Sheila woke up in a hospital.
She feared the worst had happened. Her memory of events that occurred after she arrived at Richard’s house was hazy at best. She looked around warily, wondering where every body was. She glanced at a HIV poster on the white washed hospital wall and she felt like she’d been hit by a train. It all came flooding back.
“Oh God please don’t let me have HIV”
She begged silently. She kept repeating the words over and over. She promised God heaven and earth. Promised to clean up her act. Promised to join a convent and then hastily withdrew the promise. She couldn’t imagine life living with HIV. The stigma, the constant rejection, the numerous hospital visits, living with the fact that death could come knocking any time or that she could infect the people who ventured close to her. There’d be no hope of reconciling with Chinedu, not that she had much to begin with. Her thoughts turned to Chinedu and what might have been. She sighed. Well since she couldn’t very well kill herself, she’d brace herself and see how she could make the most of this HIV-business.
“Who am I kidding? My life is over!”
And she broke into a sob. She wished someone would pinch her. She desperately wanted to wake from this nightmare. What had she ever done to anyone to deserve this? There were prostitutes roaming the street who were HIV negative. Why had Richard decided to end her life?
“What did I ever do to him?”
How had Richard even caught the disease? It had to be tough living with it but he looked like the same old Richard to her except for that sinister part of him that she hadn’t been able to figure out till he drugged her and showed his true colours. Why was he out to punish every woman or was it just her? Did he actually believe she had given him HIV? It didn’t matter anymore, she was sure he had given it to her.
Big, fat tears rolled down her cheeks as she thought of her family and how they’d react to the news of her death. She didn’t hear the door open and she jumped when she saw Chinedu, flowers in hand accompanied by a nurse.
“You are awake, thank goodness!”
Sheila responded rather awkwardly. A bit confused about the turn of events.
“It’s normal for the patient to feel a bit confused so take it easy with her ok?”
The nurse advised and then turned to Sheila.
“How are you feeling? Any pains? Your test results will be out in a few hours and then we’ll discharge you and give you a six weeks appointment. I’ll leave you with your visitor. He can explain anything else you are unclear about.”
And with that the nurse was gone. Leaving Sheila bewildered and with a million questions.
“Chinedu what are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story Sheila. I’m glad I found you when I did.”
“What do you mean by ‘found me’?”
“You don’t remember what happened?”
Sheila lied. Suddenly ashamed to narrate her own version of the story. Chinedu probably had a pristine past and would never understand the events that had put her here.
“Then we won’t discuss it at least not now. Let’s just focus on you getting better dear.”
Chinedu put the flowers by her bed and held her hand.
“I’ve missed you so much Sheila and I’m sorry if I did anything to make you push me away. I really wanna be with you…never ever wanna lose you again”
Chinedu choked on the last part of his sentence. He seemed laden with emotion. Sheila felt the tears falling down her cheeks. He was the very best thing that had ever happened to her and now to protect him she had to distance herself.
“Chinedu you really shouldn’t have come…”
Sheila whispered. She felt like she had thrust a dagger in her own heart. This was gonna be hard.
“I can take care of myself Chinedu. Besides I thought we had kinda decided to go our separate ways. Things just weren’t working out.”
Sheila was sobbing quietly. It hurt too much.
“Sheila I’m never ever leaving your side again. I don’t care what you say. I love you and nothing can ever change that!”
HIV can and it will! Sheila sighed. She wasn’t doing a good job of chasing Chinedu away but she had to for his sake. She felt so tired and emotionally drained. It wasn’t easy coming to terms with certain death. She wondered where Richard was. She hoped the bastard rotted in hell!
As if on cue, there was a knock on the door and then there was Richard. Sheila stared unable to react. He seemed broken! Like his spirit had been crushed. He looked older and his shoulders sagged. Sheila couldn’t muster enough anger. She felt cold towards him but at the same time pity. She just stared.
“Richard I told you that you didn’t have to come…”
“I j…just wanted t…to see if she was alright.”
Sheila looked at both men. How did Chinedu know this beast? And if Chinedu knew what Richard had done to her he wouldn’t be talking to him so courteously. What story had Richard told Chinedu? She was suddenly angry.
“Richard get out of here! I never ever want to set my eyes on you ever!”
“Forgive me Sheila…”
Richard whispered. Sheila felt her momentary anger dissipating. She was so drained. The tears filled her eyes. She and Richard were one and the same. He’d made sure of that and the fact that someone else had given him this dreadful disease which he in turn had given her filled her with much sorrow. Life was so unfair.
Chinedu held Sheila in his arms. Sheila couldn’t believe what a mess she was in. She didn’t even have the strength to demand that her attacker be apprehended instead she felt something akin to pity for the poor man. She sighed at the hopelessness of the situation.
Just then the nurse returned.
“Your results are out and they are all normal…”
Chinedu stopped mid-sentence and his unfinished question seemed to hang in mid-air.
“Yes, including that one. Although she would have to be re-tested in 6 weeks because of the window period. I’m going to write out her prescription and discharge her now…”
Sheila had never been big on faith but she desperately needed a miracle.