Today begins the Altered Vows series. Stories inspired by happenings around us all.
Today’s story ‘Till Death’ is the story of how one mistake can be detrimental not just to you, but to your family.
Read, enjoy, let me know what you think, and share.
The fifteenth of June 2011 dawned like every other day. Bisola Biboko was soon to realise that day was the first of the rest of her life. As a Christian, she considered the day she got saved as the most important in her life – right beside her wedding day- but she added the day she learnt she was dying to the list.
She had woken up as usual for the past fifteen years beside her husband Seyi. The family prayed together, she and her maid prepared their four kids for school and she dropped them off at school. All these, normal daily activities. Her day veered off routine when rather than drive to her supermarket, she drove to the hospital. A persistent cough was the reason she went to the hospital. she couldn’t remember exactly when the cough began but it had lingered and instead of getting better, it worsened.
Her sister had commented on it the last time they spoke on the phone. The painful, dry cough seemed to have an inverse relationship to treatment. Cough syrup, organic honey, palm oil, bitter kola, lime juice, antibiotics, any and everything said to treat cough, Bisi had taken all without success.
After months of self medication, Bisola had gone to the doctor for tests. Even if it were TB, she rather she treated whatever it was and be free. The doctor, her family physician, had listened to her complaints and sent her for comprehensive tests. Two days later, she was back for the results and she got the most shocking news of her entire life. Not just did she have Tuberculosis, she was also HIV positive! How?
Her last child was two years old, and as is hospital policy, she had comprehensive tests while pregnant, and was certified disease free. How could she now be HIV positive? After birth, Funmi (her baby) was also tested and was disease free. There had to be a mistake somewhere. She hadn’t been ill since then as to receive an infected blood or be pin-pricked, and she wasn’t one of the aesthetic types as to be infected via unsanitary beauty practices. She had never cheated on her husband.
‘’Oh Lord Jesus!’’ She moaned, trembling hard from shock.
She heard the doctor’s voice as though from a far off place. She stared at him sight unseen, tears running down her cheeks.
‘’Madam, are you alright? I know it’s a lot to take in now, but there are anti-retro viral drugs you can take, combined with a healthy lifestyle, you can still live a normal life…..’’
The doctor spoke gently to her, she shut out his voice. His tone of voice reminded her of over ten years ago, when this same doctor had told her she needed help conceiving. Ten years later, she had four healthy children all conceived naturally by the grace of God and this same doctor was now telling her she was HIV positive!
‘’God forbid.’’ She whispered. ‘’That is a lie! A lie from the pit of hell.’’ She got up clutching her handbag to her chest. ‘’I refuse to believe that report. That is satan’s report.’’
“Doctor, why have you allowed yourself to be used by the devil to torment me?”
“I beg your pardon Mrs Biboko?” The doctor retorted sharply.
“Doctor!” She returned to her seat. “Were you not the same doctor that told me I couldn’t get pregnant ten years ago?” She spoke in the gentle persuasive voice often used for children. “Today, I have four children.” She held up four fingers. “All born in this same hospital. Now you’ve come with this….. Haba doctor!”
Doctor Salami sighed. Obviously, she was in a state of shock and not processing the news. “Madam, that was based on scientific diagnosis, as is this. The tests were run twice.” He paused. “Madam your husband will also have to come in for tests….”
“God forbid!” She spat, rising to her feet. “I reject it! Back to sender!” She repeatedly moved her hand over her head, casting out every evil. With that she turned around and left the office, leaving the doctor staring after her mouth agape.
Eight days later, after a seven day dry fasting and prayers during which she locked herself up in her room and refused to see anyone, not her husband, nor her four children. She went to another hospital for another HIV/AIDS test. Two hours after her blood was drawn, she was invited back into the doctors consulting room and given the same result. She was still HIV positive.
How? How could she be HIV positive? She broke down and wept. In her fifteen years of marriage she had never strayed on her husband, not even in her mind. How was her husband, an associate pastor in a popular Pentecostal church going to take this news? Where did she get this terrible disease from?
Broken and frightened, she took a cab home, returned to her room and continued to cry her heart out. Her maid, Feyi kept knocking on the door and entreating her to open and tell her who died. When her children returned from school, Bisi tried to quieten her sobs, not to alarm the children. However, Feyi must have told them something was wrong because their voices and play was subdued, even the TV volume was unusually low. Bisi’s heart broke further. Her beautiful babies, who would care for them after her death? A fresh equally disturbing thought occurred to her; if she had HIV, she must have also infected her husband. Bisi wept, wishing this was a nightmare which she would soon awake from.
The children were confused as to why their mother was crying. The house was in mourning, and only their mother knew why.
When Pastor Seyi Biboko returned from work on that day, from the door he sensed something was gravely wrong, and he was disturbed. His wife had been in seclusion for the past seven days. What she was praying for, he didn’t know, but he prayed along with her. He knew none of their family had recently suffered any mishap or was in need, neither had he heard of any misfortune befalling a parishioner. Feyi opened the door when he rang the bell, greeted and let him in.
‘’How are you Feyi?’’ He asked as he walked into the sitting room. Her response as she took the shopping bag and his bible was drowned in the children’s excited welcome scream.
‘’Daddy!’’ Oreoluwa and Ifeoluwa, his two older children ran to him in greeting. He hugged and lifted them, carrying them with him the couch. He noticed the younger children asleep on the couch.
‘’How are you children?’’ He asked smiling fondly at them.
‘’We are fine daddy.’’ They chorused.
‘’What did you buy for us?’’ Ifeoluwa asked him, her two front missing teeth on display.
‘’Ask Feyi to wash some apples for you.’’ He sent them to the kitchen. ‘’Feyi!’’ He called.
‘’Sir.’’ She replied drying her hands on the apron as she came into the sitting room.
‘’Take this children in to bed.’’ He instructed, rising to his feet. ‘’Where is my wife?’’
‘’She is inside sir. Mummy has been crying since.’’ She replied, gesturing with her hands.
His heart sank, his fears were confirmed, something was definitely wrong. He went to her bedroom door and knocked.
Bisi heard her husband return from work and knew he would be coming to her room soon. Still she was startled when he knocked on her door. Wiping her tears, she composed herself and opened the door. She had to tell her husband, she had been a faithful wife for fifteen years and hadn’t hidden a thing from her husband. She wasn’t about to start now.
She opened the door. Unable to look him in the eyes, she let him in and shut the door behind him.
He pulled her into his arms in a reassuring hug and she burst into tears. He led her to the bed and they sat, still with his arms around her. He let her cry for some minutes till she reduced to sniffles.
‘’What’s the problem?’’ He asked softly, wiping her tears.
She slowly pushed out of his arms and looked at him. She opened her mouth but no words came forth. How do you tell your husband of fifteen years you had HIV?
‘’You are my wife, whatever it is, tell me.’’ He reassured her, his gaze on her very tender.
‘’I went to the doctor.’’ She began. ‘’The doctor said….’’ She couldn’t go on, she stuffed her right fist in her mouth to muffle the painful shout about to burst from within her.
‘’What is it, what did the doctor say?’’
Pastor Seyi feared and expected the worst. Could it be Cancer? ‘’What did he say?’’ he asked again, his heart racing.
‘’The doctor said I am HIV positive.’’ She whispered emotionless, staring straight ahead.
The ensuing silence was so silent, Bisi looked at her husband to confirm he’d heard her, he was staring sightlessly into space, silent tears rolling down his face. She fell to her knees and took both his hands in hers.
‘’I swear, I don’t know how it happened. This is the devil’s handiwork. I have never cheated on you, I swear on my life, I swear on my children.’’ She cried desperately.
He pulled her up, back to her sitting position. Sitting side by side, they both cried.
He remembered the encounter, it was a one off, but like they say; once is enough. As a faithful husband and pastor, he hadn’t been prepared with a prophylaxis. He had succumbed to pressure and temptation and had sex with a woman not his wife.
It was the pastor’s retreat in Abuja two years ago, a pastor colleague of his had encouraged him to unwind. Back at the hotel after the retreat, Pastor Dafe had called an acquaintance of his, who came with a friend of hers. They promised discretion, his wife had just had their last child and hadn’t recovered from the birth, the temptation was great and he yielded.
The sin had weighed on him for months, it was only after a parishioner testified to having received divine healing that he was relieved. Two years later, his sins had found him out. It had to be him, he could vouch for his wife’s integrity. He had brought this terrible disease into his house. He had infected his wife with HIV.
He screamed hoarsely. ‘’God!’’ he cried out.
How did this happen to him?
Bisi was startled out of her tears by her husband’s scream. In their years of marriage she had never seen him shed such tears. It was her turn to comfort him.
‘’It was me.’’ He whispered hoarsely.
‘’What?’’ she asked softly, she didn’t hear him well.
‘’It was me. I…….. There was a woman.’’ He mumbled out.
Bisi froze, she couldn’t believe her ears, her hearing must have gone bad for what she was hearing these past days, were too horrible to understand. What was her husband confessing? Pastor, faithful husband and father, she could vouch for him.
Slowly, he untangled himself from her embrace; he looked her in the eye and whispered. ‘’I cheated.‘’
As he confessed, Bisi remembered her wedding vows:
For better or worse,
In sickness and in health,
To love and cherish,
Till death do us part.
A hollow laugh emitted from her. They had pledged those words to each other on their wedding day. The irony was; her husband had altered those vows. He had found a way to take her with him in death, or send her ahead of him.