When his arranged marriage goes haywire, James, has to juggle from being a father to his eleven months old son, keeping his job, finding love in the strangest place, maintaining a balance and peace between his family and that of his in-law’s who are lost in the battle of power and authority.
James felt like a man who was duped as he sat on the floor of the hospital hallway with Helen, distressed and full of anger. He blamed his parents for intruding and turning his beautiful self-made life upside down for their selfish interest. He shut his eyes. His objections on the day he was told about the arranged marriage replayed in his head.
“I have a girlfriend, Father; a fiancée, I proposed to her and she said yes. You’ve met her, you loved her and you said we could marry. So why are you saying this?” James had protested against his father’s order of marrying Queen.
“Yes, I know her and I did consent to the union, but I have changed my mind,” Osakwe replied.
“You cannot ask me to disengage from her out of the blues because of someone I do not know,” he objected, swallowing his wine in one gulp.
“I know her and I know her father. That is enough assurance. And if you still have any respect or concern for this family, you would do just as I say,” Osakwe casually phonated.
“And what about my feelings and happiness?” James asked, his anger aroused. “It is my life, have any of you given that a thought? Have any of you stopped to imagine life with someone you do not love?”
“You grow in love James, not fall in love,” Catherine chipped in. She had sat quietly all along hoping her husband would take care of everything. “This relationship that we have with Nnadi has gone beyond what you can imagine. You are not unmindful of the role he played in your father’s life. It is only wise we express our deepest gratitude through this single act. So please my son, just…”
“I should have known,” James jerked up. “I am to serve as bait. I am to be the Jesus of your business; to sacrifice my life and my happiness for your business. I am sorry Father, I cannot do that,” he said. “I am going to marry Angela, she is the one I love,” he added and made for the door.
“Do not walk out of that door James, otherwise, you cease to be my son,” Osakwe’s command halted him.
That was the second time his father would be threatening to renounce him. First was when he refused to be part of the family business, on the grounds that he wanted to build his own future by himself. His younger and only brother gladly took over, and was instantly sent to Port-Harcourt to head the company’s branch there.
“Are we going to do this again, Father?” he turned slowly. “Are we playing this renouncement game yet again?” he asked with a calm voice, glancing at his mother, who indicated clearly through her expressions that she was in support of her husband.
“I am afraid yes,” Osakwe answered. “You cannot be antagonising this family all the time. All I labour for and try to achieve are for you and your brother, especially you, being the first son. If you mess this up due to your selfish reasons, I am afraid I would not hesitate to cut off all ties that bind us as a family,” he decreed and walked inside.
James stood, staring at his parents, confused and dumbfounded as both trekked inside the room.
He regretted his obedience, change of heart and loyalty that night. He regretted his addicted quest of trying to please others at the detriment of his own happiness. He regretted everything. Unconsciously, he sighed aloud, drawing the attention of Helen, who was thinking about the torment and pain the whole situation must have caused him. She stared at him with so much pity and love in her eyes. James turned and their eyes met in a chemisorption expression that both of them found hard to fathom. She was shy at first, but the tender and loving sight she beheld was something so nice she could not resist. She decided to take that bold step of letting her emotions flow for the first time, since James himself looked like he could do with some pity and love. They both gazed at each other for some time before James suddenly got himself back.
“I am sorry about that,” he muttered, withdrawing his gaze.
A part of him prayed that whatever it was that got Helen to act lovingly towards him become genuine, while another part wondered why he never attempted kissing her all this while. He recalled all her appearances in the house and how beautiful she always looked. He envisioned the pointed nose resting above her rose-shaped wet and succulent lips, her eyes which always glittered like a lighted bulb even during the day; the long magnificent hair she always let loose behind her shoulders and her body which could pass for that of an Egyptian goddess. The entire picture revealed a beautiful and charming under-20 lady, and he started to doubt if she really was the mother of the girl she always talked about.
“He will be fine,” she said looking straight in his eyes once again. “I can assure you of that,” she added.
James nodded, ardently looking at her. “Is she really your daughter?” he asked trying to diffuse the romantic atmosphere.
“The little girl that lives with you, is she your daughter?” he rephrased.
“Why do you ask?” Helen threw back at him. She did not see how the question was connected to the present situation.
“I don’t know, curious maybe,” he replied. “But is she?”
She glanced at him, smiling. James saw again that innocent and unblemished smile that has the capacity of melting even the hardest heart. He reciprocated, absentmindedly.
“She is my sister’s,” she answered.
James’ heart skipped, feeling greatly relieved. Truly he was troubled concerning Junior’s condition, but what he just heard lifted his spirit. He was bottling up his feelings for her for many reasons, her marital status being one, and with that knowledge, one load of scepticism dismantled itself from his mind. He smiled at her with the look that Helen couldn’t resist.
“What?” She asked, confused at his innocent smile. “You thought she was mine?”
James smiled, nodding his head in gladness. “So where is your sister now?”
After some minutes of contemplating on whether James deserved to know, she opened up. Her sister had died giving birth to the child and the husband wanted to drop her off at an orphanage, but she protested against the idea, and consented to take up the responsibility of raising the baby; a decision which indirectly prepared her for the future she never envisioned. “I guess that equally makes her my daughter,” she added with a chuckle.
“You are a very nice person,” he gushed. “Not every sister in this present age would give up her life for such a cause. You have shown how humane you are. And I think I love you for that,” he stylishly confessed his feelings with his eyes down the hallway. He tried as much as he could to be indifferent with those lines, but they still came out with some emotions.
Helen scoffed at the thought of giving up her life. If only she has a life to give up, that would have been a well deserved compliment. So she shook it off, trying to match the words with a different meaning. But as she tried, it dawned on her that the interpretation she tried to deny was the correct one.
“Thank you,” she muttered, giving up on her quest for a different meaning for James’ compliment. It was what she wanted after all, what she dreamed of, so she garnered the compliment, hoping it played out in her favour.
PREVIOUSLY: Dawn to Dusk, 24 Hours on Crossroads – Episode 4
Just as she tried relaxing her mind, James took her by the hand and her heart raced, sending goose bumps all over her skin. She felt a light churning in her stomach – a sensational crawling, a tickling in her ribs. Her mouth salivated. She was getting excited and if she was wrong about her notion of James, or showcase her desperation through her rush of emotions, then her plans would be marred, and she would not risk that for anything. So she composed herself, inhaled heavily, and made to withdraw her hand, figuring her need of time and a perfect plan before striking. But James held on tight.
“Do you think the surgery will be successful?” she asked in confusion, trying to ease the tension building up within her.
“You assured me it would; I have no reason to doubt you,” James answered caressing her soft hand.
“Did I?” she asked. “I am not a doctor you know.”
“But you are familiar with children’s emotions.”
“I know, but I am not a medical doctor. So we can only hope so,” she replied and James smiled at her, and placed his other hand on top of hers.
“Your wife, how is she?” The emotions were much for her and she needed to snap him out of it and that was the perfect shot, a great turn off for James: it was the very last thing he expected to hear from someone who lifted his spirit from the troubled valley it had sunken into. He hissed and withdrew his hands from hers.
“She should be fine.”
“Maybe we should check on her,” she suggested, hoping to get rid of all emotions.
He was ready for it maybe, but she wasn’t, and the success of that relationship as she was planning it depended on her ready and well articulated plan. She glanced at James; he was disappointed, clearly shown by his expression. ‘Maybe it is real,’ she thought, feeling the need to apologise for mentioning his wife, but before she could do that, the theatre door opened and Doctor Charles, a young cheerful and always smiling man of same age with James, walked out. James quickly jumped up to him.
“I was looking for you. Have you seen Junior? He is in there for a surgery. Are they done? How did it go?” he threw in all at once.
To be continued next week!
Dawn to Dusk, every Sundays at 13:36hours.