It was several hours before Jack arrived home. He pushed his heavy large feet one after the other, walking numbly into the house. The news he had heard from Sword had blown him off, it had taken a long ride to nowhere to restore his brain back to factory default, and even at that, he was still astounded. He had a brother! He had a family! Suddenly, the world didn’t seem so unfair. Out of the large heap of mess that was his miserable life, he suddenly found a large bar of gold sparkling within. All of a sudden, the world seemed like a beautiful place once again, where dreams do come true; where someone can be exceedingly happy over something so minute. All of a sudden, he wanted to forget about his quest for vengeance and leave Tunji Banks to rot in the filth of his own making, but… there was a big ‘but’. Things weren’t that simple! The hunger to see Tunji Banks burst into flames before his very eyes ate at his intestines. He couldn’t let his mother’s death go unavenged, not when he had sworn to make the governor pay, even if it would take the very last drop of his blood.
But he had a brother! That makes a world of difference! And he had been there the whole time, as his friend, staying glued to him even when all he had done was push him away! His friend, his housemate; Felix! He had been there the whole time, right under his bloody nose and Jack hadn’t been able to smell a blood connection. If only he had been a vampire… He shook his head. But even as friends, Jack had come to care for him for his persistence. Where others had thought of him as a bitter unapproachable soul, he had kept on coming back, and Jack had done the exact same thing he always did when something or someone tried to get close enough to make him feel – he ran away. He had left Felix, not wanting to get emotionally attached to him enough to put him in danger. Emotions had been shut out of his life for so long, he almost didn’t know what it felt like anymore, but he did! Lara had sneaked up on him and turned him around without his notice. He had been following his plans… things were going smoothly, his revenge was at its peak, and then… he suddenly noticed that he had been caught in his own web. He had fallen into the pit he had dug with his own digger!
How would he deliver this news to Lara? How would she handle the knowledge that she had a brother? Would she also be happy knowing that she had another person to call family asides her evil father? God knows there were alike in too many ways; he had practically lost count. Maybe, there was a God after all! Going through the excruciating pain he had felt in his life, Jack had come to believe that God was nothing but a fictional fantasy. Something crafted out of nowhere to keep people in check and to syphon people’s minds. But now, he was thinking differently. Maybe this was God’s way of erasing their pains and giving them a fresh start. Did he even know how to be a big brother?
He got to the sitting room and met Bewaji seated there, on the couch, with her legs folded up, staring at the television. She jumped up immediately he entered, as if startled.
“Welcome sir” Bewaji murmured, with that shy look on her face.
Jack glanced at the wall clock with a frown. “What are you still doing up? You should be asleep by now”
Bewaji blinked. “I was waiting up for you” she said.
Jack would have been irritated by that statement some weeks back, especially when it came from Mrs. Balogun’s lips, making him feel like a child. But now, hearing it from Bewaji, he actually smiled. There was something thrilling about the thought that someone cared enough for him to wait up when he was out, but that didn’t mean he approved either… “Thank you but you didn’t have to wait up” he said, watching her as she stared at his feet shyly. “Where is your mum?” he finally asked.
Bewaji played with her fingers, staring at them with a shy smile. “She just went to sleep some minutes back” she raised her eyes back to him. “Should I serve your dinner now?” she murmured.
Jack walked to the TV and turned it off. “No. I can’t eat anything anymore” then, unable to stop himself, he asked. “Lara is in her bedroom, I suppose”
Bewaji’s face turned to stone and her mouth twisted downwards. “Yes, she has been there for a long time, I am sure she is asleep” she said sourly.
Jack nodded. “Okay… why don’t you go on to bed while I turn off the lights.” He touched her shoulder slightly. “Good night okay?”
She smiled shyly at him. “Good night sir” then, she turned and bounced up to her room. Jack smiled slightly to himself. Despite Bewaji’s age of little above twenty, she acted almost like a young teenager. She was amusing but the minute she vanished, his current predicament returned. He turned off the lights and made for his bedroom. He still couldn’t believe it! He had a brother! He shook his head in wonder.
As he was about passing Lara’s bedroom, he caught rays of light beaming through the gap underneath her door. Maybe he was just making excuses to see Lara but he found himself walking towards her bedroom with the sole aim of ‘turning off the light’. He eased the bedroom door and entered. Lara wasn’t lying fully on the bed, in fact, she was almost sitting. The pillows were propped straight against the headboard of the bed and she was leaning against it with her face turned away and the blanket pulled up to her waist. He wondered if she fell asleep that way.
“He stood there at the door, thinking that he probably should have knocked first. “Lara?” he called softly.
“What is it?”
Jack frowned. Something was definitely wrong. Or was she still feeling the pain of her mother’s loss? The incident was just three days old, it is sure that she is bound to have mood swings. “I thought you were asleep. Are you okay?” he asked softly, torn between exiting respectfully and moving closer, to see if she was fine.
“Yes!” she answered shortly.
Jack swallowed heavily. Could this be the right time to tell Lara about what Sword had said? He so ached to confide in someone! To tell someone about this bitter-sweet news he just heard. Would she understand? Would she be happy if he told her? Jack took a deep breath. “Lara… I have something to tell you”
There was a brief silence; Jack thought she hadn’t heard him. “Of course you do”
Something was wrong! Alarm bells were ringing in Jack’s head as a permanent frown turned his face to granite. “What’s wrong?” he took steps closer, wanting to see her face to determine the problem.
“Don’t you dare move closer” she barked, halting him in his strides. Slowly, she turned her head to him. The sight of her literarily stopped Jack’s heart. Her eyes were red and swollen, obviously from excessive crying. Her cheeks still had tears clearly visible on them as she gazed at him with total condemnation written all over her face. Jack’s mouth went dry as his heart raced beyond control. He didn’t need her to open her mouth, he could see vividly; Lara had discovered his ploy. Or had she? “What do you have to tell me Jack?” she muttered, sitting so still, she could be a piece of art if only her mouth wasn’t quivering.
“I am so stupid, right?” she murmured, with her face bringing up an ironic smile. “You have been playing me for a fool for so long and I fell for it”
Jack swallowed. “I don’t understand”
“Don’t you?” she returned sharply. She shook her head. “Bola told me you were too good to be true! She told me not to trust you but I was such a fool” she yelled. “I thought… you know, I thought there was actually someone out there who cared for me and truly wanted my happiness” she laughed bitterly. “Damn! I dream too big, right?” Tears seeped out of the corners of her eyes and she wiped them off vigorously. “I saw you earlier! I saw you Jack, with the same person who kidnapped me; the same person you rescued me from!” she threw at him as he stared spellbound. “What part did you play in my kidnap? You didn’t just show up there to rescue me, did you?”
Jack froze, turning pale. The pain in Lara’s eyes was choking the life out of him. A few weeks back, he would have laughed at her tears, feeling no sympathy whatsoever, but now… seeing her in a more devastated state than she had even been when her mother died, it was like taking a dagger in the heart. There was no use denying. “I… I can explain”
It was Lara’s turn to go pale, so pale; Jack had never seen any living soul so… white. “Oh my God!” she gasped as her eyes strayed from him to stare into space. “There is an explanation!” tears flowed out of her eyes now and she didn’t bother wiping them off. She gripped the blanket and pulled it up to her neck. She shook her head continuously, like she was trying to shake off her thoughts. “Go away” she finally murmured.
Jack was falling to pieces on his feet. “Lara, please let me explain”
“Why?” she asked, slowly raising her eyes to his. “So you can cook up another lie?” Jack swallowed. “Please go! I would leave this place first thing tomorrow morning. Don’t think of stopping me” with that, she pushed herself down, till she was lying fully on the bed. After setting the pillow, she turned away from him, laying on her side.
With his heart weighing over a hundred kg, Jack turned and left the room.
It was daybreak and Lara was still in shock. Lara had never felt so much pain in her life. It shouldn’t have been Jack! For once in her life, she had felt there was someone in the world who wanted ‘her’; someone who would defy all odds, just to see her happy. But then she was wrong! She was always wrong! What had she done to deserve all the complications in her life? Something always disturbed her happiness, and just when she had thought her father was the main orchestrator of her sadness, Jack proved her wrong. She didn’t even want to know why jack did what he did; it would no doubt just make her grow more sad and bitter.
Lara took the only things she brought with her, leaving everything Jack had bought for her – clothes, jewelries and slip-on slippers. She didn’t need anything to remind her of Jack… but then, did she need those things to remember him? No doubt, the kisses they shared would continue to hunt her dreams. One day it had all happened and that same day, it had crashed around her feet. Remembering that Bola was waiting to pick her up outside, Lara walked out of the room.
Lara looked in the direction of Jack’s room, expecting to see Jack walking out of it with the sole aim of persuading her to stay. But the door was firmly closed; not looking like it would be opened anytime soon. Lara swallowed. There was this thing with women that she was beginning to come to terms with. Even when they sometimes ask for something, they often wanted the direct opposite! Yester night, when she had ordered him out of her bedroom, a part of her had wanted him to stay and try to make her see reason. She had wanted him to plead with her until she finally gave him audience. She definitely had expected him to still come this morning to try to persuade her from leaving; to beg her until she had no other choice but to stay. But now, with no one to persuade her from leaving, she felt like a bruised dog with no one to appease it. Not only was her heart shattered, her pride had been smashed against the uncountable walls of Jack’s residence and she had been left alone to pick up the broken pieces all by herself. It had taken the extreme pain of betrayal to bring her to the full awareness of the fact that she had fallen for Jack. It was no longer about the looks, benefits and side attractions… she had developed strong feelings for him which rivaled everything she had ever felt. But then… he obviously didn’t feel the same.
Squaring her shoulders, she eased her legs to ‘walking mode’, wishing Mrs. Balogun would at least be there in the sitting room or kitchen, but she wasn’t there, she only saw Bewaji. Swallowing her pain, Lara walked out of the house to join Bola outside, which hadn’t bothered to drive into the compound. She wordlessly moved to the passenger’s side and dropped into the seat, slamming the door with all the anger bubbling up inside her.
Bola looked at her gently. “You’re all set babe?”
Lara nodded as she relaxed fully on the chair, “Yes. Take me away from here” she answered, looking out of the window with a blank expression.
Jack parked at his former residence, the same one he had shared with his friend – his brother. It has been seven days! One week since he saw Lara! It had been the longest seven days of his entire life. Every minute he had picked up his phone to call her, just to even know how she was doing, but he had stopped himself. Even though she didn’t know the full truth yet, Jack kept on telling himself that she needed time to get over the hurt she was feeling now. If she was so hurt over the little she knew, how would she react when he told her exactly who he was and the reasons why he did what he did? More importantly, would he be able to stand the sight of that betrayed look again? Mrs. Banks had killed herself because she couldn’t bear to see it again… now, he understood the woman.
Alighting from the car, he forgot everything about his current predicament and stared at the apartment before him. How would he handle this meeting? Jack had always felt so free with Felix, but would he be as free now that he knew that they were related? As he climbed the small stairs taking him to the door of the apartment, the door of the apartment opened and there stood Felix. He swallowed hard as he stared at his friend and brother. Now, looking at him from another light, he could notice some things he had failed to notice before. Felix was almost as tall as him and if he was not hallucinating, he would swear that he also had a slight resemblance to the beast of a father they shared.
“I knew you would be back” Felix said in greeting, beaming widely.
Jack blinked. Felix was everything he was not. He was gleeful and full of hope and optimism, he was full of love! How could that be? Jack had never been interested in knowing anything about Felix’s life. He had been too concentrated on driving him away, ensuring that he developed no attachment whatsoever. “You… knew” Jack murmured absently, finally remembering that Felix had said something.
“Of course. Even though you wouldn’t admit it, I know you can’t live without me! Come inside before your shoes become permanently imprinted at the entrance”
He should be behaving like the older one here, not Felix! Jack thought with an ironic smile on his face as he moved his stiff legs inside. While they were friends, he had always known that he was older than Felix, but it had never mattered, but now, he felt like he had been knocked brainless with a pistol. He should have been behaving like the big brother that he was, instead, Felix had been the one looking out for him at every step. What would Felix say when he told him? At least, they were men, he had no cause to worry that Felix would burst out crying.
Felix opened the refrigerator and brought out two bottles of drinks. Jack didn’t sit but continued to stare at Felix. Felix frowned as he set the bottles on the table. “Why are you staring at me so strangely? This trip off has really changed you” he opened the bottles and handed one to Jack, raising his own in the air gleefully. “To your return”
Jack smiled and they clicked the bottles. Jack finally sat down, drinking only a bit of the drink.
“Oh man, a lot has happened in your absence”
Jack swallowed, dropping his drink. He couldn’t postpone it any further. “Felix…” he began. “There is something I need to tell you”
Felix’s face changed, becoming skeptical and serious all of a sudden. “You know already, right?”
Jack frowned. “Know what?”
Felix swallowed and dropped the drink. For the first time, Felix looked as young as his age predicted as he raised his sober eyes. “That you are my brother?”
Jack stilled. “You already knew?”
Felix nodded. “Yes”
Teresa paced the deep carpet of Bola’s apartment while Bola sat on the couch, staring at her. Lara was lying on the three seater couch, staring into space like she was watching an invisible movie.
“How come we can’t get through to Nora?” Teresa whined. “It has been seven days and we haven’t seen or heard from her. Something is wrong, I know it!” she said strongly.
Bola shook her head. “I knew we shouldn’t involve the innocent girl. Maybe she was caught while taking the diary”
Teresa shook her head. “No! She called to tell me when she found it and said she would bring it the next day in order not to arouse suspicions; I told you girls” she murmured angrily as she dialed Nora’s number again. “But… maybe she was caught when she tried to bring it. Oh God! I hope we have not landed the poor girl in trouble”
“The servants are being watched closely” Lara said softly. “Sneaking out of the house is not such an easy task. Maybe she hasn’t been able to sneak out and she is keeping a low profile.”
Teresa rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t explain why her number is not going through. Initially, it was ringing, now, it is switched off. Something is amiss” she said strongly. “I trust my instincts”
Bola sighed. “So, what do we do now? If Lara’s father caught her, only Heaven knows what he would do to her”
“Lara, why don’t we go to the government house?”
Lara turned her head sharply. “I am not going there” she said stonily.
Teresa stomped her foot impatiently. “We are talking about an innocent girl here Lara. I understand your pain and reluctance about going there but you would have to go there sooner or later. Forgive me, but you know your father, if Nora had been caught, it is up to us to free her, since we put her in the mess in the first place”
Bola looked at Lara softly. “Yes! Besides, we would not leave your side for a minute, we can stop you from killing your father” she offered with a smile.
Lara stared at them and swallowed. Well, she couldn’t run away forever, could she?
Nora was hurled out of a very painful and restless sleep by the heavy splash of water on her face. Her bloodshot eyes stung as she forced them open. Yes! She was still there, in the room where she experienced more torture than she had dreamt possible. For four days, she had been tortured and beaten blue-black by men who were no doubt working on the orders of the governor. She was sitting in a chair with her hands and legs, tied firmly. She could no longer feel her fingers. The stink of her own urine floated to her nostrils, making her feel completely worthless. The scary face of one of her tormentors appeared before her eyes as she wished for death.
“Would you talk now?” the croaky voice groaned. “Are you now ready to tell us what you were looking for in the governor’s office?” the guy bit out harshly.
Nora swallowed. If she had considered this kind of punishment, she would never have done what she did. After taking the diary from Mrs. Banks’ room, she hadn’t been able to sneak out that day. The temptation to know the content of the diary had mounted up in her until she had given in to the temptation, telling herself that it would tell her about the mysterious CD that Miss Teresa asked her to get. She had read the big diary, gaping at the secrets she discovered and weeping over the pain that her deceased madam must have passed through. She had read about Mrs. Banks having a child which the governor was still unaware of and many bitter secrets. It was there she discovered the content of the mysterious CD, which had her gaping in horror and disbelief. She was able to deduce that the governor kept the CD in his office; apparently, Mrs. Banks had also tried to retrieve it but didn’t succeed.
Nora had successfully stolen the key to the office but when she had sneaked into the office four nights ago, she had been caught right there by none other than the governor himself.
“I… I thought I could get some… money there” she croaked out through sore throat. “I swear” she lied. This was what she had been repeating. If she mentioned that she was actually looking for a CD, she would be dead, for sure. She only hoped that continuously repeating this would make her sound believable in the long run. But it was obviously not happening soon because the guy’s hand flashed out and slapped her face soundly, sending fresh blood oozing out of her already battered mouth.
Thoughts are Real!
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