Episode 23

Now, Lara could see something that goes way beyond the problem she had been having. Nothing is worse than being paranoid, not knowing what is going on. Bola and Teresa had outdone themselves, trying to keep calm but nothing could work. Why on earth wouldn’t the doctors just come out to give her any news? She had heard the saying, ‘no news is good news’, but as she paced the length of the discreet room she was in with her friends, this ‘no news’ was making her head hurt with each passing second.

“Lara, you are going to kill yourself with worry if you don’t relax” Teresa said nervously as she too started pacing. It seemed her tension was rubbing off on her friends too.

“Yes! Your constant pacing is making me dizzy” Bola seconded. “Just relax! No news is good news”

Lara could not count how many times she had heard that phrase in the last one and half hours, wait, it seemed like she had spent a whole lifetime, waiting for the doctor to come out, or better still, walk out with her mother. She sighed and wiped her forehead, knowing that the later would never happen.

“The more I wait, no news seems more like bad news” she muttered as she walked to the closed transparent window in the room to look out, maybe she could get something substantial to divert her thoughts; anything at all… But it was dark outside, reminding her that it was so late at night. Her father still hadn’t showed up and with each passing second, her hatred towards him mounted. How could he be so wicked? Sewa had given him more than 26 years of her life and this is how he could repay her? Lara released a shaky breath as pain tore at her heart. Bola walked up to her and placed her hand around Lara’s shoulder, squeezing gently.

“It would be fine honey”

Lara shook her head and wiped the lone tear that seeped out of the confines of her eyelashes. “You don’t understand B” Lara countered. “I have this dull ache in my chest” she turned towards Bola nervously as her eyes swam with tears. “I have this feeling Bola…”

“Don’t say that!” Bola said sternly. “Stop saying and thinking negative things. It is just fear. Fear is making you think negatively but this is the time you need to stay positive”

Lara shook her head and turned back to the window. No one understood her. She was having a bad feeling about it all and it was scaring the hell out of her.

Teresa cleared her throat. “Erm… Lara… I think you have a guest”

Lara sighed. She was not in the mood to entertain guests, especially not in the hospital where she was waiting for the doctor to arrive. She turned reluctantly and stared at the person at the door. For some seconds, it seemed her brain just went blank. “What… what are you doing here?” she asked.

That was the exact question that Jack needed. What exactly was he doing in the hospital, with the aim of calming or effectively distracting Lara? Emotional displays were not his high points, in fact, he had no point in that department at all but Lara’s conniving friend had called him up, and try as he may, he had to comply. Asides being there to provide fausse moral support for his alleged soon-to-be wife, he needed to be there to know what was happening with the governor’s wife. She had a connection with his past and he couldn’t watch her slip off without knowing just how she was connected to him. But then, what could his presence change? His presence had nothing to do with whether the woman would live or die but then, he would rather be there.

But as Jack stood at the entrance of the room, staring mutely back at Lara, he was struck for the second time in one day. Lara was having so many problems in her life, and though the truth was indeed bitter, he was the cause of a large portion of it. It was unfair that she was the pawn in his revenge schemes. The tears in her eyes tore at his heartless soul. There was pain and fear clearly evident in her wide eyes. She looked like a kid, a vulnerable kid. How could he deal with a situation such as this?

Jack walked further into the room without answering the question posed at him.

“How did you know I’m here” Lara rephrased when no answer was forthcoming.

What could he say? He didn’t want to put Teresa in trouble, no matter what her motives were. Being on the black list of Lara’s friends wasn’t what he needed now. But then, thank Heavens, Teresa bailed him out.

“I called him” she said carefully.

Bola glared at Teresa like she could pick up a knife and stab her without blinking an eyelid. “How can you be so insensitive?” she grated out furiously.

Teresa placed her slim hands akimbo. “Insensitive? Lara has been walking on nails and needles for over an hour and we haven’t been able to do anything about it; I called Jack here to see if he can stop her from developing high blood pressure and you call that insensitive?” Teresa glared back at Bola.

Bola had her mouth open to give a decent retort when Lara hastily cut in. “It’s okay Bola” she murmured. Lara looked drained, totally unable to listen to their bouts of argument.

“I could leave if my presence makes you more pensive” Jack quickly put in, speaking for the first time.

“No!” Lara said hastily. “I mean… you don’t have to go… I am glad you could set aside your sleep to be here, it is really late” she sounded as though she hadn’t noticed it before.

He definitely was! Jack admitted to himself. The only thing was that he had so many workers carrying out various duties on his behalf. He had enough money to throw around and money would always pull men to do his bidding. Lara stared at the door behind him nervously, playing with her fingernails in a shakily.

Teresa interrupted the serenity again by sighing dramatically. “I think the waiting is beginning to impact on my nerves” she whined in a sheepish ladylike manner. “It is suffocating! Bolly, why don’t you take a walk with me? We could get Lara something to eat in the process” she added.

Bola’s anger was still high. “Why? Do you need me to be your walking stick?”

Teresa smiled softly. “No. but you can be a good bodyguard with your brimming anger. You’ll admit I need a very good bodyguard to get past those jobless journalists out there”

Jack smiled and admitted within him that he liked Teresa. She was a conniving badass and her free spirit was something he admired. He knew her tactic was to get him to be alone with Lara and he seemed to like that idea. Her tactic seemed to be working also because Lara smiled a bit, giving Bola a gentle push. “Go! You ladies need a break from my paranoid self, but no, I am not hungry”

“Yes you are” Jack countered and dipped his hand into his pocket, extracting his wallet.

“We don’t need your money sir, please don’t insult us” Bola murmured, frowning at Jack.

Jack extracted some notes without counting it. “I would never insult you Miss, I am just performing my duties as Lara’s fiancé” he said, stunning them. “I know my responsibilities and I take them serious” he gave the money to Teresa, not wanting to have any more of Bola’s tantrums. “This is for whatever you might need” he said to them. Though upsetting, Bola’s strict protectiveness impressed him because it spoke of how good a friend she was. Jack had to admit that Lara had great friends. Teresa on the other hand, took the money without blinking an eye. “Well, I would have held it against you if you didn’t see it as your responsibility” she smiled slightly at him and winked at Lara.

Lara, who had been observing the exchanged, sighed. Her friends knew how to form a perfect distraction; leave it to Teresa to change the atmosphere. She couldn’t believe that for a moment there, she had forgotten that she was waiting for the doctor to bring news, but she had and the distraction was good for her. She Teresa kissed Lara’s cheek softly and her eyes brought on a sober look. “I just want you relax honey, your mother would be fine, but we don’t want her coming out to find you dead with worry”

Lara smiled and nodded, thanking God again for her friends. If she didn’t have them by her side now, she was pretty sure she would have killed herself with worry.

Bola kissed her cheek also, looking her straight in the eye with worry written all over her face. “I would be long” she said simply, with deep meaning, almost making Lara laugh. Bola just didn’t trust Jack despite it all.

Lara nodded and watched them as they both walked out, Bola – rather grudgingly.

Finally alone, the room seemed to shrink, making it look too small. Jack’s large intimidating form was having distracting effects on her brain, making her feel Teresa was right after all. Maybe Jack could distract her. For some prolonged seconds, silence reigned, amplifying the sound of the air conditioner in the room. “Any news about your mum?” Jack asked quietly, moving a bit closer to her.

Lara blinked and looked at the door expecting it to open as part of her paranoia returned. “No. nothing”

Jack swallowed, wishing he could close his eyes against the pain he felt in her. He noted the absence of her father and he hated the man the more. How could he leave his daughter alone to face this rigor herself? “What actually happened?” he asked gently as he brushed off a strand of hair off her face.

Lara blinked and swallowed. “She… had an argument with my dad this morning and since then, she had retreated to her room. She wouldn’t let me in when I went to her, so I gave her some privacy. When I didn’t hear from her, I went to her room to check on her and…” she shook slightly, probably from the intensity of what she felt when it had happened. “She wouldn’t open the door so I got the guards to force the door open, and then…” she looked away as tears brimmed her eyes again, causing Jack’s chest to squeeze slightly. “… she was lying lifeless on the bed… looking…” she shook her head vigorously, trying to ward off the scary memory.

Something flashed through Jack’s mind as he tried to picture what Lara had described. He didn’t needed to forge a memory. The memory of the event years back flashed through his head, when he had stared at his mother’s lifeless form on the floor. It was and still is the most horrific thing he had ever seen.

Shocking Lara, he pulled her into his arms, holding her to his body firmly. At first she was rigid, then, she softened in his arms, accepting the comfort he was giving. “Let me hold you” he whispered into her hair gently. And he did hold her. He might try to convince himself that he was just trying to play the role of a doting fiancé but right there, he knew he was not camouflaging. He held Lara for several seconds, or was it minutes? But then, he wanted to give her the comfort no one had given him when he had seen his mother’s lifeless body, and that in itself was strange.

The door opened gently but they were not aware until someone cleared his throat. They pulled apart slightly and he felt Lara stiffen as she pulled away completely. Fear was clearly evident in her eyes now as she stared at the doctor who stood pensively.

Lara had been waiting for the doctor for what seemed like ages and now that he was here, she wished he never showed up. What news could she expect? The man was looking so sober, too sober for her peace of mind. Jack squeezed her hand and she held on to his like a lifeline. “Doctor Ben?” she called. He was their family doctor, so she knew him well enough to know that his sober look was a bad omen. The doctor just stood there, staring wordlessly. “Please talk to me” her voice broke as she spoke.

Doctor Ben shook his head. “I don’t have good news my dear”

“Well, just give us the news you have sir” Jack said angrily as Lara’s nervousness started rubbing off on him. Why was the man prolonging things, making Lara more pensive? “Is she alive?” Jack asked directly and Lara stiffened the more. For the first time in years, he felt protective towards someone who wasn’t in his mother’s category. He put his arm around Lara’s shoulder, pulling her against him protectively as they awaited the doctor’s reply.

“Yes, she is” he finally said.

Jack felt Lara go limp with relief and even though he tried to ignore it, he felt the relief deeply also.

“She is alive but barely” the doctor added.

Lara stiffened as she tried to extract herself from Jack’s grip. “What do you mean doctor?” her eyes were ablaze again and Jack was becoming increasingly irritated by the doctor, but somehow, he was able to keep his mouth shut. He could see that the doctor was close to the family, so maybe, he was also having a moment.

“The drugs she took are very potent. I am actually surprised that she had them”

Lara frowned. “She took drugs?”

The doctor nodded as a bitter look crossed his face. “A large doze”

Lara stared like she had just been dealt a heavy blow. Her mother had attempted suicide! Of all the things that she had imagined, Lara hadn’t envisaged this! Jack was also stunned out of reason.

“The drug is not in circulation because of its effects, but because of her status, it wouldn’t be impossible for her to acquire them. They have eaten deep into her intestines. If she had been found earlier, we would have been able to get them out of her system but now, coupled with her medical history, the damage it has done to her organs is irreversible.” The doctor swallowed as he walked towards Lara and placed his hand on her cheek compassionately. “I am sorry my dear…”

“Sorry what?” Lara grated out as tears rolled out of her eyes uncontrollably. “What are you saying doctor?”

“She might not be able to live beyond a few hours” the doctor dropped.

Lara had cried her eyes out until there were no more tears left in her, but still the tears seeped out of her eyes as she walked with the doctor. The doctor stopped as he got to a door and turned to her. “I still think you should go in alone” he murmured, glancing at Jack’s towering form.

“No!” she said firmly. “I don’t think I would be able to stand it if I am alone in there. I want him to come with me” she pleaded. “Please”

Doctor Ben nodded. “Don’t make her talk too much.  She needs her strength now”

Lara nodded and closed her eyes, wiping away tears. She needed faith. She couldn’t accept the word of the doctor. Her mother couldn’t die now, please no! Jack linked his fingers with hers letting the heat of his palm give her more reassurance. She had never been more grateful for the moral support. What would she have done without Jack and her friends? Thankfully, they were still out, sparing them the pain she was feeling. The doctor opened the door for them and Lara took a huge step inside. This is nothing but a bad joke! She told herself, hoping that the person she would meet in there would be anyone but her mother. But it wasn’t a joke. Shivers ran down her spine and her shoulders started heaving with unshed tears as she tried with all her might to control herself. Jack put his arms around her and hissed her hair gently but it was of no effect as she stared at her mother’s form on the bed. She started crying for real now, not knowing if she would ever stop.

“Shhhhh” Jack whispered gently but then, Sewa opened her eyes.

It is wonder how fragile the physical body is. Just hours back, Sewa had been her perfect self but now, she was a shadow of herself. Lara cried harder, removing herself from Jack’s hand to kneel beside her mother’s hospital bed. “Mum… oh muuum” she sobbed as Sewa slowly turned her head. Jack stood helplessly. The situation before him scared the hell out of him; there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to do anything when someone was in pain.

Sewa’s eyes were blank and almost ghostly. “O…Omo…lara” she forced out painfully.

Lara shook her head vigorously. “No. No mum, don’t say anything. You… you need your strength so you can get better mum, please”

Sewa’s face flashed with a brief pale smile. “I… I don’t think…” she closed her eyes briefly and opened them back. “… I can be better” she finished.

Lara’s tears increased. “Don’t say that mum” she sobbed. “Pleeeeaase”

A lone tear sipped out of Sewa’s eye, disappearing into the pillow beneath her head. “I am… sorry Lara”

Lara cried harder, her shoulders heaving uncontrollably as she held her mother’s hand tightly. “Why did you do this mum? Why…” She cried. “Why do you want to leave me?”

Another tear slipped out of Sewa’s eye again. “I… I have seen you look at me with hatred once…” Her mouth shook. “I can’t see that look again”

“Why do you think I would hate you mum? I can never hate you, you are my mother and I love you. I love you very much mum” she sobbed.

She closed her eyes briefly as pain seemed to flash through her features. “I know you do. But you wouldn’t after seeing what your father plans on broadcasting tomorrow” she gasped out.

“I think you should rest ma’am” Jack murmured, intruding in their mother to daughter talk. But he had to. He had seen this scenario many times and it always never ended well.

“What does he want to broadcast?” Lara muttered. Jack was also curious about that part but the ultimate now was keeping Mrs Banks alive.

Sewa smiled softly, reopened her eyes and stared at Jack for the first time. She seemed to be fighting hard to keep her eyes open. “Jack” she whispered, ignoring Lara’s question, he almost couldn’t hear her. “You look so much like Pascal…” She murmured. “He was my rock during the early years of my marriage”

Jack swallowed. He could not understand a thing, maybe because the emotional displays had totally sent his brain on overdrive.

“Please take care of my… daughter” she pleaded.

“Stop it mum” Lara cut in sharply.

“Never let her experience pain” Sewa continued, talking forcefully.

Lara’s tears had wet the front of her blouse and her nose was runny but she couldn’t stop her tears. “Don’t talk like this mum… Pleeeeaaasssee…” She cried and looked back at Jack. “Please tell her to stop”

“Pro… Protect her… Please” she gasped, running out of breath.

Fear gripped Jack as he glanced nervously at the beeping monitor and started towards the door. “I’ll call the doctor” he said, but he didn’t want to leave Lara. Sewa was gasping and her chest was heaving. “Doctor” he yelled from the entrance, keeping an eye on Lara who was running wild, trying to calm her mother. “Doctor” Lara’s shrill voice screamed from inside.

“Mum… Mum, please don’t do this” she cried as she hopped on her feet, trying to stabilize her mother’s shoulders with her hands. “Mum” he screamed.

The doctor rushed in with nurses and Jack hastened towards Lara, pulling her. She struggled vigorously. “Mum…” She raised her eyes to the doctor. “Doctor… What… What is happening… Do something” she snapped, crying profusely, but just like in the movies, the doctors were helpless. Sewa’s body sagged and went limp as she breathed her last.

Thoughts are Real!
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