If you were well acquainted with Princess Odimba, you would also know that she laughed at almost anything; she was just cheerful like that, and now what tickled her funny bone was none other than her boyfriend, Usman. They were addicted to the other and everyone knew it. Usman must have made another hilarious statement which got Princess throwing her feet hysterically, exploding with laughter again on the cane chair which she sat on.
“You won’t kill me before my time, Usman,”she said desperately trying to catch her breath. “You’re such a clown. By the way, when will you be coming over? You know we have to….” Then she paused as the front door suddenly flew open only for her brother, Mike to storm in, and the look on his face was disturbing.
“You know what, Usman? Let me call you back. Bye, love.” Then she cut the line. “Hey, Mike? What’s up?” She called as he sank unto the chair next to hers and his sombre expression got her more concerned.
“Mike? Talk to me,”
“Daddy called,” Mike started without making eye-contact, and then he shook his head. “Princess, I really don’t know how to say this.”
“Say what?” Princess was frowning now as he buried his face in his palms and sighed. She was not appreciating the air of suspense.
“He told me…..” Mike muttered. “He said that…..” Princess was frowning with agitation at this time, and as Mike looked up at her something instantly told her she was not going to like whatever it was he had to say.
“Something happened to Mum,” he replied with a very low tone. “There was an air crash…”
“NO!” Princess exclaimed, shaking her head and jumping to her feet at once “No! It’s a lie! It can’t be!”
Then she grasped at her hair and began shaking her head as the tears gushed out immediately. There was no way she was going to accept this. The walls of the living room began to spin around her.
Now stunned by her reaction, Mike also got to his feet and took her by the hand.
“Princess, calm down. Let me…..”
“No!” She snapped and pulled away. “Just leave me alone! I need to get out of here!” Then she rushed for the door, flung it open, and then disappeared to Mike’s dismay.
“My God” Mike called in panic with a hand to his forehead, then he instantly gave chase. “Princess, wait!”
“Make sure you sweep behind that shelf very well.” Alhaja Aisha ordered like the dictator that she was while Seki, her daughter of nineteen swept the shop almost like her life depended on the cleanliness of it. Today was her birthday, but here she was already starting the day on a bad note.
“As I’m talking, start sweeping under the counter. I can see you haven’t used your common sense to touch that place in almost one month.”
“Maami, I just swept it before you came,” Seki replied concealing her agitation, but her mother stepped into the shop, raised her gown before dropping to one knee, only to reach down and feel the surface of the floor beneath the counter. Then she also bent over to take a peek with serious scrutiny. Seki stood over her – broom in hand as she rolled her eyes.
“But I said I swept it already,”
“Hmm,” Aisha scoffed as she dusted her hands and got to her feet. “Sweep it again,”
“PRINCESS, COME BACK!”
“LEAVE ME, MIKE! I WANT MY MUMMY O!”
Both mother and daughter instantly froze at the sudden scream and Aisha knew without question that it came from the compound.
“Who is that noisemaker disturbing the peace in my compound this morning?” The no-nonsense landlady demanded rushing out of the store, and a curious Seki followed behind still holding her broom.
“Princess, wait!” A male voice was heard this time and Seki instantly recognized Mike’s voice.
“Leave me, Mike! Just leave me to die with my mummy!”
Alhaja and Seki were most shocked to see an inconsolable Princess rush outside the gate, grasping at her hair like someone on the brink of insanity.
“Princess!” Mike came running out after her this time. “Stop!”
“What is happening?” Their puzzled landlady let out with raised hands at the episode before her.
“I want my mother, Mike! I want my……” Then Mike’s eyes shot open.
“PRINCESS, LOOK OUT!!!”
But it was too late, as the taxi had sped out from nowhere and before everyone’s eyes, an unsuspecting Princess was knocked off her feet within a second, her head struck the windshield and then she was thrown hard to the asphalt ground.
“Young man, you’ll need to wait right here,” a very busy nurse informed a distressed Mike before rushing in after the gurney that had just been wheeled in with Princess fighting for her life on it. Then Mike began pacing the hospital’s waiting room trying to grasp hold of his reality with each counting second.
“Usman?” He called back in surprise as Usman hurried towards him with a face that wore so many questions, and Mike was in no mood to give answers. on the other hand, Mike himself had one question in mind: how on earth did Usman hear about the accident so fast?
“Seki called and told me everything,” Usman said to his instant chagrin, almost like he had read Mike’s mind. Seki! Then he grabbed Mike on the shoulder. “Where is she?” Too anguished to speak, Mike simply pointed towards the direction of the Emergency Room, and then Usman ran ahead before Mike could stop him.
Clenching a fist, Mike had the strong urge to land a heavy smack across Seki’s big mouth. Now pacing about the hallway again in restlessness, he knew what could be worse than Usman hearing about the accident were their parents also getting word of this as well.
“WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER??”
Mike’s heart almost stopped beating at the sound of the voice. He turned, recognizing his step-mother’s voice anywhere. Both she and his father saw him and advanced towards him with the same questioning gaze Usman had given him.
Mike felt sick in the stomach now.
“Hey! Who let that man in here?” An astonished surgeon called out. “Someone, get him out of here!” But Usman had seen it all already. Blood everywhere! There had been no hospital staff to prevent his storming into the Operating Theatre where his girlfriend was being prepped up for an emergency surgery. Princess lay bloodied in the center of it all, now mumbling incoherently and drifting in and out of consciousness as the anesthetics were pumped into her veins. Usman had found her words really troubling, but he was already driven out of the room immediately as he desperately called out to her longing to be by her side.
“Usman!” He turned to see Patrick and Amaka Odimba who rushed to him as he stepped out into the waiting room. They could not be concerned about the other people in the hospital hallway.
“Did you see Princess? How is she?” Amaka desperately questioned grabbing his hand.
“Did the doctors say anything yet?” Patrick asked trying hard to be the calm member of the party, but Mike simply edged away from them. The whole anguish was just too much to bear. He looked away but could hear his step-mother sobbing out now while his father uttered encouraging comments.
“Mike?” He turned to see Usman standing beside him now.
“Usman?” He called back. “Did you see her?”
“There… there was so much blood, I can’t remember anything else,” Usman replied shaking his head in dismay. But I could hear her calling for her mum – almost like something happened to her.” He was frowning now and Mike looked away.
“But she’s standing right there with your dad.” Mike was uncomfortable now while Usman frowned in puzzle as he stared at him. “What’s going on, Mike?”
“I have to be with my parents,” Mike said and then walked off.
The knocks on the door jerked Mike from his thoughts as he sat on the chair and alone in the flat. He hesitated for a few seconds and the knocks came again to his further chagrin. They were harder this time.
“Mike, it’s Usman!” The voice came from outside. “Open the door!” he slowly got to his feet and dragged himself to the door, He had locked himself in all afternoon after his father had insisted he go home. Turning the key, Mike opened the door and walked away.
“What’s up?” Usman called walking in after him. “Your dad told me to go home too,”
“Okay,” was all Mike could utter slumping back on the cane chair. It was obvious he didn’t feel like anyone’s company at the moment. Before leaving the hospital, Mike had found out from his father that it had been Usman whom had called and informed them about Princess’ accident, and Mike still resented him for that as much as he resented Seki and her loud mouth.
“They were still operating on her when I left the hospital,” Usman said as he began pacing about the sitting room with hands in pockets. “This is very serious, Mike. She lost so much blood and they said….”
But Mike was way too ticked off to listen anymore; if it was Usman’s rambling or restless movements that irked him the more, he could not tell. Sighing heavily, Mike simply buried his face into his hands in exhaustion while Usman suddenly stopped and frowned down at him.
“Mike, are you listening? That reminds me, you didn’t answer my question back at the hospital. What’s up, man? What happened? Why was Princess saying all that about her mother? She was standing right there at….”
“For God’s sake, Usman, shut the hell up!” Mike suddenly bawled without warning as he jumped to his feet. “My sister is fighting for her life and you’re here pestering me with daft questions!” Mike’s eyes were almost shooting out from their sockets. “Just free me, abeg!” he said and sat back down trembling all over. He had always resented Usman’s choleric mannerisms and today was not a day to endure such.
Without a word, Usman turned and walked out shutting the door behind him while Mike simply scoffed with a scowl. Good riddance!
“Ah, Bimbo! You don’t know what you missed this morning!” Seki stood, narrating in her mother’s shop, while her friend sat, watching her histrionics. “You should have seen how the car threw Princess very, very high, and then she landed – GBAM!” Bimbo simply shook her head at Seki’s exaggeration but still listened. “My dear, it was like one of those American films. If you saw how my mother and I shouted, enh,”
“Lord Jesus,” Bimbo could only mutter shaking her head in dismay. “I pray she gets better,”
“Did you drink something hard today?” Seki asked throwing her eyes, and then she pointed out to the road. “Can’t you see all that blood on the road? Who will survive after losing all that?”
“Ah, Seki!” Bimbo exclaimed frowning. “So, you want Princess to die, is that it?”
“Is that what I said?” Seki asked back raising her hands. “Please, don’t put me in trouble, Bimbo, I beg you. I’m just saying the truth,”
“It won’t kill you to have a little hope,” Bimbo said.
“Hmm, hope? I pray,” Seki rebuffed with a bit of sarcasm undertone. “I hear you, “Miss Hope.”Maybe your mother should have named you Hope.” But the ensuring silence proved enough that Seki’s attempt at being funny had fallen flat, and Bimbo knew it.
“That was dry, you know?” Bimbo said while Seki simply made a face.
Suddenly, a figure hurriedly walked past the shop which made Seki’s eyes instantly brighten up.
“Usman!” She called racing out after him.
“What is it?” Usman demanded turning, and by the look on his face, he was far from the mood for any of her gabs. But what did someone like Seki care?
“You’re not nice, you know?” She teased, grinning. “First of all, you didn’t even wish me a happy birthday, and then you didn’t bother giving me the gist of what happened at the hospital; and you know it was me who called to gist you about the accident,”
“Happy birthday,” Usman dryly muttered with a sigh. “And how did you even get my number?” Seki simply smiled up at him.
“Does that matter?” She asked back, but Usman was in no mood for exchanging questions. He shook his head and turned to leave. “But won’t you ask how old I am today?”
“Look, Seki,” Usman called raising his hand. “I’m really not in the mood, okay?” And Seki nodded in assertion.
“Okay,” she replied. “So…. did Princess die?”
Usman paused in disbelief and stared.
“You know you can tell me if she’s dead, okay?”
“I swear to God, Seki… don’t push me!” Usman suddenly let out which made her step back instantly.
Usman’s eyes were blazing red now. “Don’t make me forget you’re a chick this afternoon.” Then he turned and stormed towards his Toyota parked nearby, while Seki hurriedly retreated into her shop where Bimbo waited – she too had witnessed the scene.
“Ingrate. After all I did for him,” she muttered. “I don’t know what his problem is. Is it bad for me to be concerned again?”
“Concerned indeed,” Bimbo muttered raising a brow. “But how could you have said that?”
“And what did I say?” Seki argued.
“Never mind,” Bimbo surrendered with a sigh. “Happy birthday, by the way,”
“May God punish you there!” Seki called, stretching out all fingers. “So it’s now you remember. Nonsense!”
Dialing “Popsie,” Mike heard his father’s line ring on the other end as he paced about the parlour. Patrick was probably occupied pacifying his wife at the moment, or something else.
“Hello, Michael?” Patrick’s deep voice suddenly came into earshot.
“Dad?” Mike called back as his pulse began to race. “How’s Princess? Is the surgery over?”
“What did the doctors say? Is she…”
“She didn’t make it, son,” Patrick’s statement suddenly came slicing through and Mike froze on his tracks.
“Ehh….” He muttered, and that was when the loud wailing came in earshot too – Amaka!
“The doctors said your sister suffered a hemorrhage, and…and…” It really hurt Patrick to explicate matters to his son over the phone, and then Mike heard him sigh deeply. “Princess is gone, Mike.”
Mike instantly went numb as he suddenly felt the walls close in almost in a suffocating manner, and then his Blackberry phone slipped from his grasp to the marble floor. Princess was dead!
To be continued…