This wasn’t happening. Was this really happening? I tried searching my mind to find an answer but found it as confused as my very soul. Am I having a nightmare in my subconscious? I wondered worriedly as I tried to make sense of my new environment. Well decorated room, comfortable but something felt off.
“Let this be a dream, please,” I muttered. I looked up when the door creaked open. There was Fitz with a baby in his arms. I blinked a few times and felt tears in my eyes.
“Meet lil’ Karen, honey. She is so pretty…just like you.” He handed the cute baby to me and when I touched her soft face, my heart melted. She opened her toothless mouth and yawned. Fitz sat down and watched us.
I couldn’t believe it. I was a mother. I had been reading books and articles in preparation for this new phase of my life and now that she has arrived, I had no idea whether I was ready to nurture this little being.
“She’s so beautiful,” I said softly, my emotions overwhelming me.
“She’s indeed a beautiful gift to us.” I looked at him.
“Where am I, Fitz?”
“This isn’t home.”
“But it is. Wherever we are in the world, it is home as long as we’re together.”
“So were you serious when you said I was…?” I couldn’t bring myself to utter the word.
“Dead to the world? Why would I make up a story like that?”
“Why would you deceive everyone like that? Snatch me away from my friends, my family!”
“I am your friend and your family, Emily.”
“Did you ever stop to think of the pain my mother would be going through having to believe her only child is gone?”
“She’ll be fine. Promising to give her a handsome allowance indefinitely seemed to do the trick. After all, she has a granddaughter. Her lineage goes on.” I shook my head in utter disbelief. How he could think lavishing money on a grieving mother was a substitute for the pain of losing a child. Oh goodness, who did I get married to?
Lil’ Karen squirmed and I turned my gaze back to her. Karen. I looked at Fitz.
“Let me speak with Karen.”
“And why would I let that happen? It would defeat the whole purpose of convincing the world you’re dead.”
“I still don’t get why you think doing that was the wisest idea but I have to talk to Karen.”
“And why is that?”
“She is my best friend. I need to speak with her. She’ll keep your secret.”
“I’ll advise that we leave her to grieve in peace. I’ve recommended a grief counsellor to her. It hit her hard but I’m sure James would help her get over it.”
“When I say I want to talk to Karen, I’m not asking, Fitz.”
“And you better not be demanding it, Emily; because you have no right to demand anything.” He stood up and his breath had suddenly gotten heavy.
I blinked as I held my breath.
“You lost that right long time ago, young lady.”
“So what, you’re keeping me here against my will?”
“Whether it’s by or against your will is just a matter of perspective. So for your own good, make your outlook on our new arrangement a favourable one. Because whether you like it or not, this is your new home.”
The baby squirmed and made an attempt to cry.
“I think she’s hungry. Kindly feed your daughter. I’ll excuse you two,” he said and walked out of the room. He closed the door and I heard the metallic sound of the locks turning. Was he serious?
Lil’ Karen gave another warning cry and I rocked her gently.
“You hungry? Mummy is going to feed you, all right?”
I winced inwardly when her tiny lips took in my nipple and sucked. I was a mother for real!
“Karen…” I needed to call Karen ASAP.
I looked around. Where the hell was I?
Karen was brushing her hair whiles staring at herself in the mirror. She froze when she saw Emily’s image looking at her from behind. She turned sharply and saw no one. She hadn’t had a good night sleep for some time now. Every dream has been troubled with one image of Emily or the other. She began trembling. When she turned back to face the mirror, her eyes were filled with tears.
I have been nothing but a good friend and sister to you. Why do you keep haunting me? She asked voicelessly. She put the hairbrush down.
There was a knock but she didn’t respond. The knock repeated. She kept staring at the mirror. The door opened and James entered.
“Karen? Karen? Are you okay?” He stood behind her.
“I keep seeing her, James.”
“It’s okay; her passing is still fresh on your mind. With time, the episodes will fade, I assure you. This room carries so many memories. I’ve told you, we can change the room for you. That will help you overcome your grief quicker.”
“No; I’m not leaving this room. I’m not going to run away from the millions of memories we’ve shared in this room. Doing so will be an unforgivable act of betrayal. I can’t give up on her.”
“You’ll not be betraying her, Karen. She isn’t missing; she’s gone. I know she loved you as much you did her but I also know she’d want you to let go and move on. She’d want you to have all the happiness in the world.”
“So why does it feel like she’s not…gone?”
“Because you’re in a state of denial, Karen. If you want to overcome this terrible time, you’ve to accept this new reality and move on.”
Karen shook her head.
“I’ve tried to accept it, Jay; something isn’t settling with me. Something keeps reminding me of Emily.”
“Of course! Everything in this room has been touched by and smells like Emily. How can you forget her when the brush you use each morning is hers?”
Karen closed her eyes and tears fell down her face.
“I need to see Karen.”
“Emily’s baby.” She took her phone.
“Who are you calling?”
“Seriously, Karen? I’m sure he’s also grieving over the loss of his wife. Why disturb him?”
“He said I could come see the baby anytime I wanted. The perks of having the baby named after me,” she said with a sardonic tone.
“I’m sure he meant it when he said it but I advise you give him a little time.”
“I need to see Karen,” she said firmly. James conceded with a nod and a kiss on her shoulder. Karen began searching for his name on her contact list.
Fitz slumped himself down on a swivel seat and sighed. He didn’t mean to lose his temper with Emily. He didn’t want her hating him now. The whole point of spending so much money to execute this selfish plan of his was making her see him as the centre of her world and not as her biggest mistake in life. So it would serve him no good if they began fighting so soon.
He didn’t understand why he loved Emily that much. All she had done was hurt and betray him. But he couldn’t bear to see her leave. He loved Lizzy but when they separated, he survived. He didn’t hurt as much as how he feared he’d hurt if Emily left him. Emily was his last chance at love and family and he wasn’t going to give her up.
His phone vibrated. He looked at the caller ID and groaned. What did she want?
He picked it up.
“Good day, Fitz. How are you holding up?”
“Okay…considering the circumstances.”
“Good; I’d like to see the baby.”
“So I can come over?”
“As in now?” Fitz asked.
“Yeah, would that be a problem?”
“Well yeah, I’m out of town at the moment.”
“Okay; when will you be back?”
“I’ll let you know. Got to go.” The line went dead.
Karen stared at her phone, gaping.
“Did he just hang up on me?”
“I told you it was a bad idea. Heard from Adam recently?”
“Nope; we’re all dealing with it. When he comes around, I’m sure he’ll call.”
I burped lil’ Karen and smiled. Such a cute little being. It would have great having to nurture her with Karen. Fitz entered.
“Guess who called to see the baby.”
“Adam?” He rolled his eyes.
“Guess you still have him in your heart.”
“How could I forget the father of the baby I have in my arms?” I shot back. He glanced at me and fury flashed in his eyes. If he wanted to forcefully keep me here, I had no problem turning it into a dungeon of hell for both of us.
“It was Karen.” My heart leaped at the sound of her name. I swallowed.
“I told her I was unavailable.” I looked down in dismay.
“But don’t worry; I promised her full access to her goddaughter.”
“Then I guess I should be thanking you for your heartfelt generosity.”
“I don’t appreciate your cynicism.”
“That’s your problem.” His phone vibrated. He stared at it.
“Got to go. I’ll be back.”
“You can stay out the whole day; I could care less.” He chuckled.
“Don’t think putting up an attitude would change my decision.”
“That is my problem.” He turned around and left.
I patted the baby’s back and kissed her cheek.
“We’ll be out of here soon; I promise you.”