Cathy Russel was in labour for eight long hours before the baby finally decided to come out and join the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the sudden birth brought with it some expected complications.
The baby died six hours later due to too much oxygen reaching his lungs when the doctors tried to administer treatment for his Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
“What do you mean he’s gone?” Anton asked. He had just gone out to get something for Cathy to eat when he received the call.
“I think it would be best if you were here sir.” The doctor informed him.
Anton had no time to mourn the loss of his very first child as he found himself in a position of a comforter. It appeared Cathy was having an even harder time accepting the news. She was sobbing so much that she passed out from lack of air getting into her lungs. For three straight days all Cathy did was cry.
“He was my only chance mum!” Cathy sobbed in her mother’s arms once when they were just the two of them. “I have nothing now that he’s gone. I have nothing.” She sobbed harder.
Matilda cried with her daughter, feeling her pain as if it was her own. She was the only one in the world that understood just how much that child meant to her daughter, to the both of them. Why did this have to happen?
“It’s her fault.” Cathy sat up straight, every inch of her face drowning in vermin. “This is all Alex’s fault. She took my son from me.”
“No mum, it’s her fault.” Cathy insisted. “If she hadn’t gotten engaged that night I would have gone into labour. My baby wouldn’t have come into the world when he wasn’t ready and he certainly wouldn’t have died. He was safe in my womb until she forced him out. I am going to make her pay for this.”
“I bet she is celebrating your loss wherever she is.” Matilda said. “Busy acting like she cares when she’s happy that you won’t be part of the Cooper family any more. She thinks she’s won. You should see how proud she’s been prancing around with that damn stone on her finger. She thinks she’s royalty.”
“What if we took it all away from her?” Cathy asked, sudden hope dancing all over her face.
“What do you mean take it from her?” Matilda asked. “We already tried it before and it didn’t work. Those people trust her so much they wouldn’t believe any plot laid against her. They would see right through it.”
“Who said anything about plotting?” Cathy said. “This time she’s going to do everything on her own. She is going to wave goodbye to everything with her own mind.”
“Her own mind?” Matilda still appeared lost.
“Amnesia.” Cathy stated proudly. “Isn’t her mind her weakest link? We shake up her mind a little and boom, all her memories are gone. She will forget about Anton and Mr Cooper and she will definitely forget her dame engagement if we shake her up in the right place.”
“And just how do you intend to do that?” Her mother asked.
“That’s not an issue. We live in a society where everything can be found just by pressing a button. Pass me my phone mum.”
Matilda passed the phone to her daughter, a huge grin on her face.
Alex was pacing to and from in the lobby at the race house. She was fully clad in riding gear from head to toe, looking about ready to jump onto any horse…if only that was the case.
“You are making me dizzy Alex come and sit down!” Paulina shouted at her friend.
“He was supposed to be here ten minutes ago.” She was looking at her watch. “Oliver is never late for anything. He is always on time. What if something happened on his way here?”
“Now you’re just being paranoid.” Cassey said. “It’s only been ten minutes, ten minutes Alex, not ten thousand minutes. Gosh, I have never seen you this nervous before.”
“It’s just the nerves I bet.” Paulina commented. “I wonder why you waited this long to start your riding lessons. Anton can ride a horse as if it was a Ferrari.”
“How can you compare an animal to a car?” Alex asked. “Frankly, I don’t think animals were meant to be ridden. Who even came up with the idea of riding horses, or donkeys?”
“Then why are you doing this?” Cassey asked.
“Because I want to be the kind of posh woman that Oliver would normally date.” She said. “And I have seen the kind of stuff the wives of his close friends engage in; charity, sport, horse racing, book clubs, you know, the typical typical rich wives kind of activities.”
“Did Oliver say that’s what he wanted you to start doing as well?” Paulina asked.
“Of course not.” Alex answered. “He wouldn’t ask me such a thing.”
“Then why the hell are you doing something this ridiculous! You hate horses.” Cassey said.
“I don’t want to embarrass Oliver.” Alex said. “I’m young, and poor. I don’t want to give those rich snobs a reason to look down on me. I can already tell they don’t like me. They always expected Oliver to marry one of their own and he somehow ended up with me. I just need to do something that will make me fit in.”
“You’re a doctor for pete’s sake!” Paulina reminded her. “Isn’t that good enough a qualification? Those women you want to fit in with where mostly born with silver spoons in their mouths and they’re bound to spend the rest of their lives as trophy wives. You’re young, sexy…well, you’re good looking…” She was scanning her friend looking for the right words to say.
“Why did you change your statement?” Alex asked. “Are you telling me I am not sexy?”
“I think what Paulina meant is that one wouldn’t look at you and go, oh wow, she’s sexy!” Cassey ran to the rescue. “You’re the bookish intelligent type. You are very beautiful, that’s a fact, and you have the best hair I have ever seen on a woman but you don’t dress sexy Alex. You dress normal…like a doctor.”
“But you guys are doctors too so are you also not sexy?” She asked.
“We have different personalities sweetie, and yours isn’t one that screams sexy.” Paulina said.
“So now you see what am afraid of?” Alex said. “If you guys think am not sexy, what do you think those women will say about me?”
“Alex, sexy is an attitude, even the poorest of souls can afford sexy. It’s beauty that’s scarce. I would kill to be as naturally beautiful as you are. You have the type of face that artists want to paint. Some of us would have to spend at least two hours in front of a mirror before we can even take a selfie.
“You can be sexy if you wanted to, you just choose not to. Not everyone can wake up one day and say they want to be naturally beautiful, that deal was sealed even before they were born. Count your blessings woman, don’t turn into a snob already.”
“I guess Cathy’s comments got to me.” Alex said.
“What comments? When?” Where?” Paulina asked.
“The last time I visited her at her place, after the burial.” Alex said. “I thought it was a chance for us to start afresh so I reached out to her.”
“What did that bitch say to you?” Cassey asked.
“She just innocently made some comments about me raising my game because I have stiff competition.” Alex said. “She said that all the wives of Oliver’s friends are into all these classy activities and if I wanted to hold on to him I should do something before it was too late.”
“And you listened to her?” Paulina asked. “Are you nuts? Since when does Cathy give you advice?”
Alex’s phone rang just then. “It’s Oliver, thank God!” she said and answered. “Oliver! Are you okay? Where are you?”
“I am so sorry my love,” Oliver’s voice came through. “Some guy on a bike appeared out of nowhere in front of me and I hit him.”
“You were in an accident!?” Alex was shouting, her heart pounding loudly. “Are you okay? Did anyone-“
Both Cassey and Paulina stood up to stand by her side, their ears pressed closer to her to hear the conversation.
“I’m fine love, am very fine. I am at the hospital right now, the guy on the bike sustained a few scratches, nothing deep but we need to make sure so-“
“Oh, thank God you’re okay. Which hospital are you at? I am coming-“
“No Alex,” Oliver said. “There’s no need for you to come. I’ll be with you in a bit. You go ahead and have some fun with those horses. I’ll catch up with you guys in a bit.”
“I have even lost interest to learn today.” She sulked. “I was waiting for you because you were going to be my motivation but now I’ve completely lost interest.”
Oliver laughed. “How about you just get the basics out of the way and I will come and do the rest with you when I come?” He suggested.
“Okay,” Alex answered reluctantly. “I’ll see you soon. Don’t take too long. I love you.”
“I love you too baby. Don’t forget to wear your helmet, and take things slowly.”
“I will my love, see you soon.” She said and cut the line.
“He’s okay right?” Paulina asked.
“Yes,” Alex said. “He says we go ahead he will join us later.”
“Finally.” Cassey said, leading the way out of the lobby and onto the grounds a short distance away where the horses were waiting for them.
“Please be careful with her or her fiancé will kill you if anything happens to her.” Cassey warned the man in charge of Alex’s training.
He laughed. “Not to worry ma’am, everything is under control. She is safe. May I?” The man extended his hand for Alex to take so he could help her up the horse. Alex finally managed to settle down after a short struggle.
“It won’t move right?” She asked, fear written all over her face.
“It won’t move as long as you don’t instruct it to, and just in case, I am holding it here.” He showed her the point at which he was holding the reins. “Okay, are you comfortable?”
“I think so,” Alex said.
“So, if you want the horse to move,” the man started explaining but Alex’s mind was filled with thoughts of Oliver that she missed some of the instructions he was giving.
“Is everything clear ma’am?” The guide asked.
“Yes, you said that if I want to get the horse moving, I should just do this-“ she gave the horse a light kick and simultaneously a sharp sound shot through the air and sent the horse flying off, with her on top.
The loud and sudden disturbance had Cassey and everyone else on the grounds rushing to check what was happening.
“Oh no, that can’t be Alex. Where is Alex!” Paulina went ran after the guide who was also running after runaway horse.
Realizing that he was running in futility, the guide ran back and grabbed a horse from his colleague who was just about to start going after Alex. He pushed him aside and got onto his horse. “I got this!” The man shouted and rode off.
In the distance, Alex was wailing and yelling out her friend’s names, desperately holding on to the horse’s reigns for dear life but the ride was so fast that she kept swinging from side to side and moving up and down until she could no longer hold steady anymore. She fell hard to the ground and just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, she found her foot tangled around the horse’s reigns and like a sack of sand, the horse dragged her body along until she passed out, not much from the damage caused to her head as it kept hitting against the hard ground or the bleeding, but from sheer fear.
This was one of the worst fears of her life coming to life.
“Mr C, you need to come here immediately.” Paulina said when she called Oliver. “Something terrible has happened. You need to come right now.”
The walk from the car park and into the hospital where Alex was being operated on was the longest walk Oliver had ever taken in his life. the world around him was spinning in circles and his eyes could barely make whatever was in front of them. if anybody was to ask him how he had managed to drive himself all the way to the hospital, he wouldn’t have had an answer for them.
Cassey was the first one to spot him a few feet away and sobbing like a child whose just seen his parents, she ran towards him and fell at his feet. She was desperately trying to say something to him but she was crying so hard no words could come out. Paulina rushed to pick her friend up while Oliver stood in a daze before finally spotting a nurse and running after her.
Her grabbed her by the hand. “Where’s Alex?” He asked her. “Where have they taken my wife?”
“Sir, you need to calm down, you are hurting me.” The nurse pleaded.
Oliver looked over to where he was gripping her and slowly loosened his hold. “Please tell me where she is.” He earnestly pleaded.
“She’s in surgery right now sir-“
“What’s wrong with her? Tell me, is she going to be okay?”
“I wouldn’t know sir but the doctors are working very hard to save her. They would be the best people to advise on the situation so let’s just wait for them to be done. Can I offer you something to drink, water? Juice? Sir, I think it’s best if you sat down. You don’t look so-“
Finally, Oliver’s knees gave way but before he could hit the floor, Anton was by his side and lifting him back up. “Dad, am here. You need your wits about you if you want to see Alex again. C’mon, let’s go sit over there.” He pointed to where Paulina and the rest of their crew was, desperately trying to calm the inconsolable Cassey down.
“I should have been there with her.” Oliver kept repeating. He couldn’t get himself to sit down. He refused to sit down until he knew what was happening to Alex.
“Dad this isn’t your fault.” Anton tried to console him but he wouldn’t have any of it.
“If I was there nothing like this would have happened.” He said. “If something happened to her I swear I can’t-“
“You can’t what dad?” Anton dared him to complete his sentence.
“First it was your mother,” Oliver said. “A part of me died the day I lost her and you were the only reason that kept me going son. Alex restored that part of me when she came into our lives and now…and now-“
“And now nothing,” Anton stated firmly. “Alex isn’t going anywhere. She is going to be alright. She is Alex. She has survived the worst human can ever be subjected to and she still walked tall. She will beat this thing too. I know she will. She just has to.” More than convincing his father, Anton desperately needed to believe his own words.
When the doctors finally came out, there were only three words everyone wanted to hear from them.
“She will live.” Doctor Mitchel informed Oliver. “She barely made it but she will live. She is a fighter. Can we talk in private Mr Cooper?”
Even though he could heave a sigh of relief finally, Oliver didn’t like the look in the doctor’s eyes when he summoned him to his office.
“Something is wrong right?” Cassey asked her friends as she watched Oliver disappear into the doctor’s office. “Why did he ask to speak privately? Why couldn’t he just-“
“He is the guardian Cassey.” Anton said, getting a little annoyed. He understood Cassey’s fears very well because he had the same fears but he needed to get mad at someone…or something.
“Why would the doctor ask to speak to him when her parents are right here?” Mrs Saunders asked. Only the Mr and Mrs showed up, unless it was a party, no one expected to see the brood any time soon.
“You guys were never her parents so why don’t you just shut up!” Duncan yelled at their faces, shocking everyone else. “Why did you even show up here, bloody pissing me off.”
“Hey Dee, calm down.” Anton calmed down his friend.
“He’s right though.” George chipped in.
“He is.” Cassey and Paulina said at the same time, starring at the couple like they were the reason behind the accident.
“That’s enough.” Humphrey Saunders sternly warned the kids and sent them straight into silence.
“Just get straight to the point doc.” Oliver wasted no time in the doctor’s office. “How much damage?”
“She hurt her head pretty badly Mr Cooper.” The doctor explained, turning to translate the images on the screen behind him. Most of the impact occurred around here….her injuries caused blood to collect between the skull and the surface of her brain, causing what we call a subdural haematoma.
“Basically, the blood vessels here…in the spaces between the skull and her brain where damaged, but we fixed that damage.”
“So she’s not going to suffer from any long term effects?” Oliver asked.
“That I can’t state with certainty until she regain consciousness and we observe her.” The doctor said. “Fortunately for her, she was wearing one of the latest ASTM approved equestrian headgear that protects the rider’s head from a fall of 300G’s. The helmet’s shock absorbing liner slowed down the force of the impact which protected her brain from incurring further damage.”
“Just tell me, is she going to recover fully from this? I mean-“
“She’s out of danger right now sir.” The doctor reassured him. “But like I said, we can only know for sure the extent of the damage once she regains consciousness. Some patients that have suffered that kind of brain damage have been known to experience difficulties in thinking, processing information, difficulties with speech, and others, memory loss.”
Oliver finally heard the words he had been dreading to hear; memory loss.
“I thought you said that she fixed the damage.” He said.
“We did. I am not saying that Alex will suffer this things, those are just possible side effects of brain damages. Not every patient experiences that. For most, it’s just dizziness and headaches every now and then and they don’t last more than three months. We intend to keep Alex under observation until we are sure she is in the clear.”
“When is she likely to regain consciousness?”
“Right now, that depends on her will. She had lost consciousness before the haematoma.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means we have to wait and see how badly she wants to return to the people that care about her. However, given the extent of her damage, we should expect to have her back with us any time soon.”
“Can we see her now?” Oliver asked.
Alex regained consciousness two days later.
Oliver had not left her side except when he needed to relieve himself and those trips too did not take long. He was right there by her side the night she opened her eyes and the only thing he could do was cry. He could not remember there ever being a time when he cried so hard out of joy. In that moment, it did not matter whether she remembered him or not. All that mattered was that she lived.
Alex was alive.
Oliver refused to leave the room when the doctor came to examine her. He stood by the side watching every moment and waiting to see her look of recognition.
“Alex, do you remember what happened to you?” Doctor Mitchel asked.
“Oliver, I want to see Oliver.”
Oliver felt the heavens open up and pour honey all over him. This was his mitacle.
“Baby, am here. I’m right here,” He sat right next to her and wrapped his ahnds around her, kissing her on every spot he could land his lips on. “I’m right here with you my love.”
“What took you so long?” She asked him.
“I am very sorry my love.” Oliver cried, his tears of regret pouring unendingly.
“I kept calling your name, you didn’t come. I thought that if I closed my eyes and shut out everything else, I thought I would get to see you. I opened eyes again and there you where.”
Oliver couldn’t say anything. He buried his face into her chest and sobbed. It was the very thing that he had feared would wipe away her memories that safely locked them away and saved them. Will he ever understand her beautiful mind?
“I love you, I love you Alex. Gosh I love you so much.” He kept repeating, his head still buried in her chest.
“Okay, I hear you Oliver Cooper but please, you are squeezing me so tight I can hardly breath.”
Oliver bolted upright immediately, he removed his arms from around her and kissed her on the lips.
“I smell like a hospital.” She put her hand over her mouth.
“That’s the smell that has brought you back to me.” Oliver said. Then he turned to the doctor who was the one standing in the corner now. “Thank you so much for saving her.”
“I am not responsible for saving her,” Doctor Mitchel said. “I simply did my part to help the one that’s responsible for giving her that life.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about doc but either way, I am glad whoever that is used you and not anyone else.”
“Me too.” The doctor proudly answered. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to do a few more tests and examine her thoroughly now that she’s awake.”
“Yes, I’ll get out of your way by all means. Please bring her back to me fully complete. No missing pieces, please.”
“Don’t go.” Alex pleaded, holding on to Oliver’s hand.
“I am not going very far love. I will be right outside the door.”
The moment Oliver stepped outside, he found his PA Morgan waiting for him with a very nervous Doctor Russel standing beside him.
“What’s going on here?” Oliver asked. “Professor, what are you doing here?”
“I think we need to sit somewhere and talk sir.” Morgan said, leading the way towards the hospital café upstairs.
“I need to call my son and everyone else first,” Oliver, said, reaching for his phone. “Alex is awake, she’s dying to see everyone.”
“I already called them sir.” Morgan informed him. “I heard what was going on inside when we came and I called Anton and he called everyone else. They should be here any minute from now.”
Oliver put his phone back in his pocket. “Good job Morgan.” He said.
“I take it this has something to do with Alex’s accident right?” Oliver didn’t waste time once they were seated. He was glaring at Cathy’s father.
“It took everything for me to come here and face you like this,” the professor said. “But it was something that needed to be done.”
“I know that accident was not just an accident and I know who was behind it.” Oliver said. “I am sure the put I’ve put in charge of the investigations will prove everything soon. There is no ned for you to come here and put up a show me sir.”
“That’s the thing Mr C.” Morgan spoke up. “The professor isn’t here to make an excuses or anything of that sort.”
“I came here to apologize,” Professor Russel said.
Oliver threw him a quizzical look.
“I know it was my daughter and wife who hired people to sabotage Alex.” The doctor said. “I have proof and I already delivered it to the right authorities. My wife is in custody as we speak.”
“What about your daughter?” Oliver asked.
“My wife and I are the reason why our daughter turned out the way she is.” The professor said. “What my daughter needs is help and the only way she can get that help is if the person that keeps influencing her badly is out of the way.
“There is no hope for Matilda,” the doctor continued. “There is no end to her bitterness and envy so perhaps forcing her to take responsibility of her actions will help her see just how much damage she’s caused both Alex and our daughter.”
“I must admit I didn’t see this kind of development coming.” Oliver said.
“I know I seem like such a heartless man but I did what I did out of love.” Doctor Russel said. “This is the first ever bold decision I’ve made as a husband and as a father. It needed to be done.”
“So your wife is in police custody as we speak?” Oliver asked.
“Yes, she was taken a few hours ago and my daughter is at a rehabilitation centre. I am hoping that I can give her a brand new start once she gets out. I owe it to her.”
“I feel for that poor man.” Morgan said as he and Oliver walked back to Alex’s room.
“I guess we all have to take responsibility for our actions at some point don’t we?” Oliver said.
“You don’t feel anything for him do you?”
“His family tried to kill my wife, twice.”
“Sir, she’s not yet your wife.”
The glare that Oliver sent Morgan’s way almost froze the young man to ice. “She is going to be my wife the moment she leaves this place. And you’re not invited to the wedding.” He took long strides forward, leaving a startled Morgan to run after him, protesting the judgment render upon him.
They found the whole crew in Alex’s room; Anton, George, Duncan, Paulina and Cassey.
“Isn’t there a limit or something as to number of people that can visit a patient at once?” Oliver asked.
“Dad, don’t be such a spoil spot,” Anton retorted. “We were all dying to see her and the doctor allowed it. She might be your woman but we are all her family.”
“Relax son, that was a joke.” Oliver said. “Why are you being all sensitive? I thought you would be happy Alex is awake.”
“I am,” Anton said. ”But she just told us how the accident happened and I am forced to belief that it wasn’t just a mere accident. That guide must have wrapped her leg around the-“
“You’re right.” His father said.
Everyone turned to look at him, including Alex.
“I am just from meeting the professor, Doctor Russel.” Oliver said. “He just confirmed that it was indeed his wife and doctor that were behind everything. He reported his wife to the authorities, she took responsibility for everything so that her daughter could be admitted at an institution to get the necessary help she needs.”
“I knew that bitch had-“ Paulina rushed to put her hand over Cassey’s voice before she finished mouthing off expletives.
“She actually does have a name Cassey,” Oliver laughed.
“If it barks like a dog….” George said, deliberately looking down to avoid Oliver while everyone else tried hard to stifle their laughter.
“I am so happy to see all of you here.” Alex said. “I was convinced I was going to die out there that day. It was…just…the worst, ever.”
TWO WEEKS LATER
Alex opened her eyes to find Oliver’s face right above hers, his eyes were teary.
“Why, what’s wrong?” She asked, sitting up slowly.
Oliver put his arms around her. “I just can’t believe that you’re right here in my house…in my bed.” He slowly let released her. “You looked so peaceful sleeping,” he said, pulling her long red hair behind her ears. “I kept asking myself why I wasted so much time being a coward when I am this crazy about you.”
Alex smiled and landed a kiss hard on his lips. “You were always meant to be mine,” she said. “You just needed time to come to terms with reality.”
Oliver chuckled. “How’s your head today?”
“I don’t feel dizzy at all.” She said. “Let me try to stand.”
He carefully helped her out of bed. “Can you walk?” He asked.
Alex laughed. “I’m not an invalid Oliver. I can walk just fine.” And she walked around the room. “Totally fine!” She announced proudly, her arms wide open. “I haven’t felt dizzy in two days now. I only feel like that when I’ve been standing for too long or when I have to concentrate on something for a long time.”
“Are you sure?” He asked.
In response, she ran the short space that separated them and jumped on him, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck while her legs encircled his waist. She kissed him again.
“This is what I get for falling for a woman twenty years younger.” He said jokingly. “I need to triple my work out time lest I break my back loving you woman.”
Alex laughed. “I like your body just fine Mr.” She assured him. I Know twenty year olds that would kill to have a body like yours. And, there’s only eighteen years between us, not twenty.”
“Still the same thing!”
“No it’s not,” she insisted, slowly lifting his t-shirt up.
“And what do you think you’re doing?” Oliver held her hands in place.
“I’ve been in your bed a whole week and you haven’t touched me!” Alex complained.
“That’s because you’re a patient Alex.” He reminded her.
“But I feel fine now.”
“The doctor said you need to take it easy. I have zero intentions of taking it easy with you the first time we are together so, am being patient here. Don’t tempt me woman.” He dropped her hands and started walking towards the door. “Breakfast is ready,” he announced. “Freshen up and come downstairs.”
Alex couldn’t hear anything else he was saying. her face had turned red from blushing.
“You will burn up from all that blushing.” Oliver’s head appeared through the door, a proud smirk on his face. “Hurry before the food gets cold.” He said and disappeared again.
An hour later, Oliver was driving them around town.
“Where are you taking me?” Alex asked the umpteenth time.
“I’m going to give you a treat,” he repeated what he had already said a thousand times. “Just trust me and relax.”
“How can I relax when I don’t even know where am going. I hope you are not taking me to one of those gathering with your rich friends.”
Oliver laughed. “Whatever happened to trust in this relationship?”
“You know me,” she said. “I always get nervous when am in the dark about something.”
“I just thought it would be a good idea for you to get some beauty treatment after everything you’ve been through.” He said. “The scratches on your face are almost gone so it wouldn’t hurt to get an intensive beauty care; massage, manicure and whatever else that you girls do.”
She finally relaxed. “Is that all?” She said. “You could have just said so in the first place why the secrecy?”
“It’s the place we are going to that’s the surprise.” Oliver said. “Here, open that.” He pointed to the glove compartment in front of her. “Get that scarf and tie it around your eyes.”
“What?” Alex paused, her hand holding open the glove compartment.
“Just humor me, okay?” Oliver pleaded.
“Fine.” She finally gave in and did as instructed. “It better be a place like heaven on earth otherwise-“
“Tighten your seatbelt love,” Oliver said as he increased speed. “There’s no going back from here!”
“What do you mean-“
“Remember what I said about trust?”
Alex laughed. “That’s blackmail, emotional blackmail.”
“And isn’t it sweet?” He laughed heartily, squeezing her hand lightly.
“Are we there yet?” Alex asked thirty minutes later when she felt the car slow down.
“Almost,” Oliver answered before finally coming to a stop. “Just stay put, I’ll get the door for you. You’re not taking off that thing till we are inside.”
“Aye captain,” she teased and waited for him to come around.
Five minutes later, Alex felt the scarf being lifted off her face. “Paulina? Cassey? What are you guys doing here?” Alex asked her two friends who were standing in front of her wearing huge smiles on their faces.
“You didn’t think you were the only one getting a beauty treatment did you?” Cassey said.
“I’m going to leave you ladies alone while I locate my boys and have our own version of fun.” Oliver said. “Ladies,” he was looking at Cassey and Paulina. “The two of you already know what this place is so please, make sure my woman is well taken care off. Paulina, I have no doubt you know where all the boutiques are located, do your worst.”
“That’s what I like to hear!” Paulina said excitedly.
“What is this place?” Alex asked, scanning the place. “Where exactly are we?”
“Paulina, that’s you.” Oliver said, trusting she would do the explaining better than anyone else. “I will see you ladies later.”
“Babe, are you leaving just like that?” Alex protested.
Oliver walked back and kissed her passionately. “Can I go now?” He asked.
Smiling, “but of course.” Alex answered.
“So what’s this place you guys?” Alex asked the girls once they were alone.
“This place is called the Beauty Kingdom,” Cassey explained. “This is the place you come to if you are seeking the ultimate beauty care.”
“It has everything in one place,” Paulina added. “Boutiques, parlours, bars, VIP lounge, you name it. Everything is here and everything is designed to suit the taste of that 1% special population.”
“And we, thanks to you our dear lovely friend have been inaugurated into that 1% class of the privileged.” Cassey said proudly, tossing her hair smugly to the side.
“So what’s our first stop?” Alex asked.
“2nd floor, facials and then massages.” Paulina said.
Once their bodies where fully taken care of and they had lunch, the girls went shopping for clothes.
“In here,” Paulina pulled her two friends into a bridal shop.
“This is a bridal shop.” Alex noted the obvious.
“Yes, and what better time to do some research than now?” Paulina said.
“We haven’t even set a date yet so-“
“So?” Cassey asked. “C’mon, don’t be such a party pooper Alex. Let’s have some fun while we at it. who knows. Maybe you might even find your dream wedding dress here.”
They didn’t give her any time to protest further, Cassey and Paulina went straight into hunting mode. Alex sighed in resignation, turned around to follow them and was immediately awe-struck by the dress she saw in front of her.
“I know that look.” Paulina said, grabbing her friend Cassey so they can watch in silence Alex examine the dress closely.
“Good afternoon ma’am,” the shop assistant greeted her, ready to assist her.
“I want this dress,” Alex told the young lady who was about her age. “I want this dress. Paulina! Cassey!”
The two girls appeared beside her in no time. “Wooow.” Paulina said. “This is like one of those dresses you see in a Disney animation film, is this for real?” She asked, feeling the dress and examining it everywhere.
“I can totally see you in this one Alex.” Cassey said.
“Yes,” Alex said. “I want it.” She stated matter-of-factly.
“But you haven’t even seen the rest of the dresses.” Paulina reminded her. “What if there’s-“
“No, it has to be this one.” Alex insisted. “I don’t know what it is about this dress but everything about it is exactly what I ever dreamt about. I don’t think I will be able to sleep tonight if I don’t have this dress. This is what I want to wear on my wedding guys. This dress, not any other.”
“Well, then it’s time to do the fitting!” Cassey said excitedly and then turned to the shop assistant. “Do you guys do all that styling and what not, just to see how she might look on the actual day with her hair done and all?”
The shop assistant was all smiles. “Actually, we do. Please, follow me this way.”
Cassey and Paulina grabbed Alex’s hand and followed the lady behind.
“Isn’t this exciting?” Cassey said. “I feel like we are in a movie or something.”
“I need to call Oliver and-“ Alex was about to call when Paulina grabbed her phone from her and put it away. “What are you doing?” Alex asked.
“This is girl’s time, I warned you already!” Paulina said. oYour man is somewhere around here so what are you fussing about? You will see him soon.”
“I just wanted to tell him that I’ve found my dress.” Alex said. “Give me back my phone.”
“No chance,” Paulina said. “They’re waiting.” She pointed to the shop assistants waiting for them inside the dressing room.
Thirty minutes later, Alex was a bride looking about ready to walk down the aisle.
“You are very beautiful Ms Saunders.” Janet Evans, the make-up artist stood back and admired the work of her hands.
“I think I look beautiful too.” Alex said, admiring her own reflection. And then she noticed something she hadn’t noticed immediately. “You guys?” She looked back at her two friends. “Oh my God you look…what time did you guys change?”
Laughing, Paulina gave herself a sweep over in front of the mirror. “I think we found our dream dresses too.” She said.
“I think I have the sexiest bridesmaids in the whole world.” Alex said proudly.
“Of course you do.” Cassey agreed, laughing.
Alex got up and went to stand in between her friends. “Janet, please take a picture of us. We need to look exactly like this on my wedding.”
“Before you take the pic,” Paulina said, grabbing her friends by the hand. “There’s one last thing remaining.” Paulina said.
“What?” Cassey and Alex asked at the same time.
“Follow me ladies.” Paulina said, leading the girls out of the store.
“Is it okay to leave with the dresses on?” Alex asked, trying to stop lest they got in trouble.
“Sweetie, they already know who you are and they know where to find you in case we decide to run away with their billion dollar dresses and jewellery.”
“I see your point.” Alex said. “Wont people think we are going for a wedding or something?” She started laughing. “We look like-“
“We look about ready for marriage don’t we?” Cassey joined her in laughing.
“Here!” Paulina came to a stop in front of a closed double door entrance. “Once we enter in here, there’s no turning back.” She addressed Alex and Cassey.
“Why do those words sound so familiar?” Alex tried to recall where she had heard the same thing.
“Are you ready ladies?” Paulina asked.
“Where are you taking us?” Alex asked.
“To get you hitched silly.” Paulina answered and quickly flung the doors wide open.
“Oh my gosh….” Alex’s jaw dropped to the floor. “Oh my gosh….” She kept repeating, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“It was a god thing the used waterproof make-up.” Cassey noted under her breath but loud enough for her two friends to hear.
They were standing right at the edge of a longest red-carpeted aisle Alex had ever seen and right at the far end stood Oliver, fully clad in black suit and smiling like a man who had just caught a glimpse of heaven. The huge hall was almost empty, if not for the few faces in the front rows. Alex could recognize almost every face in the room. It was the perfect wedding and the perfect set-up.
“How, When, how….??” The questions where written all over Alex’s face.
“We acted very well didn’t we?” Paulina whispered into her ear. “You didn’t see this one coming did you?”
“You got me, real good. I am going to kill you after this you guys, all of you.”
“That means you will be turning into a widow right after your marriage,” Cassey said. “Because we were all working under strict instructions from that man over there looking like he’s about to die from happiness.”
“Alex-“ It was Humphrey Saunders, ready to walk his daughter down the aisle. “Let’s not keep the poor man waiting any longer.” He positioned his arm and Alex put hers through.
“Take me to my man dad.” Alex said.
Humphrey Saunders froze. “You’ve never called me dad before.” He said.
“Savour it, because it will never happen again. I am just extremely happy right now I could hug a horse.”
Mr Saunders fought back the tears and walked his daughter down the aisle.
“How do I look?” Alex was looking at herself in the mirror in the hallway while Anton watched. “Can she really tell who I am?”
“Your whole face is drowning under those glasses.” Anton said. “It’s just that red hair of yours, that’s a very loud telling sign she won’t buy it.”
“Am I the only woman with red hair?” She asked. “This is a solid look.”
“I only know two natural red-heads with healthy long hair.” Anton said.
“Oh, aren’t you lucky to have such lovely mothers sweetheart?” Alex asked sarcastically.
“I told you never to-“
“Yeah yeah I know, hold your horses she’s here.” She quickly turned to give her back to the girl approaching them. “You better put your arm around me right-“
Anton put his arm around her before she could even finish the sentence. Alex half-turned her body towards Anton and started working on his hair playfully. The two of them were like a pair of very enthusiastic lovers.
Alex first heard the footsteps get louder and before she knew it, her hand which was touching Anton’s hair was yanked away by a very strong grip.
“What the hell is going on here?” The girl was glaring at Alex. For a girl with very soft-spoken features, she had one hell of a death grip and death glare.
“You’re hurting me.” Alex said in a very controlled tone.
“Who the hell is she?” The girl asked Anton. “You will never change Antonio. Tell me who the hell she is before I break every bone in her body.”
“Is that so?” Oliver said, appearing on the scene out of nowhere.
“Mr Cooper-“ the girl quickly dropped Alex’s hand and took a step back.
“You must be Elizabeth,” Oliver said, reaching out his hand to her.
She nervously shook his hand. “Yes, but you can just call me Beth.”
“Hi Beth,” Oliver said. “I see you’ve met my wife already.” He pointed at Alex.
Anton was grinning triumphantly. “Beth, meet my step-mother, Alex.”
Alex took off her huge shades and smiling, she extended her hand to Elizabeth. “And here my dear Anton thought you’re incapable of being jealous.” She chuckled when she felt Elizabeth’s sweaty palm as they shook hands. “My money,” Alex opened her hand towards Anton the moment she was done shaking Elizabeth’s hand.
“Ah…what’s going on here?” A visibly shaken Elizabeth asked.
“What you see here is my wife winning a waver against my son.” Oliver explained as Anton removed a hundred bucks from his wallet and handed it to Alex. “Anton here said that he had never seen you act jealous and Alex said it was only because the right circumstances had not yet presented themselves.”
“What?” Elizabeth was slowly starting to feel stupid for falling straight into their trap.
“I am a psychologist,” Alex explained. “He told me a little bit about your personality and it didn’t appear to me that you were the type that would just turn and walk away after seeing your man in a somewhat compromising situation.
“You’ve been acting unbothered by the many women around him because you don’t want to come off as being insecure but am gonna let you in on a little secret; it’s okay to get jealous once in a while. It doesn’t mean we are anything less when we do. It just means we are a little selfish with our love, and it’s very normal to feel like that.”
“I am not really sure what to say,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t know if I should get angry or if I should feel stupid for falling for this-“
“How about both?” Alex asked.
“Huh?” Elizabeth said.
The three Coopers laughed.
“How about we first go in for dinner and we can deal with this matter after we are full?” Oliver said, took Alex’s hand and led the group into the restaurant.
“I will get you for this.” Elizabeth whispered to Anton, squeezing his hand hard for effect.
“That’s exactly what Alex meant.” Anton chuckled.
“How do you manage to address her as your step mum when you guys are the same age?” Elizabeth later asked Anton when he was dropping her off at her apartment.
“Who said I call her that?” Anton asked.
“You did when you were introducing her.”
“Yes, but that’s that. The rest of the time she’s Alex.” He said. “It’s a fact she’s my step-mother and I have to introduce her as such to people but between us she’s just Alex my best friend.”
“Your best friend ah?” Elizabeth said in a very tight tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anton asked, turning his body fully to look at her. “Are you being jealous right now?” He started laughing.
“She’s young, and she’s hot.” Elizabeth admitted. “You have no idea how intimidating it was to sit on the same table with a woman like that.”
“Alex is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet.” Anton said.
“That’s the thing!” his girlfriend said. “She was very nice and welcoming and yet for some reason it made me not like very much…and at the same time I liked her very much. I know am not making any sense.”
Anton laughed. “I know exactly what you mean babe.” He said, taking her hand and kissing it. “There’s absolutely no need for you to feel jealous or anything like that. Alex is the best thing that has happened to my father in a very long time and he means the world to her as well.
“I know you probably heard about the scandals in the past but I respect the both of them so the past is just that, the past. You have nothing to worry about, I promise you. If you don’t trust me, at least have faith in my father. he wouldn’t be with Alex if he didn’t trust her.”
“I know all that,” Elizabeth said. “I guess am just being a typical woman tonight.”
“It must have been hard for you hiding your jealousness all this while because woman you’re on fire tonight!” Anton laughed.
Elizabeth buried her face in the palms of her hands in embarrassment. Anton reached over to her and put his arms around her.
Oliver and Alex quietly tip-toed up the stairs and stood outside the bedroom door. “Think he’s sleeping or reading a book under the sheets?” Alex asked Oliver.
“Most likely the latter,” Oliver answered and slowly opened the door. He turned on the light only to reveal an empty bed before them.
“I think I know where he is.” Alex said and led the way back downstairs.
“The light is still one do you think they’re still awake this time?” Oliver asked as they stood by the door.
“Let’s find out,” Alex knocked lightly on the door and when no response came, she opened the door and they entered.
As expected, before them on the bed lay Sam, fast asleep with a book on his chest. To his left was a heavily pregnant Cassey, also in deep sleep and between them a five year old boy, his legs spread over the two adults on his sides.
“Isn’t this just the perfect family portrait?” Alex said, a smile on her face as she took in the scene before them.
Upon hearing her voice, Sam opened his eyes and sat up. “You guys are back.” He said, checking the two people sleeping beside him. “What time is it?” He asked, lifting his hand to check his watch. “I have no idea what time we slept.”
“I can definitely guess who slept first.” Alex said, gestured her head towards Cassey who had not even flinched in the slightest despite the noise in the room.
“Mum! Dad!” The five year old jumped off the bed and ran straight into his mother’s arms.
“Noah!” Alex planted kissed all over her son’s face.
Finally, Cassey was forced awake by Noah’s movements. “Can’t a girl get some sleep in this place?” She complained.
Four years ago at an end of year party hosted by Alex and Oliver, Cassey had approached Sam and told him; “If you want to get over Alex, sleep with me you poor broken-hearted man.”
Before the drunk Sam could respond, Cassey’s lips where on him and after that he could not get rid of her. She was not anything close to what he would have imagined having as a wife…or let alone a girlfriend but for some strange reason, something about her had kept drawing him to her and three years ago he asked her to marry him and she said yes. The two of them were crushing at the Cooper mansion while their home was being fumigated.
“Why aren’t you sleeping in your room young man?” Oliver asked his son.
“I didn’t want to be alone.” Noah answered defiantly.
“You’ve always slept alone.” Oliver reminded him. “How did you manage before your aunt and uncle came here?”
“I can manage when I have no choice but why suffer when I have options?” The boy fired back.
“Alex, you’ve damaged that child,” Cassey said laughing. “No five year old should sound and argue like that.”
“I keep telling her.” Oliver said, and reaching for his son he said, “Come, let’s get you to bed.” He took him from his mother. “You should get some sleep you two, sorry for disturbing you.” He held the door open for Alex.
“Good night guys.” Alex said and walked passed her husband and son.
“Good night to you too.” Sam and Cassey said at once.
“Dad, can I also get a baby sister?” Noah asked as they headed up the stairs.
“What?” Oliver asked, taken aback by the question.
“Aunt Cassey said that she will be having a baby girl.” The five year old said. “I think it would be fun to have a baby sister I can protect. My friend Mark has two baby sisters so he is always acting like the adult in our group. I want to be the adult too.”
Alex and Oliver laughed.
“There’s a hypothesis we could test.” Alex said suggestively.
“No chance!” Oliver said.
“Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying.” Alex said, laughing as she followed father and son behind.