The night before the morning young Irvin was scheduled to meet his father was one wrecked in turmoil. No matter how much he tried, sleep had no intentions of embracing him that night. After long hours of turning and tossing, and his mind filled with images of how things could go wrong, the nineteen year old finally gave up any hope of twirling in dance with the maidens of Lala land and got out of bed in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. An unexplainable fear had gripped him, rendering the optimistic part of his mind numb.
By the time the clock hit 7, Irvin was already bathed and fully dressed for battle. If it turned out that his old man wouldn’t take a liking to him, Irvin had constructed a list of choice words he had woven together in form of sentences and locked them in a secure part of his brain. He would not hesitate to use them as ammunition the moment an opportunity presented itself. Unfortunately for the teen with a hyperactive mind, even such talk was not enough to calm him down. Thus, he picked up his car keys and drove his way to the Minister’s residence.
His father had sent him a location on Whatsapp two nights ago. That had been the first conversation they had had, with the messages looking something like:
➡️Hi Irvin, I got your number from your mother. This is William…your dad.
⬅️Hi, I know who you are. My mother already gave me your number.
➡️ I’m looking forward to meeting you.
⬅️ Me too.
➡️ That’s the location for my home. It’s very easy to find, you can’t get lost. But let me know if you need any more guidance. This is my direct line. You can call me any time.
➡️ Guess I’ll see you soon. Have a good night.
⬅️ Yeah, good night.
When Irvin arrived at the Minister’s residence, waiting for Atleast one of the three guards in the security booth to approach his car, he checked his wrist watch and surmised that he had over an hour to spare before the meeting. He could use that time to calm his nerves down, he reasoned. The security check was quicker than he had anticipated. The guards appeared to have been expecting him. A quick show of his identity and the gates flew open.
He wanted to ask them which direction to go the moment he caught a glimpse of the inside. The initial part of the driveway leading into the property spread into a t-junction. Before he could stop the car to ask the guards for directions, he caught sight of the signs. The poster marked BUSINESS had an arrow pointing to the Right, and the one with the word HOME on it was pointing in the opposite direction. He followed the direction of the latter, rolling down his windows as he drove by to allow for an undisturbed view of the world class landscaping. These were no ordinary premises he had just driven into.
Irvin did not think a mere minister would have the means to afford such a place but his mother had duly informed him that his father’s family had been well off even before they joined politics. They had been engaged in large scale farming way before others ventured into it. Their political success later played a huge role in transforming their agricultural activities into a stable fortune. His mother had not hidden the fact that she thought their political affiliations had more than just given them a financial boost, they had in fact helped them monopolize the agricultural industry for a very long time until William became mayor and started changing thing. His marriage to an heiress was enough to tripple his wealth. As it stands, William Mwanza, his father, was one of the richest men in the country.
After driving for what felt like forever, Irvin finally came into full view of the Minister’s mansion. It was a three storied structure made of two visible wings drapped in the very epitome of modern architecture. The place looked more like a luxurious resort than a home. Irvin parked his car next to a vintage-looking black Sedan, the sort one is likely to see in an old TCM movie. He doubted the thing could move, but it looked pretty cool sitting there amidst six other modern luxurious cars. Now seven, counting his own.
He had just stepped out of his vehicle and wondering where to go next when he spotted a middle-aged plump woman approaching him a short distance away. She was smiling from ear to ear. Irvin closed his door and waited for her to get closer.
“You must be Mr. Irvin,” the woman said, extending her hand to him.
“And you must be Doris,” Irvin said, smiling as he read her name off the tag on her shirt whilst shaking her hand.
“Yes I am,” she said. “I’m the Home manager for the Honorable Minister,” she gestured towards the mansion. Why am I not surprised that there’s a whole manager to manage a place like this? Irvan thought
“I was a bit surprised when security alerted me of your presence. We were expecting you a little later, but not to worry. If you don’t mind, I can give you a tour of the premises as we wait for the minister to finish with his business.” Doris offered.
“I most certainly don’t mind,” Irvin said, looking around the place. “I spotted a flower garden over there,” he pointed in the direction he had just come from. “It looked heavenly, do you mind if we start there?”
“Of course not, it’ll be my pleasure to-“, Just then, her phone rang. When she seemed unsure of what to do, Irvin smiled and gave her the go ahead. Doris stepped aside to take the call which lasted less than a minute. With hands in his pockets, Irvin turned his back to give her some privacy but when he heard her footsteps approaching, he turned back around. “Everything okay?” Irvin asked upon seeing the despondent look on her face.
“We have a bit of a situation in the kitchen that needs my attention-”
“Please, go ahead, don’t worry about me,” Irvin said. “Unless visitors aren’t allowed to roam about alone, I think I can find my way around pretty easily.”
“This is now your home Mr Irvin,” the friendly woman said. “You’re free to check out any part of the property you feel like exploring. All the employees have your identity. They won’t give you any trouble.”
“I take it you know who I am then?” Irvin nervously scratched the back of his head.
“And everyone else?”
“Just me and a few other trusted employees.”
“I see,” Irvin said, not sure how to take the news of his father telling his stuff about his bastard son. “Please, go and attend to your work Doris. I’ll find my way to the garden just fine.”
“Yes sir,” the woman said. “Feel free to pick up a map in the corner there,” she pointed to a spot under the garage, in front of the vintage Sedan. A little box hanging from a purple colored pole was filled with what he assumed to be maps or flyers of some sort.
When Doris excused herself, Irvin picked up a map and after a quick perusal, he headed in the direction of the garden. He followed the foot path paved away from the driveway he had used. He had to admit, the place was a little too extravagant, but it also looked and felt heavenly. The grounds were impeccably kept, with every blade of grass on the ground and strategically placed wall greener than the one next to it. He stopped every now and then to stare at some enthralling landscaping work. At one point he reached into his pocket and drew out a cigarette. Smoking always helped calm his nerves.
It had taken Irvin close to ten minutes to reach the flower garden. Immediately, he took out his phone and started snapping away. This was the reason he had walked all the way, to capture this piece of heaven for his mother who was obsessed with flower gardens. His mother was such a peculiar woman who had on several occasions made known her wish to be buried in a place filled with bleeding hearts, dahlias, lilies, roses, and all the colorful flowers of the world one can think of. Her dream destination was the Fulham Palace gardens of London. If she had her way, she would prefer her ashes buried in the soil of the thickest shrub there.
After taking several pictures and looking through them, Irvin paused on one of them. On this one, he had managed to capture the whole side view of the garden, including the hedge around it. It was then he recognized what the garden symbolized. This was not just any hedge. This was his mother’s favorite, Lyland Cyprus. He could identify this hedge even in his sleep. His mother was so obsessed with it that she planted it on the grounds of every house they ever lived.
A chill ran down Irvin’s spine as he started to put one dot next to the other. According to the map he had just read, this property was built ten years ago. His father was still married to his ex wife at that time. That meant he had disigned a whole plan of his dream home for his family with another woman in mind. His mother. This could only mean one thing, his father never stopped loving his mother. Why else would he have built such a garden? Suddenly, all his nervousness ebbed away and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
When Irvin looked up from his phone towards the garden, he was no longer alone. There was a woman standing in the middle of the garden. She must not have known she had company given the extra pizzazz with which she was taking selfies. Irvin snickered to himself, watching in both amusement and amazement as the strange behaving but beautiful woman struggled to get a selfie with a wider background shot.
Even from the distance, he could tell she was beautiful despite the fact she had her back to him. It was an unexplainable type of beauty. Could it be in the way she was carrying herself, untamed, unbothered and unhinged ? Irvin was suddenly filled with a burning curiosity he desperately needed to quench. He had to speak to her. He had to look at the rest of her. He took a long pull of his cigarette before making his presence known.
“I can help you with that if you don’t mind,” he said.
The woman spun around, her eyes looking about ready to pop out of their sockets. She was way out of his league, older, sophisticated, and breathtakingly beautiful. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. She must have given up trying to speak because she was now just standing there, gaping at him like he was the strangest being she had ever seen.
“Are you okay?” He had to ask because she looked like she was having an aneurysm.
“Yeah, I’m… Uh… I’m fine, thank you,” she stuttered. It sounded like a whisper, tagging at Irvin’s invisible strings, urging him to draw closer to her.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” he apologized. He had shortened the distance between them so much so that he could smell the fragrance of her perfume. Paco Rabanne, Pure XS. How could he not know? It was his mother’s fragrance. She must have gasped at their close proximity but the sound was too low for him to know with certainty. So he quickly took the phone from her limpid hand and put some distance between them. This time he was sure he heard her heave a huge sigh of relief.
Irvin smiled, enjoying how nervous he was making her. “Move back a little,” he said. She hesitated before moving, clearly unsure of what she was doing. He had to help her relax, Irvin reasoned. “What’s your name?” He asked as he took the first shot.
“Mara,” She said.