So I tried and tried to get a title for this story, but I couldn’t come up with one that really caught my fancy… So, you read up and maybe when you’re done, you’ll have a title for it (do let me know if you got one)…
It was raining cats and dogs. Everybody had been anticipating and preparing for the rain because it had been cloudy and windy for eight days but, it didn’t rain. The old men that sat under the Mango tree in front of the primary school said the rainmakers were the ones holding the rain. When Funlola heard them saying so three days ago as she returned from the market, she just smiled to herself, thinking it was all superstition. She had always heard people talk about rainmakers and the holding of the rain but, she didn’t think she believed in all of that. She was Christian and she believed that God was in charge of all things, including the rain.
But, right now, Funlola really wished the rainmakers or whoever was ‘in charge’ of the rain hadn’t set it loose at this time. Her contractions had started about six hours ago, sometime around nine in the morning, shortly after her husband had left for work. It wasn’t her first baby so she knew the drill already. Her water broke just as she started putting together the laundry she wanted to take care of; although she had felt a slight contraction in her lower abdomen as she dozed off the night before. She had put together her laundry and went ahead to do them and then, by the time she was done, the contractions had become more frequent – about forty-five minutes apart.
Being the strong woman that she is, she still went ahead to fill the buckets and bowls in the house with water from the well downstairs – she must have pulled water from the well with her Landlord’s doro not less than thirty times and carried the 10 litre bucket filled with water on her head up the stairs to their second-floor flat at least a dozen times. As she poured the last bucket of water, an intense contraction gripped her just thirty minutes after the last one; at that point, she knew it was getting real close to delivery and she had to begin to head to the hospital if she didn’t want to have her baby at home.
It had begun to drizzle when she was fetching her second-to-the-last bucket of water and by the time she was done with putting together all the stuff she needed for delivery, the rain was already pouring down in torrents. Her plan was to ask her neighbour’s son to go to the Technical College where her husband lectured to tell him that she was already in labour and on her way to the hospital and then she would walk down the street and get a taxi to take her to the hospital. But, with the rain, she couldn’t go anywhere and neither could her neighbor’s son. She had looked out the window and saw that the rain had already created for them a mini river in front of the gate of their compound.
Funlola got up from the couch she had been sitting on in the sitting-room and laid on her back on the cold cement-plastered floor. The cold stung her back through the flimsy satin dress she wore but brought about a sweet pain to her contracting abdomen. She didn’t scream as the contractions came, her mother had long taught her not to, instead, she clenched her teeth and let out hot air from her mouth and tried to breathe too. When the contractions eased off, she tried to pray – pray for strength and for her husband to return from work on time. It was almost four o’clock and he was supposed to close from work at four. It would take him roughly twenty-five minutes to drive home from work, if his Volkswagen beetle didn’t break down on the way and if there wasn’t traffic jam along his route.
She heard a knock on the door. She looked at the wall clock, it was exactly four o’clock; It definitely wasn’t her husband. Funlola dragged herself from the floor and as she made her way to the door, she hoped and prayed it was someone that could save her form having her baby at home.
In front of her when she opened the door was her twenty-three month old boy and her thirteen-year-old younger sister, Solape, soaked to the marrows.
“Solape! Where are you people coming from?”
She carried her shivering son in her hands and turned back into the sitting room. Her sister stepped in, shut the door and joined them.
“Maa’mi sent me to Iyawo’s shop so I took him along”
“And you didn’t know that you were supposed to find shelter when the rain started?” Funlola was slightly angry. Her little boy was shivering terribly and the contractions didn’t help. They were coming faster now.
“We didn’t get anywhere to hide until…”
“Just get in the kitchen and put water on fire for me!” She cut in.
As Solape ran off into the kitchen, Funlola stripped her son of his wet clothes and found him clean and dry ones to wear.
Tears ran down Jesse’s face and his small body shook with extreme cold. It was a great idea when his aunt asked if he wanted to come along – he loved going out – but, right now, he wasn’t sure if it was such a great idea after all. He couldn’t blame his aunt though, she really had tried to get them somewhere to hide but it seemed as if all the ‘hiding’ spots were either filled up or non-existent so they kept on until they finally got a taxi to bring them home.
“I’m coming son”
He watched as his mother ran off into the kitchen with her super-duper stomach. He remembered she had told him that his sister was in there and soon, she was going to come out to him. Jesse wondered why his sister would be taking refuge in their mum’s stomach; he had made up his tiny mind to ask her when she finally decided to come out.
“Olumide” Funlola always called her son by his Yoruba name. Her husband was the ‘English’ man who came up with the English names.
It wasn’t as if she was a local or very traditional person herself but, the vernacular names were just it for her. She carried her boy in her arms and brought the cup of warm beverage she had brought from the kitchen close enough so he could drink from it.
Jesse gulped the content of the cup and it brought great relief to his system. He was dozing off in his mother’s arms when he felt movement on the part of the body he leaned on his mother’s bulging tummy. He looked at his mother’s face and saw pain in it. He couldn’t really communicate but knew something was not right.
Funlola clenched her teeth again as another contraction came. She knew she had to head to the hospital right away or have her child at home. She looked into her son’s eyes and saw that he had been looking at her and was worried.
“Olumide, mummy has to go to the hospital now because your sister is coming”
She saw his eyes widen with excitement. He babbled something to confirm it. She let him off into the sofa and struggled to her feet as another contraction came.
“Solape!!!” she yelled.
As soon as Solape sighted her sister, she knew something was not right.
“Sister Funlola?” she drew nearer to her and searched her face.
“There’s a black leather bag on the bed in my room, please, bring it for me”
“Sister Funlola, are you okay?”
Worry had begun to weigh on her voice.
“I need to get to the hospital now or else, you’re going to become an automatic midwife!” her voice had become a firm whisper.
With immediate alacrity, Solape ran in and almost immediately, returned with the bag.
Funlola collected it from her, unzipped it, checked what was in it as if she didn’t already know, zipped it up again and began to head for the door.
“Stay at home with my son and when my husband returns, tell him”
“Sister, it is raining” Solape stood back, obviously scared and worried.
“As if I don’t know abi…”
Funlola reached for her slippers close to the door, slipped them on, opened the door and stepped out into the torrential rain. She tottered down the deserted street in the downpour praying and hoping her daughter wouldn’t just fall out into the muddy water running over her feet. It was as if all the taxis had taken a recess – the rain was enough reason anyway.
Another contraction came and it threw her off balance. She practically swayed off the road and leaned on the fence of an uncompleted building close by.
“Oh God, please help me” She whispered and sat on the ground.
She was drenched and extremely cold but she did not care about all of that at the moment, she just wanted to get to the hospital on time enough to have her baby although, that looked impossible. She began to wish she had stayed at home. At least, it was going to be better to have a child in the house than on the streets.
Gabriel Asemota bent over in his seat and held his head in his palms; he wished he had left work immediately Funlola came to his mind, she probably wouldn’t have needed to have a caesarian section. It was as he was rounding off his second and last class for the day that his wife suddenly popped up in his mind. It wasn’t as if he forgot that he had left a heavily pregnant wife at home when he was leaving for work earlier in the day but, she just came to his mind in a manner he could only describe as ‘strong’.
He had checked the time then and it was already a few minutes to three o’clock so, he felt he could just run through the remaining hour and little left and then head home to his wife immediately it was four. It was at three-twenty that his head of department had called him into his office for a discussion with some other senior lecturers in the faculty which he termed ‘brief’. As he drove home in the heavy downpour after the meeting, Gabriel wondered how long a meeting that wasn’t brief would last because this brief one had lasted an hour and forty minutes.
He got the shock of his life when he was welcomed by his teenage sister-in-law who was almost broken with worry and she told him that his wife was in labour and had gone to the hospital. How in the world did that happen? Her EDD wasn’t until two weeks time! He literally jumped back into his beetle and zoomed out of the compound. The rain had almost ceased completely and people were beginning to get back on the streets. He was going to turn off the long un-tarred road that led to their house when he noticed a small group of people that clustered around something or, was it someone? He slowed down a little bit just to catch a glimpse of whatever it was and to his utmost surprise, whatever laid on the ground in the midst of the people had on a dress like the one his wife was wearing when he left home in the morning.
Gabriel turned the car off the road, turned off the engine and literally flew out. He almost passed out when he saw his wife of three years sprawled on the muddy ground – almost lifeless. He caught people’s attention when he dropped to his knees beside her cold body whose satin covering was soaked and dirty, and began to shed tears. When they all knew she was his wife, the sympathy poured in.
“Take her to the hospital na”
“She fit never die o”
“Eehhh, brother, sorry o”
“Ah! Oga o. This life ehn!”
He gathered the strength left in him and scooped her up in his arms. One of the sympathizers helped him with the rear door and he placed her on the seat. As he sped to the Maternity with double lights on, Gabriel shuffled between calling his wife’s name and praying for God’s intervention. When the doctor on duty told him that they would have to cut his wife open because she was too weak to push, his heart sank but, it literally stopped beating when the doctor also said there were slight chances his daughter wasn’t going to survive.
Gabriel was jolted back to reality and jumped to his feet at the sight of the doctor.
“How are you?”
“How is my wife?”
“And my baby?”
“Er, they’ve been moved to the nursery. Will you like to see them now?”
The doctor released his lips in a broad smile.
“You have a set of twin girls. Congratulations!”
Gabriel couldn’t believe his ears. One minute he was earnestly praying that his daughter would survive and the next, he had two. For a moment, he thought he heard himself laughing but then, everything suddenly became quiet and he blacked out.