HER LAST WISH Episode 81 by Azeemah Salami
“Answer me! Where’s your hijab!” Amina’s mother repeated and Amina whose palm had turned wet couldn’t utter a response.
“You this boy! Is this the night vigil you people are doing in Dammy’s room? Where did you go to ehn!” Emeka’s mother raised her voice.
“Mummy don’t shout. Everybody will start coming out now” Emeka mumbled, gently holding Amina who was gripping his hand in fear of her mother.
“You still have mouth to be talking, I wish it was your father who found out!”
“Why did you even have to lie! Where did you go to overnight in this unsafe country! I was dead worried!” Aunt Esther looked so pissed.
“We went to a concert” Layla sighed, staring down at her feet.
“What type of concert?” Amina’s mother asked.
“You know that my favorite artiste, that his pictures are on my phone.” Amina paused.
“That one your father used to tell you to remove from your phone wallpaper?” Her mum asked, the anger on her face starting to soften.
“It’s his concert we went to. I got to see him face to face, he even touched me and I got his jacket sef. See” Amina said, relaxing a bit.
“Ehn ehn, so that’s the jacket you’re holding.” Her mother stated, eyeing the expensive looking leather jacket.
“Is that na why you left your hijab at home! Is there a rule that states you can’t wear hijab to a concert ehn?”
“No, I didn’t just want to” She pouted and ended up exclaiming when she received a hard knock from her mother.
“Hijab aside. What you did is not acceptable! You need to get punished for it” Her mother’s voice was hard and her expression stern but Amina smiled inwardly, knowing her mother isn’t going to do anything to her anymore.
She would have been in trouble if it had been her father who found out.
“And Dammy, you think you’re free to go anywhere and do anything you want. You think no one is going to scold you if you misbehave ehn. You are both lucky I’m not in the mood to punish someone this morning. If not. Hm” Amina’s mother sighed loudly.
“Why didn’t you just tell us instead of lying?” Emeka’s mother asked, squinting her eyes.
“You wouldn’t have allowed us go if we had told you, that’s the reason we lied” Emeka replied.
“Even at that, don’t you know what you guys did is very risky! No one knew where you were. You even switched off your phones. God forbid; What if something bad happened to you. We wouldn’t even know where to direct our search. You should have at least dropped a note” Aunt Esther sighed, sitting back on the bench… They had gotten to their feet when they saw them appear.
“We’re sorry. We thought you wouldn’t allow us go,” Dan said. “And I just felt it’d be cool if we all spend a nice time together before we leave for Vegas.”
“If you had said that, there’s no way I would have refused to allow you have a nice time. Although I might have hesitated due to the condition of this country but I would later give in. What you guys did is just so…” Aunt Esther shook her head to complete her statement.
“Exactly, Amina. You should have just told me even if you couldn’t tell your father. I would have known how to go about it.”
“These children ehn, you don’t know this life is now very dangerous, anywhere you’re going, you should inform people. Please o” Emeka’s mum said.
“If I had told you, you would have just strong your face and not allow me go” Emeka frowned.
“It is for your safety. I know what this life is saying now so I can’t leave you to go where my eyes can’t reach you. Your long mouth is still running! You’re lucky it’s not your father who found out. He would have broken that coconut head of yours this morning.” She paused, hissing.
“Thank God you’re back safely, lemme go inside before he wakes up.”
Emeka smiled, hugging his mum.
“C’mon get out of here” His mum tried not to smile.
“I’m really sorry mum” He looked remorseful.
“I’ve heard you. Don’t just do it again next time”
“I won’t. I promise”
“We’re so sorry” They chorused.
“It’s fine” Aunt Esther rose to her feet.
“I was about to go wash the ablution kegs for the morning prayer before I found out you guys were not in Dammy’s place. I should go now, it’s almost time. And, better go inside Dammy’s room so your father won’t come out and see you here, I can’t shout this morning o.”
“Alright mum.” Amina smiled, watching her mother walk away.
“It’s true, you people should go into Dammy’s room. I’m also going inside now. Emeka, your father mustn’t meet you here, I’ve said my own o” Emeka’s mother said, heading back to their apartment.
“I’m also going in jare. I need to go complete my sleep” Aunt Esther yawned.
“What of Dave and his Dad?” Layla asked.
“They are still sleeping; they didn’t even know I came out sef. It was Amina’s mum that called me on the phone that she couldn’t find you guys in Dammy’s room, so I quietly came out, I didn’t want to disturb their sleep”
“Oh, you should go in before they notice you aren’t in the room. I will massage your feet once I come in” Layla smiled.
“So, because you know I like it when you massage my feet now, you now want to use it to your advantage. Sha do fast and comman massage it.” Aunt Esther paused, hiding her excitement.
“That doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgiven you sha”
They released a collective breath after Aunt Esther left, exchanged glances and started laughing.
Dan and Layla got on the flight to Las Vegas a few days later.
“Look at those tanned skins!” Fel screamed, running into their arms.
“Move! I want to hug them also” Rylan said, trying to shove her aside but got a painful pinch on the arm in return.
Dan lifted Anne in his arms, kissing her all over the face.
She giggled, wiping the tears off her lit-up face. The joy on her face, unbeatable.
“Oh my God. I miss you guys so much!” Layla jumped, laughing happily with Fel. “Look how good you all look! Damn”
“You both look even better! I can’t believe we spent almost a month not seeing one another. It’s not being easy for me; It was so hard.” Fel’s voice broke, even though they were on video calls almost every hour of the day.
“Rylan is an asshole but has been a lifesaver.”
“Now that you guys are back! I’m never going to let you go anywhere without us anymore! We all leave together, even to the restroom. I don’t care if your wastes stink as hell!” Rylan released a breath and they chuckled.
“You guys give me the most trouble! It’s really surprising how I miss you this much.” Dan frowned, tilting his lips to a side.
“You guys are literally the pests in my life. Why did I end up badly missing you? Who misses pests? Gosh” Rylan scowled.
“Exactly, who misses pests,” Fel palmed her face. “But, hold on… Are you guys really back?” She asked, peering at them closely and hoping it wasn’t another of her dream.
“Are we really back?” Dan turned to Layla.
It’s been so long they saw one another and they were yet to fully register the fact that they were finally seeing each other again.
“Oh my God, you guys are here!” Fel screamed, like she’s finally realizing it’s real.
“We are finally here!” Dan and Layla screamed as well.
Their excitement could not be curtailed and they didn’t care they were making a nuisance of themselves at the arrivals.
They screamed happily, sharing a big warm embrace and crying through smiles.
“Come here again” Phil pulled Layla into another hug for the umpteenth time since she got back.
Layla chuckled softly. Phil wouldn’t stop hugging or staring at her.
She didn’t leave Layla’s room even when she was in the shower and after she got out of the shower.
Phil had surprised her by preparing a tasty meal for her arrival.
“You don’t look too good, have you been having pizza and junks since I left?”
“Well…” Phil drawled.
“Phil!” Layla’s voice held a scold.
“I had good meals once in a while” she said.
“Once in a while? For almost a month? And I bet your ‘once in a while’ is just like twice since I left” Layla shook her head.
“Nah, it was thrice,” Phil defended. “Although the third time, the meal was crap and I only ended up eating two spoonful”
“Phil, for heaven’s sake. I know you hate cooking but you could have tried to make something, at least once in a day.” Layla sighed.
“I’m terrible at cooking! You know it”
“You’ve made meals for me twice and they turned out good. How come the meals you make for yourself turns out terrible?” Layla arched her brows.
“That effort you put in making meals for me, put it in making meals for yourself and you won’t be disappointed”
“Since the years you’ve been living with me, I only cooked for you twice and that was because I had to. That should tell you how lazy I am when it comes to cooking. Besides, I don’t really enjoy eating what I prepare myself”
“I know that but you should have gone to a restaurant to have a proper meal or even order meals instead of pizza and junks all the time.”
“I did that a couple of times though, I ordered meals but they didn’t taste as good as yours so I stopped wasting my bucks on takeout meals”
“I should go ahead with prepping for dinner then, you need to start eating proper meals now that I’m back”
“No way I’m going to allow you cook after such a long flight, leave it all for tomorrow. We’re just going to microwave the leftover for dinner. By the way, you look really different and I mean in a very good way” Phil smiled, satisfied with how Layla looked.
“Right,” Layla grinned. “I miss you so much, damn”
“I now spend so much time at the Cafe I’m always so bored by myself at home.”
“Really? I can’t wait to see Aria tomorrow and your new employee as well” Layla said.
Phil had told her over the phone about the new employee who she had employed to assist Aria since she left for Nigeria.
The only information Layla knew about her was her name and that she’s in her mid-twenties.
“Oh Lydia,” Phil smiled. “So far, I’ve been impressed with her.”
“Good to hear that, the last thing we need now is another Mirabel” Layla said and they chuckled.
“So,” Phil paused. “How are you? I mean, how have you been feeling?” Her voice held a strain.
“Cool” Layla responded, nonchalant.
“You know what I mean right?” Phil asked.
“Of course, I’m fine” Layla shrugged. She knew Phil wanted to talk about her health but was probably holding back because she just arrived and wanted her to relax.
“Well, I believe you have so much to tell me about Nigeria!” Phil smiled, breaking the silence.
“A lot” Layla smiled, glad Phil knew better than to pursue the topic.
“Tell me everything that happened. I’m ready” Phil adjusted herself properly on the couch.
“I’m Layla and I know you’re Lydia” Layla smiled, turning to Lydia after she satisfied with exchanging several hugs and excited screams with Aria.
“Yeah, I’m Lydia. It’s cool to finally meet you” Lydia smiled.
“I would say the same. So far, I hope you’ve enjoyed working here?” Layla asked.
“Absolutely. It’s been great. A big thanks to Aria for that” Lydia said.
“C’mon” Aria smiled, her face still glowing with the excitement of Layla finally here.
“I love how tanned your skin looks. It’s beautiful” Lydia smiled.
“Thanks Lydia” Layla beamed.
“I was about saying that as well. Damn. You look so beautiful and am I mistaken? Or you’ve really gained weight?”
“For real?” Layla raised a brow. “Everyone’s been telling me same! I feel like I’ve lost weight yet everyone keeps saying I’ve gained weight. Wow”
“You’ve gained weight! and look even more beautiful”
“Well, thank you” Layla smiled. She felt empty and frail yet everyone is telling her the opposite. She’s glad not to look the way she feels though.
“I was about leaving for home but not anymore. How’s David and his mum?” Aria asked.
“They are both good. David sent his greetings to Jane and asked me to give her a letter, I hope I remember to give it to you before I leave. It’s in Phil’s office, inside my bag”
“I’ll definitely remind you” Aria smiled.
“You won’t believe if I say I’m starting to miss them already.”
“Of course, I believe you! Even if you tell me you started missing them right after you went on board. I won’t hesitate to believe.” Aria said, pulling her to a chair.
“Sit, you need to really tell me everything. I know a lot happened over there. I’m all ears” Aria’s eagerness made Layla chuckle.
Layla dramatically cleared her throat in preparation before starting.
“Crazy!” Fel and Rylan laughed at another of Dan and Layla’s Nigeria gist.
“Believe me,” Layla paused, taking another bite of the pie Anne baked them. “That country is like none other. I can’t even begin to describe everything it is. It’s just another world on its own”
“If I’m to describe Nigeria, I would say ‘crazy’ before adding other descriptions to it” Dan said.
“I can’t wait for us to visit together. Damn!” The prospect of it made Fel really excited.
“Same here, and this time we won’t only visit Lagos State but also the state ‘Moremi statue’ is.” Rylan smiled.
“That’ll be so much fun” Dan said.
“And the meals… damn” Layla closed her eyes, savoring an imaginary Amala.
“Geez! The meals! I liked almost everything we were served there. It was like none other, although it took a while for our body system to adjust to the foreign intake and once it did, it was all good” Dan munched on the remaining of his pies.
“You send pictures of almost every meal you guys take and it was just so painful to see those delicious looking meals and not able to have a taste.” Fel hissed.
“There are a few I can make here actually, I’m going to make sure I get the complete ingredients and make your stomachs dance with excitement.” Layla winked and they chuckled.
“You should remind me, Aunt Esther asked me to give you both some Africa history books” Dan said.
“Why didn’t you say anything until now!” Fel eyes widened, moving to hit him.
“Shit! Here we go again,” Dan dodged. “Rylan, how have you been coping with this…” Dan swallowed the rest of his words, laughing on seeing the look Fel gave him.
“It’s been so tough I would admit” Rylan shook his head, sighing. “I think I might deserve a medal”
“A very quality one” Layla nodded and laughed when Fel sent a throw pillow in her direction.
“I should have a medal for dealing with Rylan also. He’s being a pain in my head!” Fel furrowed her brows.
“But you’ve been more pain,” Rylan said. “Just admit it”
“Whatever, I’m not arguing further!” She turned to Dan. “Where are the books? and why didn’t you say anything until now”
“Chill. I arrived just yesterday!” Dan growled.
“Well,” Fel paused, looking like she’s just realizing he arrived yesterday. “Even at that” She pouted.
“The books are in my box; you can get it if you’re about leaving” He pulled her nose.
“Hey! You’re gonna pull her nose off her face” Rylan said. “Not that I would mind though” He added, grinning and suddenly started laughing, imagining Fel without a nose.
“Guys, try to Imagine Fel without a nose” He said and they laughed, much to Fel’s discontent.
It was too late for Layla to hold her groan when the familiar pain shot through her chest again.
“Are you okay?” Dan asked, getting to his feet.
“Yeah, I think I should go home” She tried her best to sound fine when in fact, her body was reverberating with pain.
“What is wrong?” Fel asked, moving closer. “Did you get choked?”
“Just headache.” Layla replied.
“Really?” Dan asked and she nodded.
“Should we go to the hospital?” Rylan eyes widened.
Layla knew they were finding it hard to believe it was headache that made her groan so loud. She would find it hard to believe also.
“No, I only need to take some pain reliever and relax”
“Why are you sweating so much?” Fel’s eyes was filled with worry.
“It happens when I have headache. Just drop me home, I’ll be okay.” Layla said, it’s taking every strength in her not to scream out the gut-wrenching pain she was feeling.
It was similar to the ones she felt in Nigeria.
She got to her feet, knowing she needed to leave really soon.
“Could it be migraine?” Fel asked, holding Layla’s shoulder as she studied her face.
“Yeah! It’s migraine. I have the medication for it at home. Please take me home” She said, weakly dropping fel’s hands from her shoulders before making for the door.
They stared at her back and it was only when they heard the sound of the door they came out of their thoughts.
Dan picked his car key before they dashed after her.
“Layla, you really need to tell your friends. Please” Phil eyes looked desperate as she sat by Layla on the bed.
Layla had woken late at night, some minutes after her friends left.
“You needed to see the way they were asking me questions. Especially Dan” Phil sighed. “Like he knew something is wrong with you” Phil sighed.
“I can’t.” Layla replied slowly. “I just can’t”
“But they were so worried about you!” Phil’s eyebrows were pulled together.
“Exactly the reason I can’t… the last thing I want is anyone worried because of me. If they were that worried because I complained of headache, just imagine what would happen if they should know. They will never recover from it. Why should I make them go through that?”
“I don’t just get why you’re keeping this from them. They are your best friends! Yet you’re keeping something this huge from them under the cover that you don’t want them to worry. Do you want them to find out later and feel betrayed?”
“It’s better they know after it happens, I can’t just bear the thought of them knowing now. Causing them pain before and after my death is the last thing, I want for them. I find that so inconsiderate”
“I think we should go to the hospital, there might still be something…” Phil’s voice broke. She cried most nights before she went to bed, thinking about her niece’s unfair fate.
She now frequents the church for no other reason but for God to save Layla.
“Phil, you were there when the doctor spoke. Why this?” Layla’s voice held contempt. She hates it when she’s being given false hope.
“I know but,” Phil swallowed hard, her lips trembling. “I believe miracles happens” She added making Layla laugh out loud.
“Not in my case”
“It can happen, y–”
“It can’t!” Layla yelled, with a shaky voice.
“It’s too late” She added, more calmly now, tears pinching the corners of her eyes.
“Well… Maybe it will” She raised her brow at Phil, smiling.
“Yes Layla, it will” Phil’s throat tightened as she held Layla’s hands.
“Of course” Layla nodded, looking like she believed it.
Phil was almost convinced Layla believed in miracles until she heard her next words.
“After my death probably, the miracle will be; me placed in God’s paradise,” She chuckled softly. “At least, that miracle is logical.”
HER LAST WISH Episode 82 by Azeemah Salami
“Did you see Dammy’s message? She has been granted the scholarship!” Layla’s voice was filled with excitement as she talked to Dan over the phone. “I saw it! I was about calling you. I’m so happy for her!” “I’m more than happy for her. I gave her a call immediately, she sounded so elated.” “I expected nothing less. Her uncle got sentenced yesterday and today she’s awarded a scholarship. Who wouldn’t feel more than elated? I should give her a call as well. Will ring you right back” “Alright” Layla smiled, dropping her phone on the counter as she resumed assisting Lydia. “Shouldn’t you put your phone away. I don’t think it’s safe there” Lydia mentioned, wiping the coffee machine with a clean towel. “Oh thanks” Layla dropped her phone in her bag. Her face still full of smiles. Aria has stopped coming to the Cafe. Few days ago, she found out she was carrying a baby again. Layla enjoys Lydia’s company but not as much as Aria’s. She couldn’t help but miss Aria even though she has been visiting her house frequently since the past few days. The last time she visited was yesterday and she made Nigeria jollof rice and fried chicken for her after she complained to be fed up of eating the meals she’s used to. Aria loved the meal, including her husband and daughter and she even joked that the baby seemed to love it as well because it giggled after she swallowed the first spoonful. *** “Do not employ anyone else! Didn’t I take up Aria’s space already?” Layla asked, her voice slightly raised at Phil who wouldn’t stop mentioning she’s going to hire another person. “I can’t allow you to keep working in this health condition! It’d be unfair of me” Phil replied, and resumed slicing the onions. She assists Layla in the kitchen now. “It’d be unfair of you only if you were forcing me. You’re not forcing me! I’m doing this on my freewill” “I do not care. You’re going to stop working at the Cafe. I’m going to hire someone else tomorrow, I received some applications already” “Phil!” Layla’s eyebrows were pulled together. “Get offended all you want. It’s my Cafe and I have the final say. I’ll choose the people to work there and dismiss people I do not want to.” “Do you want me to just sit home and watch movies all day? I hate doing that!” “You’ll get to like it once you’re used to it and you could hang out with your friends” Phil poured the sliced onions into the beef that was starting to simmer on fire. They were making beef stew and rice for dinner. “For real? You’re really serious about this?” Layla paused measuring rice into a bowl. “Do I look like I’m joking. You’re not allowed to overwork yourself anymore, no!” Phil’s voice was firm. “I’m going to let go of the fact that you resumed the cafe even when I told you not to. You did what you wanted but this time you’re going to do what I want” “For months, you knew my health condition was bad and you didn’t stop me from going to the Cafe until now? What changed?” Layla asked, so calmly like she wasn’t the one raising her voice earlier. Phil hesitated before replying “I have my reasons… All I know is you’re going to stop working” “You think now that my symptoms are now frequent; I might suddenly collapse in your Cafe? You simply don’t want me to die in your Cafe” Layla squinted her eyes. “Layla!” “That’s what you mean Phil! You didn’t stop me from working in your Cafe all along. Why now?” “That is not my reason!” Things were almost getting kind of heated now and Phil sighed, not wanting things to go out of hand. “Layla, I’ve wanted to stop you long ago. Since I started thinking back on the terrible ways, I’ve treated you” “And why didn’t you do that then? Why now?” Layla dropped the rice bowl in the sink. “I also didn’t know why I held back. But I’m not holding back any longer. I’m doing this for you Layla. Overworking yourself might worsen your condition, you need all the rest you can get” Phil sighed. “I’m not complaining Phil. At least wait till I’m dead before hiring another person” Layla said, halting Phil’s next move. “You’re not going to die!” Phil shouted in her face. “You think I’m going to die! That’s the reason you’re not allowing me work in your Cafe anymore. And yeah, I’m going to die. It’s fact but allow me do what I want, at least until that time comes” Layla’s voice almost shook. She’s yet to completely come to terms with the possibility of her death. Phil swallowed hard. “Layla, you’re not going to die” “Stop this.” Layla paused. “Stop with this your annoying act of giving me baseless hope. Let’s face it. Let’s just accept it that I’m going to die. Don’t fucking tell me otherwise because that hurts even more!” Layla shrieked, stomping out of the kitchen. *** “Saturdays are crazy as hell” Lydia sighed, when they finally got to rest. Layla nodded. “I even feel Saturdays are now getting less crazy in the cafe now. Then, Aria and I barely rest. We’re up and running every minute” “I wonder why Saturdays are like this though. Isn’t it supposed to be the opposite? Saturday is a weekend and I feel the Cafe shouldn’t be this filled up on a work-free day. Care for some cookies?” Lydia asked, peeling the foil off the cookies. “No, thanks. I’m not surprised the Cafe gets this filled on a Saturday though. It’s a work-free day for some people and it’s not for others. In fact, some people’s work days are weekends.” “You’re right though. Lydia nodded, starting to munch on her cookies. “I’m going to visit Aria tomorrow” “Oh, you definitely should” Layla smiled. Lydia hasn’t gotten the chance to visit Aria since she stopped working. “Are you going to be visiting as well?” “No, I plan to hang out with my friends tomorrow” “Okay, have fun. Boss told me someone else would be resuming today, I wonder why the person isn’t here yet” “The person won’t be resuming anymore, she changed her mind” Layla responded. Phil had finally given in to allow her continue working after countless back and forth. *** “Layla, just hear me out!” Phil shouted. “I don’t think you have leukemia” “You think by saying that, I’ll have my hopes high? If only you know all you’ve been saying is only crushing me more. I don’t need this from you Phil” Layla’s voice was the opposite of how she felt. “Believe me, I’m not trying to lift your hopes high! But your symptoms have been so different for someone with leukemia. I’ve been thinking about it and I finally did some research–” “So, you thought to do some research, months after I was diagnosed and you’re basically saying the doctor’s diagnosis might be wrong?” Layla chuckled. “It can be! Doctors aren’t perfect. they are humans, they make mistakes. Come to think of it; we didn’t even go to other hospitals for confirmation. Damn” Phil sighed in regret. “You’re looking like you’re certain I don’t have leukemia. Wherever that belief came from, you should make it go back and stop this! It’s really starting to get annoying Phil! You keep sprouting unfounded words because you probably can’t bear to lose me. Let’s face the fact. My grandma, mum and brother died of leukemia, I do not even need the doctor’s diagnosis to know I might be infected as well, but the doctor confirmed it after running tests. I have the tests result in my room Phil! What the hell are you saying!” Layla’s anger was profound now. “All you just mentioned doesn’t mean you have leukemia, there might be mistakes in the test result, the doctor’s diagnosis might be wrong. I don’t think It’s in the history that leukemia is associated with having strange stretchmarks all over the body! I nursed my mother for months while she awaited her death and no strange stretchmark was on her body, I don’t remember seeing any on your mother’s body as well” “People are different Phil, so do symptoms” “Agreed, but I don’t think stretchmarks is recorded in the history of leukemia patients” “I’m losing my hair! That’s a symptom!” “Leukemia isn’t the only cancer that makes one lose hair or causes fatigue. We need to go for a confirmation test…” “And then the doctor again confirms I have leukemia and we come back home looking like frogs?” Layla cut her short. “Layla, it’s very likely you do not have leukemia–” “Oh, you mean these symptoms I’ve been having means nothing? It’s normal to be healthy and have these symptoms?” “No, but it might just be another thing entirely and not leukemia” “So what’s the difference? The fact still remains that I’m living with a disease and I’m going to die soon” “Stop saying that!” Phil scolded, “It might be another thing and if we’re lucky, it might have a solution. Let’s give this a try please” “You know what? You’ve been brainwashed with whatever damn belief stuck in your head! I’m done here” Layla walked out of the kitchen, ignoring Phil’s calls. *** “Let’s play board game one more time” Layla said to her friends, she wondered why it seemed their facial expression changed until Fel pointed out what she just said to her. “What do you mean by one more time?” “It’s not like we’ve played board game today” Rylan added. “Lately, I’ve observed you seem to be speaking…” Fel paused, staring pointedly at Layla. “I don’t know how to put the words. I just hope there’s nothing wrong.” She added, sighing. “I only made use of the wrong choice of words. C’mon” Layla smiled. “It seems you’ve been making use of too much wrong choice of words lately.” Dan said and Layla shrugged in response. No one spoke again and the pies Anne made for them was starting to get cold. “Is anything wrong?” Layla asked, her friends were not usually this quiet and moody and definitely not all of them at the same time. “We feel you’re hiding something from us” Rylan spoke first. “Oh” Layla sighed, moment after going silent, thinking of what best to say. She must be a fool to think they wouldn’t notice. She shifted on the couch, uncomfortable. “Is it that obvious?” “I’m glad you admitted it, because if you had lied, I would have been more hurt” Fel said. “I know the reason you’re hiding whatever it is from us is because you probably do not want us to bother. If that’s truly the reason then I would be hurt. We’re your best friends and we should share your problem when the need arises. If you’re feeling that way then it means you do not consider us your best friends like you do say” Dan stated. He’s known for long that something is off but he had waited, thinking she would tell them when she was ready but it now seemed she’s never going to and he’s goddamn worried because a part of him keep telling him it had something to do with her health. “I’m hiding something but I’m not ready to spill it. I promise you’ll get to know when it’s time” Layla said, the tone of her voice reduced. She adjusted the scarf on her head which she’s been putting on more often now, especially whenever she meets up with her friends. She’s afraid they might notice her hair is now getting sparse and Fel who’s capable of pulling her hair randomly might know something is wrong if she pulls her hair and a huge chunk of it falls into her palm. “We’re going to respect whatever you want Layla but you should know that whatever the issue is, we would stick with you and make sure it’s resolved” Rylan said. Layla smiled, nodding. “I don’t know why I feel it’s something that’s going to change everything.” Fel looked worried. “I hope it’s just a feeling though” “Why don’t you tell us whatever it is. I know we should respect your decision but… It’s just so hard to keep going about every day like everything is fine, knowing there’s something wrong with our friend” Dan said. “It’s nothing serious, do not be so bothered about it. I’m not that bothered about it as well. I promise you’ll know when it’s time” Layla assured. “I really hope it’s nothing serious” Rylan sighed. “It’s not, c’mon guys” Layla smiled. “Let’s play the game!” ** Layla hugged her friends bye when she was ready to leave. She had won the game twice but she didn’t feel that excited about it because it felt as though her friends deliberately allowed her win. Their moods weren’t completely lifted but it was better than earlier… “Are you sure you do not want me to drop you?” Dan asked for the umptieth time. They were outside the gate now, waiting for a cab. “Nah, I have to go somewhere else” Layla responded. She kissed their cheeks, swinging their hands gently as they waited for a cab. She’s been barely letting go of her friends, she now touches them more than usual whenever they meet up because she doesn’t know when her last time with them would be, it might be anytime and she doesn’t want to have any regret. They hailed an approaching cab, which stopped right in front of them. Dan opened the cab door for her. “Bye” She smiled. “I can’t count the amount of times Layla said bye already” Fel groaned. Layla chuckled. “Well, bye” She kissed their cheeks again and held onto Dan a bit longer than usual before getting into the cab. They both exchanged a look and Dan didn’t know where the sudden strange feeling came from. Layla’s eyes seemed distant and her gaze almost made him cold. She parted her lips, looking as though she wanted to say something but smiled and waved at them before the cab drove off. ** They knew something was wrong when Paul barged into the house, breathing heavily, his eyes filled with horror. “What?” Dan asked, getting to his feet with Fel and Rylan. “Layla…” He swallowed hard. “She’s outside” “She left in a cab not too long, how come she’s outside?” Dan couldn’t stop his voice from being unstable. If Layla was just outside, Paul wouldn’t run in looking this way, something was wrong and his mind was in disarray already. “Did she come back?” Rylan asked. Paul nodded. “She collapsed as soon as I opened the gate and…” he paused, looking like he wished he didn’t have to say this to them. “I checked her pulse…” He didn’t get to complete his statement before he was shoved out of the way. “She stopped breathing” He muttered to himself, still completely stunned. He feels so damn sure it’s just a dream and he stood there, waiting till whenever he wakes up. …………….
HER LAST WISH Episode 83 by Azeemah
“She has adrenocortical carcinoma, a type of adrenal cancer” Doctor Matt announced. “Adrenal cancer?” Phil asked, her stomach burning, not from the tantrum Layla’s friends just threw nor the yelling she just received from them for keeping something as serious as that, but from the fact that she had been right. She hadn’t known it was Adrenal cancer of course but she had been quite sure it wasn’t leukemia. “Didn’t you say it was leukemia?” Dan faced Phil; his facial expression diverse from the onset. With how calmly he just spoke to her, one would never have imagined he was yelling just some moments ago. “That was the doctor’s diagnosis over a year ago” Phil said. “That’s wrong, she doesn’t have leukemia. I bet the doctor assumed it was, because her family has a history of the disease.” Doc Jude who is the Keyes personal doctor said. “So, what is Adrenal cancer, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it” Rylan sighed, rubbing his forehead with his palm. His mum walked into the doctor’s office handing everyone a bottle of water. They were all burned out and haven’t as much sat since Layla went unconscious. Their eyes ached with tears that stopped just moments ago, it was only after the doctor assured them Layla is going to be fine that the turmoil stopped. Doctor Matt, a surgical oncologist who had detected Layla’s cancer cleared his throat. “It’s a rare cancer that begins in one or both of the small triangular glands located at the top of the kidneys. Adrenocortical carcinoma is the most common form of adrenal cancer and it’s usually not detected until the tumor is quite large.” He paused. “I bet she must have been experiencing the symptoms for long because after we performed biopsy on her, we discovered it has grown malignant, it’s larger than five to six centimeters and has automatically turned cancer” “Just because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis and infrequent checkup” Dan swallowed hard, never having to maintain his composure this much, he was angry, sad and scared and he’s never felt like screaming out his lungs as much as he did now. What if Layla had actually died because of this, his heart almost left his body when they thought she was dead. She was dead cold and wasn’t breathing when they got outside and it was only later her breathing started getting faint. “What’s the survival rate?” Anne spoke up for the first time. “Well, the relative survival rate is five years but we can’t say specifically, we can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. It’s also based on how far the cancer has spread” Doctor Matt said. “How far has hers spread?” Fel massaged the bottle of water in her hand. She looked the complete opposite of herself, her head has never banged this much; it felt like her brain was revolving and hitting the walls of her head. She felt sick. “Adrenal cancer has four stages and she’s in stage three, I’m afraid she’ll be hitting stage four soon. It has spread into her nearby lymph nodes and is starting to grow into her kidney” “Omg” They had their palms over their mouth, tears threatening to make a comeback. “She’s really strong to have endured those symptoms, I must say” Doc Matt paused and sighed, he turned to face Phil who seemed to be among the few people who had their emotions in check. “When did she open up to you about the symptoms?” “A year ago,” Phil resumed moping at her feet. “Wow” Dan’s mum sighed, frowning “Are you really her aunt? I mean her relative? Even if she had truly been diagnosed with leukemia, why didn’t you make any attempt for solutions? Alright, the quack doctor said nothing could be done anymore. You didn’t go to other hospitals for confirmation at the very least. If you had made an attempt as little as my pinky finger,” She pointed it at Phil, wishing she could shove her head with it. “This could have been avoided” “It’s really bad of you not to have made any effort! How could you even watch her for almost a year without doing anything! You were basically waiting for her to die!” Fel’s mother scowled. “The least, you could have done is go to other hospitals, this tumor would have been prevented from growing into cancer and spreading this much. if only you had prioritized her health condition. It would have been discovered earlier and treated. You watched her for a year without making a move, really?” Rylan mother shook her head in complete disapproval. “Right, her mother, brother and grandmother died of the same disease, that’s not enough reason for you to do nothing after she was diagnosed with same. Even if the doctor had indeed claimed she had limited time to live, you could have tried taking her for checkups, apply for chemotherapy amongst so many other options. It seems as though you were so nonchalant about her health which is quite disappointing as you claimed to be her aunt” Dan’s dad commented, giving Phil a dirty look. “What if she had really died?” Fel’s mum chipped in again. “Something that could have been avoided” Phil didn’t raise her head as they talked on. She knew they were right; she hadn’t cared if Layla would die or not, she had only started caring recently. She was ready to receive as much backlash as possible because she felt she deserved it. “Who knew she was going through that much, yet she was all smiles whenever she visited. ” Dan’s mum shook her head. “Exactly, Layla’s just one of the sweetest I’ve met” Fel’s mother acknowledged. “I bet! Her behavior is as soothing as her look. I love her!” Rylan’s mother sighed. “She has been having the symptoms for more than a year, I can assure you. She only decided to open up to you then” Doctor Matt said, making Phil blink. “It’s certain you both do not have the typical relationship between aunts and nieces, what made her keep such from you for so long? Were you mistreating her? If I find out you are, I swear I’ll have you locked up” Dan’s mother slammed. “Mum, how close their relationship is do not matter. Layla is capable of doing that regardless of the closeness of their relationship. She’s someone who won’t want to bother other people with her problem. If she hadn’t collapsed, we wouldn’t have found out” Dan said. “Exactly, and I bet Layla’s reason for not opening up to us is because she probably doesn’t want us to worry” Rylan sighed. “First of, that doctor is getting sued.” Fel’s voice shook, starting to punch her father’s number into her phone. “It’s actually quite hard to detect Adrenal cancer early, it can be detected earlier in children than adults but adrenal cancer is rarely misdiagnosed as leukemia. So, it’s really obvious he came to the conclusion that it was leukemia, because her symptoms were quite similar to it and also her family history. He didn’t make the attempt to run the appropriate tests. A doctor should never make conclusions or assumptions on someone’s health condition no matter the situation surrounding the patient. It’s normal to suspect what could be wrong with the patient after being told the symptoms but it’s never right to conclude based on just your suspicion or speculation” Doc Matt explained. “He’s getting sued after I beat the hell out of him. I swear” Fel said, her breath hot as she stepped farther away to speak to her father. “Please what can be done?” Phil asked Doctor Matt. “Surgery is the main treatment for stage three adrenal cancer. We’re going to perform adrenalectomy on her” “What’s the surgery’s success rate?” Dan asked, his throat drying up. “That, we can’t say, it depends on the patient but I’m afraid Layla’s has gone really weak, the rate of her success might be quite low” “No. The rate of her surgery success isn’t low. It’s really high. She’s going to survive this. She’s going to pull through. God is going to come through for her” Anne said, the belief in her voice was as strong as the one in her eyes. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have faith but it’s better to view this realistically–” “Involving God isn’t realistic?” Anne interrupted, a frown appearing on her face. “I’m not saying that…” “That’s the most realistic thing,” She interrupted him yet again. “Haven’t you heard of cases where all hope seemed lost but God came through? I’m sure as a doctor, you’ve experienced it as well. I understand your perspective but I would appreciate if you do not speak negativity into this. Layla always says our words are powerful, they are manifestations… you shouldn’t manifest negativity into her life” “Ah, I’m really sorry about that… we’ll try our best with the surgery” Doc Matt smiled. “That’s more like it. Please do” Anne nodded. “What’s the next step?” Dan asked, getting impatient, he wanted to see Layla. “After, she’s had enough rest and gained more strength, we will need to regulate her blood pressure and follow the necessary pre-surgery steps” “How long will it take for you to begin the surgery” Rylan’s mum asked. “With how unwell she still is, we might need to wait a few days to prep her for the surgery” “Why can’t you do it immediately?” Phil asked, afraid something might happen during those few days. “It’s dangerous if we rush into it, the surgery will most likely turn out unsuccessful. Her condition right now isn’t the best for it.” “Can we see her now?” Dan asked. “No, I’m not sure you’ll be allowed to see her today” Doctor Matt said. “Can we watch her from the glass door then?” He asked. “Of course, you’re free to” “I want you to be specific Doc. What is really her chance of surviving the surgery? We need to know what to expect” Dan’s dad asked. Deep lines appeared on Doctor Matt’s forehead. “Layla’s body has gone really weak, even after we wait a few days, I’m not sure she’s going to recover as much strength… I’m afraid her chance of survival is fifty-fifty” *** “You’re going to be fine, okay?” Fel assured Layla who looked like it took all her strength to nod. They were finally allowed to see her the next morning, their parents who had gone home last night were on their way already and Phil had gone to prepare a meal for her. Dan rubbed his thumb on her palm in circles, not taking his gaze off her, his heart ached and he wanted to cry, not for the fact that she now looked completely different and distinct but for what she’s had to go through most of her life. Ranging from the death of her loved ones, getting mistreated by her aunt, the ostracization in school and down to this. He wished he could do something about her terrible fate. He would pick her over and over if he were to choose the strongest person he knew. They held their tears, trying hard not to make them drop, they needed to be strong for her at least. She was sitting up on the bed in her VIP ward, as Anne ran the comb through the sparse remaining of her hair in the gentlest way. “Just give me a minute, I’m going to make your hair look really great, you know I’m quite good at it” She smiled. “Thank you, Anne,” Layla’s smile was pale. They refused to acknowledge the fact that her voice lacked the vigor and cheerfulness always accompanied with it. “What happened to your fist?” Layla asked Rylan, breaking the silence, she grimaced on examining the bruise. “Oh, this… it happened while I wanted to punch the damn doctor’s face, he held up his first-aid kit to dodge my punch and my fist crashed into the damn thing. I made him pay for it though” “It must hurt so much” She blinked. They told her everything already, from the doctor’s misdiagnosis to him getting arrested. The fact that she has Adrenal cancer and not leukemia didn’t make her feel any better even when she knew surgery can be performed and her chance of survival is fifty-fifty. “Nah, not really, I got it treated yesterday already.” Rylan smiled. “Are you sure?” “Of course, c’mon” “I’m done! Look how good of a job I did” Anne smiled. “Check it out Layla” She opened her phone camera and handed it to Layla. “Thank you, Anne, this is pretty” Layla smiled. “I love it” “I’m glad you do” Anne looked satisfied with her handiwork. She sat on the other side of Layla and silence fell upon them again. They were all acting indifferent to the situation, it would have felt like another of their hang out if the location hadn’t been in a hospital. They acted like everything is fine and normal even though they could feel their world crashing. “You guys aren’t pissed at me for keeping… it from you?” Layla broke the silence yet again. “Who says so? I’m Hella pissed at you and I’m only waiting until after your surgery to scold you properly” Fel frowned. Dan nodded. “Same here” Rylan and Anne agreed. “I’m so sorry not to have confided in you, it’s just, I didn’t want you guys to worry and you shouldn’t blame Phil or be pissed at her over anything. I caused it, Phil was ready to make me go to the hospital with her, she pleaded with me a ton of times but I always turned her down. She once invited a doctor over to the house after I wouldn’t agree after several pleas to go to the hospital with her and I ended up telling the doctor to leave or I was going to have him sued. “She was equally ready to spill it to you guys but I…” Layla paused. “Threatened to kill myself” “Omg Layla!” Fel’s eyes bulged. “Why would you do that?” Dan frowned. “I just didn’t want you guys to… worry or be sad, I didn’t want to bother anyone—” “Save your explanation until after the surgery” Rylan sighed. “I need to say it now, no one knows… what is going to happen” “Nothing bad is going to happen” Anne said, almost immediately. “The doctor said my chance is fifty-fifty…” “And you think that means you’re going to die?” Fel raised her brow. “It’s likely–” “Stop it” Fel raised her voice louder than intended. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to yell but this is the last thing we need from you please.” “Your belief that you’re going to make it needs to be as strong as ours. Please” Dan’s eyes were pleading. “Nothing bad is going to happen, just have it in mind that you survived the surgery already and that belief is going to come to manifest” Rylan assured. “Let’s leave everything until after the surgery, agreed?” Fel asked. They nodded in agreement. “Let’s pray” Anne said and minutes into the prayer, none of them could hold their tears any longer. They held hands and cried, letting out emotions that has been on hold. Layla wished she could console her friends but she couldn’t stop herself from crying as well. Her heart ached. This was what she hadn’t wanted; causing them this much pain. They held her really tight as they prayed and cried. She couldn’t help but wallow in their prayers and tears, wiping tears off her face at interval. It came to an end after what seemed like forever. Fel excused herself to rinse her face, they all did same and provided a bowl of water for Layla to do the same as well. It kind of refreshed and made their tear-streaked faces look better. The silence resumed again. “Dan” Layla called. “Huh, you want something?” “Are you horrified with how I look now” Layla said. Dan swallowed hard and shook his head, not trusting himself enough to speak without bursting into tears again. “Do you still like me,” Layla paused. “I mean feelings?” She asked, not realizing she was holding her breath as she awaited his response. If they were surprised by Layla’s question, they didn’t show it. Dan smiled and nodded. “Even with the fact that I’m almost bald? and..” Her throat tightened. “Ugly?” “Having feelings for you never had to do with your looks. You should know me well enough to know looks isn’t my main attraction in anyone, I’ve never liked or dated anyone simply because they’re good looking. “And, even in this state, you aren’t ugly! I do not want to hear you call yourself that anymore, okay?” Layla nodded, smiling. Dan still likes her! It further fueled her desire to live, if her surgery turns out successful. They could date! Something she’s wanted for some time. A part of her felt sad that things might not actually turn out as she wanted. “This is your first smile of today that actually reached your eyes. I’m glad” Fel smiled. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you, Layla” Rylan said. “Go ahead” “You already left for home in the cab. Why did you come back?” Layla sighed. “Didn’t we say we were going to leave everything until after my surgery?” They smiled, nodding. Glad she now had faith in her survival. But what they didn’t know is she planned to write it down on a paper, knowing she probably won’t make it out. “I’m feeling sleepy” she said and they assisted her in laying properly on the bed and adjusting the pillow beneath her head. She seemed to have lost so much weight wihin the space of yesterday and today. “Fel, you seem to be a good narrator. Narrate the history of Moremi to me, I would love to hear it while I fall asleep” Layla said, smiling. “Oh, great” Fel rubbed her palms together and grinned. “Moremi was a beautiful and virtuous queen…” Fel started and had barely gotten to the middle part of the story before Layla’s soft snores filled the room. ……………
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