Olaitan opened her eyes. It was odd. One minute she was asleep and the next, her eyes just popped open. As a rule, she wasn’t a morning person. Her husband, Grant knew this and gave her a wide berth every morning. She yawned and winced. She could still feel some lingering ache deep inside and in her limbs too. Childbirth was no child's play.
Cautiously she turned on her side to check the crib and found it empty. Cynthia or one of the nurses, Olaitan thought with another wide yawn. She had just closed her eyes when loud voices coming from outside her door woke her.
Olaitan yawned again. The door opened, catching her mid-yawn. She glanced down, embarrassed. “Sorry,” she told the doctor.
“I-ah--” she began.
Olaitan jerked her head up and her eyes settled on the doctor. She noticed the huddled figures of the other nurses and became uneasy.
“It’s everything alright?” she asked in a whisper. “Where’s Zack?”
Doctor Matthews swallowed. Never before had he being in such a situation. He had absolutely no idea how to handle this. Yet, he must. He’d already called his lawyer. Matthews hospital was the best private clinic in the area. Only the very rich could afford her services and the Onuoha’s had surprised him. from their antenatal visits, he knew Mr Onuoha, 'Laitan's husband was a teacher in a small private school. He hadn’t believed Mr Onuoha could afford him until the money was reflected in the hospital account.
Now, he was here to deliver bad news. And protect his hospital.
“Don’t just stand there!” Olaitan screamed. “Answer me. Where's my baby?”
She lurched from the bed and nearly fell to the ground as her legs were unable to hold her. Cynthia ran forward to help the trembling young woman.
“Oh, God. I need to call Daddy.” 'Laitan shivered. “My Daddy, my Daddy.”
“Please,” Cynthia whispered. “You mustn’t hurt yourself.”
“Just give me my phone,” Olaitan snapped shrugging off Cynthia’s hold. She might have been her favorite nurse, but until she saw her Zack, everyone was the enemy.
Cynthia grabbed the phone from the bedside table and handed it over with a distraught look on her face. Olaitan took the phone and held it tight almost as if to draw sustenance from what it represented. Comfort.
“We can’t find your son,” Doctor Matthews said.
Olaitan twisted her phone over and over her hands. She heard the doctor’s words but they couldn’t be talking about her Zack. It wasn’t true of course, when Grant came everything would be alright. Yes, Grant. She was sure of it. Her husband could do anything.
She turned to the hovering Cynthia and spat, “Call my husband.” Olaitan’s lips trembled. “I need my husband and my Daddy. You people are scaring me.”
Cynthia went to kneel before Olaitan. From the first day, Olaitan came in with her husband for antenatal, like many of the nurses, she had fallen in love with the couple. They were so beautiful. If the husband was more good looking than the wife, who cared when he obviously worshiped her. Before their very eyes, Olaitan as she had insisted they call her, never had to do anything other than sit, breathe and listen. The husband did everything else.
In a community where almost all the men were brutal, potbellied and ugly, Mr Onuoha was a novelty. There had never been a case of a missing kid before in the hospital’s history. That it should happen to the Onuohas was too painful to contemplate.
She placed warm hands on Olaitan’s knee. The distraught woman raised wet eyes to Cynthia and she had to control her flinch.
“Please listen. We,” Cynthia swallowed, unable to get the hellish words out, “we honestly can’t find Zack--”
“My Zach,” Olaitan whispered between sniffles.
“Yes,” Cynthia said in an agonized mutter, “but I promise we’ll do all we can--”
“Speak for yourself,” the doctor interrupted harshly, “I suffered to bring this hospital to where it is today. I won’t let this--this--”
“This what?” Nurse Sarah interrupted. “Tell us now,” she taunted, “this small problem?”
“Shut up,” Dr Matthews said wrathfully.
“Mr Onuoha will soon be here. Is that what you’re going to tell him?”
Dr Matthews mouth worked but nothing came out. He was furious. If the hospital survived this, it would be a miracle. What could he do? How could he protect himself? Where was the child?
He drew his tall, lean frame up. “The fact remains, we've searched everywhere,” he said dejectedly, “the police will take it from here.”
“I want my husband and my Daddy, I know you’re lying,” Olaitan whispered, hands still wrapped tight around the phone as she weaved from side to side.
Dr. Matthews threw up his hands. “Call her husband or Daddy for--”
“You need to be gentle,” Cynthia interrupted, “you need to talk to her?”
“Will that bring back Zach?”
“Where’s my baby Zack?” Olaitan moaned. They had to be joking or maybe she was dreaming.
The Doc turned away. “Sarah go check on the search party. I will wait for the police.”
“We need to calm her down,” Cynthia insisted.
Dr. Matthews approached the whimpering Olaitan. She looked small, pathetic and crazy all at once. Pity and shame welled up inside him as he stared at her down bent head. The Onuohas had been one of his best patients these past months. He still found it difficult to believe the child was missing. And there were no cameras anywhere in the hospital. He had a fibroid operation scheduled for seven thirty. That was why he’d resumed so early. Usually, he wouldn't make an until eleven A.M.
He dropped to his knees beside Cynthia. “Olaitan? Please believe me. We will find--”
With a loud moan, she pressed both palms against her ears to block out his words. Tears ran unchecked down her face, mixing with the catarrh running down her nostrils to wet the neckline of her shirt.
He glanced at Cynthia helplessly. What could he say to this woman that would make any sort of sense compared to her reality?
Moaning, she curled up into a ball, with the tears still running down her face. Amazingly, she still clutched the phone in her hand. He gave Cynthia a nod to rescue the phone from her hard grip.
She screamed and launched herself at Cynthia and then at the stunned Dr. Matthews. “GET OUT. GET OUT AND FIND MY SON. GOD WILL PUNISH YOU. I SWEAR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU. YOU’RE LYING. MY FATHER WILL ARREST YOU. GRANT WILL KILL YOU. GET OUT. GET OOOUUUUT!”
The slight hum of the air conditioner was irritating. The silence of the hospital was too loud. His Mother in law’s hovering was beginning to grate on Grant’s nerves. He was angry, terrified, shattered and exhausted. His little boy was somewhere out there and he could do nothing. Frustration boiled over the kettle that was his heart and spilled over, filling his stomach with more ache.
Babies, children, and adults disappear in various state in Nigeria and Africa. On average 850 persons go missing yearly in Nigeria. In some states the number has risen to as high as 1200. Many are never found.