The chief matron was passing by and saw her.
“Nurse Okonkwo,” she shouted out at her. “Is that how to act around a Senior Registrar? Are you now into body selling? Stop throwing yourself at Dr Atofarati my friend or I will get you sent out of here. This is a serious establishment and we do serious things here at the clinic. This your behaviour will not be condoned here. You have been the laughing stock for a while and instead of you to use your common-sense you just keep running after the poor man. Stop it or I get you transferred.” She shouted at her. Everyone had been listening, nurses, patients, other staff that were around and even some of the security. Gifty walked away briskly to the rest room and hid there for a while. When she came out to the nurses’ station, her eyes were all red. I felt some pity for her.
After this, she became withdrawn and faced her work squarely. As time passed by, the clinic became what it was before; without the chirpy personality of Gifty. I think Dr Art somehow missed her too because he would pass by and try to talk to her but as soon as she saw him, she would run at the speed of light to any other direction.
Eventually, Dr Art started asking about her from time to time. I knew that he was a kind man; one of the reasons I like him. I thought that this was the time for me to move a step with him. I tried to leave subtle encouragements that I was still very much interested in him. He would smile at me, even hang his hands around my neck once in a while and I started thinking that he did not know how to show much affection but this was him coming around.
One evening, as he was leaving, he asked me to come with him. We hung out at a restaurant for a bit before watching a movie. I think that he was very comfortable with me and somehow I knew that I had my Mc Dreamy at my fingertips.
I gloated to Nancy but hid this new development from Gifty. I did not want to hurt her after all she had suffered. Dr Art and I liked to do our things outside their hospital; away from the eyes.
After a month of me living in my new ecstasy, Gifty failed to show up at work. Nancy and I tried to call her but could not reach her. Later in that day, her mother called to say that she had to do an emergency surgery for a ruptured appendicitis. We visited her at the General surgery unit.
“Hi Gifty, how are you feeling?” I asked when we got into her ward.
“Tandi, who thought that I would be a patient in a place where I work? Thank God it has nothing to do with O&G.” she said, a bit weak.
“Sorry, ehn. It is well. Do you need anything?” Nancy asked
She shook her head, “I’m fine. My mum is actually around. She went to get something to eat. “
We sat a bit and gisted. The following day, we visited again.
“You guys must be tired.” Gifty said, sounding really bubbly. Nancy and I looked at each other.
“Guess what guys? Fine Art came to visit me yesterday and today. We’ve been talking so well. We actually have a lot in common. It is so amazing. He is totally into me now.” She continued going on and on.
Nancy and I looked at each other and tried to hide our smiles. I had been giving her the low-down about how Dr Art and I were making progress. I was glad though that Gifty was herself again. The girl would grow on anyone like a cute little puppy would.
A few weeks later, she was back at work and in top shape and spirit too. Apparently, she and Dr Art had found a balance. She was not coming on to him like before yet her admiration for him shined brightly like a diamond. I guess he did not mind her around him anymore. We all kind of synced. Life was good though Dr Art and I could not find time to hang out anymore.
One interesting day of my life, Dr Art asked me to come with him to the consulting room 5. The room was empty. He set his bag on the table and brought out a box. Obviously a ring was inside. My hands flew over my mouth.
He was like, “let me explain…” but I cut him short. I told him, “you have to do this out where everyone can see.” And I dragged him to the waiting area.
“Really? I have to do it publicly? I just thought that she would prefer a quiet place.” He said but I was not listening. Nancy and Gifty showed up and were puzzled about why I was looking so ecstatic.
“Are you sure I can do it here? What if she says No?” He asked again, a bit nervous. He obviously was not the showy type.
“Go for it.” I said. All the while, I didn’t notice his use of ‘She’ referring to someone else and ‘you’ referring to me.
Then the unimaginable thing happened. Dr Fola Atofarati, my Mc Dreamy, knelt in front of us all but his eyes were trained on Gifty. I was trying to tell him that his direction was wrong. He was supposed to be facing me.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
I heard a response alongside mine. “Yes.” Gifty and I chorused at the same time. Nancy just looked on with horror. There was a crowd already gathering. And I could hear questions and comments like, who is he proposing to, Gifty or Tandi? Why are two women answering? All this Doctors sef! I think it is Gifty o, Tandi is embarrassing herself. OMG!
Dr Art looked at me in confusion. Gifty just walked straight into his arms and hugged him. Everyone clapped and cheered at them. Nancy pulled me back gradually until we were able to make an escape. “OMG! Tandi, I am so sorry. I cannot believe this happened. What was the sleazy doctor thinking? Leading you on and then humiliating you in public.”
I was in total shock. My very own Dr Art proposed to Gifty. Did I read the signs wrong? What just happened? “Nancy, I am going home. Please help me send someone to bring my key. It is in my drawer.”
I did not show up at work for 5 of my shifts. Nancy had to cover for me no matter how exhausted she was. Even the Matron excused me. Dr. Art tried to reach me a couple of times but I just ignored him. One day, while I was sitting in front of the television at home, eating some ice cream and watching Telemundo, I heard a knock at the door. I was so engrossed in my soap opera that I didn’t realize that Dr. Art was in my sitting room. I could not run; the sitting room was the first room you enter from the door.
“Hi, Tandi. How are you?”
“Please, don’t call me Tandi anymore. My name is Kemi. Abi you don’t know my real name.” I snapped at him. Since the story had spread, everyone knew of the Tandi so I switched back to my real name and insist that people call me Kemi or Folakemi.
“I came to apologize. I did not realize that…” he couldn’t complete his statement.
I looked at him and pitied him a bit. I realized that he was just a clueless person. All the goodness I was seeing in him was like opening the Malta Guinness can and gulping realizing only later that it was the one with herbal extract I was drinking.
He sat down by my side and I offered him some ice cream. We stirred at the television a bit but I knew neither of us was watching it. “I don’t know how she crept up on me.” He said referring to Gifty.
“Yeah. Like I don’t know how I went from the smart girl to the foolish one.” I replied.
“This is my fault and I botched it. I want to make it right. I know now that I was probably leading you on but at that time, I thought that we were just friends. I am so sorry.” He said, looking into my eyes.
I wanted to look back into his eyes but my mind was going round in circles, ruminating on his words about making it right. I needed to return to the clinic but without my tail between my legs.
“Okay, tomorrow, come pick me up,” I said and he replied, “Pick you up? Your house is a stone throw from the clinic.”
I eyed him badly. “As I was saying come pick me up. We walk in together till I get to my area. Then you have to be nice to me every day. Buy me lunch and so on. Think of creative ways to appease me.”
Dr. Art smiled, “That I can do.”
THREE MONTHS LATER
A classical music piece starts playing signifying that the bride and her father were to begin the march to the altar. Sometimes I wish that these Nigerian orthodox churches would allow the popular bridal march song ‘here comes the bride, all dressed in white,” by the German composer Richard Wagner but No, it must be a hymn from one of those leather-bound choir hymnals that have seen better days. The organ sounded nasal to me. A nice guitar and a singer chanting ‘isn’t she lovely’ by Stevie wonder would do for me but I trust that when it is my turn my mother would pull my ears if I go south on this matter.
Congregation rises and I turn my head along with others to see the bride and her father but not before I peeped at the groom. He did a quick adjustment of his suit jacket and pulled on his tie as if it choked him a bit, at least that is what I think. He is a fine one, the groom. He is all of the talk, dark, handsome, and brooding and he has a good pedigree. I try not to peep too much at grooms before some rumourmonger looks at me and says I am salivating on his matter. His market has sold and I understand this pretty well. It is a shame though because he just could have suited someone like me. I look back at the duo marching and they had reached the middle. So fast! Is she in a hurry? I cannot blame her. Dr Art was to be had and to be held forever and she wanted to clinch the deal, I would too if I were in her position. I am grateful though that my mother did not send daggers my way as I was leaving the house. I think she understood the turmoil I was going through. Always on my case, her normal words to me are usually ‘My daughter, your own is to be wearing Aso ebi; don’t go and do your own wedding’ or ‘you are just leaving me in a debtor’s position. Because of you I am always buying Aso ebi for other people’s wedding with the hope that I am sowing a seed into my daughter’s own’.
As the bride takes her place by her groom, I sigh. He opens her veil and sends it over her head. Behold Miss Gifty Tochukwu Okonkwo, the beautiful and bold bae of Dr Fola Atofarati, drama queen extraordinaire. This lady has made me rethink all the tips on how to get a man in Naija. I do not know if I can borrow from her page expressly but I have definitely learnt something in it. She is even more beautiful today than I have ever seen. Some women do get it all.
As they exchange vows, I hear the deep throaty response of Dr Art as he looks into Gifty’s eyes. She smiles at him and blinks fast, perhaps putting tears in check. The girl can tear up at a touch; she is emotional that way. I wonder what their lives would be like. This is one thing I would never get to know because from this moment on, I choose to be disinterested in other people’s matter.
I listen to a group of girls talking about Dr Art and his new bride. And one of them is trying to point my way stylishly. I see her though. With my chin up, I turn away. I begin to focus on the young man who had been staring at me during the wedding and I am wondering if it is for the same reason that those girls were just talking about me. He takes my stare as an encouragement obviously because he walks towards me.
“Hello,” I say.
“I saw you when you came into the church. I wanted to talk to you on several occasions but I didn’t want to get a brush off in front of the whole congregation.” He laughs nervously.
I stare at him, and smile, “Yes, I noticed you staring at me.”
He laughs again. This is a shy one I figure out. “I could not help myself; you look stunning in this aso ebi. I am so sure that when my elder sister sees that you have outdone her friends she would envy you.”
I laugh genuinely. This guy understands women. At least I think so. This guy was definitely a relation to Dr Art because he had that handsome gene but not as handsome; perhaps a cousin or distant relative.
I decide to borrow a thing or two from Gifty, I come at him batting my eyelids a little, “and you are?”
“Sorry, I should have introduced myself. My name is Seyi Atofarati, younger brother to Fola.”
Wow. Should I run? Or stay? I don’t know. I decide to wait it out.
“my name is Folakemi. Folakemi Thomas.”
“Nice. Folakemi Thomas? Huh? You are the Tandi…” he covers his mouth.
I roll my eyes. This conversation is so over. I am going home and not the reception. Everyone apparently knows. “Yes, the other girl in the whole story. Excuse me. I need to leave. It was great chatting with you.”
I walk away, full of emotion. I thought I had put a lid on it; shoved it to the bottom of my emotion pot but no, it came right up to the surface. I hear quick steps behind me.
“Wait Kemi! Can I call you Kemi? I really want to see you again.”
It was weird hearing my real name being called. Everyone called me Tandi, after the drink Tandi Guarana but that is a story for another day. I walk a little slowly till he catches up with me, “sorry. I don’t think I can wait around.”
“you mean the reception? Osh please, let’s run away together.” He says and I laugh.
“What I mean is, let us go hang out somewhere. I really do not like all the reception paparazzi. I would rather be in the company of a beautiful woman.” He pacifies me.
I think to myself, one Art is as good as another. This one seemed more direct in his thinking and I liked that. It was a change. I would not have to assume. Maybe Gifty and I would be in-laws after all.
“Okay, lead the way.” I said and we left laughing together.
Are you interested in a Part 3? I hope that is a yes from you. Part 3 is where the fun part of this story will be. Stay tuned.