Titi dipped the face towel into the bowl of cold water on the bedside drawer, squeezed it gently and placed it across her daughter’s forehead. She looked at her husband who had fallen asleep beside her. How he managed to sleep through this she didn’t understand. Maybe he had gotten used to the regular vigils kike’s ill health imposed on them.
They had Kike two years ago after five years of being married. She remembered the look on Jide’s face when she told him she was pregnant, how he carried her and spun her around. The tears he couldn’t hold back as he held his daughter in his arms for the first time. They called her Kikelomo.
A child to be cherished.
A name that suited her so well.
Kike was a healthy child for the first year of her life. She started sitting, teething and crawling at the right time and walked before she turned 11 months. The story changed after she turned one. What started as a slight fever led to being admitted in the hospital for a week. Series of test were conducted, she was treated for malaria, typhoid and even cholera. They became regular visitors at the general hospital, doctors ran series of tests and found nothing. They were referred to paediatric specialists but the doctors said the same thing. Nothing was wrong with her medically. Her illness had a pattern. It would start with her having no appetite, followed by rising body temperature and then proceed into bouts of vomiting. This left her looking like a malnourished one year old instead of two.
Last week Titi’s boss called her into his office and gave her a query about her frequent days off. Last month alone she took 10 days off. Resigning wasn’t an option because they needed the income. Jide’s salary as a bank cashier wouldn’t be enough to support them. The owner of the day care centre Kike attended expressed her fears and reluctance to admit her.
‘I think we should take Kike to Mama. We really don’t have a choice right now. She’ll be fine don’t worry.’
Titi nodded in agreement. Her mother in law had offered to look after Kike in the village. She claimed that maybe all she needed was fresh air, that the type of air she inhaled in Lagos wasn’t good for her. She declined the offer despite Mama’s persistence. Not that she didn’t trust her. She did. Well, to an extent; she brought up Jide and his siblings as a single mum. Mama reminded them each time she called about her offer and she still mentioned it yesterday. At this point, she resolved to take kike to Mama just to see what would come out of it. For a short while, not longer than two weeks. She needed time to get her life in order and Jide too. She had neglected him because all her attention was devoted to Kike. She couldn’t remember the last time they had sex, doing vigils at least three times a week sapped all the energy she had.
‘We’ll take her to Akure this Saturday, Mama would be happy. Besides, you need to rest Titi’ Jide added as he looked at his wife, his Titilope who had suddenly aged. The worry lines across her forehead suggested she was older than 32. She had lost so much weight and had bags under her eyes. He was sure the braids on her head was over 2 months old. Giving Kike to mama would relieve her. He missed his wife. He wanted her back.
Early Saturday morning they made their way to Ojota bus park to board a bus to Akure; Titi carrying Kike and Jide holding their luggage. Kike pointed to the man selling Gala beside them and Jide bought one for her. Thankfully, she was fine this morning. She had appetite, no temperature, and no bouts of vomiting. Looking at her, no one would guess this was the same child who kept them awake two nights ago.
Titi fell asleep as soon as the journey started. Jide held his daughter in one hand and gently stroked his wife’s hair with his other hand. He woke Titi when they got to Akure 4hrs later. She managed a weak smile as he assured her their daughter would be fine.
‘Awon ara Eko de*’ Mama said as soon as she saw them.
‘Eka bo*’ She greeted pleasantly as she carried Kike from her father into her hands. Kike burst into a loud cry as if someone had just hit her. Mama tried to comfort her but to no avail. She only increased the tempo of her cry till she was handed back to her mother.
Maybe this is a sign, Titi thought. For some reason she was having mixed feelings about what they had come to do. She told Jide this morning just before they left the house but he brushed it aside and told her it was only natural for her to feel that way. She had burst into tears and he pulled her into his arms and gently planted a kiss on her lips. He knew how to calm her fears.
Mama treated them to Iyan and Egusi soup. After the meal, Titi showed Mama and Joko, Jide’s cousin who lived with Mama her daughter’s cereals and other food items she brought. Told them about her eating pattern, showed them her multivitamins and the required dosage, and fixed the mosquito net they brought to the bed Kike was going to sleep in. Jide went to the closest chemist to buy 2 packets of bottled water.
At night, she called Joko to come watch her bathe Kike to see how she did it, she made sure Joko put her hand in the water to know the right temperature. Not too warm and not too cold. Showed her it was half a capful of Dettol she put in the water. Thankfully, Kike had warmed up to Joko so she let her carry her out of the bathroom and dress her.
Titi held her daughter close to her as they lay on the bed. She sang all her favourite songs, used her hand to carefully trace her eyes, nose, mouth and ears. She would miss her baby, her precious Kikelomo, the only person who called her mummy. Long after Kike had fallen asleep she stared into darkness, unable to sleep. The reality of what they were about to do just dawned on her. She thought about how her daughter would cry over the next few days when she doesn’t see either of them; she wondered if Mama would cope. Would she be able to stay awake all night keeping watch over Kike?
She would tell Jide she had changed her mind in the morning, they would go back to Lagos with their daughter.
….To be continued
Have a great weekend.
*Awon ara Eko ti de- The people from Lagos have come.
*Eka bo- Welcome