Kayode did not answer his mother’s call; instead he put his phone on airplane mode. There comes a time in a man’s life when he must make a decision that favours his biggest life goal. That time had come for Kayode. He put Funmi back to bed, and set up the last drip that James provided, after she brushed her teeth. He smiled at her shyly, and she smiled back. The little exchange was even more intimate than when he held her in his arms some minutes ago. It did not matter what anybody thought. He couldn’t stay away from Funmi, and if these were the only moments they could ever have, he was not going to deny himself.
Kayode held her other hand, the one that did not have the drip, to his lips and kissed it gently. Funmi’s smile slowly disappeared. It was happening. This young man was beginning to capture her heart and she was losing the battle to keep him away. If she were being honest, she would admit that every touch meant something to her now, and like a child starved of affection she wanted to lap it up. When was the last time a man had looked at her the way Kayode did? How could she have missed knowing that he had feelings for her? This was no overnight affection, and he was showing it unashamedly now.
“What will you like to eat this morning?” Kayode asked, breaking Funmi’s chain of thoughts.
“Whatever you decide to cook is fine. Nothing fancy, though. We wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”
Kayode shook his head in disagreement, “Nothing but the best for my favourite patient.”
Funmi smiled. Her childhood dream was coming to reality in the weirdest way ever. She had always wanted a live-in professional chef. She was a self-proclaimed foodie, but she did not have enough time in the day to explore in the kitchen. She wanted someone who could dedicate time to that on her behalf; someone who could combine seemingly basic ingredients to create an explosion of flavours; someone who knew what he was doing. Let’s be real, in her fantasies, it was always a he. “Surprise me. I probably won’t eat much, but my appetite is better than it was yesterday.”
“Hmmmmnn,” Kayode thought, rubbing his palms together. “How does crab eggs benedict sound?”
“What? You don’t like it?” Kayode asked.
“How about something a little more basic?” Funmi said almost shyly. “The simpler the meal, the higher the chances that I can keep it down.”
Kayode was amused that shy was an emotion Funmi could express. “Say no more,” he replied and pecked the back of her hand for the last time before leaving the room.
Kayode’s love for his mother was incontestable. Despite his bold decision to ignore her call and tend to Funmi instead, a part of his mind was with her too. She was more than just a mother to him; they were friends and he could tell her anything. It might have been one of the perks a last born child enjoyed, but she never really scolded him too much. At the most awkward and uncertain times, Kayode was always able to speak with his mother.
This was more than awkward, and he was worried that she’d be worried sick. He was afraid, but he decided it was time to call his mum back. To his pleasant surprise, however, when she answered his call, there was no ounce of worry whatsoever in her voice.
“Where did you put your phone again, Kitchen boy?” she asked, calling him by his teenage nickname.
“I was attending to something ni, Maami. Ekaaro ma,” Kayode replied, still half waiting for all hell to break loose. Except there was no hell; the woman had called to rant. Her business was put to an indefinite hold last Sunday when the Lagos State Governor had announced that all civil servants below level 13 stay home from work. Kayode’s mum owns a big restaurant in Alausa Ikeja, where the majority of her clientele were civil servants coming for breakfast and lunch. She could remain open if she wanted and sell take-outs, but it would have been a waste of time and effort, because over eighty percent of her regular customers where not buying food.
“I am getting bored,” she said to Kayode who breathed a sigh of relief. She obviously did not know that he was harbouring a potential covid-19 patient.
“Don’t worry, Maami, it will soon be over,” Kayode encouraged his mum.
“I am not worried o. I am just happy you are back from London, and you are doing fine. I heard people are bringing the disease from abroad so I have been scared for you. I hope you didn’t contact anyone that could have infected you.”
Kayode smiled sheepishly. If only she knew. And she probably will know soon enough when Soji carries out his threat of telling her. “I am fine, Maami, you really shouldn’t be worrying about me.”
“See this boy o! Let me worry please. That’s my job,” his mother replied. Kayode smiled. She was never going to stop seeing him as a boy.
“Let me call you back ma, I am handling something here.”
“Wait, don’t call me back. What are you handling? I want to come and visit you for a few days, so send a taxi to come and pick me. Or will you come by yourself?” Kayode’s mother said and he wanted to sink into the ground.
How was he going to tell her not to come? This corona virus situation just had the world upside down. Before today his mother rarely agreed to sleep over at his house but now she was volunteering to come when he housed a potential covid-19 patient that had captured his heart.
Two hours later, Kayode entered his room and dropped a bowl of pap and freshly made akara on the table beside the bed. Thankfully, he found a way to postpone his mother’s visit. There was no way he could allow his 63-year old mother be around his house now. The risk was his alone to take.
He told his mother that he was self-quarantining for two weeks because he just got back from London and it wasn’t safe for her to be around him, especially being of the more vulnerable population. She had panicked a bit; scared that he might have put himself at risk of infection just because of a stupid cooking festival, but he had convinced her that he was just doing it as routine precaution.
Now, he had all the time to focus on Funmi.
Funmi smiled at the bowl of pap and akara. She had not eaten the meal for over five years, and somehow her appetite seemed to be excited about the choice. Needless to say, when Kayode came back thirty minutes later, after he left to pick James’s call in private, the entire food had disappeared. He found that such a small thing could make him smile, despite his annoyance.
James had called to tell him that there was a delay with the test results. The lab attendant who received the samples from him went into labour unexpectedly before properly transferring the case to a colleague.
The earlier they knew Funmi’s status the sooner they could treat her for whatever she had. However, they had to wait for James to come and take her blood samples again. The only bright side to the whole thing, if you can even call it a bright side, was that James was coming with an NCDC team so that they could specifically test her for COVID-19 now that they were sure that she had contact with an infected person.
He didn’t know how to break the news to her. She looked better than earlier, and he didn’t want to see her worry. There was no cheap way out of it; her reaction was already changing in response to Kayode’s own.
“I thought you were going to applaud me for finishing my meal in record time,” Funmi said, trying to sound normal.
“Oh I am excited. In fact I have already set lunch in motion,” Kayode replied, smiling faintly as he packed her plates.
“Are you okay?” Funmi asked, visibly worried.
“James called,” Kayode said, taking a seat. Funmi sat up.
“Your doctor friend?”
Kayode nodded affirmatively.
“What did he say? Do I have the virus?” Funmi asked.
“Your samples got mixed up, so he’s coming back to get another set.” Kayode responded gently.
Kayode sighed. He owed her the full truth and needed to prepare her. “Soji called James as well. He’s coming with an NCDC team to test you for the virus.”
Funmi was still and quiet for over a minute, and when she finally spoke, she surprised Kayode.
“I don’t want to have to stay at the infectious disease hospital. I hate the smell of sickness, but I need to prepare for the worst. Please, kindly excuse me; I need to speak with my staff.”
Kayode had excused her swiftly, feeling awkward, but in another three hours, he found out what she needed her staff to do. The dispatch guy had arrived with a brand new laptop, an internet modem, notepads, and a file with printed official document. There was also a bag that contained comfortable clothing, disposable underwear, a sleeping mask, flashlight, a hair bonnet, a tooth brush, tooth paste, a bathing sponge, bathing gel, shaving cream, and a towel.
He was a bit uncomfortable checking through the things she ordered, but curiosity won. Her detailing was unnerving. One would think that she was preparing to go on a retreat rather than the likelihood of being admitted to be managed for a virus. No wonder she was so successful. Funmi left nothing to chance. How could a person be prepared at all times?
She was sleeping when he took the items to the room so he was careful not to wake her up before going to finish cooking lunch.
Funmi opened her eyes as soon as Kayode left. She had pretended to sleep when he came in. He had changed his clothes and obviously showered, because he smelled fresh.
Funmi wanted to shower too, maybe water on her skin would calm the growing affection she was beginning to have for Soji’s brother. It’s not like she could help it. She was only human in reacting to Kayode’s obvious devotion. She was sick, possibly dying, there was no need to lie to herself. Priorities change when you realise that you may be living in your last moments.
Nonetheless, this was not something she could act upon. One way or another, she was going to leave this house and its owner today. Her symptoms were similar to that of the covid-19 patients she had read about. She only prayed that Kayode’s immunity was strong enough to ward off the evil disease. It would be so painful for such a pleasant man to suffer because he cared for her.
What had he meant earlier, when he said he was a nice guy for her? Those words turned her into a teenager again. They awakened emotions that she didn’t know she was still capable of feeling. But the timing is so wrong, and this guy is so young.
Kayode heard the sound of water from the bathroom, before seeing that Funmi was no longer on the bed. She had obviously removed the drip and had gone to shower now that she had everything she needed. He felt so irresponsible. How could he not have known that she would need to clean up? She looked good to him; it didn’t even cross his mind.
He was particular about food, and could win an award with the combination of amala, gbegiri, and ewedu, a local Yoruba delicacy, he had just whipped up for her. He set the small bedside table with the meal, and quickly disappeared before she appeared from the bathroom and cause him to lose his home training.
The thought of her in the shower made his mind race with wild thoughts. The ringing of the doorbell punctured those thoughts, as he walked out of the room to welcome the caller.
It was James at the door, and for the first time since he could remember, he didn’t want to see his friend.
Today, James represented bad news.
James’s connections had also brought the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)team faster than they would have come. Their ambulance was already driving into the compound. He could already imagine the neighbours’ reaction to their arrival. They would stigmatise him for at least a month even if he tests negative for the virus.
“Why did they bring an ambulance? It’s not like we have any confirmed case that they have come to whisk away,” Kayode said without greeting his friend. James did not enter the house, but maintained a noticeable distance from him despite being fully clothed in protective gear from head to toe.
Kayode stepped outside to his friend. “Is all this necessary?”
“You are my guy, that’s why I am doing the best to help you, but I draw the line when it comes to safety.” James said, and Kayode sighed. He felt truly lucky to have James.
“Thank you,” Kayode finally said. James smiled.
“Now you are talking. I pulled a lot of strings to be here with the ambulance. They are just coming from testing a high network individual’s wife in Ikoyi. I happen to be family’s physician. They got an ambulance with a mini laboratory so that they can do the test and provide the result before we leave. You know rich people don’t like waiting.” James said.
“Was the woman positive?” Kayode wanted to know.
James nodded affirmatively. “But she doesn’t want to go to the infectious disease centre. We will leave it up to the commissioner to decide what to do with her. She’s not showing symptoms yet, but she is now in isolation.” He shrugged, “I know you think I am being overly cautious because you may be contagious, but I am high risk too. For all we know your woman may not have it, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to bring it to you.” James looked worn out.
Kayode was going to respond, but Funmi showed up. “Have they come for the test?” she wanted to know. Kayode’s heart broke. He couldn’t bear the possibility that something as deadly as the corona virus had infected the woman he so badly wanted a chance to love.
Funmi had to be the bravest woman alive. She had shown no emotion as the sample was taken about an hour ago. She had also remained quiet as she listened to James speak to her about the findings from the other tests he did. Luckily for them, one of the lab assistants had found the results with her name on it.
The test detected some malaria, and typhoid in her blood. James explained that the typhoid was the reason for the headache. He had prescribed drugs that she must begin if it happens that she was confirmed negative from COVID-19. He also recommended some lifestyle adjustments she needed to make in order to stay healthy. They sat at the front porch, since James did not want to go inside.
Kayode was with them, but did not hear a word from their exchange. His mind was on the test going on in the mobile laboratory.
A black mercedes drove into the compound and parked in the lot, but the engine continued running and the driver remained seated inside. Kayode wondered if it was a visitor for the neighbours who had suddenly gotten scared because of the ambulance. Everyone was trying to be careful.
A lab attendant summoned James over to give him the test result. Time froze as Kayode and Funmi observed his face for a reaction.
James smiled. “It’s the typhoid. You tested negative for covid-19!”
Funmi was still. This was the good news she wanted, but her body had grown exhausted from hope. Kayode on the other hand was ecstatic. He jumped to embrace James, but of course, James swerved to avoid the contact.
“I have told you, Kayode, you are not invincible, stop trying to touch potential high risk people.” James said, and they all laughed and exchanged pleasantries briefly before James left.
Funmi went back into the house, while Kayode asked for a few minutes to get some things across the road. Now that he knew what they were treating, he could be more precise in nursing her back to health. He took the prescription James wrote to the nearby pharmacy to purchase the drugs.
However, when he arrived back to the compound, he was in for a surprise. A man was putting Funmi’s things into the Mercedes.
“What is this about?” Kayode asked her.
“I wouldn’t have left before you came back,” Funmi responded, taking his hands into hers. “I am so grateful for your care, but I have to go and treat myself properly.”
Now that there was no barrier of a virus, Funmi wasn’t sure she could trust herself around Kayode. In just a few days, he had become important, and his touch vital for survival. She was older. She had to be the responsible one, or they could end up starting a journey that would lead them nowhere.
“I can take care of you,” Kayode said, pulling his hand from hers and holding her shoulders.
Funmi smiled, and Kayode felt like a child. Why is she leaving me now? He really wanted her to stay, even if it was just for one more night, but Funmi seemed determined; her mind fully made up. She must have arranged for her driver to be on standby. One thing was obvious; she did not plan to remain in his place tonight. It was either she left for the Infectious Disease Centre or she left to go back home.
Either way, she no longer wanted to be around him, Kayode thought.
Ten minutes later, the only sign that Funmi had been in that house was the cold bowl of Amala left untouched in his room. Kayode’s heart fell.