It was barely 7am, and I had rushed to the Private female ward to see Nurse Elma. Once again my boyfriend had beaten the hell out of me and I wanted Elma to dress my wounds before I went to my ward. I entered and gestured to Elma to come out. Then someone whispered my name in a tired, eerie, raspy voice reminiscent of ghoulies and ghosties in horror movies.
I whirled around in alarm. There lay a thin figure in the bed. She had mentioned my name! She looked frighteningly familiar. I gasped when I recognized her.
Was it Maria or Marcia…Mercy! It was Mercy.
“Mercy! Mercy Baiden?” my voice was suddenly shrill. This couldn’t be. The zaftig, bubbly, happy-go-lucky Mercy I knew had metamorphosed into a thin bag of bones.
She nodded weakly and tried to smile.
“You know her?” Elma asked. I nodded. I went to Mercy’s bedside. She stared at me, her eyes wide, and her lips trembling.
“I’m sick.” she whispered.
It was conspicuous. Mercy was not just sick; she looked like she had one foot in the grave.
“I’m going to die. I know it.”, Mercy told me. Elma tapped me on the shoulder. “Efe come on, she has to rest. Let’s go.”
I touched Mercy’s cheek tenderly, and promised her I would be there the next day.
We had barely gotten outside when I turned to Elma, whispering. “It’s cancer isn’t it?”
She nodded sadly. “Ovarian. It’s bad. We’ve been trying to keep her stable but she keeps on getting worse…last week we almost lost her, but by some divine miracle she got better…so we moved her from the emergency ward to here.”
I gaped at Elma in surprise.
“Where do you know her from?” Elma asked.
“We went to school together.” I shifted uncomfortably.
“Oh Lord. That stupid man beat you again?” Elma had now realized I had nasty bruises. I nodded. She frowned. “Nonsense. I don’t know why you put up with him, come on, let’s go to the inner room so I fix you up.” I nodded, lost in thought. I was thinking about Mercy.
Mercy Baiden. The last time I saw her was six years ago in Brown Girls’ Secondary. She had been one of the most popular girls who had it all…a moneyed family…wealthy friends. She had her rich father visiting her weekly in flashy cars. I had always been jealous. She was so lucky, I always thought. And now she lay there dying.
I went there the next day, anxious to see Mercy again. I met her distraught family including her sister Marigold. After, no day passed without me going to see Mercy. It’s amazing how sickness can bring people together. I would go there in the wee hours of the morning to check on her, and then I would spend some time with her before I went back home.
I hated it when she commented on my bruises.
“Why don’t you leave him?” she always asked. I would shrug and look down.
“I don’t have anywhere else to live…besides most of my pay goes into my father’s medical bills, there’s usually not much left.” I would try to smile and change the subject.
Mercy’s condition was frustrating, one minute she would be on the road to recovery and the next she would be writhing in pain and enduring shifts from the emergency ward to her private room. She was in excruciating pain.
The day she asked me to do her a favour I leapt at the chance. At least I could do something for her.
“What? Anything I’ll do it…!” I promised.
“Will…will you help me to end it all?”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean, Efe. I am tired of fighting. I have death staring at me in the face and it won’t stop torturing me till it’s gotten me. I am tired.”
She smiled thinly. “Call it mercy killing…end my pain. Ironic isn’t it? Mercy killing.”
I stared at her incredulously. “That would be murder. No! No way. End of conversation. There is ho-“
“There is nothing…haven’t you seen my hair is all gone? It’s done. I’m food for worms already. I just need a catalyst. You.” She was glaring at me. Then her expression softened.
“I’m sorry…this is something I shouldn’t be torturing you with. But even if you don’t help me, I’ll find someone who will.” Mercy closed her eyes, a clear indication that she wanted to sleep.
I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said.
She wanted me to kill her. No!
The next week I was late to work. I hurried to the Private Room to see Mercy. Mercy wasn’t in bed. My heart was thumping strangely. Elma entered; her eyes bloodshot. Even without her speaking I knew what had happened. “Last night. We got the news last night. Her heart just stopped.” Elma told me, trying very hard not to break down. She too had liked Mercy.
I slid to the floor and sobbed noisily. I couldn’t say goodbye. When Marigold entered I almost screamed. How come I’d never noticed she was a spitting image of her sister?!
Marigold sat beside me. She looked like she had cried for hours.
“Mercy is in a good place. It’s better that way.”
“I didn’t see her…I should have come earlier…I should have…” I felt so guilty.
Marigold held my hand and whispered. “Efe. Stop crying. What Mercy told you to do, I did it. Last night.”
Marigold nodded. “With a pillow. She didn’t struggle for long. That was what she wanted.”
I was lost for words. Mercy killing, she called it. And Marigold had done it for her.
“Listen, Efe, I only came back here because of this…she said to give it you.”
Marigold handed me a sealed envelope. Nervously my fingers pried it open. Enclosed was a hardcopy of transfer of money from Mercy’s account to mine. I gasped when I saw the amount. There was another note.
Leave that idiot and find yourself a decent place. And oh, your father’s medical bills have been covered for five years. I love you. Mercy.
Fresh tears were streaming down my face. “No! Why would she give me all this?”
“Listen, when Mercy got sick she lost a lot of her friends…they stopped visiting, calling…and you came and you stood by her…”
“But I failed her! She wanted me to…to…”
Marigold smiled thinly. “You couldn’t have done it…we all know you’re a scaredy-cat. No offense.”
I chuckled, and we hugged. I thought of Mercy. She had practically asked to be killed. But at least, she was out of pain. I looked at Marigold again, and we both began to cry. For Mercy, for her pain, and for ending my pain.