Episode 1: A Child is Born
Panting and sweating in his undersized khaki trousers and worn-out white polo, he grabbed Obidiegwu's left hand.
"O gini?" asked Obidiegwu as he helped Ochara to a seat. In the five years he had known his neighbour, he had never seen him in this kind of state. It was a common knowledge among the tenants at 114 Odunlami Street that Ochara was a drunk and a womaniser. How he managed to get the women into his penniless bed was a mystery. These women were mostly married women. Once in a while, he boasts about his sexcapades in the bar only to be beaten by the husbands of these women who happened to be one of his apt listeners.
Obidiegwu sniffed, hoping to catch a whiff of alcohol. But Ochara had a clean breath. So what could have led to his panic this time around. Perhaps, he's been chased by one of his lover's husband or boyfriend. Not wanting his shop to be a venue for lovers' fight, he quickly stood up and locked the sliding doors. At least, the intruder won't easily get in.
"Ocha, what is it? Did you get into trouble again?"
Still panting, Ochara pointed to the fridge.
Shaking his head, Obidiegwu willed himself not to fall for his neighbour's trick. He would not offer him any bottle. Moreover, his wife Ugomma had warned him of using her business for generosity.
"No Ocha, no drink for you. I don't want to play with my wife's business"
At the mention of his wife, Ocha seemed to snap out of his reverie.
"Your wife..." he stuttered, pointing outside.
"What about my wife?" Obidiegwu feared the worst. His heartbeat raced faster. He hoped Mama Charity has not picked up a fight with his wife.
"What happened to my wife Ocha?"
"Her water broke. Ogo rushed her to the hospital."
It took a while before the news dawned on Obidiegwu. In anxiety, he rushed out of the shop, then ran back to pick up the keys of his Peugeot car. Ochara stared at him bewildered.
"Take care of the shop. Matthew will soon be back." On second thoughts, he shouted "Don't go near the fridge."
Obidiegwu prayed profusely as he drove to the hospital which was 15 minutes away from his shop. He has been using Dr. Okorie's hospital since his first child Adaugo was born. Uzoamaka, his second child barely made it to the hospital. She was born in a taxi on their way to the hospital. Now, his third child is about to be born. He prayed that God would answer his prayer and give him a male child. What wouldn't he give to have a male offspring. He has followed all the rules he had found in his medical journal. Even bought the health edition of Reader's Digest.
He stayed away from alcohol, ate foods that are rich in vitamins, drank a lot of yoghurt and even had sex with his wife on a hot afternoon during her ovulation period. He has done all he knew to inject his Y chromosome into his wife. He needed a male child so badly. His friends were beginning to mock him even if they didn't have the courage to say it to his face.
The other day, his older brother whose first son was same age with his daughter had brought a herbal mixture for his wife. But Ugomma, his adamant beauty refused to take it. Now she is about to give birth. He made a detour to his house where Chinasa, his wife's cousin who stayed with them was packing the baby's things.
"Brother, thank God you are back. I have to go and get Ada and Amaka from school. Mama Ndubuisi is with Aunty in the hospital. I have packed everything she needs right here."
"OK. Thank you Chisa," he grabbed the small white bag and left immediately. He collided with Mama Charity as he opened the compound's gate. She eyed him belligerently and walked away without uttering a word. Obidiegwu ignored the short black woman. She was the least of his problems.
He rubbed his forehead with his sweaty palms as he parked in front of the one-storey building. He could barely lock his car. His hands were very shaky. Determined, he managed to carry his bow-legs with ease. God knows he wanted to run into the hospital.
The nurses greeted him in that familiar tone as he walked into the lobby. He quickly made his way to the labour room but was stopped by a matron called Nurse Mary.
"How is she?"
"She's fine. Congratulations. You have a beautiful bouncing baby girl."
"Ah, Papa Ada", called Mama Ndubuisi, his neighbour who lived in the next house. "Congratulations. This one is very beautiful. More beautiful than any of your children."
But Obidiegwu was not listening. His spirits sank so low that his face looked like a corpse. Another girl again?
Both the matron and his neighbour were surprised at his reaction.
"Papa Ada, are you okay?"
He didn't reply. He just walked out of the hospital.
Written by Vay Sylver.
Vay is a journalist and a writer. Nothing excites her more than great stories that inspire and capture the heart. She believes that the art of storytelling is life itself. She is also a feisty lover of arts, culture and lifestyle.