Allegiance: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle – Chapter Two

Andy walked to the back entrance of the Lounge reserved for VIP’s only to make his call to his aunt in Canada.

“Yes Aunty, I arrived safely.” He said. “No…am sorry I took long to call…yes, it was alright…no, I haven’t seen her. Listen Aunt Rose, am somewhere with friends right now so I cant stay on the phone for long…yes….no I….”

It didn’t sound like Aunt Rose was going to stop talking any time soon and Andy couldn’t find it in his heart to cut her off. Instead, he turned towards the glass door and rested his forehead against it as his aunt went on and on lecturing him about visiting his mother.

“Are you going to move or not?” Came a voice behind Andy.

He turned and found a surprising figure glaring at him. The girl looked about twenty-five years old, slightly unkempt hair carelessly tied into a bun at the center of her head, obviously a failed attempt at decency for the sake of mankind. The girl looked like she had spent the past two weeks in-doors.

There were heavy bags under her big round eyes…her eyes…. Andy’s heart almost skipped a bit. She had the most brown eyes he had ever seen on a black Zambian girl.

Wait, is she even Zambian? Andy wondered.

Wasn’t that an American accent he had just heard or was that his aunt’s voice screaming at him in his ear.

Oh shit, Aunt Rose! Andy finally remembered he was in the middle of a call.

“Aunt Rose, I have to go now, bye. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He quickly cut the line.

“Are you going to move now?” The girl asked again.

So he had heard right, she was American…and certainly not black American despite her skin colour. She sounded like a white American woman. But who the devil was she and why was she dressed like she was not about to step into the most exclusive VIP Lounge in the country? The girl looked like she was running an errand at the local market in her slippers and loose-fitting maxi dress.

“You do know you need a card to use this entrance right?” Andy asked.

The girl pulled her small handbag from the back and opened it. It was the first time Andy was noticing it. It was an original beige Valentino. The girl took out the card and flashed it across his face.

“Satisfied?” She asked. “I heard this place was fancy but I certainly wouldn’t have imagined the guards would be so impeccably dressed.” She was scanning him from head to toe.

“Guard!?” Andy said, not sure whether to laugh or feel insulted. It certainly was the first time someone had mistaken him for a security guard.

“I am going to be late for a meeting. Are you going to step aside?” The girl asked.

“Meeting?” Andy said. “Wait, are you the one Luke is waiting for?”

“I take it you are a friend of his,” She said. “Are you going to keep asking me questions?” She was very irritated.

“Maybe just one more. What’s your name?”

“Are you kidding me?” The girl said, looking at him like he had just said something out of this world.

“I am actually very serious.” Andy said.

“Then I guess I will just have to give your friend Luke a call and tell him today’s meeting is cancelled.” She threw the card back into her bag and turned to walk away.

“She can’t be serious,” Andy said as he watched her turn her back to him.

He ran after her. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” he said.

The girl stopped and turned back around.

“However, if you are looking for a job with Luke, it might work in favour if we were friends,” Andy said.

She glared at him and shook her head before brushing past him without giving him a response. She took out the card and entered without sparing him a last glance.

Andy was absolutely dumbfounded.

What just happened? He asked himself.

Did I just try to pick up a girl? Since when does Andy Mwila chase after girls…and funny looking ones at that? I think that Canadian cold done froze my brain cells. Who the hell is that girl anyway? And, did she just brush me off? What the hell?

Andy went back inside and joined his friends. He had a bemused expression on his face.

“Who the hell made you smile all the way here?” Sam asked.

Andy sat down. And then he stood up again, almost immediately. He appeared to be in a daze. “Something weird just happened,” he said.

“What?” Ernest asked.

Andy was shaking his head, still trying to comprehend what had just happened. “A girl just blew me off.” He said, more to himself than to his friends.

“Huh?” All three chorused.

“Yeah,” he answered. “History just happened a few minutes ago.”

“She must be New Money, they’re the type that always try to prove a point to everyone. What’s her name?” Dennis asked.

“I don’t know, she wouldn’t tell me.” Andy said.

“The hell?” Dennis said.

“You’re kidding, right?” Ernest said.

“I wish,” Andy said and sat back down. He grabbed a beer and downed the contents in one long gulp.

“She really got to you didn’t she?” Dennis said.

Andy said nothing. He had a contemplative look in his eyes.

***

“Maia, it’s so good to see you!” Luke hugged his guest and offer her a seat. “Anything to drink?” He asked.

“Oh no, am very fine thanks,” Maia said. “What I need right now, more than anything, is sleep.”

Luke laughed. “You do look like you could use some sleep for sure. “Am I allowed to ask what’s been keeping you up?”

Maia laughed. “No you’re not,” she said and removed a file of papers from her bag. “Everything is ready. Now it’s all up to you.”

“I already made up my mind.” Luke said. “I’m all in Maia!”

“You are? For real?”

“Yes, I already told you this over the phone but you still insisted on coming here anyway.”

“I just thought that…you know, I didn’t want you accepting my offer simply because it’s me. This is business and not friendship we are talking about.”

“I know, but I trust you, both as a friend and as a business woman,” he said.

“You flatter me Luke. Are you okay with 40% though?” She asked.

“It’s more than what I would have expected to be honest with you. I am just providing you with management. You’re the one providing the finances, talent, design and just about everything.”

“It’s been a while since I was here so I have no idea how things are done in this country these days. And, you know the taste of local consumers so yeah, I desperately need you.”

“Theatre is obviously a new concept in this country and just in my circles, I cannot tell you how many folks would kill for a change of scene.” Luke said.

“Everyone is dying for an alternative to the usual cinema experience,” he continued. “The point is to sell the idea to both the regular and medium spenders because the other 1% is already sold. They are defined by such luxuries. I have no doubt we will own this because we are offering them high class entertainment on a low budget. That should make everyone happy.”

Maia laughed. “I love your optimism Luke. However, I need you to go through those so you can get a feel of exactly what I have in mind for the general set-up.”

“Not a problem.” He said.

“Do you think two months will be enough to get everything ready for open night?” Maia asked.

“Yes, no doubt.”

“Then we’re sorted. I better be on my way now.”

“I’ll walk you out.”

Once they were outside, Luke asked, “Did you drive here?”

“No, I walked. Home is just a few minutes from here.”

“What?” She chuckled upon seeing the look on his face. “Stop acting like a grandpa Luke. I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself. This cool breeze is calling out to me.” She stretched out her hands and allowed the fresh air to wash over her face.

“It’s close to midnight Maia,” Luke said. “Everyone knows what type of neighbourhood this is so it’s a high target for criminals. There’s no way am letting you walk alone at this hour. Wait for me I get my-“

Before he could finish, Luke spotted Shadreck driving towards them and moved towards the road, waving him down.

“Mr Luke,” Shadreck came to a stop in front of them. “Is everything okay?”

“Are you in a hurry?” Luke asked.

“Not really-“

“Great, do you mind giving my business partner here a ride to her place?” He asked.

Shadreck looked at the girl standing next to the businessman. Even if you’re meeting your sugar daddy, can’t you try to dress up a little woman? He thought to himself.

“Yeah, sure, no problem.” He said. “Where are you going Ms?”

“I live just a few blocks from here.” She opened the door and stepped inside.

Fresh flowers, was the first thought that crossed Shadreck’s mind when her fragrance filled the air in his car.

She smells of freshly scented flowers…like she’s just from taking a shower in a garden of flowers. Well, at least she bathed.

“Let’s go. I’ll tell you where to stop.” Maia said. She then turned to Luke. “Thank you Luke. Pass my love to Yvonne and the kids.” She said.

So she’s not a side chick. Talk about being judgemental. Shadreck felt ashamed of himself for jumping to conclusions.

“Will do, have a goodnight kiddo.” The forty-five year old said.

Maia laughed and waved at him as Shadreck resumed driving.

“Thank you Shadreck, you have a good night too.” Luke said.

“You too sir.” Shadreck said.

“He insists on calling me kiddo when his wife is not that older than me.” Maia said. “My name is Maia by the way. What’s yours?”

“Shadreck.”

“Oh yeah, he said your name before,” she said, looking embarrassed to have forgotten so soon. “You are not much of a talker are you?”

“And you are obviously not Zambian.”

“Are you xenophobic perhaps?”

Shadreck laughed. “Not really. You’re the first female I have seen at a club like that one dressed like that. Zambian girls your age would never be caught dead out in public looking like that. That, and your accent of course gave you away.”

“I am not quite sure if you are insulting me or trying to get to know me.” Maia said. “Your face looks familiar by the way. Are you someone famous perhaps?”

“I wouldn’t consider myself famous but I co-owner Apollo, the entertainment company. Ever heard of it?”

“Now that makes sense,” she said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That I have remembered where I know you from. I am a huge fan of yours. You have the best artists and creatives in the region.”

“Thank you. What are you into, music, comics, art, movies?” He asked.

“Everything.” She said. “Oh, slow down here, we are almost there. Do you also live in this neighbourhood?”

“No, I live in Northmead.”

“We’re here,” she announced.

Shadreck starred at the mansion in disbelief. “You live here?”

“Yeah, anything wrong?”

“No, no, it’s just that…it’s huge. You live with your parents?”

“How old do you think I am Mr Shadreck?”

“Twenty.”

She burst out laughing. “I’m flattered but you need to add a few…no, not few…a lot of years to that. I live with my kids.”

“You’re married?”

“I said kids, how did you get to married?” She laughed.

“I am a traditional guy.”

“I hear a lot of people are like that here,” she said. “I live with three kids. There’s a paper somewhere that says they’re my babies but I didn’t exactly birth them, if you know what I mean.”

“I think I do.”

Maia stepped down from the vehicle.

“Thank you so much for the ride Shadreck. Get home safely.”

“I’ll wait until you get inside safely. I don’t want to be summoned by the police tomorrow with accusations of abductions and the like. You filthy rich folks can be a problem sometimes.” He laughed.

“There are guards looking at us through those windows right now.” She pointed to the two guard houses on either side of the gate. “The gate will open the moment I get closer and two armed men will appear, watch.”

She moved closer to the gate and just like she had said the gate opened and two guards appeared. Maia smiled and waved at Shadreck.

Is this woman trying to enchant me or what? Shadreck thought as he drove away. She had the most beautiful smile he had ever seen on anyone.

Why does she need two armed security guards? Anyway, rich people’s problems. He shook his head and dialled his mother’s line to get all his random thoughts out of his head.

“Son, what are you still doing up this late?” A very sleepy voice came through the line.

“Did I wake you?” Shadreck asked.

“It’s midnight Shadreck, of course you woke me up but that’s okay. Where are you going at this time of the night young man? You sound like you are on the road.”

Shadreck closed the open window immediately. “I had some business to attend to but am heading home now.”

“Is what why you sound so stressed?” His mother asked. “You’ve never called me first before. I’m always the ome calling you. You sound tired.”

“I always call you mum. Don’t make me feel bad now.”

“I’m sorry son, I didn’t mean to. I am very happy you called.”

“Anyway I gotto go. I just wanted to check up on you. You can go back to sleep now. I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“Are you sure you are okay son? You don’t sound well.”

“I am, don’t think too much. I might pass through tomorrow after you come from church so we can have lunch together. The food you packed for me last time finished.”

“Not to worry, I will have enough prepared for you tomorrow,” his mother said.

You just have to mother, you owe me that much for all those years you neglected me and my siblings. Shadreck said in his head.

But to her he said; “Have a good night.” And cut the line.

A few seconds after the call with her son ended, Martha’s phone rang again. She answered without checking the caller.

“Yes son, did you forget something?”

“It’s me mother.” A different voice came through.

“Andy?” Martha sat up again. “I was just from talking to Shadreck. How come you kids are calling me one after the other? That child that never calls his mother called me today in the middle of the night. Did something happen?”

“We bumped into each other a few hours ago,” Andy informed her.

“That explains why,” Martha said, her voice suddenly turning grey.

“I just miss you so much mum,” Andy said. “Shadreck still doesn’t like me much you know. I felt it today again when we met.”

“Was he rude to you?” Martha asked.

“Surprisingly, he was very polite. Maybe just a little too polite.” Andy said.

“See, maybe he doesn’t hate you as much as you think.”

“No, he still hates my guts but you know what’s funny, I understand exactly why he feels like that. I don’t blame him. If the roles were turned, I am sure even you know that I would feel exactly the same.”

“Did you visit your mother or at least let her know that you’re back in town?” Martha asked.

Andy hesitated in responding but a few seconds later said, “I didn’t.”

“Andy.”

“I know, I’ll call her tomorrow. As long as I called you when I landed and you know that am back and safe, that’s all that matters. You are more of a mother to me than that woman will ever be.”

“Show some respect young man. No matter what faults you find in her she is still your mother.”

“You’re the only mother I have ever known.” Andy said. “Unless you don’t want me as a son anymore-”

“Don’t be funny young man. Besides, I was paid to act like a mother to you. I was your nanny. Your mother will always be your mother. No one can ever replace her.”

“She might have paid you to take care of me but I know that you would have taken care of me even if she had stopped paying you. Anyway, I have to go mum, I’ll pass through home to see you tomorrow.”

“Ah, tomorrow?” Martha remembered the phone call with Shadreck.

“Yes, is something the matter? You wont be around?” Andy asked.

“It’s not that,” Martha was searching for the right words to say so as not to worry him.

“It’s Shadreck isn’t it?” Andy surmised. “Is he coming to see you?”

“Yes. I’m so sorry Andy-“ Martha hated being stuck between the two boys.

Shadreck resented her for neglecting him and his siblings to take care of Andy. Andy loved her for taking care of him when his own mother neglected him. It was an endless chain of misplaced love and hate but Martha was forced to come to the conclusion that the fault was all hers.

She was the reason behind the friction between the two and there was nothing she was ever going to do that would make up for her mistakes.

“Oh no, you don’t need to apologize. It’s fine, I understand,” Andy said. “I guess I will just have to see you another day. It’s a good thing that Shadreck is coming to you and you are not the one following him and begging him to see you.”

He needs to eat, that’s why he comes here, Martha thought to herself.

“You should go to bed now, it’s late.

“Have a good night mum. I love you.”

“Love you too son, good night.”

***

“Are the kids sleeping?” Maia asked Rashida the nanny when she entered the house and found the fifty-five year old waiting for her in the living room.

Maia laughed at the sight of the middle aged woman looking as worried as ever over her safety. She waited for her to finish yawning to get a response. “Why did you wait up for me Idah?” She asked.

Rashida had been Maia’s nanny from the time she went to America with her adoptive parents. The two of them had gotten close over the years so much so that Rashida who had had no kids of her own in her marriage until the death of her husband eight years ago considered the little girl as her own.

When Rashida heard about Maia’s plans to return to her native country, she offered to follow her so she could help out with the kids she intended to adopt there. According to her, it was better to be in the company of people she dearly loved than to remain in the states where she had no loved ones of her own.

Maia had over the years become Rashida’s only family. She was the daughter she could never carry in her womb. She always wondered what would have become of her after the death of her husband had Maia not been by her side. Rashida could not bear the thought of being separated from her.

“The kids finally slept about an hour ago,” Rashida said. “They’re the most inquisitive bunch I have ever come across.” She laughed. “Did you really have to go to that place this late at night child?”

Maia threw herself onto the sofa and Rashida settled down next to her. Maia took the opportunity to rest her head on the woman’s laps.

“Luke was out of town during the day and he is always busy so tonight was the best time to go. Besides, I needed some fresh air.”

“That’s because you’ve been keeping yourself in the study day in and day out with your writing that you hardly ever see the sun rise or set. It’s not very good for your health Maia.”

“Are you nagging me right now Idah?” Maia pretended to yawn loudly and shut her eyes.

“You should go upstairs and sleep in your bed.”

“Nooo.” Maia said, half asleep and half awake. “I like sleeping here better. And I have to check in on the kids before I-“ her words trailed off and sleep came over her.

Rashida chuckled to herself. “Poor thing, she must be exhausted,” she said, undoing the bun on her head and tying her long silky hair into a ponytail.

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An Untimely Love – Part 10

When Alex opened her eyes the next morning, she found Oliver sitting beside her like a man carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Oliver….” She tried to sit up but ringing head had her clutching the sides in pain. The Hangover effects were fully activated.

“Are you going to keep calling me that?” Oliver asked whilst helping her sit properly as she continued wincing in pain. “Here,” he handed her some aspirin first that were ready in hand and then a glass of water from the bedside table. “For the hangover,” he added.

Alex gulped down the meds and handed him back the glass of water. “Thanks,” she said. “And yes, I will keep calling you Oliver and not Mr C from now on…until you get used to it and stop looking at me like a child.”

Oliver got up. “I don’t know if it makes me a bad person but, I was desperately wishing you  would wake up with amnesia this morning.”

Alex laughed. “It never happens when you need it to.” She said. “I know that better than anyone.”

“Freshen up and come downstairs for lunch. The table is already set. I’ll be waiting-“

“Wait,” Alex stopped him. “Lunch not breakfast?”

“Look over there,” Oliver pointed to the wall clock in front of them.

Alex gasped when she saw the time. “Is that really the time!?” She started searching for her phone to confirm.

“It’s over there,” Oliver pointed to the bedside table on her right. “It kept ringing and ringing until it went off so I thought I should charge it for you-“

“Who was calling?” Alex picked it up and turned it on.

“Who else,” Oliver said with a grim expression on his face. “Sam called about eight times before he finally called me and Anton called a couple of times.”

“Sam called you?” Her eyes were about to burst out of their sockets. “What did he say?”

“Are you that excited to hear from him?” Oliver asked.

No it’s not that!” Alex answered a little too quickly. “I am just wondering why he would call you….”

“He knows you’re at my house.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Good.” He turned to leave.

“But why didn’t you answer my phone when you knew who it was and why he was calling?” Alex asked as she waited for the phone to fully come on.

“I didn’t think it was proper for me to answer your phone that early in the morning.” He answered.

A smile of satisfaction crept at the corners of Alex’s face. “You know that’s not something a father would worry about right?”

“Here we go again.” Oliver said. “Get up and come downstairs.” And he left the room quickly.

“I’m gonna make you fall for me till you can’t help it Mr.” Alex said to herself after Oliver and got out of bed.

The moment her phone came on, a call came through from Sam.

“Finally!” Sam exclaimed the moment she answered. “Are you okay? I’ve been trying to-“

“I just woke up Sam.” Alex said. “I’m okay, just a terrible hangover. I don’t drink that much…I don’t know what happened last night.”

“Can I see you today?” He asked.

“Aaah, today?” She asked.

“Yes, is that okay?”

“Ah…yes, sure. Of course it’s okay.” A million question where running through Alex’s mind as she answered. She couldn’t help wondering why Sam sounded desperate to see her or why he was so worried about her welfare. At first she took his care and concern as a celebrity paying fan service to a fan he liked and when he asked her out to the red carpeted event, she thought it was just him trying to batter himself up to the ‘almost’ daughter of his boss in order to be in good books with him.

However, there was something in the tone of his voice that gave Alex pause.

Could it be…no, it can’t be. That’s impossible. She quickly brushed off the ridiculous thoughts. Why would he? Why would a multi-award winning pop star be interested in her like that? He was surrounded by thousands and thousands of beautiful women every day and she had seen his starring ladies in his music videos, she was not anything close to them.

“Alex, are you there?” Sam’s voice jolted her back to reality.

Alex blinked profusely. “Yes, am here…sorry about that. What did you just say?”

“I was asking where I will find you?” Sam said. “I called Mr Cooper earlier and he said you where still at his place. Will you be there the whole day?”

“No, no, I’ll be going back to my apartment soon. You can come there. I’ll send you my address.” For some reason, she did not want Oliver knowing about Sam’s visit. That would only give him enough reason to push her away.

“Okay, cool. I’ll wait.” Sam said. “See you soon Alex.”

“See you.” She said and quickly cut the line.
On the other side of town, Anton was forced out of bed by thunderous and earth shuttering banging on his door. He could tell who was on the other side of it without asking because he had switched off his phone trying to ignore her calls.

he slowly dragged himself down the stairs.

“Why is your phone off!?” Cathy hissed the moment the door was opened for her. She flew right past him in a huff.

“I was trying to get some rest.” A half-awake Anton answered as he slowly walked back to his bed.

“Where are you going?” Cathy asked.

“I’m going back to bed.” He answered without stopping.

“Are you kidding me?”

“hm,” Anton answered half-heartedly, not even sure what exactly he was saying. He just didn’t want to bother opening his mouth any further lest he lost his sleep.

“It’s 3pm now, haven’t you slept enough?” Cathy was behind him.

Anton threw himself back into bed and pulled a cover on top of himself.

“What’s this supposed to mean?” Cathy continued backing from the side of the side. “I came all the way here to see you and this is what I get?”

No response came from Anton.

“Tony!?” Cathy yelled and pulled the cover off of him.

Anton came awake in frustration. Why would he even think he would get some sleep with her in the room? “I appreciate you coming all the way to see me but please Cathy, let me get some sleep, please.”

“How can you sleep so soundingly after sending me such a text message?” Cathy asked. “How do you expect me to act after I receive a message like that from my boyfriend?”

“I only said we need to talk.” Anton said. “What’s wrong with that?”

Cathy scoffed. “Are you being for real?” She asked. “Don’t you understand the meaning of those words? You can’t send me a message like that at 3 in the morning and expect me not to worry. That’s unfair. I couldn’t get any sleep from the moment I received that text. What’s worse is you even switched off your phone after sending it. What is it you want us to talk about that you couldn’t wait till morning to send a text?”

“Do you really want us to talk about this now?” Anton rubbed sleep from his eyes. He was now fully awake. Reality had come banging on his door and now he had to answer the call. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“You should have thought about that before sending me that kind of text at 3.” Cathy sulked.

“Okay,” Anton said as he got out of bed. “Can I at least take a shower first?”

“No,” Cathy said. “I will die from a heart attack waiting for you to finish. Just tell me what is it you want us to talk about so we can get it out of the way.”

“Then let’s go into the living room.” Anton started moving in that direction but Cathy dropped herself onto the bed in protest.

“No, we will talk right here.” She said determinedly. “Since when do we move to the living room to chat?”

“Fine.” Anton said and turned. “Let’s break up.” He blurted the words out.

Cathy broke out in cachinnation, holding on to her stomach as she tried to bring her breath under control.

“What’s so funny?” Anton asked.

“You are funny!” She said, her face suddenly grim and straight. “I knew you were a son of a bitch when we started dating but this right here is bitcheology on another level. What did you just say to me? Break up?” She laughed again.

“You are the one who wanted to talk about this but it’s very clear you’re not ready.” He turned and walked out of the bedroom, taking the stairs down but Cathy was right behind him.

“It’s never going to happen!” She shouted from behind him.

“It’s happening!” Anton shouted back without stopping.

“You think you can just end things just because you feel like it?” Cathy asked as she rushed after him. Anton surprised her by suddenly coming to a stop and turning to look at her. She bumped right into his chest.

“Ouch!” She screamed, rubbing her forehead with her hand.

“I am sorry for doing this to you but that’s just how it is.” Anton said scathingly.

“Is this because of that girl Alex?” Cathy asked whilst rubbing her forehead.

Anton didn’t respond.

“It is her.” Cathy stated conclusively. “What did I tell you about that girl? And you said what, she is just a friend?”

“Yes she was just a friend…that was the truth then because I didn’t know my feelings for her where deep. I only realized recently-“

“Please save me the drama Tony.” Cathy spat. “No man has ever dumped me before and I won’t accept to be dumped by you. It just won’t happen. You and I are still dating until I decide it’s over. You hear me Anton Cooper?” And she violently brushed passed him.

“I will have your stuff delivered to your parent’s tomorrow!” Anton called after her but Cathy did not stop and neither did she respond.

The moment Cathy was out the door, Anton ran back upstairs and called Alex. She answered after the third ring.

“Tony?” She said.

“Lexy where are you?” He asked.

“At the mansion.” She answered.

“Are you planning on staying there the whole day?”

“No.” It was the second time she was being asked that question that day.

“Okay, am coming to pick you up. Wait for me there.”

“Tony, no.” She quickly said before he could cut the line, her eyes on Oliver who was sitting on the other end of the table.

“What, did my dad offer to take you?” Anton asked. “You can just tell him that am coming. I’m sure he had better things to do than to be dropping off my best friend. You’re my responsibility, not his.”

“Tony, are you okay?” Alex asked. “Where’s all this coming from? Your dad isn’t taking me home, Baron the driver is.”

“Oh, okay, that’s cool. I’ll see you at your place then. Send me your coordinates.”

She was about to turn him down when her eyes instinctively settled on Oliver again. he was not even trying to hide the fact that he was listening to the conversation. Alex was in a momentary state of confusion; if she told Anton not to come, she would have to explain why…and she didn’t want Oliver knowing who she would be meeting later on. And if she said yes, Oliver might get other ideas.

“I have plans Anton.” Alex finally managed. “I have ah…my research, remember? Can I see you tomorrow instead?”

“No, it can’t wait Lexy. It will just be for a bit, won’t take long I promise. Send me the location.” He cut the line before she could protest.

“Anton!” Alex checked her phone and sighed in disappointment. “What’s wrong with him?” She said to the phone, and looking up at Oliver she added; “He’s acting weird. I bet he had a fight with his girlfriend and wants to us use me to vent. He’ll never change that one.”

“Just see him,” Oliver said. “He might surprise you.”

“Do you know something I don’t?”

“What time is Sam coming over?”

“At 4.”

“I see.” Oliver said.

It was only when she saw his reaction to her response that she realised the blunder she had just committed. He had tricked her.

“That’s not cool Oliver!” Alex said.

Oliver laughed. “I would say the same thing about lying.”

“Touché.” Alex said and got up from the table.

Oliver stood up as well. “So you and Sam,” he started.

“We are just friends!” She quipped. “Just a cool celeb hanging out with a fan.” She didn’t understand why her heart was beating so fast all of a sudden. She was desperately searching for what to say. The last thing she needed was giving Oliver licence to shove her straight into the arms of another man.

“Like you and me?” Oliver asked.

“Yes, no!” Alex fumbled.

Oliver laughed.

“I am in-love with you as a man, not as a celebrity or anything,” Alex explained. “And I like Sam, only as a celebrity. Of course he’s a cool gentleman but I don’t like-like him like that.”

“Perhaps you should.” Oliver said as he helped her carry some dishes to the sink. “I think he really likes you.”

“That’s impossible!” She said. “He doesn’t even know me that well.”

“Isn’t that why he’s trying to get to know you better now?” Oliver asked. “Give him a chance.”

“I knew you would do this.” She said.

“Do what?”

“Push me off to another guy.” She placed the plates into the sink and stood on the side to give him space to put his down.

“Alex,” Oliver said as he laid the plates in the sink.

“I don’t want to hear it.” Alex closed her ears. “Whatever you think is going to happen isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to change my mind and fall for some young stud or whatever. I’m gonna keep bothering you until you come to terms with the fact that I am a woman just like the ones you look at out there. I’m leaving now.” She walked over to the kitchen table, grabbed her bag and stormed out of the kitchen.

“Dear Lord.” Oliver said to himself, his hand placed over his forehead as he sighed like a helpless defeated man.

 
A surprise awaited Alex when Baron dropped her off outside her apartment. She  found Anton waiting for her outside her apartment building, something she had not expected to happen considering she had forgotten to send him her address.

“How-“ She started to ask as she got out of the vehicle.

“I had a feeling you might not want to see me so I asked Cassey to give me your address.” He approached her by the car and took her bag from her.

Alex walked over to the driver’s side and Baron closed the door he had just opened ready to get the door for her but she had steped out before he could even set his foot outside the car. He rolled down the window instead.

“Miss Saunders.” The sixty-five year old said expectantly.

“Thank you Baron for bringing me home. Drive back safely.” Alex said.
“Thank you Miss.” Baron said, a smile on his face.

“Are you going to pretend that you didn’t see me Baron?” Oliver appeared next to Alex.

“Of course not Mr Anton.” The grey-haired man answered. “How are you?”

“I’m great old man.” Anton chirpily answered. “Pass my love to the old lady. Tell her that I terribly miss her pudding.”

The three of them laughed.They were all well-aware of Mrs Baron’s great skills in the kitchen. she always prepared something for the Cooper’s during the Christmas holidays.

“She will love hearing that that old fox!” Baron said. “Take care of yourselves you two.”

“Thanks Baron,” Alex said. “Take care too.”

Baron rolled up the window and drove off.

“What is so urgent that you had to see me right away?” Alex asked as she led the way into her apartment building.

“Can’t a guy visit his best friend whenever he likes?” Anton asked.

“Not you,” Alex said. “Well, at least not the new Anton you’ve become. I’m guessing that there’s trouble in paradise right?”

“You could say that.” Anton admitted.

Alex stopped walking and turned to look at him. “What did you do?”

Anton laughed. “Why do you assume am the one who did something?”

“Ah, because I know you.”

“Let’s get to your place first, I’ll explain.”

They took the lift and stopped on the forth floor. Alex’s apartment was the third on the left. She unlocked the door, stepped aside to let him through and followed him right behind.

“Wow,” Anton said as he did a quick take of the house from where he was standing. “It’s as exactly as I imagined it would be; beautiful and neat.”

There was a blue two seater couch and a yellow one well placed in her tiny living room and everything was well decorated and coordinated it gave the room an air of expensive taste.

Alex went straight to sit down on the blue couch. “Sit,” She offered Anton the other sofa.

“Aren’t you even going to offer me anything to drink?” Anton complained before he sat down.

“I told you I have work to do so I don’t want you to get all comfortable here. What’s up?”

he looked disappointed. he knew she might not be excited to see him but he realized too soon that knowing something and experiencing it where two different things. He was not used to being brushed off so quickly and easily by Alex. Was that how much their relationship had strained over the past weeks?

What have I done to us Alex? Anton asked himself as he looked at her.

“You sound cold, and dismissive.” He complained

“No I don’t.” Alex said.

“You do.” He insisted. “And I don’t blame you. I’ve been such a jerk over the past weeks. I don’t blame you for hating me the way you do.”

“I don’t hate you Tony.”

“Your mouth is saying something but your eyes are telling me something else. We might have drifted apart Lexy but I still know you.”

Alex sat up, one leg crossed over the other. “What do you want me to say Tony?” She asked him. “Or what did you expect; that we would still be cool after everything that’s happened? You turned your back on me when I needed you the most and you trusted a stranger over me. You didn’t even give me the benefit of a doubt. How do you think that made me feel?”

“I know, I know!” He ferociously brushed his hand through his hair. “That’s why am here, to apologise.”

“Why today of all days?” Alex asked.

Anton looked puzzled. “What do you mean why today?”

“I know you,” she said. “Something must have happened for you to think about coming to see me and apologize. Did you guys have a fight?”

“I broke up with her earlier today.” He blurted out.

“You did what?”

“I broke up with her,” he repeated. “We just couldn’t work out. I realized a little too late that I was not in-love with her….and that I…ah…you know, that I was… in-love, with someone else.”

“Dear Lord Tony, already!?” Alex shouted. “Who is the stupid girl this time? Gosh, I thought you finally matured…even if it was with someone like Cathy but c’mon, another girl? So soon? Who the hell is she?”

“It’s you.” Anton muttered.

“You? Who’s you? Is she, ooooh….” Her mouth was hanging open as realization sunk in.

“See….” Anton stated, his eyes fixed on her. “It’s not just some silly random girl.”

“Is this because you saw me with someone last night?” Alex asked once she recovered from the shock. “I know you’ve always hated the guys I’ve crushed on since we were young but c’mon Tony, we are not kids anymore.”

Anton got up from where he was and went to kneel in front of her. Alex flinched when she thought he was going to touch her but Anton rested his hand on the sofa, very close to her.

Looking her in the eyes he asked; “Why is it so hard for you to believe that I am in-love with you?”

“Wait, you’re serious?” She asked. She knew that look in his eyes very well.

“Of course am serious.” He said.

Alex suddenly stood up, almost sending Anton to the ground if not for the fact he used his hands to keep steady.

With her back turned to him, Anton first heard her chuckling, and then the chuckles slowly turned to laughter.

“You’re laughing?” Anton asked as he lifted himself up.

Alex stopped laughing after a few seconds and turned to face him. “You’re in-love with me?” She asked, pressing her finger over her chest.

Anton took a few steps towards her but she stretched out her hand. “Stop right there.” She said. “Don’t come any closer. Let’s talk from here and there.” She pointed to where he had stopped, about three more steps left between them. “Why do you think you’re in-love with me?”

“Why?” Anton asked, confused by the question.

“Yes why.” She answered. “You said you never considered me a woman, that I would always be your best buddy. You were even disgusted by the idea of us together! And now you are telling me that…that…look, I can’t even say the words.”

Anton tried to close the distance between them again but Alex’s hand quickly went up again. She didn’t want him coming closer to her. Not now. She didn’t want to see the sincerity in his eyes because it might shake her resolve. How many times had she longed to hear those words from his mouth and they never came? Why was life testing her in such a cruel manner? A father and his son…why was her life so complicated? It was like a twisted plot from a sick and perverted writer with a lot of time on his hands. How could this be real?

Or perhaps…. She looked up him, eyes wide open.

“Did your father ask you to do this?” Alex asked Anton.

“My father?” He asked. “What has my father got to do with this?”

She was about to say out loud the crazy thoughts running through her mind when she stopped herself. She had not yet told Anton about her feelings for Oliver. And this isn’t the right time to bring that up, she concluded.

“Nothing,” she lied, having surmised from the surprise look he had on his face that Oliver had nothing to do with his sudden confession. “I just thought that maybe…because I told him some stuff some time back that he still thought I still had feelings for you.”

“You told my dad you liked me?” Anton asked, both hope and trepidation glowing from his eyes.

“It was a long time ago Tony and things have changed since.” She said.

“You mean change as in…you being in-love with him?” Anton asked.

Alex’s jaw dropped to the floor. “What do you mean him?” She could barely hear her own voice from over the sound of her heart beating fast and loudly.

“I mean my dad.” Anton answered. “Why didn’t you tell me that-“

“How? Who told you-“ there were tears in her eyes as she started to ask the question. What if her fears were true? What if Oliver had told Anton about her feelings to get him to force her out of what he thought were delusions?

“Relax,” Anton said, reading the fear from all over her face. “I didn’t hear it from dad, not directly pe se…I just happened to overhear your conversation with him last night.”

“Wait,” Alex said. “Is that why you’re here telling me this?”

“What do you mean and why are you looking at me like that?”

“Do you think that telling me that you have feelings for me will change the way I feel for Oliver?”

“Are you serious about this?” Anton could not handle the seriousness on her face and in her tone of voice. “You’re even calling him by his first name. When did all this happen? He’s my father for Pete’s sake Alex! He has also been like a father to you.”

“I know that!” Alex cried, a part of her was embarrassed and ashamed to stand there and tell her best friend that she was in-love with his father. How did she expect him to handle such a thing when she herself could barely come to terms with it?

“If you know that then you know what you should do.” Anton said. “Forget about him and start looking at me again. And I am not saying this for some twisted reason you might think. I happen to genuinely love you, with or without my dad in the picture.”

“I am sorry Tony.” Alex cried. “I didn’t mean for this to happen…it just happened. I know it doesn’t make sense but I really love your dad.”

“He’s fifty Alex!” Anton yelled.

“He’s forty-“

“I don’t care he’s still old and you might think you love him but you don’t. What you feel for him is just gratitude because he’s always been there for you. Think about it Lexy, please.”

“There’s nothing to think about Tony. I am in-love with him and it’s not gonna change.”

“Do you have any idea the type of scandal that will blow over when something like this gets out?”

“Scandals are always there whether we do something crazy or not.” Alex said.

“Okay,” Anton said. “Let’s say that you do actually love my dad, do you think that he would let anything happen between you two…especially that he knows my feelings for you?”

Alex turned hurt eyes at him. “You told him?” She asked.

“I had to.” He admitted. “I couldn’t just keep quite after listening to you two talk. I’m not gonna lose you to him or anyone else out there Alex. I know I don’t deserve you but am begging you to give me a chance. We can even pretend that this whole thing with my father didn’t happen.

“We can start all over again, you and me, forever. I don’t know why it took this long but I really can’t see myself with any other woman but you. I love you Alex.” He was standing right in front of her now. “Just think about it, please.”

Alex was slowly shaking her head. “I’m sorry T-“

There was a knock on the door. They both turned towards the door.

“Are you expecting anyone?” Anton asked.

“No, I mean, yes.” She looked at the wall clock ahead. “How did he get into the building?” She asked as she went to answer the door.

“Who is it?” Anton asked from behind her.

“Not sure, but I think it’s-“ She opened the door and there on the other side Sam stood, a huge smile on his face which quickly faded when he saw Anton appear behind Alex.

“You?” Anton said in disappointment. “What is he doing here?” He asked Alex.

“What sort of question is that?” Alex said as she pushed him aside to leave room for Sam to pass. “Come in,” she said.

Sam entered. “I thought the two of you don’t live together anymore.” He had not taken his eyes off of Anton from the moment his eyes set on him but he lowered his gaze slightly to look at Alex as he awaited her response.

“No we don’t-“ Alex had started to answer.

“I don’t think it’s any of your business who she lives with.” Anton retorted.

Sam turned his attention back to Anton, a clear disdainful look on his face when he said; “Shouldn’t you be out there with your girlfriend? She looked like she could sure use some help getting into the building. She’s acting like a mad-“

“What do you mean help getting into the building?” Alex asked.

Anton appeared at a loss for words.

“I left her fighting with the intercom downstairs.” Sam candidly informed them.

Alex turned to Anton, an accusing look on her face. “Cathy’s here?”

“Cathy is here.” Sam excitedly answered on his behalf.

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 17

Where is mum?” Kondwani asked Chilufya when she entered his office.

“I got bored waiting for them to finish examining her so I thought I pop in for a chat.” She said. “Which department does Alicia intern?”

“And why would you want to know that?” Kondwani asked.

“I’m just curious as to what kind of person she is.” His sister answered.

“Says the girl who stalked her for years.”

“Stalking is a strong word,” Chilufya argued. “Try keeping tabs?”

Kondwani raised a brow. “Isn’t that even worse?”

Chilufya laughed. “Anyway,” she brushed him off. “I never actually spoke to her, so….”

“And it should remain like that,” Kondwani stated. “Till I find a solution to the mess…if that’s even possible.” And after a few seconds he added, “Who am I kidding? She is the only one that’s going to end up hurt the most from all this.”

“Don’t forget mum too.” Chilufya said. “Remember she actually has no idea that a person died that night.”

“Watch yourself Chilu.” Kondwani’s gaze instinctively went to the door. “Haven’t you learnt anything from this morning?”

“My bad.” She said. “But don’t you think you are better off telling her now, and I mean Alicia. Don’t you think you’re better off telling her the truth now before it’s too late? What if she somehow gets to hear it from someone else?”

“Someone else?” Kondwani asked. “Which someone else? We are the only ones who know about the connection and if we keep it that way then…anyway, weren’t you the one against me telling her the truth not so long ago? What’s changed your mind all of a sudden?”

Chilufya stood up and went to stand by the window behind Kondwani. “Mum’s reaction this morning reminded me of just how real this thing is. It’s scary bro.”

“Was there ever a time it wasn’t?” Kondwani had turned his chair around to face her.

Chilufya leaned her back against the wall and with her arms folded across her chest she turned to face her brother. “You know what I mean.” She said with a heavy heart. “I’m just thinking…maybe it’s better to get all this out of the way so you can give Alicia time to deal with the reality and heal.”

“I can’t do that.” Kondwani said tightly. “She and I have only started dating so how can I risk losing her in such a short time?”

“Wani-“

Kondwani waved his hand in the air to keep her from talking further. He already knew that whatever she was going to say was going to make sense but he just wasn’t ready to deal with sense. It was too soon.

“I can’t lose her sis.” Kondwani said. “It’s just unfair. I know am being extremely selfish but I would rather die in this moment than risk her hating me forever.”

“And you think that will change if she discovers the truth later on…after you’ve been together for months, or even years?”

“At least then I would have been given a chance to love her and to receive her love. I’m a bastard I know…and she already knows that about me.”

“Don’t you think-“

“Chilu!” Kondwani yelled.

“I know you don’t want to hear this but hear me out.” Chilufya said. “You are my brother, I love you and I want what’s best for you.”

“Alicia is what’s best for me so don’t ask me to lose her even before I’ve managed to win her.” He said.

“You might lose her for a while but believe me, if you do things right, I know that if she loves you as much as you say she does, she will come back to you no matter what society or those around her say.

“Bear in mind, she will not take too kindly to being deceived from the onset. The more time passes, the more she will fall in-love with you and the deeper the pain she will feel from the betrayal. That would be like killing her twice in a row.”

Kondwani forcefully and suddenly leaped to his feet. “Do you think I haven’t thought about all of that dear sister?” He asked her. “I have done nothing but think about that from the day I set eyes on her and frankly, am tired. I am sick and tired of worrying and worrying.

“Am I not allowed to have some happiness?” Kondwani asked. “I have done nothing but live for others ever since I can remember. This is the only chance I get to have something that I really really like…something that makes me happy.”

“What if that happiness is short-lived, huh?”

“I don’t care!” Kondwani snapped. “God, please, just let me enjoy this moment. I don’t want to think about anything. I don’t care what’s wrong or right or who hurt who and who died. I just want to enjoy spending time with my woman like normal people do.”

“If you think you can’t handle losing her now, wait until you see her run through your fingers after she’s already become yours and settled in your heart.” Chilufya warned her brother.

“Shouldn’t you be checking on mum now?” Kondwani was done battling sense. The only reason he was upset was because Chilufya was right. Everything his baby sister had said was the truth and unfortunately, the truth didn’t seem to be on his side either way he looked at his life. Succumbing to reason would mean losing the one woman that meant everything to him and ignoring reason also meant losing her anyway. So why should he care which way to go when hell awaited him on both ends? How about enjoying the short journey to eternal damnation while at it? Why should he give fate the privilege of running his life however it saw fit?

He was just a little boy when the weight of his family was placed on his shoulders. Did he have a choice in the matter of becoming a breadwinner at such a young age while his peers lived their youth to the fullest? No, fate had decided that for him. Was it also his fault that his single mother was working overtime, tired and inexperienced behind the wheel of some rich madam’s car running an errand she had no business running in the first place when the accident happened?

He was just a young man working hard and on the verge of becoming something his family would be proud of. It was his duty to protect and care for his family where his father had failed. Even God had turned his back on his mother whose faith still seemed unshaken despite the odds against her. He had to be God, a son, and a brother to his mother and younger siblings, all at once. When was he ever going to get a break? If God truly cared for his family that much, where was he when his mother got into that accident?

A frail woman, cold and alone on a dark street, why couldn’t the God she put all her faith and hope in protect her then? Why had he allowed that accident to happen knowing very well how much his mother was already suffering as a woman abandoned by her own husband and left with four children to take care of? It was already hard enough to get a single meal in a day back then, did his family honestly need any more testing if indeed it was his mother’s faith God was trying to test? What sort of God kicks someone that’s already down and dirty, struggling to even take in fresh air that was freely given to everyone else? Why did his mother have to suffer so much despite her unchanging faith?

Indeed, Kondwani had vowed never to have anything to do with such a God. As far as he was concerned, Christianity was for the weak-hearted that desperately needed something to cling to because the real world had forsaken them. a false idea of hope when all else failed. He had not said a single prayer since the day Nicolas died and he was doing better than most of the people he knew to be staunch Christians.

But if there really is a God, Kondwani thought as he closed the door after Chilufya. Don’t let me lose Alicia, please.

 

“I have been dying to meet you young lady, you have no idea!” Claudia Chileshe excitedly said as she held Alicia by the hands.

Alicia was not sure how to react towards her boyfriend’s mother considering that she was at work and the woman was acting very casual with her…like they had been pals for a very long time. She was at a complete loss for words.

“I’m sorry, am I making you uncomfortable?” Claudia asked.

“Uhm-“

“Forgive me!” The mother of four was almost screaming the words out. “I didn’t even introduce myself. My name’s Claudia. I am Ko…um, Dr Chileshe’s mother.”

Alicia smiled nervously. “I recognized you from the pictures in his office. It’s very nice to meet you.” Alicia added timidly.

Claudia appeared amused by her confused state. “Relax my daughter.” Claudia reassured her. “I’m not here to cause any trouble…although I know my son will kill me when he hears that I called you out like this. Promise you won’t tell him we met ah?”

The confusion on Alicia’s face grew even deeper. She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her potential mother-in-law’s request and so all she ended up saying was; “Aaaarh….”

Claudia laughed. “Now am convinced my son’s taste in women has tremendously improved. I like you Alicia. What is your last name?”

“Daka,” Alicia provided. “My name is Alicia Daka.”

“Easterner, not bad.” Kondwani’s mother said. “Give me your number.”

“Huh?”

Completely oblivious to the befuddled look on Alicia’s face, Claudia took out her phone from her handbag and placed it in Alicia’s hand. “Save it for me.”

“Am I not going to get in trouble for this with Dr Chileshe?” Alicia asked, holding the phone away from her as if afraid she might suffer radiation effects from the handset.

“You might get in trouble if he finds us standing here.” Claudia said as she quickly scanned the area around them from behind the pillow where they were standing, partially hidden from everyone else.

Alicia quickly typed in her phone number, saved her name and handed the phone back to Claudia.

“Good girl.” Claudia said enthusiastically. “Now you better rush back to work before anyone notices you are missing. Go!” She had put her hands on Alicia’s shoulders from the back and was urging her towards the elevator on the other side of the lobby.

Alicia had taken a few steps away when she heard the woman say; “I really like you Alicia Daka. Be good to my son.”

Chilufya was coming from the opposite direction after a round of searching for her mother when she heard her voice. She followed the direction of the voice and her eyes first landed on Alicia who was looking like she had just seen a ghost before they settled on her mother, standing a few feet away with a huge smile on her face as she waved at Alicia’s retreating figure.

For some reason, Chilufya could not let herself be seen by Alicia so she quickly moved to stand behind a cardboard poster. The moment Alicia disappeared through the elevator, she came out of hiding and ran after her mother.

“What was that about mum?” Where the first words she uttered before reaching where Claudia was studying, going through the number Alicia had just saved under her name. Chilufya peeped through and saw the number.

“I can’t believe this.” She said. “Do you have any idea what Kondwani will do when he finds out what you just did? Wait a minute, how did you even find out about her?”

Claudia was smiling smugly at her daughter. “Did you kids think you could keep something like this from me?” She said.

“What did you say to her that made her look like she had just seen a ghost?” Chilufya asked.

“She’s such a shy and reserved girl.” Claudia said. “But I could see some spunk in her. No wonder Wani fell for her. She is the type men want to marry right away.”

“Mum!” Chilufya yelled.

Claudia jolted as if suddenly and rudely awakened from deep sleep. “You scared me, why are you yelling at me?”

“I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t do anything until Kondwani told you everything about her.”

“You spoke, I listened. There was no agreement there.”

“You are impossible mum.” Chilufya said resignedly. “Aren’t you going to tell me what you spoke about?”

“I only introduced myself and got her number.” Mrs Chileshe said. “I like the look in that girl’s eyes. And she’s very pretty.”

“You only like her because you desperately want grandchildren. That’s all. Anyway, what did the doctor say?”

“I’m fine.” Claudia said. “It was just a mild concussion. I’ll live. Take me to Wani’s office.”

“You better pray that she hasn’t already told him what you just did.” Chilufya chuckled as she led the way.

***

Stephen was about to leave his room to head to the library when he heard a knock on the door. Before he could move to answer it, the door swung open and in walked Mwansa. He had to consciously tell himself not to laugh out loud from his accurate prediction of Febby’s inability to keep secret what had transpired the previous day. The girl was incapable of keeping anything to herself. For his own sake, Stephen hoped that Damian pleased his girlfriend well otherwise he stood to receive a huge blow to his ego if things ever went sour between them.

“Morning Mwansa.” Stephen made a play at civility.

Mwansa looked like she had spent the whole night crying, her eyes were blazing red and puffy, a tissue in hand to obviously nurse her running nose.

“So I was right.” Mwansa fired away. “I knew something had changed from the time the two of you ran into each other.”

Stephen sighed heavily. Here we go again. He said to himself. “I need to go to the lib right now. Don’t you have class?” He looked at his wrist watch as he waited for her response.

To his surprise, Mwansa peeped through the other side of the room that was partitioned for someone else’s use and when she saw that they were alone, she cleared her throat and asked; “Are you fucking her?”

Stephen starred at her in stupefaction. “Why would you say such a thing? And since when do you use such foul language?”

Mwansa scoffed. “Why are you acting surprised when you knew this is how I was when you met me? I only changed because I thought that’s what you wanted but this is who I am and these are the sort of words I use. Fuck, and shit.” She deliberately stressed each word and asked, “What?” as a smug and condensating expression appeared on her face.

“Am I making you uncomfortable Steve? Is this why you dumped me, because am not as holy as Belinda? All you church boys pretend to be holy but you all want bitches in bed. Isn’t that why you asked me out?”

Stephen laid his backpack down and sat down on the bed. “I can sense that you are still very angry-“

“Angry!?” Mwansa yelled. “Angry? Is that what you think this is? How dare you flinch when you hear me curse but you are okay with dating a girl who had an abortion? Do you see any sense in that? And you say am angry? Angry isn’t the word you should be using. I’m disgusted!”

“You have no proof that she had an abortion so don’t go round spreading false stories about her.” Stephen said sternly.

“Oh, look at him defending her?” Mwansa said sarcastically. “If you think that am just going to leave the two of you alone after what you’ve done to me then you must really not know me. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that the two of you don’t get your happily ever after.”

Stephen stood up. “Mwansa-“ He tried to reason with her but she had no time to listen to his excuses, she turned, opened the door and stormed out.

Stephen put his hands on his waist and sighed heavily again. He grabbed his bag from the bed and left the room.
“So I hear you and the good doctor are an item now?”

Alicia knew that it was just about time for her and Samuel Kayombo to have that conversation. “I see you’ve heard.” She said as she handed him a canned coke. They were standing by the balcony at the paediatrics department on the second floor. To get to that balcony, they had to pass through Dr Mwanza’s office, the head of pediatrics’s and Kayombo happened to be very good friends with him. Now that the paeditrician was on leave, Kayombo had exclusive access to the balcony.

Alicia had seen him standing there from outside trying to get some fresh-air in-between shifts. However, she also understood that Kayombo felt safer there because the place was secluded and away from Kondwani and everyone else. It was the only place he could rest without incurring the wrath of everyone at the hospital that looked at him as a traitor. In just a short time, Kayombo had moved from being Mr Nice Guy to the Worst Employee of the century. Even people that weren’t fans of Dr Chileshe somehow managed to see the evil in what Kayombo had done and sympathise with the brush and ruthless Director.

“Isn’t that why you followed me all the way here?” Kayombo asked, fully turning around to face her. “And thanks.” He held out the coke to her, opened it and took a sip from it.

“My shift just ended so….” she deliberately left the sentence hanging.

“So you want to kill some time whilst waiting for your man right?” Kayombo finished for her.

“That’s unfair Sam.” Alicia said. “You and I haven’t talked in a while-“

“Because you’ve been avoiding me.” He cut her off.

“No I haven’t!” She said.

“You have.” Kayombo insisted. “Look, why are we even having this conversation? What is it you want to talk to me about? I know you wouldn’t have come looking for me if you didn’t have anything to talk to me about…and I am guessing it’s got something to do with Chileshe.”

“You’re right,” Alicia admitted. “I thought I owed you an explanation for the phone call that night…the one Kon, I mean, the Dr Chileshe answered.

“You mean the one where he referred to you as his woman?” He said in a tight tone.

“I’m sorry about that.” Alicia apologized. “A lot happened that day and somehow I…I…I ended up at his place.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me.” Kayombo stated icily. “You already told me you’re in-love with the guy, he’s single now so…I understand.”

“Then why do you sound so cold?” Alicia asked. “You are treating me with so much hostility. Our paths crossed earlier today but you never even bothered to say hi to me. You completely ignored me Sam.”

“I’m sorry, that was very immature of me.” Kayombo said. “This whole thing between you and Kondwani happened so fast and I felt so stupid….”

“Why would you feel stupid?” Alicia asked.

Kayombo gave her a blank stare. “Are you seriously asking me that question?”

“I’m sorry,” she said timidly. “Looks like I keep saying the wrong things to you.”

“You know that’s not the point right now.” Kayombo said. “You know how I feel about you. I just wish you had given me enough-“

“Wait, what?” Alicia raised her hand to make him pause. “What do you mean how you feel about me? I thought that was already in the past. Aren’t you with Gwen now? You guys are having a baby Kayombo. What feelings are you talking about here?”

Kayombo scoffed. “Just because I am expecting a child with someone doesn’t mean I want to spend the rest of my life with that person.” He said.

“You’re kidding me right?” Alicia said.

“No,” Kayombo stated matter-of-factly. “I wouldn’t joke about something like this.”

“I thought you were in-love with Gwen.” She said. “Isnt that the reason you kept seeing her despite knowing she was engaged to someone else?”

“I sense some judgement in your tone.” Kayombo said. “Is this you punishing me on behalf on your boyfriend?”

“That’s not it and you know it.” Alicia said. “I am just disappointed to hear you say the things you’re saying, I think it’s very unfair-“

“Unfair to whom?”

“To Gwen mostly.” Alicia answered. “She chose you over Kondwani because she believes she would always have your loyalty whereas she was never guaranteed that from him.”

“No,” Samuel argued. “Gwen picked me because of her own selfish reasons. It was never because she loved me and like you said, she would rather have a loyal man worshipping her than be with someone whose heart and attention she knows she will never have. All those years I thought I was in-love with her but it was just some stupid obsession…and a matter of pride I guess.

“A huge part of me hated Kondwani because she was crazy about him which meant I didn’t stand a chance with her but, another part of me felt somewhat fulfilled knowing I could still have her…physically despite her being his woman.” Kayombo continued. “I know it doesn’t make sense and I know it makes me a total jerk but that’s the truth.”

A few seconds went by without Alicia saying anything. It was clear from her facial expression that she was still trying to process what she had just heard.

“Are you trying to tell me that you are no longer in-love with Gwen?” She finally asked.

“Exactly.” He said.

“Is it possible for someone to fall out of love that easily?” Alicia asked.

“Who said it was easy?” He asked her. “I still love her but not as much as I did. You have to know that when love isn’t reciprocated for a very long time, it tends to burn out. Rather than love, right now I feel more obligated to Gwen than anything else.”

“Or maybe it’s just you being a typical man?” Alicia asked.

“What do you mean?” Kayombo asked.

“You loved the girl when she belonged to someone else but now that she is available, somehow she’s lost all that attraction that seemed to make her glow before.”

Kayombo laughed. “It’s not like that.” He said. “And it was never like that. I didn’t stop loving her just because she was available. You have to remember that I loved her even before Dr Chileshe came into the picture. The mistake I made obviously was not letting go of her after that. I thought I had a point to prove and from that point on it stopped being love.

“It was merely an obsession” he continued. “And also, a twisted idea of revenge, you know. I would look at the guy in the morning after sleeping with his girl, he would be looking all smug and confident like he always does and I would be there thinking…oh you have no idea what I did to your woman in the night. Somehow, I thought that would make my injured pride heal…but it was never the case.”

“But Kondwani knew about two of you isn’t it?” Alicia asked.

Kayombo laughed. “Imagine that.” He said, running his hand through his head in what appeared to be shame or embarrassment. “I mean, what sort of man knows about his fiancé’s indiscretions but acts like it’s not a big deal? That made me feel even worse, sick to say the least. I found myself asking; who really is the fool in all of this? But of course it was already too late when I found out the answer; I realized I was in-love with you and Gwen was pregnant with my child.”

For about three minutes or so, silence filled the air as each disappeared into their thoughts.

“So what are you going to do now?” Alicia later asked Kayombo.

“Right now am responsible for Gwen.” He answered. “I can’t leave Gwen’s side but, that doesn’t mean that am giving up on you.”

“Sam-“

“No, hear me out,” Kayombo put his hand over Alicia’s shoulder. “I understand you’re in-love with that guy and I respect that. But Alicia, you don’t know that guy well. You only met him a few months ago but I have known him longer than that. You have no idea-“

Alicia dropped her head in resignation and sighed loudly. “Sam,” she said as she lifted her head up to look at him. “I am truly grateful that you like me but-“

Kayombo put his other hand on her other shoulder. “Alicia,” He said in a very slow calm voice. “I am not playing the role of some jealous guy when I tell you to be careful of that guy. Don’t misunderstand me. You’re a very intelligent woman Licia, can’t you tell that that guy is keeping something from you?”

Alicia glared at him. “What do you mean keeping something from me?”

“Did he ever tell you why he kept following you around everywhere you went when you just joined the hospital?” Kayombo asked.

“Of course he did.” Alicia said.

“Huh?”

“Yeah, he told me why he followed me around. He does that with everyone that joins the hospital. You know him, he gets a little paranoid when it comes to protecting this place.”

Kayombo dropped his hands from her shoulders and stepped back from her, disappointed that the one thing he thought he could use against Kondwani could not work. “Anyway, I think I’ve already said too much,” He said, raising his arms in the air. “All am saying is that you should really ask Chileshe to tell you the real truth, which he obviously didn’t.”

“What do you mean the truth?” Alicia asked as Kondwani’s words rang loudly in her head:

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?

That was the question Kondwani had asked her. She could still feel the coldness running though her veins as she processed the meaning of those words upon hearing them. She had looked him in the eye and she had seen the sincerity and desperation that lay behind them.

“What is going on?” Alicia asked, not realizing she had said the words out loud.

“You should ask your boyfriend that.” Kayombo said.

“Ask me what?”

Alicia and Kayombo turned to find Kondwani standing there, his eyes ice cold and shooting daggers at Kayombo. Like a man desperate to mark his territory, he moved to stand beside a visibly disturbed Alicia and put his arm around her waist.

“You were saying?” Kondwani asked Kayombo smugly, daring him to say something to his face.

“I’m gonna leave the two of you here to talk,” Kayombo said and started backing away. “I have an errand to run before my shift resumes….”

“Yeah, I thought so.” Kondwani said and watched with a triumphant look on his face as Kayombo walked away. Once Kayombo disappeared through the door, Kondwani turned to Alicia; “What was that-“ He paused upon seeing the look on Alicia’s face. “What did I do?”

“How did you know I was here?” A very suspicious Alicia asked Kondwani, her gaze fixed squarely and unflinchingly on him.

“Alicia, what’s wrong?” Kondwani asked, her demeanour suddenly freaking him out.

“I asked how you knew to find me here?” She said.

“I heard,” Kondwani said. “But am wondering why you have that look in your eyes…like I did something wrong. What did that fool tell you?”

For a few seconds Alicia looked at Kondwani’s face searchingly, as if a look in his eyes would give her answers to the questions running wild in her head. However, Kondwani’s puzzled expression made her drop her head and drown her face in the palm of her hands.

“Babe,” Kondwani leaned towards her and got her to stand up straight. “What’s going on?” He made her fully face him but Alicia kept her gaze down. “Alicia? Why won’t you look at me?” he placed a hand under her chin and lifted her head up. “My God you’re crying! Alicia-“

“I just want to know what’s going on?” Alicia sobbed.

“What’s going on?” Kondwani asked. “Baby, talk to me.” He took her into her arms and waited for her to stop crying. “Can you tell me what’s going on?” Kondwani asked her once she had calmed down.

“I just want to know what’s going on?” Alicia finally said. “Like, what are you keeping from me?”

“What am I keeping from you?” Kondwani asked. “Is that what Kayombo told you, that am keeping something from you?”

“Not just Kayombo, you told me!” Alicia said. “I saw it in your eyes. My gosh, I saw it but I…I…I thought that I was just being paranoid, that if I just push it to the back of my head that it would eventually go away. But now…now am scared. What is so bad that you can’t talk to me about? What Kondwani?”

Kondwani sighed heavily. “My gosh Licia, so you spoke with the guy who knocked up my ex-fiancé for like what, five minutes and he has somehow managed to convince you that am the devil? Is that how little you trust me my love?”

“It’s not that Kondwani,” Alicia said. “I just can’t shake this feeling that there’s something going on that am not aware of and that it’s gonna hurt me. For some reason am so scared it’s freaking me out. Samuel asked me if I knew that you had been following me around and when I told him yes he said I should ask you to tell me the truth. What truth is he talking about?”

“Samuel told you that?” Kondwani asked.

Alicia nodded.

“Why would he tell you something like that?” Kondwani snapped. “I understand that guy’s inferiority complex when it comes to me but this, this is way over the line. I’m going to have a chat with him. I won’t have him interfere in this relationship too. This needs to end, now.” Kondwani said and quickly ran after Kayombo.

“Kondwani!” Alicia tried to run after him but by the time it took her to pass through the paediatrician’s office to the passageway, Kondwani had already disappeared.

Alicia stopped a woman that looked like a parent to a patient coming from the other direction. “Excuse me Ma’am,” she said to the smiling woman. “Did you see a tall light-skinned doctor in a blue shirt pass anywhere here?”

“You mean the good looking one?” The woman who appeared to be in the mid-forties asked, her smile never leaving her face.

“Yes.” Alicia answered. “Which direction did he go?”

“That way,” the woman pointed behind her.

“Thank you ma’am!” Alicia said and ran off. She was about to take a turn leading up the stairs at the end of the passageway when something she spotted in passing through the window made her take a few steps back and look outside. From where she was standing, she had a clear view of the leading doctor’s special designated parking lot.

Alicia saw Kondwani grab Kayombo by the collar and drag him inside the parking lot where he pushed him against a pillar, obviously to keep the confrontation from prying eyes lest anyone was watching them.

To quickly get to that parking lot, Alicia would need a special access card that only lead doctors in the hospital had and since she was just a nursing intern, access to that parking lot was the least of her concerns. She ran back where she had come from, got onto the elevator and appeared seconds later in the lobby. She ran to the reception desk and almost collapsed on top of it as she leaned in to ask a favour from the receptionist.

“Ah, you have no idea how happy I am to see you here Lisa.” Alicia panted the words out.

“Alicia,” the twenty-four year old reception was looking at her with great concern. “Is everything okay?” Of the four receptionists that served at the front desk, Lisa was the only one Alicia was close to.

“No, everything is not okay.” Alicia said. “I need a favour Lisa, please.”

“What do you need?”

“Access to the specialists’ car park, Kon…I mean, Dr Chileshe is there and I desperately need to talk to him before he leaves.”

“You know I can’t give you access Alicia.” The twenty-four old said. “Not even first year residents are allowed there what more you? Have you tried calling him?”

“His phone is off.” Alicia lied. “You don’t understand, something happened and…and, he is talking with Dr Kayombo and-“

“Oh my,” Lisa gasped, shaking her head slowly. “That can’t be good.” It was common knowledge what had happened between the two doctors and Gwen and it was also not a secret that Doctor Kayombo liked Alicia too.

Lisa opened a drawer and took out a pass. “You have to tell your boyfriend to talk to my supervisor because I will lose my job Alicia.” She pointed to the surveillance camera right on top of them.

“I promise Lisa, thanks!” Alicia said and ran off.
“It’s only a matter of time before she catches the connection and starts digging, and it will not be by my doing.” Alicia heard Kayombo tell Kondwani.

She was about ready to make her presence known when something told her not to interrupt them, curiosity getting the better of her.

“It is clear that you know nothing about what happened and your jealousy is driving you to come up with wild speculations.” Kondwani fired back. “You wanted Gwen and now you have her. What more do you want?”

“I think you forget that I am closely related to this case just like you and Nicolas’ family. He was my best friend.” Kayombo said.

Kondwani scoffed. “So is that why you’re in-love with your late bestfriend’s woman? Is that what they call loyalty nowadays?”

“At least I am better than a man who might have something to do with his death daring to love that man’s woman.”

Alicia wheezed and had to bring her hand over her mouth to keep from being discovered.

It appeared Kayombo’s words hit a cord in Kondwani because he started searching the place around them with his eyes. “Watch yourself Kayombo.” Kondwani roared. “Accusations like that can get you in trouble. You might have gotten away with nailing my ex but I won’t let you get away with interfering in my relationship with Alicia.”

“How long do you think you can hide the truth from her?” Kayombo asked.

“I have told you already, that accident has nothing to do with me!”

“Maybe not you, but what about your mother?” Kayombo asked. “You see, I got very curious when I saw you loitering around Alicia and for the first time I could see fear and desperation in your eyes. I asked myself; what is a guy like that doing hiding in the shadows and following an intern around like that?

“It couldn’t be that you liked her and you were obsessively stalking her, no. You are the kind of man who can have any woman he desires without struggle. You don’t even have to put any effort, they always fall right at your feet…even Alicia was no exception. So why did you do that?”

“Because Alicia is different, it’s that simple.” Kondwani said.

“I did some further digging and I discovered the connection between your family and Nicolas’. You really made things easy when you hired some fancy lawyer to get her back her child. Back then I don’t even think you were aware of your feelings for her so it didn’t make sense why you would go all out to do that for her.

“So I looked around and thanks to very talkative domestic workers, I discovered that your lovely mother was working for the family that owned the vehicle that had was involved in that accident with Nicolas.”

Alicia’s eyeballs where about ready to fall from their sockets.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but-“

There was a smirk on Kayombo’s face and he watched the flustered look on Kondwani. It was clear he had hit a nerve and if he just kept hitting, he was sure to get to the root of it all. He didn’t have all the information he could use to pin Kondwani to the wall but he could from the fear in his eyes that there was something there worth digging.

“But I think you do,” Kayombo stated. “We are both medical professionals, you know very well what happens to our bodies when we are flustered or telling a lie. The question is; what’s making you nervous Doctor Chileshe?”

“I have no more time to waste with you.” Kondwani turned to leave but was forced to stop by what Kayombo said next;

“Nick’s mother received a huge sum of money from the Mulakos, your mother’s former boss. Right after that accident, your mother was fired, question is, why?”

Kondwani quickly turned and went for Kayombo’s neck. “You can say whatever you want about me but keep my mother out of this! You hear me!” He thundered down Kayombo’s face.

Seeing Kondwani’s reaction after everything she had just heard, Alicia could barely breathe from trying to stifle her cries and contain the shock. Her mind was going wild that when the pressure became too overwhelming for her, she forgot to breath and down she went.

Kondwani and Kayombo both heard the thud from her fall at the same time and turned in her direction.

“Holy shit!” Kondwani cussed and pushed Kayombo to the side before running after Alicia who had fallen just a few feet away from them.

“Dear Lord, what did I just do?” Asked Kayombo who was down on the ground from Kondwani’s push.

“Alicia!” Kondwani’s thunderous voice echoed through the entire parking lot, every step he took towards her echoing the end of life as he knew it.

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.

An Untimely Love – Part 2

(This insert is exactly as it appeared on [mytrendingstories.com] a few weeks ago)

When Sunday morning came, Alex woke up earlier than usual and went straight to Anton’s room to wake him up. He was not there. She looked for him in every room of the house but he was nowhere to be seen. She tried his cell phone numerous times but it kept giving her the same feedback; voicemail.

This was the first time Anton had spent a whole night out without letting her know where he was and what was keeping him busy. The latest Anton ever came home was 3 in the morning and even then, he always called to let her know he was safe. Between them, there were no secrets. If one of them was missing, their close friends simply had to ask the other and he or she would know exactly where the best friend was. Anton and Alex were more like siblings instead of best friends.

Unfortunately, that Sunday morning, Alex had absolutely no idea where her best friend and housemate was. Growing deeply concerned and worried, Alex decided to call one of their close friends she knew for a fact had been hanging out with Anton in the night.

“Hi George!” She breathed a long sigh of relief when her call went through. “Are you with Tony?” She asked.

“No, that fella ditched us last night with this new chik he’s been obsessing over lately.”

Alex remember the conversation she had had with Anton the other day.

“Her name should be Cathy or something.” George said.

“I see,” Alex said, her heart suddenly feeling heavy.

She just had to be a Cathy. Alex thought. Why couldn’t she be a Jordan or Bianca? Why Cathy?

For some reason, Alex never liked the name Cathy. “Thanks George.” She said. “I’m sure he is perfectly fine and enjoying himself wherever he is.”

“I bet he is!” George remarked.

“Thanks.” She ended the call.

Alex paused by the bathroom door for a moment to think. Had Anton been serious when he said something was different about this girl this time? Despite the long trail of girls he dated in the past, this was the first time he had stayed out all night and to make matters worse, he had not bothered to inform her. Had he forgotten about his dad’s birthday already?

Alex shook her head profusely, as if the very act could wipe away her thoughts. “Ah, what do I care?” She said and went into the bathroom. The bath tab was the first thing that came into view when she entered her bathroom but instead of going there, rolled out the curtain to fully hide away the tab.

Looking extremely absent minded, Alex walked to the other end of the room, stepped into the shower and slowly turned on the water, leaving it running at a very low pressure. It would take her more than an hour to finish showering under that kind of low water pressure. Still, her mind appeared not to be in the same room as she made no move to either stand below the shower or increase the pressure. Instead, she was leaning her back against the wall, one hand stretch out towards the warm running water, falling first onto the palm of her hand and then down to the floor.

Since Anton was not around to give her a ride to his dad’s place, Alex got the keys to her & series BMW that Oliver had gotten her when she graduated high school and made it to one of the best universities in the world with flying colours. Alex had been very reluctant to accept the luxurious car not only because of its value, but because she could not afford to maintain it in the long run. But Oliver was not the kind of man to take no for an answer. He offered to take care of whatever bills came with owning such a vehicle and when Alex still proved more difficult, he threatened to withdraw their allowances…something that Anton vehemently refused to accept and in the end Alex became a proud owner of a BMW.

Much to Oliver’s dismay, despite promising to be responsible for the car’s maintenance as well as gas, Alex had bought a car cover, parked the vehicle behind the house, dressed it into the cover and leave it untouched for months on end. She could count on one finger the number of times she had driven the car, and most of those times where emergencies, such as, when she needed to go somewhere far where her bicycle could not take her and Anton was not around to drive her.

Alex put everything she needed to use to prepare Oliver’s birthday meal into two baskets and she carried them outside to where her car was parked. She set the baskets filled with food and other cooking supplies on the ground and went to remove the dusty cover from over her car.

The car appeared as good as brand new.

She carried the baskets and put them in the back seat and she drove to Oliver’s house which was a two hour drive from home. Oliver preferred living in the outskirts, away from the commotion in the city and safe from crazy fans who could not tell the difference between love and obsession. Despite his profession, Anton had reached an age where stability and privacy meant more to him than fame ever did. He just wanted some peace and quiet.

Even though Oliver had retired from acting, he was the head of one of the largest entertainment and film studio companies that housed hundreds of actors and singers. At the age of  forty, Oliver was not famous for his old acting and singing career, instead, he had stretched his hand into the business world of entertainment and real estate. In the entertainment world, he excelled as an award winning producer and director, and in the real estate world, he was revered for his good investment eye that had earned him and some of his close friends billions of money.

The house was quite as usual and Alex was careful not to make a lot of noise in the kitchen since Bernard the butler had informed her Mr Cooper was still sleeping.

It’s not like he would even hear me from three floors up even if I played music on full blast. Alex laughed to herself as she went about her business in the kitchen.  The house was just too big for one man. Alex could imagine the kind of loneliness Mr Cooper felt with no wife or children running around.

The fully furnished but empty rooms where a constant reminder of the things he had lost and the things he had only dreamt about. Any other person would have probably moved to a much smaller house by now, but Oliver wanted to stay in the house he had designed together with his wife. In that house, they had planned to have as many children as possible and even after twelve years, Sophia’s laughter still echoed through the walls.

Rather than noise, it was the aroma that awakened Oliver from his sleep. Slightly dazed and confused, not sure whether he was dreaming or not, Oliver slowly got out of bed and followed the direction of the aroma.

It was a very familiar aroma.

Each step he took got him closer and closer to the source of the seductive flavours.  How long had it been since Sophia had cooked his favourite meal? If this was a dream, he didn’t want to wake up. Like a mad man, Oliver rushed down the stairs, sometimes taking two steps at a time.

His breath caught in his chest, his eyes anxious to behold the surreal moment. Finally at the door of the kitchen, Oliver found he was unable to move any further, his hand caught onto the door handle but still unable to push it open. Transfixed on the door, his heart started racing. The sound of his racing heart echoed through his head and made it hard for him to think properly.

Is this a dream? Oliver asked himself.

Slowly, he started pushing the door forward. The first thing that caught his eyes was the long silky red hair cascading down her back. It was a thick familiar mane whose feel he remembered even in his sleep. How many times had he run his hand through it?

Like a man possessed, Oliver’s thoughts propelled him forward, slowly and carefully, as if any sound he made would make the apparition before him disappear. Even if it killed it, he was not going to close his eyes, not even for a second. This image before him, whether dream or not, he was never going to let it go.

As he got closer, Oliver realized she was humming. It was a very familiar tune. How many times had he stood by the kitchen door and watched her hum her way through her cooking? It seemed even death could not defeat the beauty that she was.

A few inches away from her, he stopped. The fresh bolt of her shampoo went straight into his nostrils and triggered memories he thought he had forgotten. Despite the years she still looked the same from her back. Her legs were one of the things he had loved about her. How often had he teased her about their length and how they seemed to go on forever?

Except, Oliver rubbed his eyes with his fingers. Something seemed off.

Instead of two stick thin legs, he was looking at a fully figured woman. Unlike the Sophia he knew that struggled with anorexia for years, this Sophia in his dream appeared completely healed from it.

You finally did it my love. Oliver said proudly in his head. He liked this version of her, he admitted to himself as a mischievous grin appeared on his face.

From her legs, his eyes instinctively moved up to her waist. Indeed dreams came true in heaven. Oliver thought.  His wife had finally succeeded in attaining her ideal weight. How pleasing it was to his heart that she no longer had to worry about being underweight. Unable to control himself any longer, Oliver covered the space between them and stopped right behind her. It was as if something was pulling him forward and before he knew it, he was hugging her from behind. “Sophia-” he whispered into her ear, his scooped a handful of her hair and buried his face in it.

Alex froze, cooking stick in hand and her face hanging above the pot. She had just been about to scoop a spoonful from the pot to state how the beef stew was coming up when she heard Mr Cooper’s voice. Before she knew it, he was holding her by the waist with one hand while the other hand went in her hair.

She wasn’t sure what to do. Should she scream, kick, or run? Did Mr Cooper have a sleep walking habit? She remembered Anton once laughing at him for his sleeping habits but Alex had never bothered to find out what those habits were exactly.

Could it have been sleepwalking? Alex wondered.

Clearly, the man was sleepwalking, for why else would he be addressing her as his dead wife…and what the hell was he doing touching her like that?

Oliver’s gentle kiss on the nape of her neck was enough to jolt Alex into a decision. She quickly and forcefully turned around to face him.

“Mr C!” She said a little louder.

Finally, Oliver was awakened to reality.

“Alex,” he said, looking at her quizzically. “What are you doing here? Oh,” he took  step back from her, and then another one, and another one. There was horror written all over his face. “What have I done?” He slightly lifted his hand and turned his palm up, his eyes closely examining it in horror.

“I am so sorry,” Alex quickly apologized. She realized she was the one at fought for coming over to his house unannounced. “I shouldn’t have barged into your house without informing you…it’s just that, I wanted to surprise you….”

“What are you doing here this early in the morning?” he asked, checking the clock on the wall behind her.

“I told you on Thursday that I would be coming in the morning…have you forgotten? Was making some pre-birthday breakfast…”

Oliver remembered the conversation from their house. “Oh yeah,” he scratched his head. “I remember now…but isn’t this a little too early? What exactly are you-“ he turned his eyes towards the table that was filled with both cooked and uncooked food, and then he fixed his gaze on the stove where two pots were cooking.

“You did all that?” Oliver asked. What time did you get here?” He asked. “And where’s Anton?”

Alex could smell her beef stew starting to burn. “Can I…” she looked at him pleadingly and pointed to the stove.

“Sure, of course, go ahead,” Oliver said, still not sure about what exactly was happening. He was still going over what had just happened and what thoughts were going through his head as he did so.

Alex turned off the stove and turned back around. “Done!” She announced her arms up in the air. She was already back to her usual self in just a split second. It was as if the past three minutes had never transpired. Oliver didn’t know whether to be grateful or apologetic.  Either way, he had just committed a very grave sin.

“Alex…about what-”

“It never happened,” Alex brushed her hand in the air dismissively. “You don’t need to explain anything. When I was a kid, your wife did tell me several times that I looked exactly like her when she was young. Isn’t that the reason why she allowed me to be friends with her son in the first place?

“I don’t blame you for getting confused just now.” She added nonchalantly. “Anton also said I look just like her from behind.” Then she chuckled. “He says I’m beautiful from behind and handsome in the front. Your son is cruel Mr C.” She laughed.

“Now are you just going to just keep standing there or will you help me move this to the table?” Alex pointed at the plates and pots that were all over the table.

She moved away from the stove to the table. “Let’s move only that side over there.” She pointed to the plates at the far end of the table. She lifted the biggest serving bowl and put it in his hands.

“I’m going to carry these small ones.” She said and carried the two small bowls remaining.

“Where’s Bernard?” Oliver asked after the butler while following Alex into the small dining room right next to the kitchen.

“Since there’s no space on that table,” she pointed to the kitchen table where they had taken the food from. “We are going to eat from here today.”

Oliver laid the bowl on the table and dropped himself into one of the chairs. “How come I don’t see Bernard or Anton around?”

“Anton is over at George’s house, passed out,” Alex lied. “He is not a morning person. I bet he will come here at 1 in the afternoon.” She used to be a bad liar growing up, but after spending years being Anton’s friend, Alex had picked up a few bad tricks along the way.

“I asked Mr Ben to get me some something at the store.”

“So it’s just the two of us eating all this food?” A visibly perturbed Oliver asked.

“For now yes….you, me, and the Butler.” Alex answered. “The rest of the food is for later. And there’s still more to be made so be warned!”

“Are you trying to feed a nation or what?” Oliver asked. “I didn’t even know I had anything in this house to cook. Thanks to the chef, I always find food already prepared. I never ask where it comes from.”

“I came with everything I prepared,” Alex said. “I didn’t peg you for a cooking person so I couldn’t take the risk. Besides, I like making up my own recipes so I prefer buying the ingredients myself.”

She went back into the kitchen to get some plates. She appeared after a few minutes, placed the three plates and matching cutlery on the table and stood up straight.

“And now for the finale, wine!” She announced, her hands in the air.

Alex ran back to the fridge and come back with a bottle of Chardonnay. “When I was a kid, I heard someone on TV say that this is one of the best wines in the world and I have never forgotten the name.” She held up the bottle for Oliver to see.

“I always told myself that when I become rich, I am going to stock my wine cellar with 100’s of these…and do you want to know something funny?”

“What?” Oliver asked.

“This is the first bottle I ever bought and today will be the first time I get to taste it!” She announced.

“Are you kidding me?” Oliver asked, not believing his ears. “How did you even afford all this Alex?”

Alex rolled her eyes and sat down. “That’s the problem with rich folks,” she said. “You always give Tony and I allowances. Before I even get a chance to finish the first one, there’s more in the account!” She placed the bottle down and was about to start serving when a thought crossed her mind.

“What’s taking Ben so long?” She asked, turning towards the door to check for any signs of him.

“I’m here Ms Alex.” The butler showed up right on time.

“You found the –“

“Yes Ms, in the kitchen.” He answered before she could even finish her sentence.

“Come, sit down.” She pulled out a chair for him.

“I am afraid I can’t do that,” the fifty year old butler declined.

Alex scoffed. “We are about to have that hundred year old argument again.”

“Just for today, forget about your position and join us Ben,” Oliver urged. “This is my pre-birthday breakfast…so let’s just say that everything happening today is special. Take a seat. It’s an order.”

Reluctantly, the butler sat down and immediately went at the plates.

“You are such a bummer Ben,” Alex teased the man, pushing his hands away. “No one is serving anyone here,” She said. “We are just going to pick whatever we want and then stuff ourselves until we can’t get up from our chairs.”

“You are not serious are you?” Oliver looked worried; he took another look at all the food laid out on the table and shook his head in dismay.

“Watch me,” Alex picked a plate and stuffed it with all kinds of food. “Ah,” she suddenly stopped, “I forgot about pictures.” She ran into the kitchen and came back with a Kodak camera in hand.

“I want Anton to be so jealous when he sees them!” Alex said before taking shots of everything on the table.

She took pictures of the food, of Oliver as well as Ben before handing the latter the camera to take pictures of her and Oliver. “Wait first,” she told Ben as she moved to stand next to Oliver. “Okay, now,” she said after putting one hand across his shoulder while raising the other hand to the side with two fingers raised up. “Say cheers,” she told Oliver whilst smiling at the camera.

Oliver looked to the camera and smiled. Alex kept changing the pauses while Ben flashed away. “Act like you are having fun Mr C.,” Alex urged the reluctant widower. She goofed around and made faces behind him while Ben continued taking shots.

Seeing Ben’s reaction, Oliver got concerned and asked, “Why is Ben trying hard not to laugh and what the hell are you doing behind my back?” He tried to turn around to check but Alex put her hands on either side of his cheeks and forced him to look at the camera.

Ben took a shot right then.

While she still had a chance, Alex towered over the sitting Oliver and with her hands moving from side to side, she winked at the camera and Ben took another shot as quickly as possible while she held Oliver’s cheeks from the sides to mimic a smile.

The ultimate result was one of an utterly shocked Oliver with his cheeks pulled from the sides while Alex enjoyed a hearty laugh.

“I think we are done now.” A very satisfied and smiling Alex dusted her hands off and went back to sit by the table.

“Do you treat all men the way you treat Anton and me?” Oliver asked Alex in the midst of their meal.

“What do you mean?” A clueless Alex asked.

“It’s just that….” Oliver searched for the right words to say. “Sometimes I think that you forget we are men.”

Alex laughed, “That fool told me the same thing this morning,” she said. “You guys are closer to me than my own family. You are like the father I wish I had and Anton is like…you know, well….”

Oliver laughed. “Not like a brother?” he suggested.

Alex turned red on the face.

Alex had never been treated like family by any of the people she had expected to treat her as such. Therefore, she treated everyone she was close to and all those she came to consider as family the way she wished her adoptive family would have at least treated her. She didn’t know the right formula to use to show affection. She simply followed her feelings. That is what Mrs Davies the book store owner had taught her.

“If you may excuse me,” Bernard was up on his feet, his empty plate in his hands. “I must get back to work right now. Thank you very much for the meal Sir and Ms Alex.”

“Don’t thank me,” Oliver said. “I had nothing to do with everything that happened on this table or in that kitchen this morning. It was all Alex.”

“You are welcome Ben.” Alex said, amused by the man’s adherence to protocol.

Ben bowed his head slightly and left the room.

“How about telling that clueless boy how you feel?” Oliver suggested once they were alone.

Alex’s jaw dropped. “Is it that obvious?” She asked.

“That you like him more than just a brother or friend?” Oliver said. “Of course it’s obvious for someone as experienced as I.” He said proudly.

“Everyone thinks you are a very humble man Mr C but at times like this, I think you are not.”

Oliver laughed. “What are you afraid of?” He asked. “That he might not return your feelings?”

Suddenly, Alex lost her appetite and resolve to binge on everything she had laid out on the table. “I don’t need to tell him how I feel for me to know his feelings. I know without doubt what he feels about me. I’m like his sister…or, the coolest buddy he’s ever had. Anton would never look at me as a woman.”

“Maybe that’s cause you also treat him as such.” Oliver said. He too put his folk down. “I’ve seen the way the two of you interact. There’s nothing there that says you could be more than friends but because I know you, I am able to tell what’s going on.

“The thing with you Alex is that you wear your emotions on your sleeves. Only that my son is too daft to notice what’s happening right under his nose.”

“You know, sometimes I think that he knows but he avoids it because he doesn’t want to ruin our friendship.” Alex reasoned. “He knows how much the two of you mean to me and if we cross that line…when we confront this…whatever it is that I feel…when we confront it and he rejects me, things will never be the same between us.

“That’s why I have decided to never talk about it with him. I am just going to keep myself busy so that by the time we are graduating, I would have already gotten over my feelings. You guys mean everything to me. I won’t risk that by focusing on useless emotions.”

Oliver was watching her talk. He could tell how much of a brave face she was trying to put on. For a child that spent most of her time in his home than at her home, Oliver had come to know Alex like he would his own daughter. He could tell she was desperately fighting back her tears when she repeatedly kept biting her lower lip.

When Alex mentioned family, a huge part of Oliver finally understood why she preferred to keep her status quo with his son. Once on Anton’s thirteenth birthday, Oliver had found the poor child crying alone in the backyard. When he asked her why, she told him she was thinking about the first birthday she had celebrated in the home of the couple that had first adopted her.

Without her knowledge, Oliver had done a back ground check on her after Mrs Davis the store owner where he had first met Alex told him a bit about her tough background.

There had never been a father or mother figure in the girl’s life to teach her about life or to shield her from the bad things of the world. Everything she knew, she picked up from either reading books or watching people around her.

“I don’t know what to tell you Alex.” Oliver said. “I wish my son was not who he is right now when it comes to women. What’s worse even is the fact that he’s incapable of picking up clues or subtle hints from girls.

“Al his life he’s had girls chasing after him. He’s never had to go after anybody so he’s really the worst when it comes to knowing women. I would definitely die a happy man if the two of you married. You are the only person I know who manages to keep him grounded. He is a very hardworking boy, the only problem is; he’s easily distracted.”

“It’s only when you talk like this that I’m forced to accept that you are now in your forties.” Alex said. “You sound like an old man.” She laughed.

“I am an old man Alex! Only that my body refuses to accept the fact.”

“You sound like you are complaining…or is it that you are actually showing off?”

Oliver laughed. “You don’t miss anything Alex,” he admitted. “So are you planning on inviting a lot of people over for a surprise party or what?” he asked. “You know I hate such things right?”

“Yesterday I sat down and thought to myself; what can a forty something year old rich guy do on his birthday to celebrate growing a year older and look back on his past years fondly instead of feeling depressed about turning a year older?”

“And what was the answer?” Oliver asked, curious to hear the answer.

“I went shopping. That’s the answer.” Alex laughed at Oliver’s puzzled look. “We are going to cook nice food and go have lunch together with some kids at my former orphanage. After eating, there are a lot of other fun activities we can do. I promise you, it will be worth your while.”

“I would have never thought of that,” Oliver admitted. “You never cease to amaze me Alex….” Oliver looked at Alex. How fast they grow. He thought.

She was no longer a little girl. Since when did she turn into such a wise young lady? Had he not been paying attention? Granted, she still had that innocent look in her eyes and mannerism and despite being clever and as bright as a summer’s day, there was still some aspect of naivety about her. It was obvious she had her own ideas about the kind of world she wanted to belong to which sometimes was too far from reality…it was for that same reason he wanted to protect her, as he would his own child.

But when had she turned into a woman?
***

By the time Anton realised what day it was, it was 3 in the afternoon. He was forced awake by a naked Cathy in their hotel room.

“It’s 3pm,” she said while grabbing a towel from the floor and wrapping it around her chest. “Didn’t you say you had some family thingy to attend?”

Anton jolted up from his sleep. “What time did you say it was again?”

“It 30 minutes passed 3.” She replied.

“And you only woke me up now? Dear God.” He jumped out of bed and started picking up his clothes from the floor. “Alex is going to kill me, not to mention my father.”

“What’s this family event you have to attend to?” The twenty-three year old blonde didn’t seem to be in any kind of rush. She sat back on the bed and watched Anton walk about in panic, not lifting a finger to help him locate his clothes.

“It’s my father’s birthday tomorrow,” Anton replied whilst dressing. “And since people always have these parties planned out for him, the family uses the day before the actual day to celebrate with him.”

“So am I invited?” Cathy asked, an expectant smile playing on her face.

“I told you, it’s only family,” Anton replied without thinking.

“But you said this friend of yours Alex would be there…I am your girlfriend…or am I not?” She pulled a long face.

Anton moved to plant a kiss on her forehead as he pulled up his zipper. “Alex is like family. We’ve grown up together and I have never thought of her as anything other than family. You and I are still getting to know each other Cathy.” He tried to reason with her.

“After last time, I think we are way passed the getting to know each other stage don’t you think?” She countered.

Anton brushed her off. “You know what I mean.”

“But promise me you will introduce me to your father soon. Not as your girlfriend of course, just as a fan.”

“Yeah, I promise.” He said dismissively. He kissed her on the lips, grabbed his keys from the bedside table and off he went. “I will call you,” he shouted before disappearing.

Once she was alone, Cathy Russel went through all the pictures she had taken of herself with Anton, including the ones she had taken whilst he was sleeping. Smiling mischievously, she chose that very one and posted it.

Look at my boo sleeping so peacefully. She captioned it. Within seconds, the comments and likes started flooding in.

“Success!” Cathy kissed her phone in celebration and fell back onto the bed.

On his way to the hotel car park, Anton avoided incurring the wrath of Alex who had organized the whole thing by calling his father instead to find out where they were. Compared to his father, Alex had a tendency to both nag and scold him like a mother would. He could only imagine the amount of tongue lashing she had stored for him. Alex Saunders was not a woman to be messed with.

Besides, even if he called her instead of his father, she probably wouldn’t even tell him where they were out of anger. How many times had she reminded him about the birthday event?

“So you are alive,” his father said upon answering his call. And then he heard him whisper to Alex; “It’s Tony, he’s asking where we are; should I tell him?”

Anton’s jaw dropped, unable to fathom his father’s betrayal.

Oliver Cooper was a man revered and respected by many. He was also feared by most. Whether business or personal relationships, Oliver was a no-nonsense kind of man; neither too easy nor too difficult to approach but extremely careful about who he allowed into his inner circle.  Being a man of very few words, many people misunderstood him as being anti-social. The tabloids called him a perfectionist, a man hard to please, approach or befriend yet humble and highly talented.

However, whereas the rest of the world could never be sure about where they stood with his father, Anton had always been impressed by the kind of easy relationship he seemed to have with Alex. Even as a child, Alex had managed to steal his father’s heart without even trying. Now that he thought about it, apart from his mother, she was the only woman his father had ever trusted and embraced.

It was Alex that had introduced the pre-birthday celebrations four years after his mother’s demise. Despite her age, Alex was able to notice the depressing episodes that his father went into the days leading to his birthday or sometimes the very day before his birthday. At first, both Anton and his father were not aware that the requests she made were deliberate and a means to keep his mind from thinking about sad things. The first time she had suggested they go to the zoo because she had never been to one. The second time was a road trip and a picnic. It was during the fourth episode that Oliver Cooper confronted her with his suspicions.

Once the cat was out of the bag, they three of them decided to make Oliver’s re-birthday celebration activities official.

The nonstop notification coming through Anton’s phone from the time he turned it on made Anton feel like losing his mind. Did he miss that many calls while his phone was off? Probably Alex blowing off his phone in frustration, he concluded.

“That’s not up to me,” Anton heard Alex say. “Let him come if he wants I guess we should be lucky that he’s managed to find time for us.”

“We are at Alex’s former orphanage,” his father informed him. “Can you make it? It’s a two hour drive from the city.”

“I know how far it is dad, I’ve been there before.” He was trying to ignore Alex’s sarcasm but only ended up snapping at his father. ”Are you planning on being their the whole day?”

“I don’t know,” Oliver replied. “We are having so much fun I think we might even sleep here.” He said.

“What?” Anton spat.

Oliver laughed. “I’m kidding son.” He said. “Do you think you can make it?”

Anton could hear the screams of excitement from the kids in the background. Alex spent most of her allowance money and whatever money she got from her part time jobs to buy things for the playground and other toys for the kids. Anton also donated money and other things whenever he remembered to do so. The place had changed tremendously from the way it had been when Alex lived there.

“I’ll be there in two hours then,” Anton said and cut the line.

To avoid using separate cars when returning, Anton dropped off his car at his father’s place which was right along way leading to the orphanage. When he was done, he called for a cab to take him.

By the time Anton got to the orphanage, he found his father, Alex and the kids playing a game of paintballing or something of that sort that had escalated into something else.

Alex was laughing so freely, using Oliver as a shield to avoid the shots coming from the kids. Compared to him, her jumpsuit overalls still had some clean spots on it whilst his were completely covered in spots as a result of shielding her.

Watching them from a distance, Anton smiled to himself; anyone who didn’t know them would have thought they were a pair of lovers. In her usual Alex fashion, she was holding on to his father’s chest and sometimes would carelessly put her arms around him as she tried to shoot back at the kids. They were so wrapped up in the game that they did not notice behind them the mud they had earlier created from playing with water. Alex was the first to step in it and when she fell, she brought Oliver down with her. He landed right on top of her with their faces coming so close they looked like they were kissing from a different angle.

“I think I just broke my back,” Alex winced out the words.

“Of course you would if you had a 170lbs man on top of you any longer than this,” Anton said, extending his arm for his father to take.

“Thanks son,” Oliver grabbed his son’s hand and pulled himself up, then he helped Alex.

“Should I even ask what you’ve been up to?”  His father asked.

“I’m sorry dad-“

“Its fine son,” Oliver put his hand over his son’s shoulder. “I was your age once too. But next time try to put other people’s feelings into consideration as well,” he said, looking at Alex.

“I know,” Anton said resignedly, looking at Alex apologetically. “So what are you guys doing?”

Before they could give him an answer, Anton felt something hit him, again, and again except, unlike the force from the regular paintball, the shots where very light and soft. In typical Anton style, he prepped himself and went with the floor, picked up the paintball gun his father had dropped and went on attack.
It was dark when the Cooper’s and Alex decided to head back home. Anton was forced to sit in the back of his father’s Range Rover since he was the only one not wearing protective gear during paintballing. There was no way his father was going to let him spoil his front seat like that.

“I had a lot of fun today thanks to you Alex,” Oliver said as he drove them back. “…. And thank you son, for showing up.” He added.

It seemed Alex was hell burnt on ignoring Anton. She had not said a word to him from the time he joined them.

“I think we should make coming to the orphanage one of my birthday rituals.” Oliver kept trying to make conversation. The long moments of silence were driving him crazy. He was used to being in the company of a chirpier and non-stop talking Alex. “I haven’t had such a great time in a long time. I think am gonna live to 180 after today.” He laughed, hoping the others would join in.

They didn’t.

Oliver finally gave up and turned on the radio.

heir to the multi-billion dollar Cooper empire can be parting it up, binge drinking, and sleeping next to his latest catch without worrying about anything. A female presenter was saying.

Alex and Oliver turned to look at Anton who appeared as shocked as they were.

The playboy heir really has an eye for good looking women. A male co-presenter chipped in. Did you check out her pictures?

Oliver hit the emergency break, almost sent Alex flying through the windscreen if not for the seatbelt. He parked to the side of the road.

“I really don’t care much about the girls he’s bedding. The female said. “Perhaps I’ll start caring when he meets a good girl who will help him turn away from his bad boy ways instead of these girls he’s constantly picking up from clubs.”

Anton got his phone from his pocket and went straight to check on his social media. Immediately, his worst fears were confirmed as he was greeted with an array of photos of him and Cathy in their bedroom splashed all over his news feed.

Alex too went online and found the exact images trending on her feed.

“Is that you enlisting yourself as that potential good girl Michelle?” Her colleague asked.

Michelle laughed. “Hell no! But, if he’s into older women…am all game! Although…I think am more his dad’s type than anything. Mr Oliver Cooper, if you are listening, call me.”

Both presenters laughed.

“For those just tuning in,” the male presenter said. Michelle and I are discussing the racy photos posted by playboy heir Anton Cooper’s new squeeze which have sent the internet…mostly his female fandom buzzing in jealous rage.”

Michelle picked up from her colleague. “With just a few hours to his father’s birthday, could this be his stamp of rebellion…or perhaps his version of a birthday present? I should hope not. What do you think Cook?” She chuckled.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the twenty-four year old has been caught with his pants down.” Cook answered. “The only question remaining now is; how long will this one last? You’re listening to Michelle and DJ Cook on-“

Oliver turned it off and faced his son.

“Seriously?” Oliver said, not hiding his disappointment.

Anton was just as shocked as his father by the reports. “These guys are just exaggerating things.” He said. “It must be a slow news day today. You know how-“

“You don’t think your social life is newsworthy enough?” Oliver asked sarcastically. “And where did you find this girl who posted the pictures? How many times have I warned you to be careful of the women you pick?”

Anton was still stunned. How did this happen? When did Cathy take all those pictures and why would she post them without asking him?

“She is not like that dad,” He tried to defend her.

“She is not like what?” his father asked.

“I am sure she had no idea the pictures would cause such a media frenzy.” Anton argued.

Oliver scoffed. “Are you just playing dumb or are you trying to make fun of me?”

“She comes from a very respectable family and she just made a mistake,” Anton retorted. “Besides, it’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened. The media is just having a slow news day and they are using me to increase ratings and sell their tabloids.”

“The fact that you know that very well makes me even more disappointed. Do you have any-”

Alex surprised Oliver by putting her hand on his knee and squeezing slightly. He was stunned into silence. Wasn’t that exactly how Sophia put him in check in public? Alex quickly dropped her hand when she saw Oliver glaring at it. She could tell just how mad he was and could only imagine the direction the conversation was going to take if they both continued at that pace.

“It’s getting pretty late,” she said, looking outside. “How about we get home first and you guys can continue this conversation then?” She suggested.

Oliver got them back onto the road. “You should thank God that Alex is here otherwise I would have left you out there in the middle of nowhere.”

Alex did not doubt he would do that. But she also knew he would have regretted the moment his son stepped outside the vehicle. Both men were stubborn, but they were also softies at heart.

To drown out the awkwardness, Alex busied herself with the car stereo, finally settling for a John Legend CD.

You and I filled the air.