The next time Alex and Anton met was at the school bar where their crew usually hang after their Friday classes. The two of them had not spoken to each other since their last encounter at the house they shared.
Alex had completely absorbed herself in her school work trying to catch up and meet all her final year requirements before graduation. She had kept her phone off and stayed away from any kind of social media in a bid to keep her sanity.
“What’s up with you?” Anton asked her the moment he joined them at the far end of the bar. “I have been trying to get in touch with you all week. Are you still mad at me?” He grabbed a bottle of beer that had already been ordered for him and took a long sip from it. “Ah,” he heaved a sigh of relief, “I really needed this. This week has been dead crazy.” He said, finally taking a seat next to Alex.
“At least you managed to attend all your classes this week, strangely.” George remarked. The two friends collaborated on most of their school projects. George never complained of Anton’s lack of commitment when it came to attending lectures as he was always willing to cover that part for him knowing he would also require the use of his genius when the time came.
“Shut up George,” Anton told his buddy. “But serious Lexie,” he went back to her. “Are you still mad at me because of what happened last time?”
Alex forced a smile. “why would I be mad at you?”
“You know, about me not telling you about Cathy moving in and all…. I wanted to tell you, but….”
“It’s fine Tony, don’t worry about it,” she said nonchalantly. “It’s your house too after all, you can do whatever you want…I totally don’t mind.”
The two girls Cassey and Paulina were looking at her searchingly the whole time she was talking. The boys might have bought her lies but the girls could see right through it. All week they had tried to get her to talk about it but she had avoided the topic at all cost.
“Oh thank God!” Anton shouted, happy that there was no beef between them. The last person he wanted to upset was Alex. His life somehow always seemed out of sync whenever the two of them fought or had a misunderstanding. He gulped down the rest of the contents of his bottle and grabbed another one. ”I really thought you were never going to speak to me ever again after the way you left.” He said. “Cathy also felt bad when she saw your reaction and offered to come by so the two of you can get to know each other as adults.”
“Are you kidding me?” Cassey was the first to protest. “I thought we promised that this Friday hangout is just for the six of us; no boyfriend or girlfriend is allowed to join.”
“I think it’s cool to make an exception this once,” Duncan said, winning himself scornful stares from the other four. “Cathy is really a freak you girls are gonna love her!” He added excitedly, thinking about the last time the guys had danced and drunk themselves into stupors all through the night thanks to Cathy who kept challenging then and urging them on. She was the first of Anton’s many flames to get along so well and freely with them.
Cassey gave him a contemptious look and shaking her head she said, “You really have no idea, do you?”
“What do you mean by that?” Duncan innocently asked.
Being the most insightful among the men in the group, George pleaded the fifth. “I’m not going to be part of that discussion,” he said, turning his whole body the other way to sip on his beer and watch the game on the screen above.
Anton had this blank expression on his face, obviously without a clue of what was going on.
“I’m going to the bathroom for a bit.” Alex excused herself quickly and walked away. Cassey tried to go after her but Paulina placed a hand on her and motioned for her to sit back down.
The two girls shared a knowing look and turned to Anton. “Tsk tsk tsk,” they said at once.
“Why are you girls giving me that look, seriously?” Anton turned from the girls to the boys. Duncan simply shrugged his shoulders while George got up from his chair, walked over to where Anton was, gave him a smack in the back of head and went back to his seat, his attention back on the tele.
“Ouch!” Anton protested the treatment he had just received whilst nursing the affected area with his hand. “What did I do?” His pleading eyes searched the girls for an answer but Cassey and Paulina just looked at him wryly.
“Just drink your beer silly,” Paulina said, handing him a new bottle.
Anton remained in the dark as to what was going on but he suspected his friends reaction had something to do with the amount of time he seemed to be spending with his new girlfriend instead of them.
He had desperately tried to contact Alex during the week to make it up to her but he could not reach her through her cell or social media. A couple of times he had approached her just after her classes but she had been so busy they could barely hold a serious conversation in the kind of hurry she was in every time.
In the evenings when he thought she would be home, he had called the land line several times but Ben the butler kept telling him she was not around. His father had not been of much help either, refusing to take his son’s calls after instructing him to get his act together and not make life difficult for Alex.
There was no doubt whose side his father was on. Anton was aware of the soft spot that Alex occupied in his father’s heart and he could not blame him for it. There was something about Alex that made any man she encountered want to protect her. It was for that very reason he had vowed to be the big brother she had always hoped to have and to protect her so that she never feels abandoned ever again.
Anton understood very well the implication of Cathy’s presence in his life and the kind of strain it would put on his friendship with Alex. But it was the first time he had ever felt such strong emotions for any girl and he hoped he would never have to be in a position where he had to choose between the two girls; one was his best friend while the other was the woman he hoped to spend the rest of his life with. He hoped that his father would always be by Alex’s side just in case he ever found himself in a position where he had to make a choice.
Alone in the bathroom, Alex leaned over the sink and washed her face. She paused to look at her reflection in the mirror, her hands pressed down on the sink. Despite the water covering her face, there was no missing the teary filled eyes. Using one hand, she tried wiping her eyes but the desperate image of the girl starring back at her from the mirror made her feel even more worse and she succumbed to the tears.
When a group of girls busted into the ladies room, Alex rushed into one of the stalls to get some privacy and save herself some embarrassment. She had been sitting in there for some minutes when she looked around and realised the pathetic situation she was in. For the first time in her life, Alex took a chance and reached out to someone.
She took out her phone and speed dialled the second contact in her phone. “Please,” she said through the phone as she tried to stifle her sobs. She could still hear the girls tending to their looks on the other side. “Can you get me out of here?” She begged the person on the other end of the line.
A few minutes later, Alex joined her group looking all sobered up with a strained smile on her face. “I am sorry guys,” she announced, picking up her coat and handbag from the chair. “I have to go,” she said, speaking slowly and steady to keep her shaky voice from betraying her.
“Why so early?” A concerned Anton asked.
Alex managed a little grin before responding. “Because of the time I took off school, I have a lot of work to catch up on. You guys go ahead and have a good time, don’t mind me. I will see you later, night.” She had already turned her back and was leaving but Paulina ran after her and caught up at the door.
Placing her hands on Alex’s shoulders, Paulina asked her friend, “Are you okay sweetie?” There was no way her little act bravery was going to fool her. Up close, there was no missing the huge bags under her eyes. It was obvious she had been crying.
“I just need to be alone,” Alex sounded desperate. “For now, I beg you, please don’t ask me anything, okay?”
Paulina searched her friend’s face for a moment before nodding and letting her go. “Call me if you are ready to talk, okay? Promise?”
“Um,” Alex replied. “I Promise.” She said, opened the door and walked out into the cool air.
It was already dark outside but Alex braved herself and started off for home. She had just walked a short distance when a car pulled over beside her. It was Oliver.
He was ready to get out of the car to get to her but Alex ran over to the car the moment she recognized it and was already opening the front passenger door before Oliver could fully get out.
“I am sorry for calling you out like this.” Alex apologized the moment she was seated. “For some strange reason you are the only person I could think of whom I could vent on freely. I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Oliver lied. He had been going through the script for the new movie he would be directing in a few weeks when she called him. “You can vent now, take it all out. I am all yours tonight.” He encouraged her.
“I thought I was okay,” Alex started. “I told myself that as long as I try to see things from his point of view and try to understand…I thought,” she paused to steady her shaky voice. “I thought…I thought that I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore. I was wrong.” She sobbed.
“Did something happen?” Oliver asked.
“I feel so stupid,” she said. “I don’t know why the tears just keep coming. I have never been the crying type you know. I am stronger than this.”
“I know,” Oliver placed his hand on her lap, gently patting her. “You just need time to adjust to everything. Did Anton bring his girlfriend to your hangout?”
“He said she will be coming. I just lost it after hearing that. What’s worse is that he really has no clue….” Alex battled to keep it together but something about Oliver’s presence made her feel right at home and free to pour out the hurt that was clogging her up inside.
Oliver parked the car to the side of the road. “Why don’t you just rest for a while,” he said, tilting her seat back to get her comfortable.
He then turned on the stereo and some relaxing music came on. “You can get some sleep while I drive us to a cool place for some fresh air.”
“Don’t you have those weird people following you around tonight?” Alex asked.
Oliver laughed. “I always have weird people following me around Alex. If I keep thinking about them every time I want to do something, then my life will come to an end. Besides, who out there doesn’t know about our relationship? Relax…get some sleep.”
Without saying a word in return, Alex closed her eyes and allowed the music to be the only thing on her mind. Before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
Oliver smiled as he looked over at her whilst driving. He found it amazing how her character would change from that of a child in one minute to that of an adult in the next. There were times when she would act or say something way beyond her years and Oliver would worry about whether her experiences in life had forced her to grow up faster than kids her age. But then there were times like these, when all she could do instead of rebelling or acting out was cry for days on end.
Oliver drove them to the lake side on the other side of the mansion.
It was the place he came to whenever he needed to do some thinking. Alex was the second woman after his wife that Oliver had brought along to his secret hiding place. He loved the cool breeze and the sound of the waves from the small lake.
Oliver parked and stepped out of the vehicle, he walked over to Alex’s side, opened her door to allow the cool air to wash over her “Alex,” he whispered her name. She shifted slightly but her eyes remained closed. “We are here.” He said, gently shaking her to force her awake. Alex mumbled some words under her breath with her eyes still closed and turned to her side, away from Oliver and continued sleeping.
Oliver laughed. She must really be drink. He thought as he moved over her to unbuckle her from the other side. Alex shifted slightly and when she felt him over her and quickly turned and opened her eyes only to find her face a few inches away from Oliver’s.
With eyes wide open, Alex froze and the tears that had accumulated in her eyes right before she fell asleep came pouring out. Not sure what to do, Oliver too froze in his position, one hand touching the buckle of the seatbelt.
“Your eyes….” Alex said absent-mindedly looking into Oliver’s eyes. “They are so blue.”
As if suddenly struck by lightning, Oliver raised his head away from her only to hit himself hard against the roof of the car.
“Ouch.” He cried, touching his head and carefully leading his upper body out of the car.
Alex found the whole thing amusing. “Are you alright?” She asked, her voice full of laugher despite the tears on her face.
“I think that sometimes you forget that I am a man young lady.” Oliver complained, still nursing his head.
“I think so too.” Alex said as she unbuckled herself and stepped out. “The lake?” She asked when she saw the water in front of them.
“Yes, I thought you could use some fresh air.” Oliver said.
Alex’s smile did not reach her eyes when she thanked him and turned her back from the water to look at him instead. Oliver did not miss the sadness in her eyes.
“I always knew you were a good looking man but I have never bothered to look at you closely…until now.” She said, locking her gaze with Oliver’s now shifty eyes.
“How I wish I had fallen for you instead of that stupid son of yours.” Alex said.
Oliver Laughed. “I am old enough to be your father.” He said and quickly moved to lean his back against the car, his gaze back on the water ahead.
Alex closed the distance between them, her back still to the water and she stopped right in front of him. Oliver was blinking hard now, not sure what to do or what to think of Alex’s strange behaviour.
“They say that love is not limited by age, so who knows?” Alex said. “Besides, you look nothing like any of the father’s to girls my age out there. You and Anton look more like brothers instead of father and son.”
“That’s cause Sophia and I had him very young. But wait, are you trying to pick me up Alex?” He was looking daringly at her.
Alex blushed profusely before him, her hands moving quickly to cover her shocked face. “Oh my God I’ve been found out!” She said, and laughing, she turned and ran towards the lake before Oliver could react.
Seeing that he had just been played, Oliver laughed. “This kid,” he said, shaking his head and running after her. “Wait right there!” He shouted but Alex was already gone, her arms waving wildly in the air and laughing all the way into the way.
“What?” Oliver stopped and gaped at her in disbelief. “That water is freezing cold! Alex!”
As if possessed, Alex swam deeper into the water, paying no heed to Oliver’s protests.
Oliver watched in awe as Alex’s body disappeared under the water and when two minutes passed and she wasn’t coming up, panic gripped him. For some strange reason, his mind replayed the moment right before she turned to run. Where those tears he had seen in her eyes?
“Dammit!” Oliver cussed and ran after her into the lake. How could he have forgotten Alex’s water phobia? From the time he knew her, Alex steered clear of swimming pools and other such large bodies of water like a plague. Wasn’t it only recently when he discovered the reason behind her fear? How could he have forgotten that? Oliver chastised himself as he breathlessly searched for Alex’s body deep into the water.
What was he thinking bringing her here? Oliver spotted her limp body a few meters away and he swam like a mad man towards her. Seconds later, he came up with her in his arms. He laid her flat on the cold ground and desperately did everything possible to resuscitate her.
When Alex finally came to, Oliver dropped on his back next to her, laughing like the mad man he turned into. Realizing that he had left Alex on the ground, he quickly got up and slowly lifted her up into a seating position. He got up and then helped her to her feet as well.
“Let’s take you inside the car and warm you up quickly.” Oliver said as he led her towards the car.
“Why did you jump in?” Alex asked him.
“Let’s not even talk about what you just tried to do right now Alex.” Oliver said sternly. “I am the one that made the mistake of bringing you hear so I won’t even get mad at you. I am mad at myself for being such a fool. How could I-“
Alex yanked herself away from him. “You should have just left me in there!” She cried. “Why did you come after me? Why bother saving me when you will end up abandoning me just like everyone else!? Why did you stop me? Why?”
Oliver could do nothing but put his arms around her and let her cry on his shoulder. Tell me,” he said. “What should I do to make you believe that I am never going to leave your side? Tell me and I will do it.”
For a moment, Alex stopped crying. She leaned slightly away from him to look at his face and said; “Don’t ever get married.” She said.
“What?” Oliver asked bemusedly.
“See, you laugh.” She tried to pull herself away form him but Oliver pulled her back into his arms.
“I have never had plans of remarrying Alex.” He said. “I thought you knew that already.”
This time, Alex did not pull away from him immediately, but she did after a minute. “People change, like Anton.” She said. “He also thought he might never fall in-love but look at him now.
“When another woman enters your life Mr C, you too will forget about me and I will completely have no family in this world. I know that I am being selfish when I ask something like this of you…but I can’t help it.” She was about to start crying again.
“C’mon,” Oliver took her by the hand. “Let’s get you warm.”
An hour later, Alex was lying in bed after a warm bath and Oliver came to check on her before retiring to bed.
“How are you feeling now?” He asked, sitting down on the bed to closely examine her. “I can some colour is back now.”
“I am sorry I did what I did back there.” Alex said. “I don’t know what came over me there but….I must have stopped thinking for a moment and just gave in to some strange voice in me. You know very well that I have never been a suicidal person, right?” She was searching Oliver’s face to read the truth about what he thought of her in his eyes and not from the words he was going to say.
Alex saw both fear and disappointment in his eyes.
“You are disappointed in me aren’t you?” She asked him.
“I am not disappointed in you Alex.” Oliver lied. “It’s just that-“
“It’s just that what?” She asked.
“I don’t know…I really don’t know.” He said.
Minutes went by and the two of them just sat there, each lost in his or her own thoughts.
“Just promise me that you will never try something like that again.” Oliver said as he looked her in the eye. “Promise me Alex.”
“I promise.” Alex said.
“What you did back there,” Oliver paused and shut his eyes. “You have no idea how much you scared me out there.” When he opened his eyes again, there were tears welled up in them.
“Mr C.” Alex said, a little taken aback by Oliver’s show of emotion. When he was not acting in front of a camera, Oliver was a man that guarded his emotions very well.
Oliver got up and announced his goodnight. He needed to make an escape before he lost it in front of her. He was very upset with her but he knew he could not lash out at her right then when her emotions were still raw. There was no excuse for what she just tried to do and he wished for nothing but to never have a repeat of such a situation.
“It’s late now. You should sleep.” He said with his back half turned to her. “Goodnight.” He turned and walked towards the door.
Out of nowhere, he felt Alex’s arms around him from behind. Oliver froze.
“If you won’t marry any other woman, then marry me.” Alex said to his back.
Oliver quickly turned to look at her, incredulity written all over his face. “What did you just say?”
Alex starred squarely at him, her eyes filled with tears. “Just marry me, please.” She begged him.
“Alex,” Oliver reached out to feel her temperature on her forehead. “I think you are coming up with a fever.” He said resolutely. “I will go downstairs and bring you some-“
“I am not saying this because I am sick.” She forced him to come to a stop just as he was about to open the door. She moved to stand in front of him, he back pressed against the door due to lack of space.
“I know you think that I don’t know what am talking about but I have thought about it long and hard.” She said.
“You thought about it long and hard, when?” Oliver asked.
“When I was in the shower.” She answered.
Oliver scoffed. “If you are not sick, then I want to believe that you are still drunk. Where is all this coming from Alex?”
“I have already lost Alex Mr Oliver; I don’t want to lose you as well.” Alex cried. “I know you think that you will never marry again but a woman will come along and move your heart and you won’t see reason any more.
“So instead of waiting for such a time to come, why don’t you just marry me? I promise you that I will love you enough for the both of us and I will be a good wife. I promise.”
“Alex,” Oliver placed his hands on her shoulders. “Are you in-love with me?”
There was no response on Alex’s end for a few seconds and then, “No.” she answered. “I am not yet in-love with you but I am sure I will once I put my mind to it. I already like you and you are a very handsome man Mr C so-“
“Just listen to yourself.” Oliver said, dropping his hands from her shoulders resignedly. “I understand very well what your fears are but this…this is madness Alex.”
“I thought you said that you would do anything I asked. It was just a few minutes ago and you are already changing your mind. See what I mean.”
Oliver laughed, but not in a humour kind of sense…but in a ‘Lord how did I get myself into this mess’ kind of sense.
“Why are you giving up on yourself so quickly?” Oliver asked her. “You are so young and yet somehow you’ve made yourself believe that there’s no possibility of you finding a man that will love you like crazy and you will also fall in-love with him the same way.
“Just because Anton broke your heart doesn’t mean that’s how all men will turn out. I love you Alex, but only as a daughter and I believe your feelings for me are in those lines as well. Don’t ruin your life but settling for less simply because you are afraid of the unknown future. For your information, no one out there knows what the future holds.
“We all take risks and work and pray that it all turns out fine. Just because you’ve had a tougher life than most of us doesn’t mean you are different. We all love and fear the same way. Don’t let the past and the wrongs committed against you dictate how you live the rest of your life. If anything, why not show those people that have treated you thus that you are stronger and better than them. Make your parents, or whoever it was that gave birth to you regret giving you up. Show them exactly what you are made of, don’t settle for less.”
“I don’t think me getting married to you would be settling for less.” Alex countered. “You are extremely handsome, super rich, talented, and you are a very kind man. Why would anyone think that I settled for less?”
“They might all believe that you did well but deep down your heart, you will know that you settled. Marriage is way more than just what’s on display for the world to see. The bottom line is; do you love the person you are married to?”
“I think I can fall in-love with you easily.” She said.
“And that’s not the right answer to give.” Oliver said. “You might love the person you think I am but that’s very different from actually being in-love with me. I want you to think long and hard…no wait, In fact, I don’t want you to think about this anymore.
“Just focus on finishing yours studies for now and forget about Anton and that Cathy girl, forget also all those crazy ideas you have about us. It’s never gonna happen because I love you too much to let you go down a path you will live to regret the rest of your life. Sleep tight and sweet dreams.” He kissed her on the forehead and quickly left the room.
Just two minutes after entering his room, Oliver had taken off his t-shirt and was about to take off his pair of trousers to get ready for bed when Alex came bursting through the door.
Before he could finish, Alex was standing on her toes, she put her arms around his neck and pulled him towards her, her lips landing squarely on his as she forced her tongue deep inside him.
Oliver struggled to peel her off of him for a while as her determination proved stronger than expected. Fortunately, she was no match for his level of determination to protect her even from herself and so he managed to separate them in time.
He held her by the side of her arms, lifted her from the floor and threw her on the bed. He proceeded to push her back onto the bed and he positioned himself on top of her, his eyes burning sulphur and titanium.
“Is this what you want?” He thundered from on top of her, his naked broad chest exposed openly to her. She could see his heart beating fast and the drops of sweat on his forehead made him appear even more menacing than she had ever imagined him to be.
The moment he saw the fear in her eyes, Oliver removed himself from above her. He managed to drive his point home. “Go back to your room.” He commanded her.
Like an obedient child, Alex picked herself up from the bed and made for the door.
“This thing,” Oliver said to her. “It never happened.”
Alex stopped by the door.
“Tonight you were simply drunk and high on a fever.” Oliver said. “You will make me breakfast in the morning as usual, we will eat together, chat, and laugh, you will go to school and I will go for work as usual. Tonight never happened, is that clear?”
With tears streaming down her eyes, Alex said; “Yes.” And she opened the door and left.
Alone in his room, Oliver rushed to lock the door behind her and he dropped to the floor in helplessness, his hand placed over his fast beating heart.
“Does this child think I’m made of marble?” He asked himself. “Jesus Christ, almost gave me a heart attack.”
When morning came, Alex did exactly as Oliver had instructed her. She was back to her usual chirpier self so much that Oliver begun to question his own sanity and his experience in acting. Alex was too natural about her activities that there was no awkwardness at all.
Even though he was the one that had given the instruction, he had not for the life of him forgotten about the events of the previous night. In fact, he had not slept a wink at all because the feel of Alex’s lips against his could not leave him be.
He had tried to convince himself that the only reason he was thinking about it was because it had been too long a dame time since he had been physical with a woman but seeing how well Alex had gotten over everything, he started to question whether there could be more to his failure to get over a random kiss from a girl he had considered his daughter all those years.
Am I a pervert? Oliver asked himself as he watched Alex clear away the table after breakfast and humming a song whose tune he could not catch no matter how hard he tried to listen.
“Just leave those for Bernard to take care of.” Oliver said. “If you continue at this pace, you will put both the chef and the butler out of employment.
Alex laughed. “I guess you are right.” She said. “I never really thought about it like that.”
“Do you want me to drop you off at school or you will use your car?” Oliver asked.
“I’ll use my car.” She said. “I have a few errands I need to run during the day so I need to be very much mobile. You can drop me off tomorrow. I have to go now.” She rushed into the kitchen to get her backpack.
“Be careful on the road,” Oliver said and followed her into the lounge as she rushed to the door.
When she got to the door, Alex paused and starred for a very long time at the wet shoes they had left by the door in the night.
“Bernard should have gotten rid of those by now.” Oliver said from where he was standing. “Just where is that man when you need him?”
“These are my shoes, isn’t it?” Alex pointed to the white and yellow sneakers she had been wearing the previous day.
Oliver laughed. “Of course they are. Are they that dirty that you can’t recognize them?”
“How did they get like this?” Alex had turned and was now looking at him for answers. “Did it rain last night? Did we get soaked? How? Didn’t you pick me up in your car from the club last night?”
“Alex, what are you talking about?” Oliver asked. “It didn’t rain-“ And then he stopped himself from speaking any further, great fear sweeping over him so suddenly.
No way. Oliver debated within himself. “Alex,” he walked to where she was and stood in front of her. “What do you remember about last night, I mean, after I picked you up from the club?”
“You picked me up, I cried over Anton, then I slept and I found myself in bed this morning. Did you change my clothes?” She was smiling at him mischievously. “You do know I am not a little girl anymore right?”
“Alex-“ Oliver wanted to shake her up and tell her that she didn’t need to pretend to forget to such extremes but something about her eyes and her whole demeanour told him that she wasn’t pretending at all. From the moment they met that morning, there had not been any form of pretence or acting on her part. He should have known, Alex was a terrible actor. He once tried to memorize lines with her and she had sucked all the way. Alex could not act to save her soul from eternal damnation.
In a strange turn of events, he had been the one doing all the acting all through their interaction.
“I have to go Mr C, am going to be late for class!” She jumped to plant a kiss on his cheek and just like that she bolted out of the house.
“No way.” Oliver remained talking to himself. “No way,” he kept repeating as he walked across the room to make a call to Dr Sanjay.
“I need to see you, right now.” He said.