“Oh no; we’re not going to do that, Em. Making Fitz believe your baby’s father is unknown is enough deceit; aiding Adam to convince Fitz that he has a stable girlfriend is out of bounds for me.” Oops, I had forgotten how loyal Karen was to Team Fitz.
“He said he wanted to keep this ‘within the inner circle,’ his words not mine. And I think he has a point, Karen. If the circle isn’t kept as tight as it should be, this complicated web that is my life would spin out of control and I’m not ready to have my world come to an end yet.”
“His task to convince Fitz about the existence of his girlfriend should be his problem and not yours, Em. You have a lot on your plate. So don’t you go looking for trouble that isn’t your own.” Oh no, she was never going to get on board with this in a mood like that.
“I hear you, Karen. I’ll tell him.”
“Good. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Sure; take care dear.” The line went dead. I sighed and dialed Adam’s number.
Fitz made the announcement I had been anticipating two days later.
“Adam would be joining us for dinner one of these days and he’d be coming with his girlfriend; so just you know.” I pretended to look puzzled.
“Is it just me or is Adam’s dinner time with us becoming a little too much?”
Fitz looked at me, amused.
“Has it always been a concern of yours or did you just come up with that because I mentioned he’d be coming with someone?”
“What are you insinuating, that I’m jealous?”
“Well, are you?
“I feel so insulted that you’d even ask me that, Fitz.”
“Anyway, it’s more business than social. He’s submitting his progress report.”
“So why don’t you have dinner outside…you know, for a change of scenery and a feel of professionalism?” He seemed to ponder over it for a moment.
“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll reserve a table for us.”
“Good,” I said with a satisfied nod as I took my glass of juice and sipped.
“When I said ‘us,’ I meant you’d be coming with me.”
“And why is that? I thought you said it’s more of business than social. Why do you need me there when you and your poster boy are going to discuss his whatever report?”
“Because I don’t wish to go out for dinner alone.”
“Well sorry, I don’t feel like it.”
“Why do I feel antagonism oozing from you?”
“Maybe I’m hormonal right now,” I replied in a sharp tongue.
“You’re coming,” he said in a tone of finality and looked back into the newspaper he was holding.
“Is that an order?” I asked, almost shocked. He looked at me and touched my cheek.
“Of course not. It’s just a request I need granted by you,” he said with a forced smile. Before I could say anything else, he got up and walked out of the room. My eyes followed him out with a gaping mouth. How dare he?
“Sure, take care and tell James I said hi,” I said and ended the call. I heard a knock and I looked up.
“I didn’t want to startle you.”
“Very considerate of you. I was talking to Karen. She sends her regards.”
“Consider them well received. I wanted to have a cup of tea. Would you mind making one for me?”
“Of course not. I’ll be done in a minute,” I said and got up and left him in the room.
Karen’s phone beeped. She took it and opened the message.
“What is?” James asked.
“It’s a message from Emily. She wants me to join her and her husband for dinner at a restaurant.”
“And you find that strange because?”
“We just spoke on the phone. She could have just told me that.”
“Perhaps she forgot then.”
“She could have called back.”
“Maybe she’s busy at the moment.”
“Then I should call back.”
“Why are you over thinking this? Am I the only one who remembers how unpredictably spontaneous your best friend could be?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
I was applying perfume on myself in front of the dressing mirror when my phone rang.
“Yes, Fitz; are you on your way?”
“Sorry, something came up so I don’t think I can come and pick you up from the house. So if you could…”
“I’m really sorry for the inconvenience. Get the driver to bring you to the venue.”
“Why don’t I just stay at home?”
“Come on Emily, we’ve been through this. I need you there.”
“Whatever,” I muttered and ended the call.
The driver pulled up at the parking lot of the Regal Chinese Restaurant. I saw Fitz’s Land Cruiser parked at the lot. The driver took off and I made my way towards the entrance. I saw a familiar person about to enter.
“Karen?” I called out. She turned.
“Emily!” We hugged.
“You look amazing.”
“And you’re glowing! Pregnancy looks good on you, Em.”
“Yeah right. What are you doing here? You and James having a night out?”
“Are you trying to pull my legs?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You sent me a message to join you and Fitz for dinner.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“It was from your phone, I’m sure about that.” She took out her phone from the bag and opened the message. She showed it to me.
“I didn’t type this message nor send it to you.”
“I received it about a minute after you hung up earlier today.” I inhaled deeply.
“And why would he do that?”
“I have no idea. He’s meeting Adam here for dinner and he insisted I joined them no matter how much I tried convincing him otherwise.”
“What surprise could he be cooking up inside?”
“I have no idea but if this is all a game, I’m ready to play.” I steeled myself and walked inside the restaurant. We were directed to our table and nothing prepared me for who I saw. We both froze in our tracks.
“What the hell is Tony doing here?” He was seated next to Fitz and they seemed to be engaged in an intense conversation.
“What is going on?” Karen asked when I had said nothing.
“I don’t know, Karen but it feels like my personal hell.”
“Yeah, having your first love, your husband and baby daddy around one table is any woman’s nightmare. I don’t envy you at all.”
“You and me both.” Fitz lifted his head and his eyes met mine. His lips broke into a smile as he got up.
“Hey, you’re here. I was beginning to think that you had stood me up.” Oh how I wish I had. He kissed my cheek.
“Good to see you again, Karen,” he said with a handshake.
“Same here. I received a text from Em’s phone that I should be here but she just told me she didn’t send the text. Would you happen to know anything about that?” Karen asked in her clear, you-better-tell-me-the-truth tone. Fitz glanced at me and back at her. You dare not mess with Karen when she uses that tone. I smiled inwardly.
“Yeah…I wanted to surprise Emily.”
“You could have done that with your phone.”
“Yeah but I knew you two would end up talking about it and that would ruin the surprise.”
“All you had to do was say the word and I would have kept mum about it,” Karen pressed. Before he could reply, Adam came up behind us.
“Hi…I can see the whole gang is here,” he said. Did I sense anxiety in his voice? I saw Fitz visibly sigh in relief. Saved by Adam. Lucky him, Karen would have drilled him to bits.
“You’re welcome, Adam. I can see you brought your girl with you.” That made Karen and I turn to look at whoever it was. Ah, was it the best he could do? Karen and I shared a glance and we both stifled a laugh.
“Yes I did; Everyone, meet Bertha…”
“I thought you said her name was Bernice,” Fitz pointed out. Oops. I watched in amusement as the color drained from Adam’s face. Oh, this was going to be fun.
He cleared his throat. “Did I?”
“Oh yeah, he often does that. I don’t know if his girl from another life was called Bertha. It used to annoy me but I’m getting used to it,” the lady said as she put her hand on his shoulder. I arched a brow. This girl was good.
Our little party was interrupted when a voice spoke up. We all turned to face the intruder.
“Hi,” Tony said shyly.
“I’m sorry; I totally forgot you were here. Everyone, meet Tony. He’s the son of one of my colleagues. You’ve already met Emily my wife. This is Karen, her best friend. I’m sure you’ve heard of Adam the artiste and this is Bernice, his girlfriend,” Fitz introduced.
“And why is he here?” I asked Fitz.
“I met him on my way here and I invited him.”
“Oh, I also met a colleague from my Alma Mater just outside, should I call him to join us too?” I asked, the sarcasm ringing loudly in my voice.
“Calm down,” Karen whispered. Fitz gave a sheepish embarrassed smile.
“Forgive my wife, Tony. She’s expecting and sometimes her hormones make her act more unfriendly than she usually is.” Did he just bring up my hormones again?
“No need to apologize, Mr. Daniels. I’m well acquainted with your wife here. We were…”
It took a joint sharp glare from both Karen and I to keep his mouth shut.
“I mean, we are in the same university, right? Campus can become a small world if you let it,” Tony said.
“Let’s all sit, shall we?” Adam and I sat on the opposite sides of Fitz with whatever-her-name-was and Karen sitting next to us. Tony sat next to Karen. He looked left out and I couldn’t blame him. He seemed out of place among us.
“I brought the report you asked for, Mr. Daniels,” Adam said, handing him a brown envelope.
“Won’t you even allow me to eat first?” He said lightheartedly.
Fitz signaled the waiter and the serving began.
One of the many trends that make campus life so interesting is the various hook-ups which seem to initiate the freshmen into campus. It is nothing short of a cute sight to see students walking in pairs to and fro the lecture halls. And for those who walk on wheels, you’d find them waiting in their cars waiting for their beloveds to come out of the lecture halls.
It seems the university campuses have become a trial for adult relationships; where students try out how well they would fare as someone’s lover/companion. Freshly baked out of the oven of high schools where the only means of communication have been via letters, weekly phone calls and occasional visits, the whole new experience of having your loved ones nearby is so thrilling. And with the influence of the telenovelas which have become a viewing sensation across all age groups recently, the student populace especially the ladies have the fantasy of how perfect their relationships should play out. But unfortunately, reality presents less-than-perfect circumstances.
It is no secret that campus relationships are super expensive especially when trying to handle a high-class, I-want-it-all kind of gal. Apart from the credit used to call your partner at regular times, the guy usually provides the credit for his lady to call him (but more often than not, she uses it to call everyone than the buyer). It is also the guy’s burden to provide two-course meals for lunch and/or supper with snacks in-between the hours. If the guy wants his gal to always look chic, then he must find a way to cough up ‘hair-do allowance’ every fortnight and mind you, the salon is nothing short of top-notch.
And for the average campus girl, she shows her love by preparing food and stocking her guy’s fridge with it. And when it comes to sleeping arrangements, it is the roommates who suffer because one has to endure having the opposite sex not only spending the night but almost the whole day as well.
Campus couples always have something to do or somewhere to go together. From studying together to watching school play productions, they are seen together so much so that they begin to look alike. One can literally see their ears elongating and their heads swelling when they are given the ‘you-were-meant-to-be’ compliment.
As rosy as the relationships look, most of them don’t last long. Those with the longer time span are those with the almost countless number of breakup sessions. So the average dating-allergic student would graduate leaving behind a long trail of exes. Most students have no qualms about moving on immediately after a breakup. Perhaps it’s because the campus is a big pool of dating materials so whether you dropped someone or you’re dropped, you can pick yourself up and find the next available person.
And more than half of the relationships which make it to the end of the four-year programme sadly end on rocks a few months after graduation. Some attribute it to the game-changing lifestyle that one has to adapt to which makes it inconvenient to continue. Each party is occupied with work and less or no time is given to social activities. They finally crack under pressure and the once promising relationship becomes a distant memory.
So what makes campus relationships so fickle? Is it because the primary reason of finding a partner is for temporary companionship and thus expires after they are handed their certificates? Maybe, maybe not. But why spend so much money, time and energy on someone that would show you the door or in a relationship which has no future?
This phenomenon lives on perhaps because people engage in such relationships so they would have stories to tell when asked to narrate their campus life story.
Whether it’s for the time being or has the future in mind, at least ensure that you influence your partner positively and are influenced in the same way so that many years to come, when your name is mentioned, it would be out of a fond memory and not a bitter one.
The days that followed felt odd. At breakfast, Fitz would hardly speak to me. When I tried making a conversation, he would kill it immediately with curt straight answers. What was going on? I was the pregnant one; I was the one permitted to act out like that and not him. Was the baby thingy now getting to him?
“You’re free today, right?” I asked.
“It depends. Why?”
“I’m going for a check-up today. Would you like to go with me?”
“I’d love to but I can’t. I’m expecting a call.” I arched a brow.
“You can take a call anywhere, Fitz.” He looked at me.
“It’s a business video call. I can only do that at the office or here at home.” I nodded.
“I thought when you said you meant it about this baby being our baby, you really meant it.”
“Well, your recent attitude is giving a totally different vibe, Fitz. Is there something you want to talk about?”
“Nope; we’re good.”
“Are we really?”
“Seriously Emily, I’m not in the mood for your hormonal nagging fit this morning.”
I gasped. Did he just call me hormonal and nagging? Before I could retaliate, he got up.
“I’ll be in my study.” And with that, he strode off. I rubbed my forehead hoping it would take away the lingering ache in my head.
“He’s becoming very distant lately and it bothers me. It seems the mere sound of my voice infuriates him. I don’t know how to get through to him,” I told Karen over the phone.
“That’s strange. Did you two have a fight recently?”
“No; he started acting like that after the dinner party. I don’t know if he saw me and Adam talking or someone said something…I have a bad feeling about this, Karen.”
“Don’t worry yourself, Em. Just give him time to get used to you carrying another man’s baby. Perhaps he thought he could handle it at first but the reality is harsher than the thought. He’ll come back to himself,” Karen said reassuringly.
“Okay; thanks. I knew talking to you would make me feel better.” Karen smiled.
“Glad to know that. Sorry I have to go. My break time is up.”
“Sure; how’s the internship going anyway?”
“Stressful as hell. It would have been more bearable if you were in it with me.” I laughed.
“I know, right? We would have caused them enough headaches for them to pray us out of there.” We both laughed.
“Take care, Karen. I’ll call you later.”
“Sure; take care too, dear.” The line went dead. I startled when I heard a knock on the door.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to alarm you. How was the check-up?” Fitz said, entering the room.
“It was okay. Everything is normal.” Fitz forced a smile and sat beside me on the bed. He rubbed my back soothingly.
“I’m sorry for not making it with you to the clinic today.” I nodded.
“I’ll be travelling out of town over the weekend and I want you to come with me.” I glanced at him.
“You want me to come along on your business trip?”
“Yeah, I’ve always gone alone because of its busy nature but I can’t leave you by yourself in your condition.”
“Oh you don’t have to worry about me, Fitz. I’ll be fine; you go ahead.”
“You don’t want to come with?” He looked disappointed.
“I’d love you to travel with you, Fitz but this isn’t some romantic vacation. We won’t have time to ourselves and I’ll be a distraction to you,” I explained.
“But at least you won’t be utterly alone. I’ll make it worth your while,” he promised.
“Fine, if you say so.”
“Great. Would you like me to get you something?”
“No, I’m good; thanks. I just want to take a nap.”
“All right. I’ll leave you alone now.” He kissed my forehead and got up. I watched him walk out of the room. I exhaled deeply. My gut told me there was something wrong. Fitz had been distant but his eyes seemed to follow my every move like a hawk. What was he thinking?
Fitz summoned Adam to his office the following day.
“Good day, Mr. Daniels.”
“Have a seat, Adam,” he said flatly, not meeting his eye. Adam sat and removed his earpieces. Fitz ignored him for a good five minutes before turning away from his computer and looking at him.
“It’s been a while since you gave me a progress report.”
“Um…well, because I always gave you an update whenever I came to your house for dinner, I thought that was covered.”
“But that is verbal and thus informal. I need a formal report.”
“Okay; I’ll prepare one immediately. Would you want me to pass by your house to deliver it?”
“Oh no; from now on, we’ll meet here…in my office.”
“Is there a problem, Mr. Daniels? Did I misbehave the last time I was at your house?”
“Oh not at all; I just want us to keep it strictly professional henceforth.”
“Did Emily say something to you about me?” Fitz arched a brow.
“No, she didn’t. Why would she? This arrangement is between you and me. She being present is just a cherry on the cake. Or is there something you think she’ll tell me about you?” Fitz asked, his tone dead-serious. Adam sat back in his seat.
What was going on? Why was he acting so cold? Did he suspect something?
“Oh of course not. I thought all was well between us so if your sudden change of arrangement made me assume it’s because of the third person,” Adam said, choosing his words carefully.
“Well, it’s not. I just think we should keep this formal…for the next foreseeable future.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“You do have a girlfriend, don’t you, Adam?”
What was going on? He blinked hard.
“Well, I’m in-between relationships at the moment,” he said, clearing his throat.
“In-between? Like, you’re out of one at the moment?” Fitz inquired.
“I’m seeing someone at the moment but it’s nothing serious.”
“I thought you mentioned that you were seeing this wonderful lady who inspired you to write all those lovely songs. Did you break up with her?”
“It’s…complicated, Mr. Daniels.”
“Not that complicated. It’s either you’re single or you’re attached.”
“I don’t see how that has anything to do with my business with you, Mr. Daniels.”
Fitz gave a tight-lipped smile.
“It doesn’t. But I wouldn’t mind putting a face to the name. What was her name again?”
“Bernice.” The name rolled off Adam’s tongue before his brain could think of one.
“Bernice; lovely name. Would you mind bringing her over for dinner?”
“Tonight? I…I thought there would be no more meetings at your place.” Everything was going on so fast that his mind was failing to keep up. What name had he used again?
“I wouldn’t mind seeing her. Would that be inconvenient?” Fitz pressed.
“I’d have to ask her if her schedule is open. If it is, I’ll let you know.”
“Good. You may see yourself out now.” Adam stood.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Daniels.”
When he got to the door, Fitz said,” Don’t forget to bring along your progress report.”
“I won’t.” He left the office. He exhaled deeply. He didn’t even realize he was holding his breath all this while. He found himself sweating under his shirt despite the air-condition being on full blast in the office. What was all that about? Was Emily in trouble?
He took out his phone and dialled the number.
I answered my phone at the third ring.
“Hi Adam. What’s up?” I asked, happy to have someone to talk to.
“Are you okay?” His voice sounded concerned.
“Yeah…what’s going on?”
“I just left your husband’s office and his demeanour was kind of strange. He first said I wouldn’t come to your home anymore and later said he wanted to meet my girlfriend.”
I sat down to digest what he was telling me.
“Has my name come up in any quarrel recently?”
“Nope; we hardly talk these days much less quarrel. He’s been a bit distant recently. What do you think is going on in his head?”
“I have no idea, Em but it’s nothing pleasant; that I can assure you. I now have to find someone to pose as my girlfriend for dinner at your place.”
“You’re coming here? I thought you said…”
“He made an exception to me coming with my girlfriend who is non-existent.” I stifled a laugh.
“You seriously don’t have a girlfriend?”
“You know I don’t, Emily. My mind has been preoccupied of you and our baby.”
“How sweet. But you do need one, Adam to keep you company.”
“Thoughts of you keep me company enough.”
“All right, sweet mouth. So how are you going to find a fake girlfriend under such short notice?”
“I don’t know, Em. Can you help me out?”
“You want me to fix you with someone?”
“You have some available girlfriends, don’t you?”
“If you want to sell it to Fitz, it would be better if it were a girl I don’t know. I would act indifferent and things would get back to normal.”
“But you could explain it to her better so she would know how to play her part.”
“I don’t know anyone who would willingly sign up to act as your one-time girlfriend. You should have a long list. You’re a celebrity now. Most of your female fans would jump at the opportunity,” I said.
“I want to keep this within the inner circle. Involving an outsider poses a risk to both of us. Things could get complicated; she could become demanding and even blackmail me. I’m not ready for such headaches.”
“You have a point. Since you want to keep this within the ‘inner circle’ as you call it, let me talk to my partner-in-crime and see what we come up with, all right?”
Adam smiled. “Tell Karen I said hi.”
“I will. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“Oh, is that concern I hear in your voice?” Adam asked teasingly.
“Come on Adam, you know I care about you. We share a history, remember?”
“How could I forget? You’re carrying it. But it’s heart-warming to hear you say it.”
“It was nice speaking with you, Adam. I’ll let you know what Karen and I come up with.”
“Sure; take care, love and say hi to my baby for me.” I smiled as I ended the call.
Karen laughed heartily. I sighed.
“It wasn’t funny at all, Karen. No matter how hard I try, I don’t understand why a man of such high repute like Fitz would confide in a celebrity acquaintance about his marital issues. Seriously, what am I missing?” I said, deeply aggravated.
“So Fitz tells Adam about the child that he has taken upon himself to father to the father of the baby? Interesting,” Karen said after she recovered from her laughter fit.
“I don’t know things went from complicated to out of control. Every day presents its own twists and I feel like I’m slowly losing my control over the situation.”
“You just need Adam’s assurance that he won’t spill the beans.”
“Like what, call for a lawyer to draw up a non-disclosure contract and ask Adam to sign?” I asked.
“Whoa…that sounds like a good idea actually but that would seem too demanding to Adam; it would be like asking him to denounce his child.”
“Well, that’s exactly what I need him to do, Karen. I don’t want him waving his rights over the child when he’s born. My marriage is hanging in the balance as it is.”
“And what would you be offering him in return? You don’t expect him to append his signature on such a legal document without any compensation, right?”
“What are you insinuating, that he’d ask me to pay him?”
“That would be the obvious reaction, Em. But since your hubby is already raining his bucks on him, I’m sure he’d want something else from you.”
“Like sex?” I was shocked at what she was getting at.
“Would you be surprised?”
“I’m his sponsor’s wife. And Adam is an honourable guy. I doubt he’d demand that of me.”
“If I were you, I’d prepare myself mentally for anything at all that is if you want to go ahead with formally asking him to sever ties with his unborn child.”
My head was beginning to ache. I rubbed my forehead.
“I hope we come up with something less formal then. I hope I’ll be seeing you at the dinner party tonight.”
“Oh yeah. I’ve already picked out my dress. James and I will represent…live.” I chuckled.
“Good. I need to see you.”
“Awww…missing me already?”
“As if you haven’t as well.” Karen laughed.
“Tell your parents that I said hi,” I said.
“Sure; my mum asked of you yesterday. You should pass by one of these days. We could relive some of our sleepover moments.”
“Will definitely do that. I’ll check out Fitz’s travel schedule and then we’ll plan something. I’ll leave you now. Need to get a nap. See you tonight, dear.”
“Looking forward to it, Em. Bye.” The call ended. I put the phone down and closed my eyes…welcoming peaceful sleep.
Fitz’s jaws dropped as he watched me come downstairs in my glittering lacy black dress.
“I take it by your open mouth that you like what you see?” I asked, knowing very well what his answer would be.
“I love it, Emily. You look ravishing.” I walked towards him and wrapped my arm around his.
“I am Mrs. Fitz Daniels and I must dress the part, don’t you think?”
“And you have, my dear,” he said proudly and kissed my cheek.
“Shall we?” He nodded and we left the house.
My phone beeped. I unlocked the screen and opened the message.
“It seems Karen and James have arrived,” I said.
“Oh okay; we are a few minutes out. Tell her to settle down. You will come and find her when we arrive.” I nodded and started typing. He put his arm around me.
“I’m sorry about telling Adam…”
“Please Fitz, don’t ruin this beautiful night for me. Just let it go.”
“I can’t if you stay mad at me.” I looked at him.
“I’m not mad at you, Fitz. I admit I was a bit upset but I’m not mad. Who am I to stay mad at you? I’m here because of your good graces. I wouldn’t dare jeopardize that because you told someone of my mischief.” He smiled.
“Thank you, Emily.”
We soon arrived and entered the banquet hall. We greeted a couple of Fitz’s colleagues and we were shown our table. Fitz whispered in my ear, reminding me to go find Karen. I nodded and threw my gaze around. Where was she?
My phone rang. I answered it.
“Hey…I’m coming to you.” I signalled Fitz and walked away.
“You look amazing, Em!” Karen said as she hugged me.
“You look gorgeous yourself, Karen,” I said as we admired each other’s dress.
“This is one fine occasion. Thanks for inviting us.”
“Oh don’t mention it, Karen. What are sisters for if not to share our joys and sorrows?”
“Uh huh, bittersweet is the best taste, isn’t it? Come say hi to James and I’ll go with you and greet Fitz.” I agreed and walked to her table.
“Hi James, you’re looking fine tonight.”
“And you’re looking like royalty, Emily. This life suits you well,” James said.
“Thanks, James. Karen wants to say hi to my husband. I promise not to keep her away for long.”
“I hope so, Em,” he said coolly with a smile. I touched his shoulder and walked away with Karen. Fitz got up when he saw us coming.
“Fitz,” Karen said sweetly as she approached him.
“You’re looking beautiful tonight, Karen. You two are catching everyone’s attention.” Karen and I shared a smile. They hugged.
“I do hope you have a good time tonight.”
“Oh I’m counting on it. I’ll leave you two. We’ll catch up later,” Karen said to me. I nodded and sat down.
After a couple of brief speeches, the MC called for one of the artistes on the bill to come perform. I held my breath when you-know-who walked on stage. I glanced at Fitz whose face had broken into a proud smile.
“I would be surprised if you said you had no hand in bringing Adam here.”
“I have said no such thing.” I shook my head and sipped my wine.
“I think it would be good fortune if we named our son after Adam…” I glared at him, making sure I gave him my darkest one.
“Don’t even think about it, Fitz. We’re not naming him Adam,” I protested.
He rubbed my back to calm me down but each rub made me more irritated.
“Don’t get excited, Emily. It was just a comment not a final decision so calm down.”
“I’m not excited. My hormones are perfectly quiet. You’re the one working my last nerve. I don’t want to hear about this again.”
“Yes ma’am.” The room was filled with claps of applause when Adam ended his song. He gave the audience one of his charming smiles in acknowledgement and walked off the stage.
I saw him coming our way and I got up.
“Need to use the ladies’ room. I’ll be right back,” I said and quickly walked away. I headed towards Karen’s table and she looked up at me. She said something to James and got up. I took her hand and we walked away.
“Good evening, Mr. Daniels,” Adam greeted with a handshake.
“Hi Adam; that was a heart-warming performance,” Fitz complimented.
“Thanks, sir. And where’s…your wife? I thought I saw her.”
“Yeah, she excused herself not too long ago. She must have gone to her friend’s table over there.”
“Oh okay, I’ve other people to go greet so I’ll see you later, sir.”
“Sure, Adam. Have fun.” He went over to other tables whiles keeping an eye out for any sign of his baby’s mama. When he couldn’t go on with the charade, he gave up and headed to the washroom area. She must be there, he thought.
He saw Karen and I coming out of the bathroom.
“Hi,” he said. We stopped talking and glanced at him.
“Hi Adam; your song was really nice.”
“Thanks Karen; the inspiration was someone really special.”
“I could tell,” Karen said with a sideways glance at me. I gave her one of my meaningful glances which she understood perfectly.
“I’ll see you when you get back,” she said and walked away.
“What do you want?” I asked in a tone devoid of all emotion.
“I just wanted to see how you looked tonight and I must say, you look breathtakingly marvellous.”
“Thanks Adam and your voice seems to be getting better and better with each performance. I’m impressed.”
“All thanks to you.”
“Oh no, this is all you, Adam; your hard work and great talent. Okay, so enjoy the rest of the evening. I’ll see you around,” I said and started to walk past him but his hold on my arm stopped me. I looked at him curiously.
“If I knew that day we were together would be the last time, I’d have taken my time to savour the feel of your body.” I yanked my arm away.
“Don’t you miss it?” he asked softly. I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Adam, what happened between us was as a result of poor judgment mainly on my part. I am a married woman.”
“But not a happy one, are you?”
“I am hap…”
“Don’t try to lie to me. I know getting married to a man like Mr. Daniels gives you a sense of security but being with me gives you the sense of belonging.” He touched my face and I felt my heart flutter.
“I miss our times together and these days I can’t seem to put off the memory of you losing yourself to me…” I pulled myself away when his other hand landed on my waist.
“What do you think you’re doing? My husband and your sponsor is seated in that hall. He could appear any moment from now. Why would you want to compromise your good relationship with him just because you want to remind yourself of the past?”
“I was thinking…of why Mr. Daniels would accept another child as his own and an interesting theory came to mind.”
“Let me tell you the reason and spare yourself the burden: he loves me enough to overlook my indiscretion and have a family with me.”
“Or it could be his whole story of having had a vasectomy was nothing but a lie.”
I arched a brow. “And why would he do that?”
“Maybe…a vasectomy is just his safe word for his…sterility.”
“What? Wow…you must really have lots of idle time on your hands if you could cook up such a ridiculous theory. He has been so good to you and you think this ill of him?” I asked, not bothering to conceal the disgust in my voice.
“Hey…there’s no need to feel so defensive, Emily. Most men are suffering from it.”
“Not my husband. Now if you would excuse me,” I said and walked past him, my emotions on their all-time high. One of the guests met me on the way and I gave a nod in acknowledgement and entered the hall.
“Are you okay?” Fitz asked when I sat down, took my glass and sipped.
“Yeah, I am.” Throughout the rest of the night, Fitz noticed that I wasn’t in my cheerful mood any more. But he didn’t want to upset me any further so he let it be for which I was grateful.
When the dinner ended, I walked over to Karen’s table.
A colleague slightly older than Fitz walked up to him.
“Hey…been a while. How’s life?” Fitz asked.
“Managing. That pretty young lady is your wife, huh?”
“Yep; mine only. She looks amazing, doesn’t she?” Fitz gloated.
“She does. But I hope you have got a tight leash on her.”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw her chatting with that young artiste in front of the washroom and it seemed quite intimate.”
“You mean, Adam? Oh yeah, they are kind of close. I personally made sure of that,” Fitz said dismissively.
“That might be a huge error on your part, Fitz. For men like us, it is an open secret that these young girls like to be with us for the money and security we give them but their hearts always belong to the cute young men. So you better watch out,” he said with a tap on his shoulder and walked away.
Fitz sipped his wine quietly. Hmm, this man has given me quite a lot to ponder on, he thought.
On our way home, we both sat quietly, each absorbed in one’s own thoughts.
Was it possible that there’s more to the story about Adam and Emily’s friendship? Fitz’s thoughts wandered to how confusing it all was: Emily acting okay around Adam but being adamant about him sponsoring his career. Was just the usual love-hate relationship or was it all a charade?
Could what Adam had said be true? Could Fitz be sterile? There’s one way to find out, I thought to myself.
When we retired to bed, Fitz picked up his iPad and started scanning through his emails. After a moment’s hesitation, I spoke up.
“Honey, I’ve been thinking. I know accepting me and this baby was not an easy decision for you. And I appreciate your big heart. But I also know you would want your own children as a man. So, how about we make our own immediately after this one?”
“You want to have a baby marathon?” he asked.
“I’m serious, Fitz. I think this would help make our marriage more stable. So I believe it’s about time that you had your vasectomy reversed so that…”
“When I told your parents that we were expecting our first child, I meant it, Emily. So don’t worry about it being biologically mine or not.”
“I know but…”
“Why not wait till this one is out of the way before we revisit this topic?” he asked in a tone declaring the end of the subject. I nodded.
“Of course. Goodnight then.”
“Goodnight.” I turned away from him and sighed.
Was Adam right? I thought.
Why does she want my vasectomy reversed? So she could go ahead and fool around and pin the next pregnancy on me? Could she be sleeping with Adam? And if she was, is the baby his? The thoughts kept racing through Fitz’s mind. He put off his device and put off his bedside lamp. He had to sleep before those crazy thoughts gave him a headache.
I watched in amusement as Adam ate his dinner with such ferocity. He was raging mad, I could feel it and he didn’t have anything to displace his rage on but his poor meal which was hardly chewed before it was swallowed Fitz seemed impressed, mistaking his displacement to be a hefty appetite.
“I’m glad to see you eat this well, Adam. It tells me you’re comfortable around us,” Fitz commented. He grunted in reply and gave a curt nod. Oh, he was pissed. His new works were being played in the background and they sounded nice. It called for a cozy atmosphere except that its composer was all but relaxed. If only I could calm him down.
When we had all finished, I got to clear the table as the two men chatted. I heard Fitz’s phone ring and he pulling back his chair. I turned away from the sink and my eyes met Adam’s. He handed the glasses to me. I put them in the sink. I leaned against it and sighed.
“Adam, I’m sorry for not telling you…”
“Are you, really? Because it seemed you were gloating back there.”
“Come on Adam, what would you have me do? I’m supposed to play the proud mother-to-be, pretending that we are expecting our baby.”
“Well, you deserve an Oscar for that performance.”
“I’m sorry if I hurt you but I told you that…”
“I won’t let you hand over my baby to Mr. Daniels, Emily,” Adam said firmly.
“A little too late for that, don’t you think?” I asked, crossing my arms. He made slow steps towards me.
“I could just tell him.”
“Tell him what? The truth?” I laughed. “Okay, let’s try it out. Mr. Daniels, I’m sorry to tell you that the baby your wife is expecting which you very well know isn’t yours, belongs to me. So I think you should be congratulating me for knocking up your wife. Sounds good?” I asked mockingly.
“This isn’t funny, Em! The joke is on you, not me.”
“I know. I am doing you a favour here, Adam. You get to have your child raised by a prominent man like Fitz Daniels.”
“You’re doing this to save your marriage.”
“Which is a typical example of a win-win! Why are you making such a big fuss about this?”
“You know, I can think of several ways to make your life miserable with this baby drama but I love you so much to hurt you, Emily,” Adam said.
“And I appreciate that. Consider this as your gift to me as a constant reminder of how much you love me. I promise to make you a part of the child’s life.”
“As what, a celebrity who is a family friend?”
“Even better; you could very well be the godfather. We both know how much Fitz likes you; he definitely wouldn’t mind that.”
“Knowing that I will become a father and yet won’t get to be called daddy is too much of a loss to me to take.” Oh what a sentimental guy had I gotten in bed with?
“I can’t do that, Emily. I’m sorry but I have to tell him.”
“Tell me what?” Fitz’s voice rang out behind Adam. Adam froze for a second before turning around to face him.
“I supposed I was the one you were referring to when you said you have to tell him or was I wrong?” Fitz asked, looking at me.
“No, you weren’t, Fitz. Adam actually has something to say to you.” Adam glanced at me and back at Fitz.
“About what?” Fitz asked, his tone getting serious.
“About our baby,” I replied. I was treading on dangerous waters but I wanted him to know it was futile to threaten me.
“Oh really? What is it, Adam?”
“Um…it was nothing serious, sir. It was just a silly thought I said out loud.”
“Say it anyway,” Fitz urged. Oh I’m loving this, I thought amusingly.
Adam chuckled nervously. “I was just suggesting to your wife to name the child Adam if it were to be a boy.” What?!
“And I was telling him how silly that was. I know we haven’t had the chance to talk about baby names yet but it would be much more appropriate to name the child after your father or after yourself,” I interjected quickly. Fitz smiled.
“That’s a nice thought, Adam. I would definitely consider it.” Huh?
Adam turned to glance at me and I could see the smirk in his eyes. I inhaled deeply. The joke was on me now and he knew it.
“We’ll talk about that, Fitz.”
“I miss that tone of yours, wife. So enticing,” Fitz teased. Adam cleared his throat.
I must be a genius to have both my husband and accidental lover in the same room and still remain calm and even comfortable. I smiled proudly to myself.
“Why don’t you two go ahead to the parlour whiles I finish up here?” I suggested.
“Good idea. Come on, Adam…”
“I wouldn’t mind helping out with the dishes,” Adam said. I cast a sharp glance his way. What was he playing at? I feigned a smile.
“Oh that’s so sweet of you, Adam but you’re our guest so let’s treat you as one.”
“But I don’t feel like a guest anymore. I actually feel like I’m family now,” he said with calm confidence which irritated me. He was overstepping and he knew it.
“That’s great to hear, Adam. That’s exactly what I wish us to be…like a family.”
“We will soon be,” he said with a quick glance at my tummy. I fisted the napkin in my hand. Who the hell did he think he was?
Fitz laughed and tapped Adam on the shoulder.
“She’s right. You’re a guest. I want us to talk to you about your new songs.” Adam gave me one last meaningful glance before following Fitz out of the kitchen. I threw the napkin in frustration. This was all Karen’s fault. If only she hadn’t told him about his role in making this baby, I wouldn’t be in this dilemma now.
I was almost done with the dishes when Fitz called out for me. I wiped my hands dry with a napkin and stepped out of the kitchen.
“Adam is leaving. Any last words?”
“Oh okay…thanks for having dinner with us.”
“It’s always a pleasure, Mrs. Daniels. Thanks for having me and making me feel comfortable in your home.”
“This is your home too, Adam,” Fitz said. It was?
I saw his face suddenly light up as if he had just remembered something.
“So what happened with your friend’s situation?” Adam asked Fitz. I looked at Fitz curiously. Fitz glanced at me and cleared his throat in a funny way.
“You know, the one you mentioned about his wife conceiving with another unknown man.” I glanced at Fitz, demanding answers. What was Adam talking about?
“Well, I believe he went back for the wife. He loved her too much to let her go.”
“With the speculation that she might be lying?”
“Marriage is for better for worse, Adam. He knows better to throw away his vows just because he’s experiencing the ‘worse’ part,” Fitz replied.
“Your wife is indeed a lucky woman. Not every man would look at a possibly unfaithful wife twice,” Adam said, glancing at me. I swallowed. Were they talking about me?
“I’ll take my leave now.” Adam took my hand and shook it. He placed a soft kiss on the back of my hand, his eyes glued to mine the whole time.
“Have a good night, Adam,” I said weakly. He shook hands with Fitz too.
“Goodbye.” The door closed behind him. I turned to face Fitz. The look in his eyes said it all. He told Adam about the baby not being his. How could he?
“Honey, I’m sorry…”
“Save it!” I snapped and walked out of the room.
Sunday-the first day of the week. Excited because it feels like having a fresh start. Again. I go to church with an open and expectant heart, believing to encounter God in a special way. I accept the Word wholeheartedly and promise to abide by it and apply it in my life during the week. My heart feels light and is filled with joy throughout the day. Maybe it’s because I emptied all my worries onto God in church and I confessed my wrongdoings and it feels great. As I retire to bed at night, I pray to God for strength to lead a life pleasing to Him throughout the week.
Monday-the first work day of the week. I wake up in a haste and all that is on my mind is to hurry up so I don’t get to work late. I remember to have my quiet time and do so accordingly. Since the time seems to be running against me, I decide to pray alongside doing my morning chores. I hum to my latest favorite Christian song as I go to work. The day goes by peacefully and my mood is cheerful throughout. I go to bed satisfied at heart and I thank God for a good day.
Tuesday-I wake up thankful for another day. I read about tolerance during my quiet time and I pray to God to help me exhibit it. On my way to the bus station, I greet a woman who has been watching me from a distance away but she ignores it. I decide not to let her ruin my day. Just before my day could start at the office, a colleague passes a silly comment and I am almost moved to react but I check myself. Tolerance. I let it go. Soon, I forget about it and I feel better about myself. I thank God for His control and ask for more grace.
Wednesday-getting up later than usual, I rush through my quiet time, my eyes racing through the lines verse by verse and I skim through the commentary. I mutter a prayer in haste and get ready in a fast-forward manner. Feeling guilty about rushing through my morning appointment with God, I open the Our Daily Bread app on my phone and take my time to read. I use the app during emergency times like these. Work today is extra hectic and my energy is nearly depleted. I doze off intermittently on my way home and I finally arrive home. I start saying my prayer as I get to bed but I find myself sleeping before my head touching the pillow.
Thursday-the week now feels stale and dragging slow. I can’t wait for the weekend. Work is on a total frenzy and my boss is extra demanding today-wishing me to be his hands and legs for the day. How long will I have to endure this, I ask myself.
Friday-I open up my devotional and find out I missed yesterday’s. No wonder I didn’t feel totally myself. I decide to make up for both yesterday and today. Traffic is unusual and I get to work a little late. My boss is quick to point that out and I apologize but my mind spew out mean thoughts about her. When there is not much to do, I tune in to the radio and listen to what is going on. My colleague tells me something personal about my boss. Though my ears are itching to hear more, I feel uncomfortable. How would I feel if I happened to overhear someone using an unfortunate incident in my life as a topic of conversation with another? I pretend to be suddenly preoccupied with something so she wouldn’t go on with her gossip. Thankfully, she stops. I silently pray to God asking for forgiveness for cultivating mean thoughts about my boss and ask for strength to tolerate her demanding attitude.
Saturday-finally the day arrives when I can get up at the time I really want. I thank God for taking me through the week, for my going out and coming in and keeping me safe and healthy. Grateful mood activated.
Sunday-another week begins! On my way to church, I reflect on how my week went and I evaluate how much I prioritized God in my daily routine. I realize I have fallen short and I pray for forgiveness. I make the resolution to do better this week. I enter the church and I sing and worship my heart out. There’s another great message and deep within me, I know it’s going to be an amazing week but then Monday comes again and it seems the cycle starts all over!
I don’t know how your week goes-whether it’s like living the same way each day; the only difference is that the dates are not the same; or you feel yourself growing or becoming a better person-the person God wants you to be. This journey of life is not easy but if we would accept that we can’t do it all on our own and rely on God’s strength and guidance, we would be living testimonies of His grace.
Wishing you all an amazing, joyous and blessed week. Remember God loves you and remind a friend that He loves him/her as well.
In case you were wondering what kind of academic upgrade this is, kindly stop because it isn’t. Whiles others are sacrificing years of their lives to study various phenomena so they can do their bid to contribute their quota to make the world a better place, some others are equipping themselves in doing just the opposite.
This is what I call the Pull Him Down Syndrome; a phenomenon very common among Africans. In other parts of the world where people are encouraged to help others to become the best version of themselves so they can help society; others take the pains to taint the reputation of their colleagues so they would take their place.
Character assassination seems to be one natural talent of the average African. We tend to feel noble when we are helping someone up the ladder. But I don’t know if it’s a sense of self-preservation because although people love to help others go up, they can only tolerate the climb up to an (acceptable) extent; where they can boast to others about the impact they have had on your success but not above their influence so they don’t have to compete with you.
Up and coming is what people like to hear about you; tagged successful is just repulsive to the ear. Graduating to become a household name is treading on dangerous grounds. It is said that the devil finds work for the idle hands. Some people with serious personal issues of their own, find the time to concoct horrendous stories about successful people in their families, neighborhoods and the larger society as a whole. No ‘big’ person in African has a sparkling clean record; almost each one of them is the main character of a dark story entailing corruption or even ritual stuff.
It is also said that there’s no smoke without fire. Perhaps some ‘big’ people in our societies act or talk in a way which make others perceive them that way. But it is disheartening to work hard to get to the top of your game only to find the people around you pulling you down with accusations and defamation. This unfortunate trend is keeping Africa from shining as bright as she is supposed to.
Africans hide behind the perceived thought that the continent is stagnant because the Western world through its various schemes has made us so. But we do ourselves a bigger disservice by using all our productive effort to pull each other down so at the end of the day, no one gets to the top.
It would be better for us all if we threw this retrogressive attitude somewhere and did something worthwhile with our energy. Let’s help each other become the best that he can be; after all we all stand to gain. This PhD is a silent killer; let’s eradicate it before it does us.
We joined my parents to have lunch which was full of excited chats between Fitz and my parents. I couldn’t talk much because I was still in shock. I had lost my appetite too but I decided to occupy myself by chewing down on the food so I wouldn’t have to join the conversation.
“I thought you’d want to wait till you were done with school before starting a family,” my mother said, her gaze directed at me.
“Yeah, that was the plan but you know plans change all the time,” I said with a tight smile.
“It’s all good. I still can’t believe my little girl is such a grown up woman now,” my dad, his tone resonating with pride.
“You brought up a fine young woman, sir. Thank you,” Fitz said and shot a smile at me.
Oh God, when will this charade be over? I groaned.
Like an eternity later, it was time for us to leave. My mother almost squeezed the life out of me in her delight.
“You’re going to give me a grandchild. I am so excited!”
“Mum, you’re suffocating us both.” She laughed as she released me.
“If you need anything, let me know, okay? I could move in with you to help if you want.”
“No thanks, mother. We will manage. We already have a house help.” My mother in my matrimonial home? That would be domestic Armageddon. We bid them farewell and sat in the car. The driver took off. We both sighed.
It was silent for a while, both of us waiting for the other to break the silence. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I blurted out, “What was that?”
“Huh?” He looked at me innocently.
“What happened back there?”
“Announcing the baby? I thought you’d be happy about it.”
“I am…I don’t know how to react to it. I thought we were going to tell my parents something entirely different. What changed your mind?”
“I wanted to give us a second chance.”
“Meaning you’d accept this child as your own?”
“Wasn’t that what you were praying for?”
“It was…but you should have at least given me a heads-up…”
“And miss that look on your face when I said it? No way. That was priceless,” he said, laughing.
“Are you really sure you want to do this?”
“Yeah…under one condition.” I knew it! Something was up his sleeves. He waited for me to say okay.
“If you’d swear to me that you indeed don’t know who the father is.” I swallowed.
“Why is that necessary?”
“Because I don’t want to invest my money and emotions into a child whose father would soon pop up and claim him.” Okay, that made sense.
“I don’t know who the father is, Fitz.”
“And you’re sure none of your male friends would show up to claim the child as his?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” I replied faintly.
“I’m willing to put my bruised feelings aside to keep us together, Emily. Don’t let me regret this later and make me look like a fool,” Fitz warned, his tone suddenly serious.
“You won’t regret this, Fitz. Thank you for having such a big heart. I know I don’t deserve it but I’m grateful. I promise to be a better wife to you.”
“I love you just the way you are, Em,” He said affectionately, kissing my cheek.
“Including my spending habits?”
“Well, it was a bit worrying when we first got together but I think it’s better now that you’ve almost everything.”
“I guess you’re right. Thanks for putting up with me,” I said with a smile. I sighed in relief as I leaned on him. He rubbed his palm against my arm.
“So when are you coming back home?” Fitz asked when the driver pulled up in front of my hostel.
“My last paper is on Friday so maybe Saturday…”
“Why not make it Friday evening? We could celebrate your end of semester together.”
“Hmm…I like the sound of that. I’ll definitely do that. I’ll call you tonight,” I said and kissed him.
“My regards to Karen.”
“I’ll tell her. Take care, honey,” I said and got down. The car drove away.
When I entered the room, I couldn’t help but beam with smiles.
“What happened?” Karen asked anxiously.
“Fitz and I are having a baby.”
“He’ll accept us back…me and the little one here,” I said, rubbing my tummy.
“Really? That’s great news! Thank God for answering our prayers. I kept praying the whole time you were gone that he’d find it in his heart to forgive you and take you back.”
“Then you really must be God’s favourite girl because your prayer did wonders.” I hugged her.
“He had a condition though.” She pulled back and looked at me.
“That the father of the baby won’t show up to claim him one day.”
“Okay…sounds simple but Adam could be a headache if he wants to be.”
“Exactly; I need his compliance and I need it now.”
“What do you have in mind?” Karen asked.
“Nothing at the moment. I’ll think of something. We have to celebrate, don’t you think?”
“Um…Jake and I have plans tonight but I could cancel…”
“Oh no, don’t. I’ve interfered enough. You two have fun. I’ve something in mind to keep me busy,” I assured her. Karen smiled at me.
“I’m so glad this nightmare is over.”
“Yeah, me too. Thank God for me, okay?”
“Thank Him yourself.” I chuckled. “I will.”
Karen and James entered the room later that night when I was video chatting with Fitz. James waved at me and I waved back. They hugged and he left.
“What are you doing?” Karen asked as she walked towards me and plopped herself on my bed.
“Hi Karen,” Fitz greeted when she came into view.
“Hi Fitz! It’s been a long time! How are you?” She said excitedly.
“I’m very well; thank you. We should all hang out some time.”
“That will be great.”
“All right; let me leave you two. I’ll be right back,” I said and got out of my bed. As I walked towards the refrigerator, I heard Karen laughing. I shook my head. Amazing how she had grown so fond of Fitz. I shouldn’t be so surprised because I’ve grown to love him too. I certainly didn’t feel this way when I recited my marital vows to him. Wow, times have changed.
I joined Karen on the bed. She took the glass from me and drank.
“Okay, now that she is back, I’ll sign out now. I’ve an early meeting tomorrow. Goodnight, ladies.”
“Goodnight, love. Sleep tight.”
“You too.” The chat ended. I sighed.
“So all’s good?” Karen asked.
“Better than good. Can’t wait to write my last paper so I can go home. I miss my bed!”
“That’s the only thing you’d miss. Lazy girl.” I laughed.
Friday finally came and thankfully, the paper went well or else it would have ruined my mood the whole day. I was excited to leave campus and so was Karen. Fitz sent the driver to come for me; Karen and James saw me off. I was sure James couldn’t wait for me to leave. Was I such a thorn in his flesh?
When I arrived at Fitz’s house, I could hear music playing. What was going on? My driver took my bag and sent it inside. It was Adam’s song. Has Fitz missed me that much? I smiled to myself and entered.
“My sweetheart is here!” My face broke into a grin as I walked into his open arms. I was finally home…in his arms and I loved it. I heard someone walk in.
“Mr. Daniels…” I turned. It was Adam. I saw him flinch for a moment.
“Adam! What a surprise! What are you doing here?” I asked, looking at Fitz.
“He said he had some pitches for his new release. I know we planned to celebrate alone but I also know how much you love his songs. I thought it would be great to listen to them together for the first time. What do you think?”
I had forgotten how annoyingly fascinated Fitz was of Adam. I feigned one of my broadest sweetest smiles.
“Of course, honey. It’s nice to see you again, Adam,” I said, turning my gaze towards him. He nodded. Fitz held me by the waist.
“We have good news, Adam. We are going to have a baby!”
Oh no. Why did he do that? I saw Adam’s countenance fall. He gazed at me intently.
“Aren’t you going to congratulate us?” I asked, measuring my words carefully.
“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Daniels. You two will make wonderful parents and I can’t wait to see how your baby will look like.”
“I’m sure the baby will look just like Emily,” Fitz said, smiling.
“Or it could look like the father,” Adam said, his eyes still not leaving mine.
“That would be equally beautiful,” I replied, meeting his hard stare with my own.
The war was on; so on.
“Is it just me or has the paper drained me of every morsel of food that I ate this morning?” I asked Karen as we entered the room.
“The exam was as tiring as the course itself. I’m so glad it’s over and done with.”
I threw myself onto the bed and screamed into the pillow.
“Am I safe?” Karen asked cautiously. I chuckled.
“I can’t wait to finish with my last paper.”
“Same here but after that, then what?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, where do you go after you’re done? Back to your parents?”
“You know I can’t go back there.”
“Then where else?”
“Your place unless you don’t want me to.”
“Don’t be silly, Em. Of course you’re always welcome at my end. But you do realize you need a permanent place.”
“I get it. I am homeless and I’m not dealing with it.”
“So what? What would you have me do?”
“Isn’t it obvious that your plan isn’t going to pan out? We need a plan B.”
“And what would you suggest?”
“Talk to Adam.”
“And say what?”
“You know you can’t raise this child alone.”
“I’m not disputing that fact; that’s why I’ve got you, Karen.”
“Be serious, Emily. The baby needs his father.”
“You know it’s not too late to revisit my earlier decision. It does seem keeping it has more cons than pros. It’s too much to handle.”
“No, Emily. You can’t go down that road.”
“Why not? People do it all the time.”
“Not you; not us. We’ll find a way out.”
“We better or else we’d have no other choice.” I buried my face in my pillow again.
“Em, your phone is beeping.” I searched blindly for the phone with my face still on the pillow. I found it and raised my head. I gasped when I saw the caller ID and sat up.
“It’s Fitz,” I said, shock registered all over my face.
“Answer it already!” I answered it.
“Hi,” I said softly. I could hear my heart beating hard in my ears.
“Hi Emily. How are you doing?”
“I’m okay, considering. How are you too?”
“I’m okay, considering.” I stifled a chuckle. “How are your papers going?”
“So far so good. I just have one to go.”
“Great. Um, your mother called.” Oh no, she didn’t! After asking her not to! He didn’t tell her about my residential status, did he? I swallowed.
“Oh…I hope she didn’t ask for anything.”
“No. She just wanted us to come visit. She said she had told you earlier but you said I was busy.”
“Yeah I did. I’m so sorry she called to disturb you. I’ll call…”
“Don’t bother; I don’t mind us going to visit your parents.” I swallowed again.
“After all, they haven’t been informed about our…separation. It would be prudent if we did so, don’t you think?” Oh no, he really is done with me, I thought in defeat.
“Um…sure. So when, do you want to go?”
“When is your last paper?”
“Friday, God willing.”
“Oh okay, then you have enough time. Can you make it tomorrow?” Wow, that soon? He can’t wait to move on.
“Yeah, I can.”
“All right then. I’ll come pick you up tomorrow afternoon. My regards to Karen.”
“Sure; will tell her.”
“Okay; bye.” He ended the call. I threw the phone on the bed and covered my face with my hands.
“What is it? What did he say?” Karen asked, sitting beside me and rubbing my back. I couldn’t hold the tears threatening to fall. I sobbed.
“Tell me, Em; what did he say? He wants a divorce?” I didn’t reply. When I gathered the energy to put my hands down, I sighed.
“He wants us to go see my parents…to inform them of our separation.”
“Seriously? I actually had high hopes that he wanted to see you and talk things over.”
“So did I. And he wants it done tomorrow.”
“Whoa…that fast? Has he found someone else already?” Karen asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. There are a lot of women out there who would kill to have him.”
“People get what they don’t want; others want what they can’t get. Life couldn’t get any more twisted than that,” Karen pointed out.
“So what do I do now, Karen? Because if he goes ahead with it, I’m done. My parents will never forgive me. And I can’t be a single mother.”
“Fitz was crazy in love with you. You just have to remind him how much.”
“What are you saying, that I should seduce him?”
“No, not seduce; talk. Talk to him. If there’s anyone who can change his mind, it’s you, Emily.”
“I don’t know, Karen.”
“Try, Em. It’s your last option. You’ve everything to lose if you don’t try.” I nodded which prompted more tears to flow down my cheek. Was this my end?
It rained very heavily that night. That didn’t help much with my inability to sleep. If I hadn’t faced my worst fear yet, this was it. Being returned to my parents for not being a good enough wife for my husband was the worst degrading and humiliating experience ever. How did I end up here?
“How do I look?” I asked, my tone less cheerful than usual.
“Decent enough to meet your parents with your husband; appealing enough to catch your husband’s attention,” Karen assessed.
“Perfect then,” I sighed, staring at myself in the mirror. My phone rang. I picked it.
“I’m outside. Are you ready?”
“Almost. Would you like to come up?”
“No; I’ll wait in the car. See you.” He hung up. I sighed.
“How’s his mood like?” Karen asked.
“Cold and distant. I wonder how he would have reacted if I had actually told him the truth about my pregnancy. He’d have definitely exploded.”
“Well, sooner or later, it will. The truth always finds a way to the surface no matter how deep buried it is.”
“Yeah but I’m determined to let that happen on my own terms.”
“Good luck with that.”
I took my phone and my handbag.
“Wish me luck, Karen.”
“You don’t need luck, dear. Everything will be fine,” she said with a comforting smile.
“Okay; will call you if anything comes up.”
“Sure; would you like me to escort you to his car?”
“No. It would be better if I went alone.”
“Okay; take care then.”
“I will.” I gave her a hug and left the room.
“Open the door for her, will you?” Fitz told his driver. As I approached the car, the driver got out of the car and greeted me. I nodded in reply and waited for him to open the door for me. I thanked him and got inside. He closed it.
“Good afternoon,” I greeted.
“Good afternoon, Emily. How are you today?”
“I’m okay. You?”
“I’m fine. Slept well?”
“Not too much. Dreading this visit to my parents is not exactly a sleeping pill, is it?” Fitz didn’t reply and the driver took off. I shuddered because the car was freezing cold.
“Yeah,” I replied, rubbing my palms together. I remembered my plight the night before. I suddenly missed my matrimonial bed. Fitz would have kept me warm.
“Put off the AC,” Fitz told the driver and he did.
“Thanks.” I leaned back on the seat and it felt cold. Then out of the blue, he wrapped his arm around me and urged me to lean on him. I complied like a little girl. Ah, it felt good to be back in his arms. I listened keenly to the beating of his heart. What was going through his mind right now? I wished he would tell me.
“Fitz…I’m sorry…for hurting you the way I did.”
“It’s okay; life happens. Some people are not meant to live fulfilled married lives, I guess. And as much as I hate to admit it, it seems I’m included in that bracket.”
“Please don’t say that. Of course you deserve to live a happy married life. I messed up but that doesn’t mean it is over for you.”
“I wanted you to be my last wife. I can’t go through another divorce.”
“We don’t have to, Fitz,” I said, sitting up and looking at him.
“I don’t want to; if you’re willing, we can go see some counsellor and work out this situation. I really hope you wouldn’t give up on me, on us…not just yet.” Emotions were swelling up within me and I knew tears would soon fall.
He gazed at me quietly and touched my face. I don’t know if he was trying to read my mind by staring at me and I hoped if he could, he should know how sorry I felt. Please look deeper, I prayed.
“I don’t know, Emily; I thought I was strong but apparently, I’m not that strong. This has really affected me. Maybe it’s because it’s my second attempt at marriage looking frail right now which is making me think that perhaps I’m the problem.”
“No, Fitz; you’re not. This is entirely my fault. Don’t blame yourself for my mistakes.”
“We both admit that I was a little absent emotionally a few weeks after we got married. I concentrated more on my work than on you and our marriage. If I had paid more attention to you…”
“It still doesn’t excuse my carelessness. I married you and I was to keep my vows to you for better or worse and I failed.”
“I failed you first. There’s so much that a spouse can take but when one is pushed to the breaking point, anything can happen.” And he didn’t say another word.
What did he mean? Was it still a no? Oh man, I hated the suspense.
The car pulled over at my parents’ residence. Oh no, I wanted to anywhere but here.
“Here we are,” Fitz said with an odd smile. We got out of the car and entered the house.
“My in-law is here!” my mother announced excitedly. If only she knew why we were here, she’d start wailing.
“Good day, mother. How are you?”
“I am fine, my son. How are you too?”
“We are fine.” My mother turned her gaze to me.
“I hope you’re talking very good care of him, Emily. I know how nonchalant you can be sometimes.” I forced a smile.
“I’m doing my best, mother.” We sat down. We were offered drinks but we both refused. My dad joined us.
“Welcome, my son. It’s been a while since we saw both of you.”
“Yes, father and I apologize.”
“So how’s married life so far?” my father inquired. Fitz and I glanced at each other.
“It’s great. Has its ups and downs but we are getting better at it day in day out,” Fitz said.
Okay, where was he going with this? Was this the preamble? I bit down on my lip. He looked at me.
“I’m sure my wife has something to say.” I glanced at him in shock. I swallowed.
I noticed my parents looking at me expectantly. What was I to say?
“Mum, dad…the thing is….”
“We are expecting our first child,” Fitz announced. My mum screamed with joy.
“Congratulations, son,” my father said proudly.
I stared at him in shock as he put his arm around me and gave me a broad smile.
What was happening? Was he playing a game? If he was, I didn’t know the rules and I had no clue what he’d do next. He was holding all the cards.