I opened the door as quietly as I could, praying that Karen would be either asleep or not in the room at all as I entered stealthily. But lo and behold, there she sat with her not-amused face and I knew she would have me for toast that day. I closed the door and wore the look of a naughty child who had been caught at her game.
“How did the lectures go?” I asked in a false tone of enthusiasm.
“Where are you coming from?”
“What are you, my mother?” I asked back with a chuckle, hoping that she would back off. But Karen being Karen, wouldn’t as expected.
“Don’t try to smart-talk yourself out of this, young lady,” she said sternly, getting up. I sighed.
“I went to see your goddaughter.”
“Great! I don’t see why you’d keep that away from me.”
“You had to go to lectures and I didn’t want to put you in a position where you had to choose between lectures and visiting my baby.” Judging from her crossed arms, she wasn’t buying it.
This felt more like an interrogation, one I was in no mood for. But I was kind of crashing here so I had to play my cards well. I sat down coolly and she did too.
“Well, she’s doing well. Rose seems to be taking very good care of her…” She already knew that…
“And Fitz came over and we talked.” “About?”
“About making sure I resume school next academic year…”
“He gave me two VISA cards!” I said with another lame attempt of excitement.
“So what’s going to happen? Are you two going to get a divorce?”
“I’m surprised you’re pushing for a divorce, Karen. I thought you’d be a strong advocate for the ‘till-death-do-you-part’ policy,” I pointed out.
“Oh I am but your case is a strong exception. Fitz is a monster and a relentless one at that. What he did to you is unpardonable. He can’t be trusted, Em!”
“I know but I kind him pushed him to do that. I…”
“Yeah right, you cheated on him with his protégé when he totally trusted you and blah, blah. I get it but it doesn’t excuse what he did.”
“I know. I hated him the whole time I was stuck in that forsaken place.”
“And now what, you’re suddenly reconsidering your stance with him because he gave you a car with a filled tank and two VISA cards?”
“Of course not; I’m not that vain.”
“Then what is it?”
“You do realize that if I go down that road, all I’ll end up being is a single mother yet to complete school? Do you know what untold hardship I’d have to endure?”
“So what, you’ll keep up with an obsessive freak of his kind just so you can stay afloat?”
“It’s either that or you find me a sugar-daddy in the quickest possible time. Either way, I need someone.”
“Unbelievable!” Karen cried out, throwing her hands up in despair.
“Come on Karen; I need you to see things my way. I have Fitz exactly where I want him. Because of what he did, I could get whatever I want as long as I continue to make him feel guilty.”
“And that’s your insurance plan? A long-term guilty card? You don’t think it would get to a time when he’d think he has paid his due?”
“Nothing he offers me be it heaven on earth can compensate me for what he did.”
“Exactly! So why are you giving him an easy way out?!”
“I don’t have much of a choice.” This conversation was beginning to wear me out.
“I am in no rush to go back to him; trust me but he has my baby.”
“Why, is he refusing to release her to you?”
“I seriously don’t understand your hesitation.”
“I have everything to lose if I leave him and trust me, I have nothing right now.”
“I don’t believe that.” “Then tell me how my life is going to turn out if I push Fitz out: my parents are a no-go area for sure.”
“You were doing okay until Fitz came along, Emily. What makes you think you can’t live without him?” I felt a rush of emotions and suddenly wanted to cry. I had become pathetic and there was no going around it. I got up and entered the bathroom.
“Emily?” I opened the tap and began sobbing.
The next day, I met with Adam who said he needed to talk. The sleepless night I had had before put me in a tired mood. And I needed to get away from Karen for a while. The divorce drum she had been beating into my head was giving me migraines.
“So how have you been holding up? How has it been like being back into the world?”
“Not easy; it’s like trying to find your place that has been taken out. It’s kind of hard trying to get it back.” He nodded.
“And you? How have you been doing? Working on a new album? I hear you’re still working with Fitz. New girlfriend?” He chuckled shyly.
“I don’t know if Karen told you but I went on a low key after you…died. I was broken and didn’t know what to do. My music suffered a nosedive but Sabrina supported me.”
“How’s she doing?”
“She’s good. She couldn’t believe when I told her you were back. You know I wanted the two of us to raise the baby together but when you…passed, I couldn’t find the strength to fight Fitz alone. All I had left was my music so when he said we could still work together, I agreed because that made me feel close to my daughter.” I nodded. No one spoke for a while.
“So what’s going to happen? Will you divorce Fitz?”
“I don’t know. I wonder what good that would do.”
“Can you forgive him for what he did?” “He forgave me for sleeping with you.” Adam flinched at my bluntness. I sighed.
“I need some time and space to sort myself, my feelings and my game plan out. Would it be that pathetic of me if I left everything behind me and moved on with Fitz?”
“Is that what you want? Do you love him that much?”
“Love has nothing to do with this, Adam. I’m looking out for my daughter and the life she stands to live if I leave Fitz or not.”
“You don’t think I can take care of you both?” I chuckled and rubbed his hand.
“That’s sweet of you, Adam but let’s be realistic. Even if I wanted to, it wouldn’t be wise. Fitz has proved to be a force to be reckoned with. He convinced the world that I was dead just so I wouldn’t leave him to be with you. To pursue this course would be damaging to us both. If I stay with him, you still have your contract, I get Karen to live in a stable home…we both get what we want.”
“You don’t know what I want.” I sighed.
“Adam, let’s not do this again. I’m tired of going round and round this matter. I’m not going to deny you access to Karen but that’s all I can give. I’m married…for better for worse.”
“I still love you…just so you know.” I nodded.
“Good to know.”
Adam pulled the car over in front of the hostel. We hugged and I remembered how good it felt to be in his arms. He kissed my cheek.
“Take care of yourself and let’s keep in touch, okay?”
“Yeah sure. Take care of yourself too.” I got down and waved at him. He drove away.
When I entered the room, Karen was brushing her hair.
“Oh good! I was just about to call you. Get ready; we’re going for dinner.” “Dinner? With who?”
“It’s a surprise. Hurry, put on something nice.”
“You’re not hooking me up with a sugar-daddy because I said so yesterday, are you?” I asked suspiciously. She laughed.
“No, it’s not.”
“That’s it?” “Don’t worry; he isn’t a stranger. Hurry!”
Karen seemed to be a in a good mood as she drove, singing along the tunes on drive time radio. I looked on nonchalantly. I couldn’t believe I had lost all interest in life. Wow, what isolation can do….
I must have dozed off because Karen tapped me on the shoulder, saying, “We are here.” I blinked and took in the scene.
“Fitz’s house, I know. Come on, he’s expecting us.”
I got out of the car and Karen knocked on the door. Whatever she had in mind, she seemed really prepared for it. Rose opened the door.
“Hi Rose…how are you doing?”
“Good; the baby has been crying a lot today. It’s good you’ve passed by. Please come in.” Fitz was waiting for us with Karen in his arms.
“You’re welcome.” I went for my baby and began rocking her gently.
“Thanks for inviting us over,” Karen said.
“My pleasure. Let’s go to the table, shall we? Should I call Rose to attend to her whiles we eat?”
“No…I’ll be fine,” I said and went to sit down. I looked down at her and she smiled. This girl was an angel.
Halfway through the meal, Fitz said, “I know you asked for space to sort out…” “She just doesn’t need space, Fitz. She needs an out. What you did damaged her and she needs therapy….”
“Which I will gladly pay for….”
“It is not about the money, Fitz….” Oh boy, and here we go, I thought with a groan and dropped my fork. I rubbed my forehead.
“With all respect Karen, this is between Emily and I.”
“I agree but since she got back, she hasn’t been herself and that is why I’m speaking for her. She needs her baby and her life back.”
“Let her go, Fitz.” “Fine but the baby stays with me.” I looked up at him.
“With all respect Mr. Daniels, the baby isn’t even yours,” Karen pointed out.
“But I’m his legal guardian. And if you push this, we’d have to settle it in court.”
“Is that a threat?” Karen hissed. Fitz glanced at me then back at Karen.
“No, it’s a promise. And I know you will lose,” he said directly to me. My heart missed a beat.
“Because I’d declare you as unfit to take care of the baby.”
“On what possible grounds?” Karen asked sharply.
“She is mentally unstable. Suicidal to be precise. I don’t think any judge in his or her right mind would risk exposing a baby to such glaring danger.” I stared at the scar on my wrist and tears gathered in my eyes.
“You can’t be serious,” Karen hissed.
“Try me. I know you’re looking out for your friend and I appreciate that but I’m asking you to stay out of this. Emily and I will sort this out.” Karen turned to look at me. I was trembling and tears fell off my face. I looked down and saw the drop on lil’ Karen’s face. I wiped it away.
“Let’s go, Karen,” I said. Karen got up. I stood up and gave the baby to Fitz. He wanted to say something apologetic but couldn’t.
“Thanks for dinner.” We turned to leave.
“I believe I have to find myself a lawyer,” I said and walked out with Karen right behind me.