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Home  ›  Romance  ›  Echoes Of A Heartbeat
Echoes Of A Heartbeat
by Lilian Amah   (Author)
Read First Three Chapters

Chapter One
People swarmed along the Marina. This was the height of the rush hour and the Marina was the focal point for Christmas shoppers in Lagos, one of the world’s most populous cities. Cars swerved in and out, horns blared madly and the general impres- sion was the last rush before the closure of the gates of heaven. In the midst of all this moved a tall, slimly built young lady. She was casually dressed in baggy trousers, T-shirt and loafers. What marked her out was the distant look on her face, which was tight with pain, and the fact that she was not in a hurry. She was also oblivious to the curses and grumbling of hurrying shoppers who found her indifferent pace aggravating. The surge of pedestrians with the lady in their midst approached the road junction. The traffic lights changed to green and the cars hitherto idling their engines suddenly came to life and roared on. The shoppers stopped as the cars swept by, but the girl with the distant look on her face continued. To all intents and purposes, she was sleep- walking, because as the BMW coupé bore down on her, brakes shrieking, she looked up with terror as her blank face suddenly became animated with fear. The world froze as the car hit the girl, who was flung into the air like a rag doll to lie crumpled and still about fifty yards away. Dr. Femi Taylor jumped out of his car and ran to bend over the still figure. The pretty face was at peace and Femi panicked, thinking she was dead. Instinct took over and he felt her pulse, which was faint but steady. Sympathizers helped him carry the girl to his car, and as he got into the back, cradling the pretty, bloodstained face in his lap, a policeman who was at the scene took the wheel. The emergency room of Hilltop Hospital in Ikoyi was a hive of activity as the emergency team went to work on the young woman. She had been identified as Kehinde Lawson by the driver’s license in her pocket. Also in her pocket was a small sum of money. No one could tell where she was going to or coming from. She was obviously not a shopper as she had no bag and not much money on her. Femi sat in the waiting room with his face in his hands, pray- ing for the unknown young woman who was at that moment hovering between life and death. Footsteps approached and he looked up for the umpteenth time. A doctor in a blood-spattered coat approached him. He jumped up. ‘How is she, doctor? Is she going to make it?’ ‘Too early to say. She has multiple scratches, cuts and bruises; but our major problem is a hairline fracture of the skull and massive concussion. There is also a little internal hemorrhage. You can see her for a few minutes, although she is still uncon- scious.’ Femi walked into the brightly lit intensive care unit behind the doctor. For the first time in his life, he went in not as a doctor but as a visitor, afraid for the life of the patient in the bed. He stood still as he suddenly saw her – the motionless figure in the high white bed. The face pale and still, the head wrapped in bandages, IV stand and oxygen mask in place. Femi studied the chart at the foot of the bed, which clearly indicated that she was still in a critical state. He then studied the figure in the bed, wondering what depth of sorrow could have pushed such a pretty young girl to attempt what was practically suicide on a Christmas Eve when the world was supposed to be rejoicing. Femi had no doubt that Kehinde had welcomed the thought of death. In the split second before collision, he saw the fear in her eyes fade and give way to joy and triumph. ‘Excuse me, could you please give me the particulars of the patient? I assume you know her.’ Femi turned as the nurse waited with pen poised to write. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you. I don’t know anything except what her driver’s license says. I’m just the guy who had the misfortune of knocking her down.’ Femi drove home, leaving his name and telephone number in case of emergency. His mind went back to Kehinde Lawson lying so still and alone in her hospital bed. He wanted to hate her for the inconvenience she had so thoughtlessly incurred for him but instead he found himself feeling sorry for a twenty-four-year-old young woman who was so tired of life that death seemed preferable to her. He longed to know more about her and prayed for her return to consciousness, as the look in her eyes would at least give him a clue to her thoughts. Kehinde tossed and turned in a maze of pain. The nurse on duty gave her a shot, which rapidly clouded her pain-filled mind. As she drifted off again, she floated in a vacuum full of dreams. She saw herself and Derrick on the beach. The day was filled with light, and love shone on her face as she gazed into Derrick’s eyes. He lifted her in his arms and whirled her round until she was dizzy… ‘Put me down, Derrick!’ she called. He put her down and, arm in arm, they strolled back towards their car. Her mind went back to when she had first met him four years ago. They were both in their third year in the University of Lagos. It wasn’t surprising they hadn’t met before since she was in the Arts Faculty while he was studying science. That day, however, she had gone to the sports center for a much needed game of volleyball. After the game, she strolled over to watch the hunks playing basketball. Her eyes clinched on to the handsome player who had just caught a rebound. He was a stranger to her but definitely a very handsome one. There was something very magnetic and masculine about the slimly built, handsome basketball captain. Before their friends knew what was happening they were the best-known couple on campus. They were always together except during lectures when each had to be in his or her own faculty. Kehinde’s life now revolved around Derrick. During lectures, she constantly thought about him and longed for the evening when she would see him. They were together every evening and couldn’t bear to leave each other until three or three thirty in the morning. This state of affairs continued until both Kehinde and Derrick graduated from the university. Even though they had been going out for over a year before graduation, they were more in love than they had been before. They both did their youth service in Lagos, and after that, Derrick went on to work for a reputable computer firm. Kehinde, on the other hand, was retained by Shell, where she had served. The love between the couple was entrenched in the deep respect they both had for each other.
All around them, the girls of Kehinde’s set were getting mar- ried. Derrick was just a year older than her and was not yet ready to settle down. She wasn’t bothered because she loved and trusted him. Many people tried to warn her that such unwavering trust was a sure invitation to heartbreak. They tried to tell her that her idol, Derrick, was a man like other Lagos men, and must defi- nitely have other girls in his life. This she wasn’t ready to believe. In all the years she had gone out with Derrick he had made it clear to her by implication as well as verbally that she was the only girl in his life. As for her, Derrick was definitely the only man in her life. On his birthday, two weeks before her accident, Derrick had suddenly and surprisingly proposed to Kehinde. She didn’t believe it because he had just turned twenty-six and she had always assumed that Derrick would not want to get married until he was at least twenty-eight. However, he assured her with love and deep longing in his eyes that he was sure of himself. ‘Hey, are you trying to tell me that at twenty-six I am still not old enough to know what I want? If after four years I’m not sure I love you enough to make you my wife, I need my head exam- ined.’ He laughed and pulled her into his arms for a hearty kiss, which left them both breathless. ‘Look, Kenny, I love you very much. Please say you’ll marry me.’ ‘What do you think I’ve been waiting all these years for? I love you, dummy, and I will gladly marry you.’ The kiss that followed seemed unending. The state of eupho- ria, which this proposal threw Kehinde into, lasted till the next morning. She rushed over to Derrick’s house after shopping in the morning. Before dropping her at home the previous night, they had agreed that he would pick her up at eight the next evening. While shopping, she had seen a beautiful engagement ring that she wanted and couldn’t resist going to tell Derrick. To be sincere, that was just an excuse to see him. She loved him much more than ever before. On getting there, she rang the bell and waited with a huge smile on her face to give him a pleasant surprise. After the third ring, the door opened and she was confronted by a woman clad in Derrick’s dressing gown. The smile dried on her face as she asked with bated breath for Derrick. The girl calmly informed her that Derrick was taking a shower and that if she had any message, she could give it to her. Kehinde didn’t know what to think. She said she would wait for him to come out. ‘Alright, then, take a seat.’ With that, the girl went into the bedroom and shut the door behind her. Kehinde sat down in a state of shock. Suddenly, she heard her beloved Derrick saying, ‘Uche, love, who was that? If it’s any unimportant person, tell them I’m not in. I want to be all alone with you for now!’ Kehinde could not believe her ears. The man she loved with all her heart, the man who had professed undying love for her was actually cheating on her. Now the name registered… Uche! Long ago, he had had a girlfriend called Uche, but that was before she’d met him. The girl came out of the room and walked into the bathroom and Kehinde could hear laughter. Suddenly she could not bear it any more, and got up to go, clutching her bag as tears streamed down her cheeks. The fact that the girl could walk into the bathroom without knocking pointed to an intimacy that Kehinde thought Derrick shared only with herself. Before she got to the door, the bathroom door opened with a burst of laughter and Derrick stepped out, closely followed by a smiling Uche. If Kehinde had not been weeping so bitterly, the shock on Derrick’s face would have registered. She was so agitated, however, that she could not think of anything except the urge to escape humiliation. As she rushed out, she heard Derrick calling after her, ‘Kenny, Kenny, please come back!’ She blundered down the stairs, completely forgetting her handbag. She didn’t stop running until she noticed that people were staring at her. Only then did she slow down to a walk and at the same time, she realized that she had dropped her bag when the bathroom door opened. Wild horses could not have dragged her back to that house. Aimlessly, she wandered around, while deep down in her she cried for the love she had lost… As memory flooded back, so the pain hit her again. She tossed and turned and moaned aloud. ‘Derrick, oh Derrick, how could you do that to me?’
‘Miss Lawson, you are alright.’ Hands restrained her and Kehinde opened her eyes to see a nurse holding her. Wordlessly, she shut her eyes, trying in vain to stem the bitter tears that coursed down her cheeks.
All the way home, Femi kept on thinking of the girl all alone in the hospital. He wondered yet again what secret sorrow preyed on her mind. In a way, he blamed himself for the accident. If he had not been thinking about Buky and the inevitable end of their relationship he would have been more alert. Much as he liked Buky, he was not in love with her. The one and only girl he had ever loved had left him for his best friend. When he had recovered from the shock, he had sworn never to love again. He definitely could not bring himself to trust any other woman. With Buky, easy companionship had developed into a lasting friendship. Neither was under any illusions about the relationship. Even though they later became lovers, they knew that there was no future in it for either of them. Therefore, when Buky came over to tell him that she was in love again with a man who actually wanted to marry her, he was happy for her, but sad too, because he knew that the friendship and understanding he had found with Buky was not easy to come by. She was sister, friend, lover and confidante to him. Her departure from his life would leave a big vacuum. As Femi drove into his compound he noticed that Buky’s Golf was blocking the drive. His face lit up with a broad smile and he jumped out of the car as the front door opened. Buky stood there with a smile on her face. ‘I couldn’t resist coming over to cook lunch for the man in my life.’ ‘Your future husband would love to hear that,’ he teased, as he reached her and gave her a quick kiss. As they went in, he told her all about the accident. ‘How horrible for that poor unhappy girl! What a way to spend Christmas.’ ‘I feel so responsible. You see, Buky, I was not as alert as I should have been. Perhaps I could have prevented this accident.’ ‘Femi, don’t start blaming yourself. What’s happened has happened and blaming yourself isn’t going to change anything. You are normally so rational that I can only attribute this unchar- acteristic behavior to the shock of the accident. Why don’t you have something to eat, and have some rest before going back to the hospital?’ ‘Buky, love, you are such a comfort to me. I wonder how I’m going to cope when you’re out of my life for good.’ ‘Come on! A great big fellow like you doesn’t need little me to lean on. You’ll cope adequately, and you’ll even start wondering what on earth you did with me all these years…’
The morning after Christmas, Femi went to the hospital at 10 a.m. The nurse on duty told him that the doctor wanted to see him before he could see Kehinde. She also informed him that Kehinde had regained full consciousness, but had refused to give them any information about herself. His heart pounding with anticipation, Femi headed for the doctor’s office. ‘Good morning, Doctor! And how is our patient today?’ ‘Much better, Dr. Taylor. I wanted to see you because I think you can help us. You seem very attached to the patient, even though you are a stranger to her. She has refused to give us any information except her name and age. She says she is unmarried, and that is where the problem lies. She obviously has serious emotional problems. She has recurring nightmares which leaves me in doubt of her continued sanity if nothing is done. From your account of the accident, I am beginning to believe that she was attempting suicide. You see, I have discovered that she is about three weeks pregnant… I questioned her as to the possibil- ity of her being pregnant but she vehemently denied it. She says she’s on the pill and as such cannot be pregnant. I, however, feel that she discovered her pregnancy and attempted suicide. Due to the skull fracture she sustained during the accident and the resultant concussion, she seems to have developed amnesia. The amnesia is not total, however; it only concerns incidents that she is reluctant to remember. In her sleep, she talks a lot about the past, but in fragments. If we can piece them together, we will solve the mystery of Kehinde Lawson.’ As the doctor was talking, Femi discovered that the pain in his heart had to do with Kehinde. He felt intensely sorry for the young pregnant girl who seemed to mourn the loss of a lover. In her nightmares, the name Derrick kept on recurring. He passed the nurses’ station on his way and noticed a good-looking young man arguing with the nurses. He seemed to be insisting on seeing a patient whom the nurses were saying had specially asked them not to let him in. ‘She is my fiancée.’ the man persisted. ‘I have to see her!’ ‘Look, Mr. Williams, the patient specifically requested that you should not see her. The only visitor she approved is Dr. Taylor who has been visiting ever since he brought her here. We have no right to infringe on her privacy.’ As Nurse Bello said this, she looked up and saw Femi. ‘Dr. Taylor, can you please tell this man that it is against hos- pital etiquette to force a patient to see a visitor she has expressly refused to see.’ Femi stopped long enough to tell Derrick that the only way he could get to see Kehinde was by seeing her doctor. ‘Only Dr. Awwal can overrule her decision and he will only do so if he feels it is in her interest,’ he explained. As he continued on his way, Femi wondered what that good- looking young man could have done to drive his fiancée to such desperate lengths. He also wondered why Kehinde didn’t want to see Derrick. Kehinde seemed to be sleeping when Femi entered the room. The silence was so unnerving that one felt he could hear the incessant drip of the IV. The tube through which she was given blood earlier now stood forlornly by the window. Suddenly she opened her eyes and looked at him. A weak smile flitted over her face. ‘You must be Femi,’ she whispered. At his acknowledging nod, she smiled again. ‘I am Kehinde. I suppose I should have introduced myself before trampling your car underfoot. I’m sorry.’ Femi could not help liking the frank look in the beautiful eyes staring at him. He felt like pulling her close, hugging and protecting her. He suppressed the feeling and smiled back at her. ‘Now that you’re woken up, you can set to work putting my car together again. The poor thing just doesn’t feel right.’
On and on they bantered, with Femi doing most of the talking as Kehinde was still quite weak. As long as the talk did not become personal she was a pleasant companion. A shuttered look came into her eyes as soon as Femi mentioned Derrick. Kehinde turned away and refused to say another word. ‘Look Kehinde, you have to talk to this fellow. Whatever it is between you two must be sorted out. You can’t run away for ever,’ Femi protested. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she struggled to suppress the sobs building up in her throat. ‘I don’t want to see him! I don’t ever want to see Derrick again!’ she sobbed. Femi could not bear the sorrow in her voice and the pain in her eyes. He took her in his arms and held her close, stroking her hair as he tried to calm her down. ‘You don’t have to see him just yet unless you want to. Don’t cry any more. I’ll take care of you.’ Eventually her tears stopped and she became calm again. He stayed with her and they talked of more pleasant things until the nurse came to ask him to leave. He left after promising Kehinde that he’d come by the next day. He also extracted a promise from her that she would not cry any more. After he had gone Kehinde lay back on her pillow with a smile on her face. She felt something akin to joy for the first time since she’d met Uche in Derrick’s apartment.
‘You can’t keep on brooding like this. The girl has made it clear that she doesn’t want to see you. Must you kill yourself over that?’ ‘Look, Uche, I have told you to let me be. That girl means a lot to me. My stupidity almost drove her to kill herself. I can’t give up that easily. I love Kehinde and I want to marry her.’ ‘So where does that leave me? You said you loved me too.’ ‘Don’t start that! I made it clear to you that our affair was over. You wanted it that way in the first place. The fact that you’ve been here for the past four days is an accident. When you called and I asked you to come over, I just wanted a one-night stand. I know it was wrong of me but I thought you knew the score. It’s been over between us for ages. Even at the height of our affair, I never wanted to marry you.’ ‘You’re just like other men – selfish to the bones! You want to have your cake and eat it. Anyway, I hope she never speaks to you again. If she does she is a fool. I hope I never see you again!’ As Uche slammed out of the house, Derrick buried his face in his hands and shed a few silent tears. In all the years he had known Kehinde, she had always been too willing to forgive his many transgressions. Even at the worst period in their lives together, she had still forgiven him. This thought led him back to those terrible days. Derrick and Kehinde were both in their third year in the university. They had been going out for barely eight months. Even though they hadn’t used any contraceptives, they had been lovers for quite a while without any repercussions. They had also discussed the possibility of pregnancy, and Kehinde had made it clear that she was not and had never been in support of abortion. Derrick never said anything for or against it. One fateful day, Kehinde had told Derrick that she was pregnant. It was therefore a shock to her when Derrick had asked her to terminate it. Kehinde hadn’t really thought about what keeping the baby would mean and what part it would play in her future. She and Derrick were penniless, but she was ready to work her fingers to the bone as long as she was allowed to keep that precious baby. That was not to be. Derrick made it clear to her that if she kept it, she was on her own. He was ready neither to acknowledge nor accept it. Kehinde now saw another side of the considerate and attentive lover she had never even suspected. Derrick just clammed up on her. He refused to discuss anything except the benefits of terminating the pregnancy. Kehinde didn’t want to even consider that. The situation resulted in a stalemate, which continued until Kehinde’s fourth month. The pressure of carrying the problem on her own was getting to her so much that even a kind word was enough to set tears flowing down her cheeks. Eventually, she yielded to pressure from her friends. She still loved Derrick and didn’t want him to hate her for trapping him by giving him an unwanted child. Having agreed to the termination, she went to a doctor who was recommended by her friends. He agreed to do it even though the risk was enormous since it was so late. He charged her N700 as opposed to the N100 they normally charged. She now went to inform Derrick, hoping against hope that he would take her in his arms and give her the moral support and courage she yearned for. It was, however, a very cold and unyielding Derrick she met. After listening to her tell him she was going to see the doctor the next day, he simply said, ‘Am I expected at this place tomorrow?’ On receiving a negative response, he then said, ‘Am I expected to contribute anything?’ Kehinde could not believe her ears. The hard cruelty of the words was totally different from anything she had ever heard from him before. She again said no, trying very hard to stop the tears coursing down her cheeks. During the terrible six days she spent in the hospital, her love for Derrick slowly hardened into hatred. Her heart turned to stone and she hated him with an intensity only equaled by the love she initially had for him. He never once showed up in the hospital. In her loneliness, Kehinde made excuses for him. She felt that if he had known the hospital, he would have come, although she knew that the only reason why he didn’t know was because he didn’t want to know. Her friends could easily have told him if he had as much as asked. She raised the N700 the doctor asked for through the help of friends. She knew she would have to starve for the next few months to pay off the loan. Hating Derrick as much as she felt she did, she still thought about him often. On the day she was discharged, she went to see Derrick. She could barely stand from pain and weakness. On her arrival, Derrick castigated her for not listening to him in the first place. ‘Look Kehinde, if you had done this thing when I said to, you wouldn’t have gone through all this pain and suffering.’ She never knew how hard-hearted Derrick was until she told him she was hungry. He asked her to fry some plantains for herself and stood by watching her frying and trying to control the spasms of pain that racked her. By the time she left him, she was totally resolved to hate him for ever. As Derrick remembered all this and then the love-filled days that followed their eventual reconciliation, he wept. He conceded the fact that Kehinde had really been forgiving. After all that, it was incomprehensible to him that he would now lose her. He made up his mind to go to the hospital and try once more to see her.

Chapter Two
What have you decided to do?’ Femi asked as he stared at Kehinde who was sitting opposite him. ‘It is a miracle that in spite of the trauma of the accident you didn’t lose the baby.’ Resolutely and quietly, Kehinde answered, ‘I don’t know what I want to do, I only know what I don’t want to do. Under no circumstance will I terminate this pregnancy. Thank God I have a job! I can take care of my baby myself. I don’t need anything from anybody.’ ‘Kehinde, a baby needs two parents…’ ‘I know all that stuff. Some babies also manage fairly well with just one. I don’t ever want to see Derrick again. This baby has nothing to do with him. It is mine, all mine.’ Femi took Kehinde, who had just been discharged, home to her flat in Ikeja before going home. She was due back at work on Monday and he promised to see her the evening after her first day at work. On her own in her flat at last, Kehinde felt lonely at the thought of not seeing Femi again till Monday. Today being Friday, Monday was still three whole days away. She was surprised to notice that instead of Derrick, Femi was more frequently in her thoughts. In her predicament, however, the last thing she needed was to become dependent on another man. Resolutely, she put Femi out of her mind and set about cleaning and tidying her apartment. Just as she was settling down to a meal after the hectic spring cleaning, the phone rang. It was her friend, Nneka, who had been on her annual vacation and had just returned to hear about the accident. ‘Kenny, I called the hospital but was told you had been dis- charged. How are you feeling now? Just stay put and I’ll be right over.’ Kenny put down the phone and smiled to herself. Nneka was one of the most bossy people she knew but she was also a really good friend. You could always rely on her to help you out of any trouble. If you let her, however, she would take over and run your life. Hardly had Kenny finished washing up than Nneka barged into the apartment. She looked fit and happy as if the holiday had been good for her. On being told so by Kenny, she smiled. ‘While I was having fun, you were here getting yourself killed. I can’t trust you not to run over cars the moment I leave you alone!’ After a couple of minutes of small talk, Nneka asked Kenny what the matter was. ‘I left a bright-faced and optimistic bride-to- be, only to meet a haggard, unhappy girl. You sounded so happy on the phone when you told me about Derrick’s proposal.’ As Kehinde told the story again, the forgotten tears flowed down her cheek. ‘That bastard!’ Nneka ground out when she finished. ‘I could kill him for this!’ As Kehinde sobbed, Nneka’s eyes filled in sympathy for her weeping friend. After drying their eyes, they made some tea which they drank as they discussed the future. ‘Nneka, I want this baby. I want it so much that I will do anything to keep it. I don’t want Derrick to know about it.’ Having talked at length, Kehinde was assured of her friend’s support. She was also grateful because she had no one else to turn to. Her parents died while she was in secondary school, and being an only child, she had been very much alone. The cousin who had seen her through university had emigrated to Australia, where she lived with her Australian husband and their two kids. In a country where relatives were more important them wealth, Kehinde was virtually alone. Her twin sister, Taiwo, had died at birth, and for reasons that Kehinde never discerned, her parents never had any other children. As they sat talking about the coming baby, the doorbell rang. ‘Stay put, I’ll get it,’ said Nneka firmly as Kehinde attempted to rise. On opening the door, Nneka saw Derrick. After glaring at him for a full five seconds, she asked through firmly clenched teeth, ‘What can I do for you?’ ‘Don’t be like this, Nneka. You haven’t even heard my side of the story.’
‘I hope I never do! I assume you did not come here to tell me your side of the story.’ ‘No I didn’t! Actually, I came to see Kenny.’ ‘I’m sorry, you can’t see her. She has realized that you are a rat and she does not want to see you.’ ‘But I have to see her! If she doesn’t let me in, I will make a fuss!’ Kenny, who had been wondering what was going on decided to see for herself. She got to the door in time to hear Derrick’s last statement. ‘Nneka, let him in. For the first and the last time, we’ll hear what he has to say.’ With that, she walked away, closely followed by Nneka. Derrick was left to trail them to the sitting room. ‘Kenny, please let me talk to you alone. I can explain every- thing.’ ‘My dear Derrick, it may surprise you to hear that I don’t want any explanations. I am simply not interested. I will thank you to leave me alone. After today, I don’t want to ever see you again. You are free to do whatever you like. Don’t get me wrong, there are no hard feelings on my part. I am thankful I found out before marriage exactly what you are. Now you must excuse me. I am rather tired.’ ‘Kenny, you can’t do this to me! You’ve got to listen. I love you…’ ‘Don’t start all that rubbish! Please leave my house and never again darken my doorstep. Nneka, please lock up after him, I’m going to rest.’ Derrick could not believe it when her bedroom door slammed in his face. At the look of scorn on Nneka’s face, he gathered himself together and stalked out of the apartment. Nneka shut the door behind him and thoughtfully made her way to Kehinde’s room. Was it possible that Derrick really loved Kenny? He had always been known as a proud man, and it must have taken a lot for him to beg in front of a third party. Anyway, she thought, he had certainly asked for it.
Back at work on Monday, Kehinde was boisterously welcomed by her colleagues. She was glad to be active again, but found that she could not keep her attention from wandering. She kept on thinking about Femi. Although she enjoyed her work, she found she could not keep her mind on it. She thought constantly about the future. The coming baby was also on her mind. Apart from Nneka, no one else was as yet aware of her condition. She aimed to keep it as secret as possible for as long as she could; she was therefore glad when four o’clock struck and she could leave the office. On the other hand, Dr. Femi had a very busy day. For him it was a day of emergencies one after the other; he treated badly wounded and seriously ill patients. At the end of the day, he was so fagged out that all he wanted was a bath and a long undisturbed rest. As he dragged his weary body to his car preparatory to going home, he suddenly thought of Kehinde, and in a flash realized that he was to see her today. Many times during the weekend he had been sorely tempted to either call her or go to her place. He also knew that Kehinde was a very bitter girl who would not find it easy to trust any man. He felt that she liked him but whenever things really got smooth between them, he found her quickly retreating into her shell as if she was afraid of liking or getting too close to him. He therefore decided to take things easy and not rush her. In his own heart, funny things were taking place. He thought about Kehinde much more than he felt was good for him. He realized that he was fast falling in love with her. That was something he didn’t want. He neither wanted to love nor trust any woman again, but with Kehinde, he could not help himself. Time without number, he reminded himself that love was folly for him. He also reminded himself that the woman con- cerned was pregnant and in love with another man – the father of her baby. All this did not prevent him from thinking about her and even though he was worn out now, he had no intentions of calling off his date with her. As he took in the fact that he would soon see her, adrenalin was pumped into his blood and he felt his weary brain reactivating itself.
Chapter Three
The dining room of the Peninsula Hotel, with its exotic furnish- ings, was a perfect setting for the beautiful woman who reclined in a corner seat. Kehinde and Femi had just finished dinner. She was replete and, strangely enough, happy with herself and the world. Ever since her accident, she had been plagued with sad thoughts in the day and nightmares at night. Much as she felt she hated Derrick, she still thought of him often and dreamt of him at night. On the other hand, she often thought also of the young doctor who now played a major part in her life. She knew she couldn’t be in love with him because she still loved Derrick. As her mind went back to the sunny days of their love for one another, her face assumed a faraway look, which told Femi, as nothing else could, that for the moment, he had lost her to her ex-love. The thought that she still cared so much for the man who had hurt her so badly was like a searing pain through Femi’s heart. Why, he asked himself, could the girl he had loved so much not be faithful? He found himself wishing that love was not so painfully triangular. He loved someone who loved another. If only he had initially fallen in love with Kehinde and she with him, theirs would have had a fairy-tale ending because they were both faithful and resilient. On the other hand, Derrick would have met his match in Nike Akande, the doctor’s former girlfriend. She had cheated on Femi even as Derrick had cheated on Kehinde. The thought of Nike did not have the power to hurt him any more. The wound had healed and the pain was gone. He wished that a day would come when Kehinde would be able to think dispassionately about Derrick. For her, however, the wound was still fresh and the pain still sharp. Time, the great healer, had yet to work its wonders on her. As they sat there, each lost in thought, a cheery voice, light with laughter, hailed them. ‘Hi you two! Are you dining or dreaming?
Startled, they looked up to encounter the smiling face of Buky Ayinde. As Kehinde looked blankly at the stranger smiling down at her, Femi’s face lost its thoughtful look and became animated. ‘Buky, love, come and be introduced to Kehinde Lawson.’ ‘Hi, Kehinde, I’ve heard a lot about you and I’m really pleased to meet you at last.’ ‘The pleasure is mine, Buky. Femi talks about you often.’ ‘I hope he has been kind about me,’ the girl said, laughing. She raised her eyes to look teasingly at Femi, who was still standing. ‘I must scram ’cos my fiancé is waiting for me. Come over to our table on your way out and I’ll introduce you both to him. We’re at table ten, just by the window there.’ Kehinde couldn’t help smiling as the vivacious, friendly girl made her way gracefully to the table she had indicated. Even from the distance, Kehinde could see that the man already seated at the table was remarkably good-looking. As she watched, an uncon- scious sigh escaped her. She couldn’t help saying, ‘Isn’t she lucky? She is so obviously in love with her fiancé.’ ‘Yes, she is! Buky deserves all the happiness she can get. She is such a pleasant person and life hasn’t always treated her well. Looking at her, one would not guess the depth of sorrow that she has known. She lost her fiancé in a motor accident which nearly crippled her a week before their wedding. That was six years ago. It has taken her that long to start living and loving again, and I feel she has earned every bit of her happiness.’ Presently, they got up to go. As they drew near to the table Buky had earlier indicated, they noticed that the occupants were totally engrossed in each other. The man held the girl’s hand in his and as he talked, he looked deep into her eyes. She in turn was gazing intently at him. It was with deep regret at breaking up such an intimate moment that Femi Taylor and Kehinde Lawson greeted the couple. Smiling, the handsome man stood up and held out his hand while still clasping Buky’s hand in his. ‘Dr. Taylor, I’m so pleased to meet you. Buky always talks about you.’ Turning to Kehinde, he took her hand in his and smiled at her. ‘You too, Kehinde. She always repeated everything Femi told her about you. The only thing she omitted was how pretty you are.’
In the face of such flattery, Kehinde couldn’t help laughing. Though vocal, Yomi Benson was such a pleasant man that one couldn’t help liking him. Having met him, one could not blame Buky for loving him so unreservedly. He was the kind of man to inspire such love because he loved unreservedly too. Whenever he looked at his fiancée, the love he felt for her sprang into his eyes and lightened up his whole face. They were indeed a joy to behold. After a few minutes, Kehinde could not hold back the tears that sprang to her eyes. Excusing herself, she got up and rushed out of the restaurant. Femi hastily excused himself and went after her. He came upon her leaning on the car and sobbing as if her heart would break. He understood her sorrow and instinctively refrained from commenting. Instead he put an arm around her shaking shoulders and hugged her close to him. When she had calmed down sufficiently, he guided her into the car and shut the door. He then got into the driver’s seat. ‘Feeling better now?’ he asked. As she nodded wordlessly, he smiled at her and started the car.
Five months later, Femi could not reconcile the self-assured young woman with the sniveling girl Kenny had been in the early days of their friendship. As yet, they were just friends. Femi had long since admitted to himself that he was in love with Kehinde, but he respected her unspoken wish for simple friendship. She was in the sixth month of her pregnancy and looked more beautiful then she had ever been. Femi wished desperately that the baby she carried was his. To date, Kehinde had managed to avoid Derrick who, it seemed, hadn’t even heard of the preg- nancy. She kept to herself and saw almost nobody except for Femi and Nneka. At work, she was friendly but reticent. She did not encourage anyone to question her about her private life. When anyone made the mistake of doing so, she would clam up and refuse to talk any more. As such, she was left relatively alone. Immediately after work, she rushed home to wait for Femi, who was helping her to turn the spare room into a nursery. Preparation for the coming baby took up all their time. Even Nneka, who had initially had misgivings about Kehinde’s decision, had been caught up in the excitement. She shopped gaily for baby clothes and every so often surprised Kehinde with some item that had attracted her. All the items she bought were in different shades of blue because she was convinced that Kehinde was going to have a son. On the other hand, Femi insisted on decorating the nursery in pink because he was positive the coming baby was a girl. Kehinde was indifferent. Boy or girl, her baby was precious and was going to be loved more than any baby deserved to be loved. Whenever she talked about the baby, her face glowed, and Femi couldn’t help marveling at the change wrought in Kehinde. To all intents and purposes, she seemed to have forgotten about Derrick. She never mentioned his name, and the one time it was mentioned by Nneka, the slightest tightening of the lips was the only indication that she heard what was said. Femi, however, was not convinced she had forgotten. He felt that she had suppressed all thoughts of him by thinking so constantly about the baby. For now, he let her be, because fretting would have been more dangerous for her health. She had decided to take her maternity leave in her eighth month so that she could have more time after the baby was born. To be with her, Femi had arranged to take his much delayed annual leave at the same time. Kehinde was very grateful to him and had started relying on him much more than she felt was good for her. However, she needed his strength, and was happy that he seemed to like being with her. Together, they awaited the baby with joy slightly intermingled with apprehen- sion.
The blast of hot air which hit Derrick as he stepped on to the tarmac at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport was slightly intimidating. He adjusted his dark sunglasses, shouldered his carry-all and strode towards the customs checkpoint. He was glad to be back in Nigeria after four and a half months’ absence. His main reason for wanting to be back was because he badly wanted to see Kehinde. He would have refused to leave Nigeria without resolving their differences but for the fact that the course, which took him away, was one which he had been angling for. His firm, like a lot of other computer firms, sent employees abroad from time to time. He had worked hard to ensure that the next time a course was scheduled, he would be chosen. His total absorption in his problem with Kehinde had prevented him from being aware of what was going on. It had been with shock therefore that he’d been informed that he had just a week in which to depart to France for a five-month course. He had protested but still had to go. His frantic attempts to get in touch with Kehinde had proved abortive. He had therefore departed Nigeria with a heavy heart, vowing to see Kehinde the moment he again set foot in the country. He hadn’t bothered writing or calling because he knew both would be fruitless. She would neither read his letters nor accept his calls. Deep in thought, he did not see the man beckoning to him until he ran into him. ‘My friend, are you sleepwalking or something?’ asked Jide, slapping Derrick on the shoulder. ‘Jide, I was lost in thought. How are you and how is work?’ ‘Not bad at all. What have you been up to? You haven’t been seen for the past couple of months.’ As Derrick explained to Jide the reason for his absence, Jide’s face took on a strange look. On being asked about Kehinde, Jide, who also worked at Shell, smiled. ‘She is very well. She looks much better than I’ve ever seen her. Pregnancy seems to agree with her – or perhaps it’s the new boyfriend. Either way, she looks very happy.’ The shock on Derrick’s face would have been comical if the situation wasn’t so serious. As he stared open-mouthed in amazement, Jide went on, ‘Don’t tell me you didn’t know. Kehinde is about six months pregnant. Since she refuses to talk about it, there’s been speculation that it was the cause of the split.’ Seeing that Derrick was still rooted to the spot, Jide pulled him towards the Arrival Lounge. He was still talking rapidly, even though not a word was registering on Derrick’s dulled conscious- ness. With the frequency of a sledgehammer, the words ‘pregnancy’, ‘boyfriend’ and ‘happy’ kept on beating into his brain. ‘I can’t believe it,’ he muttered over and over again. ‘Come on,’ Jide urged. ‘I’ll give you a ride into town. I came by to drop somebody off.’ Unprotesting, Derrick allowed himself to be led into the car.
All the way to Lagos Island, he sat mute, wrapped in his thoughts. Jide, who was surprised at the depth of Derrick’s feeling for Kehinde, also kept quiet. He had always known that Derrick liked Kehinde but Derrick also had a carefree attitude, which at times seemed uncaring. He always acted as if he was indifferent. All their friends had long come to the conclusion that Kehinde was the motivating factor in the relationship. Even though there was no other serious girl in Derrick’s life, they were shocked when they heard of the short-lived engagement. Now however, Jide realized that beneath his indifferent façade, Derrick cared very deeply about Kehinde. He was sorry for his friend because he was convinced that he had lost Kenny for good. Being attractive, he was a prey for the fun-seeking girls, and most times he was too weak to resist, even though he cared deeply for Kehinde. How- ever it seemed he had gone too far this time. The tender-hearted and forgiving Kehinde had been hurt once too often. She didn’t seem ready, willing or even inclined to forgive. Derrick had really bitten off more than he could chew. Having stopped the car in front of Derrick’s apartment, Jide looked at his friend, who seemed to be in a trance. After waiting in vain for Derrick to recover, Jide reached over and tapped him on the shoulder. Derrick looked up with eyes bright with tears. ‘She can’t do this to me! Kenny can’t do this to me! If she is pregnant, the baby must be mine. She can’t deprive me of everything. Oh God! What can I do…?’ As the tears flowed, Jide patted his sobbing friend compassion- ately on the shoulders. When the tears had abated, Derrick sat staring straight ahead. ‘Look, my friend,’ said Jide kindly. ‘Tears are not the solution to your problem. I don’t know what went wrong between you two. I don’t even want to know. It is enough that you have now realized that Kehinde is the girl for you. She is a very nice and reliable girl. However, it may be too late. She has a new boy- friend. He always comes to pick her up from work – handsome, rich looking and above all devoted to her. She is happy, and I for one think she deserves to be. I may now admit that your rela- tionship made all of us very envious. We all wished we were in your shoes. Snap out of this self-pity. Go and see her. Talk to her.
If the baby is yours, see what you can do to make amends.’ ‘Jide, thanks for everything. I will see Kenny today. She’s got to understand that I love her. She can’t deny me my baby. I’ve got to have her and my baby. I’ve got to…’ As the tears threatened to choke him, Derrick got quickly out of the car and walked swiftly away.

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Product Details
ISBN1 84401 231 X
Author: Lilian Amah
Publisher: Anthena Press
Publication date: 9/6/2006
Pages: 114
Product dimensions: 483 x 771
More About This eBook
Overview
Kehinde Lawson and Derrick Williams are high school sweethearts with their eyes firmly fixed on a long and happy life together until Derrick's infidelity destroyed the love they once shared.
Kehinde moves on with her life and eventually marries Femi Taylor a young and handsome doctor who also accepted the child she had for the fiery and unpredictable Derrick. It seems life has given her all she wished for until disaster strikes again. Femi is run down in a Lagos street and Kehinde is left to pick up the pieces.... As a pretty and well-endowed widow.
The stage, her secret obsession beckons. Success as an actress, plus the attentions of her leading man point to a bright new future. But Derrick slowly seeps back into her life and in time there is another fatality, a visit from the police and a trial for the most serious crime of all. Who is guilty? Echoes of a Heartbeat shows the fine line between love and suspicion, malice and murder set against the backdrop of a vibrant modern African Nation.
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About Author
Lillian Amah is a member of The Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) as well as the immediate past Vice President of the Association of Movie Producers of Nigeria (AMP). The full time actor/producer who has a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Lagos is a KUTH ambassador and a firm believer in the saying “this too shall pass”, Lillian’s motto is “Life is short so live it to the fullest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful

Thursday, September 4th 2014

By Cynthia Basil

Wow! I love it. Thumbs up lilian. Well I may not be a writer and don't know how to criticize but this is awesome. The choice of words and how they connect. Just wished femi didn't die but I guess that how these stories goes in other to make us see that all can't be rosy even if you find your mr right. Death can take that away. And derricks come back is also a phase in our lifes that most ladies seem to be experiencing, you fall in-love with someone who disappoints you and later in life you still have to face that person. How we handle such cases really matters. In derrick's case, it applys to men that cheat on the one that loves you the most and is ready to do anything, once they've lost you, their world comes crumbling, the feel the vaccum more than the person they cheated on. Like the saying ' you don't know what you've got until you lose it'. This book is really good for those that love reading. Love the accident scene on the cover. Great job. How do I get the hard copy?

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Thursday, January 15th 2015

By waleshoola

Yery lovely pieces of write ups

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