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Temptation’s Concerto – Chapter Fourteen (Final)

-Eleven Years Ago –

Dan’s animosity towards the Ng’andu’s was one born out of an insatiable thirst for revenge.

He was only 23-years-old and in his final year at the University of Zambia studying Economics when he lost his brother Nsofwa. His brother’s words, spoken on his dying bed had conjured up memories of the day Dan had first discovered just how much trouble his brother had found himself. Continue reading

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An Untimely Love – Part 15

By the time the three friends were done drinking and chatting, it was very late in the night and Duncan offered to drive Alex home. He put her bicycle in the back of his car. Each to their own thoughts, the music filled all the spaces in the car. Every now and then Duncan would steal glances at his friend just to check if she was alright but he dared not say a word because he didn’t trust he would have the right words to say to her given the drama going on in her life. He was just happy to help her out from the side lines and offer her a shoulder of support whenever she needed it. 

Alex’s mind was going over the conversation she had had with Anton concerning Oliver. If ever Alex had underestimated the bond between son and father, Anton’s words about his father’s feelings and fears awakened her to viewing their relationship in a whole new light. How come she had not considered all those things Anton had mentioned before? She had always been too quick to vent and lash out at Oliver, calling him a coward when the truth looked like something that had not even crossed her imagination.
She too knew something about Oliver. And she knew every word Anton had said was true. The question now was, how was she ever to convince that dumb man that her feelings for him were not misplaced and that they would last forever? 
That whole night, Alex pondered that question only for the answer to come to her in the early hours of the morning; Dr Sanjay. 
“I usually question my feelings whenever a patient of mine voluntarily pays me a visit after a while. Should I celebrate progress or should I get worried?” The good doctor asked Alex that morning as they sat in her office. 
Alex chuckled. “Maybe both?” She said.
“What brings you here Alex?” 
“Oliver.” She simply stated, not beating around the bush.
Dr Sanjay laughed. “I see you are not wasting any time today. What about Oliver?” 
“He won’t admit his feelings for me.”
“Aah, I see.”
“You are the only person I know that can help me with this one doc.”
“How exactly do I-“
“You can tell me what to do?” She cut her off before she could finish. “I know you are good with such things so please, help me.” She begged. “I think I know why he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me but I just don’t know how to make him see that he has nothing to worry about.”
“Why do you think he doesn’t want to be with you romantically?”
“Maybe he’s afraid, he thinks my feelings are misplaced, that I am confused and that maybe one day I will realize it and our relationship will be ruined. Maybe he’s worried about the nineteen years between us or maybe he’s not confident we can work out.”
Doctor Sanjay sat up straight, hands held together. “Did you ever consider the possibility that he might not return your feelings?” She asked. “What makes you so sure that he’s in-love with you?”
The question threw Alex off-guard. This too, she had not stopped to question. What made her so sure he was in-love with her?
“It’s his eyes, his heartbeat, his warm embrace, and most of all his words.” Alex answered. “Every time he says it, he negates it with a reason as to why we can never work. I never thought much of it before but now that you’ve mentioned it, he has told me how he feels about me many times. I was just too busy focusing on other things to actually hear his heart.”
The doctor smiled. “Then I think my work here is done isn’t it?”
“No!” Alex said, almost jumping in her chair. “I want to know what I can do to completely win him over so that he can stop questioning and worrying about everything.”
“How about using his very fears to your advantage Alex?”  Dr Sanjay asked. 
“His fears?” Alex asked.
“How patient are you?” The doctor asked.
“I think I am a very patient woman.”
“Good,” Doctor Sanjay said. “Then how about focusing all your energies on graduating first, securing a job and then winning your man later?” 
“Huh?” Alex thought the doctor had lost her mind. 
She laughed. “Exactly that,” she said. “Oliver thinks that your feelings are just a phase which will come to pass and the only way you can prove that they will not be going away any time soon is if you allow time to pass.”
“And what if he moves on and forgets about me while am busy bidding time?”
“Then you have to do something to make sure he doesn’t forget you.”
“I thought you said I have to stay away from him?” Alex lamented. “How the hell do I ensure he doesn’t forget me while am doing everything possible to stay away from him?”
Doctor Sanjay laughed. She picked up her phone from her desk and held it up. “We live in the age of technology Alex. With this little thing, we can create memories in a thousand places whilst being in one.”
Alex raised both her eyebrows, wondering what the hell the doctor was getting at. 
“Wanna give it a try?” Doctor Sanjay asked.
Excitement slowly lit Alex’s face. “Oh hell!” She said. 

**** 

Months went by after Alex’s meeting with Doctor Sanjay and she and Oliver had not met in person. Oliver knew something had changed when a week went by and he had not heard from Alex. He had not even heard any news about her and Sam and from his end, it appeared the two of them were no longer a newsworthy item. Sam was consumed in his work, taking up more projects than usual and the only communication that existed between them was a like or comment on each other’s Instagram every now and then. It appeared the two of them were still friends, but that was about it. So why was Alex keeping a distance from him?
Did she finally give up on him? Oliver wondered one late evening after a long day of directing a short film in Paris. 
“Have you heard from Alex recently?” Oliver finally broke down and asked his PA.
Morgan gave him a puzzled look. “Ah?” The question was unexpected but the PA was quick to put two and two together. Aaah, so it that why you’ve been grumpy this past couple of weeks? He thought, smiling to himself.
“I’m just worried that maybe she’s fallen into depression or something after everything that was going on.” Oliver explained. “It’s just not normal for her to go this quiet on everyone.”
“Have you tried calling her?” Morgan asked. 
Oliver cleared his throat uncomfortably. “The last time we spoke I said something…something that pissed her off so-“ He was thinking about the response he had sent to her message informing him about her date with Sam. He didn’t need to see her face to know her reaction. 
“Last time I spoke to her she said she would be busy with her thesis and upcoming graduation so-“
“You spoke to her!?” Oliver asked. 
“Yes,” Morgan said. “She actually called to ask me how you were doing last week, said she couldn’t get in touch with you.”
“Huh?” Oliver removed is phone from his pocket and closely examined it. “But my phone doesn’t have a problem.” He said and started scrolling down his call log. “See, I haven’t received any call from her.”
“Sir, why don’t you just call her if you miss her that much?” Morgan said, unable to hold himself any longer. 
Oliver starred at him in disbelief but said nothing in response.
Exactly five minutes later, Oliver’s eyes almost jumped out of their sockets when Alex’s name and face appeared on his phone screen. She was video calling him.
“Talk of the devil,” Oliver said to Morgan who was busy sorting out his clothes in the hotel closet. His eyes were glued unflinchingly on the phone, every part of his body frozen.
“I think you are supposed to answer that,” Morgan paused his activities and looked at his boss. “You slide your finger across the screen from left to right.” He said sarcastically and won himself a warning shot from Oliver. 
“Get out!” Oliver said and went to grab him by the collar to help him out quickly. 
Morgan laughed. “I’ll come and finish the rest later.” He said and quickly ushered himself out the rest of the way. 
“Oliveeeer!!!” A visibly excited and happy Alex appeared on Oliver’s screen. She was standing outside on some balcony Oliver had never seen before. She was playfully hanging against the pillar, her back pressed against it and her head and the whole upper part of her body leaning further backwards as she held her phone high up in front of her. Oliver could make out the cars parked down on the ground from the higher ground she was standing on.
“Alex….” He said. “Where the devil are you and what are you doing?”
Alex adjusted her earphones and pushed her hair away from her face as the wind kept blowing it all over the place. She lowered the camera slightly to reveal her attire. “I am at work!” She shouted, revealing her white coat. 
Oliver laughed. “Why are you shouting?”
“It’s very windy up here!” She said.
“Isn’t there some place else you can talk from?”
She laughed. “There is but this is the only place I can stand and shout what I want to shout to you!”
“You want to shout to me?” Oliver asked.
“Yes!” She screamed. “I MISS YOU VERY MUCH OLIVER COOPER!” She shouted.
Her words were sudden and unexpected, made his heart skip a beat but he quickly recovered. “Is that why you’ve been so quiet lately? Hard to believe your words.” 
“You’re the one who’s been quiet!” She said. “I sent you a message but you haven’t replied up to now.”
“What message Alex? I didn’t receive any-“
“Check your computer. I gotto go back inside now. Love you, bring back something nice for me from there!” And she ended the call before he could say anything in return. 
“My computer?” Oliver asked himself and went over to his temporary desk on the other side of the room. He turned on his laptop and the moment it came on he saw it; a folder in the corner named Message from Alex.
“How come I didn’t see this till now?” He asked himself out loud and opened the folder. 
“A video?” He was literally talking to himself. He pressed play. 

I knew it would take you this long to see this, tsk tsk tsk.

Oliver, Oliver, my dear Oliver, always slow aren’t we? *she laughs*

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I love you with all my heart and nothing in this world is ever going to change that; not time, not age, not distance, and not even you. I love you Oliver. Take care. 

“This child….” Oliver was shaking his head after watching the video, a huge grin on his face. He was smiling like that when he caught his reflection through the mirror by the dresser and he quickly straightened his face, as if afraid of being seeing by someone.
“What am I doing?” He said and quickly stood up, closing the laptop in the process. “…making a grown man act like a teenager.” He said, shaking his head. 
A few minutes later, he sent this to Alex; Saw the video, thanks kiddo. Take care of yourself too. After that day, a whole week went by and he never heard from Alex, only for her to randomly appear in his inbox the day he got back in town from Paris. 
Send someone to deliver my souvenir at Anton’s place! 😉 

I’m meeting him later today. The keys are at the usual spot. 

Thanks in advance Oliver!
Her tone was chirpy as usual, as if nothing had ever happened. 
And just like that the messages kept randomly coming from Alex when Oliver least expected them too. Once every week she would either send a text message or video message and then she would disappear for weeks only to appear randomly again as if nothing had happened. Her behaviour was so strange that when he couldn’t take the wondering any more, Oliver called her and asked to have dinner but to his surprise, she turned him down. 
“I have to work that day.” She had said. “I’ll be busy these coming weeks as well. Will let you know whenever I find time.” And always, she was the first to end the calls. She had not told him she loved him ever since she made him watch her video on his laptop. The most intimate thing she kept saying to him was that she missed him, that and jokingly wishing him a sunny day on a very wet day. 
Unable to comprehend Alex’s new change, Oliver was tormented each passing day as he wondered whether a text or video message would come from her. Alex had blocked much of her private life from the public eye, only going online when she had to do some form of research. If he did not make an effort to inquire about her well-being, then he would have absolutely no means of knowing how she was doing. and unfortunately, her responses to him were always delivered in the same tone and when she could not smile she always ended the calls with the excuse of being busy or with company. 
And thus, months went by until time came for Anton and Alex to graduate. Despite going out of his way to make sure he gave the two the best ever graduation dinner, Oliver couldn’t help wondering whether Alex or would show up or not.
“She will be here soon dad,” Anton said as he came to stand next to his father who had been standing close to the door keeping watch of everyone coming in. 
“What are you talking about?” Oliver feigned ignorance, quickly taking the glass of wine his son was handing him and drowning the contents like it was a mere glass of water. 
Anton was looking at him with a bemused expression on his face. “You are acting like a man about to propose dad. Just out of curiosity, did you try calling her to find out what’s taking her so long to get here?” 
“No.” Oliver curtly stated. “Maybe it’s the bloody awful people looking like they’re having the time of their lives, without shame,” he was looking at over at the complete Saunders family, father, mother and Alex’s four siblings. “How can they be so comfortable here of all places? Look at them-“
“Didn’t you invite them here?” Anton asked.
“Only because I didn’t think they would actually come!” Oliver said.
Anton laughed. “All these years and you still don’t know those people.” He was shaking his head. “Anyway, I already spoke to Alex. She went to see off some friends of hers at the airport.”
“What friends?” his father asked.
“Michelle and Josh,” he answered. “The doctors she met at the hospital where she works?” He added upon seeing his father’s confused expression. “She didn’t tell you about them?” 
“She’s been avoiding me so how do you expect me to know about the new people in her life?”
“Ey, don’t take it out on me.” Anton laughed. “I have always been her best friend and you…you’re just the guy hiding in the shadows scared to show your real self to her.”
“Watch it son.” Oliver joked.
“Aren’t you the one who raised me to always speak my mind?” Anton asked. “I stepped aside to give the both of you some freedom but you still haven’t gathered courage dad. Haven’t I taught you anything?” 
Oliver smacked him lightly in the back of the head. “Get me another-“ he was about to hand him the glass when in walked Alex. 
Anton didn’t need to ask what was wrong with his father as everything was written all over his face. He turned towards the door and found Alex smiling at them.
“I’m so sorry am late!” She sounded out of breath. 
“Alex!” Cassey appeared with the rest of the gang behind her. “I was about to follow you to the airport!”
“There was crazy traffic guys,” she said. “Anyway, am here now so, let the party start!” She lifted her arms in the air and went straight for the dance floor. 
“I think I was just totally ignored.” Oliver lamented to Alex who had remained behind.
“Umm dad, you were chatting with her just fine a few hours ago at the graduation ceremony. Loosen up and have some fan. Look, there’s your rival approaching.” He was pointing at Sam who was walking towards them from the other end of the room. 

“I thought he had left already.” Oliver said.
“This thing appears to be some form of reunion for all these celebrity folks,” Anton said. “Ours is definitely the place everyone wants to be tonight! Enjoy your chat!” He patted his father on the shoulder and left just before Sam could reach them. 
“Is Anton avoiding me?” Sam asked Oliver.
“It is no secret he doesn’t like you very much Sam,” Oliver replied. “And don’t act like the feeling isn’t mutual.”
“As usual, you don’t miss a thing sir.” Sam laughed.
“May I have everyone’s attention please!” Anton’s voice echoed through the room as the music suddenly came to a dead end, leaving everyone that was dancing dumbfounded and protesting.
“I am very sorry for disturbing your fun,” Anton apologized. “However, I have something very important I need to say while all…maybe I should use the word most here. Yeah, there’s something I need to say while most of you are still sober.”
Oliver was looking over at his Morgan his PA and Fantasia the PR guru who had been chatting in one of the corners of the room since they arrived. They were both shaking their heads, expressing their lack of knowledge at what was going on. 
“First of all, a huge thanks to everyone that’s showed up for me and Alex’s graduation dinner.” Anton started. “Speaking of which, I think everyone that knows Alex and I will agree that apart from our birthdays, we’ve shared almost every other celebration that’s come our way in the past.
“Being an only child, and being raised by a single dad, the path before me was guaranteed to be a lonely one, if not for Alex that showed up out of nowhere and became the centre of me and my dad’s life, literally. I still remember the day I met Alex, it’s many many years ago but it’s still vivid in my head because I’ve referred to it all through my life. 
“I thought she was a busy buddy and a know-it-all…which she is by the way.” He laughed with everyone else in the room.
“But still, the love she and I share is beyond that of siblings.” He continued in a much sombre tone, his voice becoming husky from the tears caught at his throat. “Most of our close friends know, I haven’t always been the best of friends but somehow, this girl here chose to forgive my weaknesses always so it is such a great honor for me to be celebrating my graduation with her. She’s got more brains than I will ever acquire in this lifetime and she’s probably the only reason why I was able to graduate…please don’t tell my dad that!” 
The hall was filled with laughter. Oliver was pointing an accusing finger at his son. Alex took this opportunity to run up to Anton and give him a hug. 
“I love you too much you fool.” She said to him, her eyes filled with tears. 
“And I love you more Lexie.” He kissed her on the cheek before letting her go. Only to turn her so she could face everyone, his arm over her shoulder. 
“So tonight,” Anton said. “As we celebrate me and Alex’s graduation, there is something I would ask from this dear friend of mine before we both run off and lead busy lives in the corporate world that’s already beckoning for our attention.”
What is it? Alex mouthed the question to him.
Anton slowly turned to face her, taking both her hands in his. “Alex,” he said. 
“Yes Anton,” She said, her eyes threatening to pop out of their sockets as she wondered what her best friend was up to. Please don’t ask me to marry you…please let it not be so…I thought this was all done and over with…please please please dont… she kept repeating the words to herself.  
“Ah, since this is a private event and no press present, why don’t you all take out your phones and go live on social media.” He laughed.
“Tony! What are you doing?” A now visibly nervous Alex asked.
Sensing that things might go south any moment soon, Oliver moved forward. “Son-“
“Relax dad, and Alex please stop shaking so much am not about to ask you to marry me.” He chuckled and he could immediately feel Alex’s tense muscles relax around his fingers.
Just when everyone was starting to relax, Anton surprised them all by suddenly dropping on one knee, a small black box held up in one hand while the other held hers.
“I thought you said-“ Alex had started to say. 
“Alex Saunders, will you do me the honor of being my step-mother?” Anton finally said. You could hear a pin drop amidst the reaction in the room.

“Alex, please be my father’s bride.” Anton said, his voice shaking slightly.
“Son, what do you think you’re doing?” Oliver asked, moving closer to lift Tony from off the floor but he refused to barge, instead, he looked squarely at his father.
“I don’t mean to disrespect you or anything dad,” Anton said. “But I know that if I don’t do this, you will never ask Alex to marry you even though it’s very clear you are in-love with her. You need to hard before forcing me up from here because this is the last chance you are getting. Alex is going to disappear from our lives forever and maybe you can manage without her but I can’t.
“I understand I can’t have her the way I wished I could but I care about her enough to want to see her happy, just as I want to see you happy so….are you going to take my place here or not. My knee is burning already!” 
Everyone laughed, including Oliver.
“I guess I have been such a coward haven’t I?” Oliver asked, his eyes fixed on Alex but lifting them up to look at everyone around the room. “I don’t want anyone here or out there thinking I let my son do my job so….” he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his own small black box.
Alex gasped. 
Oliver chuckled as he held up the box. “I had my own little surprise for later but I guess that will have to do.”
Anton could hide his shock. “And I thought miracles don’t happen anymore.” He said.
“Very funny,” Oliver said. “Now get off my spot and let me do right by the most beautiful woman in this room.”
Anton quickly stood up.
“And the ring?” Both Paulina and George asked at the same time. 
“You want it?” Anton asked the two. 
“Yes!” Paulina shouted. 
“You want a proposal from him?” George asked, disappointment written all over his face.
“Not from him silly, from you dimwit!” She said, causing everyone to laugh. 
“You two?” Cassey was looking from one to the other. “Since when?”
“How about you talk about that later guys am about to be proposed to right now!” Alex shouted. “This man might change his mind if more time goes by.”
“We will finish this later,” Cassey told the two sternly as Anton handed George the ring. 
By the time Alex was turning to look at Oliver, he had already assumed position before her.
“Alex,” he said nervously. “I would have preferred a much more private setting but-“
“Yes.” Alex said suddenly. Her friends laughed.
“I am yet to get there so you can hold off the response for now.” Oliver said, laughing. “I have a few things I need to get off my chest first.”
“Okay,” Alex said. “Just don’t change your mind.”
“Agreed.” He said, his voice still filled with laughter. “Gosh, I’ve dreamt and thought about this moment for the past couple of months and I had no idea it would be this nerve wrecking!” He added.
“Why are you nervous when you already know my answer?” Alex asked. 
“Because I thought I was too late…and because I feel like you deserve so much better. I don’t know what you see in me Alex and I don’t know if you will still feel the same way about me when I turn grey and old…which will be happening any time soon but, I know all that and I am still hoping that you continue having only me in your heart.
“I know it’s very selfish of me to want you, to desire you like this and I know that am not the best catch in the world but I promise to love you with everything that I am and everything that I am made of. Alex Saunders, would you give me the honour of being your husband for the rest of your life, please?” 
“Only on one condition.” Alex said for the whole room to hear, catching everyone by the surprise. It wasn’t long ago when she had willingly said yes before the question even came and now she had a condition. 
“I hope the condition is that I never have to address you as mum Alex!” Anton shouted. 
Alex laughed. “Oh hell no that would never happen, young man.” She added for effect.
“What did you call me?” Anton asked.
Still laughing, “I will always be your best friend Anton, nothing is ever going to change that, not even my future daughter in-law.” She said. 
“What’s the condition?” Oliver asked.
“That you kiss me first.” Alex said, her face turning red even before she uttered the words. 
“You don’t have to ask me twice!” Oliver said, immediately getting up and pulling her in for a kiss.
Anton quickly turned away, his hands over his eyes. “I really can’t see this.” He said.
Duncan came to stand close to him. “hey man,” he said, putting his hand over his friend’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Anton slowly lifted his head up to look at him. “You think?” he asked sarcastically. 
“I know,” Duncan said. “How about we get outta here and hit the club?”
“Great idea!” George chipped in, he too putting his hand over Anton’s other shoulder. 
“I hope you guys are not thinking of leaving before congratulating them are you?” Cassey said, giving each one of them a stern look. 
“She’s right,” Anton said, his tone now different from what it was a few minutes ago. “Let’s do that first and then we can hit the road. He started walking towards the two lovebirds who were still kissing, much to the amusement of the assembled crowd. 
“Hey dad,” Anton patted Oliver on the back. “Sorry to cut your moment short but what the hack, you can get a room, please!” He said. “Alex,” he moved to stand in front of her, taking her hand slowly before pulling her in for a hug. “Congratulations, really, from the bottom of my heart. I am very happy for the both of you.” and then he turned back to his father. “Dad,” he hugged him too. “I am very proud of you taking courage tonight. Congratulations, I love you.”
Oliver was almost tearing up. He was happy and sad at the same time; happy that he had finally admitted his feelings to Alex but sad at the same time because his son’s heart was breaking. 
“I love you too son.” Oliver said, tightening his arms around him. “I love very much. Thank you for giving me courage tonight. I owe you big time.” 
“I’m glad you know that.” Anton said, letting go of his dad.
While the boys congratulated Oliver, the girls went straight for Alex, their eyes fixed on the huge stone that looked like it was weighing her slender fingers down.
“You’ll find me up front guys.” Anton said to his pals and before turning, he said to his father, “Good night dad, will see you tomorrow.” He was already turning to leave before Oliver could say anything in return.
“Son, wait,” Oliver ran after him and walked with him outside.
“Dad, I know why you followed me but am fine. Really, am fine.” Anton said once they were alone outside. 
“I know that it couldn’t have been easy for you to do what you did tonight but-“
“I just got tired of seeing the two of you playing games with each other.”
Oliver laughed. “I know,” he said. “Alex plays hard ball.”
“She got you right where she wanted you right?” Anton said, a smile peeping at the corners of his lips. 
“She did,” Oliver admitted. “But she’s also crazy so I have no doubt she would have left the country for good, just to punish me.”
“You really love her don’t you?” Anton asked, his face fully sobered up.
“Is it that obvious?” Oliver asked. 
Anton gave him an are-you-kidding-me-look. 
“I do.” Oliver admitted. “I really do. I really don’t know how I have lived all these years not being able to see or admit it.”
“The only reason I gave up is because the man she picked is a better man than I will ever be.” Anton said, catching his dad off guard with his sudden confession.
“Hey Tony-“ 
“No, it’s fine,” Anton said. “I mean it. If it was any other man, I would have dragged this all the way to the end. You know I can be petty as hell dad.”
“I don’t think so.” Oliver said. “I think in the end, you would have done the same thing you did tonight, you would have chosen Alex’s happiness over your own, that’s how much she means to you.”
“I hate it when you sound smarter than me.” Anton said. “Couldn’t you have just given me one up this once?”
Oliver laughed. “I love you Antonio.”
“Oh no you didn’t.” Anton said. “You only say that name when you are either mad or when you are being super mushy. I’m done for tonight, I’ve seen enough mushiness to last me a three life times! You should go back in, am sure Alex is already looking for you. Be careful, she will be glued to you from now on like you’re her oxygen tank. That girl doesn’t know how to love. She loves too much.”
“Be nice, that’s your step-mother you’re talking about.” Oliver said.
“I meant what I said in there dad!” Anton protested. “I’m never addressing Alex as mum. You can give her the whole inheritance if you want but am never calling her mum, I promise.”
“I don’t expect you to,” Oliver said. “I think she’s the one most uncomfortable with that thought than the rest of us.”
“Good,” Anton said. “That’s how it should be. The guys are here,” he was looking past Oliver’s shoulder towards Duncan and George who were approaching them. 
“Mr C you better go back in there before Alex turns red from searching for you.” Duncan said. 
Oliver took out his wallet and handed his son a card. “Drink are on me tonight boys. Get whatever poison you can but please don’t drive back. I’ll send someone to wait on you.”
“Dad we are not kids any more. One of us even got engaged today!” Anton teased. 
“Very funny.” Oliver said and went back inside. 

***   

Cathy was helping her mother fold the laundry in the laundry room at home when she got bored and dropped the bedding in her hand back into the pile down.
“This is boring and am tired.” She whined. “Why do you insist on doing the laundry when you can afford to hire a helper mum?”
“Why should I pay someone to do something I can do?” Matilda asked. “It’s not like I am busy.”
“Sometimes I think you are allergic to being rich mum.” Cathy said. “No matter how well life gets, you always act like a poor person. I hope you won’t embarrass your grandson in the future; he’s the heir to the mightiest throne in this country. You need to start practising how to be a first class citizen now.” 
“Does Tony ever call you?” Matilda asked. 
“At least once a week, mostly to tell me he’s scheduled appointments for me here and there, doesn’t want me spending a dime of his money. He insists on paying for everything in advance, I just collect. Let’s see if that will be the case once the child is born. I will show him who’s really running the show.” She reached over to the table on the other side of the room to get her phone.
“I’ve been staying away from social media the whole day today,” She said. “These fools keep flooding my feed with pictures of their graduation.” She turned on her phone.
“Did Mr Cooper really ignore you at the graduation ceremony?” Her mother asked. “Even when you are carrying his first grandchild? That Alex must have really fed him fables. Who even-“
“What’s this?” Cathy said, her eyes looking like a pair of saucers, her fingers scrolling over her screen very fast. “No, this cant be.”
Unable to take the suspense anymore, Matilda moved to where her daughter was sitting and glanced over her phone. “Is that-“
“They’re engaged!?” Cathy spat. “They’re-“ she felt a sharp pain course through her stomach and she winced out loud in pain.
“Cathy!” Matilda quickly examined her daughter. “Take it easy now child, cam yourself down before you kill your baby.”
Rather than listen to her mother, Cathy went ahead and played one of the thousands of videos on her screen and before she could get half-way through it, her pain became unbearable and she dropped her phone to the floor.
Matilda shrieked loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear and Benson her husband came running into the room in no time. 
“Help me!” Matilda shouted. “She’s having contractions.”
“That can’t be.” Dr Russel said. “She isn’t due for another-“
“She’s in shock so she’s gone into labour. We need to take her to the hospital.” His wife said. 
Benson went straight into action. “Hold her up from the other side.” He said as he prepared to get her down stairs. “What has shocked her so much to send her straight into labour?”
“Ask me that question when we are somewhere where she can deliver the baby safely, not here!” Mathilda roared. 
Anton was just getting out of the car at the club after parking when his phone rang. 
“Who’s it?” George asked. “Ah, baby mama.” He said when he saw Cathy’s name on the phone. 
“Just ignore it man.” Duncan said. “She’s just gonna spoil your mood and we are all going to pay dearly for that. Ignore her.”
“It should be important otherwise she wouldn’t have called me this time. she knows we aren’t cool like that.”
Yeah, like she gets it.” George said sarcastically. “It’s stopped.” He said when the ringing stopped but it was only for a short while before it started ringing again. 
Anton answered it. “Cathy, is everything okay?” 
“Anton this is Mathilda her mother. Cathy has gone into labour. We are not the way to the hospital right now.”
“What do you mean she’s in labour?” Anton asked. “Isn’t she due for like-“
“Yes but something happened and the shock sent her into labour. Please come to the hospital as soon as possible.”
“Yeah sure, I’ll be there soon.” Anton answered.
“What!?” Both Duncan and George mouthed the word at him. 
Anton cut the line and put his phone in his pocket. “Cathy has gone into labour.” He announced to his friends.
“How’s that possible?” George asked. 
“Apparently she was in shock,” Anton answered. “I think we can all guess what exactly shocked her enough to send her into labour.”
“Alex’s engagement.” Duncan said. “Oh my gosh, let’s go then what are you waiting for?”
Anton threw the keys at Duncan. “You drive,” he said as he walked around the car to sit on the other side. “I don’t think I can drive right now. I still haven’t figured out what my feelings are towards this reality. I just never imagined I would be a father so soon.” He sat down and buckled up. 
“Drive Dee, am so excited I want to see the kid!” George said.
Duncan started got back on the road. 
“I better call my dad.” Anton said. “I guess the baby just had to come today of all days ah. I think the universe has a sick sense of humour. Dad,” he said when Oliver answered. 
“Hey son, what’s going on? Is everything alright?” Oliver asked. He had not been expecting to receive a call from Anton for the rest of that evening. 
“Yeah, everything is fine. Cathy;s mother just called, turns out Cathy is in labour. We are going to the hostpital right now, thought you might wanna-“
“We are on the way there.” Oliver said, grabbing Alex’s hand and leading her away before she could ask any question. “Ladies, you can stay the night and enjoy yourselves.” Oliver said Cassey and Paulina.
“What’s going on Mr C?” Paulina asked. 
“Cathy is in labour.” Oliver said.
“That lying bitch,” Cassey cussed. “She isn’t due for another two months or so isn’t it?”
“Cassey.” Paulina shushed her friend. 
“I think news of the engagement shocked her.” Oliver surmised. 
“We are coming with you,” Paulina said, increasing her pace to catch up with Oliver’s long strides.
“You don’t have to girls.” Alex said. “You can stay and have some fun. It’s out graduation night tonight.”
“No way we are staying behind.” Cassey stated. “You need the full team with you, just in case those people decide to be funny.”
“It’s not a war girls, it’s a delivery.” Oliver said. “But if you want to tag along that’s fine with me. Alex?” Oliver stopped to get confirmation from Alex.
“You can come,” Alex said. “But don’t start any fight with Cathy’s parents…or even Cathy.”
“It’s hard enough she’s battling nature tonight so she’s lucky, we will let her be but she better not act like a diva otherwise-“
“Lina.” Alex threw her warning look and Paulina simply shrugged her shoulders and behaved herself. 
Oliver laughed and resumed leading the ladies to the car. 
“Isn’t it too heavy?” Oliver was watching Alex stare at her shining stone for the longest time possible. “I can have it reduced if you-“
“No!” Alex said a little too loudly. “I love it, every bit of it, it’s perfect.” She added. “It’s like you went deep into my head and got the design I was always imagined myself wearing.” She raised her hand up slightly to have a good view of the ring.
“What’s the actual size of that stone Mr C?” Paulina asked. 
“Don’t say it, I don’t wanna know!” Alex said, placing her hands over her ears.
“Why don’t you want to know?” Oliver asked.
“Because then I’ll know exactly how much it costs and it will keep eating me up thinking about what grand things that money could have been used for and what not. I don’t want to know. It will ruin everything.”
“Every penny spent on that ring was intended for that use, nothing else so there’s no need for you to feel guilty. If I had it my way it would have been the size of my heart but the designer advised against it so-“
“How did you even know my size?” Alex asked.
“Is there anything about you I don’t know?” Oliver asked.
“Wuuuuu” the girls echoed mischievously from the back. 
Alex blushed from head to toe, she covered her face in between her legs in embarrassment. 
“I think am going to pay dearly for that comment, ladies.” Oliver laughed, roughing his hand through Alex’s thick mane of hair. She sat up straight so suddenly and without warning and planted a kiss on his cheek before quickly dropping back into her chair.
Oliver mouth flipped wide open, words failing him completely but the smile on his face told Alex everything she needed to know.
“Uuuuuuu….” The girls geared from the back again. 

*** 

An Untimely Love – Part 11

“What is she doing here?” Anton mumbled more to himself than anyone else in the room.

“I think I can answer that.” Sam teasingly raised his hand, a smile on his face as he looked at a very disturbed Anton.

Alex moved away from the door and left the two men standing there. She grabbed the Tv remote from the table, plopped herself onto the couch and turned on the tele.

Turning to Alex, “I need to talk to Anton about something,” Sam said. “Will just take a bit,” and to Anton he said, “Let’s talk as we head down.” He pushed the door open before Anton could turn him down.

Anton remained standing where he was for a few seconds looking confused. “I’m gonna go,” he said to Alex whose gaze was fixed on whatever movie was showing on the screen. She didn’t bother turning to look at him.

“I will sort out this issue with Cathy completely and you and I will continue this conversation properly after. Alex?”

She finally looked at him. “I don’t think there’s any point An-“

Sam appeared back through the door. “Are you coming or not?”

“There’s still a lot you and I need to talk about.” Anton said sternly, completely ignoring Sam. “I’ll see you tomorrow on camp.”

Anton brushed passed Sam the moment he was done, taking long strides as he walked but only to suddenly stop, turn and confront Sam who was rushing to catch up with him from behind.

“Yoh.” Sam put his arms forward to wade off a confrontation thinking Anton was aiming for a fight. “Let’s use words man, no need for this-“

“What’s your deal?” Anton asked, his very tall frame towering over the pop star and moving in towards him a little too close for comfort.

“I could ask you the same question man,” Sam retorted. “What’s your deal, two girls at once? Don’t you have any shame?”

“I don’t have two women,” Anton said. “I already broke up with Cathy so-“

“Says who?” Cathy unceremoniously chipped in the moment she stepped out of the lift, her eyes a ball of fire as she approached the two gentlemen.

“Cathy, how did-“ Anton started to ask.

Cathy waved her hand to dismiss him. “The important question here is; what are you doing here?” She asked Anton.

A few doors on that floor opened in anger to check out the source of the commotion, faces and voices screaming; take it somewhere else!

“Oh my God it’s Sam! Mum!” A teenage girl screamed in excitement upon spotting Sam who in turn cussed under his breath for allowing himself to be discovered.

Sam quickly turned to Anton. “You and I will talk some other time.” He was already turning to rush back inside before the whole apartment came out. “The both of you better take this outside before it’s too late.” He said, pointing from Anton to Cathy.

“Is that her place?” Cathy asked and tried to push her way passed Anton but he blocked her way, arms stretched out.

Sam quickly opened the door, entered and locked it behind him. “That girl is crazy!” He said to Alex who was still seated in the couch looking absolutely unperturbed by the chaos taking place outside.

“What are you going to do if the paparazzi find out you’re here?” Alex asked the pop star.

Sam walked over to where she was and sat down next to her. “I think it’s already too late to worry about that now.”

Alex stared wide-eyed at him. “Did someone see you?”

“That girl was screaming at the top of her lungs, of course someone saw me.” He answered.

Alex was up on her feet, panic written all over her face. “You should leave before they get here.” She said.

Sam laughed. “Why should I leave?”

Alex raised her brows in puzzlement. “I live alone in this apartment. I don’t have to tell you what type of ridiculous articles will come out if my identity gets out.”

“They’ve already done their speculation on that. Haven’t you seen today’s tabloids?” Sam asked.

“What do you mean?” Alex asked. “Did they write something about us?”

Sam appeared amused by the shock on her face. “Alex, you were my date last night. Of course the tabloids have something to say about that regardless of what was said during interviews. So you haven’t read any paper or checked the net today?”

“No I haven’t.” She answered, silently thinking in retrospect how strange it was that she had not seen a single newspaper in sight at Oliver’s mansion. What could have been written that he didn’t want her to see?

Frantically, Alex reached for her phone and was about to type Sam’s name in the search engine when the trending stories showed up right at the top of the page. “Oh my God this can’t be happening.” She said as she scrolled down the page and discovered numerous pictures of her at last night’s event as well as not so flattering pictures of her from the past that had somehow made their way into the public sphere.

Sam took offense to her reaction and he was quick to voice it. “So this is how it feels to be out rightly rejected by a woman.” He said, a sombre expression on his face. “Is that how much you don’t like me? Wooow-” He hang his head low and ran his hand through his hair.

Sam’s words went straight to Alex’s heart and she couldn’t hide the instant regret. She had only been concerned about her fears concerning Oliver’s reaction and what it would mean for them if speculations about her and Sam spread that she forgot about what such a reaction might mean for the man that had come all the way to see her.

She slowly put her phone down and faced Sam, remorse written all over her face. “I’m very sorry,” she said.

“Those are the top three words I hate hearing from a woman I like.” Sam said.

“Why do you like me Sam?” Alex asked. “I mean, you are YOU! You are a celebrity, the hottest and most trending on the scene right now. Why would someone like you like me?”

Sam laughed. “What’s wrong with me liking you?”

Alex simply threw him a blank look.

“You’re a beautiful girl Alex!” Sam answered her ‘look.’ “You’re easy going, you’re real, funny, when am with you I feel like the rest of my world around me doesn’t matter, it’s just me and you. You are easy to get along with and you have no idea how hard it is for someone like me to feel like that with somebody. I don’t have one specific reason why I like you but all I know is that when am not with you, I want to be with you.”

Alex wasn’t sure what to say and she couldn’t understand why Sam’s words where making her feel restless. More than his words, it was the sincerity in his eyes that shook her already confused heart. Was it because he was an expert at writing and singing love songs that he was able to shake her up like that? She wondered. Only a few minutes ago Anton had said almost the same words but her heart had not been moved in the slightest.

There had been a time in Alex’s life when she would have given anything to hear Anton say that he liked her as more than a friend but she wasn’t sure when that desire had disappeared. Of the many things Anton had done to reject her feelings, the one that stood out the most was the day she discovered that Cathy had already informed him about their past and he had not bothered to talk to her about it. Anton could not have found a better way to let her know just how much she meant to him. Unlike Oliver who had stood by her all through that experience, Anton had been too quick to dismiss her pain.

But just what was she supposed to think about the things Sam was telling her?

Sam Daniels had appeared very suddenly in her life and before she could even wrap her head around the fact that she was on friendly terms with one of her idol crushes, here he was telling her he liked her as more than just a friend. Just what is a girl supposed to do when her love-life is in such a state of disarray?

Even though she was sure Oliver was what and who she wanted, Sam Daniel’s had a way of making her heart waver in ways she could not understand.

“Alex?” Sam’s voice forced her out of her riverie.

“I’m sorry Sam.” She said. “I think am still suffering from a hangover.” She lied. “I rarely drink so….”

Sam got up. “Get up,” He grabbed her hand and pulled her up from the couch.

“What are you doing?” Alex asked.

“We are going to some place where you can clear your head.” He said. “C’mon, let’s go.” He was now leading her towards the door.

“No, Sam-“ She tried to protest.

“I’m not asking you to come with me young lady, am taking you there whether you like it or not.” He said decisively.

Alex laughed. “Is this like that place you took me to the first day we met?” She was now willingly following him out of the apartment.

The moment Sam stepped his foot outside the door, camera’s flashed in his face from all angles. Before Alex could take in what was happening, Sam quickly pulled and aligned her back straight against his back so her face could not be captured.

“How did they get in?” Alex asked.

“They were already in.” A slightly bemused Sam said as he looked around the people taking shots of them. “These are not your regular paparazzi,” he chuckled. “They’re your neighbours.”

“What!?” Alex tried to look but Sam kept her face hidden.

“I’m gonna start counting,” He whispered to her. “But you need to cover your face with this first,” he carefully removed his leather jacket and handed it to her. “I am very sure that the kind that gets paid to do this kind of things are waiting hungrily outside.”

“Then let’s just go back in Sam.” Alex suggested.

“Not a chance.” Sam said. “You can’t ever allow these people to dictate how you live your life. C’mon, 1, 2, 3-“

The two of them ran passed the neighbours to the elevator but when it took long to open, Alex instead pulled Sam towards the stairs on the other side. “This way!” She shouted, unconsciously finding herself enjoying the experience. Despite growing up with a family that was constantly in the spotlight, Alex had never before had any reason to hide from the spotlight. She avoided it quite alright but there was never a time when she ran from it to avoid her picture being taken.

“This is fun!” Alex shouted as they approached the bunch of reporters stationed outside her apartment building.

Sam put his arm around her waist and together they fought their way to his vehicle. He let her in first before going round to the driver’s side of his yellow convertible Bentley. He sped off before the paparazzi could get into their vehicles and drive after them.

With Sam’s jacket over her head, Alex stood up from her seat.

“What the hell are you doing?” A very concerned Sam asked.

But Alex was not listening to him. She leaned against the back of her seat, raised her hands in the air and shouted “Huuuha” to the reporters chasing after them on foot. And then she sat back down. “Oh, that was so much fun! I wonder why I’ve never done this before.”

Sam laughed. “You’re crazy you know that.”

“My doctor seems to think so too.” She joked.

Sam laughed. “Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” He accelerated the moment the words fell out of his mouth.
***

Mrs Mathilda Russel was in the kitchen preparing dinner when her daughter Cathy stormed through the house sobbing. She went and dropped herself by her father’s feet in the living room. Benson Russel had been watching a game when he was rudely interrupted by his daughter but rather than dismiss her, he laid the remote control on the side and gave her his full attention.

“Why is my baby girl so upset?” He asked her, getting down from the sofa to sit next to her on the floor. He wrapped his arms around her as she continued crying.

Mathilda appeared through the door with a knife in one hand and a green pepper in other. “What’s wrong with my baby?” She rushed over to them.

The moment Cathy heard her mother’s voice, she removed herself from her father’s embrace and went into her mother’s arms, sobbing even louder.

“I’m going to go upstairs and leave the two of you to talk.” Benson knew when he was not needed.

After sobbing for three more minutes, Cathy finally calmed down and brought her mother up to date with the developments in her love life.

“Is that boy crazy?” Mathilda asked. “Why would he pick that girl over you? And you say she’s now with this Sam guy? What do these men see in her?”

“She hasn’t changed in the slightest from the manipulative brat she was years ago.” Cathy sulked. “She makes people pity her and they end up taking her side.”

“Do you want me to talk to Anton?” Mathilda asked.

Cathy almost jumped from the floor where she was still seated. “No mum!” She shouted. “What sort of person will that make me if I send my mother to sort out my issues with my boyfriend?”

“You said it yourself that he’s made it very clear that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with you anymore.” The mother of one said. “Maybe he needs an adult like me to remind him that whatever he feels for that little nitwit is nothing but pity. There’s no way it can be love. No sane man would pick another girl over my lovely daughter.”

“I just need to find a way to make him see the truth on his on-“ Cathy said thoughtfully.

Mathilda went quite as well as she made calculations in her head. “I think I have an idea!” She said, standing up from the floor, her eyes dancing about excitedly.

Cathy looked at her mother expectantly. “I trust my mother to take care of such things for me.” She laughed and added, “what are you planning mum?”

***

After Alex had left his place, Oliver decided to drown himself in work to keep from thinking about her and his son Anton. There were a lot of things he was capable of as a man but fighting his son over a woman was not one of them. Therefore, if his heart was not willing to support his resolve to keep from thinking of Alex as a woman, then he hoped his fatherly instincts would be enough to guide him in the right direction.

After five hours of working non-stop in his home studio, Oliver gave up working and went upstairs to his room. The first thing he did was turn on the TV before laying down but before he could even get to his bed, he heard Alex’s full names mentioned on the news and he froze in point to watch.

It appears the 29 year old singer has finally found his Muse if the smile on his face is anything to go by. The presenter was saying as a picture of Alex hiding behind Sam outside her apartment appeared on the screen.

However, we here at DN Network are wondering if Sam’s boss Oliver Cooper who happens to be the young lady’s guardian approves of his newly signed singer dating his daughter…if I can call her that. The presenter continued.

Oliver quickly turned off the TV and threw his back onto the bed, his eyes completely shut. no sooner had he shut his eyes than he realized that if he was to get any sleep that night, he needed something stronger to knock him out. And so he opened his eyes, got out of bed and walked downstairs to the kitchen. It was in the kitchen that Anton found him when he came.

“Why am I not surprised that you’re drinking?” Anton said when he came through the door. He grabbed himself a glass and joined his father at the table.

“What are you doing here?” Oliver asked.

Anton finished pouring himself a drink before answering. “What, am I not welcome here anymore?”

Oliver started to get up. “Am not in the mood for a fight with you tonight.” He said.

Anton touched his hand and looked up at him, a pleading expression on his face. “Dad, sit.” He said.

Oliver sat down after a moment’s hesitation. “I haven’t seen that look in your eyes in years.” He said. “What do you want?”

Anton laughed, amazed that he was still so obvious to his father. Was there anything the old man didn’t know about him?

“Sam,” Anton said. “Do something about that guy dad.”

“What do you mean I do something about him?” Oliver asked. “Is this about Alex?”

“I knew you saw the news.” Anton said. “See, I knew you weren’t really in-love with Alex otherwise you would be out there taking her away from that creep.”

Oliver said nothing in return.

“I know he’s famous and all but dad,” Anton continued. “I love that girl and that guy is stealing her from me.”

Oliver finally looked at his son. “Stealing her from you?” He asked.

“Yes,” Anton candidly answered. “He just came from nowhere and he’s confusing her, using his fame to woo her. If you don’t do something about him, I might end up really losing her.”

“How can you lose her when she was never yours?” Oliver asked him. “And why do you even think I would help you in any way?”

“I knew her before he even knew she existed!” Anton snapped. “And you’re gonna help me because your loyalty should be more to me than your employee. Alex always listens to you. If you tell her that he’s no good for her, she won’t give him the time of day. She trusts you very much.”

“So you want me to lie to her just so you can be with her?” Oliver asked bemusedly. “What makes you think that she might come to you if things between her and Sam don’t work out? Have you forgotten that you hurt her feelings and betrayed her not so long ago?” Oliver reminded his son.

“I can make that up to her dad,” Anton promised. “Unless of course there’s some other reason you wouldn’t want me with her….” He was closely examining his father’s face for a reaction.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Oliver asked and quickly downed the remaining whisky in his glass, lowering his gaze to avoid his son’s piercing and searching look.

“You seem so sure that Alex might not consider me even with Sam out of the picture, why’s that?”

Oliver put his glass down. “That’s not what I said.” He said. “Don’t put words in my mouth. I simply asked a question.”

“Do you really think that Alex is in-love with you like that?”Anton asked.

“Did you come all the way here to ask me such questions?” Oliver asked in a no-nonsense tone. “If you have nothing more to talk to me about, am going to bed.” He picked up his bottle of whisky and glass and stood up.

Anton too got up. “I really love her dad.” He said to his father’s retreating figure, forcing Oliver to come to a stop.

“I know that I’ve been ungrateful all my life and that I don’t deserve her.” Anton continued speaking to his father’s back. “You were right when you said that I am selfish, I admit it, I am a selfish bastard but dad, you’re my dad,” He’s voice was cracking in bits as he fought back his tears.

“…you are the only one I have and I am begging you right now to help me.” Anton continued. “I’m begging you, please.”

Hearing the vulnerability in his son’s voice was all Oliver needed to set his feelings straight. No matter how much Alex made his frozen heart come alive every now and then, it was nothing compared to what he stood to lose if he acted on those feelings. Indeed Anton had begged him for a lot of things in his life but never before had he heard such sincerity in his voice.

Suddenly, Oliver felt guilty for even entertaining the idea of Alex and him. Granted, he had not allowed himself to think about her ever since he became aware of her feelings for him but every now and then he had his moments of weakness.

“It’s late now.” Oliver could not bear turn and look at his son. Both guilt and shame forced him to keep looking ahead. “Get some rest and we’ll talk in the day.” and he quickly walked away from his son.

Anton wiped the tears from his eyes, the sight of his father’s hunched back as he walked away breaking him to the core. He knew he was being selfish in asking him such a favour but what was he supposed to do when he was the only person in the world that could help him win back the love of his life?

“I am sorry dad.” Anton said to himself as Oliver disappeared from sight.

“Me too son.” Oliver said to himself, having heard what his son had whispered. “Me too.” He repeated, his eyes burning red and teary as he raised the bottle to his mouth and gulped down its contents until nothing was left. He flung open the door to his bedroom, stepped inside, shut it behind him and turned, only to raise his hand in the air and flung the empty glass in his hand on the floor.

Anton who was still standing where his father had left him heard the sound of glass breaking and rather than go upstairs to check, he turned and slowly walked out of the house, his face heavy with emotion.

When two straight days passed and Alex had not heard from Oliver, she decided to follow him to the only place she knew he wouldn’t be able to get rid of her that easily; his place of work. Earlier that day she had called Morgan to find out Oliver’s schedule and the assistant had told her that he had been on location at the local Coliseum for two straight days shooting scenes for a documentary for his filming company.

The moment class was done, Alex hailed a cab and went straight to where Oliver was filming. She found Morgan in the lobby of the Coliseum heading out with some of the crew members she could recognize from the company.

“He’s out in the garden,” Morgan informed her after exchanging pleasantries. “Said he needed some fresh air. It’s been a rough day.”

“Why, what happened?” Alex asked.

“Some diva tried to go diva on the crew, boss didn’t take it lightly. He sent her packing and we had to find a replacement asap.” Morgan said.

“Is he alone?”

“Yeah, everyone’s already left but he’ll be spending his nights here till Friday.”

“Okay, thanks Morgan.” Alex said and followed the directions he had given her to the garden where Oliver was.

She spotted him from a distant. It wasn’t that he was wearing the sweater she had gotten him last Christmas that she could recognize him from afar but it was his back and the way he was standing, it was a familiar sight, one she could use to identify him even in her sleep.

When she got closer to him, she tip-toed towards him and covered his eyes with her hands from behind whispering, “guess who?”

Oliver grabbed both her hands and lifted them from his eyes. “I know it’s you Alex,” he said. “I first bought you that fragrance on your 13th birthday and you haven’t changed it since.”

“Dammit,” she said and moved to stand next to him. “You know too much about me Oliver. I don’t think I can ever hide from you.”

“There’s no place you would go where I wouldn’t find you. I know all your hiding places.”

“I also wouldn’t go anywhere I know you wouldn’t be able to find me.” Alex said.

Oliver turned to look at her. “What brings you here?” He asked.

Alex chuckled. “Aren’t you gonna ask how I knew you were here?”

“We both know where Morgan’s loyalty first lies.” Oliver said. “I should think about firing that guy tomorrow.”

Alex laughed. “You haven’t fired him because he’s good at his job. You are a very hard man to please Oliver, I know that all too well.”

“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here.” He said. “Is this visit concerning your articles with Sam?”

“Ah, you saw those…I figured you did,” she added in a low tone. “Is that why you haven’t called to check up on me in the past two days?”

“I’ve been busy, as you can see.” He answered. “Besides, there’ve been times when the two of us haven’t spoken for weeks. What’s changed now? It’s only been two days.”

“What’s changed now is that you know how I feel about you so it would be nice if you didn’t deliberately forget about my existence.”

“Who said I forgot about your existence?” Oliver asked. You are the hottest trending topic right now so whether I like it or not I am made aware of your existence. How’s Sam doing?”

“Why are you asking me about Sam?” Alex asked. “You’re his boss, shouldn’t you know how your latest star is doing on a daily basis?”

“I think right now you’re the one that’s closer to him than I am. And besides, I haven’t seen him today since I haven’t been to the studio.”

“What do you mean closer to me?” Alex asked. “You of all people should know that you can’t believe stuff that appears in the papers. Sam and I are just friends.”

“Does he think the same thing too?”

Alex hesitated in her response.

“You see,” Oliver said. “You know very well that the tabloids have grounds for speculation, and if you weren’t interested in him like that, you wouldn’t be leading him on the way you’ve been doing.”

“Leading him on?” Alex looked shocked. “Why would you say that I’ve been leading him on?”

“Do you like him?”

“Of course I like him, you’ve always known that! He’s Sam Daniels for pete’s sake!”

“You know I don’t mean it like that. I mean, do you like him as a man? I’m sure he’s already made his feelings known, so what’s your response?”

Alex moved to stand in front of him. “Why are you curious about that?” She asked, closely searching his face. “Should I take this enquiry as you being jealous?” She was now smiling; flattered by the thought of Oliver expressing his feelings even if it was in such form.

“I just want you to think carefully before you choose who you wanna spend the rest of your life with.” Oliver said. “I had a chat with Anton and I know for a fact that he’s genuinely in-love with you. Yes he made a mistake but-”

“Wait,” Alex raised her hand to stop him from talking further. “Are you telling me that we are having this conversation because of Anton?”

“Not necessarily because of Anton,” Oliver said, careful not to offend her any further. “I am mostly concerned about your welfare. I know it can’t be an easy decision choosing between your best friend and an award winning pop star….”

Tears suddenly rolled down Alex’s cheeks, every word from Oliver’s lips sent pangs of pain through her heart. It was hard to hide the disappointment she was feeling.

“Alex-“ Oliver tried to place his hand on her shoulder upon seeing her tears but she shoved his hand away.

“Don’t!” She shouted.

“What did I say?” Oliver asked.

Alex glared at him from her tear-filled eyes. “What did you say?” She said. “Do you think my love troubles have anything to do with either Anton or Sam? Why are you pushing me to other men when you know very well how I feel about you? Don’t I mean anything to you?” She cried.

Oliver tried to put his hands on her shoulders again but she pushed him off again.

“Aren’t you the least bit jealous!?” She asked. “Even a tiny bit?”

“What do you want me to say Alex?” Oliver snapped. “I am trying my best here to do the right thing for you, and for Anton-“

“The right thing?” She asked. “What about your own feelings? Can’t you at least tell me how you feel?”

“My feelings are irrelevant at this point Lexy.”

“Not to me they aren’t!”

“Alex-“

“Just forget it,” Alex said resignedly. “What was I even thinking coming here?” She turned and started walking away.

“Alex wait!” Oliver ran after her but Alex refused to stop. Instead, she started running, one hand holding on to her bag and the other wiping away her tears.

Oliver managed to catch up to her before she could reach the back wall of the building. He grabbed her by her shoulders and forced her to turn around and face him.

“Alex!” He shouted over her sobs.

“If you are that desperate to get me out of your life then I’ll leave.” Alex said in between sobs. “I will leave this place and you will never hear from me again. Is that what you want?”

“Don’t be absurd,” Oliver said. “You are not going to do something that stupid. You are a rational girl and soon you will see that-“

“I don’t wanna listen to this anymore,” she tried to remove his hold on her shoulders but his grip was too firm for her. “Let me go Oliver.” She cried in desperation.

“I don’t want you to leave like this.” He said.

“Then what do you want me to do?” she asked.

“Do you think that if I could get you to do what I wanted you to do that we would be having this conversation?” Oliver asked.

Alex appeared confused, not sure how to interpret his words.

“At my age I don’t get to do what I want.” Oliver explained. “I have to do the right thing and in this case the right thing is not to find myself in a situation where I have to fight my own son over a woman…and this is no ordinary woman, it’s you Alex.”

“What are you trying to tell me?” Alex lifted her head to look up at him, her eyes fixed on his eyes. “Am I hearing you right?”

Oliver sighed heavily, one hand moving to rub his eyes in distress. “I am begging you Alex, help me, help me so that I don’t have to choose between you or Anton, please.” His voice was almost a whisper, his desperation echoing from every part of his body.

In that moment Alex didn’t need to hear Oliver say the words she was dying to hear. He had already said them to her the best way he could and somehow managed to turn the tables and bring the ball back into her court.

Suddenly gripped by the cruel reality of her love, Alex could no longer contain the pain, and down she fell to the ground sobbing uncontrollably.

Oliver had anticipated her getting broken over the reality surrounding their love but watching her break right in front of him made him question every decision he had ever made in his life. Why would something that felt so right in his heart bring so much pain?

Getting down on his knees, Oliver reached for her and wrapped his arms around her as she cried her heart out.

After a few minutes of comforting her on the paved ground, Oliver was helping Alex to her feet when he heard the click of a camera first and then saw a flash across his face. He looked up ahead and locked eyes with a plump middle-aged man with a camera in hand.

“Dammit!” Oliver cussed out loud.

“What’s wrong?” Alex was now on her feet but Oliver’s hands where still on her waist. This time around she heard the camera click and turned in the direction Oliver was looking and got a glimpse of a man running away.

“God dammit!” Oliver repeated, his hands dropping from her waist and rolling into fist balls.

“Do you think he heard our conversation?” Alex asked.

“I’ll be dammed if he didn’t record the whole thing!” Oliver said. “I’ll get Morgan on it.” He took out his phone from his pocket and speed-dialled his PA.

“DC, Coliseum, flash lights ASAP.” Oliver informed his PA. DC was short for Damage Control used between the Business mogul used with his Personal Assistant Morgan, something that mostly came into activation after one of Anton’s escapades except this time around, he was the one that needed rescuing from potential bad publicity.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 16

(Still in draft – to be edited tomorrow)

Before Kondwani and Chilufya could take full grasp of what had just happened, Claudia went down, her head hitting the floor with a loud thud. Kondwani felt time and the world around him spin in slow motion. He was aware of every sound and everything around the place where his mother had just fallen, including his sister’s shriek that threatened to bring the walls around them down.

Time seemed not on Kondwani’s side as he rushed breathlessly towards his mother’s lifeless body, lifted her head up first, shouting her name and checking her pulse.

“Out of the way” Kondwani shouted at his young brother who had appeared in the room from out of nowhere looking half asleep and half in shock. Gift quickly moved aside to let Kondwani who was carrying their mother in his arms pass. Kondwani carefully laid his mother on Chilufya’s bed and went straight into doctor mode.

“What’s wrong with mum?” A visibly confused Gift asked his sister, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “Is she dead?”

Chilufya gave him a killer look and quickly turned her attention back to Kondwani who was trying to get their mother to regain consciousness.

“Why isn’t she waking up?” Chilufya asked.

“Give her a second,” Kondwani said, sounding surprisingly calm. Chilufya recognized right in that moment that it wasn’t her brother she was looking at, it was Doctor Chileshe. In the space of a few minutes, she had seen him transition from a brother to a man in-love, and from a son to a doctor.

As if she had heard her son’s voice, Claudia slowly opened her eyes.

“Mum.” Chilufya sat down next to her, grabbing her hand.

“Bring some ice Gift.” Kondwani instructed the 17 year old who was now fully awake.

“For what?” Gift asked.

Chilufya shot her brother a warning look and pushed him to the side. “I will bring it.” She told Kondwani, and turning to Gift, “Get back to your room fool!” She spat. “Let me not find you here when I return.” And she rushed out of the room.

“Go to your room.” Kondwani instructed his brother and Gift left the room without hesitation.

“What you said…” Claudia stammered as she winced in pain from the concussion she had obviously suffered.

“Mum, mum,” Kondwani said, sitting down beside her. “Relax for now and let’s talk about that when your head calms down a bit. You are lucky Chilufya’s wig cushioned your fall a bit….” He pointed to the blonde weave on the floor that Chilufya wore during some of her crazy episodes. Claudia tried to follow the direction his hand was pointing but her head would not allow her to make any movement.

Kondwani held her and kept her from making any movement. “You need to stay put for now mum.” He repeated. “And what are you doing up this time anyway?”

“Stop avoiding my question.” Claudia said. “I heard what you were talking about.”

“What do you think you heard that made you fall like that?” Kondwani played it cool. Claudia seemed confused by her son’s nonchalance.

“You said…you said that….” She kept stuttering. “I heard you say that….”

“That I wasn’t ready to introduce my girlfriend yet because her fiancé died in a road accident and I didn’t want you to be reminded of that old accident?” Kondwani asked.

Claudia appeared even more confused now. “No,” she said. “That’s not what I heard…or is it? My head is spinning. I swear that’s….”

“What’s taking Chilufya so long?” Kondwani looked out the door and just then Chilufya appeared with a pack of ice in hand.

Kondwani stood up and Chilufya sat down in his place. “Where should I place it?” She asked.

Kondwani took the pack and laid it on the side of his mother’s head. “She fell on this side so let’s keep her from swelling.” He moved to stand aside once Chilufya took over from him.

“I think the fall was harder than I imagined.” Kondwani remarked casually. “I don’t know what she thinks she heard from our conversation.”

For a second Chilufya had the same look as the one her mother had had earlier but she quickly picked up her brother’s silent cue and caught on to what he was playing after.

“She overheard us talking about my girlfriend and her late boyfriend’s accident and her thoughts went wild.” Kondwani added.

“Oh, yeah…about the accident.” Chilufya nervously chipped in, not sure what to say or what scenario her brother had already given their mother.

Claudia turned her eyes towards her daughter. “You know about that accident too?” She asked.

In response, Chilufya turned pleading eyes towards her brother, still not sure how much their mother was allowed to know.

Kondwani moved closer to their mother, hands in pockets. “She knows about your accident.” He told her. “That’s why you overheard me talking to her about my girlfriend’s issue. I needed her advice on when would be the right time to introduce you two because I didn’t want you hearing her story about how she lost her fiancé and you feeling guilty about the past since the accidents where somewhat similar.”

“What do you mean similar?” Claudia asked. “You said that man died…and now you are talking about this other man…I am confused. Who died? I thought no one died that night but-”

Kondwani laughed. “That’s what you get for walking in on other people’s conversations.”

“But I heard what you said,” Claudia insisted. “If you had called paramedics…did that man die? I thought you said he was okay.”

The fear on Chilufya’s face was enough to give them away but Kondwani somehow still managed to keep his cool. “I was talking about my girlfriend mum. The concussion has really messed up your memory. Relax for now and you will feel better in a bit.

“I still think you need a thorough examination but I need to go for work now…and you need to lie down for a while before you can make any movements.” And turning to Chilufya, “bring her to the hospital after an hour or so.”

“Wait,” Claudia tried to get up to stop Kondwani leaving but Chilufya held her down.

“Mum don’t move.” Chilufya said sternly.

“I will see you later.” Kondwani said and exited the room.

“Is it true that’s what the two of you were talking about?” Claudia turned desperate perturbed eyes to her daughter.

“Of course mum.” Chilufya tried to stifle her nervousness by laughing. “Stop thinking too much so your headache can go away.”

“When…how did you know about the accident?” Claudia asked.

“Mum!” Chilufya chided her mother. “It was a long time ago, I overheard you and Wani talking.”

“Who is this girlfriend of his he’s worried about introducing to me?”

Chilufya froze. She had not covered that part with Kondwani. What was she supposed to tell Claudia about his relationship with Alicia? Knowing her mother so well, she was going to do everything in her power to fish out the woman that had turned the heart of her son and put pressure on her to make him settle down as soon as possible.

But that woman was Alicia. She was Alicia Daka, the fiancé to the man whose life was lost as a result of the accident she caused…the man who could have lived had Kondwani done the right thing…the man whose son was now living without a father…and the man whose woman was living her life in guilt thinking herself responsible for a death she had not caused.

That was the woman her son was in-love with.

Tears welled up Chilufya’s eyes as she looked at the innocence in her mother’s eyes.

“What’s wrong with you?” Claudia’s voice was filled with concern.

Chilufya quickly cleared her throat and smiled. “I was just thinking about how happy Kondwani is right now.” Chilufya said.

“Is he that much in love with her?” Her mother asked. “Who is this girl? What’s her name? Where’s she from?”

Chilufya laughed. “You are asking too many questions mum.” She said. “Just be patient and your son will tell you on his own everything you want to know.”

“But you know her so why not just tell me?” Claudia persisted.

“I need to call my boss first and tell her I will be coming in late.” Chilufya grabbed her phone from the dresser and rushed out of the room.

And that was how she kept evading her mother’s questions; escape until she delivered her safely in the hands of Kondwani later.
Despite the walls moving in closer around him, Kondwani could not keep himself from thinking about Alicia. He had seen her only a few hours ago but he was driving to work like a mad man desperate to lay his eyes on her. It was as if the realization that she could wreck his life and break his family apart made him desire her more and more. Like a curious man standing outside a door with the words ‘do not enter’ written on it, Kondwani’s curiosity and longing for the woman whose love was like a double-edged sword kind of love grew. But even with all the excitement within his heart, two questions burnt at his heart:

how was he to love her without hurting her or those he loved? And just how much pain would their love bring?

“Where are you?” Kondwani called Alicia on her cell the moment he stepped out of the vehicle and headed towards the hospital lobby to get on the lift.

“I just got in, taking the lift up to my office.” He said whilst pressing the floor to his office inside the lift. “Come there now.” He cut the line before she could ask any questions.

Until Mrs Miti the nursing supervisor greeted him, Kondwani had been oblivious to the four other people sharing the lift with him.

“I’m fine thanks Matron.” Kondwani answered in embarrassment, avoiding the older woman’s look of disapproval. “How are you?”

“You look rather distracted today doc.” The elderly woman said. “Is everything okay?” She was the only employee at the hospital that could talk to the doctor in such a casual manner and she didn’t care whether he liked it or not. Fortunately, it was common knowledge that Kondwani had a soft spot for her.

All through the banter, Kondwani’s eyes had not moved from the changing numbers on the wall of the lift. “A bug forced its way into my system and I’m rushing to nurse it right now Matron.” He said with a hint of laughter in his voice.

The three young nurses gave each other quizzical looks while the matron’s face broke into a knowing smile. Right then, the lift came to a stop and when the doors opened, Alicia was standing on the other side.

In her haste to respond to Kondwani’s urgent call, Alicia had forgotten about the possibility of him having company in the lift. The glacial stares she received from the three nurses standing behind Kondwani were enough to freeze hell over.

“Nurse Miti….” Alicia nervously greeted her supervisor from where she was standing.

“Alicia?” Mrs Miti acknowledged her with a knowing smile just as Kondwani stepped out and without warning grabbed Alicia’s hand and led her away.

Not wanting to be the topic of discussion around the hospital, Alicia tried to free her hand from Kondwani’s grasp as she looked back towards the lift to check if the others had seen what Kondwani had just done but she caught the doors of the lift just as they were shutting.

“Behave yourself or I will kiss you right here in the open.” Kondwani threatened her as he refused to release her arm. He flung open the door to his office, pulled her in, quickly shut the door behind her and drew her against it so that her back was now one with the door, one arm pinning her arms on top of her head.

“What-“ Alicia had started to ask but the rest of her question was drowned in Kondwani’s mouth as he went in for a deep kiss, like a very starved man suddenly served with a plate of his favourite meal.

No bone in Alicia’s anatomy was strong enough to stop Kondwani and her will was too faint to force reason from her mind. Alicia reluctantly succumbed to the pleasure, dropping her arms and wrapping them around his shoulders.

“It’s all worth the pain.” Kondwani muttered when he finally released her. He took her arm, led her to the front of his desk, scooped her from off the ground and sat her on top of the desk.

“What do you mean it’s all worth the pain?” A visibly perturbed and curious Alicia asked. “Did something happen?”

Kondwani realized he had said his thoughts out loud when he heard her question. “I missed you too much I thought I was going to go crazy.” He covered his slip.

Alicia gave him a huge smile as she tried to pull her uniform up to cover three quarters of her legs that were left exposed from how she was seated.

Kondwani mockingly raised his eyebrows at her. “Isn’t it a little too late for modesty right now?” He asked, deliberately pushing her skirt back up.

“You scared me on the phone earlier.” Alicia said, grabbing hold of his hands to stop him from running his fingers up and down her legs. “You sounded like-“

“What did I sound like?” Kondwani asked, a smile playing on his face.

“Serious,” Alicia replied. “You sounded very serious.”

Looking at Alicia sitting there in front of him, Kondwani silently wondered how she had the ability to drive all other thoughts out of his mind so that he could only think of her and him in the moment. He knew she would be the death of him and he was well aware of how much hurt he was causing her but losing her seemed to be the most paramount fear of them all. For years he had dedicated his whole life to taking care of his family and this was the only time his heart was taking a break so why should he be scared of losing this happiness even before he got to experience or indulge in it?

“Do you know that I love you with every fibre of my being Alicia Daka?” Kondwani asked as he looked directly into her eyes.

Alicia’s face turned red. “Is that the same look you have in your eyes when you tell women that?”

“What look?” He asked.

“That one.” She said.

“You mean this one?” Kondwani put his hand behind her neck and drew her close to his face, his eyes unflinchingly glued on hers.

As if possessed by some unknown spirit, Alicia surprised Kondwani when she grabbed the sides of his face and went straight for his lips.

“What was that for?” a very pleased Kondwani asked when she released him.

“You are a very beautiful man.” Alicia said, blushing profusely.

“And I thought you were a shy girl.”

“Me too.” She laughed.

“I like this feisty new you…but I also like the shy and timid Alicia. Remember how she desperately tried to hide her feelings for me?” He was busy searching every inch of her face as he talked. Alicia covered her face with her hands in embarrassment.

Kondwani took both her hands into his and drew them to his mouth and laid a kiss on them. “I think I have just lost my mind.”

“Who said there’s anything normal about falling in-love?” Alicia asked. “My mind has been telling me to run as far away from you as possible but look where I am right now?”

“Aren’t you scared I will hurt you?” Kondwani asked. “You know I have done nothing but break women’s hearts ever since I can remember.”

Alicia said nothing in response. Instead, her eyes spoke for her. She had lowered her gaze and fixed it on her hands as if to avoid looking at Kondwani.

“My gosh!” Kondwani said. “Do you actually think I would-“

“I think that there’s something you’re keeping from me.” Her sudden serious tone of voice and the deep look in her eyes caught Kondwani unawares. “Is there something you are not telling me?” the imploring look in her eyes was enough to drive Kondwani’s guilty mind into overdrive.

“What makes you think that?” A flustered Kondwani asked, his eyes looking everywhere but at her.

“See, even now.” Alicia said. “You are avoiding my gaze.”

Kondwani took a deep breath, shut is eyes for a few seconds and when he turned his head, he opened his eyes and was looking directly at her. “What if I said that there is something am keeping from you…and that it’s something I can’t talk to you about because am scared of losing you…what would you do Alicia?”

“Now you’re scaring me.” Alicia straightened her back and was looking at Kondwani with deeply perturbed eyes. “What are you keeping from me that could cause us to break apart?”

“It’s just a rhetoric question baby.” Kondwani said. “But, haven’t you ever kept something from someone because you are afraid of what it would do to them…and to you if the truth ever came out?”

“No.” She answered simply.

“Seriously?” He asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and repeated, “No.”

“What is a woman like you doing with someone like me?” Kondwani asked.

“Why do you make yourself sound like such a terrible person?” Alicia asked. “Of course you aren’t perfect but c’mon…no one on the face of the earth is perfect, including me.”

“Don’t ever think of me as an abnormal man Licia.” Kondwani said. “Just think of me as a man so foolish in-love he can’t think rationally…cause when the day comes when you realize just how imperfect I am…I will need you to remember just how abnormal I am and just how much you mean to me.

“When that time comes, please, I beg of you, you can hate me as much as you want…I won’t even ask for your forgiveness on that day but just please…don’t run away from me.”

“You do know that you’re freaking me out right now ah?” Alicia said. “I will keep imagining all sorts of things. Is Gwen’s child yours? Or are you married to someone else secretly? Do you have kids out there? Or, what else, perhaps, did you kill someone?”

Kondwani choked on his saliva from the unexpectedness of the question.

“Are you okay? Did I scare you that much?” She was trying to examine his face but Kondwani had his hand over his mouth to keep from spitting. “I was only joking. My gosh, I don’t even know why I asked something like that. Are you okay baby?”

“I’m okay.” Kondwani said. “You just caught me off-guard with your question.”

“I think I need to get back to work now.” Alicia tried to get away from him but Kondwani wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Not yet.” He said.

“I think everyone by now must have received the big news from the three big giant mouths in the elevator and they can’t wait to chew me out.” Alicia sighed heavily and dropped her head resignedly.

Kondwani laughed. “Now you’ve finally given them a reason to hate you.”

“Why do I get the feeling that you are enjoying my misery?” Alicia asked.

“Why would you even say something like that?” Kondwani tightened his grip around her. “I’m so thrilled that everyone knows you’re mine, finally!”

Alicia laughed. “What?”

“You think I don’t know about every guy, nurse, or doctor that’s been after you since you came? I know everything that goes on in this place. I own the place my love!”

“You are shamelessly such a brag Dr Chileshe you know that?” Alicia’s voice was filled with laughter.

“So I’ve been told.” Kondwani proudly said and lifted her up into the air.

***

Stephen Malambo took the stairs leading up to his room on campus two at a time, anxious to reach and eat something before his next class. He was about to bust the door open when he remembered that his roommate Damian had recently started dating Mwansa’s roommate Febby. The thought of Febby in his room brought Stephen’s adrenaline to a double zero.

What the hell was Damian thinking dating a blubber mouth like her? Stephen thought as he stood by the door. He could hear voices coming from inside and could tell right away who the owner of that frosty laugh was.

“What do you think Steve will do if he learns about Belinda’s pregnancy?” Stephen heard Damian ask Febby.

Pregnancy? Stephen wondered. Belinda is pregnant!

“What do you mean what will he do?” Stephen heard Febby ask. “You better not say anything to him otherwise Mwansa will kill me!”

“You mean Mwansa knows?” Damian asked.

“Of course not.” Febby answered. “And it should stay that way because the moment she discovers that I am the one behind the abortion news, I will be a corpse.”

Stephen flung the door open. “Abortion?”

Febby and Damian both sat up straight on the bed, both at a loss for words.

“What abortion are you talking about Febby?” Stephen asked. “Belinda isn’t that sort of girl why are you spreading such stories about her?”

“Hey mate relax.” Damian tried to calm his friend down. Stephen looked about ready to blow over.

“Don’t tell me to relax Damian.” Stephen snapped. “Why’s your girlfriend talking about my girl like that?”

“Your girl?” Febby raised both her eyebrows at him. “Did you just hear yourself? Your girl?”

Stephen realized his mistake a little too late. He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his head.

“Umhu.” Febby shot him a look. “I think you forgot that I am Mwansa, your girlfriend’s friend. Belinda is not your girl any more. She is your ex.”

“I know, I know.” Stephen said. “Just a slip of the tongue. But still, it doesn’t change how I feel about the things you were saying about her.”

“Nothing I said was a lie, well, at least I didn’t make it up.” Febby explained. “My cousin works as a receptionist at this fancy private hospital and she said she saw Belinda go in for a check-up some time back and-“

“Some time back?” Stephen asked. “When some time back?”

“When you two were-“ A very reluctant Febby was saying.

“That’s impossible. Belinda would have told me something like that. If your cousin is anything like you…which seems to be the obvious case.” Stephen added under his breath. “I think she mistook Belinda for someone else.”

“I don’t know,” Febby said. “Maybe. But why don’t you ask Belinda yourself?”

“Hey man, I don’t think that that’s such a good idea.” Damian said, getting up from thebed to stand next to him. “And if it turns out to be the truth, what are you going to do? I know you man….”

“Mwansa isn’t going to like that.” Febby reminded him.

“But I can’t just sit here and pretend as if I didn’t hear anything.” Stephen argued. “If there’s any truth to what you said, then there must be a reasonable explanation which means Belinda owes me an explanation. I’m going to see her right now.”

“No Steve!” Both Febby and Damian said at once as Damian tried to stop him by the door but Stephen pushed his hand aside and stormed out of the room.

“Aren’t you going to stop him?” Febby asked her boyfriend who was just standing there aimlessly.

“And after I stop him?” Damian asked. “You know Steve very well, he never changes his mind once it’s made up.”

“Oh am so dead.” Febby lamented as thoughts of what Mwansa was going to do to her played through her mind. She had just blown open a can of worms she had no means whatsoever of containing.
Stephen remembered Belinda’s timetable so well and he knew that she had no classes that day, meaning, if she was not in the library studying, she was at home with her family.

“Where are you?” Was the first question he asked the moment Belinda picked up his call.

“At home. Steve?” Belinda checked the name on her screen and put the phone back to her ear.

“Come outside the gate in thirty minutes. I’m on my way.” He said.

“What? You mean…hello?” Belinda hear the line cut before she could finish talking and checked the screen again. Stephen had indeed cut the line.

“Who was that?” Joseph had stopped watching whatever was showing on the History Channel and was looking at his daughter with suspicious interest.

“It’s nobody dad.” Belinda answered absent-mindedly, her mind playing all the possibilities behind Steve’s unexpected call and desperate tone. Completely oblivious to her father, Belinda stood up and went to her bedroom where she called her sister.

“Steve just called.” Belinda said.

“Haven’t you guys been chatting on and off lately?” Alicia asked. She was aware of her sister’s feelings towards her ex-boyfriend. Despite everything the two of them had been through, it appeared Belinda could not erase him from her heart.

“Yes, via text, on WhatsApp.” Belinda replied. “But he has never called me before! This is the first time. What do you think he wants to talk about sis? My heart is racing right now. I can’t think straight.”

Alicia laughed. “Relax Linda.” She said. “Maybe he just missed you, or there’s something related to school he wants to talk to you about. Or maybe, he had a fight with his girlfriend and just wants to vent to someone familiar.”

“So how should I act around him?” Belinda asked.

“Normal.” Alicia chuckled. “Just be yourself. I’m sure everything will be just fine. Relax. I gotto go sis, I think someone is looking for me. I’ll call you back.”

The moment she was done with the call, Belinda went outside to wait for Stephen who appeared twenty minutes later.

Without getting out of the car, he reached over and open the passenger door for her. “Get in.” He said to her.

Belinda looked confused but she still walked over to the car. “Where are we going?” She asked through the window. “Is everything okay? You look like-“

“There’s something you and I need to talk about and my natural guess is that you wouldn’t want us talking about it here.” He’s emphasis on the two words immediately alerted Belinda of exactly what he was there to talk about…and why he appeared so distraught. Without saying a word, she silently got into the car and Stephen drove off.

“Is it true what I heard?” Stephen asked the moment he found somewhere safe and private to park.

Belinda could not look at him, instead she kept her gaze lowered. “I don’t understand-“

“At first I thought it was just some big misunderstanding.” Stephen said. “But I saw the look in your eyes back there and it confirmed everything. I think I would feel much more insulted if you decided to keep me in the dark any further.”

Immediately, tears started pouring from Belinda’s eyes.

Stephen took that as confirmation of his worst fears. “My gosh Linda!” he banged his hand against the steering wheel.

“I didn’t know what else to do!” She cried.

“But abortion Linda?”

“I know.”

“Couldn’t you have at least-“

“How could I Steve!?” Belinda sobbed. “You changed so fast and I was still struggling when I discovered I was up. I did the only thing I thought was the best solution. Of course I regret it now….I was desperate, and foolish. I didn’t think. It all happened so fast.”

“My gosh Belinda…gosh.” He kept hitting the steering wheel. “You could have just told me.”

“What do you think you would have done Steve?” She asked. “You were suddenly all holy and you didn’t want to have anything to do with me. You made me feel like I was the devil himself…like you were afraid I would taint you with my evil ways or something.”

“C’mon Linda.” Ste[hen said.

“You know am saying the truth. If I came to you and told you I was pregnant, you would have just thought I was trying to tie you down…and my pride wouldn’t let me have you look at me like that.”

“But abortion sure? That’s one sin on top of a sin.” He said.

“See already? I can feel the judgement in your voice.” She said.

“It’s not that.” Stephen relaxed his tone. “I’m just saying that maybe if we had put our heads together, we could have avoided making a second mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this as you are.

“If anything, I am the greater sinner here. I should have never out you in such a position in the first place…. To think that you went through all that alone…my God. I feel like my head is going to explode.”

“I’m so sorry Steve.” Belinda cried.

“I can’t believe am being such a jerk.” Stephen said, lifting up his head to look at her. “Come here….” He pull her closer to him and wrapped his arms around her. “I am so sorry Linda. Please forgive me for being such a jerk.”

Belinda could feel him pushing back the tears. “You don’t have to apologize,” she said. “You have the right to be upset.”

“No, not that.” Stephen quickly corrected her. “I’m sorry for not being there for you…for not loving you right and for disrespecting you as a woman. I should have protected you instead of hurting you like that.”

Belinda was at a loss for words, his comforting words catching her by surprise. She had expected him to make her feel ashamed and judged but his reaction was the complete opposite.

“Let’s get married.” Stephen said, still holding her in his arms.

Belinda leapt out of his embrace and starred at him. “What did you just say?”

“I said let’s get married.” He repeared.

“Are you kidding me? Why would you ask me such a thing?”

“What’s wrong with me asking you to marry me? I love you, I have never stopped loving you.”

“I don’t want you marrying me out of guilt.” Belinda said. “There’s no different between this and a man asking a girl he’s impregnated to marry him. It’s got nothing to do with love. I refuse to be some form of responsibility to you Steve, you don’t owe me anything.”

Stephen laughed. “Did you even hear what I said?” he asked. “I said I never stopped loving you silly.”

Belinda gaped at him. “What?”

“I am still in-love with you Belinda. My proposal has nothing to do with whatever sense of responsibility you are thinking about. I would have asked to marry you in future…only that this development has quickened things.”

“But you have a girlfriend.”

“I already broke up with Mwansa but she has refused to accept reality. I have already made my feelings known to her…maybe in due time she will accept things and move on.”

“Why did you break up with her?” Belinda asked.

“I can’t go into details but we fought all the time and she just couldn’t seem to trust me, no matter how much I tried. I even seen enemies get along well than she and I ever did. I realised I was grasping at straws after bumping into you at Aunt Mary’s place.

“I was like a mad man after that. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. You looked different, more beautiful…and very mature. There was no trace of the wild girl I used to pass out with or smoke weed behind the club with. I got curious about you…like I was meeting you for the very first time.”

“Steve-“ It was all Belinda could say in that moment.

“Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mwansa…but as you must know, sometimes you need more than love to make a relationship work.”

“I know that very well.” Belinda said. “Which is why am wondering why you would want us to get back together…let alone marry.”

“We were two very wrong people together back then and we had fun dating…so, how about we try doing things the right way this time around? We have both changed, a lot during the past months. I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life with anyone else but you.”

“What about our families?” Belinda asked. “We are already related through Buseko. Won’t that-“

“All am hearing is you thinking up all sorts of excuses why we can’t work. Can you leave me to deal with such trivialities?”

“This is all too sudden Steve….”

“I know.” He said. “But we are going to make this work Linda, I promise you.”
The hospital was buzzing with activity as Alicia took the lift down to the lobby. The message from the intercom said someone was looking for her downstairs so she kept wondering during the ride down who the unexpected guest could be. Only her father and Belinda had ever visited her at work since she started interning there and they always called before coming. More so, she was on the phone with Belinda when the announcement came through.

When the lift finally came to a stop and the doors opened, Alicia stepped out and was immediately accosted by a woman with a face she had seen many times before in Kondwani’s office.

The woman pulled her to the side, away from everyone’s eyes. “You must be Alicia right?” She asked, her eyes beaming with hope.

It was Mrs Chileshe, Kondwani’s mother.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 15

(Still in draft form, to be edited later)

Alicia needed Kondwani to stop kissing her. She had heard and witnessed for herself what he did with women’s hearts and she knew without a doubt he wasn’t what she was looking for in a man. Her mind needed him to stop.

But her heart wanted him, every part of him and every pull he made towards her, she wanted him badly. Like a surfer braving herself to confront the roaring waves, Alicia threw caution to the wind and in a moment of weakness gave herself up to the burning desire seeping through her lips and sending shivers through every part of her body. In that moment, she had no desire whatsoever to bring to a stop the strange yet wild feelings coursing through her…and how could she when she had never felt anything like that before.

Paradoxically, it was Kondwani that was to drop her forcefully from an ecstasy high to a cold gripping reality; on his bed, naked, yearning and unashamed, but only for a little while.

“Why did you stop?” Alicia asked in a very weak voice, looking up at Kondwani who was now standing away from the bed, away from her, like a man watching a scene unfold before him of all the sins he had ever committed in his lifetime. There was absolute petrification on Kondwani’s face, shirtless, panting, sweaty and shaking his head as if the act itself could erase the past few minutes that would haunt him day and night in the coming days.

Alicia sat up. “Are you okay?” She asked him.

Without responding, Kondwani started looking around for her clothes but quickly remembered they must have been dropped somewhere along the way upstairs in their heat of passion, he went into his bathroom, grabbed a towel and handed it over to her.

Alicia’s face was full of questions that where slowly culminating into embarrassment.

“Put that on.” Kondwani said in a very tight voice.

Quickly, Alicia wrapped the towel around herself. “What’s the meaning of this?” She asked, her voice slightly shaking. “I’m so embarrassed right now I-“

Kondwani surprised her by putting his arms around her. “I’m sorry.” He said. “I know am being a jerk but soon when you come to your senses or when you are no longer mad at your parents, you will thank me for this.”

Alicia said nothing in response. Kondwani was right. What had she been thinking?

“This is so embarrassing.” She said, burying her face in his chest.

Kondwani laughed. “Watch yourself now,” he warned her. “Just because I was able to stop myself doesn’t mean that-“

Alicia stepped away from him before he could even finish his sentence, her gaze narrowing down to his bulged centre. Kondwani innocently shrugged his shoulders and turned to leave the room.

“Will bring your clothes.” He said and disappeared before she could even get her two lips to separate and utter a word.

Alicia dropped on the bed, covering her face in shame as she replayed everything that had just happened.

z

“Are you still planning on sleeping here?” Kondwani later asked Alicia as they sat down in the dinning room to eat some of the food his mother had left in the fridge.

“Yes.” Alicia replied.

Kondwani raised his eyebrow. “Woman, are you okay?” He asked.

Alicia chuckled. “I know I shouldn’t love you, but I do.”

Kondwani almost chocked on the food in his mouth. “You what?” He asked.

“It’s not like you didn’t know.” She said.

“Well,” he said and stopped to drink some water. “How is something like that so easy for you to say Alicia? I can’t seem to figure you out. You just said that with a straight face. What happened to the stammering Alicia that always-“

“I’m so embarrassed right now that I have to keep acting cool because the moment there’s some silence between us, my thoughts are going to run wild.” She said.

“Why are you embarrassed?” Kondwani asked.

Alicia rolled her eyes and gave him an ‘are you kidding me?’ look.

“That’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” He responded. “If anything, I should be the one feeling like that.”

“Why should you feel embarrassed when you are the one who saved the one that tries to act holier-than-thou often?” Alicia asked.

Kondwani laughed. “We all have our moments of weaknesses,” He said, a far-off look in his eyes.

“You are doing it again.” Alicia intently observed.

“What?”

“That look in your eyes.” She said. “You did that when…when…you know.” She couldn’t bring herself to describe what had just happened between them. “Why do you have that look in your eyes when you look at me sometimes?”

Kondwani busied himself on the plate of food in front of him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said whilst chewing.

“I think you know exactly what am talking about.” Alicia said. “You look like a man who’s guilty of something. I am not as naïve as you might think I am Dr Chileshe.”

“I think we are passed honorifics now don’t you think?” He said with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I’ve told you before, just call me Kondwani, when we are just the two of us.”

“Are you going to just ignore my question?” Alicia refused to barge. “You should stop looking at me like am some innocent little girl you are afraid of defiling. I am someone’s mother Doctor…Kondwani.”

“What do you think would have happened between us if I didn’t stop?” Kondwani asked.

Alicia shook her head profusely as if to wade off the memory. “Let’s not talk about that please. Let’s just pretend nothing like that ever happened.”

Kondwani laughed. “That’s never gonna happen. Thanks to that, I now know without doubt that Alicia is in-love with me.”

“Can you please stop saying that?” Alicia winced in embarrassment, covering her face with her palms.

Kondwani laughed. “You will never hear the end of it.” He warned her. “Tonight is like a trophy am gonna keep and shine every single day as I busk in my glory. But are you sure it’s a good idea you spending the night here?

Alicia shook her head. “I know it’s a mistake but I have nowhere else to go. Just bear with me for tonight please and remain the surprising gentleman you’ve proved yourself to be so far.”

“What if it was just an act to get you to think wonderful thoughts about me?” Kondwani asked.

“I thought about that possibility,” She admitted.

“What?” Kondwani asked.

“I did.” She said. “I know from experience that you are not the type to pass up an opportunity like that one but something about your eyes told me you are battling something more powerful than your desires. Is it because of Gwen?”

“What about Gwen?” Kondwani asked.

“You must miss her a lot.” Alicia muttered under her breath.

“Whatever gave you that impression!?” Kondwani said. “Why should I be missing a woman who’s pregnant with another man’s baby? She’s moved on with her life and so have I.”

“Is that the reason why you and Dr Kayombo don’t talk anymore?”

“What do you mean don’t talk anymore?” Kondwani said. “I talk to that guy almost every day of the week.”

“You know the kind of talking am talking about.” Alicia counted. “The whole hospital has been on edge around the two of you ever since it came out that your fia, ex fiancé is pregnant with his child.”

“And I know exactly what they’re saying behind my back.” Kondwani said bitterly. “I deserve it since am a son of a bitch right?”

Alicia said nothing in response.

“See? I was right.” Kondwani said and pushed his plate aside. “I should fire that bastard but-“

“Hey,” Alicia said. “That bastard is a very good friend of mine if you must know!”

Kondwani gave her a look. “How can you still like him when he was pursuing you at the same time he was sleeping with my fiancé?”

“Because he is my friend.” She answered. “It doesn’t matter who he was or is sleeping with. You don’t stop being friends with someone simply because they made some stupid decision in their life. I happen to-“

As if he had overheard their conversation, Kayombo’s name appeared on Alicia’s phone. “Speak of the devil.” She said smiling, showing the screen to Kondwani whose eyes immediately lit up in anger as he grabbed the phone from her.

“What does he want calling you at this hour?” He asked.

Alicia got up from her chair and rushed over to Kondwani’s side to get her phone back but he had already answered it. “Doctor Kayombo.” Kondwani said sternly.

Alicia continued fighting to get the phone back but Kondwani grabbed her by the waist and forced her down on his laps, both his legs pinning her down and his free arm holding her upper body in place.

“Doctor Chileshe?” Alicia could hear Samuel’s voice through the phone from where her head was pressed against Kondwani’s chest. “What are you doing with Alicia’s phone?” Kayombo asked.

“She’s sleeping so naturally I had to answer her phone since it was disturbing me.” Kondwani said.

Alicia was ready to scream a rebuttal but the warning shot from his eyes made her close her lips tightly.

“Sleeping?” Samuel Kayombo asked. “What do you mean sleeping? Are you at the hospital?”

“No, at my place.” Kondwani said smugly. “Is there any particular reason why you are calling my woman at this hour Doctor Kayombo?”

“Since when have, anyway, never mind.” Kayombo said. “I will talk to her tomorrow.” He cut the line without warning.

Alicia ripped her head away from him and glared at him. “Your woman?” She said, looking him straight in the eye.

“Yes, did I say something wrong?” Kondwani asked with a straight innocent face.

“I thought-“ Alicia started to say.

“I know,” Kondwani said. “I thought I could put a lid on my feelings but just seeing that guy’s name on your phone and hearing your name fall out of his lips almost made me jump through the phone and wring his neck.”

“And what if I don’t want to be your girlfriend?” Alicia asked.

“I don’t think you have a choice in the matter.” He answered. “You should have thought about that before coming to my house and stirring up my emotions. Don’t worry am not gonna ask you to sleep with me, just yet. I still have a few things to take care of and until –“

“Just yet?” Alicia interjected him as she tried to get up from his laps but Kondwani wouldn’t let her go.

Looking down at his pants, “don’t wake him up if you are not going to pat him back to sleep again.” He said with a smirk on his face.

“You are impossible you know that!” Alicia complained. “I need to go to the bathroom anyway.” She added.

“Seriously?” Kondwani asked, looking at her suspiciously.

“Unless you want physical evidence-“

Kondwani lifted her by the waist and helped her to her feet before she could even finish her sentence. Chuckling triumphantly, Alicia went to the bathroom while Kondwani remained behind to think about the decision he had just made. He had not been thinking when he made the call to officially date Alicia. The anger and resentment he harboured towards Kayombo had driven him over the edge and forced him to make a decision he had been struggling to make from the time Alicia had forced herself into his heart and stayed there. And now that the decision had been made, what was he to do? What about the truth he was keeping from her? What would happen to them if…no, when the truth came out?

Now that he had her, he was not ready to let her go. Was it selfish of him to want her so badly despite everything? Why did it have to be Alicia of all women? Why was she the one to melt his stone heart and make him wish for something else other than chasing his economic and political ambitions? How can he so deeply love the woman who had the potential to tear his familiar apart and everything else he had built all these years? Was this what they called karma? Was the universe really that angry at him for a past he could not control?

But Kondwani was not the only one doing the thinking in that house. Alicia too found herself immersed in thoughts about the sudden turn her life had just taken, her hands placed under the running water in the bathroom sink.

There was no doubt in Alicia’s mind that she was in-love with Kondwani, this she had known for some time now. But she was just as sure of this fact as she was about him not being a good match for her. She had once fallen trap to her emotions when she gave in to Nicolas and even though she had been blessed with a very beautiful son, her life after that had not been the same again.

As a doctor, Kondwani trusted more in his own strength and intelligence to heal even the most complicated of ailments rather than in a much higher and greater power. As a man, he pursued his interests based on what benefitted him the most and he was quick to lay aside that which didn’t. But she had also seen him fight for her to get her son back and she had felt his heart beat to near rapture against her flesh.

Kondwani was a lot of things she did not want in a man but he was also a lot of things she had never before seen in a man. Just where would she stand in the life of such a man? Alicia finished washing her hands, dried them and went back into the living room.

“What are you thinking about?” Alicia asked Kondwani who had his back to her, hands in pockets and gaze fixed on something beyond the closed curtains in front of him.

Kondwani turned around. “Nothing,” he lied. “I think we should go to bed now. I’ll sleep downstairs in there.” He pointed to the door right next to the bathroom she had just stepped from. “You can take my room upstairs.”

“Are you okay?” Alicia asked again.

“Yeah, I guess am just realizing now how tired I am.” He said dismissively. “Give me a call if you need anything.”

“Okay.” Was all she could say, afraid to press him for information. It was obvious he was not okay but she just didn’t have the courage to pressure him into talking to her. They might have crossed the huge boundary that had separated them all this while but Alicia was still Alicia; the zeal to put up a fight was still low within her. She found keeping her silence easier than anything else.

“Good night.” Kondwani said and left the room without stopping to look back at her.

“Good night.” Alicia said to his retreating figure.

Suffice to say, none of them got a good night’s sleep that day.
***

Alicia woke up very early the next morning, hoping to leave before Kondwani was up but her plans were thwarted when she found him immersed in work in the living room.

“Good morning.” She greeted him.

Kondwani looked up at her from where he was seated. “Taking the walk of shame?” He asked, a smile on his face.

“No!” Alicia answered a little too quickly and loudly. “I just didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Are you going home first or straight to the hospital?” Kondwani asked.

“I have to see my son first. He called me crying on my sister’s line in the middle of the night saying he misses me. I was so mad yesterday I left without seeing him because I didn’t want him to see me crying.”

Kondwani finally stood up and went to put his arms around her. “I love you Alicia. Even if it kills me, am gonna love you like a crazy man.”

Alicia hugged him back. “Why do I feel the same Kondwani?”

“How I love the sound of my name from your lips.” He pulled her away from him and kissed her on the forehead. “Better get going now before you are late for work.”

“I’ll see you later.” Alicia said, stood on her toes and quickly planted a kiss on his lips before running out of the house.

Kondwani remained smiling to himself, his hand over the lips she had just grazed.

When Alicia got home, she could hear her mother’s and sister’s voice from the kitchen, obviously preparing breakfast while her father watched tv in the living room.

“Where have you been?” Her father Joseph roared the moment she appeared through the door, getting up from the sofa to confront her before she could fully enter the house. “Do you have any idea how worried we all were?”

“I was at a friend’s house.” Alicia said in a very low voice, her tone void of any remorse. She made a move to walk past him but Joseph pulled her right back by the shoulder to stand before him.

“How old are you that you should be rebelling like this?” Her father asked. Both Henrietta and Belinda appeared from the kitchen.

“Sis?” Was all Belinda could manage amidst the cold air in the room.

Alicia sent a glacial stare her mother’s direction and said; “I’m going to see my son.” She started towards Buseko’s room downstairs but before she could complete her third step away, her mother fell down at her knees in front of her, sobbing.

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, Alicia took a step back, as if to avoid setting her feet on fire.

“Rita!” Joseph rushed to his wife’s side. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“She is going to tell me today what I have to do to make up for what I did.” Henrietta cried. “If she wants me to jump into the ocean and die, I will. If she wants me to drive a knife through my stomach, I will do it, but please…don’t leave home like that again.
“Do you mean it?” Alicia looked stoically at her mother. “Are you going to kill yourself if I ask you to?”

“Licia!?” Belinda gasped.

Joseph could only gape at his daughter in disbelief.

“I will do it.” Henrietta said. “I don’t want you to cripple your life because of this bitterness you have towards me. I am not worth it.”

“Honey, get up.” Joseph tried to take his wife’s hand and help her up but Henrietta wouldn’t budge.

“I won’t get up until Alicia talks to me.” The mother of four stated matter-of-factly. “I can’t live my life in fear like this anymore…wondering what she’s up to whenever she’s upset. You all know what happened the last time she didn’t come home. What if-“

“Where were you sis?” Belinda asked. “Tell her everything is okay and make this stop. I trust you. I know you couldn’t have done anything stupid.”

Alicia scoffed and looked at her young sister. “You trust me?” She asked. “What would you say if I told you that I went and did exactly what I did with Nicolas six years ago?”

Joseph was about ready to hit his daughter again but Henrietta quickly jumped in front of him and instead received the wrath of his hand.

Both girls gasped, their hands to their mouths as Henrietta slowly went down.

“Honey!” Joseph quickly rushed to remedy his mistake.

“Grandma.”

Little Buseko’s voice had everyone’s gaze I the room turned towards his bedroom door.

“Honey.” Deeply embarrassed, Alicia ran to her son. “What are you doing up so early?” She asked as she put her arms around him.

“Why are you fighting with grandpa?” Buseko asked his mother.

“We are not fighting.” Alicia said as she positioned herself to block the five year old from seeing what was happening behind them.

Joseph and Belinda quickly helped Henrietta to her feet and she rushed to her grandson. Alicia surprised everyone by letting go of the boy so that her mother could get him. Feeling extremely ashamed of her actions, Alicia cried silently as she rushed up the stairs to get ready for work.

************

When Alicia got out of the shower a few minutes later, she found Belinda sitting on her bed, waiting.

“What are you doing here?” Alicia asked.

“What’s going on with you sis?” Belinda asked.

“What do you mean?” Alicia busied herself by the dressing mirror, her back turned to her sister as she applied lotion on her body.

“Where did you sleep?” Belinda asked.

“I told you, at a friend’s place.” She answered curtly.

“How many friends do you have Alicia?” Belinda said. “They are less than a handful. I called all of them and they said you weren’t with them, you didn’t even call them. Only this girl you work with…Carol or whatever her name is tried to lie to me.

“She said you were at her place but she refused to give me directions, then I remembered that you said she was out of town and you were lonely at work because of that. So who were you with? Did you go to the doctor’s house?”

Alicia’s shocked reaction at Belinda’s mention of Kondwani immediately gave her away.

“Oh my God.” Belinda said. “You were with him. I knew it. I called Nicolas’ friend Kayombo and he suggested you might be with the doctor but I never, oh my gosh. You slept at his place?”

“Calm down, mum and dad will hear you.” Alicia warned her.

“What is going on with you sis?” Belinda asked again, her voice filled with concern.

“Nothing’s going on.” She answered as she started dressing up.

Belinda got up and forced Alicia to look at her. “Sis, talk to me.” She pleaded with her.

“I’m going to be late for work Linda. Let me go.”

“I won’t let go until you tell me what’s going on with you?” Belinda insisted. “I thought that you would become happier when Buseko was brought home but you’ve been the total opposite. You are ever in a tight mood, you look gloomy when you get home from work and you don’t want to be with the family during meals.

“I have never heard you talk to mum or dad like you did. I can’t believe you are the same person am looking at. Just talk to me, please.”

Alicia’s eyes became teary and she quickly looked away from her sister. “I’m really going to be late for work Linda.”

“What can be so bad that you can’t talk to me about it?” Belinda pressed on. “You know I love you right?” Here, Belinda’s voice was shaky, she too fighting the tears threatening to pour.

“If I were to choose between our parents and you, you know that I would choose you right?” Belinda asked.

Those words finally broke Alicia into tears and she gave herself up into her sisters arms, sobbing. And together they cried in each other’s arms.

“It’s Buseko,” Alicia finally confided in her sister as they sat down on the bed. “Him and someone else.” She added.

“I know who that someone else is but let’s talk about Buseko first.” Belinda said.

“He asked me the other day if he was a bad boy,” Alicia said. “He looked me in the eyes and asked me; ‘mummy, do you love me now?’ I asked him why do you ask me that? He said that Grandma Mary told him that she was raising him because she loved him more than I did.” Alicia cried as she repeated the words spoken to her by her son.

“What?” Belinda asked, disbelief registering all over her face. “How can that woman tell a child something like that?”

“I swear to you Linda I cried that day in front of my son. I had all these crazy thoughts running through my mind…i kept thinking; so all this while my child has been thinking he’s not good enough for me that’s why I dumped him at his grandmother’s. How much pain do you think he must have felt every time I left him there?

“My heart broke even more when I realized that my son’s fears and his desperate need to receive acceptance from me was exactly what I went through growing up in this house. But he is only a child Linda.” Alicia cried. “He’s just a child but because of my foolishness he’s had to question my love for him.

“I felt so ashamed Linda.” Alicia continued. “I thought I loved him enough but hearing him say something like that-”

“Licia,” Belinda took her sisters hand. “Why are you even entertaining such thoughts? She asked. “You didn’t give up Buseko because you wanted to. You gave him up because it was the right thing to do at that time.”

“It wasn’t the right thing to do!” Alicia said. “There’s never a good enough reason for a mother to give away her own child. That’s why I’ve been so mad at mum.

“I can’t find the right reasons to defend myself other than that I felt guilty for my boyfriend’s death. At the end of the day I chose my man over my son and mum chose you guys over me. And I can’t punish myself so I keep taking it out on mum because it’s easy to resent her. I feel like she is the reason am such a bad mother and even when I know I can’t really blame her, I still can’t help myself. I Keep-”

“Oh my God Alicia,” Belinda hugged her sobbing sister. “What have you been doing to yourself?”

When Alicia calmed down a bit, Belinda asked her; “Do you honestly think that mum was a bad mother to you?”

Alicia nodded. “Yes.”

“And do you think that you’ve been a bad mother to Buseko?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know…I don’t think so…but maybe I wasn’t.”

“Do you think that Buseko really thinks that you are a bad mother?”

“I don’t know. But i think he knows that I love him, because I love him sis. He’s my whole world.”

“And yet there’s some guilt you feel towards him right?”

Alicia nodded.

“And I bet you are dying to have him know just how sorry you are or how wrong he is to think you don’t love him right?”

“Yeah, very much…but how can I make a five year old understand that?” Alicia asked.

“That’s a good question.” Belinda said. “So don’t you think that, just like you feel you are a good mother and you love your son deeply but still have certain guilt about him, don’t you think mum feels the same about you?”

“The situation between mum and I is different Linda. She willingly and openly put me aside and made you guys her priority. I was always the old one out. In other homes I saw older sisters leave clothes for their younger sisters but in our home mum always bought the latest and most beautiful things for you and only after you used them would they come to me…or if you felt pity for me then you would give them to me brand new without mum knowing.”

“Do you really think that mum didn’t know that I gave you those things?” Belinda asked.

“I don’t know.” Alicia answered. “She never acted like she knew. This one time she saw me wearing your brand new white shoes and she passed a funny comment.”

“What did she say?”

“Eish, I can’t remember,” Alicia said. “Something about white looking better on me than it did on you-”

Alicia froze mid-sentence.

Belinda smiled triumphantly. “Have you realized what I’m trying to tell you?” She asked.

“She had bought those shoes for me right?” Alicia asked, her heart suddenly beating very fast.

“I know for a fact that she did, with those shoes and with most of the dresses that somehow always turned to be slightly loose or too big for me.”

“Oh my God.” Alicia covered her wide open mouth with her hands. “Oh my God.” She kept repeating as she stood up from the bed.”

“Rather than think of mum as always putting us first, can’t you think of her actions as the desperate actions of a widowed mother trying to secure a home for her child?

“By appearing as though she worshiped only dad and I, don’t you think that that was her only way of ensuring that you always had a home to live in and a father to take care of you?

“I was very young when I discovered what she was doing and I could have easily resented her for using me like that but somehow, I understood why she felt she had to act like that. For some strange reason, I was flattered by the fact that she considered me good-hearted enough to share those things with you without even asking me to. She had lost her husband at a very young age and she thought no other man would accept her the way dad had when she already had a child and been married before.”

Alicia dropped down to her knees and started sobbing loudly. Belinda quickly went to her and tried to skiffle her sobs. “Buseko will hear you crying like this and what are you going to tell him?” Belinda cautioned her sister.

“I didn’t know.” Alicia kept crying and shaking her head. “I had no idea.” She kept repeating. And very so suddenly, Alicia leaped to her feet and ran out of the room, taking two steps down at a time shouting for her mother at the top of her voice until Henrietta appeared at the kitchen door, a spatula in one hand and looking deeply perturbed by the desperate sound of her daughter’s calling.

Without warning, Alicia threw herself into her mother’s arms, weeping and repeating the words; “I love you mum,” while the whole familiar looked on in deep shock.

Only Belinda had a knowing smile on her face from the top of the stairs where she was standing, looking down at the miracle unfolding below.

“It’s about time sis.” Belinda said to herself as tears silently cascaded down her cheeks.
********

Consumed by the disturbing thoughts that always seemed to accompany Kondwani whenever he thought about Alicia, instead of going straight for work, he decided to pass through his mother’s house to see the only person that could help ease the guilt building up inside him.

“Oh my gosh, you scared me!” Chilufya gasped as she came out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her.

Kondwani immediately turned his back to her. Dress up quickly,” he said. “I am going to die young if I don’t get stuff out of my system right away.”

Chiluya immediately rushed to her closet and found something to wear. “What if I walked out of there naked?” She asked her brother as she dressed.

“Are you dressed now?” An impatient Kondwani asked.

“Oh my God what has you all worked up this early in the morning?” Chilufya said. “Give me two more seconds. Okay, you can turn around now.”

Kondwani went straight to sit on the bed. “Mum still sleeps up to 8 in the morning right?”

Chilufya sat on the chair by the dressing table. “I’m not sure.” She said. “I usually leave home at 7 and sometimes she’s awake and sometimes she’s fast asleep. It all depends on where her menopause has taken her that day.”

“I’m in deep shit.” Kondwani said.

“Language bro.” Chilufya said. “What did you do?”

“Alicia slept at my house last night.” He stated plainly.

Chilufya bolted up from the chair. “No way!” She said.

“Sit down,” Kondwani instructed, appearing to get a headache from her excitement. “You are making my head spin even more.”

Chilufya obediently sat back down but her eyes were bulged out wide in anticipation of more riveting news. “What happened?”

Kondwani explained most of the details of what had transpired between him and Alicia and at the end, in a very shaky voice he stated; “I know it’s wrong, I know I shouldn’t love her but.”

“But what bro?” Chilfufya said. “Honestly, I have never seen you like this before and to think that you have to give up on the one woman that has made you alive like this…no, am not going to let you give up on her. Don’t even entertain such weird thoughts.

“A few months ago I would have probably told you to stay away for the good of everyone involved but not after today. Just look at you.”

“I look like a fool like?” Kondwani laughed at himself, quickly wiping away his tears.

“No,” Chilufya comforted him. “For the very first time in your life, you look like a human being.”

“But I can’t afford to be human Chilu.” Kondwani reminded her. “I have a business to run, I have to protect you guys and mum. I can’t do that if am like this.”

“When are you going to realize that we are not kids that need your protection any more?” Chilufya said.

“I am old enough to take care of myself and my younger siblings.” She said. “You’ve done your part very well so it’s my turn now. Give me that opportunity to make you proud as well bro. live your life, be happy.”

“I can do that for you, but what about mum?” Kondwani asked.

Just as he was asking that question, Claudia their mother had just woken up and stepped into the kitchen to drink some water when she spotted her son’s vehicle through the open curtains parked in the front yard.

“Kondwani!” She called out to him and when no response came, she took the stairs up to the only room she knew he would be.

“I can take care of mum from over here so you don’t have to worry about anything.” Claudia heard her daughter say and a proud smile crossed her face.

She was just about to open the door and ask them why they were talking about her behind her back when she heard Kondwani say; “how can I bring Alicia before mum knowing very well the truth that lies between them?”

“You just said it yourself,” Chilufya muttered. “This issue has more to do with mum than it has to do with you so why are you feeling guilty like you were the one behind the wheel?”

Claudia froze by the door, both her eyes and ears opened wide.

“Lower your voice for pete’s sake what if someone hears you?” Kondwani said. “And what do you mean this has more to do with mum? I was right there at the scene!” He placed emphasis on every single word.

“It was me who saw the body first and it was me who disturbed the scene, not mum.” Kondwani continued. “It was me who was supposed to call paramedics but because I didn’t want mum to see what she had just done, I went back to the car and pretended everything was okay. Perhaps if I had called for help in time instead of selfishly worrying about my mother, that man might still be alive. I am guiltier of his death than the poor inexperienced driver that had been behind the wheel that rainy night.”

Claudia pushed the door open and caught the both of them by surprise.

“Mum!” Both Kondwani and Chilufya jumped from where they were sitting.

“What do you mean his death?” Claudia asked, her hands that were hanging loosely to her sides shaking profusely.

“Mum,” Kondwani ran to her side. Claudia turned fully towards her son, the fear written all over her face was the nightmare Kondwani had been avoiding for the past six years.

Was this how it would all come to an end? Kondwani thought as he looked at his mother. Just like that? Before he could even live a little? Not like this.

Dear God, not like this. Kondwani silently prayed to the God he had last recognised when he was a little boy.

Not like this, he kept repeating.