I’d acted as if I didn’t notice her and went on with my jogging. I did four and went to sit under the shade of a tree.
She’d gone ahead to complete four laps before she came and joined me.
“I know you from somewhere?” she said, as she flopped down by my side, her bosom heaving as she panted.
“You do?” I said.
Yeah, but I just can’t figure out where. Reckon we must have met somewhere in secondary school.” She did the effort at recollection, furrowing her pretty face.
“I suppose you don’t remember the guy who beat you in primary school?” I asked and watched her as she tried to subtract the years away from my face.
She stared at me for a long time, then cracked a smile and asked, “Where’s my scarf?”
“Here!” I said, pointing to the scarf I’d wound round my head.
“Boy! It’s been a long time,” she said, smiling shyly.
“Yeah,” I said watching her face.
“You know, someone took a picture of us at the finishing line. I look at that picture all the time and wonder who and where you are. You know, I don’t even know your name.
“Dave and you’re Lizzy Ubeh. I never forget and when I saw you striding onto the pitch I just knew it was you. You haven’t changed much. You’ve still got the same pretty face. The only difference is you’re no longer a kid and from what I hear, you’re still burning up the tracks.”
“I do my best.” She said shyly as the whistle sounded, calling us for our weekly conference.
“We’ll talk some more after the conference,” she said, as we walked towards the gathering.
That was how we became friends and in no time, love blossomed. We became virtually inseparable. We’d train together, then study together. She was studying to be a Biochemist while I was working towards a degree in Architecture.
Lizzy was great fun to be with. She was not just a good athlete, she was also smart and full of life. She had a great sense of humour and the times we shared were always fun-filled. She was just the right woman for me.
I graduated a year before Lizzy and I’d stopped competing by that time. I stopped because I’d been involved in an accident on my way to a meet with some of the guys. I’d fractured my left leg and though Lizzy had been there for me during that difficult period, I’d decided to give athletics up. I’d realised that it was more important and more enduring for me to get my degree first; then concentrate on athletics afterwards. But even then, I’d realised that with that urging, I was through with competitive sports.
My decision must have affected Lizzy more than I realised, for she had also stopped competing after she left school, though she still took out time to exercise and do light training.
“I’ve got to stay in shape for you or else I’ll lose you to some young babes,” she’d say whenever I raised an eyebrow.
Lizzy and I got married five years after we left school and if there is anything like a blissful marriage then that was what we had.
We were a young couple just starting out in life. We had our careers to build, a family to set up and all that, but it never for once interfered nor diminished what we felt for each other. We were more of lovers than husband and wife.
We had our son in the fourth year of our marriage. It was as if we just woke up one morning and realised that it was about time the honey moon ended. We’d settled down quite well in that short space of time. We both had our own cars and we were getting to be quite financially secure so we felt it was time to have a baby and we were blessed with a boy though I’d wanted a girl.
Lizzy was over the moon with joy. She’d been praying for a boy and she’d got one. I didn’t really care though I’d have preferred a girl for no particular reason anyway.
Our son was welcome and we set about giving him the best care we could and we’d been doing quite well until that black Sunday, seven months ago, when our world exploded.
Major, Lizzy’s immediate elder brother was getting married in Ibadan and we’d gone for the ceremony. We’d gone on Thursday so that Lizzy could contribute her own bit, while I used the time to catch up on a long overdue rest. I’d take Lizzy to the house in the morning then return to pick her back to the hotel while I lazed and read novels, a pleasure I’d been denied for so long.
We’d left junior in Lagos with the Owolabis, our friends from school and they were to bring him to Ibadan on Saturday morning. The wedding was cool and we’d all had a lot to eat and drink. We retired late at night and so had to leave for Lagos late the following day, way past noon.
It was on our way back that the problem started. I was driving, Lizzy was sitting beside me in the passenger’s seat while Junior dozed behind when I heard something like an explosion and the car began to zigzag on the road.
I’d been doing a cool 100 kilometres per hour and I tried to get the car back on track but it was useless. We left the road and the next thing I knew, the car was somersaulting through the bushes.
Junior was yelling his head off as we came to a stop, wedged in between two trees, I’d staggered out and freed him from the wreckage just as sympathisers began to troop down. That was when it hit me, I hadn’t seen Lizzy!
“Lizzy, Lizzy!! Lizzy!!! I screamed tumbling and tumbling through the dense undergrowth. The people who came to help fanned out and someone soon shouted, “I’ve found her, I’ve found her!!!”
I’d rushed there and there was my sweet wife lying in a ditch, I ran down there and began trying to pull her out.
“Don’t move her!” a voice ordered authoritatively and I’d looked up to see an elderly looking man approaching me.
“I’m a doctor,” he said, as he got to me and bent down to examine her. He straightened a while later and fixed me with a firm gaze. “She’s unconscious and I think it’s going to be pretty dicey moving her without a stretcher.”
There was no stretcher and I couldn’t leave her lying there, so we’d had to carry her as best as we could into the doctor’s car and then to the hospital where my worst night mare as an athlete were confirmed. Lizzy was paralyzed!
Series of X-Ray were taken and tests carried out but nothing changed.
It has been seven months now. Seven months of pain and heartache. Seven months of sadness and despair. Seven months of bitterness and anger. Seven months of agony and torture. Seven long months of asking, why me?
Now I watch my wife in her wheel chair, her legs and arms dangling and I wonder what we did wrong. I wonder what sin we committed for which we are being punished, but there is no answer.
I know Lizzy feels like shit even though she never says anything. All she does is sit in there and watch movies or listen to music. I’ve hired a nurse to take care of her while I’m at work, even though I always make it home at lunch time to be with her.
Lizzy has become taciturn. She doesn’t talk to me anymore except when she needs something. The doctor says it’s depression and I wonder just how long it will last.
Her mother has taken Junior to stay with them, while I tend to my wife who has now become a vegetable. I look at her now and try to reconcile her to that once bubbling and fun-loving girl I’d married and I wonder what went wrong. I just can’t reconcile this invalid with the agile and award winning athlete. I know that’s what is depressing her. For someone as agile as she was to so suddenly find herself invalid and dependent on other people can be nothing short of depressing.
And it is because I love her too much to see her suffer like this that I kneel down every day and beg God to just let her die and spare me this agony.
I’m sure you’d do the same if you were in my shoes. I’m sure you would.
To Be Continued…