Indeed, there was a bounty on their heads; and because of that, they were always on the run. But this would be over soon, they knew. After today, everything would be in the past. But the day seemed oblivious of dusk, so they would run for the last time today. They were in the country’s most wanted list and half a million naira was ready for anyone who was able to nab either of them, a million if the two were caught. Their pictures filled the columns of every national newspaper, their names were mentioned in every news on the televisions and in the radios. They had become the most exciting topic since the Ebola outbreak that ravaged the country a year earlier. Even cartoonists had made jokes about their escapes and the enthusiasms of the citizens in the determination to apprehend them and receive the reward. Many gamblers of the streets had even speculated on the possibility of their apprehension. They were the talks of the town; you could see most people at the newspaper stands arguing heatedly about the truth behind their escape. Some other people had even claimed that they were intentionally freed.
But amidst this national excitement, some of the masses had set up a fan club in honour of the escapees. They called themselves TBF—The Black Followers. These ‘Followers’, however, had campaigned for the escapees’ full liberation, but the law didn’t always listen to the voice of the people when she was in the hunt for hardened criminals. Law-keepers would do everything in their capacity to make sure that these criminals returned behind bars. And the public tried to assist in the hunt only because there was money involved.
Although it had been almost a year since their escape, the rave and passion over their apprehension had not waned. People still imagined themselves catching the fugitives and collecting the reward. But how and where to catch them, none of the seekers knew; there was no plan, no deduction whatsoever, even after knowing how clever their preys were.
It was all about the money of course, Junior knew. He knew that if money had not been involved the people would not have enjoined the lawmen in the hunt for them. Someone among the crowd had recognized one of them and had immediately shouted out the name that had always remained on the tip of everyone’s tongue; and about half a dozen men and women had come running after the trio. Junior knew what would happen if they were caught again. So he, his father, and his pregnant wife, had made an instant bolt.
Thankfully, they ran into a quiet street. Junior knew that he and his father would have disappeared from the scene of pursuit on the instant if his heavily pregnant woman had not been with them. Tagging her along with them had been a bad decision; his stubborn wife had insisted on going with them. Now she was slowing them down. If they were caught now, they would have no one to blame but themselves. But even with her pregnancy, the lady still carried herself remarkably.
They were still on the run when Junior’s wife suddenly stopped.
“Lola, what happened?” Junior asked his wife.
Instead of answering, Lola began to groan. Her face was turning pale and her eyes were tightly shut.
“What is it? Are you tired?” Junior asked with deep concern.
With effort, Lola replied, “The baby is on its way.”
“What!” Junior lamented, “Here? Why would it come now? It shouldn’t be here.” He was beginning to panic, “Does the baby want us to get caught?”
Junior’s father put his hand on his son’s shoulder and said, “Calm down, son. Everything will be all right, trust me.” He turned to Lola and said, “But it’s not due in two weeks, isn’t that what you told us?”
“It’s early.” Lola replied. Then she said loudly, “For Christ’s sake! The baby is coming! Do you think I’m joking about my own childbirth?”
Junior was already sweating, “We’ll have to get her to a hospital.” He said.
“Hospital is a bad idea. We’d easily be caught there. I won’t make the same mistake twice.” He paused and said, “We’ll have to find a safe place for her. Junior, support your wife, and follow me.”
The husband put his wife’s right arm across his shoulder, then he put his own left hand behind her waist and they both wobbled after the older man. Junior trusted his father with his life; the man was his hero. He knew there was no better father in the world. This man walking before them had taught him everything he knew about life. He had never, in any day, remembered seeing his father panic in any situation. His father was the calmest person he had ever known. He used his brain more than he used his body. Junior knew he could never match his father’s calm personality.
Junior tried to keep his voice calm as he asked his wife, “Has the water broken?”
“It broke when that man screamed at us at the junction.”
“Oh, my goodness!” he broke his calmness, “Did you feel pains then?”
“The pains came as soon as the waters broke.” Lola clenched her teeth as she felt another stab of pain all within her. “Oh, my God! This pain is getting unbearable.”
“Everything will be all right, Lola, I promise you.” Her husband’s father said, smiling.
To keep conversation going, Junior asked, “You mean you still kept running even with the pains?”
“I couldn’t stand there to allow them catch us. I stopped when the pains suddenly became worse. I couldn’t hide it anymore.”
“How are you feeling now?”
“I’m not feeling any better, sweetheart.”
She was looking weaker and Junior was becoming more alarmed. He couldn’t bear to lose his wife. He couldn’t bear to lose Lola; she was his life, his saviour, the lintel of his soul. He would have probably remained locked up now if not for Lola. He owed her his life, even his father owed her. He knew his father knew that. He also knew his father would do everything he could to make sure Lola remained with them. Thunder must definitely not strike twice!
They found a quiet bungalow. And within seconds, Junior’s father had opened the door of the house. They all went inside, shut the door firmly behind them and laid Lola on the floor, resting her head on the pillow taken from the cushion. Junior fervently prayed that they would be through before the occupant of the house returned. They could be caught here if they were not careful. Then his wife said something that scared him.
“I’m too tired to give birth to this child. I cannot do it. I feel sleepy, please let me sleep.”
“Oh, no! You can’t sleep, my love. You can’t sleep. Please don’t sleep.”
Then just that moment, a sound came from the entrance; someone was at the door. Junior’s father placed a finger on his lips, signaling the couple to keep quiet. He went to the window beside the door and pulled the curtain. There, he saw a young girl of about sixteen years old. The girl was turning the knob and wondering why the door was not opening. Junior’s father quickly went to the door and unlocked it.
“Hello, Miss—” he said, smiling at the girl.
The young lady looked at him with a puzzled expression, “Who are you?”
“Er—uh—I’m a guest. We’re here to see your parents.” He gave another charming smile.
The girl walked in and found two other strangers; the pregnant one was evidently in labour.
“Who are you people?” the puzzled girl asked, “What do you want in my house?”
Before anyone could reply, her eyes lit up with surprise as she said, “You’re the ones those people I encountered on the way were searching for, right?”
“That’s true,” Junior’s father answered, “We escaped from them. Those people are ritualists. They kidnapped us with the intention of selling our body parts to potential customers. We’re lucky to have escaped.”
“My God!” the girl had swallowed the lie whole, “That’s horrible.”
“If we hadn’t escaped, maybe they’d have advertised our skulls on Jumia by now.”
She pointed at Lola, “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s having a baby.”
“You should take her to a hospital.”
“The hospital is too far away. We have to bring the child to the world by ourselves.”
She looked from father to son and asked, “Does either one of you know how to bring a baby?”
Junior shook his head but his father said, “We’ll try.”
“I’ll help you to do that.” The girl said grimly.
“Have you done it before?”
She shook her head, “No, but I’ve seen people do it a couple of times. I’ve watched the births of several children. This is a woman’s job.”
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Can you do it, Amanda?”
“Yes, I can. I’m a practising nurse.” She knew what she had to do. She must first make the woman in labour feel comfortable. After that, she’d find out how close the baby was; then make necessary preparations.
She approached the woman on the floor and asked, “How are you feeling, madam?”
“I feel cold.” Lola answered weakly.
Amanda felt Lola’s forehead; the pregnant woman was sweating and running high temperature. She knew the symptom; the pregnant woman was working up fever, a condition not good for the baby. Lola knelt close to her and loosened all the buttons of her dress.As she did so she asked the men to wind up the curtains of all the windows.
She felt the outline of Lola’s belly. She felt the shape of the unborn child as she pressed deeper. She found one end of the body, just beneath Lola’s navel; but she could not locate the other end of the body on the belly.
“It’s on its way out,” Amanda said excitedly. “I can feel its bottom now. Kindly push!”
Lola’s face tightened with strain as she began to bear down, pushing the infant out of her womb. Junior could notice that the effort was costing her a whole lot, using up her last reserves of energy; and he wished desperately that he could bear down for her. Besides, he was the one who put the baby there in the first place, there should be something he could do to assist her. He wished to take the strain on himself, to give her some relief. At last the pain seemed to ease, and Junior breathed again.
Lola raised herself on her elbows and spread her legs. Kneeling between her legs, Amanda could see that the birth opening was beginning to dilate.
“Push!” she urged her again.
Lola tensed again and fresh beads of sweat rested on her contorted face. Amanda watched the opening widen again, and this time she could see the damp black hair of the baby’s head pushing through. Lola began to breathe in gasps as she tried to push once more. The opening stretched wider—incredibly wide—and then a large portion of the head began to come through, face-down. Soon Amanda saw the ears flat against the side of the baby’s head, then the folded skin of the neck appeared.
“The head and the neck are out.” She could not help saying.
Lola heard her and gave a brief smile, then she began to strain again.
Amanda leaned forward between her thighs and supported the tiny head of the baby with her left hand as the shoulders came out, first one then the other. And the rest of the body came out in a rush, and Amanda supported the baby’s hips with her hand as the tiny legs slipped into the cold world.
Lola’s opening immediately started to contract around the cord that came from the baby’s navel. Amanda lifted the child and scrutinized it curiously and anxiously. There was a lot of blood, and at first she feared something was terribly wrong; but on closer examination she could see no injury. She looked between its tiny thighs. It was a boy.
The baby opened its mouth and cried.
As Junior stared at the bundle of joy placed in his arms, he wondered what was going to become of the child when he grew up. Was the baby going to become a great man like his grandfather? Maybe he was, but in another way. A part of him questioned whether they had done the right thing by bringing this child to this world. Although still small and apparently bald, save for a few fringe of hair on its scalp, the baby was looking considerably healthy. Junior was sure the child would grow into a very goodlooking young man, for he was goodlooking himself, and even the baby’s grandfather was not looking bad. In a week’s time, this infant would be different; but for Junior and his father, a week was a long time for a baby to develop; but after the week, the baby would be bigger, and his eyes would open wider. Then the child would no longer be oblivious of the world around him as it is now; a loud noise would make him jump and a lullaby would soothe him to sleep. Junior understood babies even more than most mothers.
He looked at the baby’s mother, Lola was smiling at him. She was very tired, he knew, but she was going to be fine. Their eyes met, communicating devotion and affection for each other, and they both smiled. What an extraordinary woman, Junior thought, I’m the luckiest man on this earth.
“The child needs to be fed,” Amanda said as she collected the baby from its father and gave its mother.
Junior sat in a chair beside his father, smiling at the old man. They had done it. The worst was over and the baby was good. He felt proud.
Lola moved the baby close to her breast. His tiny mouth found her swollen nipple and he stopped crying and began to suck. Soon, the baby fell asleep and Amanda placed him in one of the cushions.
Then suddenly, Lola’s muscles contracted, her pupils were dilated and she gave a brief scream as the placenta slid out of her. She fell asleep afterwards.
A few minutes later, Junior’s father stood up, looked his son in the eyes and said, “It’s time.”
Junior nodded in understanding, Amanda had gone out to wash herself in the backyard. He dipped his hand into his pocket, brought out a mobile phone, inserted a new SIM card and dialled a number he’d memorised. He looked at his father as the call rang.
When the call was picked at the other end, he said to the receiver, “Someone wants to speak with you.”
Having said that, Junior gave the phone to his father. He knew how important the call was to the older man, and also to the person at the other end of the line. It was something that needed to be done—especially now.
He knew his father to always smile in this kind of situation. His father was a man capable of being convulsed with laughter even with a gun pointed to his head. He wasn’t sure what the older man’s capacity for weird humour said about him, for his father was also one of the most mysterious people alive.
But his father wasn’t smiling when he said to the person at the other end of the line:
“You have a grandson.”
Read the next update here.