Kamiye started with a gentle massage of Pelumi’s wrist. With deliberate care, she took on each finger, delicately flexing one at a time to abate stiffness like the physiotherapist had taught to. Pelumi didn’t pull away like she had the first time. Already, she was getting used to the little exercise. There were no such things as ‘little’ improvements. Every single one marked a milestone, and Kamiye showed it in her encouraging smile.
The day marked the seventh since the amnesia diagnose. As far as things were, there were no signs of an immediate pull out of it. Thankfully, there were improvements in other aspects, particularly her communication and interpretation skills. A proof of that was her fast-rising vocabulary, with a huge flow of words from whatever part of her brain had hoarded them. At seldom, her words charged in syllables. That, the language therapist had ruled as normal, with a promise of improvement. A series of medical tests had also shown complete healing of the injury to her brain, leaving only psychological and physical scars. Physical scars, they could care for medically. But psychological healing depended on her brain.
Another laudable landmark was her gradual warm up to Tobi, after days of constant visits. Irrespective, his presence still boded with limitations. Anything less than a considerable gap of two feets, then the occasional wariness was back. Tobi had been forced into accepting and cherishing whatever opportunity she gave him no matter how small. ‘A day at a time’, he constantly told himself.
With Kamiye, she was perfectly at ease and trusting. For she absorbed and clung to every of Kamiye’s word, like some long deprived empty cistern that yearned for a fill. Pelumi had grown thirsty and insatiable for knowledge. And who would blame her?
Then, there were the twins she still had not opened up to. The boys were yet to recover from the hurt that stemmed from her yell on their last visit. It had been so heart-wrenching to watch. Apparently, Pelumi’s fear of males knew no age. To spare everyone more hurt than they already felt, Kamiye had decided it was best to keep the boys away, pending when Pelumi finally mastered coping with the opposite sex. He hoped it would not be long. Dimeji and Tomiwa were not exceptions of her frightful outburst. Tomiwa had been stung the most, considering his feeling for the woman. In anger, he had even sworn to pay back whoever was responsible for her phobia. They had all laughed it off considering the impossibility of his words. Firstly, no one knew the major cause for her psychological breakdown. Secondly, Tomiwa held a standing reputation of ‘barks and no actions’.
“Tolu and Tayo really want to see you.” Kamiye carefully replaced Pelumi’s arm on a pillow.
“Who are they?”
She started to explain. “My kids, my sons…my boys”
“No, no.” Pelumi responded with an aggressive shake of her head, obviously ticked by the word ‘boys’.
Kamiye thought of ways to let her know Tolu and Tayo were only harmless little kids. A thought clicked in her mind. Immediately, she dashed to the couch, dug out her wallet from her bag and pulled out a pocket-sized family picture from it. Pelumi’s curious stare was enough reward as she crossed back. Seizing the opportunity, she held it out for her to see.
Pelumi stared blankly at the picture. After what seemed like minutes, she reached tentatively for it. Kamiye let her have it with a sinking wave of disappointment at the lost look in her sister-in-law’s eyes. She had thought the picture would spark some recognition.
“Mother?” she looked up from the photo after what seemed like eternity.
“Mother?” She asked again, pointing an index finger to Kamiye “You?’
Pelumi’s speech was sporadic. One minute she was fluent as a parrot, the next, they were jagged like a kid’s who was learning to talk. Kamiye tried to patch both words together.
“Oh yes” Kamiye nodded with full understanding. “I’m their mother. Their mummy.” she rejoiced with a broad smile that almost split her face in two. It seemed like the picture was helping afterall. A flicker of hope rose in Kamiye’s heart.
Pelumi stared thoughtfully into space and then spoke up “Where is my mother?”
This time, Kamiye looked to Tobi behind her for rescue. Tobi rose from his seat, and walked towards them. Pelumi’s eyes grew in fear.
Kamiye tapped a comforting palm over hers. “He is your brother, my husband”
A frown formed on her face. She was lost again with the word husband.
“Your brother.” she said again, leaving it at that this time.
Tobi lowered himself to a seat. “I’m your brother, Tobi” he introduced himself. He knew his constant repeated introduction was beginning to come out like a broken record. Nevertheless, he swore to keep at it until she finally knew who he was.
“Brother?” her right brow rose questioningly.
“Yes” Tobi smiled at her familiar raised brow. Not even amnesia could take away some deep-rooted habits.
“Father?” She asked again leaving him confused until this time pointing at the picture still in her hand.
“Yes, yes. I’m their father. Their daddy” He breathed with relief, thankful she had not inquired about their father.
Her gaze flicked first from Kamiye, to Tobi. Both faces held comforting looks.
Pelumi was really beginning to have a head around things. That was a start Kamiye was grateful for.
Pelumi shifted her gaze to a spot behind Kamiye’s head, with a lost, sad and forlorn look in her eyes. “I can’t remember……anything” tears sprung to her eyes. Kamiye smooth her palm over hers, reassuring her of her presence all the way to recovery. “Words….” She trailed off adding after a long moment. “Can’t find them.”
“I know. I know.” Pity tugged painfully in Kamiye’s heart. “Don’t worry. They’ll come gradually” she smiled encouragingly.
“Mother?” her question was once again directed at Tobi. The urgency in her voice almost made him jump.
“Mother?” she started again, gesticulating with her index finger pointing at him, and back at herself. “You, me…our mother.”
He stared at her for a moment, contemplating what best to tell her. The truth he decided. “She is dead.”
She frowned, then her face fell in deep sadness, that spoke of her understanding of the word ‘death’.
With a paused breath, Tobi prayed that she would not ask him about the incidence surrounding her death. Thankfully, she did not, but dropped a shocker nevertheless.
Tobi sucked in a quick breath, one he hoped she had not noticed, for Pelumi had always been good at gauging reactions. He didn’t know what to tell her. But surely, lies were not an option. He did not want to, he couldn’t. Every detail mattered to her memories. Yet, it was too early to fill her with sordid childhood details. Her male phobia already was bad enough. He swallowed nervously and spoke after a moment’s hesitation. “He is not around.” A rap sounded at the door, and then it opened to Eniola. Tobi gave a mental sigh of relief. Never had he been more grateful for anyone’s intrusion.
Eniola’s face lit in a guarded smile as she walked under Pelumi’s curious stare. Even in her boss’ blanked out state, her respect for the lady had not changed. She said her greetings to Kamiye and Tobi, shortly inquiring about his health, and turned to Pelumi with a cool off greeting. She still did not know how to interact with her highly esteemed, career possessed, over demanding mentor, who constantly had things under control, but had lost it in a twinkle. Pelumi replied her greetings and said nothing more, but watched Eniola’s every action, starting with her placed bag on the nightstand.
“I got you fruits, mostly apples and cucumber, and pineapple. You love them a lot.” Pelumi watched the strange lady fire on like a machine gun with her words rolling out fast from her tongue. “And also some chocolates.” she spoke on “You literally can’t do without them. You always said chewing helps you think better. ” Her eyes grew as she spoke. Suddenly, Pelumi broke into a hearty laughter that left everyone confused, especially Eniola with a glum look at being laughed at.
“Funny.” She finally said “You are funny.” She repeated again, and everyone joined in the laughter, with the air going calm again.
Itching for action, Eniola took out a bar of chocolate from the bag and handed it to Pelumi, who kept close watch on her in that domineering way, that could make one think the whole memory loss thing was nothing but an act.
“Who are you?” she demanded with the old bossy like look, that got Eniola smiling amidst the harsh reality of Pelumi’s amnesiac state. It still hurt to imagine their experiences together were forgotten and down in the drain.
“I’m Eniola. Your student?”
Pelumi’s face wrinkled in a perplexed frown. “I run a school?”
No one could suppress the ensuing laughter, but Eniola. She just could not bring herself to laugh at her mentor. She just couldn’t. A soft smile spread on Pelumi’s face.
“No. You are a high class journalist and the best in the world.” Eniola started, slowly and carefully, spelling out her words in a comprehensible way. “You are my mentor and I’m your protege. And that means you are teaching me how to become an excellent journalist like you.”
Pelumi seemed thoughtful for a moment, trying to process the recent information. “A good journalist.” she re-echoed, testing the word. From the look on her face, it seemed like she had vague ideas of what that was.
“So are you my friend?”
The question threw Eniola off balance. Never had she considered herself that to her boss. A nod from Kamiye told Eniola to do the same. She swallowed and nodded instead, unable to speak the word. Pelumi looked to Kamiye and Tobi for approval. Only at both nods, did she accept the gold wrapped bar.
She took it, and turned it over for inspection like it was her first, and then she passed it to Kamiye to unwrap.
Eniola had great respect for her boss. She feared her in a motivating way. Truthfully, like everyone else, she’d wished Pelumi would soften up a little. But never had she wished her amnesia. It was too devastating to see her boss stare strangely at her favourite bar of chocolate. Not in a million years would she have thought that. Yet, here was she, staring strangely at one of her indulgences like it had come from another planet.
“You’ll love it. You always did.”
She looked first at Eniola, then at the brown bar in the half-peeled gold wrapper. With slight hesitation, she took bite under their curious stares. She loved it. Within minutes, she was done and demanding for a second bar. A first smile of relief appeared on Eniola’s lips. It was great Pelumi’s love for chocolates had not changed. It made her less unfamiliar.
Pelumi ignored the rounds of laughter, as she bit greedily into her second bar.
“So you’re my friend.” she licked the smeared bit on the wrapper.
“Am I a good person?” she raised her head with a slight tilt. Her eyes held a lot of seriousness.
Eniola’s response needed no speculation. Pelumi might be the bossiest and most difficult of women to work with, but her goodness was undisputable. Sadly, most never saw that part, but the ‘image’ she’d projected through the years.
“Yes, you are a wonderful person. And I love you so much” Eniola’s words rang with sincerity.
Pelumi paused with her chocolate mid-air “Do I love you?”
A grin formed on Eniola’s lips. They sure had had a few ups and downs in the past, but she had always considered her boss loved her amidst it all. Sticking out for her uncountable times with the board was more than enough display of love. “I think you do.”
She smiled back at Eniola. “I think….you are good too.” she said, causing everyone to burst into another fit of laughter.