted to be with me instead, and my boyfriend didn’t mind having him around at all. In the wake of my split from Aliu, it has increasingly felt like we are both sharing custody of his son.

Khalil had confided in me that he didn’t really like his dad’s boyfriend. I’d asked why.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

I did know. The boy took the news of our breakup the hardest. Before that happened, his father and I had educated him on the dangers of mentioning the dynamics of his father’s relationship with me or any other guy to anyone.

“I understand,” he’d said then, nodding with wisdom that was way beyond his years.

Khalil sits up on Demola’s back and starts playing with his ears. “Uncle Demola, can you make me pancakes? I think pancakes will stop Uncle Moe from being a whiny puss.” He wraps his arms around Demola’s neck, giggling when Demola rises with a roar. With his arms held securely in my boyfriend’s grip, Khalil hangs off him, giggling his head off every time Demola swings around.

“You spoil him. You’re worse than his dad,” I grumble.

“I spoil you too.” Demola leans over and gives me a kiss on the lips.

“Eww!” Khalil makes a face. “It’s too early for kissing. Kiss after pancakes.”

Demola chuckles against my lips as Khalil pulls and huffs athis neck.

“I love you, Morris,” he says quietly to me.

Then he turns and runs out of the room with my ex-boyfriend’s son clinging to him and laughing out loud.

”I love you too,” I say quietly after him, with a smile on my lips.

THE END

Written by Vhar

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