‘Ejiro is dead!’ Madam Ronke repeated.
Abeke was silent. Observing the fury in her boss’ eyes, she braced herself for what was coming up next. Heaven knows she tried her best.
‘Should I call this incompetence or what?’ Madam Ronke roared.
‘I’m sorry ma for the loss, Iya…I tried my best to save her…but the triplets…’
‘Yes, the triplets,’ Madam Ronke interrupted, ‘really, it’s not your fault. You tried your best; at least the poor thing left us with three consolation prizes.’
Abeke nodded, relieved at the ecstasy on her boss’ face when she mentioned, consolation prizes. But deep on her mind, she dreaded what the boss lady has up her sleeves.
‘So much for the demise of Ejiro,’ Madam Ronke yawned, I need a replacement before the week runs out.’
‘Yes ma, I will be on top of my game.’
Madam Ronke cast a final glance at the nursery before she vanished into the darkness.
‘Abeke, you’re damn lucky!’ Kelechi jerked her colleague from behind, ‘I’ve never seen Iya in that light.’
‘Lucky is an understatement,’ Abeke threw her arm over Kelechi’s shoulder,’ my grandma used to say that one lucky day always awaits a person no matter how many times he had been unlucky.’
‘Let’s just keep our fingers crossed hoping she doesn’t descend angrily on us tomorrow.’
‘Don’t worry Kelechi, thankfully, Ejiro left her with enough consolation prizes. Let’s pray the other girls to start producing double births.’
The two ladies laughed and both resumed their duties.
The only thing on Abeke’s mind as she wrapped the deceased body that night was her overdue salary review. Having been promised a raise countless times without implementation, she feels the time has come to take the bull by the horn.
‘Can I come and pick up the body now?’ a husky voice resonated at the entrance of the clinic.
Abeke looked up and found Loko waiting impatiently.
‘Yes. I’m done.’
The girls’ hostel of the Good Home Ventures stood at a remote part of the building. A large fence bearing very sharp objects demarcated the hostel from the main business premise.
There are two types of hostels at the Home; Hostel Double, accommodated the pregnant girls while Hostel Solo, was for the girls awaiting pregnancy. Most of the noise at the hostel usually emanated from the latter.
Amongst the girls at Hostel Solo, three out of the ten girls had grown so fond of each other. Although they were held captive at different times, yet a natural bond that none of the inmates could explain had kept them united through thick and thin. Their alliance had even earned them the nickname of Three Musketeers.
‘Girls, I’m not eating yet,’ Boma, one of the trio declared one morning after they were served their meal.
‘Why?’ Linda probed in between a mouthful of rice.
‘She must have her reasons. Please leave her alone,’ Ijeoma countered.
‘Okay, let me make a guess,’ the adamant Linda continued, ‘you know being a Pastor’s daughter; the angel of God appeared to her last night and commanded her to fast.’
Boma ignored the remark. If only the girls knew the burden on her mind, they would let her be. It was her first year as a captive at the Good Home Ventures. She had witnessed most of the girls getting pregnant and being transferred to Hostel Double. Luckily for her, she was amongst the few girls yet to conceive.
‘That food will get cold,’ Linda pointed acting as though she wanted to seize the bowl.
‘Leave it jo!’ Boma roared, drawing the attention of the other girls in the room.
‘Linda, leave her alone,’ Ijeoma intervened, ‘let her fast if she wants to. All I know is that we’re on a journey of no return.’
‘I reject it in Jesus’s name!’ Boma retorted, ‘my God will surely intervene!’
Linda and Ijeoma laughed.
‘I believe in prayers,’ Boma continued sadly, ‘If I had listened to my parents’ advice, my life wouldn’t have been in this hell! Now, look at where my stubbornness has led me into.’
‘You’ve said that story a thousand and one times now,’ Linda recapped, ‘though painful it is it’s about time we accept our fate.’
Boma bit her lower lip. She believed a miracle will take place someday, but cannot tell how it would happen. She began imagining what other people would have said about her parents; how they prayed for others, but could not pray for the return of a lost child.
Watching as the other girls ate in reckless abandon, she shook her head. In a couple of hours, the ‘beasts,’ as the girls usually call them, would arrive. Would she be spared this time around?
An hour later, the door of the hotel flung open and nurse Abeke walked in.
‘Girls, listen carefully while I read out the names on the roster for tonight’s assignment…
Titilayo…Blessing…Chibuzo…Laraba…’ she stopped, ‘that will be all for today.’
The affected girls move forward amidst grumblings. As Abeke led them towards the door, she stopped and stared at the rest of the girls, her attention settled on Linda and her friends.
‘I will pick from two out of the Three Musketeers,’ she swung her finger like a pendulum clock.
‘Ijeoma join them.’
Ijeoma reluctantly joined the girls.
‘Thank you Jesus for the victory once again!’ Boma heaved a sigh of relief the moment they left.
‘Now, that your prayers have been answered, are still going to continue with the fast?’ Linda asked.
‘You want my food, right?’
‘You can have everything.’
‘And the meat?’
‘Everything!’ Boma surrendered her bowl to her and broke down into tears. If being skinny is the price she has to pay for her ‘freedom,’ then skipping meals for her has come to stay.
TO BE CONTINUED…