Immediately Maxwell made that daring statement, his uncle walked up to the place where he stood shaking like a dried leaf waiting to fall off from a dying tree branch. His uncle did not expect him to talk back at him considering the fact that he was seen as a weakling while growing up. “Young man, I paid your way through the university if you care to know”, Maxwell’s uncle said in anger. “You have no right to talk back at me no matter the discourse”, his uncle added. “That does not give you the right to lord it over me!“, Maxwell blurted with his eyes wide open. “You did what anyone would do for their family members because that is what family does for family”, Maxwell added. “You people have sown seeds of hatred among we the children”, Maxwell recounted with tears almost filling his eyes. “Uncle Donald, whether you like it or not, sooner or later, you people are all going to die and how do you expect we the younger generation of this once loving family to come together as one and build a lasting legacy befitting a family like ours?”, Maxwell added. “A house that is divided against itself cannot stand and I know you know too well where that quotation comes from”, Maxwell said, looking at his father. “Young man, you better know your place in this family lest I remind you”. “The mere fact that you are one of the few university graduates we have in this family should not merit you to quote the Bible to me, do you understand that?“,Maxwell’s uncle said. All this while, Maxwell’s grandmother tried to hide her joy because finally, she had in Maxwell, someone who could stand up to her children covering up for her inadequacy. “I wonder how you sleep at night after you go about telling everyone that you educated my son”, Maxwell’s father said. “You have received your reward in full if you are looking out for men to praise you for your good works”, Maxwell’s father added. “Spare me the bullshit and ask yourself if you can confidently say that you and your family would have been able to get by if not for my immense help and support”, Donald brushed it in Maxwell’s father’s face. “You know what Donald, you can keep your help from today for all I care but bear in mind that posterity will judge us for our deeds on earth”, Maxwell’s father said. “Mother, have you heard your beloved son?” “He is now cursing me for my benevolence”, Donald said, looking at his mother who was sitting with arms akimbo. “I have had enough of you both!“, Maxwell’s grandmother yelled. “This is not how I and your beloved father brought you people up!“. “Is this how you want to pay us back for all our painstaking efforts in raising four noble gentlemen in this harsh neighbourhood?“, Maxwell’s grandmother added. “I have been meaning to say this but I am always cowed by your manipulations”. “This madness must end here and now!“, Maxwell’s grandmother added. “Now, both of you should leave this house this instant!“. “The next time I see you here, we would be having a family meeting to put an end to this nonsense!“. “You heard her”, Maxwell’s uncle said looking at Maxwell and his father. “I was actually referring to the two of you”, Maxwell’s grandmother said, pointing to Maxwell’s father and uncle. “Maxwell can stay here for as long as he likes because he has proven to me that he can do the work that my own children are incapable of doing”, Maxwell’s grandmother added, turning and smiling at Maxwell. Eventually, the two adults left the house and the noise seized. That night, as Maxwell lay in the guestroom, many thoughts came to him. He tossed and turned and tried to figure out how he was going to save his family from their crisis, help his friends, develop his neighbourhood and more importantly, save himself from the problems he had entangled himself in. He opened his eyes, checked his phone and he realised that he had dozed off as he was brainstorming for ideas because it was already two o’clock in the morning. He turned off the bedside lamp and covered himself with a blanket. In the days that followed, he tried the best he could to give back to his childhood friends the faith which he felt they had lost in themselves. At one of their evening hangouts since he got back at ‘Jack’s Grill and Pub, he was lost in thought when Raphael asked, “What is wrong with you, Max?” “You don’t look cheerful at all”. “Don’t tell us that you don’t have enough money to pay for our drinks tonight”, Raphael said. As soon as he said that, the other boys stopped drinking and started counting the number of empty bottles on their table. “It is not about the number of bottles I can or cannot afford “, Maxwell started. “I want all of you seated at this table right now to take stock of your lives and ask yourselves if you would want other people paying for your drinks for the rest of your lives”. “You should be able to also pay for the drinks of others, maybe not today but soon”, Maxwell added, fearing that they might think he was fed up of being the buyer in their midst. “Raphael, without an iota of doubt you are the smartest among us yet we are not benefitting from your smartness”, Maxwell said. “So, I am not the one you should be asking if there is something wrong with me”, Maxwell said, while drinking a cold bottle of Smirnoff Ice. “What is wrong with you is the question each one of you should be asking yourselves” Maxwell added as he called on the waitress to order another round of drinks. “Let us take Raphael for instance; we all know that Ruth is your problem”. “She is a control freak and has a way of getting you to do anything she asks”. “You guys are no more so I don’t see why you should have sleepless nights over her”, Maxwell explained. “She is gone and won’t come back because the earlier you accept defeat of losing her, the better your chances of moving on ahead in life”. Maxwell turned to Rudolph and said, “Dude, all of us seated here are envious of your football skills but they would count for nothing if you remain arrogant because the fact is, no one wants to feel threatened by you because of your skills”. “The more you come to accept your position in the power chain, the more satisfied you would tend to be because time and chance are capable of changing a man’s status in life within a split second”, Maxwell added. “Prince”, Maxwell started. “You and I know that you can never expect a salary of one hundred million dollars from your job so the earlier you stopped complaining, the better because even the richest people in the world first started at the point you find yourself today”, Maxwell added. “Also, I think you are a womanizer so my sister is off limits!“, Maxwell screamed and they all broke out in hysterical laughter of different pitches and tones. After the laughter had died out and yet another round of drinks was ordered, Maxwell continued, “I am not claiming to be self-righteous in any way because like all of you, I also have my own faults and inadequacies which I am trying to deal with”. “Yeah right, tell us about it, Mr. Right”, Frank chipped in sarcastically. “You may not know it yet but I am really messed up right now but let us leave it for another day”, Maxwell said. “We need to focus on making our lives better than they are now; we have to think of putting smiles on the faces of our parents and loved ones”, Maxwell continued. Maxwell had thought up an idea to establish a franchise eatery in his neighbourhood. He proposed the idea to his trusted childhood friends and wanted to know if they were willing to share the idea with him. Within days of Maxwell’s ‘baptism of fire’ and suggestion, all his friends put in all the best efforts they could to bring their idea into reality. Maxwell shared the idea with Linda. “That is a splendid idea!”, She exclaimed after Maxwell had shared his business plan with her. Linda worked with a law firm as a secretary so Maxwell engaged her to do all his paper work for him. He ensured that he kept his friends especially Prince in check whenever Linda was around them so he always made her type their documents in his room. On one of the nights, Maxwell and Linda stayed in late to finish up work on the final proposal to send to the eatery requesting for the franchise. “Do you think they are going to buy the idea?”, Maxwell asked nervously. “Relax, Maxwell”, Linda started. “I have gone through the business plan and the proposal and I can say for a fact that it is top notch”, Linda added looking up at Maxwell from her laptop. “I am just nervous”, Maxwell said. “I want everything to turn out beautifully because I want my friends to get something doing in this almost-dead neighbourhood”. I owe it to myself and I owe it to them to help all of them”, Maxwell said. “I can see that you are really passionate about this”, Linda said as she walked over to the spot Maxwell was standing, placed her hands on his shoulders and started to massage them gently. “I have always felt that I have to prove myself to these people and I think this is the right time to make it up to them”, Maxwell added as he began to feel Linda’s warm arms around his neck. “Everything will be fine” Linda said. “You have a good soul and you can pass for a human angel”, Linda said and tightened her grip on Maxwell’s shoulders. Maxwell could feel Linda’s breath draw closer and closer to the back of his neck. He wanted to turn to see what she was up to but immediately he turned, their lips got locked in what seemed like a passionate kiss. Linda sat on Maxwell’s laps and continued kissing him. Without warning, Maxwell pushed Linda off and she landed on the bed with a thud. “I am so sorry, Linda”, Maxwell said. “We cannot do this”, he added. “What do you mean by that?”, Linda asked feeling embarrassed. “You won’t understand, Linda”, Maxwell said drawing close to Linda and kneeling in front of her. “Maxwell, make me understand because I think I am falling in love with you”, Linda said with tears in her eyes. “Linda, please don’t, I beg you”, Maxwell replied. “Why, Max, why?” Linda queried. “I am already involved with two women and I would not want you to be the third”, Maxwell revealed. Linda’s mouth was wide open as Maxwell revealed this secret. “But how”, a confused Linda asked. “I love one woman who does not love me anymore because of my past and another woman is carrying my baby”, Maxwell said. “How did you get yourself involved in all of this?”, Linda asked, looking awe-struck. Maxwell heaved a sigh and said, “This is my story”….. MORE SOON. WILL LINDA STILL LOVE MAXWELL AFTER THIS REVELATION? STAY TUNED.