Lara opened her eyes to yet another day! It has been three days! Three days of continuous tears and wailing. Three days of hoping that what seemed to be a terrible dream would magically become altered. Three days of wishing back her mother. It has been three days of mourning the departure of her mother. Nothing and no one could appease her, not her friends, not Jack, not Jack’s cook – Mrs. Balogun who was behaving as though she could take her mother’s place and definitely not her daughter – Bewaji – who didn’t have anything to offer her but a blank look. No one could fill the void that her mother had left behind. She hadn’t left Jack’s house ever since she arrived three days ago, and even though she had noticed briefly that she had passed the first night in Jack’s room, her grief did not allow her to pay any attention to the room at all.
Bola and Teresa had been up and doing, trying to get her back to her old self but it was not working. Much as she hated to be the center of everyone’s concern, she could not shake away the grief. Maybe the sorrow would not be so much if her mother hadn’t died the way she did. Maybe her grief would have been lessoned if her mother hadn’t aborted her own life intentionally. Maybe her pain would not be so maximized if she didn’t feel so much like a failure; and maybe… maybe she wouldn’t have so much sleepless nights and nightmares if she hadn’t watched her mother die before her very eyes.
Journalists had been bugging Jack’s house. How they got to know that she was there was of no surprise to her; journalists were probably in tune with the association of witches because they always knew everything. Thanks to Jack who deployed men to watch over the gate and ward off journalists, they hadn’t been able to gain access to Lara. The news of the Governor’s wife’s death had gone viral on news channels and the only consolation Lara got was that the real cause of death was not revealed. Mrs. Banks was reported to have suffered severe cardiac arrest which led to her untimely death. Mr. Banks had done everything to reach Lara – everything except condescending so low as to come and look for her – but overall, Jack had done an excellent job in shielding her.
Lara pushed up on the bed. Her mouth felt so dry and her throat was cracked. She had cried and cried over the past few days, she had ended up losing her voice. But now, she had no more tears left even if she tried. She couldn’t cry anymore. Not because she didn’t want to cry her eyes out but because her bank of tears seemed to have been gone dry. She pushed her legs out of the confines of blankets, sitting at the edge of the bed. This was the same room she had been staying in, except that time she had awoken in Jack’s room. She still could not really get the full details of that day because she had awoken; looking for her mother, claiming that it had all been a dream. Jack had sent for a doctor who sedated her after all efforts to calm her down.
Lara shook her head and released a cleansing breath. She pushed out of bed, standing on shaky feet. She felt too light. She had not eaten enough to keep an ant alive and coupled with the turmoil she was passing through, she had seriously lost weight. Everyone had persuaded her to eat over the past few days but she hadn’t been able to persuade her throat to take in anything but water. Only Jack’s silently commanding plea had been able to force a few grains down her throat. But now, Lara needed to talk to Jack. She needed some answers because the past few days had not only been painful, it had also helped her brain to work on overdrive, going over several details in excruciatingly painful bits. She made a short trip to the bathroom, where she emptied her bladder, washed her face and stared at the stranger which was her reflection. Not taking the chance of allowing Mrs. Balogun walk in on her with her tray of sweet smelling meals, trying to convince her to eat, Lara quickly exited the room. She hoped Jack was in his room. Maybe this was an excuse to get to really study the room, but she didn’t dwell on it.
Lara got to the room on silent feet and knocked softly. No answer came. What was it about door that scared her lately? Maybe because lately, every time she had opened doors, she had always been met with things that changed her life, one way or another. After knocking twice more with no response, Lara tried the knob with her heart pounding. It opened and she pushed the door further, mentally heaving a sigh when she found no one inside. Scolding herself slightly for going in without Jack’s presence or authorization, she shook off her hesitations and proceeded inside.
Lara turned her head to look round the room in dazed wonder. The clinically white walls of the room stared back at her, reminding her sharply of the look of hospital wards. Could this be Jack’s bedroom?
She looked round the room again. This room was so devoid of emotions. Asides the massive bed she was in and the wardrobe standing powerfully against the wall, the large room was practically empty. She spotted a lone couch at the far edge of the room as she took slow steps into the room. She walked numbly to the small frame hanging on the opposite wall. It was the only thing gracing the void form of the wall and she knew it had to be important. Who was so important that Jack would frame up on the wall?
It was a woman. She frowned. The woman was really pretty, but it did look like an old picture, like one taken several years back. She raised her finger and traced the picture through the glass covering it. An unexplainable tremor ran over her, bringing tears to her eyes.
Lara turned around so fast, she nearly stumbled. She felt like someone who had just been caught in the act of stealing. Jack stood there at the entrance of the room, with the doorknob still in his hand as he looked at her heatedly. Lara squirmed. Why couldn’t she just read his expression? She couldn’t tell if he was angry or not as he stared impassively at her; he was the most unreadable person she’d ever met.
Shifting slightly, she looked round the room, her eyes still lingering slightly on the frame. “I… I came looking for you”
“Yes” he answered simply, still standing at the entrance, looking at her with a slight frown on his face.
Lara nodded. “Why did you… bring me here? The other day?”
Jack finally unlocked his legs and pushed away from the entrance, closing the door firmly behind him. “It was the wise thing to do; you were sleeping on the floor when I found you” his eyes bore into her as he moved closer, standing, just a few steps away from her.
Lara averted her gaze, glancing at the picture frame again. She wondered who the woman was. “She is beautiful” she murmured, raising her brow at the picture.
Jack glanced at the picture briefly and back at her without betraying even the slightest emotion. “How are you?” He asked, ignoring her comment.
Lara blinked and turned away from him. “I am fine” she walked to the bed and sat at the edge, feeling weak. So she had slept on his bed! Why was the room so emotionless? The past few days had destroyed all her previous assumptions about Jack. He had been her rock, but here, this room portrayed the feel of a vacant occupant.
“You are not fine” Jack said quietly, tilting his head slightly to the side, watching her.
Lara smiled painfully. “Why did you ask if you knew?”
Jack shrugged. “It is the gentlemanly thing to ask”
Lara raised her brow. “Are you a gentleman?”
An ironic smile touched Jack’s mouth, not getting to his eyes, making him look frightening. “I am anything you want me to be” he replied, sinking his two hands into his pockets.
Lara stared at him. “Including a liar?” Maybe she was going too far! She was already feeling uncomfortable, but she wouldn’t stop now. Maybe he was angry that she entered his room unauthorized and her consistent questions were beginning to spike the fire the more, she couldn’t tell, but as his eyes narrowed, pinning her down like the hooks of a steady hair comb, Lara could only sit there and stare nervously.
“What are you talking about?” Jack finally asked after a moment of silence.
Lara swallowed. “Who is Pascal?”
Just like that time in her father’s office, Lara saw the swift change in Jack, but now, it was not as pronounced, as if he had already prepared himself for it. The change was so fast, she would not have noticed it, but she did! Maybe because she was paying him too much attention.
Jack looked away, stating at the mattress oddly, as though he was calculating what he was going to say. “You owe me the truth Jack” Lara pleaded, coming to her feet. Walking carefully, she took steps until she was standing directly in front of him. He shifted his eyes back to hers and Lara was left to wonder if standing in front of him like this was a good idea at all. “My… my mother mentioned his name on her death bed” she murmured quietly, “It is my right to know. Who is he?”
Jack swallowed and shifted slightly, his hands fisting in his pockets. “My father”
Governor Banks crossed his legs slightly as he raised his glass of fruit shake to his lips, drinking deeply. He had shelved his official duties for the week, being his time of mourning; now, he had more time on his hands. A slow smile crossed his face. He couldn’t believe that Sewa actually had the guts to take her own life; she was more courageous that he had given her credit for. Unfortunately for her, she had taken her life for nothing, because he wasn’t going to upload the video. He had consulted his advisers and they had told him that uploading a video like that would affect his campaign negatively. People would have made mockery of him and the opposition would use the video to their advantage. If only Sewa had known, she would not have chickened out, but she had, and bless her soul, she had given him exactly what he needed.
Her death not only set him free but also earned him the pity of people, and that was good where election was concerned. Yoruba people were known to be emotional and sentimental people, he needed no adviser to tell him that many people would give him their votes just because he had lost his wife. Tunji smiled. Now, all he needed now was to make his wife’s burial massive and very emotional. Having the journalists capture his teary eyes would be excellent to make the headlines of TV and Newspaper broadcasts. He chuckled. If poor Sewa had known that her death would be a blessing to him, she would have stayed alive to spite him.
But how could he get Lara to cooperate? Tunji frowned and dropped his cup on the bedside stand. The journalists would soon make an issue out of Lara’s strange behaviour. She was avoiding the journalists and not making an appearance in the State House. While some journalists might feel she is still too overwhelmed, some might begin to read other meanings to it, and this could cut his plans in the leg. Maybe it was time for Jack to prove his loyalty as the son-in-law. Since Lara trusted him enough to stay in his house, he should be able to convince her to his favour. What’s wrong in entertaining the journalists for a while? Why was she being such a baby? He sighed. Why didn’t Lara take after his kind of nature? She just had to be as naïve and as emotional as her mother!
Lara stepped back, too stunned to talk. This was not making the slightest sense at all. Could it all be a coincidence? Or would Jack give a quote on destiny again? “Your father?” her face was drawn up in a frown. “How come my mother knows your father?”
Jack raked his fingers through his hair, showing that he was equally frustrated. “I don’t know”
“Don’t you?” she challenged, earning a sharp look from Jack, but she didn’t give a damn. The puzzle was becoming just too much. “Why did you lie?” Her voice was going up a notch. “You claimed Pascal was what… the name of your dead dog?” She looked incredulously at him. “You likened your father to a dead dog?”
Jack turned away, walking to the window.
“Are you going to remain mute? Say something. Why did you have to lie?” Lara yelled at him. “What… what are you hiding?”
“Has it occurred to you that maybe I don’t want to be associated with that name?” he turned his face back to her. His face was a furious mask. “That maybe, I hate my father as much as you hate yours, right now?”
Lara froze. “I never told you I hated the governor”
Jack smiled slightly. “You don’t have to” he walked away from the window and approached her, standing close. He raised his hand and brushed her cheek slightly, getting what he wanted – she became distracted. “You need to eat” he said quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. His thumb ran low, brushing against her lower lip softly. Lara gasped slightly, her warm breath washing over the tip of his thumb.
Jack’s gaze became dark and heated, changing the atmosphere and making Lara forget her line of thought, forget her immediate problems, forget everything but the man standing before her. As Jack’s eyes slipped away from hers to settle disturbingly on her lips, her heart started pounding wildly. “I… I should… go” she stammered. Talking was difficult, since he was still running his thumb over her bottom lip, making her go heady.
Jack chuckled. “I should let you go…” he whispered back, “… but unfortunately…” he raised his eyes to hers briefly, “…I am not a gentleman” without giving her the chance to deny them the moment, Jack lowered his head and covered her mouth with his.
Nora adjusted her cloth nervously and knocked on the door to Teresa’s apartment. She had been working in the governor’s house as a maid for more than two years and knew just what she would be into if she was found sneaking around, but she couldn’t say no! Miss Teresa had always been nice to her and when she had received a call from her, she could not turn it down.
The door opened and a smiling Teresa ushered Nora into the sitting room. Teresa smiled at Nora. “I’m glad you came” she said. Teresa had been too stunned when Lara had given them the details of everything that actually happened. It had been a struggle to get her to give the details, but then, when Teresa was after something, she always got it. It was still a shock that Mrs. Banks had actually orchestrated the kidnap on Lara, but right now, that was not the foremost thing on Teresa’s mind. Lara had told Teresa of what her mother had said on the death bed and try as she may, Teresa could not let it be. If that damned governor had wanted to publish a video and it had scared his wife to the point of taking her own life, she needed to do something about it.
Nora shifted nervously. “I’m afraid, I have to rush back ma’am, if my absence is noticed, and I would be in deep trouble”
“Yes. Nora, like I said on phone, I need your help. I know that the workers in the government house know everything that goes on within. Something happened to Mrs. Banks…” Nora shifted nervously, looking at the floor. “The governor has an incriminating video of Mrs. Banks, Nora, all I want is for you to help me get it” Teresa finished.
Nora frowned. “I don’t know what you are talking about ma’am, which Video?”
“Call me Teresa; ma’am makes me feel too old. I also don’t know anything about it, but the governor’s wife mentioned it on her death bed. I am sure you loved her, she was a nice woman” Nora looked at the floor again, becoming sober. “Even if you know nothing about it, I just want you to find out and if possible, get the tape. There are some workers that always know everything… I am sure you know what I mean. Lara is also aware of this” Teresa lied, “You would be handsomely rewarded, Nora, I promise you”
Nora swallowed. “I would do my best ma’am, I mean, Teresa”
Teresa smiled. “Thanks, I knew I could count on you” she said and removed a few Naira notes, handing them over to her. “Use this to take care of yourself. I would be expecting your call, and please, be discreet”
Nora smiled happily as she accepted the money. “Thanks ma’am, I mean, Teresa. I should be on my way now”
Teresa nodded and walked her to the door. When Nora left, she closed the door and smiled. If the governor was responsible for Mrs. Banks’ death, he would surely pay for it!
Thoughts are Real!
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