Mr Shaibu had dialled Sheila's number a couple of times during his unexpected asthma attack go complicated. Sheila, who of course was digging it with Michael had her phone vibrating in between two carelessly exposed doughnuts in her bag. She flashed back and all she could remember was Grace's soft but rapid knock on her front door. She should have just stopped shouting; she should have just checked.
'Hello', she answered.
'Hey, this is from the hospital', her number was the last dialled on his phone.
'Mr Shaibu is currently...'
'I know', she snapped.
She picked up her bag and for a moment thought about how the incident would have been clearly avoided if she had listened to Michael call her attention to the knocker.
'Grace has to come with me', she was talking to herself now. ' Or I could ask Iya Ayo to look after her for me'
Mr Shaibu had woken up. The weather became suddenly cloudy.
'I hate rains', she muttered.
Mr Shaibu turned his head towards her.
His face was dull. She felt like crying, she wanted to just cry carelessly.
'Sheila, what's wrong', he asked softly.
This made her remember her late father. He was just too soft. They usually called him by his first name when they played. Her father's children loved having him around. And then he committed an unforgivable crime- he left them; diabetes snatched him away from their lives.
' I am okay', she responded very distantly.
'Why'd you ask', she sounded intentional this time.
'You are having troubles with Michael?'
She looked away. Even if Biola didn't suspect anything wrong, Mr Shaibu would. He had given her a concerned look on one of those rough Sundays. Michael stormed out of her house. She followed suit and found herself standing in front of Mr Shaibu all of a sudden. He had probably come out to start his car.
'You could let me in on this one Sheila. I won't judge you, you know that right?'
Now she wished above everything else that her dad was with her. Here was Mr Shaibu, slowly recovering from a very fatal asthma complication. He seemed fine though.
'We need people to talk to. I am here, Sheila'
She didn't know but it was a tear drop on her pinky finger.
'I am just in a pretty bad mess right now. I love Michael but we need to stay apart for a while'
Mr Shaibu sighed softly. His eyes urged her to say more.
'Things are getting complicated; we are in the middle of something we never bargained for'
She decided to let go of secrets and poured out every single thing. Mr Shaibu was a good listener. She felt a little bit relieved. She had told a soul.
Mr Shaibu said a few words to encourage her. He couldn't say much but his few words brought her some healing.
'You should see your church marriage counsellor too', he concluded.
'Oh, I don't want my matter spreading across the continent'
'You should, Sheila.' he squeezed her hands.
'I may have to go back to rest. Would you help me out with Grace?'
'Sure, that's no problem'
Just as she was about to leave, he called her back to say something that made her have a gut feeling. She didn't know why but her mind flashed back to the time Mrs Shaibu passed away. Mr Shaibu didn't have anyone come visit from his family save for his elder sister.
They discussed family one of the days after his wife passed on and she learned that they were only two. His parents had died at a very early age. His only aunt adopted them and died due to breast cancer. They were alone. Little wonder, she had become his family. Mr Shaibu had become so close and dear to her that you would think they were related by blood.
She called Mr Shaibu's sister as he had asked her to. Imo state is too far a place. She felt it very unnecessary but she did just as Mr Shaibu wanted. She began to feel hungry, so she decided to try the hospital's cafeteria. Her place of work had a cleaner and more beautiful cafeteria. Where did that thought come from? Such childishness.
She ordered for only one piece of mince pie and a bottle of coca cola. She couldn't eat more, she just wanted to abate the hunger. She had hardly swallowed a bite when she spotted a nurse walking briskly towards her.
Mr Shaibu had given up the ghost!
'Actually, it was more serious than we thought, he had...'
She wasn't even listening anymore. She had always imagined the reaction on people's faces if she punched them when they told her sad things. Now was the time to actualize it but she was too weak to.
'...this made it easy for him to go into a ...' she continued as if Sheila was just a non-responsive robot.
'I am sorry for your loss' She placed her hands on Sheila's right arm, nodded and slowly walked away from her.
In the movies, the Doctors broke such bad news, it was a more elaborate process. How could a mere nurse like her come break her heart in a Cafeteria? She never did that to patients. Was she overreacting from grief?
Too many events had unfolded in too little time. She needed to breathe. She was choking. A breakup and now Mr Sheila was gone. He was family to her. What in the world was going on? The weight was so much on her that she found herself pulling over at the youth Pastor's house. She was about to bare herself and talk.
She smelled something and just thought it was weird. She dismissed it and assumed that her tension was going to run her down that instant.
'Michael's cologne wasn't made for him alone', she soliloquized.
She dashed into the front pouch and made straight for the door. She knocked like her life depended on it. Yes, it somehow did. She was about to crash. Mr Shaibu was gone! All the men in her life had a way of leaving her. It was firstly her dad, Michael and now Mr Shaibu. Shame.
Pastor Dele opened the door and stood there for a moment. He could be just unpredictable at times. She opened her mouth to say something but later dismissed even the thought of greeting him. She wanted to sit down on something. She walked into the large spaced sitting room like she was the house agent.
She turned to look at Pastor Dele. It was like a movie playing only that she was part of the cast.
She turned back to face Michael.
She slumped into the chair and let out a heavy sigh.
'This just got interesting'
'Hey Sheila' Pastor Dele started. 'Michael has told me everything'
He sure didn't tell him that her closest neighbour is dead. That was not everything, to her. Just then, Pastor Dele's niece walked across the dining to the fridge.
'Could you please get me Paracetamol tablets, Tolu?'
She said that before she started to cry. That was her first in days. She was devastated. Mr Shaibu's death was a catalyst. Just as she remembered to check up on Grace, Biola called to send in her condolences. She had heard? How? Bad news and their tentacles.
'What can I do to help?' Biola sounded really concerned.
Good question. She finally found someone to look after Grace for her pending the time she would come around.
'Look, Sheila, we will all have to calm down here', Pastor Dele already got a hint of the rest of the story Michael was just hearing for the first time too. Sheila had told Biola she never believed how fast things were happening. Only her dad's death had shaken her that much.
She gulped down the Paracetamol tablets and settled in the sofa. Michael was too quiet. Well, what did she expect?
'I am so sorry about the loss', he finally said something.
He had no idea. She just wanted things to go back to normal, if there was still something like that.
'Listen Sheila, he is gone and I understand a little bit of how you feel', Pastor Dele had his hand lightly on her back.
'Do you want us to talk about you and Michael, or ...'
'Yes', she was eager.
Michael sat up straight. She saw that even though not with her two eyes. Did he have any idea that they broke up for real? He must be joking if he thought anything would make her change her mind.
'I feel regretful, Pastor. I messed up big time and I wish I had listened to the Holy Spirit'
'I silenced him. I was too carried away'
She wanted to know what and what Michael had told him exactly but then, was that even needed anymore?
'Now, listen to me, both of you. If you want to have a break, it's okay but first we have to deal with this'.
Pastor Dele went on to advise them. He more importantly asked that they not allow in any guilt. If they were truly sorry and had asked the Lord to forgive and help them, it was all they needed. He counselled and prayed with them.
After about an hour of chastising, encouragement and prayers, she felt lightened and relieved. What ever happened to her not going to God? She remembered some lines of one of her favorite hymns:
'Oh what peace we often forfeit; Oh what needless pain we bear; all because we do not carry; everything to God in prayer.'
She was going to go home, rest and think of what to do with herself. Hardly had she opened her door than she got a text message from the Hospital she applied to in Port Harcourt. She had been congratulated on a successful job interview and asked to resume work immediately. What did they mean by 'successful job interview'? Of course, it wasn't by merit. Mr Shaibu who didn't even wait to hear this good news influenced the process. What a country! Even bright ones needed to have connection. She felt apprehensive all of a sudden; she knew deep down that moving to Port Harcourt was selfish but it would be a great way to start all over. She was tired of Lagos living anyway.