Story: After the Engagement


    Writer: Faith Lucky

    Episode 1

    "For years, I've searched through the universe, looking for my soul mate; looking for the right woman for me, and now, I'm convinced I've found my soul mate. For so long I've been waiting for this very day, this hour, this minute and this second" he paused and held her fingertips with the opened ring box still in his right hand.
    "and now, Annabel Damola, in the presence of our relatives, friends and loved ones, will you be my wife?"
    Twenty - five year old spiffy Annabel was gobsmacked as she starred at Aiken who was kneeling on one knee, proffering the ring to her.
    That was her dream coming true - all she had ever wanted. For so long, she had been waiting for the day her Prince-charming Aiken would propose to her.
    They had been friends for a long time and everyone knew where their relationship was heading to.
    'how did she even get in here?'
    Oh, she could remember. She had gotten a call from him that evening, telling her to hurry over to his house because there was an emergency.
    When she got into the sitting room, the whole place was dark because the lights were turned off.
    "hello? 'she had said and immediately, the lights were turned on and some yet - unseen faces shouted "surprise!"
    She had almost panicked over the surprise. Her mother and siblings were there, all smiling at her. Aiken's relatives were also there and some close friends and business partners were there as well.
    The sitting room was enormous enough for the party as the house itself was vast and refurbished.
    She had known Aiken while she was in the University and when they had become amicable, her dream was to end up with him.
    "Annabel?" Aiken called in a whisper and Annabel finally gave out a smile.
    "how on earth can I say no? Of course, I'll marry you" she replied, smiles all over her face.
    Immediately, the crowd gave out a round of cheers and applause. Aiken fixed the ring on her middle finger and gave her a warm hug which was followed by a kiss.
    "and now, a toast to the newly engaged" Aiken's mother, Mrs Bassey said in a loud blissful voice and everybody took a glass of wine.
    "we wish them success and prosperity. Cheers!"
    "cheers!" the crowd responded and they all drank from their glasses of wine.
    Immediately, a slow romantic song was turned on.
    Annabel was ecstatic about the whole surprise and her happiness knew no bounds. She couldn't believe it was happening.
    Aiken was just twenty-eight years old, educated, wealthy, smart and handsome - just the kind of man she needed in her life.
    "thank you, darling for doing this for me" Aiken said to her, his hands around her shoulders.
    "what're you thanking me for?" Annabel asked and scoffed. "I knew this was going to happen. I'm a bit surprised you waited this long..."
    "Happy engagement" a middle-aged woman walked up to them and interrupted Annabel who was speaking.
    "thank you" Aiken and Annabel replied simultaneously and she walked away.
    "are you kidding me? What do you mean I waited this long?" Aiken asked.
    "come on, drop-ass. You know what I'm talking about".
    "you know, I really wish I could punch you in the face right now, but unfortunately, I still need that beautiful face of yours to entertain my guests"
    "you can try" Annabel said and slapped him on the shoulders, softly.
    "hey, you two. Don't you think it's too early to start hitting each other? I mean, you're not even married yet" Mrs Bassey said as she walked up to them with a drink in her hand.
    "good evening, mum" Annabel said with laughter in her mouth. She was fond of calling her 'mum'.
    "evening, darling. Happy engagement".
    "thanks".
    "hope you're enjoying the party? This is going to be your first and last engagement party" Mrs Bassey said and walked away.
    "hm" Annabel said to Aiken. "well, it's my first, but who said anything about last? If you get me upset, I'm definitely going to go for a second".
    Aiken bursted into laughter.
    Shortly, Annabel's mother, Mrs Damola also walked up to them.
    "Happy engagement, dear" she said to them.
    "thanks" they both replied in unison.
    "mum," Annabel said. "you also knew about this and you didn't tell me about it?"
    "come on, darling it was meant to be a surprise" Mrs Damola replied and laughed.
    "see you later" she added and walked away.
    Annabel and Aiken kept receiving pleasantries and congratulations from the guests. Shortly Annabel's phone awakened with a ring and she discovered it was her elder brother who was residing in a different state.
    She excused herself from Aiken and walked over to the dinnete, which was quieter than the main sitting room.
    "hello, big brother" she said happily on the phone.
    "Oh, little sis. Happy engagement!"
    "what? How did you know about this?"
    "mom told me it was going to take place today. So, I figured it has taken place".
    Annabel jumped into laughter.
    "So sorry I can't be there with you to celebrate".
    "come on, Dayo. I still have my wedding party coming up. I'm sure you and your will be in attendance" she paused and sighed. "I just wish dad was here to see all these".
    "don't worry, Annabel. I'm sure he's happy wherever he is".
    There was a short silence.
    "Okay. We'll talk later. Enjoy your party ".
    "bye"
    And the call ended.
    Annabel stood still for sometime in a wistful moment, wishing her dad were there with her. She had lost him in a critical illness at the age of sixteen and her mother took up the responsibility of being the single parent. Oh, her poor mother.
    She had shuddered the whole family alone - the family which consists of four children. And back then, her mother didn't have a tangible job at hand. She had gone through the struggles to feed the family and also train them in school.
    It was great few years back that Annabel had met with Aiken that Aiken transformed her family into a fortunate one.
    Mrs Bassey who also became a widow, had given Annabel's mother a good position in her company and that was when their cordial relationship had started.

    Annabel decided to go back to the party before Aiken started looking for her. But just when she turned to go, her cell phone started ringing. She checked the caller and discovered it was a strange number.
    She moved away, closer to the dinnete and answered it.
    "hello?" she said quickly on the phone.
    "hello, darling" the caller replied.
    Annabel was silent. She looked around and moved farther away from the crowd. 'no, there's no way! It couldn't be him!'
    "who's this?" she possumed, her hands almost shaking with the phone in it.
    "come on, Annabel. Don't tell me seven years is enough for you to forget the tone of my voice".
    "Ted?" she called in a whisper. "how did you get my contact?"
    "well, let's just say it's a small world" the caller replied after a brief laugh.
    "what do you want?" asked Annabel.
    "you're asking me what I want? I just wanted to wish you a happy engagement party. But, you know, I'm curious if your supposed in-laws know the kind of person you really are. I wonder if they know the kind of monster they're about getting married to".
    Annabel went into a deep silence as her eyes were becoming sore with fear.

    Episode 2

    "meet me at sizzlers, 4 p.m, tomorrow" the caller finally said and ended the call.
    Annabel felt debilitated by the call as she could sense a parlous situation ahead.
    She sauntered back to the party, but her attention was not there. Her neocortex seemed to be getting mixed up. She looked at the people in the party and they all looked happy - happy for her engagement.
    A young woman walked up to her and said: "Happy engagement, dear", and walked away, but all Annabel could hear was her mother's words, imbued with seriousness.
    'you have to do
    It, Annabel. If you don't,
    It's only going to
    ruin you'.
    In front of her was a man picking up a glass of drink from a table, but in her illusion, all she could see was herself, picking up 'the' pillow.
    She looked by her left and there was a man patting a woman's cheeks happily, but in her imaginations, all she could see was Ted, hitting her very hard to the floor.
    All the voices of the people speaking and chatting happily in the room, and the low cool musics being played all turned cacophonic for her as they all seemed to be getting mixed up with her mother's words, Ted's peeved voice and the little crying voice.
    She felt like screaming out loud.
    "Annabel?" Aiken broke into her discordant thoughts.
    "are you alright?" he asked, noticing the capricious bleak on her face.
    "I'm fine" she replied quickly, almost in a raucous voice.
    "I... I need to make use of the powder room" she added and turned to go, but Aiken held her back by the hand.
    "powder room?" he asked, looking surprised. "but, this is my house, not a hotel. There's no power room in here".
    "Oh... sorry, I meant the toilet" she replied and walked away.
    She got on the stairs leading to some of the rooms in the house and as she climbed on it, she could remember herself running down 'a' stairs.
    She held onto the gaddas of the stairs as she struggled to prevent herself from screaming or running.
    She looked down to the sitting room which was just beside the stairs and she saw a lot of happy faces, of which some of them were starring at her.
    She continued climbing the stairs as if everything was normal, but immediately she got out of sight, she hastened her footsteps and started running.
    Her hurried footsteps reminded her of the time she was also running away.
    She got to a corridor and tried opening the first door she saw, but it was locked. She ran to the second door and luckily for her, it opened.
    Even as she opened the door, she could remembered her trembling hands also opening 'a' door.
    She quickly got into the room and ran over to a make-up stand that was at the left hand side of the room.
    "no!" she screamed and whacked the table, resulting in the shaking and falling of some of the tools on the table.
    She crouched over the table and wept bitterly.
    She stood there for sometime, still crying out her anguish and after a short while, she walked into the toilet.
    She washed her hands and touched her forehead with the wet hands. Her head felt so hot.
    Immediately, she heard the door at the main entrance of the bedroom opening. She quickly went to check on who was coming in and she discovered it was Udeme, a twenty-three year old junior sister to Aiken.
    "what're you doing here?" Udeme asked with a quizzical expression and that was when Annabel noticed she was in her room.
    "Oh, sorry. I only came to make use of your toilet".
    "what happened here? Why're my tools on the floor?" Udeme asked as she scurried to the table.
    "sorry, I slipped and hit the table".
    Annabel walked over to the table and tried arranging the tools for her.
    "please, leave!" Udeme huffed. "I can do it alone".
    Annabel starred at her for a moment and started walking towards the door.
    "you know," she paused by the door, her hands clasped around the handle.
    "I'm aware you never liked me. But now that we're gradually becoming in-laws, I think it'd be best we set our differences aside and start making peace" she continued and left the room.
    "hm" Udeme said with a grimace. "in-laws indeed".
    Udeme was hoping her brother would get married to her best friend, Idara. At least, they were from the same ethnic group and she found it unreasonable for him to get married to a yoruba lady.
    Idara had tried her best to be noticed by Aiken by coming over to the house frequently and leaving late. But all her efforts went down the drain as she couldn't penetrate his feelings.
    Annabel was more important to him.

    ***

    Annabel sat in front of the mirror and her beautiful yet, alburn face reflected back at her.
    It was 4 p.m and she was fully dressed up, getting ready to meet Ted at his required location.Through out the night, she had been thinking of their meeting. She wandered what he would say to her.
    She picked up her purse and walked out of the room, headed for the sitting room which led to the exit of the house.
    When she got to the sitting room, she met with her twenty-two year old younger sister, Deola.
    "Annabel!" Deola called as she stood up from the couch on which she was sitting and watching a movie.
    "I can't believe you've been in this house. Why have you been indoors all day?" Deola asked but Annabel gave no reply as she kept walking towards the door.
    "where're you going?"
    "to see a friend" Annabel replied and walked out of the door without turning back to look at her.

    ***

    Annabel walked into sizzlers and found Ted sitting at a table. The whole place was filled with people and she hoped someone familiar wouldn't see her and start spreading scurrilous gossips about her.
    She looked at him from behind for a moment before going over to meet him.
    "you kept me waiting" was the first thing he said when he saw her.
    Annabel didn't give him a reply as she sat on a seat that ws opposite to him, being demarcated by a table.
    He was looking as cute as ever - cute and crazy.
    "So, what would you like to take?" he asked and clicked his fingers towards the direction of a waiter, signaling him to come over.
    Annabel placed her hands on the table and leaned forward.
    "please, Ted, I'm not here for fun. So, go straight to the point before someone sees me".
    Immediately, a waiter arrived. "yes?"
    "a bottle of champagne, please" said Ted.
    "yes, sir" the waiter replied and left.
    "what a pretty ring you're putting on? Must've been quite expensive. Well, I must say I'm not surprised. I mean, you're getting married to a very wealthy man - the president of one of the most famed wine companies".
    "I'm not getting married to Aiken because of his wealth. I'm getting married to him because I..."
    "Oh, please, don't even mention the word 'love'" Ted cut in. "you know nothing about love. I don't think someone as horroful as you are can know what's called love".
    "Ted, I really hope you didn't bring me here to remind me of such stupid things. Whatever happened back then is now in the past and..."
    "you killed my damn child and now you want me to classify it as a thing of the past?" he interrupted her again and realized he had been a bit loud, but fortunately, nobody overhead him.
    "your child?" Annabel asked and scoffed. "I can't believe you even have the guts to call her that".
    Immediately, the waiter walked back to them with a tray containing a bottle of champagne and two glass cups. He opened the wine on the table and decanted it into the two glass cups and after which, he left with an empty tray.
    "we both know you never liked that baby, Ted. She only stood as a means of torment for me".
    "the only reason I never liked her was because I had no idea she was really my child. You know, back then you were a whore and you couldn't expect me to accept the baby in a rush. The very day I went for a DNA and discovered the baby was really mine, I decided to change my ways. But, when I arrived home with the good news, the baby was already dead. You had killed her and made it look like she slept and never woke up."
    Annabel sighed and leaned on her chair.
    "when I became pregnant, I was forced by my mum to move in with you and till the very time of my delivery, you were always disgusted by my pregnancy. After I gave birth, you didn't show even an iota of love to me or the baby. Instead, you used me as a punching bag. The baby became very ill and there was no money for medical fees. You were also not being helpful and my mother couldn't raise a reasonable amount of money. So, what was I to do? The baby was dying slowly and I... "
    " you only had to make it quicker" Ted cut in, nodding his head. "don't worry, you don't have to explain how you killed her cause I saw everything. One thing you were dumb enough not to have noticed was that there was a CCTV camera in my bedroom. I... I don't think you can imagine what it feels like to watch your own child suffocated to death with a pillow. How could you be so heartless, Annabel? She was your flesh and blood ".
    Annabel was silent, but the reason for her sudden silence wasn't because of the cruel things Ted was saying to her, but because of the CCTV camera he mentioned. And just as she had anticipated, he dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out a disc.
    "I made this out of the CCTV camera. It's a recording of how you killed my five months old baby" Ted said, rotating the disc in his hand.
    Annabel looked at him as he held the disc in his hand, her eyes wide open in distraught.
    She thought of snatching the disc from him, but she knew there was no way she could outrun him. And even if she tried starting a fight or struggle over it, people around may intervene and the news may spread out.
    Ted scrutinized the angst look on her face as he clutched the film disc into his hand.
    "So," she said after a nervous gulp. "why haven't you given the video to the police?"
    "because... I knew someday, it'd get me something that would worth more than giving it to the police."
    His statement got Annabel nerve-racking. 'what does he want?'
    "call of your engagement".
    'boa!' that was the bombshell.
    Annabel starred at him in surprise as he was glaring back at her.
    "what?" Annabel asked, her voice sounding weak and confused.
    "you heard me, Annabel. Call of your engagement. If you don't, I'm going to send this video to your beloved in-laws and believe me Annabel, they wouldn't even want to look at you. And who knows? Perhaps, they might become angry enough to take the video to court so you can get punished for what you did" he paused and smirked unpleasantly. "So, you see, either way, the engagement isn't going to work out".
    "Ted!" she shrieked. "you can't do that. You can't ruin my engagement".
    "I can't? Or won't?" he asked and fixed the disc back into his pocket. "you see, Annabel, I 'can' do it and I 'will' do it. So, listen to me carefully; call off the engagement, or I'll make them call it off, but in an unpleasant way. I'm giving you until the end of tomorrow to do it", he looked around and beckoned on a waiter, paid him for the 'untouched' wine and left.

    Episode 3

    The next day at noon, Annabel laid on her bed in a ruminative mood.
    She laid on her back, starring at the ceiling. Thenshortly, the door opened and her mother came in.
    "Annabel?" Mrs Damola called as she closed the door and walked closer to her. "are you alright? You seem to be isolating yourself these days".
    "I'm fine" she replied, her eyes fixed on the ceiling.
    Mrs Damola sighed and said: "Aiken is here to see you. He's in the sitting room".
    That was what took Annabel's eyes away from the ceiling. It was unusual for Aiken to come over to the house without informing her.
    She went for her phone and found six missed calls - all from him.
    'Oh, damn!' she had switched her phone on silent mood because she didn't want to be disturbed by anyone.
    "tell him I'll be with him shortly" she said to her mother and watched her leave.
    Suddenly, the thought of sharing her problem with her mother flashed into her mind.
    'no!' she objected immediately. Besides, her mother was part of the reason everything had happened.
    She could remember her mother's words lucidly.
    "you have to do
    It, Annabel. If
    you don't, it's
    only going to
    ruin you."
    Her mother was the one who advised her into taking such a disastrous decision. In fact, it was her mother's fault.
    "shut up, Annabel", she countered herself. "mother only advised you, but she didn't force you to do it".
    She left the bed and walked out of the room, headed for the sitting room. She climbed down the stairs and as her footsteps echoed in the silence, she though of Aiken.
    Why has he been calling her? Or, has Ted shown the video to him already?
    But that's not possible. Her deadline was till he end of the day.

    When she got to the sitting room, she found Aiken communicating with her eighteen year old brother, who was also the last child of the family.
    "good afternoon, sis" her brother said and left the room, giving both of them some privacy.
    "hi" Annabel said, still standing.
    Aiken starred at her for a moment before giving her a reply.
    Her hair was shaggy and she was looking doubly pale.
    "what happened to your phone? I've been trying to reach you, but..."
    "I know, I know. I'm sorry, it was on silent mood."
    "and why was it on silence?"
    Annabel didn't give him a reply as she looked directly into his face.
    'gosh!' he was really handsome - fair in complexion, white bright eyes, a sweet intonation and a sweet smile that displayed a dimple, but only on his left cheek. Was this the kind of guy she was going to lose?
    "get dressed. I'm taking you out" Aiken said to her.
    "where?" she asked in a muffled tone.
    "for lunch".
    "I... I'm not really hungry. I don't..."
    "come on, Annabel. I insist. Go get dressed."
    Annabel didn't say anything else as she quietly turned to go. But, Aiken held her back and placed his hands on both sides of her shoulders, looking directly into her face.
    "Annabel, is everything okay?" he asked.
    She smiled and rubbed the hands on her shoulders, fighting so hard to hold back her tears.
    "I'm fine" she hushed, almost in a rueful tone and left.
    When she got into her room, she walked over her makeup table and crouched over it, still standing. She starred into her big mirror which was in front of the table.
    The image that reflected back at her was looking tired, disheveled and very pale. Gosh! That was so unlike her.
    She bent her head and wept silently. She lifted her head back to the mirror and looked at her pathetic image.
    Tears rolled down her cheeks and her head felt hot.
    What was happening to her? She was completely losing it.
    She walked over to her wardrobe and rifled through her clothes, looking for something suitable to wear. She finally picked a short blue dress and got a shoe to match.
    She walked back to her make-up table and brushed her hair, applied some brown powder and a light red lipstick - so unlike her who always preferred heavy makeup.
    Before she finally left, she glanced at the mirror again. Although, she had applied a light make up, she was still looking beautiful.
    But, perhaps, no amount of physical beauty could change her emotional state.

    *
    She sat opposite Aiken in an eatery as she tried as hard as possible to eat the food in front of her.
    They had been eating for close to fifteen minutes and she was yet to eat one-third of her food.
    How could she call off the engagement? The clock was ticking.
    How would she even bring the news to him?
    'I'm sorry, Aiken, but I can't go on with this engagement...'
    Or,
    'it's over between us, Aiken. I'm done with this relationship...'
    Or,
    'sorry, you're not good enough for me...'
    Or,
    'sorry, I'm not good enough for you. I'm too horrible...'
    "Annabel?" Aiken broke into her confused discordant thoughts and placed his hands on top hers which was on the table.
    "are you alright? You've been acting uncharacteristically quiet".
    "I... I'm sorry" she replied.
    "and look at your food. You haven't eaten anything".
    "I told you from home, Aiken. I'm not really hungry".
    Aiken dropped his cutleries and budged the food away from himself.
    "come on," he said and stood up. "there's something I want to show you".

    They drove for close to fifteen minutes and Aiken finally parked in front of an edifice building.
    Aiken and Annabel came out of the car and looked at the house, a black gate in front of it.
    Then unexpectedly, Aiken brought out a key from his pocket and opened the gate with it. Annabel wanted to ask him why he was in possession of the key, but she was carried away by the beauty of the house as she stepped her foot in it.
    To her, the house was ineffable. She looked around in amazement, her eyes filled with astonishment.
    Aiken cleared his throat before speaking, in order to get her attention.
    "do you remember there was a time you told me you would love a house like this? A two storey building, painted in white and blue? Do you remember?"
    "yes, I do" Annabel replied, her eyes still going round the house.
    "So, does that mean you like this house?"
    "you're talking about like? Tell me, who wouldn't love this house?"
    "well then, I'm glad to inform you that this", he paused and pointed to the house. "is going to be matrimonial home".
    Annabel was abacked.
    She looked at Aiken and slowly took her eyes to the house. She couldn't even think of the right words to say.
    "Aiken?" she called in a whisper, tears coming her eyes.
    This was just too much. She didn't deserve any of this.
    Ted was right. She was a horrible person and someone as horrible as her shouldn't be treated this way.
    She turned to Aiken, tears rolling down her cheeks.
    "there's something you should know".
    "what is it?" he asked, a fading smile on his face.

    Episode 4

    Annabel bent her head and wept in acrimony. How could she throw away her dreams in such manner?
    She had prayed and hoped so hard for this and now, she was about to throw it all away within the twinkle of an eye.
    "Annabel, is there something wrong? What is it you want to tell me?" Aiken asked, becoming worried.
    She looked at him again and bent her head.
    Oh, God! She couldn't lose a man like him in her life.
    "I..." she paused and sniffled. "I... I just wanted to tell you I... I love you. Thank you so much for this and... and for everything".
    Aiken gave a bright smile and embraced her.
    "I love you too, darling".
    *
    By the time Annabel got home, it was close to six p.m.
    She quickly picked up her phone and called Ted.
    "hello?" Ted said on the phone.
    "Ted, please, we have to talk. It's very important".
    There was a long silence.
    "fine. Meet me at my apartment".
    He gave her the location of his house and in a short time, she arrived at his doorstep.
    She knocked desperately on the door and Ted opened up.
    He was putting on a boxer topped with a white singlet and a glass of wine in his left hand.
    Immediately Annabel saw him, she went on her knees.
    "Ted, please. I can't do it. I couldn't do it" she cried, rubbing her palms together.
    "please, I beg you. If there's anything else I can do, I promise I'll do it. But I can't call off the engagement. I can't." tears were already rolling down her cheeks.
    Ted, still standing at the door, looked at her without giving her a reply. He sipped from his glass and leaned on the door, having a sadism expression on his face.
    "So," he finally said, sluggishly. "you can't call off the engagement" he paused and sipped from his glass again.
    "So, what do we do?" he asked, but Annabel gave no reply. She just kept crying.
    "look, crying and whining won't do you any good. So, don't think you can penetrate through my emotions with your meaningless tears".
    "Ted please, I'm not making this up. I mean it. Have pity on me".
    "Pity? Did I just hear you say Pity? The same pity you could give to a poor little child?" he asked and this really affected Annabel deep down.
    "well," he continued. "being the kind-hearted man that I've always been, I enjoy giving people second chances." he sipped from his glass again and starred into space.
    "you can buy me off with ten million naira".
    "what?" Annabel shrieked, still on her knees.
    "you heard me. If you can get me ten million naira, I'll give the video to you".
    "what do you mean by ten million hours? H... How on earth am I supposed to get such a huge amount of money?"
    "your fiance is very wealthy. I'm sure he has more than a hundred million naira in his personal account. So, ten million naira should mean nothing to him".
    "b... but Ted, ten million is a huge sum of money. What would my reasons be for demanding such a huge amount of money?"
    "well, that's your problem, not mine. Besides, you've always been a perfect liar. I mean, you killed your own baby and lied she slept and never woke up. So, this shouldn't be a serious issue for you".
    "but, Ted. Ten million naira is too much. Please, have mercy on me".
    "I'm sorry, dear, but my pocket of mercy has been exhausted. This is the last mercy I can give to you. I'm giving you just a period of one month" he replied and walked into the house, leaving Annabel crying on her knees.

    ***

    Annabel sat in her room thinking of her recent quandary when her mother came in.
    "Annabel, are you alright?" Mrs Damola asked, but got no reply.
    "Annabel, is there something wrong? You don't look fine to me".
    Mrs Damola became confused. She had never seen Annabel acting that way before.
    "I... I came to call you for dinner. Dinner is ready and..."
    "I'm not hungry" Annabel said at last, her eyes still fixed into space.
    "but, why?" Mrs Damola asked and sighed. "this morning, you refused having breakfast and now you..."
    "I said I'm not hungry!" she interrupted angrily and bursted into tears.
    "Annabel?" Mrs Damola called in shock and sat next to her on the bed. "calm down. It's okay. Everything's fine..."
    It took her exactly eight minutes to calm Annabel down.
    "now, tell me, honey. What's wrong?"
    "it's Ted, mum. It's Ted" she replied, still snuffling.
    "Ted?" Mrs Damola asked, surprised.
    "yes, he's back. He has the video, mum. The video of how I killed Tola".
    "what? But how?"
    "there was a CCTV camera in his room that I didn't know of. He made a video out of it and I'm sure he wasn't lying because he knew the exact way I killed her. Nobody else knew that apart from me. Remember I didn't even tell you about it".
    There was a long silence as Annabel kept sniffling.
    "So, what does he want?" Mrs Damola asked.
    "at first, he had asked me to call off the engagement, but he later changed his mind and now he's asking for ten million".
    "ten what?" Mrs Damola squealed.
    "he said if I failed to get the money in the next one month, he's going to send the video to Aiken".
    "W... Why would Ted be this evil?"
    "mum, I'm scared. I don't want to lose Aiken. I don't want anything to ruin my engagement."
    "it's okay, baby. Everything will be fine" Mrs Damola said and embraced her.

    ***

    Annabel was in Aiken's house the next day and they both sat next to each other in sitting room.
    A movie was being played on the television screen, but their attention wasn't there. They were discussing about other things, although, Aiken had been the one doing most of the talking.
    "So, we've decided to hire two buses that would take our friend from here to your village for the traditional marriage. And..."
    Annabel was not interested in what he was saying. Although her body was there, but her mind and thoughts were else where.
    She was thinking of her imperative problem; not really about Ted, but about the incautious idea her mother had brought up the previous night:
    'Annabel, the only way we can milk out money from Aiken is by bringing up a very pressing need'. Her mother had said to her the previous night by the time her sniffles had died away.
    'I know, mum. But I can't think of anything reasonable to say to him', Annabel had replied.
    'why don't you pretend to be critically ill?'
    'what? That's absurd. I can't do that, mom. What if he finds out I'm lying?'
    'well, how will he find out? Unless you plan on telling him. There's this doctor friend of mine - Dr Dibua. I'll go and talk to him. I'm sure he'll cooperate'.
    'but, mom. I...'
    "Annabel!" Aiken brought into her thoughts, nudging her. "you didn't answer my question".
    Annabel starred at him in confusion. "W... What question?"
    "what the hell is wrong with you, Annabel? You haven't even been listening to me".
    "I... I'm sorry. I was just..."
    "I'm sorry' has become a reoccurring motif in our relationship. What is going on, Annabel?"
    "I'm sorry, Aiken" Annabel said and touched his palm softly. "I was just thinking of a wedding dress I saw on the Internet. Deola and I were viewing some online shopping and we saw these particular set of gowns and they were just too beautiful. So, I've been contemplating on it because I..."
    "but, don't you think it's unreasonable for you to think of a wedding dress while we're discussing vital issues?"
    "like I said, Aiken,, I'm sorry. So, what was the question?"
    "I was thinking of making our traditional marriage a day before the white wedding. So, I decided to fix the traditional marriage on the eighth of March, which is two months from now and the white wedding would be on the ninth. What do you think?"
    "I think that's fine by me" Annabel replied.
    He was sounding so interested in the wedding - a wedding she wasn't so sure of anymore.
    Immediately, the door opened and Onoja, a very close friend of Aiken, came into the house.
    "hi, bro" Onoja said to Aiken and exchanged a handshake with him.
    He wasn't just a friend, but he was also the family doctor to the entire Bassey family.
    "good day, Onoja" Annabel greeted.
    "hello, soon to be bride. How're you doing?"
    "I'm fine" she replied.
    "So, how's the family dude?" Aiken asked.
    "we're all fine. The baby started crawling yearsterday..."
    Annabel felt relieved when Aiken's attention was taken away by Onoja.
    The two friends chatted for sometime and Annabel decided to leave.
    "I think I should be on my way" she said, standing up.
    "but why?" Aiken asked.
    "there's something I need to do at home".
    "okay. Why don't I give you a ride home?"
    "don't bother . I'll just take a cab. Besides, you're with your friend. I don't want to disturb you guys".
    "okay, dear. Bye".
    "bye" Onoja said to her back.
    And as Annabel opened the door to leave, she heaved a sigh of relief.

    Episode 5

    Mrs Damola sat patiently in Dr Dibua's office, waiting for him to arrive. She had been there for close to twenty minutes, on the doctor's account to wait for him in his office.
    After a short run, the door opened with a creaking sound and Mrs Damola turned to see the doctor coming in.
    "So sorry for keeping you waiting. I was busy" Dr Dibua said as he hurried over to his seat on the other side of the table which was opposite to where Mrs Damola was sitting.
    "ah, no problem". Mrs Damola replied". She leaned forward and placed her both hands on the table.
    "So sorry I couldn't make it to Annabel's engagement party. I was on the evening shift".
    "there's no problem. I'm sure you'll be able to attend the wedding party."
    "of course, of course." he giggled with a nod. "uhm... By the way, when you told me you'll be coming over to my office, you sounded pretty urgent. What is it?"
    "Ehm... Dibua," she started.
    They've been friends even before he became a doctor and that was why she was used to calling him just by his name.
    "you see, the reason I'm here is because of Annabel. Actually, there's a very pressing need and... and the only one person that can help us with such amount of money is Annabel's fiance". She paused to notice the inquisitiveness on Dr Dibua's face.
    He seemed interested.
    "So, you see, the only idea that could come into our mind was for us to fake an ailment so that Aiken would be compelled to provide the money".
    "but, Mrs Ronke," Dr Dibua said, calling her by her first name. "if really you are in need of money, why not ask him for it directly?"
    "it's because we don't have any other considerable reason for demanding such an amount of money".
    "how much are you even talking about?"
    "ten million naira..."
    "ten million what?" Dr Dibua asked, discomfited. "what on earth do you need such an amount for?"
    "it's... It's personal. But, one thing you should know is that, it's very important. Please".
    Dr Dibua didn't say anything immediately as he removed his specs from his eyes.
    "well," he said in an acceding manner. "if at all I'm to be of help, there's just no way I'll be able to make up to ten million naira. I... I mean, there's no medical condition that can worth up to ten million naira and the patient will not appear close to dead. In most cases, the patients even stay up to six months being treated because the illness are often severe".
    "hm" Mrs Damola sighed and bent her head for sometime. "So, how much do you think you can raise?"
    Dr Dibua clicked his tongue and said: "let's say, three million".
    "three what? Ah! Dibua, three million is nothing o".
    "okay, fine. The best I can do for you now is five million. Five million and that's it. Nothing more. I'll be diagnosing her with PVD and seriously, I just hope I won't get caught because PVD shouldn't be charged up to five million naira".
    Mrs Damola kept silent as there was an unsatiating expression on her face.
    "Mrs Ronke, we're talking of millions of naira here and the only reason I'm doing this for you is just because of old time's sake. You've been a good friend to me and I don't want to ruin our friendship. But irrespective of the fact I don't want to ruin our friendship, I also don't want to ruin my career".
    'but how will I get the remaining five million?' she thought to herself. 'perhaps, we should cross this bridge and when we get to the next bridge, we'll think of another way to cross it' she concluded.

    ***

    Aiken drove into the hospital building hastily with his mother and sister at the back seat and fortunately for them, they met Mrs Damola at the facade of the building.
    They quickly got off the car and ran over to her. She appeared to have been waiting for their arrival.
    "Ronke, is everything okay?" Mrs Bassey asked.
    "we came as fast as we could when you called and told us Annabel was in the hospital. What happened?" Aiken asked.
    "we were just at home this morning o. Deola had gone to work and Bisi had gone to school. Then suddenly, Annabel just fell down and collapsed." Mrs Damola said, almost in tears.
    "but, we were together yearsterday" Aiken said. 'maybe that was why she was acting so strange' he added to himself.
    "So, where's she?" Mrs Bassey asked.
    "the doctor is attending to her".
    Mrs Damola led them into Annabel room and there they found Annabel asleep, Dr Dibua beside her.
    "good morning, doctor" they greeted simultaneously.
    "oh, morning." Dr Dibua replied as he removed his stethoscope from his ears.
    "doctor, what's wrong with her?..."
    "how's she?..."
    "calm down. You don't have to worryshe's fine for now" Dr Dibua said.
    "fine for now?" Aiken asked and sighed disappointedly.
    "yes. She's been diagnosed with Peripheral Vascular Disease and..."
    "don't you think it'll be more convenient to talk in your office?" Udeme suggested. That was the first thing she had said since they arrived at the hospital and the only reason she came along was because her mother had insisted.
    "of course. That's a great idea" Dr Dibua replied and went over his office with them.
    Mrs Damola didn't go with them as she decided to stay back with Annabel in case she needed any attention.
    Inside the doctor's office, Aiken and his mother sat down while Udeme had to stand behind them since they only had two visitor's seats in the doctor's office.
    "So, as I was saying," Dr Dibua started as he cleared his throat and took his own seat. "she has been diagnosed with Peripheral Vascular Disease; PVD. It is a circulation disorder that causes narrowing of blood vessels to various parts of the body. The only place it doesn't affect is the brain and the heart".
    "please, doctor. Break it down for us. What exactly is wrong with her?" Mrs Bassey asked in a muddled way.
    "well, in her case the PVD is taking place in her legs. Some of the causes of these PVD include atherosclerosis, blood clots, diabetes, inflammation of the arteries, structural defects of..."
    "please, please, please." Mrs Bassey cut in. "we don't want to know their causes. Tell us what can be done. She's getting married to my son in two months time".
    "well, we'll be needing a deposit of five million naira to..."
    "five million what?" Udeme interrupted with shock. "ex... excuse me. What do you need five million naira for?"
    "yes, doctor. She's right. Isn't five million naira too much?" Aiken asked.
    "you know, we'll be making use of expensive and adequate treatment which will also involve the use of imported drugs. Look, there have been account of patients who came here with PVD related illness and we treated them locally because they were often complaining of the fees. But, what happens? In a few months time, they return with a more severe illness which will tend them to pay 50% more of what they paid before. So, you see, I'm trying to do you a favor here because Ronke is also a good friend of mine."
    "but, doctor, five million naira is too much..."
    "listen to me," Dr Dibua cuts in. "PVD has a lot of risk factors which includes family history - like a family gene of premature heart attacks, overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, and high blood LDL cholesterol which is also known as the bad cholesterol", he concluded, sounding pleased with himself.
    He was sure all the astronomical medical terms he was using would blow them off.
    There was a long silence as the Bassey family were trying to mull over the situation.
    "thank you, doctor", Mrs Bassey finally said. "we'll get back to you".
    "of course. No problem" Dr Dibua replied and watched them leave his office.
    *
    Mrs Damola was becoming impatient. The meeting with the doctor was taking longer than she expected.
    Annabel was awake, lying morosely on the bed.
    "they should be back by now" Mrs Damola said to Annabel. "I just hope Dr Dibua will be able to convince them".
    Annabel didn't say anything as she laid quietly, her eyes filled with sadness.
    Shortly, the door opened and Aiken and his family walked in.
    "oh, you're back" Mrs Damola said with ecstasy, but at the same time, curiosity.
    "Annabel!" Aiken called as he hurried over to her on the bed. "are you alright? How're you feeling?" he asked, but got no reply.
    She was really looking cadaverous.
    "don't worry, love. You're going to be fine" he added.
    "So, how did your meeting with the doctor go?" Mrs Damola asked.
    "well," Mrs Bassey replied. "we've talked over it and we've finally decided to transfer her to our family doctor, doctor Onoja".
    Mrs Damola was shocked as she felt like someone drowning in ice.

    Episode 6

    "b... but I think she's doing great here. Why do you have to transfer her?" she stuttered.
    "please, I think that's the best idea. Besides, I'm sure Dr Onoja would give us a reasonable deduction in the fees. Five million naira is too much to spend for just an illness. We still have the wedding party coming up, you know?" Udeme said.
    "but, I'm not satiated with this idea. Dr Dibua is my very good friend and..."
    "Ronke," Mrs Bassey cut in. "don't worry. If that's what you're worried about, we'll pay him off, okay? All we need is the best for everyone."
    Mrs Damola was cringed by the whole situation as she felt a morose situation coming up.
    If they succeeded in transferring Annabel over to Dr Onoja, then he would find out the whole thing was a frame up and there was nothing wrong with Annabel. She needed to act very fast.
    "when are you taking her?" she asked, realizing nothing could change their minds.
    "before evening" Aiken replied. "right now, I'm going to call Onoja and inform him of the situation and then, we'd also have to inform Dr Dibua of our plans".
    In less than ten minutes, Mrs Damola left the hospital with the excuse she wanted to prepare some food for Annabel even when Aiken had insisted on buying food from an eatery.
    *
    Luckily for her, she knew the location of Onoja's hospital. She boarded a cab and in a few minutes time, she arrived at the hospital.
    She walked into the hospital and and went over to the receptionist table where she met two nurses.
    "hi," she said to the nurses.
    "welcome, ma" they replied her.
    She requested to meet with Onoja and they told her he was busy at the moment and she should wait for him in the waiting room.
    She sat down in the waiting room for close to thirty minutes but Onoja was nowhere to be seen. She was becoming impatient.
    She stood up and went over to the nurses again.
    "please, I really need to see him; it's urgentjust tell him it's Annabel's mother. I'm sure he'll understand" Mrs Damola said to them and one of the nurses left to call him.
    Mrs Damola walked back to the waiting room to sit and in less than ten minutes, Onoja arrived.
    "good day, ma" he greeted her, bowing a little as a form of obeisance.
    "ah! Doctor, doctor" she replied and stood up. "I've been waiting for you nah".
    "yes. I'm really sorry for keeping you waiting. I was attending to a patient".
    "anyway, no problem. No problem. Please, can we make use of your office?"
    "sure".
    Dr Onoja led her into his office and they both sat down, opposite each other.
    "welcome, ma" Onoja said as they both settled on their seats.
    "thank you, dear".
    "ehm... Aiken just called me and told me of Annabel's condition and I'm really sorry about that. He also told me he'd be bringing her here later in the day for proper treatment".
    "yes", Mrs Damola started and adjusted on her seat. "that's the main reason I'm here. Did Aiken tell you what was wrong with Annabel?"
    "yes. He said something about PVD."
    "ehm... Onoja, please, I really need your help. Please, in the name of God and for the sake of Annabel".
    " ah-ah. What is the problem? If he's concerning her treatment, then you don't have to worry. I'll do everything in my power to help her."
    "there's nothing wrong with her" Mrs Damola said and bent her head.
    Onoja was confused. "wh... what do you mean?"
    " I mean, the whole story of having PVD is fake. The only reason we made up such story was because we were desperately in need of the money".
    Onoja looked at her, still confused.
    "I don't really understand what you're saying. How do you mean it's fake? And who made it up?"
    "Annabel and I. You see, the doctor at the previous hospital was willing to cooperate before insisted Annabel be brought here. The doctor had asked them to pay five million naira for the treatment. Please, my son, we really need that money..."
    "wait, wait, wait", he cuts in. "are you trying to say, Annabel is faking an illness of PVD because you guys want to get five million naira from Aiken?" "yes, but..."
    "Jesus Christ!" he shrieked. "this is the most outrageous thing I've heard. How can you think of some like this? You're trying to dupe my friend".
    "please, please. How can you say a thing like that? Why would I even want to dupe my own son in law?"
    "So, what then do you call this? I can't even believe Annabel would consent to something like this".
    "my son," Mrs Damola said and placed her palm on his. "don't think I'm going to be greedy with the money. You're also going to have an awesome share from it..."
    "please," he interrupted again. "I'm sorry but what you're asking me to do is simply unfeasible. I can't betray my friendship with Aiken just because of money because I'm also going to feel bad if someone did that to me. You know, sometimes, before taking a bad decision on someone, you should ask yourself this question; if you were the one, how would you feel? "
    "come on, Onoja, it's not like we're trying to betray him".
    "but that's exactly what you're trying to do. The friendship between Aiken and I is too strong and money can't destroy it. True friendship can't and shouldn't be bought by money or anything."
    They both turned taciturn as Onoja could notice the winced expression on her face.
    "I'm really sorry if I disappointed you, but the best I can do for you right now is to get you out of this mess you've gotten yourself into. I'm going to tell them it was a minor illness and the doctor at the previous hospital only made a mistake" Onoja said but Mrs Damola didn't say a word.
    She was filled with disappointment.

    ***

    Towards evening, Annabel was brought into Onoja's hospital on a wheel chair since they thought she was going through pains in her legs.
    She was taken into a room and lifted up to a bed where she was laid to rest.
    Onoja then requested to be alone in the room with Annabel and they all obeyed.
    When he was all alone with Annabel, he removed his stethoscope that was plugged into his ears and starred at Annabel.
    There was a sombre look on her face as she also remained reticent, her eyes buried in glum.
    "I know there's nothing wrong with you" Onoja said to her but she didn't even make any attempt to look at him. She just kept starring into space.
    "your mother came here not long ago and she told me everything. But knowing the kind of person I am, I'd never cheat on my friend. So, we both decided I'll tell Aiken and his family that the previous doctor made a mistake in his tests and you're not being sick of PVD but a minor illness".
    Annabel still did not give any reply as her eyes were still fixed into space like someone who was catatonic.
    "Annabel, I don't know what your reason is for trying to carry out such a fiendish act, but I just hope my friend isn't making a wrong decision in getting married to you".
    For the first time since they got to the hospital, those were the first words that seemed to impinge Annabel.
    She fluttered her eyelids and looked at Onoja as he walked out of the room.
    She wept.
    Ted had been right. She was a horrible person. She didn't deserve someone like Aiken and Aiken didn't deserve someone as horrible as her.

    Onoja bustled in and out of the lab, pretend to be carrying out some tests.
    After thirty-five minutes, he walked over to Aiken and Mrs Damola who had been in the waiting room.
    Mrs Bassey and Udeme had left because they had something to attend to.
    "Onoja," Aiken called as he stood up from where he was sitting and went for a handshake. "how's she?"
    "you don't have to worry, man. There's nothing wrong with her" Onoja replied.
    Mrs Damola was still sitting down, her hands folded across her chest.
    "there's nothing wrong with her?" Aiken asked?
    "yes. I mean, nothing serious. The previous doctor had made a mistake in his tests. She's not sick of PVD, but a disease that's related to PVD".
    Aiken heaved a sigh of relief. "So, what's wrong with her?"
    "it's just ACL - Anterior Cruciate Ligament. It's the tearing of one of the four ligaments that connects your shinbone to your thighbone. Just don't worry. If it were PVD, believe me, she'd have been looking worst than this".
    "So, how long will it take to get her treated?" Aiken asked.
    "just in a few days time. She can even be discharged within the week. And regarding her bills, you don't have to worry about it. It's nothing you should pay for".
    "Onoja," Aiken called in an elated manner. "thank you, so much. Thank you".
    "it's nothing, man" Onoja replied, tapping his shoulders.
    Mrs Damola remained silent the whole time.

    Episode 7

    It was a convivial evening around 4 p.m. Idara - Udeme's best friend whom she had preferred for her brother - walked into the sitting room.
    She had come to visit Udeme.
    When she got into the house, she couldn't find anyone in the sitting room. She moved forward and found a phone which was ringing on a chair. It was Annabel's phone and it was on silence because it wasn't ringing out.
    'why would she put her phone on silence?' she asked herself.
    The call ended and in a brisk, it started ringing again. She checked the caller and discovered it was Ted. 'who could Ted be?'
    Without hesitation, she picked the call and immediately, the caller spoke up.
    "hello, bae. Meet me at the eatery close to my house in precisely thirty minutes" the caller said and ended the call.
    Idara was taken aback. 'who could that be?'
    She quickly went into her call logs and discovered she had been making and receiving calls with the Ted of a guy.
    Before she could think of keeping down the phone, Annabel walked in.
    They both stood muted for a moment as they kept starring at each other.
    "what're you doing with my phone?" Annabel asked as she budged forward to collect the phone from her.
    Idara didn't give her a reply immediately as she first handed the phone over to her.
    "you missed a call from a Ted. He wants you to meet him at the eatery close to his house in thirty minutes" she replied, gawking her eyes at her.
    "please, in case something like this happens again, don't ever think of picking my call" Annabel said and left the sitting room.
    *
    "So, what exactly happened?" Udeme asked Idara who was in the kitchen with her. She was trying to prepare some noodles.
    "well," Idara started, leaning on a wall. "like I said, I walked into the house and found her phone ringing on the chair. Initially, what I wanted to do was to pick up the call and tell the caller she wasn't about. But when I picked the call, before I could say a word, the caller spoke up and these were his exact words: 'hello, bae. Meet me at the eatery close to my house in precisely thirty minutes'".
    "and you said his name was Ted?"
    "yes. And immediately the callended, I went through her call logs and discovered she had been communicating with him a lot".
    Udeme paused on what she was doing and turned around to look at Idara.
    "I've always known there was something fishy about that lady. I guess that's why I don't even like her".
    "you needed to have seen the shock on her face when I told her I received the call. She was angry, but she was also scared."
    "don't worry. From now on, I'll be keeping a very close eye on her".

    Send hi to +233244620852 to be added to our various groups.


    *

    Annabel sat at the eatery with Ted also sitting close to her. There were two bottles of malts on the table with a plate filled with fried meat.
    "please, Ted. We need to reduce our means of communication. I think it's getting too much. I don't understand why you chose to call me every hour of the day when you don't even care about me" Annabel groused. Ted took in two pieces of meat, chewed it for sometime and brushed it down with a little quantity of malt before attempting to tailor.
    "tell me, Annabel. What made you do it? I still can't imagine how a beautiful girl like you could have such an ugly heart; a heart ugly enough to..."
    "Ted, please" she cut in, but in a calm way. "I'm tired of being reminded of that. I know it was heinous, but my mother was the one who gave me the idea".
    "hm. Like mother like daughter. And so, after murdering the baby, you all relocated out of Lagos to Abuja because you felt you were running away from karma".
    "everything that's happened is in the past and as difficult as it may sound, the lady sitting in front of you isn't the same lady you knew from college. I regret what I did to that baby and I think that's the guilt I'm ready to carry till the end of my life ".
    "when you killed that baby, Annabel, my heart was broken. I just hope you don't get to meet up with the end of our deal because I'll be more than happy to give that video to the Bassey's".
    Annabel glared at him and within the twinkle of an eye, she picked up her purse and left.

    Episode 8

    It was a dreary noon for Annabel. She sat at the balcony of their house and gazed into the sky.
    Glacial breeze blew around, but all she could feel were the fervid thoughts of her losing Aiken.
    Yes, Aiken.
    That was the last day of her deal etc Ted and she had still been unable to raise the money he asked for.
    There was nothing she could do. She couldn't think of getting the police involved because if she did, they'd also get to know about the video and then she she'd have to face a greater punishment than Ted.
    Her whole life was just becoming muddled.
    Shortly, her mother came out of the house and joined her at the balcony. She took a seat and closer to her.
    "Annabel," she called. "what're you going to do?"
    Annabel didn't say anything as she fixed her gaze at the sky.
    "Annabel?" Mrs Damola called again.
    "what do you want me to do? I don't have his money so there's nothing I can do" she replied.
    "hm", Mrs Damola sighed. "Annabel, you have to do something. You can't let this boy just ruin everything we've been praying for".
    "So, what can I do?"
    Mrs Damola starred into her eyes and finally fluttered her eyelids at her.
    "you have to do everything possible to stop Ted before he stops you".
    Annabel was disarrayed. "what do you want me to do?"
    "you know what you should do".
    Annabel was flummoxed by her statement. She looked at her in confusion as she found it difficult getting a grip of what she meant.
    But after a moment, she noticed the serious look on her face and she could recognize that look.
    "mum, I hope you're not asking me to..."
    "of course I am" Mrs Damola interrupted her. "I'm sure he'll be giving you a private location since it has to do with a large sum of money. Annabel, you can't let this guy walk into your life and destroy everything".
    "mom, how can you ask me to kill Ted?"
    "but there's nothing wrong with it. Can't you see he's trying to turn your life into a disaster? Annabel, if you don't do this, he's only going to ruin your life".
    Annabel looked at her for a moment and bent her head in dismay. Her mother's words were just like the first time she was advising her to kill her baby.
    'you have to
    do it. If you
    don't, it's only
    going to ruin you'.
    What kind of a mother was she? A mother asking her daughter to commit murder.
    "Annabel, I hope you're not harboring ill feelings towards me. I'm only trying to be of help" Mrs Damola said.
    "the same help you were trying to give to me when you asked me to kill my baby and now I'm passing through a difficult time because of it".
    "but, don't you think if you hadn't killed that baby, you probably wouldn't get to meet with Ted and enjoy the good side of life?"
    "mom, please", she snapped. "that's the mentality that most ladies have when they get pregnant out of wedlock. They all think that having an unwanted pregnancy might deny them of some certain privileges. But you know, there's a saying that destiny can be delayed, but can never be denied. If really I were destined to be with Aiken, then keeping the baby alive wouldn't have been able to stop me ending up in him. Most ladies who do away with their unwanted pregnancies thinking it would prevent them of a better future even end up worst in life. So, killing the unborn baby doesn't matter, but your destiny that has already been destined... "
    "Annabel, please", Mrs Damola snarled and stood up. " . I don't think I'm ready for the sermon. You just have to make a wise decision" she paused and picked up her handbag from the floor beside her.
    "I'm heading back to the office", she continued and left.
    Annabel watched her leave, her eyes becoming sore with tears.
    She had to make a wise decision - yes, a wise decision.
    Immediately, her phone started ringing beside her. It was Ted.
    She picked up the phone and as she received the call, she left the balcony and walked into the house. By the time the call had ended, she was already in the kitchen.
    Ted had called to give her the time and location for their meeting. It was in an uncompleted building and she was to meet him there in forty minutes.
    Oh, God! Her life was becoming a living hell.
    She looked beside her on the kitchen table and she found a knife among the kitchen utensils.
    She remembered her mother's words:
    'if you don't do this, he's only going to ruin your life'.
    She starred at the knife for a moment and took her eyes away from it.
    She had to make a wise decision - yes, a wise decision.

    Episode 9

    Annabel got to the building before Ted.
    The whole place was dusty and filled with some unseen insects, but none of them seemed to have any effect on her.
    She just stood still like a statue,, her back leaned against a wall.
    Then shortly, she heard some footsteps and Ted arrived.
    Immediately she saw Ted, she left the wall and stood at akimbo, striving not to let her tears drop.
    "hope I didn't keep you waiting?" Ted said with ecstasy, but only for a moment.
    His smiles faded away when he didn't see Annabel with any money.
    "where's my money? I told you I don't work with cheques. I only want a cash trans..."
    "I don't have your money" Annabel cut in.
    Ted looked at her in surprise. He swayed for a moment and then moved closer to her.
    "do you think I'm joking?"
    "and do you think I am?" Annabel asked. "listen, Ted. I know I've wronged you. And as impossible as it may sound to you, I'm a changed person. I regret doing what I did and I just want to move on with my life. But, since you want to be an obstacle, then fine."
    "Annabel, I'm going to give that video to Aiken".
    "then fine! Do it. It's better he better he bes the one to call off the engagement because no matter what happens, I'm never going to call off my engagement. I'll never do it", Annabel said and ran away.
    *
    She boarded a taxi on the road and immediately she got home, she ran into her room and fell on the bed.
    She wept bitterly.
    It was all over. Her life, Aiken, her engagement, everything! It was all over.
    After a short while, she stopped crying and left for Aiken's apartment.
    She had prepared a very delicious food for him and so, she wanted to bring him over to the house so they could have lunch together. She wanted to spend and enjoy her last few moments with him.
    When she got into his house, luckily for her, she found him at home.
    "Annabel!" Aiken called and embraced her. "you didn't tell me you were coming".
    "just wanted to bring you over to my house for lunch. I prepared a very nice delicacy" she replied with a smile.
    "but, at least, you should have called me and told me to come over instead of going through this stress".
    "please, don't call it stress. I wanted to bring you myself".
    "anyway, you know you're always a darling" Aiken said and gave her a peck.
    "hm", Mrs Bassey sighed. She had been sitting and watching them the whole time.
    "you want to take my son for lunch. Well, before you can do that, promise you'll also be here with us tomorrow to have lunch".
    "okay, mum. I promise." Annabel replied and felt it was of no use.
    'maybe Ted would have given the video to them before then and they wouldn't even want to look at my face', she thought.
    She left the house with Aiken and when they got to her own house, they walked over to the dinnete.
    Annabel served him the meal she had prepared - a meal of coconut rice.
    She also took a plate for herself and both of them ate blissfully, chatting and nattering the whole time.
    Aiken enjoyed the food and ate to his fullest. Annabel also ate to her satisfaction, but what gave her joy was seeing Aiken so happy.
    After eating, they left the house to go for sight seeing.
    They went to so many places which included the amusement park, the airport and also to the beach.
    When it was almost 8 p.m, Aiken suggested on taking Annabel home, but she pleaded with him that she had one more place to go. She asked him to take her to their supposed matrimonial home.
    Aiken had no choice but to take her there and when they arrived at the gate of the building, Annabel heaved a sigh of relief.
    They both came out of the car and stood in front of the gate.
    "why did you ask me to bring you here?" Aiken asked, his hand around her nape.
    "this is part of my dreams. I don't want to lose it. I don't want it to be destroyed".
    Aiken was puzzled. "what do you mean, Annabel? What makes you think it's going to be destroyed?"
    Annabel didn't give him a reply. She starred at the building for sometime and finally turned back to him. "don't worry, everything's fine. Just take me home", Annabel said, her heart beating like a drum.
    She felt Aiken could hear her heart beating but didn't know want to say a word about it.
    'will everything ever be okay?' she asked herself.
    As Aiken dropped her off at her apartment, he reminded her of her agreed lunch with them the following day.
    "don't forget you'll be having lunch with us tomorrow" he said to her.
    "of course, I won't forget" Annabel replied and gave him a snogging kiss.
    "I love you, Aiken. No matter what happens, always remember that".
    Aiken watched her as she approached the gate of her house and opened it.
    Before she walked in, she looked back at him and gave him a smile.
    She was acting so sweet. But even in her sweetness, there was a bitterness in it and Aiken could feel it.
    Well, he just wanted to believe everything was alright.
    He felt nothing could separate them.

    Episode 10

    The next day, Annabel was with Aiken's family and they were all having lunch together.
    Annabel was surprised as to why Ted had not sent the video to them already. She just hoped he wasn't up to something else.
    They were still eating and chatting rapturously when the gateman came into the sitting room and walked over to the dining table with a disc in his hands.
    Immediately Annabel saw the disc, her heart felt like exploding.
    "what is it?" Mrs Bassey asked the gateman.
    "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but someone dropped this disc at the gate and it indicates here that it should be received by Aiken" .
    Annabel's eyes beamed with fear.
    "who dropped it?" Aiken asked.
    "I don't know. I heard a knock and when I went to open the gate, I couldn't find anyone outside. The only thing I found was this disc lying right in front of the gate."
    "give it to me" Aiken demanded and collected the disc from him.
    "what do you want to do?" Udeme asked.
    "I'm going to play it, of course."
    "Aiken, don't you think it's a bad idea to play that video? You don't know what it's made of. Who knows? It might be dangerous", Annabel said.
    "I don't think I'll be able to have peace of mind if I don't know the content of this video" Aiken replied and walked into the sitting room.
    Mrs Bassey, Udeme and Annabel also followed him behind to see what was going to happen.
    He switched on the electronics and inserted the disc into the DVD player.
    As the machine was reading, Annabel was trembling but she tried not to make it noticeable.
    'Ted, how could you do this to me', she cried to herself.
    She thought of running away, far away from everyone . But just when she thought of making a step, the video played and...

    Episode 11

    The video played and to her surprise, it wasn't what she was expecting.
    At first, there was some animation and then a write-up showed up: 'happy engagement and a successful wedding'.
    Annabel had almost lost her balance to fall on the floor. She placed her hand on her chest and started breathing heavilybut the rest of the people in the room couldn't notice her because they were all carried away by the video.
    "I wander who could have sent this video," Aiken said, a half a smile on his face.
    "I'm sure it's just one of your numerous friends who's trying to surprise you" Mrs Bassey replied.
    Immediately, a text message came into Annabel's phone. It was a message from Ted.
    "ex... excuse me. I need to make use of the toilet" Annabel said and ambled out of the room without waiting for a response.
    She climbed the stairs and decided to make use of Aiken's room.
    Luckily for her, the door was open.
    She hurried into the room, leaving the door half open. All that was important to her was knowing the content of the message.
    She quickly brought out her phone and started going through the message with angst.
    'Annabel, I'm aware you're having lunch with Aiken's family and I'm sure you must be puzzled over the video that just came in. I guess you must've been expecting it to be the video from the CCTV camera. Well, I decided to change my mind. I've destroyed the main video because I've come to realize that you're indeed a changed person. To be honest with you, I thought you would do something rash at our meeting place. I thought you might make an attempt to kill me or do something dubious and that's why I hired some armed men at the top of the building just in case you tried doing something crazy. But to my greatest surprise, you didn't even make an attempt to plead for mercy.
    'I've forgiven you for the death our child because I was also part of the reason you had to kill her. I'm sorry for ever making you go through a hard time. Farewell, Annabel'.

    By the time she finished reading the message, tears were running down her cheeks.
    She threw the phone on the bed and ran into the toilet. She crouched over a table and wept.
    At last, everything was over. Aiken was now hers.
    She thanked God for not heeding to her mother's advice of killing Ted. She felt so happy that everything was finally over.
    She walked over to the handbasin and washed her hands andface.
    She looked up to a wall mirror just in front of the handbasin and smiled.
    "every is fine, Annabel", she said to herself, still smiling.
    She took a napkin and wiped her face with it and after that, she decided to go back to the sitting room.
    When she left the toilet and got into the bedroom, she discovered there was something missing on the bed. It was her phone!
    It wasn't on the bed where she had uncautiously thrown it.
    She knelt on the floor and looked under the bed but she couldn't find find it.
    "God, where could it be?" she flustered and hurried out of the room.

    Udeme, on the other hand, was running down the stairs like an insane person with Annabel's phone in her hands.
    She had followed her behind immediately she left for Aiken's room because she had a feeling she was up to something. And peeping through the door, she had seen the shocked expression on her face as she read the message.
    So immediately Annabel went into the toilet,, she snuck into the room, picked up the phone and also went through the message and immediately she finished reading the message, she ran out of the room so she could show the message to her mom and Aiken.
    "mom! Aiken!" she called as she ran down the stairs, almost approaching the dinette.
    "What is it? What is it?" Mrs Bassey asked repeatedly as she leapt out of her seat on the dining.
    "I knew it! I've always known that girl was evil. I knew it!" Udeme said, breathing heavily as she was finally close to her mom and Aiken.
    "what girl are you talking about?" Aiken asked.
    "here. Take a look at this message. This is the message that made her gave an excuse of wanting to make use of the toilet. Look at it $.
    Aiken collected the phone from her and started going through the message with his mother.
    Their eyes dimmed as they went through the message.
    Immediately, they heard Annabel's footsteps also climbing down the stairs. She stopped halfway to where Aiken and his family were and exchanged glances at them.
    She starred at them and starred at the phone in their hands.
    "Annabel, what's the meaning of this?" Aiken asked with a confused look.
    Tears quickly came to Annabel eyes and just like a wind, she ran out of the house.

    Episode 12

    "Annabel, how could you be so careless?" Mrs Damola shrieked.
    Deola was also in the sitting room with them, weeping bitterly. She was just learning about the whole truth.
    Annabel was drowning in Ocean of tears and her eyes had become swollen.
    She cried and ruffled her hair.
    "how could you be so careless about the phone? You shouldn't have dropped it on the bed and..."
    "please, give me a break" Annabel cut in and stood on her feet. "you're the cause of all this mom. You're the reason my life is so messed up. You had been such an obnoxious mother to me. Tell me, weren't you the one who had misled me into killing the baby? If only you had given me the right training as a mother, I wouldn't have gotten to pregnant in the first place. The only reason I was so flirtatious back then was because I was following your footsteps. "
    " Annabel... "
    "you were cheating on dad even before he died and that was why I thought it was normal for females to flirt around."
    "Annabel, h... how could you say such a thing about me?" Mrs Damola asked in a rueful tone.
    "please, I think I'm done being quiet. You know I'm telling the truth. You caused all this. You've ruined my life, mom. You've destroyed my dreams" Annabel said and ran out of the house while Mrs Damola fell on the floor in tears.

    *
    Mrs Damola welcomed Aiken into the house and ushered him to a seat. Aiken was looking forward panicked.
    They both sat down in the sitting room, facing each other.
    "I need to speak with Annabel" Aiken demanded.
    "hm." Mrs Damola sighed and clutched her hands. "I'm so ashamed of myself", she said, tears running down her cheeks.
    "I've been a terrible mother to Annabel. I've been living such a stupid life before and after my husband's death without minding that my children were watching and would be more likely to follow my footsteps. I'm the Genesis of all these problems..."
    Aiken listened with keen interest as Mrs Damola narrated the entire story to him.
    By the time she finished narrating the whole story, Aiken was already in dilemma.
    "but everything that Annabel did was because she loved you. She was trying so hard to preserve the engagement" Mrs Damola added.
    Aiken bent his head in silence for sometime.
    "So, where's she?" he lifted his head and asked.
    "I don't know. I don't know. She just ran wants out of the house." Mrs Damola replied and bursted into a more severe tears.
    "egba mi o. I feel so terrible. She even told me I destroyed her her dreams".
    'Her Dreams' Aiken muffled.
    'her dreams,' he thought to himself. And immediately, a thought of where she might be flashed though his mind.

    *
    The whole place had become dark because it was close to 9 p.m and it had started raining heavily.
    Annabel sat on the floor in front of the house Aiken had prepared to be their matrimonial home - her dream home.
    She was drenched in the rain and was shivering but she couldn't think of moving away. The rain and the cold wasn't enough to sum up with her quandary.
    she huddled her arms and legs as she leaned on the gate and her tears got mixed with the rain.
    Her life was now a complete mess. She knew her engagement was over. She knew there was no way Aiken and his family would ever forgive and accept her back into the family.
    Her head began to feel very hot and she started feeling dizzy. Everything became blur to her.
    Just then, there was a reflection of a car flashlight and in a few seconds, the car came to sight.
    But as the car approached Annabel, it seemed to be double to her. The car stopped right in front of her.
    She stood up from the floor and attempted to walk away because she felt the person would be a bad person.
    She shambled away from the car buy she couldn't go much further. The whole place appeared to be going in circles and even the ground seemed to be forming holes and valleys.
    Immediately, she fell on the floor, lying on her back. Then someone walked up to where she was lying and stood in front of her.
    The person seemed to appear upside down, but he looked like Aiken.
    "Aiken?" she muttered and finally passed out.

    Episode 13 (final)

    Annabel woke up in Aiken's bedroom.
    The sun was out and it filled part of the room with its sunrays. Aiken was sitting next to her on the bed.
    They starred at each other for sometime and Annabel finally sat up.
    "thank you for bringing me here", Annabel said but Aiken didn't say anything immediately.
    Annabel eyes were almost filled with tears.
    "your mother told me everything that's happened", said Aiken.
    "I... I'm sorry. I should have told you about it"
    "Annabel, our..."
    "please, don't say it." Annabel cut in tearfully. "don't say it out. I know I have no go. I know our engagement is over, but I don't want to hear it from you. I'm definitely going to leave, but I just want to leave with the knowledge you never asked me to".
    "but, Annabel, that wasn't what I was going to say. I only wanted to remind you our wedding was in two weeks time and you have to get well soon".
    There was a pause.
    "our wedding?" Annabel asked.
    "of course. What makes you think I'd call off our engagement? Annabel, you still remain my finance and in two weeks time, you're going to be my wife".
    Annabel looked at him and her tears increased.
    "b... but Aiken, your mother will never approve of it. Not after what I've done".
    "I've also explained everything to her and I'm sure soon enough, she'll also get to understand the complicated reasons for your decision.
    "Annabel, as humans, we're bound to make mistakes - terrible mistakes. But everyone deserves a second chance. You know, sometimes, before judging someone for their mistakes, we should ask ourselves this question: if you had been in their shoes, what would you have done? And you will find out you'd have made a decision similar to theirs.
    "So, get ready Annabel Damola, because we're going to get married at any cost."
    Immediately, the door opened and Mrs Bassey came in with a cup of coffee.
    Annabel bent her head in tears as she couldn't think of looking her in the face.
    "how's she?" Mrs Bassey asked Aiken.
    "I think she's getting better."
    "I made her a cup of coffee", she said and handed the coffee to Aiken.
    She also did not want to talk to Annabel directly.
    "thank you, mum", Annabel whimpered and collected the coffee from Aiken, her eyes dripping with tears.
    The End.

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