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Bello’s eyes bore into Hannah’s as silence reigned in the room, only doused by their individual racing heartbeats. Mrs. Bello stared in confusion and agitation at Hannah as her head pounded painfully. She had known Hannah a very long time ago; she used to work in the family hospital they used. She had always been a friendly nurse and Katherine had always loved it whenever Hannah attended to her in the hospital. What she could not understand though was what this awkward gathering was all about. She turned to Alex, then looked at Hannah and her husband in total confusion. “Son?” she asked in total bewilderment. “Her son?” she breathed again. “What does that mean?”
“You surely are not asking me, are you?” Alex barked at Mrs. Bello.
“You would show some respect young man” Mr. Bello took his eyes off Hannah to roar at Alex.
“Oh, please dad. Spare me all that and explain what this woman is talking about”
Mr. Bello looked at Hannah again. “Hannah…” he called. “What is going on?” he asked uncomfortably.
“I… I am sorry Bello”
“Sorry?” Katherine asked, bewildered. “What is she talking about Bello?” she gasped out. “What is she sorry about?”
Mr. Bello’s brain was racing beyond control. “I have no idea…” he turned to fix Hannah a firm glare. “What is this? Do you want to destroy my family? Explain yourself this instant” he barked, already getting upset.
Hannah shifted and walked slowly towards Mr. Bello. “I am sure you remember what happened over thirty years ago Bello” she started, shifting nervously. Mr. Bello froze, looking pale.
“What… B… But… But you…” Mr. Bello stammered as his heart pounded.
“What the hell is going on?” Katherine Bello screamed on top of her lungs. She grabbed Bello’s shirt. “Explain what this woman is talking about”
“He can’t” Hannah said suddenly, swallowing slightly. “He doesn’t know”
Mrs. Bello turned furious eyes at Hannah. “Now listen to me Hannah, you had better not make me lose my patience before you start explaining.”
Alex leaned anxiously against the wall, watching everything play out before him.
Hannah swallowed, refusing to meet anyone’s gaze as she stared at the ground like there was something terribly spectacular about it. “Bello came to me over thirty years ago and-”
“Stop! Hannah! Please don’t do this” the senator grated out in agitation, looking at his wife painfully.
“I have to; I am sorry” Hannah said breathlessly. She did not look at Mrs. Bello as she continued. “He came to me years back and asked for a favour” she raised watery eyes to the stunned frozen face of Mrs. Bello. “He was so much in love with you but when his family started asking for a grandchild and you couldn’t give him one, even after three years, he was stressed over the pressure being mounted on you” she paused, swallowed and continued. “When you both came to the hospital for check-up, the doctor shocked him by telling him that you.. That you were infertile”
“What?” Mrs. Bello gasped out, then turned to her husband, who had started pacing nervously. “Infertile? Bello! How can i be? You never told me that!” she exclaimed.
“He couldn’t tell you” Hannah cut in before the senator could answer. “The doctor told him that there is a high chance you might not be able to conceive and he didn’t know how to break the news to you. He was already under pressure from his family to provide a grandchild and they were planning on getting another wife for him. I saw him as he was leaving, looking dejected, then… then he asked me…” she raised her worried eyes at Mr. Bello’s grave ones and swallowed hard. “He asked me to bear him a child.” She dropped.
Mrs. Bello gasped, pale faced.
“What is the meaning of this Hannah” Mr. Bello barked as Alex started pacing furiously. “We didn’t go through with it, so why are you bringing this up now?” he asked menacingly.
Hannah smiled drily. “That is what I made you believe” she said and faced Alex’s pacing form. “One month three weeks after we made the arrangement, I discovered I was pregnant. I was about to tell you when you stunned me with the news that your wife had taken in. It was the most shocking news I have ever heard. Apparently, the doctor had been wrong in his diagnosis; he gave him the report of another patient.” A cold dread settled on everyone as the story became clearer. “I didn’t want to scatter your home with the news of my pregnancy, so I kept the pregnancy hidden.” Mr. Bello turned pale as sheet as Hannah wiped the tears that slipped out of her eyes with impatient hands.
“Lord have mercy!” Alex bit out and ran his palms over his face.
“I carried the pregnancy without letting him know but… but…”
“But what?” Mr. Bello barked. He did not like this at all; it was the most shocking news he had ever heard. He always hated injustice, he couldn’t believe he had left a woman carrying his baby alone to fend for herself. How could Hannah have made a bad person out of him?
Hannah looked round in agitation as more tears flowed. “I am sorry… I am so sorry. I never meant to cause you all so much pain, I was trying to protect you from it and keep you all happy”
“But what?” Alex roared, throwing his hands up in the air in anger.
Hannah swallowed and dropped her eyes to the floor again. “Nine months after, when I put to bed, I was in my ward with my baby when…” her fingers fidgeted with her gown. “…when Katherine was brought in, in labor. I didn’t know anything until a fellow nurse came into the room and…” tears slipped off her eyes as she raised guilty eyes to Mr. Bello who looked terribly tense. She took a deep breath and continued stiffly. “…she told me that you…” she turned her watery gaze on Katherine. “…that you had lost the… baby”
Dead silence greeted the stunning revelation. Even Alex stopped his pacing to stare dumbfounded at Hannah. Katherine looked like she might faint soon as her sausage-large eyes stared at Hannah in complete bewilderment. Mr. Bello on the other hand seemed to be carved out of stone as he stood rooted to the ground, looking murderously at Hannah.
Hannah squirmed and hastily continued. “I couldn’t bear the thought that such a loving couple would again be plunged into a state of childlessness, after so much hope, so… so I… so I did the hardest thing I have ever done” she wiped at her tears which was gushing out now. “I had the doctor give you my… child”
“That’s a lie” Katherine shrieked as she grabbed Hannah, shaking the frail woman like a ragged doll. “You lie… you lie… Alex is my son! MY SON” she screamed.
Alex turned on his heels and stormed out of the room, slamming the door so hard, it almost came off its hinges.
“Alex” Mr. Bello called, going after him, but Alex was too fast, he vanished into the safety of the elevator before the senator could catch up. Swallowing hard, Mr. Bello returned to the room with a grave look on his face. Katherine turned her assault on him, catching his smug shirt in her clenched fists. “How could you Bello?” she grated out. “How could you do this to me” Crying profusely, she used all her strength to shake the immovable Senator. “I have spent years begging you for my mistakes, yet you did something this to me and hid it… you did this to me…” she slammed her palm on his chest furiously. “How can you?”
“I never knew Kate” Mr. Bello said in frustrated anger as he grabbed Katherine by the shoulders, trying to calm her down.
“Leave me…” she cried, leaving her husband to fall into a heap on the floor. “I threw away my daughter for a child that isn’t even mine…” she gasped out as her tears flowed ceaselessly. “Oh my God!” she buried her head in her open palms as she cried her eyes out.
Amara was having a really good day. She had woken up in the morning with a huge smile on her face, just remembering the previous night with Kelvin. He had made her laugh just like old times, and as much as she had tried to remain passive, Kelvin was unrelenting, bring up good memories he knew could bring a smile to her face and telling her jokes. Amara didn’t realize how much she had missed laughing until yesterday; she had laughed with carefree abandon and she had only Kelvin to thank for that. It had been stunning to find out that he was the brain behind Reliance. It was even disgraceful that she hadn’t known earlier, even Kelvin had been stunned at her ignorance. Apparently, Kelvin had assumed that she knew of his presence in Lagos but had chosen to avoid him. But Amara hadn’t known. She had unknowingly brought her coldness into the business world. Amara hadn’t had a cause to deal with Reliance, just like she hadn’t with Bracket, so she had never researched into them. Finding out that Kelvin was actually the founder of famous ‘Reliance’ was shocking, to say the least. Reliance hadn’t only taken over the state , where estate management is concerned, it had spread its tentacles beyond the state, to other states.
After spending the previous night with kelvin, Amara had resumed work with a warm smile on her face. The short white skirt and firm multicolored shirt she had on contrasted perfectly with her skin, giving her a dazzling look, but that was not what made the difference. She had let down her hair, for the first time, packing the upper part in a half ponytail style, letting the hair at the back fall freely over her shoulders. Her staff was probably wondering what the change was all about, Amara mused. That is none of my business, besides, I have had Tega’s snide comments to deal with. Amara smiled vaguely. She checked the time on her watch, noting with some disappointment that the day would be coming to an end soon. She checked Ara P’s mailbox again, then closed it. She leaned her back against her chair and closed her eyes. She felt the door open silently but she didn’t bother opening her eyes. “It seems we are in the season of fine men boss” Tega said. “And they are all after you; can’t say I am not jealous”
Amara smiled without opening her eyes. “Oh Tega, I think you would do better if you open a male modeling firm; that way you can sample so many fine men at the same time”
“I just might think about it” Tega said with a smile in her voice. “A handsome man is here to see you though”
“I guessed so, and without an appointment right? Who is he”
“Alex Bello” Amara jerked forward instantly, her eyes flying open, not just at the mention of the name but also from the voice that said it. Amara’s head pounded widely as she suddenly developed a splitting headache. She suddenly was where she was more than six years ago, in the hospital where she bid a final farewell to Alex Bello. Silence enveloped their senses as Amara stared unbelievably at Alex. Tega turned angrily to face Alex, who was standing behind her. “I never told you to come in sir” she bit out, turning to stare worriedly at her boss. Tega had watched her boss pale before someone last week but not like this. She could see wild shock and terror in the face of her boss. She swallowed angrily as her anger grew against the man at the entrance. She had just started seeing her boss for the first time, she could not allow this man to destroy that with his presence.
Alex ignored Tega as he stared at Amara. “Hello Amara” he said. If he had thought she looked outstanding in that picture, seeing her live was totally breathtaking. He wondered how he had totally relegated her to the state of a naïve village girl. The woman before him looked sophisticated and regal; the sort of woman any man would take delight in flaunting about. Apart from the time he heard that he had actually married and impregnated his sister, nothing had ever shocked him as much as the news he heard this morning had. It had shaken him to the bones. But as he rushed out of the hotel room and roamed the tedious streets of Lagos, he had weirdly noted the positive note of the entire discovery.
Amara opened her mouth and closed it, repeating the motion several times as she gripped the arms of her chair. Tega shifted uncomfortably, then turned to the man. “I think it is best you leave here sir, your presence is not welcome” she said authoritatively.
Alex brushed past her, entering the office fully. Tega watched as Amara blinked, trying to bring herself back to life. She noted that she had never seen her boss this pale. “Would you like me to call security boss?” she asked, concerned.
Amara vaguely heard Tega but she could not piece together the meaning of what she said. Her heartbeat was pounding in her ears so loud, every other sound was a mere distant whisper. As Alex approached however, her brain came alive and her mouth moved unexpectedly, with her voice ringing out crystal clear, disguising the terror she felt at coming in contact with the main bane of her past. “What misfortune brought you here Alex?” she dropped icily, her excitement for the day vanishing as she glared at Alex. She shouldn’t have given him the benefit of seeing her stunned frozen face, she thought.
“I had to see you Amara; it has been years” Alex said, noting her cold tone.
“I wouldn’t want to see you even if centuries passed by; get out of my office” she barked, climbing to her feet with enough force to send her force reeling back.
“You heard her sir” Tega added, bringing their notice to her presence. Alex turned to glare at her.
“Are you not a secretary? I wonder what you are still doing in your boss’ office when she is attending to a guest” Alex yelled at her.
“Who the hell gave you the right to talk to Tega like that?” Amara barked at him then put a smug smile on her face. “I see Alex, you are still the self-obsessed stupid fool you were right? Very well!” She turned to Tega and smiled pleasantly at her. “Please excuse us Tega, I would call you if I need you” she said.
Tega noted the cynical smile on Amara’s face then reluctantly turned, fixing Alex with a firm glare before stalking out of the office.
Immediately the door closed, Amara smiled. “What are you doing here?” she asked again. “Wait! Where are my manners?” she gestured as though in self-chastisement. “What may I offer you dear brother?” she drawled with sharp emphasis on the title. “I can see all the wines in the mansion aren’t enough to quench your thirst” she said, making no move towards the fridge.
“You can cut off the smugness Amara, I am not your brother” he said as he dropped into a chair.
Amara smiled widely. “Oh No? Oh Alex, don’t tell me that you forgot the words of your loving mother so easily. How can you manage ‘The Bello’s Crow’ with such a forgetful mind? I won’t be surprised if you bring your father’s company down to the state of bankruptcy”
Alex didn’t even react to her words as his eyes took on a downturn, looking pained and dreamy. “I found out this morning. Mrs. Bello isn’t my birthmother” he dropped and Amara’s smile slipped and faded completely.
“What nonsense are you talking about?” Amara asked, bewildered as she processed the meaning of what she was hearing.
“I knew there is a reason why I have been thinking about you; why I couldn’t get you out of my mind”
Amara frowned. “Oh, I never was in your mind alright. The only thing that might occupy your feeble mind is lust. Now, if you would take your two-time lying self out of my office, I won’t have my past disturbing my present” she said sternly with a firm glare.
“I am not lying, we are not related”
“Enough!” Amara yelled instantly. She couldn’t even begin to consider the fact that she had been loathing herself over something that isn’t real. “Get out” she yelled. “Get out of my office this instant” she screamed on top of her lungs, willing her sharp voice to drive away the ridiculous thought from her brain.
The door jerked open instantly and there stood Maxwell. “I heard screaming” he explained. His eyes took about two seconds to look at Amara before his gaze swept over to Alex who stood glowering at the intruder. Maxwell’s arrogance was firmly matched by Alex’s as they stared down at each other, both wanting to prove their superiority. Despite his arrogance, Maxwell’s sweet always-smiling face could not pull off the fierce look to make a fellow man squirm. It might have been different with a woman, who would fall under his charming, almost beautiful face. Weirdly, Amara wondered what it would have been like if Kelvin had come in instead. His intense stare would definitely have made the almighty Alex squirm uncomfortably.
Maxwell stared at the scene before him, recognizing Alex instantly as the son of a Senator, but he’ll be damned if he allowed the man the benefit of knowing that he recognized him. He didn’t need a sorcerer to tell him there is some sort of history between Amara and the man. Remembering one trick he had seen Kelvin use often, he drew himself to his full height, which didn’t really make a different, considering the fact that Alex was similarly tall. But he raised his head and looked at him through his lashes, assuming a dominating stance. “And who is this?” he asked, pretending ignorance. He saw that the remark had its desired effects as the man’s face pulled up furiously.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Amara walk briskly, with firm determination towards him. “No one of consequence” Amara answered, then dramatically placed a sweet smile on her face. “You always have the knack for showing up whenever I need you darling” she said and stunned Maxwell the more by wrapping her arms around him and placing a firm kiss on his frozen lips.
“Who the hell is this Amara?” Alex boomed behind her, boiling with rage.
She turned to him with her arms still firmly wrapped around Maxwell. “Really Alex? You really are not paying attention to the business world; I pity your father’s company. This is the owner of Bracket – Maxwell Babs” she said winningly. “He is my fiancé” she dropped.