For the first time in many years, Oliver Cooper found himself the centre of a tabloid scandal the next morning when he was awakened by a call from his PA Morgan.
“The story is everywhere sir,” a panicked Morgan said. “I don’t know what happened but that photographer swears he isn’t the one behind this circulation.”
“I am booting the PC right now but what have they written that’s making you lose your breath like this?” Oliver asked as he waited for his desktop to fully come on.
“It’s not so much as what they said about you…it’s about what’s been written about Alex.” Morgan informed him.
Oliver had known the stories would be about him and Alex but he couldn’t help wondering why the main focus would be on Alex rather than him. He quickly scrolled down the pages the moment the computer came on and all the headlines seemed to confirm Morgan’s assertion;
A Vixen after Father and Son
Cooper’s Foster Daughter Eyes Both Father and Son
A delinquent or a Gold Digger? The Secret Past of Cooper’s Foster Girl Revealed!
Ambitious Undergrad Student Goes After Cooper Fortune….
The Gruesome Past of Cooper’s Orphan Child Exposed….
Pop Star’s Lover Not-So-Lovely Past Revealed
Sam Daniel’s New Fling Caught in a Scandal with the Cooper Men
And just like that the headlines continued, each containing innocent pictures of Alex with Oliver and Anton but somehow they all proved suggestive given the context that accompanied their use.
“Do you see what am seeing Sir?” Morgan asked his boss.
“This isn’t about me Morgan, this is about Alex.” Oliver said and immediately started dressing up, frantically throwing pieces of clothes around the room from the closet. “Where are you right now?” He asked.
“I am coming to you right now,” He answered. “I’m just entering the Coliseum lobby.”
“Wait for me there, am coming down right now.” Oliver said.
“No you can’t come down sir!” Morgan said as he rushed towards the elevator. “There is a swam of reporters out here and the last thing you need-“
“I’m coming down Morgan,” Oliver stated sternly and walked out of his room heading straight for the elevator. “Only God knows what’s going through that poor girl’s mind all alone wherever she is.”
Morgan was about to press the floor of Oliver’s room but he paused and stepped back. “Wear something appropriate then, it’s cray out here.”
“I am not hiding from anyone so I will do no such thing. What the hell makes these people think they can write whatever they feel like?” He stepped inside the lift where there were already three people and despite their shameless stares, Oliver completely cut them out of focus and hearing and continued his conversation with his PA.
“Give me a list of every media outlet, online or print that’s written anything about this and hand them over the lawyers. I won’t have anyone thinking they can mess up with my family however they like.”
“Yes sir, I am already working on it.” Morgan said. “But who could be behind all this Sir? Did Alex offend anyone? She’s been a part of your family for such a long time but this is the first time her private life has been exposed like this.”
Oliver sighed heavily as the obvious answer came to him. He knew exactly who would want to harm Alex in such a manner. “Let’s talk on the way.” Oliver said and cut the line.
“You have something to say to me?” An angry Oliver asked the three pairs of eyes still staring at him. They all quickly turned their eyes away in embarrassment. He was the first to bolt out of the lift when it reached the lobby and he immediately spotted Morgan waiting on the other side just as the door opened.
“Here sir.” Morgan handed Oliver an iPad. “You need to see the things written there.” The PA said. “Is that true?”
“What is true?” Oliver said as he skimmed through the page. “These people have no shame,” he said. “Did they really need to stoop this low to hurt Alex?”
They had reached the door at the exit but the two guards securing the point hesistated to let Oliver through due to the chaos of reporters waiting impatiently on the other side.
“Is there really no other exit?” Oliver asked.
“There are plenty sir but unfortunately, it’s the same case everywhere. These people are relentless,” said one of the guards that looked senior than the other.
“You go upstairs and take care of today’s schedule Morgan.” Oliver said as he put on his sun glasses.
“Sir, you can’t go out there on your own.” The PA protested.
“Watch me.” Oliver said and flung the door open, catching the two security guys by surprise. As expected, camera flashes and microphones were shoved in his face the moment the outside air caught his face.
What is your relationship with Alex Saunders?
Are you and your son sharing the same woman?
Who is Alex to you?
Is it true that she tried to kill her sister?
Is she really a mental patient? Is she a nutcase?
Are you and your son safe Mr Cooper?
For the first thirty seconds or so Oliver had managed to keep his composure and ignore the question as they kept coming at him from all directions. He focused on the mission at hand and determinedly fought his way out of the crowd but the last two questions he had just heard brought him to a sudden halt and his eyes went searching for the face that had uttered such disgusting words.
“Alex Saunders is a beautiful, hardworking, and intelligent young girl that any parent would be proud to have as a daughter and any man would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend or wife.” Oliver stated between clenched teeth and clenched fists. “And no she has no mental disorders BUT, even if she did, that wouldn’t make her a nutcase.
“I hope you sir never have the misfortune of hearing some duchebag address any of your relatives suffering from a mental illness as a nutcase because as it happens, nearly one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness. Perhaps in your family you are that one…but an assumption like that would put me at the same ignorant standing as you and we can’t afford to insult the people battling mental illnesses by putting you in their category so, I am just going to assume that you are simply an ignorant bigot in desperate need of an education. Now, does that answer your question?”
A long pregnant silence filled the air as Oliver glared straight into the faces of the reporters around him, daring them to ask another stupid question. Oliver Cooper was known for being a man of very few words. For years he had managed to keep his private life out of the spotlight and somehow always managed to evade intrusive questions about his personal life. Oliver would never ever qualify such questions thrown at him in such a manner with a response but this was a special case and he made an exception. The response he had just given was the first kind he had ever given to a bunch of reporters attacking him for information. It was the first time he appeared to have lost his cool in public and he seemed to have no regrets about that as he found himself easily making his way out of the crown as the reporters stepped aside to let him pass.
By the time the reporters realized what had just happened, Oliver was safely locked in his car and driving off. The first thing he did the moment he got into his car was dial Alex’s line but she was on another call. He called his son next.
“Where are you?” Oliver asked Anton who finally his phone after it rang for what felt like forever. He could hear his son stretching, “Don’t tell me you’ve been sleeping all this while.” Oliver said, disappointment ringing in his tone.
“You should be glad that at least I slept at home dad.” Anton retorted.
“When are you going to grow up son?” Oliver asked.
“Dad, why did you call me? It’s six…oh, it’s seven in the morning.”
“I was calling to find out if you’re with Alex but obviously-“
He finally had his son’s full attention. “What’s wrong with Alex? Why are you looking for her?”
“I don’t have time to explain, am on the road headed to her place. Check your phone and please, whatever you do, do not speak to any reporters and do not in any way try to rectify this situation. Leave me to take care of it. is that clear?”
“Now you’re scaring me. I’m hanging up.” And he cut immediately.
A call from Sam came right after that call ended. “Mr Cooper,” Sam greeted his boss.
“Are you with Alex right now?” Oliver asked.
“No, that’s why I called you. I’m not in town right now so…been trying to get a hold of her but her line is busy.”
Oliver remembered he had a photoshoot in Paris. “I take it you heard the stories?” Oliver remarked.
“I have,” Sam said.
“And?” Oliver was curious about Sam’s opinion. His response would tell him exactly how much he cared for Alex.
“What do you mean and?” Sam asked. “You and I know how the media works. I am just worried about Alex’s safety right now. Those were not kind things written about her.”
“Yeah, I know.” Oliver said. “But I intend to get to the bottom of this and make whoever is responsible pay.”
“Does this have anything to do with Anton’s girlfriend?” Sam asked, an image of Cathy having come to mind the moment he came across the first article on Alex.
“It has everything to do with her.” Oliver answered. “I need to phone Alex right now so-“
“Oh yeah,” Sam said. “Please do give me a call once you see her and pass her my love.”
“I will.” Oliver said and cut the line.
With a man like that, how honestly did Anton expect him to drive him away from Alex? Between him the coward, a man afraid to confront his own feelings, and his playful playboy of a son, it was an obvious fact who the better man was for Alex.
Oliver tried Alex’s number again and this time it went through. “Alex!” He heaved a sigh of relief when he heard her breathing on the other end of the line.
But Alex was not just breathing, she was crying too.
“Are you at home?” Was all he could ask, stepping on the gas harder.
“Um,” was all the response she gave him.
“I’m almost there okay. Please stay in your apartment and don’t open the door for anybody. Everything is going to be all right my Sunshine, you hear me?”
Rather than comfort her, Oliver’s soothing words brought more tears to Alex’s eyes and he held the phone to his ear as she broke down in sobs.
“I can’t take this anymore.” Alex cried.
“Alex love, of course you can take this, you’re stronger than anyone I know, brave!” Oliver forced the words out, fighting away his own tears threatening to pour. “You have me, and you have Sam who totally believes in you despite everything…and there’s that stupid boy too, Anton. And you also have your friends. We all believe in you and we know better than whatever has been written about you. You believe me don’t you?”
“Mr C, it’s me Paulina,” Alex’s friend answered.
“Cassey has just gone with Alex to the bathroom, she keeps throwing up. She’s crying too much.”
“Thank you for being there with her girls.” Oliver said. “I’ll be there in three minutes.” It was the first time Oliver was driving to Alex’s new place even though he had gotten her address much earlier.
As expected, there was a swam of reporters at the door leading inside but Paulina was in sight to help him in. she yelled, cussed and kicked to get him through until they were safely inside.
“I forgot about how untamed you are Lina.” Oliver laughed as they headed to the lift.
“You should hire me as your body guard Mr C. Am quite handy right?”
Oliver chuckled. “That you are. How is Alex? Is she still-“
“Crying?” Paulina finished for him. “Yes but she’s calmed down a bit now, probably happy that you are here.”
Oliver couldn’t help wondering if the girls knew about Alex’s feelings for him.
Of course they do. He answered himself. Is there anything these girls don’t share?
Alex jumped at Oliver the moment he came through the door and started crying all over again.
“It’s all right now, am here.” He said as he tightly wrapped his arms him her while the two girls watched, both of them looking as beaten down as their friend.
“You should tell her to stop crying Mr C.” Cassey said. “She will have a massive migraine and those aren’t pretty. She’s been crying for the past two hours now.”
Oliver removed her from his arms and held her at arm’s length instead, his hands around her waist and his eyes closely examining her swollen face. “You look terrible.” He said, shaking his head slowly.
“What?” Alex asked, taken aback by his comment.
“Yes you look awful. You should never cry again, it’s not a good look on you.” He teased.
Paulina and Cassey found his ability to keep a straight face in that situation amusing.
Alex quickly dried her tears with the back of her hands. “Is this what you call comforting someone?” She sulked. “Why did you even come?”
Oliver laughed. “But you’ve stopped crying.” He said, pointing to her face. He dipped into his pocket and handed her his hanker. Alex smiled and took it from him.
“Is there anything to drink in this house?” Oliver asked. Not one that was good at offering comfort, he made a play at casualness and took a quick tour of the small apartment while Alex grabbed a drink for him from the fridge.
“We are going to rush to the store to get this girl some food.” Paulina informed Oliver, trying to give the two some privacy. “There’s no food in this house, no wonder she looks like a stick these days. I will never understand why you allowed her to live alone in the first place Mr C.”
Paulina’s innocent remarks tore at Oliver’s heart. He looked over at Alex and saw her in a new light. He had been so pre-occupied with battles of his heart that he failed to notice the obvious about Alex. She had lost a lot of weight within the short period of staying alone. How could he have not noticed her fading away so slowly? What was she going through that was eating away at her in such a manner? Did he do that to her? Could it be his rejection that was making her appear so lifeless in those pyjamas of hers?
“It’s not like that,” Alex quickly corrected the situation, reading the guilt in Oliver’s eyes. “I am hardly at home these days so I haven’t bought any food lately because it keeps going to waste. I spend the day at school during the week and the nights at work.”
Oliver removed a card from his wallet and handed it to Cassey. “Get whatever you want and come fill up this house with all kinds of food known to man.” He said.
An excited Paulina grabbed the card from Cassey and closely examined it. “OMG. Are we allowed to get a few clothes for a party we want to take Alex to tonight?” She asked.
“Paulina!” Both Alex and Cassey shouted her name.
Oliver laughed. “Shoes, bags, gowns…whatever you like, just get but don’t forget the food, that’s priority number one.”
“Yes sir!” Paulina said and was already walking towards the door.
“This girl is so shameless,” Cassey laughed, pointing a finger at her friend’s back. “Anything in particular you want us to get for you love?” She asked Alex.
“I don’t feel like eating anything right now.” Alex said.
“Just get her whatever you think she will love Cassey.” Oliver said.
“And what about you Mr C?” She asked.
“Don’t worry about me, am all good with this,” he raised the glass of pure juice Alex had just offered him.
“We’ll be back shortly,” Cassey said and quickly followed the excited Paulina out the door.
“You do know that your fortune is about to reduce by at least 7 figures in the next few minutes right?” Alex told Oliver. “Paulina is the queen of shopping.”
“Let her have her fun, Santa doesn’t only come on Christmas you know.” Oliver grinned proudly and sat down on the couch. “Come sit down.” He patted the space next to him and Alex reluctantly went to sit down.
“Why didn’t you call me when you first saw stories?” He asked.
“Everything just happened so fast,” She said. “I slept very late last night so I was still sleeping when Paulina and Cassey came here. They’re the ones that showed me the articles and after that my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. I wanted to switch it off but I thought you might get worried if you called me and found it off….”
“So why didn’t you just call me?”
Alex hesitated at first but then said, “I wasn’t sure if you were embarrassed by me because of what they’ve written-“
“I know, it was foolish,” she said. “But I couldn’t help wondering…I never imagined a day would come when such awful stuff would be written about me of all people. Even I was embarrassed for myself reading some of those things so…what about you?”
“But none of those things are true so what does it matter?” Oliver asked.
“Only you think that,” Alex said. “I bet everyone out there thinks am a murderer, a gold digger and a mental case. Who’s even going to believe my side when everything seems to say otherwise? I wouldn’t blame anyone that believes those things written about me.”
“Anyone that believes such things about you obviously shouldn’t matter to you because if they did, they would know better than to believe that. The people that care about you…the ones that love you know the truth even without asking and that’s all that matters.”
“But how am I supposed to survive the rest of the semester and at work too? I just started there so everyone will be looking at me strangely now.” She started crying again but Oliver was quick to wrap his arms around her.
“I am very sure the person that gave you that internship knew something about your character before recommending you.” He reminded her.
The moment Anton saw exactly what his father was talking about, he called Cathy.
“I’ve been expecting your call,” she said, a smile behind her voice. “Did you see the articles about your sister?” She deliberately stressed the words. “I wonder who told these people about –“
“Oh cut the bullcrap Cathy,” Anton snapped. “I know you have everything to do with that. My gosh, what has Alex ever done to you for you to be this cruel? Did you actually think that you could get away with something like this?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She feigned total ignorance.
“You might have an IQ in negative digits Cathy but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. A close source to the family revealed this and that…what close source is that? Do you think I’m stupid? If you felt like I broke up with you unjustly then maybe you should have considered giving me a reason to regret my decision rather than make me feel the luckiest man in the world. You should wait for my father to shove your asses with lawsuits. The hell I was thinking losing my head over your likes. You make me sick.”
He cut the line before she could pour out her vermin into his ears. He grabbed his car keys and drove straight to Alex’s apartment.
Cathy on the other hand was left troubled by Anton’s threat of a lawsuit that she immediately started yelling for her mother’s attention who came rushing into her bedroom, spatula in hand.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Mathilda asked the moment she busted through the door, her eyes searching around the room for any signs of threats but finding nothing. “Did you hurt yourself?” She stopped to look at her disgruntled daughter who was glaring at her phone with all her might.
When she could not take the suspense anymore, Mathilda snapped. “Cathy!” she yelled on top of her lungs, forcing Cathy to finally look at her.
“Anton said that his father is going to sue us for leaking stories on Alex.” She said.
“What?” Mathilda said. “What evidence does he have that we leaked that information?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t think to ask but he sounded so sure. He says he knows it’s us and he will make us pay.”
“There’s a huge difference between knowing something and proving that you know it.” Mathilda said confidently, not feeling fazed or threatened in the least bit. “He is just blowing wind because you exposed his little girlfriend. He will get over it soon.”
“But mum, he might get over it soon but I don’t think I will ever have him back. He really hates me now.” Cathy sulked.
Mathilda put her hand over her daughter’s shoulder and sat down on the bed with her. “he might think that he hates you now but in time he will appreciate what you did for him. They all seem to be blinded by the supposed innocence of that brat but maybe now they will start questioning things.
“What is so innocent about a girl that’s stringing along three good looking and wealthy men? What’s so wrong about what we did? We were simply helping them to see her for who she really is.”
“Is that so?” Benson Russel asked as he swung the door wide open causing both wife and daughter to jump in shock.
“Dad-“ Cathy said, surprised to see her father back home when he had left for work two hours ago.
“Honey what are you doing here?” Mathilda asked.
“You are asking me that as if you don’t know why I am here. What have the two of you done?” The professor asked sternly.
“What do you mean-“ Mathilda was saying but her husband’s warning roar shut her up immediately.
“Don’t you even dare lie to me!” Benson Russel shouted. “How could the two of stoop so low? Havent you done that girl enough damage already? What more do you want, to kill her?”
“Dad.” Cathy said.
“That boy was kind enough to tell you the truth about his feelings before pursuing Alex so why are you so bitter? Is it her fault that every man that bumps into her falls in-love with her? Have you stopped to ask yourself why the situation is like that for her but different with you?”
And then he turned to his wife. “Instead of plotting ways to destroy an innocent girl, why don’t you teach your daughter to become a better woman? She is no longer that little that got lost and frankly I think you outdone yourself trying to make her feel loved twenty years ago. She is now a woman and if you keep pampering her like this, she is going to end up embarrassing both of us.”
“Why are you always supporting that girl every chance you get!?” Cathy cried to her father, causing him to pause his exit at the door. “I am your daughter but every time the topic of Alex is brought up in this house, it’s always her side you take…and you wonder why I hate her so much? Sometimes I feel like you regret letting her go and having me back. I bet you would rather have an intelligent daughter like her than some as dumb as me right?”
“What are you talking about?” Her father asked. “That’s victim mentality of yours no longer works with me. You can’t keep comparing yourself to others every time just to gain reassurance of your worth from others. It’s about time you did something about your stop and stop whining like a child!” he stepped out of the room and banged the door behind him.
Like the child that she thought she was, Cathy fell down on the floor, kicking and wailing in anger. “Why does he hate me so much?” She cried to her mother.
Mathilda got down to comfort her daughter but silently, she couldn’t help feeling fazed by some of the accusations he had thrown at her. As a mother, she knew that she had given her daughter too many allowances and more than enough freedom allowed to a child and as a result, Cathy grew up with a sense of entitlement, always wanting to possess what she desired and stopping at nothing until she achieved that.
“He is just upset right now he doesn’t mean the things he said.” Mathilda comforted her broken daughter.
“It’s all because of that girl!” Cathy said. “The only way dad will pay attention to me is if she’s gone from the face of the earth!”
“Cathy!” Mathilda quipped. “Do you hear yourself?”
“I am just so sick and tired of her taking everything that’s mine mum.” She sobbed.
“Stop crying now Alex,” Oliver told Alex for the umpteenth time, her head now buried in the sofa on the other side of the room while she cried her head off.
Oliver got up and went to sit down next to her, lifting her head up and resting it on his chest, his arms around her. “Come on now,” he said. “Don’t you trust Morgan and the team, I told you they’ll take care of everything.”
Alex suddenly jolted up straight from his embrace and looked at him, their faces only a few inches apart. “Do you think that that’s what am worried about right now?” She asked.
“Then what are you worried about?” Oliver asked, looking confused.
“I understand that Cathy and her family will be slapped with some lawsuits and made to pay me some money. I don’t doubt that the Cooper lawyers will do that with ease. Ia lso know that your media team will do their best to make the horrible articles and news disappear but Oliver, no matter how brilliant they are, they still can’t erase the memories from people’s minds.
“Now the whole world knows my business, every dirty detail and no matter what’s written after this all they’ll remember are the awful details of my childhood and my tangled mess of a love-life. And you know what’s worse from all this? It’s that now they’ve given you enough reasons to not want me, to not even consider me…and that hurts the most.” She cried.
Oliver didn’t know what to say to her in response and so he just sat there avoiding her gaze. She was right, she had read his mind well. That’s how well she knew him. Her knowledge of him was something he both liked and loathed, especially in moments like this one…when he wished his feelings would remain masked. Despite her age, she was the only person in the whole world that knew him and understood him well. Many had tried to study him and get close to him and they had all failed to reach to the parts of him that mattered the most. But Alex had succeeded to penetrate his walls without his permission and he could not remember when or how she had gained access to his inner most being.
When Oliver finally raised his head to look at her, he found her staring at him squarely with eyes filled with tears. “I am right am I not?” She asked him, her voice shaking with both fear and pain, reading his response in his eyes before it could reach his lips.
“Alex-“ He wasn’t quite sure what the right thing to say was in that situation.
“Oh my God,” tears streamed Alex’s face, she started shaking her head slowly. “I knew it.”
“Alex,” Oliver tried reaching out for her face to wipe away her tears but Alex flinched and moved her head away.
She stood up. “Just leave Oliver, leave me alone.” She said, her back turned from him.
“What?” He asked, getting up. “Are you chasing me?”
“I don’t even know what I was expecting from you coming here.” She said, her arms crossed over her chest.
Oliver walked over to where she was and stood in front of her, forcing one of her arms free to hold her hand. “Alex, we’ve had this conversation before. These days it appears it’s all we ever talk about. Why can’t you understand why I am doing this? Do you think that this is easy for me? Do you think that you’re the only one having a hard time?”
“Then answer this question Oliver,” she was looking straight into his eyes. “Forget about everything else; forget about Anton, about the public, and about whatever fears you might have and answer this question; Do you love me? Not as a daughter or whatever else you might come up with. Do you love me as a woman? Are you in-love with me?”
Oliver immediately dropped his gaze as if to shield himself from being discovered. “It’s that same conversation, again.” He muttered under his breath but loud enough for Alex to hear.
“Why aren’t you answering my question?” Alex probed him.
“I-“ Oliver was about to answer when the door busted open and in flew Cassey and Paulina, shopping bags and all.
“Mr C!” Paulina ran to Oliver.
“What’s wrong?” Oliver asked, turning to face his savior. “You girls look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“You need to go out there.” Cassey said, desperately trying to catch her breath.
“What’s happening out there?” Alex asked.
“Anton,” Paulina answered, her hand pointing to the door. “Anton is out there and he just told a group of about twenty reporters that Alex is in-love with you, Mr C.” She pointed at Oliver.
“What!?” Both Alex and Oliver asked at once.
“Anton said that to the reporters?” Oliver asked. “Heavens that boy will be the death of me!”
“Well, he didn’t exactly say that,” Cassey said.
“What did he say exactly?”
“I think it’s better if you went and rescued him from there before he does any nore damage thinking he’s helping Alex.”
Without uttering another word, Oliver stormed out of the apartment, his eyes blazing and fumes of fury emanating from every part of his body.