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|Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:41pm On Dec 11, 2019|
David dried himself in the bathroom when he heard his phone ringing. “This is why I always prefer to bring you along here,” he muttered to himself, as he tiptoed to the bedroom to avoid slipping, wearing only a pair of shorts with the towel slung over his shoulder. He found his phone on the bed and sitting on its edge, answered the call.
“Yo, boy,” he began, patting his moist hair dry with the towel.
Within seconds, he jolted up, his eyes bulging in shock. “Oh my God! Wh- Where – Where are you now?” His lips quivered, a sudden trembling falling on him. Slowly, his cell phone slid down from his grasp and landed flat on the floor. “God,” he gasped, turning his head to his gaping reflection in the dressing mirror. “What did I just do?”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:49pm On Dec 11, 2019|
To say that Keren was simply beautiful would be an understatement. Not only was the 31-yearold mother breath-taking in physical beauty but she had also generously passed on her beautiful traits to her 10-year-old daughter and only child Jasmine.
That evening, like most other evenings, Keren could be found only in Jasmine’s room. Leaning their backs against the headboard as they cuddled together on the queen-sized bed, Keren’s eyes widened in admiration of her daughter’s performance stated in the terminal report Jasmine had just shown her.
“Wow, Jasmine!” Keren shot Jasmine a fleeting glance before running her eyes over the report once more. “First in every subject? Bravo, my princess!” She rubbed Jasmine’s arms delightfully, feeling proud to have such an incredibly intelligent girl as her child.
Jasmine beamed with pride, her sparkling white teeth on full display. “Thanks, mum.”
Keren shook her head tenderly in awe and mumbled, “This is just like me.”
“Yeah,” Keren gave a gentle nod, her eyes still fixed on the 90 plus marks Jasmine had scored in each of the subjects. “As far back as I can remember, I always topped every subject in school.”
Jasmine looked at Keren, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Like seriously, mum?”
“Uh huh,” Keren smiled at her.
“Wow,” the girl said to herself, amazed at how splendidly intelligent her mother was. Her curiosity was ignited as she wondered what else she didn’t know about her beautiful mother.
“Ha,” Keren chuckled. “And the teachers said my girl would struggle for a top position in the most competitive class in the school.”
Jasmine chortled. “My form master even said it would be a miracle if I even placed thirtieth in the class.”
“They had no idea whose daughter they were underestimating,” Keren scoffed, folding the report sheet. “They didn’t know that not only are you a carbon copy of my looks,” she flicked Jasmine’s cheek, eliciting a grin from the girl. “You’re also a reflection of my intellect, my princess.”
“Aw, mum,” Jasmine drawled. “That’s so sweet. I want to become just like you when I grow up; Beautiful and rich.”
“You will, my princess,” she smiled reassuringly and tapped Jasmine’s pointed nose with a finger, “If you keep working hard in school.”
“Sure, mum,” Jasmine promised. “I’ll never let you down.”
“And I will always be there for you,” Keren caressed her daughter’s hair as Jasmine lay on her laps.
As she enjoyed every moment by her mother’s side, Jasmine wished she could freeze time. She hoped it would be one of those nights where Keren would spend the night with her. Suddenly, Jasmine’s eyes flashed wide as a memory hit her.
“Mum,” Jasmine looked up at Keren, “Dad told me the other day that I’m only smart because he is smart.”
Keren’s eyebrows furrowed. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Jasmine gave a firm nod. “He even said that back in school, he used to win national awards for fun.”
“Ei !” Keren exclaimed and chuckled. “Your dad? Awards? National? In which universe?”
Jasmine laughed. “I knew he was telling lies.”
Keren scoffed and shook her head. “He is. He’s just trying to join our class but there is no vacancy.”
“Goodness!” the little girl held her chin. “This man can lie.”
“He was only kidding actually,” Keren said. A momentary silence hanged over the chilly room. In sheer delight of motherhood and with a proud smile across her lips, Keren smoothened her daughter’s hair.
“But hey,” Keren broke the silence, “Why are you going on holidays so early in December? Fourth is a bit too early if you ask me.”
“Renovations,” Jasmine stated flatly, looking intently into Keren’s eyes. “Owner wants the school to look world class.”
“That’s cool. So tomorrow is Our Day then.”
Jasmine had a good laugh at what Keren had said.
“What?” Keren wondered with a half-smile.
The girl sat up beside her mother. “ Our Day? Mum, come on, stop living in the Stone Age. Our Day is so 19 th century.”
“Well, it’s been a long time since I was in basic school.”
“Things have changed now.”
“But Our Days were fun times, you know,” narrated Keren, crossing her legs.
“I remember on the last day of the term, your grandmother would wake up at dawn and prepare my favourite dish. Then later in the morning at school, my classmates and I will sit in a circle and enjoy our meals-”
Jasmine interrupted with a sigh. “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that a thousand times. So are you also going to prepare food for me tomorrow?”
“Nope,” she declined, getting out of the bed. She walked over to the glass window where the bright bulb of the streetlight was in view. “Would have loved to, but mum is leaving the country tomorrow.” Keren drew the flowered curtains close.
“What?” Jasmine gasped, crawling to sit on the edge of the bed.
Keren turned around and giggled as she moved towards the wardrobe. “Why? What’s wrong?” She picked up a sweater lying at its foot and hanged it inside.
“But mum, you didn’t tell me!” she protested crossly.
“Well, I didn’t know I needed your permission,” Keren closed the wardrobe. “And it was impromptu. It’s just a conference I’m attending. Will be back in three days.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:11am On Dec 12, 2019|
“Can’t I come along?” Jasmine whined, watching her mother walk over to the cluttered bookshelf beside her desk and start to arrange the books.
Keren paused with a book in hand and turned to Jasmine. “No, you can’t! It’s too late to arrange for you to join me and besides, I’m not going on a vacation; it’s for work.”
Jasmine slumped onto the bed like a felled tree without a word. Keren knew the little girl was disappointed. She hated to let Jasmine down but there was nothing she could do about it.
“I know you’re disappointed -”
“I’m not disappointed,” the girl cut in, gazing at the ceiling. “I’m depressed.
” Keren chortled, coming back to sit on the edge of the bed. “What’s so depressing about this."
Jasmine shifted her eyes to her mother for a split second and then sat up. “Mum,” she called softly and shot a quick glance at the half-opened door. “Living in this house with dad is depressing.”
Keren suddenly knitted her eyebrows in worry. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Mum,” the little girl began her complaint as her mother folded her arms and listened attentively. “When you’re not around, dad scolds me unnecessarily. He complains about the slightest thing I do and raises his heart-piercing voice at me. I don’t know if he has a bachelor’s degree in scolding or something.”
Keren snorted away her worry. For a moment, she had thought Jasmine had a serious complaint. “Bachelor’s degree, huh? You’re funny. You see, you should try to view discipline in good light. Your dad loves you, that’s why.”
“Love?” scoffed Jasmine. “I wish I could believe that. But I hate that man!”
“Jasmine, mind your language!” Keren snapped instantly with a finger pointed at Jasmine. “You should never use that word with your father.”
“Fine. I don’t hate him,” Jasmine retracted flatly before adding, “I abhor him.”
Keren got up with a sigh, heading to Jasmine’s entertainment corner. “I’ve had enough of you and your father,” she said, putting off the wall mounted TV and home theatre systems below. “It’s time to go to bed.”
Jasmine’s face crumpled. “I want to go with you, mum,” tears stung her eyes.
“No, you can’t,” Keren insisted.
The child wasn’t going to give up so easily. She threw herself on the floor, rolling back and forth on the Persian rug as a possessed person would. “I want to go with you!”
Jasmine squealed at the top of her voice.
Terrified by the screaming, Keren rushed to her. “Knock it off, Jasmine,” she reprimanded, gripping her arms tightly. “You’re disturbing the neighbours.”
Jasmine was breathing heavily on the floor as if she had just run a marathon. “Are you taking me along now?”
Keren sighed and pulled her daughter up to her feet while she knelt before the little girl. “Oh my princess,” Keren said in a sombre tone, wiping teardrops from the corners of Jasmine’s eyes. “I wish I could. You know I would have taken you along if it was possible. But I make you this promise; by the time I return you will be on holidays, right?”
“Great. So when I return, I will start working on a three weeks’ vacation, not a week this time, three weeks, to your country of preference and this time, it will just be you and I, and we will have the time of our lives.” Keren ended with an infectious smile.
“Promise?” Jasmine smiled slightly.
Keren grinned, relieved that her daughter was finally smiling again. “Cross my heart. Now, let me see that smile again, my princess.”
Jasmine was all smiles, lighting up her beautiful face. “I love you so much,” Keren gave her an embrace and kissed her neck. “Never cry again, please.”
“Love you too mum.”
After the hug, Keren promised further. “You know what? I’ll be leaving for Accra at dawn but before I go, I will ask your father to order your favourite pizza tomorrow after school.”
Jasmine looked sceptical and Keren, puzzled, asked, “Why? Wouldn’t you like that?”
“I would, but dad is the problem. He won’t order anything, mum. Rather, he will ask Afiba to prepare boiled yam and garden eggs stew instead.”
Keren giggled. “But, Jasmine, yam with garden eggs stew is both delicious and nutritious.”
“Yucky is the term I tend to use for that meal.”
Keren laughed at that, shaking her head. “Jasmine, you’re funny just like your father. Fine, I will give money to Afiba instead to get you the pizza.”
Both mother and child exchanged a brief smile before Keren turned to glance at the clock; it was almost 9 pm.
“Oh dear,” Keren straightened up and gently carried Jasmine in her arms and onto the bed like a baby. “It’s past your bedtime, Jasmine. You should be in dreamland by now princess. Experts say our bodies need seven hours of sleep every night to be healthy.” She covered her daughter up to the neck with a Lion King blanket.
“Seven hours? Really?” asked the little girl, looking at her mother.
After a quick glance at the clock, Jasmine rebutted, “If that’s the case, then I should be up by 4 am. What will I be doing as a child at 4 am?”
She gazed at her daughter briefly, then she shook her head. Jasmine was in for another lengthy debate and Keren wasn’t in the mood for that.
“Jasmine,” Keren began, placing one hand in the palm of the other as if to beg, “Can we please adjourn this case? Please.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:21am On Dec 12, 2019|
The girl chortled.
“Now,” continued Keren tenderly, kneeling beside the bed. “While I’m away, please put up your best behaviour, okay?”
“I will, mum,” Jasmine promised.
“Don’t go riding your bicycle outside in the street, please remain within the yard or play on the swing if you want to play outdoors.”
“Don’t worry, mum. I will be careful.”
“And if any stranger calls you, run away okay?”
“Stay at home with Afiba or go with your father to his shop.”
“Oh no,” she moaned.
“Alright. Don’t go with your father. Stay here and have fun with your MacBook or music system. Just turn down the volume so that you don’t disturb the neighbours. I don’t want them asking for your head again.”
Jasmine tugged a sly smile at the corners of her mouth.
It saddened Keren that she would leave her only child for three days. Though it was only for a short while, to Keren, even a day without Jasmine was almost unbearable.
“I’m going to miss you, sweetheart,” Keren confessed softly, tearing up.
“I’ll miss you too, mum.”
“Be safe for me.” Then, like every other night, Keren planted a tender kiss on her daughter’s cheek. “Goodnight, Jasmine.”
Keren left the side of the bed, wiping off a tear as she made for the door. Hardly had she opened the door when Jasmine called her.
“What is it, sweetheart?” asked Keren as she spun around to give Jasmine her attention, her hand on the door handle.
“Safe journey, mum.”
Keren smiled. “Aw Jasmine, thanks so much.”
Jasmine watched her mother wave her ‘goodbye’ with a smile before flipping off the light switch. The door closed behind her, snuffing out the remaining light. In the comfort of her bed, Jasmine shut her eyes as she waited for the power of sleep to overcome her.
On her way to her bedroom, Keren was surprised to meet her housekeeper Afiba in the corridor trudging in her direction, a cloth slung over her shoulder and a bucket half-filled with water in hand. The twenty-year-old high school graduate looked to be adding more flesh to the tiny frame she had arrived from her hometown with. That was about two months ago. At the present rate, she was certainly en route to obesity unless of course, she joined her madam’s husband at the gym. The girl wasn’t one who would necessarily command a second look, yet at the same time, she wasn’t one who would have a hard time getting a husband if looks were the rule. Broad-faced with slanted eyes and full lips coupled with an average height and a firm and curvy frame, Afiba was more than just okay; if only she would braid her neatly combed afro!
After staying at home with her aged parents for two years with no hope of continuing her education, she had been recommended by Keren’s mother who was well acquainted with Afiba’s family back in Esiama – Keren’s hometown. Keren had had Afiba brought in to live with her family after settling in the city. This was her second month serving the family.
Keren stopped her and asked what she was still doing at that time.
“I didn’t finish doing the laundry early,” Afiba answered politely, placing the bucket down. “So I’m currently on my way to clean the dining table and afterwards, wash the dishes.”
“Aw,” Keren said sadly, feeling sorry that the girl had to work so hard at an hour when Keren felt she should be resting. “It’s okay, Afiba. Don’t worry about the dishes and the rest. You can do that tomorrow morning.”
“Oh Aunty, I can do it.”
“No,” Keren insisted firmly, taking hold of Afiba’s smooth arms. “Go to bed. Tomorrow, you can continue with the work, okay?”
Afiba threw in the towel with a mild sigh. She smiled faintly. “Thanks, Aunty.” Keren smiled. “Good. You can go to bed now.”
The housekeeper turned around, heading back to the kitchen. She hadn’t gone too far when Keren called her from behind.
Afiba turned around in a flash. “Yes, Aunty?”
“Lest I forget,” Keren said, closing the gap between them. “I’m travelling tomorrow before daybreak and I want you to get Jasmine pizza from town before she returns from school tomorrow. I’ll be leaving some money on the coffee table.”
“Okay, Aunty,” Afiba acquiesced eagerly.
“And keep the change,” Keren tapped on the girl’s pointed nose, eliciting a shy smile from Afiba. “Thanks, Aunty. Safe journey tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Afiba,” Keren responded and turned around. “Goodnight.”
The girl loved her madam, not because of the tips, but because she treated her like a younger sister! Afiba’s contemporaries who served in other homes in the city refused to believe her whenever she told them about how her employers treated her. It was without doubt that Keren’s treatment was the primary source of motivation for the young housekeeper’s diligence. To Keren, Afiba was more than valuable. Keren’s busy schedule left her little to no time to care for her home and Afiba was there to do just that for her.
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|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 7:43am On Dec 12, 2019|
Keren Avola Ampofo, beautiful as ever.
The woman, a few months shy of her thirty-second birthday, had those looks that could freeze a man in his tracks. Dark, average in height with a slim and slender body coupled with a rounded face of well-designed features and long night black hair that tumbled over her shoulders, Keren had caused her husband to be an object of envy for years now.
Her family was quite new in Takoradi – the third largest city in Ghana- having moved to the regional capital only about two months ago. In Takoradi, they had rented an apartment in Airport Ridge estate –a tranquil and beautiful suburb with tastefully designed buildings and tarred streets. Previously, Keren had been living in the country’s capital, Accra, with her husband and daughter, where she managed a branch of her father’s multi-million Auto sale company. It was in Accra that she met and married David at a relatively young age. For almost twelve years, the couple had been happily married and raising Jasmine whose eleventh birthday was just around the corner.
When Keren entered her room, she was met with a surprise – David stood beside the bed, packing his wife’s clothes into her bag! Keren travelled outside the country quite often and David had become acquainted with the clothes she usually took along. So on that night, he decided to spare her the time and energy of packing.
“Aw sweetheart,” Keren wrapped her slender arms around him from behind and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “That’s so sweet of you.”
“Thought I could help out my dear one,” he said.
“That’s why I love you,” she kissed him again before unwrapping her arms from around him. “Pretty much all the clothes I need are in here.”
Keren zipped up the bag and David carried it to one corner of the room. At first sight, it would seem that the couple had swapped rooms with their daughter. Because as compared to Jasmine’s room, theirs was somewhat smaller with a bed about half the size of Jasmine’s.
“All set, Keren?” asked David, returning to the bed.
Keren collapsed backwards on the bed with a mild bounce and moaned, “Except for the long, boring trip to Paris. My body hurts.”
Sitting beside his wife and studying her exhausted body closely, David sympathized with her. Keren’s work, though it brought them bucket loads of money, was also very demanding. Fortunately for her, she had a husband who was very supportive and understanding.
“So, who’s going to be your chauffeur to Accra?” he asked.
“One Mr Ansah. He’s pretty good at driving from what I was told. Most experienced driver at the branch office. Punctual too. He said 4 am.”
“Don’t worry; I will wake you up earlier. Hopefully, I will drive my wife to Accra one of these days.”
Keren gave a half smile. “Yeah, when Jasmine is 20 years old.” She shifted her eyes to the TV. “Please turn up the volume on the TV set.”
David pointed the remote control at the screen as Keren hauled her body up, sitting up beside David on the edge of the bed. “I admire this man a lot; so generous with his wealth,” Keren admitted, referring to the grey-haired and bearded man on TV. The man had a little girl on his laps as he was being interviewed on the TV show.
David glanced at his wife who seemed to be ogling at the man on the TV and shook his head, wondering when the boring show would end.
“Dr Denzel,” the hostess asked after a few minutes, “about the recent mysterious disappearances of the children in your orphanage, have there been any developments in unravelling the mystery?”
“For now, no,” Denzel answered sadly, pulling the little girl closer to his bosom. “But I trust the police are more than capable of handling the investigations. It’s just a matter of time.”
The hostess bobbed her head, listening carefully.
“My topmost priority now is the security of these lovely kids -”
“Yo, ” he turned to her.
Keren looked at him. “Don’t you think we should donate something to these kids?”
David shrugged. “Great. That’s a good idea. But let’s talk about this when you’re back from your trip. You should go to sleep now.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Keren got up and changed into her pyjamas while her husband switched off the TV set and put out the light. Soon after, the couple was together in bed. With eyes refusing to reopen after she had shut them, Keren had the usual final words for David which she uttered in a weak tone.
“Please promise me you will take good care of Jasmine.”
David sighed. Keren always said that whenever she was about to travel and he was growing tired of it. It was not the request he was tired of hearing, but he felt that as the father of Jasmine, Keren didn’t have to remind him always of his responsibility to take care of their daughter.
“Okay,” he promised rather flatly, clutching the blanket tightly.
“You know she’s our first and last. There’s no other child coming. If something should ever happen to her, it would be my corpse you would be driving back to my parents in Esiama and you know that would mean your death as well.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 4:56pm On Dec 12, 2019|
David giggled. Yet, deep down he knew there was so much truth in those words. Just like Jasmine, Keren was the only child of her parents and if something were to happen to their daughter, David knew they wouldn’t forgive him. His wife was so attached to the little girl that David could swear that if something fatal happened to the girl, Keren’s weak heart would finally give up the battle.
On the outside, his wife looked strong but inside, Keren wasn’t the healthiest. Since childhood, she had been battling with a host of heart-related diseases and her hypertension had of late grown worse, leaving David to worry greatly daily about the life of his beloved wife who had made him who he was.
“Since I’m not around tomorrow to drive Jasmine to school, please promise me you will drive her to school yourself. Don’t send her to school alone no matter what.
Promise?” Keren managed to open her eyes and their eyes met.
David swallowed. “I promise.”
She gave a wry smile and closed her eyes. “I trust you. Even if the whole world doesn’t, I trust my David.”
David appreciated those words. Their love story hadn’t been an easy one but Keren never gave up on the fight for them to be together.
“Sweetheart?” Keren called again softly.
“Please don’t be too hard on Jasmine-”
David frowned. “She told you that- she-”
He swallowed the remaining words when Keren flashed her eyes open at him, “Just take it easy on her, David.”
David had a long scroll of complaints in his mind but he just didn’t know where to start from as he struggled to find the words. “I will take it easy on our daughter if she shows some respect and obedience.”
Keren listened without saying a word.
He began his rant, gesturing for emphasis. “She talks to me as if to a playmate.
Jasmine actually abuses me with words- can- can you believe that? She doesn’t do anything I ask her to. As if that isn’t enough, when you’re not around, she bangs our ears- and that of our neighbours- with stupid loud music from the home theatre you installed in her room. Jasmine is a headache to me, actually. I hope you read the comments in her school report. Just the other day, after dropping her at the school gate, her teacher approached me and reported that our kid is rude to them. You had better talk to her before she gets into her teens and gets out of hand.”
Keren smiled wryly as her eyes fluttered shut and concluded, “We’ll talk about it when I come back. Goodnight, honey.”
David noticed the stress’ effect on his wife. He wondered if he hadn’t made it worse by complaining about Jasmine’s behaviour. Keren was gone within seconds.
“Goodnight, Keren,” David whispered, gazing at the pretty face of his wife.
No sooner had he closed his own eyes than he heard his phone ringing loudly in the bathroom. Quickly, he scurried into the bathroom, wondering who could be calling him at that time. He found his phone lying on the sink and when he looked at the caller, his heart nearly missed a beat.
“Nadesh!” David scolded. “Why can’t you leave me alone? Don’t you know you could make Keren suspicious of me?”
His caller chortled, “I’d be excited if she was, baby boy.”
“I’m not your baby boy.” David glanced back at the door with a worried face.
The caller chuckled. Then as if to beg, she said seductively, “David, I want you. I love you.”
David didn’t understand this lady as he edged closer to the mirror above the sink. “And I’m married, can’t you see that? Married to your best friend for goodness sake, Nadesh. Leave me alone!”
“I won’t leave you alone until I get you which I will.”
He exhaled, feeling a pang of fury surge through his body. “Great. I’ll love to see you try.”
He hung up immediately. Hunching over the sink, he sighed deeply, looking intently at his reflection in the mirror. This old friend of Keren they had met upon their arrival in their new city was gradually becoming a thorn in the flesh for David. He didn’t know what it was about him that attracted Nadesh. Looking back at him in the mirror was a good looking dark-skinned man with beautiful brown eyes which were the standout feature on his face. He wasn’t muscular like a friend of his – a reason he had quickly signed up at the gym since they arrived-, just as slim as his wife but a head taller than Keren.
He washed his face and wiped it dry before returning to the bedroom, this time with his phone. He hoped he hadn’t awoken his wife. David was more than glad to find Keren fast asleep. He crept onto the bed and gently placed her head on his chest as he thought about how to warn the Nadesh girl off him. So many questions were going through his mind as his sleep fled him. Should he inform Keren about it? He shook that idea off. David was very cautious about what he told his wife keeping in mind her condition. He didn’t know how she would react to such information and thus, he was not ready to risk it.
As he contemplated, his phone lit up and this time vibrated just once. It was a Whatsapp message from Nadesh. At first, he didn’t want to have a look at it, but he didn’t know what moved him to open the message. He received the shock of his life when the message included nude pictures of Nadesh herself! David was forced to close his eyes briefly. Immediately, he shut down the phone and tossed it away. Then as if fearing something was about to snatch his wife away from him, he pulled her tighter to himself.
|Re: Once Upon A December by enirock(m): 11:31am On Jan 17|
Please would u be kind as 2 finish it or is there a link U cud give me where I can get the completed work. To the point u hv reached, its been simple,concise nd straigth nd good. Please keep ur ink wet
|Re: Once Upon A December by millieademi(f): 12:42pm On Jan 17|
Nice one. Please an update
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 6:17pm On Jan 17|
enirock:I stopped coz i thought people wouldn't like it
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 6:43pm On Jan 17|
David’s new friend, Martin, had taken him to a pub after work to have some drinks. The bar was teeming rapidly as waiters marched up to and from counter to table and table to table. Martin had just finished narrating how terrible his day had been at the workplace. David sympathised with him and wanted also to tell Martin how Jasmine was making life difficult for him at home.
He took a sip of his wine and said, “Man, Jasmine is giving me a tough time at home.”
Martin giggled. “What did she do this time?”
“You need to see the damage she has done to my computer. I can’t wait for her mother to return from her trip.”
“Fathers,” smiled Martin, gently shaking his glass. “I don’t think I can handle that responsibility.”
“Oh don’t worry. You’ll find a way when it’s your time. Just pray you don’t have a kid like Jasmine. I bet you would run away into exile.”
Martin laughed and guzzled everything left in his glass. Suddenly, a song that was playing quietly in the background roared, thumping in the ears of everyone. Heads turned at the counter with most customers covering their ears.
“Yo, Mr DJ!” David called out loudly to a man in dreadlocks and a pair of earmuffs seated at a corner. “Not everyone here is wearing earmuffs, okay?”
The DJ only nodded to him in response but did nothing about the volume of the music. David picked his ears as Martin filled David’s glass. “Thanks, man,” David said and took a sip. “That’s Jasmine’s favourite song.”
“This one?” Martin asked, referring to the thumping song playing as he poured himself some wine.
“Yeah. Yellow Flicker Beat. The kid keeps banging our ears at home with this song-”
David’s eyes flashed open suddenly to the darkness of his bedroom and the soft feel of his mattress. The pub was not real, but the loud music was, and it was only 4:22 a.m.!
“Oh not again,” David panicked and jumped out of bed before dashing out of the door. “This girl will make the neighbours kill me!” He seemed to fly through the corridor to Jasmine’s door where he felt the floor vibrating under his feet. The sound of the music from his daughter’s room was so loud that for the first few instances David couldn’t take his hands off his ears.
“Jasmine!” David banged the door with his fist frantically. “Stop the music now!”
The girl surely heard her father banging on her door, but she completely ignored him. Jasmine was a terrific dancer. Bouncing on her feet on the bed in her blue pyjamas, the little girl sang along and mimicked the dance moves of the singer in the music video she was watching on her TV set.
“Jasmine!” David shook the door frantically by the handle. “Open this door now, or you will be grounded till you get married!”
Jasmine giggled and responded to that threat by amplifying the volume of the speakers and raising her high-pitched voice.
* * *
An old couple sat on the edge of their bed around that time, awoken from their sleep by the loud music from the house next door.
“It’s that stupid girl again,” snarled the bald-headed man wearing only shorts. He sucked his teeth and walked over to the window, rubbing his still weary eyes.
“I don’t understand why parents of nowadays are so permissive,” his wife wondered, chin propped on a hand.
“The song just ruined my sleep,” he muttered under his breath and sucked his teeth again in annoyance. He turned around, walking back to the bed with a face like thunder. “If I grab hold of that little girl tomorrow morning, I swear I will beat her to a pulp right before her toothless father.”
“You mean today, right?” asked the woman.
“Oh,” he sucked his teeth again and sat beside her.
His wife giggled and went back to bed, burying her head under the pillow. He glanced at her and then at the clock. It was ticking ever slowly.
* * *
Jasmine had very minimal idea of how furious her father was. She didn’t even care. David’s forehead was already covered with beads of sweat and his heart raced fast and loud, banging against his chest. He had been there for some minutes, ordering Jasmine to stop the music and open the door but she kept repeating the same song over and over. Realizing that she wasn't going to either open up or halt the music anytime soon, he hurried back to his room and returned moments later with a bunch of keys.
Jasmine stopped singing abruptly when David suddenly barged inside the theatre of a room she slept in and in a flash, flipped the switch of the socket powering her home theatre. Serenity was restored instantly as the neighbourhood rivalled the silence of a graveyard.
The girl stood on the bed, glaring at David for cutting short her small nightclub. David approached her, glaring back. The two looked like boxers waiting for the referee’s signal to kick-start a match. For a short while, neither one uttered a word.
“Don’t you see the darkness outside?!” David exploded suddenly, pointing to the window. “People are still in their sleep! Goodness knows how many people you’ve woken up with your-your noise!”
“You mean my music,” Jasmine corrected him boldly, folding arms across her chest and added, “but I was only trying to be a good neighbour in waking them up early so that they don’t go to work late.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 6:46pm On Jan 17|
David nodded sarcastically. “Interesting. You tell the neighbours that in the morning when they come seeking to spank the life out of you.”
Jasmine was taken aback by that thought. Her bold face was immediately replaced by one of fearfulness.
“And you know what,” David grinned with clasped hands, leaning towards the terrified Jasmine. “This time, I will be sitting under the summer hut, enjoying the breeze with a cup of coffee while the people you’ve been disturbing, beat you up mercilessly.”
Jasmine gaped at her father. “Dad, you’re heartless. You would watch people beat up your daughter?”
“Ha!” David spread his arms wide and bluffed convincingly, “I am even willing to film the whole scene and post it on Facebook for your friends to see what happens to disobedient kids like you.” David ended his words with a gentle shove on her forehead. Touching her forehead, Jasmine scowled at her father, despising him more than ever.
“Mum!” the little girl squealed, expecting her mother’s presence in her room at once.
David scoffed and placed hands squarely on his waist. “Is that the best you can do to call someone who is about a 100 km away? Funny.”
Jasmine then recalled that her mother had told her she would leave at dawn. She dropped onto the bed, shoulders drooping and a look of sadness creeping onto her cute face. David turned around without a word and started to leave. He was almost at the door when a thought occurred to him. He turned around.
“Just so that you don’t light up your dance club again when I leave this room, not only am I taking away the extension plug, I’m also locking your door and I’m not opening you up till 6 am.”
“Oh come on, dad,” Jasmine jumped out of bed and tried to stop David from taking away the cords. “It hasn’t gotten to this.”
“Stay back!” David warned, pointing an angry finger at her.
“You’re fortunate you have school today otherwise I would have locked you here till your mother arrives.”
Turning to her tried and tested method, Jasmine sat on the floor with folded arms and pursed lips and squealed, “Mum! Dad is torturing me!
“Sorry, young woman,” David said on his way out. “But that doesn’t work on me.” He locked the door, ignoring her tantrums.
He returned to his room but could still hear Jasmine squealing. He sighed as he pulled the blanket up to his chest. The few days ahead in Keren’s absence was surely going to be another headache trying to control Jasmine.
Worse, David knew he wasn’t going to get away with it this time with his neighbours when daylight arrived. He had restored calmness, but the storm was sure to come.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 6:54pm On Jan 17|
Daylight arrived with dark clouds hanging above and a cold wind sweeping through the neighbourhood. It didn’t look like it was going to be a good Thursday for David. As if the imminent rain of insults from his neighbours wasn’t going to be enough, his car simply wouldn’t start. With the car bonnet raised, he bent over the engine, scanning for the fault. Everything seemed normal, at least to his eyes. David had an eye for perfect haircuts but certainly not a mechanical eye.
He had been in the garage for several minutes now trying to fix his blue sedan and gradually, he began to realise that the earlier he gave up and called a mechanic, the better it would be for him. Then, reacting to a sudden thumping on the gate, David accidentally banged his head against the bonnet.
“Ouch!” he winced, clutching his head and responded softly, “Who is that?”
The bangs at the gate grew relentless and louder. “I’m coming!” David closed the bonnet and still clutching his hurting head, he headed for the gate, very certain it was a neighbour coming to complain. “Please hold on!”
He wasn’t surprised when he met Roberts after opening the gate. The bald-headed man in his early sixties stood before him wearing only a pair of shorts and singlet with his hands hidden behind him.
David faked a grin. “Good morning, Mr Roberts. How may I be of help, sir?”
The bald-headed pensioner wasn’t going to allow David’s fake smile to infect him and neutralise the glare on his face. “You may have had a good morning but I haven’t,” retorted Roberts, bringing out a cane he had been hiding behind him. “Now, it’s either you bring out that little witch of yours or I go in there and grab her myself.”
David’s smile vapourized. “Oh sir! Please take it easy-”
“I have realised that you can’t discipline her,” Roberts pointed the cane at David. “So I want to help you out.”
David closed the gate behind him and pleaded further, “Sir, please forgive her. She’s only a child-”
“Don’t tell me that nonsense!” Roberts blurted out, so infuriated with David also, that he felt like whipping him right there. His voice got louder, “What do you mean by she’s a child? How many children have you heard disturb a whole estate at night? Huh?!”
David dropped to his knees, hoping that gesture would soften Roberts’ temper. “I’m sorry, sir, please calm down…”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 7:02pm On Jan 17|
Roberts wasn’t yet done. He barked at the top of his voice, drawing the attention of the neighbours, some of whom were coming out of their gates while others peeped through their windows to see what was going on. “We haven’t known peace ever since you and your family moved here. We’ve had enough!”
“Where’s that little girl who will not allow us to sleep?!” yelled a woman marching across the street towards David’s gate as if to fight as she tightened her cloth. Her sharp voice and the urgency in her gait stole the attention of those who had gathered around. “Today, she will know where the power lies.”
“Oh no,” David muttered to himself, getting up and bracing himself for what was coming.
* * *
Afiba heard the clamouring at the gate from the kitchen. As time went on, more and more angry voices joined the fray outside. The housekeeper sympathised with David who she knew was not having it easy with the angry neighbours. Deep down, she was annoyed with Jasmine, who was probably still sleeping, for the troubles she had been causing for her father and for ruining her sleep as well. Afiba wished she could talk to Jasmine about it, but she feared Jasmine wouldn’t take that lightly. On her way back to her room after cleaning the kitchen, Afiba stopped by Jasmine’s door to wake her up. The door wasn’t locked, but she dared not walk inside without an invitation.
“Jasmine,” she called with a knock on the door, leaning the broomstick against the wall. “Please wake up and prepare for school. Time is running out.”
There was no reply. Afiba knocked louder. “Jasmine. Wake up, or you will be late today.”
“Aw, Afiba,” she heard Jasmine moan inside. “Why are you such a sleep spoiler? Why won’t you allow me to sleep? Ah!”
“Please, it’s already past 7–”
“And so what? Since when did waking me up become part of your job description, Madam timekeeper?”
Afiba wasn’t going to argue with her employer’s child. Jasmine was right, she felt. Waking her up was indeed not her job. “I’m sorry,” Afiba apologised, picking up her broomstick to leave.
“Leave me alone!” Jasmine yelled.
* * *
By then, David now had three angry neighbours to deal with after some others had turned away earlier. Each was threatening to beat up Jasmine if they set eyes on her. They wouldn’t even allow him to speak as they rained insults on David and his family. In fact, he stood firm before the gate, not daring to move aside for fear his neighbours might barge inside and end up hurting his daughter. When a fourth neighbour, Captain Yaw, as the tall and fat man with the deep voice was popularly known, approached them at the gate, David felt he was going to get mobbed at last.
But to his utmost surprise and great relief, Yaw calmed the others down. Though he pleaded on David’s behalf respectfully, David knew it was actually his commanding appearance that calmed them down.
“We’ve heard you,” Roberts finally said to Yaw and then turned to David, glowering and pointing the cane at his face. “But the next time I hear so much as a clap in my sleep, and it’s from your house, you and that witch will understand why I was nicknamed ‘Bush Dragon’.”
“Thank you, Sir.” David forced a smile as Roberts and the other angry neighbours turned around to leave. “I promise you it won’t happen again.”
As the neighbours left, murmuring on their way, Roberts stopped in the middle of the road, halfway to his house and turned to David and Yaw. “If you want to run a nightclub, this is not the place for you.”
“Okay, sir. It won’t happen again,” David begged and then quickly turned to Yaw. “Captain, thanks so much.”
The men shook hands. “No problem.”
“Had it not been for you, I probably would have been lynched.” David glanced across the street and noticed at a distance, a girl and her little brother in their school uniforms waiting by the roadside.
Yaw smiled wryly. “I’m glad I could help but please, try to control that girl of yours. My niece complained to me yesterday that your daughter insulted her family in class.”
“Oh!” David covered his mouth in shock. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Captain.”
But Yaw didn’t seem to look like he would press charges as the others did. He downplayed the matter. “Oh don’t worry, David. You know kids and how they behave sometimes.”
But David couldn’t stop feeling bad about what he had just heard. “Hmm,” he sighed, leaning against the gate, feeling ashamed.
“Alright. I better go before I am caught up in the rain on the way. Have a good day,” said Yaw and he set off jogging on the street.
“Bye,” David waved and entered the house, fighting hard to hold back emotions that were compelling him to roast Jasmine and make pizza out of her. When he arrived in the living room, David glanced at the clock on the wall, and from the time he read, he hoped Jasmine was set for school.
No, she wasn’t, for he found her lying face down in bed when he went into her room. David instantly vented an iota of his fury on Jasmine by giving her a dirty slap on the buttocks. “Come on, wake up, lazy drone!”
|Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 7:07pm On Jan 17|
I'm loving this
Please keep it rolling in
God bless you
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:40pm On Jan 17|
Jasmine turned and sat up in a flash. “What the hell is wrong with you, Mr Man?” the words flew out of the little girl’s mouth, and she earned herself another slap on the arm in quick succession.
“How dare you speak to me like that?!”
“How dare you also hit me like that?!” Jasmine fired back, pursing her lips and glaring at her father, breathing fast.
David did very well to hold back his temper for the urge to beat her up was really strong. “Do you know what time it is?” he asked coldly, his heart racing.
“It’s morning,” Jasmine answered with a careless shrug, arms folded across her flat chest.
“It’s getting to 8 am and you’re still in bed, Jasmine!” David yelled, pointing an angry finger at the clock.
“Easy, Dad,” she whispered with a gesture. “You’re disturbing the neighbourhood.”
David’s words were trapped in her mouth. If he argued with her any longer, he might be forced to do something and regret later because every word coming out from Jasmine’s mouth seemed to be designed to get on his nerves. He took a deep breath, hoping that will calm him down.
“Alright,” he calmed down after a moment. “Go take your bath. You’re almost late.”
“So, dad,” she began and paused, looking shocked. “You just abused me because of school.”
“Jasmine!” he almost yelled and then after a sigh, he added softly, “Just - go - and - take - your – bath.”
“Sure,” she drawled with a teasing smile as she stepped out of bed, seemingly happy to be getting on her father’s nerves. David’s heart raced as Jasmine cat-walked her way slowly to the door of her bathroom, keeping an eye on his father for any sudden movements. And when she got to the door, Jasmine grabbed the handle and turned to her father only to stick her tongue out at him. She succeeded in fishing out a violent reaction from David who dashed at her, but Jasmine swiftly escaped into the bathroom and locked the door.
“I give you only 5 minutes,” warned David. “If you’re not done within 5 minutes-”
“Uh huh?” Jasmine cut in from behind the door. “What will you do?”
“You know, the next time you play your stupid games with me, I’m-I’m telling your mother. I’m making a list,” David threatened lamely and walked out of the glamorous room, slamming the door shut behind him. Jasmine burst into a cynical laughter upon hearing the sound.
On his way to the living room, David had a call from Martin asking if David was home. He had worn a smile during the call but once it ended, David was back to looking daggers. He sat in his favourite seat in the living room, boiling with anger. He had no clue as to how to control Jasmine’s attitude. His daughter was ill-mannered especially towards him and like any loving parent, he didn’t want his only child growing up to become a rude person. It seemed Jasmine was already on that track. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, thinking deeply about how to turn Jasmine around.
“Please Uncle, should I bring you your food?”
David’s eyes opened to see Afiba standing before him with hands behind her. “No,” he responded softly, shaking his head.
“Okay, Uncle,” she turned around and started to leave.
“Have you prepared Jasmine’s breakfast?” he asked and she quickly turned back.
“Please put it in her lunchbox so that she can take it to school instead. She’s already late.”
No sooner had she walked a few steps than a car beeped outside their gate, stealing their attention. “That must be Martin. Go and open the gate.”
Afiba obeyed and quickly headed outside. David heard the gate creak open and the sound of a car driving inside their yard. He looked through the large glass window and saw his new friend, Martin, stepping out of his vehicle. Finally, David could afford an honest smile even if it was faint.
Approaching his door seconds later and dressed in a crisp white shirt and red tie was the real estate broker who had helped his family settle quickly in the city by procuring a bungalow for them while he searched for a much bigger apartment similar to their previous home in Accra.
As David learned soon after their arrival in the city, Martin had been a very close friend of Keren during high school but their friendship stalled after they completed school and lost contact. It’d been years but finally, the old friends have reunited again and Martin had gone even further in gaining new friends in David and little Jasmine.
A light-skinned man in glasses of about David’s age but muscular walked into the foyer with Afiba. David’s back faced them as the two entered the living room.
After a warm and loud handshake between the men, he settled beside David in the deep cushion of the zebra skin loveseat.
“Do I get you something, Uncle Martin?” Afiba asked politely as usual.
“Oh no, I’m fine, Afiba,” Martin waved softly. “Thanks. I hope you’re fine.”
“Yes, please,” the housekeeper nodded and left the two men alone in the living room.
Martin turned to David and spotted the unhappy look on his face. “What’s up, dude? Why the long face this morning?”
“Guess,” sighed David, looking straight at the large screen of the LED TV.
“Jasmine,” Martin giggled and clasped his hands together on his laps, looking at David.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:51pm On Jan 17|
David ran his hand through his hair.
“Jasmine will murder me soon.”
“Ha-ha. Take it easy, man. Is she still home?”
“What does my face tell you?” David turned to Martin who chortled. “You should have seen the chaos she caused this morning in the neighbourhood.”
“Whoa, whoa, what did she do this time?” Martin’s eyebrows furrowed in concern as he sat on the edge of his seat.
“As early as 4 a.m., your little friend transformed the whole area into a night club-”
Martin raised eyebrows.
“And people didn’t take it lightly with me this morning. They would have beaten her up had one guy not intervened. This...” he gestured with his hands, “This is the third time she is disturbing people in their sleep. I am going to sell those sound systems and the T.V set, and all those nasty things her mother keeps buying for her by the close of today.”
Martin tugged a smile at the corner of his mouth. He knew David was just bluffing. “But where was her mother? I haven’t even asked of her. Where’s Keren?”
“She has an early flight to Paris, so she left for Accra.”
Martin was puzzled. “Really? But I thought I saw Keren yesterday.”
“She left at dawn, as early as 3 a.m.”
Martin nodded. “Oh ok. When is she returning?”
“In about three days,” David replied plaintively. With Jasmine in the house, those days seemed like centuries to him.
“Ha!” Martin laughed. “It’s going to be three cold days in this house especially now that they’re about to go on holidays.”
David took a fleeting glance away from Martin and muttered, “Yeah. There is going to be a 72 hour long Vietnam war in this house and at the shop and I think it’s already started. The kid does nothing in this house, but eat, sleep, watch TV, bang our ears with songs and dance, dance, dance. That’s it. She does nothing positive in this house. I don’t blame her. It’s Keren; she’s spoilt her. I mean she is almost 11 years old, Martin, 11 years. Do you know the chores I was doing when I was 11?”
Martin smirked and listened on.
“I’m hoping there’s going to be some sort of extra classes or something during the holidays so that I can have some peace of mind.”
“You wish,” Martin giggled. “Man, what’s keeping Jasmine? It’s nearly 8 a.m.”
“Forget about her. What’s up with you?”
“Oh cool. I came to deliver some documents to a guy in the estates, and I decided to see if you were home so I could say hi.”
“That’s nice of you, Martin,” David gave a half-smile. “I appreciate that.”
“It’s okay,” Martin glanced at the clock. “If Jasmine were ready, I would’ve taken her to school on my way to work.”
“Dude, go to work and leave this girl,” David advised. “You are already late.”
Martin smiled wryly, getting up. “Let me check her room. For all you know, she may have already finished dressing and is probably dancing in her room.”
No sooner had he landed his statement than Jasmine entered the living room in her bathrobe.
“There you have your answer,” David remarked sarcastically, pointing to Jasmine.
“Uncle Martin?!” Jasmine was both glad and surprised all at once. “What’s up?”
“I’m cool. How’re you?” he smiled.
“Never felt better,” the little girl replied with a fleeting grin, eyeing the scowl from her father.
A thought hit David instantly, and he sat up. “Aha! I almost forgot. You, why did you insult Captain Yaw’s niece?”
“Me?” Jasmine pointed to herself in innocence.
“Now, don’t lie!” David warned in a firm tone, wagging a finger at the little girl standing in the middle of the room. “Do not lie!”
“Jas,” Martin, on the other hand, was calm.
Jasmine looked surprised. “I didn’t insult her. I only said obesity runs in their family because no one runs in their family.”
Martin cracked up clutching his belly while Jasmine chortled along keeping an eye on the glare from David. When he calmed down, Martin pointed to the clock.
“You know you’re going to be late for the end of term party.”
“Oui Monsieur !” Jasmine replied gleefully with a salute.
Martin giggled and shook her. “Let’s put the French aside for now and go get ready. I’m running late for work, otherwise I wouldn’t mind dropping you off. Elizabeth and co. must be waiting for their contestant.”
“Aw man…” Jasmine grimaced.
“Will you leave at once and get dressed?!” David yelled from his seat. “Before I descend on you!”
That didn’t move Jasmine a bit. It was like a whisper to her. Retreating slowly, she stuck her tongue out at David and when he jumped out of the couch, Jasmine disappeared in a second.
“You can’t catch her, man. Elizabeth says she is the fastest athlete in their class,” Martin informed, tapping David’s shoulders.
“Take it easy.”
David took a deep breath. “I guess it’s time to go, right?”
Martin nodded and the two walked outside to his car in the yard overlaid with pavement bricks. He opened the door and was about to enter the car when David tugged on his arm gently.
“Yeah, what’s up?” asked Martin.
David glanced around the yard hoping no one was eavesdropping. “Man,” he said softly. “Do you know Nadesh called me again last night?”
Martin closed the door. “ Ei!” he exclaimed quietly, eyebrows raised and mouth partially opened. “This girl is hitting hard on you, David.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by millieademi(f): 9:07pm On Jan 17|
I swear I feel like beating the living daylights out of Keren and Jasmine.
Why is Jasmine so disrespectful? Could it be that David is not her biological father or something?
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:38pm On Jan 17|
“Hm. I don’t know what else to do to put her off, my friend.”
Martin sighed. “This is really getting out of hand. Don’t you think you should tell Keren that her best pal in high school is trying to snatch her husband from her?”
“No, no, no,” David dismissed that at once, shaking his head. “Keren is, – is – let me say, unpredictable. I don’t know how she’s going to take this. And I’m worried she might start to suspect …things.”
“But she trusts you!”
“She does but …” he paused and leaned against the car with arms folded with a look of worry, “… because of her condition, I really don’t want to add any more troubles to her mind.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Martin scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Nadesh. I don’t know what has come over her. But anyway, I will try to talk some sense into her head.”
“Man, I’d be grateful!” David clapped.
Martin gave him two taps on the thigh. “Don’t worry, man. I will take care of it.”
“Aw thanks so much, buddy,” David said and gave him a handshake in which they snapped thumbs before Martin entered his car. David bent over the window and asked, “Could you get a mechanic to repair my car? It is refusing to start.”
“Oh, that’s bad. But sure, no problem,” he said and then tugged a cunning smile, “I will send you one soon, if you promise to tell me how you managed to unlock the heart of Keren.”
David laughed. “Don’t worry. One day, I will tell you all you need to know about our love story.”
Martin started his car, but before he moved, he gave David a look of concern. “So, is Jasmine going to wait till the mechanic arrives and fixes the car before going to school or what? Their school gate will be closed soon, and she won’t be allowed entry to the party.”
David giggled and said softly to Martin, “There are kids in her school who walk from the house to school. Others would be willing to die for a taxi to take them to school. I will hire a taxi to take her to school.”
“You’d better hope neither Keren nor her parents hear about this, otherwise you are toast, man.”
“Be not afraid, ye of little faith,” David giggled. “Some traditions are meant to be broken.”
Martin chortled, shifting the gear. “ Sweet haven , eh?” he pointed to the two words boldly and beautifully written on the parapet wall of the house.
“It’s now War Zone ,” David joked and Martin had a good laugh.
“Oh my, this guy is funny,” Martin was shaking his head as David was heading to the gate to open it.
After Martin’s departure, David was handed a moment of shock when as he walked into the porch; he heard someone in the next house humming Yellow Flicker Beat.
“Seriously?” he paused and chuckled to himself. Shaking his head in amusement, he entered the hall.
David was a bit surprised to see Jasmine already dressed up in a pink chequered dress-the outfit worn by her house at school. That was a rare thing for a child who usually took hours to dress up. She sat comfortably in one of the armchairs upholstered in rich brocade, flipping through her favourite channels, wondering which one was showing an animation movie.
“Finally, you’re all set,” David said calmly, rubbing an eye. “Just a second quicker, and you could have joined Martin.”
Jasmine didn’t utter a word. She just kept flipping. David glanced at the TV before turning to his daughter. “Um… I won’t be able to take you to school this morning; my car is not -”
“Buy a better car,” she cut in, still looking at the TV screen. “Or better still, ask mum to buy you another car.”
Somehow, the girl’s words made him scratch his chin in slight embarrassment. The withering look she gave him as her father added more insult to the injury,
“Mum’s smarter. She has an eye for good things. Let her buy you the car this time around instead of asking her for the money to –”
“Enough of that, Jasmine!” David almost yelled with eyes shut, and a smile formed at the corners of Jasmine’s mouth, glad to be riling up her dad.
“I’ve had enough of your mum is smarter and whatever. Yes, I accept that. Your mother is smart when it comes to books but when it comes to life smart…
Jasmine raised eyebrows, preparing for what was coming.
“…I’m way up on the food chain, young lady.”
“I can see that,” Jasmine slouched in the sofa, looking at her dad with a smirk. “Your smartness in life made you a barber while mum’s smartness in books made her a branch manager of a multimillion dollar company and soon, –to-be C.E.O just as grandpa promised. Life smart, huh?”
David knew the girl had destroyed him and that the earlier he quit arguing with Jasmine, the better it would be for his emotions.
“Fine. Mum’s smart,” David raised hands in mock surrender. “But in other news, it’s already 15 minutes past 8 a.m.”
Jasmine sighed and turned to the TV.
“Come on,” David clapped. “Pick your bag and let me get you a car.”
“What? Mum said you should drive me to school in her absence,” Jasmine reminded him.
David’s blood ran hot with rage. “Jasmine,” he held himself back from exploding. “Did I not tell you my car had broken down? I’ve called a mechanic and only goodness knows when he is going to arrive, let alone, how long he will take to fix it.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:56pm On Jan 17|
She gave a careless shrug. “I’m waiting for the mechanic then.”
David touched his forehead with eyes closed. “Oh God,” he said to himself and then looked at Jasmine whose attention had been captured by the TV show.
“Let’s go!” he ordered in a commanding voice.
“I’m waiting for the mechanic,” she replied in a soft but defiant tone.
David rested his hands on his hips, starting to lose patience. “You’re not waiting for the mechanic; you just want to watch TV. Now, for the last time, young lady, get up!”
“Dad, if you put me in a taxi,” Jasmine warned. “I’m telling mum, grandma and grandpa.”
David inched closer and leaned towards her. “Go tell the police.” Then grabbing her by the arm and taking her bag, he yanked her up from the chair and dragged her out of the house amid her childish rants and threats to report to her mother.
“I’m definitely telling mum about this,” Jasmine said, trying to free her arm from her father’s grip as they made their way across the yard. The clouds were darker now and the cool stiff breeze whispered of imminent rain.
“It’s a free world, Jasmine. Do as you please.”
“Fine, fine, fine. Can I play with the swing for just five minutes?”
“You must be out of your mind,” David opened the gate and dragged her outside with him.
An empty taxi was passing by the moment they came out and David flagged it down. Jasmine looked at the car coming in their direction with disgust.
“This car? I’ll never sit in this car!”
“There’s always a first time, princess,” David faked a smile, tightening his grip on her lest she runs away. The taxi pulled up in front of them and lowered the thumping music in the car.
“Town?” asked the young man in a cap behind the wheel.
“Naa …I want you to take my girl to Garfield’s International - You do know the place, right?”
“My padi,” said the young driver. “I have been living in this city since birth. I know every corner. No fears, okay?”
David was glad. “How much?”
“Just 10 Cedis.”
He handed him a note quickly. “Get in the car,” pleaded David, releasing his grip on Jasmine, obstinate, frowned face and arms folded as usual. “Come on, Jasmine, it’s going to rain soon.”
“Ah, why? She is refusing to go to school or what?” the driver questioned, sizing Jasmine up with a withering look. “Big girl like you, you’re refusing to go to school. Shame on you.”
David was grateful for that remark. “Thank you, boss,” he nodded at the driver as Jasmine slowly opened the back door, squinting at the driver with rage-filled eyes.
“Finally,” David sighed as Jasmine entered the car and closed the door feebly. He was glad that it was over. Now, he could have some peace of mind until at least Jasmine returned from school.
“Hey,” the driver said, looking over his shoulder. “Close the door well.”
BANG! Jasmine had unleashed her fury on the door, opening it and slamming it shut so loud that for a second, David expected the door to hang loose. That didn’t sit well with the driver.
“Herh !” yelled the driver in shock, turning around to face Jasmine. “Are you out of your senses?!”
David pleaded, “
Boss, please, take it easy on her. She’s sorry.”
“But he asked me to close the door properly,” Jasmine stated in her defence with pursed lips, winding down the glass window. “This car stinks.”
Had it not been for the presence of David, the driver would have slapped Jasmine on the mouth. “See this small girl o, if you don’t shut up there, I will ignore your father and spank the life out of you. Get out if the car stinks! Who do you think you are?”
“Who do you also think you are?” Jasmine retorted and David panicked. Her daughter possessed a strange sort of bravery that fuelled her rudeness.
The driver’s words were stuck in his mouth as he turned to David in a flash. “Chief, did you hear that?”
“Please, she’s sorry-”
“She is not sorry!” the driver pointed out.
David pleaded with palm in hand. “My guy, please, take her away, please. Just don’t mind her.”
The angry driver nodded and shifted the gear. “No problem. No problem.”
With that, the taxi hit the street and David knew it was not over between driver and passenger yet. He could even see through the car’s rear windshield that Jasmine was already gesticulating. He only prayed the driver would not dump her midway out of rage. David heaved a deep sigh of relief.
He was free at last or at least until school was over. He found his phone ringing on the coffee table when he went back to the living room.
It was Keren.
“Hello, love,” David began, collapsing into the couch.
“Have you arrived?” he asked, reaching for the remote and lowering the volume of the TV.
“A long time ago. I’m at the airport already-”
“Yeah. Has Jasmine gone to school?” “A long time ago,” he smirked
“I hope you drove her to school yourself.”
“Yeah! Of course,” he lied
“Aw thanks, honey.”
David smiled to himself, glad to feel her wife’s state of joy.
“Hey, what do I get you from Paris? Tell me something today, please.”
“Sugar Bread,” he joked and smiled when he heard Keren’s amazing laugh.
“Come on! Tell me something.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:06pm On Jan 17|
“Ok, I want my Keren, honey. Bring her home safe and sound.”
“Aw so sweet. Sure, I’ll bring her home safely. Hey, time to go. Will call you when I land, okay?”
“Okay. Safe journey. Love you.”
“Love you too, dear. Take care of Jasmine please…”
“Sure,” he assured her and hung up. David’s gaze shifted to a large portrait hanging on the wall. It was a smiling photo of his family of three. He smiled back at it.
* * *
Martin glanced at the darkening clouds every now and then as he was driving. He had a package to pick up from the post office and as he was on the phone with the sender of the package, his airtime ran out, ending the call abruptly. Martin punched the wheel with a fist but almost immediately after, he noticed a credit vendor sitting under a large umbrella. He was fortunate!
He winded down the glass window and placed his order. The young lady brought him the scratch card and as he bent down to pick a note which had fallen at his feet, he heard a sudden and heart-piercing bang.
“Oh dear!” the young lady gasped and rushed away from Martin’s car. Martin knew instantly that a car crash had occurred. Swiftly, he got out of the car to have a look. Like fishes swimming towards a light bulb immersed in the ocean, people spilled over the road, rushing to the taxi that had slammed into a parked truck as voices filled the air.
As he slowly approached the scene, Martin wondered if there were any casualties. As he drew closer, he heard a statement that nearly gave him a heart attack.
Someone screamed, “There’s a school girl in the back seat! A student of Garfield.”
Martin panicked as he jostled through the crowd, praying that it was not what he feared. A state of confusion erupted among those trying to pulling out the victims as the thunder rumbled among the clouds above.
“Take it easy!” a man standing on the roof of the cramped taxi ordered those ripping off the car’s locked doors. “Watch the leg!”
“He’s dead,” Martin heard someone ahead of him say. “The driver is dead.”
Martin trembled as he forced his way through the crowd and the more he got closer, the more he trembled. His lips trembled as he made silent prayers in his heart.
“Everyone, stay back!” a bare-chested muscular man ordered as he and another man ripped off the back door. Then followed the random questions and remarks in the crowd.
“Is the girl dead?”
“Oh goodness! She’s badly hurt!”
“Aw, what a cute girl.”
“Is she okay?”
“She’s not dead!”
“Somebody should stop a taxi!” yelled the man on the roof of the car.
It was immediately after that order that Martin finally made it to the frontline, his shirt soiled with patches of dirt from having to force his way through. Then as the muscular man finally managed to pull carefully out of the car, a girl whose pink chequered dress trickled with blood gushing from her side, Martin recognized the face and his heart sank.
“Jasmine!” he shrieked in terror as he wrestled the almost lifeless body of the girl from the muscular man and turned around swiftly.
“Make way!” he cried at the top of his voice and instinctively, the stunned crowd created a channel for him to run through with the girl’s body bouncing on his arms. Martin had no time to explain how he knew the girl and he was not going to allow anyone to delay him. He had one goal – get to his car quickly and drive as fast as possible to the nearest hospital.
It was a heart breaking sight as some women who saw him with the girl in his arms couldn’t hold back tears. A young man from the crowd who saw him run towards his car took the lead in opening the back door as one woman volunteered to go with Martin, accepting the girl onto her laps. Soon, with tyres screeching, Martin hit the road at top speed.
Never in his life had David received a phone call, tragic enough to almost give him a heart attack like the one he had just had from Martin minutes ago. Even though Martin had tried to play down the seriousness of the situation, his shaky voice during the call betrayed him. Panicking like a hostage in a hold-up, David ran helter-skelter in the house leaving Afiba puzzled in the corridor. She had heard him on the phone a few moments ago but wondered what news had thrown him into that state of confusion.
The housekeeper was just about to enter the living room when David flew past her from behind, almost knocking her off balance. He didn’t stop to apologise as he normally would. He kicked the outer door wide open and it slammed behind him after he ran out. The perplexed housekeeper hurried into the living room and scurried outside to the porch looking lost like how she used to be in math class. There, she was welcomed by a scene that frightened and puzzled her all the more; David ran back and forth across the empty street with his hands on his head in an unbuttoned shirt like a man whose house was on fire.
|Re: Once Upon A December by Kiddogarcia(m): 10:10pm On Jan 17|
I hail you man,your constant update is giving me joy.keep up the great work. and for Jasmine, I think it is down to her mum here,Keren and her seems to have connived against her father
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:16pm On Jan 17|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:21pm On Jan 17|
Suddenly, a taxi appeared on the scene and Afiba watched on with deep lines of concern appearing on her forehead as David ran to the middle of the road, flagging down the oncoming taxi with both hands and forcing an abrupt halt of the car with tyres screeching. In no time, David had jumped in and the taxi zoomed at full speed. Afiba didn’t take her eyes off the scene till the car disappeared around a bend.
She went back inside and sat down slowly on the couch flanked by two bright silk flowers in large ceramic vases. A chill seared through her body. Something was definitely rotten in Denmark. Her thoughts were interrupted by a mild thunderclap. It was just a matter of time. The clouds couldn’t hold back their tears any longer and the rain began pouring heavily in an instant. Afiba acted quickly, shutting all windows in the house.
* * *
Martin paced about in the waiting room of the ICU, rubbing palms and praying silently. Occasionally, he tried to have a peep of what was going on inside the ward. Sitting on a bench nonchalantly and watching Martin was an attractive lady of about Keren’s age, curvy, Browne skinned and sporting a curly Brazilian wig.
“Hey,” she called out to Martin. “Relax, okay? She will be alright.” Martin didn’t seem to have heard her and when she realised that, she got up to him and brought him back to his seat. “Hey, hey,” she took his trembling hands. “Jasmine will make it, okay?”
“Okay, okay,” Martin obeyed. “Yes, she will be fine. Thanks, Nadesh.”
Nadesh smiled faintly across her scarlet lips, looking even prettier. “Have you called David?”
“Yeah,” Martin clasped hands and hunched forward. “He should be on his way here.”
Just then, a nurse came out of the ward and Martin jumped onto his feet, stopping the nurse in her tracks by grabbing her arm.
“How’s she?” Martin asked with anxious eyes and a heart racing fast enough to win a Grand Prix.
“We’re doing what we can, sir,” she assured but quickly added, “But you’re hurting my arm.”
“Oh sorry,” Martin freed her and the young nurse walked off, rubbing the arm that Martin had gripped tightly. He stood there for a moment, squinting thoughtfully at the nurse going. Slowly, he returned to his seat. Nadesh studied the gloomy look on his face, wondering what he was thinking at that moment.
“You need to stop worrying,” she said. “The nurse stated that they’re working on her. She’ll be okay.”
“I have a bad feeling,” he said softly, gazing at the door of the ward. “She had this look on her face.”
“What look?” Nadesh asked with partially closed eyes.
Suddenly, their attention was drawn to the sound of heavy footsteps climbing the stairs and when they turned, they saw David running to them in an unbuttoned shirt.
“Where’s Jasmine? How’s my child? What are the doctors saying?” David breathlessly bombarded them with questions the moment he landed. It was now Martin’s time to calm him down.
“Calm down, man,” Martin got up and took David’s arm.
“I’m not calming down!” David released himself from Martin’s grip, his face and shirt wet with sweat and his eyes filled with terror. “Where’s my Jasmine?”
“Hey, hey,” Nadesh was at it again, standing up to face David. “She will be alright.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yes,” Nadesh assured, rubbing his arms and sitting him down gently. “Just relax, okay?”
David sighed heavily as Martin joined him on the bench. On the outside, David seemed to them as having finally relaxed but deep inside him was a raging storm.
“Now let me get you something to cool down, okay?” Nadesh suggested and David nodded distractedly.
Martin turned to look at David as Nadesh left and David responded with a slight shaking of his head. The restless father dropped his head and buried his face in his palms.
“Oh God,” David said softly as Martin rubbed his back. “Please spare my daughter’s life and save my wife.”
“It shall be alright, man,” Martin assured him softly, placing his arm on David’s shoulder. “Jasmine is a tough girl.”
David took in another deep breath as he lifted his head up and began to bite his nails with trembling hands and lips.
“If the worst should happen,” David confessed with clasped hands and tapping feet. “I’ll forever feel guilty because I – I –I forced her into the taxi although she asked to wait for me.” David’s eyes stung with tears. As they stared at each other, Martin reassured, “Everything will be fine.”
The door suddenly opened and David’s heart almost skipped a beat when out came a middle-aged man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck.
“Doctor, how’s my daughter?” David rushed to the doctor even before he could close the door.
“Calm down, sir,” he said softly, looking at the two men standing before him. “Calm down.”
But David was not going to calm down anytime soon, not until he had heard the fate of his precious child. The doctor led them away from the door to the bench and they stood beside it. He sighed when he saw the eyes David - whom he could instantly tell was the father- gazed at him with. The doctor began,
“The young girl had lost so much blood…”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:43pm On Jan 17|
David’s heartbeat could be literally heard far away from a distance when the doctor began with that introduction. He didn’t like the doctor’s opening words but with eyes almost bulging out, David listened attentively to the words that were sounding like booming thunders in his ears.
“… aside that, some vital organs were damaged -”
“Doctor,” David cut in, grabbing hold of the doctor’s shoulders. “If flying her overseas to get her those organs is the solution, just tell me and it will be done in the blink of an eye. Please, tell me if she’s alive.”
The compassionate looking doctor paused and Martin could see that he sympathized with David but he could also tell what had happened. Unlike David, he had braced himself already.
“We did all we could, in all honesty,” sympathetically the doctor resumed and paused as David slowly released his grip, jaws slowly sagging and hands going up on his head, “but we…lost her. I’m sorry.”
The world immediately stopped in David’s eyes. Slowly, he turned to look at Martin whose cheeks were overflowing with tears already, and barely whispered,
“Martin, I just killed my only child…”
Then, like a falling tree, David slowly fell backwards but quickly, Martin and the doctor managed to save him from potentially breaking his neck.
* * *
“Am I dreaming?” was the first question David asked when he opened his eyes and found himself lying on a bed in a ward with Nadesh and Martin standing beside the bed with worried faces. The two exchanged glances, unsure of what to say to him. David then realised he had passed out and swiftly, the agony of losing his child returned.
“Glad to see you’re fine,” announced the doctor who had just arrived to check up on him.
David covered his watery eyes with a hand and pleaded, “Can I see my child, please?”
“Certainly, but I wish you would rest some more.”
Revealing his eyes soaked in tears that naturally melted the doctor’s heart, David insisted, “No, please. Let me see her.”
The doctor sighed. “Come with me.”
Together, with Martin aiding David as he walked, they followed the doctor to the ICU. David was hesitant to enter at first. He waited behind for the others to enter the ward first as he felt he didn’t have the heart to set his eyes on the corpse of his only child. Then with a deep breath, he gathered courage and snuck in more than he walked in. The ward was very neat with tiled floors and a modern ceiling. It would have been a quiet ward had it not been for the whirling blades of the two ceiling fans, the groans of two men heavily bandaged on their beds and the raging rain. There were two other beds; one was empty and the last one, close to the windows, carried a body covered completely with a plain white sheet. The doctor led Martin and Nadesh to this before asking to excuse himself.
On his way out, he met David lingering between the first two beds, as if he was afraid of the last bed. The doctor only glanced at him and then left the room. Martin and Nadesh stood beside the body, neither one wanting to be the one to pull off the sheet from the body. Perhaps, they wanted the father to do that himself.
David joined them at last and looking briefly at their faces, with a heavily pounding heart, slowly lifted the sheet off the face of the body on the bed. The sad look on the little girl’s cute face worsened the tear leakage in Martin’s eyes as David slowly dropped to his knees beside the bed, holding back his tears to their surprise.
“Jasmine,” David called softly, tapping on her shoulder. “Wake up.”
Martin had to bring out his handkerchief at this one.
“Jas?” David shook the dead body gently as if waking her up from sleep. “Wake up and let’s go home.”
Martin’s sobs were getting uncontrollably louder and quickly he left the ward to weep outside
“Akuba…” David mentioned Jasmine’s traditional name and shook the body gently once more. “Mummy is waiting for you. Wake up, let’s go.”
David’s tears resumed service at this and the other patients who were groaning couldn’t help but feel sad for him. Nadesh rested a hand on his shoulder, rubbing it to console him.
Then taking the little girl’s lifeless hands, he apologised as if she could even hear him,
“I’m so sorry,” David sobbed. “I’m so sorry I killed you. Oh, my little Jasmine.”
David wouldn’t budge though Nadesh tried to bring him up to his feet while she said, “David, she can’t hear anything you say. She’s-”
“Dead,” David continued, his sobs turning into wails, as he banged his fist against the bed’s frame in agony. “What have I done? What have I done? My daughter is dead. Keren’s daughter is dead. Oh, my child! My little Jasmine! Why do we have to be the ones to bury you?!”
“David, please calm down,” said Nadesh, glancing back at the door, worried that a nurse might confront them for the noise. She didn’t have to worry further for David suddenly abandoned the body and fleeing the ward, left Nadesh alone.
“David! Stop!” Nadesh heard Martin scream and then loud footsteps followed. She came outside moments later to see what was happening and arrived upon a scene with Martin pinning David firmly down on the floor.
|Re: Once Upon A December by enirock(m): 1:08am On Jan 18|
For what is worth, I would love 2 say this is a beautiful piece nd eagerly reading to see how it unfolds. I wonder how karen would take it upon her return from paris to find out that her daughter is dead, how would David cope knowing that he had a role to play in the daughters death as he could nt honour the wife's directives nd d suspense in between makes it a great read. Just waiting 4 more updates. May ur ink never run dry
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:56am On Jan 18|
enirock:Thanks, is there any way you could invite more readers, it's a great story
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:59am On Jan 18|
“I’m not allowing you to do this!” Martin declared, crying himself.
“I cannot carry this guilt alive,” responded David softly to the blurry image of Martin. “Neither can I face the storm ahead. Let me go.”
“No! I will not allow you. Think about what will happen to Keren if she returns to find her husband and child dead.”
David stared at Martin without a word for a while and then broke the silence, “Not only did I kill my daughter but I’ve also killed my wife. Martin, her heart will finally give up when she learns that her precious child is dead. I-I have put my own family to death myself. Should someone like me live?”
“Yes, David,” sobbed Martin. “It’s not your fault. You loved Jasmine and wouldn’t have hurt her. Now that you’ve lost one,
save the other. You can, David! Save Keren! Face the storm like a man, my friend and brother.”
David was speechless, but the tears kept flowing as he gazed into the compassionate and relentless eyes of Martin. Martin had no idea how much his words had affected David though he knew he had lifted David’s spirits a bit for David declared, nodding, “I will save Keren. I can’t let Keren die. I will save her, Martin, no matter what. I must.”
“Yes, David,” Martin hauled him up to his feet. “I will help you to do that.”
Nadesh had been leaning against the wall with folded arms and watching the scene with mixed feelings, her eyes never leaving David.
* * *
David tried hard to hold back his tears later at the morgue but as the little girl was laid in the refrigerator and the drawer shut, he broke down again and it took considerable effort from Martin and Nadesh to get him to leave the morgue.
“Thank you. Both of you,” David calmly appreciated them with sore eyes when they arrived at the parking lot. “For being here.”
“Don’t mention it,” answered Martin, resting his arms on the roof of the car and looking into David’s gloomy face and swollen eyes. “I know we can’t tell Keren just yet but what about your in-laws?”
David sighed. “I have to,” he admitted. “But I don’t think I dare go to Esiama now and break the news to them especially – especially when I’m solely responsible for her death.” He sobbed at those last words and quickly, Nadesh approached him and gave him an embrace.
“So what do we do?” Martin looked sympathetically at the man wiping tears with the back of his hand.
“I will just have to call them.”
Martin’s forehead creased with worry lines but David didn’t wait for him to elaborate more on that gesture.
“I know. But that’s the only way. There’s no way I can go to them. Please make the call on my behalf.”
* * *
About 70 km away from the city of Takoradi was the rapidly developing town of Esiama. There in that town was Keren’s roots. Though she had spent much of her life in the country’s capital, Accra, Esiama was her hometown, in the land of the Nzema people. And it was there that her wealthy parents had finally settled in a beautiful mansion along the road.
Watching TV that cloudy afternoon was Ackah, Keren’s father. His wife, Aya, sat beside him on the couch, weaving - a hobby of hers. Suddenly, his phone started ringing and lazily, the old man picked it up from the table before him.
“Goodness!” Aya panicked when the scent of burning food permeated the living room and dropping the needle and fabric, the energetic woman rushed to the kitchen. Keren had a housekeeper to cook for her family but that wasn’t the case with her mother. She preferred to do everything in the house herself. As she took control of kitchen matters, Aya felt a jolt of fear in her chest when she heard her husband let out a sudden scream, “What?!”
She panicked more than when her food was burning as she quickly rushed back to the living room and found his husband shell-shocked on his feet, frozen and gaping at Aya. “Ah Ackah, what is it?!” the old lady wondered with widened eyes.
The grey-haired man was speechless for a while before finally breaking the news. “A friend of David just told me that our grandchild …is dead.”
Aya jumped back and gasped in horror, her hands on her chest. “Has our daughter been informed?!”
The day was far from over. David’s troubles had just begun, and as he sat in the living room with Martin and Nadesh, he dreaded the imminent confrontation from his in-laws who were on their way to the city. For the first time in a long while, David didn’t sit in his favourite loveseat. With a hand under his chin, he sat in an armchair facing the window – the one Jasmine had earlier been seated in. Martin sat still with eyes closed in a sofa beside David while Nadesh slouched in the triple sofa beside the window, hands clasped on her laps.
After Martin had broken the tragic news to Keren’s parents, they had him explain what happened. To shield David from more trouble with his in-laws, Martin was reluctant at first about telling them the whole truth but David urged him to come clean about everything and Martin did.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:02am On Jan 18|
The wrath behind the order Martin was given to hand the phone to David was frightening and David, fully aware of the heart-stinging words awaiting him, refused to speak with them. That made his inlaws angrier and David could only imagine the blazing speed at which they were most likely driving to the city. David’s relationship with them had never been ideal from the beginning. They felt he wasn’t the right person for their daughter and even considered him a gold digger due to his poor background. David always remembered the warning Keren’s father gave him after she had pushed hard for their marriage: “Should anything happen to my daughter; I swear I will make you wish you had never met her.”
As he expected a violent confrontation, he promised himself that he wasn’t going to panic when his in-laws arrived and no matter what happened, he was ready to embrace it. Nevertheless, when he heard the beeps of the car horn outside the gate, his heart flipped. They grew louder and more relentless. Nadesh sat up and turned, shifting the curtains aside.
“A black Land Cruiser,” she announced, still looking.
“It’s them,” David’s lips trembled as his hands automatically came together on his chest. “Please open the gate for them.”
Before any of the three could think of stepping out to open the car gate, the walkthrough gate pushed open and a tall and dark man appeared in the gateway. He dragged the driveway gate open himself before hurrying back ran into the car and driving it into the yard. Apparently, those in the car had grown so impatient, their chauffeur had had to open the gate himself.
“David,” Martin said quietly, touching David’s lap. “Take it easy with them, okay? I don’t think they mean whatever they are coming to say, it’s just overwhelming emotions.”
David didn’t move a muscle in his posture. Immediately after the car’s doors banged shut, they heard a growling feminine voice rapidly approaching the door amid loud footsteps. Martin was prepared to try and calm down Keren’s parents whom he felt might do something nasty.
“Where is he?! Where is that murderer?!”
The door swung open and seconds later an enormous woman with swollen red eyes stormed inside, heading towards a cringing David.
“Where’s my granddaughter?!” Aya croaked in tears, grappling David by the shirt and yanking him up to his feet effortlessly. Martin got up, unsure of how to calm down this woman whose blood was probably boiling as hot as the sun. Rocking the frail David back and forth, she yelled in his face,
“Where is my beautiful granddaughter?!
Where’s my daughter’s princess?”
As Martin cautiously inched closer behind the woman’s back, David sobbed, “I’m sorry, Ma-”
“Fool!” A swift and loud stinging slap on his face cut David’s words short and he collapsed into his seat, his hand covering his left eye as he panicked to sit up, his knees knocking against each other. Martin backed off in shock and he and Nadesh exchanged looks of sheer terror.
Nevertheless, he made an effort to plead on his friend’s behalf from behind Aya,
“Aunty, please take it easy.”
The woman didn’t seem to have heard him as she hauled David back to his feet again and grappling the shirt off his helpless son-in-law like he owed her money, she growled in tears,
“Give me back my granddaughter, Ampofo! Give me back Akuba!”
“I’m so sorry, Ma,” David sobbed like a child, as tears streamed down his face.
“I am not your mother!” she raised a hand. “You bastard!”
“Aunty,” Martin touched Aya’s arm. “Please calm down.”
Slowly, the trembling woman soaked in sweat turned around with David still in her grasp, and warned Martin with partially closed eyes blazing with fury, “Young man, stay out of this!”
Martin saw the glare on her face, like a lioness seeking her lost cubs, and knew that she meant it but he remained there, humbly pleading with palm in hand,
“Please, Aunty, please …”
Aya stared at Martin with lips pursed and jaws clenched, speechless and panting as tears kept streaming down her face. It was then that Keren’s father finally walked in, turning all heads in his direction. He stopped midway across the living room and scowled at David. David couldn’t hold his gaze. The man in his seventies inched closer to the side of the wall where a large photo of Jasmine hung. He stared at the picture of his beautiful grandchild. Taking off his glasses the grey-haired man wiped his eyes before taking a seat in the loveseat.
David was finally released as Aya then took her seat beside her husband and folded her arms, staring at the photos hanging on the wall and shaking her head slowly. Martin also took his seat and a moment of silence followed with David fidgeting with his fingers and trying to avoid eye contact with his in-laws.
“David,” Ackah spoke up in a low tone, looking at David.
“Sir,” David forced himself to look at Ackah albeit fleetingly.
“What are you going to tell my daughter when she comes back and asks about Jasmine?”
David swallowed hard without a word.
“Answer me!” Ackah barked suddenly.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:05am On Jan 18|
Both David and Nadesh flinched at the powerful yell that seemed to have vibrated in their hearts. As they waited for David’s reply, all he could do was break down, his shoulders shaking with the sobs. Keren’s parents looked at him with disgust.
“Is Afiba aware of this?” Ackah asked.
David forced himself to reply with words instead of shaking his head for that would have been disrespectful, but the words were choked up in his throat. Ackah was having none of that.
“Will you stop crying like a baby and answer me?!”
“No, please,” David sobbed those words out as loudly as possible.
“Bastard,” Aya scorned, her face contorted in contempt at David and sucked her teeth loudly.
“Where’s she?” asked Ackah.
“I-I didn’t come to meet her at home, sir,” David replied and sniffled, wiping tears with the back of his hand like a child.
Ackah took a deep breath and leaned forward in his seat. “So she knows nothing about this, right?”
Leaning back in the chair and looking up at the ceiling, Ackah warned, “Do not let her nor anyone else know about this matter. The same goes to you two.”
Ackah sat up and turned to Nadesh and Martin.
“Please, I know you two were Keren’s close friends back in school and you already know her condition. I’m quite sure you either heard of or personally witnessed her heart attack back in school.”
Nadesh nodded gently as the man entreated them.
“It’s rather sad that her heart condition hasn’t gotten any better. It’s now worse than before. She’s become more hypertensive than her old father.”
Ackah paused and clamped his lips tight. “A few years ago, she had another attack but miraculously survived, and I remember the doctor telling us that given the state of her heart at that time, Keren wouldn't be able to survive another attack.”
The man paused, his eyes glistening with tears. “So you can imagine what will happen to her when she learns of what has happened to her only child-”
“My daughter will die!” As Aya broke into tears, sobbing on Ackah’s shoulder, he wrapped his arm around her. “Oh, Ampofo! Ɛle kodiawu! You have killed me o!”
The moment was unbearable for David as he felt like the weight of the world had been placed on his shoulders. He wished he could just die off right there. How he would correct things if somehow, the clock could turn back!
After remaining seemingly non-existent in the room, Nadesh finally made her voice heard, “We promise we won’t tell anyone, Daddy.”
Ackah nodded, his wife still sobbing on his shoulder. “I have heard you, young lady. Please be true to your word and prove yourself loyal to your once best friend. I know you two lost contact over the years, but I am sure you never lost the love you had for her.”
“Trust me, Daddy. Keren will always be my best friend. She has a special place in my heart.”
David glanced at Nadesh and their eyes met.
“Thank you,” Ackah said softly. “I know we can’t keep this from Keren forever, but until we find the best way to handle the situation, I hold you all under oath to keep Jasmine’s death a secret. Please don’t break this promise no matter what and…and save my daughter too.”
Ackah had broken down into sobs, reaching for his handkerchief.
“We warned her,” Aya sat up as her husband wiped his tears and sobbing. “We warned her that this-this reckless bastard of a gold digger was a disaster waiting to happen but because you had bewitched her, though there were better and wealthy men begging on their knees for her heart, she couldn’t think straight and still went in for you. Now, you see what has happened?”
This was something new in the ears of Nadesh and Martin. They gradually realised that David’s marriage to Keren had never had the support of her parents. But somehow, their love had persevered.
Aya seemed to have renewed her earlier energy for she growled at David, pointing angrily at him with a wild look in her eyes, “If something happens to Avola! If you kill my daughter too, I swear by my mother’s grave; I will curse you so that you will rot away while you are still alive!”
Martin gasped at this. True, he knew the woman was distressed but so far what he had seen made him wonder whether Aya was indeed Keren’s mother. This woman was a different person from the calm and sweet-natured Keren Martin knew.
“I still wonder what madness drove you to send our granddaughter, our only granddaughter to school in a taxi,” remarked Ackah, after drying his eyes, as he looked at the speechless David in disgust. “How? We are above that. How could you belittle our family by putting our only grandchild in a taxi? Is that how you are going to repay us after bringing you out of the ashes you called life?”
David could not say a word. He sat there, like a sad and lost puppy in a creepy forest, as seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, thinking, and thinking deeply about the only one who was always beside him in a family where he was seen as a pest – Keren, his beloved wife and best friend ever.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:09am On Jan 18|
After a while of silence, Ackah spoke softly to Aya in Nzema. David didn’t understand what he said, but he heard ‘morgue’ more than once and when Aya shook her head and hand vigorously with a grimace, David guessed his father-in-law might have suggested going to the morgue to see Jasmine’s body. He guessed correctly. Aya simply couldn’t bear the sight of her beautiful grandchild lying in a drawer.
It was past 6 p.m. when they all walked out of the living room into the yard outside together. The hours of verbal and a little physical torment had passed, but David knew the greatest challenge still lay ahead. After a few more words of consolation, Martin and Nadesh left in their cars, Martin taking the lead out.
Then moments after David’s friends had left, Ackah called him aside in front of the car as Aya was still crying her eyes out in the backseat.
“I have no reason and never will have any to trust you, David,” Ackah started. “You have proved, and you keep proving that you don’t deserve to be part of our family or to be called Keren’s husband. I can’t even trust you with my daughter now after what you have done.”
David tried very hard to keep looking at Ackah’s face as he listened attentively with hands behind him.
“Yet, I’m giving you one last chance to prove yourself worthy to be part of my family. You know what you have to do, young man.”
“Yes please,” David acquiesced humbly.
“Listen carefully. For now, we are going to make her believe that we came here for a visit and took Jasmine along to spend the holidays at Esiama with us. Therefore, until you hear from us that we have a solution to the problem you have caused, keep making her believe that Jasmine is alive and with us. So, the body will have to remain at the morgue for some time. Make sure you see to that.”
Then came the warning.
“If you fail and the news about Jasmine’s death should reach my daughter before the right time, and her heart breaks down, I will do to you worse things than my wife threatened and I mean it.”
Yes, David knew he meant it. He had known his in-laws for several years now. Keren was their only child too, and they were ready to go any length for her sake.
“I promise I won’t let you down…,” David trailed off, wondering what title to give his in-law. “… Sir.”
“You had better stick to your word,” Ackah concluded and went into the car, sitting beside his wife and consoling her. David stood alone, his gaze on the Land Cruiser reversing through the opened driveway gate. Even after they left, he still stood there immobile for a while, apparently deep in thought.
Finally, he settled on the stairs leading to the porch with arms across on his shoulders and a hand buried under his chin, observing the sinking red sun.
It wasn’t long before Afiba appeared at the gate. It was her who closed the driveway gate after it had been left open for minutes. As she walked towards him, carrying a package, David knew his first real test was at hand for how he behaved towards Afiba could either make her suspicious or put her mind at rest. Although David’s sore eye caught the girl’s attention, it made her nervous and thus she pretended she hadn’t noticed it.
“Good evening, uncle,” she greeted, looking pretty exhausted.
“Hey, Afiba,” he replied softly with a reluctant half-smile, not forcing himself to look
cheerful. “Where have you been?”
“Aunty gave me money to buy pizza for Jasmine, but when I went to the place, I was told they had closed the shop temporarily and would reopen in a few hours, so I had to wait.”
“But,” began David, wondering, “is that the only place pizza is sold in Takoradi?”
“Jasmine loves the design on their box so if I buy it somewhere else, she will refuse to eat it,” she explained much to David’s shock before adding quietly, “So I always have to buy it from that place.”
“Really?” David puffed and shook his head slightly. “Well, anyway, you may have to eat it yourself because, for the first time in her life, Jasmine is going to spend the holidays at Esiama with her grandparents without her mother.”
“Ei!” Afiba was both glad and surprised.
“That’s great. At least, she can learn a bit of the Nzema language there.”
“Certainly,” David agreed.
“But, I can’t eat it. I don’t like pizza, uncle.”
“Oh. Well, that makes the two of us then. You, keep it in the refrigerator. I will give it to Jasmine’s mate next door to appease her after Jasmine insulted their family.”
Afiba covered her mouth with a hand, stunned to hear Jasmine had insulted a family. “Oh…”
“That’s Jasmine at her rude best, Afiba. Don’t worry, just get inside and take a rest.”
“Okay, uncle,” she said, but asked before leaving, “Please what do you want for dinner tonight?”
“Don’t worry, Afiba. I will make some tea for myself. But tomorrow, make sure you give me your best version of fufu and groundnut soup.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:13am On Jan 18|
Afiba giggled and nodded as she walked past him into the porch as David smiled faintly. Suddenly, a thought hit David as his smile faded and swiftly, he pulled out his phone to make a call.
* * *
Debbie looked worriedly at Martin. He was on the phone as they sat at the table having dinner together with their younger sibling. Martin hadn’t put a single morsel of food into his mouth since Debbie set his dinner before him. It was his favourite too, and that of Elizabeth, their plump younger sister, who was just gorging herself on the meal before her. The young girl had taken after their mother’s dark skin while the others had opted for their father’s light skin. Big brother was both mum and dad to the girls after their mother had lost the battle to death when Elizabeth was only four. For their father, not even Martin had arrived to meet him.
“Is everything okay, Martin?” the light skinned and slender 22-year-old Debbie questioned, staring at him as he put down the phone slowly.
“What? What did you say?” he asked.
“I asked if all is well with you. You look…sad.”
“It’s a sad world, isn’t it?” he forced a wry smile but Debbie wasn’t going to buy that, and Martin realised it. “Well, I – I just had a bad day at the office,” he shrugged. “That’s all.”
“Is that why you aren’t eating your food?”
“Yeah. Hey, Elizabeth, how was the end of term party?”
Interested listeners had to wait a while for the little girl’s reply because her mouth was full. Fat Elizabeth managed to swallow it all down in record time as well.
“It was… great! But since Jasmine failed to show up, our class lost the dance competition. She was our secret weapon.”
Martin giggled, and Debbie immediately asked, “Why didn’t Jasmine show up?”
“I don’t really know,” answered Elizabeth after guzzling a full glass of water. “You should know, brother Martin, you said this morning you’d pass by their place.”
Fortunately, David had already called and informed him on time. Had he not called, Martin probably would have stated a totally different reason for Jasmine’s absence in school that might come back to bite their plan in the future.
“Um, her grandparents,” he started, pouring himself a glass of water. “They were there in the morning and said they would take her along to spend the holidays in her hometown as missing the party wasn’t really a big deal.”
“Well, it was,” the little girl clarified as Martin drank down the water with his eyes on her. “The principal had announced yesterday at the closing assembly that the end of term party was compulsory and that any student who refuses will be sanctioned when school reopens.”
Martin nodded and got up to leave. “Well said.”
“So, you didn’t eat a thing?” Debbie was clearly not happy after putting in so much effort to prepare Martin’s favourite.
“Sorry, Debbie,” Martin apologised, pulling back his chair. “Thanks, though.”
“She won about twelve awards,” said Elizabeth before Martin could take a step away.
“Who?” Martin asked.
“Jasmine. She could have won more if she wasn’t so rude. But she’s a genius, that girl.”
“Yeah,” Martin agreed softly as memories of his schooldays when Keren seemed to reap all the academic awards for fun occurred to him. “Just like her mother.”
With that, Martin wished his sisters good night and left for his room, his phone at his ear, making a very important call on David’s behalf. Nadesh had to also know about the latest update. Immediately Martin left, Elizabeth picked up her brother’s untouched plate and placed it before her.
“Are you going to eat that too?” Debbie asked with eyes widened in shock and the girl nodded. “You want to explode, right?”
* * *
David was still seated on the stairs when the big red sun hanging in the sky was replaced with a dark sky filled with little dots of twinkling lights. The beautiful heavenly sight seemed to be taking his mind off the stinging pain in his eye. Aya’s powerful slap had left a mark. David hoped it would disappear before his over-caring wife arrived and bombarded him with questions.
So, Jasmine had indeed died, he thought. Everything seemed like a dream which he wanted to end quickly. Two days from now Keren would return and even though he would tell her that Jasmine was with her grandparents, that wasn’t going to end it.
He knew Keren couldn’t go a day without speaking to her daughter. Apparently, she would call and when she did, how were they going to get away with it? Moreover, if Jasmine had gone for the holidays, she should come home before school reopens in about three weeks’ time, somewhere at the end of December. What were her parents planning, he wondered? Whatever the solution was to this problem, David hoped it would arrive in time before school reopened.
With a deep sigh, he finally stood up, but before he could turn around, he received a call from a foreign number. David didn’t have to think twice about who the caller was. Immediately, a sudden trembling fell on him.
“Come on, David,” he said to himself, taking in deep breaths to calm his nerves down.
“You can do this.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by nadesh(f): 11:14am On Jan 18|
martins18:Pity my mentions i beg
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