“I just hope clinic won’t be a mess for these two weeks that we’re away. You know that…” Mayokun expressed her concerns before Bunmi interrupted.
“Na wa for you o! Prof. Jones” Bunmi interjected sarcastically. “Nobody will die in your absence. Na so you dey carry work for head?” Adjusting her posture in her seat to face Mayokun, she continued “It is a perfect opportunity for me to be away from my kids, family, work, church, and have some fun after such a herculean year. Trust me babe, this doesn’t come often”.
“Rule book, ladies” Adekemi looked into the rear mirror to maintain eye contact with the Mayokun and Bunmi at the back seat, while casting a side glance at Ruth in the passenger seat. “ No work conversations, no man talk now, at the airport, in Spain, till we’re back”. She often came off as the Chief Whip of the team whose disciplinarian trait kept them well behaved like kids “We are going to Spain to enjoy a good conference, make connections as we begin our respective careers, and enjoy a badt vacation. Understood?” She shot them a straight face, awaiting a feedback.
“Yes ma’am!” Mayokun and Bunmi chorused.
“Vibes only” Ruth responded, stretching a fist to Adekemi for a bump.
The drive to the airport was smooth and free of congestion because workers and students were away during office hours. Adekemi pulled into Admiral Kent Expressway as Google maps adjusted their arrival time at the airport to 22mins.
“Get your hands out of my fridge” Adekemi caught Ruth trying to snatch a chocolate bar from the compartment.
“I feel hot na” Ruth protested “Can’t a lady cool herself with some fridge goodness again?”
“Use your climate control” Adekemi side-eyed her.
“Levels!!!” Mayokun clapped in mock adoration
“Range Rover Mama!” Bunmi raised two hands in salutation.
“You people are not serious” Adekemi laughed, taking a detour off Babangida boulevard to Airport road “You guys really think I’m your driver sha. Like I stashed my fridge to drive you guys while you eat my chocolates and drink my champagne? Y’all must be crazy.” She chuckled. “My driver will be at the airport in an hour to take the car back home. The goodies are meant to keep us busy while waiting for him or you people planned to starve till they serve food in air?” She raised her brows in a query. Nobody responded. “Maybe you guys are secretly flying business sef” She concluded her speech.
“Business my foot! No be pharma company we dey follow?” Ruth turned up her nose. “Those people don’t rate us. They said they only give economy flights, citing compliance..”
“Oh dear! Compliance!” Mayokun interjected. “I might pass out if I hear compliance one more time in this life. The companies are no more responsible. You can’t get then to do CSR anymore. No departmental support, no support for the hospital. It’s like this their compliance is something they came up with to make plenty money and give crumbs back and call it…” Mayokun raised her fingers in an air quotation “sponsorship to scientific conference”.
“I’m just waiting to catch this compliance” Bunmi shook her head. “Compliance that allows the companies stress you so much for prescriptions, but is against them doing good in return. I think it’s just for Africa. Shebi we will get to conference and see the number of physicians sponsored from non-African countries.”
“Maybe they get more returns from those countries” Ruth chipped.
“Then I say we stick to our generics or have the multinationals establish factories here” Bunmi responded.
“There’s a lot to unpack about that but I’m not interested because that will lead me to talk about Nigeria, and there is an update to the rule book.” Adekemi lifted a finger.
“What?” The three ladies chorused.
“No talks about Nigeria on this trip abeg. We deserve a restful 10 days in Spain” Adekemi sighed. “Hope you guys were able to extend your flights beyond the 3-day meeting?” she asked. “It was a tug of war getting Boehringer Ingelheim to give us the agent’s contact. Ruth and I had to contact the airline ourselves after the tickets have been issued”
“Same story, sis” Mayokun responded.
“You ladies even enjoyed Boehringer’s sponsorship. Bunmi and I got flight sponsorship from Novartis, registration and accommodation sponsorship came from Pfizer.”
“Well, turns out we’re all on the same flight, but two different hotels. Not bad, if you ask me. The official arrangement is just for the 3days, our vacation starts afterwards” Bunmi submitted.
“We’re here ladies!” Adekemi paid for a 2hour parking ticket and moved the car to a private parking lot. The ladies went over conference protocol to confirm their registration. Attending scientific events, whether local or international, has never been cheap but for the mercies of pharmaceutical companies. This is generally considered as one of the perks of working in a tertiary or quaternary institution – visibility. You are visible for partnership and sponsorship, and all you needed was to be good on the job with some influence. A few naira notes exchanged hands as they went through immigration hurdles and crossed over to the lounge.
“I hate Lagos airport.” Ruth muttered “Everyone is out to extort you”.
“Even in the bathroom” Adekemi rolled her eyes “I was surprised that the experience is different in Abuja”.
“Abuja folks are generally proud though” Mayokun chimed in as she took a seat and secured her carry-on “Or should I say classy. I think I’m gon’ snooze all through the flight” She made an attempt to stretch while preserving public decorum “Your champagne relaxed my nerves “. Mayokun smiled lazily and poked Adekemi.
“Attention please!” A feminine voice came through the public address system, overpowering the buzz of the busy airport. “This is a call for all checked-in passengers on SSA-7347 to proceed for boarding. Checked-in passengers on Sunshine Airways headed to Madrid, with flight number SSA-7347 should please proceed for boarding. This is the first boarding call. Thank you.”
The four ladies proceeded to the boarding area, subjecting themselves to rigorous security checks and body scans, which have been more invasive since the world learned to live with terrorism. Adekemi has never found it pleasant how the checks in Lagos airport were sometimes offensive. Having a stranger frisk you in sensitive parts and begging while on the job was cringe worthy. She remembered an occasion where she felt violated during a search and filed a complaint with SERVICOM, but nothing came out of it. It was not as though she felt the establishment would listen, she simply thought a scan booth does a better job than an official running their hands all over your boobs and in-between your legs. She adjusted her neck pillow for comfort as the crew concluded safety protocols and the pilot announced take off.
“Hala Madridstas!” Ruth exclaimed as they headed to the arrivals to meet their respective hosts
“Keep quiet, Aunty” Mayokun hushed her. “You won’t speak the English you know until you embarrass us here. Is that how they even say it? Energy bomb.”
“Sorry o!” Ruth gave her a scornful look “Madrid police.”
“You Nigerians are too loud, abeg” Mayokun moved ahead of the group.
“Ah! Sorry o, Miss. Spain” Adekemi teased as she urged the others to double up “Are you now embarrassed to be associated with us?”
“Keep your WhatsApp connected guys” Bunmi grabbed Mayokun’s hand “Team Boehringer Ingelheim are headed out for a good time.”
“Team Pfizer wins!”Adekemi punched her fist in the air as they walked out to a warm welcome from Pfizer.
The cardiology congress went as expected with experts from various countries of the world in attendance. Each session was worth every minute spent in attendance, and it was interesting to see specialists from sub-saharan Africa present exceptions to the updated guidelines based on years of clinical expertise in the population. Would there come a time that Africans will no longer cite treatment guidelines from American and European sources, but from African sources? It might be too soon to tell. The continent is a work in progress, however, self-reliance is the only way out.
Congress closed with a dinner at the dining hall of Intercontinental Madrid, which has played host to cardiologists for the past three days. It was a good start to an energized career for the ladies, and they could never have wished for a better timing.
The Madrid Experience did not end with the Congress. The ladies checked in to their hotels and kick-started their 5-day vacation. Pictures of bikinis and big hats were splashed all over Instagram and twitter. “Doctors are now slay queens o. Do these ones know anything like this? “, “Step on our necks”, “your wig is snatched”, “Sis, you’d better give me your bikini plug”, “all these twitter doctors that know nothing”, “patients are dying, doctors are slaying”, “these ones na ashawo doctors”, “Sis you hawt!”, “I even know that one. She’s married o. Abandoned husband and kids to go wear bikini in Spain. All these feminists”. Ruth laughed as she scrolled through the comments on one of her twitter posts, reading it out to the ladies while enjoying some pina colada by the beach. The last day of their vacation was for rest before returning to the craze of work. How best to rest if not on the beach? “Tell that one that I’m pregnant for her man”
“Huh!” The comment jumped at Ruth
“Which man?” her heart skipped a beat.
“What’s the matter?” the ladies asked simultaneously.
“I don’t even know.. Just…lọ… lọọ.. Look” Ruth began to tremble and stammer.
“Give me the phone” Adekemi grabbed the phone from her and went through the page “It’s a burner account. It was created just today.”
“Breathe, Ruth.” Mayokun grabbed her. “Deep breath… hold it…. Slowly release”
Adekemi switched to her FBI mode and scanned the followers of the burner account. They often do not have too many followers when newly created, and some give away the person behind the account by their RTs. Burners are smarter now. This particular one has just one tweet, but chances are high that the person behind the account is following the burner with their personal accounts. It was easy to stalk 21 people, most of whom are often friends and sympathizers of the person. Adekemi stalked each one of 21 followers and realized that at some point or the other, they have liked or retweeted tweets from one account – @doc_chic. She went through the media and could only gather information that the lady is a doctor.
“Ruth, do you know this person? Adekemi showed her the picture.
“Face looks faintly familiar. I know her from the hospital” Bunmi responded.
Ruth shook her head “I’m not sure”.
Mayokun dissolved into tears.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” Bunmi asked as all eyes were trained on Mayokun.
Mayokun couldn’t respond. Her sobs were emotionally painful as she tried to suppress her tears. She need not respond. The heart-to-heart communication was clear.
“I’m so sorry, love, I’m so sorry” Adekemi got teary as she wrapped Mayokun in her arms.
“You don’t deserve this, May” Bunmi joined the hug and pulled Ruth in.
“You’re not at fault, Mayokun. You did not do this” Ruth stroked her hair as all attempts to console Mayokun failed.
“Juliet Onara” Mayokun wiped her tears. “Her name is Juliet”.
Mayokun stroked the rock on her finger, feeling awash with shame as she narrated the incident at surgery call room to them, and how she had made efforts to save her relationship. It was not a time for judgment. However, the girls could not understand why and how it was Mayokun’s responsibility to fight for and save her relationship after she had been so blatantly disrespected. It was not in their place to instruct Mayokun on what to do. Particularly, nobody desired the kind of acerbic relationship the ladies had in the past. They have all come to respect people’s opinions and decisions. It is her life, her choice. Whatever her decision is, she could count on their support.
The return to Nigeria was not as exciting as the past nine days. Mayokun’s feelings were raw, though she attempted to mask them, so as to keep negativity away from their experience.
“Babe, we’re back” She texted Kayode.
It was only fair that she heard from him. If she forgave him after cheating on her, then she was expected to live with this pregnancy. Pregnancy was a direct consequence of the act she forgave. She really was confused. How were they expecting a child before they got married? A child that is not hers. Why did Kayode do this to them? She fidgeted with her phone but got no response. “The number you have dialled is switched off. Please try again later. Thank you!” She had tried calling him severally but got the same feedback. He is not at the airport. He has her itinerary on his Google calendar, he could not have forgotten. Tears pulled in her eyes as she tried one more time.
“He’s not coming” Adekemi took the phone from her and drew her close. “My driver is here. Let me take you home. He can take a bus back home and I will drive you home.”
“Take me to Kayode’s place” She whispered
“Are you sure?” Adekemi disengaged from the embrace and looked into her eyes. She looked serious.
“Yes” She was unflinching.
“We’re coming with you.” Bunmi and Ruth wheeled the trolley to the car park.
Mayokun scoffed when she stepped into Kayode’s compound and saw his RAV 4 parked in its usual spot.
“Bastard!” She muttered.
The ladies exchanged shocking locks and quickly held positions beside her to prevent her from doing something stupid. What version of Mayokun was this? Whatever version of her emerged without her consent, it was their responsibility to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
“Maybe this was a bad idea?” Bunmi tried to reason.
“Leave her alone” Ruth rebuked Bunmi.
“You’re right” She inserted the spare key Kayode gave her into the lock and quietly opened the door “It is a bad idea”.
The ladies tiptoed into the living room in bewilderment, watching Mayokun lift up a lady’s bra from the couch. Boxers, shoes, wig, tie, were strewn everywhere. There was nothing to be confused about. Even if they had banged the door, the loud moan-fest coming from the room would have drowned the noise. She observed Kayode’s phone charging by the home theatre.
“You must be kidding me!” Adekemi broke the silence.
“I kid you not.” Mayokun moved the ring on her finger in a circular motion. “This is it.”
“This is what?” Nobody asked but the question simultaneously popped in their minds.
Mayokun headed to the room and all the girls could hear was silence. No moans, no shattering of glass, no stomping, no screams. “Are they fine?” Bunmi whispered.
“Sshhhhh” Ruth placed a finger on her lips.
“You slept with your House Officer! ” Mayokun’s voice came through and the girls rushed to eavesdrop for premium content.
“Babe, I can explain…” Kayode stuttered
“Keep quiet!” Mayokun thundered “It was not once. It was an affair. What sweet nonsense did you tell her? That you hold the key to surgery? Or you’re the gateway to career excellence! Did you promise her marriage? She’s carrying your baby.”
“What?” Kayode began to tremble.
“So you did not know?” Mayokun laughed in derision “You’re about to be a father. My congratulations are in order.” Mayokun ran her eyes all over the naked lady grabbing the duvet to cover up some shame. She recognized her as Kayode’s neighbour. The one who ignores her whenever she says hello. “Maybe you’d have another baby from her as well, Impregnating agent.”
She pulled out her engagement ring and dropped it together with the spare key on the dresser. Kayode dropped to his knees and began to beg.
“Delete my number”. She slammed the door and stepped out to see the girls scurrying away to their former positions, pretending to be sad for her when it was obvious they were somersaulting with joy in their hearts.
“Come off it, blockheads.” She gave Ruth a knock on the head.
“Ouch!” Ruth massaged her head.
“You take one for the team” Mayokun responded. “Let’s go”.
“Go where?”Adekemi asked
“The dealership” Mayokun stepped out of the compound
“What???” The ladies exclaimed in surprise. “Mayokun is buying a car! How? Why? When did the regeneration happen? Who is this Mayokun?” Such were the thoughts running through their minds as they hurried back to the car.
“I’ve got my eyes on a Range Evoque 2019. I’m buying it tonight” Mayokun sounded so certain.
“Can you even drive?” Bunmi enquired from a safe distance to avoid a knock.
“You underestimate me” She flashed her driver’s license from her wallet.
“Ehn! Who is this Mayokun o?” Adekemi asked, looking from one lady to another.
“I am Dr. Mayokun Jones – The Phoenix”
(I hope you guys are healthy and keeping safe during these challenging times. Please stay encouraged, my condolences to the bereaved, and prayers for the convalescent. I hope you have felt less lonely in quarantine by this short story. I designed it to keep you company, and I’m happy that you love it. Thank you.)