Read Chapter 33 here.
Dante stared into the eyes of his five-month old baby and his heart melted. Gosh, he was a dad. She was so beautiful. He had dreamed of this moment since he was in the university…but with Jackie, of course. He had told himself he was going to be the best father in the world and the most supportive husband ever. And here he was with a baby he totally adored; with a woman who he admitted loved him more than he loved her.
Fella, their help broke into his thoughts when she called him. She told him Cece was asking for him. He put the baby down in her cot and went to the bedroom. Cece was breathing heavily.
“Are you alright?” He asked, rushing to her side.
She shook her head. She took his hand in hers and he kissed it.
“Should we go to the hospital?”
“I think so. Dante…I’m scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“I feel…it’s back.”
“You feel what is back, Eyram?”
“The cancer…” she whispered, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Cece. It’s under remission, remember?”
“Yeah but it sometimes comes back, Dante. Most of the time, it does.”
“It’s your mind playing tricks on you. It’s fear creeping in post-delivery. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“All I wanted was to have a family with you, Dante and even in those moments when I felt tired and weak, I braved through it because I didn’t want to lose the baby, to lose you.”
“And I’m so proud of you, Cece; when no one thought it was possible, you taught me that anything could be as long as you believed. And you made it through.”
“I did and I’m happy that you’re happy. But I know my body, Dante, I don’t feel so good.”
“Okay and we’ll deal with it. But please don’t entertain any funny thoughts. If you lose it in your mind, your body stands no chance. Promise me, you will stay strong.”
“I will,” Cece said, forcing a smile. Dante wiped the stream of tears from her cheeks. He leaned forward and kissed her and they hugged. She was going to be fine, they were both going to be fine, Dante assured himself.
Edem arrived home with three cups of iced tea. AJ welcomed him with a hug.
“Who are these for?”
“One for me, one for you and I heard you mention that Jackie was coming over today.”
“Awww…that’s sweet of you. And yeah, she’s in the kitchen.”
“Naicy? Hubby is home!”
Jackie came out with a napkin over her shoulder.
“You look busy.”
“Yeah, your wife here blackmailed me into becoming a cook today.”
“I see…got you some iced tea for your trouble.”
“Awww…aren’t you a darling? Now, that’s how you treat your guest! And not turn them into kitchen aids,” Jackie said, taking her cup and sucking through the straw.
“As if you don’t love me enough to do it without me asking.”
“Is there anything for me to eat? I’m starving.”
AJ turned to Jackie.
“Please I’m not your cook on duty. Find your husband something to eat.”
The couple burst into laughter.
“What would I do without you?” AJ said as she put her arm around Jackie’s shoulder and they walked into the kitchen together.
Ten minutes later, AJ and Edem had a tray of food on a side table in front of them in the living room while Jackie sat on the carpeted floor with her tray on her lap.
“So AJ tells me you’re seeing someone now. How’s it going?”
“Yeah, his name is Julius. He’s great actually. Very matured and focused. Being with him has been very insightful.”
“And do you see a future with him?” AJ asked.
“Oh yeah, definitely. He actually proposed three nights ago.”
“Already? How long has it been since you started seeing each other?”
“Five months…I know it’s quite short but there’s never enough time to know something completely, is there?”
AJ and Edem glanced at each other.
“I get you but relating it to the period of time you dated both Dante and Kwame, don’t you think this is going a bit too fast?”
“I understand your concerns, honey but I’m at peace with it. I’ve learned a lot from my past two relationships that I believe I’m well equipped to jump into the ship.”
“Okay but you know you can always talk to me before you make any serious decision, right?” AJ asked.
“Yes ma’am,” she said mockingly.
“What about we have a double date? That would be a fun way of getting ourselves acquainted with him, right?” AJ said chirpily and looked at her husband.
“Of course,” Edem quickly replied, decoding his wife’s request.
“Great! What do you say, Naicy? How about tomorrow?”
Jackie gave her a look. AJ was definitely up to something. She looked to be in the Nancy Drew mood right now.
“I don’t know if he’ll be available tomorrow. Will confirm and get back to you.”
“I’m afraid there is some bad news. Your wife’s cancer is back.”
Dante buried his head in his palms and closed his eyes. Oh no, not now. Not when they had just had a baby. The last thing he needed to be was a widowed single father.
“And what are our options? We can beat it back to remission, right?”
“From I’m seeing from the test results, it might not be that simple. It’s bouncing back in a dangerous way and the only way to counter it is to attack it aggressively which might be too much for her.”
“My wife is a very strong and determined woman. Just let her know what she has to do and she’ll run with it. We just had a baby and she’d love to see her baby grow. And if I may ask, is the pregnancy and labor which has triggered back this cancer?”
“Possibly. We may have to start her on chemotherapy immediately which means you may have to consider alternatives when it comes to feeding the baby.”
“And what are her chances of making it through this?”
“I’d say slim but considering her history when she miraculously recovered after you proposed, anything can happen.”
Dante nodded. Somehow, he didn’t think he still carried enough spark to keep Cece alive this time around.
Jackie was paying for some items she had picked up at Max Mart when she heard her name. She gasped.
“Wow…so good to see you again!” Dante said as he opened his arms for a hug. He kissed her cheek as they pulled back from the hug.
“Gosh, it’s been like ages! How are you?” Jackie asked as she was handed her change. She picked up her takeaway bag.
“Hanging in there. You? You look great by the way.”
“Thank you. I’m stressed. Planning to get married is no child’s play.”
“You’re getting married? To who, Kwame? I thought you two had split up. When are you getting married?”
“Nah, it’s not Kwame. It’s someone else. I think we have a lot to catch up on.”
“Yeah, I think so too. Why don’t we grab some pizza and catch up?”
“Um…don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Have you seen the traffic? Trust me, sitting down to have a chat will serve as better use of our time than enduring that traffic. Come on.”
“So how’s life as a father going?”
“Tiring and amazing at the same time. Gosh, how can a little being like that shriek a whole house down?”
Jackie laughed. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, dude. And Cece?”
“Unfortunately, Cece isn’t doing so well.”
“I wish. Her cancer is back.”
Jackie’s heart sunk. “So she really has cancer?”
“Why is it so hard for you and AJ to believe that?”
“Because a part of me always thought she was lying. That she made it all up to keep you by herself.”
“Nah, that part was real. And now it’s back. I have a bad feeling about this.”
“I’m so sorry, Dante. This must be very hard for you,” Jackie consoled, rubbing the top of his hand.
“It is. Anyway, tell me about Mr. New Guy. When, how, where did you meet?”
“He’s Julius, he used to be my boss at Scanad…”
“Oh is it? Now I’m curious to know why you manage to confuse at least one guy at your place of work.”
“I know, right? It’s an awkward trend. Anyway, I think he was under Cece’s father’s control to make my life miserable at work until he got fed up and defied him. Next thing we know, a dubious claim of him mismanaging the company’s funds was raised and he was axed.”
“So I guess, the enemy of your enemy’s father is your lover. How cool is that?”
“Don’t be a tease.”
There was some silence for a few minutes.
“Do you love him?”
She looked at him. “You have no right to ask me that, Dante.”
“Oh I don’t? I’m a living example of getting married for all the wrong reasons and you being so dear to my heart, want to know if you’re on the right track.”
“He is a great guy and he loves me…”
“I didn’t ask if he loved you, Naicy. I asked if you love him.”
Jackie sighed. “If you want to know if I love him as much as I loved you, no. As much as I try, I don’t think I can ever love anyone else that much but that’s fine. I love him enough to spend the rest of my life with him.”
“You just started dating, right? Why the rush to get married?”
“Why wait when you’ve found the one?”
That stung him. “Oh he is the one, huh?”
“I call him so.”
“What if Cece happened to…”
“Not again, Dante. Enough of the hypothetical questions. You’ve been wishing Cece dead for God knows how long. It’s about time you realized she’s all you have and appreciate that. And pray that she pulls through…for the sake of your baby.”
“I know…I’m sorry.”
“Got to go. Have a long day tomorrow. My wedding isn’t going to plan itself. Nice seeing you again, Ekow. Always a pleasure,” she said as she got up and gave his cheek a peck. She walked away.
Dante picked his phone and called AJ.
“Dante! Been a while, what’s up?”
“When were you going to tell me Naicy was getting married?”
“Whoa…hold up…since when did I become your informant?”
“Come on, AJ. And it’s a new guy? How well does she know him?”
“Well according to her, she doesn’t need to know him for a long while before she is assured he’s the right one for her. I personally feel like she’s rushing into it because she feels left behind. I don’t know how to tell her without offending her.”
“But have you met the Julius guy? Is he solid?”
“He’s alright. He’s got his head screwed on right, that’s for sure. He’s respectful and I like the way he looks at Naicy. He adores her.”
Dante grunted. “I see.”
“How’s the baby?”
“Kicking, crying and pooing.”
AJ laughed. “I guess you are handling it just fine. And just so you know, you’re not getting an invite to Naicy’s wedding.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because you have the power to influence her for your own selfish needs. And the last thing she wants is you painting another hopeful picture of you two ending up together.”
“Well, it could be now that Cece’s cancer is back…”
“As if she hasn’t survived it before. Jackie is moving on, Dante and so should you. Bye,” she said and hung up.
When Dante went to bed that night, he was restless. Jackie was getting married. He was glad it wasn’t that jerk, Kwame. But the fact that he has history with Cece’s father made him uneasy. What if it was part of Hon. Biney’s plan to have him marry Jackie off so he could be assured that he would stay with his daughter? Perhaps he should look into him. After tossing and turning for a while, Dante finally fell asleep.
He dreamt of standing in a garden in a white tux holding the hand of Jackie who was in a beautiful white gown.
“We did it. We made it back to each other. Our love won,” Jackie said with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, we did. Just like I believed we would. It feels great to finally call you my wife, Jackie Mends.”
“I’ve waited so long for this day to call you my husband, Dante Mends.”
His eyes snapped open. Oh, it was just a dream? But why did it feel so real? Was it a sign of a possible future? Was there a chance for him and Jackie to actually be together?
“Eyram, please be reasonable. You’re better off being here where the doctors and nurses can keep a constant eye on you,” Cece’s mum pleaded.
“I don’t want to spend forever in this place. I want to lie in my own bed, in the arms of my husband and feeling the warmth of my baby. If I have a short time to live, I’d love to spend the time with my family, mum. I know my husband will take good care of me.”
“I have to advise strongly against this,” the doctor warned.
“I hear you. I’ll sign whatever form you need me to. I promise to rush here if I feel any sort of way.”
The doctor nodded grimly. Her mother sighed in despair.
The Yankson’s residence was buzzing with activity as relatives came around to help make sure preparations for the traditional marriage ceremony were ready. When Julius arrived and saw the commotion, he quietly took Jackie’s hand and led her outside.
“What is it, Julius? I still have a lot to do,” she said impatiently.
“You look too damn stressed before you’ve been too indulged in the preparations. We even haven’t had time to spend together for a couple of weeks. I miss you and I want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine, J. I just want everything to be perfect.”
“Of course but even if it is not, know that you’re perfect to me. As long as you are there to say, I do, I don’t care what goes wrong.”
“That’s sweet of you but it’s going to be the most important day in my life and I need it to go well…for memories’ sake.”
“Alright then. What would you like me to do to help?”
“Um…I’ve a list of things…”
“Great, why don’t we go grab something to eat, get some fresh air and then pick up your list?”
“Jules, I’ve work to do…”
“I know but I think it’s important you move out of the chaos for a while…and enjoy each other’s company even if it’s just for an hour,” he said and stroked her cheek.
“Okay, if you insist.”
She picked up her phone and purse and joined Julius in his car.
When they returned and she had given him the list, she waved him goodbye and he drove away. She was entering the house when she received a text.
“What is it?” AJ asked, breaking into her thoughts.
“Whatever you’re reading. You look like you’ve received a message from a ghost.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I think it was intended for another person. Are you going home?”
“Yeah. Edem should be on his way home now.”
“Alright, thanks for coming. Call me when you get home, yeah?” Jackie said as they hugged.
“Yeah. We have to conclude on the look for the D day.”
“Yeah, let’s talk about that tomorrow.”
AJ got into her car.
They waved each other goodbye as she drove off. She read the message again and sighed.
AJ got up from her seat when Jackie walked in.
“Where the hell have you been all day? I’ve tried calling you countless times.”
“I’m sorry if I got you worried. Just had something to do today.”
“Something like what?”
“Like…having me time.”
“For over four hours? 48 hours to your traditional marriage ceremony?”
“AJ, please, I’m tired. Not in the mood for long talk,” Jackie said and walked to her room. AJ followed suit.
“Where did you go, Jackie? Please don’t tell me you went to see Dante.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because you’re getting married to someone else and it’s finally dawning on you that you are never going to be with Dante and you wanted to spend some time with him before you are married off.”
“That’s sweet but no, I didn’t see Dante.”
“Then who did you see?”
“No one. I wanted to be myself and assess myself for what I’m about to do.”
“Are you uncertain about this? Then we might as well cancel it while we have the time.”
“No, we’re not cancelling! Listen AJ, not everyone is lucky to marry the love of their lives like you did and so people like me need some time to come to terms with that before we actually walk down the aisle!”
“And what did you decide? Is this because Dante told you Cece’s cancer is back? Is that what has got you all thinking?”
“No…not at all. This is all me and none of Dante and his Cece problems, trust me.”
“Okay then. Come on, we need to get your nails done.”
Dante helped Cece drink some water from a glass he was holding. He put it on the tray next to the bed. He resumed feeding her dinner.
“Why are you so quiet today? Is it because Jackie is getting married?”
Dante gave her a sharp look.
“How do you know about that?”
Cece smiled. “I’ve my ways.”
“Oh it must hurt knowing that you’re going to lose the love of your life to another man while you’re stuck with a dying wife who doesn’t seem to be ready to kick the bucket yet. How frustrating,” Cece taunted.
“Stop it, Cece.”
He got up to leave the room. Cece began coughing.
“Dante, Dante…please I forgot to take my meds. Could you please pick it up from me? It’s in the bathroom cabinet.”
Dante turned towards the bathroom and opened the cabinet. He stared at the medication for a moment and picked it. He could hear Cece still coughing.
“Dante…” her voice sounded faint. He squeezed the container in hand.
He walked out of the bathroom and walked slowly towards the bed. Cece reached out for the medication. Just when Dante was about to hand it over, it fell through his fingers and fell down. He stared at Cece breathing heavily for a second before reaching down to pick it up. He gave it to her and took the glass of water. Cece popped the pills into her mouth with shaky hands and took the glass from him and drank.
“Thank God you weren’t late a minute more…” Cece said with closed eyes. Dante looked at her silently.
It was Jackie’s traditional marriage ceremony. She was beyond anxious and she couldn’t tell why. Her mum and AJ tried to cheer her up but it wasn’t quite helping. Julius and his family were running a little late.
“Don’t worry, they will be here soon.”
Soon they arrived and were seated. A relative opened the door to her room.
“Nana Esi, are you ready to come out? Everyone is seated and is ready for the ceremony to begin.”
“Yes auntie; we will be out soon.”
“Okay,” she said and closed the door.
“Where’s my phone?” Jackie asked.
“It must be around somewhere. Here it is.”
Jackie unlocked the phone and checked her messages. Nothing. She sighed.
Jackie’s mum came in.
“Let’s go, ladies!” She said, clapping her hands to imply urgency. Jackie looked at her phone one last time. Her friends formed a queue with Jackie in the middle and began to file out.
The second the door closed behind the ladies, Jackie’s phone beeped and the screen lit up.
Naicy, Cece is dead.
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 35 here.