It was a cold Tuesday evening, like every other evening in June but colder. Felicia rubbed her warm palms over her forearms soothingly, leaving a trail of tiny goose bumps arousing on her flesh. She would get her favourite pull-over sweater before going to the kitchen to prepare dinner, she concluded then marched steadily to the master bedroom. Pulling on the sweater over her white plain round-neck shirt, she was reminded of the moment she had bought it in Agote market. That day, Felicia had only intended to buy foodstuff, however the cloth seller had used palms that seemed to have been soaked in ice to pull Felicia’s skirt while she was passing by her stall, almost dragging the material down her waist in the market during the process, saying “hanti, it’s just five hundred naira, shikini money, buy one nah for this cold weather”and as if to support her claim, a cold gust of wind had swept by, thereby rustling Felicia’s satin scarf. Felicia had reluctantly bought the gray pullover sweater from the woman, just to save herself from further disturbance, and so increased her market budget like every other market day. ‘Now’, she thought, as she pulled up the zipper halfway to her bosom, ‘she preferred it to all other sweaters in her wardrobe’, and as an indication for this, the sweater had slacked from too many wash and the hands were now twice as long as the first time she had bought it.
Felicia walked gingerly to the kitchen in the warm comfort of her pullover, took the vegetables she had left in a plastic bowl earlier, and began slicing them on the chop board. She noticed the vegetables were not the same fresh, vibrant green they were when she had bought them that afternoon, they were now shrunk and had a dark purplish colour. Maybe because those vegetables seller sprinkled water every second to make them appear fresher than they originally were, she improvised. The only sound in the kitchen was the swip sound the slicing of the vegetables made and the sound of the knife meeting with the wooden chop board. The sound reminded her of the steady ticking of the clock in the doctor’s office four days ago. Ironically, she had gone there to visit a colleague who was being treated from severe malaria a week before that day, and had decided deal with the mammogram she had been planning to do for months but had been too busy to actually do. The test had been faster and simpler then she even thought, nevertheless, she resented the feel of hands that weren’t her husband’s fondling her breasts, even though they were theirs of her family doctor, Peter.
Soon after the test, Felicia had left the doctor’s office, walking in huge strides towards her blue Toyota Camry car. On getting to the parked car, she had jerked the door open, revved the engine and reared the car without as much as a glance to her behind, and a second thought to the test she had conducted. Two days later she had gotten a call from Peter, “come by 2pm today” the doctor had said flatly.
“I’m sorry Peter, I have a meeting at that time, can we make it 4pm, I should be done by then” Felicia replied hurriedly whist glancing at the gold Calvin Klein wristwatch Ekene had gotten for her during their honeymoon, she had to meet up with a client in twenty minutes!.
“Mrs. Otobo Felicia, it’s your health we’re dealing with. Come to my office by 2.” Peter repeated with a clipped tone. Felicia heart skipped a beat with the mention of her full name, her best friend, Ulu had always told her, when people call your full name, be afraid.
“Okay Peter, I’ll see”, Felicia said after a strained moment and hung up.
Fifteen minutes later, Felicia had walked briskly into Peter’s office, she hoped it was for a reason worth her time Peter demanded to see her. Not even for a second, did Felicia think something could be wrong with her health. She was the strongest woman she knew. Even Ekene, her husband calls her Superwoman. She peeked at the clock hung beside the well-arranged cabinet. Ten minutes past two. Maybe, she’d still get a chance to attend her meeting if Peter was quick enough.
“You’re late, how’s Ekene and the kids?” Peter said crisply without preamble. Niceties were crucial, even on Doom’s Day.
“I got here as fast as I could, they’re all fine. Thank you”. She said structuring her reply the same way he uttered his question. She took a glance at his face after settling down. ‘Why were beads of sweat trickling down his chubby cheeks, in this fully conditioned office? All these doctor coats seff! They’re too thick’. Felicia thought liberally. Peter looked at Felicia’s pretty face, her eyes now cast fixatedly on the clock behind him, he thought to himself “this might be her last times of stability and she is in a hurry for it to end”. He hated to be the messenger of doom. He hated watching people shatter along with the news he delivered especially people he was fairly close to.
“Felicia, the mammogram is out and it is not so good, here’s a copy of the test result” he gingerly said as he handed a brown envelope to Felicia’s shaky, waiting ones. Felicia opened the envelope numbly, and looked at the result…numbly. She could not interpret the blurry image she saw.
“The shadowy area is where the lumps have formed, it has developed to a severe stage and the only solution is a mastectomy. Thankfully, no harm is done to the left breast.”
A sharp pain stung Felicia’s finger, bringing her back to the present. Her left index finger was bleeding. She had cut herself. Out of habit, she took the finger in her mouth and sucked gently, as if she could suck the pain away- the pain of the cut and that of the crash. She then rinsed her finger in the kitchen basin. Accidents like this had been happening since four days ago, some dangerous than others. Yesterday, she had almost burnt the house down having forgotten the frying eggs on the hot-plate. If not for Ekene, who had come to the kitchen and tapped her alarmingly, she would have stood there, hypnotized while the cottons turned to ashes with her in the middle of it!
“Breast cancer, breast cancer” those words sounded so foreign to her even in her thoughts. Cancer was only ever a thing she saw in movies but now it was a thing of her body, in her body. Her breast! Tears burned Felicia’s eyes charting their paths down her face and falling in giant droplets unto the chop board. If only she had known, she would have conducted the mammogram long ago before the cancer advanced. Why did something as big as breast cancer not give her a sign? Why do the necessary things demand our attention the least? She felt fine, even till now. Maybe all this was just one long, tortuous nightmare she’d wake up from, but her still aching index finger told her otherwise. More tears poured into the slices of vegetables and she noticed the bright red still oozing out of her finger but she continued slicing. They were going to eat a meal of blood and tears tonight.