James was irritated. He had just concluded a night shift at his job, as a junior consultant doctor at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, when Kayode pleaded that he come to his house immediately.
Reluctantly, James left the hospital in Ikeja, driving through increasing traffic at 7:00 am for Lekki Phase 1 where Kayode lives, expecting to help with an emergency.
There was an emergency alright; A very irritating, self-inflicted one. Kayode was not dying of food poisoning or some deadly illness that had left him incapacitated. Instead, he invited him over to attend to a woman, who for all they all knew, might have been infected with COVID-19 while away on her trip to London.
The woman, who was not Kayode’s wife, not his mother, not his sister, not even his girlfriend, was lying half conscious on his bed, her temperature high enough to brew a cup of coffee. This irritated James to no end.
After examining Funmi very briefly, while fully kitted in a facemask and hand gloves, James pulled Kayode to the living room, where Tade was already standing with a box of clothes and essentials.
“Are you stupid?” James asked Kayode rudely. He was pissed and didn’t see the need to hide it.
“I really don’t know what is wrong with him, but I am not waiting here to find out.” Tade retorted.
Tade is a building contractor who lives in Magodo Lagos, but when he got acontract to build a filling station somewhere in Lekki, he had naturally moved in with Kayode, so that he could be closer to the site.
Kayode, James, and Tade had been friends since secondary school, and though they went to different universities, and are in different fields of practice, they were still inseparable. They knew almost everything about each other. In this case, almost is a key word.
Neither James not Tade knew about the emotions Kayode had been suppressing with regards to Funmi, so his sudden devotion and desperate actions were shocking.
“You both need to calm down” Kayode said, and walked to the dispenser to pour himself a drink.
Tade and James starred at him, waiting for him to speak further, and offer an explanation as to why a sick woman was on his bed, in his room, but Kayode ignored them. He finished the glass of water he just poured, and refilled another glass before meeting their gazes.
“She is an old friend. We flew into Lagos together yesterday from London, and she has been very ill. I had to help her; it would have been unfair to do otherwise.” Kayode finally said, hoping his friends would understand and stop questioning him. But they did not.
“When did you become the good Samaritan? And how come we don’t know her and you have not mentioned anything about her, if she is your old friend?” James snapped.
“You could have easily called an ambulance to get her instead of bringing her home, if you really wanted to simply help,” Tade added.
Kayode snarled at both of them “You don’t have any right to question my decisions. You both need to mind your business.”
“This became my business the moment you called me to come to your house and treat her here. And you deceived me. I thought something was wrong with you.”
Something was definitely wrong with Kayode, because even he could not understand his own actions. He simply wanted to protect Funmi, and when she had begged that he take her home, he couldn’t find it in him to say no. In retrospect, that was a stupid decision, and his friends had the right to be upset. But he didn’t have the address to her house, and if he was telling himself the truth, he wanted to see the end of this illness of hers, to supervise her improvement, and ensure she was well.
“Guys, I really need to leave; we have to put in some more work today, because Sanwoolu has declared a lockdown in Lagos from tomorrow,” Tade said, and started to leave with his box.
“I am sorry” Kayode apologised for endangering his friend, and that was almost enough for Tade, who threw a salute before leaving. He may not agree with Kayode, but he understood that he won’t be doing this if it wasn’t important. He just silently prayed that, no one is going to suffer any dire consequences from his impulsive moves.
“Bro, let’s sit and talk about this situation and the medical implications,” James muttered, slipping into one of Kayode’s living room sofas. He was already very tired from work the night before, and just needed to sleep right now.
But Kayode wasn’t having it. “Let’s go back to my room to check up on her.
James sighed and stood up, “I will check her one more time, very briefly, and leave.”
“Haba. Are you not bound by the Hippocratic oath?” Kayode scowled.
“Yes I am. But that lady needs to be in a hospital. I don’t know why you are hiding her in your house. That is very risky.” James said, walking towards Kayode’s room. “However, I will do what I can, which is not much until I am able to test properly so that I know what I am treating her for.
Kayode relaxed a bit, “Thanks Bro! I owe you one.”
Two hours later, Kayode sat beside his bed on a chair as he watched Funmi, still asleep, but looking better than before. James had gone to a nearby pharmacy to get a line and some drips, as well as the materials he needed to take her samples. He had injected her with a pain killer, set a drip for her, and taken the sample he needed for a blood test.
He still did not understand Kayode’s motives, but had momentarily decided to stop questioning it. Instead, he focused on giving his new patient all his attention. It was paying off.
Slowly, Funmi opened her eyes, and against better reasoning Kayode gently held her hands. James had told him to keep a distance from the patient before leaving until he had a diagnosis.
It was difficult seeing Funmi as a patient. Much worse, seeing this strong woman he knew look so weak, lying helpless on his bed. Another reason it made no sense to stay away from her was that if she was truly infected with a contagious disease, she’d most likely already infected him.
“Where am I?” Funmi asked as she came to, her voice was weak. The headache was still there, with some fever, but it felt like something had locked part of the pain away, making her feel almost good. She wanted more of what it was.
“You are in my room.” Kayode responded softly, stroking her palms to relax her. Funmi was far from relaxed. She pulled her palm out of his hold, and almost jumped off the bed, but fell back, dizzy. Clearly she had tried to get up too quickly.
“Slow down,” Kayode bellowed softly, afraid that she will hurt herself.
Funmi relaxed her body, but not her voice. “Why am I in your room, in your house, with a drip connected to the back of my palm?”
“Because you are sick and hurting” Kayode started to say, but Funmi cut him short.
“The last time I checked, you were a Chef, not a Doctor, and this place is not a hospital.”
“You are not my prisoner. I am not holding you here out of your will. You can leave if you want.” Kayode said angrily, rising to leave the room so he could suppress his anger, but Funmi held his hands, in a weak attempt to stop him from leaving. It was a hold strong enough to destroy any anger that was building in him.
“Why am I here?” Funmi asked again, gentler this time, and Kayode sat by her side again.
“I was at your office at 4 am today, standing by to take you home. Your security officer and I found you passed out by your desk. I was going to take you to a hospital, but you begged that I take you home before passing out on me. I don’t know your home, so I brought you to mine.”
“Oh” Funmi said, and released her hold from Kayode, obviously embarrassed at her earlier reaction.“I am sorry”, she said and looked away, as that part of her memory returned to her.
Kayode hated to see her that way “Nothing to be sorry about. I am glad I was there to help.”
“I was just scared. I didn’t want them to take me into some isolation centre, when I know for a fact that I don’t have the virus.” Funmi said, one tear trickling down her cheek. Kayode scooted his chair closer, and held her hand again. Her high temperature was going down, but holding her made him feel warm inside. He would do anything to protect her.
“There is no way to know that you have not contracted the virus till a test is done,” Kayode said softly, and Funmi turned to catch his eye.
“Then why are you touching me?” Funmi asked softly, suddenly unable to fathom why Kayode was being so nice to her.
“I don’t know,” Kayode whispered, moving his chair closer. Feeling bolder, he put his hands on her hair and stroked gently. “I don’t know”, he said again, “but I can’t bring myself to stop, and I really want to be here for you, no matter the outcome of the test”.
“What test?” Funmi asked, scared.
“Don’t worry” Kayode consoled her, already distracted by the feel of her hair on his fingers.. He liked how she wore the natural afro, black and wine tinted.
“What test Kayode?” Funmi asked again, but the sound of his name on her lips is all he heard. If she had not continued to stare at him, he would not have known to answer.
“I am not sure, but my doctor friend said he will run a series of them to know what is going on with you,” he finally spat out.
“Okay, but I need to go home.” Funmi replied softly, and Kayode sighed, taking his hand away from her hair. Funmi found that she missed the feel of his hands on her head. It was weird that she would have that reaction to Soji’s younger brother’s touch. The ailment must be something serious.
But it wasn’t the sickness, Funmi realised, when Kayode began to stroke her wrist and said “I can’t let you go yet ma’am, till we get the test results, please isolate yourself here.”
Funmi pulled her hand away from his touch, because she was actually enjoying it, and that was weird. More than just her health was responding to his kindness. Within the last two days she was beginning to see him as a man, not just Soji’s younger brother, or a consulting chef for her organisation.
He also was definitely not gay. His room bore the mark of a manly man, from the window blinds to the furniture, and even the black and white choice of bedspread. The only feminine item in the room was the covering cloth which was made of comfortable fur fabric. But even if his room did not exude masculinity, his touch did. Each time he had touched her, she felt like a woman.
Funmi had not felt like a woman for a long time. There was a time when she had hopes of marriage, and falling in love, and to be fair, she’s had three potential husbands since starting her business. In the end she had to let them go, because she just could not prioritize them, and she knew that was a recipe for a failed marriage.
The first man was George, her head of human resources at Good Experiences. He was her teenage boyfriend and was there when she started the company, helping with structure and paper work. The relationship had faded, and changed. She was his boss, and for some reason couldn’t be anything else. George had politely ended the relationship, because he valued his position at the company, and was committed to be part of its growth. He got married eight years ago, and now has two lovely children.
The other two men had been business tycoons like Funmi. They related mechanically through secretaries and personal assistants to schedule dates. Ten years ago, Emeka her second boyfriend was going to propose to her, he had planned everything on a grand style, but Funmi cancelled last minute because of a work conference. That surely put a knife to that relationship; Emeka was too embarrassed to go on with their arrangement.
Finally, Yinka who was her boyfriend until four years ago, the one her family thought she would eventually marry because of his attention and charisma, was caught in bed with Ruth, her former secretary of eleven years since the start the company. Somehow, between arranging dates for Yinka and Funmi, an affair had bloomed. That affair, once in the open, became more; a year after they were caught, they apparently got hitched.
Did Funmi regret her choices and the way her romantic life had turned out? Not really. She was fully prepared to follow the steps to have children on her own if the right guy did not come along. It was not the traditional way the general Nigerian society went about it, but her chances of the right guy coming along were now very slim. Scarred from past experiences, she was not too eager to meet men; she rarely had time to socialize anyways.
Something was different about Kayode. It was too soon to tell if it was the fever that was messing with her head, but something about the way he dropped absolutely everything to focus on her one hundred percent was getting to her. She wanted to leave as soon as possible, but he was right, she had to isolate till the test results came in; even if she had to endure looking at his surprisingly broad shoulders that he was now flaunting in the sleeveless shirt he wore.
“Would you like something to eat? I’m thinking to make some catfish pepper soup with vegetables and sweet potatoes?” Kayode asked, suddenly remembering that he was very hungry too.
As he asked the question, he realized he was touching her again, as though he couldn’t keep his hands off her. Funmi smiled. “Yes please, with plenty pepper,” she replied and Kayode smiled, rising to head to his kitchen his hands still holding on to hers.
“You will be alright, ma’am, don’t worry about anything now. I will take care of you,” Kayode finally said, after staring at her for a cool 45 seconds, before leaving the room.
Funmi could not bring herself to respond to his promise. The way Kayode was behaving, and risking his life too, one could begin to wonder if he had feelings for her. That had to be impossible! Not only is he Soji’s baby brother, he is also at least six years younger, and he always addressed her in the culturally appropriate way one references an older person, just as he did his brother, Soji.
The young man was just been an absolute gentleman, she had no business reading any meaning to his actions. But it was hard to be in his room, sleeping on his bed, perceiving his fragrance, wrapped in his fur covering cloth, and not think about Kayode as a man.
It had taken all the manly strength, and self respect Kayode could muster not to have kissed her hands before dropping it. The urge to simply feel his lips on her skin was so strong, he was glad for the excuse to leave the room.
If he had just concluded a 100 metre race, his heart wouldn’t beat faster. Kayode felt like a child. All his goals, dreams, and aspiration dissolved into one desire; a chance to pull Funmi into his arms and keep her there.
The sound of his phone ringing from his pocket jolted him back to reality, and he wished that he had switched it off.
His brother Soji was the last person he wanted to speak with right now, but he answered the call anyway, because knowing his brother, the phone won’t stop ringing.
“Good Morning, Brother” Kayode greeted, feigning enthusiasm.
“You better have a good excuse for missing my bachelor party last night.” Soji said without responding to his greeting.
“I am so sorry. I had an emergency,” Kayode replied, hoping it would be enough excuse but knowing it won’t be.
“Tade told me that this so-called emergency involves a woman you came back from London with,” Soji said, already calming down, fully ready to tease his younger brother. “You could have brought her to the party.”
“She is ill. I had to take care of her,” Kayode confessed, but managed to confuse Soji even more.
“Are you alright? Please who is this lady? Do I know her? Does it even make sense to be caring for a sick person who just came back from London?” Soji asked impatiently.
“I don’t know?”
“What do you mean by you don’t know, Kayode? Have you been hypnotised? Abi she cooked efo for you? Where are you?” Soji bellowed. He was definitely the worry wart of the family. .
“Brother Soji, enough with these questions. I am fine. Don’t worry about me.” Kayode said impatiently. He was tempted to end Soji’s call, and Soji sensed it, so he took a deep breath and added, gently, “Of course, I will worry. Where are you?”
“I am at home.” Kayode said reluctantly.
“Good. Just stay there. You shouldn’t have any contact with the sick lady until COVID-19 has been ruled out. She seems important to you, seeing as you missed my party. You are important to many of us too, so don’t get carried away by a fling.”
“It’s not a fling” Kayode said, and wished he had just kept quiet, because Soji sighed, then asked more seriously, “Kayode, who is this lady that has left your brain half-fried?”
Kayode did not know if he should answer his brother’s question. He was not even sure how to answer his brother’s question.