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Stats: 2,483,093 members, 5,622,706 topics. Date: Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 05:01 AM
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:16am On Jan 18|
nadesh:I would love it if you mention more readers, it's a great story
|Re: Once Upon A December by nadesh(f): 11:17am On Jan 18|
martins18:My name in your story is giving me unnecessary mentions.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:19am On Jan 18|
nadesh:I see, sorry if it bothers you. just ignore OK
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:21am On Jan 18|
Then he answered the call forcing a smile which he knew would affect his voice. “Hello honey, have you arrived?”
“Yes, sweetheart, to my greatest disappointment.”
“Whoa, what happened?”
“The conference has been cancelled and rescheduled for next year. Can you believe that? I’m so mad at them.”
“Oh. That’s bad. Sorry.”
“Yeah. Now I have to get a flight to Ghana as soon as possible. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I should be home. Boy, you have no idea how much I’m missing my little princess already…”
Oh boy, David knew what was coming next. He knew Keren so well that he could at times predict her next words. The time had come for him to put all his knowledge of his dear wife to use and he had to act quickly.
“…Give Jasmine the phone let-”
“Um, Keren, I’m on low battery and my phone is about to go -”
Then he intentionally hung up on his wife and immediately shut down his phone. It had to look natural. David sighed. He could already see many of these happening in the very near future and he hoped he would be able to always get away with it. There was one problem, however.
Keren was a very smart woman who observed things to the slightest detail. David knew he had to act smarter henceforth. Moreover, it was time to bring out the few acting skills within him, beginning with acting as if nothing had happened. He had to be himself. It wouldn’t be easy but he had to do it, not to earn the trust of his in-laws, but to save his beloved wife.
Another deep sigh and a last glance at the words on the house, “SWEET HAVEN,” later, David went inside.
|Re: Once Upon A December by nadesh(f): 12:13pm On Jan 18|
martins18:It bothers me. Please type my name like this "nad.esh" so i wont be getting your mentions. I beg
|Re: Once Upon A December by Ann2012(f): 11:48am On Jan 19|
Well done OP
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:31pm On Jan 19|
Ackah couldn’t have been more grateful to receive as a guest in his house, Dr Benjamin da Costa, often referred to as Dr Ben. This schoolmate of Ackah was their family’s doctor when Ackah was living with his family in Accra and was the C.E.O of his own company. It had been a few years since Ackah retired that post and handed over the management of the company to his assistant to handle matters till Keren was experienced enough to take over. After his retirement, he had moved back to his hometown in Esiama with Aya and from then, Ben ceased being their family doctor.
Nevertheless, Ben hadn’t forgotten the family. He was aware Ackah had moved to his hometown so, after Ben’s two days’ visit to the health college in the town, he decided to pay Ackah and his family a surprise visit that evening after finding out where they lived. Ben had little trouble finding Ackah’s residence. The man was famous for his wealth and of course for his big mansion that stood out among the houses along the road.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:34pm On Jan 19|
“Here,” Ackah showed Ben a seat after inviting him into his glamorous living room. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” Ben sat down and exhaled deeply.
“What do I offer an old friend?” Ackah forced a grin.
“Oh don’t worry, I’m good.”
Ackah took his seat on the opposite sofa. “Are you sure? Not even a glass of water?”
Ben grinned. “It’s alright, Ackah. Where’s Aya? I haven’t seen any sign of her.”
“Oh,” Ackah sighed with a glance at the stairs. “She went to bed.”
Ben squinted at Ackah, suspecting something was wrong. Ackah’s sudden gloomy expression after Ben’s question convinced him the more.
“Is there a problem?” Ben posed the inevitable question.
Ackah sighed, running a hand through the grey hair. “Yes, there’s a problem, Ben. A big one. And I need your help.”
“Okay,” Ben said softly, frowning in concentration and leaning forward. “Let it out, my brother, I’m all ears.”
* * *
Perhaps the one thing about the holidays that Elizabeth treasured most was the freedom to watch TV without the constant nagging of big brother and sister and that was precisely what she did right after dinner, lying on Debbie’s laps on the living room couch as the two watched a movie together. Just when the movie reached its climax, then came the loud annoying call from big brother’s room.
“Yes, brother,” Elizabeth frowned and answered but not loud enough.
“Elizabeth!” Martin’s voice echoed in the living room.
“Hurry up and go,” Debbie drummed Elizabeth’s arm with the remote control.
“I’m coming!” Elizabeth hauled herself up from the couch like she carried a heavy load and after heaving a sigh went to Martin’s door and knocked.
“Come in,” replied a soft voice and Elizabeth entered.
“Here,” Martin tapped a space beside him on the bed. “Sit beside me.”
Elizabeth wasted no time, having her movie in mind. She wanted to get back as soon as possible so even if it were chores that Martin wanted to give her to do tomorrow, she wouldn’t bargain as she used to.
“Elizabeth,” Martin began calmly after moments of silence, still wearing the long face he came home with. “I called you here for a heart-to-heart talk.”
“Okay…” she folded arms and shifted impatiently on the bed, praying that big brother would skip the time-wasting introduction and move on to the message itself.
Martin sighed deeply and for the first time since Elizabeth entered the room, he made eye contact with her. There was this worried look that was worse than the one during dinner.
“What I’m going to tell you now should remain between us, just the two of us. Not even Debbie should hear of this.”
Elizabeth’s eyebrows furrowed. Whoa, she thought, what’s coming is huge. She gave the nod and Martin continued,
“And you should do exactly what I tell you to do. Can I trust you, Elizabeth?”
* * *
“This is tragic,” commented Ben quietly as the two men walked out of the house into the beautifully lit yard. “Once again, I’m really, really sorry, my brother.” Ackah nodded and received an embrace from his friend.
As they slowly approached the garage, Ben continued, “I’m concerned about how to break the news to a mother like Keren who is so attached to the child. This is sure to cause her blood vessels to explode.”
“We know,” Ackah scratched his head.
“That’s why I’m counting on you to help us, Ben.”
They stopped beside Ben’s car. The doctor could feel the anxiety in the man’s words. The fear of losing his only child was evident in his tone. “I want to help you and I will help you.”
“Thank you, my brother,” Ackah slowly shook his head, uttering a little sigh of relief.
“But um,” Ben leaned against his car door and paused for a moment of thought. “I wish I could break the news to Keren myself, but the risk is too high. No, I might end up killing her. This is not like when we break the news of the death of patients to relatives because of the unique condition of the individual in question.”
Ackah listened attentively, fidgeting his fingers like a nervous child and hoping for a solution from his friend.
“You will need someone who is a professional…” Ben trailed off, in reaction to the gloomy face in front of him.
“Someone professional?” Ackah asked.
“You mean like - a psychologist?”
Ben slowly nodded, “Yeah. Someone like that. Someone who can – kind of calm Keren’s mind and prepare her to embrace the death of Jasmine. I don’t know how the person will do it, but one thing I know for sure is that it will take wicked skill.”
Ackah exhaled profoundly wrapping his arms around himself but not because of the cold weather. He looked up at Ben and echoed his last words in a whisper, “Wicked skill.”
Ben gave an imperceptible nod. Ackah looked down and asked softly, “Could you get us such a person, Ben?”
A brief moment of silence stepped in and Ackah looked up to his pal. There were tears welling up in his eyes. Ben’s shoulders dropped and he took both arms of Ackah.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:38pm On Jan 19|
“There are so many psychologists I know of who are very good, but this is Keren we are talking about. I know her from infancy and her condition, therefore, I also know the risk of bringing in a doctor she doesn’t know to speak with her. From the moment Keren sets eyes on the psychologist, she will sense something’s wrong and will start to panic. Her blood pressure will be soaring to sky-high levels and her heart will break down.”
He paused and began shaking his head slightly as he released his grip on Ackah’s arms.
“Her heart will give up before the psychologist even says hi.”
Ackah broke into sobs at the thought of burying his own daughter. “Help me, my brother!” Ben gave him another tight embrace and said after,
“This is what you can do. Get someone, who is not just a psychologist but who also knows Keren in and out and is also a good friend. Tough, I know. But I know she has passed through the hands of many physicians and psychologists so there must be someone like that. We want someone whose presence won’t spook her. Can you think of someone?”
Drying his eyes, Ackah looked down to think deep. It took a silent moment of about half a minute before he slowly lifted up his head with a face gradually lightening up with hope.
“I know someone!”
Ben was curious to hear more as a smile formed on his face. “Really?”
“Yeah…how did I not remember Dr Stacy Evans? She used to be Keren’s therapist when she was in California. Keren was full of praises for the woman anytime she called home. Their relationship was more like a mother and her daughter.”
“Things are looking good.”
Then a look of worry cast across Ackah’s face and he said softly, “But it’s been years since Keren left the United States. I don’t know their relationship now and Keren has never mentioned her since.”
Ben wasn’t worried about that. “No problem. Just reach this doctor as soon as possible and tell her everything. You have no idea how relieved I am to hear of her. If Keren is fond of Stacy then there is hope. You just have to hang on till she begins her work on Keren. But the idea of letting her believe Jasmine is with you is spot on.”
Ackah could afford a faint smile. Ben promised to stay in touch as he ended his visit with a few more words of consolation and encouragement and the last embrace. Now, Keren’s father had a plan. A plan he was confident would work. They just had to play their cards well by ensuring that Keren did not suspect anything.
More of that responsibility rested with-with that boy! Ackah hoped David had better not mess up with his game. As the old man sauntered towards the door under the starry sky, he hoped his newly found solution would bring a bit of relief to his wife who had cried herself to sleep earlier.
* * *
“Hey, Elizabeth!” Debbie called gleefully when she spotted Elizabeth in the doorway of the living room. “Quick, the movie is getting awesome! The murderer is actually the-”
Debbie stopped abruptly as a perplexed looking Elizabeth walked across the living room, heading straight towards the other doorway that led to her room.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Debbie asked, stopping Elizabeth in the doorway. “Are you not going to watch the movie?”
“I’m not interested anymore,” she replied softly and resumed her journey.
Debbie narrowed her eyes, feeling lost as she glanced from one doorway to the other. What was the matter? Had Martin said something unkind to the girl in his bedroom, she wondered. First, Martin had come home looking gloomy and losing his appetite for food and now, Elizabeth was off to bed earlier than usual looking worried. Something was not right, Debbie was sure. But she was so gripped by the movie that she decided not to leave the TV for now but later, she would have to find out.
Elizabeth pulled her blanket up to her chest and faced the wall as she lay on her bed. She was only two years older than Jasmine, but she wasn’t a robot. She possessed a well-developed reasoning capacity even if she was just 12. The girl reflected deeply on her ‘secret’ conversation with her big brother.
“Don’t mention this to anyone, not even Debbie. If Jasmine’s mother is to ask you whether Jasmine was at the end of term party, please say yes. Simply tell her Jasmine was at the party. Is that clear?”
“But isn’t Aunty Keren already aware that Jasmine wasn’t there?”
“Just…do as you’re told.”
Elizabeth had held back from speaking for a few seconds, looking confusedly at Martin. She couldn’t understand why she was being asked to lie about Jasmine’s absence from school.
“But even if she finds out that Jasmine didn’t go to the party today,” Elizabeth wanted to clear her head but Martin was evidently getting impatient with her, tapping his foot on the floor and glancing around.
“It’s no big deal. What’s-”
“Elizabeth!” Martin almost yelled and a short silence followed as he seemed to be searching for his next words. “Stop asking questions and – and do as you’re told. Please, Elizabeth. Can I count on you?”
She held his gaze for a while.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:41pm On Jan 19|
Jasmine wasn’t at the party. And so what? Her mother is not to know about that. And what will happen if she does? Oh…so apparently, Aunty Keren believes her daughter was in school today. Again, what will happen if she gets to know the truth? Why does big brother want to hide that irrelevant truth from Aunty Keren? Hmm…What if? … what if what? Questions, questions without answers flooded Elizabeth’s mind that night.
Something was wrong. Elizabeth could feel it. There was something, something about her brother’s demeanour that was worrying. His facial expression and tone sent a message that something was not right. Sleep fled from Elizabeth that night. At least for about an hour. Well, whatever the problem was, she only hoped Jasmine was well. As to that, there was one way she could know. She had to contact Jasmine.
* * *
Thursday was over. But it passed on its baton of troubles to Friday. David wasn’t asleep in his barbering shop that morning; he had only shut his eyes as he slouched on the couch with a cap on. Without a doubt, Keren had furnished her husband’s shop to look ultra modern, but business was pretty slow. However, he was glad business was slow. David didn’t wish to be at work, but he had to. Things needed to look normal and it was normal for him to be at work on weekdays.
There were so many voices in his head as he recalled the events of the previous day. The voices were as loud as the voices outside his shop at the city’s market circle. David could hear Aya’s deafening growls and even feel her stinging slap. He had examined his eye in the morning before the mirror and though there had been an improvement, it wasn’t enough to be missed by the quick eyes of Keren. He knew she was definitely going to ask about it.
He looked up when his glass door slid open. Martin walked in and David sat up slowly and made room for his friend on the couch.
“Hey, man. How are you feeling?” Martin gave him a handshake and sat beside him. “How’s the eye now? Seems better than yesterday.”
“Hmm,” David sighed and laced his fingers together.
“Everything will get better, man,” Martin gave him some taps on the shoulder. “This will pass.”
David nodded. “I hope it doesn’t pass along with my wife. I’m so scared she might find out.”
“I don’t think she will if her parents find a solution in time. We will play the game well. By the way, have you heard from your in-laws?”
David replied with a headshake.
“Oh well,” Martin paused as David adjusted his tie for him. “Thanks. I believe they’re working hard. I’m just wondering what solution they’re thinking of. Are they going to seek a miraculously safe way of breaking the news to her or are they going to lie to her forever? That’s not possible, is it?”
David shrugged. He was unsure as well. Martin could tell David was grieving deep within him and he felt his pain. Martin wasn’t over it yet as well. Until Keren gets to know about the secret and somehow manages to take it and live, Martin wasn’t going to be at total peace. About a minute of silence crept in during which David held his neck, staring at their reflection in the mirror while Martin thought of what to say next.
“Hey,” Martin gave David a nudge. “I had a meeting with Elizabeth behind closed doors.”
David’s heart nearly skipped a beat as he swung around swiftly to face Martin.
“Breathe, bro,” Martin calmed down David’s nerves. “I didn’t tell her about Jasmine.”
David sighed imperceptibly as Martin sat up to face him. “I thought about something.
Now, you told me you lied to Keren that you personally drove Jasmine to school, right?”
David nodded, sitting up on the edge of the seat and listening with great interest.
“What if things get a bit tricky and Keren starts to suspect things and somehow manages to learn from Elizabeth that Jasmine wasn’t in school that day?-”
“That would be a disaster!” David agreed with widened eyes. He hadn’t even thought about that!
“Good,” Martin pointed at him. “That would be a conflict in the story. Because one, you said you took Jasmine to school and then after asking Elizabeth, she gets to know her beloved daughter never arrived in school. That would send her a message that she’s being lied to and one thing might lead to another.”
“So-so what did you tell Elizabeth?” David asked eagerly with a curious face.
“I told her to say that Jasmine was in school should Keren ask her. As simple as that.”
David puffed. “Well, that was good. We need to close up the holes. But what if Keren doesn’t ask Elizabeth but asks Jasmine’s teachers instead?”
“That is if Keren has their contacts. Does she?”
“Well…” David trailed off, trying to recall. “He does have the principal’s phone number but even that, I’ve never seen her make a call to him before. If anything, Keren goes to the school every day at lunchtime to check on Jasmine or bring her food or something. But to call her teachers, no, I haven’t seen her do that.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:45pm On Jan 19|
“Wow. Jasmine was indeed close to her mother’s heart. Anyway, it’s not likely Keren would contact a teacher. I mean, during the end of term parties, the kids are all over the grounds, and I don’t think a teacher can really tell if a student was absent.”
“Yeah,” David agreed. “Good point.”
“Once Elizabeth confirms that Jasmine was in school, case closed, buddy.”
“Hopefully,” David sighed deeply and slouched on the couch. “Thanks, man.”
Martin gave him another tap on the shoulder as he got up to leave. “Anything for you and Keren.” David smiled faintly. “But try and ask your in-laws if there’s any progress.”
“That will take a while. They’re still mad at me…and perhaps will even be madder soon.”
Martin stared at him without saying a word. David was right. Keren’s parents had asked him to play according to the rules of the game until they find a solution. So until then, David simply had to play his part…well. Right then, Martin recalled that Elizabeth had said Jasmine had won several awards, but he held back from telling David. He didn’t want to cause him any more sadness.
“It seems people don’t trust the new barber in town,” Martin looked at the busy street outside.
“I’m glad they don’t. I hope this lasts forever. I am not in the mood at all. Keren is probably on a plane coming, and I don’t think I’m prepared yet.”
David sniffled after those words.
“Don’t give up, man,” Martin shook David’s shoulder. “I know you can do this.”
He gave David a fist bump at this and at least, David could force another smile even though it was a rueful one.
“Did you hear about the robbery that happened yesterday?” Martin asked, picking up a bunch of keys from the couch. He was David’s source of news as nothing in the news world skipped his ears.
David shook his head. “No.”
“Well, there was a robbery somewhere in the city and that sparked a hot police chase,” narrated Martin, now standing in the doorway. “Eyewitnesses say the robbers’ driver was too good for the police.”
“Oh…” David muttered, not really interested in the news.
“Yeah. So lock up well when you’re not at home. See ya!” Martin waved and left, leaving David with his dreadful thoughts. He got up to slide the glass door shut and returned to lie on the couch.
* * *
She was stunning. She was Miss independent. She was also rich, but she desired another woman’s husband. Nadesh Adjoa Annobil. The lady sat in her office, swiping through photos of David she had downloaded from Facebook onto her phone. Nadesh was lovesick, and it was even affecting her work and appetite.
Ever since that day when Keren introduced her to David, Nadesh could not stop thinking about the man. She had tried several times and ways to get him, but David just wouldn’t budge. He didn’t seem like the cheating type, she thought. David seemed to have no weakness for Nadesh to pry on but she was sure that like any other man, the object of her obsession did have an Achilles heel, somehow.
After spending hours ogling at David’s pictures, she found one that was most appealing. Nadesh zoomed the image and bringing the screen close to her face, she kissed it tenderly, her lipstick painting the phone’s screen. That was when her secretary suddenly barged into the office with a folder in hand, startling Nadesh who almost dropped the phone onto the floor.
“Herh! ” Nadesh gaped at the young man, after calming down her nerves. “It seems you have some madness in your coconut eh?!”
“Oh madam, I’m sorry,” the tall, dark and skinny young man with bulging eyes apologised earnestly in panic, realising he forgot to knock. “Please, please forgive me. It won’t happen again.”
Nadesh glared at the young man who, aware of his boss’ temper, had already dropped to his knees with palm in hand.
“Don’t you have any manners?!” yelled Nadesh, hurling a book at him. “Huh?!”
“Please,” he pleaded softly as he put the book that had just hit him back onto his boss’ desk. “It won’t happen again, madam, I swear.”
Nadesh spent the next few seconds sizing him up with disgust. “Get up! Yes? What is it? What do you want?!”
“Madam, please,” he started after getting back to his feet and placing the folder before Nadesh on her desk. “I have finished with the records and I wanted to submit it.”
She opened the folder in a flash and scrutinised its contents with half-opened eyes as the secretary hoped for the best with his hands respectfully behind him. Suddenly, Nadesh paused and looked up at him with a furious look. He was puzzled. Something was wrong with his work, but before he could utter a word, his boss rose to her feet and slapped him hard in the face without warning.
“Fool!” she spat as the horrified young man held his face with a hand. “Did you ever attend a math class?!”
“Don’t madam me!” Nadesh flew the folder at him with rage, scattering the files in it.
“You have up till midday to complete a new file of records and I swear to you, Abu, if you mess that up as well, you’re fired!”
Abu gathered the sheets lying at his feet as quickly as he could as Nadesh rained more insults and threats on him.
“Out of my office! Now!” she yelled, pointing at the door and the young man escaped through the door.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:47pm On Jan 19|
Stupid boy,” she sucked her teeth loudly and picking up her phone, she resumed swiping through more pictures of David. When she arrived at a photo of David and Keren together, she couldn’t help boiling with rage. Nadesh wanted what Keren had currently - David. It was as simple as that.
“Keren,” Nadesh spoke softly to Keren’s photo. “You will soon know how it feels. I’d love to see your face when I’m through with David.”
She dropped her phone on the desk and facepalmed with a deep sigh. Rising from the desk, she went over to the fridge for a glass of water. “What is your weakness, David?” Nadesh wondered as she poured water into a glass. She gulped the water down with eyes closed. Then suddenly, her eyes flew open as a thought hit her out of nowhere! Her face lit up with hope and a grin formed on her pretty face.
“How come I haven’t thought of this?!” she slammed the glass on top of the fridge, disgusted with herself. Shaking her head, Nadesh continued, “Your weakness has been staring at me in the face and I kept missing it!” Nadesh giggled and walked over to her desk where she collapsed into her chair and broke into an evil cackle.
“I’ve got you now, David,” she sang and danced gently in her chair. “I’ve got you.”
Just then, her door flew open again, and in walked Abu, with the folder in hand. He stopped abruptly right in the middle of the office and covered his mouth in fright, staring at the fierce look on his boss’ face as he realised he had just repeated the same mistake he made earlier.
“Madam, I’m sorry,” he pleaded on his knees. “Please, I’m sorry.”
* * *
They had been at it since morning and it was almost dusk. Ackah was very sure he had written down Dr Evans’ contact number somewhere but he just couldn’t remember exactly where. Aya frantically searched through every book she laid her hand on. Her husband had told her all that he had discussed with Ben the day before and Aya, for the first time since the tragic news, felt hopeful that her only daughter might make it through when they finally broke it to her as well.
“Why don’t we ask Keren for it instead,” Aya suggested, pulling a drawer in the room Keren usually slept in when she visited. “She surely must have it.”
“Aya,” Ackah flipped through the pages of a dusty book he had picked under the bed. “The last thing I would want is for my daughter to begin wondering why we suddenly want to contact her former therapist. We simply should not let it seem as if we asked Stacy to talk to her. She will sense a problem especially when she isn’t hearing from her daughter. Rather, it should seem like Stacy was the one who wanted to contact Keren after a long time. That would seem normal and Keren wouldn’t be spooked.”
Aya pushed back the drawer shut. “That’s true.”
“Aha!” Ackah found it at last, at the very last page of the dusty book he had felt tempted to throw away.
“You found it!” Aya rushed to Ackah beside the bed and he pointed to the name “Stacy Evans” written below some digits. The old lady exhaled deeply, resting her head on his shoulder. “Thank God.”
“Now,” Ackah said with trembling hands, pulling out his cell phone to make the call. “We just have to hope it goes through. This is an old number.”
“Ei Awurade,” Aya prayed, rubbing her palms together as her husband dialled the number with trembling hands. “Let it go through.”
This was the moment of truth and Keren’s parents knew it. It had to go through, they prayed. This was the only hope they had. Ackah exchanged an anxious glance with Aya briefly, then tapped the “dial” icon.
* * *
About five hours ago when David was still at the shop, Keren had called him to inform that she had landed. David wasn’t surprised.
Keren would do anything to get home quickly to see her daughter even if that meant buying a ticket from someone on the earliest flight. David didn’t know how, but he felt sure Keren was urging her chauffeur to use her car’s horsepower to the full, dying to hold her princess in her arms.
Though he sat in his favourite love seat, looking at the TV screen as if watching the evening news, David wasn’t really there. His mind wandered in a faraway land. Afiba passed by several times and each time she did; she saw David sitting in the same posture. Strange, she thought, but there was nothing more she could do. Her madam was coming home and Afiba wanted to ensure dinner was ready in time.
A car beeped suddenly from behind the gate and David jumped back to reality. Quickly, he walked over to the window, shifting the curtains as Afiba ran out of the house towards the main enterance. David’s heart started racing especially when Keren’s sparkling ash Mercedes-Benz slowly drove in with her car’s blinding head lights lightening up the half-lit compound to full brightness. This was it. The game had now started and he knew he had to play his part perfectly. David watched as Keren stepped out of her car and handed Afiba a box to take inside the house.
“Jasmine!” Keren called at the top of her voice, locking up the car doors with a beep sound and flash of light. “I’m home. Mummy’s home.” David wasn’t expecting this but tears had begun welling up in his eyes. Oh no, not now. He quickly wiped his eyes dry with his shirt before heading towards the door.
|Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 4:55pm On Jan 19|
You're doing really well.
I love the way you write.
God bless you.
May your pen never run out of ink.
|Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 4:58pm On Jan 19|
Hope it's not about blackmailing David, by threatening to reveal the truth to keren?
You're very wicked!!!!!
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:51pm On Jan 19|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:53pm On Jan 19|
“Jasmine!” Keren called again, trudging up the stairs into the porch, wondering why her little princess hadn’t run into her arms already like always. “Where’s this girl?”
“Hey,” David grinned with opened arms appearing at the door. “Welcome home, honey?”
Keren slowly fell into his arms for only a few seconds as Afiba walked past them, going towards the car to carry more boxes into the house.
“How was your flight?” he asked.
“Great,” Keren replied quickly, glancing around. “Where’s Jasmine?”
Keren’s father had chosen a quiet spot among the lovely orchids in the backyard under the night’s sky. He wished to speak in a serene environment with the doctor on the phone, free from the anxious reactions of his wife. Crickets chirped in the cool breeze as Ackah paced around slowly, listening as Dr Stacy Evans spoke at length for close to twenty minutes.
“This is perhaps going to be my greatest challenge in my career,” Stacy stated.
“And the timing is so right, as I’m retiring at the end of this month.”
“Wow,” Ackah sighed, stopping under a shady tree and leaning against it. “I’m glad we contacted you on time.”
“Yes. Oh my, once again I’m-I’m deeply sorry to hear that. It’s been about five years since I contacted or actually saw, yeah, I met Keren with cute little Jasmine. Keren had come to see me and for once in my life, I could sense that all seemed well with Keren. She looked so happy. The decision you took to allow her to marry the boy really did a world of good to her health. She was dying slowly.”
“Yeah…” Ackah trailed off and vented his anger with David on a noisy mosquito flying close to his ear. “That boy. He is the cause of all this.”
“I understand, Sir. I understand how you’re feeling but let’s leave out the blame game out of this for now and focus more on how to help Keren here.”
“Sure, sure,” he took off, making his way to the front of the house. “I’m sorry, doctor.”
Ackah heard Stacy give out a deep sigh and after remaining silent for just a few seconds, she continued. “Well, as it looks, I definitely will have to travel over to Africa. Yeah, that’s a must. But, I’m having an appointment next week and the week after also, yeah, so that makes it the third week-”
The best news Ackah had heard in a while. He was so relieved and nodded eagerly.
“Sometime around Christmas day, yeah. So, I will start working on a visa as soon as I can.”
“Doctor,” Ackah stopped at the edge of the pool. “You have no idea how grateful I am. God bless you, doctor.”
“Thank me later.”
“Any amount you will need, doctor, just inform me-”
“No! This is not about the money. I want to save her; she’s- Keren is like a daughter to me. She’s such an amazing person. A good girl whom bad things have happened to. A good girl with a fragile heart.”
Ackah felt his heart melting at the soul-soothing tone the woman spoke in. He could sense that indeed Keren was close to her heart.
“So, don’t worry,” Stacy insisted. “I’m paying for my visa, ticket and everything else. And I’m going to give it my very best to make sure she keeps on living even after learning of the fate of her only daughter. That perhaps would be a better way of thanking her for the good she did to me when she was here. Keren may not have told you but …”
Ackah hanged on as Stacy went momentarily speechless.
“… Keren is the reason I’m alive today. She saved my life, and now I’m going to save hers.”
A moment of silence erupted on the call as Stacy sniffled. The doctor had got emotional and Ackah was confident she indeed would give it her best.
“Sorry about that,” she sniffled again. “You said you’ve told her that Jasmine is with you for the holidays.”
“When is the school reopening?”
“Um…,” Ackah had no idea but he guessed, “I’m not sure exactly but definitely after Christmas.”
“Okay. So, Keren would be expecting Jasmine back home by then.”
Ackah looked up and exhaled deeply. “Yeah.”
“Alright. She will have to be told the truth before that day. I’ll make sure of that.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
“Don’t mention. So, this is what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna call her and tell her that I would be coming over to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. Now, don’t worry, she won’t suspect a thing because she always begged me to come and see Africa at least once in my lifetime and I remember I promised her I would honour that invitation before I retired. So, perfect timing, eh?”
“Yes,” Ackah smiled wryly, turning away from the pool.
“So assuming Jasmine’s school reopens the week after Christmas and I arrive on say the 25 th, whichwould mean I would have em -hang on, let me check…three days to find a way to tell her. It’s risky, I must confess.
Keren’s heart is made of glass but I will try. I will find a way to break the news to her. So, from now till the 25 th, please take caution and do not let a word about Jasmine’s death slip out.”
“Sure, doctor. We’ll ensure that doesn’t happen.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:56pm On Jan 19|
“Good. And those who are aware of this, you should keep pleading with them not to give her any hint of the tragedy. In fact, your actions shouldn’t give her cause for suspicion. It’s going to be tough but I trust you will handle the matter well before I come.”
“We will make sure of that, doctor.”
“Okay, I have to go now. Please before I forget, Keren should not know of this call, please.”
“Not a word, doctor.”
“Thank you so much for trusting in me. Bye, Sir.”
“Bye,” Ackah lowered the phone he had been switching from ear to ear. Standing at the centre of his beautiful sparkling courtyard, he focused on the star-infested sky with a heart full of gratitude and eyes brimming with hope even though he still grieved over the death of the little girl. Now, he had to tell Aya all that Stacy had discussed with him. Hopefully, that would bring her mind too to rest a bit.
* * *
His wife wouldn’t stop though he kept calling her name several times. She barged into their bedroom, dropped her bag and collapsed backwards onto the bed. David entered seconds later and she sat up, addressing him with a frown.
“David,” Keren said, her tone icy. “I’m so mad at you.”
“Come on, Keren,” he leaned against the door. “It’s not like she’s gone to live with some strangers or something. These are her grandparents – your parents for goodness sake.”
“I know, but you should have informed me!”
“Calm down,” David pleaded, moving over to her. “Take it easy, sweetheart.”
David sat beside her on the bed but she inched away, throwing her gaze to the opposite direction. David sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Keren was displeased to hear that Jasmine had gone for the holidays. Well, if that really was the case.
“Keren,” David touched her arm but she shook herself free. “I’m sorry. I should have informed you. But Jasmine was more than eager to go.”
She turned to him slowly. “I wanted to surprise her with the things I bought for her and more importantly, I had plans for a vacation with her this month!”
“You could go another time next year and as for the gifts, you could surprise her when she comes home.”
“And besides that, you know my parents have moved into the new house by the roadside at a new site, away from the town itself and the place is bushy and all that. I fear Jasmine might go out to play with the kids around and get bitten by a snake or worse run into the main road-”
“Hey, hey,” David took her hands and said to her worried face, “You shouldn’t worry so much. It’s bad for your heart. Come on, sweetheart, Jasmine will be safe with her grandparents looking out for her. She’s their only grandchild, remember. And at least she will get the chance to learn the language of her people, something you know your mother treasures very much.”
Keren sighed deeply and glanced at the ceiling. “Alright,” she agreed softly and smiled lightly. “But I’m still mad at you.”
David smiled at one corner of his mouth, glad the storm was abating.
Keren fell backwards on the bed again and asked, “So have you called her?”
“Yesterday. Well, your father called me actually, to tell me they had arrived at Esiama safely.”
“So, you haven’t called since yesterday,” Keren shot him a puzzling look. “Even to check on your daughter and how she’s doing?”
David raised his shoulders, his face splashed with guilt as Keren gaped at him.
“Bad father,” she kicked him and David giggled, “You’re a really, really bad father, David.”
Keren sat up after that and yawned. She looked weary and David offered to give her a drink which she accepted with a smile of appreciation. He sat beside her and as she took her first sip, Keren noticed something and put the glass aside.
“What?” asked the puzzled David, wondering why his wife stared at him with eyebrows knitted together.
“What happened to your eye?” she asked in a tone of deep concern, touching the side of his face with her dainty fingers.
“Oh that,” David began, swiftly conjuring an explanation. “A tree branch.”
“A branch? Where?”
“Was taking a walk in the area,” he said, looking back at Keren confidently, “and chanced upon a few kids trying to bring down their ball that was trapped up in a tree and so I volunteered to climb up, only to be hit by a swinging branch.”
“But I got the ball for the kids though.”
Keren smiled lightly. “Have you had it checked out at the clinic?”
“Yeah, I –” he coughed. “I went to a pharmacy and was given some – but it’s better now. It looked terrible yesterday.”
“Hmm…” she pulled down David’s eyelid and looked at it briefly. “You should be careful, honey.”
David nodded with a faint smile. “Sure.”
They were caught looking at each other. David saw in her eyes what he always saw – love. But he felt deep down inside him – betrayal. He knew he had betrayed Keren’s trust in him to care for their child. Outwardly, he was doing well to be his old self but inwardly, it was a turbulent world of emotions of fear, guilt and grief.
“Please fetch me my bag, honey,” Keren pointed to a black bag lying on the tiled floor. David brought it to her and sat closer to her but she hid the bag away from his sight.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:59pm On Jan 19|
“Close your eyes,” she said.
“Close my eyes,” he faked a puzzled look.
“Come on!” she urged with a soft shove at his chest. “Just close them.”
“How do I know you’re not going to stab me if I should?”
Keren giggled, shaking her head as her long hair swung from side to side. “Don’t worry.
I’m not going to stab you, okay?”
“Okay,” he closed his eyes with a smile at the corners of his mouth. Keren waved a hand over his face to ensure his eyes were really shut. Then David heard a rustling sound, like that of plastic being unwrapped. He wondered what Keren wanted to show him. Had she bought him something? What could that be? As he contemplated these, he felt the cold touch of a metallic object around his wrist. A watch!
“Now you can open your eyes,” Keren smiled and when David did, he found his guess had been right. He was dumbfounded at the glittering Rolex watch adorning his hand.
“Is- Is it… gold?” David looked at Keren with surprise.
“Yes,” she nodded, her smile fading. “You like it?”
David turned his wrist around slowly as glints emanated from the watch. “It’s gorgeous.”
Keren grinned and rested her jaw on his shoulder. “I just wanted to thank you for coming into my life, David. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Those words pierced David in the heart like an arrow and he almost gave way to tears as Keren planted a kiss on the cheek. Forcing a smile, he thanked her and quickly remarked, just to take his mind off her words, “It must be expensive. This watch would cost an arm and a leg-”
“And a heart,” she giggled. “Perhaps. It costs a little over $7,000. But if it’s for you, I don’t mind at all. I want my husband to look good.”
David took in a breath as Keren added one more kiss. “Just name it, David, anything you want and I’ll give you, my love. I love you so much,” she said quietly.
“What have I done? ” David thought as he watched their reflection in the large mirror. “ Oh Keren, I love you too. I hope someday, you’ll find a place in your heart to forgive me.”
“Thank you too,” David looked at her and kissed her lightly. “I love you very much, Keren.”
And just as David always wanted, Keren looked calm and happy that evening as they exchanged words of affection. He hoped to maintain this as long as he could but for how long, he thought. What was going on with his in-laws? What were they planning?
“What’s in the house?” Keren asked minutes later after changing clothes. “I’m famished.”
“Your favourite,” David got up and helped tie Keren’s hair as they stood before the mirror. “Yam with palm-nut soup.”
“Mmm, yummy,” Keren rubbed her palms, licking her lips. “Have you had yours?”
“Not yet. Was waiting for you.”
She turned to face him. “Let’s go then.”
“Lead the way, my lady,” he gestured with a bow and Keren laughed softly as she made her way out of the room. “Will be right behind you.” David closed the door slowly behind Keren and moved closer to the mirror.
“God,” he whispered with clasped hands, staring at his reflection. “Please give me an appetite for food tonight.”
“David!” Keren called out loudly, and rubbing his palms vigorously, he left the room.
* * *
David wasn’t the only one who had lost appetite for food. For Keren’s parents and especially her mother, it seemed until her daughter finally learned of the fate of their granddaughter and hopefully, managed to survive the pain, she wasn’t going to be able to eat a thing despite the efforts of her husband to convince her to eat something. An old couple, bar the security personnel and the chauffeur, living alone in a big mansion which they once dreamed would be infested with grandchildren running up and down, creating noise they would find delightful.
Unfortunately, instead of many, they had had only one. And even more sadly, that one was gone. How devastating it was any time it crossed their minds. Even Ackah, who seemed the stronger of the two couldn’t put more than two spoonfuls of rice into his mouth as they sat at the table for dinner.
“So,” Aya said, resting her chin on her palm with a sad face. “What are we going to tell Avola when she calls and asks to speak with Akuba?”
“Hmm,” Ackah shut his eyes briefly, rubbing his temples. “What else can we say other than that Jasmine is not around or asleep or is in the bathroom – you know, those lies?”
“God!” Aya slammed her hand on the table, causing a series of clangs among the dishware. “This boy has killed us.”
“We just have to act smart henceforth and vary our lies. It will be more prudent if we put off our phones often and disconnect the Wi-Fi lest Keren asks for a video call with Jasmine.”
Aya facepalmed and exhaled deeply. It was clearly going to be a huge challenge. Aya could sense that, especially with the way Keren was so attached to the little girl that she seemingly couldn’t go a day without at least talking to her.
Ackah poured himself a glass of juice. “It’s going to be hard but at least now we have hope with Dr Evans on board. It’s going to be fine.”
“Let’s hope so,” Aya replied feebly, covering her untouched plate. “Have you asked when the school is reopening? For all you know, they might even reopen before Christmas since they vacated earlier. We can’t leave anything to chance now.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:04pm On Jan 19|
“True.” Ackah picked his cell phone from the table.
* * *
Keren pampered not only Jasmine but at times, David too and a typical example of that was what went on at the dining table, feeding her husband like a mother feeding her baby. She seemed to be enjoying it very much. David on the contrary whose appetite for food had simply fled, had to endure the torture of eating every slice of yam Keren would put into his mouth and he had to keep smiling too.
“Afiba,” Keren called. “Bring us some more of the yam, okay?”
David’s eyes grew wide on hearing that.
“Okay, Aunty,” Afiba answered from the kitchen.
“Oh sweetheart, I don’t know about you,” David jumped in, wiping his mouth with the tissue. “But I’m okay.”
“Oh come on,” she dismissed with a wave of the hand. “There’s so much vacuum in that stomach of yours that needs filling.”
“I’m – I’m,” David stammered as their housekeeper served them more of the food. “I can’t eat anymore. I’m trying to lose weight.”
David didn’t mean to make Keren laugh but to his utter surprise, she did, and hilariously too. She laughed so hard that she doubled over. Her husband was quite relieved to see her enjoying the evening. Things had strangely gone well as opposed to how tense David predicted it would be with telling Keren that their daughter wasn’t around.
“David…” Keren finally said, coughing, her eyes full of tears of laughter. “Seriously, you’re too funny. What weight is there left for you to lose, David? You want to lose weight, ha-ha.”
Before David could utter another word, he felt his phone vibrate in his jeans and quickly, as if escaping, he got up from the table, pulling out his phone.
“Where are you going?” asked Keren.
David pointed to his phone.
“But you can receive it here –”
She barely ended the statement when David rushed into the foyer, heading outside the outer door. Keren only shrugged and went ahead with her food. Moments later though, she pulled out her phone and called her mother. Keren had to call thrice actually before Aya picked up.
“Hello, mum,” Keren greeted, putting a slice of the yam into her mouth.
“Hello, my dear daughter. How’re you?”
“I’m fine. How are you guys?”
“We are also fine.”
“Mum?” Keren put down her fork and leaned back in the chair, looking disturbed. “Are you alright? Your voice seems weak or are you in bed already?”
“Hmm. It’s my head o, Avola. It’s been aching terribly since morning.”
“Oh sorry. Have you been to the clinic?”
“Cli - what? I boiled some leaves I plucked behind our wall and I’ve been drinking the mixture .”
“Mum,” Keren moaned. “This is not like the days of old. Things have changed and you should move along with the world. You should seek a doctor’s help.”
“Yes, I will if I’m not fine by tomorrow, okay? Please don’t worry, I beg you. Anyway, how was your trip?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, mum,” Keren ran a hand through her hair. “It was a waste of time. How’s Jasmine? Let me speak to my little princess.”
“Erm Akuba…she – she was with me moments ago watching a movie but left for her room I think.”
“Oh ok. Can you call her for me, I’d want to speak with her?”
“Alright but let me hang up for now and call you back right after I give her the phone.”
“Sure,” Keren smiled faintly to herself and
the call ended. Finally, she was going to hear the sweet little voice of her daughter after more than a day of not hearing from her. Keren anticipated that in a few minutes’ time, she would receive a call from her mother but seconds turned to a minute and a minute became minutes yet no call came. Puzzled, she called back but to her little surprise, Aya’s phone was off and so was her dad’s when she tried. Keren was disappointed and a little frustrated. If she didn’t hear from Jasmine before she went to bed, that would make two days without even hearing Jasmine’s voice. She would call first thing in the morning, she decided.
At first, Keren had wanted to wait for David to end whatever call it was that was keeping him outside for so long. She finally stood up from the table and came out to the porch where he saw David still on the phone and pacing about slowly in the yard. When he made eye contact with Keren, she gestured to him that she was taking the lead to bed and David also gestured back that he would be with her shortly.
David was on his second call since he left the dining table. The first was from his father-in-law asking of the date of reopening of Jasmine’s school. David went ahead to ask him fearfully if they had arrived at a solution to which Ackah responded that someone would call and speak with him. The call from Keren’s father was rather brief and cold as compared to the spirit-lifting call he immediately received from a doctor in the United States of America.
After having a chat with David -something that lasted close to about half an hour - Stacy finally announced that she would visit them in the third week of the month and that once she obtained her Visa, she would inform Keren personally about her imminent arrival. David could finally see how long he had to hold on.
“David ,” said Stacy on the phone as their chat was coming to an end.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:08pm On Jan 19|
“I trust you, young man, despite what has happened. Not every man can live with a fragile person like Keren and still manage to keep her happy. But I hope you’re not going to fail to keep Jasmine’s death a secret till I come, will ya?”
“You can trust me on that, doctor.”
“I knew I could. Hold yourself together, my boy, and help save your wife’s life so that after everything, even though her daughter died partly due to your fault, she will realise what you went through just to protect her life and she might find a reason to forgive you.”
“I hope so. I will do my best.”
“So will I. It’s bye for now, my boy.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
David heaved a deep sigh of relief. Wow, finally, there was hope. Little hope, but definitely better than no hope at all. From now till the day Stacy would arrive and begin work, David had to remain alert and as the doctor had said, clean up any traces that might raise questions and eventually lead to suspicions. Well, the clean-up had already begun even before Keren arrived. David knew who he was up against, and he knew he had to be always a step ahead of his wife. It wasn’t going to be easy but he was determined to hold on for the few weeks that remained.
* * *
A rooster crowed as Afiba swept the yard – the first thing she always did to start her day. The moon still hung in the sky waiting for the rise of the big red star from the east. After collecting the heap of refuse into a small container, she carefully coaxed open the gate on her way outside as she didn’t want to disturb people who may still have been sleeping.
The street lights shone brightly, lightening up the neighbourhood and making it easier for Afiba to dump the refuse into the dustbin beside their gate. She lifted the lid and was about to drop in the plastic bag when she spotted something that froze her momentarily. In the bin was a transparent plastic bag containing clothes and shoes.
The house help was puzzled as she cautiously pulled out a shirt from the bag. Immediately, she recognised it as one of Jasmine’s favourite outfit. Who dumped these here, she wondered. She pulled the entire bag out of the bin and brought out more clothes and shoes which she knew belonged to Jasmine, some of the clothes and shoes having been customised with her name labelled on them. The perplexed young woman glanced across the street – it was empty and calm aside from the occasional crowing of the roosters and dogs barking in houses at a distance.
What to do with the clothes and shoes baffled Afiba. But even more baffling was the mystery behind the one who dumped them here. Could it be Jasmine herself? Perhaps she had deposited them there to ask for new clothes. No, Jasmine didn’t need to do that to get new stuff – she got everything she asked for. So then, if not her, who could it be? And why?
After a few moments of nail-biting and deep thought, she tucked the clothes and shoes back into the bag. Afiba felt it wasn’t by accident that those clothes were there – they even seemed to have been selected just as one selects clothes when travelling. They seemed to be there on purpose; she was sure of that. But why? Whatever the case, Afiba decided to show her employers when they woke up what she had found in the dustbin.
As she opened the gate on her way back inside, her attention was stolen by a taxi driving by with its head lights shining brightly and with a label on the rear windshield that read, “ A Strange World.” Indeed, Afiba couldn’t agree more.
* * *
Keren stood in the long queue with Jasmine at the packed airport. It would be their first time in the Caribbean and Keren looked forward to having fun with her beloved daughter on one of those sandy white beaches on an island.
“Mum?” Jasmine turned to face Keren.
“Why doesn’t Dad go with us on vacations?”
“Well,” she smiled. “Apparently, he’s afraid of flying.”
Jasmine giggled. “Or better, we need someone to look after the house while we’re away.”
“Funny,” Keren giggled and turned Jasmine around. Seconds later, Keren heard her phone ringing, somewhere around her. She felt her pockets, and it wasn’t there, but it kept ringing, and she kept scanning around, confused. Slowly, she stepped out of the queue and immediately Jasmine called her.
“Where are you going, Mum?”
Keren woke up from sleep suddenly, breathing rapidly. She lay alone on the bed and her phone was ringing beside her. She answered with a sigh.
“Hey, Nadesh,” she yawned.
“Hey, girlfriend. Did I wake you up?”
“Yep,” Keren rubbed her eye. “And you ended my vacation with Jasmine as well?”
“What? You were dreaming?”
Keren smiled faintly when she heard Nadesh giggle.
“Keep dreaming. Anyways, can I talk to David?”
“David?” Keren stretched her neck in the direction of the bathroom where she heard a sneeze. “He must be in the washroom. David! Hang on for a moment.”
Keren went over to the door and knocked.
“Honey? You have a call.” David opened up immediately, his lips painted with toothpaste.
“It’s Nadesh,” Keren handed the phone to him and turned back. Slowly, David shut himself up in the bathroom.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:13pm On Jan 19|
“What – on - earth is wrong with you?!” David scolded in a low but firm tone as he clenched his fist in anger.
“Aw, is that how to talk to your side chick?
Shame on you, David?”
“You must be crazy!” David glanced nervously at the door. “Why are you doing this?”
“Oh, are you scared?”
David then heard her give a short cynical laugh and he shook his head, wondering if Nadesh was possessed.
“Don’t worry, baby boy, you’re about to even get more scared. Let’s meet tonight for a talk and some drinks.”
“Good idea,” David nodded, looking forward to a showdown talk where he could finally warn her off. “Let’s meet tonight.”
“Harbour View is the perfect place.”
“No! I will call you and show you where to meet me.”
“Wow, now that sounds romantic-”
David hung up on her abruptly and sucked his teeth loudly. He took a handful of deep breaths to calm down and get rid of the glare on his face before coming out of the washroom. Keren was already in her pink bathrobe, walking towards the bathroom door when David appeared.
“Is there a problem?” she asked, looking at him.
David knew that question actually meant,
“Why is Nadesh asking to speak with you this early in the morning?” So quickly, he replied as he chose which outfit among his sportswear he would put on to meet Martin at the gym, “Oh, nothing really important. She wanted me to train a cousin of hers at the shop and was wondering if I would accept.”
“Oh ok,” Keren merely nodded and went to the bathroom as David watched her every step, wondering what was going on in that mind. David sighed and slammed the wardrobe shut, very worried. He had enough problems already and he definitely wasn’t going to allow Nadesh to add to them. It was time to shut her down. David couldn’t wait for evening to come.
Minutes later and he was ready to go. Unlike Keren who worked six days in a week or sometimes even on weekends, David had the whole weekend to himself and since arriving in the city a few months ago, he usually began his Saturday morning by trotting to Martin’s house which was about 4km away from the estate. From there, both would then go to the gym together.
“Going to the gym, honey!” he shouted behind the door of the bathroom.
“Okay,” Keren replied under the shower. “Train hard for me, honey.”
“Naughty girl!” David turned the door handle and Keren laughed. “Have a nice day, Keren.”
“Be safe, David.”
Afiba was dusting the chairs in the living room when David entered, and immediately she set eyes on him, she stopped and informed David about what she had seen and wanted to show the bag to him. That was when Afiba became more perplexed for David immediately dragged her to the kitchen and locked the door.
“Shh...” David placed a finger on her lip.
“Please, don’t tell madam about this, please.”
Afiba was dumbfounded and a bit scared. She simply didn’t get it. “Uncle, you put the clothes there?”
David glanced back at the door with fearful eyes. “Yes, yes I did it. You will not understand so, please don’t ask me why.”
Yes, Afiba didn’t understand but she desired to. Nevertheless, remembering her place in the house, she didn’t want to pry more into it even though she knew it would bother her for a long time..
“Okay, uncle,” she said softly.
“Thank you, thank you, Afiba,” David held her shoulders with trembling hands. “But promise me you won’t mention a word about this to my wife.”
“Okay, uncle. I won’t.”
“Good,” David sighed. “Where are the clothes? Bring them to me. Quick.”
She hurried out and returned moments later with the large bag full of clothes and shoes. David grabbed it from her swiftly and glanced around nervously as Afiba also stared at him strangely.
“Has the garbage truck left already?”
David bit his lips. “No problem, but please... not a word.”
Afiba nodded as she watched David literally ran his way out of the kitchen and finally out of the house heading to the street with the bag in hand like a burglar running from a home he had just broken into. Afiba couldn’t simply ignore this. David was up to something, she sensed.
* * *
Martin’s home was not walled like his friend David’s so he could see David trotting in their direction from a distance as he cleaned his car. He didn’t expect David to be able to make it that day because of recent events but recalling that a sudden change in David’s routine might raise eyebrows, he understood him. Getting close, David finally crossed the road and arrived at their house, winded up from the long run.
“Wasn’t expecting you to make it today,”
Martin stated, wringing the soaked duster into a bucket.
“I need something to help me momentarily forget my problems,” David gasped for breath, bending on his knees in the soaked outfit.
“Good morning, Uncle David,” Elizabeth greeted, watering the flowers in the pots around the porch.
“Hey, Lizzy,” David straightened up, hands on waist. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Elizabeth grinned. “How’s Jasmine?”
David nodded. “She’s doing great.”
Elizabeth lowered the watering can to the ground and asked, “Can I get a number I can reach her on?”
|Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 10:24pm On Jan 19|
You're doing a big job here.
I wish others reading can deactivate their ghost-mode, and start commenting.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:24am On Jan 20|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:29am On Jan 20|
Both men weren’t expecting it but as David was in full lying mode, he quickly answered, “Sure, no problem. I’ll give it to your brother so ask him later for it, alright?”
“Thanks,” the little girl grinned, feeling relieved as could be seen from how gleefully she hopped away with the can to the backyard.
“For now,” David cut in, getting closer to Martin. “She will come asking again after a while, but at least we are sorted with Elizabeth for a while. How did she take the message?”
Martin puffed and wiped the front windshield, “You could tell she was confused or worse she looked suspicious.”
“Kids of these days,” David moved towards a standing brick and sat on it carefully with a sigh.
“So, how did the first day go with Keren?” Martin stopped and asked, looking straight at him.
“She bought me this,” David showed Martin the glittering watch on his wrist. Martin’s eyes grew wide, dropping the duster on the bonnet and walking over to David to have a better look at his watch.
“Is that real gold?” Martin asked curiously, turning David’s wrist around and David nodded with a slight smile. “Good for you, bro. I should marry a rich girl too.”
David gave a half-smile.
Martin returned to the car and resumed the cleaning. “So, once again, how did it go with Keren arriving to see that her child isn’t around?”
“No problem,” David gave a dismissive wave of the hand. “She bought the story after a short mad moment except that Afiba nearly gave me a cardiac arrest –”
Martin chuckled at the mention of cardiac arrest and sat on the bonnet. “Why? What happened?”
“Think about it, if Jasmine is going to spend the holidays at someplace else, her wardrobe shouldn’t be the same unless of course, her grandparents are going full shopping for her over there.”
Martin nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, yeah.”
“At least she had to take some clothes along as well as some kicks.”
“That’s smart, man,” Martin pointed out, leaning against the bonnet.
“So before Keren arrived, I packed a few of Jasmine’s cloths into a bag and dumped it into our dustbin, hoping that the garbage truck would come around to take it away the next morning.”
“And Afiba found it whiles dumping the garbage,” Martin guessed and David nodded. “Wow. So how did you find out?”
“God being so good, I was the first person she met in the morning and reported it to. You can imagine what would have happened if she had met Keren instead.”
“Whew!” Martin wiped his brow. “That was close. Hopefully, she wouldn’t mention it to her madam.”
David shook his head, “I made her promise not to.”
Martin sighed and got up. “The list of suspicious observers is growing. That’s a bit worrying. But what’s up with your in-laws? Have they found a solution yet?”
“Yep, sort of,” David glanced at the road that was quickly getting cluttered with people and vehicles as the morning sun rose higher. “It’s better than nothing. I trust it will work.”
“Really?” Martin was glad and curious. “Tell me.”
“You finish up quickly and get dressed,” David hauled himself up with a grunt. “I have lots to tell you about including a showdown with your friend, Nadesh, who has suddenly begun calling Keren’s phone and asking to speak with me.”
“Ei! ” Martin raised his eyebrows, folding arms.
“But after tonight,” swore David. “She will flee anytime she sees me.”
Martin giggled. “Will be back in a jiffy,” he dropped the duster into the bucket and rushed inside as David turned around to face the bustling road, clenching his jaw with folded arms like a man ready to meet whatever life would throw at him.
* * *
That evening, Nadesh put on her most provocative outfit yet, and applied her makeup so well that professional models would have envied her if she had met them that evening. Her lips shone scarlet red when she stared at her reflection in the mirror. She examined her appearance, turning from side to side. It was as if she had been given a mission to seduce an angel. Whatever the case, Nadesh wanted to look as irresistible as possible to David when he saw her.
She was ready. She knew she had a formidable weapon in her position now, one that she felt David could not resist. After tonight, she thought, David would be his. Nadesh couldn’t wait and when she heard the beep at the gate, she knew it was time and quickly she headed out to the gate.
For a moment, Nadesh thought it was Keren behind the wheel coming to her place, till the window winded down and she found David behind the wheel. He had apparently asked for Keren’s car since he hadn’t fixed his car yet and had lied to her that he was going to pick up a novel he had left at his shop the previous day.
“Get in,” he said rather coldly to the lady, taking his eyes off her and slowly she joined him in the front seat. The car took off and Nadesh asked,
“Where are we going?”
“Somewhere public,” he answered, looking straight on the road.
“Okay...” she trailed off, licking her lips at him with a seductive smile. “You’re looking cute, handsome.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:37am On Jan 20|
David ignored her and Nadesh smiled to herself. When they got to the market circle, he pulled up beside the road close to a supermarket. People constantly trooped in and out of the building so David preferred it there. Nadesh read his mind and only shook her head and giggled.
“Nadesh,” David started, still refusing to as much as glance at the attractive lady beside him. “Before you spew out the garbage you wanted to tell me, let me also make this thing clear to you.”
Nadesh raised skeptical eyebrows at him.
“I’m a married man and I promised to remain loyal to my wife all the days of our marriage and that I always have. I know you think with persistence you will break me but I want to make it clear to you that it won’t work. You’re only wasting your time.”
David sighed as Nadesh smiled at what she felt was a childish bluff. “I haven’t mentioned any of your silly and naughty acts to Keren just yet but...” He slowly turned to her and squinted at her with a bold face as if to scare Nadesh. “...If you should as much as call me again, I’m exposing the LovePeddler you are to her and I’ll tell her how the lady she considers her best friend wants to snatch her faithful husband away from her.”
Nadesh was speechless for a couple of seconds and then to David’s surprise and puzzlement, she broke out into hilarious laughter. She laughed so hard as if she was at a comedy show leaving David puzzled.
“Oh David…” Nadesh giggled finally and shook her head lightly. “Are you this funny?”
David readjusted his sitting position, ready to hear what she was getting at.
“Hey,” she smiled. “Why the threats? I’m only trying to help you enjoy more in life. You are locked to enjoy only one TV channel and I only want to vary your entertainment experience.”
Reaching for his hand – a move that David rebuffed, she drawled seductively, “I’m only asking to be a side chick , that’s all. I’m not asking you to leave Keren.”
“And I said I can’t!” David almost yelled. “I mean; I don’t get it. Keren’s your friend for goodness sake-”
“And friends share things, don’t they?”
Nadesh cut in, biting her lip softly as she made curls of hair with her finger. “I want to share you with Keren, David.”
David was left gazing in bewilderment at the lady trying to entice him. He sighed, realising that the threat hadn't worked as he had expected. Nadesh apparently didn’t care about her friendship with his wife.
“Okay,” he nodded, turning his gaze away from her and looking straight ahead. “I’m telling her. Tonight. Get out of my car.”
“Just like that?” she raised eyebrows and crossed a leg over the other, her gorgeous thighs on full display.
“Yes!” David insisted firmly. “And please don’t make me throw you out.”
Nadesh scoffed. “Why are you acting like you are the only one with something to tell Keren?”
David turned to look at her, wondering what she was talking about. “Are you forgetting something, David?”
“What are you talking about?” he asked, eyebrows furrowing in.
Nadesh paused for a second and tugging a cunning smile at the corners of her mouth, she opened a photo on her phone and handed it over to David. What the…?! David’s heart almost skipped a beat and immediately, he felt a chill down his spine as his whole body went numb, for in his hand, on the phone’s screen and right in his face was the dreaded photo – a girl lying dead on a drawer at the morgue.
“You don’t want Keren to receive this image on Whatsapp, do you, David?”
David looked at her in a flash with a horrified face.
“Now, you do realise that I have something much more serious not just to
tell Keren, but to show her; and she is going to find out what really has happened to her beloved Jasmine.” Then she grimaced, placing a hand across the chest, “Oh my, Keren’s heart is going to explode within her chest when she sees this.”
David’s chest rose and fell rapidly, and swiping through the phone’s gallery, he realised there was only one copy so swiftly, he deleted it before Nadesh could move an inch.
“Wow,” Nadesh grinned, applauding sarcastically. “Smart guy, huh?” Giggling to herself, she brought out a brown envelope under her seat and tossed it onto his lap. David glanced at the envelope and then back at Nadesh with a puzzled look.
“Go ahead,” Nadesh urged him, pointing to the envelope. “Open it. And please, hand over my phone.”
Slowly, he opened it and pulled out a hard copy of the photo on her phone. His heart sank, sending a tear trickling down his cheek.
Nadesh tugged a smirk at this sight. “The morgue guy was really cooperative, you know. Just two fifty cedis notes did the trick. Amazing, isn't it? The power of money.”
David turned to her and asked as if to plead, “But why, Nadesh? Why?”
“Aw, baby boy,” Nadesh faked a sad look and wiped a tear from the cheek of a frozen David. “Don’t cry. Alright, let me make it easier for you. Just a weekend, the two of us, somewhere. Let us bask in our love for just a weekend. Do that and I will not whisper a word to Keren. How about that?”
David had now gone soft in contrast to his tough demeanour minutes earlier. “I can’t, Nadesh. Please –”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:47am On Jan 20|
Nadesh got enraged, her eyebrows furrowing. “What is wrong with you?! Huh?
Is it too much to ask for just two days with you? You’re selfish.”
“Nadesh…” David paused, gazing at her with shock. “Are you really going to do something that can kill your best friend?”
Nadesh flashed him a look of disbelief.
“David, try me. Just reject my request and the next thing will be a delivery of a brown envelope on Keren’s desk at her office. You think I’m kidding, huh? Just say no, and you will be driving Keren’s corpse to her parents. Oh my, Keren’s mother would have a field’s day with you!”
“Nadesh,” David softly shook his head. “You’re heartless.”
“Whatever,” she gave a dismissive wave of the hand. “The ball is in your court now.
Your wife’s life or an ecstatic weekend with me. Think wisely.” Nadesh opened the door. “You can keep the photo; there’s more where that came from, honey.”
David was speechless. It’s all his fault, he thought. Oh, how he wished he was dreaming!
“And,” Nadesh grinned before she could step out. “I expect an answer soon. And when I say soon, I mean as early as possible because I can hardly resist the temptation of sending the photos to Keren. You know where to find me when you’re ready to talk – my house.” She batted her eyelashes with a flirtatious smile.
The tears in his eyes blurred his vision of Nadesh. The lady kissed her fingers and touched David’s lips with them. He didn’t even move a muscle.
“Ciao , baby boy,” she waved with a grin and stepped out.
David didn’t see this coming or perhaps didn’t expect such a blackmail from Nadesh. If he thought to lie on a regular basis to Keren would be tough, well, he was up against something much tougher now. At a time when he felt hopeful, he received what seems to be his greatest challenge so far. Slowly, he inclined his head to rest on the steering wheel, feeling helpless.
How could he sleep? He lay awake beside his wife; his gaze fixed intently on the ceiling he could barely see due to the darkness in the room. David was still as devastated as he had been since the meeting with Nadesh hours ago. It was a good thing that his wife was already asleep by the time he came home. At least, he was able to skip the unpleasant task of forcing himself to act like nothing was wrong when in reality, things were really getting ugly.
Silently, he crept out of bed, not wanting to wake up his dear wife who had no idea of the world she lived in now. David froze when Keren gave a soft moan and turned over. He waited a few moments, standing beside the bed and watching her fall deeper into dreamland. When he felt she was asleep deeply enough not to hear him if he opened the door, David left the room confidently instead of tiptoeing his way out.
Sadness clouded his features as he took an aimless slow walk in the corridor. Halfway in the fairly dark passage, he slid his back down the wall and sat on the bare floor.
Clutching the skin on his forehead, he scrunched his face like he was experiencing a migraine. Exhaling, he gripped his neck. David shook his head tenderly when he thought about how his life was playing out now. What had he done wrong to deserve this?
Nadesh. The lady now threatened to reveal the heartbreaking secret to Keren if he didn’t have an affair with her. David didn’t want to lose Keren especially when there’s someone coming in to help soon. But, he also didn’t want to cheat on her. Never! He had never cheated on her before and was determined never in their married life to be guilty of infidelity. But now it was tough. Very tough. Nadesh sounded serious and that puzzled David. Why was she willing to go that far – threatening to commit an act that was certain to kill someone who was a best friend in school – in order to get him in bed? David was sure there was more to Nadesh’s blackmail than just to have an affair with him.
Whatever the case, one thing was certain; Nadesh hated Keren to bits. Yes, David could swear on that. The lady wasn’t just a bad friend to his dear innocent wife. She was Keren’s worst enemy. But then again, David dared not mention that to Keren for fear of a deadly retaliation from Nadesh. Oh! If only Keren knew the devil behind that angelic face. Henceforth, he felt he could only watch with sadness as her wife laughed with the woman she calls a friend.
As these thoughts clamoured in his head, threatening to explode it, a glint below caught his eye in the darkness. It was the diamond ring on his finger, his wedding ring. A half smile formed on his mouth as he twisted the ring, recollecting the beautiful memories of the past. The moment didn’t last long as for whatever reason, his head slowly turned to the left and there it was, about a few steps away, Jasmine’s door. That was when the tears filled his eyes and the low sobs followed.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:50am On Jan 20|
* * *
Every Sunday, provided Keren was home, they would usually spend almost the entire day at the beach having lots of fun. The custom began when they first lived in Accra and it had been carried over to their new city as well. It really did their family a world of good. It drew the couple closer and David and Jasmine could call a ceasefire after a week of fights and arguments, even if it lasted for just that Sunday.
However, it seemed there would be a change in custom that Sunday. Keren hadn’t heard from Jasmine since Thursday and it wasn’t sitting well with her. She had tried calling her parents countless times since morning but to no avail. It was either their line was off or no answer. David observed her without a word all the while watching a football match on TV. She carried a despondent look, walking up and down from living room to bedroom with her cell phone till finally, when all her energy seemed spent trying to reach her parents did Keren collapse beside him in the loveseat, looking frustrated and tired.
David glanced at her. She had leaned backwards, looking sadly at Jasmine’s picture hanging on the wall as if she had any knowledge of what had happened to her. “Have you been able to reach them?” he asked softly.
“No,” she tilted her head at him. “Did you give it a try?”
“Yeah. But I gave up after three tries. Their line was still off.”
Keren exhaled. “I don’t know why.”
“Don’t worry,” he took her hand and rubbed it. “We’ll obviously end up hearing from our daughter. It’s just a matter of time, ok?”
“Hmm,” Keren sighed softly, leaning on his shoulder. “I just miss her. It’s been three days without hearing from her.”
David placed an arm around her and rubbed her shoulder. “You will hear her voice again. Probably in the evening. I’ll keep trying.”
“Okay,” she acquiesced, turning her attention to the game on the TV. It didn’t take too long before Afiba walked in, well dressed. Keren forced herself to sit straight. “Ready?” she asked the housekeeper whose hands were behind her.
“Yes, Aunty,” replied Afiba in her usual respectful tone.
“You two going somewhere?” asked David after a glance at Afiba while Keren tied her hair into a ponytail.
“Yeah, we’re going to the market. We are having a special dinner tomorrow and I was thinking we could invite Nadesh and Martin over.”
“Sure,” the sudden change in the pace of his heartbeat forced the word out. “That’s cool. It’s fine.”
“Great,” Keren stood up with a smile and picked up her car key and cell phone from the coffee table. “Let’s go, Afiba.”
Before both ladies took their first step, a roar occurred in the TV as the game recorded its first goal and that caught Keren’s attention. “Nice goal,” she grinned and switched her look from the TV to her husband who continued to watch the screen nonchalantly and that stole her smile away. “Hey! Won’t you celebrate? Your team just scored.”
David had been caught unawares. Dreading a dinner with Nadesh at the same table compounded with the mental agony he was already suffering had dried up his passion for the game. Looking up at Keren as Afiba made her way out, he sighed,
“I was expecting more than this from the team.”
Keren didn’t look like she bought that. With narrowed eyes, she asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he nodded eagerly, turning his face away to the screen as if to hide from her.
“Okay,” she shrugged. “I’m off. Catch you later, but please keep trying .”
“Sure,” he looked behind him; she was already at the door. “Take care.”
David grew more scared. Keren had sensed that he was worried. He didn’t want that. David knew he should have forced a celebration of his team’s goal. Keren was right; he would have surely been jumping, screaming and hugging Keren at the goal if all was well. His reason for not celebrating didn’t seem to convince his wife. Hopefully, she would forget about it. Whatever the case, David knew one thing was for sure; he shouldn’t let his guard down. Should Keren catch him acting unusual again, he knew he would be in deep trouble for she would begin asking questions. But how could he be himself all the time when his life was in such a deep mess? To add to that, the enemy was coming to the house to dine at the table with them the following day. David was a scared man.
* * *
Jasmine’s absence had factored in the cancellation of their picnic at the beach, but David wasn’t going to allow the day just pass by without finding a way to cheer his wife up and also take his mind off his problems even if it was only temporarily. He suggested they play draughts – a game in which David had never beaten Keren. So, as Afiba prepared dinner, the couple sat outside under the summer hut playing the game.
It looked as if for the first time, the tables were going to turn in favour of David. It was their first round and David was in pole position to win but he knew why. Keren’s attention was divided; for every three or four moves, she went back to trying to reach her parents. The woman’s mind was definitely not on the game. She had only agreed because David asked her to. Just one thing mattered to her – hearing her little princess’ voice even if it was only a "hi"
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:06pm On Jan 20|
That would be enough to take her growing worry away."
“I never thought I’d see this day,” David forced a giggle, resting his chin on his clasped hands and staring at the gloomy face of Keren. “Make your move, woman.”
Keren smiled faintly and was set to push a draught when her phone, which lay beside the checkerboard suddenly vibrated. Keren didn’t wait for the ringtone to sound before picking up the call in a flash.
“Dad!” she gasped and shoved her hair back away from her face. “Dad, what’s wrong with your phones. I’ve been calling all day.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Keren. My phone was on silent mode and your mother’s has a problem with the charging system, so it has been off for a while now.”
“Oh okay,” she mumbled, looking into the eyes of David who poured himself a glass of juice. “I hope you’re all doing fine.”
“Yes, my child. What about you?”
“We’re good. Hey, Dad, please give Jasmine the phone and let me talk to her for a minute, please . I’ve missed her so much.”
“Oh, Keren, just three or four days without speaking to Jasmine and you are dying? Anyway, your mother wanted to show Jasmine to some of her friends in the town so she’s gone out with her.”
“Oh, come on, not again,” she sighed, slapping a hand to her face. At that point, David knew her father had done it. He gulped down the juice like he had been thirsty for years, holding Keren’s gaze. “So, when are they coming back home?”
It was the turn of David’s phone to receive a call and when he pulled it out from his pocket and saw the caller, he trembled.
“But don’t you have the phone number of any of her friends I can call and ask to speak to my daughter, please?” Keren asked earnestly as David excused himself from her presence to answer a call. “Please, Dad, just for a minute.”
“Hello,” David said and glanced back nervously as he pulled away from the summer hut towards the garage.
“Hi, baby boy. What’s up?”
David swallowed hard, hiding from view behind Keren’s car. “Cool.
“Mmhm, I’m waiting.” “Waiting for what, Nadesh?” he asked humbly, lest he provokes her
“What kind of silly question is that, David? Or do you want me to come over to your house right now and break the news to the bitch?”
“I’m sorry,” David sighed and rubbed his neck. “Please don’t get annoyed.”
“Better. I’m listening.”
“Um…” David licked his lips, thinking about what to say. “Please give me a little more time to think over this, please. It’s not eas- Nadesh, Nadesh…”
The call had ended abruptly or more accurately, Nadesh had hung up. David slowly slid the phone back into his pocket.
He hoped he hadn’t irked the lady. Nadesh had metamorphosed from a pest to a dreaded predator. David feared her now because Keren’s life lay in her hands now and he seemed powerless about it. He was yet to inform Martin and he prayed he would have an idea or two about how to handle Nadesh. He took a moment to take a deep breath as if exhaling his problems away.
Now, before returning to the summer hut, he had to get rid of the gloom on his face and force a smile.
Keren’s hair dropped on both sides of her face onto the checkerboard as she held up her cheeks. When she heard loud footsteps, she looked up and saw David hopping like a kid in her direction. He looked funny and she could afford a giggle.
“Were you able to speak to Jas?” David took his seat and rearranged the draughts on the checkerboard.
Keren simply shook her head in reply.
“Okay…where was she?”
“Somewhere,” Keren replied softly and got up, picking up her phone.
“Oh, aren’t you playing again?” David asked, disillusioned at her reaction. “Come on, let me win just once then you can go.”
Keren slightly smiled. “Next time, David. I’m not feeling well; I have a headache. I need to rest.”
“Okay…” he trailed off as she pulled her chair away from behind her to leave. “Just remember to take your drugs.”
Keren said nothing in response as she walked the way back to the house. David could tell it had begun; Jasmine’s absence had started to affect Keren’s health. And as they kept keeping her in the dark, David knew Keren’s health was set to go downhill. True, he and Keren’s parents could hide the truth from her for a while but there was one thing they couldn’t stop; they couldn’t stop the mother from worrying about her child. David could only hope Keren would hang on till Stacy arrived.....
* * *
It was a rare sight that evening in the living room. Who would have thought David and his wife would be in a place for close to an hour without saying a word to each other? Even when they argued – something David tried really hard to avoid or quickly end due to Keren’s condition – they would soon engage in conversation within minutes. But that was not the case on Sunday night.
Keren was annoyed with her parents. Her father promised to call the moment her mother returns with Jasmine yet it was almost 9 pm and he hadn’t even sent as much as a text. Keren felt they were playing with her emotions. They knew how strongly attached she was to her daughter and thus Keren expected them to understand how she must be feeling having gone four days without hearing from the only child she will ever have. She thought that if they were expecting her to wait till Jasmine’s school reopened and they bring her back home before Keren could talk to her, then they were badly mistaken because she knew there was no way she could wait that long.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:28pm On Jan 20|
David lay in the loveseat, apparently reading a novel while Keren sat behind him at the dining table with her MacBook, typing documents. It was the manner she struck the keys that worried David – Keren was literally punching the keys. His wife glared at the screen anytime he glanced at her. Just four days and this was her reaction. David swallowed hard when he thought about the number of days that lay ahead before Stacy’s arrival around Christmas – two weeks and some days. David knew that at this rate, his in-laws needed to do more than the
‘Jasmine’s sleeping or not around’
. Keren was gradually getting used to it and sooner than later, her smart mind might sense a problem and that would spell doom.
“How many minutes is it going to take you to flip to the next page?” David received the question from Keren out of the blue and he was speechless. Had she been watching him?!
“Huh?” was all he could utter, sitting up to face her.
“You’re not reading the book, are you?” she asked while typing. “Your mind is somewhere else.”
David faked a puzzled look as if he didn’t know what she was talking about. “Really? I’m-I’m just feeling sleepy.”
Keren stopped and turned to him with a straight face. “Don’t lie to me, David.
Something is bothering you. I’ve been watching you these few days; you’re moody, you often look lost and keep staring at one thing for minutes, you’re not enjoying things you used to, you’re waking up at nights and pulling away from me to answer your phone calls. I know you are trying hard to be yourself but it’s not working. This…This is not you, David. Honey, what’s going on? Talk to me, I’m your wife.”
David was dumbfounded, staring into the pretty face of the woman he had thought he could outsmart. At that moment, he needed a miracle to deliver him from the court his wife had brought him to and it came right on time. Keren’s phone vibrated and jingled, taking her mind off David as she looked strangely at the phone.
“A foreign number?” she held up the phone and answered. “Hello.”
“Hey, you. Is that how you treat an old friend?”
Keren’s face lit up and her jaw sagged for a split second. “Stacy?”
“Hello, my child .”
“Stacy!” Keren called out joyfully, restless in her seat as she closed the laptop’s lid. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Stacy!”
David knew this was the opportunity. As Keren reconnected with her Dr Evans, something David had been expecting for a while now, he crept out of the living room and ran straight to bed where he forced himself to sleep. That was the only way he could escape Keren’s inquisition that evening. Hopefully, by morning, he would have thought of something. David couldn’t deny Keren’s observation; he could only explain with reasons plausible enough to be accepted by his wife who seemed to miss nothing.
* * *
“You should get your car fixed,” Keren told him the next morning as they were sitting in her car on their way to work. “Or better still let’s change it. It will only take three days. I will give you the list of cars and you choose your preference.”
“Thanks…” David trailed off and glanced at her. She still wore the same straight face like the night before and it was apparent she wasn’t okay with how her parents seem to be hiding her child away from her.
“But I like my car-”
“See? I knew you’d say that.” Keren drove at full speed as the windshield wipers swung from side to side, clearing their view in the drizzling rain. “I don’t know what it is about that eight-year-old car of yours that makes you hold it dear.”
David smiled faintly at her. “It’s my first car and I don’t want to let go.”
“Whatever…just get it fixed,” she slowed the car down, approaching the traffic jam ahead. “I can’t be driving you to your shop every day. Because of you, I’m late for work!”
“I’m sorry,” David glanced at her and apologised calmly. Her words carried a cold tone, very much unlike Keren. She halted in the traffic and saw that David looked down..
Realising that she may have spoken harshly, she took his hand and looking at his face, apologized, “Hey, I’m sorry okay?”
“No problem, sweetheart,” David smiled. “I’m not offended. You’re just stressed up.”
“Yeah,” she passed a hand through her hair and leaned in her seat. “It’s just that…I miss Jasmine and it seems mum and dad are hiding her away from me.”
The lights beamed green and she moved the car. “I wish I had the phone number of someone else who lives close.”
“Hey,” David tried to calm her down. “Chill. It’s just been about four days. You will get the chance to speak with her till you get fed up.”
Keren chortled. “Me? Fed up with talking with Jasmine? Never. Now, that reminds me. What’s troubling you, David? And don’t say nothing because I know …something’s up with you.”
David puffed confidently. Last night, he was so clueless about to what to say that he ran away to bed. But now he was prepared.
. “Keren, I’m not going to lie to you. You’re right. I have a problem and I will surely talk to you about it but not now. I’m just waiting for the right time.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by Teedah: 1:21pm On Jan 20|
Well done Op. I feel so sorry for David :-
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:33pm On Jan 20|
Keren nodded. That was a good answer. “That’s okay with me,” she glanced at him, cruising slowly around the market circle – a large two storey market with its stores linked together in a ring. Despite the rain, many hawkers were all over the pedestrian walkways and parking spaces outside the market building itself, maintaining the congested nature of the market.
“I’ll be ready whenever you want to talk about it, okay?” she added and they smiled at each other. Slowly, she found space in front of David’s shop to park. His shop was a well-furnished barber shop of moderate size that stood by the roadside and advertised by a LED display board.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” he was about to open the door when she pulled him closer to herself and gave him a full kiss on the lips, assuring him of her deep love for him.
“Have a nice day, Keren.”
“Same to you,” she watched him step out and added after he closed the door. “Please remind Martin to come for dinner tonight whiles I remind Nadesh.”
David nodded and waved as she drove away, her car – the latest of its model, catching the attention of bystanders. He took a deep sigh, standing in the rain and watching the car till it disappeared.
After a few minutes on the road, she was caught up in another traffic jam. She quickly used the opportunity to call her dad once again after a couple of unsuccessful tries earlier when she woke up. Once again, there was no answer. Frustrated, she tossed her phone onto the passenger seat and it bounced off onto the floorboard. Keren didn’t understand why suddenly, her parents seemed to be cutting off contact with her. These were the same parents who called her nearly every day to check on her and remind her of her drugs and whom whenever she would call, picked up within seconds. All of a sudden after her trip, things are taking a drastic turn. They hardly called her and they simply were not picking her calls.
Keren had this nagging thought in her mind that something was not right but since the scope of possibilities was so broad, she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the problem was. She slowly rested her forehead on the steering wheel, trying to guess the reason behind the change in the attitude of her parents when moments later, the vehicles behind her sounded their horns in unison. Startled, she looked up and saw the light beaming green.
About a while later, the new barber in town dusted his couch, his back facing the sliding door, when without warning, wet hands wrapped around his waist and startled, he jumped on the furniture out of sheer fright.
“Hey, what’s the matter?!” asked the pretty lady in a skirt suit. “Why act like you’ve seen a ghost or something?” She then sat on the couch.
David still breathed hard. Nadesh had almost scared the life out of him. Gradually, he calmed himself down and sat up, inching away from her.
“How’re you feeling?” she smiled at him, crossing her legs.
“I’m alright,” he replied calmly, looking at her straight in the eyes, trying hard not to even give her thighs exposed by her short skirt a glance.
She gave a delicate nod, looking back at him in the eye with a half-smile. “And our deal?”
David swallowed. “I’m still thinking about it. Please give me some more time.”
Immediately, her smile faded and inching closer to him, she leaned towards him while he cringed in his seat. “I don’t have more time, baby boy,” she whispered close to his face as if to kiss him. “You’re trying my patience, David. I’m one trigger-happy boss; I hire and fire in the space of an hour. I hope you understand.”
David’s heart pounded loudly against his chest. It wasn’t just Nadesh’s threat but it was the moment he was in; it was very tempting. “Yes, please. Can you move back a bit?” David tried to push her back gently but Nadesh wouldn’t budge.
“David…” she said in her seductive voice, bringing her lips closer to his. “The door is tinted. No one can see…”
It was the toughest he had come to in resisting such a terrible temptation. Nadesh was so attractive; Kiss her David, said a voice in his head; no one can see you.
Suddenly, he shook his head and Nadesh looked into his eyes, a hair’s breadth between their lips.
“What’s the matter?” she whispered, about to kiss him when he pushed her away.
“I can’t!” David jolted up onto his feet, his eyes welling up with tears. “I’m married and I love my wife so much, Nadesh.”
“Bullshit!” she spat angrily. “That’s what you’re telling me! You think I’m kidding, huh?”
David shook his head, tears dripping down. “Please, Nadesh, don’t do this. I beg you.”
“Nonsense! We’ll see tonight!” she threatened and stormed off to her car parked outside. David went after her to plead but she completely ignored and driving away, she splashed water on him, capturing the attention of hawkers and passersby around. Just like with Keren, he stood sadly in the subsiding rain and watched Nadesh’s car till it disappeared in a bend. David knew he was in deep trouble. It was time to update Martin about the latest headlines.
* * *
“Nadesh said that!” Martin gaped in horror at the dejected look David wore after telling Martin about Nadesh’s ultimatum. “Whoa! She’s trying to blackmail you, man.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:36pm On Jan 20|
David nodded and took a drink from the canned beverage Martin had offered him. Martin glanced across the almost empty lobby where a receptionist sat at one end and realised he had to lower his voice, “What are you thinking now?”
David placed the can at his feet. “First, I can’t sleep with her; I don’t want to cheat on Keren. Second, I don’t want Nadesh to break the news to Keren-I-I-I am so confused.”
David slouched in the couch while Martin wrapped his arms around himself, the news sending chills down his spine.
“Well I’m not surprised,” Martin shook his head. “Nadesh is more than capable of carrying out her threats.”
“Are they not friends?” David sat up, looking puzzled.
Martin tugged a smile at the corners of his mouth. “Friends?” he cleared his throat. “To Keren, yes, but to Nadesh-I can’t say for sure.”
“Yeah,” David locked a fingertip between his teeth, looking thoughtful. “I sensed there was a problem somewhere. What happened between them? Was there a fight or something?”
“My friend,” Martin slapped a hand on David’s thigh. “There’s a lot you don’t know and I promise I will tell you all I know later but for now, let’s think about how to counter Nadesh’s threat.”
David agreed and picked up the can for another gulp. Martin looked thoughtful for a moment, his fingers interlaced.
“Now,” Martin began and David looked at him, crumpling the empty can. “Nadesh doesn’t know when the psychologist is coming right?”
“She doesn’t know anything about any psychologist,” David clarified.
“Good. So, she doesn’t know the solution to helping Keren cope with Jasmine’s death. Then it means, if only you can keep delaying an answer to her request till the psychologist arrives and hopefully work some magic on Keren, Nadesh’s threat will be rendered utterly useless. What do you think, David?”
David sighed. “In all honesty, that’s a good plan but…looking at the pressure from Nadesh, Martin, I doubt she will entertain any more delays. I’m so messed up.”
Martin silently stared at the downcast David for a while, feeling so sorry for him and cursing himself in his mind. “It’s all my fault.”
David raised his head slowly to look at him.
“I shouldn’t have called her over to the hospital. If I hadn’t, she wouldn’t have known anything about Jasmine’s death which she’s using to blackmail you. I’m sorry, David.”
David sniffled and leaned in the chair, looking at him. “Don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault. You didn’t know this would happen. If there is someone to blame, blame me. I caused all this.” The men were quiet for a while as the receptionist spoke on the phone..
“How’s Keren dealing with not hearing from Jasmine?” Martin broke the silence and David sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he forced himself to sit straight.
“Things are looking gloomy. Today’s Monday? That makes it five days since she saw or spoke with Jasmine and Keren’s not taking it cool at all. It has already started affecting her moods and health. Her sickness is resurfacing and I’m worried two weeks is way too far for her to handle. I wish the doctor would come sooner.”
Martin could only sigh and fold arms while he listened with a heavy heart.
“Yesterday, she told me in the face that she’s been observing me since her arrival from Paris and can tell from her observation that something’s wrong with me.”
“Whoa!” Martin’s eyes widened in surprise.
“She asked me what the problem was and I was so low in spirit at that moment that I couldn’t conjure any plausible thing to say. It took a timely call from the psychologist who was obviously calling to inform her that she’ll be coming soon. Otherwise, Keren would have had her way with me and extracted secrets from my weak mind.”
David’s words seemed endless and Martin didn’t want to interrupt although he had exceeded the time he was permitted from his office and he knew it was a matter of time before his boss called him back.
“Sometimes, I just wish I had my parents beside me as I face this battle. I’ve been on my own for so long, and I have no energy left to fight any longer.” David’s tone grew croaky and he paused for a bit. “I know you wish to know about my parents,” David forced a smile. “And I promise to tell you one day soon. I guess we two have a lot to share with each other.”
“Yeah…” Martin nodded with a sympathetic look. “I’m beside you, David, right to the very end.” The moment he finished those words, Martin received a text from his boss.
“Your boss?” guessed David.
“Yeah,” Martin answered and both men stood up. He gave David an embrace during which he whispered, “See you at your place tonight.”
After the embrace, before both men could go their separate ways, David tucked the cramped can into his pocket and informed, “She didn’t invite you only; Nadesh is also coming.”
Both men were left staring at each other as they feared what Nadesh might do when they later met at the house that evening.
* * *
With cutleries clinking and constant giggles, the dinner was turning out to be as enjoyable as Keren expected. Six chairs surrounded the table with two on each side of the table and one at each end. Nadesh had taken a position next to David while Keren and Martin sat at the ends of the table. If David felt uncomfortable sitting next to Nadesh, then the worst was yet to come.
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