Read Chapter 36 here.
“Here I was, thinking Hon. Biney was behind me and out of the blue, he calls me with news about my new wife…and he was mocking me. I know how manipulative he can be so I’m not going to take a word of what he says. I just want to hear it from you, babe. Why did you meet up with your ex?”
“We are close friends and his wife who happened to be Hon. Biney’s daughter had just passed. He said he needed someone to talk to so I went to see him.”
“So are we still on for the wedding?”
“Sure, of course. That is, if you’ll have me.”
“From what Honorable told me, you two have quite a history. The last thing I want is to get trapped in a love triangle.”
“No need to worry about that, Jules,” Jackie said in an assuring tone and held his hands.
“My heart beats for only you now.” Oh gosh, did she feel her nose grow long just a little bit? But she wasn’t exactly lying. She did love him. Thankfully, that made him smile. He kissed her forehead and they hugged. She was shocked. That was it? No yelling, no trust broken, no lingering doubts? Was this too good to be true or did he actually love her this much? She was grateful that God brought such deep lovers into her life. She might have messed it up with Kwame but Julius, she was going to hold on to.
When they pulled apart, Julius looked around the room.
“I think it’s coming together just fine,” he remarked. “Well done,” he complimented with a proud smile. She blushed. “I’m glad you like it.”
Her phone beeped.
We need to talk.
She raised a brow. That sounded serious. What could be the matter?
“Anything wrong?” Julius’ voice broke through her thoughts. She looked up at him blankly.
“Huh? No, pardon me,” she put the phone in her pocket. She would sort it out later.
Jackie arrived home to find her mother sitting in the living room by herself.
“Good evening, mum. Why are you sitting here alone? Where’s dad?”
“He’s in the bedroom. Nana Esi, please sit down for a minute,” she said, patting the space next to her. Jackie sat down.
“I heard about your ex on TV today. Is it true?”
“Is what true, mum? That he killed his wife? Of course not.”
“I doubt he has it in him to harm anyone. The news item said there was a lady with him when the police got to him. Was it you?”
“Was it?” She repeated, raising her voice which startled Jackie. She shuddered.
“It’s not what you think. I just wanted to offer him my condol….”
“In his house when you were married less than 24 hours to someone else? Couldn’t you have given him your condolences over the phone?”
“Mum, I’m sorry…”
“Are you really? Because from what I hear, you may be planning on eloping with him.”
“Did AJ speak to you?”
“I called her here and made sure she told me everything. How could you, Nana Esi? I thought I raised you better than this!”
“You did, mum; you did. It’s just that my heart can be stubborn sometimes…”
“I understand your fondness for that guy but it is about time you moved on. He is now a widower and a father. That’s a load you’re not ready for, trust me. You have a chance to live out your own happiness with a man who adores you. Don’t mess it up on the basis of memories of your first love. Not everyone marries her first love.”
“But if there’s a chance for me to, should I let it go because the circumstances are less than ideal?”
“What about the heart of the man who has married you? Don’t you care for him as well?”
“I do, mum and I do intend to walk down the aisle with him…”
“There’s no but, mum. I am married to Julius. I am getting wedded to him.”
“So you promise no funny stunts at the wedding? No running off with him just before the vows?”
Jackie chuckled. “This is not a movie or a music video, mum. I promise.”
She turned when she heard a door open.
“And yeah, your brother is here.”
“Hey sis,” he said with a smile and sat next to Jackie. He held her shoulder and gave her a sideways hug.
“How are you? I’ve missed you,” Jackie said.
“I’m great. Missed you too. Hope you’ve been good.”
“Hmm…this your sister, please talk to her before she gives me a heart attack.”
“Please don’t talk like that, mum. I won’t do anything to endanger your health.”
“I hope so. I’m going to bed. Your supper is in the fridge if you’re still up for it.”
“Thanks, mum. Good night.”
“Good night, both of you,” she said and walked into the master bedroom. They heard the door lock.
Brother and sister sighed and stared at each other.
“How are you really?” Jesse asked.
“I don’t know. I feel like I’m floating…like a bird searching for a branch to rest and hold on to. Everyone is telling me the right thing to do, which I know I should do but a part of me keeps asking, ‘What if?’, you know…and life is too short to be living an unfulfilled life,” Jackie said, sniffing. Jesse rubbed her arm encouragingly.
“I know it is overwhelming for you right now…you’ve always been the hopeless romantic kind of girl and I remember the first day you introduced Dante to me. You were so in love that your eyes gleamed whenever you looked at him. I was glad that he was that crazy about you too but then life happened. You handled it better than I assumed you would. I thought it would break you but it didn’t and for that, I’m proud of you. But I know that childlike hopeless romantic side of you never let Dante go after all this time and that’s what keeps haunting you.”
“Is it wrong to keep hope alive?”
“No, it’s not; but it is important to know when to let go. You have a big heart, Naicy but you need to protect it. The more it gets scarred, the faster it shrinks and after all said and done, you would realize you don’t have much space to handle the hurts that come with this thing called love.”
“When did you become this love philosopher?” Jackie teased. Jesse chuckled and pulled her into his chest. He kissed the top of her head.
“What’s up with you and Sophie? Still together?”
“Yeah…I proposed five days ago.”
“And you didn’t tell me? I’m hurt!”
“Sorry…I knew I was coming here this week. I had to rush back right after your traditional marriage because there were some work stuff I had to sort out so I wanted to hold out on telling you till things had settled down here.”
“Anyway, I’m happy for you. It’s about time, big brother. That lady loves you to death.”
“I know. I do too.”
“Thanks for coming back. I really needed my brother by my side at a time like this.”
Cece’s one-week life celebration took place solemnly at the Biney’s residence. Dante was seated, receiving condolences from sympathizers just like his in-laws. Debrah among other former AKURA colleagues came around to offer their sympathies. For the first time, Dante really felt Cece’s absence and was filled with remorse. He didn’t want her parents to think he was putting on a show by revealing any emotions but he couldn’t help the tears from flowing. She was really gone. He had spent most of his time together with her, resenting her and now that she was gone, he felt like a part of him had left with her.
“Cheer up, buddy,” Debrah said, handing him a bottle of Stella Artois. They clinked bottles and took a gulp.
“At long last, she’s gone. Now you’re free to pursue the woman of your heart.”
“I’m not so sure about that. She’s getting married; in fact, she’s married by customary rites.”
“I see. So no wedding?”
“Oh but there’s time to shake the table.”
“I’ve other problems to deal with. I go near Jackie, that man over there will have no qualms of throwing me into jail for Cece’s death just because.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“You mean choose between love and prison? Jackie may be a true ride-and-die chick but I wouldn’t want to ask her to put her life on hold for me any longer than she already has. One should know when to know enough is enough.”
“Are you saying you’re letting go?”
“I’m saying I’m a father and I choose not to rot in prison and have my child raised by those vipers of her grandparents.”
“And again, Jackie comes second place.”
Dante looked at him. “Excuse me?”
“The first time, I influenced you; I’ll accept that but now, it’s all on you, Dante,” Debrah said and walked away.
Dante walked to the door, patting his baby’s back. He opened it.
“Hi,” Dante said and made way for Jackie to enter.
“Hi cutie. It’s me again, remember me?” Jackie said sweetly and touched the baby’s cheek. The baby smiled.
“Yes, you do.”
“Alright, here you go,” Dante said and handed over the baby to Jackie who gladly took her. She planted a kiss on her forehead and laid her on her bosom.
“Gosh, these little ones feel so precious.”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“I’m okay, thank you,” Jackie replied, her attention on the baby.
“I know the last time we spent together ended up badly and I wouldn’t want a repeat…”
“No worries, Julius knows I’m here. We can talk.”
Jackie sat down and so did Dante.
“I’ll cut right to the chase. I was shocked to hear that you came to see Cece and didn’t bother to tell me.”
“I didn’t think you needed to know.”
“Yeah, seriously. I was getting married, she was dying…the one thing we shared was our love for you and she thought we needed to hash things out before you know…she breathed her last. So when she texted me asking to see me, I thought it best to honor her invitation because after all said and done, she was just a woman who loved too much…like me.”
“And what did she say?”
“I’m sorry but I’m not going to tell you. All I can say is, it was an honest conversation between two women in love with the same guy and what that has done to us.”
“In other words, you both came to the conclusion that the bad guy in the story was me and I messed up both your lives. Great.”
“No…you’re not the villain and neither am I the protagonist, Dante. Life happened to all of us. All this while, I’ve hated her for taking you away from me and wishing her dead with every breath I took and she was doing everything she could to keep holding on to you…to the point of putting her health at risk to get you a baby…all for what? Life can be so pointless sometimes.”
“So what, you two made up?”
“We forgave each other, cried together and hugged it out. Since Motown, I always thought she was bitchy but after that encounter, I feel like under different circumstances, Cece and I could have become good friends.”
Jackie began to tear up. She wiped the corner of her eyes with her thumb.
“May her soul rest in peace.”
There was silence for a minute. The baby began to fuss.
“Let me get her bottle,” Dante said and got up. He came back with a feeding bottle and gave it to Jackie. The baby sucked on it hungrily. Jackie couldn’t stop smiling at her cute face.
The ‘So what happens now?’ question hanged heavily in the air.
“Naicy, you know I love you and us having a family has always been the dream but considering everything I’ve put you through and the fact that I still have my in-laws to contend with…I think you should go ahead and marry Julius.”
“I don’t need your permission, Dante. I’m going to do what I think is best for me.”
“Move on with my life. As much as we would love our stars to align in the sky, something always keeps getting in the way and I think it’s not fair that we let people keep getting hurt because we claim to be in love. I think we shared some of the most beautiful moments together and the memories are good enough to last us a lifetime and we should be grateful for them. You have a beautiful daughter…”
“Who needs a mother…”
“I’m sure you will find love again…”
“I never lost her. She’s right here.”
“She’s no longer yours. This ring says as much.”
Dante looked at his own ring. He took it off and stared at it.
“It all started with a ring and a request…”
“Marry me,” Jackie added with a chuckle. They looked at each other.
The baby finished feeding. Jackie placed her head over her shoulder and burped her.
“Look at you; you’re a natural.”
“Cece gave me some basic tutorials. Your mama loves you, okay? Don’t ever forget that,” Jackie said to the baby and kissed her cheeks. Dante threw his ring across the room and buried his face in his palms.
“Your father is quite the emotional man. Teach him to handle his emotions well, okay?”
Jackie walked down the aisle in her father’s arms towards Julius whose smiles kept her heart at peace.
“You look amazing,” he muttered when her father placed her hand in his. She smiled her thanks.
“Jackie Yankson, do you take Julius Ampah to be your husband?”
“Julius Ampah, do you take Jackie Yankson to be your wife?”
Julius took a quick look around the room and then at Jackie who was beaming with smiles.
“No, I don’t.”
Huh? The congregation exclaimed. Jackie’s face went pale.
“I’m sorry, Jackie.”
She woke up panting. She placed her hand on her chest and found it pounding madly. She quickly grabbed the glass of water next to her bed and gulped it down. What was this, her subconscious wish or a premonition?
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 38 here.