Story: Can’t Hold My Tears

    Prologue

    In the land of iguocha where people are known for excess beauty lived a certain beautiful girl named Amara. Definitely not the most beautiful girl in the land, but obviously the most desired. Her spotless skin was neither fair nor dark it was somewhere in between, glowing like glass smoothly like a silk her flawless skin was the envy of the other maidens in the land, even though she was from a very poor background, her smile bright like the morning sun was enough to make every male species desire the sight of her and her suitors were many even though she was still in school did not stop increasing.

     

    From a very poor family did not stop her dream of becoming a medical doctor in other to take her family out of poverty. she had watch on her neighbor’s television the way doctors dress smartly in white apparels in the hospital and have vowed to focused squarely on her studies in other to reach her aim.

     

    Amara started school late but at nineteen , she was in her final year in secondary school and she had never lost the top position in her school, and she looked forward in writing the popular WAEC which was feared by all the secondary students. She had burned candles in the long vacation and now the resumption is finally here with much energy. her dream is finally coming to fulfilment. she had hope of meeting the scholarship in other not to have any problem in school. Little did she know about her destiny and it took another turn.

     

    Something unexpected happened , something which change her course of life for ever.

     

    I closed the lid of my diary as warm tears glisten my eyes, I wanted them to go away as usual but they rolled in uncontrollable down my eyes. I did not waist time to brush them away knowing fully well that it will be a wasted efforts. A warm hand touched my shoulder tenderly bringing me back to my surrounding. the cameras were already in place as five pairs of eyes looked at me with concern in their eyes.

     

    “Are u ready” the manager asked me??

    I shivered and nodded my head and turned to the camera.

     

    “Hello” I said to the tape recording.

    “my name is Amara peters….and here is my story”

    Episode 1

    Never have I fathomed in my little mind that I will be drained of my goal. my eyes have always been fixed on that spot. I always spied on my neighbor television just to be able to listen to news, see beautiful people and aspired to be like them. but everything changed all of a sudden my destiny diverted. my brain was hacked by a stronger device and I was left with only one thing to drive every action -my emotion to corper Bello appeared and became the driver of my emotion because he had the key to my heart…….

     

    my legs dragged slugging on the fanciful road of abuja, as I dragged my legs to meet the pace of my parents were setting. we have spent three days in Abuja, doing the only thing, searching for corper Bello. I cannot believe this is happening to me. my legs strange and my waist painfull from excess walking. every one I saw was neatly dressed. even though this was my first time moving out from my local village I was not enjoying my self

     

    “move faster pregnant woman” my father shouted “and stop dragging your self.”

     

    people who were passing by turned and were looking at us, I bowed my head down out of shame. yes am pregnant for corper Bello, Dad never stop reminding me of it like I can ever forget. how can I forget the news that killed my dreams??and brought shame to my face??

     

     

     

    “you this useless thing when u know u cannot handle the rigors of pregnancy, why did you spread your legs wide like a satellite dish??”

     

    stung, I held back the tears in my eyes and walked with my head bowed. thought vacated my head as I walked lifelessly behind my parents.

     

    “Aah Aah nnayi” …my mum murmured bitterly

     

    “short up woman” my Dad shouted at her.

    “looked at you like mother like daughter” he hissed.

    “You better find the useless man that impregnated your daughter if not you will both live my house today”. he hissed again.

    ” I Wonder where your waywardness will lead us to. we don’t have s–ts in my family maybe it from ur mother side.”

     

    Pains sliced through me like a million sliced I have brought shame to my family.

     

    I have cried a lot during the past few weeks, and all I hope for is that all the pains am feeling now is worth it, tears burned in my eyes as I remembered my dreams. the dreams I had hoped of been a high class doctor. all this dream has been destroyed. i told my self with confidence that corper Bello will accept me and my unborn child. I placed my hands protecting my tommy, trying to close the ear of my baby from hearing the harsh words from his grandfather as my Dad continued to rain insult on me . my anxiety lifts up a little as I remembered the sweet words that came out from his mouth as he made sweet love to me. he has worshipped my body with his hands and his mouth saying words that brought tears to my eyes,it has been the most exhilarating experience of my life. corper Bello loves me he will definatly accept me and the child, I told my self all we need to do now is find his house that we have been searching for the past three days. we discovered that is father is the famous senator Bello, my Dad seemed to reduced his anger toward me

     

    we arrived the massive gate and paused . I checked the address again, I am sure there was no mistake . this cannot be coper fathers house, can it? the gate alone is bigger than my entire village.

     

    “is it n’t this the place?” my father asked me also awed as he saw the massive gate.

     

    I checked the address again my Mum also checked the paper I was holding ,

    “I think is the place” I said instantly.

     

    he knocked at the gate. I adjusted my small wrapper and waited patiently. the gate opened and a man came out. his size was big and he was looking down on us from head to toe, he turned .

    “what do u want” he shouted.

     

    my Dad glared at him,

    “where is your Oga?? we are here to see senator Bello”

    the guy looked at us again and laughed.

     

    “People like you don’t have any business with my Oga. are u sure is the sanator you are looking for?”

     

    “ogini” my mum intervened. “what is your job is it not to attend to visitors??c’mon open the gate”

     

    “You cannot go in, the sanator is in a meeting” he said.

     

    Dad hissed and pushed the guy out of the gate, mum dragged me forcefully inside the house . I was surprised to see the big house and I wondered where the entrance. before we got to the door the guy has already informed them of our coming I saw a woman running down the entrance with the guy looking at us like some little insect.

     

    “What may I do for you?” she asked.

     

    “Dad hissed ,get out of my way woman I am here to see senator Bello and his son I don’t need a woman running her mouth here”

     

    the woman got angry.

    ” what do you want with my son and husband he does not mingle with your kind” she said in disgust.

     

    “Hey, you better shut up your mouth there or else I would shout and the whole world would know just how irresponsible you are. Shameless people” he hissed. “I am here to see the Senator and his good for nothing son, and the earlier you take us to him, the better.”

    Episode 2

    The silence in the massive sittingroom was worse than a graveyard. The only sounds were the occasional clicking of the Senator’s shoes, as he paced the sitting room in nervous anticipation. The news of my pregnancy has been delivered and after various bouts of arguments, the Senator had called his son on phone. I glanced at the door endlessly in anticipation, wanting to see Corper Bello and have him reassure me that everything would be fine. I have really missed him, I want to see his tall, handsome features again; those dark eyes, that curled hair which never failed to gain my attention, those perfectly formed full lips which could awaken all the nerves in my body with just one kiss; yes, I have really missed him.

     

    The door swung open and the person I saw was definitely Corper Bello but he looked totally different. He was obviously not in his uniform since he had already finished service. Even though it was only two months ago that he left, he seemed to have changed completely. Maybe because I never saw him in anything but his Corper’s uniform. Corper Bello stood at the entrance, staring at me in complete surprise. I squirmed a little from the intensity of his intimidating gaze. He looked completely handsome and all I wanted to do was fling myself into his arms.

     

    “Alex, what are you doing there? Come inside” the Senator’s wife said softly.

     

    Corper Bello turned to gaze at his mum before silently proceeding into the sitting room fully. The atmosphere in the large room seemed to change as his presence seemed to dominate the entire place. He always had this effect everywhere he got to, I acknowledged and my heart skipped with love and pride. He kissed his mum’s cheeks and she pinkened. He merely greeted his father before turning to stare at us where we were seated.

     

    “Son” his dad began. “Do you know that girl over there?”

     

    His eyes held no expression at all. I swallowed hard as he stared impassively at me.

     

    “Corper Bello” I breathed. Why is he looking at me like that, I wondered. He merely glanced at my parents before turning back to face his dad.

     

    “She was one of the students I met during service” he stated calmly. Despite his calm appearance, his jaw seemed really tense. “What is going on dad?”

     

    “What is going on?” my dad interrupted. “So you are the shameless boy that had the audacity to break my daughter’s virginity and leave her pregnant right?” he roared.

     

    The shock that Corper Bello experienced was palpable. His eyes flew to me instantly and I suddenly wished I could vanish. As his eyes darted to my stomach, I had the incredible urge to protect my unborn child.

     

    “Why blame my son” the Senator’s wife interjected. “Why not blame the s--t of a daughter that you have. Did my son rape her? She willingly gave herself to him, right?”

     

    “How could you do this son?” The Senator interjected, facing his son, who still had his eyes on my stomach. “How could you do this? Do you know the kind of scandal that this can create? I am running for a second term in the Senate and this could be a disaster if it gets to the press. How could you be so senseless?” he roared.

     

    Alex swallowed. “I can’t be responsible for her pregnancy, did she say I am?”

     

    “What?” I gasped in horror. “Corper Bello”. This is the very last thing I expected.

     

    “For God’s sake woman, shut up. I am no longer a corp member, my name is Alex Bello” he almost yelled as he ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

     

    My mouth felt dry and my heart raced wildly. “How can you say something like that? Have you forgotten that afternoon? That afternoon at the copper’s lounge?” I swallowed heavily, not wanting to discuss something I considered sacred in the presence of so many people. “You took my innocence Corper Bello, you said you loved me, how could you deny paternity of my child now when you were the only man in my life?” tears burned in my eyes.

     

    Alex Bello hissed. “And you were stupid enough to believe that I love you?” he laughed strangely. “Those words were said in a fit of passion and sexual satisfaction, surely you are not dumb enough to believe that I could love you” he said with intense irritation that I instantly felt like a piece of trash. Tears slipped down my eyes. “Look at you” his eyes roamed my body. “You are not even fit to be a maid in my house” he declared. “You came all the way from your little village to the Federal capital in wrappers and slippers, and you still think that i love you? I have never loved you. I only needed a willing body and you volunteered. That is all”

     

    Stunned silence fell and cold gripped me. I think i am going to be sick. Tears trickled down my cheeks. No! It can’t be happening to me. Everyone can’t turn their backs on me, especially not the originator of this turmoil. There must be a mistake. I stood on shaky legs, allowing my legs take me a bit closer to him. “Corp, it is me, your Ama.” I said shakily. “You told me you love me, have you forgotten? You told me you loved village girls like me because we are well cultured. You promised to marry me and make my dreams come true. You said-”

     

    “Please spare me all that bulls” Alex retorted sharply. “You are a fool if you believe all that crap. All I wanted was to have a good time while I was in service. Lisa is the woman I love, I would never change, got it. As for that thing in your tummy, you are not so dumb, you should know what you can do about it. What you need is money right? I would give you money to take care of it and a little compensation to lead a good life. Is that OK?”

     

    I froze and I think my face is as white as A4 paper. How could he suggest such a thing? Better still, how could I have been so stupid? Staring at him, the person who was supposed to make me smile became a monster.

     

    “Amadioha strike that mouth of yours” my mum flared up. “How dare you ask my daughter to abort her child? My daughter would never do that. Over my dead body”

    Dad stood up. “Did you think we came here to play? You have only one option open to you, and that is to marry her, if not, I would create enough scandal to last a lifetime. Imagine, you used my daughter to relieve your sexual urges. It is not your fault, if not for the senseless daughter I have”

     

    “Never! I would never marry her” he declared.

     

    “Of course you won’t” his mum declared, glaring at my parents and I. I swallowed. The pain I was feeling in my chest was burning.

     

    “You will” the Senator declared and everyone turned to him. I didn’t give a d--n what he said.

     

     

     

    “What are you saying dad? I am supposed to marry Lisa and I will. I love her” he said with finality.

     

    “You should have thought of your love for her before sleeping with another woman. You must face the consequences of your actions, you won’t make me lose my election because of your foolishness.” He said sternly. “Come with me” he stormed out of the sitting room. Copper and his mum followed instantly and copper Bello looked like someone going to war.

     

    Tears flowed freely and dad did not waste the opportunity to rain insults on me for bringing shame to him. Mum tried to console me but I was totally shattered. I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. How could my life suddenly turn to a horror movie within the twinkling of an eye.

     

    I don’t know how long we waited, probably minutes or hours but suddenly, they all came in. Corper Bello looked strained and terribly angry but I was past caring.

     

    “Get all the preparations ready, they would get married next week” the Senator declared.

     

    “Better” my dad declared.

     

    “Well there is no need for any preparation because I would not marry Corper Bello” I declared.

    Episode 3

    “Well there is no need for any preparation because I would not marry Corper Bello” I declared.

     

    “You must he out of your mind”, Dad said with unconcealed disbelieve and rage.

     

    “Oh no, I am not mad papa, in fact, I am very normal. There is no way I would marry this man” I said forcefully, with silent finality, expecting everyone to accept my resignation. My face is as hard as granite.

     

    Alex hooted in mock laughter which was soon replaced with a frightening snarl but I was past feeling intimidated. “You would pass for a talented drama queen, only that I doubt if your looks is good enough for a royalty position. Stop pretending as though the prospect of marrying me does not sound tantalizing to your ears. Is that not your ultimate goal in the first place? I know that marrying me is the dream of poor wretched village local champions like you who are seeking to change the weight of their purse with my money” he hissed through clenched teeth.

     

    I swallowed and smiled bitterly. “You can insult me Corper but it would not change what I have just said. I have no interest in marrying someone who thinks of me as nothing but a prostitute to be used for sexual satisfaction”

     

    “He called you what you called yourself” The senator’s wife said in anger.

     

    “Don’t you dare insult my daughter, you witch” my mum retorted.

     

    “Perfect” Alex yelled suddenly. “Since it is evident that none of us is ready for the bondage of being married, and she obviously won’t flush the thing out, the best thing is to give you money. I would write you a cheque enough to change the status of your family and give your child a good life”

     

     

     

    I smiled painfully as the pain I felt increased several degrees. “Now you want to pay me. That certainly makes me a s--t, doesn’t it? I don’t want your money Corper” I said forcefully and turn to walk out of the choking room before I suffocate.

     

    “And where do you think you are going?” My dad boomed, stopping me in my track. “I think that pregnancy is beginning to affect your brain. Come back here this minute” he roared.

     

    “As I said, the only option is marriage. No one in my lineage has had a child out of wedlock and it would not start with me. She is pregnant now but must definitely give birth to the child in her husband’s house”. Dad faced me with a stern glare that had me squirming a little. “If you won’t agree to this marriage, you can very well forget about being my daughter because I would disown you” he roared.

     

    I gasped as his words registered. “Papa”

     

    “I mean it Amara” he said sternly and if I still knew my dad well, he was not kidding. Mum did not even have a say because dad silenced her protests before it even left her mouth.

     

    “Don’t bother saying anything woman” he said to her. “When I disown her, you would follow her.”

     

    Real pain and feelings of betrayal bubbled up and tears rolled down my hot cheeks.

     

    “You either marry this boy or pack your things out of my house along with your mother. I won’t have a disgrace in my family”.

     

    I was sobbing now. If it were up to me alone, I could let it all go to hell but I definitely would not let anyone suffer for the mistake I foolishly made with my eyes open. I was vaguely aware of Corper Bello pacing the length of the extremely large sitting room. The Senator and his wife seemed to have gone mute. Corper Bello’s eyes caught mine and he stopped pacing, glaring at me with more anger than I have ever seen in anyone in my nineteen years of experience. His hands were squeezed very tight and all I could see were veins scattered all over his still too handsome features. I vaguely thought that he would march towards me and punch the child out of my tummy and my hands instantly went to my tummy, trying to protect my baby; if anything, he looked angrier. Instead of feeling fear which would be expected, my anger matched his and I thought I would fly into pieces due to excess bottled up anger. Well, anger was definitely better than the feelings of hurt and betrayal, I told myself.

     

     

     

    I swallowed hard, wishing I could swallow my tongue as well. “When is the marriage taking place?” I asked.

     

     

    Weeks later

     

    I stare at my fragile self in the massive full length mirror and I almost start crying again but I sternly steel myself against it. I have just spent the longest one week of my life, mostly crying myself to sleep. I have not eating enough to keep an infant alive and as I stared at the mirror, I looked ghostly and spent. I knew that I was not an exceedingly fair girl but I looked white and pale, with my eyes deep in their sockets. Ever since I accepted marriage to Corper Bello, I have not set my eyes on him, and I can only be grateful for that miracle. Though, we were made to stay in one of the boys quarters in the mansion by the Senator, I wished I was back in my peaceful and happy village, either going off to the stream or fetching fire woods. I should actually be writing my WAEC.

     

    Fresh tears coerced down my cheeks as yet another dream died; the dream to get married to a man happily; a man who I loved and who loved me in return. As fate would have it, I am not only getting married to a man who loathed me and saw me as nothing more than a dirty village s--t, I am also marrying a man who was not ready to accept or father my unborn child. The time ticked and my heart beat accelerated, moving at the same pace as the seconds-hand of the clock.

     

    In a few minutes, I would no longer be Amara Peters, I would be Amara Bello. This filled me with so much pain and I had to grab a nearby table to keep my weightless form from falling. I had imagined marriage to Corper Bello over and over again in the past, while he wooed me and made me feel like the most special woman on earth in the village. I had imagined us living happily ever after like in the fairy tales. Never did I think that we would be getting married for all the wrong reasons, with so much hatred and pain.

     

    The door opened and I quickly dried my eyes as my mum entered. “Ama, you need to get dressed my dear” she said softly.

     

    I nodded vigorously. All I want to do is flee, run as fast as I can until the world looked normal again. As I stood, I noticed my mum holding a white silky satin material in her hand.

     

    “I was able to get you this” she explained shakily. “It is not a proper wedding gown but it would serve. It was all I could afford” she said softly.

     

    I blinked. After staring for some seconds, I shook my head. “I am not getting married mama, I am being sentenced to life in prison” tears dropped. “I can’t wear this. It should only be worn for a happy occasion; this is not a happy event. I am not destined to be happy”

    Mum pulled me into her arms and hugged me tight and I felt her tears. “Oh, my daughter. If it were up to me, you won’t marry that useless boy. I hate seeing you sad, I want you to be happy Ama” she said tearfully and pain sliced through me again.

     

    I pulled out of her embrace and without looking at her, went to my sack of clothes. I removed the only gown I had and shook it. I looked faded but I didn’t give a d--n, after all, it is a sitting room wedding, which only had our two parents in attendance as witnesses. I slipped the gown over my head and the once firm and fitted gown fell loosely around me, due to the fact that I was not eating.

     

    “You should eat something Ama, if not for yourself but for the baby’s sake, please” she pleaded. For the past few days, the only way she was able to persuade me into eating was by using the ‘baby’ tactic. I have done all I possibly could to avoid my dad all week long, and I have managed thus far, because I was not ready for another level of insults.

     

    I heaved a sigh and walked out of my room, for the first time, all week. Mum forced me to eat something but I couldn’t manage more than five spoons of rice because my appetite was definitely on zero level and I was exceedingly nervous.

     

    I walked beside my mum towards the mansion at the exact time that we were supposed to be there. I felt nothing at all. I was almost like a zombie on display. I saw the small altar setting in the large sitting room and my heart raced when I saw someone that looked like a pastor in suit, standing by the altar. I saw the Senator and his wife as they climbed down the stairs. There was no sign of Corper Bello and I silently prayed that he would not appear. My dad was already seated and I quickly took my eyes from him. I sat down with my mum squeezing my hand.

     

     

     

    After waiting for twenty minutes, Corper Bello finally showed up and I swallowed hard immediately he entered. It would have helped if I was not so awfully aware of him and stupidly in love with him. But despite all, when he entered, I felt the sudden change in the atmosphere as his perfume drifted to my nostrils. He looked very angry and tense because his veins were pronounced; even more pronounced and visible than they were a week ago. He looked as though he had spent hours running.

     

    Corper Bello did not spare me more than a glance which did not last for even a second. He marched towards the altar like a sacrificial lamb. “Make it as fast as possible Pastor, I need to be out of this place in five minutes” he said authoritatively.

     

    Mum urged me to my feet and my legs almost gave way as I looked ahead like someone who was about to face the firing squad. I walked on stiff legs until I was beside Corper Bello who was completely still, glaring at the pastor. The pastor moved uncomfortably, staring at us in horror and sympathy.

     

    “Do you Alex Bello, take this woman Amara Peters, as your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to cherish, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, in lack and in plenty, till death do you part?” the pastor asked unceremoniously.

     

    “Yes, I do” Corper Bello answered instantly, without wasting time.

     

    “Do you Amara Peters, take Alex Bello, as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in confort, till death do you part?” the pastor asked me.

     

    The word ‘sorrow’ stuck to my head as the world crashed around me, and I knew deep down that I was totally destroyed, about to face a life full of sorrow. My mum squeezed my shoulder, reminding me that I needed to respond. I swallowed. “Yes” I squeak.

     

    “Where is the ring?” the pastor demanded.

     

    “What ring? Is it necessary?” he growled.

     

    “Here it is” the Senator’s wife declared, magically producing two rings. The pastor gave one to Corper Bello and said, “Repeat after me…”

     

    “Is that necessary? Can’t she just put it in her fingers?” his voice rose a notch and I stood stock still. Without waiting for the pastor’s approval, he took my left hand forcefully and slipped the ring into my fourth finger. He took the other ring from the pastor and put it on his own finger. “Is that all?” he growled.

     

    The pastor’s face showed disgust and total disapproval. “By the power vested in me, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife” he said. “You may now kiss the bride”

     

    “That is irrelevant,” Corper Bello hissed in annoyance and left the altar. “What do I sign” he asked impatiently. The pastor brought some documents to be signed and he signed hurriedly, while I scale through shakily. When everything was duly signed, he straightened and looked at me with full force anger. “Satisfied now?” he growled. “Someone would bring you to my house in the evening. I hope you can handle being my wife” he said and marched out of the room without a backward glance. I placed one stiff leg in front of another until I got to my room where I cried myself to sleep. Before sleep enveloped me, it occurred to me that this was just the beginning of my tears and sorrow.

     

    This will be one of the best story you’ve ever read. Don’t be left out.

    Episode 4

    I opened my eyes to the tap of my mum’s hand. I felt a bit hot and feverish, having to swallow hard before uttering a word.

     

    “Mama”

     

    “Amara, your husband has sent someone to pick you up” she said.

     

    My heart beat escalated and she touched my hand, coming instantly to touch my neck. “My God, your temperature is so high, are you sick my dear?” she asked, jumping up at once.

     

    “I am fine mama” I murmured.

     

    “You are not. You are as hot as a boiling kettle. You can’t go anywhere today. Let me get you some drugs, I will tell the guy to come for you tomorrow” she said hurriedly.

     

    I shook my head, “No mama, I would leave this place today” I said.

     

    She frowned. “You are not well Amara, let me take care of you, I know that that useless husband of yours would not do anything” she said with obvious anger.

     

    Her anger was starting to irritate me. “Whether you like it or not, I am leaving this place now. I have signed the contract of this marriage, it is high time I stopped postponing the inevitable and start living the life I signed up for” I tried to get up, hiding my slight discomfort. My tummy hadn’t started protruding because I was just two months gone but as I sat up, I could not escape the sudden wave of dizziness that gripped me. I shut my eyes tight for several seconds until I felt safe to open them.

     

     

     

    “Please be reasonable Amarachi” Mum pleaded as I pushed off the bed and slipped on my slippers.

     

    “I am the only one being reasonable here mama” I stopped. “Wait, what am I saying? I am the most unreasonable and senseless person on earth, but I knew mama, I knew marriage to Corper Bello was a terrible idea.” I turned hurt eyes at her. “Mama, I made a mistake, even God knows that I made the worst mistake of my life, but don’t I deserve forgiveness? Do I have to spend my whole life paying for this one mistake that I made?” I cried. “When I discovered that Corper was a wicked man, I was ready to take care of my child alone, I wanted to, I only needed the support of my parents, even if it was only you” I swallowed and shook my head. “But you did not support me mama, you could not stand up to your husband; you never could, even if it was for your only child” I exhaled. “Now, I have done what papa wants me to do; please don’t try to stop me because I would not listen to you”

     

    I opened the door and walked out, leaving my mum white-faced, with tears streaming down her cheeks. I knew I was transferring the aggression I was feeling but I really could not help myself. I had blamed myself too much for my misfortunes and I felt it might ease my burden and guilt if I blamed someone else. As I walked, I discovered that it did not work, if anything, what I just did was making me feel guiltier for making my mum sad.

     

    My dad stood up and approached me immediately I entered the sitting room and I wished I could have escaped him somehow. Anger took over me again as I wondered what the hell he was about to say to me. No doubt, he would insult the living daylight out of me again, and I obviously deserve it.

     

    Immediately he got to me, his face lit up in a broad smile. I was momentarily stunned. Ever since this drama started, I don’t think my dad has ever smiled. He placed his hands on my shoulders and I was forced to look up into his eyes.

     

    “My sweet daughter, you have no idea how much I am proud of you” he breathed out. What? I blinked. This is definitely something you don’t see every day! If not for the fact that I could not perceive the smell of beer, I could have sworn that my dad was drunk. “Oh my dear, I know that I have been hard on you since this started, but it is for a good cause”. He continued, completely rubbing me of my power of speech. “You know, I am so lucky that I have a daughter who uses her head properly. Now, stop beating yourself over this pregnancy issue, it is a gift from the most high. It is definitely the key to our breakthrough. Look my girl, you are rich” he declared. “Very rich! You always wanted to lift the poverty in our family, now; God has just answered your prayers. Unknowingly, you have taken our family out of the gutter and you have placed us right inside the palace.”

     

    “What are you saying papa?” I croaked out.

     

    He put his arms around my shoulders as he propelled me towards the exit. “Amara, you are a wise girl, I am sure you understand me perfectly. Now, what you have to do next is to make full use of this opportunity that landed on your laps on a platter of gold. You think Alex is so mean and wicked? He might be. But it is just a matter of time. It just takes a beautiful woman with enough sense like you to bend him. We men, we pretend to be strong and invincible, but trust me, all women came through Eve, and inherited her cunning talents. Make use of it my daughter and you would be able to totally change the fortune of our family. All the dreams you have of being a doctor, can still be achieved. Think about it my girl.” He gave me a bright smile. I just could not believe all I was hearing. Vaguely, I saw the car that was waiting for me. “Now go my daughter, your husband is waiting in your new house. Be a good girl. He kissed my pale cheeks and led me to the waiting car. I walked like a remote control robot, still not believing that everything I just heard came from my own father. My mum met us, dabbing at her eyes. I didn’t know what to feel. Was she also aware of dad’s tactics? It was too much to take in.

     

    I slid onto the soft leather in the car and closed the door. The person who seemed to be a driver, started the car. I stared at my parents in disbelief as the car sped off. They vanished from my sight and I was left with the words of my father. I felt as though I did not know my parents again but measuring everything, this seemed like the smallest of my problems as I looked forward to the next phase of my life.

     

     

     

     

    The car entered a large compound that left me momentarily stunned. It was not as big as the senator’s house but the design was exquisite. I would not have imagined, despite the fact that I had seen many houses on my neighbor’s television, that such an exquisite building existed. And to think that someone as young as Corper Bello lived here was so unbelievable. I instantly felt out of place.

     

    When the car was finally parked, I stepped out of it, looking a little frozen. Am I expected to live here? In this massive house? How would I cope with this? I had slept in the BQ in the senator’s compound and even that had been too much luxury for me, even though I barely stepped out of my room. But here, if what I saw outside was any indication, the house itself would be mind-numbing. Getting used to this place would be a great deal of work, no doubt. The only problem was that I would not be able to find joy here, the thought was so painful. Even my shabby village was filled with joy and a hope of a better tomorrow, there seemed to be none of that here. The man I thought I loved, cherished and respected was gone, replaced by this terrifying monster that would do anything to make my life miserable.

     

    The driver took my sack of clothes, holding it with two fingers like it was trash, as he led me into the massive building. I was right. The house was spectacular, so breathtaking that it had me gawking like a fool. A young pretty girl of about my age approached me with an apron tied to her body. The driver gave her the sack and left her as she stared at me vaguely.

     

    “Hello” she said softly as if she were talking to a child. I looked at her silently. “Mr. Alex told me that you were coming and that I should show you to your room” she explained. I smiled briefly and followed her lead.

     

    She took me through a narrow passage in silence, and as we walked, it occurred to me that the girl would be a staff. Still in the narrow passage, we passed by two doors which faced each other and took three steps further before the girl stopped in front of a door which she opened. There was also a door facing the door she opened but I disregarded it and followed her inside.

     

    A mattress was on the floor, enough to fit one person comfortably. There was a small table beside it, and a big box lay at the far end of the room, by the wall.

     

    The girl smiled, and then frowned. “Oh, forgive my manners, I am Tina” she said. “I am the cook, even though I look small, my food is always very sweet, you could eat your tongue” she boasted with a grin. “My room is opposite yours. You would meet another girl, Tola, she is the cleaner. She went out to get some things. I am sure you are Amara” she ranted.

     

    I was feeling awkward because something seemed very wrong and out of place. I nodded stiffly. “Yes. Amara” I responded. “Where is corper… I mean, Mr erm.. Alex. Where is his room? Does he stay in one of the rooms we passed?”

     

    The girl laughed. “Of course not. His room is upstairs” she leaned forward to whisper. “It is a very massive room. This place is not as big as his toilet” she grinned. “This is where the staff stays”.

     

    What? What the hell is going on? Before I could voice my panic and question, we heard a car horn and the girl startled. “The boss is here, I have to go and serve his food. He asked me not to talk to you, please don’t tell him I said anything, if he asks.” With that, she vanished.

     

    I stood, still reeling from the implications of what I had just heard. Am I to stay with the staff in my own husband’s house? It can’t be real. The drama just never seemed to end. I don’t know how long I stayed there, at the middle of the room, but suddenly, the door opened and I spun round to see corper Bello crowding the entrance. He entered and closed the door behind him.

     

    “I see you are fully settled” he said with clear indifference. “Well, since you have obviously pushed your way into my life, let me lay down the rules and regulations. You are in this house as maid and not a wife. Don’t ever mention it to anyone that we signed a marriage contract, or worse, that you are carrying something of mine in your tummy” he said with obvious disgust. “Everyone here has been informed that you are the new staff employee, and that is what you would be in this place. You would join Tola in doing the cleaning and other house chores. Never interfere with my food because I won’t want to contact cholera or food poisoning. You would be given the staff uniform, so you don’t have to go around in your pathetic clothes. Do you understand me?”

     

    I stared dumbfounded. He seriously did not mean all he just said, did he? “You expect me to work as a maid in my husband’s house?”

     

    His eyes flashed with fury. “First of all, you are not my wife. Even though we signed a bunch of miserable papers, you can never be my wife. Secondly, you should be glad that I dignified you with a maid’s position. You either do this or leave. You chose to marry me, whatever you see is of your making, not mine” he growled out.

     

    I swallowed. “What did I ever do to you? What is my crime Corper?” I breathed.

     

    “You got pregnant. That is your crime” he turned to leave then stopped. “And while you are here, you should never call me Corper, you call me boss” he opened the door and left.

    Episode 5

    One week passed and the idea of being a maid in my husband’s house was still like a bomb. Each passing day added to my shock and dismay at this display of impunity. I have never felt more like garbage like I did now, having to work with the maids in the house. Ever since Corper walked out of my room, I hadn’t set my eyes on him. I was careful to ensure that we never happened to be in the same place together. My hatred for him grew with each passing day, but my love for him was not eliminated either. I still could not understand why thoughts of him still plagued my dreams. Every time, I entertained the hope that he would change and love me the way he professed in the village. Unfortunately, there was no indication that this would ever happen.

     

    My pale state and vomiting had made it known almost immediately I arrived that I was pregnant. Tina had been very helpful, encouraging me and making me laugh whenever my mood turned sour – which was almost all the time. I had been careful enough to avoid the subject of my child’s paternity whenever she tried to bring it up. Changing the subject had always been my way out of that sticky situation. Tola, the cleaner, on the other hand, had been a real pain in the butt. She never spared a change to throw well-aimed insults at me. The fact that I had to share the house chores with her, instead of making her happy, made her terribly furious. We became instant enemies and she never stops expressing her wish that I would ‘go back to whatever stinking village I come from’. Even though Tina was constantly coming to my aid, dealing with Tola’s sharp mouth along with my other problems was beginning to really get on my nerves. The fact that I should naturally be the madam of the house was what stopped me from bantering words with her. It was infuriating that someone who should naturally report to me was giving me a really tough time; it made the idea of being a maid sink in.

     

    One fateful morning, I woke up extremely early, partly from lack of sleep and also from the desire to use the general maids’ bathroom before the other girls, since we had to share bathroom and toilet. I was certainly in no mood Tola’s ranting. After a refreshing shower, I dressed myself in the maids’ uniform and still had too much time to myself before starting the house chores. After drinking the bitter village herbs to drive away nausea and dizziness, I decided to lose my already rough hair. The ‘all back’ had lasted way longer than it ought. Loosening it took just a few minutes and I combed my hair out, letting the long strands fall freely past my shoulders. Satisfied that I looked a bit better than before, even without a mirror to confirm that, I straightened up my bed and decided to start the house chores, regardless of the time.

     

    The work was a good thing for me because it helped me to keep myself busy and push away depressing thoughts. I could not imagine how terrible it would have been if I had to just sit idle and watch the ticking hands of the clock. As I cleaned the furniture, songs of sadness escaped my lips. Thoughts of corper stayed permanently on my mind, probably because his picture frames hung all around the extra-large sitting room. He had seen the product of our union as a crime, but I refused to see the life growing in me as the cause of my sadness. Notwithstanding the circumstances surrounding my conception, I vowed to give my child all the love and care that he or she deserved. Even if the child never knew the love of a father, I promised to fill both the spot of a mother and that of a father in my child’s life. At first, recapturing corper Bello’s love had crossed my mind, but considering all that I was being made to go through, I was not sure I even felt anything but hate for him again.

     

    Footsteps alerted me, telling me that I was not alone. I tensed, knowing exactly who it was before I even saw him. My thoughts may have summoned him but his presence engulfed the entire sitting room, immediately he started climbing down the steps. What was he doing up so early? I wished he did not have such an effect on me and the admission that I still harbored feelings for him made me extremely angry. I stopped singing and cleaned the couch I was cleaning furiously, with undiluted anger.

     

    “I suppose you were taught how to greet” he murmured.

     

    My hands stilled slightly, and then wordlessly, I continued.

    “You are not deaf, are you?” he asked as anger crept into his voice. He must have some nerves!

    I dropped the duster instantly and faced him, wanting to show him that I was not born mute.

     

    “Excuse me sir, if I remember correctly, the duties of a maid that was assigned to me was to clean the house. That does not include greeting you, does it?”

     

    He clenched his fists dangerously. “Are you raising your voice at me?” he growled, advancing menacingly.

     

    I stood my ground. I had entered the lion’s den; I might as well face the consequences. “What if I am?” his palm connected with my cheeks, sending me backwards from the force. My face burnt bright red and my eyes had trouble focusing on him as dizziness gripped me with full force. He grabbed my neck and dragged me to him and I started panicking. I don’t think I have ever been this scared.

     

    “Never” he boomed. “Never you talk back at me, you hear me? Never” he roared and pushed me out of his hands. I almost fell flat on my face from the force of the push and I stumbled furiously, trying to get my footing. Immediately I did, I turned and fled into my room like the devil was at my heels. Slamming the door forcefully, I collapsed on my bed, in tears. It had become abundantly clear now that this is not the Corper I fell in love with, because the man out there was nothing more than a monster.

     

     

    Mr Peters stretched his legs before him. Now, life was beginning to have shape, he thought happily. He felt overjoyed over the incidents of the past few weeks. It would have been a disaster if the person that impregnated Amara was a pauper. In fact, he was sure that he would have disowned her instantly.

     

    He had known when his daughter started following the corper around. He had known that something like this might happen. It was then he had done a little research and found out that the corper was from a wealthy family. He did not know however, that the boy was this wealthy. When Alex had suggested he paid them off, the idea had sounded very palatable as he considered that it would be nice to have instant money. But he had calculated that the token that would be given can never be compared to what Amara could extort on the long run, if his daughter was married to the Senator’s son. He felt happy with himself. It was not every day that opportunities like this surfaced, and the earlier he grabbed it with two hands, the better for him. All he needed now was for Amara to use her brain and her ‘endowments’ to win her way into her husband’s heart. He knew that being the good girl that she was; she would still be having difficulty doing what he had hinted on her wedding day. He would have to work on that. A little visit to her place and some cunning advices would be able to set her in motion. Mr Peters knew that it would have been a great help if his wife was in support of this motion. She would have been able to train Amara properly, since they were both women and it was not a myth that Amara always listened to her mother. But that d--n woman was too stubborn, he thought angrily. He would have to be contented with doing this by himself.

     

    A big smile touched his dry lips as he considered getting an apartment here in the FCT instead of going back to that blasted village. He had gotten a pretty handsome amount for Amara’s dowry but now, he had no intention of using part of the money for an apartment. The Senator would have to get them an apartment if he wanted them out of his house; with a little taunting of course. He laughed. Life could be fun!

     

     

    The next day

     

    I walked the flower garden around the house in the evening, allowing the sweet smell wash over my face. Staying in the garden was always the highlight of my day because the sweet scent of the flowers seemed to bring joy to my soul. After the event of the morning, this walk was what I needed to sooth the hurt I was feeling. I banished my bad memories and thought about my happy times in the village. My fingers toyed with the flowers when unexpectedly; Corper’s car drove into the compound. I would have retreated hastily, in order to avoid facing him again, but instead, I stood where I was, looking. I caught sight of someone in the car with him and a frown crossed my face.

     

    Corper turned round and opened the door for his passenger, who stepped out of the car stylishly. It was undoubtedly a woman, a very beautiful one at that. Who the hell is this, I wondered in shocked annoyance. She looked at Corper and smiled at him, murmuring something I could not grab, and the corper seemed to melt under her gaze. He closed the door of the car and put his hand around her waist, leading her inside. I had seen enough! I turned on my heels and marched towards the back door, entering the kitchen without preamble. Tina, who had been busy slicing tomatoes, looked up and frowned.

     

    “What is the matter?” she asked. “Is Tola getting on your nerves again?”

     

    I shook my head. Now that she mentioned it, I noticed that I hadn’t seen that big mouthed girl today but it was none of my concern. Frankly, I wished I would never set my eyes on her again. “No, she isn’t” I said softly.

     

    “Then what is the matter with you?” she asked in a concerned tone.

     

    I contemplated my answer. “Nothing. Just a mood swing” I said softly. She eyes me suspiciously. Unable to stop myself, I asked. “Who is that woman with… erm… Mr Alex?”

     

    “He is back?” she asked in surprise.

     

    I nodded briefly and she went to peep, in order to see the woman I was talking about. They had already reached the sitting room. She came back with a frown. “Oh, that is Mr. Alex’s fiancée, Miss Lisa” she declared.

     

    “Fiancée?” I gasped out but, thank God, she was oblivious to the tension I was feeling.

     

    She nodded. “I don’t like her, she is too arrogant and disrespectful. I wonder what my boss sees in that woman” she said in irritation. “Anyways, I am sure her beauty is what captured him.” She continued. “She is too fine for her own good. I wonder what I would do when he marries her, my life would be hell”

     

    I blanched. “Marry?”

     

    She faced me. “Yes. Marry. Our boss plans to marry her, the wedding preparation is in progress”

     

    “No, it can’t be” I breathed.

     

    She frowned. “Why are you like this? You already dislike her too?” she asked in wonder.

     

    I was finding it hard to breathe. This could not be happening. i shook my head and quickly exited the kitchen and Tina frowned in confusion. As I made a hasty retreat to my room, I decided there and then that there was no way I would stay in that house. This was obviously too much to take in. it is high time I take my destiny and that of my child into my hands, I told myself as I went to pack the few rags I owned.

    What’s your advice for Amara, to stay or go?

    Episode 6

    I carried my sack of clothes effortlessly, as I marched with great vigor towards the sitting room. I obviously had enough of this melodrama which had been on constant replay in my life. Jeez, it was abundantly clear that I made a mistake, but should I be treated like a rejected leper because of it? Well, all that is coming to an end. This has gone this far because I allowed it. I swallowed, trying to put my anger and irritation under control before getting to the sitting room. I won’t want to spoil my exit by ranting like a rebellious child.

     

    I entered the sitting room unceremoniously and my blood stilled before it erupted into a whirlwind of explosion. Corper sat there in the succulent chair, and the snake of a woman, sat on his laps, curled like a child. She ran her hands slowly from Corper’s chest to his shoulders, and to his face, tracing his bottom lip with a finger. Anger coursed through me, making me feel like I would fly into a million pieces from too much anger.

     

    Corper raised his head and a slow smile lit his face immediately he saw me. I froze. What was going on? Was he expecting me? He surely did not look surprised or angry that I was standing there. It was as if he had known all along that I would come there. He met my eyes and bent to kiss the lady’s shoulder and I almost exploded on my feet. The woman’s head went backwards and in the process, caught sight of me. She stilled and sat up instantly.

     

    “Who are you and what are you doing standing there?” she asked on raised voice. I fixed her with an angry glare.

     

    “I think there is a better place to carry out your impropriety rather than the sitting room” I retorted.

     

     

     

    She stood from Corper’s leg, with her hands on her hips. “Are you mad?” she yelled then turned to Corper. “Alex, what is the meaning of this? Who the hell is she and…” she turned to run her eyes up and down my body. Anger seemed to flare. “…And how come you got a new maid without informing me?”

     

    She had called him Alex! That alone made me angry. Why hadn’t I thought to call him by his name instead of the ‘corper’ I was used to. Maybe if I had, he would have seen me differently, instead of the secondary school girl and drop out that I am. Anyways, there was no time again for me to re-write that mistake. I am leaving!

    Alex seemed a little shaken.

     

    “Don’t you dare call me a maid” I roared as I stomped my foot.

     

    The girl looked like she would match over and kill me.

    “And what are you?” it was Corper – sorry, Alex, that spoke. He was glaring at me, as if daring me to speak. Oh, I thought sternly. If he thought he had instilled enough fear in me to keep me mute, he surely did not know me at all.

     

    “Oh, I would tell you exactly what, or rather, who I am” I returned as I carefully put a dangerous smile on my face. I turned to face the stunned queen diva, when the door to the sitting room suddenly flung open. I turned round to see the Senator and his wife standing at the entrance. If there was anything like a bad timing, their entrance would definitely be a perfect example. But that did not deter me at all.

     

    “Get back to your room Amara” Alex ordered but I did not move an inch. The lady clapped her hands in bewilderment, like she was still having a difficulty understanding what was going on. I turned to Alex’s parents and since everyone seemed to have forgotten their manners, I quickly put that straight.

     

    “Good morning sir, good morning ma” I greeted, kneeling slightly. I moved to them to usher them to a seat. “I am sorry for the scene you witnessed, please make yourselves comfortable” I murmured, feeling proud of myself. I knew that once I got my head out of the clouds and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I could actually be quite entertaining. They walked to their seats in confusion and sat down. The senator seemed to smile secretly, as he stared at everyone.

     

     

     

    Before they uttered their unspoken question, I asked quickly. “What would you like to drink? I do believe we have anything you need” I knew nothing about what I was saying but I said it anyways.

     

    Corper – no, Alex. It would take a little practice, changing the name, I noticed mentally. He seemed to grumble something but I missed it. I swallowed slightly, as I placed a great smile on my face, pretending to be unaware of the tension.

     

    Alex’s mother glared at me. “I want nothing, thanks” she said sternly.

     

    “Oh, I would have something. Could you get me a fruit wine please dear” the senator said, inciting the glare of his wife. I smile victoriously. I had no idea what a fruit wine was but I surely would not disappoint him.

     

    “Just a minute sir” with that, I floated out of the sitting room, with my bag of clothes left on the floor, at the middle of the room.

     

    I smiled as I glanced back and saw the silent state with which the sitting room seemed to be in. the girlfriend of Alex seemed to have gone as rigid as a pillar of salt as she tried to make sense of the situation. I smiled to myself. Well, if I would leave, I might as well make my exit a memorable one.

     

    Immediately I entered the kitchen, I saw Tina and Tola staring at me in shock. Tina’s expression was more of bewilderment and Tola expressed her undiluted irritation.

     

    “What did you just do there?” Tina asked in shock. They had obviously been eavesdropping.

     

    Tola snarled. “what she has just done is clear. She has revealed her true nature, behaving like the nuisance that she obviously is by disrespecting her boss. Get prepared to get sacked. Frankly, I cant wait for that to happen” she said with disgust.

     

    I fixed her with a firm glare before turning to smile at Tina. This was not the time to banter words with a fool, I told myself. “Tina dear, could you do me the favor of showing me where you keep fruit wines? The senator requested for it and I would like to serve him myself.” I said in a pleading tone.

     

    Tola laughed hysterically but I ignored her. “See this little fool. The wines are there at the bar in the sitting room. You have no business here little novice” she said.

     

    My blood drained as I heard her. OH no! I had just spoiled the fun. If the wines were there, I could bet that glasses would be there as well, so what would I say I came into the kitchen for?

    Inspiration hit me at once and I went to the cabinet and grabbed two glass cups.

     

    “Madam, that is not a wine cup” Tola said again.

     

    I ignored her and rinsed the cups, placing them on the tray. Tina looked confused but, bless her soul, she decided to help me by explaining where, in the bar, I would get a fruit wine. I thanked her and carried the tray back into the sitting room. The room was as silent as I left it and I smiled internally again. I was having so much fun at their expense.

     

    As I dropped the tray on a side table, moving it to them, I quickly explained. “Please make do with these glasses sir. I fear the glasses at the bar might be a little unclean, at it might no well with your system” I was saying arrant nonsense, I knew, but I pretended to mean what I said. “I would just get the wine” I walked to the bar, remembering Tina’s descriptions. I picked the first cherry wine I saw and walked back to them. Opening the wine seemed like a really difficult task since I had never opened one before. I stared at it like a work of art until the senator came to my rescue again.

     

    “Let me open that. Your fingers might be a little tender for this” he said with a smile and I heard Alex mutter something that sounded like a really terrible curse. As the senator took the bottle from my hands, I realised instantly that he was actually a likeable man. There was no disputing the fact that Alex got his looks squarely from his father. Although elderly, the elderly man looked exceptional, and coming from me since I am terribly picky, i would say he is exceedingly handsome. He looked so breathtakingly masculine in the dark brown suit he had on and I could imagine several young girls falling for him. Looking at him, I wondered just how handsome he would have been in his youth, if he could be this compelling at 50. When I stared at Alex, I knew exactly what he would have been like at that age. Alex was more handsome than he had the right to be. Who would imagine that someone with the behaviour I recently noticed in him would be as handsome as he is? No wonder women were swimming all over him, just to gain his attention. Unfortunately, I happened to fall into his trap.

     

     

     

    The senator popped the bottle, snapping me out of my thoughts. He was about to fill the cups when I hastily collected it. I would show them the good daughter in-law they would miss before I leave, I told myself.

    “Let me do it sir, I am sure you would love the taste of this cherry wine” i murmured and his eyes flashed with something i could not place. I risked a glance at his wife who was practically my mother-in-law. She had an uncertain look on her face, like she had not decided whether or not to accept what was going on. I filled her glass with a smile.

    “Mummy, I am sure you might want to reconsider your desire for a drink. You must have had a long day”

    I stood with a satisfied look on my face.

     

    “Can someone tell me what the hell this maid is doing here? Who is she” The lady’s patience seemed to have snapped. She really is sausy, I thought. I am sure she had not even greeted the Senator and his wife. How can Alex marry this one?

     

    The senator frowned. “Which maid?” He asked in total surprise. For the first time, he noticed the dress I was putting on and a sharp shock went through him. His wife shifted on her seat uncomfortably.

     

    I laughed slightly and was about to talk when Alex cut in, talking for the first time since his parents’ arrival. “Don’t you dare talk” he yelled with deadly warning.

     

    I glared at him. “You can’t do anything to me Alex” his stunned expression registered when he noticed that I used his name. For the first time! I smiled and turned to the senator. “Sir. I was made to resume the duties of a maid, the very day I got married to your son”

     

    “What?” The senator bellowed

     

    “Married?” The girl yelled. I wish I could remember her name, but frankly, I keep forgetting. She turned to Alex, who was glaring at me, making me squirm a bit. He looked uncomfortable and I guessed his girlfriend, or fiancee was the cause.

    “What sort of s is this Alex?” She screamed.

     

    He stood beside her with a pained expression. “I can explain” he said, pleading.

     

    She hissed and picked her bag. “Explain to the dogs” she said and marched out of the sitting room and I was surprised her feet did not drill holes into the tiled floor. Alex pursued her until he got to the slammed door and the Senator’s voice rang out.

     

    “Bring yourself here Alex, this minute and explain the trash I just heard”

    Episode 7

    If eyes could kill, I was pretty sure i should be dead already. I swallowed heavily as I thought I might have gone too far in my little melodramatic displays. Alex seemed to be boiling with rage as he marched to the place I was standing, seizing me by the shoulder.

     

    “Are you crazy woman?” he roared. “Was I not clear enough when I told you expressly to shut your stinking mouth? Do you have any idea as to the tenacity of what your stupidity has just caused?”

     

    “Alex” the Senator bellowed. “How dare you constitute a nuisance of yourself in my presence? And when in the history of your life have you seen me rough handle your mother the way you are doing currently? Let go of her this instant” the Senator was on his feet in anger. I had trouble determining whose anger seemed greater as they both glared; Alex glared at me, the senator glared at Alex. The equation became balanced when the senator’s wife turned to glare at her husband.

     

    “Mark, you should be in support of your son instead of scolding him because of this piece of trash here. I don’t blame Alex for treating her like a maid, she certainly looks like one.”

     

    “Will you shut up woman” he barked at her as he faced her. “Do I blame Alex? I wonder what devil transformed him into this, and I would wager that the devil looks very much like you” she gasped and her face turned red. Alex’s fingers dug into my shoulder painfully. I had definitely done everything wrongly, I thought sternly. As much as I disliked my evil looking mother-in-law, I did not want everyone to get insulted because of me. I opened my mouth to speak but before I could jump in, the senator proceeded. “Why do I have the strange feeling that the whole ‘maid’ thing was your idea?” he glared at her.

     

     

     

    “Are you insulting my mum because of this thing dad?” Alex rasped and his anger seemed to have increased several degrees.

     

    “This ‘thing’ is the woman you impregnated, and as long as you remain my son, you would have to accept her. If you don’t love her, learn to.” He said with a dead serious look on his face.

     

    “I am a grown up man dad. As much as I respect you as my father, you cannot teach me how to run my family. I am capable to do whatever I d--n well please in my own home, irrespective of your opinions. You know me well enough to know that I don’t take orders from anyone” he took his hands off me and stood taller, like an immovable pillar. I knew without a doubt that he was dead serious. I could not imagine anyone making Alex do what he did not want to do. Even though he was coerced into marrying me, I wondered how he had been pressured into the messy arrangement.

     

    The Senator smiled dangerously, making my heart skip in fear as I anticipated what he was about to say. Alex was so much like his dad in so many ways, I noted, as they faced each other. I wondered within splits of seconds why Alex took everything from his dad, except his dad’s character; although the charming character had been evident in the village. It was probably just deceptive pretense, with the sole aim of getting into my pants, I thought. My thoughts came back to the sitting room when the Senator paced gently, circling Alex and I.

     

    “You, my son, are probably the most stubborn man on earth, I agree, but you should know that every stubborn man has a father. If I remember correctly, Amara’s father threatened to disown her if she did not get married to you.” My heart raced as my eyes widened at the direction his words were going.

     

    “Sir” I called, pleading.

     

    “Be quiet, Amara, I am talking to my son” he scolded and my lips slammed shut.

     

    He continued. “I would not threaten to disown you, because, apparently, you are my only child. However, the child in Amara’s womb in most definitely my grandchild and I would not have you subjecting her into unpleasant duties. If you refuse to treat Amara, your wife, with the respect she deserves, I would withdraw you from your position as the head of ‘The Bellos Crow’”

     

     

     

    “What?” Alex gasped out as the words sank in. I was pretty sure I was as pale as a plain sheet. What have I done?

     

    “You can’t be serious honey?” The senator’s wife said in horror.

     

    “You can’t do that dad; I have spent several years of my life serving the company. You surely would not take it from me now.” He gasped out. I vaguely wondered how that was even possible since he just finished his service but that was the least of my worries.

     

    “I can, and I will do just that Alex. Not only that, you would no longer be a member of the board at Belzinc. I say what I mean Alex, you know that”

     

    “Oh my God” I gasped. “There is no need for all these sir. It is really not necessary. Please don’t fight your family on my behalf sir, I am sure I can’t bear that” I choked slightly at the thought. I had definitely done everything wrong. “As you can all see” I pointed to the sack of clothes on the floor. “I was about to leave this house. I can’t possibly stay in this house. I assure you that I was not pressured into that decision. Being a maid was a good thing because it kept me busy; I really am not used to having people do things for me. I am a village girl. Please don’t withdraw the company from him or anything for that matter. I have caused too many problems and it would be good if I just leave”

     

    The senator smiled. “Like Alex rightly said, I can’t run his family for him.” He turned to Alex. “Son, the mother of my unborn grandchild wants to leave your house; it is for the both of you to decide. You either find a way to make her stay, or let her leave. Chris has been eyeing your position for years, I am sure he has the managerial abilities I look out for” he said with silent threats which nonetheless were loud enough for the deaf to hear.

    He turned to his wife and said sternly. “I believe we should be heading home. We have a lot to talk about” he murmured. For the first time, the senator’s wife seemed agitated. They both swept out of the sitting room and within seconds, I was stunned to find myself alone with the man who was supposed to be my husband.

     

     

    My knees started going weak from all the tension I had just experienced, but staring at Alex as he paced, I discovered that facing his wrath would be much more sapping that what I had just witnessed. I was exhausted though, and was not in the mood to get into any meaningless arguments with Alex. Watching him pace was exhausting enough.

     

    I walked silently towards my sack with a heavy heart. I could not believe that I was being separated from my husband, barely a week into the marriage. Normal couples would still be on their blissful honeymoon by now, but we are definitely not the picture of a perfect couple. It felt like a heavy weight had just landed on my shoulders as I thought of leaving. Why does it hurt so much to leave Alex despite all he has done? I wondered. I surely should not still love him after all these! I swallowed painfully as I cleared my throat.

     

    “So I guess it is goodbye Corper” I said. It had felt so good to call him Alex in the presence of everyone. But now that everyone was gone, I decided it best to call him Corper. Calling him Alex now would create a picture of intimacy and I did not want that because it would make my exit more unbearable.

     

    “And where the hell do you think you are going to?” he growled, coming to a stop at my front, making me shiver. Whether from fear or reaction to his nearness, I could not tell.

     

    I swallowed. “To wherever I can find peace. I want a divorce, or an annulment since the marriage was not consummated after the wedding” I said with a raise of my head.

     

    “Oh, so you can rejoice in the fact that you left me destroyed right?” he asked in anger and chills went through my spine. He glared at me then paced again. “In case you don’t know, let me tell you. ‘The Bellos Crow’ is my life. After my secondary school, I spent four years learning the managerial tactics from my father until I became an expert, even much better than my father. After gaining admission, I partly managed the company from school by giving orders of what should be done, even without being there. The company grew tremendously until it became as big as it is today. I would be damned if someone else would take over what I have toiled for all my life.”

     

    I felt for him. With the way he talked about the company, I knew instantly that he really loved the company. Though I noted this, I saw no reason why all these should affect me. Surely the Senator’s threat was not real, was it? “I still don’t see why you are telling me this” I said to him and his face softened slowly, with embarrassment creeping in slightly.

     

    “You can’t leave this house, you have to stay”

     

    I inhaled as anger set in again. “You want me to stay? Sacrifice my happiness and freedom for you? Just because you want to keep your company? How dare you?” he really had a lot of nerves. “You have given me nothing but sadness. If not for this child, I would have cursed the day I set my eyes on you. Where is Corper Bello, because this man standing before me is not the man I met in my humble village” I ranted as I paced too.

     

    A pained expression seemed to cross his features but it was gone in a second. “I am sorry, I know this is selfish of me but please look at it positively. Your parents would still disown you if you leave me and you would have nowhere to go in this large city. You could stay here instead, have a roof over your head and food also” he started pacing as if he could not believe the words coming out of his own mouth. “It is your only choice cos I won’t give you a divorce”

     

     

     

    I laughed softly. “You think that would stop me?” I asked. “I would rather live on the streets than be a maid in my husband’s house”

     

    “You don’t have to be a maid. You would be recognized as the… woman of the house. You would have your own room upstairs, including everything you need” he rasped in irritation.

     

    I swallowed. “But there is one thing I cannot have, right? I can’t have my husband” I said.

     

    He nodded. “We would both live together but have the freedom to do whatever we like. You have the right to go anywhere and do anything you like with anyone and I also have the same rights. We can be mature enough to manage this situation we found ourselves without inconveniencing each other in any way”

     

    “In other words, you want us to live in the same house like tenants, or strangers, right?” I asked bitterly.

     

    “You must admit that it makes perfect sense” he said.

     

    The drama just never seemed to end. From being a maid, to being a housemate in my husband’s house. Can life get any worse? I sighed. But thinking about it, the proposition was not totally bad. In fact, it sounded ok. Once I get rid of the ridiculous motion that Alex would come to love me as much as I still foolishly love him, I should be able to live by those rules. I swallowed. “Ok” I murmured finally, feeling the last of my strength drain out of me.

     

    He exhaled in relief. “Perfect then. Please ask Tina to show you to one of the rooms upstairs. There are four rooms there, you can choose anyone you like” he said in total indifference. I have to go out now, when I get back, I would give you a credit card for you to use for whatever you might need. I would also have a lawyer draft an agreement in order to make this arrangement legal. This would protect both our rights. I hope this is ok?” he asked and I nodded numbly. He turned towards the door instantly and was out of the house within seconds.

     

    I did not know what a credit card is but I let him leave. I have had more than enough and I needed some space to assimilate the turn of events. I knew instinctively that Alex was probably going after the saucy girlfriend but I quenched the bitterness I felt at the thought. Since I have agreed to this insane arrangement, I would most likely experience this s on a regular basis. And the legal agreement he talked about would definitely give him the legal rights to do that; I surely hadn’t seen that coming. I turned on my heels, walking slowly towards the kitchen. There was only one thing I wanted to do with the last iota of strength in me.

     

    I got to the kitchen and met the two ladies looking as though they had just fallen into a ditch. I was sorry for keeping this away from Tina who had been extremely helpful from day one. They both looked scared but Tola looked like she wished the ground would swallow her. There was no mistaking the fact that they had heard everything. I smiled. “Tola, I want you to select a very good room for me upstairs, preferably anyone that has a good view of the beautiful garden. Make sure it is sparkling clean without a speck of dust, do you understand?” she was silent. I glared at her. “Do you understand me?” she nodded stiffly and I smiled. “Good girl”.

    I smiled softly at Tina and left the kitchen.

     

    I pray for everyone reading this story, God will turn your life around for good in the eyes of your enemies and make them your stepping stone in Jesus name.

    Episode 8

    I smiled softly at Tina and left the kitchen. The excitement of taking everyone by surprise vanished with each step I took, replaced firmly by an overwhelming sadness. By accepting this arrangement, I have given Alex the right to hurt me the more. Since we could both do anything we liked, I knew that he would take advantage of that by having as many women as he liked. I closed my eyes and prayed that I would have the ability to withstand what was to come.

    =========

     

    Two weeks dragged by and the swell of my tummy became visible for all to see. Unfortunately, the only things that saw the swell apart from me were the four walls of my bedroom and the sparkling furniture that were hung in several places.

     

    Alex had brought the agreement, just like he talked about, two weeks ago and I had signed instantly, wanting to get the deal over with. Ever since I endorsed the document, I have not set my eyes on him. It was not surprising since I almost never stepped out of the room. I had everything I needed there; the soft warm bed, the enticing bathroom which I learnt had hot and cold water a fingertip away and a refreshing view of the soothing garden from my window. I initially paid Tola back in her own coin, making her do everything, ranging from washing my rag-like clothes, to washing the bed sheets every blessed day. It was not much work since I learnt that they used a machine to do all these, but the fact that I was ordering her around was enough to frustrate her. It was not long before I grew weary of this because it was not in my nature to have people do the chores for me, so I decided to apply maturity by allowing Tola have her space. She was surely regretting her earlier actions, it seemed unnecessary to add more fuel to the fire.

     

     

     

    Tina was helpful as usual, never letting me rest. She tried to see me as the madam that I was but I was not comfortable with it. Living big was so strange, it was almost scary, and I needed a friend to stand by me. After carefully schooling her and letting her know that I would rather have her as a friend than my maid, she finally gave in, though, she still showed great levels of respect.

     

    Tina has been responsible for making sure that I eat, and she would talk me to death if I don’t eat anything. It was annoying sometimes but many times, it was refreshing because it felt good that at least someone cared for me. I wondered why my mum hadn’t visited. If my dad didn’t visit, it would be great in saving me mental and physical stress but I needed my mum more than I could express. Even though she behaved too soft many times, making other people ride her easily, I still loved her so much. And despite my dad’s awkward behaviors, I still loved him nonetheless, but would be happy to avoid him for some time. Our poverty state seemed to have changed his mentality.

     

    I sighed and rolled off the bed to answer nature’s call. I had been urinating a lot and Tina attributed it to the pregnancy. After releasing the content in my bladder into the water closet and flushing, I walked back into the room. I heard a knock and instinctively knew it was Tina. I had grown so accustomed to her knocking pattern.

     

    “Come in Tina” I said as I sat on the bed carefully. The dizziness had gone, thank God and my appetite was improving, thanks to Tina’s unrelenting efforts.

    Tina entered with a big smile on her face which effectively made me smile also. I was just so blessed to have her at a time like this. “Good morning. How is my madam doing today?”

     

    I smiled. “My name is Amara. How many times would I repeat that?” I asked softly. The tray in her hands caught my eyes and my mouth watered when the tantalizing aroma assaulted my nostrils. Whatever was in that tray would definitely be devoured by me because I heard my tummy groan in response to the aroma. My child seemed to jump up in excitement.

     

    She grinned. “You may be my friend but you are still my boss. You can perceive the aroma, right?” she asked knowingly. She was the best cook I had ever seen. I vowed to learn how to make some of the complicated delicacies from her, as soon as I am able to get myself off this mess.

     

     

     

    “This aroma is more than enough to awaken my taste buds.” I murmured, with my mouth salivating as she lowered the tray.

     

    “Thank God, I won’t have to force it down your throat” she said with a smile. Immediately she opened up the glass plate, I confirmed my suspicion. There was a large piece of deep fried chicken, which was largely responsible for the aroma. A small quantity of jollof rice was beside it, and I noticed the fried plantain with great joy.

     

    I smiled wholeheartedly. “I see you are bent on making me happy today” I said.

     

    She nodded. “I can’t have you starve the little angel in your tummy, can I?”

     

    I dismissed her words and started eating immediately. Tina sat by the bed, watching me eat, with a calm smile on her face. “If this is what it takes to make you eat, I might cook this everyday”

     

    I nodded vigorously with my mouth full. I truly would not mind this delicacy, if it tastes like this all the time.

     

    She looked at me softly. “I was actually planning to ask you something” she said and I nodded my head for her to continue. “Are you not going for antenatal care?” she asked.

     

    I raised my brow. “What is antenatal care?” I asked ignorantly.

     

    Her eyes widened as though she could not quite believe her ears, but she soon wiped out the facial expression. “Oh, antenatal care is used by hospitals to monitor and guide pregnant women through the stages of pregnancy” she said.

     

    I almost stopped eating. “I have never heard of it. Hope it is not too late” fear gripped my heart at the thought that something might have happened to my child.

     

    “Of course not. I can follow you to a hospital this evening if you like” she offered.

     

    “Of course. Thanks Tina” I said gratefully and she smiled.

     

     

    I pulled my faded gown over my head as stared at the full length mirror. The gentle swell of my tummy brought joy to my soul. Notwithstanding what I was going though, my child was my happiness and I have made the habit of talking to my child before I sleep, believing that the fetus could hear everything I said. This would be the first time I am stepping out of the house and there was a tiny feeling of excitement. My hair was pulled tight into a pony tail and I turned away from the mirror, not looking at myself for a long time. I stared at the credit card that Alex gave me two weeks ago. How could there be money in this plastic card? I wondered vaguely. I picked it up nonetheless. I hoped that Tina would be able to use it since we might be needing money.

     

    I climbed down the staircase and found Tina waiting for me. Even in a maid’s cloth, her appearance was way better than mine but I did not give a d--n. I would be damned if I would accept Alex’s money for my own personal expenses. I would only take whatever is necessary if my child is involved.

     

    We walked to the door together talking quietly and out of the corner of my eyes; I caught Tola staring at us. I paused slightly and turned to Tola. “Please take care of the house, we would be back soon”

     

    “Yes ma” she said bitterly.

     

    I turned and proceeded out of the house with Tina. “Do you think you can walk? The hospital is not far but if you can’t handle the walk, we can ask a driver to take us”

     

    I laughed. “Oh Tina, the pregnancy is not on my feet. If I can’t walk now, what would happen when I am nine months gone? I am sure I would not be able to lift a finger.”

     

    She laughed and we both started down the beautiful street. I stared shamelessly at the beautiful surroundings and decided that taking a stroll every morning would be a fantastic idea. It would be good to leave the depressing house every morning, I told myself. It did not take long for us to get to the hospital. I went through the registration process and was made to take lectures with many pregnant women. It was refreshing to see women who were also pregnant, especially the heavy ones who looked like they were carrying nothing less than a dozen children in their tummy. I wondered what I would look like in the next six to seven months. I smiled at the thought. I might look three times my current size but I did not care. I was always a lover of children and the thought of having my own was too exciting a thought; I would not let thoughts of the child’s father kill that silent joy.

     

     

     

    Before leaving the hospital hours later, a female doctor approached me. “Hi” she said with a soft smile.

     

    I was in a really good mood for the first time in a very long time, so I smiled gaily at her. “Hello doctor”

     

    “I don’t think I have seen you here before” the nurse said.

     

    Tina smiled. “Actually, she is new in the environment” she said hastily.

     

    The doctor smiled kindly. “Oh. Have you done your scan?” she asked and my heart froze. I definitely knew what a scan was, through extensive reading. But what I did not know was if I was ready to know the sex of my child.

     

    “I… I don’t think…erm…” I stammered in anxiety.

     

    Tina faced me. “Actually, that is a very good idea ma’am” her brows creased in a frown. “Why not? It would help you know the kind of clothes to buy. You might even be carrying twins” she squealed in sudden excitement.

     

    I fidgeted with my gown in anxiety. She really had a point, and a part of me really wanted to know. In fact, all of me wanted to know. My only wish was that the man I loved was there with me holding my hands. I swallowed, quickly changing my line of thoughts. I smiled weakly at the doctor. “Can I do it now?”

     

    She nodded excitedly. “I am sure you would be glad you did the scan.” She said. “Come with me”

     

    I followed her and the presence of Tina was really a life saver. I did not know why I was so agitated. Probably because a part of me knew without a doubt that the child would be a boy. I swallowed. It was also probably because the scan would remind me vividly of the time the life in my tummy was created. How Alex worshipped me with his hands, body and words. I concentrated on breathing properly as the doctor led me to bed in the lab. I lay on the bed with my heart pounding and fixed my wide eyes on the screen ahead of me. Tina was standing beside me, hopping anxiously too. The doctor did some things on my tummy and an image appeared on the screen. My heart skipped and raced wildly as tears came to my eyes. I saw my baby! My baby! My thoughts centered on the life growing in me as my love for my child grew several degrees.

     

    “Oh so cute” Tina cooed and jumped like a four year old girl. I wiped my tears which was making my vision blurry and fixed one hundred percent attention on the child. Oh, how could I not love the child?

     

    “A boy right?” I gasped out. Even my voice sounded strange in my ears. I swallowed hard.

     

    “Yes. A boy” the doctor grinned happily. The baby turned slightly, as though in confirmation. I gasped and my hands flew to my tummy as my eyes blurred with tears again.

     

    “My baby. My baby boy”

     

     

    I entered our large house several minutes later. Today had to be the best day of my life. I was bubbling with excitement. I was having a baby boy! Wow. The thought was so pleasant. Tina was right. Right now, all I could think about was clothes. I wanted to buy so many clothes for my child, and I tapped the credit card in my hand with excitement. I could not wait to buy tiny clothes for my baby boy.

     

    I opened the door to the sitting room and entered. As soon as I stepped fully into the sitting room, I froze. Tina almost bumped into me but I was not looking at her. My gaze was fixed on Alex and the woman with him.

     

    Coolval stories .. Everything I had experienced during the day evaporated as I stared at them. I had avoided Alex for several days, why did he have to show up today of all days? That was not as annoying as the fact that he was with that lady w---e. The very same one he brought the other day. I wondered why she went back to him after knowing fully well that he was married. She really had no shame. Anger coerced through me and I felt Tina touch my arm softly but I snubbed her. I approached the two people who apparently were too busy caressing one another to notice my presence.

     

    I raised my voice. “Like I said the last time, you both should be sensible enough to restrict your shameful act to the bedroom” I yelled, gaining their attention at once.

     

    Alex’s gaze pierced through me and instantly, the agreement I had signed came to my mind. I froze slightly as I swallowed. I had thought this would happen but why did it feel like a knife was been stabbed into my soul?

     

    The girl rose from Alex’s lap, seeming more confident than she was last time. She smiled like a serpent as she ran her gaze over me, stopping on the slight swell of my tummy. I placed my hand on the evidence of my superiority in the house. She smiled.

     

    “I wonder what Alex saw in you. You look worse than a one night stand. But don’t think that because of this thing in your tummy and that wedding band, you have won” she grinned. “On the contrary, you have just signed your death warrant because I would make your life hell on earth. Apparently, I have Alex’s heart” she said with a grin and turned to gaze at Alex. “And I have something else” she continued frighteningly. “I also have his seed growing in me”

     

    The rotation of the earth seemed to stop at that. Alex seemed to have gone pale. The little witch placed her hand tenderly on her flat tummy. “I accepted you back because of this Alex. I would have told you the other day but this thing showed up and shattered everything. Since then, I decided I would like to have her in audience when I break the good news.” She paused slightly and then grinned happily, with her eyes shining. “I am pregnant Alex”

    Episode 9

    “What?” Alex looked terribly pale, like he was going to fall sick. I must look exactly that way too, if not worse. My jaw seemed to have dropped to the ground as shock waves sliced through my veins.

     

    Instantly, I remembered her name – Lisa. How nice! Now, I was to be subjected to having a polygamous family? I could not quite believe it, it took several minutes, or hours but I finally found the courage to close my mouth.

     

    “Yes Alex” Lisa said, jumping happily like a girl who had just been given a Christmas dress. “You are going to be a father, my love” she said to the white-faced Alex.

     

    I could not stand this. My legs almost unbuckled beneath me. This was just too much. In fact, I had been dealing with ‘too much’ of everything since I met Alex. How could I have been stupid enough to fall in love with this man? Yeah, you can’t tell the heart who to love, but as I thought about it, I realized just how unfair that was. Why shouldn’t I be able to dictate who I fall in love with? It was just so unfair. How many more people would get pregnant through this man? Tears spilled down my eyes. I looked at Alex who still hasn’t been able to utter a single word.

     

    “What on earth did I do to deserve this Corper” I cried out in agony. “You should have just put a knife through my chest instead of this slow torture you are putting me through” I fought for control but found none. Alex sat looking spineless, like he was in a state of shock. “Well, you have another baby in the making, congratulations daddy. It seems you are now a baby-making factory”

     

    I turned and almost tripped as I ran upstairs. The tears blinded my gaze but I just let my legs lead the way as I raced into my room. I slammed the door violently behind me and collapsed against the door, crying my eyes out. “Oh God” I cried. Why me? We have been ordered not to question God but all I have in my head is loads of unanswered questions. Now, there was no doubt in my mind that I had lost Alex. My Alex is dead and all I have left is a complete womanizing stranger. Would they also get married? I swallowed hard as the possibility came to view. Oh no, this is definitely a living nightmare.

     

     

     

    I dragged myself to the bed as depression set in. where the hell were my parents? I should have left when I had the chance. I should not have allowed Alex to change my mind with tempting incentives. I should have known that nothing good comes out of the lion’s den.

     

    As I sobbed quietly into the pillow, I heard a knock. Without studying the knock pattern, I knew it was Tina. “I don’t want anything Tina, please go away” I said with little or no strength. The door opened and I turned to glare at her. I knew she would not listen. That is the price I had to pay for having her close to me. “I said I don’t need anything” I yelled.

     

    She looked so sad and sympathetic. “But you would need the company” she said.

     

    “I don’t need anything. ANYTHING. Leave me alone Tina” I barked.

     

    She swallowed and moved towards me instead of going out. Oh Crap! I just never get what I want, do i? I just wanted to die.

     

    She sat beside my head and the expression on my face was enough to make me cry all over again. “You can get me fired afterwards but I won’t leave you to wallow in pain.” She said softly. Her words made me cry anew and she pulled me till my head was on her laps. She ran her fingers through my packed hair as she whispered consolatory words.

     

    “What did I ever do to deserve this torture Tina? What?” I cried, like she had the answer to that. “If I hadn’t slept with Alex, my life would be in shape now. I am the only cause of my problems. Me. Only me. I wish I would just die”

     

    “Shhh… Don’t say that.” Tina whispered. “A wise man once told me that if we continue to blame ourselves for our past mistakes, we would be making another mistake. We all make mistakes but we must get past them and move on. I know you can” she whispered.

     

    I could not measure my level of respect for her then but I was totally shattered. “I can’t. I feel trapped and helpless.”

     

    “Yes you can” She said strongly. “I know you can. Think about your baby. Your adorable baby boy. He is relying on your strength; you can’t afford to fail him. You can do this” she whispered. The mention of my baby instantly got my attention. Tina was absolutely right. I could not afford to despair, not when my depression could affect my baby. “Whenever Mr Alex gives you a reason to be sad, just think about your child.” She whispered.

     

     

     

    I controlled my sob until I was left with a few sniffs. “Thanks Tina. I don’t know what I would have done without you” I said.

     

    “I am here to help ma’am. You would be fine”

     

    I smiled surprisingly. “Do you think you could ever call me Amara?” I asked.

     

    I felt her smile without seeing her. “I don’t know”

     

     

    Mr Peters glared furiously at his wife. She was seriously a pain in the neck. Many times, he had wondered why he had married such a dumb woman, because time and again, she never failed to prove to him that she was a first degree fool. He wondered if their perpetual state of poverty had destroyed her ability to think well. The difference between he and his wife was that his wife was not only poor but she was also thinking poor. What is wrong in geering your brain into moneymaking thoughts? The woman was just being a total stumbling block on his road to success.

     

    “Listen to me woman, I have come this far and would never allow your stupidity to hinder my financial breakthrough” He barked at his wife. “Look at this house” he waved his hands at the tastefully furnished house that the Senator had rented for them after a few persuasions. “Don’t you like to live a good and normal life? Don’t you think we have suffered enough? This house is the product of my smart thinking. You should also do something useful with your brain. My request is simple. Talk to Amara. Encourage her to take advantage of Alex’s wealth. If she does, we can set up a business. You can start selling something and our family would be ok”

     

    Amara’s mum glared back at her husband. “How can you say that Papa Amara? It is our daughter’s life and happiness that we are talking about here. She is not happy in that house and you know it. That Alex is a b and I am sure he is maltreating my Amara. Let me go and see my daughter”

     

    Mr Peters decided to go soft. “Who told you she is not happy? Money brings happiness. Now, she can buy everything she needs, do everything she wants, go anywhere she wants. What else can she ask for?” He asked, waving his hands.

     

    “Money cannot buy happiness” Amara’s mother almost yelled.

     

    “But it can rent it” Mr. Peter countered. “Whatever you can’t buy, you can borrow” he said. “Listen to me woman, I am ordering you to do this. Talk some sense into Amara , she listens to you. Do your part in this family, or else, I would get angry, and what you have been trying to hide for years would be out in the open for Amara to see.”

     

    As usual, this got her attention. “Do you always have to blackmail me with this?” She asked in pain.

     

    “What I am doing is for our good Mama Amara, stop being stubborn. Do what I say and we would both be happy.”

     

     

    I stayed in my room throughout that day. The following morning, Tina brought breakfast to my room. I decided then that I would reduce Tina’s work by getting my breakfast myself. I also needed to start doing some chores. It would help get over my constant depression. With strong determination to get over my depression, I decided to go for a stroll during the late hours of the morning. The stroll proved helpful because the street was so beautiful. My mind constantly went to my problems but I changed those thoughts as soon as they came.

     

    I sighted a beautiful flower by the sidewalk and stopped. The flower was so captivating, with a hint of pink, yellow and white. My fingers traced the beautiful flower in amazement and I soon got lost in thoughts. Alex came to my mind and this time, I was not able to shut out the thought. He had given me a flower that looked similar to this in the village. I had been on my way to the stream when he suddenly popped out of the bush. It had been frightening but once I saw that it was him, my fear disappeared. i knew he could never hurt me. How wrong! If only I knew the level of hurt he had in store for me… he had walked with me to the stream and had surprised me by picking out a stunning flower from the bush. It was the most romantic gesture any man had ever shown me.

    “A penny for your thoughts”

     

    I jumped in fright, taking my hands away from the flower. Before me stood a man, who was smiling softly. I blinked rapidly, coming back to my senses.

     

    “I am sorry to have startled you, it was not my intention” he said apologetically.

     

     

     

    I swallowed. To say this guy was handsome would definitely be a huge understatement. He looked just as breathtaking as his deep baritone voice. He was not as tall as Alex but he was definitely tall with broad shoulders and masculine muscles which were clearly visible through the clingy top he had on. No one should have the right to look this good. As I assessed him, his face broke into a blinding grin which brought one dimple to view. I swallowed hard when I realized what was happening. The guy was obviously aware of his breathtaking outlook. Can I ever stop being an idiot? Did I learn nothing from the father of my unborn child? My face came up with a scowl.

     

    “I hope you like what you see” the guy said, grinning. Jeez, did he know just how handsome he looked when his sparkling white teeth were in full display?

     

    I glared at him. “People should learn to run far away from good-looking things”. Where had that come from? This guy hadn’t done anything wrong.

     

    His grin seemed to increase. “Well then, I am glad that I am not a ‘thing’” he murmured. “My name is Kelvin” he stretched his hand for a handshake.

     

    Oh men! Their effrontery and arrogance knows no bounds. I stared at his outstretched hand for a long time before I turned, heading back home and leaving him standing with his hand still stretched out. I did not give a d--n if he was hurt by my rude actions. One man was more than enough to tell me that all men had evil agendas, I would be damned if I allowed myself to fall into the same pit twice.

     

    “It is nice to meet you” he yelled after me. “Just so you know, you are more beautiful than that flower”

     

    I swallowed and walked home without a backward glance. Men! I thought again, bitterly. All they ever think about is getting between your legs. Even though this Kelvin of a guy never said a thing to suggest sex, I knew that was what he was after, because that is what all men are after.

     

    I stepped into our compound, still trying to keep my anger towards men at bay but immediately I opened the door to the sitting room, my thoughts and anger evaporated.

    I stared in surprise. “Mum?”

    Episode 10

    Mum and I sat facing each other in silence. I had gone through the hasty motions of ensuring that she had been well entertained, but it was unnecessary because Tina had taken care of that for me before I arrived. Mum had practically jumped on my shocked form when I entered the sitting room, then she had righted herself, considering my condition, I suppose. But after getting over the sudden rush of excitement I felt at seeing my mother, different emotions set in. curiosity was the first, followed speedily by hurt and anger. I had stayed in the house for several weeks and she had not thought it necessary to visit till now. My pregnancy definitely had some good impacts on my parents’ appearance, I noted when I saw her clothes. I could believe it if it were my father, but my mother? I thought she really loved me.

     

    My mother was silent and I noticed that she fidgeted slightly with the costly Igbo rapper she had on. “This house is massive Amarachi. One can get lost in it”

     

    Oh! Now it is Amarachi! I thought vaguely. I could count on my head, the times that my mother called my full name, and those times were really awkward. “Yes, it is really big” I replied stonily.

     

    She swallowed. “I can imagine. Knowing your husband’s family influence, the size of this house is expected” she said, looking around as though fascinated, without meeting my gaze.

     

    I nodded wordlessly. Unable to hold it any longer, I voiced my thoughts.

    “What are you doing here mum?”

     

    She shifted uneasily. “So it is ‘mum’ now, no longer ‘mama’?” she asked.

     

     

     

    I breathed impatiently. “Tina told me that ‘Mum’ is a more civilized way of calling your mother” I answered. “That is not the point. What are you doing here?”

     

    She looked me straight in the eye.

    “Don’t I have the right to come and visit my own daughter?” she asked, as though offended.

     

    I forcefully put my anger under control. It seemed that my life has become full of anger ever since I met Alex. Or rather, ever since I got pregnant for him.

    “You have the right mama; I just wonder why you took so long to recognize your rights. I am pregnant mum. Did you not think that I would need you? I have never been pregnant before, but you have. Many times, I needed motherly advices but you were not there to help me.” I ranted and my hurt became obvious.

     

    She shifted again and her eyes clouded. I averted my gaze instantly, not wanting her emotions to get me off track.

    “I am sorry my daughter. God knows I wanted to visit you. I never wanted to leave you alone”

     

    “But what mama? Let me guess, papa did not allow you.” I voiced the obvious.

     

    She looked at me quietly for some seconds. “Don’t think I am a fool Amara. I know what you mean, and I feel insulted. I never taught you to be disrespectful, especially to your own mother” she said sternly and instantly, I knew I had gone overboard. I was hurt by my mother’s neglect but I knew without a doubt that she loved me a lot. She always stood up for me but everything changed immediately I got pregnant. She turned to something akin to a jelly fish. I had never seen this side of my mother, and I wondered what happened to her. She had never been much of a talkative and it was obvious that my dad lords it over her but it seemed to have gone terribly worse ever since I got pregnant. A single glance from my father was enough to turn her into an overcooked vegetable. I wondered what caused this but that did not take away the hurt I was feeling. I felt alone.

     

    “I am sorry mum”. Silence reigned again. This was definitely awkward. We seemed more like strangers, instead of the mother and daughter that we were and did not like the feeling at all. She looked at me for some seconds and seemed to grow much more fragile than she already looked.

     

     

     

    “I am sorry I have not been here for you” she said with watery eyes. “I never meant to hurt you my dear, but I wanted to give you time to balance things with your husband. You would agree that your marriage was pretty unusual, I thought it would be best if both of you stayed together without any disturbances”

     

    I swallowed. It was a very sensible explanation, I thought. One would expect that living with Alex would at least lessen the pregnancy tension; if only they knew the true situation of things.

     

    I stared at my mother and put a small smile on my face. Although it irritated me that she hadn’t visited, I couldn’t express how happy I was that her appearance was splendid. The clothes she had on were nothing compared to the rags she used to wear in the village.

     

    “You are looking good mum” I said truthfully.

     

    She did not smile, she even seemed pained. “But you are not, my dear”

     

    I swallowed.

    “Amara; is your husband not giving you enough money to take care of yourself?” she asked. I noticed the tiny trace of anger and hatred that crept into her voice.

     

    “I do not need his money” I said smoothly.

     

    “But you should. Look at yourself Amara” she traced my body with her eyes. “You do not befit this house in these clothes. I can see that that husband of yours does not have feelings for you my daughter. You should take advantage of this situation, take as much as you want from him, so that you can leave his house as fast as you can”

     

    Oh no! “Mama” I called, “did papa ask you to come here to deliver this lecture?” I asked in shock. This was the last thing I expected from my mother.

    “Were you not the one that taught me that money and wealth should not be allowed to cloud our senses? Have you forgotten those lectures mother? How can you ask me to do this?” My voice rose. I stood and paced and sat back down in total confusion.

     

    She stood up and came to sit beside me, holding my gaze. “Amarachi, you are my daughter, and I know what is best for you. Yes, your father suggested this and I argued against it” considering her recent attitudes, I highly doubted that last statement but I kept mute, staring at my mother like she was some sort of stranger. “I argued it but immediately I got here and saw you looking tired and lean, I knew it was not a totally bad idea. True, I taught you the values of integrity and self-respect, but you have to admit that I never envisaged you getting pregnant out of wedlock for a man like Alex.” She swallowed slightly.

    “He is maltreating you Ama. You have to think of money now because you are not the only one involved. You have your baby to think about. If you leave empty handed, what would you use to raise a child? Tell me” she demanded fiercely.

     

    “I never said I was leaving this place mama” I said dryly.

     

    She started. “But… But you cannot be satisfied with the way he is treating you. You are in the same old clothes you took from the village Amara, and he does not care”

     

    “I am in my old clothes because I wanted it that way.” I countered.

     

    “I would not let you stay here Amara; I would not allow you hurt yourself and my grandchild with this foolishness. The man clearly does not care about you, why stay with him?” she asked in bewilderment.

     

    I smiled in sudden irritation. “It is rather late for all these mama; I would not be married to him in the first place if you had been this aggressive with papa. I am a married woman now and I am not ready to get a divorce. Don’t worry about my marriage, I can handle it myself. Something tells me that you have your own issues to fix mama” My voice softened. My mum had really changed; even the blind would see it.

    “What is going on mama? Is there something that I need to know?” I asked worriedly.

     

    She shifted nervously again and I felt the great urge to hug her. Before I could control myself, I hugged my mum tight. She seemed stunned at first, later, she melted into me. She held me so tight like she thought I might vanish.

     

    “You can tell me anything mum” I whispered.

    “I know that I am still a small girl and may not have any word of advice to give but maybe if I listen to you, it would make you feel better”

     

     

     

    She withdrew suddenly. Her eyes seemed unusually bright as she pasted a fake smile on her pale face.

    “I can handle my problems dear, my focus is on you. I want to help you my girl. I want to put a smile on your sweet face again” she said desperately, holding my face, and I could see that she really meant it. I looked at my mum in concern. I did not like the pain and struggle that was obvious in the haunted look in her eyes. I felt the deep desire to get rid of her problems. If I could only do that, I would get my old ‘mama’ back and she might be able to help me through my own problems

     

    “Let’s make a deal. Tell me what is troubling you and I would do whatever you want” I said with determination. She froze slightly, blinked and stood up instantly. She looked around, searching for something.

     

    “Oh, it is getting late. I need to head back. I need to make your dad’s meal. If not, he would be hungry, and you know your father, he would be furious ”

     

    “Mum?”

     

    She ignored me and went to pick her small purse. I reluctantly sighed and dropped the subject and stood up.

    “Take care of yourself my daughter, my visits would be frequent now, I need to monitor you now that your tummy is beginning to rise.” She placed her hand tenderly on the rise of my belly.

    “Take care of my grandchild, ok?” I nodded. She swallowed slightly.

    “Think about what I said Amara, you deserve all the good things you can get” she said.

     

    I warded off the last sentence and hugged her tight. “I am here if you need me mama” I said affectionately. She nodded without looking at me and made for the door.

     

    I entered the house after seeing her off and made for my room. It had been a long day and a cool bed seemed like a really pleasant idea. As I entered the room, I instead made for the window which overlooked the beautiful garden. I felt confused to say the least. Dad had talked about this, having my mother buttress that point again was unsettling. The sight of the garden calmed me down but could not erase my confusion and helplessness. I heard a knock and instantly told Tina to enter.

     

    She entered and I turned to face her. “Your mother is a lovely woman” she said with a smile.

     

    I smiled back. “Yes. She is definitely lovely”

     

    “She is right, you know?”

     

    “Excuse me?”

     

    She swallowed and shifted from one leg to the other. “I… I am sorry, I”

     

    “You were eavesdropping our conversation” I cut in.

     

    “I am really sorry, I did not mean to. I was in the laundery and… well… your voice was loud enough. I could not stop myself from listening even if I wanted to” she explained.

     

    Currently, all I wanted to do was put her in her place, but that would not be fair. She had been there when I had nobody and it would be bad if I made her feel like a maid now, despite the fact that I made her compulsorily see me as a friend. Besides, I knew for a fact that my voice tends to increase in pitch whenever I am angry. Hearing the conversation would have been very easy.

     

    I reigned in my anger. “And what is she right about?” The last thing I needed was for someone else to agree with my parents. With the way things were going, I had a feeling that I was about to get just that.

     

    “You need to buy new clothes. Mr. Alex is rich; you should take advantage of it. Miss Lisa would be visiting constantly now that she is pregnant, you don’t stand a chance in these clothes. I am sure you would be prettier than her if you are properly dressed” she ranted.

     

    “What you are saying is that I don’t look pretty because I am not in fancy clothes, right?” I asked angrily.

     

    “No. No. you look beautiful in anything but you would look better in fancy clothes” she tried to explain.

     

    “Oh, so you want me to extort money from my husband, just like my mother said?” I asked again. My anger seemed uncontrollable now.

     

     

     

    She swallowed. “Look at it objectively ma’am. You are married to Mr. Alex, so whatever he has is yours. You are not extorting money from him; you are taking what rightfully belongs to you. I am sure he is aware of that, which is the reason why he gave you a credit card. Secondly, you have a competition, in person of Miss Lisa. You need to be able to fight for your man and… I am sorry ma; I don’t think you can effectively do that in these clothes”

     

    “Now listen to me” I retorted sharply. “I am not taking a single penny from Alex for myself because I am not a selfish luxury-seeking girl. Neither am I ready to get into a beauty contest with that good for nothing prostitute because of Alex. He saw me in these rags when he approached me in the village, if he can’t love me like this, fine. I don’t care. I care only for my child.” I took a deep relaxing breathe. “I won’t want to get angry with you Tina over Alex, please don’t ever talk to me about this again”

     

    She swallowed. “Yes ma” she murmured.

     

     

    Tola paced her room. “I can’t continue to take this” she murmured. She had suddenly become a shadow in the house and Tina was blooming by the minute. She had become good friends with the madam, thanks to her brain. Tola could not comprehend the shock she had experienced when she realized that the maid she had been victimizing was her own madam. She had wished the ground would swallow her alive at the revelation, but that alone could not be compared at all to the humiliation that followed. Tola was sure that nothing in life could be that humiliating. But after going through weeks of being totally ignored by everyone in the house, she started feeling hatred towards everyone. Hatred for Amara who had made herself a thorn in her flesh, by asking her to do most of the chores. Hatred and jealousy towards Tina who was in the madam’s favor. She knew without a doubt that Amara would give Tina anything she asked for.

     

    Tola felt her blood boil. She wondered how she could take revenge. She wanted to make the two of them pay for making her life miserable. Making the two of them turn against each other would be a good start, she thought. After thinking about it for some time, she nodded.” It would be a good start”.

    Episode 11

    The slight noise I heard coming from the sitting room the next day was enough to rouse my attention and lift my eyes from the book I was occupying myself with. I had been advised by the hospital nurses to get the book titled ‘Every Woman’ and Tina had helped me purchase it from a nearby bookshop. The book proved to possess a lot of stunning information, however, as I read it to divert my depressing thoughts, the continuous noise from the sitting room was proving a strong distraction. I placed the book on my bed, opened face down, in order to know where I stopped. I opened the door to my bedroom and walked curiously down the stairs. Alex’s voice became clear to me even before I got to the stairs, and then I heard her voice.

     

    “Oh no” I whispered. “Do I have to deal with this witch again?” I asked, like answers would come from the walls. I got to the stairs and what I saw below was enough to make me take the stairs two at a time, without minding my condition. There were boxes sprawled everywhere almost enough to fill the massive sitting room. I watched absently as Alex monitored the movements of the traveling boxes, looking overwhelmingly tired. The driver was also there, with Tina and Tola, carrying out the orders of Alex and Lisa. Despite the exhausted expressions of everyone there, Lisa, on the other hand, looked like a magazine model in her trouser gown. I did not have the time to even envy her beauty as I landed on solid ground and confronted the rather confusing scene.

     

    “What is going on here?” I interrupted their subtle conversation.

     

    Lisa smiled at me. “What does it look like?” she asked with a satisfied superior look on her face.

     

     

     

    I cast a glance around. “It certainly looks like someone is about to open a box selling business. What I don’t know is if this house would be the shop” I said smugly.

     

    “Well, I don’t blame your slow brain. You never did go beyond secondary school after all. Oh wait! You did not even finish secondary school” she laughed heartily and I felt my anger rise. I so wanted to grab her weave-on and tear it off her scalp. I forcefully looked beyond her at Alex who was also looking at me.

     

    “She is moving in Amara” he mouthed.

     

    “Excuse me?”

     

    Lisa grinned as she stared at my pale face. “You heard him, or do you have ear defects also? I am moving in. Just as you can’t afford to have your b child in your parent’s house, or hut, as the case may be, I have no intention of delivering my precious little angel…” she rubbed her flat tummy. “… Outside the father’s house” she smiled at Alex. “Our wedding arrangements are ongoing and I believe we would be married soon” she declared.

     

    The very ground rocked under my feet as I stared unseeing at the pair in front of me. I went rock still and Lisa, after waiting fruitlessly for a response, turned to Alex. “I think we should take these bags upstairs now.”

     

    “You are out of your mind if you think you would be living here” I countered. “Are you crazy?” I roared. “No, correction. Are you both crazy? You seem to think I am a fool, right?”

     

    Alex looked angry but Lisa was quick to talk. “No. I don’t think you are a fool, I know you are. You think I won’t live here?” she laughed. “Watch me” she mouthed. I swallowed and blinked back angry tears. It is times like this that I wish I wasn’t so emotional. Why on earth should I cry at this junction? Anger at myself and the delectable two in front of me almost ran me mad. Lisa pecked Alex on the cheeks and played with top button of his shirt, tracing his chest in the process. “Am I going to be staying in your room with you?” she asked with a coy smile and my ears suddenly started working perfectly.

     

    Alex went still for a nanosecond, and then shook his head. “These bags, coupled with my own clothes would make the room clumsy. You can choose any room you want” he said. She looked disappointed for some seconds, then she seemed to brighten up like a fresh idea had popped into her head.

     

     

     

    “Any room?” she asked again and he nodded.

    I swallowed. He had said the same thing to me. What the hell was going on here? I had stated once that he was probably a baby-making factory; I couldn’t have been more accurate. I wondered how many women would pour into the house, claiming that Alex was breeding a new life in their womb. Tears of hurt burned in my eyes as Lisa ran upstairs like an excited puppy. “I am going to choose the best room, the best” she squealed as she went.

     

    I faced Alex who did not even spare me a glance. He dismissed me like I was not even relevant and my anger bubbled. “Are you not going to offer an explanation for what is going on here Alex?” I bellowed as confused angry tears rolled down my cold cheeks.

     

    He looked bored when he turned to face me. “What else is there to explain again?” he sighed out. “Listen Amara, I am really exhausted. There should be nothing to worry about. This house is so big; a thousand people would live here conveniently. Luckily for you, you are used to staying in your room, so I guess it would be very easy to ignore her presence in the house.”

     

    My eyes widened. “Are you being seriously vain or what? How dare you disrespect me in such manner? No matter the circumstances of our marriage, the fact remains that we are married and I would not have you drag me in the mud by flaunting another woman before me. I won’t allow it” I yelled on top of my lungs. God! Where is death when I really need it?

     

    “Oh woman, would you stop yelling? You don’t have the right to allow or disallow anything in my house. I fail to see what your problem is. I thought this issue was over and done with.” He glared at me and opened his mouth to speak and suddenly realized that we had an audience. He turned to glare at Tina, Tola and the driver, Raman. He ordered them to start packing the luggage upstairs into any room that Lisa picked, then he turned back to me. He reduced his voice until it was a whisper. “We have an agreement Amara. If I remember correctly, we both have the liberty to do whatsoever we so wished. This is my house and I have the right to bring in whoever I deem fit. Lisa has as much rights as you have in this house, if not more, because she is obviously more sophisticated than you are and I don’t need signed documents where she is concerned. Stop making this hard on yourself, just accept things the way they are because if you push me, I would make rash decisions, and trust me, no amount of threat by my father would stop me from kicking you out, together with that thing you are carrying” he glared at me, and all I could do was look at him. He was practically grinding my heart until it was as smooth as paste. My heart ached painfully as I reeled from the impact of his words.

     

    “Baby” Lisa’s voice called from the top of the stairs and Alex raised his eyes to her.

     

    “Have you found the room that suits you Lisa?” Alex asked.

     

    “I have” she said, with a smug mischievous smile on her face. “But I fear it is being occupied” she said.

     

    “What do you mean?” Alex asked, not quite following what was being said.

     

    “Baby, Tola was kind enough to tell me that the room is being occupied by that thing beside you. That is the only room that catches my fancy. It is ironic that the dirty village girl has eyes for good things” she said.

     

    “You won’t dare” I challenged.

     

    Alex must have noticed the strain because he said, “Really dear? But that room is small, not as big as the remaining rooms. Besides, you always told me that you liked the room beside mine.”

     

    She frowned and quickly smiled. “Yeah baby, but you have to admit that when I said that, I was not thinking of living here. Now that I am made to choose, only two rooms appeal to me; that room and your room. So Alex, it is either I have that room, or I stay with you” she stated firmly.

     

    I watched stupefied as Alex turned to me with an apologetic look. He opened his mouth but I was quick to silence him. “Don’t you dare say what I think you are about to say. Don’t you dare?”

     

    “I am sorry” He began but his phone interrupted. He picked instantly. My brain was racing from the multiple things happening all at once. What the hell was going on? I felt like I had been going round in circles for God knows how long. The effect of it made me dizzy. Am I the only one the devil has his eyes on?

     

    Alex seemed to have ended his call and he glanced at Lisa, not even looking at me. “I have to get back to the office” he said. “Get settled and feel at home sweetheart” he said with a smile. One that resembled the ones he used to capture my heart back in the village. Lisa walked down the steps, hugged him tight and gave him a loud exaggerated kiss. I felt like squeezing the life out of her.

     

     

     

    “Be careful baby, don’t get yourself worked up” she tugged on his collars playfully. “And the room?” she asked, knowing that either option would affect me negatively, although I told myself that I did not give a d--n if she stayed with Alex.

     

    Alex nodded impatiently. “Ask the maids to move her things into another room, you can have her room”

     

    “What?” I yelled.

     

    “Look at it objectively Amara, you would have a bigger room. What is so special about that room, by the way?” he asked, turning to leave.

     

    I dragged him back. “I don’t need a bigger room Alex. How dare you ask me to leave my room because her?” I yelled

     

    He turned with alarming anger. “If you are not ok with it, you can as well go to hell” he roared and stormed out of the house before I could blink.

     

    Lisa grinned satisfactorily at me. “Now, that is what I call payback. Revenge is best served cold. You had your time to display stupidity when I first saw you and now, it is my time to turn the tables. Alex would always do what I want him to do. Get used to it” She grinned and walked up the stairs and I saw Tina looking white-faced and shocked. Tola looked…like she was trying hard not to grin. I did not even try to blink; I let the tears flow unhindered.

    Episode 12

    Tina paced the kitchen nervously. Her brain was in overdrive and she did not have the slightest idea about what to do. It has been three days since the abominable Miss Lisa entered the house and the house was practically on fire, but that was not what was getting on Tina’s nerves. Ever since Amara moved into another room, Tina hadn’t set her eyes on her. She had practically locked herself inside the room without opening the door. No single sound came out of the room and it was beginning to scare Tina to death. Since she hadn’t even opened the door, it was obvious that she hadn’t eaten anything for the past three days.

     

    The frustration was too much for Tina to handle and she paraded Amara’s door endlessly, knocking loud and hard enough to rouse the dead and speaking both softly and sharply through the door, but she hadn’t received even a sound in response. She had repeatedly left meals by the door, hoping that Amara would at least eat, even if she did not want to see anyone but she always ended up retrieving the cold meals untouched until Lisa yelled her brains out, threatening to get her fired if she continued to waste her ‘husband’s resources on a hopeless village dropout’.

     

    Fear gripped Tina as she wondered what had happened to Amara. Three days! Yet Amara was not opening the door. She had pushed aside negative thoughts at first but since yesterday, she couldn’t but think about evil things. ‘What if she slipped and fell in the bathroom?’… ‘She might be terribly sick’… All her attempts to stop her fears proved abortive. She had tried to bring the matter up before Mr. Alex but she never got to meet him alone and every time she got to mention Amara’s name Miss Lisa would shut her up instantly, saying that she and her hussy were not interested in spoiling their mood with the ‘village tramp’ and that she should mind her business and do what she was employed to do instead of carrying gossips. Mr. Alex had also seemed to be in perfect sync with Miss Lisa. Tina did not believe that a man could be so cold and heartless.

     

     

     

    “Hey” Tina jerked and saw Tola looking at her with a frown. “Do you want to drill holes into the expensive kitchen tiles? What is eating you up?” Tola asked.

     

    Tina did not need to be told that Tola disliked Amara, it had been obvious since day one, but still, Tina felt obliged to share her worry, hoping beyond hope that Tola would put aside her hatred and help her find a solution to this issue. “I am worried Tola” Tina responded.

     

    Tola hissed. “I can see that clearly. My question is why?”

     

    Tina hesitated then threw caution to the wind as anxiety took over. “It is our madam, Amara. She has not opened the door to her room for the past three days. I am getting scared.

     

    Tola frowned deeply, looking terribly worried to the surprise and relief of Tina. “Oh my God! And you are just telling me now? You always spend time with her and since she was always used to staying in her room, I did not notice anything weird” she seemed startled now.

     

    This made Tina more worried. “I know. I should have told you but I thought she just wanted to be left alone and was sulking because of Miss Lisa’s arrival, but this is the third day Tola. She has been in there without eating for three days. I am so scared.”

     

    “Jesus” she breathed. “Let’s go there again” she started out of the kitchen instantly and Tina hastily followed.

     

    When they got to Amara’s room, the knocked and banged endlessly and called out but there was no response. They tried to open the door but it was firmly locked. Sweat gathered on Tina’s forehead and she wiped it away, feeling cold all over. Her heart raced in fear.

     

    “Jesus! What are we going to do Tina?” Tola asked getting equally agitated.

     

    “I don’t know” Tina almost screamed. “That is why I told you. Miss Lisa knows but she does not give a d--n. She hasn’t allowed me to tell Mr. Alex either” she swallowed. “What if… what if something happened to her? What if…”

     

    “Oh Tina, shut up. You are beginning to scare me” Tola mouthed nervously. “Come, let’s see if we can find a spare key to open the door” Tina nodded, even though she had already done that before, searching again was a very good idea.

     

     

     

     

    back to when Lisa want to take over Amara’s room, that makes her to be indoor

     

    “Let go of my cloth you this prostitute” I pitched and snatched my cloth from her hand.

    She faced me furiously and laughed slightly.

     

    “I think ‘S--t’ should be your middle name you this dirty village girl. Why couldn’t you have found someone else to impregnate you, you had the nerve to choose my Alex. My own Alex! I would show you pepper in this house” she yelled, shaking her body vigorously like someone in battle. She faced the maids. “Pack her things” she ordered.

     

    I blocked the doorway. If someone would remove my things from this room, they would have to first remove me from the entrance. I watched Tola grab my sack of clothes, as that was virtually the only the thing in that room that was mine. Tina looked as though she were about to cry.

     

    “Drop my bag this minute Tola” I said menacingly.

     

    Lisa grabbed the bag that contained nothing of substance to make it heavy and held it up like it was a contaminable disease.

     

    “Do you call this bag?” she laughed heartily. “This thing is not dignified enough to sit in my dustbin” she said, looking irritated.

     

    “Would you shut up” I yelled and before I could even notice my movement, my hand rose and connected firmly with her cheeks, sending her reeling. She fought for balance and red marks showed on her pale white face. She stood and retaliated soundly. The echo of the slap vibrated through me as I staggered. I heard Tina gasp as she made to stable me before I hit the wall. I had some seconds to catch my breath, but those seconds were all Lisa needed to have my clothes out of the room.

     

    “Please don’t do this” Tina whispered. “You have to take it easy, do it for your baby”

     

    I shrugged her off. I was in no mood to ‘take it easy’. All I wanted to do was scream my lungs out until I was completely exhausted.

     

    I paced the cold floors of my new room in total frustration and anger. Lisa and I had yelled at each other, countless number of times and I found that my throat was a bit sore. The serene and quiet house had suddenly turned to a battle field as Lisa and I exchanged heated words. The house seemed to be boiling in tension and I could not even sit at one spot for five minutes without standing up to pace. Both Tina and Tola were on their toes, carrying out the orders of Lisa. The house seemed to be on fire. I couldn’t just calm down.

     

    I did not know when Alex came in because of the strategic position of my new irritating room but immediately I heard his voice some distance from my room, I became alert. He was obviously talking to Lisa.

     

    “Oh, my poor baby, you look so tired” she said. “You sure need to let off steam” I heard her say again.

     

    “Any suggestions?” there seemed to be a smile in Alex’s voice.

    There was silence and I told myself that I did not want to know what the silence meant.

     

    “Why don’t you eat first?” she said again after the long silence.

     

    “I know what I would rather eat but I am actually really hungry” I heard him say. “Let me take a shower and meet you at the dinning” he said and she murmured something I could not catch. I heard footsteps and knew Alex was going into his room. I swallowed and opened my door. I told myself that Alex would have to offer me some good explanations for the way he had been treating me.

     

    I walked to his bedroom and paused outside his room, wandering if I should knock or just go in. deciding that there was no need for me to show him any respect when he obviously could not do that for me, I pushed against the handle and entered. He was standing with his back to me.

     

    “Did you have a change of heart Lisa?” he asked, obviously smiling.

     

    “I wish you did” he turned around at that. I had to forcefully ignore his wide opened chest and the shirt that hung openly.

     

    His eyes showed his irritation. “What the hell are you doing in here?” he growled.

     

     

     

    “Why? Why Alex? Why did you choose to put me through this? I never asked for this” I gasped out.

     

    “I am not in the mood for this-”

     

    I cut in. “You approached me in the village, making me feel like the most outstanding woman on earth. You told me you loved me and that no other woman could take my place in your heart. What changed? What-”

     

    “It was all a ploy” he cut in.

     

    I started. “What does that mean?”

     

    “I never meant all those nonsense I said to you. How could i?” he asked bewildered, like I was totally a fool for even believing it. “It was all part of the plan to get you into my bed.”

     

    “What are you talking about Corper?” I asked with a sickly pale face.

     

    He exhaled. “All the guys and corpers in the village could not get you into their bed, you know. They were so sure that you were untouchable and they wanted to see who had the capacity to deflower the ‘almighty Amara’. They placed a bet, and I, took the challenge. You were a sweet challenge and I wanted my Service days to be lively. I used those romantic words as bait and when you finally fell into my bed, I showed the guys the blood-stained sheet as the evidence of my victory. So, you see? Stop wondering what changed my feelings because there was never any feeling. I was all a bet”

    Episode 13

    I raised my hand weakly and rubbed my hot face. I heard knocks on the door but totally ignored it and the voices that came afterwards. Even if I wanted to answer, there was no strength left in me to talk. I mustered enough strength to push myself off the bed and almost fell back down.

     

    I had stayed in the room ever since I received the bomb shell from Alex and even now, the words still made me double over in pain. During my three days of ‘room arrest’, I have cried more than I have ever cried in my life. The tears just kept pouring and pouring until there was no strength left in me to cry. The water from the tap in the toilet’s washing-hand basin was the only thing sustaining me. I Can’t hold my tears all the time.

     

    The three days have been terribly hard, filled with pain and intense hunger which was almost maddening, probably because I am pregnant and my baby was demanding food. I whispered to my baby every now and then, telling myself that I am not alone. I continued to comfort my child, begging him to bear with me. The isolation was necessary.

     

    After staying alone, the reality of loneliness dawned on me. I finally reached a resolve. I have reached my terminal where crying is concerned. I have finally realized that crying over Alex was a hopeless cause and a waste of time and energy. All I have in this world is my child, whom I would continue to cherish, no matter what I am up against.

     

    I managed to drag my dehydrated self to the bathroom and relieved my full bladder before quenching my killing thirst by drinking from the tap in the toilet. My eyes seemed to have sunk into their sockets as I looked at myself in the mirror. I was a shadow of myself and I knew I would have to change that. Despite my starvation, my breasts were much fuller than they were months back, giving me a more shapely body than I originally possessed and I knew it was due to the pregnancy.

     

     

     

    After drinking my fill, I washed my face and left the bathroom slowly. There was no strength left in me due to lack of food and the water I just drank woke up a hunger that could not be ignored. It was disheartening that I had to treat Tina the way I did but I just could not see anyone. If I had seen her earlier, I was pretty sure I would take my anger out on her and that would be terrible since she did not deserve it.

     

    I opened the door of my room and walked out weakly, grabbing the walls for support whenever my legs shook. I was on the verge of a new beginning and the first step would be to quench this abominable hunger. I held the railings of the stairs in a viselike grip as I went down. Immediately I got to the landing of the stairs, Tina and Tola stopped the search they involved in and turned, nearly jumping out of their skins when they saw me.

     

    “Amara” Tina gasped.

     

    This was the first time she called me by my name since she discovered that I was Alex’s wife and I was pleased by the timing. Now, I could confidently call her my friend. “Christ! You have almost killed me with worry” she jumped to my side instantly. “This is terrible! How can you be so inconsiderate in your condition?”

     

    “Thanks Tina” I managed weakly as I bent from extreme hunger. “And you too Tola” I whispered, remembering that I heard her worried voice, minutes ago. “Thanks for your concern” I swallowed. “I am terribly hungry though” I smiled weakly at Tina.

     

    She jumped to action right away, going into the kitchen and working with lightning speed, condemning my actions like a mother as she worked. I sat in the kitchen with her, contented to hear her angry words. Tola hung around, not saying anything. I smiled softly at her and relaxed against the backrest of the chair with my eyes closed.

     

    A plate of indomie was placed at my front faster than I imagined and I attacked it like a hungry lion. As I ate, she took a large piece of chicken from the microwave and put it on my plate. I ate like I have never eaten before and the rich aroma of piping hot tea drifted to my nostrils and my desire to eat increased several degrees. She placed the steaming cup before me and stood back to watch me eat. I grabbed the cup instantly, taking a careful sip before continuing my meal, muffling my thanks between mouthfuls.

     

     

     

    After draining the last drop of tea minutes later, I could confidently say that my hunger had been quenched.

     

    “Why did you lock yourself in?” Tina asked with a disapproving frown.

     

    “I was charting a new course”. I smiled at her confusion and stood up, walking out of the kitchen with Tina at my heels. “By the way, where is Alex’s mistress?” I asked unconcerned as I made for my room. Tina followed me, probably to make sure I did not lock myself in again.

     

    “She went shopping” she responded.

     

    I nodded with my smile still intact. “I would take my bath and get dressed. I need you to follow me somewhere. Are you free” I asked.

     

    “Of course. Where are we going?” she asked as we entered my room.

     

    “We are going shopping”. Her eyes widened.

     

     

    Tina and I left the house and returned hours later with several heavy nylon bags. She had insisted we take a driver but I was not interested, the idea of walking around was more appealing to me and we later got a taxi to bring us home, due to the weight of the bags. The bags were filled with clothes, and definitely, more than half were baby clothes and toys. I hadn’t been able to leave behind a single baby thing. Lisa assured me that there was more than enough money in the credit card and I asked her to teach me how to use it which she did eagerly. We bought the clothes from a cheap store and I found myself smiling genuinely with thoughts of my child floating around my head.

     

    Apart from buying baby things, I had decided to harken to the words of my parents by buying some suitable clothes for myself. I bought mostly gowns which were free from just beneath my bust because this would conceal my tummy effectively. The clothes were so beautiful and I could not wait to try them on. My three days indoors made me come to the conclusion that my parents had been right after all. I couldn’t stick with Alex. Despite my dislike for the word ‘divorce’, I was forced to see the reality of the fact that there is no future for Alex and me, because even if through some sheer miracle, I forgive him for all he has done, I would never forget, and the pain would hunt our relationship till the end of my days.

     

    Right from the time that Alex told me I was nothing more than a betting competition to him, everything called love that I felt for him died instantly, replaced by hatred which grew with each passing minute. I only have my child, my parents and myself; the earlier I accept that, the better. There is one other person who loves me though; I smiled at Tina, grateful to God that she is with me.

     

    “Why do I have the nagging feeling that these clothes look more than what we actually bought?” she asked with a frown.

     

    I smiled and changed the subject. “I am happy you finally call me Amara. At least, something good came out of locking myself up in the room” I said as we entered the house.

     

    She scoffed “The only thing you achieved with that is putting your child at risk. We need to go to the hospital to have you properly checked-up”

     

    I laughed. “It is not that serious. My little baby boy also agrees that the fast was necessary” I replied confidently.

     

    She snorted as we entered the house.

     

    “Where are you coming from?” Alex’s voice rang out silently. I glanced over at the couch and saw him looking at me. Lisa was lying on the chair with her head on his laps, feeding him crackers. My glance did not take more than a second and I continued up with stairs without a word, pulling the bags of clothes along.

     

    “Are you deaf? I said where are you coming from?” he repeated with more authority.

     

    “Are you blind? You have eyes, use them” I returned as I paused.

     

    “Are you talking to me?” he boomed with surprise showing in his voice. I turned to look at him squarely and Tina quickly got out of the way.

     

    “Are you daft as well as blind? Of course, I am talking to you. I see no reason why I should owe you any explanation for my movements. Need I remind you of the words of the very same agreement we signed? I am allowed to do whatsoever I feel like in this house. After serious thinking, I have decided that the agreement is probably the only sensible thing that has happened to me ever since I met you. Secondly, I greatly hope you keep the credit card you gave me loaded with money because I am a pregnant woman who would need a lot of cash to keep up with the demands of motherhood. That should not be a problem since you seem to possess more money than brain. The former Amara is gone. She died three days ago. You better not mess with the woman standing here, because if you do, you would taste the wrath of a woman’s scorn.” I paused to catch my breath and continued calmly. “I am the woman of the house here and I expect my demands to be met. If you find that you would not be able to cope with me and want to grant me the divorce I asked for earlier, I would be more than happy to sign the divorce papers, but be rest assured Alex…” I smiled “… that I would destroy your life just as you destroyed mine before I leave you alone”

     

     

     

    “You threaten me?” He asked with a softly deceptive voice which made me sound terribly dangerous.

     

    I smiled sweetly. “No sweetheart, it is not a threat; it is a promise”

     

    I turned and marched up to my bedroom, leaving them stunned and speechless. When I finally sat on my bed, I realized that Tina was looking at me like I had grown four heads. I smiled.

     

    “Mr. Alex does not take threats lightly” she said, looking agitated.

     

    I nodded. “I am not expecting him to” I said. “Thanks for your help today Tina, I am totally exhausted” I sighed. “Yes! I have something for you” I declared and she frowned.

     

    I checked the nylon bags and saw the one I was looking for. It was a nylon filled with clothes. I gave it to her and her eyes widened. “This is for you” I grinned happily.

     

    “No” she gasped. “It can’t be for me.” She gasped more when she checked the clothes. While we shopped, I had noticed her eyes hovering dreamily over some clothes and I had taken note. In order to pick out the clothes and some more without her notice, I had sent her to get me something, picking the clothes behind her back. “I can’t possibly wear these” she seemed close to tears. “And they are really expensive”

     

    I smiled affectionately at her. “Oh Tina, come on. Do you know the magnitude of what you have been doing for me? A truck load of clothes would not be able fully appreciate your help. When I needed a friend, you were there”

     

    “But I did not ask for anything in return”

     

    “I know. I just noticed that you loved these clothes and bought them, besides, you deserve more for putting up with my insatiable choices today without complaining. Here” I gave her another nylon which was just halfway full. “For Tola. I don’t want her getting jealous. She was also worried about me earlier, so she deserves it” I smiled.

     

    She thanked me profusely and the excitement of having clothes took over her. I saw sadness flash in her eyes and became curious. “It is just a shame that I won’t be able to wear them anytime soon since I have to always be in my uniform” she explained.

     

    I had totally forgotten about that little piece of detail. An idea popped into my head and I grinned. “We would salvage that situation now. Follow me” I stood and charged out of the room with Tina following in confusion and agitation. I could hear Lisa’s angry voice screaming at a silent Alex and I smiled, knowing that I was the subject of discussion. I got to the sitting room and Lisa fell silent as she glared at me.

     

    “Yes” I began. “Remember, I told you I would be taking charge of some things as the madam of the house? Well, I am about to change something. I just bought some clothes for my dear friend here but noticed that the uniform she is mandated to wear would restrict her from putting on the clothes and I won’t have that. From today, I put an end to the uniform. The girls would put on anything they feel like, but for moderacy, they would be restricted to putting on gowns. I just decided to let you know” I said with an air of indifference, ignoring Tina’s gasp.

     

    “You must be joking. Who do you think you are to enforce laws in this house?” Lisa yelled with her hands furiously jammed to her waist as she tapped her feet, standing pensively.

     

    I glanced at her like a piece of pest. “Last time I checked, I wasn’t a comedian. And whenever I talk in this house, you keep your filthy mouth shut because I am the only one with the legal rights in this house, not you. You are nothing more than a concubine or a mistress who is enjoying the privilege of being in this house. Now, shut your mouth because I am talking to my husband, not you and I won’t have you interrupt my speech” I shifted my eyes to Alex. “The issue of this uniform is not up for discussion and has been settled because I have given my approval” I faced a pale-faced Tina. “You can go Tina, inform Tola about this and I wish to see you both changed with immediate effect. The three of us would go shopping tomorrow to select more gowns for you both” I said finally and walked up the stairs with my head held high.

    Episode 14

    I stared at myself in the mirror in disbelief. I could not quite believe I was the one in the mirror. Tina had helped relax my hair and now, it fell freely and softly around my shoulders, with a gentle glow. The gown though was a sight to behold. Though simple, it hugged my upper body perfectly and the flare which began beneath the bust was more than enough to hide my growing tummy, making me look like the sexiest pregnant woman alive. I laughed at the vague thought and wondered why on earth I hadn’t agreed to this in the first place. Having good clothes was effectively driving away my sadness, making me forget my pain and regrets; I only hoped the feeling would last long because if not, I would continue to buy clothes to keep this feeling in place. I smiled in remembrance of my cheeky behaviors yesterday with Alex and Lisa. The stunned expressions which had taken over the two had been a sight to behold. Even after a hundred years, I don’t think I would be able to erase their shocked faces from my memory. It was still a surprise that I had actually pulled it off but I guess you never know what you are capable of until you are faced with challenges.

     

    I gave myself one last glance and turned away from the mirror. I knew that Alex hadn’t left for the office, and if my calculations are right, he would be eating breakfast right now with his beloved mistress by his side. I opened the door of my room and stepped out. As I walked down the stairs, I met Tina, bringing my breakfast, obviously to my room.

     

    “Good morning Tina” I greeted.

     

    She opened her mouth, unable to close it for a few seconds. I instinctively knew what she was gaping at. “Woow” she gasped. “This gown was definitely made with you in mind” she breathed. “You look divine”.

     

    I grinned. “I know, I was also gaping when I stared at myself in the mirror”

     

    “And it is just a simple gown. What would you look like when you put on those outing dresses? I always knew you were a spectacular beauty.”

     

     

     

    I grinned. “Now you are flattering me. If you were a man, ladies would fall for your sweet tongue”. Just like I fell for Alex. That thought was inevitable and it deflated my high spirit like a punctured balloon. Tina noticed this and her smile vanished. Mentally shaking myself, I looked at her. “Thanks Tina, from today, I would have my breakfasts on the dinning, along with everyone. I should stop adding to your work load. Besides, it would be fun to sit on the same table with my husband’s mistress” I smiled.

     

    She frowned. “Are you sure you know what you are doing Amara? This new tactic might backfire and I am scared you might get hurt” she said softly, looking worried.

     

    “I am already hurt Tina, what more can anyone do? No one can do more than what has been done already, and as long as that does not happen, I can handle anything that comes my way” I murmured.

     

    “For your sake, I hope you are right”

     

    “I am, stop worrying Tina. By the way, I am not the only one looking pretty, you look absolutely stunning today dear friend” I said with a wink as I walked down the stairs.

     

    “All thanks to you” she returned.

     

    I held myself from responding as I drew closer to the dining and tried to gather momentum. I saw Alex sitting at the head of the chair with Lisa beside him looking angry. She looked just as angry as she looked the previous day and I smiled brightly as I got to the table. Alex and Lisa looked up and seemed to freeze on their seats. Alex held his cup of tea in the air, and the cup nearly dropped from his fingers in shock. I felt it as their eyes traced my body and my smile deepened. This should be an interesting morning!

     

    “Well well” Lisa squeaked softly. “I guess the village tramp is now trying to fit into society” she murmured angrily.

     

    I inhaled deeply, completely ignoring her cos I really did not have time for her today. “Uhmmmmm…” I sighed. “Something smells nice” I said with a dreamy look on my face. I walked to Alex and was terribly irritated when his eyes roamed my body, lingering on my chest, but I hid my irritation behind a fake smile. I got to Alex and suddenly bent to plant a firm kiss on his cheek, stunning him and drawing a sharp angry look from Lisa.

     

     

     

    “Good morning dear husband” I said with excitement ringing in my voice. I glanced at Lisa. “Good morning mistress”. None of them answered and I frowned dramatically. “Awww… didn’t you both enjoy a good night’s sleep?” They looked at me impassively and I shook my head and looked pitifully at them. “That is a shame. I actually had a very nice sleep, the best I have had in a long time by the way, and a wonderful dream to go with it” I smiled gaily. I sank onto the chair on Alex’s left and picked a plate and served myself. Eating fried eggs did not seem like a good idea because I have noticed since I got pregnant, that I always ended up throwing up afterwards, so I opted for taking bread and tea only. I moaned softly in appreciation when the rich beverage slid down my throat and Alex looked up instantly.

     

    Lisa cleared her throat and sat as straight as a stick on her chair and murmured something under her breath then faced Alex. “Sweetheart?” she called.

     

    “Yes baby” Alex answered distractedly. I continued my meal as though there were not there.

     

    “I had a talk with the wedding planner last night” she began.

     

    “You did?” Alex seemed tense.

     

    “Yes. All the decorations are in order and the baker is working on the cakes. The wedding gown I chose has been purchased and would be delivered soon. I think everything is in place. I want the wedding to be grand and not look like a shabby sitting room wedding” she declared.

     

    “No one would dare wed you in a sitting room baby” Alex responded. “You are way too precious for that”.

     

    She laughed. “Thanks baby… Obviously. Only village dropouts get married in such manner” she said triumphantly.

     

    “At least, the village dropout gets a wedding. You won’t be getting any” I said calmly as I chewed on the bread.

     

    Tina faced me angrily. She had obviously been trying to get me angry with her comment and my calm statement got her infuriated. “Oh? Is your imagination playing tricks on you? We are getting married next week, if you are nice, i might invite you so you can see what a real wedding should look like” she said sharply with a cynical smile.

     

    “Oh sweetheart, sorry to burst your bubble, there won’t be a wedding, not next week, not next year, not in the next life, do you understand?” I returned, focusing fully on my meal.

     

    “There won’t? And what would you do to stop the wedding uhn?” I could hear her tapping her feet angrily under the table.

     

    “Yes. How do you plan on stopping it?” Alex added and I noted his increasing anger in the taut lines of veins in his strong hands.

     

    “Oh me? I won’t do anything; in fact, Alex would definitely stop the wedding by himself” I murmured with a deepening smile.

     

    “What the hell are you talking about Amara?” Alex asked.

    “Never mind” I dismissed and stood up. “Well, I have to go now”

     

    “Sit down. You would explain the meaning of this nonsense right now tramp” Lisa yelled.

     

    I raised my brows. “The next time you call me that, I would personally show you how villagers deal with people like you. Nonsense”

     

    I stood up from the chair and walked into the kitchen. Tina and Tola were in the middle of a discussion when I entered the kitchen. “Hey ladies” I greeted with a smile.

     

    “Good morning Mrs Amara. Thanks again for the clothes” Tola said hastily.

     

    “It’s nothing, besides, we are going to get more today” they both grinned and I had the feeling that I had won Tola over. She looked freer with me than she has ever been and I liked it. The less enemies I had, the better.“Ok, are you both ready?” they nodded frantically and we set out.

     

     

    Alex placed his head on his office desk as thoughts ran through his mind, throwing him in a state of confusion, and everything was centered on Amara. She had changed and he could tell that the woman was not the same villager she used to be. She had challenged him; something that only a few people could do, but she had done it effectively. This annoyed him more than anything. He could not even begin to believe that Amara had stood up to him. Where had she found the courage to do that?

     

     

     

    And this morning… she had looked… spectacular. Not for once looking like the same Amara he used to know. She had looked totally outstanding, even without make-up. He almost hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her bosom and the cleavage that was visible for all to see. She had always been beautiful but he never imagined that she could be that beautiful. This worried him also. He did not want her looking beautiful, he wanted her to look pathetic because that would give him the avenue to maltreat her freely. When he jad offered her the opportunity to own beautiful clothes, he hadn’t thought that she would look completely outstanding in them. It was probably not even the cloth that made her look outstandingly gorgeous; it can as well be the way she carried herself confidently, a trait that only just surfaced the previous day.

     

    Now she feels he won’t go through with marrying Lisa. What on earth would give her that thought? Lisa is not only beautiful but sophisticated and rich; the ideal woman for him. He knew that he could take Lisa out to dinner parties and not be scared that she would disgrace him with bad village attitudes and poor table manners. Despite the fact that Lisa was a spoilt brat, she was perfectly mind blowing in bed and that was all he always looked for in a woman. Amara is a total novice where sex is concerned, she was nothing more than a ‘use and dump material’ to him, he never imagined that she would end up getting herself pregnant.

    He banged his fist on the table. Now, he would end up marrying two wives. He murmured a curse under his breath. Leaving Lisa was not an option and leaving Amara was even worse. He could not afford to lose this company. It was all he lived for.

     

    The door to his office opened unceremoniously and Toba walked in with a grin. “Hey man” he cooed.

     

    Alex raised his head wearily from the table and looked at his friend. Toba was smiling down at him but he could not even muster enough strength to return the smile. His face seemed to continuously hold a frown ever since Amara came into his life. He hadn’t seen Toba ever since they finished service and instead of him welcoming his friend with a beaming smile, all he had was a deep frown and sweaty palms. “Hey buddy” he murmured.

     

    Toba frowned and accepted his friend’s handshake before sinking into the opposite chair. “This is not the kind of reception I expected to get after weeks apart” he said.

     

    Alex exhaled. “I am sorry Toba, my thoughts just seem to be scattered all over west Africa”

     

    Toba smiled. “If that is the case, I guess it would take years to fully gather your thoughts”

     

    Alex’s frown deepened. “I am sure you are right”

     

    Toba whistled and frowned deeply. “OK. I really need to know what is responsible for shaking the confidence of the almighty Alex Bello” he said. “Only a woman can do that”

     

    “Very true. A lowlife village local champion for that matter” Alex returned.

     

    “What the hell are you talking about?” Toba’s interest was already pricked.

     

    “I am talking about Amara”

     

    “Who is Amara?”

     

    Alex hissed. He could not blame his friend for not remembering the name of their betting contest. He would not have remembered her name too if she hadn’t shown up on his doorstep with pregnancy claims. “Amara. The girl I deflowered during service”

     

    Toba’s eyes widened. “Yes! What about her? I thought you were done with her when you won the bet”

     

    “I was” Alex exhaled. “Until she showed up in my father’s house claiming that I impregnated her”

     

    “What?” He almost jumped out of the chair. “You see? I told you those village girls are witches, you can never touch them and go scot free. I warned you. Did you never hear of the word condom? How could you have been so careless?”

     

    “Well, it is too late for me to answer that. I am already married to her”

     

    Toba bolted up. “You are what?” He yelled. “Are you sure you are alright Alex? You seem to be saying rubbish”

     

    “I got married to her about two months ago man”

     

    “Are you sick?” He roared. “Did you never hear about abortion?”

     

    “Shut up man, you are pissing me off. Did you listen to me at all? She showed up on my father’s doorstep, not mine. Her blasted father threatened to truncate my dad’s election by spreading the news if I don’t marry his daughter. My father made me marry the b and there was nothing I could do about it.”

     

     

     

    Toba hissed. “Nothing? How did things get this far? Why didn’t you tell me anything?”

     

    Alex exhaled. He knew that everything was a huge mess. “Sit down bro, you have not heard the full gist”

     

    “There is more” he sounded bewildered as he sat back down.

     

    “I made Amara a maid in the house but she flared up when she found me with Lisa and asked for a divorce”

     

    “Good for you” Toba said instantly.

     

    “Yeah. It would have been but dad threatened to take the company away from me if I let her go away with his grandchild.”

     

    “Oh brother, your life is really messed up”

     

    Alex frowned angrily. “Thanks. And it gets more messy because it also turns out that Lisa is also pregnant”

     

    Toba stared at him, totally dumbfounded for some minutes then started to laugh uncontrollably. Alex scoffed and wanted to punch Toba in the throat. “It is nice to know that my predicament is funny”

     

    Toba laughed and laughed, trying to stop himself. “Ol boy… I think… 2face is your role model” he laughed out loud and his laughter vibrated the walls. “But 2face never married his baby mamas so I think you need to take lectured from him”

     

    “Shut up” Alex boomed angrily. “If you are not going to say anything sensible, get yourself out of here you swine”

     

    Toba forcefully brought himself under control. “Sorry… So, is that all?”

     

    “No”

     

    Toba forced himself not to laugh as he tried to listen to the rest of the tale. Alex told him of the contract, how Lisa moved into the house and sped up the wedding date and how Amara moved out of her room for Lisa and how he had told her that she was merely a bet and…

     

    “Wait” Toba stopped him with wide eyes. “Are you trying to tell me that you actually told her that you placed a bet on her?” Now, this did not sound funny.

     

    “Yes”

     

    “Oh, Alex, you are probably the most stupid man on earth. It seems this Amara knows how to make you do stupid things. How can you do that?”

     

    “I really deserve whatever insult you throw because you are right. That is the most stupid thing I have done so far because she has changed. It is like she is about to invoke the spirits of hell” he explained all that happened ever since he told Amara about the bet and when he finished, Toba’s eyes were wide.

     

    “Oh, you are in for trouble man”

     

    Alex exhaled deeply. “I know but I can’t sit down and do nothing. I need to do something. Something to destroy that confidence she now has and give her back that inferiority complex”

     

    Toba thought for a while. “Well, that shouldn’t be so difficult. She is a woman, you are a man. Beating her up every time she runs her mouth would cool her down a bit, it would be preferable to do it in presence of one or two people. That would give her a level of inferiority complex. Downplay her and put all her shortcomings before her, use it to taunt her in the presence of people and you would see that this newly found bravery would vanish. Although, I hope she won’t be pushed to do anything rash…” he said thoughtfully. “… Like kill you”

     

    Alex swallowed. “That is a brilliant idea” he could not wait to get the control back. “Why did I not think of it before?” He remembered when he had hit her when she just entered the house. She had squirmed and fled. “It is an excellent idea” he breathed again. “And no, she won’t be tempted to kill me because I would make sure she does not have enough strength to even try”.

     

     

    Lisa paced her room. This has got to stop. She could not sit back and watch Amara trample all over her. It was as if Amara knew how to get her blood boiling with anger. She has been with Alex for about two years now, and all of a sudden, this tramp shows up out of the blues to snatch him? No. Lisa was not ready to share Alex. And she was also sure she would still not be ready to do that fifty years from now. She needed to get Amara out of the house and she did not care how she achieved that.

     

    She heard the driver enter the compound and minutes later, she heard the voices of the maids as they talked with Amara. Yes! She thought. She needed an accomplice to accomplish her mission and if her hunch was right, Tola would be her best bet.

    Episode 15

    Mr. Bello sat in his study looking thoughtfully at the wall. What sort of father would he call himself if he could not even say truthfully that he had raised Alex well. All his life, he had made sure that he was never unjust to anyone, he had tried his best to impact the same values into his son, but it seemed his best hadn’t been good enough. Where had he gone wrong? He probably should not have gone into politics. If he hadn’t, maybe he would have had more time for Alex. Maybe, he would have noticed this heartless behavior in him and changed it before it became too late. But he had failed. He had failed as a father to be a good mentor to his only son and child. His wife had never been a good role model, he always knew that. It was not his fault that he had fallen in love with her, despite her misgivings. He could not tell the heart what and whom to love. But he should have been the better parent. He should have been the better parent for Alex.

     

    He swallowed hard as he thought of the various things his son had gotten himself into lately. He had impregnated a poor secondary school girl and it had only taken some investigation to find out that he gambled on the girl’s pride. That knowledge had hurt him more than he was willing to express. It was so unbelievable that his own biological son could be so cruel as to do such a despicable thing to an innocent girl. This had informed his threat to Alex several weeks back. He knew categorically that Alex would not lose the company for anything in the world so it had been good bait. He would never allow any injustice to befall Amara. It had been because of the guilt that his son had bet on Amara’s pride that he had gladly given Amara’s father, Mr. Peters, what he demanded for – an apartment, which was well furnished. Mr. Bello had rented the apartment, paying for three years at once. If the press could wind of the scandal his son had caused, his political ambitions would be thwarted. But that was not his problem.

     

     

     

    Alex had come to them with another shocking news. He had impregnated Lisa. Mr. Bello had never liked the spoilt girl who thought herself higher than everyone but he had tried to accept her when Alex showed his interest in her. How would he sit back and watch his son marry two wives at this early stage. Even though Alex behaved ten times his age, he is just twenty five years old. Marrying two wives could kill him before thirty. Yet, it would be unjust to throw Lisa away. She is definitely carrying is grandchild also.

     

    He sighed heavily. He had no clue as to what to do salvage the situation. It seemed to have gone a bit out of control.

     

     

    Two days passed without me seeing Alex. He apparently hadn’t come home at all and I found myself wondering where he was. It would not be surprising one bit if I found out that he was out making other babies, since he had turned into a baby making factory. During the past two days, Tola had become almost as close to me as Tina and I found myself liking her. She seemed sweet and funny but no one would take the place that Tina occupies in my heart. She was not just my closest friend but was also like a sister and sometimes, even a mother. If Tina hadn’t been there, I am not sure I would have survived all that I have been through. She was there when no one else was there to support me and for that I would forever be grateful.

     

    Tola was not the only one that changed within the past two days. I also noticed that Lisa was quiet now. She always looked at me with hatred brimming in her eyes but she always kept her mouth shut. Since she always ran her tongue like a parrot, I instinctively knew something was wrong. She must be up to something, and it did not smell good. Living in the village, I knew certainly that two women could never live in peace if they had to share a man. One woman would try to kill another just to make her vanish. Well, I certainly wanted her to vanish from my life, along with Alex and all the problems he brought into my life, but I definitely am not a killer. I can’t kill anyone to achieve that. Although, even though I am not a murderer, I don’t know if Lisa would resort to killing me. It was probably extreme to think that Lisa might try to kill me but the feeling that she was planning something was strong. I have been crosschecking everything I eat and had decided to cook in the kitchen along with Tina. Tina would definitely not do anything to hurt me but, who knows, Lisa might sneak in and…

     

    I laughed suddenly. The movies I have been watching on that massive television were beginning to get the better part of me.

     

     

     

    Tina turned and stared confusingly at me, stopping the rice she was busy rinsing. “What is so funny uhn? Why are you laughing?” she asked. “Considering the fact that you are slicing onions, the opposite should be the case”

     

    I smiled. “I am just thinking that the movies I watch is becoming too much. It is beginning to pollute my good reasoning”

     

    She frowned. “Hmmmm… I see” she eyed me suspiciously. “Is that all you were thinking about?” she raised a brow.

     

    I frowned at her and shook my head. “My God Tina, you are too nosy. Wash that rice before we all die of hunger”

     

    She grinned. “It is my duty as your friend to be nosy. Be sure to tell me what you are thinking uhn?”

     

    I sighed. “Ok, if you are a good girl, maybe I might confide in you” I said cheekily.

     

    “And what is the secret?” I turned to see Tola bouncing into the kitchen as she stared at both of us suspiciously.

     

    “What?” I stared at the two ladies grinning at me with questioning eyes. “You both are so unbelievable. Who would imagine that an ordinary laughter caused this?” for some reasons, I had a reason to think that they were on a totally different page from my line of thoughts. They looked at me with this knowing look on their faces and I started wondering about what was going on in their small heads.

     

    “Well, if you are laughing, there must be something behind it right?” Tola winked and Tina grinned as they both gave themselves high-five.

     

    I frowned at them now, looking from one to another. “Tell me you two. What the hell are you cooking up?” I was now confused.

     

    “Aaaarrrhhhh… nothing. Only jollof rice” Tina answered as she returned to the rice.

     

    “Don’t you dare give me that! What is going on?” I snatched the bowl of rice and faced them squarely with a look that said ‘spit it out’.

     

    They grinned. “Ok, let’s see Amara” Tina began. “You suddenly agreed to get a nice wardrobe; you look exceedingly great all the time, you smile more often now than you have done in the past months…”

     

    “And now, you are laughing” Tola finished and raised her brow, even though I was still frowning. “What informed all these changes? Is there… a man involved?” she asked grinning.

     

    “What?” Oh! I stared at the two ladies and suddenly began to laugh. I laughed and laughed and laughed until I ended up crying. Once I started crying, I could not stop. Just when I thought I had reached my bus-stop where tears were concerned! The smiles on their faces vanished instantly and they were trying to stop my tears. “There is a man involved” I said between sobs. “He has instigated all the changes in my life. I wonder when that would change” I sobbed and Tina and Tola held me, blaming one another all the way for taunting me.

     

     

    I walked the street two days after that incident. It hadn’t been easy getting my cheekiness back and getting rid of the emotional side of me, but I had done it. It is not easy to keep my emotions at check because it always comes to the surface every time I am alone but I knew for a fact that I had to be strong; if not for myself, then for my son. He was already caught in between, I did not want anything to hurt him.

     

    I got to the roadside flower stand I had noticed several weeks back and stopped again. I stretched out my hand and played with the striking flower. Only now, the flower seemed to look pale, compared to the first time I saw it It had been so bright and alive with a lively glow the last time I saw it, but now, I could tell that the weather was not being favorable and the flower might die soon. Great sympathy and compassion engulfed me as my thoughts took over me. It was probably unfortunate that wherever I go, I would always be reminded of Alex. It seemed impossible to forget. Only one mistake had turned my life around. It was a mistake wished I could undo. If only I hadn’t fallen for him, I would probably be on my way to the university by now. I have not been in this trauma for long considering the fact that I was barely five months pregnant, but it feels like my whole life had been spent in this pain. It feels like I have never known a minute of joy or contentment.

     

     

     

    The flash of a camera brought me back to my senses and I raised my eyes to stare at the very same guy I had met at this very spot weeks back. Kelvin. Yes! That was definitely the name he gave me, that is if it is true, of course.

     

    He was staring at the small digital camera in his hand and he raised his eyes to mine. He was not holding a smile, neither was he frowning; he just stared at me, making me nervous with the intensity of his gaze.

     

    I felt like punching him. “Do you make a habit of taking pictures of strangers without their consent?” I asked in annoyance.

     

    He stared at me for so long, I in fact thought he would never answer. The picture he took was not my problem though, it was his unsettling gaze. He managed to hold my gaze without even trying and he seemed to see into my soul. He suddenly looked down until he was again staring at his camera.

     

    I shifted nervously and tapped my feet in annoyance. How dare he take my picture and ignore my question? I opened my mouth to hurl insults at me when he suddenly looked up at me again. “A flower is a symbol of great beauty and love, opening up its buds in the sun, beaming with life and promises” he walked up to me and his fingers played with the flower even though his eyes were holding mine. “But what happens when the sun it opened itself up to gets too hot for it to handle?” he asked. “The ground dries up, leaving the flower without water to sustain it; leaving the flower to face the vengeance of the hot sun without support” he glanced briefly at the flower then back at my pale face. “Slowly, the flower begins to fade… then it withers… and if care is not taken… it dies…” his gaze had become so intense and for several seconds, minutes, hours…I have no idea how long I stood there; I just stood, gazing at him as his words ran through my mind over and over again.

     

    I blinked and shook my head. “What do you mean?” I squeaked.

     

    He looked at me for several seconds then looked again at the camera. I wanted to see the picture he took now. “You have a faraway look in your eyes. Your body posture and set jaw tells me that you are going through a lot of pain which you try to hide behind bravery.” He raised his eyes to mine. “You are like this beautiful flower. Radiant with unrivalled beauty, open to life and filled with a lot of promises. Although, I am afraid you might have let in too much sun. I…”

     

    “Stop” I yelled. “Stop filling my head with rubbish” I blinked furiously, trying not to lose the battle over my emotions. “Why do I always have to bump into you” I yelled, even though it was the second time I was seeing him. But why does it always have to be at this same spot? “I am not a flower, and unfortunately, I did not let in any sun. Do you know why?” I asked. “Because all I have in my life is complete darkness” I screamed and turned instantly, heading home. I did not hear him following and I was extremely grateful. At least he knows when to back down. I refrained from looking back and marched home.

     

    I opened the door of the sitting room and did not even pause when I saw Alex for the first time in days. I was in no mood for anyone, least of all him.

     

    “Where are you coming from woman?” he boomed.

     

    I paused and turned to look at the man who destroyed my life. I shook my head and turned towards the stairs. “When I ask a question in this house woman, you answer me” he was marching towards me. “You are definitely a s--t. You are now spreading your legs for everyone in Abuja, isn’t it?”

     

    I turned and swallowed hard. “What if I am uhn? At least, I am not in the danger of impregnating someone, am i? You should really think of opening a baby-making company, I think you have the talent of spreading your sperm where it is not needed”

     

    His arm swung with alarming speed and connected with my cheek. Before I got my balance, his other hand connected with my other cheek, sending me crashing to the ground at once. I heard running feet approaching but the pain coercing through my body had me curled up on the floor. The pain was so unbearable but I would be damned if I cry. I bit my shaking lips so hard, I ended up tasting my own blood. I turned to raise glaring eyes at Alex, despite my pain and that obviously turned to a great mistake because he literarily pounced on me.

     

    “Don’t you dare look at me like that” he roared as he rained punches all over me. I shrieked loudly as I curled up in a ball, protecting my child with my hands and legs as every blow landed. Tears came rushing down my face and I discovered that the screams I was hearing were mine.

     

    “Mr. Alex.” Tina cried as she tried to push Alex away. The pain coercing through my body was eating at my senses and I was slowly losing consciousness.

     

    “Please leave her… Please” I faintly heard Tina cry with shaky voice. “Please sir… she is pregnant… aaarrrhhhh…….” Darkness engulfed me as everything faded out of sight.

    Episode 16

    “Ouch” I whimpered painfully. “Please be careful Tina” I said sharply.

     

    “Sorry” she seemed to be trying hard to control her emotions as she tended the bloody fist marks all over my body with hot water and a clean towel. “Just try to endure the pain” she whispered sympathetically.

     

    I winced as the hot towel hit my skin again. It felt like a great camp fire had been lit beneath my skin and everywhere was aching like hell. It still felt extremely unbelievable that Alex had actually beaten me up. He had slapped me once but even then, I never imagined that he would have the nerve to beat me to a pulp in my delicate condition. “Ow! Easy” I moaned painfully.

     

    Tina shook her head. “Forgive me, but I really wish I could kill that husband of yours. I know he is your husband but he is a demented beast. My apologies” she grumbled angrily as she squeezed the towel aggressively.

     

    I swallowed painfully. This is one subject I would rather avoid. “You don’t need to apologize Tina, I also wish I could kill him; my life would be a lot better… Ow…” I moaned in pain as she placed the hot towel on my swollen face.

     

    She wiped tears I hadn’t noticed from her face. “I was so scared… especially when you passed out. We need to get you to the hospital” she said sternly.

     

    I sighed. “How many times would I tell you that I am not going to any hospital? I am not going” I would not want to explain how and why I turned into a punching bag to any doctor. It was already embarrassing and degrading enough that Tola and Tina were the spectators of the disastrous event, adding the staff of a hospital to the list would be more than I can stomach.

     

     

     

    “You are being too stubborn Amara. Your baby is involved here, even if you don’t care about yourself” she said angrily.

     

    “My baby is perfectly fine, I am sure” I said.

     

    “How can you be so sure? Your baby is part of you; if you are hurt, your baby is hurt too” she retorted.

     

    I swallowed and endured the pain without making a sound. Tola entered the room, bringing more hot water and left in a hurry like she could not bear to see me in that condition. I exhaled audibly. For the first time, I really looked at Tina and noticed something odd. “Tina? Why do you have that swell on your head?” I asked, sitting up sharply to examine the swollen part of her head.

     

    She brushed my hand away, avoiding my gaze. “Stop. Lay still and let me finish what I am doing. This is nothing”

     

    I ignored her. “This does not look like nothing. What happened to your head? Did you fall?”

     

    “Y…Yes… I slipped in the kitchen and hit my head” she murmured

     

    I shook my head. “You are a terribly liar Tina, you can’t effectively lie to me” I said, knowing that I won’t like the answer. “What happened?” I said sharply.

     

    “Erm…” she coughed slightly. “I tried to pull your husband away when he was… erm… beating you… and he pushed me away…”

     

    “And you hit your head on something” I finished for her in extreme anger, bouncing off the bed within the twinkling of an eye and hiding the sharp pain that took over my wounded body.

     

    “The wall” she stated. “But it is nothing and it would go soon. I did not ask you to stand up, you are very hurt” she murmured disapprovingly.

     

    “How dare he?” I roared as my anger skyrocketed. “He might be able to hurt me but he has no right to disrespect my friends”

     

    “Please don’t forget that I am under his employ” she said. “Don’t beat yourself up over nothing. He is paying me so he has the right”

     

     

     

    “Absolutely not. He is paying you to cook for him and not bump your head against the wall. I would give him a piece of my mind. If he thinks he has put me in my place by beating me up” I laughed heartily, though it was painful. “Well, he should think again. I have already been stripped of my pride and dignity; there is nothing left to be ashamed of”

     

    She sighed. “Well, he is not around now; thank God for that. Now, you would use your drugs and sleep, thank God the marks are not visible anymore”

     

    “Yeah. My skin never retained marks for long, I am lucky I am not as white as that swine; Lisa.” I said gratefully.

     

    “Yeah, if you were, your body would look like a painter’s board. Now, come and lie down, you need to rest”

     

    “Let me see what I can do to your head first” I said alternatively.

     

    “No! I have done that. I am not in the mood to feel that pain again, please” she grimaced.

     

    I smiled. “And you called me a baby for feeling pains.”

     

     

    I felt much better after sleeping all afternoon. The previous night and this early morning had been too much torture because the pain burned into my senses, making me cower in pain from even the slightest move; but now, I felt as good as new, even though the punch spots were still hurting.

     

    Immediately I got down the stairs, Lisa turned from the television and bursted into laughter immediately she saw me. She laughed until she almost fell off the chair. At first, anger took over me and I felt like strangling her. But then, I quickly realized that her aim was to get me angry so I quickly composed myself, putting an indifferent smile on my face.

     

    “Oh, my God! I never knew Alex was such a good boxer” Lisa said with shining eyes and fully displayed teeth. “Tell me s--t, how was it? Oh, how I regret missing that show” she said gleefully.

     

    “Really? You missed it? OH, that is so painful. It would have been nice to have you in attendance dear. The drama was most entertaining. Tell me, who told you about it uhn? I know the walls have ears but I am sure they don’t have mouths”. I wanted to know who told her. I knew it was definitely not Tina, she won’t do that. The only other witness would be Tola. Even though we have become friends, I still could not trust her fully.

     

    “Oh, why? Of course, Alex himself gave me the full gist of how he put you in your place with his fist” she laughed. “So, it is only mouth you have, you don’t have action”

     

    I looked at her as my anger started showing up again. Alex had told her. With each passing day, I always found myself wondering how Alex had been able to cover the monster in him while we were in the village. He had never given me a cause to even assume he would lift a finger against a woman, but here I am, faced with the reality of my destroyed life. “Don’t play with fire dear, you would get burnt” I said sternly, with a wicked smile. I called Tina and told her I was going for a small stroll.

     

    I walked the length of the street until I got to a business center. I smiled at the lady there and she smiled back. “Good evening, how may I help you?”

     

    I smiled. “I want to make a phone call” I said.

     

    She frowned. “I am sorry, I only sell recharge cards”

     

    “Oh” I breathed. “What if I use your phone? I would recharge it, please” I pleaded.

     

    She nodded and recharged the phone and gave it to me. Coolval.com I collected it gratefully. I had searched for the senator’s private number in the diary I found in Alex’s study and as I dialed, I hoped he was still using it. When it started ringing, I sighed happily.

     

    “Hello” I heard the Senator’s baritone voice from the other end.

     

    “Hello sir, this is Amara” I answered

     

    “Oh, how are you doing daughter?” he answered instantly, seeming really interested in my welfare.

     

    “I wish I could tell you that I am fine sir, but I am not” I allowed the pain to seep into my voice intentionally as I walked slightly away from the shop to give myself little privacy.

     

     

     

    “What is wrong? What did Alex do this time?” he asked sternly.

     

    Well, it is good to go straight to the point. “Well sir, ever since I met your son, I have known only pain in my life, but right now, I’m not only have to deal with emotional pains but physical ones also”

     

    “What do you mean?” his voice was deadly quiet.

     

    “Alex has decided to use his fists to show his frustration sir. He beat me up yesterday until I fell unconscious”

     

    “He did what?” the senator roared at the other end and the sound pierced through my ear drums.

     

    “I just decided to inform you sir because I did not sign my death warrant when I married Alex. I would not put my life and that of my son in danger. I won’t.”

     

    “S… Son?” he gasped out.

     

    “Yes sir, the scan revealed that I am carrying a baby boy” Affection seeped unconsciously through my voice.

     

    There was a brief silence, and then the senator seemed to get back his composure. “Please relax. Are you feeling better? Oh! You need to see a doctor to check you out. As for Alex, leave him to me. I would handle him. Can I reach you on this line?” he ranted.

     

    “No… No. I am calling from a business center”

     

    “Alright. If anything happens, call me instantly. I would get you a phone right away. Should have done that”.

     

    “Thanks a lot sir. Erm sir, there is one other thing I want to ask. I need to see my parents but I don’t know where they are now. Do you have their address sir?”

     

    He answered in affirmative and gave me the address which I instantly put to memory.

     

    I paid the lady and walked home. I sat with Lisa in the sitting room and a contented smile was pasted on my face. She glanced at me from time to time, apparently irritated that I was in a good mood despite all that has happened. She was busy watching a fashion show which I found irritating and I grabbed the remote and changed it to African Magic.

     

    “How dare you? Can’t you see that I am watching a program?” she bellowed in anger.

     

    “Heeeeyy, hush! You are disturbing my baby with your cat-like voice. Will you shut up? I want to watch a movie, if you are not ok with it, go and get some sleep”

     

    “You must be out of your senses” she marched towards me. “Give me that remote” she yelled.

     

    “You would better get yourself out of my sight if you don’t want to find out how good of a boxer I am. I am warning you woman, I won’t pity your condition at all” I shot at her.

     

    She glared then stormed up the stair. I laughed and relaxed against the back rest of the chair.

     

     

    After going to the market that same evening to get some things for my parents, I instantly decided that I would spend the night with them, if not days. I have missed them and I knew life would not be totally hell on earth if I stayed with them. As long as my dad behaved of course. I packed everything I bought and put them in the car before going inside to pick some necessities, like a spare cloth and other lady things.

     

    I was just climbing down the stairs when the front door burst open and Alex stormed in. You can hi wumie on+2348127818304 to be added to story headquarters to enjoy reading from there. he saw me with no difficulty and stormed towards me like he would actually kill me on the spot. I stood firm with my head held high, even though I was shivering inside. “Is a tiger on your tail? Why do you look so…”

     

    “Shut your mouth” he roared and grabbed my neck in a choking vice. “How dare you call my father to tell him trash? Do you know what you have just done? I am suspended in my own father’s company, you filthy b” he roared.

     

     

     

    I let my bag fall to the ground and I dig my nails into his hand until the pain forced him to let go of my neck. I coughed slightly and drew in sharp breaths. “Do you know what you have done Alex?” I returned when I gained my composure. “You had the nerve to beat me up. What did you aim to achieve uhn? You want to box my child out of me right? Or you want to put fear in me so I can cower in your presence” I laughed. “You have created a monster Alex, deal with it. If you lay a single finger on me, I would make you pay. Calling your dad is the least of what I would do to you Alex, and when I am done, you would regret knowing me”

     

    He glared at me. “Believe me, I regret that already”

     

    I picked up my bag and smiled coyly. “I am happy to hear that Alex, because the feeling is mutual” I walked away from him. “Goodnight Tina” I yelled.

     

    “And where the hell are you going?” Alex barked.

     

    I glanced slightly at him, and then continued out the door. “None of your business. You have your suspension to worry about darling”

     

    I smiled outside the house and called the driver. I told him the address and we were out of the house and onto the road. I rubbed life back to my strangled neck and hissed in anger. I lay my head back and closed my eyes as darkness grew near. I knew my parents would be pleasantly surprised and I could not wait to see that surprise in their faces. I have missed my parents, my mother especially.

     

     

    “Why won’t you listen to reason” Amara’s mum yelled in anger as she marched behind her husband into the sitting room. The argument had been going on for almost thirty minutes, yet he won’t listen. “I know my dreams Nnayi, they always come true. Let us take Amara out of that house before they kill her for me”

     

    “Listen to me woman. Amara is married and it is her duty to remain in that house for better for worse. Just because you dreamt that Alex beat her till she fainted, you want her to leave such a wealthy family? My God! Don’t be stupid woman”

     

    “I am not stupid, I am a mother and naturally, I am concerned about my child. Unfortunately, you are not” she said angrily.

     

    “Why should I be? Now, Amara is nothing more than a financial means for me. We both know that she is not our daughter; why would I be bothered?” Crashing sounds made then turn and they both gasped in horror.

     

    “Amara”

    Episode 17

    I stared in horror as I examined the mess I had made on the floor. It had been my intention to give a solid surprise but now, the nylon of provisions I was holding just had to fall down, giving me away without much ado. I quickly glanced up at my parents. They were looking at me in horror and fright. That was not the kind of expression I was looking for. Yes, the nylon falling down could have been a scare but did they have to look so frightened.

     

    “Papa, Mama; good evening” I called with a beaming smile. “Surprise. I wanted to surprise you both. Why do you both look so frightened? I am not a ghost”

     

    My mother seemed to be shivering. “You did not hear anything?” she asked shakily.

     

    “Of course I heard something! You both were fighting again. What was the cause of your argument this time?”

     

    They both shifted nervously and seemed to heave a sigh of relief. “I thought I was always the cause of your arguments but now, I discover that you also argue when I am not there” I busied myself with gathering the scattered provisions. “Anyways, this is not the time to talk about it. Why not welcome your daughter uhn?” I grinned.

     

    I went into my mother’s waiting hands and hugged her tightly. “I have missed you my child.” She whispered.

     

    I stared at my father for some seconds, uncertain if a hug would be accepted by him. A splitting smile lit his face and he opened his arms which I ran into for a hug. I have to accept that these are the only people in life who care about me. These are the people who love me unconditionally. They are there through the thick and thin. Despite the fact that my dad did not seem to show his love for me through his actions, I had a feeling that he loves me even though he does not show it.

     

     

     

    “How are you doing my daughter” he asked as he released me. “I see the pregnancy is changing your body” he commented.

     

    “Yes Papa” I said. “This apartment is really beautiful” I commented as I looked around again.

     

    “It is” my mother responded as she went through what I brought. “Wow, you brought so many things” she said satisfactorily.

     

    “There is more” I quickly went outside to the car to carry things and the driver helped me as well. The happiness in the face of my parents was priceless and I was glad that I brought them a measured level of happiness. The rest of the evening was spent in happy chatter and for the first time in life’s history, I noticed that my dad has a healthy sense of humor. The gifts I brought had probably been responsible for opening that part of him.

     

    Mum and I prepared dinner even though she argued continuously that I needed rest because of my condition. I ignored her and joined her in the kitchen. I wanted to be the only one cooking but my parents would have none of that. Mum and I chatted on as we prepared the food and laughter rang out. I deliberately avoided anything that had to do with Alex, not wanting him to spoil the mood.

    “Mum?” I called when we both became quiet.

     

    “Yes?”

     

    “Why were you and dad arguing when I arrived?” I watched her grow frighteningly still. “Can you tell me?”

     

    She shifted, and then cleared her throat. “No… No, it is irrelevant. We are a married couple, it is normal to fight every now and then… we would always settle our differences. Don’t worry”

     

    I wanted to argue but knew that I should not be meddling in my parents’ affairs, so I let it go. She sighed audibly when I did not argue and I almost changed my mind and probe further but she was smart enough to change the subject instantly. The dinner was really lively and my father talked endlessly, forgetting his own ‘table manners’ admonitions.

     

    “You both seem very happy here, are you not thinking of going back to Iguocha soon?” I asked suddenly.

     

     

     

    “Mbanu” My father said instantly. “I am not ready to go back to poverty. I would only go back when I have enough money with me to lavish there. When I start a business and make good money, then, I know that my arrival in the village would be respected.”

     

    I thought of what my father said and had to agree with him. In the village, my father was not accepted in so many respectable gatherings because he had no penny to give. The disgrace had been much. Whenever I saw the way rich men and women were treated, I always wished that my parents could receive that same level of honour and respect. It had boosted my dream to make it in life, but Alex had effectively trampled on that dream. Anyways, all hope is not lost.

     

    I left the dinning and went to take my bag. I again sank into the chair I vacated as I opened my bag. My parents were looking at me and I felt, rather than saw their widened eyes as I extracted money from my bag.

     

    “Amara” mother gasped and I smiled. I placed the large sum of money in front of my dad.

     

    “That is two hundred and fifty thousand Naira. I would give you another one tomorrow to make it five hundred thousand Naira tomorrow. Please manage it papa and mama. I hope it can start up a small business” I said with a soft smile.

     

    There was silence for some seconds, then, my father was out of his seat, hugging me so tight, I found it hard to breathe.

    “My daughter, oh, I knew I could count on you” he said, unable to control his happiness. He instantly left me and started fussing with the money.

     

    My mother was still where she was sitting. “Is this ok with you Amara?” she asked softly, surprising me slightly.

     

    “Of course it is ok with her” my dad answered sharply, fixing her a stern glare. “Why shouldn’t it?”

     

    My mum glared back at him and I looked at both of them in confusion. “Don’t worry mum, this is perfectly ok with me. It is my duty to take care of you and papa. You were right; Alex is a traitor and a beast. You are the only people who love me”

     

    Mum swallowed and murmured a low ‘thanks’, while dad continued to count the money endlessly. I pushed all my questions away and enjoyed the look of pure happiness I saw on my father’s face. I was not happy that my mother seemed rather moody but I let it pass.

     

    Feeling exhausted, I decided to retire into one of the rooms. Ever since I produced the money, dad treated me like a queen, insisting on making bath water for me by himself. I slept like a baby that night, happy that I was not at my husband’s mansion where there was nothing but sadness and pain.

     

     

    “I am not comfortable with this Nnayi” Amara’s mum said as she changed into a night dress.

     

    Amara’s father recounted the money over and over again. “You don’t have to be comfortable. You are in love with poverty, but I am not. If you want to spend your life shamefully, and then count me out of It.” he countered.

     

    “But we are putting Amara at risk. She nearly found out the truth today. What would happen when she finds out that she is not our child?”

     

    “I don’t care. She should be grateful to us for picking her from the dustbin where her real mother dumped her. If we hadn’t she might not be alive today. I don’t expect her to be angry; in fact, I might tell her myself if it would make her feel compelled to help.”

     

    Amara’s mum shook her head. “You are wicked”

     

    He hissed. “At least I am not people with it”

     

     

    Tola knocked the door of Lisa’s room softly and the door opened quietly. Everyone including Tina had gone to sleep and Tola wanted to be careful. She did not want to be seen. She entered Lisa’s room and closed the door quietly.

     

    “Thanks for coming” Lisa said. “You are making the right decision”

     

    Tola shifted nervously. “I don’t want to harm Amara. She has been really nice to me. She –”

     

     

     

    “Shut up!” Lisa said sharply. “What do you mean by nice?” she growled. “She is just using you and that senseless Tina. Just because she bought you few clothes, you are falling for her? Here” she opened her bag and extracted a large sum of money. She threw it at Tola and she hastily grabbed it with wide eyes. “That is one hundred thousand Naira. You can use it to buy anything you want, anything. If you are on my side Tola, you would really enjoy” Lisa planted a pleasant smile on her face.

     

    The money seemed to convince Tola, even though she felt bad for what she was about to do. “What do you want me to do?” she asked.

     

    Lisa’s face lit with a genuine smile. “Good girl.” She opened her bag again and extracted a sachet of drugs. “These drugs look exactly like the ones Amara uses” she stated.

     

    Tola’s eyes widened. “I can’t kill her o. God forbid”

     

    “My friend, shut up!” Tola almost yelled but managed to keep her voice down. “It is not to kill her but to make her lose her baby. You just have to replace these drugs with the ones with her. She won’t notice the difference”

     

    Tola shook her head furiously. “Oh my God, this is bad. I can’t do it. My conscience would kill me” she threw the money on the bed and turned to leave.

     

    “If you leave now, I would make sure you leave this house first thing tomorrow morning. Amara is not around, so there would be no one to save you. It would be your loss because, I would change the drugs myself and what you are trying to prevent would still happen” she said sternly. “And you won’t be able to report me to anyone or the police for that matter because I would have you killed immediately you leave this house. You know my intentions already Tola, you can’t go freely. Your only option is to do it, or face the consequences”

     

    Tola’s feet could not hold her. She relaxed against the door for support. “Don’t be a fool Tola, just help me. The child is the only thing that ties that s--t and my husband together”

     

    “But they are married”

     

    Lisa smiled. “Leave that. Are you ready to do this or not?”

     

    Tola swallowed and turned to Lisa with a look of contempt on her face. “Do I have a choice?”

    Episode 18

    I completed the money and started packing to leave. I have missed Tina and Tola and I wanted to really chat with them. I said my goodbyes and entered the car, waving at my parents until they disappeared from my view. I relaxed fully and closed my eyes. I snapped out of the short slumber I fell into when I heard Tina’s voice. She was smiling happily as the driver drove into the compound. Tina definitely made coming home worth it.

     

    I alighted from the car with a beaming smile. “I see you missed me as much as I missed you” I said in greeting.

     

    “You have no idea” she grinned. “There was no one to cause interesting drama at the dining” she said.

     

    I laughed. “You swine! I hope the devil has not been giving you a hard time”

     

    She frowned in anger. “I wish! She just orders us around like a pair of fools. She is so lazy”

     

    I smiled. I definitely missed Tina. “What of your parents?”

     

    “Oh, they are doing good. Going there was a good decision” I said.

    “What of Tola?” I asked, surprised that she hadn’t come to say hi.

     

    “She must be in her room. She has been behaving strangely all day. I asked if she is sick but she denied it” Tina said as we went inside.

     

    “It might be love sickness” I said jokingly.

     

    Tina laughed. As we entered Tola appeared with a beaming smile. “Welcome back Amara” she said.

     

    I glanced at Tina. “I thought you said something was wrong with her” The Tola I was looking at looked the same. I raised my brow. “Or maybe it is not love sickness. She probably missed me so much” I grinned. Tina busted into laughter.

     

    Tola shook her head. “You both are impossible”

     

    We all laughed heartily. I made for my room where I dropped my hand bag and returned to the sitting room. From the look of things, Alex was not at home, and since he had been suspended, he was surely not at work. He might be somewhere, sulking in the hands of another woman, I thought.

     

    “Surprise Surprise” Tola and Tina screamed and my attention snapped to them. They were holding a box.

     

    “What is that?” I asked curiously.

     

    “Mr Bello snr sent someone here, late last night and the person brought this for you. It is an IPhone” Tina squealed.

     

    I frowned. “What is an IPhone?” I asked.

     

    Tola gaped, then shook her head. ” It is one of the most prestigious phones. Here” she gave it to me and I gaped in amazement. The senator had promised to get me a phone. I never knew it would be so immediate, and definitely not this beautiful.

     

    “Jesus, it must be really expensive.”

     

    “You can say that again. He already bought a sim card with it and I think I saw recharge cards in the pack of the phone” Tola said.

     

    Tina frowned at her. “Why did you have to check it?”

     

     

     

    “I just peeped. I do not even know the amount the cards are” Tola returned.

     

    I shook myself and extracted the phone. It looked so perfect that I found myself glued to the phone for the rest of the evening, until hunger took over my system. Tina served dinner and Tola, who had been lecturing me about the functions of the phone, told me to go and eat. I reluctantly went to the dinning, with my eyes still glued to the phone.

     

    “Tola, I don’t mean to be rude, but could you please help me with my drugs?” I asked apologetically. She swallowed and hesitated. “If you can’t, please don’t. You must be tired after teaching me…”

     

    “Why can’t she?” I hadn’t noticed Lisa’s presence but her voice definitely announced her presence. “She is the maid here, isn’t she?”

     

    “Don’t you dare call my friend a maid. Don’t make me pounce on you o” I returned as my eyes sparked in anger. Coolval stories . “Never mind Tola, I would get it” I said.

     

    “No!” She said sharply. “I would go. Sit down and relax. You should not stress yourself much in your condition.”

     

    “The stress would not be good for the thing in her tummy, would it?” Lisa asked rhetorically.

     

    I glanced at her for some seconds and wondered why I felt something strange going on. I could not place it so I let it slide. Unlike Tola’s usually fast movements, I noticed that her strides were slow and I made it a point to actually find out what was wrong. She might be truly sick just like Tina said.

     

    By the time Tola got back, I was almost through with my food. She placed the small bottle of pills in front of me and stood pensively, watching me.

    “Do you really have to use that today?” She asked unexpectedly.

     

    I heard Lisa shift in her chair but I paid her no heed. “Yes Tola, I forgot it at home yesterday and I have not used it since then. I should not skip it today”

     

    She nodded nervously and I felt her eyes on me as I put two pills in my palm. As I was about to use it, it was as if the whole world had their eyes on me. The drugs rolled out of my hand and fell on the floor.

    “You see? Your eyes eventually carried the drugs out of my hand” I wondered why Lisa was looking at me so intensely.

     

    “Sorry…” Tola said. “I just hate… Drugs”

     

    I smiled. “Thank God you are not using it.” I left the ones on the floor, knowing that I could not possibly use them again. I took another pair from the small bottle. I refilled my cup with water, completely ignoring the eyes on me. I put the drugs in my mouth, put water, and swallowed. “You see?” I said to a pale Tola. “Using drugs is so easy”

    Episode 19

    I retired back to my room after eating and relaxed fully on the bed with my ‘Every Woman’ in hand. It has been a long day and all I had in mind was a deep dreamless sleep. My eyes drifted close as I read the book blindly and an exhausted yawn escaped my lips. I yawned again and finally dropped the book, giving in to sleep.

     

    I jumped and sleep vanished from my eyes when the door suddenly opened. Tola was the person I saw when my eyes finally settled. “What is going on Tola? You scared me” I asked in confusion.

     

    Tola looked agitated and on the verge of tears. “Amara, you need to save me please” she pleaded.

     

    I jumped to my feet at once. “What are you talking about?” I held her.

     

    “I can’t stay long. Lisa would suspect something. Tina would be here soon”

     

    “What do you mean? What would Lisa suspect?” before I could get an answer, Tola struggled out of the door hastily and I stood, staring at the door. I could not even understand what the hell just happened. It was beyond strange. I paced the room slowly, trying to come up with an explanation for the weird encounter but nothing came to mind. I turned to go downstairs to confront Lisa. It was certain that Lisa was doing something to Tola and I needed to know what it was exactly.

     

    Before I was able to open the door, the door opened again, nearly hitting me directly in the face. “What is going on?” I nearly yelled as I jumped out of the way.

     

    Tina came in and quickly closed the door, just the way Tola did. “Can you explain what is going on or do I need to find out myself?” I asked sternly, folding my arms across my chest.

     

    She swallowed. “You should be losing your child right now”

     

    “What? God forbid! What is the meaning of this nonsense?” Now my anger has grown sky high.

     

    “Please listen to me Ama. Lisa gave Tola some drugs to replace with yours. The drug is meant to abort the child speedily. According to her, the drugs are very strong. Tola could not refuse because she threatened to kill Tola if she did not comply.”

     

    I paled and my legs shook uncontrollably. “W… What…What are you saying?” I held my tummy firmly in protection. “Are you trying to tell me that I… that I…”

     

    “No” Tina quickly interjected. “Tola changed the drugs in her presence and gave your own drugs to Miss Lisa as instructed but that is not what you used. She later went back to change it to vitamin tablets after she told me. What you used cannot have negative effects on you” she declared and I sagged in relief. “But now, Tola is in danger” she continued, looking frightened. “If Miss Lisa is capable of trying to abort your child, I think she would also be capable of getting Tola killed, she needs to have the feeling that what she did worked.”

     

    “What are you saying?” I asked in confusion.

     

    “If Miss Lisa sees that you are in serious pain, she would believe undoubtedly that you used her drugs and it would get Tola out of harm’s way.”

     

    I nodded as I thought of it and hissed. “I am going to strangle her neck when this is over, right before I hand her over to the police” I said in anger. “So she wants a little drama?” I smiled. “Drama, she would get” I turned to walk to the bed and froze.

     

    “What is it Amara?” Tina asked, concerned.

     

    “My… my tumm… ouch” I gasped as I bent over in pain.

     

    Tina ran to help me but when she got halfway, she stopped and almost started laughing. “Jesus! You almost fooled me also. You must be a good drama queen” she grinned.

     

     

     

    “Can’t you see that I am in pain? Aaaarrrhhhh… this is not the time to laugh. Shut up and… ouch… get into character” I ordered.

     

    She bowed slightly. “Yes ma’am” she answered with a grin. As she straightened, the smile on her face was replaced by a deep frown. Good girl, I thought. “Oh my God Amara, what is wrong with you?” she asked with pitched voice, coming to my aid.

     

    “My tummy… arrrhh… I can’t breathe… the pain… aaaahhhh” I streamed. “My tummy is on fire… Oh God! My baby… ah” we bundled ourselves out of the door and started down the stairs with me screaming and collapsing on the floor. Tina was also doing a good job of being the help mate. “What did you put in the food Tina… ooowww… I can’t take it … Oh God…”

     

    Tola and Lisa came running. “For God’s sake, what is all the commotion about?” Lisa squealed.

     

    I really wished I could tear off her filthy hair from her head. “Jesus! This is too much” water gathered in my eyes as pain took over my features. “It is still months to my delivery, what is going on? Aaarhhh” I whimpered. “Please be fine baby… I whispered to my baby. “Mummy is here… You are going to be fine” I whispered again. “Hospital… Take me to the hospital now” I stood from the ground but did not stand straight, holding my stomach like a mother hen.

     

    From my bent position, I saw the smug smile on Lisa’s face as she stared at me and I almost gave up the charade to beat the hell out of her forever attempting to harm my baby. Tola quickly joined Tina and they both managed to half-carry my screaming form outside the house and into the car. The driver sped off like a mad man, genuinely concerned and I was actually sorry for the poor guy who knew nothing about the whole charade.

     

    We arrived at the hospital I use for my antenatal within the twinkling of an eye and Tina and Tola made a big scene of taking me inside. Some nurses also came to our rescue, while I continued my pretense of wreathing in undiluted pain. The nurses uttered words of sympathy and encouragements which almost had me laughing out loud. I swallowed the laughter that was threatening to erupt and carried on the pretense until I was safely deposited in a room. Immediately the door closed, all my pretense ceased and Tina, who could not hold it any longer, busted unto an uncontrollable laughter.

     

     

     

    “Jesus… I never knew you could act so well. I almost believed you were truly in pain” she laughed heartily.

     

    Tola grinned and heaved a sigh of relief. “I owe you my life Ama” she said, full of gratitude.

     

    “My child and I would be forever grateful to you Tola, you have nothing to thank me for” I returned.

     

    The nurses looked at us in confusion. “Can someone explain what is going on here? Amara?” one of the nurses asked.

     

    I looked at them apologetically. “I am really sorry for the trouble, it was a matter of life and death. Someone tried to terminate my pregnancy. If I could only see the doctor, I would be eternally grateful for the help” I said in a pleading tone.

     

    They both looked at me in curiosity. They knew me to a certain extent and they were certainly concerned about my welfare. “That sounds pretty serious” the nurse I knew to be Nurse B, said and led the three of us to the doctor’s office. The lady doctor was with a male friend and the nurse went to whisper into the doctor’s ear. She invited us inside fully and she smiled at me. “How are you Amara? What is this that I am hearing?”

     

    I felt awkward talking in front of the guy but since she was willing to talk in his presence, I knew that he could be trusted. Tola narrated the whole incident of how she was offered money and how she was threatened and forced into going through with the plan. She said so many things and all I could do most times was gap in amazement. It was as annoying as it was unbelievable.

     

    “Do you have the drugs?” The man asked suddenly, surprising me.

     

    The doctor saw the surprise on my face and smiled. “Don’t worry, you are definitely lucky you met him here. He is a police detective. Mr. Sinja. I am sure he can help you”

     

    “I definitely can. Who is this murderer in the making” he looked really angry.

     

    I swallowed hard. “Thank you so much sir. All I want is to stop her from ever trying this nonsense again. My child means everything to me and I would not risk his safety for anything in the world. I also want my friends to be protected. These are the people that mean a lot to me and I would do anything as long as they are protected” I said.

     

    “Well then, let’s go. This lady must surely be arrested for attempted murder. The foetus should definitely be lucky, he has so many people who would risk their lives for him.” With that, he stood up and bid the doctor farewell, marching to the door like a trained soldier.

     

    The drive back home was filled with silence on my part, while Tina and Tola talked endlessly, recounting the entire Episode, and laughing whenever they talked about my displays. The police man made a phone call to someone I guessed to be a fellow police officer and asked for my address, which I gave. I saw the confused look on the driver’s face but ignored it. The face of the police man was as hard as stone and I found myself smiling. He was definitely a handsome man, no doubt, but his face made him look ruthless. Kelvin had looked different, yet similar, I thought suddenly, not even knowing what prompted such a stupid thought.

     

    We entered the compound and I noticed Alex’s car. We alighted and the police officer followed closely behind, betraying no emotion. We met the duo cuddling like a pair of teenagers in the sitting room. Is it not weird that they are always doing that every time I see them? I thought vaguely.

     

    Before I could utter a single word, the policeman emerged behind me. “I believe you are Miss Lisa” he began.

     

    Lisa jumped out of the chair, looking alarmed. She turned to glare at Tola.

     

    “Yes she is, the question should be, who are you?” Alex answered.

     

    “I am Detective Sinja” he extracted a card from his breast pocket and returned it. “Miss Lisa, you are under arrest for attempted murder” he said and I heard the siren of a police car outside.

     

    “What? What are you talking about?”

     

    “What is this Amara?” Alex boomed, standing up to glare at me. “What are you scheming this time?”

     

    “Oh! You would need to ask your little beauty queen over there. She is the one who tried to terminate my pregnancy with useless drugs” I shot back.

     

    “Well, you are better off without the pregnancy, don’t you think?”

     

    The policeman raised his brow. “If you are not careful young man, I would arrest you also because you sound like her accomplice” Like magic, he removed handcuffs.

     

    “This is a mistake, I am innocent, you hear me” she yelled and tried to run but Mr. Sinja’s hand shot out faster than I could even imagine, grabbing her just in time. He attached the handcuffs and two other police men entered the sitting room.

     

    “You would pay for this, Amara, Tola” she screamed. “You would pay for this” she yelled as the men dragged her out of the house.

    Episode 20

    Mrs. Bello poured herself a drink as she recounted her sorrows. It was now twenty years since she did the unthinkable, yet, she could not make herself forget her past errors, especially one. A living breathing mistake which could not be forgiven. Every year, she remembered the 20th of September and willed it to go away.

     

    “I don’t think I am following this conversation.” Toba said as he dropped his full glass of alcoholic wine on the counter. “Do you mean to tell me that Lisa tried to abort Amara’s pregnancy and is now in police custody?” He asked stupefied.

     

    Alex sighed and downed his drink at a go, ordering the barman to refill the glass. “Precisely. My life has turned into a circus ever since I encountered Amara. It has been from one problem to the other ever since she showed up. She seemed to have changed from the innocent village girl whom I willingly placed a bet on, into a dangerous viper, ready to bite with poisonous venom at the slightest provocation. Nothing works against her” he picked up his glass and drank the cup halfway, allowing the alcohol to burn down his throat.

    “Just imagine: I rid her of her virginity, and what did I get? She got pregnant” he pointed out, with his arms swinging in the air. “She showed up and when I suggested abortion, what happened instead? I ended up married” he roared in indignation. “I made her a maid in my house to punish her for making my life hell on earth but what was the result? My father threatened to take my position and I stupidly went ahead to get an agreement which allowed us both liberty to do whatever we wished. That is really one of the most stupid things I have done in my life” he swore angrily.

     

     

     

    “Amongst many other stupid things” Toba inserted annoyingly.

     

    “Thanks. I brought Lisa into the house when she declared her pregnancy, mainly to spite Amara, but what was the result? My house became hell on earth. I told her of the bet to destroy her morale and confidence but what did I end up achieving? She completely transformed into a monster. You advised me to beat her to a pulp and I did, but what was the result?” His voice rose several degrees as he drank the rest of the wine at once, slamming it frighteningly on the bar. “I got a bloody suspension letter from my own father’s company.” He boomed and Toba scratched his head in exasperation. “Lisa tried to use drugs to bring down Amara’s child and she was stupid enough to use Tola instead of doing the dirty job herself, but what did she get? She landed behind bars” he hissed through clenched teeth. “No plan works successfully against her.”

     

    Toba sighed and decided that his drink was necessary, drinking it all at once. “That girl is not normal. She is either a witch or a mermaid.”

     

    Alex picked up another full cup and started drinking again. The alcohol was beginning to make him feel lightheaded. “Do you know the worst part of this entire charade? Amara looks more beautiful by the day” he shook his head. “She looks completely different from the village girl she was. I don’t know how that is even possible. Pregnant women always look shabby and ugly to me with their protruding bellies and all but Amara looks totally different from that image. She is practically glowing. She was beautiful before with her uncommon shape and complexion, which is why I considered sharing a bed with her in the first place, but now, she looks even shapelier. Her eyes glow when she laughs and her cheeks seem to have a reddish glow. It makes me think and…”

     

    “Shut up man” Toba barked. “Are you alright? Don’t tell me you have started nursing stupid feelings for that tramp”

     

    Alex hissed. “Don’t be stupid. She is a woman and I am definitely not a wood. She has a certain sexual appeal and I am bound to react to it”

     

    “Just listen to yourself. That stupid reaction of yours is what brought you this far. Besides, you were not just talking about her body, you talked about her eyes and… did you mention cheeks? If all you want is minutes of sex, you won’t notice her eyes; you would notice something more sensual”

     

    “Are the eyes not part of the body?”

     

    Toba hissed. “I pity you. That girl is not normal. She brings bad tidings. Any involvement with her again would be like jumping from frying pan to flaming fire. If I were you – which I am so grateful I am not – I would be looking for a way to get Lisa out of jail. When she was there to give you free sex, you were not thinking of Amara’s eyes and cheeks. The sensible thing to do would be to get her an apartment because bringing her back into the house might be another terrible mistake. She might try something against Amara, maybe even try to kill her, and if she succeeds, you both are in for trouble. Big one!” he emphasized. “Prevention is better than cure” he breathed. “In the meantime, I think you have to get used to being a father because it looks like Amara is here to stay. Besides, you have children to look forward to” he grinned.

     

    About two weeks after Lisa’s arrest, I was beginning to feel sorry for her. Her departure from the house brought laughter and freedom back to Tola and Tina and we rarely saw Alex. He seemed to have abandoned the house, only to show up on few occasions. Tina and Tola talked easily and laughed freely now and I did not want this to change. For the first time, I was actually enjoying my stay in the house. I knew that Lisa did what she did in an attempt to get rid of me and I pitied her situation a bit but the detective had promised to keep her behind bars until the case was charged to court. He said that it was dangerous to have such a person roaming the streets of the federal capital.

     

    I walked with the ladies, as we took in the beautiful garden – the only part of the house where you can find complete peace.

    “I think you both are gifts from heaven” I said suddenly, changing the subject. “I never thought I would be this close to you, especially you, Tola, who seemed to hate me for no reason”.

     

     

     

    Tina whistled and Tola smiled. “I never thought so too. I have having the company of new people, especially one who would have to share my responsibility. When you became my boss’ wife, I was angry and I… I wanted to turn you and Tina against each other when I was apparently ignored in the house” Tina and I cast a quick glance at her and she hastily continued. “But when you bought clothes for me, you immediately won me over. I love dressing up nicely and a new wardrobe and also liberty to wear what I feel like instead of the maids’ gown was the best thing that has happened to me in a while. It was surprising that you thought of me despite all I did to you and it made me realize that you are really a kind hearted person. I wanted to do something to repay you” she said.

     

    “Confession Time!” Tina declared, standing with squared shoulders. She did the cross sign across Tola’s chest. “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more”

     

    I laughed and so did Tola. “What do you think about setting up your own businesses?” I asked suddenly and they both froze.

     

    “What do you mean?” Tola asked.

     

    I had given this a lot of thought and decided that I was not comfortable with the fact that my friends were apparently working for me. “Don’t you both want to be independent? You know, be on your own?” I asked tactfully, shrugging nonchalantly.

     

    Tina sighed. “Of course. I have definitely thought of it millions of times but it is easier said than done. The world out there is harsh. I have some money saved but it is definitely not enough to open a restaurant, which is what I dream to open”

     

    “Yeah!” Tola put in. “I want to open my own salon. But the money I have won’t do anything. Even if I get a shop and some things with the money, where would I live, what would I eat? That is why I prefer to stay here for the meantime, until I get enough money.

     

    I nodded. I wanted to do something tangible for them without it looking awkward. “Alex should be able to see to setting you both up, shouldn’t he? You both have been working for him for some time; he should be able to establish you both”

     

    “What are you saying Ama?” Tina asked in shock. Tola had gone mute.

     

    “Well, it would take a little persuasion I guess but we all know that Alex has the means to do it” I continued, seeming not to notice their agitation. “It is what you both deserve after working for him for so long, putting up with him. It is your right” their faces looked funny and I found myself smiling. “If you still don’t know what I am talking about, all I am saying is that I would talk Alex into establishing your businesses for you”

     

    Their eyes widened and they both screamed suddenly, jumping on me like I was a mysterious father Christmas. I squealed.

     

     

    I rubbed my eyes as I walked down the stairs groggily. I had slept late the previous night, just listening to Tina and Tola as they talked endlessly about their dream shops and all. It made me happy to know that at least, some people’s dreams can come true. Even if mine seemed destroyed due to my mistake, I can at least take pleasure in knowing that Tina and Tola would at least have what they had always dreamt of. Who knows, I might still be able to salvage something out of my life.

     

    “Happy Birthday”

     

    I nearly jumped out of my skin and came fully awake at once. The sitting room was half filled. My parents were there, the senator and his wife, Alex’s three drivers, our gateman, Tina and Tola and three or four people that I could not name. I was not just surprised, but shocked. It was surprising that I did not remember my own birthday, October 5.

     

    “Happy Birthday my baby girl” my mother said, approaching me, and I still stood at the foot of the stairs, looking frozen in my night gown. I laughed nervously as my mother hugged me tight.

     

    “I… I…” I stammered as my face reddened. I laughed nervously again. “I don’t know what to say. I even forgot my birthday” Tears gleamed in my eyes and I tried hard to blink them away. My father came to hug me and then, when the senator came with his smiling face, the tears rolled down my cheeks. He hugged me and wiped away the tears. I continued to murmur thanks to everyone and Tina and Tola propelled me up the stairs hurriedly. The sitting room was a sight to behold and the fact that it was decorated for me brought fresh tears to my eyes. The senator’s wife looked glum, like she had been dragged here, but she was the only one who did not seem happy.

     

    When we entered my room, I hugged Tina and Tola tightly. “Thanks a lot, I am so happy today”

     

    They grinned. “It was your father-in-law’s idea” Tina said, surprising me.

     

    “Yeah” Tola agreed. “Now, enough of that, we need to dress you up. It is party time” she squealed.

     

    They took their time dressing me and Tola really outdid herself in making my hair a sight to behold. When I looked at myself in the mirror, minutes later, I could not believe my eyes. I looked like a movie star. I had to agree that Tola’s talents were best in a salon. Happiness filled my heart and I jumped up like a baby. The glowing gown I wore showed my protruding belly a little but I looked so exceptional in it, and I also wanted my baby to have part of the attention. The music coming from the sitting room was already floating to the room. I looked at Tina and Tola. “Let’s go party” I screamed.

     

    “Yeeeaaahhhh” they squealed and we bundled ourselves out of the room.

     

    Burgundy is the code.

    Episode 21

    I have never had so much fun in my life. I have danced with virtually everyone in the sitting room, except my mother-in-law of course. Tina had cooked so many things and I could not stop eating. I had a feeling that I would be twice my current size within the next twenty four hours if I did not reduce my consumption.

     

    Several hours after, the door opened and Alex entered. His eyes found me and he seemed to freeze on the spot. I watched in irritation as his eyes raked my body slowly; what surprised me though was that I was not reacting to him the way I used to. My skin did not break out with Goosebumps, or anything. I nodded internally and gave myself a good pat in the back. This was definitely a good sign.

     

    “Is this the time you are supposed to be arriving for your wife’s birthday? Where have you been? You definitely were not at work and neither did you sleep here” the senator scolded.

     

    Alex ignored him totally, obviously angry with his father.

     

    “You look really beautiful Amara” he said, surprising everyone into complete silence. I stayed there for several seconds, unable to believe he had just said that. Instead of feeling delight, anger ran through my veins at his audacity. I turned to grab a cold cup of water to quench my sudden thirst and anger, passing by my mother-in-law but she suddenly grabbed me; the first time we actually touched all day.

     

    I was stunned. “Did I do something wrong ma?” I asked, instinctively knowing that the excitement was finally over.

     

    “Can’t you greet your husband? You have no respect for my son” she snarled.

     

    “You are hurting me ma” I squealed in pain as her nails bit into my flesh.

     

    She caught her husband’s eye and instantly let go of my hand. I hurried past her and filled a cup with a much needed cold water. As I drank and walked back, my mother-in-law shocked me again by grabbing me. Something seemed to have caught her eyes and she froze. Before I could think, she turned me around suddenly and tugged on my left ear. “Where… where did you get that?” she stammered.

     

     

     

    “What is the meaning of this nonsense Katherine?” the senator boomed, calling his wife’s name for the first time.

     

    “Do you have a problem with my daughter?” my mum asked, moving closer.

     

    The senator’s wife looked pale. “Where did she get that black dot behind her ear?” she asked shakily.

     

    My mum shifted. “It has been there since her birth. Why?”

     

    The senator’s wife released me and shook her head furiously. “N… No… Nothing…” she stammered. “It is nothing.” She laughed nervously. “I feel sick. I want to go home” she hastily said and headed outside. The senator looked stupefied at the drama and hastily said.

     

    “Uhhh… Don’t pay attention to her. She is like that when she does not get enough sleep. I think we have to go” he came towards me and kissed my cheek before going after his wife with a confused look on his face. I stood there frozen, trying hard to come up with a reasonable explanation for what just occurred.

    ==========

     

    Mrs. Bello exited the discomfort of the car before it even parked fully. Her brain was in overdrive and being confined in a car with her husband, whose silence was more dangerous than a pointed gun was almost running her insane. He had been quiet throughout the drive home from Amara’s party, with his gaze outside the window and she knew that he was trying to come up with a logical explanation for her actions in the party. She had been too obvious in that gathering and, thinking of a logical lie to give her husband when he finally probes her was a major worry. She did not even know what was scaring her most right now.

     

    She hurriedly entered her personal room and locked the door before the senator thought about probing her but he did not seem in a hurry to do that. She flung her purse onto the bed and started pacing restlessly. “No! It can’t be! It just can’t be!” She wiped sweats of perspiration off her forehead. This had to be a great coincidence, she thought shakily. Of everyone in the world, it can’t be Amara! It cannot be HER!

     

    “Oh my God!” she exclaimed and crumbled onto the bed. She rubbed her sweaty palms across her face before burying her head in it. Her mistake could not be closing in on her! Not now! Never! And Alex? The pregnancy in Amara’s womb? “OH God, it just can’t be!!!”

    =========

     

    20+ YEARS AGO

     

    Katherine Bello arrived at the hospital, finally deciding to allay her fears before the situation got out of control and becomes exceedingly obvious to all. She could not explain what the problem was, but heaven knows she definitely had her suspicions and it scared the hell out of her. The fear of the unknown had prevented her from going to the doctor because she did not want the doctor’s diagnosis to tally with her instincts. As she was allowed into the doctor’s office, she prayed to heaven that her thoughts were wrong, because if not, she was in for deep s.

     

    “Hello doctor” she said as she entered the doctor’s office and sat down instantly, to hide her shaking legs. She was using a hospital distant from home now, so this was not their regular family doctor. She could not afford to risk it.

     

     

     

    The doctor smiled. “Good evening ma’am, how may I help you please?”

     

    Mrs. Bello sighed softly. “I have been feeling somehow lately, for some weeks now to be precise. I expected it to go away so I ignored it but it is not going away” she said, beating about the bush.

     

    The doctor nodded, with her professional look firmly in place. “Can you explain the symptoms you have experienced?”

     

    Mrs. Bello nodded vigorously. “Erm…I am sure it is nothing serious. Just some feelings of dizziness, desire to eat all the time and also irritation and nausea” she rambled. “I mean, I don’t erm… feel nausea or urge to vomit all the time, just once in a while, it can even be overlooked… I hope it is nothing serious”

     

    The doctor smiled and her eyes seemed to probe Mrs. Bello like her eyes alone was enough to carry out the needed examination. She smiled further. “I think I know what the matter is” the doctor said. “But since I am sure you don’t expect me to ‘think’, I would call someone to run a test on you. The results would be out within minutes, so it would not take long” she said, frightening Mrs. Bello.

     

    She swallowed. “Are you sure I don’t need to come back?” she asked nervously.

     

    “No! The results of the test would be out very fast” the doctor assured. She picked her intercom and called a nurse, who appeared almost immediately. The doctor gave her a few instructions which Mrs. Bello did not listen to as her mind raced on the possible outcome of the test. With stiff legs, Mrs. Bello followed the nurse into the lab where the test was carried out.

     

    Mrs. Bello sat in the waiting room, looking at the ticking hand of the wall clock. She had never been so frightened in her life. Her brain rotated on whether or not to leave. She could not afford to have her instincts right because only doom was hers if the result of the test proved that she was indeed pregnant. She stood up and she turned towards the door to leave, a nurse called her. She turned with a shaky smile on her face.

     

    “The result is out ma, you can go in now” the nurse said. “Were you about to leave?”

     

    She shook her head, ignoring the question. “That was fast, are you sure it is ready?” she had turned as pale as sheet.

     

    “Yes. Please, come with me ma”

     

    The nurse led her back to the doctor’s office where she hastily sat her pale form. Without wasting time, the doctor declared. “This is the test result” she gave her a brown envelope. “My assumptions were confirmed” she smiled affectionately. “Congratulations ma, you are three months pregnant”.

     

    The news landed like an atomic bomb, rubbing her of her speech. “There… there must be a mistake” she stammered shakily.

     

    The doctor frowned. “There is no mistake. This should be good news, are you not married ma?” the doctor asked, looking from the patient’s pale face to the ring on the left hand. Mrs. Bello totally ignored the doctor and stood up, leaving the office without a backwards glance.

     

     

    Mrs. Bello roamed her sitting room with nerves all over the place. Her son, Alex was taking his nap, and she was glad that he was not down, disturbing her.

     

    Pregnant? How can she do this? Her husband had been gone for over four months now, to the United States, establishing a new company there. Because of the rigor of starting a new company and the necessity to be there to pioneer and kick start this initial stage, her husband had gone to be there personally and had been there for more than four months, so there was no way in this world that this pregnancy could be her husbands. It could only possibly be for one person; their driver.

     

    Being away from her husband for months had been more than she could handle, and when she complained to her friend, Bimpe, she had given her a ‘solution’. Her friend had pointed out her strong and sexy-looking driver who had been driving her for about two years now. Though she was still very young, he was definitely older than her, so she would not be a sugar mummy to him or anything like that. Cheating on her husband seemed like a ridiculous idea at first but when his absence became irritating, she gave in to the advice. It proved to be a really difficult thing to do because all her seductions seemed not to be working on Habeeb, her driver.

     

     

     

    He was a strong man who did not seem like one to easily fall into temptations. She wore really exposing clothes, he noticed, she knew he did but his reactions never exceeded simple glances which could almost be overlooked. Katherine Bello almost thought there was something wrong with her own appeal. Getting Habeeb had taken all the feminine cunning tactics she could have or even come up with, but eventually, Habeeb fell for her charms and beauty. He had treated her better than any man – even her husband – had ever treated her. He had treated her like a teenager, even though she was thirty. He had given her flowers, taken her on dates, but still kept the relationship hidden from all and sundry.

     

    But now, this is the result. She waved the pregnancy result and crushed it in her fist. She was carrying the result of her infidelity in her womb. Right at that moment, she hated the child she was carrying. She had risked her happiness and home for moments of pleasure. It had seemed like a good idea then, but now, she was face to face with reality. How could she hide this? She had always feared abortion more than anything on earth. Ever since she watched her best friend die from abortion, she had sworn never to attempt it. As bad as this situation seemed, Katherine still did not want to die. But how could she hide the pregnancy from her husband who would be coming back in a week?

     

    Ever since she gave birth to Alex, four years ago, Katherine hadn’t been pregnant ever since and she had been glad because it had been really tough for her when she carried Alex in her womb; it had been even worse during labor, that she had to go through Caesarian Session when her life was threatened. Now, she could not afford to lose her family. She could not lose her husband or make her son lose his happy home, which might happen if her husband found out about her infidelity or the ungodly result in her belly. What could she do?

    Episode 22

    The day Mr. Bello was to arrive, Katherine Bello made sure she used a really tight girdle to flatten her already bulging belly. The belly looked perfectly flat after using the belt and she was a bit relieved. Her next worry had been how to keep it on for the rest of the week before her husband returned to the States. She thought of pretending to be sick, knowing that her caring husband would be too concerned about her health, to even think of making love to her. That would be hard though, because they had been apart for months. It was natural that he would want to perform his husbandly rights.

     

    Mr. Bello had arrived and the excitement had been great. Alex had fussed over his father and Katherine’s nervous state hadn’t been so obvious. She had carried out her plan of being sick. Her husband had been really caring, taking care of her even when it was obvious that he would rather be doing something else. He said it so many times but whenever he tried to remove her clothes, she would pretend to catch a cold and he would let go of his desires to take care of her. It was a really stressful week and she could feel the tension in her husband when the week elapsed. Her suggested staying longer to take care of her but she quickly turned it down, asking him to take care of the company abroad instead.

     

    Knowing that his departure would be for another couple of months, Katherine decided to take care of the mess before he finally arrived. The first thing she did was to fire Habeeb. It had been really hard, especially when she saw the hurt and betrayed look on Habeeb’s face. She tried to pay him off but he refused like the arrogant man he was. He left without a penny but Katherine could not even think of calling him back. She could not allow him find out about the pregnancy. No one was aware, only her friend. Thanks to her stature and girdle, the pregnancy stayed hidden, but as she approached seven months, she had to put on loose clothes to hide the really bulging belly, despite the girdle. She had done really stressful things, hoping that it would bring down the pregnancy but nothing worked. Finally, she gave up attempts to have a miscarriage and decided to see how she could discard the child after birth.

     

     

     

    When she was seven months plus, she took Alex to her friend’s place to spend his two months long vacation there. That way, she knew that she would have an excuse for her husband if he called to ask of Alex. She wanted to go to a faraway place to give birth to the child; somewhere where she was not known. A place where gossip could not float to her husband’s ears. Her friend told her of a village and a woman there, who could help with what she wanted to do.

     

    Mrs. Bello travelled to the village and was able to breathe freely for once. She stayed with the woman that Bimpe, her friend, told her of, until she finally gave birth to the child. The baby girl had been pretty but she had hated her at once for all the trouble she had to go through because of her. She would have left the village immediately after giving birth to the child but the woman told her to wait for two more weeks before leaving, in order to use the time to shrink the size of her belly and also feed the child. After the two weeks, she made sure the woman abandoned the child in a dumping ground where anyone could easily see her. After that, she left the village, glad that it was over at last.

    ===========

     

    PRESENT

     

    Now, Mrs. Bello could fully agree that nothing is hidden under the sun. You might hide it for a while but a secret would always bounce to the surface sooner or later. She had thought that that mistake with Habeeb was gone and gone forever and that her secret had been successfully buried, but now, she had to face the glaring reality of the situation at hand. Her mistake of years back was back, and not only was it back to taunt her, but it was ready to destroy everything and everyone in its path. The woman had given the baby girl a permanent black (+) mark at the back of her left ear. She had told her that it might be very helpful in future and that it was always important to have a mark on the child with which the child can be identified, in case her path crossed with her child in future. She had prayed it never happened then but now, it was obvious that her prayer has gone unanswered. If Amara was truly that unwanted child of hers, then…

     

    “Oh No!” she said with a sickly pale face. “My son cannot be married to my daughter” she whispered in fright. She shook her head. “No! It is a coincidence” she tried to reassure herself. “Amara can NEVER be my child. My Daughter cannot be married to my son. IT HAS TO BE A COINCIDENCE”

     

     

     

     

    I sat at the edge of the bed and put my head in my hands. Try as I may, I could not forget the scenario of the past hour. What could have been Mrs. Bello’s problem? I knew my mother-in-law was so harsh and wicked but she had seemed almost insane. She had been totally different from the composed woman I knew her to be and she had looked completely shaken and scared.

     

    And she had noticed my birthmark! It was totally confusing. She was not only noticed the birthmark, it seemed to be the main reason why she was agitated and scared. Thinking about the drama again, my brain was in overdrive. It almost looked as if Mrs. Bello recognized my birthmark! I frowned and shook my head as I stood up to wash my face in the bathroom, hoping that it would at least clear my mumbled thoughts. It didn’t though.

     

    I had only been able to see the mark with the aid of a mirror and the feel of my fingers. Why did it seem as though my mother-in-law knew the mark? And why had my mother seemed uncomfortable by it? She had remained uncomfortable even after Mrs. Bello’s departure, until she finally left with my dad. The whole drama was beginning to confuse me and I hoped something would distract me from my thoughts before I run mad from thinking too much.

     

    I heard a knock and heaved a sigh of relief, ordering the person to come in without even noticing the difference in the knocking pattern. The door opened and I was so surprised to see Alex. It was so surprising that I found myself gaping idiotically.

     

    “Sorry to disturb you Amara” he said, gaining my attention.

     

    I blinked several times to gather my scattered wits. “What do you want with me Alex” I was impressed that my voice was very firm.

     

    He stood straight, confident as ever, but he looked a bit uneasy. “I… I have not wished you happy birthday, and I wanted to do so before you went to bed” he said.

     

    I stared in surprise. I have had too many surprises in one day. First, he said I was pretty, now, he is wishing me happy birthday. “Why do you want to do that?” I asked.

     

    He shrugged, “I just wanted to” he responded.

     

    I did not know what it was, but somehow, he looked different. For a second, I could almost glimpse the man I had fallen in love with in the village. Did he think that he could win me over by being sweet? I almost laughed. The easily deceived Amara was already gone, replaced by a cautious one. “Why? You want to acquire my sympathy? Since Lisa is not home, you are looking for a woman to share your bed right?” I laughed. He looked a bit hurt but I really wanted to slap his face for his audacity. “I am not a fool Alex, I have a brain, and neither am I an object of sexual sport. If you are looking for someone to roll with in your bed, go outside and get one, I am not available for such rubbish. Now, can you leave my room?” I boomed in a perfectly pitched voice, with my feet tapping the floor in anger.

     

    For some seconds, he stood there, frozen. He looked at me and I stared back boldly until he finally turned, opened the door and left. I breathed deeply and sank onto the bed.

     

     

    The senator stared at his wife, who sat opposite him in the dinning, trying hard to eat her food. He saw the shake in her hands and watched her trembling lips as the half-filled forks went in periodically. It was already hours since they arrived home, yet, they have not exchanged a single word. He smiled to himself and pretended to concentrate on his food, making noticeable noise with his cutleries.

     

    “I am sure you have come up with a perfect explanation for your actions earlier” he said, seeming unconcerned. “Tell me Kate, what lie would you tell me?”

     

    He heard the fork drop from his wife’s fingers and refused to raise his eyes from his plate. “What… what do you mean?”

     

    He raised his eyes slowly. “You know what I mean Katherine. What was the meaning of your display earlier? I sense there is something you are hiding from me” he said bluntly.

     

    She fixed a brave look on her face and faced him. “Without listening to me, you assumed I was planning to lie to you. Why is that? Are you calling me a liar? Why would I need to lie to you?” she looked hurt.

     

    The senator decided to go subtle. “I am sorry then. Can you now explain the drama?”

     

    “Yes!” she declared. “I told you, didn’t i? I told you it was a bad idea to allow that girl marry Alex. Did you see that mark behind her ear? It is a diabolic sign; only incarnates have that mark behind the ear.” She said.

     

    The senator looked at his wife in complete surprise. “Kate! Since when did you start believing in all these trash? You said you do not believe in witches or stuffs like that, and now, you know the marks?”

     

    “I don’t forget things, a friend told me that mermaid queens exist in the normal world and they destroy the lives of people they are associated with. She told me of the mark. Just imagine, since she came into the family, Alex has turned into something else. She destroyed the relationship between Lisa and Alex, now; she is making you turn against him. Now you have suspended him from your own company. Isn’t that enough proof? You need to drive her out of our lives. She is evil” she declared.

    Episode 23

    Today, the Senator slept in his room without his wife. They had had a heated argument over a totally bizarre issue. Nothing his wife could say could convince him that Amara was a ‘mamiwater’ or whatever it was that his wife was insisting she actually is. Nothing she did could also make him agree with the fact that their son needed to divorce her. Maybe the reason why he could not make himself believe anything she said was because he knew her too well. She gets shaky and tense when she is hiding something really important, and would always hide secrets under believable shades of lies. It was disheartening that he never could trust his own wife to be completely honest with him.

     

    A lot of times, he wondered why he married her, and now was one of those times. Katherine was keeping something from him, and if all her fretting was any indication, this was not something small. What he did not know was what Amara had to do with this. What was it about Amara that unsettled Katherine so much? He had never seen his wife this distressed before; she was almost like a moth skipping through fire. No doubt, Mr. Bello surmised, that birthmark was the key to this. That plus mark definitely had a history if his wife had looked ghostly immediately she saw it. The ridiculous explanation of Amara being with an evil spirit was senseless to him. He needed to find out what this was all about.

     

    Finally decided, he picked up his phone and dialed the number of a secret private investigator. He waited patiently until the investigator picked up. Without waiting for pleasantries, he went straight to the point. “Luke, see me in my office tomorrow. I need you to do something for me”

     

     

     

     

    “What the hell is the matter with you?” Toba asked in anger. “Are you really sure there is nothing going on between you and your village bet? You seem to have changed”.

     

    “of course there is nothing going on, besides, even if I want it to, Amara would not accept anything with me on a platter of gold” Alex retorted feeling anger creep into him as he remembered the way his own wife chased him out of her room like a piece of trash.

     

    “Why do I have a feeling that you already want it?” Toba bellowed.

     

    Alex fixed Toba an angry questioning look. “And why does it seem to bother you so much?” he asked.

     

    Toba glowered at him. “Why should it not bother me? You come running to me for help, yet I give you advices and you don’t follow them. Don’t come bothering me if you would always do what you want to do”

     

    Alex’ eyes narrowed. “You asked me to beat her up, see where that led me?” he returned in anger.

     

    “The only thing I see here is that you have become a chicken just because of that thing you keep in your house. She is keeping you on your toes like a puppet. When did you become so soft?” Toba bellowed, looking at Alex as if he could not quite believe he was the one.

     

    “Say that one more time and I would show you how unsoft I am with my fist” he said with clenched fists. He looked just as dangerous as Toba knew he was, or used to be before Amara surfaced.

     

    “Oh, you can display your fists here but when you see Amara, you turn to jelly” he spat out.

     

    “I am warning you Toba”

     

    Toba saw the telltale flash in Alex’s eyes and knew he had to tread softly if he would be leaving the bar without a swollen eye. He sighed. “Alex. All I am saying is that this girl is too small to keep you locked firmly in her small palm, how old is she? She just clocked twenty!” she exclaimed like he could not quite believe it. “You are a whooping five years older, yet she seems to be the boss in that little house of yours, where is your edge? Why can’t you put her in her place?”

     

    Alex grimaced. “I let her have her way. I have really destroyed her life”

     

     

     

    Toba’s frown deepened. “And now you are regretting your actions!” he exclaimed in bewilderment. “Are you sure something is not wrong with you? What has that girl done to you?”

     

    Alex stared long at Toba. His coming to meet his friend was not helping matters at all. After listening to his friend rant and rave like a frozen dock, he was certain that he would not be able to help him in any way; not like he had been of any help ever since. To be sincere, Alex did not know the type of help he sought. His head had been in the clouds lately and he was beginning to wonder at what he actually needed. “I think I need to go home now” he said, paid the bill and stood up. Toba shook his head and trailed after him.

     

    “You are being pathetic Alex. What do you plan on doing about Lisa uhn? You did not get her out of jail until her poor parents were able to pull the required strings to get her out on bail. When she surfaces, you would be in for it; remember, Amara is not the only one carrying your child in her womb” he said with piercing clarity.

     

    Alex swallowed as he marched to his car. “You don’t have to remind me that I have two babies on the way; if I don’t remember, who will?”

     

    “I think the only child you remember is that of the little w---e in your house. How sure are you that the child is even yours?”

     

    Alex stopped suddenly and fixed Toba with a firm glare. “As much as I am not overjoyed at the prospect of having a baby at this early stage of my life, I know the child is mine. The reason is simple – I was the one who made her a woman, and there was no other person, I assure you. She has never lied to me, despite all I have done; I am the only lying party here, that much cannot be denied” he said and entered his car without waiting for another annoying comment from his friend.

     

    As Alex drove home, his anger grew until it became gravely unbearable. He almost started soliloquizing in anger as he drove home. What angered him most was that Toba had been right. He had changed! Even the blind would see it vividly. He could not tell what triggered it. He was beginning to blame himself for what he did to Amara; and why? He could not even tell. Maybe because Amara had picked up her pieces so bravely, doing the damnest to put the past behind her. Or maybe it was because she had become so bold that she now had the effrontery to stand up to him; even Lisa could not that effectively as Amara did; it was as annoying as it was amusing. It was probably her growing beauty that was getting to his head, he mused. With each passing day, she grew in beauty and it was not half as annoying as it was fascinating. It was even more surprising that she was that way with the bulging pregnancy.

     

    Alex rubbed his palm over his face and stroked his thumb against his day’s growth of beards, in frustration. He did not understand what was going on. There was this strange feeling he had towards Amara that could not be named. He felt a strange connection between them. It was not a feeling he identified with. He had loved before, yes, but he was did not think this growing feeling was love. On the contrary, he would have known instantly if it was love; or wouldn’t he? Lisa did not hold his heart, there was just this strong sexual attraction between them that Alex could not do away with. He had loved a woman only once in his life and got burnt from it. But now, what was this that he was developing for Amara? He groaned in frustration. He hated something he could not name or identify more than anything. He sighed and drove into the compound.

     

     

    Mr. Bello marched into the house like the fires of hell were in pursuit. “Katherine” he bellowed like a madman. The maids in the house squirmed and skipped off, wondering what on earth was wrong with their usually calm boss. “Katherine…” he yelled again, feeling as if he were about to fly into a million pieces.

     

    Mrs. Bello ran down the stairs from her room. She had been at the edge of her nerves for the past one week ever since Amara’s birthday and her husband had also been equally quiet. She had been doing all her research, but seeming helpless because she had to be extra careful so as not to be found out. She found out nothing. The only way to find out would have been to meet with Amara’s parents and that was the last thing she would think of doing. Now, hearing her husband shouting her name scared her half to death. She appeared before her husband and he was breathing very hard. His eyes bore into her like daggers and she knew she was doomed.

     

    “B… Bello”

     

    He turned instantly and made for the door. “Follow me. Now” he barked and she instantly obeyed in fright. She had never been this scared of her husband in her entire life. He looked like a deadly animal, ready to devour anything in its path, and right now, Mrs. Bello felt like the prey.

     

    “Bello” she rushed shakily. “Please talk to me”

     

    He did not appear to have heard. He entered the car, not even calling his driver. “Get in” he barked as he fired the engine. The gateman was wise enough to open the gate without being told. All the servants were staring in bewilderment as the car flew out of the compound with lightning speed.

     

    Tears were beginning to form in coolval stories Katherine Bello’s eyes as her husband drove the car like a mad man. All her intestines shook with fright as she gripped the handle of the door for support. Mr. Bello’s features were set in firm hard lines and his veins were in clear view. “Bello” she called again as tears slipped down her cheeks.

     

    Mr. Bello gripped the steering harder, to prevent himself from beating his wife into a pulp while on motion. When Mr. Bello drove into Alex’s compound, there was no doubt left in Kate’s mind that the secret was already out. “Please Bello” she pleaded but her husband simply alighted from the car, slamming the door so firmly, it nearly shook the ground. He marched towards the entrance and turned to see her standing shakily by the car.

     

    “If you don’t get in now and I descend on you, you would be alive to tell the colour of your skin” he growled.

    Episode 24

    I adjusted my silk night robe about my body as I walked down the stairs to grab a cup of water. I was finding it difficult to sleep. It was one of those nights when my memories would come floating back through my mind, getting my emotions all worked up. Many times, I thought I had gotten past the hurt and anger and bitterness, that I have them successfully locked away never to resurface; but more often than not, they always came back to haunt me, especially when I find myself alone in my massive bedroom.

     

    As I walked fully into the sitting room, I found Alex sitting at the mini bar in the sitting room, drinking. His head turned and his eyes bore into me as I stood transfixed, staring back at him.

     

    “Are you willing to join the party?” he slurred. “It seems you also could not find sleep”

     

    I noticed the drunken state he was in by the way his voice dragged. I shook my head slightly. “It startles me that everything I knew about you was wrong” I said in amused anger. “So you are also a drunkard”

     

    His posture still seemed composed even though he was obviously drunk. Only his voice could make someone realize it. “I am not drunk madam, only tipsy” he said and raised a half-filled cup. “You should join me”

     

    I eyed him. “You are pathetic, you know? You need help” I said as I made my way to the dispenser.

     

    He smiled. “Yeah! I need help to get to my bedroom safely. My legs feel shaky”

     

     

     

    I hissed. “You can sleep on the bar, even sleep on your feet; it is none of my concern” I drank my water and replaced the cup. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Alex rise to his feet. He seemed stable enough until he took a step and swayed. My first instinct was to hurriedly grab him but I caught myself in time. ‘I don’t care’ I told myself again. I don’t care if he falls and breaks his pretty nose; it won’t mean a thing to me!

     

    He closed his eyes tight for some seconds and later opened them. He seemed to be trying to keep his gaze straight. He took four unstable steps again and nearly fell over; before I knew it, I was at his side. Realizing it, I became so angry; more at myself that him. I should happily watch him fall without helping him. I should even walk over his fallen body; so why am I here, worried that he might hurt himself by falling over? I sighed slightly and grabbed his hand roughly. I but it around my neck roughly, supporting him with my shoulder. “I guess it would not hurt to prevent you from breaking your neck” I said as I dragged him up the stairs in anger.

     

    He smiled annoyingly. “I guess you still care about my neck” he drawled.

     

    I felt the great urge to topple him down the stairs. “It would be better if you keep your mouth shut if not, I would gladly watch your head roll down the stairs”

     

    He continued smiling but kept quiet. I had a cause to enter his room for the second time since I entered the house and it brought back the remembrance of the terrible day Alex told me I was nothing more than a bet. My teeth bit into my lips as I shook away the overwhelming emotions and anger that took over me. I practically tumbled Alex onto the bed and straightened.

     

    Alex looked sleepily at me. “It feels so good to have your arms around me again” he said with half open eyes.

     

    I stiffened and almost slapped him at that. Controlling myself with great difficulty, I turned to leave. “Savor it while you can cause it would never happen again, you can count on it”. I exited the room and slammed the door shut.

     

     

    An hour later

     

    I sat in confusion as I stared at my parents. Why on earth would my father-in-law ask them to come over so suddenly? Was he in for one of his pleasant surprises again? Of everyone in this new family I found myself in, the only person I like is the senator and I had a respect for him that would not be rivaled. What was more confusing was my mother’s tense state. She was constantly asking to leave and if not for my persuasions, she would have fled the house.

     

    I heard the door fling open and the Senator materialized, looking quite odd. Anger seemed to have enveloped him and he stood there with clenched fists, glaring at me like he had never actually seen me before. Have I done something wrong again? I wondered. Would the only person I like in this family desert me also? My mother-in-law surfaced, also looking the exact opposite of herself. Crying? I would never have believed it if I did not see it myself.

     

     

     

    “What the hell is going on here” I did not notice that Alex had left his study to join us until he spoke. He looked at his parents in alarm and confusion.

     

    The senator stared at his son and then rotated his eyes from Alex to me and back. He shook his head vigorously and ran his fingers through his hair.

     

    “Can someone explain the meaning of this?” I asked in total alarm. They were all beginning to scare me to death because my parents were also beginning to behave strangely, looking at one another with pale faces.

     

    The senator stared at my parents. “Tell her” he boomed.

     

    My father glared at him. “Tell her what? We are not hiding anything from her”

     

    The senator’s anger sparked. “For God’s sake tell her” he boomed and my parents shifted.

     

    “Tell me what?” I asked palely

     

    My parents were silent. “Won’t you tell her?” the senator boomed. “Won’t you tell her that you are not her real parents?”

     

    My ears rang as the words repeated over and over again. I grabbed a couch for support as the wind knocked out of me. “That is an expensive joke sir” I murmured weakly with a tight smile. “I don’t find this surprise very amusing”

     

    “Do I look like I am laughing?” he roared. “On the contrary, I feel like dying because I have spent my whole life in deceit just like you”

     

    I did not even care to understand the meaning of that. I faced my white-faced parents. “Mama, papa, won’t you talk?” I asked. “What is he saying?” I asked louder. They remained annoyingly silent. “He is not saying the truth is he?” I yelled.

     

    The senator laughed bitterly but his face did not even show any sign of laughter. “Of course I am saying the truth because I am here with your mother” he dragged a shaking Mrs. Bello to the front and she nearly tumbled. “Amara, behold!” he roared. “This w---e here is your real mother”

     

    Everything fell silent as I stood like a pillar, looking at the people before me. I gripped the chair harder as I replayed what I just heard because I was certain I hadn’t heard correctly.

     

    “I am sorry but what nonsense are you saying that?” Alex roared. “This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard you say”

     

    I laughed suddenly and my laughter increased by the second until I was barking in laughter with everyone looking at me. “Sir, this is the most…” I laughed. “Hilarious thing I have ever heard you say” I said between laughter. “I never knew you were a comedian too. She is my mother-in-law, how can she be MY OWN MOTHER” Controlling my shaky laughter I looked at the senator who looked about to explode in anger. He glared at his wife.

     

    “You had better open your filthy mouth woman, or God help me, I would choke you to death” he roared and my mother-in-law faced me in fright.

     

    My laughter vanished and my face blurred, swimming as my gaze ran over her. “He… He is… He is right” she declared. “I abandoned you in the trash twenty years ago… and… they probably picked you up. I am your birth mother”

     

    I shook my head vigorously. “No! No… Noooo………” I screamed as the bomb settled. My gaze blurred again and did not seem to clear as the ground rose to meet my falling form.

     

     

     

     

     

    I focused on the camera and bit hard on my trembling lips to at least stop the tears. I took several seconds to breathe in fully before I was able to talk again. “My whole life has been spent in lies and deceit. Nothing is as it ought to be. I don’t have the straight-forward life that most people in the world have.” I said, facing the camera. “How do I live with this? How can I live, knowing that my brother’s child is growing in my belly? How can I go a minute without remembering that I had commited the greatest abomination imaginable? Incest!” I exclaimed.

    “My life is in shambles. Life is not worth living. Now, I wish Lisa had succeeded in getting rid of my pregnancy. How can I give birth to a child who would live the rest of his life knowing that he was a product of abomination?” I shook my head, looking at the camera and the audience I hoped would watch this one day. “This is too much for me. Just because of one mistake. That one mistake has wrecked my life and brought me nothing but pain and endless tears. I had hoped that one day, I would be able to bid farewell to tears, but now, I know that would not happen. Do you think my mistake was having sex with Alex?” I asked. “No! My mistake was losing focus! I had my dreams a step away, all I had to do was remain focused; but I got distracted. I destroyed my own life because of momentary pleasures…” I breathed and took a deep breath.

     

    “I am sending this message to you all, hoping that you would learn from my story. Nothing but pain would come from pre-marital sex. Please, never make the same mistakes I made. I should be in school now, pursuing my dreams with little regrets but I strayed. I strayed and found myself in the lion’s den; unfortunately, I don’t think I am Daniel because getting out is practically impossible. One last thing: Beware of Corpers”

     

     

    I tied the rope firmly on the tree, tying the knots over and over again. I tied the other end also, securing it around my neck. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I gazed for the last time at the world. Life is not worth it. I consoled my child with my palm, apologizing over and over for putting him through this pain, although, I was sure he would thank me for doing this. I swallowed hard, removed my wedding ring and threw it on the ground. I shook my head and wiped my tears. It is over! Finally over!

     

    I swallowed hard in resolution and kicked off the stool from beneath my feet.

    Episode 25

    Alex entered his father’s house and slammed the door behind him in anger, shaking the house. His mother who was busy pacing the length of the sitting room froze in her strides as her son stormed into the sitting room.

     

    “Alex” she called nervously.

     

    “No” he barked. “Don’t ever call my name. You have destroyed my life. What sort of a mother are you?”

     

    “I am sorry my son; I am so sorry” she cried.

     

    “My son? Don’t ever call me that! I would be extremely glad to hear that you are not my mother. You are not worthy to be called a mother” he roared. “I always boasted of you but now, I am forced to realize that you are just a filthy harlot. My sister! I married my sister” he exclaimed in complete bewilderment. “She is carrying my child” he yelled again. “Oh God!!! A product of incest”

     

    Mrs. Bello did not even bother to hinder her flowing tears. “I am sorry” she cried.

     

    “Sorry?” he returned. “Is that all you can say? Would that change anything? You destroyed the lives of your children. You threw a child away! A human being! And now, I am expecting a child from my sister. I have always wanted a sibling or a sister but now, I am married to her. Imagine, I unknowingly placed a bet on my sister’s pride and innocence. What goes around comes around right? I have unknowingly stabbed myself in the back. I am as guilty as you are” he declared in anger.

     

    “She is your half-sister” she said.

     

    “Half?” he roared in laughter. “The word ‘sister’ is still there. How can you still speak? I hate you just as much as I hate myself. You are the worst thing that ever happened to me”

     

     

    I opened my eyes and everything my eyes saw was white. Yes! I have heard of heaven and this was no doubt heaven. I have never seen any place as white and an unfamiliar cool breeze blew me, making me feel good. But there is a problem. Why does it feel like I have been breaking firewood for a very long time? I wondered vaguely. My open eyes opened wider and for the first time, I noticed a fan above my head. This couldn’t be heaven! I shouldn’t feel so weak in heaven; neither should I see a ceiling fan, I thought vaguely.

     

     

     

    A rumbling sound came from my side and for the first time, I tried turning my head to see the cause of the noise but the pain I received from my neck almost made me pass out. What is wrong? Everything seemed blank. A face appeared before me and I had to focus on the face. The guy before me was exceedingly handsome and I remembered vaguely that only two men have seemed that way to me. Kelvin? What on earth am I doing with him? A deep frown crossed my face, matching his equally worried and slightly frowning face, and my brain started racing.

     

    “Easy now” Kelvin whispered in his baritone voice. “I am glad you are finally awake” a soft smile touched his face and he seemed to relax a bit. He brushed what I assumed to be a strand of my hair out of my face and my frown deepened as the situation became confusing.

     

    I opened my mouth to talk and my mouth felt so heavy.

    “You don’t have to talk honey” Kelvin said hastily.

     

    Honey? I wondered in alarm. Despite my distress and sore throat, I forced my mouth open. “Where am I?” I whispered in pain.

     

    He gave me a weak smile. “In a hospital. You have been here for more than a day now. You need your rest. Let me get the doctor”

     

    He scrambled out of the room and all I could do was stare blankly after him. My brain ran wild with thoughts, trying to come up with a suitable explanation. What on earth am I doing in a hospital? I wondered. And of all the people in the world, why should Kelvin be here with me? I raised my hand weakly and rubbed it against my throbbing neck and all of a sudden, it all came flooding my senses. I almost jumped out of the bed but all I succeeded in doing was jerking into a sitting position. My eyes became dizzy and I swayed even in my sitting position. The door jerked open and Kelvin walked in with a doctor. He hastened to my side. “You should be lying down” he scolded and gently pushed me to a lying position before the doctor got to my side.

     

    The doctor loomed over me and smiled. “How are you feeling miss?” he asked.

     

    “Angry” I replied in anger. “What am I still doing on earth? Who is the unfortunate person who saved my equally unfortunate self from dying?” I spat out despite the difficulty I encountered from talking.

     

     

     

    Kelvin looked at me. He did not look hurt, instead he looked very worried. “If you put it that way, I guess I am the fortunate person because it would be highly unfortunate if I allowed such a spectacular person slip from the face of the earth”

     

    “Well, that is so unfortunate” I returned. “You should have minded your own business, because if you have, I would be spared the trauma of staying alive.” As my own words sank in, I began to see the truth in those words. But they would not understand, would they? They would not know that suicide is a great option for me, would they? They would not know that there were times when death is the best option.

     

    I fully looked at Kelvin for the first time, and apart from noticing his handsome features, I noticed that his hair was slightly longer than most men’s, just long enough to envelope my fingers, I thought strangely. A faint smile crossed his face. “I am glad you are checking me out because if you see something you like, you might consider living”

     

    That statement effectively drove my thoughts away from my failed suicide. I raised my brow. “Even if I was checking you out, what makes you think I like what I see uhn? I don’t see anything I feel I should like” I returned cheekily.

     

    Instead of frowning, he actually grinned. “Oh, I am sure you like what you see”

     

    I resisted shaking my head, knowing it would hurt like hell. “You are just too full of yourself if you think so”

     

    “No, sweetheart. The way your fingers twitched when you looked at my hair was a telltale sign that you liked what you saw a lot” he said grinning.

     

    I froze slightly and quickly gave him a blank look. “You are just imagining things”

     

    He smiled. “A really good imagination that must be.”

     

    I sighed and shifted my eyes to the doctor who seemed to have also been infected with the ‘grinning’ disease. I sighed again. “I have seen grinning faces enough to last me a lifetime. It is just ironic that I find nothing substantial enough to grin about” I said in annoyance.

     

    “Watching you are a good cause to grin” Kelvin said before the doctor had his mouth open.

     

    “Absolutely” I exclaimed. “My life is such a terrible heap of mess, if I were not the mess, I am sure I would also be laughing. I don’t blame you guys for doing that”

     

    The smile on their faces wiped out. “You know that is not what I mean” he said seriously.

     

    “Well, it is a delight to see that you are not whining about pain and distress like every other woman in your situation would, and that is why we are smiling. You are interesting to watch, you are almost making me forget my professional etiquettes” the doctor said.

     

    I winced. “You cannot imagine just how interesting I am; my life could make a fantastic movie. In fact, I won’t be surprised if a movie is in the making just because of me” I said as my predicament loomed over me. The smiles on their faces were non-existent again. I looked at Kelvin. “Don’t expect me to thank you for preventing my death because you did not do me a favour, you just succeeded giving me another chance at pain and tears. Don’t worry, I am already used to tears.”

     

    Silence reigned until the doctor cleared his throat and went about his duty, fussing over me like I was puppy in distress. “You are responding well. You should be out of here in another twenty four hours. This should at least calm Kelvin down; he has been glued to you like a second skin”

     

    Although this was no good news to me, I had to blame myself for the haughty way I have been behaving. No matter what my problem might be, these people were at least showing some kindness and I ought to show some gratitude.

     

    “I know what you are thinking” Kelvin said suddenly. “You promised not to thank me and I am holding you to your word. I hate being appreciated, it makes me feel ancient. Now, stop thinking too much”

     

    I blushed slightly, wondering why I always felt on guard and spontaneous with this guy. He always gets me on my toes, ranting like an idiot and saying some things that I don’t really mean. “You don’t have to stay here” I said quietly. “Please go, I would be fine”

     

     

     

    He smiled. “I won’t give you a chance to repeat what you did. I am going to make sure that you and your child are protected. Once you get out of here, you are coming with me.” I opened my mouth. “No arguments” he said, silencing me, not with his words but with his look. “If you can’t take care of yourself, I would gladly do that for you. I won’t watch the flower wither before my very eyes” he said quietly, reminding me of the last time I saw him. I swallowed painfully and sighed.

     

    “Bello” Mrs. Bello called softly as she approached her husband in fear. They have not shared a word since the whole confession took place. Mr. Bello did not move a muscle as he read the newspaper. He opened a page and did not even seem to notice the presence of his wife.

    “Please talk to me Bello. When would we talk about this? I am sorry” she said in tears.

    He remained quiet and she shifted nervously. “Would you ever forgive me?”

    He raised his eyes to her and finally opened her mouth and talked. “We are strangers and we would continue to live that way until I am able to get a divorce” Mrs. Bello gasped in shock. “Just tell me something” he continued. “Who did you cheat on me with?” he asked. “Who is Amara’s father? Or are they many?” he asked with a sneer.

    She swallowed and took a step back.

    “It is Habeeb”

    He frowned deeply. “Which Habeeb?”

    “Habeeb Sinja; my former driver” she declared.

    Episode 26

    I opened the door of the car before Kelvin got to my side and he frowned but said nothing. “I don’t know what possessed me to even think of coming with you. This is a ridiculous idea” I said.

     

    “Not as ridiculous as you trying to take your own life” he said as we walked into his apartment.

     

    I looked at him. “There is nothing ridiculous about that. There is a limit to the pain one can endure” I countered. He was silent until we entered the house. The house was spectacular and beautiful – moderate in size for the bachelor that he was; if he was telling the truth that is. The sitting room was filled with equipment which looked totally masculine. I saw some picture frames and I nodded internally when I saw a lady’s picture.

     

    “She is beautiful” I said with an odd smile on my face.

     

    He followed my gaze and smiled too. “Of course she is” he said with pride in his voice. “That is my stubborn sister. She is beautiful but a pain in my neck most of the time. I love her anyways.” He smiled and his eyes shined with love.

     

    I smiled genuinely for the first time. “I love sibling relationships, it must have been fun growing up with her”

     

    He smiled and shook his head. “Most times, it was. Other times, you just wish she would just vanish; but then, she leaves the house for just a week and you miss her like hell” He smiled at me and I smiled back, thinking about the fun he must have had. “Do you have siblings?”

     

     

     

    “No” I said immediately, and then froze. “That’s wrong” I murmured and swallowed. “I actually have a sibling. A brother” I said bitterly.

     

    His smiled had vanished by the time he came to sit with me. “Amara” he called for the first time. He asked for my name in the hospital and since I told him, he has not called my name. He smiled softly. “Can I call you Ara?”

     

    I frowned. “Ara? Why that?” No one has ever shortened my name that way.

     

    He smiled. “I understand Yoruba language a bit and ‘Ara’ means ‘wonder’. I think the name suits you very well” he said smiling softly. He always looked handsome whether or not he was smiling but whenever he smiled like that, he looked absolutely breathtaking. The way he pronounced ‘Ara’ made it sound so sophisticated and pleasant that I almost preferred it to my real name.

     

    “I like it” I said with a faint blush.

     

    He smiled. “I like it when you blush this way honey”

     

    I startled. “Stop calling me that!” I barked, instantly on guard.

     

    “What?” he asked in confusion.

     

    “Honey… sweetheart… darling…” I ranted. “I hate it”

     

    “You hate endearments?” he asked with a soft smile.

     

    I glared at him. “I see no reason why you should smile. There! I know why you fight with your sister often; you are annoying”

     

    He grinned wider. “And do you fight with your brother often?”

     

    I froze and stared at him. His smile faded and I shifted my gaze.

     

    “Tell me about your brother” he said suddenly and I blanched. I shifted and played with my fingers. “You have been trying to prevent me from interrogating you but you know you can’t run away from it. You would eventually tell me, so why not now? Why did you attempt suicide, even in your condition? Why does the mention of your husband or brother have such a negative effect on you?”

     

     

     

    No! I couldn’t tell him. He would surely run! I thought vaguely. How can I tell him that my husband and my brother are one? Who on earth can hear such rubbish and remain sane? The fact that I am still in my right senses remains a mystery to me.

     

    “You can trust me Ara, I just want to be a listening ear” he said softly.

     

    I shook my head carefully. “When I said my life was fit for a movie, I was not lying” I said. “I can’t possibly tell you, it is more devastating than you can ever imagine”.

     

    He nodded seriously. “Please take pity on me and tell me, because if you don’t, I would just think my way into insanity, wondering what might have happened to you”

     

    I sighed and stood up from the chair. I walked over to Kelvin’s sister’s photo on the wall and ran my fingers through it. “You must love your sister, more than anything in this world” I said and my fingers shook. “I am sure you would protect her from anything that might hurt her; you are not likely to bet on her virginity”

     

    “Absolutely not” his voice made it obvious that he thought the idea ridiculous.

     

    I turned to him with a faint painful smile as I fought back tears. I wondered if a time would come when I would tell my story without tears. “Oh, well, thank God for brothers like you”

     

    His eyes widened as he gazed at me. “Why don’t you sit with me honey?”

     

    I shook my head and turned away from him. “You want to hear my story? Well, you would. I can’t effectively narrate it on my seat.” I smiled weakly as I stared Kelvin’s family portrait on the wall. “I grew up with my father and mother. My mother was practically my best friend. I never really got along with my father but I loved him anyways. I had high dreams. I was and I still am a village girl. I grew up in the village and studied there. But because of my high dreams and goals, I read every book I laid my eyes on. I stole glances at our neighbor’s television and spent time with our teachers. You must feel that I don’t really talk like a village girl – well, I am like that because I adapt quickly to change. I learn as many things as I can and I try to put them to use; but where did that curiosity land me? It landed me in the arms of a viper in a corper’s garment. Because of my habit of spending time with teacher in order to learn more, the corper used it to his advantage. He seduced me and flirted with me endlessly; but guess what? I actually fell for him.” I laughed softly and shook my head. “I threw my ambitions to the wind and lost myself in the sweet words and flowers that the corper threw to me until I finally crowned it up by giving up my virginity”

     

    I shook my head and fell silent. Kelvin was silent for several seconds and I could almost hear the ticking hand of the wall clock. “Hold on” he said and I turned to see his face looking incredulously at me. “I am trying to connect dots. Are you trying to say that your brother placed a bet on someone deflowering you?”

     

    I smiled tightly. “That is precisely it” I conceded.

     

    He jumped to his feet. “The Son of a b” he cursed through clenched teeth. He looked furiously dangerous. “Forgive me honey but your brother is a stupid b. How dare him?” he asked on raised voice. His anger was almost enough compensation for the trauma of reliving my memories. “And who is the b who actually perpetrated the act? Forgive me for being rash with my words; I don’t know how to say this. Who did that to you?” he asked angrily.

     

    I laughed bitterly. “That is the funny part isn’t it?” I said as tears slipped unnoticed out of my eyes. “Wouldn’t it have been better if someone else had actually carried out the act?”

     

    He stilled slightly. “What do you mean?”

     

    I turned to face him fully as more tears flowed. “I was deflowered by my own brother” I declared. He froze and practically became a pillar of salt before me and insanely, I started laughing. “It is hilarious right?” I asked as I laughed uncontrollably. “It would make a great comedy” I said laughing until I discovered I was no longer laughing but crying. And when I started crying, Kelvin walked towards me but I stepped back. “Just… just leave me…” I cried. “I just… I just want to cry…” I said crying. “I want to cry until someone takes pity on me and wakes me up to tell me that this is just a really bad dream…” I rubbed futilely at my cheeks as my watery eyes swam. “I have tried kelvin… I have tried to wake up” I cried. “But this dream seems to go on forever. I am scared it might not be a dream after all… it looks more and more like reality with each passing day”.

     

    Disregarding my attempts at warding him off, Kelvin pulled me into his arms and held me close; as close as my tummy would allow. He took me to the couch and held me in his arms. “It’s Ok” he whispered soothingly. “You’ll be fine. It’s ok” he continued to whisper until I almost found those words believable. My cry subsided to hiccups and then vanished altogether. Calmly, I gave him the full story and he listened with his arms tightening now and then. When I was done, it was like he was boiling with suppressed anger and his jaw was tight. When he opened his mouth, it was to change the subject. I was stunned and momentarily disappointed that he did not say anything about all I said.

     

     

     

    “Are you hungry?” he asked and I raised my head from his shoulder, leaving the circle of his arms in an instant. I wondered what my problem might be. I have not gotten over what Alex did and here I am, in another man’s house. I am my own problem.

     

    “You can trust me Ara; I am not Alex” he said through clenched teeth that showed that he was still boiling with hunger. How he could easily read my thoughts was still a major point of concern to me. Can I not think of anything without him knowing? He smiled softly. “I would get you something to eat.” He said and stood up.

     

    “I can’t stay here. Even if I trust you, this place is too close to Alex’s house” I don’t want to have a cause of seeing anyone if I am going to stay alive and living so close to them might not achieve that. Besides, I can’t possibly live with Kelvin; that is too much. Apart from it being risky living with a man alone, I would not want to infringe on his privacy.

     

    “And where would you go?” he asked.

     

    “Anywhere” I said. “I can take care of myself.”

     

    “You can but you won’t. I know I won’t be able to make you stay here” he said. “But I have a place not close by. It is a quiet and conducive environment; you would love the place. You would spend the night here and I would take you there tomorrow. I would have someone to be there with you, so don’t worry, I won’t be staying there. Would just be visiting”

     

    I swallowed. “Why are you so kind to me?” I asked.

     

    He smiled. “Because I can’t be anything but kind to you. Not everyone has bad intents Ara; I just want to make you smile again”

    Episode 27

    I strolled on the street of my new residential environment, feeling exhaustion. Kelvin brought me to this apartment about a month ago just as he promised and I have been here ever since. The house was of moderate size and there was a woman who was in charge of maintaining the house. Apparently, Kelvin inherited the building from his grandfather but he hadn’t lived there. He had instead hired Mrs. Kalu – a widowed caretaker – to keep the building in shape. The building was very fashionable but with an ancient look to it, showing that it had been built a long time ago; although, one could easily see the exquisite taste of the builder in the structure and design of the building.

     

    But after spending a month there, I was bored half to death. I was about eight months gone and my tummy protruded like a car’s bonnet but I feared the silence of the building was making me feel as ancient as the building itself. Mrs. Kalu was as mute as a fish, going about the house soundlessly like a ghost. Although I wished she would talk more so I don’t feel so bored, my efforts were useless. She is the perfect definition of an Introvert with a capital ‘I’. Trying to get her to talk even worsened my state of boredom until I gave up hope. I always looked forward to Kelvin’s visits which were not so often. I always found myself missing him immediately he stood up to leave. I never mentioned my boredom to him because I would not want him to think I am not grateful for his help. Quite the opposite, if not for Kelvin, I have no idea where I would be now. Probably dumped in one of the worst graves in town, I presume. Kelvin is a funny and interesting company and I found myself drawing closer to him with each passing day. He visits once or twice a week, depending on his work schedule.

     

    I sighted a church as I strolled – the only church on the street – and for the first time, I stopped. I always passed by the church without a glance but now, I stopped to gaze at the building. I raised my eyes to the signboard and read. ‘God’s Love’. I shook my head again. The name of the church seemed unusual. I had always heard of God’s immense love for humanity which made him sacrifice his only child; but thinking about it, I don’t think I deserve that love. I have made mistakes; the worst kind of mistakes. I don’t think God can love the likes of me. I blinked and turned away from the church.

     

     

     

    I walked back to the house and sat in the sitting room. I seemed to have a fixed routine: eat, watch TV, stroll, watch TV, eat, watch TV, sleep. The number of times I watched TV was staggering and tiring. I really wished I had books to read but there was none and I definitely could not imagine myself asking Kelvin for it; he has done more than enough. Although, I tried to while away time by cooking and doing the laundry, Mrs. Kalu would have none of it, stating that she had been given express orders to make sure I did nothing stressful. It was irritating because the woman, though mute, was firm and unshakeable; even Kelvin would not listen to reason. Little did they know that my idle state was posing more stress than any physical activity could. Reluctantly, I accepted my state of joblessness, hoping that I don’t die of boredom.

     

    I sensed a movement close to me and raised my eyes to see Mrs. Kalu approaching me with her face as straight as an arrow. “Lunch is served” she stated.

     

    I don’t think I have ever heard the woman utter a statement above ten words; it was like she was economizing her words. “Thank you ma” I said, smiling gratefully. It was such a burden to have this elderly woman attending to my needs. I missed my mother – or fake mother, as the case might be.

     

    “You are welcome” she said and turned back, retreating to her room, where she almost always stayed.

     

    I went to the dinning and started eating. The good side of her is that her meals are always perfect. I never could refuse any of her meals. As I started eating, I heard the familiar sound of Kelvin’s car and frowned. Kelvin had never visited on a Thursday and having him around now was as relieving as it was worrisome.

     

    I left my half-finished food and walked hastily to the door. As much as I was happy that I would have a great company to drive away the boredom I was feeling, I was slightly worried, just thinking of why he was coming on a Thursday when he clearly stated once that Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays were his busiest days. Was he coming to tell me that he no longer wanted to help me or what? I would not be surprised. I am too much baggage to take on.

     

    I opened the door and truly, Kelvin was walking towards the entrance, looking more handsome than before. It was like he grew more handsome with each passing day. He was carrying a bag and I wanted to collect it from him but I could not do anything but stare at him.

     

     

     

    “Hey beautiful” he called. “You still find me handsome?” he asked with a grin.

     

    I shook my head. “You are still too full of yourself?” I returned with a smile. “Can I help you?” I asked referring to the bag he was carrying.

     

    His smile widened. “If only I can help you with the one you are carrying” he said.

     

    I shook my head and hid a smile, giving him a straight look that did not last long. He was always teasing me about my pregnancy, never for once mentioning the paternity of the child and I was grateful for that. I only wish it could be easily forgotten, because for as long as I live and see the child, I would always remember what he stands for. “Well, you arrive just in time to join me for lunch. Eating alone can be so tedious” I said as we entered.

     

    I heard him make a sound and I knew he was at it again. “Is it eating with company that you really enjoy or eating with ‘my’ company?”

     

    I shook my head, grateful that he was behind me; he would not be able to see my ridiculous grin. “You are impossible.”

     

    He laughed heartily. “You look spectacular when you grin”

     

    I totally ignored him and my face which flamed at his compliment and sat down at the dinning with Kelvin pulling out the chair like a real gentleman instead of the ladies’ man that he was. I stopped him from serving himself and insisted on serving him. “If having a wife feels like this, I might as well get married as soon as possible” he said and I laughed, placing the food before him.

     

    “It is a wonder you are still single, getting ladies should be as easy as the road to hell” I said.

     

    Kelvin laughed. “Oh, I see. My charm is working on you now, isn’t it?” he raised a brow.

     

    “You wish” I returned. He shook his head with a knowing smile on his face and I wanted to slap that smug look out of his face. Oh men! Too full of themselves!

     

    We ate in companionable silence but I noticed the seemingly innocent glances he shot my way; probably because I was glancing at him also. I noticed a little tension in him. Despite his carefree flirtatious attitude, I still sensed a little tension in him; especially when we ate in silence.

     

    Mrs. Kalu miraculously surfaced as we finished our meal and her surprise was evident when she saw Kelvin but it only lasted a few seconds after which her face rearranged into its usual straight form. “Never knew you were here sir” she said with a faded smile on her face. “You are welcome” she said as she cleared the table.

     

    “Thank you Mrs. K” Kelvin said.

     

    “Thank you ma, the meal was delicious as always” I said and she smiled. I have noticed that the only time she really smiled was when someone praised her cooking skills.

     

    “I almost bit my tongue” Kelvin emphasized with a boyish smile.

     

    “Thanks” she said smiling and quickly retreated to the kitchen.

     

    Kelvin and I sat on the couch in the sitting room, staring at the television without actually seeing it. I had the vague impression that he was hiding something from me and my instincts always prove right; when I follow it, that is. “Spit it out Kel, what are you hiding?”

     

    He smiled. “I love it when you call me that”

     

    I frowned. “I am not smiling now Kelvin, what do you want to tell me? I know there is something” I demanded.

     

    He sighed. “Ok. Someone came to see me in my office some days back” he began and his face took on a serious look, shedding the playboy look he always had on.

     

    “And?” I asked nervously.

     

    “He is a police officer – Detective Sinja. Following what you told me, I guess that is the man who secured Lisa’s arrest” he said. “Well, he came asking to see you. I wondered how he discovered that I had any dealings with you but he is a police officer and they have their means of getting information.”

     

    I breathed. “What does he want?” I asked nervously. The last thing I wanted was to face anyone from my past. Kelvin had convinced me to forget about all that happened and try to build new memories, seeing ghosts from the past might be a good step in the wrong direction.

     

     

     

    “He wants to meet you” he said with a concerned look. “He said you both have unfinished business. I guess he is referring to Lisa’s case” he said.

     

    I nodded. “I have not visited the station once ever since she was arrested” I said.

     

    “What are we going to do?” he asked.

     

    I looked at him. He always used that word – ‘we’. He always saw my problems as his own responsibility too and I wondered how I could ever repay him for willingly carrying my cross. “I want to see him and be done with it. I am withdrawing my charges against Lisa. If she had gone through with her plan, as evil as it was, I would have been saved from a great level of pain” I said, internally apologizing to my child.

     

    “Are you sure honey? You shouldn’t go through any form of stress in your condition”

     

    I smiled. “I am not made of glass Kel, I am sure”

     

     

    Kelvin and I decided that it was best to meet Detective Sinja at an eatery, we did not want a situation where other people like Alex would suddenly show up at the door and that could definitely happen if someone knew where I live. I walked into the restaurant and soon sighted Detective Sinja sitting at a corner of the eatery. Kelvin sat a couple of table away from him and I walked up to the detective. Mr. Sinja stood up as I drew closer. “Good evening sir, it has been a while” I greeted with a tight smile.

     

    Mr. Sinja smiled and for some seconds, I stared at him. Mr. Sinja was definitely not a young man, even though his muscles and body build made him look much more fit than all the young men floating around. He had an athlete’s build and one could not easily predict his age from his appearance. He must definitely be the toast of ladies with his great looks; that is if his domineering and arrogantly indifferent look did not ward ladies off him. If I could guess, I would assume that he would be in his forties, but his eyes – those dark eyes which gazed piercingly through me now – made it seem as though Mr. Sinja had seen far too many things in life.

     

    “How are you Mrs. Bello?” he asked.

     

    I frowned. Oh no! The last thing I needed was for someone to call me Mrs. Bello; that brought only one person to mind – and that is the last person I want to think about right now. “Amara is fine” I said quickly and sat down before my legs unbuckled beneath me. The evening was already looking bad. I caught Kelvin’s concerned look from across the large room and I swallowed.

     

    “Amara it is then” the detective said and sat down. “Do I order something for you?” he asked.

     

    I shook my head quickly. “I am fine. I want to get this over with as fast as possible” I said.

     

    He smiled. “Of course. Actually, I thought you would take out time to visit the station but you never did. I am sure you are aware that Lisa was granted bail?” he asked and I nodded. “Well, Lisa’s family has been in and out of the station, pleading with us to drop charges against her. We should have charged her to court but we are waiting for your word. Are you ready to pursue the case or not?” He asked.

     

    “I am dropping my charges against Lisa. I don’t…”

     

    “Habeeb” someone gasped and our heads automatically turned. I blanched and nearly fainted when I saw who was standing, gaping at us. Why did the devil have to materialize? Mrs. Bello stood a few tables away from us gaping mostly at Mr. Sinja. Who would have thought that this woman would show up here? I had always known that meeting the detective was a bad decision but I never knew it would be this terrible. She turned her gaze to me in horror and she seemed to turn paler. The last time I saw Mrs. Bello came slapping back at me and I grabbed the table tighter. Kelvin approached the table with his concerned look trained on me. He looked from one person to the other and for the first time, I glanced at the detective. He had also gone white.

     

    “Do you know her?” I managed to ask, puzzled.

     

    He did not seem to hear me. “Are you Ok Ara?” Kelvin asked when he got to our table. “I think it is better we leave now” he murmured.

     

    “Habeeb?” Mrs. Bello gasped again.

     

    Detective Sinja swallowed. “Kate” he responded and my curiosity became pricked. He must know her on a personal level to be able to call her by her first name.

     

    “Let’s go” Kelvin said again with more force.

     

    “No, wait” Mrs. Bello said, rushing towards us.

     

    I could almost feel the tension radiating through Mr. Sinja. He looked completely different. He stood up. “I think I need to leave also” he said.

     

    “No!” Mrs. Bello yelled forcefully, causing some other people at the eatery to turn in our direction. “You can’t go. You know Amara? Oh God! My life is ruined” she lamented, looking scared.

     

     

     

    “What about Amara?” he asked with a tight look. “It doesn’t even matter” he dismissed. “It was nice seeing you again Kate, I need to catch up with an appointment” he said and quickly made for the door.

     

    “There is something I need to tell you” Mrs. Bello yelled, stopping him in his tracks.

     

    He turned to face her with his face carefully blank. “And what is that?” he asked.

     

    She looked around at the people gazing at us. “Why don’t we discuss this somewhere else?” she said and looked questioningly at me.

     

    “Amara” Kelvin called softly.

     

    “I have nothing to discuss with you Kate” Detective Sinja said and made to leave.

     

    “You have a daughter.”

     

    The detective froze, along with me and everyone in the eatery. Everyone had their eyes fixed on us. “You are right Kelvin, let us leave this place” I said, already tired of the melodrama. I stood up and made for the door where Mr. Sinja stood, rooted to the ground, looking at Mrs. Bello like she had just lost her mind; I also wondered if she had. I walked hastily out of the eatery with Kelvin holding onto me firmly.

     

    “Amara! Wait!” Mrs. Bello yelled, running after us.

     

    “D--n it! I never should have allowed you come here.” Kelvin said angrily as we walked on.

     

    Mr. Sinja followed Mrs Bello closely and dragged her forcefully, turning her to face him. “What the hell are you talking about? Which daughter” he growled.

     

    “Amara” she called shakily and I stopped. How can she even have the nerve to call my name? I turned to glare at her. “Please listen to me. I am sorry my dear, I am sorry for all I did to you. I would forever regret my actions. I am not proud of what I did” she said as her eyes watered.

     

    I glared at her. “Whether or not you regret your actions does not change anything now, does it? We are creating an unnecessary scene. Please leave me in peace ok?”

     

    “You can’t go” she said shakily.

     

    “Oh? And why not?” I shot back at her.

     

    “Because… erm…” she glanced from my face to Mr. Sinja’s and back. Mr. Sinja turned to look at me, then glared at her.

     

    “What daughter are you referring to?” he asked, shaking her like a piece of doll.

     

    “Our relationship years back produced a child Habeeb” she said shakily. She turned to look at me. “She… Amara… she is that child” she swallowed. “Amara is your daughter.

     

    I blinked. Oh! My ear drums echoed for a while. This had to be a big joke, I thought, staring at them like they were speaking Latin. I grabbed Kelvin’s hand tighter. “D--n it Amara! I am getting you out of here” he said forcefully.

     

    “You don’t mean it right?” I yelled, snatching my hand from Kelvin’s, looking at the two people before me like they had grown horns. Mr. Sinja was frozen to the spot with his mouth agape, looking at me like I was an alien. “How can you say such ridiculous nonsense uhn?” I yelled angrily and felt a dull pain in my stomach. “You have lost your mind, you don’t know what you are saying… you don’t know…” I bent over as the pain in my tummy grew.

     

    “Ara” kelvin exclaimed, grabbing me. “What is wrong? Are you ok?”

     

    “Amara” Mrs. Bello yelled running over.

     

    I tried to stand up but the pain that overtook me almost knocked the wind out of me. “Aaaaarrrrhhhh” I yelped in pain. “My tummy” I cried out. “Kelvin…… my tummy…” I cried out as the pain became increasingly unbearable. “Aaaaaarrrrrhhhhh”

     

    “Get the car” I vaguely heard Mr. Sinja bark as he whisked me into his arms effortlessly. The pain took over my senses and raked through every fiber of my being. My baby… Please be fine… Please be fine… I took my numb hand to my tummy but all I felt was this immeasurable pain that took over my brain, making me yelp and gasp in pain.

     

     

    Kelvin paced the waiting room of Corina Hospital in agitation. “How can you two be so insensitive?” he barked at Mrs. Bello and Mr. Sinja. “How couldn’t you bring up such a topic before her, in her condition?” he asked, glaring at Mrs. Bello. “I knew it! I never should have allowed her out of the house. I am so stupid. If anything happens to her, I don’t think I would forgive myself” he said, pacing. Immediately Mr. Sinja had showed up at Kelvin’s office, Kelvin had had the vague feeling that he was related to Amara somehow. The resemblance was obvious, but Kelvin had shrugged it off, telling himself that so many people looked alike without necessarily being related. How wrong that was! If only he had known, he would have protected Amara and prevented her from finding out the horrific way she did. He honestly did not know what he would do if anything happened to Amara. He turned to stare at the detective.

     

    The elderly man looked like he had been struck by lightning as he clenched his fists painfully beside him. Kelvin felt for the man, wondering what was going through the mind of the man who seemed to have gone through equal bouts of deceit and pain.

     

    Kelvin sighted a doctor coming out of the department Amara was rushed into and moved hurriedly towards him, along with Mr. Sinja and Mrs. Bello. “Doctor” he called hurriedly. “How is she? How is Amara? She was rushed in now” he ranted.

     

    “We are her parents, please tell us” Mrs. Bello said and Mr. Sinja glared at her.

     

    The doctor looked at them in concern. “Her situation is very delicate. I fear she has fallen into labor” he said.

     

    “What? But she is not due till next month” Kelvin said in agitation.

     

    “Yes, but if she doesn’t deliver that child now, her life might be at stake; she is in enough danger as it is. She is in great pain; I guess it is due to physical or emotional stress. I hope the situation does not get worse because if it does, we may have to resort to CS. Please take it easy, we are on top of the situation; excuse me” he said and left hurriedly. Kelvin stared after the doctor, white-faced.

     

    “Oh God!”

    Episode 28 [Finale]

    The waiting room was filled with people seated in different places but waiting obviously for one person and thinking about that one person. Mr. and Mrs. Peters were there and Mrs. Peters was almost out of her mind with worry. She had paced the waiting room until she started becoming dizzy. She felt pained that she had hurt her daughter so much by keeping the truth from her when all she wanted by keeping Amara’s birth a secret was to prevent her from getting hurt. She regretted what she did but knew that regrets and being sorry was not enough to write off the damage that the secret has caused in her daughter’s life. If only Amara could find a place in her heart to forgive her…

     

    Mr. Peters, on the other hand was angry. He felt sorry that Amara had gone through all these – ending up married to her brother and all – but most especially, he was angry that she was no longer on their side. Why did everything have to crumble just when Amara started bringing home some cash? Despite his numerous threats to his wife that he would reveal the mystery behind Amara’s parentage, he knew that he would never have gone through with the threat; not when he knew what he could lose. He knew he could always get cash from Alex through Amara if she was on their side, but now that everything was in shambles, that possibility was totally out of the question. He had no idea what he was doing in the hospital, seated like a jobless man. Even though Amara had been a great daughter, she had made the mistake herself; she should pay for it herself. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to be seen with the Senator’s family, would it?

     

    Mr. Bello snr sat some distance away from the rest, with his head resting heavily against the backrest. He had a lot of things to do at the office but he just could not turn a deaf ear when he heard that Amara had gone into labor prematurely. Normally, he should despise Amara for being the product of his wife’s betrayal but he was never one to transfer aggression. He does not think and act like other men. He liked Amara a lot. She had a fierce fighting spirit which he admired. He had instantly liked her and that feeling only grew when he saw the way she was handling her odd relationship with Alex. It was not the girl’s fault that she was not conceived in a respectable way. Actually, he could not begin to imagine the level of pain and sadness Amara must be feeling, all because of the stupid actions of the woman he married. No wonder the child in the womb was reacting to the extreme tension. Even though the Senator was so worried about Amara, he hadn’t been prepared to meet the culprit who got his wife pregnant. His former employee was seated in the waiting room when he arrived and right there and then, Mr. Bello wanted to forget his position in the society and break Habeeb’s bones with his fists but he strictly had to put his anger under control. There would always be another place and time for that, he told himself, even though he continued to clench his fists.

     

     

     

    Mr. Habeeb Sinja felt like his brain had contacted deadly virus. He could not process any thought normally anymore. His daughter was just behind that closed door ahead of him, struggling between life and death. His daughter! That sounded so weird even to his own inner ears. His life had been a disaster for as long as he could even remember. When Kate had pushed him out of her life and out of his livelihood, his life had crumbled. He hadn’t expected to fall in love with Katherine but then, she had dumped him like a piece of trash. It had been expected though; who wouldn’t see that coming when she was obviously married with a child. He should have been wise enough to avoid any dealings with her; or even wise enough to keep his heart under lock and key. But then, he had fallen for her and had paid dearly for it. He hadn’t been able to love again. After many years of staying alone, his family had forced a woman on him. He had married her and even though he did not love her, he respect her and treated her well until he was able to see her as a friend. But then, tragedy struck again and she died in an accident, along with their three years old son. Destroyed beyond redemption, he had joined the police force, not even considering another marriage. And now, he had a daughter? He could not lose his daughter when he just found her. He just couldn’t. Not even the presence of his ex-boss could stop him from praying for his daughter’s wellbeing.

     

    Alex carried a bottle of hot wine in his hand but he was not drinking it. Ever since he found out his true relationship Amara, he had been drinking, just hoping that he would forget everything. But after drinking himself to stupor and the haze cleared, he was left with his problems looming over him, looking bigger than it was the last time. He had instantly got a lawyer to process their divorce, but that still did not change the fact that he had been married to his sister, did it? It did not change the fact that he had treated his sister like a piece of trash to be used and trampled on at every given point in time. She was there right now, laboring to birth the child that he had put in her, but what could he do? He could not do anything but wait helplessly. He turned to look at the woman he called mother and moved farther away from her. She was still crying, biting her fingers occasionally but Alex could not feel anything but anger towards her. She had been the originator of this mess; she effectively destroyed everyone because of her selfish desires.

     

    Kelvin could not keep still, he was either seated or standing or pacing. His thoughts were in complete disarray. He tried to come up with clues of what Amara was going through in there but had no idea. He had never been in the labor room with anyone but experienced women always said that a woman in labor was a handshake away from death. They had explained the pain that they go through until Kelvin almost could boast of a mental picture of the entire process, but waiting in the waiting room was giving him too much tension. Tola and Tina were also as agitated as kelvin, pacing the hall with their mouths murmuring inaudible prayers.

    The door opened and a doctor walked out. Everyone ran to him, firing different questions which, at the same time, had the same meaning. The doctor, looking completely strained, shook his head. “I am sorry…”

     

    Hushed silence fell on everyone at once. “Sorry for what?” Tina cried…

     

    Pain was the only word I knew. Pain! That throbbing feeling that spreads through the body, soul and spirit until you can’t think about anything other than pain. I squirmed, screamed, pushed and pushed until my lower body felt like it was on fire. The word ‘Push’ was repeated over and over again until the word became permanently stamped in my head. I screamed in extreme pain and tears rolled down from my eyes as I gripped the sheets on the bed. I bit down on my lips to stop myself from screaming helplessly in pain but it was not enough to prevent my unconscious exclamations.

     

    Then, the pain subsided and vanished altogether. Complete silence reigned. Even the ticking of my heartbeat was silenced and I could hear nothing at all. It was a complete contrast to the noise and screams that reigned barely seconds ago. Surprisingly, the silence was more scary than the noise. I wanted that noise again. It was like everyone had vanished from the earth and I was left all alone. I don’t want to be alone! I don’t want to be left all by myself! But then, I remembered. I have always been alone! The people who wanted me did not belong to me, yet, the people I belonged to did not want me. What a dilemma. How could a person want to return to that? How can I even want to return to that?

     

    But I am a fighter, I don’t give up. I have things to prove to myself and the people who rejected and abused me. That alone is a reason to live.

     

    I felt a hand brush shakily against my cheeks. The soft caress almost made me sigh but then, as I slipped back to a conscious state, I felt that overwhelming pain again. It was not as worse as I last remembered, but it was there nonetheless. I opened my eyes slowly and felt a form looming over me. I raised my eyes and caught Kelvin’s extremely worried look. As our eyes held, relief washed over him but his worried look was still there. “Hey” he whispered with a soft smile. He bent over and kissed my forehead, lingering longer than he ought. He sat carefully at the edge of the bed and I noticed his heavy eyes which showed that he hadn’t slept for a while. My hand felt weak but I raised it to his face.

     

    “You shouldn’t be so worried about me” I croaked out weakly.

     

    He smiled and kissed the inside of my palm. “I can’t help myself honey” he said softly. “How are you feeling?”

     

    Truthfully, I wasn’t feeling anything but pain, but how could I tell him that when he was so worried about me. “I am fine” I said.

     

    His eyes flashed with something I could not recognize and he bent to kiss my cheeks. “I really want you to be fine sweetheart” he whispered. “Be fine for me” he scent enveloped my senses. That scent that was always clinging to him.

     

    I noticed something different about me, and then stiffened. “Kel, where is my baby?” I asked and he froze.

     

    “Fine. Your baby is fine” he answered hurriedly.

     

    I stiffened. “You are a poor liar Kelvin, where is my baby?” Fear gripped me as I saw Kelvin struggle. Raising my voice was causing incredible pains but I endured it. “Where is my son Kelvin? I know he is a boy. Where is he?” I cried, trying to sit up, to look around.

     

    “Calm down Ara. Please…” he forced me on my back. “Lie still Ara, please. You are not strong enough”. He pressed a bell closed to my bed, using one hand to keep me glued to the bed.

     

    I tried to relax. “I am calm now Kelvin, tell me where my child is. I need to see him” I begged.

     

    “You need to get better first, then I would take you honey, please” he begged.

     

    “Something is wrong, right? Something is wrong with him?” I asked with pale face.

     

    The doctor and two nurses entered then and Kelvin moved away. I was held down firmly by the nurses and I saw the doctor holding an injection. I turned my eyes to the nurses. “Please tell me where my baby is… my baby boy… please tell me…”

     

    “He is fine ma. Please calm down” one nurse said and then, I felt the piercing pain of the injection. My eyes became fuzzy and I blinked as my eye lids closed of their own volition. Before I passed into the state of unconsciousness, I caught Kelvin’s pained expression and got my answer.

     

    Kelvin held onto my hand tightly and I gazed up at him. “I told you I can walk on my own” I murmured. I was already discharged and free to go home but how can I feel happy about going home when I wasn’t carrying a child with me. Stillbirth!!! The word rang over and over and I steeled myself against crying. I have cried enough tears to last a lifetime. Tina and Tola had visited, trying to encourage me by making me see the positive side of the situation but I still felt shattered. Even though my child was a product of an abominable act, I still wanted him, because, at least, I would know that I have something or someone who was truly mine. I would know that I have my child to encourage me, but then, I have to face the harsh realities of knowing that I am always alone. Kelvin’s hand tightened and I smiled. At least, there is someone who would not leave me; or some people, I thought, thinking of Tola and Tina.

    Kelvin paused as he was about to open a door. I looked at him and he smiled down at me. He kissed my forehead and opened the door, and then I saw them. All of them! Everyone that helped in destroying my life! I stood still and turned my eyes to Kelvin. “I prevented them from seeing you throughout your stay here honey, but I could not prevent this” he explained.

     

    I sighed and faced them. I had no feelings left. I could not even feel anger, hatred or dismay; I just wanted this to be the last time I ever saw them or most of them at least.

     

    “Amara… My baby… Amara… How are you…? I am sorry……” different things were thrown hurriedly by everyone; I did not even bother to know who was asking what. I just wanted to leave this place. But a few last words were in order.

     

    “Please listen to me” I said, raising my voice. “I am fine. You all do not have to worry falsely about me. It is too late to worry about what I might be feeling.” I said with a vague amused look. “I am happy that I am seeing you all now, because I might not see you anymore, and I would be extremely happy if I never see most of you again.” Silence fell over everyone and I turned to Alex coolval stories.

     

    I raised my amused brows at him. “So you can really be worried about me now Corper? It is funny right? Men do things to women that they would not want to happen to their own sisters. When you were mocking me and dishonoring me behind my back, you never knew you were doing those things against your own sister. Well, I am sure you would be a lesson to all men. Before you do things to women because you can, think of how you would feel if the same is done to your own sister.”

     

    I shook my head and turned to Mr. Sinja. The police officer who just happened to be my father. “Sir, I am sure you would forgive me if I can’t call you dad now” I said and he nodded vigorously.

     

    “Of course my dear…” he said.

     

    “I was right in thinking that you had seen so many things in your life. I don’t know half of your story and I am sorry if I would not have enough time to learn them. You look like a good man and I am pretty sure that you would have been a very good father if you had been given a chance.” I said.

     

    I turned to the parents I have known all my life. “Papa, mama… I know that I have overemphasized my anger towards you and I am sorry. Even though I know that Papa never really loved me and accepted me, I still am eternally grateful to you. When I was rejected and tossed into the trash like a messed up diaper, you took me, welcomed me into your home and provided shelter for me. You took care of me for years and provided for me even though you had next to nothing. I would remain grateful to you for as long as I live, and you would never stop being my parents” I hugged my dad briefly and hugged my mum who held me tightly.

     

    “I love you my baby… I love you so much… I am sorry.” she whispered in tears.

     

    I saw the senator and turned to him. “Sir” I bowed my head in respect. “I instantly developed respect for you the minute I saw you. I have never seen a man as principled as you are. Even though I was not in a happy marriage, I saw you as the best father-in-law. You should hate me for what I stand for in your family but then; you are here, worried about me. I respect you sir. I really hope you find happiness because you deserve it more than anyone.”

     

     

     

    I really wanted to leave but there was one person left. I turned to Mrs. Bello. I just could not smile at her. She stood shakily, looking at me. “I hated you the instant I saw you” I began without preamble. “You were a terrible mother-in-law but as a mother, you were worse. If there is one person I never want to set my eyes on, it is you”

     

    “Pleeeaaaase… I am sorry…” she pleaded.

     

    “You are not my mother; I can never accept you as my mother. You rejected me then, now, I am rejecting you… You hated me, now; I hate you beyond measure… You did not want me then, now I tell you, I do not and would not have any cause to need you in my life. You have caused so many people sadness” I shook my head. “You are not worthy to be called a mother. Please don’t look for me. You won’t find me” I said and turned to face kelvin, who was standing with Tina and Tola now. “I need to leave now”

     

    Despite the protests of those in the room, I hastily walked out of the hospital with the only people who really mattered to me. Who says blood is thicker than water?

     

    I stood with my luggage in the sitting room, waiting for Kelvin to enter. The door opened and he came inside. Immediately he saw me, his legs stopped moving and he stood still, looking at everything before him. “Where are you going to Ara?” he asked as his face grew pale.

     

    I sighed, wondering how I was going to handle this. “I am leaving Kel, I am going away.”

     

    He marched towards me in an instant. “What are you talking about? Where are you going?”

    “Anywhere. I am going anywhere, I want to rebuild my life, on my own, putting all my garbage behind me” I was now legally divorced from Alex. All I needed was a totally new environment to begin my life from the scratch.

     

    “B… But… but you can’t go” he lamented as his arms fisted beside him. “I won’t let you” he said on raised voice. He looked as if his life had just snapped.

     

    This was becoming harder. I could not quite look into his eyes. It was hard to see him struggling for composure. “I have to do this Kelvin” I said as my eyes watered. “Staying here would make me fade out Kel. I have nothing but bad memories now and no matter how much I try, you have also been linked with those memories. I want to go far away, to a place where I can build new memories and forget all that has happened. You understand me Kelvin, I know you do” I held his face, forcing myself to gaze into his eyes. “I need to start all over again Kel, please don’t stop me… please” I pleaded. Of everyone in the world, I really wanted him to understand me.

     

    “But… But…” he sighed and walked over to the window. I stood behind him, tense and confused. His muscles vibrated with tension. I just wanted him to hold me. Tell me he understand me… tell me… “I love you Amara”

     

    I froze and swallowed as his words sank in, creating a terrible ache in my chest. Alex turned to face me. “I love you”

     

    “Please… please don’t do this…” I murmured.

     

    He smiled painfully and pulled me into his arms. My heat raced as kelvin kissed my forehead lingeringly. I have never stood this close to him before and the effect was scary. He lowered his head and kissed my eyes. “Kelvin” I gasped as my legs threatened to give way.

     

    Before I could think of protesting, his mouth closed over mine. My heart threatened to break through my chest as his mouth moved from gentle to insistent. I held onto his neck as we kissed and I was alarmed, just thinking of the effect of what was going on. Kelvin stopped suddenly and gazed at me with blazing, unreadable eyes. I was pretty sure my face mirrored his. “Go” he said suddenly. “Be happy” he said and swallowed, moving away from me. He raked his fingers through his hair and exhaled audibly.

     

    I swallowed hard, dragging in much needed air. “Kelvin…” I called questioningly, not sure I even wanted to leave anymore.

     

    “Pleasse promise me you would be fine Ara” he asked breathlessly.

     

    I nodded. “I would take care of myself Kelvin”

     

    He nodded. “I would take you anywhere you want”

     

    I shook my head. “I want to do this on my own Kelvin; you have done more than enough.” He nodded again, running his fingers through his hair again. “I would see you again, I promise. But I would have achieved my dreams by then, so you can be proud of what I have become”.

    He smiled. “I would move heaven and hell to see you again honey”.

     

    I nodded and quickly wiped the tears that slipped off my eyes. I bent to pick up my two bags. I walked to the door with my heart feeling heavier than the bags. I turned to see Kelvin standing where he was, with his hands buried deep in his trousers. “Goodbye Kelvin”

     

    He nodded. “Take care of yourself”

     

    I nodded and wiped at my tears again. “I will. Take care of yourself” I said. He nodded and I quickly opened the door, lifted my bags and walked out. Breaking through your walls of pain can be very difficult, but when you finally succeed, you emerge stronger and better. I go to make a better person of myself; to pursue my dreams and gain back everything life took away from me because of my mistakes. Falling down in life is expected but how you get back up is what matters. A mistake that does not kill you makes you wiser. I turned to look back at the house, knowing that Kelvin was there, probably looking at me through the window. I would achieve my goals this time; I would do it for the one person who loves me wholeheartedly – Kelvin

    The End

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