An Untimely Love – Part 6

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.

“Ale-“

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.

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An Untimely Love – Part 1

Bump!

The sound of Alex Saunders head hitting against the library desk echoed through the fully packed library.

She had just been rudely awakened from her sleep by her vibrating phone on the desk. Embarrassed, she pulled her hair from the sides to cover her face and raffled her hand through her bangs to ensure that her face was fully covered.

Alex had spent the last two straight days working on her undergraduate thesis for her Honours in Psychology Degree. After discovering the amount of work required for one to successfully obtain a Psychology Degree, Alex sometimes wondered if taking an honours degree was the best choice instead of simply majoring in Psychology and taking a minor in creative writing. She always felt that the online courses she had taken on creative writing whilst in high school were not enough to turn her into the kind of writer she wanted to be.

As a child, trekking from one library and bookstore to another, Alex’s dream was to become a renowned writer just like the ones she was reading about, to have her work read and revered by many and to gain worldwide recognition from it. Strangely enough, when the time came to pick a field of study to pursue for her undergraduate, after much consideration, Alex discovered that the need for a psychology degree outweighed that of creative writing.

Twenty-three year old Alex picked up her vibrating phone and checked the caller id. Mr C. There could only be one reason why Anton’s father could be calling her at that time of the day.

“Oh shit!” she cussed, suddenly getting up and picking up her books from the desk before running out of the fully packed library.

“I’m going to kill you for this Anton!” Alex said to herself as she unchained her yellow bicycle from the security post. Her phone stopped ringing for a few seconds and then resumed.

“Good morning Mr C!” Alex shouted into her earphone mouthpiece as she rode home.

Smiling bemusedly to himself with his billion dollars white teeth, Oliver Cooper held the phone away from his ear to save himself a trip to the otolaryngologist.

Is there ever a day this girl isn’t excited about something? The 42 year old business mogul thought as he handed his golf club to the caddie before leaving the field to head to his car parked out in the front.

“My little sunshine,” Oliver excitedly greeted his son’s best friend.

For the eleven years Oliver had known Alex, he had come to regard her as his own daughter. There were so many moments in his life when he wished his only son and heir Anton could be half as good a child as Alex was. How happy a father he would be if that ever came to pass.

“I have been trying to get in touch with this fool,” Mr Cooper’s voice poured straight into her ears through the earpieces. “Are you with him?” he asked.

“Not at the moment Mr C.,” Alex said. “I went out to the store to get some juice and left him getting ready for a shower…so, he’s probably in the shower…that’s probably why he couldn’t take your calls.” Alex lied through her teeth. “I am heading back to the house right now so I will get him to call you back.”

I am going to kill you Anton, Alex said in her head as she increased her pace.

“You are covering for him again aren’t you?” Oliver asked. If there was one thing he knew about Alex, it was that she was a very bad liar.

In Oliver’s eyes, Alex Saunders was the ultimate kind of girl; unpretentious, never spoke lies and always spoke her mind…sometimes even when the situation didn’t call for it.  If only his son Anton would get a grip over his life and realize what a gem he had right in front of his eyes instead of chasing skirts everywhere around town. What sort of father wouldn’t want to have Alex as a daughter in-law?

“I am on my way over to your place, tell him to get ready. I need his input on one of my latest projects.” Oliver said.

Alex came to a sudden halt. “You are on your way right now?” She asked, her heart pounding against her oversize sweatshirt.

Oliver paused before getting into his car, holding the door open. “Yes, is there a problem Alex?” He asked, sensing something amiss.

Oliver Cooper did not need a psychic or a private investigator to tell him what mischievousness his son was up to while the two of them where talking on the phone. Even during week days, the boy drunk and partied like a teenager high on hormones. If not for Alex’s perseverance in keeping him in check every now and then, Oliver wondered just what sort of person his son would have turned into by now.

“No, no Mr C.,” Alex reassured him. “There is no problem. You can go ahead and come. You will find Anton ready by the time you get here.”

The gate to the three bedroom house Alex shared with Anton finally came into view. Thanks to Anton’s billionaire father, the two of them could afford to live in such a luxurious house just a few minutes away from campus.

Alex still remembered how excited she had been when Mr Cooper called her to his office and gave her the keys to the house, telling her that she was the one in charge of it and not Anton. The only reason he had relented to his son’s demands for private boarding was because he trusted Alex to be responsible for everything taking place there.

It had now been five years since they moved in together and with only a few more months to their graduation, they had a lot more memories to make…starting with rescuing Anton from the wrath of his father!

“Good,” Oliver stepped into his vehicle. “I will see you in about an hour or less, depending on traffic.” He said before hanging up.

Alex looked at her wrist watch, “One hour!” She shouted before getting back on the bike and cycling like a crazy person to the house. As she got closer to the gate, she pressed a button on her wrist watch and the gate opened. Once inside, she pressed the button again and the gate closed behind her.

Cycling through the long driveway made her feel like she had just been cycling in a marathon. She spotted Anton’s red Ferrari parked in front of the house and breathed a sigh of relief. Jumping off her bike and throwing it to the side, she quickly ran into the house, then up the stairs yelling Anton’s name at the top of her voice.

As she ran up the stairs, she couldn’t help feeling a great sense of relief and pride from the fact that no matter how much Anton partied, he always stuck to their agreement and got back home by 2 in the morning to at least get 4 hours of sleep before class.

As expected, she found him dead asleep on top of his beddings in nothing but his boxers. “Idiot,” she said before pouncing on him. “You are in big trouble Mr!” She warned him. “Wake up right now.” She softly slapped his cheeks left and right but Anton wouldn’t wake up.

There was just one thing she knew would do the trick.

“Mr Oliver is on his way!” Alex said the magic words and stood back to watch Anton respond.

He bolted out of bed at rocket speed.

“How long?” Anton asked, ferociously rubbing his eyes to force himself awake.

“Always works.” Alex laughed triumphantly as she watched him from the side.

“Are you kidding me!?” The twenty-four year old heir protested and tried to get back into bed again but Alex blocked him. She removed her phone from her pocket and showed him her call log. “See,” she pointed at his father’s name. “He said he should find you ready in about forty minutes.”

“The old man will kill me!” Anton sulked. “Where does he want to take me this early in the morning?” Even as he was complaining, he still went to the bathroom to take quickly take a shower.

Laughing, Alex went to the closet to help him find something decent to wear. Knowing the kind of background Anton came from, Alex was well aware of how on point her friend needed to look every time he stepped out of the house. There were always camera’s following the Cooper family around almost everywhere they went.
She picked blue skinny jeans with a white t-shirt for him. “Simple yet stylish,” she praised her fashion sense.

Alex then looked through Anton’s massive shoe collection and picked out some his latest Burgundy canvas for him. “Should I even ask where you were last night?” Alex asked, leaning against the bathroom wall, one leg crossed over the other and her head lingering a few inches away from the open door.

For all the years she had known Anton, she never dared to ask him about the girls or the women in his life. She could handle knowing that there were quite a number of them but she was not interested in knowing who they were unless he talked about them himself.

It had been two years now since she realized she liked him more than just a friend but the idiot was still oblivious to that fact. Alex had fallen in-love with her best friend without meaning to. She figured he would be just as shocked as she had been the day she found out about her own feelings and thus, not wanting to put a strain on their friendship, she had chosen to keep her feelings to herself.

Even if he knew, it’s not like he would ever consider dating me. Alex had reasoned to herself.  She knew the type Anton liked and over the years she had been way too much of a friend for him to see her as he would any other woman.

“The guys and I tried out this new place called The Atlas and it’s the real deal Alex!” Anton shouted from the bathroom. The guys he was referring to where two of their four close friends; George Lee and Duncan Schmidt.

“We should go there together over the weekend. Anton suggested.

“What’s so special about this place?” Alex asked.

“Apart from it being dope, I met this chick there…wait, let me get out of here first and tell you about her.”

It was typical of Anton to shower within five minutes. He never went beyond that, no matter how desperate his body needed a good scrub. Alex always wondered how someone that hated showering still managed to look so good and have all the women he came across pine over him.

She had eventually concluded that the billions he stood to inherit from his father had a lot to do with it…and of course it helped a great deal that he was naturally good looking fella that had nature and good fortune on his side. Alex sometimes couldn’t help wondering if the girls that worshipped him would still feel the same way about him if they got to know him the way she did.

I guess the state of my heart right now pretty much answers that. Alex silently mocked herself.

Alex was laughing at her thoughts when Anton came out of the bathroom, one towel covering the bottom half while the top half remained wet and exposed in its muscled glory.

“Woah.” Alex came to stand in front of him, her eyes gawking in surprise as she ran her hand over his wide muscled chest. Her hand stopped right below his abdomen. “I think these babies have come out more now.” She remarked in awe. “When did you even find the time to hit the gym?”

Anton was looking at her quizzically and in slight disbelief at her careless action, one eyebrow raised. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t seem to get it because her hand was still lingering above his abdomen. He literally had to clear his throat noisely to make her realise what she was doing.

Alex quickly dropped her hand and dried it with the towel in Anton’s hand before stepping away from him.This is exactly why he will never think of you as a woman Lex. She admonished herself for her lack of tact as a woman.

“I think sometimes you forget that I am a hot bloodied man.” Anton complained as he finished drying himself. “What kind of girl touches a man so carelessly?”

Alex blushed, but only for a second. “My bad,” she didn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “It’s not like you’ve ever thought of me as a woman.” She added as an afterthought, silently praying that he disputes her claim.

“And we thank god for that,” Anton said as he passed the towel through his hair. “The day I start looking at you as anything else either than a friend is the day I will pick up my dad’s gun and shoot myself in the head.”

“Ouch,” Alex said. “That’s a bit too harsh Tony.”

“No man wants his woman knowing all that shitty stuff you know about me Lex. I hope we remain friends forever cause you have so much dirt on me you would be my undoing if you ever became my enemy.” And just to prove how unperceptive he was, he went and planted a kiss on her forehead.

Anton could not read anything beyond Alex’s bittersweet smile.

“So where do you think your father is taking you this time?” Alex quickly changed the subject, moving in to put finishing touches on his hair.

“If anyone has a better chance of knowing, you do.” He said, lowering his head slightly so she could reach the back of his head. “Sometimes I think you know more about what’s happening in my father’s life than me. You are like the son he never had.” Anton joked.

Alex finished with his hair and pushed his head away with her finger.  “That’s because I am his number one fan.” She said.

She went to sit on the edge of the bed and innocently watched him put on the clean boxers she had laid out for him on the bed. “Fans always know stuff about the celebrities they like.” She said.

“He might be just a father to you but he is like a god to me…well, not necessarily someone I worship, but someone I look up to.” She moved to sit on the edge of the bed, her mind drifting back to the time when she first met Anton and his father Oliver.
***

Alex was only nine years old when she first heard Oliver’s voice on the radio. The then twenty-seven year old Oliver had just released his seventh album since his debut at age seventeen. The new album was a dedication to his wife and son after taking two years off to spend quality time with them.

As a kid going through a complicated life, Alex found solace is the soothing voice of the man she could only wish was her father. How nice would it be to have a father sing such kind and loving words to her? There were nights when Alex would dream about Oliver barging into the orphanage and rescuing her from a world she felt she didn’t belong…a world she felt a strong desire to escape from.

On the eve of her tenth birthday, Alex dream of escape became a reality when a couple doing some volunteer work at the orphanage fell in-love with her and decided to adopt her. Humphrey and Evelyn Saunders already had four children of their own but they didn’t seem to mind adding a fifth one to the lot. They welcome the little girl into their home and made her feel like she was a part of their family.

For the first time in her life, Alex felt like she finally belonged somewhere. Unfortunately, the dream that had presented itself as reality before Alex’s eyes was soon covered by a dark cloud when the Saunders fell into financial. Humphrey Saunders had made some bad investments over the years thinking they would pen out a huge fortune but he was forced to admit defeat when they turned out to be a huge liability.

In Just over a year of Alex being in her new home, the Saunders declared bankruptcy.

The family had no choice but to move to a much smaller house. Mr Saunders who had been retired for two years was forced to get back into formal employment while his wife continued with her teaching job. For the Saunders, their new kind of life proved to be more challenging than they could have ever imagined. Because they were used to providing a comfortable life for their children most of their lives, the pressure for the Saunders couple to take care of such a large family on such a low income proved overwhelming.

Eventually, it was Alex who suffered the wrath of their stress.

In their moments of stress, the family could not help but lament about the mistake they had made in bringing someone into the family, and they would do so in Alex’s presence. Fearing feared that the incident that had happened five years ago might happen again; Alex started to mentally prepare herself to be taken back to the orphanage.

Alex could not run away from the fact that she was a burden on her new family. When meals became scarce, she was always the last one to be served after Mrs Saunders made sure that all her biological children had enough food on their plates. When everyone else was sharing beds in the bedrooms, Alex was made to sleep in the living room where she had to wake up two hours earlier than the other kids because the house was too small and Mrs Saunders needed enough space to move about while she did her morning chores.

At twelve years old, Alex was the only member of the family not enrolled in school. Although Mrs Saunders had promised to home school her, the most she ever did was leave her a bunch of books to go through on her own and Alex did just that. Whilst her siblings went to school, Alex would spend that time reading books in the local library, a period in time when she developed a passion for writing.

To kill time and stay out the way of her new family’s activities, Alex visited libraries and book stores and spent time there reading until they closed. It was during one of her book store tours that she met Oliver Cooper who was conducting a book signing for his third book compiling the adventures of his career.

Having made an arrangement with the store owner, Alex was given the keys to open the store very early in the morning, put the books in order and read to her hearts content whatever she wanted.

“Just stay away from adult books.” Mrs Davies store owner had sternly warned her, pointing to the CCTV above them.

That fateful morning, Alex had woken up at 4 and took the short walk to the book store. The streets where quiet and there was barely a soul in sight apart from the cars that passed by every now and then. Sometimes Alex wondered if her family even noticed her absence. She concluded they never did since they never asked her any questions about where she was or what she had been upto.

It seemed no one was missing her.

Alex had spent about an hour arranging the books in order and by the time it was five, she was wrapped up in a corner covered by a shawl given to her by Mrs Davis to her to keep her warm. The sixty year old woman was the kindest woman little Alex had met in a very long time.

By the time Mrs Davis reported for work, she found Alex soundly asleep, her head resting on the pile of books she had obviously been going through that morning. Although the girl had never been tested, Mrs Davis figured she had the mind of a genius. Her ability to read and understand so many books in such a short time was astounding. She even read books that most kids would shun away from. She had gone through almost all the encyclopaedias in the store and had read most of the sciences ranging from psychology to chemistry.

“She’s sleeping so soundly,” Belinda the store assistant said when she came in. “Should I wake her up? There are already people lining up outside for the book signing in a few hours.”

“Oh no, please let her rest,” Mrs Davis said. “The poor child deserves all the rest she can get away from her cruel reality. I will wake her up before Mr Cooper gets here.”

“I heard that he is bringing his son along,” Belinda said. “The boy is as handsome as his father. They really look alike.”

“Of course they should look alike since they have the same DNA,” Mrs Davis joked, clearing the table where Oliver Cooper was expected to sit. “Besides, I am the one that asked him to bring the boy along. I figured he might rub off some of his good fortune on our little friend here.”

Belinda gave the old lady a knowing smile. “You are very cunning Mrs Davies. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because I am wiser than you,” she said, her voice full of laughter. “Please check the microphone and make sure everything else is working perfectly over there.” She pointed to the area where authors normally stood to read excerpts of their books to their fans.

When Oliver was finally ushered into the store amidst the media and fan frenzy outside, Mrs Davies welcomed him and called Alex over to greet her role model.

“I thought the young man might enjoy the company of our book store’s most loyal customer while you attend to your duties Mr Cooper.” The old lady was holding Alex by her shoulders from behind, introducing her to the pair.

Alex immediately fell in-love with her role model’s smile. It was genuine and sincere. She had been right to like him. “You are even more handsome in person Sir,” the little girl quipped causing Oliver to laugh out loud.

“I have heard that plenty of times but never from a lady as beautiful as you Ms….”

“Alex, my name is Alex Saunders.” She answered cheerfully.

“And a beautiful name it is Alex. This is my son Anton, say hi to your new friend Anton.” Oliver presently his son before Alex.

After shaking hands, “you are not bad yourself,” Alex told the twelve year old, surprising both him and the adults in the room. “Do you want me to show you where to find cool books?” Without waiting for his response, she grabbed him by the hand and led him away.

Alex had gone half way through the store when she suddenly paused and looked back. She released her grasp on Anton’s hand, ran towards the front desk, grabbed a book from there and ran towards Oliver. “Here,” she handed him the book. “I almost forgot, I should be the first to get your signature!”

“Have you read my book young lady?” Oliver asked.

“Of course!” Her sharp voice echoed through the library. “I had been waiting for it all this time and when it finally came to the store, I sat down for three hours and refused to move until I read every single word.”

“Are you telling me you read the whole book in three hours?” Oliver asked.

“Yes, what’s wrong? Did I take too long?” The girl clearly had no idea what was going on. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept on re-reading pages 35 to 70 but I couldn’t believe that there was someone in this world who treasured his family as much as you did.”

“You think three hours is too long?” Anton had come back to join them and he was visibly shocked by the girl’s non-stop chatter and her oblivion to the fact that she could be a genius.

From that day forward, the two of them had become inseparable and thanks to Oliver Cooper’s generosity, he came to provide Alex with a new hiding place that was neither a library nor a book store.

He gave her a home.
***
“He’s a cool guy, but I kind of like his money more,” Anton joked, forcing his best friend out her reverie and back to reality.

“You are such a fool Tony,” Alex said, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at him only to miss as Anton dodged in time.

“Ah,” Anton remembered what he had wanted to share with her earlier. “I met someone at Club Atlas last night.” He said excitedly whilst putting on his shoes.

Alex braced herself for another one of his women adventures.

“Don’t give me that look,” Anton didn’t miss her look of disinterest. “It’s different this time,” he said enthusiastically. “I am really serious!” He shouted from behind as Alex started walking out of the bedroom.

“I am going to make some breakfast. There are only a few minutes till your dad gets here.” Alex shouted as she walked away.

Anton quickly finished tying his shoe laces and ran after her. “Aren’t you curious about who she is?” He sat on one of the chairs behind the Kitchen counter and watched Alex as she cooked up an omelette for him.

“Since when have I ever been interested in your women stories Tony?” Alex asked, her eyes fixed on the food she was making, desperately wishing for a change of subject. “I only listen because my ears are in perfect working order. You always say ‘this one is different’ about every girl you meet. What’s so different about this one this time around?” She asked.

“She is actually new in town,” Anton said. “Her father got a job with our university, he is a professor. Her mother is a philanthropist…apparently she runs a number of charities across the country.” He proudly said. “Unlike some people I know, she is sexy, classy as well as beautiful. We only chatted for a little bit but it felt like we’ve known each other for years!”

“Good for you,” Alex said sarcastically, her face as straight as an arrow. “I guess you are ready to settle down now. We should tell your father about this new development. I am sure he will be as excited as I am.”

“Tell me what?” A voice from behind them asked. It was Anton’s father. “What’s going to make me as excited as my little sunshine is?” He was mocking Alex because there was nothing about her attitude and demeanour that looked anything close to excitement.

With a knife in one hand and a tomato in the other, Alex walked over to Oliver and stood in front of him. She spread out her arms and he took her in for a hug, releasing her in time for her to rush back to the stove.

Oliver took a seat next to his son.

“I see you are ready.” It was all the greeting he would give his.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Anton replied smugly but was immediately awarded with a reprimanding look from his housemate.

“How was golfing this morning?” Alex directed her attention to her mentor. “For a forty something year old, you must make all the twenty-something year olds reel with envy,” she was looking at Anton as she delivered the last part.

For a forty-two year old man, Oliver Cooper indeed looked like a man in just his early thirties. His boyish looks and infallible charm made women his age appear older. Alex thought it was such a shame that ever since his wife’s death; he had not been with another woman on a long term basis. Oliver Cooper rarely dated and when he did, it was either just a fling or a three months old relationship, which was the longest he ever reached.

“What’s wrong with how I look?” Anton looked at himself.

Alex shrugged her shoulders and didn’t even bother to hide the grin playing on her face. “Nothing,” she said unconvincingly.

“If I worked out as much as dad does no woman would be able to resist me. I am not trying so hard because I am considerate of less attractive men out there. Imagine the kind of attention I would be getting if that were the case? I can’t have all the women to myself you know.”

“You wish,” Alex muttered under her breath. “Can I make something for you as well Mr C.?” She asked Oliver.

“Oh no, I am not a breakfast person these days. Besides, we don’t have much time left.” He looked at his wrist watch. “There are some people waiting for us somewhere. I need to show this boy a certain piece of land I want to invest in…thought I could use his good architectural eye.”

Architecture was one of the very few things Anton excelled at. Even at a young age, he had helped his father who had a passion in real estate investment design some of the famous buildings around the world. Thus, it had come as no surprise when Anton finally decided to study Architecture at university after wasting a year of possible college time trying to follow his father’s footsteps in acting.

Oliver had been against his son entering showbiz because he felt he lacked the talent and drive it took to excel in that industry. However, Anton had been so adamant until his father finally allowed him to pursue his dreams for a year on the grounds that he couldn’t succeed; he would quit and get into university.

Without his father’s backing, Anton had tried auditioning for a few roles here and there which did not end the way he thought they would. Watching his father all those years living his dream, performing on numerous stages in front of large crowds, making his music videos and later on acting and directing his own movies, Anton wanted that kind of life for himself. There was nowhere his father went he wasn’t welcome or recognized.

Oliver Cooper was revered by many, especially women and his son Anton wanted to have exactly that kind of life when he grew up. Unfortunately, it did not take long for Anton to realise that he had no real passion or talent for acting. He had finally and happily given up his dream of stardom and settled for becoming a star in a whole other different world; the world of architecture.

Being in his fifth and final year, Anton could boast of having successfully designed and contributed to three major historical landmarks in the country. He was indeed a young designer on the rise and his future in the industry looked absolutely promising.

The only time Alex thought her best friend looked human was when he committed himself to finishing a project. It was after all during one of those times that she had found herself strangely attracted to him. Despite his playful nature, Anton never took his studies for granted. Although he missed lectures most of the time, he was one of the best students in his field and architecture was something that came naturally to him.

“How much is in it for me this time?” Anton asked. His father was about to smack him in the head but he dodged in time again.

“Before I forget,” Alex said. “Any plans for your birthday Mr C.?”

Oliver found himself smiling. There was something about Alex that reminded him of his wife. She always remembered his birthday no matter how busy she was.

“Dad, it’s your birthday today?” Anton asked. This time the smack landed right on his head.

Alex scowled at him and shaking her head said, “tsk, tsk, tsk,” pointing a spatula at him accusingly. “I would kill myself if I had a son like you. His birthday is on Monday…you have three days to prepare a present.”

“I’m still gonna use his money to buy it, so what’s the big deal?” Anton retorted.

Alex was still shaking her head. “I will not even qualify that statement with a response. How busy are you on Sunday?” She turned her attention to Oliver.

“What, you have something planned for me?” He asked excitedly, like a child looking forward to opening his presents on Christmas.

Alex couldn’t help smiling at Oliver’s play at enthusiasm. This was one of those rare moments when his child-like behaviour came out. Sometimes she secretly wondered if he had not lied about his age. There was nothing 42 about the man. If anything, the son and father seated next to each other looked more like a pair of siblings.

“It’s a surprise; just don’t leave home on Sunday morning okay?” Alex said. She put the breakfast in front of Anton and he got into it right away.

“I definitely won’t,” Oliver said. “Suddenly, I don’t mind growing a year older.” He added.

“I am included in that program as well, right?” Anton asked. “It will be like a present from the both is us….”

Both Alex and Oliver laughed at his shameless audacity. “You just want to avoid the hustle of looking for a present isn’t it?” Alex grabbed a chair and sat facing the men.

“Dame woman you know me too well!” Anton said in resignation, pointing his folk at her playfully. “That’s why I tell people who make wild remarks about us to take a hike. You are like the coolest dude I’ve ever met!”

Anton moved from where he was and went to put his arm around Alex’s neck.

Oliver did not miss the hurt in Alex’s eyes. She was slowly shaking his head in disapproval as he watched his son’s childish play with a girl that was obviously in-love with him.

Tsk tsk tsk,” Oliver continued shaking his head. “What a bloody fool.” He muttered under his breath.