Ify’s heart pounded as she looked at her mother in expectation. Surely the woman who carried her in her womb for nine months would recognize her.
“Yes, can we help you?” Ify’s mother asked, as if she didn’t know her.
Ify froze in shocked dismay. Her own mother didn’t recognize her. Her eyes caught the window of the living room and she gasped. The same thing that happened in Beatrice’ bedroom was happening to her. It was the same stranger’s face. The queen gave her a smug smile. That quickly changed Ify’s shock into an angry resolution. She turned to her mother and opened her mouth to speak. Then she began coughing like a tuberculosis patient.
“Are you alright?” Agnes asked, concerned.
Encouraged, Ify attempted to speak again and her already severe cough became more severe. She coughed and coughed each time she attempted to speak. Each attempt only brought on more painful coughs. She coughed and coughed until she began to bleed from her mouth.
“Mommy, she’s bleeding.” The queen exclaimed, voice shaking in alarm.
Agnes rushed forward. Before she could reach her, Ify had crumbled to the floor, coughing out blood. They quickly rushed her to the hospital. Ify kept coughing, fighting for breath as the nurses wheeled her in, Agnes and the queen following beside them. Ify grabbed her mother’s hand and locked eyes with her, desperately trying to speak. Agnes was surprised but she patted her comfortingly.
“It’s okay, dear. You will be fine.” She said. Ify shook her head frantically. “M…m…mo…mmy.” She managed to stutter amidst breathless coughs.
Agnes stopped and stared as the nurses wheeled Ify into one of the wards. The queen stopped beside her, her face clouded like thunder.
“She called me mommy.” Agnes said softly in surprise.
The queen snorted. “Did she? Maybe she wasn’t referring to you. She was referring to her real mother.”
Agnes opened her fist that Ify had grabbed. She stared at the small phone in her hand.
“You’re right. I think she wants me to call her mother.” Agnes replied. She dialed the only number on the phone and waited as it rang.
“Hello, Ify?” Beatrice’ voice said on the other end.
Agnes stopped in surprise.
“Ify, are you there?”
“Um… this isn’t Ify. My name is Agnes. Your daughter is in the hospital. She’s very ill.” Agnes finally spoke.
The line went completely silent for a second.
“My daughter?” Beatrice asked, hesitantly.
“Yes, the one you called Ify. I was surprised. My daughter’s name is also Ify. Anyway, your daughter came to my house and while we were figuring out who she was, she started coughing and bleeding all of a sudden. So we brought her to the hospital and she gave me this phone to call you.”
“Oh, okay. What’s the name of the hospital?”
Later, Beatrice got to the hospital. At the reception, she was told Ify’s ward and the people that brought her into the hospital had gone home. She sighed. Poor girl. The happy reunion didn’t go quite well. Beatrice thanked the nurse and went to Ify’s ward. Ify was lying sullenly on the bed. Her cough was miraculously gone.
Beatrice went to her, concerned. “Ify, what happened?”
Ify looked at her and started crying quietly. Beatrice held her, comforting her. “It’s okay, my dear. Everything will be alright.”
Ify shook her head. “No, Auntie Beatrice. Everything is not alright.”
“Tell me what happened.”
And so Ify told her everything. Nothing was left out. Beatrice stared at her, completely still.
Then she sighed. “When I found you at the beach, you…”
“… Escaped from the queen’s coven, yes. Unbelievable, right?” Ify asked.
“It sounds like Nollywood.”
“It does. But it is real.”
Beatrice nodded. “So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, Auntie. I tried to reach my family, even called my fiance earlier in your room…”
“But your face changed to someone you didn’t know.” Beatrice concluded in sympathy.
“Yes. I’ve tried. But that wicked so called queen has taken control of everything. I can’t reach my people. What am I going to do, Auntie?” Ify cried in frustration.
“It’s okay. We’ll discuss it when we get home. First, we need to get you out of here.”
Beatrice used her influence as an experienced doctor and made the hospital discharge Ify. Then they left in Beatrice’ car. The didn’t speak as she drove. Each was lost in thought. Finally, she glanced at Ify who was seated beside her. Ify was looking out the window, her eyes filled with sadness.
“Stop worrying too much, Ify.” Beatrice said, sympathetically. “Worrying will not help. You’ll get through this.”
“How do you know that?” Ify asked softly in a disbelieving tone.
“Well, while there is life, there is hope.”
Ify didn’t reply. Beatrice sighed. “You know what? Let’s eat out. I think a change of environment will lighten your mood.”
Beatrice drove to a restaurant and parked. They stepped out and headed towards the restaurant. A small crowd had gathered at the entrance. They curiously made their way through the crowd and saw three hefty men, bouncers, beat up another man. A very robust woman, the owner of restaurant, screamed invectives on the man.
“Beat him! Beat him very well! You think you can come to my restaurant and eat my food and go like that without paying, abi? Ole! Oshi! By the time my boys finish with you, eh, you go hear nwii.” She shouted angrily.
The bouncers beat the man mercilessly. The helpless man was already bloody from the beating. Beatrice and Ify couldn’t watch anymore. They went between them to stop the assault.
“Stop it! I said stop it at once! What is it?” Beatrice said loudly.
The woman glared at Beatrice and Ify. “Who be this one now? Wetin be your own? Why you dey put mouth for the matter wey no concern you.”
Beatrice glared back. “I am a doctor. And this man your boys are beating will likely die from his injuries. Ify you don’t call off your boys, I will call the Police.”
For a moment, it looked like the threat would not work. Then the woman signaled the bouncers to stop. They stopped.
“Thank you.” Beatrice said, relieved. “Now, what happened?”
“My sister, see this yeye man o. I was on my own, he came to my restaurant to eat and after eating, he wanted to walk away without paying me my money. You know what he said? He said I should forgive him that he was hungry but did not have any money to pay for the food. My own food. Can you imagine? He knows he does not have any money yet he came to eat in my restaurant. Do I look like Father Christmas? He wants to chop and clean mouth. Lai lai! He must pay me my money or my boys will tear him to pieces.” The woman ranted angrily.
“How much is the food?” Beatrice asked.
“Five hundred naira.”
Beatrice brought out her purse and paid her. The woman turned coldly to the man on the floor. “Thank your God for this fine madam. If not for her, wetin I go do you, ehn?”
She hissed and signaled her boys and they entered into the restaurant. The crowd dispersed as the show had ended. Ify went to help the man on his feet. He raised his head to thank them and froze as he saw Beatrice. Beatrice froze too and they stared at each other.
“Beatrice?” The man said in shock.
“Johnson.” Beatrice replied in the same tone.
“You know him?” Ify asked her.
“Yes, he is my husband.”
To be continued…
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