Niyi was perched at the left side of the bed, head bowed and hands clasped. As the realisation of recent events weighed down his shoulders, his mind swelled with thoughts, their pounding presence a barrage of ravenous parasites on his consciousness … which truly was irritating, because thoughts were just thoughts, not actions. They didn’t solve anything, not in this case. All they did was invite more questions and doubts and fears.
So he did the sensible thing and tried not to think but act. Yet, thinking was about as much as he could do right now.
He lifted his head a fraction and allowed his eyes the freedom to meander over the feeble body clad in a white gown. She lay on the bed, still as a statue. Her battered face sported stitches and plasters here and there, and her arms and legs were swathed in bandages.
Niyi’s eyes, fierce … soft, went on to linger on her face, absorbing the sight of her twisted nose, gnarled bloody lips, puffy eyelids, swollen chin – he averted his pained eyes to the bland hospital wall. Then, taking a deep breath and mustering enough strength, he looked at her again. He focused so hard his narrowed eyes would burn holes into her face if they could. Perhaps he believed that if he stared at her this intensely her broken frame would be made whole again, good as new, and all this madness would be but a distant memory.
He wanted her to get up. He needed her to get up.
Where was that lopsided smile she always gave him when she caught him gazing at her as though she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen – and she was exactly that to him: forever beautiful, forever lovely. Even now, weakened and torn from the accident, she was still his daisy, dazzling and just perfect.
Her laughter – rich, sweet, melodic – that riveted him to the spot and had his heart bursting with unexplained happiness, where was it?
The double doors opened and a nurse strolled in with a clipboard in her hand. She stood next to Tumi’s bed and examined the numbers on the machines that kept her earthbound.
‘She’s getting better,’ the nurse said.
Niyi nodded absentmindedly.
‘I reckon she’ll be out of here in a couple of months, after intense physical therapy, of course.’
Niyi looked up at the nurse.
‘Thank you,’ he muttered.
The nurse continued scribbling. After a short while she paused and stared in Niyi’s direction.
‘You should go home, get some sleep. She’ll be here tomorrow and alive, I prfomise.’
‘Yes.’ It wasn’t Niyi who spoke. It was the second woman in the room: Tumi’s sister, Sade. She came forward. ‘Yes, I … I suppose I should.’
Her eyes, red and bloated from crying, rested on Tumi. She took Tumi’s hand into hers.
‘How do I do it?’ she said, desperate eyes searching for mislaid answers. ‘How do I tell her about Niyi? The man she loves… The only man she ever loved … gone.’
A small despondent smile played on Niyi’s lips. He stretched forth a trembling hand and … paused, inches away from touching Tumi. What he wouldn’t give to feel her skin against the back of his fingers, one last time. So, instead, he leaned down and whispered to her, ‘You once told me goodbyes are never easy. You were right.’
A drawn-out sigh.
‘I love you. Don’t ever forget that.’
The time had come. The bright light by the eastern wall beckoned. He could wait no longer.