A text came from Alex just as Oliver was getting ready to knock off from work.
Sam has invited me to dinner.
Should I go?
Oliver who was about ready to open his door paused, starring at his phone like a man frozen in time. This is exactly what Fantasia was talking about, he thought. what exactly was he supposed to do and what was the right thing to say in such a situation.
Oliver sighed heavily and replied; Have fun kiddo and take care of yourself.
And he switched off his phone.
The tears that fell from Alex’s eyes came so fast it was as if they had been waiting for the disappointment to simply be confirmed.
“What was I expecting?” She said as she went about her room searching for something to wear. “Coward.” She kept repeating whilst sobbing, throwing clothes from the closet down on the floor.
“Bloody coward!!!” She finally broke apart and dropped onto the floor, clatching a bunch of clothes in her hands.
“You look stunning,” Sam complimented her when she opened the door for him. She was wearing a figure-hugging little shimmery black dress with white pearls around her neck and matching earrings.
“Thank you,” Alex forced a smile and stepped aside to let him in. “Come in.”
Sam stepped closer, gave her a hug and planted a kiss on her forehead. With his arms still around her waist, he held her upper body slightly back and looked her in the eyes. “You look very beautiful Alex, but you also look like you just spent the last five hours crying.”
For a moment Alex had forgotten how attentive to detail Sam was. He somehow always knew when she was in a happy or bad mood and he always had the right words to say to comfort her. The sincerity and care in his eyes was the last thing Alex needed in that moment after spending the last thirty minutes fighting back the tears that just wouldn’t stop pouring. It was like they had a mind of their own.
And naturally, Sam’s concern triggered them back on and they came streaming down.
Without saying a word, Sam held her tightly in his arms and held her like that until her sobs settled.
“Even though I feel like showing you off to the world with the way you are looking right now, I think that tonight is a bad time for you to be out there.” Sam said after a while. “How about we kick our shoes off and I whip us something in the kitchen? I hope your fridge is stocked!”
He gave her no time to respond but took her by the hand and led her to sit down on the couch. “Sit right there, or better yet put on some feel good music for us while I scan the house for any edibles.”
“No buts, just humor me this once okay?” His eyes were literally pleading with her to go with the flow. Everything he was doing was out of concern for her and yet it was so clear she was being unfair to him. He had a right to get upset and feel disappointed and yet it was her feelings he put ahead of his.
Alex nodded like an obedient child.
“Good girl!” Sam said enthusiastically, getting up and rushing to the kitchen.
Alex remembered an interview Sam had years back where he revealed he was a big fan of Stevie Wonder and she went for his record.
“That’s what am talking about!” Sam’s head popped from the kitchen the moment the music filled the air.
Alex laughed and went to join him in the kitchen.
“How did you know I would like that?” He asked.
“I told you, I am your number one fan,” She said. “Where did you find that?” She pointed to the black and blue apron he was wearing, looking right at home in her kitchen.
“It’s not a very complicated kitchen you know,” he said. “Everything is packed in its place. If I didn’t know better I would think you have an OCD or something. Everything is a little too perfectly arranged.”
She laughed. “Maybe I am, is that a problem?”
“As long as it’s not the type that makes you rush straight into the bathroom after we make love cause that would just-“ he stopped his sentence short, realizing he had ran miles from the shocked expression on her face.
“My bad,” he quickly said. “I…I…it was a joke. A very bad joke. Dammit Samuel Daniels what’s wrong with you!?” he was hitting his head on the side.
Alex busted out laughing, forcing Sam to stop and stare at her in wonder. “You’re laughing.” He noted. “You are not kicking me out of the house…yet.”
“I am a clean freak quiet alright but I doubt it’s at an OCD level so you have nothing more to worry about.” Alex reassured him.
“Oh thank God!” He said, laughing.
“Anything I can help with?” She asked, moving to stand next to him by the sink where he was now washing some vegetables. “What are you making?”
“It’s a special Sam recipe. It looks like you have a stable supply of food in this house, something I was expecting from a workaholic student like you. Besides, you don’t look like you eat anything, at all.” He was scanning her slim frame from head to toe.
“It’s O-Paulina and Cassey who bought everything actually.” She avoided saying Oliver’s name. “How about I wash those while you check what’s on the stove?”
“Am not taking no for an answer.” Alex quickly interjected him before he could finish what he was about to say. “I will be bored just watching you do everything. I need to keep myself busy.”
Sam immediately obliged her. She was right, she needed to keep her mind off whatever thoughts were running wild in her head.
Doctor Russel slowly opened the door to his house a few minutes after midnight fully prepared to withstand the storm that awaited him on the other side of the door. As expected, he found both wife and daughter very much wide awake, well, maybe not both. Mathilda looked like she hadn’t gotten any sleep while Cathy looked like she had just been forced awake. There was a bunch of suitcases packed on the other side of the room.
“What are you people still doing up this time?” He asked. He knew exactly what type of show they were putting on but he still chose to humour them.it was the least he could do after turning their perfect little world upside down.
No verbal response came from Mathilda but her body language was enough to turn the few remaining black hairs in the professor’s head into grey.
“How could you do this to us dad?” Cathy added sound to her mother’s silent protest. “Do you have any idea how much humiliation I went through today?”
The professor quietly went to sit down, leaving as much distance between him and the wife as possible.
“Aren’t you going to answer your daughter?” Mathilda finally spoke, turning her body fully around to face him.
“What are those bags about?” Benson asked, pointing to the suitcases in the corner and completely ignoring the questions being fired at him.
Mathilda stood up. “I am leaving you and I am taking my daughter with me since you obviously want nothing to do with us. Maybe you and that Karla can finally have the happy family you’ve always wanted to have.”
He scoffed and stood up as well. “Just swallow some anti-depressants like you always do and go to bed, the both of you and stop putting on a show.” He said and started walking towards the stairs.
“Benson Russel!” His wife called out to him. “Don’t you dare walk away from me. Do you think this is a bluff?”
The doctor stopped and slowly turned back around. “As a matter of fact yes, I think this is all a bluff because if you really wanted to leave, you wouldn’t have waited up for me till this hour when you could have been half-way through to wherever you’re going in your heads. How much are you willing to bet that there’s actually nothing packed in those bags over there?”
Cathy’s jaw dropped in surprise. “How did you know dad?” She asked and was immediately awarded with a look of utter disappointment from her mother.
“You fool,” Mathilda said to her daughter.
“Did you actually think that you would lie to him mum?” Cathy defiantly asked her mother. “I told you this is a waste of time. I’m going to bed now. You guys sort this out yourselves.” And she dragged herself up the stairs.
“When are you going to stop manipulating everything to your will Mathilda?” Benson asked. “If you want to leave, leave but you are not taking my daughter with you. There’s no way am going to let you turn her into something worse than she already is. that girl needs help urgently and if you searched your heart as a mother, you would support me instead of antagonizing me all the way.”
The father followed the daughter up the stairs leaving the wife standing alone in the middle of the living room, desperate tears rolling down her cheeks. Mathilda Russel had finally been cornered into a wall.
“Alex Saunders or whatever they call you, you think you’ve won don’t you?” She said between clenched teeth and clenched fists.
On Saturday evening, Alex got off her bike to enter her apartment building after a long day at work when someone honked at her from behind. She turned in that direction to find a very familiar car parked not far from the entrance. She had just driven right passed it and had she been paying attention, she would have done everything to avoid the pending confrontation at all cost.
Cathy opened her door and stepped out of the car, a bemused smile on her face as she walked towards Alex.
“I heard one of your lovers got you a BMW so why in hell are you moving around on a donkey?” she kicked the bicycle with the tip of her four inch red stiletto.
“What do you want Cathy?” Alex asked, making no effort to hide her displeasure.
“Get over yourself I am not the least bit interested in this meeting just as you are.” She retorted.
“Then what the hell are you doing here honking at me?” Alex asked.
“Since that coward friend of yours, wait, should I say step-son or lover boy?”
Alex turned her back and was ready to walk away.
“I am pregnant with his child.” Cathy loudly announced. Alex turned to find her rubbing her visibly flat belly. “I also only found out yesterday. Am 2 months along. He won’t answer my calls and he hasn’t been at his place for a while now.”
“Could you be any more obvious Cathy?” Alex asked, not falling for the diaper news. “Say you’re pregnant and he won’t leave you. Isn’t that what all the desperate girls do to keep a man?”
“Say whatever you want but my pregnancy is arched in stone you wouldn’t rub it off even if you tried. Tony can do all the tests he wants the truth won’t change. I am pregnant and it is his child. Since I can’t deliver this news personally to him, I know that you will deliver it. Tell him I have zero intentions of getting rid of it and zero plans of raising the child alone, comprende?”
Cathy hopped back to her car, every part inch of her body exuding pride and victory.
Alex waited for Cathy to disappear from sight before cycling to Duncan’s house where she knew Anton was hiding.
She pressed the bell at the gate and waited for a few seconds before the gate came wide open. This was the fifth time Alex was visiting the Schmidt residence. If she was to rank the homes of all her friends, the Schmidt’s residence came second after the Cooper’s in terms of size, class and elegance. Every time she rode her bike down the long drive way made her feel like she was Alice in Wonderland. Whereas Oliver Cooper’s home felt like home, Duncan’s home made her feel like she had just been granted access into a parallel universe and even though she was sincerely welcomed, she couldn’t help feeling like escaping any chance she got. The house was just too perfectly decorated like a five star hotel to feel like a home. Everything in it was deliberately placed and saved a specific purpose.
But what could one expect of the number one home maker and interior décor expert in town? Alex wondered as she got off her bike and handed it over to Victor the resident valet.
“Welcome Ms Alex.” Victor happily greeted her. It appeared he had finally come to terms with addressing her by her first name after months of negotiating even the prefix remained unchanged.
“Long time Victor, how have you been?” Alex returned the greeting.
“Very fine thank you,” he answered. “The gentlemen are by the foyer on the East wing.” He said before disappearing.
“It would have been shorter and quicker if I rode the bike there.” She said to herself and went round the house.
“Alex?” Duncan jumped in his seat when Alex came through. Alex was like the younger version of his mother. He knew no other woman that would nag him into acting responsively every time he acted like a wild child.
Anton who had been facing away from the entrance with his legs propped on the other chair quickly turned around the moment he heard Alex’s name.
“Look at the two of you chilling out here like two old men enjoying their retirement.” Alex said as she joined them where they were seated. “I wonder what your mother would say if she received an anonymous call from someone informing her about her son’s absence from school for no apparent reason.”
She made a move for her phone but both men were up on their feet ready to grab the phone from her. Duncan succeeded and quickly threw the phone at Anton who immediately secured it in the inside pocket of his coat.
Alex was shaking her head slowly in disbelief. “Do you actually think that I wouldn’t reach down there to get it?” She asked Tony.
In response, Anton slumped his head and shoulders in surrender.
“She’s right,” Duncan said in a defeated tone. “I don’t think there’s any place on my body this chick is afraid to touch, what more you?” He pointed at Anton. “You guys are worse than siblings.”
Alex laughed but Anton didn’t seem to catch the joke.
“Alex is far from being anything like a sister to me.” He said matter-of-factly. “Should I even ask how you knew I was here?”
“I know the Schmidt’s are on vacation so what better place for you to hide out than their very high class home?” Alex said. “You are very predictable Anton, and I know you could never hide far from home no matter how bad things got.”
“See what I meant?” Duncan said.
“Shut up D!” Anton warned him.
“Fine,” Duncan raised his hands. “I’m going inside to get some more drinks. The usual for you Alex?”
“Yes Dee, thanks.” She said, making herself comfortable in her chair. “And take your time okay!” she shouted after him.
Duncan laughed. “I know exactly what that mean!” She shouted back. “Ten minutes okay?”
“Yeah!” Alex replied.
“What is it?” Anton asked.
“What do you mean what is it?” She asked.
“I know you wouldn’t have come all the way here if you didn’t have something you urgently needed to talk to me about.”
Alex chuckled. “Your dad and I eloped.” She said.
“Please, tell me something that makes sense.” Anton said, completely unfazed by her fake news. “My dad would rather lose a leg than admit to you or to the world that he has feelings for you.”
So you know that about him? Alex thought.
“Look at you, your whole face has changed just at the mention of him. Do you like him that much?” Anton asked. “I don’t remember ever seeing you like that even though you claim to have loved me.”
“Claim?” Alex asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I just don’t get how your feelings could have shifted so fast from me to my dad. Before it could even sink in my head that you liked me more than a friend, you heart had already moved to my dad. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that.”
“Is that why you hate me so much these days?”
“I never said I hate you. I’m just…bitter? or should I say, disappointed?”
“Why are you disappointed?”
“Because it’s my father Alex!” Anton said. “I get it he’s a cool guy and looks younger for his age. I know you are not the type to fall for money or anything vain like that but still, he’s old enough to be your dad Alex. In fact, he’s always acted like your father all these years. When did your feelings shift really? One minute he’s the father you never had and next minute he’s the man of your dreams.”
“I too don’t know when it all changed or started.” She said. “All I know is that he was always there for me whenever something was going on in my life, more than you ever were. I guess after seeing you change girls all these years and watching you pick Cathy over me forced me face what I somehow already knew but had been avoiding to confront.”
“So are you telling me I have no chance with you?”
Alex kept her eyes lowered, afraid to look up at him and see the hurt that she could hear in his voice. This was the long awaited conversation between the two of them. it was about time that they confronted reality as it was rather than avoid it.
Anton sat up straight in his chair and put his hands together. “hmm Alex?” He prompted her to answer. “Have you completely erased me from your heart?”
“Anton-“ Alex searched for the right words to say but couldn’t find the right ones. Instead, she changed the topic. “I didn’t come here to talk about my love life Tony.” She said. “I had the misfortune of receiving a visit from your girlfriend some good forty or so minutes ago.”
“I thought your issues with her and her family where done yesterday. Those guys are really sick.” He said.
“That’s not why she came to see me. her visit was about you. apparently you’ve been ignoring her calls for days now.”
“And she came to you so that you do what?”
“So that I deliver this special message: she is 2 months pregnant with your child and she says she has no intentions whatsoever of getting rid of the pregnancy.”
Anton laughed. “And you believe her shit?” He asked.
“I did. Sadly, I don’t think she’s lying Tony.”
“There’s no way she can be pregnant, we were always careful.”
“How careful were you exactly?”
“I made sure she was on her pill and…ooh-“He let the sentence hang, finally realizing his error in judgement. “That bitch. How could she-“
“How could she trap you you mean?” Alex asked sarcastically. “Don’t act like you didn’t know what you were dealing with. You knew what she was but you just couldn’t resist. That’s on you Tony so don’t think about blaming her for how things turned out. You thought you could have her in one way but avoid certain parts of her?” And she laughed. “Why are men so vain when it comes to women?”
“I see you are enjoying yourself taking a selfie in front of a burning house ah.” Anton said, his face heavy with emotion.
“I’m just trying to help you face the facts.” She said. “You always have this tendency to blame someone if things don’t go your way. So what do you plan on doing now?”
“I guess I just have to wait for the baby to be born and take a test.” He said.
“And if the child is really yours?”
“What?” Anton glared at her. “You don’t expect me to go all mushy and say I will do the right thing by her do you? C’mon Alex you know me better than that. I will raise my child of course but I want nothing to do with the mother, period. And if she thinks she can use the child to milk money out of me, she’s got another thing coming I can promise you that.”
Alex sighed heavily and leaned her back against the chair, head pulled back and eyes staring up to the ceiling. “How did we end up here Tony?”
“You mean me as a father and you as my potential step-mother?” He laughed.
“None of this is funny.” She said in a very sombre tone.
“I know.” Anton said, his tone matching hers. “Sometimes I sleep hoping to wake up and find it was all just a bad dream and now there’s news of a child. How the hell do I tell the old man he’s going to be a grandfather, and to a child am having with Cathy of all people? He’s gonna kill me or knock me off the inheritance.”
“You know he cant do that.” Alex said.
“He can’t yeah but he will make sure he frustrates me enough into believing he can just to teach me a lesson.”
Alex laughed. “You are right about that one.”
“And yourself,” he was looking squarely at her now. Alex sat up straight to face him.
“What about me?” She asked.
“What are you going to do about my dad? You know he’s never gonna admit he likes you right?”
“Are you asking because you truly want to know or is this a way of you rubbing reality in my face?”
“After seeing the look in your eyes today, I know for a fact that I don’t stand a chance with you. Also, a huge part of me sort of understand why you fell for my dad. I think I would fall for him as well if I were a girl.”
Alex laughed and he chuckled with her.
“I’m just telling it as it is.” Anton said. “He’s a cool guy I’ll give him that but I am also going to be honest with you Alex, I can’t stand the idea of you being my step-mother. I mean, it’s you Alex! But then again, when I think about it, I ask myself questions like; do I really want to see my father spend the rest of his life alone?
“Or, would I rather see him with another woman other than you? When I think about all the women out there, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that you would make the best wife for him. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I guess it’s one I will have to swallow since I love the both of you and I want you both to be happy.”
In all the years she had known Anton, Alex had never imagined ever having such a mature conversation with him; a conversation in which he did not put just his feelings on the table, but he considered everyone else’s feelings as well.
“Please, don’t start crying on me now.” Anton warned her upon seeing her teary eyes.
She laughed and forced back the tears. “I am just thinking…how I wish you had said these words a few weeks ago…and, how I wish it was possible to be that kind of woman to Oliver but I have to face the fact that he doesn’t love me as much as I wish he would because if he did, none of the fears he has would matter.”
“I don’t doubt he loves you Alex.” Anton said. “I have never seen anyone rattle his world as wild as you did from the moment you confessed to him. He hasn’t been the same since. He probably, in fact, not probably, he actually thinks not being with you is the ultimate way he could ever express his love for you.
“You have to keep in mind, he’s the older guy here and you are like what, 19 years younger than him! The guy is scared you are too young and hot for him. Even folks like him have their own insecurities. Yeah he might look young for his age but the fact still remains there’s 19 years between you.
“I know that if I were him I would be worrying about you suddenly waking up one day and realizing you didn’t love me like you thought you did. Maybe you mistook fatherly love for something more. What if some young bloke comes along and sweeps you off your feet? And knowing my dad, he’s probably thinking, what if I’m too old to give her the kind of life she deserves? He’s probably thinking he will burden you or something, I know that guy.”
Alex stared in awe at her best friend. What have they done to my Tony? She couldn’t help wondering. “Who are you?” She asked him.
He laughed. “Don’t look at me like that.” He said. “I might be a little immature but I know something about men, and am an expert at knowing my father. by the way is that Sam guy still hanging around you like a leech?”
“What?” He said. “I just plain don’t like the guy. He is exactly the type of guy that all men hate. He has everything that we know women dream about. I hate him.”
Alex laughed. “That’s true.” She said, a far off expression on her face. “Then I guess that means something is wrong with me right?”
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“He’s been nothing but kind, loving and caring to me but apart from feelings of gratitude, I feel nothing more for him. He is like the dream friend I always wanted but I know it’s selfish to keep him like that because he wants and expects more.
“You have no idea how many times I have tried to will my heart into loving him back. I keep thinking, if I can channel all these feelings I have for Oliver to this wonderful man that adores and worships me, then maybe I can breathe a little easy.”
“Isn’t life a bitch?” Anton said. “It always finds a way of screwing us over, one way or another. I don’t get how given two people, one that loves us and one that doesn’t, why do we always fall for the one that doesn’t love us back?”
“I know right?” Was all Alex could say in return just as Duncan appeared with bottles of beer in hand.