Story: Forgetting Yesterday

    Episode 1

    1 year ago.
    I step into the club after the bouncer patted me down, stupid fool doesn’t even know how to do his job, standing there and ogling all the girls,
    I have a Glock in my waistband and the guy couldn’t even tell.
    I glance around, am a man on a mission.
    After justice, my brother told me to come after my newest sister in-law, I just had to.
    Justice kind of calls all the shots.
    I look around and I see her sitting at the bar.
    I walk to her, and just in time because she seems to be trying to dissuade an over enthusiastic clubber.
    “I told you am with someone”
    She is saying.
    “I can’t see nobody, girl, I just wanna buy you a drink, and show you a good time”
    The a-hole slurs.
    I place my hand on the small of her back and she startles but relaxes when she sees it’s me.
    “She’s with me man, bugger off”
    I growl and the guy takes the hint.
    “I didn’t need you to step in, I had it all under control”
    I just raise an eyebrow.
    “It was so obvious you had it under control”
    I say sarcastically.
    She growls..
    She always tries to act tough but I can see past all that, she’s a softie under it all.
    I signal to the bartender and he steps for.
    “Cognac, neat”
    I say and he steps away to get me my drink.
    “What are you doing here?”
    She asks.
    “Justice and Sage sent me to play babysitter”
    I say.
    She winces in anger.
    Am a man of few words, I see no reason in sugarcoating the truth, I give it to you just as it is.
    “Well, you can go back and enjoy the wedding reception, am fine right here”
    Ha, did I forget to mention it’s the wedding reception of my brother and his best friend today.
    I would have been enjoying my self if not for the spoilt brat I have to attend to.
    “They left for the hotel anyway, am sure I can spare a few hours with you”
    I say.
    “Oh, how generous of you, oh great Justin Maxwells”
    “I try”
    I say with mock benevolence and she cracks a smile.
    She is beautiful, am sure some idiot out there would appreciate her beauty, soon.
    I smile as the bartender steps forward with my drink, I take a long swig after paying.
    “So what do you want to do?”.
    I ask.
    “I gave up a night of partying for you Sandy, so tell me, what do you want to do? I can’t be bored”
    I say this as I check my wristwatch, it’s way too dark inside the club, i can’t see a thing.
    “You can just leave, seems you are in a sort of hurry”
    She says and I detect a slight hint of bitterness in her tone.
    I instantly feel guilty and for the life of me I don’t know why.
    I turn to her fully on my stool and i really look at her.
    She looks miserable.
    Why am I just seeing this now?
    “Sandy? What’s wrong?”
    I ask.
    She shrugs.
    “Tell me.”
    I say.
    “You will think am stupid”.
    She replies.
    “Well, you can be stupid with me squirrel”
    I say, she hates that name.
    I always called her squirrel since forever, after the squirrel in SpongeBob, Sandy.
    She scoffs, not getting annoyed as I predicted.
    I let it go, I signal to the bartender again…
    “Open a tab, for the both of us, keep the drinks coming”
    I say and he nods.
    She turns to me.
    “You plan on getting drunk ?”
    I smile as I take another swig of my drink.
    “We are getting drunk”
    She breaks a smile and I think for the second time how lucky her boyfriend will be.
    We drink for a while, well she drinks I just listen to her prattle.
    She’s cute, when she’s drunk, I will give her that.
    “So I said, why didn’t you just give her the camera, simple”
    She says and I nod.
    She has been regaling with stories of the media house she works in.
    I listen to every single thing with concentration.
    “So tell me JM, what happens in your line of work”
    “It’s confidential baby girl, can’t say one thing”
    She blushes.
    “I like it when you call me baby girl”
    She says.
    “You do know I have had a massive crush on you since forever right?”
    I did know, I just ignore it.
    “Why don’t you see me like that?, am a woman JM”
    I know, Christ, do I know?
    “I will be everything you want, J, just…..”
    She’s drunk, I can tell.
    When did we get to this point?
    “Ok, time to go home”
    She frowns and rests her head on the bar counter.
    “I don’t wanna….”
    She slurs, adorable.
    I pay for our drinks and I lead her to the door.
    I drive home, to my home, she can spend the night here.
    When we get there I lead her to her room, the one she uses when she is here and I help her off her shoes.
    “Justin, Justin….”
    She giggles, I just smile.
    “Sandra Justin Maxwells, umm, sounds nice”
    I shake my head, she is so drunk.
    “Will you be able to get ready for bed? ”
    I ask.
    She nods absently.
    “Good, call me if you need anything”
    She nods again and I exit.
    I make my way to my room and I drop my Glock on the night stand as I prepare for bed, I bath and I fall in bed with my boxer.
    About two hours later I hear my door open and i freeze, I was asleep but years of training has made me a light sleeper.
    I pretend to be asleep and I feel my covers slide down and a warm body press to mine.
    I open my eyes and sit up.
    “Please JM, just for tonight”
    She says as she leans up to me.
    “Sandra…. you’re drunk”
    “Not anymore”
    She says as she gently kisses her way from my cheek to my chest.
    I close my eyes.
    Feels so good .
    Christ, it has been so long.
    Too long.
    I pull away and she instantly flinches.
    “Please Justin, just tonight”
    She says as she reaches for my hand on her thigh.
    I give up.
    What can it hurt? Just one night, just one night.
    I pull her to me and I kiss her, bringing her body closer.
    Yes, just one night.
    Hola Amigos!
    This is the story of Justin and Sandra just as you all requested, am going to make it worth your while, trust me.
    I have tried to make it as understandable as I can but if for any reason you still can’t follow the story please try to read

    Episode 2

    One year later.
    I step out of the cab and I take a deep breath, oh it’s good to be home.
    The cab pulls away after I pay, I turn around.
    I look from my position outside the gate to see my best friend and and my brothers wife julliet running towards me and waving.
    With her also is my brother’s best friend’s wife, magic.
    “Jules!, Magic!”
    I squeal as I step towards the gate.
    We try to touch each other from the gate bars like am in prison, I laugh so hard.
    It’s been so long I did that.
    “Oh, I missed you, I missed you”
    Julliet gushes.
    I nod.
    “I missed you baby girl, magic, i missed all of you”
    I say and we all squeal.
    “Barbarians! open the gate and let the woman in”
    Kelechi,our friend shouts from the drive way, walking towards us.
    We all laugh.
    I step back as Magic punches the gate code in and the massive gates open.
    I enter rolling in my suitcase.
    I let it fall as I am swept in a giant, massive group hug.
    I flinch a little but I make myself settle.
    These are friends.
    “I missed you all”
    I say.
    “I see no reason why you didn’t let us come get you at the airport”
    Julliet says and I smile.
    It wasn’t intentional, I just needed time to reinforce my shield.
    Away from them.
    Kele picks up my suitcase and begins to roll it inside..
    “Dayum, gal, you look smoking”
    Kele says and I laugh out loud.
    Albeit a little forcedly.
    They don’t notice, thank God.
    “Yes Sandra, what did they feed you in California? Boobs and a-s?”
    Magic asks and am surprised.
    “Who taught you to talk like that? Justice?”
    She laughs.
    “Don’t you know it”
    She says and we all laugh.
    Am led to my room where they immediately want to know everything about me.
    “Girls, girls, we would talk, I promise, just let me freshen up, I still have to see my nieces,ok?”
    They nod.
    “Just be fast, I still have to go home tonight, not all of us live in a mansion”
    Kelechi says and I smile.
    It didn’t come as a surprise to me when kelechi opened a 5 star restaurant in Lagos just to be close to her best friend, Magic.
    The woman thinks she is Magic’s surrogate mother.
    And neither did it come as a surprise to me when my family and Julliet’s decided to build a big house and live together.
    I mean back then we literally used to live in each other’s house.
    This just saves energy and time.
    I nod my head and they all exit but not before giving me a hug and telling me it’s good to have me back.
    When they leave I take a deep breath , having people this close to me for a long period of time, rattles me.
    I feel tears try to push out but I swallow them.
    I say my mantra.
    “Am strong, am wise,am independent and am the best I can be”
    After I say this for a while I feel better.
    I stand up and walk to my bathroom.
    I wasn’t always this weak, I sigh.
    Just another thing he took from me.
    “Ok am gonna go ahead an go home now, it was lovely catching up with you Sandra”
    That was kele and that was after I have finished telling them about my one year in California.
    Well, the part I know that wanted to hear.
    “Ok, hugs and kisses , see you soon”
    We all wave her on her way as she steps to her car.
    After she pulls away I turn.
    “When did you say they will be at home again?”
    I ask referring to Sage and Justice.
    “They had a business meeting, I think they said about 11 this night”
    Julliet replies and I nod.
    “I feel like holding Cara and Abigail again”
    “I have a feeling you will spoil them, it’s past there bed time, you have to wait till tomorrow”
    Magic says and I fake pout, Abigail is Sage’s and Julliet’s baby and Cara is Justice’s and Magic’s baby, they are both so cute.
    They were pregnant when I left for the States.
    I plop on the couch as I grab my limenade.
    I take a sip and I almost choke at Julliet’s next question.
    “So why aren’t you asking about him”
    I blink.
    “I don’t know who you mean.”
    “Oh, come of it, you know who we mean ”
    Magic says as she sketches on her drawing pad.
    I shake my head.
    “Honest to goodness, I don’t know who you mean”
    I say and I take the last sip of my drink, crushing the ice between my teeth.
    “Are you serious? I know you told us you had a boyfriend over there in Cali but I thought it was over since you didn’t say anything about him for a while there”
    Julliet says and I hope she didn’t notice my subtle flinch.
    I open my mouth to reply but the door opens.
    I hear Sage call through the house and I smile.
    I hear justice say something along the lines of…
    “Chill dude, the brat is not running”
    I would have laughed if I think I could.
    Sage comes into view and i stand up slowly.
    He marches to me and pulls me in a big hug.
    I close my eyes and take a deep breath of my big brothers smell.
    I missed him.
    So much.
    I hug him back even though am now averse to physical touch.
    “I missed you”
    I confess and he kisses my head as he sets me on my feet.
    Am pulled into another hug by justice and this time I really flinch.
    I was caught unawares.
    He kisses my head but not before throwing me a frown.
    I just blink innocently.
    No body else notices, thank God.
    “I missed you JJ”
    “Missed you too brat”.
    He says as he flicks my nose.
    I scrunch it.
    I turn to see sage kissing julliet and I make a face, magic laughs.
    I missed this people.
    “Hold on, where’s Alec?”
    I ask.
    I can’t believe I forgot all about my little nephew.
    “He went out with Justin, they went on a short road trip”
    Julliet says.
    I tense at that name, memories try to surface i push them back.
    I nod my head.
    Thank God I dodged that bullet, am not ready to see him yet.
    “Aunty Sandra!!”
    Some body squeals and am very sure it’s Alec.
    I turn my head to julliet.
    “I thought you said they went on a road trip?”.
    “I said, a short road trip”
    She says with a sickly sweet smile.
    I turn as a ball of energy and clothes hits me in a hug.
    I hug Alec back.
    I missed my little man.
    “You look hot Aunty Sandra”
    He says and I smile.
    My little girl Slayer.
    “Well you look pretty hot your self A”
    I say as we bump fists.
    I raise my head slowly trying to avoid the inevitable.
    There he is….
    My undoing.
    “Hi, Justin”
    I say.
    He nods, dropping the bags he is carrying.
    “Welcome back Sandra”
    He says and the tears I have been holding back threaten to come out.
    I made a mistake.
    I never should have come back.

    Episode 3

    I gaze at my ceiling, I lean over to grab my phone as my alarm rings.
    No use, I didn’t sleep through out the night.
    After Justin arrived yesterday I fled to my room where I proceeded to cry my eyes out.
    I made excuses about jet lag and time differences, they let me go.
    They didn’t notice I was trembling thank God.
    I swipe my phone screen and I go through my new Instagram account, I see that I have no new followers, I sigh.
    I stand up and I walk to my closet I change from my nightie into a sweatshirt and trousers.
    I tie my red hair into a bun.
    It’s one thing about my self I never changed after I left him, my hair is mine.
    I walk to my mirror and I say my mantra
    “Am strong, am wise, am independent and am the best I can be”
    I make my way downstairs to see magic balancing Cara on one hip and placing a dish on the dining table.
    “Don’t tell me you still do the house chores”
    She smiles as she passes Cara to me.
    I glance at my niece and she looks at me with a thumb in her mouth.
    So cute.
    “We don’t want a housekeeper so we make do”
    She says and I follow her to the kitchen to see julliet toasting bread.
    It’s a miracle.
    “She toast’s bread now?”
    I ask magic.
    “That’s all she can do, for now, am still trying to help her learn…..she’s hopeless”
    She whispers that in an aside and I laugh.
    “I heard that”
    Julliet says and I smile.
    I help them set the table and we sit for breakfast.
    It’s comical to see justice doing baby speak and trying to feed Cara cereal.
    Sage is even worse.
    I take a slice of bread and butter it, Justin comes down and I tenses.
    I see julliet watching me and I try not to look strained.
    “Good morning”
    He says as he tickles Abigail, she squeals.
    I look away, it hurts to watch him do that.
    He sits and everyone one continues eating.
    I reach for the juice jug and he does too our hand brush and I am thrown back to some months ago.
    I feel my self trembling, I can see the jug tip from the force of my shake, juice spills everywhere.
    Sage grabs my hand and I turn to him, it’s then I realize I have been screaming, the babies are crying, clearly upset.
    I stand up and flee to the kitchen.
    What made me think I was ready to come back?
    What made me feel like I was strong?
    I am nothing but weak, am so weak.
    Am worthless.
    I feel tears push through and i let them.
    I feel a presence at my back and I scramble away.
    I can’t bear contact right now.
    I turn around to see Sage.
    “You ok baby girl?”
    He asks and I nod, wiping my tears.
    “Yes, am fine, I was just spooked”
    He nods but it’s clear he doesn’t believe me.
    “You think you can still join us for breakfast?”
    He asks and I nod.
    He leads me back to the dining and I take my sit.
    Everyone is quiet and eating, julliet and magic have managed to calm the babies.
    No one is saying anything.
    Alec is looking at me crazy and I don’t blame him.
    I must look crazy.
    “You ok Sandy?”
    Justin asks and I flinch.
    He goes to take my hand and i place it in my lap, they all notice.
    His hand is suspended in the air and he places it back on the table.
    I don’t make eye contact as I continue.
    Jesus Sandra , you are beyond pathetic.
    I knew she was coming back, I had prepared my self.
    But that doesn’t make it any easier to see her, or face her.
    It felt like a blow seeing her last night looking good and sophisticated albeit a little withdrawn.
    I don’t blame her.
    I deserve her ire.
    But what I don’t deserve is her refusing to let me touch her?
    I mean the woman literally screamed when our fingers brushed.
    What’s up with that?
    I eat my breakfast as usual, am not in the mood for this s--t.
    I have lots of cases at the office and adding Sandra Jacobs to it is not something I have in mind.
    If it’s gets bothersome I can just pack out of the house.
    Am done with my breakfast.
    I stand, I would have missed it if I didn’t have her thought in mind.
    The woman honest to goodness flinched.
    She flinched like I was going to hit her.
    I immediately get angry, I don’t deserve that.
    I get that I hurt her in the past but it wasn’t intentional.
    I don’t say anything as I take a drink of water and I set my glass down.
    She jumps.
    I throw her a look and i walk out.
    I can’t believe this woman is getting me worked up again.
    Don’t have time for this s--t.
    I go up stairs and I get ready for work.
    I have been sleep for close to 5 hours.
    Ugh, I hate jet lag.
    I rub at my eyes as I walk downstairs, I need some water.
    And besides what time is it?
    I step into the kitchen and I collide with Justin.
    From the edge of my vision I can see julliet, justice, magic and sage in the dinning, they seem to be holding court.
    Or playing a game.
    I immediately jump back as our chest brush.
    He grabs my hand and I scream a little.
    Sage and the others look at us.
    “What is wrong with you?”
    He asks and I feel the familiar tremble setting in.
    “Please let go of me”
    “Please leave me alone”
    He doesn’t.
    “Please don’t touch me, let go of me”
    “What the ever loving hell?”
    He ask as he watches my body do a full body tremble.
    “Please let go of my hand, I beg you”
    He still doesn’t and I feel my self hyperventilating.
    I know what will follow, I will soon black out, I see black dots on the edge of my vision.
    S--t, am going to faint.
    Oh hell.
    Fool Sandra.
    I think.
    That’s all I know as I pass out.
    Episode 3
    I gaze at my ceiling, I lean over to grab my phone as my alarm rings.
    No use, I didn’t sleep through out the night.
    After Justin arrived yesterday I fled to my room where I proceeded to cry my eyes out.
    I made excuses about jet lag and time differences, they let me go.
    They didn’t notice I was trembling thank God.
    I swipe my phone screen and I go through my new Instagram account, I see that I have no new followers, I sigh.
    I stand up and I walk to my closet I change from my nightie into a sweatshirt and trousers.
    I tie my red hair into a bun.
    It’s one thing about my self I never changed after I left him, my hair is mine.
    I walk to my mirror and I say my mantra
    “Am strong, am wise, am independent and am the best I can be”
    I make my way downstairs to see magic balancing Cara on one hip and placing a dish on the dining table.
    “Don’t tell me you still do the house chores”
    She smiles as she passes Cara to me.
    I glance at my niece and she looks at me with a thumb in her mouth.
    So cute.
    “We don’t want a housekeeper so we make do”
    She says and I follow her to the kitchen to see julliet toasting bread.
    It’s a miracle.
    “She toast’s bread now?”
    I ask magic.
    “That’s all she can do, for now, am still trying to help her learn…..she’s hopeless”
    She whispers that in an aside and I laugh.
    “I heard that”
    Julliet says and I smile.
    I help them set the table and we sit for breakfast.
    It’s comical to see justice doing baby speak and trying to feed Cara cereal.
    Sage is even worse.
    I take a slice of bread and butter it, Justin comes down and I tenses.
    I see julliet watching me and I try not to look strained.
    “Good morning”
    He says as he tickles Abigail, she squeals.
    I look away, it hurts to watch him do that.
    He sits and everyone one continues eating.
    I reach for the juice jug and he does too our hand brush and I am thrown back to some months ago.
    I feel my self trembling, I can see the jug tip from the force of my shake, juice spills everywhere.
    Sage grabs my hand and I turn to him, it’s then I realize I have been screaming, the babies are crying, clearly upset.
    I stand up and flee to the kitchen.
    What made me think I was ready to come back?
    What made me feel like I was strong?
    I am nothing but weak, am so weak.
    Am worthless.
    I feel tears push through and i let them.
    I feel a presence at my back and I scramble away.
    I can’t bear contact right now.
    I turn around to see Sage.
    “You ok baby girl?”
    He asks and I nod, wiping my tears.
    “Yes, am fine, I was just spooked”
    He nods but it’s clear he doesn’t believe me.
    “You think you can still join us for breakfast?”
    He asks and I nod.
    He leads me back to the dining and I take my sit.
    Everyone is quiet and eating, julliet and magic have managed to calm the babies.
    No one is saying anything.
    Alec is looking at me crazy and I don’t blame him.
    I must look crazy.
    “You ok Sandy?”
    Justin asks and I flinch.
    He goes to take my hand and i place it in my lap, they all notice.
    His hand is suspended in the air and he places it back on the table.
    I don’t make eye contact as I continue.
    Jesus Sandra , you are beyond pathetic.
    I knew she was coming back, I had prepared my self.
    But that doesn’t make it any easier to see her, or face her.
    It felt like a blow seeing her last night looking good and sophisticated albeit a little withdrawn.
    I don’t blame her.
    I deserve her ire.
    But what I don’t deserve is her refusing to let me touch her?
    I mean the woman literally screamed when our fingers brushed.
    What’s up with that?
    I eat my breakfast as usual, am not in the mood for this s--t.
    I have lots of cases at the office and adding Sandra Jacobs to it is not something I have in mind.
    If it’s gets bothersome I can just pack out of the house.
    Am done with my breakfast.
    I stand, I would have missed it if I didn’t have her thought in mind.
    The woman honest to goodness flinched.
    She flinched like I was going to hit her.
    I immediately get angry, I don’t deserve that.
    I get that I hurt her in the past but it wasn’t intentional.
    I don’t say anything as I take a drink of water and I set my glass down.
    She jumps.
    I throw her a look and i walk out.
    I can’t believe this woman is getting me worked up again.
    Don’t have time for this s--t.
    I go up stairs and I get ready for work.
    I have been sleep for close to 5 hours.
    Ugh, I hate jet lag.
    I rub at my eyes as I walk downstairs, I need some water.
    And besides what time is it?
    I step into the kitchen and I collide with Justin.
    From the edge of my vision I can see julliet, justice, magic and sage in the dinning, they seem to be holding court.
    Or playing a game.
    I immediately jump back as our chest brush.
    He grabs my hand and I scream a little.
    Sage and the others look at us.
    “What is wrong with you?”
    He asks and I feel the familiar tremble setting in.
    “Please let go of me”
    “Please leave me alone”
    He doesn’t.
    “Please don’t touch me, let go of me”
    “What the ever loving hell?”
    He ask as he watches my body do a full body tremble.
    “Please let go of my hand, I beg you”
    He still doesn’t and I feel my self hyperventilating.
    I know what will follow, I will soon black out, I see black dots on the edge of my vision.
    S--t, am going to faint.
    Oh hell.
    Fool Sandra.
    I think.
    That’s all I know as I pass out.

    Episode 4

    She said please.
    That’s what is ringing through my head as I catch her falling body.
    She said please multiple times, she never says please.
    I look down at her face and I see tear tracks.
    Who is this girl?
    I feel Sage come up to us and he tries to take her from me.
    “It’s fine”
    I say.
    I make my way to her room and I feel all the others following me.
    What’s happening?
    I set her on her bed as I clear the doorway.
    Sage immediately moves to her.
    I stand back as I see her coming to.
    I don’t think she wants to see me right now.
    She asks.
    “Am right here baby girl”
    She bursts out crying as she pulling it her brother close.
    I feel my chest tighten.
    Did I do that to her?
    “Am sorry Sagen, am so sorry for being weak”
    She uses the long variation of Sage’s name as she cries.
    I see julliet walk to the bed and try to console her.
    She pulls away.
    Julliet frowns, immediately hurt.
    I frown too, something is not right.
    Justice beckons everyone to step outside and we go, I turn as I clear the door to see Sage get in the bed with her and pulling the covers over both of them.
    She rests her head on his shoulder and I exit the room.
    We all stand outside waiting for Sage, I know my family, no one will sleep tonight except they are sure she is ok.
    After a while Sage comes out.
    Julliet goes to him and he pulls her protectively to him.
    “Is she ok darlin’?”
    Julliet asks and he shakes his head no.
    I stand straight.
    He turns to me.
    “I want you to find out what the hell happened to my sister”
    I nod sharply.
    Yes I want to know too.
    I groan as I come awake, I feel like I was run over by a Mack truck which proceeded to reverse on top my dead carcass.
    I sit up and I turn to see Sage sitting on a chair watching me.
    I startle, he notices, his face darkens.
    He commands.
    Double s--t.
    “Am tired Sage and I don’t know what you mean.”
    I say and he scowls deeply.
    “Do not play dumb with my Anika, I swear I will put you over my lap and spank you”
    I flinch again, deeply this time.
    He doesn’t know how close to home his words hit.
    He used my middle name, he never does that except when he is extremely mad or pissed at me.
    Am going to go with both.
    “What happened to you? You broke down yesterday Sandra, I didn’t like that, not a tad much”
    He says and I nod.
    “I was just tired and also it was him”..
    I say, referring to Justin.
    He nods slowly.
    “Is this about your crush on Justin? I thought you dropped that”
    He asks and says and I try to act bashful.
    At least that would take the attention off me.
    “Yes, it’s about….. that”
    He doesn’t seem to believe me and I know why, he’s my brother, he knows me more than I know my self.
    “Am gonna go with that and I hope you are saying the truth, come down for breakfast…”
    He says and he exits.
    I feel a p---k of something and I don’t know what it is, I just know it makes me uncomfortable.
    I hate lying to my brother, I lean over and grab my phone.
    I dial, he doesn’t answer, I sigh.
    I really needed him right now.
    I go through my morning rituals and I go downstairs with my phone.
    I don’t want to miss his call.
    “Good morning”
    I say as I sit down.
    “Good morning Sandra, you doing better now? I know how stressful changing environment can be”
    Magic says and asks and I smile gratefully at her.
    “Am ok”
    I say.
    “You do know you can come to me with anything right?”
    Julliet says and I hesitate.
    “Yes….I know”
    I say and her face falls, she knows I just lied to her.
    She is disappointed, I can tell.
    Just another thing he took from me, my ability to trust.
    I go to grab a bacon when my phone rings.
    I almost drop my bacon in fear that he is the one calling.
    The one I fear the most.
    I maintain my self when I see the display.
    I answer with a wry smile.
    “Hey Antonio”
    I say .
    I literally feel my entire family lift their eyes and stare at me.
    His stare was the most powerful, Justin’s, I ignore them.
    “Hey baby girl, how are you doing?”
    The voice on the other end ask.
    I stand up and walk to the kitchen..
    “Am not good”
    I say.
    He sighs in my ear, Antonio was the only constant i had in Cali when I almost killed my self.
    He made me have a meaning for life again.
    He made me feel less worthless.
    “You want me to come over?”
    He says come over like California is a day’s journey.
    “No Tony, not yet”
    “Call me always, you hear me, call me”
    “I will”
    “You are strong, you are wise, you are independent and you are the best you can be, get that?”
    I feel tears p---k at my eye.
    “Yeah baby”
    I whisper.
    “I will call you later, yeah?”
    He disconnects without a bye and I almost smile.
    Typical Tony.
    Who was that guy?
    And why did she seem like she would die if he ends the call.
    I hate oh I hate not knowing.
    I pick my phone as i drive.
    “Yes boss?”
    The voice at the other end says.
    “I just sent you a name, I want you to find out everything about that person and what she has been up to for the past year.”
    “On it boss”
    I disconnect, good let the games begin.

    Episode 5

    “He’s an a-hole”
    I nod as I pass another tissue to to her.
    “I mean, how could he cheat on me? Me!”
    She asks and it’s clear she believes it’s unbelievable, I think it’s unbelievable too, the idiot.
    “It’s ok, Kel’s”
    Magic is trying to console her.
    Trying being the word in play here.
    It’s been three days since I called Antonio and things have been going fine, well relatively.
    Have been job hunting, Kel’s came in a while ago while I was filling a form for an online magazine looking for a freelance photographer.
    I hand another tissue to her as she reaches forward.
    “Am so hurt ..”
    Kele says as she blows her nose loudly.
    Julliet rolls her eyes, I frown.
    “Kele, not to be the voice of reason here but you know the relationship was over since before this right?”
    Julliet asks and Kele’s tears immediately halts.
    Magic is nodding slowly.
    “Well yes, but that doesn’t mean he should cheat on me, I wanted the relationship to work, I even paid for couples counseling, my money!!”
    She wails.
    “So you are crying for your money and not your relationship?”
    I ask.
    She nods.
    “Girl you need your head checked”.
    Julliet comments and the water works begin again.
    I sigh, I hand her another tissue.
    Justice and Sage enter and they throw her a look.
    “Hey Justice, Sage”
    Kele says and I throw her a look.
    She continues her crying and I frown.
    Sage turns to me.
    “Should I ask?”
    He nods at the crying kele.
    “Don’t, just escape”
    He laughs and bends to kiss my head.
    His eyes falls on my laptop screen on the coffee table.
    “You’re looking for a job?”
    He asks and Kele’s wailing ceases.
    They all turn to me.
    I nod nervously, am still not good with much attention.
    “Why didn’t you tell me?”
    Sage asks.
    “I didn’t want to disturb you”
    As a professional photographer, finding jobs in my country and my field of work is very hard.
    I have a head for broadcasting and hosting but I don’t want to do that, too much risk of him finding me.
    Sage just shakes his head as he asks the dreaded question.
    “Why don’t you continue the show the company was funding the other time? ”
    I shake my head immediately, no that’s not an option.
    He notices.
    “What’s wrong with that? you were good at it and it brought lots of revenue to the company”
    He asks.
    “I just don’t want to, I crave something different”
    I say nimbly.
    “Oh I know!”
    Kele exclaims and we turn to her.
    I am dreading what she will say next.
    “I want to do a cooking show at Tasty’s, I was looking for a host, you can do it”.
    Tasty’s is Kele’s restaurant.
    Oh hell no.
    I make a face.
    She misunderstands.
    “No need to fret, you will be in the spotlight, you can do it, I promise, it will be 50/50 too”
    She says.
    I don’t want to be in the spotlight, if anything I don’t want to be in any light at all.
    If I refuse what otherwise is a promising offer it will look suspicious so I just nod.
    “I will think about it”
    I say slowly.
    Am not thinking about anything, heaven knows.
    I just smile.
    She cleans up her smeared mascara daintily and I almost smile.
    Kele is so precious.
    “So are you good now?”
    I ask and she nods.
    Justice just shakes his head from where is making out with Magic and I grimace.
    “You are nuts Kel’s”
    Justice says.
    “Oh come on, don’t hate on me big guy, I was in pain”
    She says as she fixes her lipstick.
    She’s so beautiful .
    “So is it ok for me to say good riddance?”
    Magic asks.
    Kele nods.
    I have a feeling that Kel’s boyfriend became an a-hole when I was away.
    I sit back and I collide with justice hands I quickly sit back up.
    “You alright brat? Did I hurt you?”
    He asks and i shake my head.
    “Am hungry”
    Kele says out loud.
    “No one’s gonna cook for you woman, prepare something your self and for us while you are at it”
    Julliet says and kele scowls.
    “Am a guest”
    She says.
    “You wish hag”
    Justice says as he picks magic up.
    “Make a dish, am gonna go upstairs with my wife, we are going away for 2hours, enough time for you to make something, no disturbance”
    I cringe.
    “Eww justice”
    I say and Julliet fakes barf.
    “Just don’t make any little babies, am too young to be a god mother to two kids”
    Magic blushes.
    She exclaims.
    “Why? Am I wrong? Aren’t you going up to have s….”
    “Am not listening….”
    Julliet says loudly.
    “That’s my brother Kel’s”
    Julliet says.
    “Oh am aware”
    Kele says like a mock villian and I chuckle.
    “What ever, come on big guy”
    Magic says and kele hoots.
    Justice matches them upstairs as Magic hides her face in his shoulder as kele makes suggestive noises.
    They go out of view.
    “You are incorrigible”
    I say.
    “Oh, big words, I likey”
    She says and I smile.
    “You’re with me Sandy San, we are cooking, come on, I feel like this two will be needing privacy too”
    She says and my eyes widen, I stand quickly and I drop the tissue case.
    Sage just shakes his head as he leads julliet upstairs.
    I flee to the kitchen, I seriously don’t want to know.
    “So what are we doing?”
    I ask as I walk to the fridge and open, the cold air assaults me, I freeze at Kele next words.
    “If you want to talk about it, am always here”
    She says softly and I turn to her.
    “I don’t know what you mean”
    “Being strong is when you can accept and move on Sandra, am here for you, yeah?”
    She asks with so much honesty, I nod.
    “Good, let’s make some soup, am craving Amala”
    I nod.
    “Me too.”
    She smiles.
    I step into the kitchen to get some water to see her turning plantain flour paste, other wise known as Amala.
    She looks in her element, she is concentrated.
    I lean against the door jamb as I watch her.
    What secret is she hiding?
    I look her over, she looks okay, what then is the matter?
    I wish she would tell me but I know I have lost her trust.
    I hurt her when I rejected her advances after my brother was hospitalized, she told me herself.
    She said she was going to stop pursuing me, after our one night together.
    I didn’t argue, it was for the best, I have too much baggage.
    I watch her now as she cleans sweat from her brow, she lifts her head and smiles at something kele says.
    She’s so beautiful, I almost shake my head to dispell the vision of her.
    She lift her head and her eyes catches mine, she smiles a wide smile at me and my chest constricts.
    She seemed to have forgotten her monsters just for a minute.
    She looks so beautiful, she turns back to her pot, finally letting me take a breath.
    She’s too good for me, I tell my self.
    She shouldn’t have to settle for less.
    I turn around and leave the kitchen.
    I deny that I felt real pain as I left.

    Episode 6

    I laugh as kele makes kissey faces at Alec who looks starstruck.
    My little man is still harboring a crush on my friend.
    “Kelechi stop tormenting my son”
    Sage says and I almost laugh again..
    “Oh chill giant, he likes it….don’t you?”
    She asks Alec who nods mutely.
    Lunch turned dinner was a success, we just finished and we are in the media room.
    Apparently kele is not going home today, I don’t question how she knew about my secret but I just take her given support.
    I feel his eyes on me and I make an effort not to glance at him.
    When he stepped into the kitchen today I almost died, he looked so handsome.
    Forgotten feelings and memories try to surface, I just push them back.
    They won’t help now, he shouldn’t have to settle for less.
    Not that he was ever interested,
    except that one night, that one awesome night.
    I blush deeply at my thoughts, I feel his gaze get keener on me, as if he knows what am thinking, is that even a thing?
    Am saved by my phone ringing and I smile deeply when I see the display.
    I glance at him to see him scowl.
    I answer my phone.
    “Hello baby”
    I say softly as I stand.
    “Hey baby-punch”
    I almost giggle.
    “Tony, you know I hate that Nick name,”
    I say as I make my way out to answer my call.
    Nick name?
    What the hell?
    I feel julliet watching me so I make an effort to look unconcerned.
    Am concerned that it’s takes me a lot of effort to look unconcerned, what Is this girl doing to me?
    “You have anything yet?”
    Sage asks as he plays with Julliet’s hair.
    What’s up with this men and PDA?
    I just shake my head no.
    “Am gonna go ahead and say this, if you have any interest in my sister, go for it now”
    Sage says.
    I shake my head.
    “I don’t”
    I lock eyes with him and he nods.
    I believe what I just said but why does my chest feel hot?
    I don’t know what made me stop before entering the media room but I did .
    And am grateful I did.
    “………….if you have any interest in my sister, go for it now”
    Oh God, that was Sage, Jesus.
    My mortification is complete.
    But I find my self waiting, listening for his response.
    Fool me, I feel my heart break at his response.
    “I don’t”
    I just swallow my pain and step in, keeping my face neutral.
    “Soo, who was that?”
    Kele asks the million dollar question.
    I just shake my head.
    “Just someone I know”
    I say with finality, ending all other questions.
    She nods and turns to Alec.
    “You wanna play Warcraft with me?”
    “Hell yeah”
    Alec responds.
    “Alec, language”
    Julliet says.
    “Sorry Mom”
    He says before taking Kele’s hand and they go to his room.
    “Am gonna go check on Abigail before hitting my bed, goodnight”
    Julliet says as she bends to kiss my cheek, she leaves with sage who ruffles my hair.
    Magic does the same thing with justice and am left alone with him.
    Oh hell.
    I go to stand up to make my excuse when he says…
    “Are you going to escape now?”
    I sit back down.
    I say, posing it as a question.
    “Are you telling me or asking me?”
    He asks.
    I shake my head.
    “I know you hate me but I thought maybe we can be civil about it and still be acquaintances”
    I frown.
    “I don’t hate you”
    He raises an eyebrow…
    “Don’t you? I mean I literally rejected you after we shared a night together”
    He says, I almost die of mortification.
    “What night?”
    What are you doing Sandra?
    Why am I baiting him?
    He sits up now, all his attention on me.
    “You don’t remember?”
    He asks.
    I shake my head no.
    “That’s weird, I seem to recall we shared a very promising night together.
    I mean I didn’t sleep all through that night, I even felt like I threw my back out, so it’s weird that you don’t remember”
    He says and I blush deeply, how can he talk about it so blatantly?
    I start, he interrupts
    “Please what? Please stop or wait please do to me the delicious things you did to me that night?”
    He says arrogantly.
    “Can’t you feel it or you are trying to ignore it? I can literally feel your body calling to mine”
    “You have to….”
    “Am not gonna stop squirrel”
    I tense.
    “Just say my name dammit!, it’s not that hard, just say my bloody name”
    He growls loudly and I jump in fear.
    Not fear of him but of him.
    The one I fear the most.
    He notices, of course he does.
    “What is wrong with you?”
    I flinch, hurt.
    “Why are you so scared? What happened to you?”
    I stand up, am out.
    He stops me with a hand to my wrist, I shake.
    “Please let go of my hand”
    He stands, pulling me close, I tremble.
    “Say my name”
    He commands.
    “Say my name dammit”
    “Jus… Justin please let go of me”
    I say softly, he still doesn’t do so, he just backs me up to a wall.
    Am trapped, I should be scared but am not, not with this man.
    “It wasn’t that hard now was it?”
    He asks but I don’t respond.
    “I missed you”
    He says and I tremble.
    Not now, God please not now.
    He’s going to break me.
    “I missed you so d--n much, I lied to my self that I didn’t but I missed you, your smell, the way you feel, everything about you”.
    He says and I feel my self relax.
    He lifts my head and for once I don’t feel scared.
    “Tell me you missed me too, tell me am not alone in this feeling”
    I open my mouth to confess but i remember nothing will change.
    I drag my chin out of his hand and push at his chest.
    “Let me go”
    He scowls.
    “Even if I say I missed you that’s still not going to change anything, will it? You still won’t like me and I still won’t be changed”
    He frowns at my choice of words and I push at his chest again.
    “Just let me go”
    He steps back and I prepare to flee but that doesn’t stop him from saying.
    “You can run all you like butterfly but we both know I will always be your first”
    I blush deeply before flipping him the bird.
    He laughs deeply and I run to my room with a smile on my face.

    Episode 7

    I come down stairs with a spring to my step, am so happy this morning I could burst.
    “Good morning family”
    I say cheerily and they turn to me.
    “Can you tune down the smile a little, it’s blinding my eye”
    Kele says grumpily, she’s not a morning person.
    I just laugh.
    “Your adorable”
    I say as I kiss her head and take my seat.
    They are looking at me like I just stripped naked and danced on the table.
    “Your Happy,”
    Sage says .
    I nod.
    “I am”
    He shares a look with justice that I don’t bother to interpret, my eyes stray to the stairs .
    Julliet must have noticed because she says.
    “It’s the weekend, he isn’t at home”
    I instantly deflate.
    “I don’t know what you mean”
    She rolls her eyes.
    She says under her breath, I just ignore.
    I remember that Justin always vanishes on the weekend, he’s never available during this time.
    No one knows where he goes.
    He didn’t tell m…….
    I stop my self on that train of thought, he’s nothing to me so he shouldn’t tell me anything.
    I just butter my toast and take a bite.
    Am not feeling so hyper any more.
    I miss the look Sage sends justice and justice nodding his head.
    Am too caught up in my wallow.
    “It’s cloudy with a Chance of Rain”
    Kele says in an off hand comment and I nod , yeah that’s how I feel.
    I didn’t know she was referring to me.
    Am whistling, am happy and I know why.
    She’s the cause.
    She’s like a drug, am currently high on.
    I drive to my getaway in happy thoughts.
    My phone rings and I connect to Bluetooth.
    I say.
    “Boss, I got the file on what you wanted”
    My mood instantly dulls, I don’t feel so hyper any more.
    “Email it to me”
    “Yes boss”
    I go to disconnect but I stop.
    “How bad is it?”
    I ask.
    “With all due respect sir, I would appreciate it if you let me at the a-hole”
    “Thank you Simon”
    “Anytime boss”
    I disconnect and continue driving.
    I get to my destination and I drive through the gate of the little beach house.
    I swipe my phone and I see a new email, I don’t hesitate and I open it.
    I go through articles upon articles.
    I feel bile rise to my chest, I clench my fist as I read.
    He did this to her.
    He hurt her, he made her this way.
    I feel my self slipping into the calm rage, I try to stop it but I can’t.
    The voice calls from outside the car.
    I turn.
    I open the door and I step out.
    A ball of clothe hit me in a hug and I hug back,that seemed to help.
    “How you doing baby girl?”
    I bend to her level and she kisses my cheek.
    “Am fine daddy”
    I raise my head and I see my son standing on the porch with his hands across his little chest.
    I close my car door and I walk to him while holding the hand of my daughter.
    “You still angry at me Styxx?”
    I ask.
    “Styxx is a cry baby”
    My daughter says and my son turns furious eyes to me.
    “Apologize to your brother Raine”
    I tell my daughter and she mumbles.
    “Am sorry…”
    “You are a trouble maker”
    Jew my last child says.
    “Sorry Daddy”
    I shake my head.
    “Are you guys going to hug me or should I go without?”
    They give me a group hug and I Pat their heads, I raise my head to see Leila standing there.
    “Hello honey”
    She says and I smile, I walk to her and kiss her cheek.
    “Hey, lay lay”
    She smiles and we go inside.
    I watch them play, I turn to Leila.
    “How are they?”
    I ask.
    “They are fine, well almost fine”
    She says dully, I ignore her tune, Leila is my children’s Aunt, she’s over protective of them, she doesn’t like my parenting.
    Well that makes two of us, I don’t like my parenting.
    “How’s Jew?”
    “She’s okay?”
    I turn to her fully.
    “Does she still cry at night?”
    I ask.
    “Not every night, just sometimes when the pain is too much”.
    She says and I feel my chest constrict.
    My little girl has a condition her mother had too.
    An ear diseases that prevents her from hearing without hearing aids, it can be treated by surgery.
    We just waiting for the right time.
    “What did the doctor say?”
    “He says she should undergo the surgery in a month time”
    I nod slowly.
    “He also says that she should be surrounded by family at that time”
    I nod again.
    “He meant not just us Justin, he meant all the family she has”
    “Justin, it’s high time your children met your family, you can’t keep hiding them”
    “Am not hiding them, they will meet them, just not now”
    She shakes her head in anger.
    “What’s your excuse this time? Uh?they are not ready?you are not ready? When are you going to admit that you are just scared that no one will accept your children”
    “Shut your mouth Leila”
    She shakes her head.
    “You didn’t kill her J….”
    “Shut it Leila, I swear…”
    “Oh whatever”
    I throw her a look before walking to my children and taking a seat.
    “Daddy, Jew won’t let me play with her Barbie doll”
    “Raine, you have yours, don’t you think it’s bad to try to hoard someone else’s?”
    I ask her and she scrunches her nose in an adorable way.
    “What’s hoard?”
    She asks as she strokes my hair, more like pull at it, I don’t complain I just go through the maths book Styxx gave me.
    “Hoarding is bad, it’s when you have more than enough but still want more”
    “Is wanting more bad?”
    She ask as she tries to sit on my head this time.
    “No baby, wanting more isn’t bad but hurting people while doing it is bad”
    “Did I hurt Jew?”
    “Why don’t you ask her baby girl”
    I turn to Styxx to correct some of the errors on his math homework.
    I see her go to Jew from the corner of my eyes and I hide my smile.
    My daughter is a little OCD, she has a short attention span and is brilliant like hell.
    She’s a little diva though.
    Styxx on the other hand is the macho silent type, he’s the Rock and acts older than his 5 years.
    Jew is my little baby, although she is sick she is strong, I just hope the surgery goes well and make her better.
    “Daddy are you ok?”
    I raise my head to see Jew looking at me while laying her head on a pillow.
    My little girl must be tired.
    I move to her before placing her on my lap.
    “Why do you ask baby?”
    She rests her head on my chest.
    “You look tired”
    I smile.
    “I just had a long day at work today, that’s all”
    “Are you going to take us with you this week?”
    Raine asks.
    I glance at Leila who is still leaning by the door.
    “Shut up squid”
    Styxx says quietly.
    “Don’t call me squid”!
    Raine shouts and I throw a look at Styxx.
    He’s looking at me.
    Ha, my little man is supporting his father, but…
    “Don’t disrespect your sister Styxx”
    He nods and I turn to Raine.
    “You will be coming with me soon”
    “That’s what you say Everytime”
    She shouts as she settles on the ground beside me, i pull her into my arm and she rests against my chest.
    “I really want to come with you daddy, I miss you when you are gone”
    Jew says softly, sleepily and I glance at Leila.
    She just shrugs.
    I almost groan.
    It’s a conspiracy.

    Episode 8

    I feel a hand on my face and I frown.
    “Daddy wake up”
    “Raine what did I say about disturbing me when am sleeping?”
    I ask as I open an eye.
    “But… daddy, Jew’s not feeling good, she’s crying”
    I sit up immediately, the sheet falling off.
    “Ok baby girl, stay here I will be back”
    I lay her on my bed, she looks so scared.
    I make my way to the room Raine shares with Jew and I enter to see Leila kneeling beside the bed patting Jew’s head, Styxx is standing at a corner looking concerned.
    “Baby girl”
    Jew lifts her hand for me an i get into bed with her.
    “Am right here baby cheeks”
    I say.
    “Am tired daddy, I just wanna sleep”
    My heart clenches.
    “Go ahead baby, daddy’s here”
    I stroke her head and she falls in a fitful sleep.
    I turn to Styxx.
    “Am right here big guy, you can go to bed”
    He shakes his head no, Styxx likes communicating with actions and not words, he rarely speaks.
    Am scared for my kids.
    “It’s fine, I will be by soon, go to bed, am here now.”
    He nods shortly.
    “Don’t leave her”
    I nod.
    “I promise”
    He nods again and he exits the room brushing past Leila.
    I cuddle my daughter close as memories overwhelm me.
    4 years ago.
    “Don’t fail me Justin, you’ve been doing good on all of those missions, the way you are going you would be taking my job in no time”
    I nod as my boss gives me the mission detail.
    I’ve been debriefed, I know what I am supposed to do.
    “I won’t let you down sir”
    He nods as I strap on my Kevlar.
    Show time.
    “What do you mean we are done?”
    I turn to Craig, the lazy a-s was sitting in the car when I did all the job with the other guys.
    “We are done, the guys took the missiles to base”
    He sputters and I just raise a brow.
    He walks away and it takes all of my will not to grab my Glock from my pocket and pop his knee.
    I hate this double standards s--t.
    Although am a rookie, am a d--n good rookie, he thinks because he has been in the game longer than me means he has scored pissing points.
    “Don’t let him get to you, he’s an a-hole.”
    I turn to see Olamide, my partner in today’s mission.
    I say noncommittally.
    Am not in for this s--t.
    He seems to understand because he nods.
    “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off, am sure mark won’t mind”
    He says referring to our boss.
    I nod.
    I had that in mind already.
    I walk to the car issued to me and I drive.
    I would have loved to go home but ever since my sister left for the States and my brother turned to a greedy monster I have avoided my home like the plague.
    I drive around and finally I decide to enter an eatery, I drive into their parking lot.
    I sit myself at a table and I see a waitress come forward.
    I am going through the menu and I don’t pay her any heed.
    “What will you be having today sir?”
    She says in a soft voice that if I wasn’t paying attention I would have missed.
    I raise my head and I see her watching me intently.
    “What do you recommend?”
    She seems to be watching my lips as I speak, I tip the side.
    She startles and stares into my eyes.
    She doesn’t say anything, after a short while I ask.
    Her eyes flies to my lips and I almost frown.
    “The house special is recommended sir”
    She says in that soft voice and I nod.
    “So that’s what I will have”
    I say and she nods.
    She leaves and comes back with my meal, all through the food I stare at her.
    I glance at my time after a while and I see it’s past 8, I have been here for close to hours.
    I beckon another waitress and she steps forward.
    She says a figure and I drop the cash, I stand looking around for her but she seems to have vanished.
    I walk out.
    Smooth Justin, loosing the only woman you’ve had interest in in a while.
    Well, I will be back tomorrow.
    As I step our I see her immediately, she is wrapping a long scarf around her neck.
    I jog to her, she startles when I touch her shoulder.
    I raise my hand.
    “It’s only me”
    I say.
    So there must have been a back door.
    “How may I help you sir?”
    She asks and I shake my head.
    “Let me take you out”
    Her eyes widen as she stares at my lips.
    She shakes her head.
    I frown.
    I ask and she speaks.
    “Not tonight, I have dance classes to tutor today”
    She says softly.
    “Can I come?”
    I ask.
    “Can you dance?”
    “Am sure I can try”
    I say and she smiles.
    “Let’s get to my car, I can drive you there”
    She shakes her head, her eyes on my lips.
    “It’s not far, it’s trek able”
    I nod.
    “Alright milady, lead the way.”
    She begins to walk and I fall in step beside her.
    “So what’s your name?”
    I ask and she doesn’t respond.
    I touch her arm.
    “What’s your name?”
    I ask again and she watches my lips, my suspicions are confirmed.
    “Am Mariah”
    She says softly.
    “Well Mariah, am Justin”
    She smiles and nod, she is beautiful.
    I know that Mariah seems to read lips.
    Mariah is deaf but she teaches dance classes, i like her already.
    I smile.
    Mom, I have found my soulmate.
    I say and I feel the sky smiling at me.

    Episode 9

    Present day.
    I watch Raine try to heft a big box as I bend to tie Jew’s shoe laces.
    “Raine, drop that, you will hurt your self.”
    She stands straight and pouts.
    “But I want to show mom my new toys and gowns.”
    I almost roll my eyes.
    “Are we doing that? I want to show mom too”
    Jew says and I shake my head negative.
    “No baby girls, we are not doing any of that”
    I say as I push Jew’s wheelchair to the door, Styxx opens the door for me.
    My little girl is too weak to walk today, God I can wait for that surgery to be done and over with.
    I had to wheelchair proof the house when I found out my baby girl gets too weak sometimes to even walk.
    I hate this.
    I wheel us to the car with Styxx carrying a box of sandwiches for lunch.
    I get them settled in after Raine argued with Styxx on who is sitting shotgun.
    “Say good bye to your aunt kids”
    I say as I lean over and buckle Raine’s seatbelt.
    She always gets her way.
    I lift my head to see Leila sitting on the stoop waving at the kids
    When our eyes meet her smile dissolves.
    I don’t bother to wonder why, I already know .
    She doesn’t like that I bring the children to see their mothers grave, she believes I should just let them forget about her.
    I don’t believe so, what the both of us believe are two very different things.
    I drive to the outskirts of the little beach town, down to the church graveyard.
    When we get there I unbuckle Raine’s seatbelt because she tries to come down without doing so .
    “Slow down Raine”
    I call after her as she shoots out of the car.
    Styxx stays back and help me with Jew.
    I smile at him and I ask him to grab the lunch boxes.
    I wheel Jew over to the big oak tree and I see Raine trying to pull out some weed growing near the tree.
    I smile, although my girl is super hyper, she is thoughtful.
    Mariah always wanted to be buried underneath a tree.
    As I step under the shade of the tree a sprinkling of flower falls down on me.
    I smile.
    “I missed you too Mariah”
    I say as I pat the tree.
    I spread the picnic blanket and I get Jew settled.
    “I wanna talk to Mom first!”.
    Raine shouts and I wince.
    “Sweet bottom, it’s ok we can hear you if you speak normally”
    I say softly.
    “Yes squid”
    Styxx adds and I roll my eyes.
    Raine shouts as she turns to the tree.
    “Mom, Styxx hates me, why did you ever give birth to him”
    She asks the tree and I don’t bother to rebuke, am used to her ranting about it.
    Her voice go soft and I know she is connecting with her mother now.
    This right here is why I bring them to see their mom every month.
    “Hi Mom, how are you doing? I missed you, I wanted to bring over some stuff daddy got for me but he said I couldn’t.
    The gowns are so pretty mom, like really pretty.”
    She says and takes a big breath.
    “Jew is still sick, can’t you talk to God and so him to heal her?”
    My baby asks her mom and my heart twinges.
    Styxx starts, softly.
    Raine continues.
    “Please mom …, I don’t want to loose my sister, talk to God,uhn? Uhn?”
    She asks as tears spills from her eyes, I gather her to me and as she cries.
    I nod to Styxx to begin to talk to his mother as I console my daughter.
    “Is okay baby girl”
    I say as I stroke her hair.
    “Am so scared daddy, am really scared”
    She says and my heart breaks.
    I kiss her head.
    “Jew’s gonna be okay baby”
    I say.
    “Stop crying Ray Ray”
    Jew says softly and I smile at her.
    “Are you gonna be ok?”
    Raine asks and Jew nods, Raine smiles and that’s settled.
    I tune into Styxx.
    “……..if you could tell Raine to stop snoring that will be good too…”
    He says.
    “I don’t snore!”
    Raine shouts.
    “You do squid, and shut up am talking to Mom”
    He says softly, Raine turns to me.
    “Daddy?, Do I snore?”
    I shake my head.
    “No baby girl”
    That seems to satisfy her because she cuddles closer in my arms.
    “…….and also I aced my math test last week, my teacher is no longer a sissy because now he scolds Ben and the others when they talk back at him….., Well that’s all I have to say….oh wait, protect daddy and Jew and the squid…..I miss you…bye Mom.”
    He says as he steps back from the tree unto the blanket.
    For once Raine doesn’t say anything about being called squid.
    Am amazed at my kids.
    Even though they never met there mother they interact with her like they’ve known her for much longer.
    Flower petals fall from the tree and I smile.
    Mariah is pleased.
    I go to stand so I can wheel Jew over.
    “It’s fine daddy, I can manage”
    She says and I sit back, watching her stand up slowly.
    It must have taken a lot of energy but I don’t offer any help, if I did she will be depressed.
    She walks slowly to the tree and sits at the foot of it.
    “Hello mother, how have you been?”
    She asks softly.
    “Well its Jew, the last of the triplets, I know, I know, you missed me too”
    She says as flower petals fall on her.
    Raine giggles and I smile.
    “So I wrote some of poems this week, hope you like it, am gonna be a famous singer one day, just as soon as I become well”
    I smile again.
    “I miss you mother, tell Daddy to take us with him this week and tell Styxx to stop teasing Raine.”
    She says as she picks up a petal in her palm.
    “My surgery is soon, I hope to see you soon with no hearing aids”
    She says and petals fall on her.
    She giggles softly.
    “Talk later”
    She says as she makes her way to the blanket slowly.
    She sits and grabs a sandwich from the box Styxx hands her.
    “Aren’t you going to talk to Mom daddy?”
    Jew ask and I shake my head.
    “No baby”
    I say as I kiss her head.
    Am not worthy to talk to her, I hurt her too much.
    Raine grabs my phone and begins to play a song.
    I smile, it’s I and Mariah’s song.
    The Lumineers ‘holdin’ out’
    Raine sings along and Styxx joins even Jew.
    I smile as I grab a bottled water.
    Am content.
    So while writing this episode I channeled a lot of emotions.
    Hope you feel it.
    You can download the song, I promise it’s worth it

    Episode 10

    It’s Monday morning at breakfast and am holding my breath.
    Justin is supposed to come back today.
    I am eager to see him but I try not to be too eager.
    Is that even a thing?
    I butter my bread as I sip my tea.
    Baby Abigail fusses, she seems to be teething.
    I eat another bite of my Bread ad for the millionth time my eyes goes to the door.
    I can’t help myself.
    The door opens somewhere and I hold my breath again.
    He steps into the dinning room his eyes on me.
    My breath catches, at this rate I would have an heart attack.
    “We have to talk”
    I glance around and I point to my chest .
    I ask.
    “Yes you, come on”
    Am scared, I hesitate.
    “You better be fast, if you don’t want me telling everyone here”
    He says and my chest falls.
    Does he know?
    I stand slowly but Justice’s voice stops me.
    “Good morning brother, you wanna fill me in on where you’ve been?”
    Justice asks and I sit back down.
    “Not now justice”
    “Yes now, Justin, dude, what is wrong with you? For three days a week you take a long vacation and you show up deadbeat and you expect me not to ask?”
    Justice asks and I glance at Justin waiting for his response.
    “We’ve gone over this justice, I can’t tell you”.
    He says calmly.
    “That’s enough justice”
    Julliet says as she bounces Abigail on her lap.
    “It’s not ok, this dude needs to spill”
    “I don’t have to do anything”
    Justin says .
    Justice asks and stands.
    Oh Jesus, I can see a fight.
    “You don’t want to tell me where you go to every other weekend? You don’t want to tell me why you come back looking like your wife just died?
    You think I can leave my bro to live like that?”
    “Tell me dammit!, Do you have a mistress? A wife? Are you gay?”
    “That’s enough folks”
    Sage says as he reads the morning paper, calm as you please.
    “If you don’t want to spill you can leave my house”
    Justice says.
    I gasp, julliet and Magic do too .
    That’s the harshest of punishment, we kind of see sage and justice as the rulers in our little community.
    Sending Justin away is the worst sort of threat,
    Although we all own the house jointly, justice and Sage can make those kind of calls.
    It’s the respect we give them.
    Justin says as I tune back in.
    What? No.
    “You can’t leave….”
    I say and justice throws me a look.
    I shut up.
    “So whatever secret you are hiding is worth more to you than your family?”
    Justice asks and Justin looks away.
    Justice sighs.
    “You can stay, you own the house too but I want to tell you that if ever you are ready to talk about it, I am here.
    Man if you are in trouble with the mob, you can tell me, I am your brother”
    Justice says and I take a breath of sweet relief.
    Everything is fine.
    Justin gives a short nod before turning to me.
    He says and I stand up immediately.
    I follow.
    Dread filling my stomach.
    Does he know?
    We get to the pool house and he turns to me.
    “Is there anything you want to tell me?”
    He asks and I shake my head.
    “You sure Sandra?”
    He ask and the dread in my stomach grows.
    “Am sure”
    He take a step forward and I take one back in fear.
    He freezes.
    “Jesus Sandra, am not him”
    He says with a growl.
    He knows.
    “I don’t know what you mean”
    I say softly.
    “Don’t play dumb with me Sandra, don’t even try it.”
    I shake my head softly, tears threatening to spill.
    His face softens.
    “Why didn’t you call me for help Sandy? Hell why didn’t you call any one?”
    He ask and the tears spill.
    “I….I..I was scared”
    I say softly.
    “He hit you”
    He says brokenly and I sob.
    Justin is broken because of me.
    “He hit you so much that you had to be hospitalized one time”
    He says and I shake my head slowly.
    “Did I push you to that? Did I reject you and you went to him?”
    He asks and I shake my head.
    “I did , didn’t I?”
    He says , more to himself.
    “That motherf-ker will pay Sandy”
    He says with rage.
    “No Justin …”
    “He will bloody pay!”
    He shouts and I jump.
    “He hit you Sandy, no one does that, you are a Jacobs, a bloody Maxwells.”
    My tears spill, just like me to cause pain in this house again.
    “I just want to forget him JM”
    I say and he turns to me.
    “He broke you”
    Justin whispers.
    “He f-cking broke the Sandra Jacobs, he made my little squirrel hide in a shell”
    I sob again.
    I take a step to him and I place a hand on his arm
    “Please Justin, am fine now, let it go”
    “Fine? Are you fine in this manner? You bloody jump at any sound, you flinch at a touch! Is this fine?”
    He asks with a growl in my face and I almost whimper.
    “JM ….”
    “He broke a f-cking Maxwells Jacobs”
    I nod slowly, my tears pouring.
    “He d--n well has to pay”
    He says and I shake my head.
    “Am scared JM”
    I say and he freezes.
    “Am scared of him so much, he abused and degraded me, I just want to forget”
    I say.
    He nod slowly, pulling me into his arms, wiping my tears.
    We stay like that for a while.
    “You have to tell our family”
    He says and I stiffen.
    “Either you do or I will”
    He says and I nod
    “Ok I will ”
    I say.
    “Good, let’s go”
    He say pulling me with him.
    I ask.
    “There’s no time like the present”
    He says and I wince letting him lead me to the main house.
    When we get to the dining I see everyone still present.
    Sage sits up at the tear tracks on my face.
    “Alec, sweetie go to your room”
    Julliet says and he does so, grabbing his cellphone.
    “What the hell? Justin?”
    Sage asks .
    “Are you alright Sandra?”
    Magic asks and I nod.
    “Sandra has something to say to every one”
    Justin says and I turn to him.
    He steps forward his front touching my back, giving me his strength if I need it.
    I am grateful.
    I turn to my family.
    “What’s this about, brat?”
    Justice asks and I speak.
    “I was abused in California”
    I say softly, tears threatening again.

    Episode 11

    No matter what she says, I believe I sent her right to him, I rejected her, she wanted a rebound and she found him.
    Just another woman I have hurt.
    Am so angry.
    I watch her tell our family everything and I admire her strength.
    She’s crying and it kills me.
    Sage stands and starts to Pace, I know how it feels, I want to kill someone, no wait, I want to kill the a-s.
    She gulps in a breath as she finishes, she has spoken about how she met the guy, a Nigerian based in the US, how she fell in love and how he started hitting her and verbally abusing her.
    I don’t want to hear anymore but i stand firm, just in case she needs me.
    “So that’s why you didn’t want to be a host again”
    Sage says, coming to the same conclusion I have reached.
    “Yes, I was scared he would recognize me, he probably is looking for me, he is so obsessed with me.
    At first I thought it was love and I found it charming but he hit me the next time he saw me talking to the mail man.”
    “You never told me about it”
    Julliet says softly with pain in her eyes, my sister the empath is probably in as much pain as she is.
    Sandra notices.
    “I was scared J, I was so scared, he took away my phones and laptops sometimes, he only gives it back to me when he feels like I have worked for it, Mavin was a monster Jules.”
    Julliet sobs and sage immediately goes to her.
    “He didn’t….he didn’t…he didn’t rape you did he?”
    Magic asks and I stiffen, I see julliet stiffen too, I never thought of that.
    “He almost did sometimes but no, he couldn’t get it up, he is never able to if he is angry, that saved me too.”
    Sandra says softly and I feel my conviction strengthen,
    Am gonna kill that f-ker.
    Sandra .
    Am scared.
    No wait.
    I was scared, I thought I would be cast away, I thought I would be shamed, seen as weak but no.
    I feel the love and support of my family, Sage looks like he might kill someone, justice looks flat out murderous, I take a step back, seeking Justin’s warmth, I find It and it grounds me.
    “You can’t find him Sage, justice, promise me you won’t do anything”
    I say and sage turns bloodshot eyes to me.
    “Sandra I love you and you know it, I promise you that I will find that a-hole to the ends of the Earth and murder him in his own blood”
    Sage says and I suck in a breath.
    “Hear, hear, ”
    Justice concurs.
    I turn to Justin expecting support but he looks just as convinced.
    “I don’t want to see you guys get hurt! Don’t you get it? Mavin is dangerous!”
    I scream, oh my God, I feel a panic attack coming on.
    “Sandra, the only person getting hurt will be the a-hole who decided to hit my sister, I promise”
    Julliet says and am shocked, magic nods with her and I break down in tears, I feel myself pulled into a hug and for once I don’t flinched.
    I find myself wishing I was in Justin’s arms and not Justice’s.
    Am in bed, I don’t ever wanna stand up.
    It’s the evening and am kind of avoiding everyone, it’s not that am ashamed but I need to build my walls back up.
    My door opens.
    Well that was a burst.
    Kele enters.
    “I mean the number of times I come here in a week is absurd, I think I should just get a room here and lease out my flat”
    She says as greeting as she jumps on my bed.
    “Where are they?”
    I ask by way of greeting, it’s weird that Jules and Magic didn’t come with her.
    “They are downstairs, giving you space”
    I nod, still lying down.
    After a while kele speaks.
    “So you spoke to them about it, good ”
    I don’t respond, she seems not to want a response.
    “How did you know?”
    I ask after some time.
    She take a big breath.
    “My aunt had an abusive husband, but unfortunately, unlike you she wasn’t wise or strong enough to leave him”
    She says quietly and I feel her pain.
    I sit up
    “What happened?”
    I ask.
    “He finally gave her a blow to the head that killed her”
    She says.
    I gasp.
    “Am so sorry”
    I say and I mean it.
    “Don’t be, he’s in prison and won’t see the light of day again”
    She says with venom and I nod.
    “So that’s why you understood”
    I say and she nods.
    “Yes, my aunt at that time will come over to my house, doesn’t let anyone touch her, withdrawn with bruises in places clothes can cover, I only saw the bruises one day when she was changing in my room and I entered unannounced”
    She says and continues.
    “I didn’t think, I didn’t think to tell anyone, I was so foolish, maybe if I had told my papa he would have done something”
    She murmurs bitterly.
    I shake my head.
    “You don’t know that, you don’t, don’t beat yourself up over it, you were young am sure, and besides anyone could get bruises”
    I say and she smiles sadly.
    “I have a friend like that too, he lost his sister to her husband, he was the one that helped me get along after I left Mavin”
    I say.
    “Am glad you had someone with you in those times”
    She says and squeezes my hand.
    My door opens.
    “Well, don’t knock, just walk right in”
    I say to julliet who enters.
    “I can’t knock ,it might as well be my room and beside you have nothing I haven’t seen before”
    She winks and I laugh.
    “Dinners ready, come downstairs”
    She says and kele exclaims.
    “You cooked?”
    Julliet frowns.
    “What? I can cook”
    Julliet says.
    “Yes you can cook and am Kim Kardashian”
    Kele says .
    “Nah, you can’t be Kim Kardashian, you are too thick on the sarcasm”
    Jules reply and I laugh before standing.
    “So you really cooked ?”
    She shakes her head.
    “Nah, Justin did, prepare to be wowed.”
    Julliet says and am surprised.
    Yes I am definitely surprised because when I taste the stew I feel like marrying the plate, I moan.
    “This is sooooo good ”
    I say.
    My eyes turn and holds on his.
    “Am glad you approve”
    He says with a smoldering smile am surprised I didn’t choke on my beef.
    I keep staring at his eyes until kele says.
    “Is it just me or is it hot in here?”
    She says .
    “Shut up hag”
    Justice says and kele sticks he tongue at him.
    “You love me justy, admit it”
    Kele says
    “I love you as much as I love a bullet in my head”
    Justice says as he drinks his wine.
    “Am hurt”
    Kele says.
    “You know I lurrrrr you kele”
    Sage says.
    I smile.
    She replies.
    “I lurrrrr you too sagey baby”
    “Eww gross, that’s my dad”
    Alec says and kele turns to him.
    “Don’t be jealous sweets, you know my heart is always for you”
    She says as she leans down to place a peck on his lips.
    Julliet and Magic says simultaneously.
    Justice and sage shake their head.
    Alec just looks like he died and went to heaven, Kele heaven.
    I turn my eyes back to him and he is still watching me, Justin.
    Ohhhkay….it’s definitely hot in here .

    Episode 12

    I walk downstairs, it’s the middle of the night, I need some water, I haven’t gotten around to installing a mini fridge in my room yet.
    I rub at my eyes as I enter the kitchen, I stop as I see Justin chugging a milk right from the carton.
    “You don’t want Magic to see you doing that”
    I say and he turns still drinking.
    He’s shirtless.
    Holy Batman hotness.
    I blink and glance away from his chest.
    He stops drinking the milk and turns to Me.
    “It’s almond milk, it’s specially for me, she knows I drink from the carton”
    He says softly as he caps the carton and returns it to the fridge.
    He grabs a bottled water and give it to me.
    I accept and I take a long pull.
    He watches me and am suddenly aware that am wearing just a polo shirt that if I turn in a certain way you can see my butt.
    I swallow, backing away to the door.
    He asks with a mocking tone.
    “You asking me butterfly or you telling me?”
    He asks and finally my eyes goes to the kitchen table and I see his laptop open and some papers scattered everywhere.
    “Are you working?”
    I ask, appalled.
    He answers nonchalantly as he makes his way to table and takes a sit on the chair there.
    “You can’t work, it’s past 2 in the morning”
    I say.
    “I have to compile all this, I left it when I went away during the weekend, it’s long overdue.”
    He answers me and I shake my head.
    I know it would be useless asking where he went to, I just make my way to the kitchen table and I sit on it my legs on the chair beside him .
    He glances up slowly from his laptop and his eyes snags on my leg.
    Am suddenly self conscious, I clear my throat.
    He goes back to looking over some papers.
    “So are these stuff top secret,?”
    I ask as I pick a paper.
    “No, just normal stuff”
    He says as he grabs the paper from me.
    I pout.
    “I wanna see”
    His eyes are on my lips as he says.
    “Loose that look Sandy”
    He says with a whisper and I reply with a whisper too, I don’t know why I did.
    “What look?”
    I ask.
    “That look that says ‘l want you to have your wicked way with me’ loose that look butterfly.”
    I blink slowly.
    “But I want to keep you company, I couldn’t sleep”
    I say softly.
    “Do that sweets without looking delectable”
    He says and I blush softly, I look away.
    He goes back to his work and I lie on the table counting sheeps as I swing my leg.
    After a while I ask with a whisper.
    “Do you think about it?”
    He doesn’t lift his head but I see him still.
    “Think about what butterfly?”
    I clear my throat softly.
    “Never mind”
    I say and he continues his work after a while he speaks just as softly as I did earlier.
    “I think about it Sandra, everyday, the way you felt, the way you smelt, the way you cried out, everything”
    I gulp as I nod, looking away.
    My skin suddenly feels to tight.
    I sit up.
    “Am gonna go to bed”
    He nods.
    “Yes do that”
    He says with dismissal and I nod, exiting the room.
    I walk upstairs to my room and I am drawn back by a hand into the hall, I almost scream but a hand covers my mouth .
    I see it’s him and I settle a little.
    He takes his hand away from my mouth .
    “Am going to kiss you , tell me to go away if you don’t want it”
    He says with a whisper.
    I shake my head and he misinterprets by stepping away.
    “You can’t be so selfish as to put the decision of our attraction in my hand Justin”
    I say and he steps forward, pressing me to the wall.
    “Sue me Sandra, Sue Me if I have lost all sense and reason because of you, you are a magnet for me woman, I can’t think when you are around me”
    He says as his hand goes to my neck. I gulp.
    “Am half mad already Sandra, am half mad, you are supposed to be my lil sis, you are supposed to be the one i don’t want, but now the very thought of you puts me on the edge”
    I look into his eyes and I see a man trying to restrain himself, it gives me power, it make me bold.
    I lift my hand and place it on his arm, slowly moving to his chest.
    He falters, his eyes going hooded.
    “Don’t do that Sandra, don’t bloody do that”
    He says but I can hear the give in his voice.
    Am emboldened, I haven’t had this much power over a person for the past year.
    I stroke his hair out of his face and he bends his head down, his face going to my neck.
    “Am powerless against you butterfly”
    He says and my hand pulls his head up and he must have seen the approval in my eyes because he swoops in, capturing my lips in a kiss.
    I blink my eyes close against the onslaught of emotions.
    He kisses his way from my lips to my neck, I mo*n softly.
    He pulls my a-s into his hands and lifts me up, I immediately wrap my legs around his torso.
    He lifts his head.
    “You are my undoing woman”
    I smile a big smile, I feel like my face would split.
    He pecks my lips and I tilt my head, making it deeper.
    After a while we come up for air.
    He sets me gently on my feet and I wobble, my legs feel like jelly.
    “Does things to my ego that you look that way because of me baby girl”
    I blush and I smile.
    “You don’t look much better big guy”
    “Only for you sweets”
    I blush again and he leads me to my door.
    I stop before going inside.
    “Wanna come in?”
    I ask.
    “No baby girl”
    I school expression immediately, a little bit hurt, I nod.
    He notices, of course he does.
    He pulls me back as I take a step away.
    “Not like that sweets, I still have my work to do, I would love nothing more than to be in bed with you but I can’t, cos baby girl, just one night won’t be enough this time.”
    I nod with a blush.
    He bends and gives me a hard kiss before stepping away .
    I close the door and I lean against it with a smile.
    I almost squeal as I pad to my bed, I get in and as I drift to sleep I don’t know that while I was kissing Justin , julliet and Sage stepped out to get water but turned when they saw us.
    I also don’t know that Justin comes into my room to pull the sheets I have kicked off onto my body.
    Am asleep.
    Am dead to the world.
    I smile as I snuggle in to my pillow.
    I don’t hear his chuckle because of course am asleep.

    Episode 13

    I watch her come downstairs and I smile behind my mug of coffee.
    She looks exceptional.
    “Good morning”
    She says softly and I see Kele wince.
    “One word from you witch will have me popping you one in your knees”
    I say to her and she mimics the gesture of zipping he lips.
    Sandra asks looking between me and kele.
    I don’t answer, Kele does, the shrew.
    “He’s your knight in shining armor, coming to your rescue”
    Kele says with thick sarcasm.
    “Who do I need rescuing from?”
    Sandra asks.
    Kele says before delivering a mock villian laugh.
    I almost roll my eyes, I would have of I was a man that does things like that.
    “Tell me again why you spent the night in my house?”
    Justice asks as he spoons cereal into Cara’s mouth.
    “I am a resident of this house, you better get that now, it will do you good”
    Magic rolls her eyes, used to the steady Love-hate relationship between Justice and Kele.
    “Pay your bills then uh?”
    Sage says.
    “Sagey baby, I thought you lurrrred me”
    Kele says with a pout, turning to stroke Alec’s hair.
    “That was yesterday Kele baby”
    Sage replies.
    “Oh, what ever, I have my own man right here”
    She says as she dusts bread crumbs from Alec’s lap.
    “You cradle robber, leave my child alone”
    Julliet says as she burps the sleepy Cara.
    “What ever, nothing can destroy our love, not even you, right Alec?”
    Alec looks undecided.
    “She is kind of my mom so she has a say in whom i date, we have to get her blessing”
    Alec says and I raise a brow.
    Sandra and Magic burst out laughing, julliet just looks smug, Kele fakes brokenhearted ness.
    “You have hurt me my love, my heart can never mend”
    She says with a hand on her head, acting the damsel in distress.
    Alec looks like he might puke, probably afraid he has broken Kele’s heart.
    “Am sorry, am sorry, I didn’t mean that”
    Alec says with so much emotion I have a hard time swallowing my laugh.
    “So A, you mean I don’t mean anything to you?”
    Julliet asks.
    Poor Alec.
    Alec looks between the two women, kele and julliet.
    “Who is it gonna be Alec?, Your momma or your girlfriend?”
    Magic asks.
    The little man just grabs his breakfast plate and stands.
    “Am going to eat in my room”
    He says and exits, more like flee.
    Kele follows, probably to put his mind at rest.
    I finally chuckle.
    “Wise kid, knows now that he shouldn’t choose between two women”
    Justice says.
    “He’s my son after all”
    Sage says.
    “Oh shove it, he’s my nephew”
    Justice says and finally I roll my eyes, I can’t help my self.
    Sage and Justice can be babies sometimes
    “Please not this madness again, please”
    Magic says.
    Sandra just laughs.
    That gets my attention and I turn to her.
    Her laugh makes me want to laugh.
    After I left her last night I had time to think.
    I want her in my life, I want her in my bed and I can see she will be good with my kids.
    One of the reasons I haven’t brought my kids to the Maxwells Jacobs mansion is because I don’t want them feeling left out.
    Surrounded by kids with children and having no mom of their own.
    I don’t want that.
    But I can see now that Sandra will be good for them, as my girlfriend.
    I smile as I think.
    I lift my eyes and I see her glancing away from me.
    I feel like I should finally get something I want.
    I can’t pine after Mari for ever.
    I feel good about this
    I almost bite my lip.
    He looks delectable, yummy.
    I take a sip of my juice.
    I have been thinking, I had lots of thoughts before I came down this morning.
    Since the chemistry between us is still very much alive I have decided to work on it.
    Am going to take that bold step.
    I know he doesn’t want a relationship and I don’t too, I don’t after what I have been through.
    So I am going to propose a friend with benefits deal.
    Yes that’s gonna work.
    I will have him but at the same time I won’t.
    For once in my life am going to go for something I want.
    I smile as I take another sip of my tea.
    I feel a tap on my hand and I see Kele is looking at me quizzically.
    When did she come back? Her and Alec.
    I ask as I finally leave my thoughts.
    “I asked if you thought about the show I wanted to have at Tasty’s?”
    I blink.
    Truth be told I never thought about it because I wasn’t going to do it.
    I decide to tell her the truth.
    “I feel rejection coming through”
    She says and I nod.
    No need to sugar coat it.
    “I can’t , you gave me a great deal, I swear I loved it but I can’t, I can’t publicize my face, I really can’t, just in case he is …..”
    I stop myself as I feel my family stiffen.
    “Am sorry”
    I say finally and she nods, turning to her food, Alec looks confused.
    I face my plate and I can’t help but think how weak I must seem to them.
    “Am gonna protect you”
    I raise my head at his voice.
    I asked with surprise.
    “Am going to protect you, am going to give you a security detail, I will be there for all your shoots, nothing will get by me and my guys”
    I start.
    “You can’t live your life in fear baby girl, am here for you”
    I nod, totally believing him .
    “So you are going to take it?”
    Kele asks.
    And i nod, a smile blooming on my face.
    “It’s going to be so awesome”
    I squeal.
    I see Sage give Justin a look of gratitude and I do too.
    “Thanks JM”
    “Anything for you baby girl”.
    I blush and duck my head.
    I am in the kitchen, cleaning after breakfast, Justin enters and I turn.
    He’s dressed for work, suit and tie complete.
    He walks closer and I stand straight, I feel the tension between us.
    “I have to speak with you”
    He says and I feel my belly curl.
    “I have to speak with you too”
    He nods.
    “You go first”
    He says and I nod.
    Just like he said, no time like the present.
    “I want to have s-x with you”
    I say, and he blinks.
    Wow Sandra, you tactless being.
    He raise a brow and I blush.
    “This is new.”
    He says and I almost die of mortification.
    “What I mean is that, um,…I want to…I …”
    “I think maybe I should go first”
    He says and I wince.
    Way to go Sandy San.
    “Sandra I want us to start d…..”
    I interrupt.
    “I want us to have s-x with no strings attached”
    I say and he freezes.
    I don’t take my words back.
    He asks after a while.
    “Yes really”
    I say and he nods.
    “Do you think we can talk about this when I get back?
    He asks and I nod.
    I feel like he is disappointed somehow.
    I say anyway and he turns and exits the kitchen.
    I suddenly realize I didn’t get to hear what he was going to tell me.
    Well I can ask him in the evening.
    I feel so nervous.
    I hope he says yes in the evening.

    Episode 14

    In a thousand years, yes yes, I know am slacking and again, please forgive me, let’s know if you do in the comment section.
    I clench my fist so tight on the steering wheel as I drive home.
    All day I thought about her proposal, was she serious? Does she she think I saw her like that?
    I am so angry.
    Would she have found someone else to scratch her itch if I wasn’t there?
    These questions go through my mind and I feel the anger setting in again.
    I know she probably doesn’t want any romantic entanglements, not after her trust was trampled upon by someone she trusted but am not that person.
    I drive into the compound and I sit in my car, thinking.
    So let’s get this straight.
    She wants to be a friend with benefit to me, she wants to have no strings sex with me.
    I almost growl.
    What is wrong with women?
    Just when you think you are ready to to make a commitment they come and blow it all up in your face.
    Ok fine.
    Am gonna go with it.
    Yes I am.
    She wants sex? She will be getting s-x.
    She wants a friend, yup, right here.
    She wants a shoulder to cry on?
    Am ever ready.
    Besides, relationship are totally overrated.
    I step at of my car and I glance at a window to see the curtain snap close.
    Seems someone was expecting me.
    I walk to the door and enter, I immediately notice that the the house is totally silent.
    I can here noises coming from the kitchen and I walk there.
    “Where’s everyone?”
    I ask.
    She lifts her hear in surprise.
    Yeah right, like i didn’t just see her at the window.
    “Oh Justin, you are back, I didn’t hear your car pull in”
    She says and I almost sigh .
    “Sandra, don’t bullshit me, I saw you at the window”
    She blushes.
    “Am sorry, am just so nervous”
    She says and I nod, I am nervous too, not that I will ever admit that.
    “So where’s everyone?”
    I ask again.
    “They went out for a family night out, seems some new movie is showing at the cinema, they won’t be back until midnight”
    She says and I nod.
    How convenient.
    We are ALONE, emphasis on the alone.
    This is flushing all my good intentions down the drain.
    I nod, trying to make my escape.
    I stop at her words.
    “So did you think about it?”
    She asks and i turn In slow motion.
    She continues.
    “I mean if you don’t want to do it it’s fine, am ok with whatever decision you made”
    She says and I nod.
    She continues nervously..
    “I mean you really didn’t like me before, you might not even be attracted to me ……”
    “Sandra, shut up”
    She swallows her words, better.
    “I thought about it and yes, i accept your offer”
    I say and she breaths a sigh of relief, I almost lift my brows.
    She was this interested?
    “We do this under conditions”
    I says and she nods eagerly.
    “We are totally exclusive, no one else”
    I say and she nods
    “Am good with that”
    I begin to turn but I stop and I turn .
    “You sure about this Sandra?”
    She looks hesitant at my question and I almost hope she changes her mind.
    But no, she nods affirmative.
    I almost sigh.
    Well, let the games begin.
    It’s breakfast the next morning.
    I feel like am being watched, I can’t put my finger in it.
    I lift my eyes and I see my family watching me, it seems its just I and Justin eating.
    I ask.
    Sage just smirks at me and I roll my eyes.
    I mean they can’t know right?
    They cant suspect anything going on with I and Justin, right?
    I look to Justin and I see him take a sip of coffee, he seems to be in a staring contest with justice.
    “So when are you going to start shooting?”
    Magic asks and I turn to her.
    “In a week time, I reached out to my former crew and they are on board with me, am going for a reality TV setting”
    I say.
    “But it’s a cooking show”
    Julliet says.
    I nod.
    “Yes am aware, that’s why, since I am starting on such short notice I want to do something different, after the first 3 shoots am going to bring so chef to visit so that it won’t only be Kele doing the work”.
    I say as I chew my toast.
    Julliet nods.
    “So what will you be doing?”
    She asks.
    “My job is to keep up a running commentary between the chefs and audience, I will even take requests from the online subscribers and audience”
    “So basically your job is to stand there and look pretty”
    Magic comments and I poke my tongue out at her.
    “Am pretty”
    I say.
    “Well,.you kind of are”
    She admits and o laugh.
    “Aunt sandy, can i stand in front of the camera?”
    Alec asks .
    “Sure baby, you can, infact, you will be a guest of honor, after all you are my sweetheart”
    I say and he nods.
    “I kind of am”
    He replies cheekily.
    I say and laugh.
    My phone rings and i pick.
    “It takes money to talk to you now babe”
    Antonio’s voice fills the speaker and I laugh a little.
    “You refused to call me”
    I say.
    “How are you doing baby girl?”
    He asks and I nod, I remember he can’t see me so I reply.
    “Am fine, am doing really good”
    “That’s good baby, that’s pretty d--n good”
    He says with a whisper and I smile softly.
    “Are you ok tony?”
    I ask.
    “Am fine, am as fine as fine can be”
    “That’s pretty d--n awesome babe”
    I say and I can feel his laugh down my back.
    I don’t know why I don’t see tony like that, he’s handsome and not lacking anything, i just view him as a brother.
    “So talk later?”
    He asks, I nod but remember he can’t see me.
    “Ya, babe, talk later”
    I say and he disconnects without a bye.
    Typical Tony.
    I lift my head as I drop my phone.
    Am pretty comfortable now to answer Tony’s call in front of my family.
    I see Jules and Magic watching me and I throw them a smile.
    Their eyes slide to the place where Justin is sitting and my smile falls, oops.
    I turn to see him wipe his mouth and stand, he turns to me.
    “Sandra, a word”
    He growls as he walks in the direction of the stairs.
    I stand slowly.
    What did I do?

    Episode 15

    I walk behind him into the media room and he turns to me.
    “You want me to explain the meaning of exclusivity to you?”
    I shake my head slowly, negatively.
    “You want to tell me what’s going on with you and whitey on your phone?”
    “Oh, Justin, he’s just a friend”
    I say with nonchalance, hoping to diffuse what ever needed diffusing.
    “Don’t do that, am not a kid, don’t insult me”
    I freeze, am so stupid, what made me think Justin is like all of the other guys out there.
    “Am sorry”
    I say with emotion.
    “Who is he?”
    He asks again.
    “He’s just someone, he’s special to me, he helped me in Cali when I was going through some hard times.”
    “Should I be worried?”
    He asks with no bull sh-t.
    “No Justin, Tony is just like a brother to me”
    “That does not make my mind rest Sandra, I am supposed to be just like a brother to you”.
    I wince.
    “It’s not like that with Tony JM,.you are different”.
    He asks.
    I reply, he nods before pulling me in for a peck on my cheek.
    Am disappointed, I wanted something more.
    He must have noticed because he says.
    “I have to go to work Sandy, will see you in the evening, ya?”
    He bends and kisses me and finally I smile.
    “Silly ”
    He says, I just giggle softly.
    Kele squeals and I almost roll my eyes, one would think she is not the proprietor of a 5 star restaurant.
    It’s the end of the first shoot and am living it.
    I was so nervous during the initial shoot but after I started it went well, just like riding a bike, smoothly, I didn’t miss a beat.
    Justin, true to his word brought some guys over and I felt protected all through.
    I can still see them standing at the door, I sent them some wine earlier but Justin intercepted saying he needed them to be In a right frame of mind.
    I watch everyone and I see Kele flirting with one of the guards, I just roll my eyes.
    “So how do you feel?”
    Julliet asks and I turn to my best friend.
    “Pretty awesome love, pretty freaking awesome”
    I almost squeal and she laughs.
    I’ve missed this, missed doing what I love, I have forgotten the rush that comes with it.
    What ever made me think I could survive without doing what my heart wanted?
    But then again, I was scared, thanks to Justin I feel like I can fly right about now.
    My eyes goes to him as I take a sip of my champagne.
    It’s been one week and we’ve not done anything, not even once, am kind of feeling inadequate.
    Does he not like me?
    Am I that unattractive?
    I finally admitted it to my self, the reason I proposed the deal between us was because I knew I would never get him otherwise.
    I mean he doesn’t like me.
    I love him, he knows that, I would do anything for him.
    Since he won’t have me as a girlfriend, I will have him as a friend.
    Albeit a friend with benefit.
    His eyes comes to me as if he feels me watching me and our eyes hold.
    I mean you can literally cut the tension between us with a machete, it’s a miracle that my family haven’t felt this between us.
    I smile at him and he returns the smile.
    God am so happy I could die here .
    His eyes are warm as they smile at me, they go to a spot behind my back and they freeze.
    I can hear the chatter and talk go down and I wonder what’s happening.
    “Sweet Virgin Mary, he looks like the hulk, well, a white version of the hulk”
    Kele says and I frown.
    I turn and I can’t believe my eyes.
    He seems to be looking around uncertainly as if looking for someone .
    I call out.
    He turns from the guard who seems to be interrogating him now.
    He smiles.
    “Hey baby”
    I squeal as I zoom across the room and into his arms., He catches me as he places a kiss smack on my lips.
    I squeal again and he spins us, dropping his leather carry on.
    After a while he sets me on my feet and I keep staring at his face, wanting to memorize everything at once.
    He says .
    I whisper back.
    “Fancy meeting you here”
    HE says and I giggle.
    “What are you doing here? In Nigeria? In Africa?”
    He taps my nose and I scrunch it.
    “I couldn’t miss your big day baby”
    He says .
    “But, it’s not even my wedding”
    I say in disbelief.
    “You think I will be late for your wedding Sandi?, It’s quite obvious I am late for your shoot, blame it on the car rental agency”
    “How did you even find this place?”
    I ask.
    I remember giving him all the details of my shoot and sharing my happiness with him but I never in a million years thought he would come.
    I planned on Skyping with him this night but he’s here.
    He’s actually here!
    I squeal again as I throw my self at him and he grunts as he catches me.
    “Sooooo, you want to share who the hunk of a man is?”
    I hear Kele ask and I remember we have an audience, I turn as he sets me on my feet again and I see my family watching us.
    I glance at Justin and I see his face is set.
    Jesu Christi.
    I remember Tony kissed me.
    Did he see?
    What do you think Sandra, the man is not blind.
    She seems to have no problem touching this man, this man she calls Tony.
    This man that makes her smile as if she just got her birthday, Christmas and New year present wrapped in one.
    My eye go to him and I see him assessing everyone, this is a man used to doing just what he is doing.
    I won’t be surprised if he a cop or a marine.
    Our eyes meet and I see him put a protective arm around Sandra’s shoulder.
    She glances up at him with a smile.
    He raises an eyebrow at me as if asking who I was.
    What up with this mofo?
    “Soo, everyone, meet Antonio, my friend from Cali, the one I always talk to on the phone, Tony meet my family”
    His eyes breaks from mine as he introduces himself.
    I glance at Sandra and I see her look away quickly.
    You are kidding me.
    I drop my glass as I take a step back.
    If she wants to be with her boyfriend, I will give her her space but I won’t be used, dammit.
    I don’t bother introducing myself, I just walk away.
    Sue me if I am jealous.

    Episode 16

    “So are you a superhero?”
    Kele asks and I almost roll my eyes as I pour coffee for Tony.
    “Yes, you look like Thor”
    Alec says.
    I roll my eyes this time.
    I mean I know Tony is built, like really built but he is not that ‘built’
    It would be hard for him not to be, he is an ex marine and he has his own security company now in Carli, even his line of work is a daily workout.
    Let’s not forget his genes.
    Quarter Cuban, quarter Mexican and half white, he is buff.
    Even God naturally blessed him with muscles.
    As he flexes them for Alec I kind of wonder if I am not down playing his size because he is my friend.
    I mean he is pretty big.
    After the introductions yesterday Sage invited him to stay over at the mansion instead of the hotel he was going to stay in.
    I had my reservations but now I can think of it in no other way .
    “Mami, little one, I can promise you am not a superhero, am just a kind of cop”
    He says, replying to Kele and Alec’s earlier question.
    I woke him up for breakfast this morning and we had a heart to heart.
    He made me promise I am ok.
    I love my friend.
    “So, Tony, tell us about yourself”
    Julliet says and I sigh.
    “What is this? A family introduction?”
    I ask sarcastically and Antonio turns to me.
    “Eat Sandi, Let me serve myself”
    He says referring to the toast I just placed on his plate.
    I start.
    He squeezes my knee and I concede.
    “My name is Antonio Josef Alvarez, am part Cuban, part Mexican and half white,
    I have my own security company in California, my parents are separated, I have two siblings, one sister and a brother, my best food is pot roast and my best color is green, am single, thank you for having me at your house”
    He says and I smile like a proud mother.
    If anything, Antonia, Tony’s mother really drilled manners into him and his siblings.
    Justin comes down and my heart clenches.
    He sits down at the table without a word and pours himself some coffee.
    “Who pissed in your cereal this morning Justin?”
    Kele asks.
    “Not in the mood Kele”
    He says and she immediately turns away from him.
    She has been a witness to his foul temper, when Justin wants to be left alone, you leave him alone.
    Only Justice and Sage have mastered the art of calming him.
    I glance away and I see Tony watching me.
    “So you own your own security company? That means you are a superhero then”
    Kele says.
    Tony smirks, looking away from me.
    “I can be your superhero if you want”
    He replies.
    I blink.
    We all know that kele has been flirting with Tony, it’s so obvious, she does it to all the guys, it’s her way of keeping them off balance.
    I never expected Tony to flirt back.
    I can feel the tension between them now that I concentrate.
    Magic smirks as kele blushes.
    It’s a miracle.
    “Oh really?”
    She asks
    “Yes, really”
    He replies again.
    She stuffs her mouth with bread and I almost laugh.
    Kele is off balance? In this world?
    “So you going to show me around today?”
    Tony asks me and I nod.
    “I saw some sites on my way and I picked a guide brochure from the airport, I want to see it all”
    He says and I smile.
    “You can’t get the full experience from a guide brochure, let me guide you”
    Kele says but the way she says it leaves nothing to the imagination.
    “Baby in the room wench”
    Justice says and she doesn’t even bother to look at him.
    “Mami, I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed to guide me”
    Tony replies.
    I almost groan.
    They are attracted to each other.
    Oh no.
    “Thank you kele but I can guide him all by my self”
    I say and she sighs.
    “You are no fun at all”
    “He is mine Kele, all mine”
    I say in a mock villian voice.
    “Settle Sandi, there is a lot of me to go around”
    Tony says and I laugh.
    I stop when I see Justin rise at the edge of my vision.
    We all watch him the way you will watch a rattle snake.
    With wariness.
    He picks up his suit jacket and leaves the room without a word.
    My heart does that prickly thing again and I can’t help but think I caused his anger.
    Again I see Tony watching me so I throw him a smile and he smiles back but I know he doesn’t fall for it.
    I am supposed to be working but I can’t get her smiling face out of my mind.
    All day i have obsessed over that.
    He is hers?
    All hers?
    What’s that?
    I feel like punching something but I restrain my self.
    I already made my secretary pour coffee on her self, I don’t want any more incidents.
    My phone rings and I frown.
    It’s my private phone.
    I pick when I see it’s Leila’s number.
    My chest constricts.
    “What’s wrong?”
    I can almost feel her eye roll over the phone.
    “Settle Justin, Raine just wanted to talk to you, she won her school debate”
    She says and I almost sigh in relief.
    “Give her the phone”
    After some moments.
    “Hey Daddy”
    Her tiny voice fills the phone.
    “Hey sugar cookies, how are you doing?”
    “Sugar cookies? Daddy you are so funny”
    She laughs and I feel my body calm, I miss my babies.
    “I heard you won your school debate”
    She squeals
    “Am proud of you my baby”
    I say .
    “I love you daddy”
    She says softly.
    “I love you sugar cookies”
    I say.
    “Pass the phone to your brother”
    She does and I speak with him before he passes the phone to Jew.
    “Hey baby bunch”
    I say.
    “Hey father”
    “Oh, it’s father now? Are we in the Philippines?”
    I ask and I get what i wanted.
    She laughs.
    “When are you coming daddy?”
    She asks.
    “Very soon baby bottom”
    She giggles.
    “You are really funny daddy”
    I laugh with her as she passes the phone to Leila.
    I speak with her for a while before disconnecting.
    I lean back on my chair.
    Feeling much better than I have been all day.
    I realize that I don’t really need to be angry at Sandra.
    She was never mine to start with.
    I pick up my brief case as stand .
    Infact, I really don’t care what she does, am going to protect her but I am not going to hold a torch for her anymore.
    I am not.

    Episode 17

    I wring my hands as I stand in the darkness of his rooms.
    I feel like crying.
    Am so nervous.
    All day today I formulated my apology and now that’s it’s close to the time I feel like fleeing from the room.
    Oh Jesu, am so nervous.
    I almost faint when the door opens.
    Immediately his body turns to me.
    “Wanna tell me what you are doing in my room?”
    He asks.
    He was in the process of unbuttoning his sleeve.
    I try to detect his mood but i get nothing.
    He hits a light switch and am awash with white light.
    I blink a little.
    “What do you want Sandra?”
    He asks in a cold voice and I swear I almost peed on my pants.
    I take a step back because I still don’t do well in the face of anger.
    He notices because his eyes narrow on my feet before coming up to my eyes.
    He doesn’t make a sound, he doesn’t take a step back or forward.
    He just doesn’t care, I feel a rush of tears.
    I take a deep breath and I power through.
    “Am sorry”
    He just raises a brow.
    Seems he is not going to make this easy on me.
    “If that’s all you can leave”
    He turns away from me to discard of his sleeve leaving him shirtless.
    I act purely on instinct, I grab his bicep, he stops.
    “Please listen to me”
    I say and he turns, giving me his full attention, now that’s it’s on me, I have no Idea what to do.
    He waits, I do too.
    He waits some more, I do too.
    He sighs.
    “Really tired Sandra, had a rough day today and also am not in the mood”
    He says and I gulp.
    Sh-t, he’s still in that mood.
    Proceed with caution Sandra.
    “We are exclusive”
    I blurt.
    He raises a brow again.
    “We are exclusive”
    I repeat.
    He asks and I nod.
    “I don’t think so Sandra”
    He states calmly, slowly unbuckling his belt.
    “You don’t ?”
    I ask in a small voice.
    “Ya, I really don’t think so, you see, you were claiming a man in my face squirrel, you called him yours, he kissed you, you kissed him back, I don’t see how that’s exclusive to me, if it’s to him then ya, I get it”
    He says as he drops his belt on the ground.
    He continues, interrupting me.
    “You think exclusive means I share?, I don’t f-cking share Sandra, am selfish, what’s mine is MINE, I am not a child, I am a man, I don’t play games, you don’t get to have me then discard me as you want”
    He says as he pulls his gun from his back and drops it on the nightstand, I gulp, nodding my head slowly.
    “I get it JM”
    He shakes his head.
    “No I don’t think you do girl”
    I flinch at his use of the word girl.
    Mavin used to call me that when he was going to hit me.
    “Sandra, you are a girl, I am a man, I don’t want to hurt you, trust me I can be much of an a-hole as justice.
    Untill you learn to be a woman and play woman games, I will stay off you”
    He says finally before dropping his slacks and padding with his brief to the bathroom.
    I panic.
    He has abandoned me, I can feel it.
    I can’t loose him, he is the only constant in my life now.
    I have to explain that Tony is just a friend to me.
    I follow him just as he enters his glass bathroom.
    He hits the shower and I duck inside, he stiffens when I embrace him from the back.
    “What are you doing Sandra?”
    He asks .
    I am getting wet but I don’t care.
    “You will catch a cold girl”
    He says again and I rest my head on his back as I hit his back.
    “I am a woman, d--n you”
    I say and he chuckles mockingly.
    HE asks.
    “I am a woman, I can stand a little cold, and if you can get your briefs soaked I can as well get my gown soaked”
    I say and he hits the shower button, the spray hardens.
    “You are a tool”
    I say into his back and he laughs turning to me.
    The water is pounding on us as he strokes my hair out of my face.
    I brush water off his face.
    “Am sorry”
    I say.
    He nods.
    “Am your woman, only yours”
    He nods before switching off the shower.
    “I knew you were going to come in, that’s the only reason am not naked”
    He says cheekily and I hit his chest.
    “Your brute”
    I almost laugh, I would if his hands hadn’t peeled my gown strap off my shoulder.
    I tense.
    He’s watching me, as if waiting for me to run screaming for the hills.
    I raise my hand and place it on his chest.
    He smiles a slow smile.
    “My brave squirrel”
    HE says, I frown.
    “When are you going to stop calling me s….”
    I don’t get to finish because he picks me up and fuses my mouth to his as he takes me out of the bathroom and to his bed.
    He places me gently on the middle before climbing over me.
    “So friend, are you ready for this?”
    He asks and I nod.
    “Are you sure Sandra, we don’t have to….”
    I quiet him with a finger to his lips.
    “Am ready”
    “Thank God”
    He growls before bending to kiss me, I giggle into his mouth.
    I snuggle closer to the warmth, the warmth pulls me closer.
    “I don’t think cuddling is in the friends with benefits handbook squirrel”
    My eyes pop open at that whisper from Justin and I sit up so fast I almost hit him on his head.
    He chuckles.
    “Settle butterfly, no rush”
    HE says and I turn to glare at him.
    “Why didn’t you wake me?”
    I whisper yell at him.
    “It’s morning squirrel, I wanted you to have your beauty sleep”
    “Why are you whispering?”
    He asks and I start, I feel stupid, we are alone in the room.
    “Why didn’t you wake me?”
    I ask again.
    “I felt like you needed your strength, you looked pretty tired”
    “You cocky b-----d”
    He laughs.
    “That’s not the tune you were singing a while ago”
    He says.
    “Oh my God, I can’t believe you are bragging”
    I almost yell.
    “Well can’t I?, I feel pretty accomplished right now, you should see your eyes”
    He says and I blush.
    “Am going to my room”
    I say as I go to stand with the sheets, he holds them.
    I turn to him.
    “Seriously Justin, I have to go”
    I say.
    “Do that then”
    He says.
    “I need the sheets”
    I say.
    “These are my sheets”
    He says with mock glee.
    I narrow my eyes, I have never seen this side of Justin before.
    Free and playful Justin.
    I pout, he rolls his eyes with a sigh.
    “Fine take the d--n sheets”
    He says with mock benevolence.
    “Oh thank you so much kind master, your generosity is too much, too much”
    I say as I wrap the sheet around my self picking up my discarded clothes.
    I walk to the door when I get there I turn.
    “I blew your mind”
    I state and he jerks up from the bed making his way to me.
    I squeal as i bang the door close and flee to my room.
    I laugh so hard as I close the door and lean against it, clutching the sheets to my chest.
    “Well, that’s a sight”
    My eyes snap to my window to see Tony standing there.
    “I can explain”
    I blurt.
    “Get on with it then”
    I gulp.
    S--t on a stick.

    Episode 18

    Tony is a friend, just a friend, a friend I hold in high esteem.
    When I was going through the months in therapy he was my partner, he was the one in charge of making sure I didn’t derail.
    He understood everything I had been through, he didn’t judge, he understood.
    It seems that apparently Tony hasn’t let go of those protective tendencies.
    “Are you sleeping with him? ”
    He asks as I settle gingerly on my bed.
    “Are you sure CariƱa? ”
    He asks totally not judging me.
    I nod.
    “Yes Tony, it’s the only way I can get him, I want him like that”
    I confess and he nods.
    “Well, since that’s out and am settled, I totally enjoyed my day out with your friend yesterday”
    I smile.
    “Did you get the full Lagos experience? ”
    I ask and he nods.
    Kele had taken Tony out yesterday, I didn’t go because I felt that if Justin found out he would be pissed.
    And besides kele totally called in a girl favor.
    She has the hots for Tony.
    “Am going to leave you so you can get ready for whatever it is you have to get ready for”
    He says and I roll my eyes.
    “I will be downstairs in a while”
    He nods and exits.
    I fall back on my bed with a big smile on my face.
    Am soo happy.
    “So when are you going back to California?”
    Kele asks Tony and Magic groans.
    “Real subtle Kele”
    Magic says and I laugh.
    I lean my chin on my hand on top of the table.
    I take a sip of my water.
    Although it seems outdated but I love that my family has breakfast in a dining room.
    It kinds of bring us together.
    Wow, look at me spouting poetry after one night with Justin.
    I turn to look at him and he smiles at me already looking at me.
    I smile back.
    He tugs on a strand of my red hair and twines it around his finger.
    I go back to eating as I listen To Tony and Kele act and speak like they are not flirting with each other.
    Justin continues to play with my hair as it seems so natural I don’t say a word.
    “I will be going back to Cali in a month.”
    Tony says and I frown.
    ” In a month? Can the company handle that?”
    I ask and he nods.
    “I needed a vacation anyway, what other way to spend it than in Africa?”
    He says and I roll my eyes.
    I take a sip of my juice.
    I feel a tug on my hair so I turn to Justin.
    He leans forward and wipes my upper lip gently, slowly setting his hand down.
    I smile gratefully.
    “You had a juice mustache”.
    He says and I hit his chest.
    ” No I did not”
    He grabs my fingers and he entwines them with his.
    “it’s ok baby, I wont judge”
    He says and I laugh.
    I raise my head to see my family watching us.
    I blush, I had forgotten we had an audience.
    “So are you guys doing the horizontal Mambo?”
    I choke on my spit at that question from no other than Kele.
    I throw her a look.
    “Baby on board Mami”
    Tony says and kele blushes, falling speechless.
    For once in her life, she Is speechless.
    Sage just peruses me and I almost blurt out the truth but he turns away from me and continues his breakfast.
    Oh thank God.
    He doesn’t suspect a thing.
    Julliet slides me a look and I roll my eyes.
    Leave it to my best friend to try and figure everything out.
    “Soo….what’s an horizontal Mambo?”
    Alec asks and for the second time I choke on my spit.
    “It means you should finish your food so I can drop you off at your grandparents house”
    Julliet says .
    I wince.
    Poor Alec.
    He’s been shipped off.
    “Do you need any help with that?”
    I ask julliet as she changes Abigail’s diaper.
    “I promise I will let you know if I do”
    She says and I nod.
    I lean against the changing table as I watch her change the diapers with ease.
    Justin and the others already left for work, Tony wanted Kele to show him her restaurant, I think those too are going to hit it up.
    Julliet starts and I tune into the conversation
    “What’s going on with you and my brother?”
    She asks and I try to play it cool.
    “What do you mean?”
    “Are you sleeping with him?”
    I shake my head no and I see the disappointment on her face.
    She knows I just lied, but I couldn’t help it, I don’t want to give her any false hope.
    She nods.
    “You know you can tell me anything right?, you know am here for you right?”
    She asks and I nod.
    She says before exiting the room with baby Abigail.
    It’s been 3 days since…. Well since…you know what.
    It’s been going well, I have a very good relationship with Justin.
    I mean it’s no just about the s-x.
    We have an emotional connection, him and I.
    He gets me, like really gets me.
    I think am …..oh wait….we are just friends with benefits.
    I tune into the conversation and I listen.
    We are having a girls night out at the pool house.
    Just me, Magic, Julliet, Kele.
    The men have to deal with the babies for tonight.
    Justin will be home soon and I can’t wait to see him.
    Today’s Friday, he has to leave for his weekend trip soon.
    It’s a miracle he didn’t leave today.
    Magic sighs as she patterns some clothes on an app.
    She has a big test coming up on Monday, she is kind of tense.
    I think she had a fight with justice, he’s been sleeping in the couch in the sitting room for 3 days now.
    “What’s wrong?”
    I ask.
    She shakes her head.
    “Come on spill”
    I say.
    She sighs again and drops her iPad.
    “Am scared”
    She admits and I and the other girls sit up.
    “What’s up? Really”
    Julliet says.
    “Justice has been acting strange”
    “What do you mean?”
    Kele asks .
    “He’s been withdrawing around me recently, I mean ….”
    She sighs again.
    “He’s still Loving and caring but I get the feeling like he has been holding back some how, he’s been sleeping on the couch for close to a week now”
    She says and I lift a brow.
    “I thought you sent him there”
    Julliet says, just as confused as I am.
    “No, I didn’t do that, I didn’t, about 5 days ago, I told him I had some exams coming up, at that time we were making out and he just kind of stopped, withdrawing and giving me space”
    She sighs again.
    “Do you think am boring?”
    She asks.
    “Hell no!”
    The three of us say simultaneously and she laughs a little.
    “Thanks guys, maybe am just overreacting”
    She says and I shake my head.
    “I think you should ask him what’s up”
    I say and the others confirm by nodding.
    “You think?”
    She asks.
    “Yes, do that, his response will determine if we kill him or not”
    Kele says and I laugh.
    “Ya you should do that”
    Julliet says and Magic nods, resuming her iPad.
    Kele starts.
    “Your friend is pretty hot”
    She says to me and I nod.
    “He is”
    I say as I play along.
    “Don’t get mad…”
    I turn my head to her in dread.
    “Kele, what did you do?”
    I and Magic ask at the same time and she grins an all teeth grin.
    “We kinda made out”
    She states.

    Episode 19

    “Explain yourself Kele”
    I nearly growl.
    Julliet whips her eyes to me so fast am sure she had brain whiplash.
    “Settle down Mami, I thought you guys are just friends”
    Kele says.
    “Yes, he is just a friend”
    “Doesn’t seem like it”
    She says in an undertone and I almost dive her.
    “Don’t act smart with me kele, just tell me what happened”
    I say, softly this time.
    “Well I mean you know he is hot and handsome and hot…”
    I roll my eyes.
    “We were talking last night at the restaurant and we had a bottle of wine and things got intense”
    “Please translate to how you were drinking wine and it got to you and him swapping spit”
    Magic says with a deep sigh.
    “Well we swapped spit, like a lot…the man knows what he is doing I can tell you that”
    She says with a sigh and I almost block my ear.
    “But are you sure?”
    Magic asks.
    “Yeah….” I add with a nod,”…I mean, he is leaving in a month’s time”
    I say and she nods and smiles a wicked grin.
    “That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun, am not looking for a relationship, am sure he isn’t either, we just have to dictate the grounds of whatever we will have going on”
    She says as she leans to get some wine.
    I stop her hand.
    “Don’t come between me and my drink woman”
    She says.
    Julliet pulls the bottle from her.
    “You are acting and talking crazy, you don’t need anymore of this, until we get you and your head straight, no more of this”
    Julliet says and magic nods.
    Kele pouts and seriously seeing that on a grown a-s woman was comical.
    “Are you really serious about this?”
    I ask and she nods.
    “You could get hurt”
    I say softly.
    “It would be worth it Sandy, it would totally be worth it, just for the little while we talked, I got that he gets me, he really get me guys.”
    She says softly.
    It’s well known that Kele tries to hide her pain and insecurities behind sass and jokes but this is the first time I have seen her close to vulnerable.
    I exchange a look with the girls.
    “Wouldn’t it hurt you when he leaves?”
    Magic ask.
    “It would hurt more if I don’t explore what ever this is between us”
    She says and I get it.
    It’s almost like the situation I am in with Justin.
    I try to lighten the mood.
    “Well you will be doing a lot of exploring”
    I say with innuendo and we laugh.
    “Although it kills me to think about Tony in a s-eual form but I will still say go for it gal”
    I say and she nods.
    “Trust me, am going for it and he won’t know what hits him”
    She says and we laugh.
    Poor Tony, Kele will eat him alive.
    But any way he can hold his own too.
    I pick up my wine glass as the sliding doors open and we all turn to it.
    “I’ve been looking for you”
    Justin says as a way of greeting and I almost blush.
    I swear I see julliet roll her eyes.
    Does she know?
    I almost panic but I forget all about that thought when he bends to kiss my head.
    I savor it but it hurts to think thathqt this won’t last.
    He turns to the girls.
    “You have to go save your husband’s, I think the babies are eating them alive.”
    He says and julliet stands up.
    “Well break is over”
    Julliet sighs and I feel a twinge in my chest.
    I wish I had that.
    I probably won’t be having any babies, the doctor said the chances are slim.
    Mavin destroyed my womb after the first four kicks.
    I feel a rush of sadness but it goes away when Justin pulls me up and takes my hand to lead me to the door.
    He seemed to get that I needed rescuing.
    I smile gratefully to him not once thinking that friends with benefits don’t hold hands.
    “So are you guys doing it?”
    Kele asks oh so casually,
    In an undertone that only I could hear.
    I flip her the bird behind Justin’s back and she cackles like the witch she is .
    We exit the room and we pass the others, going directly to his room.
    “Relax Sandra, I just want to be with you, nothing’s going to happen”
    He says and I feel my body loosen some of the tension I didn’t know I was holding in.
    Also I feel butterflies in my stomach, I don’t think ‘just being with you ‘ is in the friends with benefits handbook.
    I also kind of feel disappointed though.
    It’s official, am cray-cray.
    “Don’t look like that baby girl, promise I will be on my best behavior”
    I nod as I climb on his bed.
    I rest back as I stare at the ceiling.
    After a while I ask.
    “Do you think they suspect us?”
    He says as unconcerned as can be.
    I sit up real fast.
    “What do you mean probably?”
    I ask.
    “They are not stupid squirrel, I’m sure they just saw me take you to my room”
    He says calmly.
    I’m panicking I don’t know what to do, they can’t find out, its my family we are talking about here.
    “Relax Sandra its okay”
    He says softly as he climbs on to the bed.
    I instantly relax.
    Just one word and am relaxed
    Who is this girl?.
    “Are you going to go tommorow?”
    I ask and he nods.
    “Are you going to tell me where you are going?”
    “I’m sorry Sandra I can’t”
    I nod, totally letting it go.
    He pulls me close and we settle.
    “Going to miss you”
    I say softly.
    “I will be back before you know it”
    He says I smile.
    I raise my head as I kiss him softly and he returns the kiss.
    He pulls me closer.
    I can’t get close enough.
    “See you soon baby”
    He says to me softly in my ear and I snuggle into the pillow.
    He kisses my bare shoulder and I moan sleepily
    I say in my sleep.
    “Soon baby girl”
    He says before leaving the room, I continue my sleep.
    Not knowing how selfish my request was…..

    Episode 20

    “You never went out with him?”
    Justin asks me and I shake my head no.
    “I just kind of thought you wont be too hype on it”
    I say, we are talking about the Tony situation, finally.
    It’s been 3 days since he returned from his trip.
    3 days that I have had him all to my self.
    I really missed him and from the looks of it he missed me too.
    I sit up, pulling the sheets to my chest.
    If my family suspects that we’ve been doing whatever, they don’t let it show.
    I try to be incognito as I can, I don’t want to rub my s-x life in their faces.
    He kisses my shoulder as I pull my hair over my other shoulder.
    “I have to go to my room soon, am still tired from last night’s shoot”
    I say to him.
    The shoot we had the previous night was awesome, it went extremely well.
    We even got approached by a big time show company that wants to make it a reality TV show, we are still thinking about that.
    Making it something extreme will be good but I don’t want to loose the essence of the show along the line.
    And besides Kele is the owner, she calls all the shots.
    Speaking of calling the shot, it seems Tony isn’t picking what she is putting down.
    She has finally met her match.
    “You can go to your room when am done with you”
    Justin says pulling me back from my thoughts.
    I smirk at him over my shoulder.
    “Oh really, says who?”
    “Says I, woman, you are my woman, I need a little loving right now”
    He says with a fake black American accent that I almost gag.
    “So now I am your woman? I thought I was a girl the last time I checked”
    “I was way in over my head, I didn’t mean it”
    He says and I get that that is the closest he will ever come to apologizing.
    I roll my eyes.
    “You know Mavin used to say that to me a lot”
    I say softly, I don’t even know why i brought up this topic.
    I feel him tense.
    Way to go Sandra, the light mood is gone, I can feel it.
    “Am not Mavin, baby”
    I turn to him .
    “I know that JM, I know that”
    I say.
    He nods.
    We settle down for a while, I glance at the clock, it’s 2 am .
    Pretty early or late, depends on how you see it.
    “What do you think about having kids”
    Justin asks sometime later, I feel my self stiffen.
    Does he want to have kids?
    With me?
    I almost shake my head.
    Slow down Sandra, it was just a question.
    “I love kids”
    I say softly.
    He asks.
    “Ya, why do you ask?”
    “No reason”
    I nod and settle deeper into his arms.
    After a while I feel obliged to say.
    “I can’t have kids though”
    He sits up with me in his arms.
    I smile a sad smile.
    “Doctor’s says i have slim chance, I got pretty banged up when he hit me the last time”
    I say with no emotion, what so ever.
    “Are you serious?”
    He asks and i nod.
    “Did you try to confirm?”
    He asks again.
    “Ya, I did, am kinda barren”
    I say, trying to joke but it falls flat.
    “Am going to kill him Sandra”
    He says as a promise and I feel tears come and over flow.
    I have come to terms with my state of future childlessness but sometimes the pain still get to me.
    I really wanted babies.
    I really, really did.
    He pulls me into his arms and I go willingly.
    “Am gonna protect you Sandra, am gonna make sure nothing happens to you, I promise”
    He says this and i pull him to me.
    He seems to get what I want because he spreads kisses all over my face.
    As he slowly pulls the sheets away his phone rings on the nightstand.
    I groan, prepared for him to answer it.
    He just grabs the phone and ends the call without looking at the display.
    He goes further to switch it off and I giggle.
    “All my attention on you baby girl”
    I smile.
    He kisses me slowly and I sigh into his mouth.
    I could really die here.
    After a while we settle back on the bed.
    He pulls me close, my head on his chest.
    Am content, Bliss.
    “You are sweaty”
    He says.
    “You are not doing much better big guy”
    I say and he laughs.
    “Do you think the air condition is on?”
    I ask.
    “Wait let me check”
    He stands up with just his briefs and I almost swallow my tongue.
    I still can’t get used to how toned he looks.
    As he pads to the switches on the wall, I grab his discarded tshirt and I wear it.
    After a while I feel a blast of cold air.
    “Ha, would you look at that, it was off”
    He says and I raise a brow.
    “I know you are immune to cold air”
    I say to him and he pouts.
    It was hilarious.
    “Eww, get that look off your face”
    I say to him as he climbs the bed.
    “What?, I guessed if it works for you it will for me”
    He says as he pulls me close.
    I sit between his legs as he grabs the remote.
    “Am starving”
    I say.
    It’s just past 3 and I feel like a could eat a full cow, no kidding.
    He leans over the bed opens his mini fridge and gets out a chocolate bar, he hands it and a bottled water to me.
    “Wow, you have this handy”
    “I figured that you will be needing your strength one day so….”
    Can I just say, proud much?
    I punch his arm lightly as he goes back to surfing the TV and I eat chocolate.
    His phone vibrates and he frowns.
    I also with my mouth full of chocolate.
    “It’s my work phone, it never rings”
    He leans over to get it on the nightstand and I watch him.
    He swipes the screen and I see his body tense.
    He grabs his private phone, the one he switched off earlier and powers it on.
    “Is everything okay?”
    He doesn’t respond, I drop my Choco and water as I watch him.
    I pick up his work phone and I read the text.
    ‘ Justin, it’s Leila, I could not reach you on your phone so I called your work phone, if you get this please call me back, something’s happened ‘
    I feel myself stiffen.
    Who’s Leila?
    I watch him as listens to voicemail.
    A smooth feminine voice feels the room.
    “Justin, am scared, please come to the hospital, something’s happened to Jew, Justin …….hurry”
    He springs up as he let’s the phone fall.
    He’s pulling on cloths so fast .
    I stand.
    “Is everything okay?”
    He doesn’t respond, he just grabs his keys in a panic and exits the room , I follow into the hallway.
    He seems so scared.

    Episode 21

    I scream his name down the hallway and he turns to me.
    I hear doors open as the rest of my family step out.
    “What’s going on?”
    Justice asks as he steps out.
    Sage looks at my state of undress and he sighs.
    “Are you guys fighting?”
    Kele asks.
    I vaguely notice she comes out from Tony’s room.
    I don’t answer any of them, I just have eye for Justin.
    “I have to go, something’s very wrong, Will be back soon, I love you”
    He says as he climbs down the stairs.
    I can’t even savor the feeling of him saying i love you, am too scared.
    Justice follows him, completely dressed in his PJs, he doesn’t care, he turns to us.
    “Am gonna go with him, will call you guys”
    He jogs out and place my hand over my mouth.
    Am so scared.
    I have never seen Justin so scared.
    “What happened?”
    Sage asks.
    “He got a call and he panicked….., Am scared for him Sage”
    I say and he nods.
    “Go get dressed, we are going to him”
    I nod my head.
    I run down stairs.
    I feel justice on my heels.
    I don’t know how I know it’s him but I just do.
    I have never been so scared in my life.
    Please God, you can’t take her away from me.
    I run to my car but i feel justice hold me back.
    “Let me drive, just give me directions”
    He says and I nod.
    We pull out of the compound and i direct him toward the hospital where Jew’s specialist practices.
    “What’s going on Justin?”
    I sigh, my head in my hand.
    “Please drive justice, I can’t let anything happen to my daughter”
    He just nods, no comment but I feel his shock.
    I scoff.
    After all the hiding he finds out, this way no less.
    He drives into the hospital parking lot and I exit before he idles the car.
    I run to reception and i feel him with Me.
    “Jew Maxwells”
    I say to the receptionist.
    She nods and gives me a door number.
    It’s a private room.
    I run to the elevator and I enter.
    This thing can’t go fast enough.
    I see justice typing on his phone.
    A text to my family, no doubt.
    The elevator doors open and I follow the sound of my baby girl crying.
    I open the door and I see Leila crying too.
    “Jew baby, am here……”
    She raises her hand out for me.
    “Daddy, it ….hurts please make it stop ….”
    I turn to Leila.
    “Why isn’t she bloody sedated!?”
    I yell
    “Calm down brother”
    Justice says.
    Leila sobs.
    “The doctor wants to go ahead with the surgery now, he can’t sedate her yet, she’s in pain Justin, she’s been asking for you”
    “Daddy, daddy, daddy…..”
    “Am right here sugar cookies”
    “It hurts”
    “I know baby girl, it’s gonna end soon.”
    “Where were you Justin, I called you a long time ago”
    Leila asks.
    I feel guilt swamp me.
    This isn’t happening again.
    I hear the door open and I see it’s Sandra and my family entering.
    I turn my attention back to Jew.
    I can’t face anyone right now.
    “Daddy…. Am scared”
    My baby says in a soft voice.
    “Daddy’s here baby, it’s ok to be scared, I will protect you”.
    I kiss her head.
    “Can we get a damned doctor in this room?!”
    Julliet says and I feel an overwhelming relief.
    I have my family.
    I watch Justin lean over the beautiful baby on the bed.
    He has a daughter?
    I feel an headache blooming between my eyes.
    I look around the private room.
    Where is the f-cking doctor?
    My hear goes out to the baby writhing in pain on the bed.
    Where is the doctor?
    “I swear to God if anything happens to my niece I will close this facility down”
    Sage says to a nurse that just entered.
    The woman looks scared.
    “Can we get a doctor here?”
    Justice asks.
    No wait.
    “Am sorry Mr Maxwells, the doctor is on his way, he was just in the theater helping…..”
    “I don’t care if he was helping Kim Kardashian birth her baby just get him in here”
    Kele demands and I swear this hospital won’t know what hit them.
    The doors open and a man in white enters.
    “Hi, am Olu, I will be the doctor for this baby right here”
    He says, completely unconcerned that we are all staring daggers at him.
    “Where is doctor Kim?”
    Justin asks.
    “She went on a sabbatical, she explained at length what I am to do, be rest assured, I will get this girl better in no time”
    “Well get on with it, you are talking way too much”
    I say.
    He nods.
    He turns to the nurse.
    “Get her ready for the theater”
    The nurse nods and goes to administer an injection to the baby.
    He pulls her close as he strokes her hair out of her face.
    “It’s gonna make you feel better baby girl”
    He says.
    He closes her eyes with one hand and holds her with the other before nodding to the nurse.
    After she is done the baby speaks.
    Albeit a little drowsily.
    “You won’t leave daddy?”
    “Promise baby girl.”
    The baby sleeps and the doctor and nurse wheel her away.
    We follow behind and I feel like crying.
    Poor baby.
    When the theater door closes and we can’t follow any further, Justin leans his head on the wall and closes his eyes.
    I go to place my hand on his shoulder but the lady, Leila, I presume, does first.
    I feel a wave of something.
    I won’t name it.
    He turns to her.
    “You ok lay lay?”
    He asks.
    She nods, he kisses her head and I think.
    Oh s--t.
    He turns to us.
    “Thanks guys”
    No one responds.
    “Tell me everything I have to know about her sickness”
    Justice says and Justin nods.
    He looks so tired .
    He goes to speak but stops. He sighs.
    “Am so tired justice”
    He admits and my heart breaks.
    I feel tears rush my eyes and I turn .
    I can’t let him see me look this weak.
    I have to be strong.
    Justice pulls him into a hug and Justin breaks down.
    It’s the first time I have seen him cry.
    “Am so f-cking scared brother”
    “Am right here brother”
    “She’s gonna be alright right?”
    He asks, sounding lost.
    The tears finally come through and I sob quietly.
    “She’s gonna be real fine, I promise you”
    Justice says and Justin nods.
    I turn into Julliet’s arms as she pulls me in.
    My heart hurts for this man.

    Episode 22

    A shake on my shoulder brings my head up, I slowly open my eyes, I can t believe I fell asleep.
    I look around to see my family camped out in various stages of tiredness around the waiting room.
    I turn to the person who woke me, it’s Justin.
    I stand up immediately.
    “Are you ok? Is she ok?”
    I immediately begin to panic.
    “She is fine, she’s not out yet, I brought coffee, I guessed you might need it”
    I smile a grateful smile as I accept.
    “Are you ok now?”
    Justice asks and I see by the opened eyed appearance he has he didn’t catch any sleep.
    Sage is also the same.
    Tony is standing by the theater doors as if on guard.
    Apparently only us girls got some sleep.
    “Ya, am fine, just a little bit tired”
    Justin replies to Justice’s earlier question.
    “I spoke to a specialist in Abuja and she says she will fly out to see Jew today”
    Justice says and Justin nods.
    “I called her, she says she is already in Lagos”
    Sage says and Justin looks relieved.
    He says, He turns to the lady, Leila, as if he just remembered something.
    “Where are Styxx and Raine?”
    He asks in a low voice.
    “They are with my friend, he will be here with them soon, he will also be bringing a change of cloth for Jew”
    She says and Justin nods.
    “Take care of your self Leila”
    Justin says and she nods.
    Who are Styxx and Raine?.
    I don’t get to ask because the theater doors open and the doctor steps out.
    He looks drained.
    We immediately swamp him.
    “How’s she?”
    Justin asks.
    “She’s fine, she’s a strong girl, we already underwent 4 surgeries, just one more to go”
    “So she’s fine?”
    Juliet asks the question on my mind.
    “Yes, for now”
    “What do you mean for now?”
    Tony asks, finally leaving the door way.
    “This last surgery is different from the rest, this is the one that will help In restoring her hearing, so it’s a little close to her brain,…..What am trying to say is that, she might slip into a coma, it’s 50/50”
    He says and my heart clenches.
    “But she has a chance right?”
    Magic asks, I can hear the tears in her voice.
    “Yes, she does, a slim chance, you can decide now that you don’t want her to take this surgery, she can live a fairly normal life”
    Justin shakes his head.
    “Mr Maxwells you don’t seem to understand that your daughter might die if she takes this surgery, she is strong but not that strong”
    The doctor says and I feel like punching him.
    Where is the ‘Good Doctor’ behavior when you need it?
    “You have to do this surgery, her mother, my late wife also had this condition, she couldn’t live without her hearing, it eventually made her kill her self….”
    A suicidal ex wife?
    The surprise is just rolling in today.
    “…… I promised Jew that she will have her hearing back, you have to help me”
    I hear the defeat in his voice and I wish I can stop time and make that baby better for her father.
    “Well Mr Maxwells, you have to sign a waiver stating that you made this decision on your own without influence from the hospital”
    The doctor says and I frown.
    Who is this jerk?
    Can you be a little more compassionate?
    “Wait a minute”
    Sage states stepping forward.
    “I would like for you to stay very far away from my niece from now on, we have a specialist coming in, she will be conducting this surgery, we will be using your facilities and we promise to pay, of course”
    Wow, I almost forgot Sage has a law degree.
    The doctor scoffs.
    “Who is better than me in all of Nigeria?”
    “I am”
    A feminine voice says and we turn.
    “I am doctor Annie and I will be conducting this surgery”
    She says.
    “Annie? Annie as in Annie Abubakar?”
    The doctor gushes.
    I roll my eyes.
    “It’s so nice of you to fly out this early Annie, thank you”
    Justice says and I frown.
    He knows her?
    “Anything for you justice, Lydia just wanted me to tell you that she is sorry she can’t be here sooner”
    The woman says.
    Justice nods.
    Lydia is Justice’s PA.
    She must be Lydia’s sister?
    “Hello Sage, hello everyone, let’s see the baby, I can guarantee you it won’t be as tragic as it sounded earlier”
    She says and I breathe a sigh of relief .
    “Aren’t you going to go ahead with the surgery now?”
    Kele asks and the doctor shakes her head.
    “She has to wake from the sedatives first so we can monitor her progress before we send her under again”
    Doctor a-hole says before Annie could reply.
    “Yes, what he said”
    Annie says and Justin nods.
    “She is in the recovery room now, why don’t we go see her?”
    Doctor Olu says and we follow.
    We step into the room.
    She looks so small in the middle of the bed.
    “She’s still sleeping?”
    Annie asks Olu with a frown.
    “Yes, we are bringing her to now”
    He says and she nods.
    So that wasn’t a bad thing.
    “I know we all want to know how the baby is doing but the room is too packed, some persons will have to leave after she wakes up”
    Annie says.
    The baby on the bed fusses and frowns in pain.
    I take a step forward and stop.
    Justin is immediately there.
    She blinks and it seems everyone in the room is collectively holding their breath.
    The bandage around her head contrasts with her dark skin.
    Skin so like Justin’s.
    “She won’t be able to hear you so maybe sign to her”
    Doctor a-hole says and Justin snarls at him.
    “Shut the f-ck up”
    I am going to buy this hospital just to have the pleasure of firing this moron.
    I think julliet and Magic had that same thought too.
    Kele says.
    Not hiding her thoughts.
    The doctor looks put out.
    My attention goes back to the baby.
    She blinks her eyes slowly open and she close them again.
    I panic, it stops when she blinks them open again.
    She asks in a broken whisper.
    “Here baby kitten”
    “My…… hurt..s”
    “Am sorry baby.”
    I see that Justin is kind of speaking slowly to her.
    She seems to be focusing on his lips.
    Hot d--n.
    Leave it to Justin to have an intelligent beautiful kid.
    The baby reads lips.
    “I want water”
    She says.
    “She can’t have any”
    Doctor A-s..
    . sorry, Olu says when Justin looks to him.
    “Am sorry baby, no water yet”
    Justin says, turning his attention back to her.
    “I want Raine and Styxx”
    She says.
    Who are this people.
    Are they her best toys?
    The door opens and a guy enters.
    He looks up, looking startled he stops.
    “Chika, you made it”
    Leila says.
    “Hey baby”
    The guy says.
    My attention gets stolen when 2 ball of energy run towards the bed.
    Energy ball one says in a loud voice I wince.
    “Squid, lower your voice, it’s an hospital”
    Energy ball 2 says in a whisper.
    “Don’t call me squid”
    Energy ball 1 says, but this time in a whisper.
    She turns her attention to the bed.
    “I was so scared Jew juice”
    “Am fine, Raine Ray”
    Jew says.
    And the little girl, Raine nods.
    The little boy steps forward with a small Ziploc bag filled with pink flowers.
    “Here, mom will make you feel better, I saved it from our last visit to her”
    The little boy says and I frown.
    Pink flowers is mom?
    Am confused.
    Jew accepts, she raises the bag to her lips and kisses it.
    The kids steps back and as if noticing Justin for the first time turns to him.
    Raine shouts.
    I frown.
    It can’t be….
    “Daddy, I was so scared”
    The little girl says.
    “Am here baby bottom”
    Justin says before turning to the little boy
    “How are you Styxx”
    “Am fine Papa”
    He says and I realize.
    It really is.
    Styxx, Raine, Jew.
    They are triplets..
    Justin had freaking 3 kids.
    I seriously did not see that coming.

    Episode 23

    We don’t say anything, my family is pretty quiet about all this.
    I mean I want to scream and ask what’s going on but I can’t.
    Jew is wheeled to the theatre doors and Justin lean down to kiss her sleeping head.
    He steps back, holding the hands of his other kids.
    Other kids .
    I watch him as he watches the door close.
    The little girl tugs on his shirt.
    “Daddy, is Jew going to come back?”
    He smiles as he crouches in front of her.
    “Yes baby, she will be coming back soon”
    He stands up and turns to us.
    “I can explain, but please not now, later, when all this is done”
    He says and Justice nods.
    “Daddy, I have to pee”
    Raine says.
    “Ok baby, let’s go”
    “It’s fine, I will take her”
    I say.
    “You don’t have to”
    “It’s alright, I have to use the bathroom too”
    He nods.
    I hold out my hand to the girl and she looks at it suspiciously.
    “It’s ok, I don’t have cooties”
    I say to her and she nods.
    I lead her to the bathroom and she does her business.
    I help her wipe and wash her hand before she zips up her skirt.
    I go about my own business, as I step out from the bathroom stall she asks.
    “Who are you?”
    “Am Sandra”
    “Are you my Aunt?”
    “Well, kind of”
    I say.
    So, what do I say to that?
    “I like your hair”
    She says.
    “Thanks, I like yours too”
    “Thank you, daddy take me to the hair salon every weekend”
    She says and I nod.
    “Daddy must really like your hair too”
    “Oh, he does, he says I look just like Mommy”
    She says and I nod.
    We step out of the bathroom to see Justin standing there.
    I raise an eyebrow.
    He grimaces.
    “Am sorry, am a worrier”
    He says.
    He thinks am going to kidnap his child?
    I shake my head to dispel that thought.
    “Daddy can I do my hair like Sandra’s?”
    Raine asks.
    He turns his eyes to me before looking to his child.
    “When you are 40 baby girl”
    He says and I roll my eyes.
    Typical dad.
    “But that’s so far”
    Raine says.
    “Patience is a virtue baby girl”
    “What’s a virtue?”
    “You will find out when you are 40 sweetie”
    Raine rolls her eyes and I almost burst out laughing, so comical.
    “Don’t roll your eyes at me young lady,”
    Justin rebukes.
    “You are too mean father”
    “Yes I am your father, I can be mean sometimes”
    She almost rolls her eyes again but stops when Justin growls in a low voice.
    “Don’t even think of it”
    She giggles as she pouts, the little minx knows she has her daddy wrapped around her fingers.
    She holds my hand and Justin’s as she tries to skip between us.
    I almost sigh.
    It’s so obvious that they both have a good relationship.
    Justin is a good father.
    We turn the corner and we see that our little party has grown.
    Tamara is there with Daniel and Alec, she must have gone to get him at my parents house.
    Tamara is the Maxwells’s cousin, Daniel is her son.
    She is helping with baby Abigail and Cara.
    I exchange greetings with her before turning to Justin.
    He has moved away to his son .
    The little boy seems to be shy in the face of so much attention.
    I know how that feels.
    Alec moves to him, Daniel follows.
    “So you are my brother”
    Alec says in typical Alec fashion.
    The boy doesn’t respond just stares at him.
    It’s disconcerting, it’s like looking at a little Justin and justice.
    “Am sorry Alec, Styxx doesn’t like to talk much”
    Justin says.
    I noticed that.
    And this crowd does not seem to be helping.
    Alec nods.
    “You must be scared for your sister”
    Alec says.
    Styxx just lifts a brow.
    I shiver, someone just walked on top my grave, it’s a mini Justin.
    “He’s like a mini Justin”
    Kele whispers behind me.
    “Am not scared, she will be fine and when she is we can go back home and leave all you people here”
    I don’t think he likes us much.
    “Styxx, this is your family”
    Justin says softly.
    “No, I don’t want this family, let’s just take Jew and go home”
    He says.
    Justin stands up straight from leaning on the wall.
    “What’s that supposed to mean Styxx?”
    He asks and I can hear the dangerous edge in his tone.
    Apparently, daddy does not go soft on his little boy.
    “It means we don’t need this people, they can go home, we are with Jew, they can stop pretending to care”
    He says.
    Apparently, little boy is not scared to go against daddy.
    And wait.
    Since when did little kids get so articulate?
    How old is he?5?6?
    He can’t be older than Alec.
    “Dad, we don’t need them, I don’t need them”
    “I need them daddy”
    Raine shouts in typical Raine fashion.
    “Shut up Raine, you are stupid”
    “Don’t call your sister stupid Styxx”
    Justin says.
    Styxx murmurs.
    Are you serious?
    “Styxx, follow me, you are on time out”
    Justin says and finally the little boy looks scared.
    He leads him a little ways from us.
    How stressful it must be dealing with kids this age.
    Poor Justin.
    I knew Styxx was different, matured for his age, a genius but never did I think that I keeping them away from my family will affect them like this.
    “Is there anything you want to say?”
    I ask him.
    He shakes his head, going back to silence.
    How convenient for him, he only talks when he wants to.
    Well that ends now.
    “Styxx, your sister needs my families support, she needs your support, don’t you think it’s better that she has people that loves her with her?”
    He doesn’t respond.
    “Styxx, use your words”
    “I want to go back home dad, I don’t like this people”
    He doesn’t respond.
    “Why Styxx?”
    He still doesn’t respond.
    “Styxx, I need you to use your words”
    I say, my voice going up this time.
    Am not going to let my son act like a weak girl.
    If he has problems with what he doesn’t like and he voices it, then he should be strong enough to stand by what he believes.
    “They steal you away from us”
    He says softly and I almost did not hear.
    “You abandon us and go back to them every other day, last weekend you came on a Saturday instead of a Friday.
    Dad, they steal you away”
    He says with his little man voice and my heart breaks.
    I think I single handedly destroyed my family.
    I didn’t know my absence made them feel insecure.
    “Are you going to marry her and leave us?”
    He asks and I frown confused.
    “The one with the red hair, you look at her different”.
    Leave it to my kid to understand my feelings for Sandra in an hour than I could understand it in 2 years.
    “You can go dad, I will take care of Jew and Raine, we will be with aunt Leila”
    He says .
    I sigh as I scrub a hand down my face.
    Mariah, our kid is too brilliant for his own good.
    I see justice signalling to me at the edge of my vision.
    I turn to Styxx.
    “We are going to talk about this later, ok Styxx?”
    He doesn’t respond.
    I turn his shoulder as we move back to our group.
    I turn to Justice.
    “The girls are going to go home to freshen up and take care of the kids”
    I nod.
    That’s good, the doctor was already talking about decongesting the hallway.
    “I will call you if there are any changes ”
    I say to julliet.
    She nods.
    I turn to Sandra.
    “You gonna be okay?”
    I ask her.
    “Am not leaving you”
    She says.
    “I can’t leave you Justin”
    “Am fine, take Raine and Styxx and Leila home, I will call you I promise”
    She nods.
    Raine instantly grabs her hand and Sandra leads her away with the others.
    Styxx follows at a slower pace.
    I sigh as they go out of view.
    I take a sit beside Justice who is typing away on his phone.
    “Is he okay?”
    Tony asks.
    He is still here?
    Am surprised.
    But I nod.
    “He’s gonna have to get used to having lots of people around him”
    “He has mild autism, I think that’s going to take a while”
    “You will be surprised, he’s a good kid, saw the way he was watching his sister to make sure she doesn’t get hurt even when he was angry”
    I nod.
    Styxx is my broody hero.
    I smile slowly.
    “Thanks for that”
    “Anytime brother”
    I nod.
    I feel like one good thing has come out from today, at least I am a step closer to understanding Sandra’s friend.
    Thanks all for the comments.
    Y’all are awwwwwwwsome.
    So, what do you think about this one?
    Let me know.
    It’s 01:37pm Am over here .
    What time is it when you read this?
    Let me know.
    Love you guys so much.

    Episode 24

    “You can stay here, I already prepared separate bedrooms for the kids”
    I say to Leila as I show her to one of the many spare bedrooms the mansion has.
    She nods.
    “Thank you so much for all this but really I can manage a room with the kids”
    “No No, it’s fine, Justin will want them to get settled in right away, I already did that, you can rest”
    I say to her.
    “You should too”
    “You look exhausted, you should get some sleep too”
    She says to me and I nod.
    I turn to leave.
    “You are really pretty”
    She says and I turn back
    “I’m sorry?”
    “You are really pretty, Justin talks about you a lot”
    “He does?”
    “Yeah I could tell he likes you”
    I frown.
    Justin liked me before this weekend?
    Well that’s news.
    “Are you?…..”
    She seems to get my unspoken question.
    “Oh no, I and Justin are not romantically involved, I’m just his wife’s sister”
    I nod slowly.
    “About that…..”
    I start.
    “Yes? ”
    “You know what? nevermind”
    If I have any questions I’m going to ask Justin and not his ward.
    “Ok, then, get settled in, try to rest”
    I say to her.
    “You too”
    I make my way to my room and i enter to see Julliet sitting on my bed she’s not alone she’s with magic and Kele.
    “I’m exhausted, not now”
    I say before they could speak.
    Seriously, I’m not to ready for this.
    I know they saw me come out of Justin’s bedroom semi naked and they want an explanation but am not ready.
    And besides we have bigger fish to fry.
    “I am exhausted too, you don’t see me complaining”
    Julliet says.
    I raise a brow as I take off my jeans.
    “Can we do the third degree later?”
    I ask them.
    “We are not here for that, we just want to make sure know how well you are holding up”
    Magic says.
    That was sweet.
    “Am fine, thanks for caring”
    I say to them.
    “It must have been real hard for you”
    I nod, I take off my shirt as I face plant on the bed .
    It was big enough to accommodate the four of us.
    “Do you need a hug? Can we touch you?”
    Kele asks and my heart breaks.
    With all this drama I have forgotten my family was still scared for me.
    I nod my hear and we share a group hug.
    We lie back, me in my undies and the rest of them fully clothed.
    “Do you think the kids will accept us?”
    Julliet asks and I can hear the fear in her voice.
    “We have to wait and see then”
    I say.
    “Yup, that we have to do”
    Kele says.
    “But they sure are cute though”
    Magic says after a while.
    “Yeah, the boy looks like a mini Justin”
    Julliet says and we giggle softly.
    I feel sleep trying to take me under.
    “Who is with the babies?”
    I ask sleepily.
    “Tamara….she’s on baby duty ”
    Julliet replies and I nod.
    I drift off and I feel them do too.
    Everyone is so exhausted.
    It’s some time before we wake up.
    “Sandra, I want to pee pee”
    The tiny voice wakes me up and I sit up slowly, scrubbing my eyes.
    I ask.
    “I really want to pee pee, am sorry I disturbed you, I couldn’t find aunty Leila”
    She says and I nod.
    I get up but find out am in my underwear, I quickly grab my robe before I scar the kid for life.
    The girls are sleeping soundly so I grab Raine’s hand and we quietly exit the room.
    “Why didn’t you use your rooms bathroom?”
    I ask her when I get her settled on top the toilet sit.
    “The door way locked, I couldn’t open it and I also I was scared, I wanted daddy, I saw you first”
    She says with brutal honesty, only a kid can be this honest without fear of rejection.
    I nod my head as I stroke her hair off her face.
    God, I always wanted to do that.
    I quickly rein in my emotions, these kids aren’t mine, am not going to get attached.
    I help her wash and wipe before we step out.
    “Am hungry”
    She says.
    I should probably get her some food, she probably hasn’t had anything to eat since morning.
    ” What do you want to eat?”
    ” Chocolate?”
    She asks with a toothy grin.
    Thats not gonna work on me, she probably tries this with everyone.
    “You can’t have chocolate Raine, not until we ask your father ”
    She pouts and I laugh.
    I walk her to the kitchen where I give her some chocolate chip cookies and milk.
    Am sorry, am not immune to little girl charm.
    “Do you think we should bring some up for Styxx? ”
    She nods her head, her mouth too full to reply.
    When she is done we take some. Cookies to Styxx, he is still sleeping so we place it on the night stand.
    “Do you want to go back to sleep? ”
    I ask her and she shakes her head no.
    “Can I see daddy’s room?”
    I lead her to Justin’s room where she looks around with wide-eyed wonder.
    She touches almost everything before plopping on the bed.
    “It smells like daddy ”
    Am sure it does.
    I think this.
    ” You know what?, let’s sleep here OK?”
    She nods and I get into the bed with her, I switch on the TV and we watch for a while, she drifts off with her head on my stomach, I pull the cover over us and soon I drift off too.
    I didn’t expect to see Sandra and Raine in my bed but that’s what I see when I enter.
    The surgery is done and Jew is still sleeping, justice asked me to run home and quickly freshen up so I won’t miss when Jew wakes.
    I really didn’t want to but he insisted.
    You know what happens when justice insists.
    Now I’m glad that I came home
    I step closer to the bed quietly so I don’t disturb them.
    Raine snuggles closer to Sandra and Sandra pulls her protectively closer even in sleep.
    My heart breaks.
    It’s so obvious that Raine needs a feminine touch in her life.
    Not that Leila wasn’t doing a good job, just that Leila was well .. Leila.
    I bend down and place a kiss on Sandra’s head.
    It must have been hard for her to let Raine touch her like that.
    I go to my bathroom and I bath, as I step out I see her waiting for me with an aspirin and a glass of water.
    I take both from her and I swallow.
    “How’s she”
    She asks in a whisper so as not to disturb Raine.
    “The surgery is done, we just have to wait for her to wake”
    “She’s gonna wake up Justin”
    I nod my head.
    I hope so, I really seriously hope so.
    “Thank you Sandra”
    She frowns.
    “What for?”
    “For being you”
    She smiles as she goes on her tippy toes to kiss my cheek, I turn my head to kiss her lips but she steps away.
    “What’s wrong?”
    I ask.
    She shakes her head.
    “Sandy? What is the matter”
    “I don’t want to bother y…”
    “Tell me”
    I say to her.
    She sighs and speaks.
    “I don’t think we can continue our relationship Justin”
    The f-ck?
    What relationship?
    The one that just started?
    I go to speak but …
    Raine sits up.
    I walk to my daughter but not before throwing Sandra a look that clearly stated that this wasn’t over.
    She sighs again.
    What is wrong with women?

    Episode 25

    For the life of me I just don’t get how women’s brains work.
    I almost grabbed her arms last night to shake her so she would start making sense.
    “So let me get this straight….she wants to break up the fragile relationship the both of you are trying to build”
    I nod my head at Justice’s question.
    I finally confided in my family about my relationship with Sandra, well I confided in Tony, Justice and Sage.
    They are taking it relatively well I’m surprised.
    I thought for sure Sage will blow up but no he seems to get it, it seems as if he already knew I don’t know how that is.
    “She probably thinks she’s doing me good, I don’t know what to do”
    I say.
    “Well maybe you should talk to her about it, I mean she has gone through a lot she probably thinks she is doing you a lot of good, I mean you have kids now she might be scared, she might think the next best thing is to leave you be with your kids, you just gotta set her straight”
    Justice says and I nod.
    “I probably screwed up our relationship by agreeing to the friends with benefits stuff”
    I say.
    “Its just that I was scared I wanted to have her in any way I could, that way was just the available one at that moment”
    They nod their head in understanding and I frown.
    “You guys are taking this relatively well, do you think…. no wait, I feel like you know something, what’s up?”
    I ask.
    Sage just sighs as he scrubs his hands down his face.
    “It was pathetic watching you guys try to decieve us, I always knew Sandra had a crush on you, it was so obvious.
    I didn’t want her to get hurt so I asked you if you like her too but you said no, imagine my surprise when I saw her sneaking into your room,
    dude I feel like punching you right now, you know how disgusting it was watching my sister make out with you in the hallway? Ya, I saw you guys”
    He says and I grimace.
    “Yeah that’s true you both should probably get a room it was so awkward, Julliet and I saw the both of you making out, I mean there are many rooms in the mansion, use one”
    He says with mockery and I flip him the bird.
    He just chuckles.
    “The both of you should probably stop the friends with benefits thing”
    Tony says and that sobers me up pretty quickly,
    “I know you’re right ”
    He’s right.
    “I’m going to tell her I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with, you think she will accept?”
    I asked nobody in particular I just don’t know what to do.
    “Trust me, she’s going to give you a hard time, trust me on that she will try to sabotage every good thing that comes her way and that includes you, its up to you make her see that she deserves happiness, no matter how small”
    Tony says and I smile gratefully.
    The nurse approaches us and my heart clenches.
    All the joking made me forget what was actually going on, I stand up as she comes closer.
    I feel the others stand with me too.
    Waiting for any news about Jew was a punishment, I arrived pretty late last night and we have been camped out outside the recovery room.
    “Mr Maxwells?”
    The nurse asks and I nod.
    “Your daughter is awake and asking for you, please follow me”
    I almost dance in glee, I would have if I was a man into that stuff.
    Am pretty pschyed though, not that I thought she would not wake.
    Quite the opposite, I knew a child of mine is d--n strong.
    I follow the nurse in.
    Am having a bad dream.
    One of my night terrors, I don’t know what has triggered this dream but am willing to bet it had everything to do with Justin.
    In this dream I am running away from Mavin, am running towards the garage, I can feel my real self telling my dream self not to do that.
    The garage is a dead end.
    He can easily get you there.
    But my dream self doesn’t hear me, I can hear my self sobbing in real life, please come back, don’t go there.
    My dream self enters the garage and runs to the door, it’s locked, am scared, I turn and he’s there.
    “You made me run after you?, You made me run Sandra?”
    He asks calmly and I shake my head no, please please.
    “Please Mavin, am sorry”
    “I don’t think so, I don’t think you are sorry”
    He’s unbuckling his belt.
    God, no, I can’t take more of that.
    I can feel my self crying in real life, I try to wake but I can’t, am too tied in this dream.
    I begin to choke as the belt hit my back the first time.
    I cry out.
    “Don’t make a sound, take it like a big girl, shut up and take your punishment”
    I cry harder in real life.
    My dream self is bleeding from her arm where the belt cut in too deep, I cradle it to my self.
    Mavin drops the belt
    God no, please not the kicks.
    He seem to read my mind because that is what he does.
    His boot slams into my stomach and I cry out coughing blood, I curl into a ball and he slams his boot into my back.
    “You are nothing, you are just a silly fool with no ties, I own you, you are mine, you will never get away because you are a waste, no body wants you”
    He says this before slamming his boot into my face, I feel my jaw crack.
    He steps away calmly and turns as he exits.
    My dream self is crying.
    My real self is crying.
    “Sandra, wake up, Sandra….. Sandra!”
    I sit up with a wail on my lips, I see that julliet and Magic and Kele are standing over me.
    I immediately begin to cry.
    “What’s wrong? Tell me, please”
    Julliet says but I can’t speak, I can feel my self getting detached, shutting down my emotions.
    I have to get away from this pain.
    Oh God.
    It hurts so much.
    “Was it a nightmare?”
    Julliet asks going to touch me.
    “Don’t touch me!…..don’t …touch…me”
    I say and she nods.
    I continue crying and they stand helplessly.
    My phone rings and I pick slowly.
    I don’t say a word.
    “Sandra? Sandra are you there?”
    It’s Justin,
    I say in a scratchy voice.
    “Jew’s awake, she woke up a while ago, I wanted to share this with you and to tell you I can’t wait to see you and I love you”
    He says and I blink.
    My heart clenches, why does it feel like I should respond? Why does it feel like I have waited years to hear this?
    “I heard you Justin, whatever”
    I say and I feel an inner part of me screaming, crying, telling me to listen.
    But I just can’t, I have numbed the pain, it’s there , it’s also gone , with it are most of my emotions.
    “Sandra, i just said I love you”
    He says softly.
    “I heard you Justin, what do you want? A medal?”
    He pauses for a while and that part of my brain tells me something is wrong, very wrong.
    After a while he speaks.
    “Always thought I would be the one acting like an a-hole Sandra, but I never thought it would be you acting like a b-tch.”
    He says this and he ends the call.
    I feel a sob ride up my chest.
    I can’t do this again, what made me think, feel I could?
    Julliet starts.
    “Get out”
    Magic starts this time….
    Out! Get the f-ck out!”
    I scream and they step back.
    They should all go, I don’t need anyone or anything.
    I can be alone.
    I was meant to be alone.
    They exit the room and I lie back on my bed, curl into a ball and cry my heart out.
    I need you.
    Justin, please Justin.
    I cry for so long that it gets to a point where I could not tell where I ended and where the pain started from.

    Episode 26

    “That’s it, right there, good girl”
    I say to Jew as she sits herself down on the wheelchair.
    My little girl didn’t want to use a wheel chair but I was adamant, until she got that cast off her head and I was certain she could walk a straight line without falling, that’s when she is moving without this chair.
    Am over protective, sue me.
    I wheel her in, Leila is behind me with her bags and stuff.
    It’s been two weeks since the surgery, the doctor has given us her go ahead, she believes Jew will make a full recovery.
    My baby girl can hear now, although extreme noise are not good for her yet, she still has to adjust.
    “Daddy is this your house?”
    She asks quietly, like someone who can hear her own voice.
    “Yes baby girl, it’s our house”
    I say to her.
    I wheel her up the ramp we installed for the wheels and into the hall.
    We move to the sitting room.
    My family says as we enter, although they try not to shout.
    I smile gratefully at them.
    “Welcome home Jew”
    They say in unison and my baby girl giggles when Alec hands her a balloon.
    I smile, ok am content.
    “Jew juice, the house is big”
    Raine says.
    “Yes Raine Ray”
    Jew says humoring her sister.
    I smile, ok am really content.
    I help Jew sit and get settled.
    After that my eyes immediately start scanning the room.
    She’s not here.
    I haven’t seen her for two weeks, she has done everything possible to hide from me.
    I wouldn’t even know if she was still in the country if not for the presence of Tony and her hosting her weekly show.
    She hasn’t called since that night.
    I called and she didn’t bother picking.
    It’s as if she has gone about her life and forgotten all about me.
    Julliet hands me a drink and I accept.
    “Thanks, sister kin”
    She kisses my cheek as she steps away.
    It’s good to be home.
    I hear them, I know he is back but I hide in my room.
    Its back to square one.
    Back to the shadows, and this time i don’t have an excuse.
    There is no one after me, am destroying my self and my family all by myself.
    I hear my door jamb being turned open but I know it won’t give, I locked It from the inside.
    “Sandra, open this door”
    It’s Tony, my eyes close in relief.
    For a moment I thought it was him.
    I don’t respond.
    “For f-cks sake Sandra open the door so I can help you, we have to talk”
    I still don’t respond, he tries for a while but eventually leaves.
    I know he won’t try to force himself in, he would give me my space, just as I want it.
    He has been doing this for a while now, all through the week, my response is the same.
    Leave me the hell alone.
    I want to be alone.
    I deserve to be alone.
    It’s the evening now and we just finished dinner.
    I missed the routine of having dinner and breakfast with my family.
    She wasn’t present, no one said anything, it seems they are used to it .
    Well am not, during the two weeks I came home but just to freshen up and change clothes.
    I never stayed for any of those meals so I didn’t know that this was going on.
    And the worse part is that my family seems content with her gone.
    Even Sage.
    The kids are upstairs and asleep so I can finally ask what’s happening.
    I turn when I hear arguing coming towards the room.
    It’s Magic and Justice.
    Magic took justice aside for a talk, it seems it’s not going well.
    “Am not in the mood itty bitty”
    “Oh, yes, the great justice Maxwells is not in the mood so we have to forget about my feelings, little me”
    “That’s not what I meant Magic”
    “Am sorry? It’s not what you meant? Then why for the love of Marc Jacobs are we have this very embarrassing conversation in front of our family?”
    I raise an eyebrow at Sage, Magic just swore by her best designer, as funny as it sounds it’s really d--n serious.
    Magic is serious about her designers.
    “I don’t know? maybe because you don’t get it, you don’t get that I want to be alone for now”
    “Justice you are a married man, you don’t get to be alone, you have a child, I am your wife!”
    “For God’s sake Emilia!”
    Justice shouts.
    On a side note , Let me totally say how impressive it is that Magic didn’t flinch at Justice’s lost temper.
    “You did…it”
    Magic says, sounding broken.
    “Itty bitty….”
    Justice says, all temper lost, ..
    “You seriously took my name and said it in anger”
    “Magic, baby girl…”
    “You know what justice, screw you, screw this, you want to have an affair, go on, but know this, I tried, I effing tried .
    Am taking Cara to my parents tomorrow, we will stay there for a while”
    She says as she turns to leave.
    Justice is having an affair?
    I look to my family, they look as shocked as I feel.
    “Magic baby, wait”
    Justice says as he follows her, he holds her back before she can climb the stairs
    “Am not having an affair baby girl, you are the only one for me”
    He says.
    Ok gag.
    I don’t want to see this, I go to stand but Kele holds me down.
    The woman is strong for her stature.
    “You’ve been distant justice, it’s been one month, one full month , you don’t even hold me when we sleep any more”
    She says softly.
    Again, why am I here for this?
    Oh right,
    Kele, the shrew.
    Sage does not seem to be faring any better.
    “Baby, you’ve got so much going on with you that I didn’t want to add to it, what with the exam and your graduation coming up, and there’s baby Cara, I didn’t want to bother you with my feelings baby”
    Justice says.
    Magic says completely deflating.
    “You could have told me”
    “Didn’t want to bother you baby girl”
    He says again.
    “You promised”
    She says.
    “Am sorry my love, I will never yell at you again”
    He says.
    Ok, it’s official, my brother is whipped.
    Bloody whipped.
    “Okay…but really it’s fine, I won’t break am ok, you can do what….ever..”
    She says with a blush.
    I really don’t want to be seeing this.
    “I missed you”
    She says again.
    “I missed you too baby girl”
    He kisses her gently and I look away.
    My heart clenches.
    I had that once.
    I go to stand.
    “Sit your a-s down Justin, it’s time to talk”
    Justice says with out looking at me.
    I almost groan.
    So it’s time to spill.

    Episode 27

    I always knew that I had to talk about this one day but that didn’t make it easier.
    Here goes.
    “I met Mariah 5 years 7 months ago in one of my many missions, she was different, she was lovely, when I saw her I knew instantly that I wanted to make her mine.”
    I feel my heart break as he speaks, I had heard Magic and Justice quarrelling and I had come to investigate.
    Was about to leave when they settled, when I heard justice tell Justin to spill I stopped.
    I don’t know why I stayed to listen, maybe I was a sucker and a masochist because I could not stop my self from listening.
    I slide down on the floor my back to the wall as I listen.
    “I met Mariah 5 years 7 months ago in one of my many missions, she was different, she was lovely, when I saw her I knew instantly that I wanted to make her mine.”
    He started.
    “She was a dance instructor, she was Spontaneous, she lived in the moment, she was free, she was everything I wanted at that moment”
    He laughs a little and my heart breaks.
    I wanted him to feel like that with me, I really wanted that.
    “We got talking and after a while I found out she was deaf, she could not hear, but what amazed me the most was that she did not let that stop her, she was a dance instructor! I mean who does that, she felt the music through the beat, she was awesome”
    He says this, he says in a way that left nothing to the imagination.
    He was amazed all over again.
    “On our first date we went to her dance studio, we danced, it’s was lit,.we started dating, we went out, we did things, soon I feel in love”
    I could not hear any longer, I stood up silently and I left.
    How can I compete with that?
    The worse thing is that my competition isn’t even alive.
    “On our first date we went to her dance studio, we danced, it’s was lit,.we started dating, we went out, we did things, soon I feel in love”
    I hear my self say.
    “I just didn’t know that I was the only one in love”
    “Wait I don’t get it, I thought you said she was lovely?”
    Julliet asks, I go to answer but Leila beats me to it.
    “What Justin is trying to say julliet is that my sister was a stark raving lunatic and a b-tch”
    “Leila , that’s enough”
    Leila mimes zipping her lips and I continue .
    “She was lovely Jules, she really was but she just didn’t know how to love me, soon we started fighting, it was just over little things.
    Like, I didn’t remember it’s our 100th day together, I didn’t know that her best color is red, I forgot to buy Chinese takeout when I was coming.
    Even about things she didn’t tell me about.
    I was broken, I loved her and I was hurting her, I wanted to do the right thing by her so I ended it.”
    “You ended it?”
    Kele asks, confused..
    “Well I tried to, she wouldn’t let me, she told me she loved me, told me she couldn’t do without me, told me she was lost without me.
    She told me all the things I wanted to hear, so I didn’t break it up.
    Infact things went back to normal, I was living the life, we were happy.
    One day we came back from a date, it was raining, she loved the rain, we were making out and we started getting serious.
    We had had s-x before that day but this day was different, she wanted more, I didn’t, she told me she was on the pill, that I didn’t need protection.
    I believed her, in hind sight I should have seen it coming, I never saw her take any pills, I should have known what her game was.
    I should have known that she thought she could keep me from ending things by getting pregnant.
    So well,.we had s-x, 3 weeks later she started getting sick and started having mood swings.
    We went to the doctor, he said she was 3 weeks along.
    I was shocked, I really was but I was happy, she said she was happy too and wanted to keep the baby.
    We started making plans, I bought the house on the beach because it was her dream house.
    We made so much plans”
    I stop for a breath.
    “I even made plans of her seeing you justice, you and Dad and taking her to Mom.
    We went to see her parents and her sister, I got their blessing.
    There were talks of wedding after the baby was born.
    Things were going fine and we were happy.
    I should have known something was wrong, it was too good to be true.
    When she was about 7 months along something happened, I came back from work one day on a weekend- I started the weekend routine with her- she was in the tub, the water was full to the brim and she submerged her head inside.
    Like she was literally drowning her self.
    I was spooked, I took her to the hospital and a psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, she was prone to depression and mood swings.
    The doctor also said her being deaf didn’t help matters.
    When asked why she did what she did, she said it was because she felt i wasn’t giving her the attention she deserved, that she felt I loved the baby more than her.
    I didn’t know what to do so I moved in with her, I mean at that time, justice was never around, julliet was in the States, our father hated my guts so it was pretty easy to move in with her.
    After that things went back to normal, she was taking her pills, she was happy.
    Before then we didn’t know what the s-x of the baby would be, we just knew she was heavy, pretty heavy,we speculated that we might be having twins and that was it.
    When the babies finally came i was shocked, imagine my surprise when the doctor brought in the triplets on a gurney, we were beyond our self with happiness.
    She named Raine, after her love for rain and Styxx after the mythological river Styx, and I named Jew because well it was a form of my and Julliet’s name
    We were content.
    We went home and soon enough after the first 3 months the mood swings started.
    She was just not content with what she was getting.
    Constantly ignoring the babies, I came back from work one day to find her watching reruns of 2 broke girls while our babies were crying in their cot.
    By then the doctor already diagnosed Jew of the disease and that Styxx was midly autistic and that Raine was OCD.
    There were still too young to know but he had a strong feeling.
    It was as if Mariah shared her personality to our children.
    Still I was content, they were my kids.
    After that incident with the babies I called in Leila to help, I really needed the hand, Mariah was not acting like a mother, at all.
    When lay lay arrived things got a little better but soon Mariah started getting suspicious, she thought I was cheating on her with Leila.
    I started getting fed up, the last straw was when I came back from work one day to see Jew bleeding from her head, she was 5 months by then,. Leila was not around.
    I asked Mari what happened and she said that Jew, my sweet baby was jealous of her.
    I got angry and flipped, what could a 5 month old baby do to a grown woman.
    I said somethings that I am not proud of, called her selfish and obnoxious, that I wished she would just disappear.
    At that time I was going through a hard time at work,my old boss was being an a-hole and the added stress of Mariah was not helping.
    After my anger burned out I apologised because she seemed pretty shook by what I said, she said she forgave me.
    She apologized too, saying she would never hurt our baby again and she was ready to be a good mother.
    I should have known that was a facade she put up,.that night we had s-x, it felt deep, like I was seeing into her soul.
    She cried after that and I held her close thinking it was because she was overwhelmed by the feelings.
    I woke up in the middle of the night and I instantly knew something was wrong, Mariah was not in the bed.
    I searched for her in our apartment but I didn’t find her
    Leila joined me, I went to her studio that night and I saw the lights were on, I entered and I saw my wife looking broken as she bled out from her slashed wrist.
    She left a note saying that she wasn’t good enough a mother for our kids and she will always be jealous, she apologized for hurting me and that she loved me, she wrote that she wanted to be buried underneath a tree so that in the future when our kids came to visit they will be able to shout their pain or laugh their happiness into her.
    She promised that she will hear us and would shower her flowers on us when we do so.”
    I take a deep breath, my voice suddenly breaking at that last point.
    “So you see how I sent my wife to her death? I might as well have killed her”
    “Justin, you didn’t kill Mariah, she was a selfish person that only though of her self till the very end”
    Leila says and I don’t say a word.
    Getting this off my chest feels good.
    “I kept the kids away because I got so used to them, to having them to my self, I always said I would bring them home when Jules arrived but I could not bring my self to do it, I was selfish….I…”
    “It’s ok Justin, it’s really fine, we totally understand”
    Julliet says with tears in her eyes.
    “You’ve been through a lot guardian, am so sorry for what happened to you”
    Magic says and I nod.
    Justice nods at me and I know he is trying to work out his feelings.
    I don’t say anything, I just let my words settle.
    It feels good to finally admit the truth.

    Episode 28

    After my confession down stairs I feel drained.
    All I want to do now is to get some sleep and strategize on how I will get my girl back.
    I just have to check on Jew first.
    I walk to her slightly open door, I opened it a little to make sure I hear if or when she calls at night.
    I step in quietly and I notice 2 things.
    1. Raine left her bed and is cuddling with Jew .
    2. Styxx left his bed and is cuddling with Raine and Jew.
    3. Sandra left her bed and is cuddling with Raine, Styxx and Jew and currently singing a song.
    I freeze as I listen.
    She’s singing holdin’ out by the Lumineers.
    Her voice sounds so so so good, I find my self leaning against the door jamb and just soaking up the scene
    She doesn’t notice me .
    She finishes her song and she leans down to kiss their head.
    My heart clenches at the scene before me.
    How long, how long have I wanted this for my children.
    This only strengthens the conviction in my heart.
    Sandra is not going to escape, she will either come to terms on her on or I will force her and make her see reason.
    She is perfect for me and my children.
    She needs us too.
    She leans over and switches off the lamp on the nightstand.
    She pulls the sheet over them ,
    She doesn’t notice me.
    She walks toward the door, she turns her head from fixing something at the foot of the bed and she sees me.
    She freezes.
    “Shut up and come with me”
    I whisper and exit the room, knowing that she is following me.
    I enter my room and I hold the door open for her.
    She hesitates, I raise a brow and she enters with a sigh.
    “What was that?”
    I ask.
    “Am sorry, you probably don’t want me around your kids”
    She says.
    “One more word on that subject and I will spank you, just try me Sandra”
    She gulps.
    “Now, tell me what that was”
    “I heard Jew fussing and I heard Styxx and Raine disturbing her, I knew she needed her rest so I went in to calm them.”
    I nod
    “The song you were singing, what’s that about?”
    “Raine asked me to sing it to them and also I love the Lumineers, it wasn’t a hard feat, it seemed to work because they fell right asleep”
    She says and I watch her lips as she speaks.
    Honestly I stopped listening to her after she said Raine asked her to sing it to them.
    She stops and I drag my eyes back to her eyes.
    She tries to escape.
    “Am just …. gonna…”
    “So what slipped up your a-s and died?”
    I ask and she blinks.
    “Excuse me?”
    “You heard me, why have you been acting all b-tchy?”
    “I would thank you not to call me a b-tch Justin and to stop using vulgar words towards me”
    “I call bullsh-t Sandra, you don’t get to act like you don’t know something is very wrong with our relationship”
    “There is no relationship Justin”
    “Tell me what happened”
    “Nothing happened”
    I growl.
    She growls back.
    This is going nowhere.
    “Tell me what happened”
    I try again.
    “Nothing happened”
    She says again and I sigh.
    I go to take her hand but she steps away.
    The hell?
    “Sandra did you just flinch from me?”
    I ask her.
    She shakes her head uncertainly.
    She bloody flinched.
    “Sandra so help me God, if you don’t get your fine a-s over here and tell me what made you build up your walls again,. I will come over there and do things to you, that I swear on my mother’s grave, you won’t be able to walk straight for a week”
    I say and she gulps again before she starts to speak.
    I notice she still didn’t come closer.
    But at least she is talking.
    “I had a break down”
    She says.
    I nod,she continues.
    “I dreamt about Mavin and I was not in a right place in my head when you called”
    I figured.
    “Am sorry I said those words to you JM”
    She says and I nod.
    “I was scared now that you have kids that you won’t want me anymore”
    She says and this time I don’t respond,
    Now that I have kids? Did I ever not have kids?
    She continues, a little uncertain.
    “You do know I love you right? I love you to the moon and back”
    She says and a pressure releases in my chest.
    “Say something Justin, do you want me? Do you still love me? I will understand if you want to end things…I mean….”
    I close the distance between us as I pull her in for a kiss.
    She comes willingly.
    I make my way to my bed my exhaustion suddenly disappearing.
    I pull my head away from her .
    “Promise me you will always let me know where your head is at at all times”
    She nods.
    “I need the words Sandra”
    “Yes Justin, I promise”
    I say as I swoop in to take her lips.
    After a while when we finally calm down and she is cuddling into me I speak.
    “We have to see a therapist for your PTSD Sandy San”
    I say softly and she nods.
    “I know”
    “That’s my strong sweet girl”
    I say as I kiss her hair, am really proud of her.
    She cuddles closer and I pull her as close as I could.
    “I heard you downstairs”
    She says.
    “I know”
    She says as she sits up a little.
    “I saw you from the corner of my eye, you didn’t stay for the whole story”
    “The whole story?”
    She asks as she settles back down on my chest.
    “Am gonna tell you the whole story soon but first I need something”
    She frowns.
    I whisper in her ear and she blushes, playfully hitting my chest.
    “You crude human being”
    She says.
    “I am your crude human being”
    I reply.
    “Well that’s true”
    She says speculatively.
    “So what do you say?”
    “Well… alright..”
    She says with a blush and I laugh a full belly laugh.
    I kiss her hard as I straddle her .
    We make out for a while and after that I tell her the story.
    She had tears in her eyes when I was done , I kiss them away and we settle to sleep.
    “Now, I feel really content”
    I say softly into the room.
    She doesn’t respond because she is already asleep, she just mewls softly as she cuddles closer.
    What I don’t know is that while I laughed my family heard and they were happy, even smiling to know that I was happy with someone who loved me.

    Episode 29

    “Where are you going?”
    Justin asks, instantly awake even though it’s barely 6 in the morning.
    “Are you trying to leave me? Are you having second thoughts again?”
    He asks and my heart melts.
    I shake my head no as I walk back to the bed, I bend and kiss his head.
    “Am just gonna go prepare breakfast, I think I have an apology to give to my family”
    I say and he lies back,
    I turn to leave but i turn back to him.
    “I will never leave you Justin, not again, not of my own free will”
    I say to him and he nods, pulling my head down for a kiss.
    “Sleep in sweets, I will take care of the triple treat”
    I say to him and he nods, chuckling sleepily.
    I leave the room and I go down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
    When am down i lay the table and I go upstairs to bath the triplets.
    Well I bath Raine, Styxx took care of him self in his big boy way and I pat Jew down with a wet cloth.
    “Why are you being so nice to us?”
    Jew asks as I braid Raine’s hair.
    I pause.
    “Excuse me?”
    “Why are you acting so nice? only auntie Leila takes care of us like this”
    She asks again and even Styxx is quiet waiting for my reply.
    “Well, you lot are cute and not that hard to be nice to”
    I say and she turns away from reading my lips, she’s still too weak to talk much so I just kiss her head and turn back to Raine’s hair.
    “Are you daddy’s girlfriend?”
    Raine asks and I pause again.
    How do I answer this question? is this a trick question?
    Why Lord was I asked.
    Am almost tempted to tell her to ask Justin but I answer.
    “Well kind of”
    “Cool, that’s good, I like you”
    I beam, I can’t believe am smiling so much from receiving approval from a 5 year old.
    “Why didn’t you come to see Jew at the hospital? You were always at home”
    Styxx says accusingly and I freeze again.
    “We seem to be full of questions this morning”
    I say, he just watches me and I almost gulp.
    How can a 5 year old be so intense?
    “I was in a bad place at the time Styxx”
    “Were you sick?”
    Raine shouts and I wince at her loud voice but I answer.
    “You can say that”
    Styxx nods and smiles.
    He looks just like his father.
    “Am glad you are fine now, I kind of like you”
    He says matter of factedly.
    “I kind of like you too Styxx”
    I say to him and he nods again.
    I wait for Jew to say something along the lines of she likes me but she just remains quiet.
    Well, I guess that’s all the likes am getting for today.
    I wheel her down the ramp the guys made around the house for her wheel chair into the dinning room.
    I see everyone already sitted.
    “Good morning mi familia”
    I say and no one answers.
    Well seems they are holding a grudge.
    I set the triplets on their sits and they immediately dig in as soon as I serve.
    “You made all this?”
    Kele asks and I nod.
    “D--n, I should probably hire you as an understudy chef instead of my shows host”
    I laugh a little.
    Julliet throws Kele a dirty look and Tony says…
    “Children on board mailma ”
    I raise an eyebrow at Tony’s endearment, he literally just called Kele his soul.
    I don’t say anything but my gaze goes back to julliet, seems she is angry at me.
    “Hey Jules”
    I say to her as I purposely take a sit beside her.
    She doesn’t answer, I bump my shoulder against hers, still nothing.
    Oh hell.
    “Am sorry”
    Her shoulders settle and I know she is listening.
    “Am sorry for acting like the B word”
    I say to her.
    She goes to answer but stops at Alec’s next comment
    “The B word means b-tch right?”
    I gape at Alec and so does everyone at the table.
    “What’s a b-tch?”
    Styxx asks with interest.
    Oh no, hell no.
    “Alec Max Jacobs,! Who thought you a bad word”
    Julliet asks and he looks scared.
    Julliet says to Sage, he understands.
    “Alec, where did you hear that word?”
    “I saw it on a movie I watched on YouTube”
    He says.
    “You watch movies on YouTube?”
    Julliet asks, appalled.
    “Yes, on the tab”
    He says and I almost shake my head.
    Bye bye to your tab Alec.
    “Alec, i placed YouTube under censored on your tab, how did you get passed the security?”
    Jules asks and he gulps.
    “I kind of know the password”
    He says slowly.
    “Jesus!, What else have you been watching?”
    She asks, she looks sick to her stomach.
    “That’s it, your tab and Mac book is gone for a week”
    She says to him.
    “But Mom….”
    “You should be Happy it’s just a week A, I would have recommended a month”
    Sage says to him and I chuckle softly at the horrified look on Alec’s face.
    “But dad….”
    “Eat your food and go get ready for school, buddy”
    Sage says and Alec nods with a sulk.
    “Don’t worry, you can use my tab”
    Styxx says in a side whisper to Alec that everyone pretends not to hear.
    Alec beams at him and resume to gorge on his food.
    I shake my head and I turn to julliet.
    “Don’t act like that again, let me in when you need help ok?”
    She asks and I nod.
    “Ok, am gonna go take my bath now”
    Justin says as he kisses the triplets head, one after the other.
    When he gets to me he bends and kisses me on the lips, slowly.
    I sigh into his mouth.
    “Please am begging you , get a room”
    Justice says just as Sage says…
    “Stop molesting my sister in front of me you idiot”
    Sage says and I reluctantly break away.
    Justin just scratches his head with his middle finger at Sage and Sage returns the gesture.
    Real mature.
    He leaves the room.
    “Am guessing you guys worked things out”
    Julliet asks and I nod.
    “Am happy for you, the both of you”
    She says and I beam.
    My eyes goes to Jew who is looking at the door Justin just followed.
    Oh sh-t.
    Her eyes come to mine before going back to her food.
    I didn’t think she liked me before.
    But now it’s so obvious she doesn’t.
    Oh hell.

    Episode 30

    “What do I do!?”
    Kele cries, no seriously, I have never seen her this serious.
    “I thought you said it was only just a fling?, a game?”
    Magic asks and Kele growls at her.
    “Don’t tell me what I said Magic”
    Magic muffles a laugh in her hand as she takes a sip of her drink.
    “Let me get this correctly….you have feelings for Tony?, Since you guys started sleeping together you have gotten to know him and he is kind, he lost his sister to an abusive husband so you guys get each other on that point.
    You are scared of what you feel for him and you don’t know what to do since he is leaving in a week… Did I get all the facts right,?”
    Julliet asks and Kele nods.
    I don’t say a word, am still trying to wrap my head around it.
    “The worse part is not that he is leaving, the worse part is that he says he will stay in Nigeria for a while to see where this goes because obviously am not giving up my restaurant to go be with him in California”
    She says.
    “How’s that the worse part? The man obviously likes you”
    I say to her.
    “He kind of used the love word with me”
    She says and I gape.
    I knew that Tony and Kele were together but not this together.
    If you know what I mean.
    “So what’s the problem?”
    I ask her again.
    Because seriously am not seeing any problem with this arrangement, it means am gonna get more of my friend.
    Speaking of which, I still have to apologise to him
    “The problem Sandy, if you were listening is that what do i do if he stays in Nigeria because of me and we later find out we are not compatible?
    Won’t he regret wasting a period of his life with me?
    I don’t want him to think of me in the future with bad thoughts.”
    “What I see here is that you love him too”
    Magic says.
    “Well I do”
    Kele confesses.
    “What I also see here is that you are ending a relationship in your head even before it has had the opportunity to begin”
    Julliet says and Kele pauses.
    “Would it be so bad if he stays in Nigeria because of you?
    Don’t you think you are worth it and more?
    And besides if it doesn’t work out, am sure he is mature enough to handle himself.
    Why don’t you see were this goes?”
    Julliet says again and Kele looks lost.
    Seriously am feeling a little sympathy for her.
    “Don’t end the relationship you can start just because you are scared.
    Think about it, what if just what if the relationship between the two of you is good and gets better and the both of you fall deeper in love.?
    Have you thought about how happy you would be then?”
    Jules asks her and I nod slowly.
    “Seriously, think about that”
    I say.
    “But what if we fall in love deeper and it comes to a time for the both of us to chose were we are going to stay?
    Long distance relationships work but this would be really really long distance.
    And besides, I can’t ask him to choose between his work and me.
    He loves his work.
    And also, I can’t leave Tasty’s behind, and there is Magic and you and Sandra and Alec and….”
    “Hey, don’t use all of us as an excuse to sabotage your happiness, we will always be here for you, even if you go and come back in 60 years.
    And also you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.
    Why don’t you see where it goes first before you start planning baby showers and send forth’s?”
    Magic says and Kele takes a big breath.
    “Ok, nice and slow, I can do that”
    She says and I pat her on the back.
    “Atta girl”
    I say and she laughs.
    “So what’s up with you?”.
    She asks me and I frown.
    “Since we started this night out wait since morning you’ve been tense.
    One would think that after getting some last night you would be more pliable”
    Kele says and I shake my head.
    “What’s wrong?”
    Julliet asks me.
    I open my mouth to say nothing’ but I stop.
    These are my friends, they can help.
    “I think…no wait, I know Justin’s kid, Jew,.she hates me”
    “Jew? Pffft, the kids love you, you are like a mini mom”
    Magic says and I shake my head, my red hair spilling to my face and I brush it away.
    “The other two might, but Jew really doesn’t like me, you should have seen her face after Justin kissed me today”
    “Well, I saw it”
    Julliet says.
    “It looked murderous, if looks could kill”
    Julliet says.
    I say to no one in particular.
    “Why do you think she hates you?”
    “I think she thinks I am stealing her dad from her”
    “Well you kind of are”
    Kele says as she takes a sip of her mimosa.
    Magic rebukes.
    “Am just joking, geez”
    Kele says after she gets a look at my fallen face
    “Sandra.., you don’t have to be scared, the kid will love you, it’s only a matter of time, am sure she is still getting used to seeing a female in her daddy’s life”
    Kele, kele! Says and am surprised.
    I nod.
    “I mean, with your red hair, you are a good role model”
    She says and my heart skips a beat.
    “You think I should dye it black”
    “Nah, red is so you, and besides, your hair color does not factor into the hate system the kid has going on, if anything she will love you better, what kid doesn’t like a goth Barbie wannabe?”
    Kele says and I flip her the bird.
    She just laughs.
    “So you think I should wait and be patient that she will come around?”
    I ask and they nod.
    I settle back into the couch.
    “So what’s going on with you Jules, you never say anything about you, don’t tell me your relationship with my brother is that good”
    I say to her and she pokes her tongue out at me.
    “It’s that good”
    She says.
    “D--n, am jealous”
    Kele says and we laugh.
    “Am lying, it’s not that good, just that he loves me enough to forgive everything I do wrong the moment I do them and vice versa”
    She says.
    “I mean, we had a pregnancy scare last month, I was late and we thought I might be pregnant, seems we didn’t calculate it well”
    She says and we laugh.
    Wait, hold on.
    I have been late for 2 months now.
    Oh hell.
    It can’t be..
    “What’s that look on your face?”
    Julliet asks me and I laugh.
    “Oh it’s nothing, am thinking how I have missed my period for 2 months now”
    I say jokingly but they don’t laugh.
    “Sandra, you do use protection with Justin right?”
    Magic asks and I shake my head no.
    “I don’t”
    They gape at me.
    “It’s ok, I can’t get pregnant, the doctor said so”
    Julliet asks.
    “My womb is kind of inactive in that department so….”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Mavin said that’s what the doctor said the last time at the hospital after he hit me,.it was what made me leave him,”
    I say.
    “How sure are you that he is right? I mean the man could have lied about it to make you feel hurt”
    Jules says and I pause
    I never thought of that.
    “Am not.. . pregnant…it can’t be..”
    I say.
    Julliet and Magic and Kele squeals.
    “We are getting a home pregnancy test tomorrow”
    “Guys, please don’t get your hopes up, it might be nothing, it might just be that I am sick”
    I say.
    . Sandra…”
    Julliet starts.
    “Jules please, I can’t get my hopes up, am just going to go for a test ok?”
    They say in unison, their voices down.
    “Oh, cheer up, it’s fine”
    I say to them and they nod
    We go back to telling stories.
    I can’t believe they thought am preggers?
    I almost laugh.

    Episode 31

    I watch her from back stage as she does her thing camera.
    I can’t believe she is mine, I can’t believe she is finally all mine.
    It’s been two weeks since we got back together, two weeks of enough trial and tribulations to last a life time.
    Ok maybe not really trial and tribulations.
    Am just exaggerating.
    But really, it was hard.
    First of all Jew had a fever which sent all of us into a panic.
    We later found out it was just a normal cold and flu.
    As it is with children, and triplets she shared her fever to the other kids and her siblings.
    Even Alec.
    It was five days of snotty noses and pills and temperature check.
    It was hell.
    Even Justice had to escape at one point.
    We found him sleeping with baby Cara and Abigail with them on his chest.
    It 2as comical.
    Next came Kele’s and Tony’s drama.
    Personally I think the woman is a loon.
    And also that she has commitment issues.
    Tony is as frustrated as I am sure a person trying to fetch water in a basket will be.
    Then came Sandra and her phobia issues.
    Firstly she tried to convince me that Jew hates her, I didn’t believe, mind you.
    I later got to find out that indeed my baby girl despises my girlfriend.
    I dealt with that after convincing Jew that I won’t abandon her and travel the world with Sandra.
    I think she is coming along, nicely.
    Next week me trying to convince Sandra that we have to go and see the therapist.
    She was scared, saying what if she had to get locked in a padded cell.
    AKA psychiatric hospital.
    I told her that no, she won’t be locked in a cell.
    She is perfectly normal.
    It took us 2 days or rather her 2 days to gather her wits to even enter the car and make our first appointment.
    That was five days ago, now she is better .
    No not better because of the therapist, better because she is now brave enough to go to her appointments herself.
    My brave girl.
    It’s a wonder how we got from the beginning to the place where we are now.
    It seems like a miracle.
    Looking back it feels longer than it actually is, but finally we are here.
    I am glad we are.
    But what I am not glad of is that it seems as if Sandra, my lovely Sandra is having second thoughts.
    Not towards me or our relationship but towards something else entirely.
    When I ask she says it’s nothing and laughs it off.
    I don’t believe her.
    Swear to God.
    I plan on seducing the truth out of her tonight.
    I know, I know, it’s not one of my finest moment but a man has to do what a man has to do.
    I have a sneaking suspicion I won’t like what I will hear.
    I turn to her as she interacts with the audience as kele cooks.
    Ok, seriously, my girlfriend is beautifully pretty.
    That sounded cheesy.
    But hell, she has turned me to a a-hole.
    I like it.
    I smile at her when she glances my way as if to make sure i am still here.
    She continues.
    I smile wider.
    “Any wider and we will be stitching your lips”
    Tony says to me quietly and I almost punch him.
    I would have if I didn’t think that Sandra will hurt me for hurting her precious best friend.
    I just give him the middle finger and he chuckles.
    Sage and Justice do too.
    It’s not as if the women don’t have them wrapped around their fingers also.
    We watch Sandra from back stage as she does her magic.
    It’s spectacular.
    I watch her so keenly that if I wasn’t doing so I wouldn’t have seen her stiffen a little.
    I feel Tony and Sage and Justice stiffen too, they saw her too.
    Am sure the women in the audience also noticed.
    It’s just that Sandra is good at what she does and she hardly if ever makes any mistake.
    Her falter was brief and unnoticeable to a normal eye but she is my girlfriend the woman I want to marry.
    I made it my life mission to know when she is feeling any discomfort.
    I lift my bracelet to my lips and I speak into the mouthpiece.
    After giving instructions to my crew I stand up from the bench.
    I don’t know what’s going on but i don’t like it.
    My instincts says something is wrong and I seriously listen to my instincts.
    It has gotten me this far .
    I watch her keenly after that and I make sure I have at least 3 other people watching her every move.
    When she is done she approaches me with a smile,
    I pull her in for a hug and she kisses my cheeks.
    “Congratulations babe”
    I say to her and she nods, she turns towards the triplets as they come closer with Juliet and Magic.
    “You mentioned our names at the end!”
    Raine squealed.
    “I was on TV”
    Jew says with awe and I smile.
    Styxx is keeping it cool but I know he is excited.
    She kisses their head and they kiss her cheek, she turn to me after that.
    “So what was that?”
    I ask
    “I knew you weren’t going to miss that,”
    She says and I raise my brow.
    “It was nothing”
    She says and I frown.
    “What did you see Sandra?”
    Tony asks and she sighs.
    “I thought I saw Mavin in the audience but that’s just stupid, it wasn’t him, the doctor said this might happen”
    She says and I hug her closer, scanning the room slowly.
    Sage is in guard and Justice leads the women and kids to the cars.
    Tony tells Kele to get to her car as he helps her park supplies.
    “Guys it’s nothing”
    Sandra says but a little uncertainly.
    “Am sure it’s nothing baby, but am gonna go over the CCTV footage okay?”
    I say to her and she nods.
    I lead her to her car .
    I bend and kiss her lips.
    “Go home, bath, take care of the triplets, I will be home soon, okay?”
    She nods and I kiss her again.
    I watch her drive off with the other and I turn back to the hall, speaking into my bracelet.
    If that f-cker really is in town, he’s got a death wish.
    He made me drop my plans of seduction.
    Nigga is dead.

    Episode 32

    “What do we got?”
    Tony asks as he slides into a chair beside me.
    I point to the screen and he mutters a quiet ‘s--t’
    This a-hole seriously has guys, he is d--n stupid.
    What does he think? That he would bounce in here torment my girl and cart away with her to bus her again.
    Shut the bloody front door, am gonna fleece him within an inch of his life.
    “You know he is not going anywhere without not knowing the repercussions of messing with a Maxwells- Jacobs right?”
    I ask Tony and he nods.
    When Sandra pulled up a photo of her ex and abuser I ingrained it into my memory because heaven knows I am going to kill him.
    The pictures I just pulled from the CCTV footage shows that this guy is the one.
    I can even see that he has tried to approach her from different angles but she was always busy.
    It infuriates me to think how close my Sandra was to this moron some hours ago.
    This idiot is not going to walk in here and ruin my months of hard work.
    He is dead.
    He doesn’t know how much danger he placed himself in when he got off the plane and entered Nigeria.
    “You gonna take care of this or shall I? I have been meaning to have words with this f-cktard ”
    I give tony a long side glance and I smirk.
    “With all pleasure Tony, let’s do this”
    I stand and I strap my vest, I shoot a quick email to my brother to let them know what is going on.
    They are angry, seriously angry that they won’t be in on the action but we have to be incognito about this as can be.
    We don’t want to give the women ideas.
    Mostly Sandra.
    She’s is kind enough to think that she has forgiven the idiot.
    My phone pings and it’s my assistant, Simon.
    I answer the call.
    “Boss, we are on ground at the location, i and the other guys, I will send you the details”
    He says.
    I say back.
    “And boss?…..”
    “Yes, Simon”
    “Please let me get a shot at mauling this motherf-cker.”
    He says and I smile again as I feel the calm rage settle on me.
    “With all pleasure Simon”
    I say to him.
    I disconnect and i turn to Tony who has also strapped on his Kevlar.
    “Let’s roll out”
    I say to him and he gives a shot nod.
    I grab my Glock, my lucky gun and a shotgun and a pistol for Tony, I place a Swiss army knife in my boot.
    “All done.”
    He says .
    I give a short nod and this time we rolled out.
    When we got to the B&B he is staying I almost laugh.
    This guy made it too easy for us.
    I was expecting more of a challenge.
    When I step out of the truck Simon and another guy I have seen around the office approaches me.
    “What do we got?”
    I ask.
    “A-hole got in a while ago, had some dinner and he seems to be using his laptop for a while now, we have reason to think he has a fire arm”
    I nod .
    “The rooms besides him are empty, the Bed and Breakfast only had 7 rooms, the only other occupant is a diabetic old lady who has gone to sleep for a while now.
    The owner of the B&B has gone out so the coast is clear”
    He says and I would have chuckled at how easy this is but the rage is still on me.
    Even the angels in heaven know not to mess with me when I am this way.
    The other guys have approached us now and together my merry band is consisting of 7 men, including I and Tony.
    “In formation”
    I say and they nod.
    “Simon come with me and Tony, ”
    You think me and my guys with the fire arms is overkill?
    I don’t think so.
    I don’t want any mistakes to happen.
    Not one tiny mistake.
    We silently enter the B &B to find the cashier sleeping.
    Pffft .
    Easy peazy.
    Simon leads the way and when we get to the door he steps aside.
    I turn to my guys silently asking if they are ready and they nod.
    They were born ready.
    I turn the door knob and it gives, I open the door and step in my gun trained on the a-hole.
    He looks up with his hands in the air.
    “Am not a terrorist”
    He says and I hear Tony Chuckle, weak idiot.
    “Are you Mavin?”
    I ask and he nods hesitantly.
    I know he is the one but just feel the need to ask.
    “Ok then a-hole, you are in for one dirty ride”
    As soon as the words leave my mouth two of my guys step to him and hold him down..
    “Tony , please do you want to do the honors?”
    “I thought you would never ask”
    He says before giving a mock bow and I smirk, s--t this guy won’t know what hit him.
    When Tony and Simon get through with him he looks a little worse for wear.
    Am sure two broken hands and a broken leg and hip will do that.
    His face is swollen , his eyes are darting all over the place, he couldn’t even shout because Simon gatgged him.
    I can see the question in his eyes.
    He doesn’t know what he did wrong.
    We can’t have that now can we?
    I bend to his level and his eyes flies to me.
    As tough as he tried to be towards my Sandra, he still just a weak little man.
    A coward.
    “I won’t kill you, you know why, because I don’t want your filth to be on my conscience, you are not worth the problem.
    This is the last time you will hit a woman, I want you to remember that Sandra Jacobs is the only reason you are not dead.
    Every morning when you wake up f-cking pray to her, wait , infact, don’t forget about her, don’t think about her, loose her memory.
    Don’t think I won’t be watching you, don’t think you can go around hitting other women.
    Trust me you will die before you do so again.
    Are we clear on that?”
    He nods and a pungent smell drifts to me..
    The coward pissed his pants..
    Good, he must have heard the death threat in my voice.
    “You will take yourself back to Cali tomorrow, and if you try any funny business I promise to make you disappear, just try me”
    I say to him and he whimpers around the cloth in his mouth.
    I stand up from my crouch.
    As I turn to leave my eyes go to his laptop.
    I tense.
    I turn back to him and I can see the fear and guilt in his eyes.
    The f-cktard was watching a reel of Sandra’s pictures, recent ones, he was stalking her.
    I see red as I punch him, I feel hands pull me away from him and I calm down enough to see that I have reconstructed his face.
    I pull out my gun and point it on him.
    “He’s not worth it Justin”
    Tony says still holding me back.
    I take a deep breath to push back the rage before I turn to leave.
    I turn back and pop him one on his knee.
    My silencer muffles the shot.
    He cries out but the gag in his mouth muffles the sound.
    I exit the room with my guys and Tony and I go down stairs.
    Let him explain to the police what happened to him and why he has incriminating pictures of women on his laptop.
    “Police on their way boss”
    Simon says and I don’t respond.
    I get downstairs and I get into my car.
    All I need now is Sandra.
    “Let’s go home J”
    Tony says.
    Ya, lets.

    Episode 33(Final)

    Just one word can change a moment, just one look can change a mood and just one feeling can last forever.
    “Sandra, walk fast you have to meet momma”
    “Am trying Jew, gimme a minute”
    I say to her as I try to walk amongst the other tomb stones.
    My family is in front of me and they are there already, in front of the greet tree, Justin is behind me carrying the picnic baskets with justice and Sage.
    It’s been four months of unadulterated Bliss, I have been more than happy and I know it’s going to stay this way forever.
    I have my family and I have my boyfriend, Justin.
    I thought I was in a dark place for sometime and I would forever be there but I just didn’t know that all I had to do was reach out.
    If I reached out, there would be people there waiting to hold me, waiting to ground me, waiting to show me all the love I deserve.
    I no longer live in fear of tomorrow neither do I fear any form of contact because I have my family.
    I have forgotten all about the memories of yesterday.
    They have made me understand that they would have me in any way I am .
    Wether damaged or whole.
    I thought the worst thing that Mavin took from me was my ability to trust in others but no, the worst thing he took from me was my ability to trust in my self.
    Turns out I was not pregnant, the pills i was taking for depression was what was messing with my cycle. The added stress was not helping either.
    When the doctor told me I was tested negative to a pregnancy test I will admit I was disappointed.
    I wanted to have a child that is Justin’s but the good Lord granted me another gift.
    Mavin lied, I can get pregnant, I am perfectly healthy and fine.
    I spoke to Justin about it And we have decided to wait till the triplets are 7.
    We will try for a baby then.
    “Are you coming or what?”
    I blink at Justin’s question and I realize I am standing in front of the tree in thought.
    “Please spread the blanket, I can stand straight for more than a few minutes now”
    Kele says with her hands on her waist.
    Magic rolls her eyes and am sure everyone did too.
    “Kele, you are two months pregnant, I think that hardly qualifies you for a wheelchair, you are hardly showing, not even a sign of a baby bump in the horizon.”
    Justice says and I chuckle.
    I swallow my laugh when she pouts.
    “Tony is not here, I think I deserve some babying, am going to tell him you are bullying me when he returns”
    Kele says and I do laugh this time.
    My friend and my friend did get together, they are expecting their baby to arrive early next year.
    Tony returned to Cali last month to park up his life and come to Nigeria, he is that in love with my friend.
    I smile at that thought.
    “Do I want to know what you are thinking?”
    Justin asks as he pulls me to sit besides him.
    “Am thinking how happy I am”
    “So who wants to talk mother first?”
    Styxx asks and Raine shouts.
    This is the first time my family and I are coming to see Mariah.
    We know Justin takes the kids to see her every month but this is the first time he has summed up enough courage to go see her without any guilt.
    We talked about it.
    “Let me introduce you to Mom”
    Jew says.
    She walks to the tree and a sprinkling of flower falls down on her.
    She giggles.
    “I missed you too momma”
    I frown.
    “What’s that?”
    I ask Justin.
    “I don’t know exactly, but when a person gets close to the tree it does that, we believe it’s Mari telling us that she can see us and she is with us”
    “OMG , that’s so cool, it’s like she is telling the person that she likes them”
    Kele exclaims.
    “Ya, something like that”
    Justin answers.
    “I want to go next!”
    Kele says with excitement.
    “Calm down Kel’s”
    Magic says.
    “Don’t tell me to calm down, it’s a mystical event in Nigeria! And also am pregnant, it’s the hormones”
    We all groan.
    Kele literally does anything these days and blames it on the hormones.
    Justin introduces every one to mari and everyone gets a sprinkling of flowers.
    When it got to my turn the most amazing of things happened.
    I thought I heard a voice telling me well done as a cool breeze blows my hair from my shoulder.
    I smile as Justin hugs me from behind.
    He speaks next.
    “Hello Mari, it’s been a while”
    The End

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