A Friend in Need (17)
The day started like all other days. Mrs Okafor had sent her home address the previous night, and we prepared to go see her. Since the new semester started, I’ve been usually less busy on Wednesdays. My project supervisor gave me the day off so I could gather resources for my research work. I was learning quite a lot by observing Mrs Okafo. Although I might have mentioned it in passing that I was a student of psychology, we hadn’t had time to talk about my career exhaustively. Perhaps, this would be my opportunity to relate with her on a professional level.
Should anyone question my presence, I had a ready defense: ‘If Mrs Okafor regarded Tolani and Tayo as family, then I was family too. Tayo had referred to me as his brother when he needed my help. If Tayo was a brother to me, and a family member to Mrs Okafor, then I was Mrs Okafor’s family too.’ The logic looked sound to me. Fallacy of whatever!
Tayo and I set out early enough. I didn’t have to prove to him why I should go with. Even if I didn’t want to, he would have compelled me. Maybe my presence gave him some extra courage to face his ordeal. I’d observed that he felt more comfortable with me around. Typical of good friends, I guess.
We arrived our destination early enough. Mr Okafor had gone to his place of work. Mrs Okafor was resting on a garden chair outside the house, with a book in her hands. She led us inside the residence: a three-bedroom flat apartment. The walls were painted cream, perfectly matching the chocolate-coloured door-frames. An oil painting of a nursing mother hung on the wall. I like this woman’s faith, I thought to myself. The brown sofa cast an invisible shadow on the shiny-black tiled floor. A vase of Aloe vera gave the living room an ambience of floral scent.
“Feel at home, gentlemen.” She opened the refrigerator and presented us with pairs of bottled water and drinking glasses. She soon returned with a jug of chilled juice. The jugful tasted uniquely refreshing. “Is this homemade?” I asked.
“My hubby’s recipe. He doesn’t like all these sugary potables and candied bars. He blends fruits for his juice.” She gave us a searching look. “Most young men of these days prefer to buy soft drinks, don’t they?” Tayo and I laughed out loud. “As long as it is soft.” I remarked.
“Tolani will be here presently. She’s likes to sit with Debby in the kitchen.” Who’s Debby? I almost asked. Just then, a beautiful young lady approached from the left wing of the house with a plate of fries. As soon as she dropped the plate on the stool, Mrs Okafor did the introductions.
“Tayo and Femi, meet Debby, my little sister. Debby, meet Tayo and Femi, our friends.”
We stood as we exchanged handshakes. “It’s a delight to meet you,” I said, wearing a broad smile. She simply smiled back, saying nothing as she returned to the kitchen. “She’s a nurse.” Mrs Okafor added. “She just finished her course last month. She comes visiting occasionally but came in last night when she had about my accident.”
“She’s beautiful.” Did I just say that? My mouth was running loose again. Mrs Okafor gave me an ‘explain-yourself’ look. I set to work promptly, “I mean, that is a beautiful profession. Nursing is a beautiful profession. And, nurses are beautiful, aren’t they? Looking like angels in their uniforms as they walk around the hospital premises, helping the helpless.” The more I struggled to defend myself, the more entangled I became in the web of my words. I’d better stop talking! I took a quick sip from my glass of juice, again.
“Looks like someone has interest in nurses.” Mrs Okafor said wryly. “How much do you know about them?”
I thought the topic had ended, but she wasn’t going to let me go easily. I summoned courage to give an answer. “Interest? Not really. I have a nurse for an aunt and she’s known for just two things: fixing cuts and sticking butts.” I said that as Debby walked back in with the entrée. “No offence intended.” I said, looking in her direction.
“None taken. I actually find that funny.” She smiled softly, then said instructively, “We fix cuts and stick butts, but we can do way lot more than that.” Finally, she’s talking. I wanted to sustain the conversation by asking her another question, but she turned back almost immediately after setting the table, while Tolani replaced her in the living room.
Tayo who’d been busy pouring over a magazine glanced at the prospective mother of his unborn son. She greeted us casually and took her seat beside Mrs Okafor.
“You have been quiet, Tayo.” Mrs Okafor observed. “And, your food is getting cold. Eat, after that, we’ll talk.”
We set to work immediately while Tolani and Mrs Okafor excused themselves to talk outside. Debby must be a good cook. I thought. Maybe this is what she meant by nurses being able to do ‘way lot more than that’. We consumed the cassava flower with a combination of masculine and esurient intensity. The assorted melon-vegetable soup replete with stock fish, clawless lobsters, and roasted turkey leading the way for each bolus. And, there was homemade juice to flush it down! Neither of us had had such a good meal in weeks. It was really sumptuous.
Our hosts came back inside almost immediately we finished eating, that I began to think they’d been watching us all along. We thanked them for the meal while I resisted the temptation to comment on the toothsomeness of the food. It was obvious who the cook was and I didn’t want anyone to start thinking I was interested in her. Or, was I?
Tayo returned to the magazine he’d been reading. He’s still a voracious reader. He reads anything and everything he lays his hands upon. When Mrs Okafor asked him about his father, he shifted in his seat. He went on to describe how firm and stern his father could be, citing several instances of his father’s expression of disapproval. None was close to palatable.
“I learnt your father is a pastor.” Mrs Okafor said without any particular expression on her face.
“Is that a good thing or not?” Tayo was curious to know why she asked.
“Both. One would have expected more from a pastor’s kid. But then, it’s also good for you in this case. It could be your get-out-of-jail-free card.”
“How do you mean, ma?” Tayo asked, puzzled. “Especially, the second part.”
“You’ll see.” She waved his question away. “Tell me about his routine.”
“He goes to his office in the church every weekday. He holds series of meetings with other pastors most of those days; some within the city, some outside. He gets home late on Wednesdays because that’s the only day he has to counsel and pray with the members. He goes out visiting visitors after the Sunday service. That’s basically all.”
“That means he’ll be counselling today.” Mrs Okafor wanted to confirm.
“Throughout today.” Tayo emphasized.
She thought for a moment before speaking. “That means we have a journey to make.”
To be continued…