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Episode 13

Jack smiled widely, wider than he had done in months. He was trying hard to look as harmless and as innocent as he possibly could. His mood, the day he had rescued Lara had almost given him away and he hoped he could present a harmless front today. Well, it was obvious, even to him that he had a quite arresting look and could sway any woman he wanted but as he stared at Lara, who returned his irresistible smile with a firm, steady glare, he knew that he would have to bank on other things than his looks. He smiled internally. Maybe some of the charm he learnt in movies would work.

Walking fully into the room, he smiled at the other two ladies, gawking at him and approached them. He definitely knew them from his extensive study of Lara’s movements. “Hello ladies” he flashed them his brightest smile. “I surely have not had the delight of meeting you” he said to the taller and slimmer one of the two.

She grinned in response. “Oh, I am Teresa” she said, hoping from one foot to the other, as she stretched her hand for a handshake.

Jack held the rose flower in his left hand and used his right hand to lift Teresa’s hand to his mouth for a chaste kiss. Teresa nearly melted in his arms as she blushed. “You have a lovely name Teresa” he said with a smile.

With that, he turned to the next lady. This one was not grinning like Teresa, she had a questioning look on her face as she stared at him. Mentally, he noted that he would have to be careful with this particular one. She seemed like the one to go through extra length to ensure that her friend doesn’t get hurt. “Am I not too lucky? I’ve got the pleasure of being with three stunning ladies. May I know you miss” he tried to look as harmless and polite as possible.

She looked at him for several seconds, saying nothing, still with her smile in place. “Bola” she answered shortly.

He gave her hand the same treatment he did with Teresa and he could swear that he saw a faint blush creep up her pale cheeks.

“It is nice to meet you ladies, I am Jack Andrews” he said. When he turned back to Lara, her frown seemed to have deepened and her anger doubled. “You do look more ravishing than you did some days back honey” he murmured, referring to her less than palatable appearance from the bush. “I must say, this rose flower pales in comparison with your beauty” he said as he stretched the rose flower towards her. “This is for you”

Lara folded her arms across her chest in a defiant manner. Her chin came up in a stubborn thrust. “Why don’t you take your miserable flower and shove it down your throat uhn? It looks just as worthless as you definitely are” she spat, then turned and marched out of the sitting room, towards her room. “You can see yourself out when you are done, and I sincerely hope you never soil my vision with your presence again” Lara threw, over her shoulder.

Anger fuelled her steps as she marched into her bedroom and slammed the door shut. She paced the room several times, shaking with rage. “What effrontery!” She yelled. So, Jack had the audacity to face her. She could not understand anything. Jack rescued her barely two days ago, saw her father and asked for her hand in marriage! What sort of man marries the woman he only met for a day?

Lara picked up her novel and lay on her side as she wrenched it open. She stared at the lines on the novel, not seeing anything. Anger bubbled in her till it turned to paste. Suddenly, her door opened and closed. She hissed aloud, knowing it would be Teresa and Bola.

“I hope he has gone” Lara murmured, not facing the door.

“No, he hasn’t” Jack’s voice echoed.

Lara jumped out of the bed in a flash. “What… what are you doing here? Get out of my room, this instant”

“I came to take you out for lunch, I wouldn’t leave without you” Jack responded, smiling slightly.

“You are crazy… you hear me? Completely crazy, if you think I would go anywhere with you. What gave you the audacity to come into my bedroom, invading my privacy? Get out! Get out or I scream” she yelled.

Jack walked fully into the room, with the rose flower still in his hand. “I don’t think you would.” He said as his eyes travelled round the room. “You have a lovely room” he murmured, walked over to the flower vase he saw, sitting on a table and stuck the rose flower in it. “Doesn’t it look just lovely there” he commented as the red petal of the flower added another sparkle to the bunch of flower in the vase.

“Get out of my bedroom Mr. Andrews” Lara said, adding a warning tone to her voice.

“I would prefer you call me Jack, it seems we would be spending a lot of time together from now on, there is no need to be formal”

“What you prefer and what you don’t is none of my damn business” Lara yelled at him. “Oh, I can see my father has not given you the breaking news Mr Opportunist” she said, with a tight smile. “I am NOT getting married to you”, she spelled it out slowly. “Not now and certainly, not ever; you would have to kill me first, and even when I am dead, my spirit would never allow the wedding to hold. So you better take the hint now and stop dreaming about becoming the in-law of a governor because frankly, it would only happen in your dreams.”

Jack smiled tightly and ran his fingers over his hair. “You are a stubborn woman; we would have to work on that if we would be getting married”

Lara hissed. “I can see that you have gone partially deaf; I. Am. Not. Getting. Married. To. You” she drawled. “Read my lips, it would never happen”

A devilish smile touched Jack’s face as his eyes dropped to her lips. “You have very beautiful lips” Lara froze. Jack held her gaze as he moved a few steps closer. “They seem to be made for kissing”

Lara blinked and stepped back before Jack could get too close. “Get out! Get out or I scream. I swear to you, I would scream rape and even my father that you rely on wouldn’t be able to save you from me. Don’t try me”

“You wouldn’t” Jack dared again.

Lara’s face broke into a smile. “Watch me!” she grabbed Jack’s expensive suit and clung to him. “HEEEELLLP” she screamed on top of her lungs. “SOMEBODY HELP” she screamed.

Jack grabbed her shoulder and tried to shove her off as anger crept up his face. The door jumped open as Bola and a guard rushed in. That was fast, Lara thought, knowing that Bola must have been waiting close by. She let go of Jack’s cloth as she staggered to the back, looking as wounded as she could manage. “Please get him out of here” she said in a shaky voice. “He came into my bedroom suddenly and started harassing me” she put a slim hand on her chest, looking quite faint.

“Oh my God Lara” Bola breathed as she went to pull Lara into her arms. “I knew we should never have allowed him into your bedroom, forgive me Larrypop” she turned fiercely towards Jack who was fuming and glared at him. “Guard, would you get this man out before I do something really nasty to him?” she spat out.

As she talked, Teresa entered, looking confused. “What is going on?” she asked.

No one responded as the guard turned towards Jack. An uncomfortable look crossed the guard’s face as he stared at Jack, then he murmured. “I’m afraid you have to leave now sir”

Jack glared at him and turned to stare at Lara for some seconds. He nodded and followed the guard out. Teresa closed the door behind them and came fully into the room. “What just happened in here?” Teresa asked Bola and Lara.

Lara squared her shoulder. “Exactly what would continue to happen if he continues to dream of marrying me!” She returned as she climbed back into bed and picked up her novel. Her fingers were shaking. Something about Jack is so unsettling, she thought to herself as she gazed blindly at the novel.

*****
*****

“Mum” Lara said in exasperation. “Are you honestly not going to do anything about this?” she just couldn’t understand this. Why wouldn’t her mother support her for once? Why on earth would she support all her father’s motions even when she seemed to despise him?

“Lara, all I am saying is that you consider this Jack at least” Sewa said. “He is financially stable and seems to be a very good man”

“And how would you know that? You haven’t even met the man” Lara countered.

“But he gave you a lift when you were kidnapped, right?”

“Oh, stop it mum; all he did was to give me a lift, nothing more. It is not like he charged into the hideaway like a knight in shining armor to rescue me; he did what anyone would have done. Frankly, I am beginning to wonder” Lara played with her bottom lip gently as her brain went on overdrive. “It seems odd that he rescued me one day and asked for my hand in marriage the next day. Honestly mum, that is totally suspicious”

Sewa shook her head and sank onto her bed, smoothening the sheets with her fingers. “That is an ambitious man for you. They don’t waste time in seeking what they want. Your father was the one that gave him the opening by giving him his private card. This Jack merely made use of the opportunity to seek your father’s consent, besides; it is not every day you get to sit in the same office as the governor”

Lara shook her head bitterly. What her mother was saying made sense, but one thing was clear. “Even if that is the case, he did not ask for my hand out of any special feelings. He is nothing but an opportunist”

“A handsome one, I am sure” Sewa said with a smile.

Lara turned to her mother with a frown. “And how would you know that mum, you haven’t even met him”

Sewa laughed. “I heard about your encounter with him two days ago. I must give it to him; he is a very daring man. You have been on the edge ever since. Who knows, you might end up falling in love with him”

Now, it was Lara’s turn to laugh, however, the laughter was a bit forced. “You don’t get it mum, I already loathe him. He came into my bedroom two days without my consent, totally disrespecting me in my father’s house. To him, I am nothing more than a means to an end and that makes him no different from every other man I have come across. No one has ever loved me for me, am I that bad? Am I that unlovable?”

Sewa’s face sobered as she watched Lara struggle with her emotions for some seconds. “Don’t say that dear”

Lara blinked and took a deep breath. “It is fine. I am fine. Dad would not force someone on me against my will, especially not Mr. Andrews”.

*****
*****

One week after the fiasco with Jack, Lara was at her breaking point. Her father had done everything humanly possible to frustrate her life. She shop she had rented and paid for had been destroyed with the little equipment she put inside. Her father had ordered the security never to allow her friends in. Lara had pretty much been locked in, all because she refused to accept Jack. Lara had cried herself to sleep every day. If only she had parents who considered her happiness over money…

Lara poured herself a glass of cold orange juice from the refrigerator and headed back to her room. It was already dark but she was still in the short gown she wore for the day. Maybe after a glass of cold juice, she might as well immerse herself in her bath tub and drown, she thought bitterly.

As she made to open her bedroom door, she caught the glimpse of a moving shadow ahead and stopped. The material that she saw looked like the one that her mother had worn the other day. She smiled as she watched the form walk towards the secret door; maybe her mother needed a little break from the chaos and tension in the house. Lara smiled. Well, maybe could have a little adventure too. God knows she needed to relieve her stress somehow, and what better way to do it than to do a little sneaking around. She grinned as her secondary school ‘adventurous spirit’ took over her.

She drank her juice halfway and dropped the remaining glass of juice on the floor. She looked at her feet; she was in small flat slippers. She knew that they were soundless but she still took them off. She tip-toed after her mother, being as careful as she could manage. When they finally got out of the house, she put on her slippers and waited for her mother to go far before following briskly. She wanted to know what her mother did to unwind. She needed to see her mother outside the four walls of the government house; maybe she would understand the mystery that is her mother! She walked and walked, turning every time her mother turned. Out in the open, it was harder to stay hidden, especially since her mother looked over her shoulders intermittently, like she didn’t want anyone to recognize her. As they progressed and her mother didn’t seem to be stopping, Lara had the gut feeling that she was about to come upon a dark secret.

After more than twenty minutes of walking, Lara was already tired. Her mother was not stopping. Where could she be going? Lara looked around. She had never been to that vicinity more than twice, and those two times were just in passing. Why would her mother go so far from the government house?

Finally, Lara noticed her mother turning into a building. She hastened her steps but a deep frown crossed her face. The building before her seemed to be abandoned. More or less like a hotel which was not in use. Was her suspicion correct? Could her mother be seeing a man?

Driving away idle thoughts, she went into the building, but couldn’t see her mother anymore. It was really dark, and the building didn’t seem to have lights. Her eyes had however adjusted to the darkness, but how would she find her mother?

*****
*****

Sewa walked down the passage and entered a room at the far end. She closed the door firmly and her eyes fell on the man staying at the far end of the room. “I told you not to call me again Sword” Sewa said instantly. “Do you know how risky it is to sneak out of the house unnoticed? Our deal has been concluded, what else do you want?”

Sword seemed to sigh. “I am sorry; I just want to warn you”

Sewa froze. “About what? What is wrong?”

He walked towards her, his damaged face glowing as a candle burned in the room to give a little illumination. “I hear your husband is forcing a man on your daughter” he said quietly.

Sewa frowned as she looked at him. “How did you know that?”

Sword’s mouth broke into a smile which did nothing to aid his face. “Nothing is hidden from me.” He stated, then his face turned serious. “She must not marry that man”

Sewa frowned deeply now. “Why not? Who are you to determine who my daughter will or will not marry?” she returned haughtily.

Sword opened his mouth to answer but he didn’t get to say anything. The door of the room busted open and, like one of those scenes in Indian movies, the intruder stood frozen at the entrance. Gasps went round with the loudest coming from the person at the door. Sewa staggered, Sword stood rooted to the ground like an immovable rock but the person at the entrance, staring at them seemed to have expired on her feet.

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