Back in the room, everything still looked the same. Omotara had not moved. The beep of the machine still sounds the same.
Three days ago, the doctors told us that she was now breathing on her own, that she no longer needed the ventilator that had kept her alive since she was first brought in seven days ago. They said it’s a good sign, and we only have to wait for her to wake up.
I moved my chair closer to her bed, holding her hands, “Omotara, if you can hear me, you need to wake up, okay? You already missed Christmas, but if you could wake up soon, you will be on time to celebrate Boxing day tomorrow. I would even go to the movies with you. Just open your eyes.”
“And then, Tara, mummy is worried, and she’s crying about Daddy again. You are the expert at calming her down, so wake up already” I added whispering so mummy wouldn’t hear me.
“Iretioluwa” I heard mummy call from across the room.
“What if she wakes up and doesn’t remember us? You remember the Doctor said it’s a possibility”
“Mummy, you worry too much” I answered as I moved to sit by her. “Omotara is not one to forget things ever, and she won’t start now”
Smiling she said “True o, that girl has a brain that never forgets”
“Exactly. Besides, we are unforgettable, no one can forget us” I said winking at her.
She laughed “The Unforgettable trio, like Bishop Adeoye calls us”
“And he is right” I grinned. “Omotara won’t forget, and even if she did, it won’t be for long. I just know we will be alright”
“Yes, we will be. And talking about Bishop, he called me when I went home earlier. He asked about you and Omotara. He prayed for us and assured me that even though this is trying moment, we will come out of this stronger”
“Amen. That’s nice of him” I said.
“Errm… mummy, did he say anything about Olumide” I asked a little reluctant.
“No” She responded rolling her eyes at me.
“He still hasn’t called you àbí? I have told you to forget about that boy, he doesn’t know what he wants yet. Or maybe he knows and he’s just yet to figure out his priorities.”
I knew she was right, Olumide has always taken me for granted. I should have broken up with him a long time ago, even if it was just for the fact that Omotara never liked him and she likes everyone. He goes off the radar for days, no calls, then he comes back without any explanation aside from his usual ‘I am sorry’ and his ‘let’s act as if nothing happened’ attitude. And now, when my sister lies in this hospital, fighting for her life, the man who claims to love me has neither called nor responded to my text messages.
“He’s nothing like his father…that boy. Bishop is one of the most caring men I know, right next to your father, God rests his beautiful soul.” Mummy said shaking her head.
“You should just cut your losses and move on. Like your sister will say, ‘there are many fishes in the ocean, and they are all mine to choose from.’ so open yourself up my dear and take your pick”
“Three years Mum, that’s how long I’ve wasted on Olumide. I just kept convincing myself that he will change. I blamed his poor communication on him losing his mother so early. Then when Bishop told me to speak to him to call him more, I felt ‘well, it’s nothing personal, Ireti, that’s just who he is and he can change.’ Looks like I was just foolish.” I said shaking my head sadly.
Turning to Omotara, I continued “Well, Tara, looks like I have good news for you. I have decided to retire as ‘Ireti, the Change Agent’. More reason to wake up, right? I need someone to slap some sense into me if I try to call him or take him back.”
“You were not foolish Iretioluwa,” mummy said as she stood and walked to my side. “You were simply a girl in love. But you deserve much more than he gave you in those three years and I’m glad you finally see it now” She concluded rubbing my back in comfort.
“Thanks, mummy,” I said smiling. “Something is vibrating o, is that not your phone?” I glanced up at her.
“That’s probably Kolade, it must be his break time already,” She said as she rushed to retrieve her phone from her bag in the corner of the room.
Kolade is Omotara's very worried fiancé. I remembered how loud Omotara screamed when he proposed back in October, on his last visit to Nigeria. They were university sweethearts, and despite his relocation to Canada, two years ago, he remained committed to her. We all love him. Besides, anyone who could handle my hyper-active sister gets an automatic pass.
“Kolade… she is okay… yes, still the same” I heard my mum saying on the phone.
“I know my dear. Haba! Even Omotara would not expect you to fly home… yes… even if you can get time off work, just stay and continue praying, there is nothing you will do other than hold her hands, and Ireti is doing enough of that already…” She said pacing the room.
“Ireti? She is coping… home kẹ̀? She has not left the hospital since that day o. I know… I know… Yes, we believe too… she will pull through…Yeah, she is a fighter. Thank you, my dear. And don’t worry too much o. Okay… Yes, I will call you immediately she wakes up… Pẹ̀lé̩ my dear… osé, bye” she said ending the call.
“He must be so worried,” I said.
“Yes, I doubt he has slept well since that day” mummy commented.
“She needs to wake up soon.” She said walking towards the bed. “I wonder what she will say when she wakes up and realises how long she has slept” mummy smiled shaking her head.
“Something crazy, I'm sure” I answered chuckling. “Probably something along the line of ‘and you allowed me to waste all those days of my life?’ ‘And I missed Christmas?’ something like that” I added doing an impression of Tara.
Laughing hard, mummy said “That was a terrible imitation Ireti. Be glad she’s sleeping, she would have hit your head”
“Don’t I know it? But she might be hearing us o, you remember the doctor said it’s possible”
“I hope she hears us then. So, she knows how much we love her and how desperate we need her to snap out of this”
Holding Omotara's hand, she continued “Omotara, my firstborn child. If you can hear me, I want you to know how precious you are to me. You are our first, your father and I, our precious gift from God. We named you Omotara because when you came into our lives, we forgot how lonely we had been since we got married. We were happy with each other but we were also sad that our families still won’t support our marriage. And then you came, so small and beautiful, bringing in so much sunshine and love, and we knew you are all the family we needed.”
Reaching out for my hand, she continued in a wobbly voice
“That feeling of sadness and loneliness your father and I felt all those years ago, is what Ireti and I are feeling now. We need you, Omotara mi. You need to come back to us now. You need to fight Omotara, you can do it. You need to come back to us. We need you. We can’t do life without you baby. There is still a lot to be done. You have a purpose, you are loved. You are a fighter, fight my daughter, fight”
Silence filled the room after that. “mummy” I called, breaking the silence. “Why didn’t you ever tell us that story?”
“Hmmmm” She sighed “Your father and I felt it was not necessary. We’ve always thought that the families will come around eventually. And when they do, we didn’t want your mind to already be closed off towards them”
“Okay mummy, so what’s the story? You know Tara and I have always just assumed you and Daddy’s family are part of ‘village people’ right?”
“Village people? What does that mean?” mummy asked in obvious confusion.
“Mummy now, you are still not woke” I said in mock frustration. “It means wicked extended family members that usually live in the village. We assumed Aunt Ivy is the only nice one since she’s the only one we know”
Shaking her head, “woke. village people. You children and your slangs”
“Anyway, your Aunt Ivie ‘Ivy’ is your father’s only sister and she’s the only one who maintained her relationship with your father after he married me. You see, our parents and families were not in support of our relationship because I am Yoruba and your Father was Edo. My father had this prejudice against anyone from Benin because his Aunt married an Edo man, who eventually beat her to death. He refused to believe your father was different.”
“And Daddy’s family?”
“Oh, they also didn’t like the idea of a Yoruba wife for their only son. They didn’t come to the wedding, except for Ivie.”
“None from your family?”
“No, no one,” She said sadly.
“Oh, I’m so sorry mummy,” I said “That must have been a lot to handle for you both”
“Yes, it was. And to add to that, we had to endure five years of mocking before your sister came along, so we named her Omotara” She said with a smile.
“So that’s why we are only a year apart àbí.
You rushed and had me sharp sharp” I winked at her.
She laughed and her laughter warmed my heart.
“There are a lot of things we don’t know about our origin Mummy and I think we ought to find out. If anything, this experience in the past seven days has awakened me to how short life is. Look at Omotara, she is here fighting for her life, Daddy didn’t even get a chance to fight for this long.”
Turning to her, I continued, “mummy, when Omotara wakes up, let’s call on the family, let’s settle old scores. Even if they reject us again, at least we would have tried”
She looked at me with misty eyes “They reached out to me after your father died… his family and mine. Ivie said his parents wanted to meet you girls, I don’t know what mine wanted because I didn’t listen. I was so angry. In that state of mourning the loss of my husband, their sudden willingness to bury the hatchet of so many years made me so angry. So, I refused and told Ivie to never speak of it again”
Rubbing her tears away, she said “But you are right my dear. Your father’s death should have awakened me to the futility of life, but I was so broken and angry. I just kept thinking ‘my best friend, my husband was gone and now they want to reconcile?’ So, I said No”
With her eyes on Omotara, “But when your sister wakes up, we will go. I will take you both to meet them. I promise” She assured me.