I was practically stuck at home with the speculations of Adam being my baby daddy rolling like thunder around town. But living in a home like mine with an indulging husband like Fitz made it feel like paradise. Fitz had reasonably advised that I stayed out of the public’s eye till the wildfire had died down. But I had to see James. Karen was falling apart but she was acting as if all was well. She spent almost every night at my end; I didn’t mind and neither did Fitz (even if he did, he knew better than to show it). I knew her better than she did herself; if I didn’t find a way to sort out the issue, I’d have to deal with her breakdown and I already had too much on my plate as it was.
When I was done dressing up, I passed by lil’ Karen’s room to find her sound asleep. I smiled as I touched her soft cheeks.
“I’ll be right back, baby,” I whispered and left the room. I bid Rose goodbye and drove off in one of Fitz’s latest acquisitions, a black sleek Audi whose scent alone made me feel all tingly. Who said luxury was not a necessity? The person has not tasted its goodness yet.
Karen had gone home to attend to her mother’s errands and so I could meet up with James without her finding out. We met at a cafeteria out of campus and when I arrived, he was already there.
“I’m sorry; am I late?” I asked as I sat.
“No, I arrived early. Want anything?”
“I’d love a Sprite with lime.” He signalled a waitress and I took a spring roll from his plate and bit into it.
“Should I order more?” I nodded.
“Another plate of the rolls and a Sprite with lime, thank you.” She walked away.
“So how are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m hanging in there; stuck at home now.”
“I’m sorry for my part in it. Tony was a jerk leaking it.” I snorted.
“You’re very kind with your words, James. When you see him, tell him I said no thanks for turning me into a mandatory housewife.” He chuckled. The waitress came back with the order and served us. After taking a sip, I cleared my throat.
“So how are you holding up?” I asked. He shrugged and bit into a crispy roll.
“Spoken to her?”
“Planning on doing that anytime soon?” “Don’t know.”
“I don’t know what really went down between you two but no one has to tell me my issues had something to do with it. I’m sorry if it seems I’m interfering in your relationship. I don’t mean to; my life is nothing short of chaotic and I need a sister like Karen to help me hold it together.”
“So could you please put your ill feelings about me aside and reconcile with her? She’s not herself and if this goes on any longer, it might affect her performance in her final exams. We both don’t want that.”
“You know I can never have ill feelings about you, Em,” he said quietly, looking at his glass.
“I’m sure you don’t mean to but sometimes I do see it in your eyes like I’m some rival. I give you my word that I’ll back away as much as possible if you give her another chance. I can’t promise anything more than that, I’m sorry.” He gave a chuckle.
“Why are you so bent on bringing us back together?”
“Because Karen really loves you and I do know you love her too. You two make my life stable and trust me, I need some stability right now.”
“So we being together is all about you?” “Of course not; don’t be silly, Jay. Karen isn’t herself and….”
“Do you know why I got close to Karen?” I paused and stared at him, arching a brow.
“Because she was a means to an end; you were my target, Emily.” I sat back, stunned. I felt my brain grow numb.
“What are you talking about?” I asked slowly when I felt my tongue loose again.
“Don’t pretend you didn’t know, Emily. We almost had a thing and before things got awkward, Karen showed interest and you pushed me to her.”
“No, I didn’t,” I started defensively but he stopped me by raising his hand.
“Don’t bother, Em. Karen is a sweet girl, very lovely and I like her. I just found it increasingly irritating that she put you first before me time and time again especially when I was trying so hard to get over you.” Oh no, this wasn’t going the way I had planned. My palms suddenly felt wet with sweat.
“And I will back away, James; don’t hurt her because of me.”
“I didn’t break things off with her because of you, Emily. Yeah, that’s what I might have told her but the truth is, I’m tired of lying to myself and deceiving her in the process. She deserves better.” “You’re good for her, James,” I insisted. He shook his head.
“You’re not listening to me, Emily. I’m tired of sitting on the fence looking on as the best friend’s boyfriend when everything within me wished I could have something more.”
“You know we would never have worked no matter what universe we found ourselves in, right?”
“Maybe,” he said with a shrug, “but that doesn’t mean I should settle for Karen.” “Karen is worth more than a settlement, James!” I said, offended.
“Exactly. But something told me telling her what I did sounds like a better option than the truth or am I wrong?” He asked, looking me in the eye. I swallowed. Was he threatening me?
“What are you implying; that you want to tell Karen that you were into me?” I asked, my voice choked with emotion.
“Point of correction: it’s not ‘were’; it’s actually present tense. Since you and Karen are on the absolute honesty policy, should I?” I found my hand trembling. I fisted it so he wouldn’t notice but I guess it didn’t work because he chuckled.
“Don’t worry; I’m not a jerk like Tony. I won’t tell Karen anything. So, knowing what you do now, do you still think I should go back to Karen?”
“Who knows, you and Karen were meant to be together. It would be a horrendous mistake to make such a great chance pass you by because you’re holding on to some illusion.” He nodded.
“I’ll think about it since you insist.” He bit into the last roll and chewed.
I suddenly felt hot. I gulped down the drink in the glass.
“I don’t understand. You were always sort of mean towards me.” He chuckled.
“Call it defensive mechanism. Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m telling you this because I think you need to know. I’ll call her tonight and whatever happens, well I’m sure Karen will fill you in.” He took out his wallet and put some notes under a plate.
“I’ve got to go. Will you be okay?” I nodded. He got up and what he did next surprised the skin out of me. He leaned forward and kissed the top of my head. I froze. He walked away without a word. I exhaled when I knew he was out of the cafeteria. I slapped my forehead. I didn’t need this complication; not now; not with James and Karen. What did I do wrong? Maybe I was too nice to guys back then. But seriously? This guy just ruined my mood for the day.
Just as I was getting up, someone walked up to me.
“Hello, you look familiar. Are you Emily, the one who supposedly died and suddenly was not?”
“Excuse me, who are you?” “Sorry, I’m Anna; I believe we used to attend the same Psychology lectures…”
“I’m sorry, Anna but you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
“Really? Because you do look very much like her. The one who is rumoured to have gotten pregnant by this artist….” I got up.
“Okay, that’s enough. You’ve mistaken me with someone else. And even if I were to be this Emily girl, what business of yours is it who got her pregnant? Would you offer to take care of the baby? Mind your own business!” I lashed out at her and stormed out.
My heart was still pounding when I hit the highway. Oh, some speed will do me some good right now; I thought and stomped on the accelerator.