By; Dupe Kuku
Nurse Igwe was clocking out when Thomas strode in with his human bundle. He had noticed Claire’s head lolling and walked slower; wanting the rhythm of his strides to lull her to sleep. She had not stirred since, and he was proud of it.
“Can’t she walk?”
“Sssh. She’s asleep”
Nurse Igwe’s jaw fell. The brat had whispered while shushing her. He’d also reduced his height very slowly to seat in front of her like a patient; one hand cradling his cargo’s head to his neck.
Thomas gestured at the desktop computer that contained all patient files with his eyes.
“Akomolafe Claire. SS1”
Mrs. Igwe’s jaw moved to berate the teenager but her brain drew blank. His authoritative demeanour also cautioned her. She detested the guts of children born into wealth. Nursing hundreds of them over twelve years had however sharpened the intuition she now applied.
Mrs. Igwe typed into the search bar of the student database. Frowned when an empty file appeared. The girl had been registered as was customary for all new students. She had however never been ill. Most new students fell ill in the first weeks of boarding school. The strongest held out till March. The triad of rains, flu, and mosquitoes was litmus test.
How did this girl survive all that, for 4 sessions, only to crumble so hard she needed to be carried?
She fetched a thermometer. Snuck it between the girl’s armpits.
Mrs. Igwe hummed.
A small fever. Was she to ask Mister Mother Hen for the girl’s symptoms?
Just then, the girl stirred. Mumbled something.
Thomas and Mrs. Igwe focused on Claire, but it was the latter who first understood. Not because she had sharper hearing, but because the girl started to jerk upwards.
She grabbed a pan and was across the table in a flash. Guiding the girl’s head from the boy’s shoulder towards the stainless steel.
Thomas caught on. He pet her back and made soothing sounds. He did not flinch when she threw up bile, nor did his face contort with disgust.
Mrs. Igwe rose when the girl was done. Fetched a wet towel and bottled water. On her return, Thomas reached for the wet towel. He wiped Claire’s forehead and neck while Mrs. Igwe fed her mouthfuls of water, instructing her to gargle and spit. Grudging respect stirred in Mrs. Igwe then, and it deepened when he bowed to say thank you Ma.
Claire collapsed against the shoulder again. She was obviously weak.
Mrs. Igwe led them to a bed in the students’ ward. She could start the girl on IV fluids and draw blood for tests before the doctor arrived.
“Can you add paracetamol Ma? Her stomach is hurting”
The girl had fallen back asleep. She had also curved into a ball when the boy placed her in the bed.
“Why is her stomach hurting?”
“I was hoping she’ll tell us”
Mrs. Igwe nodded. Tied a tourniquet below the girl’s wrist. She instructed Thomas to hold Claire’s arm still. Noted that he winced and muttered sorry when the needle pierced her skin.
Mrs. Igwe drew the blood sample she needed. Set up the IV. Left for the lab.
She returned with paracetamol, and to the boy lying by the girl. Claire was puling like a bird and he had gathered her back against his front, reaching over their bodies to rub her stomach in soothing circles while whispering soft cooing sounds.
He was remarkably attentive, Mrs. Igwe thought. He was also surprisingly comfortable, wrapped around this girl. Too comfortable. Almost like…
She weaved her head left. Right. She was physically warding off the idea.
For the second time that afternoon, her subconscious wondered:
What was going on here?