Flora forever (1)

A chance meeting through an accident early one morning in a street in Lagos would have a profound effect on Bari, the narrator of this story and the accident victim, Flora...It was about seven in the morning and I was on my way to work. I was running quite late so I was in a bit of a hurry. Maybe that was the reason I did not see the lone figure, a woman that suddenly dashed across the road right in front of my car. I applied the breaks as fast as possible to avoid hitting her. But it was too late. I heard a crunching sound and a cry of pain and I quickly parked and ran out of the car. Seeing the blood from a gash on her head, I initially thought she was dead. Then I heard her moan and she opened her eyes.

"Are you alright?" I asked worriedly, my hand on the uninjured side of her head.
She gazed at me without speaking, moaned again then closed her eyes. I was already late for work but I could not leave her lying there by the roadside. Besides, a few passersby had gathered and were asking questions. With their help, I placed her in the back seat of my car and drove to my family hospital.
She was admitted and I stayed for a while to ensure she would be ok. I later left for work after instructing one of the nurses I knew to call me if they needed anything.
On my way from work that night, I stopped by the hospital. I was glad to see that she was awake, sitting up and taking some drugs. Standing by the bedside was a nurse as well as another woman I had not seen before.
"How are you feeling now?" I asked her after the nurse had told her I was the one who had brought her to the hospital.
Before she could answer, the other woman said angrily:
"So you are the idiot that almost killed my sister this morning! Why can't you these drivers look where you are going?"
"Take it easy, sister. It's not like that. It was actually my fault," the lady I hit, stated. Then turning to me, she added:
"Please, don't take any notice of her. She can be temperamental at times..."
"And what's that supposed to mean?" demanded the sister.
I spoke up then.
"Madam, I'm sorry for what happened. It was an accident and not intentional."
That seemed to calm her down a bit.
Later, I introduced myself to her sister and spoke for sometime with her.
"I'm Flora," she said, extending her hand for a handshake. I studied her for a while. The injury on her head had been bandaged and it didn't look as if she was injured on any other part of her body. I felt relieved at that as I had feared that she could have broken a leg or other body part.
"I'm glad to see you sitting up and looking alright," I said.
She smiled a little then laid back on the bed.
Before leaving, I spoke to the nurse briefly about Flora's condition along the corridor outside her room.
"The doctor said the injury was not deep so she will be fine. But she has to remain in the hospital for a couple of days as we need to do an x-ray to ensure there are no internal injuries,"
she explained.
It was three days later she eventually left the hospital. I felt responsible for what happened so since it was a weekend and I did not go to the office, I took her home. She lived with her elder sister, Aunty Janet the one I met at the hospital.
In the house were two young girls and an older girl who looked a lot like Flora.
I initially thought the children were her elder sister's kids.
But when we entered the house, they ran to her shouting 'Mummy' and embraced her.
I looked at her in surprise. To me, she looked too young to be a mother, much less, a mother of two. I didn't even know she was married as I had not seen any man with her at the hospital.
"Mummy, where have you been? Did you buy anything for me?" the younger girl who looked about four stated.
Flora smiled and patting them fondly, turned to me.
"This is Uncle Bari. Say hello to him."
"Welcome Uncle," they both chorused looking up curiously at me.
I smiled at them then sat down on a chair.
Aunty Janet and the older girl who was Flora's younger sister, Patricia had gone to where I presumed was the kitchen as I could hear the noise of pots being opened and closed.
"Thanks for bringing me home. You didn't even have to. I could have found my way home easily," she said, sitting on a chair to my right.
"It was nothing. As I said, I feel responsible. What if something worse had happened? We won't be sitting here chatting like this," I noted.
She nodded then said:
"You are right. Maybe, it's not time for me to go yet."
The elder sister brought some drinks later and Flora and I sat drinking for a while and chatting.
I was curious about her and there were some questions I wanted to ask her. But I didn't, as I felt it would be rude of me to be prying in her private affairs.
I left a short while later, turning down her offer of staying for dinner with them.
"There's somewhere I have to be in the next 30 minutes," I explained as she saw me to my car.
As I drove off, I could see her from my side mirror, standing by the gate of the building and waving.
I did not see Flora again for a while. I was busy with work and other things that took up my attention. But I called occasionally to check on her health and she always told me she was fine.
It was about three weeks later, on a rainy evening when I ran into her again. I was returning home from a visit to a friend when I saw her standing at a bus top, taking shelter from the pouring rain.
I wound down the window on the passenger's side and called to her.
Seeing me, she ran towards the car and got in.
"Where are you going?" I queried after we exchanged greetings.
She stated she had gone to the market and was returning home.
"The rain started without warning and I didn't bring an umbrella from home," she said.
I enquired after the children. Then, turning to her, stated:
"And your husband? I'm yet to meet him. Did he travel or something?" I asked.
She remained silent and simply stared straight ahead through the windscreen.
Then, to my shock, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks and onto the blue top she had on.
"Is there anything the matter? Did I say something to upset you?" I asked in a concerned tone.
She sniffed and shook her head.
I opened the glove compartment and bringing out a hankie, gave it to her.
She took it silently then broke down and began sobbing.
I looked for a space close to a busy bus top and parked.
I sat, silent and waited for the weeping to subside.
It was a full ten minutes later before she was able to get control of herself.
She wiped her face with the hankie and said:
"I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me," she stated.
"It's ok," I assured her. "If you are having any problem, you can talk to me. As a friend. I'll be happy to help in any way," I added, turning to take her hand in mine.
She sighed then stated:
"Thanks for the offer. But there's nothing you can do. You see, it's my husband or rather my estranged husband as we are separated..."

To be continued...........................

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