Tag Archives: Romance fiction

An Untimely Love – Part 16 End 

Cathy Russel was in labour for eight long hours before the baby finally decided to come out and join the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the sudden birth brought with it some expected complications.  Continue reading An Untimely Love – Part 16 End 

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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 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 18

(In Draft form)

The walls narrowed in around Kondwani. Never before had he felt suffocated by his large and well-furnished office. With every word that fell out of Alicia’s mouth, the harder it became for him to breath.

“Please, tell me, what was that I heard?”

Different words put together to form a sentence but all carrying the same meaning, the things spoken by Alicia from the moment Kondwani laid her down on the chair from the lift after she had momentarily passed out.

“Can you leave?” Kondwani addressed Doctor Kayombo who had followed them to the office.

It was obvious he was an unwelcome guest in Kondwani’s office but for some reason he could not get himself to leave. He had been the one to open the cane of worms and more than the pleasure of seeing Kondwani brought to ruin, he was concerned about Alicia’s welfare.

“I need to talk to Alicia, in private.” Kondwani told the unflinching Kayombo whose eyes were glued on Alicia.

Alicia slowly lifted her pounding head up to look at Kondwani. “Sam will only leave if you promise to tell me everything, the whole truth.” She implored him. “No more secrets, no lies, please.”

Kondwani went to kneel before his girlfriend but he could tell just how distant they had become in that short time by the hurt and untrusting look in her eyes…and how her body flinched at his touch the moment he came in contact with her. He could already feel her slipping away.

“I promise.” Was all he could say in that moment. He then turned and motioned Kayombo to leave.

“I’ll be somewhere close by,” Kayombo said. “Just shout if you need me to come and-“

“Samuel!” Kondwani thundered and the doctor quickly left the room.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on now?” Alicia asked, her hands shaking from all the possibilities playing in her head. “What Kayombo said,” she stuttered. “About Nicolas’ accident…how…I mean, how is your mother involved? And you,” she was looking at his hands that where holding hers at this point.

Slowly, she lifted her eyes up to look him in the eyes. “How are you involved?”

Kondwani dropped his head into her hands which were placed on her laps and sighed heavily. This was all so sudden and expected. How was he supposed to explain to her that his own mother had been behind the wheel of the car that killed her fiancé and father of her child? Just how was he supposed to tell her that he had been the one to cover up everything just to protect her? How was he supposed to tell her that despite knowing who she was, he had dared fall for her and accepted her heart?

As far as he was concerned, there were no words in the dictionary he could use to deliver such truths and achieve a different outcome from the one expected. No matter how much he tried to paraphrase or sugar-coat or even make excuses for his actions, there was nothing on the face of the earth that could stop him from paying the ultimate price of losing her.

A minute had gone by and Kondwani’s head was still buried in her laps, the pregnant silence lingering in the air heightening her panic.

A fresh cold streak of tears rolled down her cheeks.

Alicia’s worst nightmare had just come alive.

She slowly but determinedly forced Kondwani from off her laps and removed her hands from his. “What did you do?”

Kondwani could not risk looking at her. He could feel every ouch of her distaste in the air and it was burning him at the tips of his fingers where he had just tried to touch her.

She was now sobbing.

Alicia got up from her chair and started rocking Kondwani from the floor where he was still kneeling, his head dropped in shame, afraid to look up and face her judgement. So this is what the end felt like, he thought as he surrendered to her frustrations. Alicia was gripping his shoulders and shaking him back and force with a vengeance.

“Tell me the truth Kondwani! Tell me!”

Something foreign was happening to him from the floor where he was still kneeling. He had first felt the coldness against his skin and when he looked down at his laps he saw the spot where his tears had just fell.

In seconds Kondwani was transposed from present to future, to a time when he had last cried out of fear, when he knew his life was about to a take a turn of no return…he, a man that never showed his hand or fear to anyone.

“He’s gone,” Kondwani had heard the doctor’s words from behind the wall where he had been hiding.

“He didn’t stand a chance.” The doctor had said to the family of the young man. “He was brought in late…he lost a lot of blood.”

Kondwani’s insides had turned upon hearing those fateful words and before his mouth could give way to whatever was boiling inside him, he had ran, almost bumping into the girl that was now rocking his senses back to reality.

Theirs was a fate delayed and time had come to collect its dues.

There was no escaping this time around, Kondwani reasoned. He grabbed hold of Alicia’s hands to stop her from hitting him any further and slowly he raised himself from the floor.

“I am so so so sorry baby.” He still could not bring himself to look her in the eye and so he kept his head down.

Kondwani put his hands on her shoulders and carefully seated her back on the chair in front of his desk. “I know that I am a son of a bitch, and a coward too…so, am going to stand over there by the window as I tell you everything but please Alicia,” this time around he raised his head to look at her.

“Promise to hear me out all the way to the end.” He said. “Please, don’t walk out until-“

“Just tell me.” Alicia cried. “I feel like I am going to lose my mind waiting. I am so scared my heart’s about to give in!” She was almost jumping in her seat as she said those words.

Kondwani let go of her hands and walked to the window on the other side of his desk, his back to her, hands in pockets and eyes fixed on the ground below where people and cars kept moving about as if the world was not just about to end…at least from where he was standing, the end had just come.

“Eight years ago my mother started working as a housekeeper for this rich family in Makeni.” Kondwani started. “Years back my father had left her, and us, me and my three siblings for another woman. For a while my mother was depressed and she struggled to take care of us. She couldn’t get a job and even when she managed to find one she couldn’t keep it because she was always in and out of hospital.

“It soon became apparent to me that if I don’t step up to save my family, my siblings would have a hard life and worse, we would lose our mother to depression because she kept getting worse by the day. I worked odd jobs here and there, whatever I could get. Years passed and my mother had gotten better and against my will she decided to take up that job in Makeni after a friend of hers convinced her that it was a good family to work for and the pay was good.

“I have to admit, the pay was very good and with it she could sent my two youngest siblings to school.” Kondwani continued. “It lessened the burden on me because I was really struggling with work and school. And that was how my mother started working for the Mulako’s.”

“That’s the name Kayombo had said.” Alicia recalled the conversation she had overheard in the car park.

Kondwani turned to face her, back leaning against the wall. “Yes,” he nodded. “The family of the former Minister of Lands.”

Alicia gawked at him in disbelief.

“That night of the accident,” Kondwani continued, eyes lowered down. “My mother was not supposed to be driving. The last time she had driven was when my father was still around and even then she was still learning.”

Alicia immediately put two and two together and started to shake her head, slowly as she waited for Kondwani to confirm her worst fears.

“She had been so desperate to get that job that she lied to Mrs Mulako and said she could drive.” Kondwani said. “My mother was about to knock off from work when the rich madam made a request to her; she had to pick up some item for her in Chilenje. The place was far and it was late but my mother would have probably managed if not for the fact that it started raining.”

Alicia got up from her seat, still shaking her head in disbelief. “Nooo-“ she kept repeating as tears cascaded down her face.

“My mother might have caused that accident that night Alicia but she didn’t kill your boyfriend.” Kondwani quickly added. The trepidation on Alicia’s face was enough to send anyone running from the room.

“What do you mean she didn’t kill Nicolas?” Alicia asked. “My Nicolas died because of that accident so how can you look at me and tell me that his death isn’t your mother’s fault? Wasn’t she the one behind the wheel!?” Alicia’s voice kept rising as she talked.

Kondwani could sense the direction the conversation was going to take and so he moved to stand by the door. He wanted to ask her to calm down but he knew better than to aggravate her any further. Alicia looked about ready to explode.

“I’m sorry babe, that’s not what I meant.” Kondwani said.

“Then what did you-“

“I meant that even thought my mother caused the accident, she was not responsible for his death because…because…someone else was.”
“Someone else?” Alicia asked. “Who?”

Kondwani took a deep breath before speaking with his eyes closed he said, “Me.”

Alicia’s heart was racing and the pounding was threatening to drown all other sounds in the room. “What do you mean you? No.”

Kondwani put his hands in his head in sheer helplessness and opening his eyes slowly, he faced the woman he was about to lose for forever. “I am the reason Nicolas could not be saved.”

It was as if she had been waiting for the words to completely come out because the moment Kondwani finished his sentence, Alicia broke out in sobs, her hand quickly going over her mouth to stifle her cries.

Kondwani went over to her but as expected she kept him off, backing away from him until she could move no more; she had reached his desk.

“You killed my Nicolas?” Alicia sobbed. “And I, I…” the rest of her words were caught up in her throat. She put her hand over her mouth and was about to throw up on it Kondwani placed his bin in her hand. Alicia went down on her knees, coughing and throwing up into the bin.

Kondwani tried to get closer to her again but she shoved him like a plague. “Don’t touch me!” She yelled.

Despite her rejection, Kondwani passed her a box of tissue and then a bottle of water before putting a ‘safe’ distance between them.

Not trusting her own legs to hold her up, Alicia gave in and slumped her body on the floor, crying and coughing at the same time. All Kondwani could do was watching her closely and uncomfortably from the side, afraid to take a step closer lest she threw something at him.

“What did you do?” Alicia asked when she cleared her throat a little bit.

Kondwani put his hands together and coiled slightly on the face before he could bring out the words that could never ever be taken back.

“I know that back then I might have felt justified in doing what I did,” he stated. “But right now I can’t even bring myself to give you those reasons, the excuses….”

Because how does my need to protect my family, my mother…the woman who had already seen the worst of the world…how does it triumph over what you lost Licia? Six years ago it did, even then I knew it shouldn’t have…but…but I needed my actions to make sense. Kondwani thought to himself. I even hated you for showing up in front of me and forcing me to face the reality of what I had done. I thought you were my karma but gosh, you are more of a victim here than my mother ever was, than any of us ever were because at the end of the day, a man’s life was lost and no one took responsibility for it.

I am that man that should have been responsible but instead, I went straight for heart, drew you in and ended up doing the same thing I did to your man six years ago.

And worst of all, I killed us Alicia. I killed us.

“I was still chasing my medical ambitions the evening I received a call from my mother six years ago.” Kondwani said instead to her. “She was crying and she informed me that she had caused an accident. It was her first time driving after years so you can imagine her state of mind.

“The streets were dark and it was raining heavily. She was frozen behind the wheel, shaking.” Kondwani continued. “She couldn’t move. I am ashamed to say this to you but in that moment I didn’t care about anything else but my mother and I won’t lie to you and pretend that the doctor instinct in me should have worried about the well-being of the other driver.

“I never became a doctor because of some calling or spiritual need.” Kondwani said. “I became a doctor for very selfish reasons; the profession was prestigious and I knew a way of making more money out of it so yeah, I don’t have the natural doctor heart.”

“Just get to the point.” Alicia told him.

“My point is,” Kondwani said. “I was a fool. I asked my mother to get away from the scene and I rushed over there to make sure nothing could point back to her. She had already told me that the driver in the other car had not moved and I could count the possibilities in my head.”

“I spoke to your mother earlier,” Alicia remembered her meeting with Mrs Chileshe, how fragile and soft-spoken she had appeared. To think that that woman….

“How can she talk to me in such a manner when-“

“My mother doesn’t know who you are and she also has no idea that someone died that night as a result of that collision.” Kondwani explained.

Alicia’s jaw dropped to the ground. “What do you mean she doesn’t know?”

“I told you, I had to protect her.” He answered. “She was still recovering from years of depression and I was afraid we would really lose her this time around if she discovered what had actually happened. It was very selfish of me, I know.”

“How was it so easy for you people to manipulate everything to your will?” Alicia asked.

“On my way to the scene I called the Mulako woman to let her know about the situation because I knew that she wouldn’t want the public knowing that the poor woman she was overworking had killed someone behind the wheel of a car she had no business driving during a late night errand she was not even going to be paid overtime for. In short, I blackmailed her and true to her nature she sorted out everything.”

“Did she pay the cops? Because they said Nicolas was the one at fault and-“

“Mrs Mulako did more than pay the cops,” Kondwani informed her. “She also paid a huge sum of money to the mother of the victim’s mother under the guise of condolence offering but they both knew it was hush money, something to ensure the family didn’t-“

“Wait a minute,” Alicia said. “When you say the victim’s mother-“

“Yes, I mean your child’s grandmother.” Kondwani confirmed. “She was given enough money to last her a life time. I am sure you have heard for yourself how loaded the Mulako’s are.”

“Before we get to that,” Alicia said, waving her hand in the air and shaking her head as if to steady its spinning. “You said that you’re responsible for Nick’s death; what did you mean by that? Nick didn’t die on the spot, he died at the hospital.”

“I know that,” Kondwani said, eyes filled with unshed tears. “But that wouldn’t have been the case if I had called the paramedics earlier.”

He waited for her reaction and it was nothing short of expectation. Alicia fell backwards into the chair, her hand over her mouth.

“Everything was happening so fast that night and my major concern was to make sure my poor mother didn’t get into any trouble so-“

“So you sacrificed Nicola’s life right!?” Alicia shouted and started crying. But then she suddenly stopped crying and looked up at him. “When did you know who I was?” She asked him.

Kondwani had been waiting for that question to come. The petrified look in Alicia’s eyes was literally begging him to say that whatever she was thinking was not true but at the same time every part of her body was begging him to tell her the truth.

“The very first day we met.” Kondwani stated simply. Two thick drops of tears fell from Alicia’s eyes.

“Licia-“ Kondwani tried to move closer to her but Alicia abruptly stood up.

“You knew and yet you still allowed us to happen?” She asked.

“I tried Alicia,” Kondwani said. “I tried desperately to keep things from progressing between us but with each passing day it became harder and harder to stay away from you.”

“Well then you should have tried harder or better yet fire me!” She snapped. “I would have preferred anything else to the…the disgusting thing…whatever this thing that happened between us was.”

“Nothing about us was disgusting.” Kondwani said with a face set in stoic. “Yes there’s no excuse for what I did and I recognize that allowing things to happen was too low of me but don’t for a second be mistaken into labelling our romance otherwise. I genuinely love you Alicia and I know for a fact that just because I am a bastard and you feel like killing me right now, I know that your feelings for me where genuine.”

“How can you talk about feelings in this moment?” Alicia asked, a repugnant expression on her face.

Kondwani sighed deeply. “I know nothing I say in this situation is ever going to win me credits.” He said under his breath but looking up at her he said loudly; “All am saying is that my love for you is real, yes please, don’t look at me like that.” He added in response to her raised eyebrows.

“If what you did to me despite knowing the truth is called love, then I would love to see what you do to those you hate.” Alicia’s tone was filled with sarcasm.

“You can question everything about me but please, don’t question my love.” Kondwani stated in an icy tone. “Yes, I lied to you when I kept the truth from you but in my own selfish way I thought that was the only way I could get to keep you.”

“You say you love me!?” Alicia pointed a finger to her chest, her whole demeanour confronting Kondwani in all possible ways. “Did you ever stop to think about the position you were putting me in when you were busy showering me with love?”

I never even got to shower you with anything, Kondwani thought to himself. “I thought about you, always.” He said. “Gosh, there’s no single day that went by that I didn’t question what I was doing. I kept telling myself, one more day, just one more day…until today happened.”

“So how do you expect me to face my son or Nic’s family after what I know today?” Alicia asked. “How do I tell my son that I am in-love with the man that killed his father?” she sobbed.

“Alicia-“ Was all Kondwani could say having been sternly warned to keep from touching her earlier.

“How can you do this to me?” Alicia cried. “What does this make me?”

“Licia-“

“What, was it pity?” She asked. “Did I look that pitiful or desperate to you? Was it guilt?”

“No!” Kondwani said.

“Did you think you could absolve yourself of your sins by taking care of the widow?” She asked.

“No!” Kondwani repeated. “Alicia, far from it.”

“I remember this one time,” she said. “We were at that restaurant where you took me after we spoke on the phone. I had been crying and you said you wanted to cheer me up. You looked at me and said something about paying back a debt. Is that it? Is that what you’ve been trying to do with me all while? AM I some guilt project to you?”

“Oh my God Alicia!” Kondwani could not fathom how clueless she was sounding. Didn’t she know how much she meant to him? Hadn’t she seen all the change she had brought in him as a man? Didn’t she know how much he longed to be with her every second? Didn’t she know how much he had risked just to be with her? How can she not know something so obvious?

“My falling for you had completely nothing to do with your connection to Nicolas.” Kondwani told her. “Yes, maybe at the beginning I felt guilty every time I looked at you. and yes, it was my guilt that drove me into helping you get your son back. At some point I even thought I marrying you would be one way of me lessening my guilt BUT,” he quickly added when he saw her breathing heavily and looking about ready to throw something heavy at his face.

“But it all changed somewhere along the way,” he said. “I don’t know when it changed…but I remember this one time vividly in my head when I knew without doubt that it was more than just guilt. It was in the changing room,” he recalled. “You looked at me shyly and said you think you might be in-love with me.

“It was very sudden and unexpected.” He continued. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined you saying those words to me first. The sincerity in your voice caught me by surprise and shook me all over again. I knew right then that things between us would never be the same again.”

“So I short I brought this on myself right? That’s what you’re trying to tell me isn’t it?” Alicia asked.

“Oh my gosh no Alicia!” Kondwani said in frustration.

“Then what is it?” She asked. “If I hadn’t said those words to you we wouldn’t be sitting here right now and I would have never discovered the things you and your family did.”

“I highly doubt that.” He said. “If you had not said it, I most probably would have said it to you myself in due time.”

Alicia hung her head hopelessly and rubbed at her eyes. “How do I tell my son…my family…God what have I done?”

“I think the only person you should be worrying about is your son.” Kondwani said. “Your former in-laws on the other end owe you an apology, especially your mother in-law that Mary lady.”

Kondwani’s mention of Mary’s name reminded Alicia of their confrontation at the hospital when Kondwani humiliated the woman and asked security to drive her out. How was she supposed to know that there had been more going on there than she could ever imagine?

“I just don’t understand why Aunt Mary would do such a thing.” Alicia said. “All these years, she’s treated me like her nemesis when in actual sense she…no, it just doesn’t make sense.”

“Desperate people do desperate thing, especially when it comes to money.” Kondwani said. “But Alicia,” he lowered his voice a notch. “I know that you’ll probably hate me more for saying what am about to say but, I need to ask you a favour.”

“What?” She asked.

“If you’re going to report the accident,” Kondwani said. “Is it okay if you put me behind the wheel instead of my mother?”

“What?” Alicia asked in disbelieve.

“Am saying,” Kondwani took a deep breath. “No, I am begging you, please, leave my mother out of it and put everything on me.”

“So you actually expect me to report this to the police?”

Kondwani looked surprised by her question. “I thought you-“

“Do you think that’s what’s important right now?” Alicia cried in disappointment. “You care so much about your mother, I get it, she means everything to you…but, but…what about me?”

Kondwani looked confused, not sure what to say. It was true his mother was his major concern but it didn’t take his concern for Alicia any less.

“Fine.” Alicia said and stormed out of the office.

By the time Kondwani realized what had just happened, Alicia had disappeared from sight and he had to spend the next thirty minutes searching for her around the hospital.

“Where’s she?” Kondwani had stormed into Kayombo’s office all hell and thurnder in is approach.

Kayombo got up from his chair. “What do you mean where’s she?” HE asked. “I left her in your office a while ago. What did you do you son of a-“

Kondwani went after him and glared him down. “Say what?” He dared him straight in the face.

Kayombo back away from him.

“Yeah, I thought so.” Kondwani said arrogantly and left the room the same way he came in.

Kayombo grabbed his jacket from the rack, grabbed his keys and dialled Alicia’s line as he ran out of the room. Her phone kept ringing until it could ring no more. he tried calling her again but this time it was off.
***
Mary Kabwe was watching TV with her three daughters, two of her nephews Stephen and the six year old Billy after a huge dinner prepared by her children for her birthday when Alicia unceremoniously joined their company.

“Alicia,” Exhildah guiltily addressed her late brother’s girlfriend.

“I see your hands are empty,” Mary sarcastically remarked, oblivious to the fury burning from every inch of Alicia’s face as she glared at her. “If you were going to invite yourself to my birthday, the least you could have done is bring my grandson along.”

“I want to talk to you, outside.” Alicia said, not bothering with pleasantries. She had never before spoken to her former mother in-law or her sister’s in-law in such a manner and the shock was written all over their face.

“Is everything okay Alicia?” Stephen had stood up and gone to stand by her side, his eyes closely searching her face. “You don’t look so good.” He observed. “Did something happen?”

“I just need to talk to your aunt here then maybe I might be fine if she makes me understand the things she’s done.” Her eyes were filled with tears just thinking about the betrayal and the suffering she had had to endure at the hands of the woman who sold away her own son’s life for a quick buck.

Alicia had always wondered where exactly Mary’s wealth had come from but she never bothered to pursue answers thinking it was none of her business. Now that she knew the truth, everything made so much sense.

“What’s wrong with this girl?” Rose, the youngest of the sister’s stood up to confront the disrespectful girl in their midst. “You’ve suddenly grown wings now that you’re sleeping with your doctor bosses ah?”

“Rose!” Exhildah went to pull her young sister away. “Don’t mind her, she’s still the brat that she was from the moment she came out of mum’s womb.”

“What brings you here Alicia?” Mwila, the mysterious, soft spoken first born of the Kabwe family asked her from where she was seated, next to their mother.

“I am so sorry to burge in like that but I really need to talk to your mother in private.” Alicia provided.

“Don’t you know what today is?” Mwila asked.

“I had forgotten but I think it’s very clear right now.” She was looking at the cake pieces on a tray on the table.

“Why am I not surprised?” Mary said in her usual sarcastic tone. “And since when do you talk to me like that? Sowing your true colours now that got your rich boyfriend to get your son back?”

“Should we just talk here or we go outside?” Alicia said. “I think it’s better to talk in private out-“

“Can’t you am with my children right now?” Mary asked. “You can say whatever you want to say right here. It’s not every day I get to have my whole family here with me. I can’t lose time by going outside to talk to you of all people. I thought you knew me better than that young lady.”

“Why did you accept their money?” Alicia went straight to the point, not wishing to spend any more time than expected in that kind of company.

“What are you talking about?” Mary’s gaze was still fixed on the whatever movie was showing on the tele, not giving Alicia her time of day.

However, Stephen had already picked up the meaning behind Alicia’s words and quickly jumped in for damage control. “Aunty,” he went to sit next to his aunt on the couch and taking her hand into his said; “I think you should go out and talk to Alicia in private, right now.”

But Mary refused to budge. Whatever Alicia wanted to say to her, she was gonna have to say it on her terms. Mary patted her daughter Mwila on her back in a motion to move her from where she was seated and the moment she was up, she stretched out her legs in front of her and got comfortable.

“Alicia-“ Stephen quickly went in for more control.

“If she wants me to talk here then I’ll talk.” Alicia stated defiantly. “I am talking about the money you got from Mrs Mulako.” She said and watched with satisfaction as she worn a desperate reaction from the woman.

Mary jumped up and went straight at Alicia, grabbed her hand to lead her out of the room but Alicia remained rooted to the spot. It was her turn to refuse to budge now.

“Let’s talk about this outside.” Mary’s guilty and pleading eyes said to her.

“You are the one who insisted on us talking here so let’s talk.” She said defiantly. “Let’s talk about the hush money you received from the people responsible for your son’s death and how you’ve spent the last six years blaming me for everything when you knew very well that-“

“Wait,” Mwila went to stand between the two women. “What hush money are you talking about? Mum? Alicia?” She was looking to and from the other. “Mum?”

It was Stephen’s turn to rush in. “Ladies, ladies,” he said. “How about the two of you talk outside in private.” He started pushing them away.

“Steve,” Exhildah called out to her cousin. “Do you know what’s going on here?”

“What hush money is she talking about?” Rose too chipped in.

“And what about Nicolas’ death? What’s that about?” Mwila asked, her gaze fixed on Alicia. “Is there some development in his case? Did they finally find out that he wasn’t responsible for the accident?”

“I think your mother here knows exactly what am talking about.”

“Mum,” Mwila turned back to her mother. “What is Alicia talking about?”

“I don’t know what she’s talking about, obviously she’s confused about something or misunderstood something.” Mary quickly dismissed her. “Let’s talk outside.”

“No,” Alicia stated simply. “I have changed my mind; I want to talk about this right here with everyone around. Maybe this is exactly what I need to finally move on with my life.”

Mary nervously started looking around the room at the faces of her family. There was no missing the suspicion and curiosity in them.

“What is everyone doing!?” Mary shouted. “Get this girl out of my house right now!” And she put her hand over her forehead to feign a fainting spell.

Exhildah pointed to her cousin Stephen who was standing very close to her mother, “Help her sit down.” She said and Stephen did as instructed.

“And you’re going to tell us about this thing Alicia is accusing you of mum.” Exhildah added once her mother was safely seated.

Mary sat up in the sofa, shocked that her fainting spell had no effect on the eager ears of her children. I am going to kill you Alicia Daka for this one, she thought to herself.

Mary was about to open her mouth to say something when a knock came on the door. She turned to Exhildah. “Is anyone else coming?” She asked. “I thought you said your husband-“

Before she could finish her sentence, the door swung open and there on the other side stood a visibly upset Claudia Chileshe standing next to a now loudly sobbing Mwansa.

“Who the hell are you?” Rose asked the two intruders, scanning them from head to toe with a disdainful look on her face.

“Mrs Chileshe?” Alicia gaped at the woman.

“Mwansa?” Stephen said at the same time as Alicia. “What’s going on here?” he walked towards the two women standing by the door. Mwansa however, said nothing in return, she just kept crying.

“Alicia, what are you doing here?” Kondwani’s mother asked, obviously surprised to see her there. “Do you know these people?”

“Mwansa, what are you doing here?” Stephen asked again.

Claudia turned to look at the young man addressing her daughter. “You must be the famous Steve right?”

Stephen threw Mwansa a questioning look but the twenty-two year old kept her gaze lowered.

“We went to your house but your mother said we would find you here.” Mary provided.
Mary slowly raised herself from the sofa and approached the people at the door. “Who are you people?” She asked. “You know them baby?” She asked Stephen.

“I know her,” he gestured towards Mwansa. “She is my ex-girlfriend and am guessing that this is her mother.”

“What is your ex-girlfriend and her mother doing at our house at this hour?” Rose asked Stephen.

“How do you know these people Alicia?” Claudia asked Alicia.

On Alicia’s face where all shades of confusion ever registered on a human’s face since the birth of Christ. For the first time since hearing the truth about Nicola’s death, Alicia found herself engaged in an eternal battle that would force her to make a decision against her own conscious. In that room were two groups of people; the ones responsible for Nicolas’ death one hand and the ones who suffered as a result of that death on the other hand. Unfortunately for Alicia, both groups of people fit into either category perfectly.

In as much as she was dying to call out Claudia for her role in Nicolas’ death, how could she do so knowing very well that the woman had absolutely no idea just how much damage she had caused and if she heard the truth in such an environment, just what might happen to her as a result of the shock?

Kondwani’s words kept ringing in her head;

…I had to protect her. She was still recovering from years of depression and I was afraid we would really lose her this time around if she discovered what had actually happened.

But what do I care if she lives or dies? Alicia wondered silently. Because of her I lost Nicolas and my child will never meet his father. Because of this woman I have spent the past six months paying a price for a wrong I did not commit.

And she turned to the woman in the room with whom she had another score to settle; Mary Kabwe. Just what wouldn’t she give up to make the nefarious woman face the consequences of her sins right in front of her whole family? For years she had embarrassed and tortured her any chance she got over her son’s death when the actual truth would shock to the core her very own children.

The desperate and curious faces around her told her that she had the power; she was the only one in the room who knew the connection between the two families and she was the only one with the power in her mouth to speak out and shutter to pieces their perfectly manicured million-dollar lives.

“Mum?” Someone called out to Claudia from behind her.

Alicia could recognize that voice even in her sleep. But what was he doing there?

“Wani?” Claudia starred wide-eyed at her son. “What are you doing here?”

“What is this now, a family reunion?” Rose remarked sarcastically.

Alicia walked passed Claudia and Mwansa standing by the door and stepped out to address Kondwani. “What are you doing here?”

“I figured this was the only place you could have come.” He said but quickly turned to his mother and sister. “What the hell are the two of you doing here? And why’s she crying?” He pointed at Mwansa.

“This foolish girl came home crying, saying some boy had impregnated her and then dumped her.”

“What!?” Stephen asked, pushing passed his cousins to confront Mwansa who still couldn’t bring herself to look up at him or anyone else. “I impregnated you?” he scoffed. “I impregnated you?” He kept stressing the word.

“Did you just laugh?” Claudia asked the tall young man.

“Stephen?” Alicia called to him, her mind going straight to her sister Belinda. As far as she knew, Stephen was in the process of fixing his relationship with her so what was he doing here with…someone none other than Kondwani’s sister?

Just how twisted were their loves entangled together?

“You’re pregnant!?” Kondwani roared at his sister and then turned accusing eyes at Stephen.

Stephen raised his shoulders in innocence. “I didn’t!” he quickly defended himself. “I never even slept with her!”

“What’s going on here Stephen?” Mary asked.

“Are you related to these people Alicia?” Claudia asked the beautiful nurse.

Kondwani turned petrified eyes in Alicia’s direction, the look on her face a clear reflection of everything that was going through his own mind.

How did this happen?

An Untimely Love – Part 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He knows you’re at my house.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Good.” He turned to leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I see you today?” He asked.

“Aaah, today?” She asked.

“Yes, is that okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

he slowly dragged himself down the stairs.

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

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

“Where are you going?” Cathy asked.

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

“Are you kidding me?”

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

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

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

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

No response came from Anton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s so funny?” Anton asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anton didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

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

“Tony?” She said.

“Lexy where are you?” He asked.

“At the mansion.” She answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you know something I don’t?”

“What time is Sam coming over?”

“At 4.”

“I see.” Oliver said.

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

“That’s not cool Oliver!” Alex said.

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

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

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

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

“Like you and me?” Oliver asked.

“Yes, no!” Alex fumbled.

Oliver laughed.

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

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

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

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

“I knew you would do this.” She said.

“Do what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baron rolled up the window and drove off.

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

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

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

“You could say that.” Anton admitted.

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

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

“Ah, because I know you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You sound cold, and dismissive.” He complained

“No I don’t.” Alex said.

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

“I don’t hate you Tony.”

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

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

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

“Why today of all days?” Alex asked.

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

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

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

“You did what?”

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

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

“It’s you.” Anton muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course am serious.” He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s fifty Alex!” Anton yelled.

“He’s forty-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you expecting anyone?” Anton asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anton appeared at a loss for words.

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

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

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

Kondwani’s Debt of Love – Part 15

(Still in draft form, to be edited later)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

z

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

“Yes.” Alicia replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why are you embarrassed?” Kondwani asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I thought about that possibility,” She admitted.

“What?” Kondwani asked.

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

“What about Gwen?” Kondwani asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia said nothing in response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I thought-“ Alicia started to say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unless you want physical evidence-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you okay?” Alicia asked again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning.” She greeted him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Licia!?” Belinda gasped.

Joseph could only gape at his daughter in disbelief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Grandma.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you doing here?” Alicia asked.

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

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

“Where did you sleep?” Belinda asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia nodded. “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did she say?”

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

Alicia froze mid-sentence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m in deep shit.” Kondwani said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not like this, he kept repeating.