Teresa stood on the threshold, staring at the door before her with a frown on her face. She had been knocking for over ten minutes and except the inhabitants of the apartment were deaf, there seemed to be no one around. This is not good! She had come all the way from her place of abode, leaving Nora to the care of Bola and the nurse she had gotten, followed the address Mrs. Balogun had given her all in her quest to find Jack but now, it seemed her journey had been in vain. Maybe God was punishing her for leaving poor Nora to be tended by Bola when she clearly was responsible for the pain the girl was passing through now. She checked the paper with the address again for the seventh time to be sure she was in the right place but surely, she hadn’t missed her way. People would ask, ‘what is she looking for?’ but hey, she knew what she was looking for! She was lady who looked out for a friend even when they are being too arrogant to look out for themselves! She was on a mission to reunite two stubborn lovebirds who would not give in to their feelings for each other.
All week, she had watched Lara wallow in self-pity and justifiable anger. Teresa had done all she could to make Lara call Jack to hear his own side of the story but no! Her pride and arrogance would not make her do it. Even when Teresa had asked if Lara was in love with Jack, Lara had denied it over and over, thinking she was fooling the all-seeing Teresa. When Lara would not budge, Teresa had taken it upon herself to go to Jack and make him do the needful – explain himself. She had gone over to his house and that was when she knew without a doubt that Lara’s feelings were not one-sided. Mrs. Balogun explained just how miserable Jack had been since Lara’s disappearance. Even the hostile Bewaji had confirmed the fact that she had never seen Jack the way he was when ‘Miss Lara’ left. Teresa wondered why the two lovebirds were being too hard on themselves. Well, Teresa would fix it as she always does! She told herself. But… it was not working out as planned because the address Mrs. Balogun had given to help her locate Jack seemed to either house deaf people or house no one at all.
The sound of a car made her turn and she watched with delight as the car zoomed into the premises and parked. She smiled. It was not Jack’s car but then, the guy was a millionaire; he probably had more than one car. When the door opened though, her smile vanished because the person was clearly not Jack! He walked towards her as a small questioning frown crossed his face.
“Hello…” he said cautiously.
Teresa adjusted her handbag and stood taller. She gently assessed the man before her. He was quite tall, almost as tall as Jack and he bore some sort of slight resemblance to him that she could not really place at the moment. “Hi, I am Teresa”
He stared at her for a long time, his eyes widening as he roamed his eyes over her from head to toe. Teresa stood like she had all the time in the world, waiting for him to be done with his assessment. Finally, probably noticing that he was being rude, he snapped up, his back straightening. “I’m sorry errr… how may I help you please?”
Teresa sighed gratefully. “Yes. Actually I am looking for Mr. Andrews… Jack”
“You are not here to arrest him, are you?” Felix joked.
Teresa smiled. “I can’t say for now”
“He is my brother! I am Felix” Felix announced.
Teresa frowned. “Never knew he had a brother”
Felix grinned. “Life is full of surprises, isn’t it? He should be here soon, why not come in and wait… I could call him” Felix walked over to the door while Teresa stepped back a bit for him. He opened the door and held it back for her to go in.
Felix closed the door firmly behind them and walked inside. “Please feel at home” he said, gesturing towards a chair as he took out his phone to call Jack. A folded paper on the table stopped him and he cautiously made towards the note. He took the paper and opened slowly. Teresa watched him with a soft frown on her face. As Felix read on, his face turned paler by the second until Teresa was sure something was completely and totally wrong. He looked like a snowman on the verge of melting away.
“Is everything alright?” she asked quietly as he raised his eyes from the note with a faraway look in his troubled eyes. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. “Uhn?”
Teresa jumped to her feet. “I said is everything alright? No, wait! That is a dumb question because everything is clearly not alright. Now, more accurately; what is wrong?”
He still looked like he wasn’t listening to anything she was saying and it was upsetting the living daylight out of Teresa. “Oh God! This is not real!”
Teresa hissed. She had the great urge to snatch the note from Felix’s hand because she totally hated being put on the edge but, c’mon, she clearly didn’t know Felix; the note could be something personal.
“What isn’t real? What’s wrong?” she asked for the third time. “Felix?”
He turned troubled eyes to Teresa. “A million things are wrong! But… right now, I think the only thing you should know is… Jack is in trouble”
Teresa rolled her eyes. “That’s pretty obvious now, isn’t it? What kind of trouble?”
Felix stared at her. “It involves the governor… I think Jack had a thing to do with the kidnap of the governor’s daughter or something… Jack has been summoned by the governor”
Teresa shook her head. “Oh crap! Lara never learns, does she?”
“You know Lara?” Felix asked as if she had just declared that she had Dangote’s phone number.
Without wasting time, Teresa turned and grabbed her handbag. “Your numerous questions would not help your brother, let’s go and see how we can rescue the situation”
Felix eyed her suspiciously. “And how would we get in? It is the State House we are talking about here”
Teresa shook her head. “I know a secret entry and exit Lara uses; now would you quit the questions and get moving?”
Felix jumped to action immediately. “Yes yes… you are God sent”
Jack stared into space, gripping the edge of the table as the memory shook him. “I was all alone out there in the cold with the dead body of my mother lying beside me. I was frightened, lost and alone. I had no idea where I was” he swallowed as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I knew a fear far greater than anything I ever experienced. My mother’s body grew paler and paler before my very eyes. It was the very first time I would see a dead body and it so happened to be my mothers. I cried out, yelled and screamed; no one heard, no one answered my pleas. I was slowly losing my mind” the room was as silent as a graveyard as Jack spoke as though he was in a daze. “I can still hear the fast racing of my own heart so distinctively; I don’t think I would ever forget. Then, towards evening, someone happened by but it was already too late. I had already lost what was left of my sanity, leaving me just as cold as my dead mother”
Lara was seated on the floor with her legs drawn to her chest. She couldn’t hear it anymore! It was more than enough to imagine that a child had been subjected to that kind of torment but thinking that her own father was the tormentor was a different ball game entirely. She had witnessed her mother’s death at a mature age; yet, she still had nightmares. How about a child who had to sit with his mother’s body for hours, all alone in the middle of nowhere? It was beyond her realm of imaginations. She looked at Jack as he stood. Even now, he seemed lost and utterly alone. Her heart ached! Her heart ached for the child he was; for the pain he had to carry for several years.
Unable to stop herself, she bolted up and rushed to Jack, hugging him tightly. “I’m sorry… I am so sorry…” she murmured as tears ran down her cheeks, disappearing onto his shirt. She didn’t want to hear anymore… she didn’t want him to remember anymore. She didn’t want to see that pained haunted look in his eyes. She held on to him, dragging him forcefully back to the present; not letting go even though his own arms just lay limp beside him. She held on tighter, serving as his anchor, inhaling his scent – the unique scent that was only his.
Then, slowly, she felt him move! His arms circled her, holding her even closer. It was like they were the only ones in the room. He accepted the consolation she freely gave; leaning into her. But they couldn’t stay that way forever! She turned and glared at her father, wishing she had a gun. The world would definitely be better off without her miserable father. “I hate you! I hate you with everything in me”
“I didn’t mean to do it… It was entirely your mother’s fault” Tunji bit out shakily. “She made me do it…”
Lara stared at Tunji in bewilderment. “Don’t you dare… don’t you dare bring my mother into this! You are nothing but a filthy murderer! That’s what you are; a murderer!” Lara yelled.
“No… no! I didn’t kill her, I had no idea she was going to die, I was only trying to pay Jack’s father back in his own coin”
Lara paused. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“Your mother was sleeping with Jack’s father behind my back” he declared. “They were both taking advantage of my condition. Your slutty mother went ahead to have sex with an outsider just because I… could not… satisfy her” he swallowed, gaining a little bit of composure as anger and arrogance entered into him, making him glare at them with venom. “I had my men follow her when she would not confess who she was sleeping with, then, that night…” he swallowed uncomfortably. “I asked my men to take me to the man; I took a gun along and all I wanted was to kill him. Then, as we went, we came across… Jack and his mother” Lara felt Jack go rigid behind her and she grew tense but he made no move, neither did he say anything. “My men told me that she was the wife of the man” Tunji continued. “It was then that I decided on paying Pascal back in his own coin. Wife for wife”
Lara stared unbelievably at her father. “He did not rape my mother! They were two consenting adults”
“What difference does it make?” Tunji barked angrily. “He slept with my wife; my wife!” he yelled. “They were making a mockery out of me just because an accident cost me my manhood”
“So, you raped her!” God! It was just so unbelievable that the person she had called ‘father’ for twenty five years was capable of such cruelty.
Tunji’s face eased into an ironic bitter smile. “How could I? I was impotent, right?” his strained face showed just how much he hated what he admitted. “I tried so much… I really wanted to be the one to rape her! I wanted to have the satisfaction of knowing that I caused Pascal as much pain as he cost me, but… I couldn’t! I just couldn’t” he barked bitterly as he fisted his arms angrily. “Even seeing her all naked and tied down on the bed couldn’t get a rise out of me; it was the most infuriating moment I have ever experienced.”
Jack started pacing behind Lara and right now, Lara would not even hold him responsible if he killed her father there and then. Lara would probably have done the same if she was holding a revolver. “So, you got your men to sleep with her!” Lara finished for her father.
His mouth twisted. “Yes! The cowards, they are so weak, they couldn’t do it; they let her cries and pleas get to them. I had to force them”
“Shut up, or so help me, I would kill you with my hands” Jack barked unable to stop himself.
“Why? You saw it all, didn’t you? Besides, you are just as weak as those men! Now, I understand. That is the same thing you wanted to do to Lara right?”
Lara froze as her father cocked his eye at Jack. All along, she hadn’t thought of this! Jack had said he wanted to penetrate the house, she hadn’t thought he had planned to use her! Her mouth fell dry as she turned her head to Jack! There, she got the confirmation she needed. His face was white and filled with guilt. Oh my God! Lara’s gaze slipped from his to the floor. It had all been part of the plan… part of his great plan to repay her father! He made her trust him the same way her father had done several years back when they had hoped into the car. They had thought him to be their savior… oh no! All the while, she had thought him to be her saviour, not knowing that he was playing the same cards her father had played on them. She had thought his kisses were real… heartfelt… not knowing that it was just a means to an end! When she had been there, busy falling in love with him, she had been unknowingly falling into his plans?
Jack swallowed. “It… it was my plan all along” he shifted, unable to look into Lara’s eyes. “I promised my mother there, as I sat by her corpse in the bush. I promised her that I would avenge her death. A parent for… a child”
Lara’s eyes watered. “Wow” she breathed under her breath. She imagined herself in Jack’s mother’s place, all tied up on the bed, vulnerable to the merciless hands of men… the imagination weakened her knees and she had to grip the table to keep herself from crumbling to the ground. Pain tore at her heart but the most painful part of it all was that she couldn’t even find fault in Jack. She lowered herself gently until she was sitting on the floor
Jack hastened to her side, but when he got there, he couldn’t touch her, like he was scared that she would recoil. “I’m sorry Lara… I am sorry I wanted to use you for my revenge but… but it changed… it all changed…”
Lara looked up at him as tears rolled down her face. “What changed?”
Jack swallowed and squatted before her, bringing his eyes to the same level with hers. “I… I couldn’t do it” he whispered. He raised his hand and this time, he let it brush against her cheeks, wiping off her tears. “I…” He swallowed drily. He couldn’t say it! He couldn’t say the words! His face was strained, showing just how hard it was for him. For this sweet face, he would do anything. For this sweet gentle soul who had unknowingly saved him from himself, he was letting go of his past and quest for vengeance. “Oh Lara… you don’t know what you have done to me”
“She has tied you to her little finger; that is what she has done” Tunji dropped with mockery lacing his voice. “You are just a coward! You allowed yourself to be manipulated by a woman” he spat out, and then grinned. “Well, that’s just too bad! I have already sent a signal to security! They would be here any second and by the time they are done with you, you would have coughed out all the cash you illegally took from me, you bastard!”
“No!” Lara jumped up, shielding Jack with her small frame, almost making him laugh. “No one would touch Jack; they would have to go through me!”
Just then, the office door bursted open and Lara shrieked, only for her eyes to come in contact with Teresa and another guy. “Teresa?” wasn’t she supposed to be tending to Nora? She looked at them in confusion. They looked like they were being chased.
“Felix! What on earth are you doing here?” Jack snapped, moving towards the guy.
“What did you think? That you would drop that note and I would sit back and do nothing? I am not that kind of brother, okay?”
“Brother?” Lara murmured in surprise. “You have a brother?”
Jack turned to her. “Yes! And you do as well”
Okay… something is definitely wrong with her earing! Maybe the story Jack just narrated had had effects on her ears.
“This is your brother” Jack said, pointing slightly at the guy he just called Felix. Lara stared from the guy to Jack and back again. Unable to stop herself, she started laughing. It was too funny to be true and the only person who seemed to share in the awkward joke was her damned father.
“This guy is definitely insane” he muttered.
“This is not a joke Lara, he is your brother. That was what Sword was telling me the night you saw us”
Lara wasn’t finding it funny anymore. “What are you saying?” her eyes were as large as doughnuts as she stared from Jack to the person who was supposedly her brother. How ridiculous can things get? Teresa was also watching the scene with great interest.
“Your mother had a child for my father”
“No!” Now, Tunji’s voice rang out as he stared at the man beside Jack. He shook his head vigorously. “No, that’s not possible”
Lara’s mouth had gone dry as she stared at Felix. She had a brother? She had a brother!
“It is true!” Now, Felix spoke. “You are my step sister and you sir…” he turned to the pale man ahead. “You are my step-father”
“Noooo…” Tunji screamed and just then, the door bursted open and some security men rushed in. “Nooo…” Tunji screamed like a madman, rushing towards them like he was about to grab Felix and tear him into tiny pieces. “No – ahhh…” Tunji stopped mid-stride and gripped his chest as anger and fear was replaced by pain. Everyone stood there, spellbound and frozen to the spot as Tunji stood still, gripping his chest in a fierce grip. “Ahhhh… my… ahhhhh…” he bit out again in pain as pain struck his chest, sending him crashing to the ground. The security men rushed towards him, grabbing the governor and hurling him out of the ground but he continued to yelp in pain, gripping his chest with both hands.
It has been two days since Mr Banks was admitted in the hospital after suffering a major heart attack. Lara sat with Teresa and Bola seated close to her in the waiting room. She was not as tense as she had been when her mother was the person involved and that is because she couldn’t even determine what she felt for her father now. She stood up and walked to the window, welcoming the cool calming breeze. Her head was still in turmoil, but it was expected. Teresa walked up to her and gave her gentle squeeze. Lara turned to Teresa and the look on her face made her pause. “Terry? What’s wrong?”
Teresa looked away. “There is something I should tell you”
Oh no! Lara swallowed. Nothing could come as a shock anymore. But could she still stomach another new discovery? “Go on” she said pensively.
Teresa looked at Bola who gave an encouraging nod. Excellent! Bola knows too! “I was happy when your father severed your relationship with Derin”
Lara frowned. “Well, yes, you made that very obvious since you cannot imagine me with a ‘filthy carpenter'” This was no news!
Teresa swallowed. “That was not the reason!”
Teresa looked at the floor and shook her head. She raised her head as her eyes watered. “I didn’t want you two together because… because I was also in love with Derin”
Lara stared at Teresa, dumbfounded.
“Every time I saw you two together, it caused me great pain because I wasn’t the one with him. I knew your relationship with him would severe our friendship so I tried to poison your mind, downplaying him by using his status” she touched Lara. “I am so sorry Lara… I couldn’t help it. Bola has been on me, pressurizing me to tell you but I couldn’t. That’s why I have been trying my best to bring you and Jack together, hoping it would rectify my mistakes but as it turns out, I only succeeded in giving you more pain”
Lara stared at Teresa and started laughing. “So, you were actually in love with Derin”
Teresa frowned. “You are not angry?”
Lara shook her head. “Of course not” she smiled at Teresa. “You cannot teach the heart whom to love” she stated. Lara shook her head as a huge grin crept up her face. “You are in love with Derin!”
Teresa frowned, looking hurt. “Now, you are making best of me”
Lara covered her mouth with her hand and waved ‘sorry’ at Teresa. Teresa put her hands on her hips as Lara looked at Bola and both of them started laughing uncontrollably. “This… this is the most hilarious news I have heard in a while”
Teresa rolled her eyes at them but finally smiled, happy that her worries could now be laid to rest.
“Come here” Lara murmured. The ladies hugged, renewing the bond that they had always shared. “I love you girls, you’re my sisters, now and forever” Lara whispered. It is during trying times that you know your true friends and now, for the umpteenth time, she was grateful to God for giving her these two wonderful ladies.
Jack felt lighter than he had felt in years. It was like a huge burden was lifted off his shoulders, making him feel human again. He headed towards the waiting room, knowing that Lara was in there. The people around hadn’t allowed them to share any conversation and it was probably a good thing because he had no idea what he was going to say to her.
Immediately he entered, his heart skipped several beats. She was laughing with her friends, looking happier than he had seen her in a long time. This was the way she ought to be! This was probably the way she had been before he showed up. He wanted her to always be like this! Happy and carefree! She raised her eyes to his when he entered fully and his breath immediately felt blown away. She didn’t lower her eyes, only stared at him with those lovely large eyes which he couldn’t get tired of looking into.
Jack didn’t know her friends had stood stood up until they got to the door. They walked out quietly, closing the door behind them. Finally, for the first time, they were alone. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards her. All he wanted was her forgiveness, he told himself, even if she couldn’t give him the one thing he desperately craved – her love. “Hey… ” he called gently.
Lara stood up from the seat and stared into his eyes, stealing his breath. He blinked. “Lara… I am truly sorry for all I did to you… I know you have every right to despise me for all I did… and for all I didn’t do…” Jack looked around, hoping to find words off the floor of the waiting room but found none. “I am sorry… I…”
“Shhhh” Lara whispered and threw her hands around him, holding him close. Jack held on to get, breathing in her soft feminine scent as he held her fragile form in his arms. He wanted to remain like this forever, to hold her in his arms with nothing standing in the gap. He wanted to tell her just how much she meant to him, to whisper it over and over again and pray that somehow, she felt the same way. He felt her hand go round his neck, making him burn with the great desire to kiss her. “I love you”
Jack stiffened as those three beautiful words floated to his ears. His heart was thumping so loudly in his chest. Just like that time twenty years ago, but now, it was not out of fear, it was out of love, love so great he could almost touch it. He pulled back and stared into her, “I love you” she repeated.
He swallowed. “How can you love me?” He croaked. “I do not deserve your love… I am too maimed… I have hurt you enough Lara, you deserve a perfect man, not one who comes with so much baggage” he shook his head.
Lara held his face in her hands. “I can’t think of anyone who deserves my love more. I know you are maimed. I am too. We can see to each other’s wounds and heal together. I want to help you get over the pain you have carried for years… I want to rewrite my father’s mistakes”
Jack swallowed and looked away.
“Tell me” Lara urged. “Please”
“I love you Lara” jack said, looking into her eyes. “I love you”
Unable to hold back any longer, Jack lowered his head, taking her mouth in a kiss that spoke more words than his mouth could utter. He pulled her flush to himself, holding her firmly within the circle of his arms. There is only one thing that can heal a maimed soul; it is the one thing that holds all the power in the universe – love.
“What are you saying doctor?” Lara frowned.
The doctor looked uncomfortable as he shifted in his chair. “After due observations, we think it would be better if the Governor is moved to a… psychiatric hospital… for better treatment”
Lara glanced at Jack with her mouth open. “Are you saying that my father is… mad?”
The doctor looked away. “Not exactly, but following the shock he received at your mother’s burial when her parents made a scene, we have noticed that he talks to himself and whenever we try to approach him, he becomes violent.” He explained. “I think the shock had adverse effects on his mental health”
Lara swallowed and leaned against Jack. Her mother’s burial had come and gone but it was still the talk of the town as the media was still bubbling and making references to the day. Her mother’s parents had arrived at the bogus wake- keeping and even though her father had been discharged a day to the burial, he had been rushed back to the hospital before the end of the event.
Lara walked out of the hospital with Jack after making arrangements for her father’s transfer to a psychiatric hospital. Now, his deputy had taken over the affairs of the state in his stead. Lara shook her head. Her father had always been so keen about wealth and fame. He had put everything on the line for his reelection, but now, he was not even in the position to run a campaign. She accepted Jack’s comforting embrace, leaning into her maimed other half.
Every bad person has been maimed, every maimed person has a wound; some are tended, some are left uncared for. Jack’s wound might not be fully healed but he has learnt to live with it, to let go of the past and give love a chance. And yes! Letting go is… the first step towards healing.
Thank you all for following me through this journey, for your wondrous comments, messages and encouragements; I love you all… Kisses…
Thoughts are Real!
Follow on Twitter: @nissi_adeola @inspysworld