“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.