The conference hall of Louisa Hotels and Towers was grand; it was decorated with gold and silver embroidery. The chairs were all covered with white fabrics and yellow ribbons tied at the middle. Lancelot was dressed in a green blazer with a white polo shirt and green plain trousers. He held Rahila with his right hand and his left hand was on Jane’s shoulder. Jane was wearing her pink gown while Rahila was in a gold armless gown. They had just arrived the venue for the National Science Awards. Lancelot was nominee for one of the awards. He had insisted Jane come along even though the ceremony was to last till 11 p.m. Three of them walked gaily into the hall like a set of triplets.
An usher walked up to them and when she saw Lancelot’s nomination letter, she conducted them to special seats in the front. Rahila blinked excessively, the bright lights that sparkled were affecting her sight. Bright lights affected her eyesight; she rummaged her bag till she found her gold rimmed spectacles that would protect her from the illumination. There were five seats around the table they sat, on the table was two bottles of champagne and five wine glasses for each seat. There was also a bouquet of yellow artificial flowers on the table.
Lancelot turned to whisper something into Jane’s ears and she giggled softly. It was her first time in an event like this and she did not want to do anything that will make her seem odd. Rahila smiled as she saw both of them giggling. Both of them had suddenly become fond of each other. She was worried when Jane first arrived that Lancelot did not like her. Now it seemed the both of them were related. They joked and laughed at the slightest thing. Rahila could not be bothered with their closeness; she was sure she still occupied first position in Lancelot’s heart, besides; she could bet a hundred dollars that her husband will never cheat on her, especially not with Jane.
“If I win the best paediatrician of the year, I want you two to stand up and clap your hands very loudly, like they do in the movies.” He said to both of them.
“I don’t know about how they do it in the movies.” Rahila replied.
“Have no fear, Jane is here. She is the movie pro so she will guide you on how to do it properly.” Lancelot said and they all giggled.
Someone slapped Lancelot casually on the back. “Doctor.”
They all turned, two men were staring at them.
“Hey, Joe and Bayo, you two made it. Thanks a lot.” Lancelot got up to hug them.
Rahila stood up and shook hands with them. “Thanks for coming, please join us. This is my cousin Jane.”
Jane stood up to greet. Joe quickly got hold of her hand and k-ssed the back of it. Bayo shook her and said: “Happy to make you an acquaintance.”
“My pleasure.” Jane retorted.
Joe got the seat near Jane and balanced his weight on it. He was chubby just like Lancelot was, with the same height, weight and carriage.
“Doctor brags about having two beauty queens in his house. Now I know he is not lying. I just came back from Texas three days ago and when Doc told me about this event, I said i had to be here.” Joe quipped.
“Of course, as my besty, you deserve to be.” Lancelot said.
Jane looked flustered. It was obvious Joe was trying to get her attention but she did not know why. She thought about excusing herself to go to the ladies, but she was worried that it was too early for that. Joe was talking now about his trip from Texas and he was looking straight into her eyes. She avoided looking at him and concentrated on the ushers in blue and white uniform who were hurrying to and fro.
The main event kicked off, there were many dignitaries present; the First Lady of the country, the minister of health, the minister of Science and technology, several foreign scientists and university vice chancellors. After the dignitaries and nominees were welcomed, a cultural dance troupe came up the stage to perform and after that a popular comedian mounted the stage to lighten the mood. His jokes were mainly about doctors and the state of infrastructure in the country. The audience laughed hærd, even Jane could not stop herself from laughing till tears dripped. Only Lancelot did not find the jokes funny; he kept a serious face throughout the comedy; Jane stopped laughing when she turned to look at him.
During one of the speeches by a notable person, Rahila took a picture of Jane sitting immaculately. The speeches were long and uninteresting. It took up half of the time. It was finally time for the awards; the award title was announced and the winner was called, a short biography of the winner was read and he or she was given a trophy. The host called out the Best Paediatrician of the Year category:
“The winner of this award goes to Doctor Lancelot Okafor Okoronkwo.”
Applause followed the announcement, as Lancelot stood to go to the podium, Rahila, Jane, Joe and Bayo stood up clapping. A few others also stood up.
“Lancelot Okafor Okoronkwo is a doctor in the Central Hospital Gwagwalada, he has contributed immensely to child care in the country including introducing several methods in looking after children with Sickle Cell anaemia. His book, in,side the Paediatrics Ward, published in 2009, has been very instrumental in hospital practice especially in dealing with child related cases. He studied Medicine in the University of Benin and did an internsh¡p at Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos.”
The camera flicked and the lights flashed, the minister of health presented the trophy to Lancelot who bowed slightly and flashed a smile revealing a handsome set of white teeth. Other health practitioners and scientists were also presented with awards. The rest of the time music played and cameras flashed as the guests ate and drank. Lancelot and his family left immediately it was 11 p.m while Bayo and Joe remained to enjoy the event till the end.
Weeks passed and Lancelot and Jane became best friends at home. Jane felt important and special; it seemed her presence in the house made it really a home. She was entangled in a home where the couple enjoyed marital bliss and understanding. Since there was no child in the house, she was given the status of a child. Rahila and Lancelot took turns to buy her things on their way home from work. Lancelot got her JAMB past questions booklet and mentored her concerning her future career. Rahila told her stories of what happened in the hospital wards and gave her relationsh¡p advice even though she did not need any. Both of them were friendly but Lancelot behaved like an elder brother towards her, he even had a name for her, “My Girl,” he would call her and reserved “Wifey,” or “Sweetheart,” for Rahila.
Jane soon debunked the theory she had made up about Lancelot needing psychiatric help, though at times she noticed that Lancelot acted odd at times like leaving a little tea in his mug and insisting Jane drinks it in his presence or answering her greetings with a nod if she saw him before 5 a.m in the sitting room. At those times when she saw him at early hours in the sitting room, he would be sitting quiet on the long armchair facing the kitchen or watching a program on Daystar.
When he was not on call on Saturdays, he took her to one of the parks in Abuja where they sat talking about herself or they bought fruit juice and sat sipping it. Lancelot called it exposure and sometimes Rahila came along. On those days when Rahila came along, Jane was almost neglected and the couple talked about their friends. When Jane insisted, they went to amusement parks and Jane had her fun riding on fun rides while Lancelot took pictures of her. She was having the best moment of her life. At times she thought about Isaac and knew he was missing her, but she consoled herself with the thought that she would go to see him by December; she had saved some amount of money to do shopping for him and buy him lots of toys.
On the 21st of November 2013, Planang visited Jane. She wore a brown blouse on a blue jean trouser. Her hair was packed with a blue ribbon and her l-ips had been smeared with black eye pencil. She smelt of men’s perfume and when she saw Jane at the gate she k-ssed her cheeks leaving the outline of the black eye pencil on jane who did not notice.
“Babe, you are fat now, what have you been eating? You look beautiful though, I’m so happy to see you.” Planang yelped.
“I’m happy to see you too, you have not changed one bit. Still the same height and weight. Welcome to our house.” Jane opened the door so she could enter. Planang surveyed the sitting room and happily sank into the couch. “Girl, you dey enjoy abi?” She said looking mischievously at Jane.
“I dey enjoy now, wetin you think say I come Abuja do?” Jane retorted. She went to the refridgerator and brought out Hollandia Yoghurt, she found a tray and glass in the kitchen and laid the pack of yoghurt on the tray, this she brought and set it on a side stool before Planang.
The two girls chatted quickly in Hausa, they did not even notice Lancelot coming out of his room till he stood close to Planang. They stopped talking and Planang immediately got up and curtsied.
“Good afternoon Sir.”
“Afternoon dear, how are you?”
“My Girl,” he called to Jane, “Will you not introduce me to your friend?”
“Her name is Planang, we were classmates at Noble Academy in Jos. She is studying Accounting in UniAbuja.”
“Nice to meet you, Planang.” Then to Jane he said, “I want to meet someone a few miles from our house, I will be back soon okay?”
Jane frowned, “When will you be back?”
“Soon I said, what should I get for you?”
“Suya and masa will be fine.”
“Right, take care of your friend.” He waved at Planang and left.
When he was outside Planang gave Jane a questioning look.
“What?” Jane asked.
“Is that how your oga behaves towards you?”
“He is not my oga, he is my cousin-in law and yes, that is how he behaves towards me.” Jane said with her eyes facing the T.V.
Planang clapped her hands and nodded, “Babe you are so lucky, he is so friendly and so handsome, he looks like the kind of man I will like to take away.”
Jane turned to look at Planang, her face was in a tight grimace. “Take away to where? My cousin’s husband remember…”
To be continued
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