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EPISODE 15

It was already one week and no one had caught sight of Jessica or heard of her. The tension was so thick that no one knew what to do anymore. Andy had pulled all the stunts he could with his endless streams of connections, the police were all out, searching for Jessica with pictures of her all over, with a huge amount of money for whoever provides a lead. So many people had called, giving them false leads just for the ransom, and even though Andy always paid the people handsomely, the leads were fruitless. Andy was not worried about the money, not even a bit. He already had more than enough money to last a lifetime and money still comes in every minute. Everything would be in vain to him if Jessica wasn’t found.

Andy had bags under his eyes, due to lack of sleep as he moved himself to the office. He was almost going crazy because as he drove, he continuously scanned faces of the people who walked by. He hadn’t gone to the office ever since Jessica vanished and it took the constant persistence of his best friend to make him decide to go to the office.

“Good Morning sir” a staff member greeted shyly as she batted her eyes. Andy murmured a response, without looking at her and marched into the building, leaving the girl feeling neglected. For the very first time, Andy did not feel like being in his own company building, he was just too worried. The strong aching of his heart was so intense that he did not think that work could take his mind off it.

As he sat behind the table in his extra-wide office, the door to his office opened and Tunji entered. Andy was not sure if seeing his best friend was a welcome development but he just sat there without uttering a word.

“Hey man, what is going on?” Tunji said as a way of greeting.

Andy breathed. “Is it not obvious?”

“Frankly, no. I don’t know why you should bother yourself over that gold-digger.”Andy’s eyebrow shot up, warning. Tunji sighed. “Look man, I was at the party for God’s sake, I heard everything, and I just don’t know why you are so obsessed with finding her after all you heard. I know it must be hard, she is a very stunning woman with an exquisite beauty that can’t be rivaled. She has a temptingly sexy body…” Andy’s eyes narrowed dangerously and Tunji had to pause his analysis.

“I can see you have a clear picture in your head Tunji” Andy dropped sourly.

Tunji blinked and stared at Andy. “Wait a minute; don’t get all jealous, I am just stating the facts. You have to get her off your mind. She does not deserve you”

“Stop this nonsense Tunji; I am the one who does not deserve her. She is hurt and missing and it is my entire fault.”

Tunji looked puzzled.

“Everything that was done and said in the party is a frame up Tunji”

“What does that mean?”

Andy swallowed. “Before I got married to Jessica, we signed a legal agreement to dissolve the wedding after a year, after which I would give her twenty million Naira.”

Tunji whitened. “You are kidding”

“Dad found out and destroyed everything by making Jessie look like the villain. He is obsessed about protecting the family name; couldn’t he think of how Jessica would feel? How disgraceful and humiliating this is? I am at fault; she did not want to agree to this ridiculous plan at first. Christ, I am so screwed up” Andy was pacing.

Tunji was still taking time to process the information he had just heard. Somehow, everything started making sense. Andy’s sudden wedding which sprang up out of nowhere, working during his honeymoon and a host of others.

“I can tell that something must have changed between you two”, he murmured but Andy was silent. “You have developed feelings for her Andy” he stated matter-of factly.

Andy ran his hands through his hair. He exhaled heavily. “Why did dad interfere in this? For the first time in years, I find myself going crazy over a woman but before I can even relax enough to enjoy the blissful sensation, it is ruined.” Andy swallowed. “And now, I don’t even know where she is. What is something had happened to her? What if she did not run away like everyone is making me believe? What if she is worse or worse…” he could not finish that statement. The thought alone was frightening. He clenched his jaw. “I would find her; if it is the last thing I do”

Tunji just stared at Andy. He had never seen Andy so agitated and restless. Andy always posed an indifferent front, no matter the situation but it seems that Jessica had really gotten under his skin. He had found it hard to believe that Jessica was capable of doing what she was accused of at first but later, he had had to accept it, judging by Jessica’s facial expression. Tunji walked to Andy and patted him on the shoulder. “Does she feel the same way you do?” he asked. Before Andy could answer, his phone rang and Andy jumped at it.

“Andy Williams” he said immediately he picked up. “What… Are you sure ma’am…? You are sure you are not making a mistake?”

Tunji looked anxiously at Andy, wondering what all the fuss was about. Andy was looking stupefied.

“Where exactly ma’am” Andy asked, frowned and then nodded distractedly. “I would be there as fast as I can”

“What was that about?” Tunji asked.

“The caller said she just saw Jessica. The place seems odd though”

“Where”

“A cemetery”

“What?” Tunji exclaimed. “I am sure it is false”

“What if it is correct? I am not taking the chance.” Andy picked up his car keys and started walking out.

“Well, wait for me man”

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Jessica sat by the graveyard of her parents. It had been a really terrifying week for her and all she had been able to do was cry. Everywhere she went, she was conscious of people staring at her. Even when they were not really staring at her or when it was obvious that their stare was a result of her beauty, she still did not accept it. Her reputation had been destroyed, her life had just been ruined and it was all her fault. She should never had gotten married for money. It was the most stupid mistake she ever made in her entire life. She had wanted to talk about the contract with Andy but she hadn’t wanted to shatter what they had just started experiencing.

Missing Andy was much more painful than she thought, she had lost her appetite completely and she needed no one to tell her that she had lost weight. She felt lighter and the breeze seemed stronger than usual. It was as though it would sweep her off her feet.

As she sat at the tomb at the cemetery, she shivered as she tried to hold back her tears. She had always hated burial grounds and being there, where several tombs lay, she was terrified but she could not leave. Ever since her parents had been buried, she hadn’t had the courage to visit their tomb, not to mention her brother’s tomb. She did not think she would be able to visit her brother’s tomb, it was just too depressing. She dropped one bouquet of flower on her dad’s tomb and dropped the other on her mum’s tomb. The tears that she held at bay suddenly started rolling down her cheeks. She had cried and cried all week and now, she was surprised that she still had water left in her eyes.

“Oh mum, why did you leave me so soon? Uhn?” she sat at the foot of her mum’s tomb and cried. “Why did you leave your Jessie? I need you so much mum” her hands shook as she held her hand to her mouth slightly, trying to stifle her sob but it was not working. “I am all alone mum. You all betrayed me. You and dad and brother left me all by myself; why did you not take me with you? Why?” She cried and could not control her tears anymore. She cried and cried until she had no strength left in her anymore. All her strength had vanished, coupled with the fact that she hadn’t been eating.

Jessica sagged against the tomb and gasped when she heard her name. She stared at the tomb. “I am hallucinating mum, I am beginning to hear voices. Am I running mad.

“Of course not”

Her head turned instantly and almost fainted when she saw Andy. Her eyes rotated and she could not even place where Andy was standing. She bolted up but her legs could not carry her. She swayed and vaguely felt Andy’s arms catching her. “Drew”, she breathed inaudibly and passed out.

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A splitting headache woke Jessica up and she winced. She felt heavy and boneless. Andy was beside her and she realised that she hadn’t been dreaming. He looked weak and lean. Guilt overtook her instantly because she knew that her departure would have affected Andy but she couldn’t even think about that then. She still would not think about it now.

“Oh Jess” Andy breathed and then it all came rushing back like a tidal wave, hitting Jessica and making her shiver. She suddenly wanted to cry.

It seemed like an eternity had passed and having to hear Andy’s voice again was so unbearable.

“Drew” she whispered.

Andy kissed her eyes, kissing away her tears and running kisses all over her face before kissing her mouth, long and deep. He had watched her sleep, scanning every inch of her body to be sure she was OK.

“Oh my God Jess, I have almost gone crazy. Why did you do this to me honey” he kissed her. “Come on, you must eat something, you look so thin” Andy was searching for what to say.

“I have to go Andy” Jessica said immediately and jumped up instantly even though her body was a bit heavy.

Andy frowned deeply. “What does that mean?” He grabbed Jessica’s hand as she made for the door. “I would not let you leave Jess”.

Jessica closed her eyes briefly and swallowed. “I want a divorce, Andy”.

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