When his arranged marriage went 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-laws, who are lost in the battle of power and authority.
James returned from paying the hospital bill, retrieved his car and as he walked into Junior’s ward he saw Helen playing with Junior, who was giggling softly on the bed, hands in the air. He stood by the door for some time, watching them, unable to control his fast growing love for her. He saw something special and different in her; a spot which always brought him down helplessly but desirably. He coughed, drawing Helen’s attention and that seductive smile he loved. The way her lips coiled into each other pointing inside her mouth could keep him staring at her all day. He stood, peering at her with a broad smile, unconsciously.
“He’s awake,” Helen said, still smiling. “And he looks strong.”
If only James could tell her to at least stop smiling, it would help him concentrate, but he didn’t, because he was enjoying the smile.
Helen was taken unawares, but couldn’t resist giving a wider smile; a smile of confusion. He walked closer to her, held her from behind with his two hands crossed on her belly; he looked down at Junior, who was ransacking the whole room with his eyes, hoping the baritone voice he heard was his father’s. Then he released one of his hands and touched Junior. Junior felt the hand and softly giggled again, and with an assured feeling that the voice was his father’s, he quickly threw his two hands up in the air, waiting for a fatherly hug.
“Sorry Prince,” James said touching his chin. “I cannot carry you right now, but I assure you I will when the time is right,” and shook Junior’s hand.
Helen quickly struggled free of James’ grip and faced him. Looking into his eyes, she saw deep distress. She took a second deep look and saw something different; love, compassion and a burning desire for someone; someone who she couldn’t figure out.
“What are you bothered about?” she asked gently, placing her hands on his shoulders, with James’ hands still on her waist. They stared into each other’s eyes.
“Nothing, my love.” He avoided her eyes by fixing his gaze on his son.
With a little push, she brought his gaze back to her face. “Look into my eyes and tell me nothing,” she pushed his face again as James tried to look away. “You see, you cannot even do it. Your son just woke up and all you did was touch him. It was unusual. I expected you to attempt carrying him and then I would say no.”
James was bewildered. Helen just read his thoughts, accurately. She already could dictate his mood swings, read his countenance, and in a more surprising way interpret them perfectly; while Queen, even after two years together, never understood him enough to know that Oha was his favourite soup, though she never cooked anything well. Now Helen, whom he just started what seemed like a relationship with earlier that day, has by evening mastered his moods and their interpretations. He stared at her harder; the worry in his eyes got overtaken by pure love and passion.
“I can’t stop loving you. You are just an amazing ready-made partner for me. You know my every action, and even my thoughts. And each time you do something like that, I fall even more for you. You brought joy and happiness back into my life and that of my son. I cannot be grateful enough for your kind gestures towards me, and your motherly affection for Junior, even though he is not your son,” James paused.
“So this is where we have the ‘but’,” she said, lips coiled into her mouth; not for a smile, but troubled.
“You see, you have just read my mind again,” he replied with a grin.
“So what is the ‘but’?” she asked morosely, showing in full her worrisome state.
“There is something that bothers me” he said the moment he saw her moody expression.
Helen coughed and dropped her hands from his shoulders. She moved back a little, creating a gateway for the romantic bubbles blowing up in her, which might burst if the speech went negative. Her heart became heavy as she pondered what the end result of that speech might be. She trembled as a slight shiver run down her spine. Her eyes became reddish-brown, a mixture of peace and rage. She did not know what to expect, and neither was James in a haste to spill whatever was in his mind. Her spirit got more troubled, tears mustered in her reddish-brown eyes. She was going to cry with any little provocation. She would have begged James to quickly complete the uninvited speech, but any word from her would involuntarily unleash the ocean building up in her eyes, and she was not ready to cry her way into any man’s heart; though she might just do that for James if he ever said something heartbreaking.
James hissed and looked at his son again. It was obvious he was in a fix as regards to how to present his case to her without hurting her feelings. He loved her and he could bet the feeling was mutual, but there were other critical factors which must be considered if they were ever going to live in peace. “I love you Helen,” he muttered.
“You have said that before,” she interrupted, with all the courage in her, trying hard to restrain the ocean gathering in her eyes. “So what exactly are we gunning for?” she asked with a voice so strong and confident that James assumed everything was fine with her, not knowing the siege that was currently going on in her mind.
“I am still married to Queen; we are not officially divorced, so my father might not give in to my sudden marriage to another woman. And I…”
“We are not getting married this evening,” she cut in. “We have years, beautiful years ahead of us,” she added. What she anticipated was not something terrible, and so she took to fighting, convincing or anything to prove to James that she would keenly wait till he was officially divorced.
“I know but my father will not just give in to this relationship,” he sighed. “And in as much as I don’t want to have anything to do with him again, I still respect and need his blessings for another marriage.”
“What do you want?” she asked with a confidence that concealed her inner feelings. “What do you want to do? Listen to your father forever and keep ending in doom and regret? Who do you want for yourself? Me or her who has not been anything good to you for the past two years? You never loved her, why is that a problem now? And your father doesn’t feed you anymore, so you are old enough to make your own decisions and live by whatever consequences they bring. I am not asking you to disrespect him. But you must make him understand why he can no longer live your life for you. He once did and failed; now it’s your time to make your own choice.” Her speech was emotional and truthful, yet within the narrowest lines of those realism were her struggled effort to keep whatever it was growing between them alive, so she garnished her words with some indirect confession of her love for the man before her. She loved James, always has from the very first time she heard his voice over the phone, and since then, wished and aimed for this, though she never thought the fantasy could ever possibly become reality; but now that it was close to full manifestation, now that she has tasted a bit of her ‘dream-husband’, she was not going to let him slip without putting up at least a little fight.
Her words to James came like thunderstorms of truth, hitting every part of his being, yet he heard even the unspoken words of her mind. Inside him was a strong affection for her, the type he felt only for his ex-fiancée, whom his parents pushed out by forcing Queen on him. It was a determined craving. So hot like fire, blazing him more negatively than positively. He understood her words. He was to be the man of his life, make a decision and stand by it despite whom that might offend. But there was this iota of doubt on what his father’s opinion on the whole thing would be, owing to his father’s relationship with Nnadi. Then the fear on whether Queen would consent to divorce. He knew her, she would rather die than agree to it, and neither would she return home unless he begged her to. And that was something he was not ready to do. So her idea cum advice appeared to him as the hardest decision ever. But one thing was sure; the woman in front of him. He was so convinced of her reality that he would not mind taking her right in that ward. He needed no one to tell him that she was God sent, and no prophecy was needed to know that the feeling was mutual. He smiled heartily at her, though she stood some distance away from him, eyes dull and face scowled.
E.C Michael, a graduate of Theater Arts, is a passionate writer who believes that stories should blend with education so as to help correct social vices in the world. His watchword is edutainment.
He writes screenplays, novels, short stories and essays. When not writing, he is blogging or watching Game of Thrones and Designated Survivor.