Karen elbowed me almost making me spill my drink. She gestured with her gaze what she wanted me to see. Adam’s arm candy was cheerfully chatting with him as if they had known each other for ages.
“Are you sure she’s just role-playing?” Karen whispered to me. I shrugged.
“I really don’t care. It shouldn’t be my problem, remember?” I asked, glancing at her.
“So you’re the girl behind this amazing guy, huh?” Fitz asked.
“I guess I am,” she said, her voice resonating with innocent sweetness.
“You’re blessed, Adam; to have a nice girl inspiring you and spurring you on.”
“Yeah, I guess I am,” Adam replied, covering Bernice’s hand with his.
“Why, is that their rehearsed response to every question?” Karen whispered. I chuckled. I quickly cleared my throat when all eyes turned on me. I looked at Adam with apologetic eyes; I knew this wasn’t easy for him. All I could do was to help not make the situation any worse.
“How long have you been dating?” Fitz continued his interrogation.
The ‘celebrity couple’ glanced at each other. Didn’t their rehearsal cover that?
“Oopsie…” I heard Karen mutter. I stopped myself from chuckling. She was going to get me in trouble.
“A few months,” Adam answered.
“And where did you meet?”
“At the mall,” Adam said, shooting a glance my way. I swallowed. He was not telling our story, was he?
“She surely sounds like a sweet girl. Kind of reminds me of my ex,” Tony spoke up. I couldn’t help but glare at him. Who invited him into the conversation? He smiled back at me and looked at Fitz.
“Oh yeah? She looked like Bernice?” Fitz asked.
“Not physically; but I can relate with how Adam feels about her. She was a sweet girl; very innocent and had a big heart.”
“So why did you break up with her?” Fitz asked. What was this dinner turning into?
“She gave me a pregnancy scare. So typical of me, I panicked and bailed. When she later told me it was a faux pas, I couldn’t bring myself to be with her anymore because I was afraid it would happen again.”
“That was cowardly of you; to let such a girl go because you forgot to take precautions,” Adam pointed out.
“Okay, am I the only one feeling uncomfortable about this? You shouldn’t have invited me here if you were planning on guy-bonding over dinner,” Karen said. Thank God for her life. At least, I didn’t have to say it myself.
“I can’t believe I’m missing my Game of Thrones marathon over this,” I muttered exasperatedly.
“You’re now watching it?” Tony asked. I scowled at him.
“I’m sorry if we’re boring you ladies but we could make this conversation about all of us. You can also talk about your boyfriend or ex if you so wish,” Fitz said.
“And why would I do that?” Karen asked.
“It’s called table courtesy, Karen,” Tony said. “It’s just polite to join in the general conversation.”
I rubbed my forehead and shook my head. This was a disaster.
“I’m sorry if I’m ruining the mood in here, but I don’t see you’d tear me away from spending time with my boyfriend over this, Fitz.”
“I’m sorry, Karen. I only meant to…”
“Yeah, to surprise Emily. Obviously my presence here did surprise her. So is my job here done or is there something else she should expect?”
“I guess there’s nothing else.”
“Well, the night is still young. I can still put it to good use before it ends. I’m sorry honey but I’ve to go,” Karen said and got up. My eyes widened in shock. She was going to leave me with them?
“Karen, you can’t…”
“I’m sorry; James was pretty upset that I cancelled our plans at the last minute because of your text. I still have time to make it right.”
“Let me see you out.” We both got up and left the table. We both sighed when we were out of the restaurant.
“What was Fitz thinking? I thought you said it was about Adam submitting his report or something.”
“I guess this is his way of sweetening the pot.”
“Well, it has put a sour taste on my tongue.” Karen was certainly livid.
“I’m sorry Fitz’s ruse disrupted your plans with James.”
Fitz came outside.
“I am indeed sorry, Karen. I didn’t mean for you to feel this upset,” Fitz apologized.
“It’s all right. I guess I shouldn’t have stormed out like that. I’m sorry.”
“Now that you’ve gotten some fresh air, why don’t we all go back inside? As you said, the night is still young. There’s time for me to make it right,” Fitz said. Karen and I looked at each other. My eyes did all the pleading with a squeeze on her hand for emphasis.
“Fine.” We went back inside.
“Oh, she’s back?” Tony asked teasingly. We sat down.
“Sorry for that. We just needed a little break from the intense topic,” I said.
“How intense was it? We were just recollecting some wonderful memories of our love stories. You surely have some, don’t you, Mrs.?”
“I have no intention of sharing that with you,” I retorted.
“But I don’t mind sharing mine,” Bernice said.
“I had recently come out of a relationship when we met. Some way somehow, we encouraged each other to look ahead into the future with hope. When he wrote his first song and told me I was the inspiration behind it, I knew I had found my purpose. To help him be the best version of himself and love him for who he is,” she said and looked at Adam admiringly. Adam watched her with an expression I couldn’t name. Was it out of gratitude, wonder or affection? I felt jealousy churn in my heart. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. I stopped myself when I felt Fitz’s hand on mine. I glanced at him.
“I remember the day I met my wife as if it were just yesterday. Apparently she was heartbroken over someone she loved and if I do get to meet this guy, I’d thank him for making way for me to meet her.” I smiled at my husband. I suddenly felt at ease. I heard Tony clear his throat.
“Yeah, he has surely lost a jewel,” Karen chipped in. Karen and Tony shared a meaningful glance.
“And now that we’re expecting our first child, I can’t help myself but be overwhelmed with joy,” Fitz said.
“Yeah, it must be pretty exciting to father a child,” Adam said. Fitz looked at him.
“It is indeed.”
“Congratulations.” Fitz watched him intently. “Thanks, Adam.”
We all concentrated on our meals after a brief tensed silence. As the waiters cleared the table, Fitz and Adam went over his report. Karen and I excused ourselves and went to the bathroom.
“Talk about a typical reality show,” Karen said.
“Yeah, my life would rate five stars on primetime TV. Did you sense this intense air between Fitz and Adam?” I asked Karen.
“Yeah; I’m glad no one spoke after that. It would have gotten awkward,” Karen replied in a singsong manner.
“I’m glad this is over and I hope this never happens again. I can’t risk a heart rupture in my condition.” The door opened and Bernice entered.
“It was nice meeting you, Emily. Adam has said so much about you.” We both turned to face her.
She laughed flippantly.
“Don’t mind me. Adam and I have been good friends for quite some time now. But we never had the courage to cross the line, you know. I guess he doesn’t see me that way.”
“But you do?” Karen asked in a cautious tone.
“I used to but I’m over it. I’m dating this gorgeous guy and I can’t imagine leaving him for anyone else…not even Adam.”
“Good for you,” I breathed out and turned to face the mirror.
“I remember the first time he met you at the mall.” I turned to face her again.
“He was very excited. He called me and told me he had found his missing rib. At first I didn’t take him seriously because it is typical of Adam to get excited when he sees a pretty girl and later it would fade. But not you. He kept on and on about you so much that I became jealous. I wanted to meet the lady who had captured Adam’s heart in a way that I never could. So when he came to me with this crazy plan to convince his sponsor that he was dating, I was eager to come so I could meet you. I had formed a lot of pictures of how you’d look in my mind but none came close to who you really are. I understand why Adam is this crazy about you.”
Karen and I shared a puzzled look.
“So, how much about me has he shared with you?” I wanted to know.
“The essentials; I presume. I know there’s more to the story which you both prefer to keep between you and I respect that. But the last update was when he told me you were married. He was heartbroken. Why didn’t you tell him from the start?”
“I didn’t think we would go that far. He was a great friend and I wanted him to treat me as normal as any guy friend would.”
“But you do know that in almost all such platonic relationships, feelings develop, right?”
“I do; I realize I made a mistake keeping it away from him. I should have told him,” I admitted.
“And he still loves you. Someway, somehow, he believes you two will end up together. I don’t know what is giving him such high hopes but I wished you could convince him to move on. You have an amazing husband who adores you, Emily. You don’t look like the type to break a man’s heart to mend someone else’s or are you?” She asked. I swallowed.
“No, I’m not. I feel privileged to meet the best friend of Adam. So your real name is…?”
“Sabrina,” she said with a smile. I extended my hand.
“Nice to meet you, Sabrina.”
“You too, Emily.” She shook hands with Karen too.
“So, I’ll excuse myself; I need to resume my role for the night before anyone comes looking for me. See you around, ladies,” she said with a wink and left the bathroom. For a moment, no one spoke.
“What just happened?” I asked no one in particular.
“The inner circle just got bigger,” Karen replied.
“But at least she doesn’t know about Adam’s role in my pregnancy which is a good thing, right?” I looked at Karen with hopeful eyes. She smiled with empathy.
“I know what you want me to say to make you feel better, Em; but we can’t really tell for sure. If they are as close as she makes us believe then it’s possible he told her about it. But if he didn’t, yeah, it is a good thing but for how long do you think he can keep it a secret from her?”
We came out of the bathroom. Karen’s phone rang and she stepped out of the building. Tony walked up to me.
“Hi, Mrs. Daniels.”
“I’m not in the mood, Tony.”
“Come on, I know we didn’t part ways on the best of terms and I regret that now. You’re indeed one of a kind. I shouldn’t have let you go like that.”
“Yeah right. Now step aside; you’re in the way of my breathing space.”
“I miss you,” he whispered. I shot him a sharp glance.
“Tread carefully, Tony. My husband is here.”
“I bet he doesn’t know about you and I.”
“And it would be in your best interest if we kept it that way.”
“Oh, my best interest?” he chuckled. He brushed the back of his hand against my arm and I shuddered.
“I knew I hadn’t lost my touch. You still have feelings for me, don’t you?”
“Oh please, don’t flatter yourself.”
“I know you, Em; and although Mr. Daniels is one hell of a gentleman, he isn’t the type that makes your heart race. So if you’re really over me, then someone else has your heart and I can bet it’s not your dearest hubby.” He turned around and threw his gaze around the room.
“My best guess is that guy over there.” I took a step back so he wouldn’t hear the loud pounding of my heart. I swallowed. He looked back at me.
“I saw you two exchanging some glances which may look innocent but to the discerning, it looks kind of meaningful. There’s something brewing between you two, right?”
“Of course not; I am married, Tony. I don’t know what it means to you but to me, it means I’m faithful to my husband.”
“Wow…I can see how you’re struggling to make that sound convincing.” I saw Adam approaching us.
“Let’s test a theory, shall we?” Tony asked.
“Tony, don’t!” I warned with clenched teeth.
“Hey,” Adam said.
“Hey, Adam. You’re one of my latest favourite artistes. Your songs are great,” Tony complimented.
“Thanks, Tony. I appreciate it.” Adam tapped his shoulder.
“I seem to remember seeing you on campus more than once. Were you there to meet your boss’ wife?”
“Not exactly; I’ve been coming to visit a friend of mine but I won’t deny passing by her room to say hi.”
“Mr. Daniels must have tremendous faith in you so let you come this close to his wife without fear of competition.” Adam turned slightly to see if Fitz was watching them.
“Unless…he doesn’t know how close you two are,” Tony said.
“Of course he knows. He asked us to be friends.”
“Did he now? Interesting.”
“Are you some sort of journalist or detective?” Adam asked him. He stared at him curiously.
Tony laughed. “Oh no; I’m an old friend of Emily. You didn’t tell him?” I rolled my eyes at him.
“I was her first,” he said proudly, touching my chin. I pulled myself away.
He winked at Adam who was obviously disturbed by his comment.
“You know what they say about a woman’s first….memories stay with them forever. Isn’t that right, Emily?”
“Could you just excuse us, Tony?”
“Sure; I think I’ll go have a word with your husband,” he said with another annoying wink and walked away.
“What did he mean by that?” Adam asked.
“What did he mean he was your first?”
“It means exactly what you’re thinking, Adam. Just let it go.”
“Oh what is going through my mind is a dirty picture. Please tell me it’s not what I think it is.”
“Why does it matter? I wasn’t your first…did you think you were mine?”
“You were with him?!” Adam asked, pointing at him, his voice raised.
“Shush! Keep your voice down, Adam. I loved him, okay?” I said, pulling his hand down.
“So because you loved him, you gave yourself to him?”
“I was naive and stupid back then…and now I know better or so I thought because I did it again.”
“Oh, you’re not going to compare me with him!”
“Oh really? You think you’re any different?”
“I love you, Em. I care about you. I’m not anything like that jerk!”
“That I agree, Adam. You’re exceptional in so many regards. But I have a husband which makes you the other man.”
“I am also the father of your…”
“Talking about that, I don’t know but it feels like Fitz suspects us somehow so please whenever he tries to babble about being the father, could you do your best to keep your cool?” Adam sighed.
“I don’t know about that…”
“You didn’t tell Sabrina about the baby, did you?” Adam looked shocked. I smiled.
“Yeah, she told me who she really is. I’m glad you have such a nice friend to confide in. But please don’t…”
“I haven’t and I won’t, Em; you have my word.”
“Thanks.” Karen walked to us.
“Was it James?” I asked.
“Yep.” I nodded.
“Let me go and keep my husband company for while,” I said and excused myself. I bypassed Tony who watched me with lewd eyes. I couldn’t wait to be out of there.
“Adam, care to take a selfie with me? You’re free to join, Karen.”
“I think I’ll pass.”
“Not tonight, Tony. Perhaps another time,” Adam declined.
“Seriously? Because I teased you of being close to Emily?”
“No, not that. I’m just not in the mood.”
“Knock it off, Tony. You’re not making any new friends here,” Karen said. Sabrina appeared beside Adam.
“Can we leave now?” She wrapped her arm around his.
“Sure. Let’s say goodbye to Mr. Daniels.”
“And his wife,” Tony chipped in. Adam glared at him but said nothing.
“Are you okay? Do you want us to go home?” Fitz asked me when I got to his side.
“Yeah, I’m okay and I do wish to be in bed right now.”
“Okay; we’ll be out of here in the next five minutes.”
“We will be on our way, Mr. Daniels. Thanks for having us. Dinner is always a pleasure spent with you both.”
“The pleasure is all mine. And thanks for coming, Bernice.”
“Thanks for having me, Mr. Daniels. See you around, Emily,” Sabrina said with a smile.
“Sure…Sab…Bernice.” Adam gave me a ‘see-you-soon’ glance and they walked away.
“I guess we have to give Karen a ride home since you invited her here,” I said.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Um…can I join you…?” Tony was asking when I cut him off.
“Oh no, I’m sorry; the car’s full.”
“How is that so?”
“Karen is joining us.”
“It’s a 4*4…there’s…”
“Goodnight, Tony.” Tony looked at Fitz to bail him out. He shrugged. He took some money out of his pocket.
“Grab a cab. See you around, Tony.” Karen made a face at him and laughed. We exited the premises.
We all sighed when we sat in the car.
“I hope it wasn’t all that bad, Karen.”
“Yeah, I guess. I apologize for flaring up.”
“It’s okay. Let’s go home and sleep it off, shall we?”
“Goodness yes! I’m exhausted,” I said.