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EPISODE 17

Lara opened the door and dropped on the seat beside Jack in the car, closing the door firmly. She didn’t have to say anything, no words were relevant but even if they were, she didn’t have any relevant words to offer. Without any words exchanged, Jack pulled the car out of the drive and drove into the road. Not wanting to see the physical representation of her confused state, Lara turned her face to the window numbly, looking at everyone and everything the car bypassed. Envy filled her as she watched the passersby. They seemed so peaceful, so content; so… normal! Why couldn’t she have that kind of life? A life devoid of worries and anxieties… a life lived on her own terms. Why was she always at the crossroad where every decision made would change her life one way or another? People always said that the rich were without problems. If only they knew, Lara thought bitterly. If only people knew that the money rich people possessed in excess was also the hallmark of their problems! Even the roadside traders seemed more peaceful; perhaps they are. They seem content with their humble life. If only she had been born into a humble family, maybe she would have had the chance at a normal life and things wouldn’t be so complicated. But no! she had been born into a family which gave precedence to wealth and fortune, and for material benefits, her parents had been willing to sacrifice her safety and happiness. Could she be like them? Would she marry Jack only because of her selfish interests? It would be incredibly easy for her to accept his marriage proposal, have all she had ever wanted – freedom from her father’s claws, the profession of her dreams and security. But what about love? Sure Jack had said he cared about her and wanted her to be happy and all, he was offering her safety and freedom from her father, including the fulfillment of her dreams, but was he offering her love? More importantly, could she offer him love?

Lara turned her head away from the window to stare at Jack as he drove. He looked tense as he gripped the wheels. Veins protruded from the arms holding the steering and his jaw seemed clenched tight. He looked powerful, fearful and downright dangerous, but isn’t that what makes him look more attractive? All things put together, Jack was probably one of the most handsome and striking man she had ever met, even the small scar at the edge of his mouth did not make him less handsome. Yes, she had met many men who were incredibly good-looking, handsome to the point where they almost looked unreal, but Jack had this edginess which she still could not understand.  She had always loved a mysterious man, they were the best heroes in her numerous romance novels. He has a dark side, Lara thought. She knew marriage to him would protect her from any external attack. Sitting with him alone made her feel safe, but would he be able to protect her from himself? Lara shook her head and sighed, closing her eyes briefly.

“Where should I take you? My place or yours?”

The question had this silent unspoken inquisition attached to it. Going to his place would mean she was accepting his proposal and going to her place would mean she was refusing. Lara swallowed. “Take me to my friend’s place – Bola” she answered, then opened her eyes to look at him. His eyes were fixed on the road but he turned his head towards her. “I need time… to think”

He swallowed and nodded, turning back to the road. “You can have all the time you need” he responded. “Where does your friend stay?”

Lara gave him the descriptions to Bola’s place and he drove on wordlessly. “Can I use your phone?” she asked, taking it before he even answered.

A faint smile touched Jack’s lips. “I don’t think you are waiting for my response”

Lara smiled at him. “I didn’t take you for a stingy man” she replied as she dialed Teresa’s number on Jack’s phone. “Hey Terry” she said immediately the phone was answered. Teresa didn’t have to ask who was speaking, this made Lara smile. If the world turned against her, Lara knew she could always bank on her friends.

“Larrypop!” Teresa yelled into Lara’s eardrums, causing her to wince slightly. “Where have you been? Mumcy called this morning saying you were nowhere to be found, I thought someone had kidnapped you again. Where are you?” Teresa ranted, giving Lara no chance to interject.

Lara chuckled. “I am not kidnapped Teresa, I am fine. Can you meet me at Bola’s? I’m on my way there now”

“Aaaannd… whose phone are you using uhn?” Teresa drawled.

Lara grinned and shook her head. “Just meet me at Bola’s place, naughty girl” she said and hung up. She dropped the phone with a smile still playing on her face. Teresa was the most corrupt soul of the three of them.

“I would love to see you smile like this all the time”

Lara stilled and turned to Jack who had turned his head away from the road to study her. His eyes were so intense, penetrating her and making her feel uncomfortable. She swallowed. His eyes seemed darker. Could that be because they were in the car? Not able to think of any sensible response to give his comment, Lara took a deep breath and looked away, enduring the uncomfortable silence for the rest of the journey.

*****
*****

Bola rushed out of her apartment immediately the car pulled to a stop. Lara wondered how Bola knew she was coming but thought Teresa might have called her or still, Bola might have seen her through the window. She opened the door and got out. Honestly, she envied her friends. They had their own apartments but she? She was still stuck in her father’s house, being controlled like a two years old kid. With each passing minute, Jack’s proposition was sounding more enticing.

Lara got out of the car as Bola got closer. “Oh Lara, the only thing I have been doing lately is worrying about you” she stated as she placed her arms akimbo. “Would you be sensible enough to take your phone with you the next time you go missing?”

Lara smiled softly. “Yes ma”

Bola hissed. “Don’t ‘Yes ma’ me” she snapped. “You got us all worried. I must call your mum now to tell her you are okay”

Lara sobered. She didn’t want to think of her mother right now. Even after sleeping over it, the pain of what her mother had done still tore at her heart. Could she tell her friends what her mother had done? She swallowed. She almost never hid secrets from them but she knew she would not be able to tell them… yet.

Bola turned her head and, for the first time, noticed Jack. Her left eyebrow went up as she looked from Jack to Lara. “Hello there Jack”

Jack was unsmiling, in fact, he seemed angry. Would she ever understand his mood swings? Lara wondered. “Hi” Jack answered shortly, giving a short ghost of a smile. “I would be on my way now” he said impatiently.

Lara turned to him and gave him one of those smiles which she knew always had their effects. “Thank you”

Jack nodded, said a brief ‘goodbye’ to Bola and walked back to his side of the car, fired the engine and started pulling out. Bola watched the car pull away with a suspicious look on her face. Lara sighed internally. Just when she thought she would have a bit of peace, she realized that she had been dreaming for things way beyond her reach.

Bola turned her eyes to her when Jack’s car vanished from view, folding her arms beneath her bosom. “I thought you didn’t want anything to do with him” she accused.

Lara sighed. “I thought you would be more hospitable and invite me inside” she returned.

Teresa had never chosen a better time to make an appearance. Lara smiled as Teresa’s car pushed its way into the compound. The car came to a stop and Teresa jumped out almost immediately, looking as sexy as ever.

“Is that not ‘handsome guy’ I saw driving out of here?”

Lara deflated. Not again! She shook her head and turned, marching into Bola’s apartment with her two friends fast at her heels, bombarding her with all sort of questions. The two women could be so annoying, but then, they were the only balancing factors in her crazy world.

*****
*****

Sewa Banks paced her bedroom, deep in thought. Teresa had called earlier, telling her that Lara was fine and would be with her soon; that alone put her mind at rest on some levels. She still had to worry about getting her daughter’s forgiveness and by doing that, she would have to tell her many things, things she had hidden from her daughter; not only because Tunji had forbidden her but because she was totally ashamed. How could she admit to her own daughter that she had forsaken her family and gotten married to Tunji for selfish benefits? She had been young, naïve and stupid. Tunji had made her choose between him and her family and she had been so blinded by material benefits, she went with the choice which suited her the most. She had forsaken her family because she could not imagine herself continuing with the life of absolute lack she was living with her family. She chose Tunji and all ties with her family were severed. Tunji forbade him from having anything to do with them, saying that he married her and not her family. Many times, Sewa had tried to help her family discretely but they never accepted anything she offered. They had refused all her gifts and frustrated all her efforts at helping them. But now… Now, she would not sit back and watch her father die! Not when she could do something to prevent it.

Sewa took a deep breath as she tapped her phone in contemplation. She had to be careful! If Tunji found out, she would be in big trouble. She swallowed and dialed a number on her phone, pacing as she waited. The phone was answered on the third ring. “Manager” she said immediately she heard his voice. “Yes, good day. I need your help…” she murmured and waited for him to respond. “I need to make an anonymous deposit into someone’s account… no, it is a large amount of money…” she murmured and swallowed as she listened, keeping her eyes glued to the door to be sure no one bumped in on her unannounced. “I can’t leave this place; that is the issue” she said to her bank manager. “I need the transfer done and I need your help”

She listened and smiled, heaving a sigh of relief. “Thank you. I would send you the details”

*****
*****

Lara and her friends sat in Bola’s sitting room, all holding a bowl, munching on the remains of Bola’s cornflakes. Lara had told them all about Jack’s discussion with her the previous night and the shop he showed her, carefully covering up her reasons for leaving home in the first place.

“So, handsome guy is really serious about this marriage thing” Teresa said with a smile. “How did you get so lucky?”

Bola glared at her. “Lucky? I think all this is creepy” she spat out with a frown.

“Oh, c’mon Bollywood, you think everything is creepy” Teresa countered with a raised eyebrow.

Bola hissed. “Think about it: the guy follows her around, showed up at the Boutique where we stupidly thought he was seeing her for the first time, picked her up when she was kidnapped and asked for her hand in marriage.” she looked around incredulously. “Am I the only one with a common sense here? The guy sounds like a bloody stalker”

Lara sighed. Whatever made her think she would get her thoughts straightened here? Her friends were making her more confused.

“No, maybe he is a bit of a stalker but he seems more like a guardian angel to me.” Bola snorted. “Besides, how would he have known Lara was kidnapped and needed a ride uhn? And what if he hadn’t been there to give her a lift when she needed it? Lara would have been recaptured and probably still be with that hellhound who kidnapped her” Teresa finished.

“Weelll yeah… but”

“But nothing” Teresa cut in. “Honestly Bola, I don’t see why you are against this guy who hold nothing but happiness for Lara. Living with her parents, Lara would never be happy, we all know that her father would never allow her go into fashion designing and he would continue to manipulate her like a little kid, is that what you want?”

Bola sighed. “You know I don’t want that” she took Lara’s hand and squeezed it affectionately. “I just don’t want you to jump from frying pan to fire. We need to be careful”

Lara took a deep breath and stood up. “Honestly, you girls are not on the same page with me. So what if he is really nice and wants to help me actualize my dreams? I still can’t marry him” she said. “I still don’t love me” she pointed out, “… also, we cannot mistake his compassion for love”

Teresa snorted. “Love grows overtime Lara; with time, you both would come to love each other”

“Really Terry?” Lara raised her brow. “Didn’t your time with Marvin teach you anything?”

“I wonder” Bola seconded.

Teresa frowned angrily. “Don’t bring that idiot into this! He was just too stupid to realize what he had”

“Yeah! And what if Jack also is too stupid to realize what he has? What would become of Lara? We are talking about marriage Teresa, it is a lifetime commitment” Bola pointed out sternly.

Teresa nodded, dropped her plate of cornflakes and stood up with a smile playing on her face. Lara rolled her eyes and sat down with a thud, resuming her discarded cornflakes. She knew Teresa enough to know she was thinking about a flimsy plan. “Alright girls, I have a plan” Teresa finally said, confirming Lara’s thoughts. “You girls don’t know just how lucky you are to have a ‘brain’ like me”

Lara snorted and Bola rolled her eyes. “What devilish mission are you plotting again?” Bola asked with a small smile on her face.

Teresa grinned. “Lara can have everything, without compromising a thing. Come to think of it, it is high time someone gets married amongst us”

Lara hissed. “Just spill it”

“Okay! So what you are going to do is accept Jack’s wedding proposal on the grounds that you get married in a few months. Tell him you need to get to know him better before you both get married, and you do” she pointed out. “The acceptance alone would get your father off your back and if Jack is supportive, you can even start using that shop right away. Then, during the waiting period, you can work on building chemistry and love between you both. Don’t worry, if you need seduction tips, I am knowledgeable in that department” she boasted, before continuing. “If it works out, you go ahead with the wedding, if it doesn’t, you call it quits. Although, I think it would work” she added with a wink.

Lara had to admit, Teresa was making a whole lot of sense.

“Plus, if there is anything shady about Mr Handsome, you would get to find out before you get into the marriage.” Teresa finished.

Bola smiled appreciatively. “I think my cornflakes has impacted more sense into you”

Teresa kicked her leg playfully and Bola yelped, laughing. Teresa placed her hands on her hips. “I am a genius right?” she asked, grinning.

Lara smiled cynically. “I hate to admit it, but maybe you are” Bola laughed and Lara raised her plate of cornflakes. “Cheers?”

They all grabbed their plates and clinched it together. “Cheers” they echoed.

Thoughts are Real!
Follow on Twitter: @nissi_adeola @inspysworld

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