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 15

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

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

**** 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***   

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

*** 

An Untimely Love – Part 14


A text came from Alex just as Oliver was getting ready to knock off from work.

Sam has invited me to dinner. 

Should I go?

Oliver who was about ready to open his door paused, starring at his phone like a man frozen in time. This is exactly what Fantasia was talking about, he thought. what exactly was he supposed to do and what was the right thing to say in such a situation.
Oliver sighed heavily and replied; Have fun kiddo and take care of yourself.
And he switched off his phone. 
The tears that fell from Alex’s eyes came so fast it was as if they had been waiting for the disappointment to simply be confirmed.
“What was I expecting?” She said as she went about her room searching for something to wear. “Coward.” She kept repeating whilst sobbing, throwing clothes from the closet down on the floor.
“Bloody coward!!!” She finally broke apart and dropped onto the floor, clatching a bunch of clothes in her hands.

“You look stunning,” Sam complimented her when she opened the door for him. She was wearing a figure-hugging little shimmery black dress with white pearls around her neck and matching earrings. 
“Thank you,” Alex forced a smile and stepped aside to let him in. “Come in.”
Sam stepped closer, gave her a hug and planted a kiss on her forehead. With his arms still around her waist, he held her upper body slightly back and looked her in the eyes. “You look very beautiful Alex, but you also look like you just spent the last five hours crying.”
For a moment Alex had forgotten how attentive to detail Sam was. He somehow always knew when she was in a happy or bad mood and he always had the right words to say to comfort her. The sincerity and care in his eyes was the last thing Alex needed in that moment after spending the last thirty minutes fighting back the tears that just wouldn’t stop pouring. It was like they had a mind of their own. 
And naturally, Sam’s concern triggered them back on and they came streaming down.
Without saying a word, Sam held her tightly in his arms and held her like that until her sobs settled. 
“Even though I feel like showing you off to the world with the way you are looking right now, I think that tonight is a bad time for you to be out there.” Sam said after a while. “How about we kick our shoes off and I whip us something in the kitchen? I hope your fridge is stocked!” 
He gave her no time to respond but took her by the hand and led her to sit down on the couch. “Sit right there, or better yet put on some feel good music for us while I scan the house for any edibles.”
“But Sam-“
“No buts, just humor me this once okay?” His eyes were literally pleading with her to go with the flow. Everything he was doing was out of concern for her and yet it was so clear she was being unfair to him. He had a right to get upset and feel disappointed and yet it was her feelings he put ahead of his. 
Alex nodded like an obedient child.
“Good girl!” Sam said enthusiastically, getting up and rushing to the kitchen. 
Alex remembered an interview Sam had years back where he revealed he was a big fan of Stevie Wonder and she went for his record.
“That’s what am talking about!” Sam’s head popped from the kitchen the moment the music filled the air.
Alex laughed and went to join him in the kitchen. 
“How did you know I would like that?” He asked.
“I told you, I am your number one fan,” She said. “Where did you find that?” She pointed to the black and blue apron he was wearing, looking right at home in her kitchen. 
“It’s not a very complicated kitchen you know,” he said. “Everything is packed in its place. If I didn’t know better I would think you have an OCD or something. Everything is a little too perfectly arranged.”
She laughed. “Maybe I am, is that a problem?” 
“As long as it’s not the type that makes you rush straight into the bathroom after we make love cause that would just-“ he stopped his sentence short, realizing he had ran miles from the shocked expression on her face. 
“My bad,” he quickly said. “I…I…it was a joke. A very bad joke. Dammit Samuel Daniels what’s wrong with you!?” he was hitting his head on the side.
Alex busted out laughing, forcing Sam to stop and stare at her in wonder. “You’re laughing.” He noted. “You are not kicking me out of the house…yet.”
“I am a clean freak quiet alright but I doubt it’s at an OCD level so you have nothing more to worry about.” Alex reassured him. 
“Oh thank God!” He said, laughing. 
“Anything I can help with?” She asked, moving to stand next to him by the sink where he was now washing some vegetables. “What are you making?”
“It’s a special Sam recipe. It looks like you have a stable supply of food in this house, something I was expecting from a workaholic student like you. Besides, you don’t look like you eat anything, at all.” He was scanning her slim frame from head to toe.
“It’s O-Paulina and Cassey who bought everything actually.” She avoided saying Oliver’s name. “How about I wash those while you check what’s on the stove?”
“No-“
“Am not taking no for an answer.” Alex quickly interjected him before he could finish what he was about to say. “I will be bored just watching you do everything. I need to keep myself busy.”
Sam immediately obliged her. She was right, she needed to keep her mind off whatever thoughts were running wild in her head. 

Doctor Russel slowly opened the door to his house a few minutes after midnight fully prepared to withstand the storm that awaited him on the other side of the door. As expected, he found both wife and daughter very much wide awake, well, maybe not both. Mathilda looked like she hadn’t gotten any sleep while Cathy looked like she had just been forced awake. There was a bunch of suitcases packed on the other side of the room. 
“What are you people still doing up this time?” He asked. He knew exactly what type of show they were putting on but he still chose to humour them.it was the least he could do after turning their perfect little world upside down. 
No verbal response came from Mathilda but her body language was enough to turn the few remaining black hairs in the professor’s head into grey.
“How could you do this to us dad?” Cathy added sound to her mother’s silent protest. “Do you have any idea how much humiliation I went through today?”
The professor quietly went to sit down, leaving as much distance between him and the wife as possible. 
“Aren’t you going to answer your daughter?” Mathilda finally spoke, turning her body fully around to face him.
“What are those bags about?” Benson asked, pointing to the suitcases in the corner and completely ignoring the questions being fired at him. 
Mathilda stood up. “I am leaving you and I am taking my daughter with me since you obviously want nothing to do with us. Maybe you and that Karla can finally have the happy family you’ve always wanted to have.”
He scoffed and stood up as well. “Just swallow some anti-depressants like you always do and go to bed, the both of you and stop putting on a show.” He said and started walking towards the stairs.
“Benson Russel!” His wife called out to him. “Don’t you dare walk away from me. Do you think this is a bluff?”
The doctor stopped and slowly turned back around. “As a matter of fact yes, I think this is all a bluff because if you really wanted to leave, you wouldn’t have waited up for me till this hour when you could have been half-way through to wherever you’re going in your heads. How much are you willing to bet that there’s actually nothing packed in those bags over there?”
Cathy’s jaw dropped in surprise. “How did you know dad?” She asked and was immediately awarded with a look of utter disappointment from her mother.
“You fool,” Mathilda said to her daughter.
“Did you actually think that you would lie to him mum?” Cathy defiantly asked her mother. “I told you this is a waste of time. I’m going to bed now. You guys sort this out yourselves.” And she dragged herself up the stairs. 
“When are you going to stop manipulating everything to your will Mathilda?” Benson asked. “If you want to leave, leave but you are not taking my daughter with you. There’s no way am going to let you turn her into something worse than she already is. that girl needs help urgently and if you searched your heart as a mother, you would support me instead of antagonizing me all the way.”
The father followed the daughter up the stairs leaving the wife standing alone in the middle of the living room, desperate tears rolling down her cheeks. Mathilda Russel had finally been cornered into a wall. 
“Alex Saunders or whatever they call you, you think you’ve won don’t you?” She said between clenched teeth and clenched fists.

On Saturday evening, Alex got off her bike to enter her apartment building after a long day at work when someone honked at her from behind. She turned in that direction to find a very familiar car parked not far from the entrance. She had just driven right passed it and had she been paying attention, she would have done everything to avoid the pending confrontation at all cost. 
Cathy opened her door and stepped out of the car, a bemused smile on her face as she walked towards Alex. 
“I heard one of your lovers got you a BMW so why in hell are you moving around on a donkey?” she kicked the bicycle with the tip of her four inch red stiletto.
“What do you want Cathy?” Alex asked, making no effort to hide her displeasure. 
“Get over yourself I am not the least bit interested in this meeting just as you are.” She retorted.
“Then what the hell are you doing here honking at me?” Alex asked.
“Since that coward friend of yours, wait, should I say step-son or lover boy?”
Alex turned her back and was ready to walk away.
“I am pregnant with his child.” Cathy loudly announced. Alex turned to find her rubbing her visibly flat belly.  “I also only found out yesterday. Am 2 months along. He won’t answer my calls and he hasn’t been at his place for a while now.”
“Could you be any more obvious Cathy?” Alex asked, not falling for the diaper news. “Say you’re pregnant and he won’t leave you. Isn’t that what all the desperate girls do to keep a man?”
“Say whatever you want but my pregnancy is arched in stone you wouldn’t rub it off even if you tried. Tony can do all the tests he wants the truth won’t change. I am pregnant and it is his child. Since I can’t deliver this news personally to him, I know that you will deliver it. Tell him I have zero intentions of getting rid of it and zero plans of raising the child alone, comprende?”
Cathy hopped back to her car, every part inch of her body exuding pride and victory. 
Alex waited for Cathy to disappear from sight before cycling to Duncan’s house where she knew Anton was hiding. 
She pressed the bell at the gate and waited for a few seconds before the gate came wide open.  This was the fifth time Alex was visiting the Schmidt residence. If she was to rank the homes of all her friends, the Schmidt’s residence came second after the Cooper’s in terms of size, class and elegance. Every time she rode her bike down the long drive way made her feel like she was Alice in Wonderland. Whereas Oliver Cooper’s home felt like home, Duncan’s home made her feel like she had just been granted access into a parallel universe and even though she was sincerely welcomed, she couldn’t help feeling like escaping any chance she got. The house was just too perfectly decorated like a five star hotel to feel like a home. Everything in it was deliberately placed and saved a specific purpose. 
But what could one expect of the number one home maker and interior décor expert in town? Alex wondered as she got off her bike and handed it over to Victor the resident valet. 
“Welcome Ms Alex.” Victor happily greeted her. It appeared he had finally come to terms with addressing her by her first name after months of negotiating even the prefix remained unchanged.
“Long time Victor, how have you been?” Alex returned the greeting. 
“Very fine thank you,” he answered. “The gentlemen are by the foyer on the East wing.” He said before disappearing. 
“It would have been shorter and quicker if I rode the bike there.” She said to herself and went round the house. 
“Alex?” Duncan jumped in his seat when Alex came through. Alex was like the younger version of his mother. He knew no other woman that would nag him into acting responsively every time he acted like a wild child. 
Anton who had been facing away from the entrance with his legs propped on the other chair quickly turned around the moment he heard Alex’s name. 
“Look at the two of you chilling out here like two old men enjoying their retirement.” Alex said as she joined them where they were seated. “I wonder what your mother would say if she received an anonymous call from someone informing her about her son’s absence from school for no apparent reason.” 
She made a move for her phone but both men were up on their feet ready to grab the phone from her. Duncan succeeded and quickly threw the phone at Anton who immediately secured it in the inside pocket of his coat. 
Alex was shaking her head slowly in disbelief. “Do you actually think that I wouldn’t reach down there to get it?” She asked Tony. 
In response, Anton slumped his head and shoulders in surrender.
“She’s right,” Duncan said in a defeated tone. “I don’t think there’s any place on my body this chick is afraid to touch, what more you?” He pointed at Anton. “You guys are worse than siblings.”
Alex laughed but Anton didn’t seem to catch the joke.
“Alex is far from being anything like a sister to me.” He said matter-of-factly. “Should I even ask how you knew I was here?” 
“I know the Schmidt’s are on vacation so what better place for you to hide out than their very high class home?” Alex said. “You are very predictable Anton, and I know you could never hide far from home no matter how bad things got.”
“See what I meant?” Duncan said.
“Shut up D!” Anton warned him.
“Fine,” Duncan raised his hands. “I’m going inside to get some more drinks. The usual for you Alex?”
“Yes Dee, thanks.” She said, making herself comfortable in her chair. “And take your time okay!” she shouted after him.
Duncan laughed. “I know exactly what that mean!” She shouted back. “Ten minutes okay?”
“Yeah!” Alex replied. 
“What is it?” Anton asked.
“What do you mean what is it?” She asked.
“I know you wouldn’t have come all the way here if you didn’t have something you urgently needed to talk to me about.”
Alex chuckled. “Your dad and I eloped.” She said.
“Please, tell me something that makes sense.” Anton said, completely unfazed by her fake news. “My dad would rather lose a leg than admit to you or to the world that he has feelings for you.”
So you know that about him? Alex thought.
“Look at you, your whole face has changed just at the mention of him. Do you like him that much?” Anton asked. “I don’t remember ever seeing you like that even though you claim to have loved me.”
“Claim?” Alex asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I just don’t get how your feelings could have shifted so fast from me to my dad. Before it could even sink in my head that you liked me more than a friend, you heart had already moved to my dad. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that.”
“Is that why you hate me so much these days?” 
“I never said I hate you. I’m just…bitter? or should I say, disappointed?”
“Why are you disappointed?”
“Because it’s my father Alex!” Anton said. “I get it he’s a cool guy and looks younger for his age. I know you are not the type to fall for money or anything vain like that but still, he’s old enough to be your dad Alex. In fact, he’s always acted like your father all these years. When did your feelings shift really? One minute he’s the father you never had and next minute he’s the man of your dreams.”
“I too don’t know when it all changed or started.” She said. “All I know is that he was always there for me whenever something was going on in my life, more than you ever were. I guess after seeing you change girls all these years and watching you pick Cathy over me forced me face what I somehow already knew but had been avoiding to confront.”
“So are you telling me I have no chance with you?” 
Alex kept her eyes lowered, afraid to look up at him and see the hurt that she could hear in his voice. This was the long awaited conversation between the two of them. it was about time that they confronted reality as it was rather than avoid it. 
Anton sat up straight in his chair and put his hands together. “hmm Alex?” He prompted her to answer. “Have you completely erased me from your heart?”
“Anton-“ Alex searched for the right words to say but couldn’t find the right ones. Instead, she changed the topic. “I didn’t come here to talk about my love life Tony.” She said. “I had the misfortune of receiving a visit from your girlfriend some good forty or so minutes ago.”
“I thought your issues with her and her family where done yesterday. Those guys are really sick.” He said.
“That’s not why she came to see me. her visit was about you. apparently you’ve been ignoring her calls for days now.”
“And she came to you so that you do what?”
“So that I deliver this special message: she is 2 months pregnant with your child and she says she has no intentions whatsoever of getting rid of the pregnancy.”
Anton laughed. “And you believe her shit?” He asked.
“I did. Sadly, I don’t think she’s lying Tony.”
“There’s no way she can be pregnant, we were always careful.”
“How careful were you exactly?”
“I made sure she was on her pill and…ooh-“He let the sentence hang, finally realizing his error in judgement. “That bitch. How could she-“
“How could she trap you you mean?” Alex asked sarcastically. “Don’t act like you didn’t know what you were dealing with. You knew what she was but you just couldn’t resist. That’s on you Tony so don’t think about blaming her for how things turned out. You thought you could have her in one way but avoid certain parts of her?” And she laughed. “Why are men so vain when it comes to women?”
“I see you are enjoying yourself taking a selfie in front of a burning house ah.” Anton said, his face heavy with emotion. 
“I’m just trying to help you face the facts.” She said. “You always have this tendency to blame someone if things don’t go your way. So what do you plan on doing now?”
“I guess I just have to wait for the baby to be born and take a test.” He said. 
“And if the child is really yours?”
“What?” Anton glared at her. “You don’t expect me to go all mushy and say I will do the right thing by her do you? C’mon Alex you know me better than that. I will raise my child of course but I want nothing to do with the mother, period. And if she thinks she can use the child to milk money out of me, she’s got another thing coming I can promise you that.” 
Alex sighed heavily and leaned her back against the chair, head pulled back and eyes staring up to the ceiling. “How did we end up here Tony?” 
“You mean me as a father and you as my potential step-mother?” He laughed.
“None of this is funny.” She said in a very sombre tone.
“I know.” Anton said, his tone matching hers. “Sometimes I sleep hoping to wake up and find it was all just a bad dream and now there’s news of a child. How the hell do I tell the old man he’s going to be a grandfather, and to a child am having with Cathy of all people? He’s gonna kill me or knock me off the inheritance.”
“You know he cant do that.” Alex said.
“He can’t yeah but he will make sure he frustrates me enough into believing he can just to teach me a lesson.” 
Alex laughed. “You are right about that one.” 
“And yourself,” he was looking squarely at her now. Alex sat up straight to face him.
“What about me?” She asked.
“What are you going to do about my dad? You know he’s never gonna admit he likes you right?”
“Are you asking because you truly want to know or is this a way of you rubbing reality in my face?”
“After seeing the look in your eyes today, I know for a fact that I don’t stand a chance with you. Also, a huge part of me sort of understand why you fell for my dad. I think I would fall for him as well if I were a girl.”
Alex laughed and he chuckled with her.
“I’m just telling it as it is.” Anton said. “He’s a cool guy I’ll give him that but I am also going to be honest with you Alex, I can’t stand the idea of you being my step-mother. I mean, it’s you Alex! But then again, when I think about it, I ask myself questions like; do I really want to see my father spend the rest of his life alone? 
“Or, would I rather see him with another woman other than you? When I think about all the women out there, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that you would make the best wife for him. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I guess it’s one I will have to swallow since I love the both of you and I want you both to be happy.”
In all the years she had known Anton, Alex had never imagined ever having such a mature conversation with him; a conversation in which he did not put just his feelings on the table, but he considered everyone else’s feelings as well. 
“Please, don’t start crying on me now.” Anton warned her upon seeing her teary eyes.
She laughed and forced back the tears. “I am just thinking…how I wish you had said these words a few weeks ago…and, how I wish it was possible to be that kind of woman to Oliver but I have to face the fact that he doesn’t love me as much as I wish he would because if he did, none of the fears he has would matter.”
“I don’t doubt he loves you Alex.” Anton said. “I have never seen anyone rattle his world as wild as you did from the moment you confessed to him. He hasn’t been the same since. He probably, in fact, not probably, he actually thinks not being with you is the ultimate way he could ever express his love for you.
“You have to keep in mind, he’s the older guy here and you are like what, 19 years younger than him! The guy is scared you are too young and hot for him. Even folks like him have their own insecurities. Yeah he might look young for his age but the fact still remains there’s 19 years between you.
“I know that if I were him I would be worrying about you suddenly waking up one day and realizing you didn’t love me like you thought you did. Maybe you mistook fatherly love for something more. What if some young bloke comes along and sweeps you off your feet? And knowing my dad, he’s probably thinking, what if I’m too old to give her the kind of life she deserves? He’s probably thinking he will burden you or something, I know that guy.”
Alex stared in awe at her best friend. What have they done to my Tony? She couldn’t help wondering. “Who are you?” She asked him.
He laughed. “Don’t look at me like that.” He said. “I might be a little immature but I know something about men, and am an expert at knowing my father. by the way is that Sam guy still hanging around you like a leech?”
“Tony!” 
“What?” He said. “I just plain don’t like the guy. He is exactly the type of guy that all men hate. He has everything that we know women dream about. I hate him.”
Alex laughed. “That’s true.” She said, a far off expression on her face. “Then I guess that means something is wrong with me right?”
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“He’s been nothing but kind, loving and caring to me but apart from feelings of gratitude, I feel nothing more for him. He is like the dream friend I always wanted but I know it’s selfish to keep him like that because he wants and expects more. 
“You have no idea how many times I have tried to will my heart into loving him back. I keep thinking, if I can channel all these feelings I have for Oliver to this wonderful man that adores and worships me, then maybe I can breathe a little easy.”
“Isn’t life a bitch?” Anton said. “It always finds a way of screwing us over, one way or another. I don’t get how given two people, one that loves us and one that doesn’t, why do we always fall for the one that doesn’t love us back?”
“I know right?” Was all Alex could say in return just as Duncan appeared with bottles of beer in hand. 

An Untimely Love – Part 13

“What have you done?” Oliver sternly whispered into his son’s ear in the middle of the crowd as he dragged him away by the collar.
Is it true you are in a relationship with Ms Saunders? Oliver heard one of the many questions being thrown from every possible direction. He couldn’t help noticing how the tone and phrasing of the questions had changed from the time the nutcase question had been addressed. She wasn’t just Alex now, she was Ms Saunders.
Is your foster daughter really in-love with you?
Are you and your son in-love with the same woman?
Who do you think Alex will pick between the both of you?
As the questions kept coming, Oliver fought a strong internal battle to not stop and address the foolish questions. Enough damage had already been done. The media team would professionally take care of the rest. 
“Let me go!” Anton freed himself from his father once they were safely inside the building. 
Oliver stopped walking and glared at his son. “What is wrong with you boy? When are you going to grow up?”
Anton stopped and raising his eyebrow at his father, he tilted his head to the side and ran his eyes over him, a disgruntled look on his face. “Just can’t pass up an opportunity to call me a child ah?” He said. He straightened his head and starred at his father squarely. “Well guess what dad, I am your child and will forever remain a child to you but that doesn’t disqualify me from loving the woman who’s meant to be mine.”
Oliver couldn’t believe his son’s audacity but rather than address his brattish behaviour, he was more curious about other important things. “What exactly did you say to those people?” He motioned to the crowd outside with his head. 
“I only told them the truth.” Anton smugly replied. 
“And what is that truth?” 
“They kept calling Alex all sorts of names.” Anton said. “They think she’s after three men when it’s the other way around.”
“And you telling them that she has feelings for me was supposed to save her character? Tell me son,” Oliver leaned forward, arms crossed over his broad chest. “How exactly did that help clear her name? Didn’t I tell you NOT to say anything to them?”
“I didn’t mean to tell them that. I just…I thought…I just….” Finally realizing the extent of his error, Anton sighed heavily and put his hand over his forehead in deep regret. “They just kept coming at me, they wouldn’t stop….I was going to just walk away dad, I swear, but, I let them get to me. I’m sorry.”
Oliver had not expected him to apologize so quickly. The Anton he knew was going to keep on the pompous act to the very end, never admitting he did anything wrong. He had managed to get away with that kind of behaviour all these years so he was likely going to get away with this one as well…since daddy always took care of the mess for him. But instead, he apologized, in record time.
Oliver wasn’t quite sure how to respond. He was more than ready to pump some sense into him but he had not calculated for this kind of development. There was only one reason he could think of that could have brought about this kind of change in his son; his love for Alex. 
Could things get any worse between the three of them? How did they even end up in such a situation? 
“I am sorry I opened my mouth and reacted prematurely out there.” Anton was still talking. “I realize now that I just made things a little more complicated for everyone…and, I had no right to reveal Alex’s feelings to the world like that.”
For once, Anton was thinking about someone else other than himself.
“Why are you looking at me like that dad?” Anton asked Oliver who had a look of surprise on his face. “You don’t believe me do you? You think I did that deliberately right?” 
“Tony-“
“No dad, that’s a little unfair.” Anton cut his father off. “I know that I’ve always been a brat and only cared about myself but that wasn’t the case when I said what I did. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way and I certainly didn’t think I was going to say anything until it was too late. What happened out there was just me being…you said it, childish and foolish. 
“I simply gave in to my anger and reacted, like I always do. It had absolutely nothing to do with spiting you. Even if I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t use Alex to do that to you. I love that girl dad, I really do…and I just messed up, not by intention, just a mistake, a foolish mistake.”
“I know,” Oliver said, this time around it was Anton who couldn’t believe his father’s receptive behaviour.
“You believe me?” Anton asked, not believing his father’s words.
“I do.” Oliver said and immediately hated himself for admitting it. “You go on up to Alex, I’ll head to the office and see to it that this whole mess is brought to an end immediately. Tell Alex that I will call her.” And before Anton could say anything in return, Oliver had turned and was already heading back. 

“What did you do?” It was the first question Anton was asked by Alex the moment Paulina opened the door and let him through.
“Alex I-“
“How could you?” Alex said, tears streaming down her cheeks. Both Paulina and Cassie quickly went to her side.
“I am so sorry Alex.” It was all he could say. His father was right to be upset with him, everyone was. It was a fact he had poured oil to an already burning bush. He had no more excuses for himself this time around.
“You always do this to me!” Alex cried. “You do things that you know you will have to be sorry for and it’s always me that suffers.” 
I didn’t mean to…what happened there was an accident Alex.” Anton tried to explain. “I didn’t plan to-“
“Of course you didn’t.” Alex said sarcastically. “Listen,” she slowly removed her friends arms from around her shoulders. “I don’t think I want to see you right now. I might just end up saying something I will regret. I want to be alone. I’m going to my room.”
Anton tried to go after her but Paulina threw him and it was enough to freeze him in step.  
“I think you should leave Tony.” Cassie said. “I’m sure she knows you didn’t mean any harm but she’s just going through a lot of stuff right now.”
“I am her best friend goddammit!” Anton cussed. “I know that girl better than anyone in this world so why can’t I be here for me? Yes, I messed up and I said I am sorry so why is everyone treating me like the enemy?”
“You dated the person who is behind the worst pain of her life Tony, have you forgotten?” Paulina reminded him. “You sacrificed your friendship with Alex, and with all of us just to be with her so how really do you expect us to treat you?”
“I admit it,” Anton raised his hands in the air. “I was foolish and I have no excuses and I am begging you guys to forgive me, please.” He looked from one girl to the other, eyes pleading for mercy.
Paulina and Cassie stared at each other in shock, as if to confirm they had heard the same thing. It was truly not like Anton to raise the white flag so quickly. He was normally shameless just as he was bold and confident. 
“Who are you?” Cassie asked, moving closer to Anton and examining his face thoroughly. “What have you done to Antony?”
Anton laughed. “It’s Anton you fool. How many times have I told you-“
“Yeah yeah yeah,” Cassie was shaking her head and waving her hands about. “It’s Anton, without the Y, we know.” She said, causing Paulina who was watching the two on the side to laugh as she recalled her first encounter with Anton. The girls had spent the next few months being reminded of the correct form of his name whenever they uttered it until they finally just settled for Tony which he found less offensive.  
“So am I forgiven?” Anton asked. 
“Maybe.” Paulina said, chuckling under her breath. 
Cassie turned to her friend. “How can we not forgive him when he’s being so humble?” She asked. “I don’t think there’ll ever be another day when Tony will apologize for something.”
“You guys, have I been that bad?” He asked.
“Yes!” Both girls answered at once.
“Wow,” he said, dropping his head slightly in shame and then raising it ahead. “I wonder how you guys managed to put up with me all this while.” 
“You’re rich.” Paulina said.
“What?” Anton asked. “For real?
Cassie and Paulina busted out laughing.
“It’s Alex,” Paulina quickly answered. “And when you are not trying to have your way you are a pretty awesome guy, awesome but dumb.”
“Dumb?” He asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Like how could you not have known all those years that Alex was in-love with you?”
“Oooh, you mean that?” Anton heaved a sigh of relief. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. I was pretty dumb…and now it’s almost too late. Looks like everything I do these days is rubbing her off the wrong way and all I want to do is show her how sorry I am and how much I love her.” 
“Are you sure it’s that kind of love you have for her or maybe you’re just scared you might lose your best friend if another takes her number one spot?” Cassie asked him. 
“No!” Anton answered a little too quickly. “Why would you even think that? Wait, is it so hard for everyone to believe that I am actually in-love with Alex?”
“Well Tony,” Paulina said. “We have all seen you in-love. It’s a very short experience and we don’t want you and Alex to lose your friendship over-“
“Then if you guys can think that I am doing all this just because I am afraid to lose our friendship then you must know very well just how much our friendship means to me so why would I want to risk it for some fear…insecurity or whatever you wanna call it? I love so much I am willing to fight my own father just to have her. Doesn’t that mean anything to you guys?”
“Well,”Paulina said. “When you put it like that it does sound quite convincing.”
“Thanks.” Anton said.
“You truly love her don’t you?” Asked Cassie who had been watching him closely, uncomfortably so the whole time.
Anton laughed. “She finally believes it.” He said. “Yes, I am in-love with Alex Saunders. Gosh, I just felt Goosebumps all over me saying that out loud. Anton Cooper is in-love with Alex Saunders.” He proudly kept repeating. 
“Lord, why now?” Lamented Alex who had been listening to the conversation from her bedroom door. 
Just then, her phone rang.
“Alex, I know am not supposed to do this, I mean to ask your opinion concerning this matter  but-“
“Did something happen, again?” Alex asked Oliver. 
“Oh no,” Oliver quickly replied. “Nothing like that, it’s just a small development…well, not sure if I can call it small or-“
“Okay you are freaking me out now. What’s wrong?” Alex asked.
“I received an email and then a call from the PR team,” Oliver explained. “It turns out Sam wants the company to release something to the press that explains his stance in all this and he called me just now to ask me to help him out without interference.”
“What’s in the letter?” She knew it couldn’t be an ordinary letter from his tone and hesitation and she was just as sure it was something she would not like…and he too was aware of that fact.
“He’s basically saying that the Alex he’s met in person and the one being portrayed by the media is different and any attempt to defend your character further would only mean there is something to defend in the first place when there’s nothing because the people that truly love you already know who you are. He also makes it very clear that he has been the one pursuing you and that you have not made any advances towards him. If anything, he adds, you’ve been avoiding him.”
“Well,” Alex was about to pass a comment but Oliver continued;
“Had I been thinking rationally, like a proper CEO should, I should have been the one to suggest that Sam release something like this to the press but I think am too closely involved to think rationally.”
“What are you saying Oliver?” Alex asked, not liking for a second the direction the conversation was going.
“I guess what I am saying is; can I go ahead and okay this release? I wanted your opinion before I could-“
“Before you could release it?” She finished for him. “Tell me something though, what would happen to that release if I said no? Would you tear it up?”
“Alex….”
“I thought so.” She said, reading the rest of his response from his tone and long pause. “You know very well what will happen once something like that gets out.” She argued. “Sam’s fans will be on me pressuring me to say yes to him and if I don’t I will continue being the public enemy that I am right now. And you know what’s worse, I will have no chance with you because you being you, you will say no Alex I can’t be fighting an employee of mine for your affections. First it’s your dear son so I know what excuse is coming next. You did it with Anton so what will stop you now? This is just a way for you to ensure nothing ever happens between us isn’t it?” 
“I think it’s something that works best for everyone Alex.” Oliver said.
“For everyone, really?” She said. “How does this work for you or for me?”
“For me, it’s a scandal averted from a professional point of view.”
“And from a personal point of view?” She asked.
Oliver did not respond. 
“I thought so.” Alex said sullenly and cut the line. 
Oliver threw the phone to the other side of the room in anger and it shuttered to pieces. Just then, a knock came through the door.
“Come in!” He said begrudgingly. The moment he saw Fantasia the head of PR he knew what the meeting was about.
The first thing that the thirty-three year old PR specialist noticed when she entered the office and stood by the door were the broken pieces of what once was a very expensive phone. He hesitated by the door, not sure whether it was safe to have that particular discussion she had in mind or not. When was the poor man going to realize what everyone else in the company already knew? She wondered. Was it so hard to follow your heart and be dammed with what everyone else thought? 
“What is it Fantasia?” Oliver forced her mind back in time.
“We can talk about this another time Sir if-“ she was thinking about every word that came out of her mouth as her eyes wondered around the expansive office. 
“You know very well there’s no more time to be wasted on this one so what is it?” Oliver spat and sat down. He motioned for her to sit and she did, her files pressed tight against her chest.
“I was wondering if you saw the email I sent you this morning.” Fantasia said.
“I just saw it.” He answered curtly. 
“I don’t mean to rush you Sir but-“
“I know.” Oliver said in the same tone, two fingers pressed hard on his forehead. “Is that really the best option we have?” He asked.
“Given the circumstances, yes; one solution to address all the pending issues circulating in the media. Everyone is covered and protected.”
“Yeah, everyone.” Oliver said under his breath, clearly not believing what he was hearing or what he was trying to convince himself of. 
“Sir?” Fantasia said hesitatingly.
Oliver raised his head to look at her. “What is it?” He knew that look on her face. He had seen it one too many times before.
“What if there was another way….”
“Another way?” He asked. “I thought you just said-“
“I know what I said but what if there was another way, not an easy one. It would require some sort of sacrifice…on your part mostly.” The PR guru said.
Oliver raised his eyebrow. “Sacrifice, on my part? What the hell are you cooking up in your head Asia?” 
She laughed, if he could still call her by her nickname, then she was definitely safe to voice her audacious suggestion. “How about just telling the media the truth?” She said.
Oliver hesitated, as if lost for interpretation before asking; “What truth?”
Fantasia swallowed hard before saying, “Your feelings sir.” She held her breath.
Oliver had sensed that’s exactly where the conversation was leading the moment he saw that look in her eyes. Over the years of them working closely together, Fantasia was one of the closest employees Oliver had and trusted. Their relationship was somewhat both personal and professional, never any form of pretence. He had hired her in the first place for her intellect in telling things as they were but with as much care as possible to not cause injury even when delivering the most hurtful of criticism. She had a way of turning any grim situation into one of hope with just a few lines of well phrased words or sentences and she knew exactly what Oliver was made of; his fears, strengths and weaknesses. 
“And how exactly is that supposed to help curb the current situation?” Oliver asked.
Fantasia smiled, glad that he didn’t waste any time trying to argue against facts. “Just think about it sir,” she said. “Your career right now does not depend on how your reputation with women or your relationships with them is. Those years are over and done with. You are not that kind of celebrity now, you are a business man. I know for a fact that your standing on the market will not be affected in any way just because you decide to tell the world that you are in-love with a young beautiful and intelligent woman.”
“Not if that woman is someone I helped raise as a daughter Asia.” Oliver said.
“Anyone that knows you will know you never did anything wrong with that girl Sir and frankly you don’t need to care about those that think otherwise. You are forty years old now and you are not growing any younger. Are you telling me you want to spend the remaining years of your life living in regret? The moment this release goes out there, there’s no taking it back. Is your pride really more important that securing your own happiness that you have to send Alex right into the arms of another man?” 
“It’s not as simple as you make it sound.” He said.
“How?” She asked. “That your son is involved as well?”
“Is there anything you don’t know in that head of yours woman?” 
Fantasia laughed. “It’s my job to know everything sir. Isn’t that why you love me?”
“I love you and hate you for that very fact.” He said.
She laughed again. “I know.” She said. “So just add on to the hate for today because you know very well there’s sense in what am telling you right now. So what if your son is in-love with her as well? Who doesn’t know about Tony’s misadventures? What woman in her normal mind would pick him over you…no disrespect sir, I know he is your son and you love him.” She quickly added in response to the look he was giving her.
“Justbecause the boy is a little immature does not mean he does not deserve to have a good woman by his side. Truth be told Alex is the best woman he could ever have. She is the only reason why he hasn’t completely fallen off the grid all these years. She keeps him sane and in check.”
“And what about her?” Fantasia asked. “Is she happy being Tony’s saviour for life?”
It was a question that sent Oliver straight into thinking mode. He had not thought of that; indeed, what about Alex? So far he had looked at everything from everyone else’s point of view; from Anton, Sam, his and the media’s point of view but Alex’s.  
“I didn’t think that far.” Oliver admitted.
“Well, maybe now you can.” Fantasia said. “I am giving you up to tomorrow morning, 10am to be specific to think about it and if nothing changes, I will go ahead and send this out.” She lifted the file in her hand. “Just don’t blame anyone for your misery because with your own power you would have sent your woman into another man’s arms the moment this goes out.” She stood up. 
“How comforting your words are.” Oliver said sarcastically. 
Fantasia laughed. “You can hate me all you want today but I know you will love me right in the near future. Good luck thinking for today.” She said and left the room. 

**** 
After subjecting herself to another sleepless night of turning and tossing and just plain ignoring everyone during the course of the day, Alex got out of bed the next morning with a new found determination. She was headed to Professor Russel’s office. She had not been on campus since the news about her past and relationships came out so it was to everyone’s surprise when she appeared on campus in all her shinning glory, without any sort of disguise and busted into the professor’s office. 
“Karla?” The rattled Professor got up from behind his desk the moment he saw her.
“My name is not Karla.” She dismally reminded him.
“I’m sorry, Alex.” He quickly corrected himself. “What are you-“
Alex plopped herself into a chair. “Sit down for what am about to tell you because I am about to turn your world upside down the same way your family has done to mine.”
The professor sat without question.
“I woke up this morning feeling like causing a lot of damage since everything seems to be going against me.” Alex started. “It’s like I wronged the universe the moment I was born so I don’t think there’s any more damage that can be done to me at this point. I am just going to flow with the wind.”
“What do you mean by that?” Professor Russel asked. 
“I am about to lose the only man that ever sincerely cared about me from the get-go and I have no intentions of losing something valuable alone. I am taking your family down with me on this road if you don’t do the right thing before it’s too late.”
Benson Russel knew that a day would eventually come when his family would have to face the consequences of their actions and ever since the developments in recent days, he had waited patiently for that time to finally come. 
“I know that there is another I can ever do or say to you that would show you how sorry I am for-“
“Save that rubbish for someone else professor.” Alex said. “When a man cannot put his own wife and children in line, he needs to be ready to pay the price for whatever damage comes from their actions.”
“What would you like me to do?” He asked.
“Tell everyone the truth about what happened that day and tell them who exactly is behind the malicious stories going round about me. I don’t care how you do it but just do it the moment I leave this office because if you don’t, I will and God knows how candid I will be in expressing my grief over the suffering I’ve had to endure at the hands of your family. 
“You have a chance to do the right thing for once so am praying that you will be man enough this time and do something. I never once asked you or your wife to adopt me as your child. You came for me at the orphanage and you made promises to me which you never once kept. All these years I’ve had to live with the fact that no one in this whole world can ever call me their own and you know what, I am okay with that. What I don’t understand is why your wife and daughter feel the need to constantly darken my already gloomy life, to wipe out whatever ray of sunshine is there. What wrong did I ever do to them? Tell me what price I have to pay for whatever wrong I did and I will pay it but please, I beg you, leave me the hell alone. I have had enough pain and suffering to last me five life times. Don’t I deserve a break?”
Watching Alex in front of him brought back memories of that morning by the swimming pool when she had cried breathlessly for his help as his wife squeezed the life out of her and he had done nothing to help. Like the spineless man that he was, he had watched in the side lines and when he couldn’t take her pain anymore, he had turned and looked away. He was doing the same thing this time again, just watching on the side as Mathilda and Cathy did their damage.
She was right to call him a coward.

Alex was fighting her way through the crowd of students and reporters gathers outside the Social Science Faculty offices when she heard a familiar voice in the back make it’s presence known. She stopped dead and looked behind her.
“My name is Benson Russel and I have something to say to all of you.” The professor announced. 
Alex could hear the murmurs from the crowd about the professor’s connection to her and for a moment she wondered if time had finally come for her to receive her redemption. Had he made up his mind already? Was he really capable of going against his wife and daughter?
“Are the stories about Alex Saunders true?” 
“Did she really try to kill your daughter?”
“Are you finally ready to give a statement sir?”
The questions kept coming in all directions. Finally, the cameras and microphones where not pointed in her direction, Alex thought as she watched with bated breath the scene unfolding in front of her. 
“You are right,” the professor started in a very shaky voice. “There was a time in this dammed world when the girl you see standing there called me dad.” He pointed to where Alex was standing, behind everyone else. 
“Alex.”
Alex felt hands over her shoulders and she turned to find her group of friends standing around her; Cassey, George, Duncan, and Paulina. Only Anton was missing from the bunch.
“Hey you guys….” Alex said in surprise, overwhelmed by emotions over seeing all of them together to see her.
“We came as soon as we heard you were here.” Duncan said, squeezing her shoulder slightly. 
The tears finally rolled down her cheeks. “You guys-“ she said. Paulina quickly squeeed her way in and went to put her arms around her.
“What is that fool on about now?” George asked. “How about we go and drag him outa there?” He said to Duncan. 
“Let’s hear what he has to say first.” Cassey cautioned them. “If we sense he’s about to spill some more shit we are all pouncing at once.”
“Deal!” The four of them said at once.
Alex chuckled. 
“Seventeen years ago my wife and I fell in-love with a little girl called Karla McKenzie.” Benson Russel continued his speech, his voice still shaking. 
Professor Russel had not gone far through his impromptu speech to the reporters camped at the school when his dear wife Mathilda received a call from a close friend informing her that her husband was on TV. 
“What do you mean he’s on TV?” Mathilda asked. “He’s not scheduled for any interviews this month.” She added, thinking about the research panel he was asked to sit on in a couple of months. 
“Just turn on the TV right now and see for yourself. He is almost on every entertainment channel.” The woman said and cut the line. Mathilda wasted no time.
“Alex’s entrance into our lives brought some sanity back into our family as my wife who was suffering from depression ever sinc the disappearance of our daughter started recovering.” Benson was saying.
“What is this fool doing?” Mathilda asked herself of her husband, moving to sit at the edge of the sofa. 
“You have to understand that for my wife, bringing a new child into the family was her way of coping with her loss. For her, little Karla…Alex I mean was Cathy. It was a special case of transference, one I should have dealt with the moment I noticed but I was just happy that my wife was finally back to normal. I couldn’t risk awakening her to the fact that the child she thought was her own was actually someone else.
“Naturally, things became complicated when the real daughter appeared unexpectedly at our door not so long after Karla. I have no excuse whatsoever for what happened thereafter. It was sheer negligence on my part as a father and husband because I could not protect the child I had promised to take care of and neither did I do anything to correct my wife’s behaviour. And on the part of my wife, she too has no excuses for her behaviour. At this point she was very much aware of the reality around her, enough to know what damage she was causing to the child she felt she had no more need for.
“It is with deep shame and embarrassment that I stand here to correct the stories that have been circulating in the media about what really happened at our home seventeen years ago, the pool side story. It is indeed a lie that Alex tried to drown her sister. It was in fact my wife that tried to choke Alex to death after discovering that Cathy had fallen into the pool on her own while she, my wife I mean had dozed off in her chair on the other side of the pool. Alex had seen the accident occur from her bedroom window and tried to call out for my wife but she was in deep sleep to hear anything. It was also Alex who ran from the house to save her sister and it was then that Mathilda woke up, upon hearing the commotion.
“It was unfortunate that Cathy who had not come to terms with the new member of the family and had for a while held some resentment towards the girl she thought was trying to take her place…in her foolishness she lied to her mother that Alex had tried to drown her. It was a claim that my wife willingly accepted without question even though it was obvious our girl was lying.”
To everyone’s surprise, the professor broke down in tears and struggled to continue talking. “What’s even more shameful,” he painfully continued. “…is that while my wife was squeezing the life out of Karla, I did nothing to stop her. The only thing I could think about in that moment was that it would be better for everyone if she was just taken back to the place we got her from…or if she was just out of our lives, for good. I just wanted to protect my family and bring the peace back.”
“So was it your daughter who spread the lies about Alex in the media?” One reporter asked.
“You have to understand, my daughter had been through a lot and her childhood was far different from that of her peers.” The professor defended his daughter. “You can’t expect a child that was kidnapped and raised by some stranger for years to be normal or adjust well to her changing circumstances.” 
“Is that fool actually making excuses for his daughter?” Paulina asked, loud enough for everyone to hear. 
“I am not making any excuses,” he fired back. “I am just trying to make everyone understand that they can’t judge Cathy as they would any other girl her age out there. We her parents are to solely blame for the way she turned out. She was raised by a mother afraid to displease her daughter lest she disappeared again and a father who wanted nothing but to see his family happy. It is a fact that Cathy became accustomed to always having her way and unfortunately, she took that outside the home and approached the world with a sense of entitlement. 
“When she discovered that her boyfriend was too close to another female, she did the only thing she knew how to do, win him all to herself and that meant using whatever means possible to get rid of the competition. It was a sheer coincidence that the girl she was fighting against was the same girl she had an unfortunate past with. All the stories about Alex’s childhood, her relationship with Mr Cooper and his son and the other celebrity young man were all twisted by my wife and daughter to make Alex appear like a very bad person. None of it is true.”
“Why did you decide to tell the truth now?” Another reporter asked. 
“Because for once I wanted to be a father, not just to my biological daughter Cathy, but to Alex as well. I owe her a lifetime of apologies for letting her down. It’s about time that I acted as a man and do the right thing even if that thing might appear to harm my family. Now that the truth is out, maybe I can get my wife and daughter the right help that they require to deal with whatever issues we’ve been avoiding over the years.”
“Your wife and daughter spread lies about very important and famous people,” George shouted from the back. “Don’t think that you can get away with lawsuits just by standing there, shaking in your boots and all and acting remorseful. You guys need to pay for what you’ve done to these people and most importantly, to our friend Alex.” 
“I did not make the decision to do this out of fear.” Professor Russel answered. “I did it because I am too ashamed to continue living this kind of life and I desperately need it to come to an end. I am willing to face the legal consequences that will come after the revelations made today. I wish you all a good day.” With that, he turned and forced his way out of the crowd and into his office where he looked himself.
He found his phone ringing. He didn’t need to look to know who the incessant caller was. He grabbed his phone and turned it off just as another call from Mathilda was coming in. 
Alex was quickly whisked away by her friends the moment the professor was done with his speech and before the reporters turned their attention on her. They had had their scoop for the day. It was time to give Alex a break. 
“Where are you guys taking me?” Alex asked them.
“Just keep quiet young lady and let the adults work ah.” Paulina said.
They all laughed as they helped Alex into Duncan’s vehicle. 

On the other side of town, Oliver had just finished watching the unfolding news in his office in the company of Fantasia who had come running in his office to switch on the tele for him. 
“Well, who said that the first option on the list could actually turn into a reality?” Fantasia commented as she turned off the TV. “Did you tell Alex to go and meet him?”
“No!” Oliver answered a little too quickly. “She thought of that on her own. I haven’t even spoken to her since yesterday. She keeps ignoring my calls.”
“No woman really wants a coward for a lover you know.” She said, pretending to be concentrating on the cover of the magazine she was holding in her hands. 
“I am not a coward Asia.” Oliver said.
“Who said you were?” She was feigning innocence now. 
Oliver sat down in his chair. “I guess this means we don’t have to put out that release right?” 
“I bet you are dancing in your heart right now aren’t you?” Fantasia asked him, a look of disappointment on her face.
“Of course am happy!” Oliver said. “We just averted a PR crisis without lifting a finger on our part so why can’t I celebrate?”
“You are only happy because now it means you don’t have to tell the media about your relationship with Alex since the threat has been neutralized.” 
“You know I don’t like being pressured into aking decisions. Maybe now I can think clearly.” Oliver said.
Fantasia was shaking her head. “You know what’s sad?” She asked. “That you actually believe that the threat has been neutralized. You are here busy celebrating a victory when the real war is just starting out there. You might have lost a wife in death but you my friend are about to lose the best thing that ever happened to you. Can you even imagine a live without Alex?”
“I guess she is better off with someone that will love her without any sort of reservation. I can’t give her that. There’s just too much going on-“
“Let’s see if you will still be singing the same tune after today.” Fantasia said. “Sam is back in town.”

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 20 (Final)

Two weeks had gone by and not a single day that passed did Alicia not replay the last words shared between her and Kondwani at the hospital. She could still smell the coldness in the still air at the hospital lobby where she watched in a corner a safe distance away from Kondwani’s siblings who were anxiously waiting for their brother to appear from the operating room with news about their mother.

Kondwani appeared an hour later looking like a man that was just from fighting giants, the weight of the world on his shoulders. Alicia rushed closer to hear the news just as his siblings moved in on him.

“She’s still in a critical condition,” Kondwani said before any of them could throw questions his way. “She lost a lot of blood and her internal injuries are-“

“Is she going to die?” Mwansa who had been crying for the past hour out of guilt for leaving her mother alone in the car asked.

Chilufya smacked her lightly at the back of her head. “Why would you even think such a stupid thing?” She asked her sister, desperately fighting back her own tears but being the eldest sister, she had to remain strong for her younger siblings Mwansa and Gift.

“Can we see her?” The seventeen year old Gift asked, his eyes as teary as his older sisters’.

“Yeah, you can but just yet.” Kondwani said, his hands in his pockets. “They’re moving her to the ICU at the far end there,” he pointed to the right behind them. “You guys can go sit over there by the chairs a nurse will come and talk to you before sending you in. I need to talk to this lady for a little bit.” He gestured towards Alicia who was standing behind them.

This lady. He just referred to me as this lady. Alicia’s heart started pounding harder and faster than before. She didn’t need to hear whatever he wanted to say to her for her to know the distance that had grown between them since that visit at Aunt Mary’s. in as much as she understood there might be no future between her and Kondwani both from her end and from his, she was still not yet ready to confront that gruesome reality that was threatening her sanity. She had not even gotten to spend time or enjoy Kondwani’s company as her lover so why was life forcing them to separate already? What wrong had she really done to deserve such a cruel fate?

“I think you should go home.” Kondwani said to Alicia once they were alone. As expected, his voice was void of emotion. She had heard him sound like that so many times when he spoke to relatives and friends of patients. Why was he using his doctor voice with her?

The coldness in Kondwani’s voice and his overall glacial demeanour while he stood in front of her instinctively made Alicia aware of their surroundings. She was at work. She might have come in with a patient but the truth of the matter was that the hospital they had come to was also her work place, Kondwani’s too and the two of them were still a hot topic for the grapevine department.

Just as she had suspected, Alicia spotted the number of eyes looking over at her and Kondwani but she quickly brushed them away as she was mostly concerned with what her boyfriend was saying to her, no matter how cold and curt he was in his approach.

“I want to stay, and I am staying.” She replied in a no-nonsense tone that defied his authority over her both personally and professionally.

“I understand why you feel like you have to be here but I am telling you right now that there’s no need.” Kondwani said. “This is my family’s business.”

“Are you trying to tell me that this is none of my business?” Alicia asked.

“I am simply trying my best to be as professional as possible.” Kondwani said, clenching his teeth as if to keep himself from uttering words he might regret.

“Professional?” Alicia asked. “Why should you be acting professional with me?”

“What do you want me to say Alicia!?” Kondwani finally snapped, winning himself the attention of his siblings who were seated a distance away from them and the attention of patients, visitors and staff around.

“You’re the reason my mother is here!” Kondwani shouted.

“What?” Alicia asked, not believing that Kondwani would actually say those words to her. Of course she had been saying those words to herself ever since she heard about the accident but she had not imagined hearing the same accusations from Kondwani’s own lips.

“You are right at the center of everything that’s going wrong in my life right now Alicia.” Kondwani continued. “If I had not met you my mother would have never found out about what really happened that night and she certainly would have not entertained ideas about taking her own life just so I could be happy with you.”

It finally clicked. His anger and bitterness towards her the moment he stepped out of the OR. Was that the reason his mother had given for trying to end her life, so that her son would be happy with the mother to the child whose father had died in that accident?

“Do you get it now?” Kondwani asked, reading from her facial expression as the truth slowly sunk in. “So please, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be here right now…please, leave…just, leave.”

He was literally begging her to get the hell out of his life. How did things get to this point? For a while after learning the truth about Nicolas’ death, Alicia had imagined Kondwani begging her to stay with him and not once had she imagined a scenario where he would instead be begging her to get out of his life.

With only a week to her official confirmation as surgical nurse at the hospital, what was she supposed to do now that Kondwani didn’t want to have anything to do with her? She had already heard from Mrs Miti the supervisor that she and Caroline had made the cut after months of a gruelling internship and she was excited about the idea of finally getting to openly date Kondwani without fear of judgement from their colleagues…but now this?

“I get it,” Alicia answered. “I get exactly what you mean. I’ll get out of your way Kondwani. Give my best to your mum. Goodbye.” And she turned and walked straight to the exit.

Not wanting to watch her retreating figure, Kondwani quickly turned and walked to where his siblings were.

“Why is she leaving?” Gift asked her brother. He had inferred from the little he could see since he came to the hospital that the beautiful lady waiting anxiously with them was her brother’s girlfriend. She was very different from Gwen or the other women he dated before so he had instinctively developed a liking for her. She looked beautiful and smart, an obvious improvement on the previous potential sister in-law he was going to get.

“Did the nurse talk to you?” Kondwani completely ignored the boy’s question.

“Yes,” Chilufya answered. “She said we wait five minutes more, they’re still setting her up to receive visitors.”

“Can she talk?” MWansa asked.

“No, not yet.” Kondwani said. “I’ll go and check and you guys can come in later.” He quickly left as if to run away from further questions. He needed to keep himself busy lest he lost his mind and went off at anybody…or anyone.
Alone in her bedroom and crying, Alicia heard a light knock on the door and before she could respond, the door opened and Belinda appeared with a yellow mug in hand.

“I knew I would find you like this.” Belinda said as she handed the mug to her sister and sat down on the bed next to her.

Taking the mug from her, “What’s this?” Alicia asked.

“It’s honey tea,” she said.

“But I can smell lemon, ginger and cinnamon.” Alicia said as she smelled the contents of the cup.

“Oh yeah, there’s all that too as well.” Belinda laughed.

Alicia laughed too behind her teary-stained face. “Then why did you say it was honey tea?”

“It’s not like I lied. There’s honey in there too. Besides, it was the only way I could get you to stop crying and focus on something else other than your pain.”

Belinda was right, her sister had stopped crying and even smiled during the short time she walked into the room.

“You are too smart for your own good sis.” Alicia said, taking a sip from the tea before putting it down on the bedside table.

“Have you heard any news from the hospital?” Belinda asked.

“She’s still in a comma,” Alicia said.

“I know that,” Belinda said. “Am asking about Kondwani, he didn’t call to ask you to stay at the hospital? It’s almost two weeks now since you asked him to write you a recommendation letter to transfer to another hospital.”

“No he hasn’t.” Alicia said, the pain coming back to her all over again. It was the longest period since meeting Kondwani that the two of them had not spoken and she felt like she was losing her mind by the minute.

“He obviously didn’t hesitate in signing my transfer request so why would he change his mind? I will do as he wants, I will get out of his hair. It’s not like I have no issues with him. He should be lucky that I am even crying over him after what he’s family did to Nicolas.” She was crying all over again.

Belinda put her arms around her crying sister. “I understand how you feel sis but remember he’s also having a tough time. His mother is still in a comma and they’re not sure if she will make it not. I doubt if he’s thinking rationally right now and I can bet you that his feelings for you are the least of his worries…at least not right now. Give him some time.”

“He was so cold to me Linda,” Alicia sobbed. “You should have seen the look in his eyes, he hates me.”

“I know it feels like that right now but just give him time sis.” Belinda comforted her.

Alicia sat up and looked at her sister. “I am living tomorrow morning for Kitwe,” she said. “I know for a fact that once am gone, if he doesn’t make the first move then it will be I who actually erases him from my life forever. He is not the only one having a hard time here you know. I also have to deal with the fact that the man I am in-love wit and his mother are responsible for the death of my boyfriend who happens to be the father of my child.

“I am the one who is having a hard time looking my son in the eye because I feel guilty for being in-love with the man responsible for his father’s death and you know what’s even worse, that I haven’t done anything to make the people involved in that death pay for it.

“The thought of what Nick’s mother did kills me and all I want to do is go over to her place and squeeze her neck till she can’t breathe. I feel so much pain when I think about how badly she treated me all these years, making me feel guilty for her son’s death when she knew very well someone else was. Even after accepting money from those people, she still felt the need to keep me from my son as punishment for six whole years sis. If anyone should be mad here it is I so why does it look like I am the bad guy here? What wrong have I done to these people that they’re treating me like this?”

“I know….” Was all Belinda could say in that situation. She might not be directly involved in what was happening in her sister’s life but she too was affected by the consequences of those revelations.

Belinda had been avoiding Stephens’s call and messages ever since Alicia told her about what Mary Kabwe had done. That night, Belinda had called Stephen in anger and lashed out at him.

“You knew about what your aunt had done and still said nothing?” She had said.

“What did you want me to say babe?” Stephen had asked. “I also wasn’t supposed to know that info and in any case, I wasn’t very sure about it because I never heard the whole story. I only had suspicions and-“

“You saw how your family treated my sister for years!” Belinda shouted. “The least you could have done is tell your aunt to be fair-“

“You know my aunt very well babe,” Stephen said. “Tell me, honestly, do you think she is the type of person that can listen to me? I understand you’re angry with me but I think it’s unfair that you are blaming me for this thing.”

“I am angry at you and at your family. It’s just unfair.” She said. “Frankly, I don’t think I can ever look at you the same way after all this.”

“What’s that supposed to mean Linda?” Stephen asked, sensing right away the danger approaching. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“Fortunately we were not even dating yet so-“

“You gotto be kidding me!”

“I am sorry Steve-“

“Why is it so easy for you to walk away the moment you face a challenge Belinda?” He asked. “We haven’t even properly talked about this and you are already giving up on us. I thought things had changed-“

“Well you thought wrong,” Belinda said, her voice breaking from fighting to keep from crying. “I guess this just shows you and I were never meant to be.” She finally broke down in tears.

There was a long silence on the other end of the line as Stephen listened to her sobbing voice. “You see,” his voice finally came through. “You don’t want to break up with me silly. Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know why am crying but I just feel like crying.” Belinda sulked.

Stephen chuckled. “I still love you despite your craziness so let’s not talk about this over the phone okay?” he said. “I know it’s too early now so am just gonna give you some time but don’t think for a moment that I’ve given up on you or on us. I promise you that’s never gonna happen. Linda? Babe, are you there?”

“I’m here.” Belinda had answered.

“It’s late, you go to bed and we’ll talk tomorrow. I will keep calling and texting everyday even when I know you will be ignoring me. But babe, I’ll be coming over there to bust doors if you keep ignoring me for long. I love you, good night.”

Stephen’s last five words were enough to melt her cold heart towards him. No matter what was going on between his family and his sister, it was not enough to force her to lose or change her feelings for him. She loved him as much as he loved her…if not more.

Belinda silently chastised herself for thinking about her own happiness when her sister was struggling with hers.

“I’m so sorry sis.” Belinda said, coming in to wrap her arms around Alicia again.

“What are you sorry for?” Alicia asked.

“Just, everything.” Belinda said.

****

Alicia’s first day at work in Kitwe was as eventful as her first day at ZADH. The first surprise came during her official meeting with the head in his office when he clarified her job title and description.

“What do you mean am the new CNO?” Alicia asked the fifty-something year old overweight Doctor Manase seated behind his desk. If he was a woman, he would be looking about ready to pop triplets from his bulging front.

“As it happens,” the doctor said. “Our Chief Nursing Officer asked for a transfer to Ndola to join her husband a week before we received your application. You happen to meet the conditions for that position and with the strong recommendation we received from Doctor C, the team decided that you would be the best fit for this position.”

“But I have no-“

“Don’t worry about anything Nurse Daka,” the doctor said. “We have a great support team for you and your predecessor is still here to help you make a smooth transition.”

She was tempted to ask if Kondwani had anything to do with the promotion but she remembered their last encounter and quickly brushed off the crazy idea. No way he would be behind this, she told herself. Or, could this be a way of him making sure I never go back to Lusaka again?

“Nurse Daka, are you okay? You look-“

“I’m fine,” Alicia quickly recovered. I have a son to take care of. I won’t waste my time thinking about a man that doesn’t want me. I will forget him just as he has forgotten me. And she sat up straight. “I am ready to meet everyone now doctor.”

Ten minutes of going in and coming out of people’s offices, Alicia gaped in disbelief at finding herself face to face with Doctor Samuel Kayombo.

“I was told that the two of you know each other so I saved the best introductions for last.” Doctor Manase said.

“What are you doing here?” Alicia asked Kayombo.

“Working, I would hope.” Kayombo laughed. “Good to see you Alicia.” He went in for a hug and got one before she could finish wrapping her head around his presence at the hospital.

“When did you-“ Alicia started to ask.

“Been here a week.” Kayombo answered. “How can leave in such a manner Alicia?”

“Ah,” Doctor Manase said, smiling mischievously. “I think I will leave you two to catch up. I believe you will be in charge of helping her settle in doc?” He asked Kayombo.

“Most definitely doc.” Kayombo said enthusiastically and the doctor excused himself.

“Sit down,” he pointed to the chair in front of his desk as he walked to sit behind the desk. Alicia sat down.

“How did you-“

“Know that you would be coming here?” Kayombo finished for her. “I had gone into Chileshe’s office to report on a case when I accidentally saw the request you had written to him. He was obviously looking at it before I came in and thought he had covered it well but I saw part of it.”

“And you decided to come here as well?” Alicia asked, shock written all over her face.

Kayombo appeared amused by her disbelief. “I wasn’t joking when I told that guy that I would quickly move in the moment he messes up. I knew he would mess up sooner or later.”

“Samuel, are you kidding me right now?” Alicia asked.

“Do I look like am kidding?” he circled his hand in the air around his office.

“What about Gwen, and the baby?”

“They’re okay.”

“They’re okay?” Alicia asked. “Is that all you can say in this situation, they’re okay?”

“What do you want me to say?” Kayombo asked. “I promise to take care of my child when she’s born, I don’t intend to be a dead-beat dad if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“And what about Gwen?” She asked.

“I have already spoken to Gwen about this. She understand my feelings and honestly speaking, she might not be able to grasp that am doing this for her as well right now but she will thank me later in life.”

“She will thank you for leaving her right when she needed you the most? Tell me, how does that work?”

“Would you rather she spends the rest of her life with a man that doesn’t love her or to suffer a broken heart for a couple of months and move on? And do bear in mind that this woman doesn’t even love me. She thinks she does, but am only her fall back plan…something to use to shield herself from shame and to make her ex jealous.”

“I really don’t want to get involved in your drama you people.” Alicia said.

“You people?” Kayombo said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I don’t appreciate you coming all the way here just because I am here.” She clarified. “What do you honestly expect to happen between us Kayombo? First it was Kondwani and Gwen, then you and Kondwani and Gwen, then me and Kondwani, you and Gwen, and now you expect a me and you? Does any of this make sense to you?”

“I really don’t care about sense or what people might say as long as I know my feelings for you are real Alicia.” He said. “I wish you could just stop for a moment just look at me as me and not as someone connected to all those people you’ve mentioned.”

“I am sorry Kayombo,” Alicia got up from the chair. “But nothing has changed with my feelings.” She said. “I hate to admit this even to my own self but I am still very much in-love with Kondwani.”

“How can you still love him after everything?” He asked.

“Real feelings don’t just get erased just because someone has hurt you.” Alicia said. “Don’t think I haven’t tried to forget him but it’s like every time I tell myself to forget, that’s the more I keep thinking about him. I know that he’s someone am not supposed to love or even think about but at the same time I feel like am going to lose my mind if another day goes by and I don’t see him. I wish-”

“Stop.” Kayombo got up. “It’s too early for me to hear or see you cry over another man. Let’s go I show you to your office. We will talk about our personal issues later. My mood is already messed up and I have patients to attend to.”

Later that evening Alicia was about ready to knock off and spend time with her son at home when her phone rang. It was her sister Belinda.

“She’s woken up sis,” Belinda said. Alicia didn’t need to ask who. She knew right away who Belinda was talking about.

“When?” Alicia asked.

“Just now, a few minutes ago.”

“Are you at the hospital Linda?” Alicia asked. She could hear familiar noises in the background.

“Yes, I figured you might want to know what’s going on and since-“

“Thanks sis,” Alicia said, fighting back tears of joy. “You are the best sister in the world. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, I gotto to now sis. Need to-“

Alicia received another call while on the phone with Belinda. “Caroline is calling me,” she said upon checking the phone. “Probably wants to give me the news.”

“Okay that’s great.” Belinda said. “I was even thinking about asking one of the nurses what the situation is like but of Caroline is here, that means she can tell you right?”

“Yes,” Alicia said. “Thank you so much sis. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay sis, sis. Love you.”

“Caroline-“

“Bitch what’s wrong with you?” Caroline cussed the moment Alicia answered her call. “Who the hell keeping your line busy?”

“I see some things never change,” Alicia joked. “I’ve heard, my sister just called me. Mrs Chileshe is awake.”

“Dammit, how did your sister know?” Caroline asked. “I wanted to be the first to share the good news. I hate your sister, tell her that.”

Alicia laughed. “I think she has mutual feelings. What’s the report of her progress?”

“She’ll live,” Caroline said. “but her legs are done and she’ll need help breathing for a while.”

“How bad are her legs?”

“Bad, very bad…as in she’s wheelchair bound but no amputation needed.”

Alicia went quiet.

“Well, considering all things, she’s alive Alicia.” Caroline said.

“I know,” Alicia said, silently crying. “I know. It could have been worse.”

“I’ll keep you posted of any developments, have to go now. My ride is waiting for me outside.”

“Thanks Caroline.” Alicia said and cut the line.

Driving back home in the car provided by the hospital given her new position, Alicia found herself thinking about calling or texting Kondwani but no matter how many times she played around with the words in her head, nothing sounded like the right thing to say to a man that blamed her for the condition his mother was in.

And she neither called nor texted. And she never heard from Kondwani.

Weeks passed and they grew into months and months became a year, Kondwani and Alicia’s relationship had died a natural death. Whatever issues hang between them were left unsolved and the two of them pushed on with their lives hoping for the once beautiful memories to fade away.

Kondwani returned to being the ruthless workaholic he was before Alicia entered his life and he put all his energy into safeguarding the hospital and the position he held there which on several occasions had been attacked directly by Lloyd Miyoba or indirectly through his minions seeking to push the young doctor from his position of power.

There were days when the internal politics at the hospital heightened that for a while Kondwani would forget about Alicia but somehow he would eventually find himself alone and thoughts of her would creep right back to the fore of his mind. Whenever such thoughts threatened to overwhelm him, he would seek the company of desperate woman looking to die him down, have one night stands with them and discard them with his doctor gloves before morning came.

Every day that passed and he didn’t pick up his phone to call alone spelled victory for Kondwani, the kind that didn’t make him really feel like a winner….but the kind that made him like he had won a great battle simply by resisting and not curving in to his urges.

And when the pressure threatened to drown him under, he found rescue in a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Alicia on the other hand dealt with the pain of missing Kondwani by throwing herself into work and when that didn’t work, she gave in to Kayombo’s determined pursuits and gave him a chance after seven months of ruthlessly turning him down. With a new man in her life, Alicia tried to move on from Kondwani, constantly reminding herself that there was no future between them and so she should get over him.

Unfortunately for Alicia, just as she was about to settle into her relationship with Kayombo, Gwen appeared into their lives and was determined more than ever to give her child the perfect family portrait. She forced herself into Kayombo’s house just two weeks after delivering and made sure to mark her territory in no uncertain terms.

Kayombo’s cowardice and procrastination worked thoroughly against him when he failed to inform Alicia about Gwen’s presence in his home until Alicia showed up at his door unannounced with a picnic basket hoping to surprise him with a date that would officially cement their relationships after months of keeping him at bay.

“Look what we have here.” Gwen sarcastically said to Alicia when she opened the door and found her standing on the other side with a basket in hand.

“Gwen?”

“Why do you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Gwen smugly asked, a triumphant smile playing at the corners of her lips. “What’s so surprising about a wife receiving a visitor in her husband’s home?”

“Is someone at the door?” Alicia could hear Kayombo’s voice in the background. Gwen deliberately stepped away from the door to give Kayombo a full view of Alicia.

“Alicia-“ He quickly rushed to the door. “What are you doing here? I can explain this.”

Gwen was laughing in the sidelines as she watched the show unfold before her, her arms tucked across her chest.

Alicia said nothing in return, simply gave Kayombo a blank look.

“Baby-“

“I brought you some brunch.” Alicia said and laid the basket on the ground before turning to leave. Kayombo grabbed her by the shoulder and stood in front of her.

“This is not what it looks like.” Kayombo insisted. “I know I should have told you about her coming here but I wanted to tell you in person.”

“I understand.” Alicia said, her voice void of any emotions. “I have to take Buseko somewhere, I’ll see you later Kayombo.”

“No, you can’t live like this, Alicia.” Kayombo begged her.

Alicia came to an abrupt stop. “Tell me something,” she told Kayombo. “If the roles were reversed, if you found Kondwani in my house like that, what would you think?”

“I would be upset of course but more importantly, I would trust you.” He answered. “I would trust you Alicia. I know this looks pretty bad but you trust me, right?”

“Of course I trust you,” she said.

Kayombo heaved a sigh of relief.

“But I also know that I do not yet love you enough to tolerate this kind of set up Kayombo.” She said matter-of-factly and immediately wiped off the smile of Kayombo’s face.

“Yet, you said you do not love me enough yet.” He said. “That means you will love me like that someday Alicia.”

“It took a while for me to convince myself to come here today but that in itself says a lot doesn’t it?” Alicia said. “I have to go. You need to spend time with your family.”

The moment Alicia was gone, Kayombo went back into the house and went straight to the bedroom Gwen was using with their child and started throwing her things out.

“What do you think you’re doing Kayombo?” Gwen ran after him to stop him from hailing her clothes and suitcase outside.

“I knew that you coming here would be trouble but I didn’t think this would happen so soon!” Kayombo said, throwing the stuff on the floor in anger as Gwen was holding him back from walking any further.

“Get your stuff and get out of my house Gwen!” he shouted.

Gwen held on tighter to his trousers and went down on her knees crying. “I’m not going anywhere, am staying here with you.”

“Well then you stay and I’ll go. It seems you want to be here more than me so stay.” He kicked her away, grabbed his keys from the living room table and was about to head out of the house when his daughter started crying from the kitchen where Gwen had left her before going to answer the door.

For a moment during the commotion Kayombo had forgotten about their daughter. He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to look at Gwen, suddenly noticing how much she had changed from the floor where she was still kneeling. Since when did the proud Ms Miyoba kneel for anyone?

“I know you don’t believe me when I tell you that I love you,” Gwen cried. “But I carried your child, our child for nine whole months in my womb and whether I like or not that changed me. I love the father of my child and I keep hoping that even if you don’t love me back, you can at least love your child.”

Gwen’s innocent plea was the slap Kayombo needed to bring him back to reality. “C’mon, get up.” He said, stretching out his hand to help her up. Gwen took his hand and got up from the floor.

“I just need some time alone to think,” he said. “I’ll be back.” He said and left the room.
Alicia made sure to keep herself busy for the rest of that day, playing with her son until she was beyond exhausted. When they got back home, she bathed him and put him to bed before filling up her own tab and soaking herself in the water till she fell asleep in there, only to be awaked an hour later when the water turned cold.

Before getting into bed, she switched on her phone which she had turned off after leaving Kayombo’s place and found twenty-five missed calls from him and three missed calls from a strange number.

“Does he think am dumb?” She asked herself. “Calling me on a strange line thinking I’ll answer.”

She threw the phone on the other side of the bed and was ready to get under the sheets when the phone rang again. She checked and it was the same number. She let it ring until it could ring no more but still it rang again and again until she answered it out of frustration.

“What do you want Kayombo!?” She snapped.

“Ms Alicia?” It was a female’s voice, not Kayombo.

“Hello, who’s this?” Alicia asked.

“I know you don’t me well, but we met once,” the lady said in a very calm and controlled voice. “My name is Chilufya Chileshe, I am Kondwani’s young sister.”

“Kondwani’s sister?” Alicia sat up straight, her heart suddenly beating fast.

“I am very sorry to call you this late but I think you need to come to the hospital.” Chilufya said, her voice suddenly breaking before she starts to cry.

“Hospital? Why? What’s wrong? Did soething happen to your mum?”

“No, mum is fine,” Chilufya said, desperately trying to hold herself together. “It’s Wani, he was attacked a few hours ago and he’s in the hospital. He’s been asking for you.”

Alicia was up on her feet getting herself ready before Chilufya could finish talking. Despite having a million questions, there was only one thing she needed to know; “how bad is he?”

“He was beat up pretty bad but he put up a fight as well…but they were many. They beat him till he lost consciousness but he’s awake now.”

“I’m on my way right now.” Alicia said, sounding almost out of breath. “I am in Kitwe so it will take a while for me to reach Lusaka but I will see you soon. Please, take care of him.”

“Thank you Alicia.” Chilufya said and cut the line.

Alicia quickly gave instructions to her babysitter before leaving the house, gave her son a kiss and off she drove through the night to Lusaka.

She was in Kondwani’s room by 3 in the morning where she found him and his three siblings sleeping on either side of his bed. Given his position at the hospital, he had the best and the biggest ward a man of his standing could have. Chilufya was the first to awaken when the moment she heard the door open.

“You’re here?” She said, getting up and quickly waking her siblings up. “Wake up guys. Let’s go out for a bit.”

“Hi.” Both Mwansa and Gift greeted Alicia at the same time.

Alicia nervously smiled back and them and approached Kondwani’s bed as the family left the room.

“He was sedated a while ago,” Chilufya announced from the door. “He was in so much pain they had to-“

Alicia smiled at the deeply perturbed sister. “I know, it’s okay. I’ll wait for him to wake up. Do you guys have somewhere to wait?”

“We were given a room, that’s where mum is. They advised her against sitting up all night in here, they had to force her out. Maybe we can all get some rest now that you’re here. Thank you so much for coming.”

“It’s not a problem,” Alicia said. “Thank you for calling me. I really-“ She heard Kondwani shift and turned to check on him. “Kondwani?” Her eyes were lit with excitement as Kondwani slowly opened his eyes.

Chilufya quietly exited the room and closed the door behind her.

“Alicia,” he tried to sit up the moment he recognized her face from behind his very swollen face.

“Is this how ugly you’ve become after chasing me away?” Alicia laughed softly, gently touching his face around the swollen places.

“I want to hug you so bad but I can’t move most parts of my body.” He tried to get up but she held him down.

“Don’t move, are you crazy?”

“Gosh, you look so beautiful. How can you look this good without me in your life?” he asked.

“Who said you ever left my life?” She asked, smiling as she took his hand and kissed it. “Who did this to you?”

“One very stupid short man, a coward and a son of a bit-“ She put her hand over his swollen lips to keep him from cussing.

“Why does Mr Miyoba hate you so much?” Alicia asked.

“Because he is a very foolish incompetent man that got lucky once and thinks luck is all it takes to build empires in this world. I should have dealt with him once and for all when I had the chance. Now he’s left me with no choice.”

“How can you seriously hope to get better when you are already plotting evil before you are healed?” Alicia said.

Kondwani tried to laugh but stopped himself. “You are still my Alicia aren’t you? Always trying to straighten me out. Do you still hate me?”

“Yes.” She said simply.

“Ouch,” Kondwani feigned pain. “Can’t you feel sorry for a brother? I was almost killed a few hours ago you know. Try to be gentle with me.”

“Emotional blackmail won’t work with me Mr. I am still very mad at you. How can you not call me, not even once for seven long months?”

“Because I was too proud to admit I still needed you after chasing you like that. I was ashamed. But also, because I was too proud and kept hoping that you would be the first one to call. I forgot that you’re just as stubborn as I am.”

“Me stubborn?” She said, innocently pointing at herself.

“Why didn’t you call me?” He asked.

“Because I thought you hated me.” She said.

“So, stubborn and stupid,” he remarked jokingly. “I do hope our kids don’t take after you.”

“Better that take after me than you who almost got himself killed yesterday!” Alicia protested.

“I take that as a yes,” Kondwani said. “You better not change your mind.” He took her hand and kissed her ring finger.

Alicia’s jaw dropped, suddenly realizing what had just happened. “You sneaky-“

“Bastard?” Kondwani finished for her, smiling.

“You’re a patient so I’ll be kind, sneaky foolish man who should have called me a long time ago. I will tell our kids about you, you just wait and see.” She kissed him softly on the forehead. “Gosh, you look awful, but I still love you.” she kissed him lightly on his lips this time.

“Ouch!” He said, touching his bruised lips. “Woman, control yourself now, am a patient.

Alicia laughed. “I have been mad at you for such a long time and I always thought about what I would say to you if we ever met but here I am looking at you…and all of that doesn’t matter. I am just thanking God for keeping you alive for me.”

Kondwani wrapped his hands around hers. “I love you Alicia Daka. I promise to give you a proper proposal once am back to being handsome and fit.”

Alicia scowled playfully. “And what if that never happens!?” She asked. “I have to spend the rest of my life with an unfit, ugly and arrogant man? Dear Lord, what have I done to deserve this?”

Kondwani laughed. “You are happy to see me like this aren’t you? Is this your revenge?”

“Yes, it’s your debt to me.” she said. “You should have never let me go in the first place now look what’s happened to you?”

“My debt of love to you right?” He said. “I lived like a stupid man and lost my woman. Now I have to live the rest of my life loving you like you like you deserve to be loved, with my whole life.”

“Why do I feel like you’re complaining?” she asked.

He laughed. “How can I complain when am winning?”

“Winning?” She asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Because I know you’re going to love me back with interest.”

Alicia laughed. “Always a sneaky-“

“Bastard?” He finished for her again.

“I prefer husband.” She said. “My sneaky future husband.”

“Future sounds too far, can we make it tomorrow?” It was Claudia who entered the room, her daughter Chilufya pushing her wheelchair from behind. Mwansa and Gift were nowhere in sight.

“That’s why I love you mum.” Kondwani said proudly. “You always have my back.”

“I’m sorry,” Chilufya looked apologetically at Alicia for intruding on them. “Mum insisted on coming to see you the moment she heard you had arrived. I couldn’t-“

Alicia walked over to the two women. “No, it’s totally fine. I also wanted to see her.” She greeted Kondwani’s mother. “I am sorry I wasn’t able to see you after the accident. I-“

“It’s alright my dear.” Claudia said. “That’s all in the past now. I am just so glad to see here, today.”

“Me too.” Alicia said.

“Do you mind giving me a ride around the hospital?” Claudia asked.

“Of course not.” Chilufya stepped aside and Alicia moved over.

“I haven’t even finished catching up with her where are you taking her mum?” Kondwani sulked.

“Chilufya will keep you company son, I’ll bring back your woman soon.” She laughed and urged Alicia to help her out.

“Do you think they’ll be alright?” Kondwani asked his sister concerning Claudia and Alicia.

“Of course they will be. Why not? Alicia paid for everything when she chose to forgive. No more pain. She paid everyone’s debt, including yours.”

“Um um,” Kondwani shook his head. “Not mine, at least not just yet. I intend to earn it, for the rest of my life.”

“Your debt of love?” Chilufya asked.

“Yes, my debt of love.” He said, smiling as the images of his future with Alicia played in his head.

There’s would not be an ordinary love. It would be a life worth exploring, a life fulfilled….a life worth living.