Jack hastened out of the room Lara and her friends were in. He terribly needed a drink, one with a high percentage of alcohol at that! But he had sworn off alcohol a long time ago. He had turned away from it when he had almost become addicted, and thus far, he had been able to keep his self-made vow never to go back to it. But now, he ran his tired fingers through his hair in utter frustration. The death of Lara’s mother had changed everything. If only the woman knew… if only she knew that her death had indirectly saved Lara from so much pain… He wanted to forget; he needed to forget! The past hour had been the most emotional of his entire life. He had watched yet another woman die before his very eyes! But that wasn’t the worst part of the last hour. It was the tears! Keeping Lara still had been an uphill task. She refused to accept that her mother was dead; repeatedly removing the white cloth the doctor used to cover-up her mother. He had been confused, helpless and – as unbelievable as it sounded to even him – he had been moved to tears. That was the weirdest part! Nothing had moved him to tears since the death of his mother, and still, he had seen several people die. But in there, watching the woman grow still, watching Lara jump up and down, shaking the lifeless body of her mother like the act would shake life back into the body, watching Lara cry like her entire world had just been crushed into ashes before her; Jack would have accepted death a million times over only if it would take him away from that painful scene.
He had wanted to comfort Lara, to hold her in his arms and tell her that it would all be okay, to help ease the enormous pain he knew she must be feeling… but he couldn’t. He didn’t know how! How could he tell her that the pain she was feeling would be okay someday when he had firsthand knowledge that it wouldn’t? Oh no! Especially not when he was hurting too. The event had opened up the wound that was long covered up untreated. He saw himself in Lara. It was like watching the death of his mother all over again, but this time, he wasn’t that small seven years old lad anymore. Why did it still hurt so much?
Jack looked back at the door, mentally seeing Lara’s pain and tears through it. Lara needed all the comfort she could get, and even though her friends were already with her now, he knew that the ladies were also in need of comfort, since they were all close to the deceased. It would be a show of great cowardice if he walked away, leaving Lara and her friend to deal with the pain and rigors by themselves. At least, he could help with the documentations required to put the woman to proper rest.
Turning, he moved in the first direction that came to sight, asking the nurse he met along the way for the direction to the doctor’s office. There was a secretary outside the doctor’s office and that seemed funny to him. He told the secretary that he needed to see the doctor.
“Doctor Ben is currently unavailable sir” the secretary said.
His cold eyes stared unblinking at her. “Is he in?”
The lady squirmed. “Yes sir, but… but you can’t see him”
“Like hell, I can’t” Jack muttered and marched towards the door, totally ignoring the woman rushing after him, pleading with him to stop. His legs were longer, effectively carrying him to the door effortlessly, without rushing. He opened the doctor’s office with a jerk causing the doctor, who had his head on his hands to sit up firmly.
Jack stared at the man coldly as the secretary nervously tried to explain to her boss. The doctor waved her away, raising his head fully until he was sitting in a composed form on the chair. The secretary vanished, closing the door behind her as she went.
“Please sit, Mr. Andrews. I am sorry about that”
Of course, the man knew him, Jack thought. It was during times like this that he was grateful for the kind of fame he had been able to amass for himself, even though, not everyone knew him. Jack dropped into the seat facing the doctor with a large table in-between.
The doctor blinked, staring at the files on his table with a faraway look. “I am sorry” he murmured again, blinking as though something had entered his eyes, confusing Jack. “Mrs Banks was very dear to me; I still can’t believe she is gone”
Jack nodded bitterly. “Obviously, she was dear to everyone except her own husband” he muttered under his breath.
Doctor Ben stared at him silently for some seconds. “How may I help you sir?” he asked.
Jack leaned against the backrest of the chair. “You mentioned something that remains unclear to me.” He began. “Something about Mrs. Banks’ medical history” he explained. “What exactly were you referring to?”
The doctor stared for some seconds, “It is confidential”
Jack smiled dryly. “I am Lara’s fiancé; I think it is not out of place for me to know a thing or two about the cause of Mrs. Banks’ death”
“If the deceased chose to keep her medical status a secret, she had her reasons and I would respect them even in her death. The ethics of a doctor requires confidentiality sir, I am sure you know this”
Jack sighed. It didn’t even matter! No matter what, the woman was already dead. He nodded. “Actually, I came for something else” he diverted. “I was hoping you could cover-up the real cause of death. Knowing that her mother actually committed suicide is too much for Lara, imagine what it would be for her when the press gets this and have it grace their front pages”
Doctor Ben swallowed. “I can’t do anything sir. I wish I could, but you know who we are dealing with here, right? The governor is yet to show up. We can’t do anything. I would definitely cover this up if the request came from the governor but now, my hands are tied”
“I thought you said the woman was close to you” Jack countered angrily. “Can’t you do this in her honour? Can’t you do this for Lara?”
The doctor shifted. “I can only promise not to tell anyone anything about what happened with Mrs. Banks until the governor gets here, least of all, the press. You understand the position I am in! She was the first lady of Lagos, doing anything shady might cost me my license or even send me to jail. But you don’t have to worry…” he said, his mouth tightened. “I am sure the governor would also want this covered up. I am sure he wouldn’t want anything to affect his re-election. You are not family sir; we can’t do anything on your orders”
Jack gritted his teeth hard. What he would give to be able to break the governor’s neck with his bare hands. He still couldn’t believe the man had been so heartless, leaving his daughter to face the pain alone. If it was the last thing he did, he would bring him to his knees! As long as I remain Jack Andrews! He vowed.
Jack stood up stiffly. “Thank you sir, I rely on your discretion” the doctor nodded and Jack walked out.
Bola and Teresa held Lara tightly. She was still crying, but now, over an hour after the passing of Mrs Banks, Lara’s wailing had reduced until all she could do was stare into space with tears rolling down her cheeks. Teresa wiped her own eyes and kissed Lara’s hair softly, putting away her own grief to comfort her friend. She knew undoubtedly that whatever she was feeling was minute, compared with what Lara was feeling. “We are here for you Larry” Teresa murmured, not knowing what to say. But saying anything, no matter how stupid, seemed better than complete silence. Lara did not move or blink, she just stared into space, looking lost in her own world.
Teresa looked at Bola, who was also in a state of confusion. All their attempts to force life back into Lara had been futile, and now, they were completely exhausted. The food they had bought for Lara was discarded on the floor, untouched. They had offered everything to Lara with the hope of getting a rise out of her but she just remained mute. Somehow, it would have been preferable if she was crying hysterically, but she was not, well, not anymore, and that was the scary part.
Bola stared at the door hopefully. For the first time, she really wished Jack would walk through the door. The last hour, though it still didn’t make her free of suspicions where Jack was concerned, it made her see him in a different light. He had held Lara firmly, enduring her wails and struggles, allowing her to cry herself to exhaustion in his arms. His usually cold eyes had been bright with worry and sympathy, for a moment, Bola even thought she had seen his eyes go watery, but he was a strong man, surely she was mistaken. She had always heard that men become confused when women broke down in tears, she had got the confirmation because Jack had seemed so helpless. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all! Bola thought. Jack had been able to get a rise out of Lara, at least she had cried out, but now, she just stared, locked up in her mind, with tears slipping out of her eyes.
The door opened and both ladies almost heaved an audible sigh of relief when they saw Jack.
Wordlessly, Jack walked towards them, his eyes on Lara. On reaching her, he bent to a squat before her, bringing his eyes level with hers. She was not staring at him though. Her teary face was devoid of emotions. If only he could make her pain his… God knows he had had more than his fair share of pain in life, he could definitely carry hers. But it was an impossibility. He raised his hand and brushed her hot cheek slightly. “It is late” he whispered. “Let me take you home”
For a moment, Jack thought she hadn’t heard him, but then, she turned her head slightly, looking directly at him. Teresa and Bola held her in a close sisterly hug, waiting for her response. “I am not going back to that house” she croaked out with a bitter look in her eyes.
“You can come with me sweetheart” Teresa threw in instantly. We can stay in my apartment, together with Bola, right?” she cast a questioning look at Bola.
“Of course” Bola answered without a second thought. “We would not leave you alone. Teresa’s bed is big enough to accommodate us all. C’mon, let’s go”
Jack cleared his throat slightly. “I am sorry ladies, but it is really late now, way past midnight. I can’t let you drive to your place at this hour; it is risky… Why not come with me to my place? I would drive you to my place and have someone bring your car over.”
The first thing that Bola wanted to do was argue but she quickly cut it out, knowing that Jack only wanted to help. “Lara?” she asked.
Lara did not say anything. Jack stood up and pulled Lara slightly. She finally stood, swaying slightly on her feet. Teresa put her arm around Lara’s waist, stabling her as Bola went about grabbing whatever belonged to them in the small room before joining her friends. Jack moved ahead of them, “I got a more discrete way out of the hospital without alerting the journalists still waiting. Please follow me” he said, leading the way as they walked out of the room.
They walked through the back of the hospital building, hoping that they would be able to enter the car at the front without encountering an eager journalist. As they got to the front, three cars zoomed into the premises. The doors of the first car flew open even before the car came to a halt and men in suit alighted, rushing to the jeep behind to open the door. Lara swallowed as blood started running through her veins. She definitely knew those men! She had seen them more times than she could remember, but she definitely did not know the name of any of them. They stood in position, like the guards they were as one of them opened the door at the owner’s side of the jeep behind, and sure as sunrise, her father stepped out of the car, looking calm and collected in the ‘agbada’ he had on. Lara stood where she was, several feet from her father, staring at him through the distance as anger bubbled within her.
The governor turned his head and finally saw her. It was so dark outside. Lara could not make out the expression on his face, but she didn’t give a damn. He could be smiling; it wouldn’t surprise her in the least. She heard Bola and Teresa whispering angrily amongst themselves. This man couldn’t be her father! She had nothing but hate! The only feeling she could have towards that man was undiluted hatred. She raised her hand weakly and touched Jack’s arm. His muscles were stiff, only then did she notice his anger as he turned his head towards her. She swallowed. She just wanted to be out of there. Journalists were beginning to come out of the hospital building and two were rushing towards them.
“Let’s go, please” she whispered to Jack. Immediately, they walked to the car, ignoring her father and his entourage. The three ladies went to the back, staying close to Lara. Jack warded off the journalists, entering the car and pressing the lock firmly. He watched as the governor walked towards the hospital with the guards warding off the journalists. Jack gritted his teeth, trying to keep a leash on his anger as he pulled the car out of the parking lot, driving towards his house.
Lara pushed the door behind her so slowly until it merged with its hinges almost soundlessly. After enough persistence, she had been able to win herself some time alone. She needed some alone time. Teresa and Bola had argued but, bless his soul, Jack had been able to convince them on her behalf. However, as she stood, all alone in the room, she felt more miserable and hopeless. A part of her had died! She felt totally numb! Her eyes were red; patches of dried tears were fully mapped out on the surface of her smooth flawless face, giving her face the streaks of white lines. Her shoulders were slumped in total defeat as she stood there – in front of the door – staring at the room before her – the same one she had slept in when Jack had brought her to his house the first time. Goose pimples spread over her skin. She had cried over and over again until there was no other tear left unshed. Her dry red eyes stared at the wide expanse of room ahead, unable to take even one step away from the door. She had loved her mother so dearly. They had been close… or, at least, she had thought they were… if only she had known…
Tears dropped from her red swollen eyes and rolled down her cheeks as her knees weakened. She slowly dropped to the floor at the entrance of the room, just few steps from the door as memories floated through her. “You can’t be dead mum” she cried. “You can’t be dead… you can’t be dead… you can’t be deeeaaad… aaaarrrrhhh” she yelled, increasing her voice after every sentence until she was screaming her head out. She doubled over, hugging her legs to her chest as her tears flowed ceaselessly. If only she had known, she would have patched things up with her mother earlier… she had been a terrible daughter! She wasn’t able to help her own mother! She hadn’t been there to wipe her tears and provide comfort to her aching mother. She had always been so selfish… worrying about her own pain, without thinking about what others might be feeling.
“Oh God why…” she screamed, “Why my mother, why?” she cried, her voice coming out shaky and parched. She curled in a ball on the floor, lying on the bare tiles. “I want my muuuummy… I just w… want my muuummmy” she drawled as she cried helplessly. She cried and cried, expending the last iota of strength in her on the floor of Jack’s guests’ room.
Jack opened the door gently and quietly, making sure he wasn’t making any noise. His heart skipped as fear overtook him when he saw Lara lying on the floor. A million things ran through his head as panic took over. He rushed towards her and touched his hand to her pale cheek. He exhaled audible as relief washed over him. The rise and fall of her chest assured him that she was asleep. He felt a tiny throb in his chest as he stared at her small form. She looked like a lost child, nothing like the confident woman he had come to know. Carefully, he lifted her into his arms, taking care not to rouse her. She sniffed slightly, her chest heaving, to show just how much she had cried. She curled up in his arm sleepily, tucking her head firmly against his chest. He felt that squeeze again in his chest.
He stood there, transfixed as he stared at her face. He had wanted to place her on the bed there, but he doubted if he would be able to let her out of his sight. Swallowing hard, he turned and carried her out of the room. He walked the short distance to his own bedroom and eased open the door with his elbow, careful not to rouse Lara. He entered the dark room, closed the door and walked to his bed. No woman had ever shared his bed! He knew he was making a mistake but he didn’t care. All that mattered now was Lara. Pulling back the duvet awkwardly, he lowered Lara onto the bed, wishing he could hold her in his arms forever. Lara curled, pulling her legs to her chest unconsciously as she hit the bed. Jack brushed his hand over her cheek slightly. He pulled the duvet up to her neck, shielding her from cold and looked at her lingeringly. Unable to stop himself, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. She didn’t move.
Finally, he stood up and after a few seconds, he walked to the small couch he had at the corner of the bedroom. He didn’t think he could find sleep tonight. He sat down tiredly on the couch, content to watch Lara’s sleeping form until daybreak.
Thoughts are Real!
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