The car skidded to a stop and Mary was out in a flash, skipping through the hospital floor like a demon and shouting incoherently. The nurses had to get security to restrain her and even so, she was still a handful. Duke was wheeled into the emergency room and as the doors slammed shut behind the men in ward coats, Mary felt the old pull tugging at her again. She could see everyone and everything so clearly, she could feel everything and when she closed her eyes at intervals, the pictures in her head only got clearer.
The woman who had come to the house earlier was duke’s paternal grandmother; she walked around the hospital floor barefooted, having kicked off her high heels. She looked like she was in a lot of panic too but she seemed controlled and way calmer than Mary was. Mary looked at her from a distance and found herself wondering what it was that was so wrong, so odd about the family. The son was a recluse who womanized incessantly, he had a son who had some mental condition that prevented him from being able to relate with other humans normally, the mother was a woman who was so obviously old but was trying desperately to look young. What was she a cougar? And then there was the big house that Mary knew he didn’t really need.
But he had it anyways and there were the disappearing acts and the seeming carelessness of the whole family to the boy’s welfare.
Everything was amiss for them, even though everything was abundant. Now duke, the only reason she had decided to stay in the house in the first place was sick and unconscious. What was the nature of his sickness? What did he need?
Mary found herself scratching at her head over and over again. Something was nagging at the back of her mind. She didn’t know what but it was there and she worried herself half to death trying to remember it. But she didn’t. About one hour after duke first went into the ward, the door opened and two doctors came out looking like they had been carrying the weight of the whole world on their shoulders. Mary burst into tears, she didn’t wait for them to come and tell her that duke was dead. Her tears were silent, unlike the crazy cry of despair she had been crying earlier. Her lips shivered and her body racked with pain and agony. She leaned into the wall behind her and bit her lips for control but the more she tried, the more it shook.
“Mary?” she turned around and he was standing there. His shirt was open at the neck, his face had what looked like a month old stubble and his hair had thrown caution to the wind. It had been fully overgrown. He looked like…
“You have killed him!” Mary blurted. It was an accusation and as her eyes flashed, she became so overcome with emotion that she forgot that even though she could see him, there was a glass door between them. She rushed towards him and promptly slammed into the glass door. She fell backwards but was up on her feet in a flash. She held her head for a minute and then proceeded to open the door and walk out. Having seen what had happened, he rushed towards her too.
“Are you okay?” he asked
Mary looked him right in the eyes and even though her head still buzzed from the fall, she reached out and landed a hot slap on his face. It was comical as she had to stand on tip toes to reach all 6’2 of him. He stepped back in surprise and looked at her. Before he could say anything, she started talking.
“You killed him you selfish bastard. I will never forgive you. All that boy ever wanted was to be close to you, to be loved by you. But you put him through hell even though you knew his challenges. I don’t care if you still employ me after this; I won’t live in that house if duke is not there.” She was shaking and she had a finger pointed at his chest to emphasize her pain and hatred for him. She turned around and started to walk away.
“He’s alive… Mary” she stopped in her tracks
“He’s alive. He asked for you” she turned around. Eyes wide and lips still shaking. She turned to the doctor who had spoken and then looked at the other doctor too. She didn’t need to voice her feelings
“This way please” the doctor said as they led her to the room that held her dear duke. Oga remained rooted to the spot, still rubbing the spot where her palm had touched his cheek. He didn’t look angry, instead, he looked amused.
As everyone who had been in the room when Mary slapped oga watched her leave the room, his mother who had also been just a few feet away from the spot of the incident also came closer.
“I like her” she said
Oga turned around and gave his mother a look that could freeze Dracula.
“Yea… I bet you do” he said as he walked away from her.
Mary sat by his bed and held his little palm in her hand. They had been through a series of hugging and crying. Duke had complained bitterly that the doctors won’t let him have iced cream and Mary had told him all about how silly doctors could be. They had laughed about it and Mary had watched him drift into a fitful sleep. She had sat by his bed and would not leave the place.
Sometime in the middle of the night that day, duke woke up again and this time, he complained bitterly that he was hungry.
“But you shouldn’t be hungry; the doctor guy said the thing in that bag serves as food.”
Duke laughed lightly
“It’s not food Mary; it’s just fluid with some minerals and nutrients”
“Well the doctor guy said you shouldn’t eat till morning.” Mary said. Squeezing her face
“Oh lord Mary! Now you’re worse than them.”
He said with a pout. She looked at him and smiled bitterly as a wave of memories descended upon her. In what seemed like a flash, she remembered the little town she had come from, the series of deaths that had happened, the guilt that had stayed with her since she left the place. The picture of the little boy who had been hacked in two by someone in the name of god. The memories washed over her and as she sat there, looking at the pale face of the young boy she had come to love as her own, she realized what Dugo must have felt when she saw her son’s lifeless body, throat slit from ear to ear and the limping shadow that left the house that night.
In her mind, the face of evil started to take a form, the feeling of being watched materialized into something that she had never really given much thought to, it suddenly occurred to her that the giant teddy bear in the far left corner of dukes room was a little heavier than it ought to be. It had been brought in by oga the day they had gone out for iced cream. After his fight with his girl, he had come in with the bear and had dropped it in the corner. Each time she lifted it to clean the spot that it sat on; she would wonder what it was stuffed with. Duke’s room was the one place in the house that only she was allowed to be in and was not really open to any other staff except on errands. Could it be that keeping duke in the room was not just to keep him away from sight, but also to keep something in there?
Her brain worked hyper. Things started to make sense. The sudden disappearance acts, the lack of concrete time spent with his son, the weird look and attitude when he was alone. Something was wrong. Duke had started acting funny right after that week. He had then fallen sick. Something was definitely off. She stood up and in a sudden wave of realization, she walked… more like staggered out of the room into the hospital hallway.
Oga was in a seat with his back against the wall and his legs pulled up to his chest and the balls of his heels resting on the edge of the chair. Mary walked up to him, his eyes were closed and his mouth was slightly ajar. She fought a strong urge to slap him again but she controlled herself. Instead, she tapped him lightly
“Wake up” she said
He opened his eyes and stared at her. Obviously wondering what he had done wrong this time.
“The teddy” she said
“Huh?” he looked sort of confused
“The teddy, what is in it?”
He looked at her and as realization came into his eyes, he jumped to his feet and pulled her away from the spot. Straight into an empty hospital room.
“What the hell are you talking about Mary?” he asked once they were alone
“If you honestly didn’t know what I was talking about, you would not drag me into this room.
Please tell me the truth.” She said. She knew she was just fishing; she wasn’t really sure what she would find if she tore the teddy open. But she knew the only way to get him to talk would probably be to pretend like she knew what it was. She put a hand on one hip and looked him in the eyes. Thus stared one of the longest eye battles either of them had never been in.
Some five minutes into the battle, he sighed resignedly and looked at his boots.
“35 pounds!” he said off handedly.
“Money?” she asked with some alarm. He looked at her with a look on his face that said “yea right” but he said instead
“No, 35 pounds of coke.”
She said. Eyes wide and looking like she was about to faint. He nodded and then she saw the tears well up in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry… so sorry” he was breaking down.
His eyes were red and blood shot and he looked like he needed to sit. She took his hand and led him to the hospital bed that was ion the otherwise empty room.
“The doctor said he had come down with a near fatal overdose of cocaine and heroin. I think duke might have punctured the teddy when he was playing with it. Each time he played with it, he was inhaling the substance. I wanted to keep it in there for just a few days but I got a heads up that the NDLEA were onto me. I had to scram. This was why I disappeared for so long. I knew duke was in safe hands. But I didn’t know he would get so exposed to it so much. I swear I didn’t. I am so sorry Mary.” She looked at him with the fury in her very evident.
“You f*cking asshole! You put a bag of coke in your son’s room and you tell me you didn’t think he would get exposed! How dare you!” she was raising her voice at him and she knew it but she couldn’t control herself. The frustration and anger of four weeks of watching the boy behaving erratically and abnormally overwhelmed her and she started to hit her small fists on his chest.
“You evil evil evil evil…..” she continued to repeat the “evil while he tried to get hold of her hands to no avail. Short of words, He just continued to repeat
“I’m sorry” he held her close in his arms, she struggled but he was too strong for her. Instead, she gave up and went limp in his arms and cried her heart out.
“The doctors… do they know?”
She asked after her tears had dried up and the shivers had subsided.
“They will turn you in?”
“I don’t think so. They are getting paid handsomely.”
“You have a lot of making up to do…” she said
“I know… I know. He whispered as he held her head close to his chest. It seemed to him like the most natural thing ever.
Story by Nancy Olakunle