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Stats: 2,487,105 members, 5,636,397 topics. Date: Wednesday, 03 June 2020 at 01:45 PM
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:43pm On Jan 20|
After a burst of laughter from a joke that Martin cracked, Nadesh cut a slice of sausage and teased while putting it into David’s mouth,
“Somebody is jealous.”
Keren giggled while Martin tittered, giving Nadesh a swift dirty look. “Please,” Keren smiled, covering her eyes with a hand childishly. “Stop the teasing. Yes, you’re making me jealous.”
David and Martin forced a giggle. “Thank you,” David smiled and gently lowered Nadesh’s hand as she brought another slice to his mouth. “But my wife doesn’t seem to like it.”
Nadesh chuckled and turned to Keren. “You have a charming husband, girl,” she grinned. “I think I like him.”
Keren laughed. “Please, leave my husband alone.”
Nadesh lifted a forkful to her mouth, smiling at Keren as David kept his eyes on her, thinking to himself, “Behind that smile.”
“But what’s up with you, Nadesh,” Keren took a sip of her juice. “Haven’t you found someone yet?”
“Well,” sighed Nadesh with all eyes on her, then her mouth curved into a smile. “There’s this guy I’m madly in love with except that he’s playing too hard to get.”
“Maybe you should move on from him Nadesh,” David came in and Keren nodded. “You shouldn’t force someone into love.
Love should come naturally.”
“David’s right, Nadesh,” Keren said. “Let him go. Another will come.”
Nadesh looked at their face with a cunning smile. “Thanks but…Nadesh gets whatever Nadesh wants.”
David exchanged swift glances with Martin as Keren shook her head at Nadesh with a giggle, “You haven’t changed, girlfriend.”
“You know right,” Nadesh took a sip of wine and asked Keren, “Hey, how’s my baby girl? I hope she’s enjoying the holidays with your parents.”
David’s heart leapt when he sensed the direction Nadesh was headed. All he could do was glance nervously at Martin and hope one of them would find a way to change the topic before it got out of hand.
“I don’t know,” Keren sighed, dropped her fork and, her shoulders dropped in worry. “I haven’t heard from her since the day I left for France; that was last week Thursday.”
Nadesh paused, looking thoughtfully at Keren. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nadesh, I don’t really know what’s going on,” lamented Keren, folding her arms on the table. “My parents simply wouldn’t allow me to speak to her when I call. It’s either, ‘oh, Jasmine is asleep’ or ‘your daughter is in the bathroom or she’s gone out to play or’ – so many excuses. It’s getting to a week and I still haven’t even heard Jasmine’s voice. It’s as if they’re hiding her from me.”
Keren nodded slowly and agreed half-heartedly, “Yeah. Weird.”
“Honey,” David came in immediately after swallowing. “I think it’s time for your show. It’s almost 7 pm.
“Is it Tales from Lovelands?” Martin asked David and Nadesh tugged a smile at the corner of her lips, looking down at her food and shaking her head imperceptibly at what she felt was a poor effort from the men to divert the direction of her conversation with Keren.
“Yes!” David pointed out gleefully. “Such a nice show. We should watch it now.”
“I’m not watching it today,” Keren announced sadly before David could think of switching on the TV. “Nor anymore; not until I’ve heard from my little princess.”
“Could it be that…?” Nadesh continued and trailed off, faking a concerned look as David swallowed hard, hoping that Nadesh wasn’t going to say anything nasty. “…Never mind, Keren.”
“Could it be that what?” Keren shifted uneasily in her seat and urged Nadesh, “Come on girlfriend, what are you thinking?”
Nadesh waited for a few seconds, while David and Martin held their breath as if a bomb was about to explode. “Could it be that something may have happened to Jasmine and your parents are trying to hide it from you or something? I don’t know.”
“Well, I hope not!” Keren forced a giggle.
“Please don’t say that or else you’re going to give me a heart attack.” She giggled again and touched her chest; her heart was already racing fast. “I’m even feeling pain in my chest now.”
“Relax, sweetheart,” David said as Keren poured herself a glass of water. “Nadesh was only making a suggestion. Nothing has happened to Jasmine or else your mum and dad would have informed us.”
“Or maybe…,” Nadesh rested her chin on her palm, giving David and Martin a strange look that sent David’s knees knocking against each other. “…they are scared to inform you.”
“That reminds me, Nadesh,” David rose up immediately before someone could utter another word and grabbed Nadesh by the hand. “I have a message for you.” Keren watched in bewilderment as David dragged Nadesh across the living room till they disappeared in the doorway leading into the corridor.
“What’s going on?” Keren turned to Martin with a puzzled look.
“Don’t mind them,” Martin giggled, trying to play down the scene that has just happened. “They have a grudge to settle.”
“Oh,” Keren looked across the living room. “A grudge? That’s bad.”
“Don’t worry,” Martin gave a dismissive wave of the hand. “It’s nothing serious. By the way, David told me you said you’d be having a guest from the USA.”
“Oh yes!” Keren’s smile returned, her worries over Jasmine and the latest scene, temporarily out of mind. “Stacy Evans – the white woman who is dying to taste Ghanaian Jollof rice. Yes, she used to be my therapist when I schooled in California.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 3:47pm On Jan 20|
“Oh wow! Tell me more about her,” Martin pushed her plate aside and gave Keren his full attention. The young man had seen that his plan had worked. Keren’s mind had gotten over what Nadesh had insinuated even if it was temporary.
“Stacy was more than just my therapist; she became a mother to me. A very gifted psychologist who calmed the most anxious of hearts with extreme ease. She helped me deal with emotional problems I went through back then; some of which I never thought I could overcome. What convinced me the most was a case she handled with one hypertensive mother who had lost her husband and three children to a terrorist attack. No one knew how to break the news to this woman for they feared the tragedy might give her a heart attack and kill her.
Fortunately, she was a friend of Stacy and when Stacy was informed, she stepped in. I don’t know what she said to the poor woman but though she did grieve for a long time, she accepted her loss without any heart attack or something.”
Martin listened with a burning heart. Now, he had no doubt the incoming doctor could help even if Keren’s condition might be worse than the lady she had spoken about.
“If something tragic ever happens to Jasmine or David,” Keren exhaled, rubbing her palms together. “You may need Stacy to break the news to me. So far, only she can calm this volatile and explosive heart of mine.”
Martin could only say in his mind, “Thy Stacy come quickly.”
Afiba was in the yard, walking past the kitchen window when she heard soft voices that stopped her in her tracks. At first, she wanted to walk away but when she heard David mention ‘Jasmine’ in the conversation, she quietly hid behind the window and listened in to the discussion.
“Why are you doing this, Nadesh?”
“You know you shouldn’t be asking that.
David, it’s been two days now and you haven’t given me an answer. What do you take me for? A kid or what?!”
“Please, please, lower your voice, I beg you. I don’t want Keren to be suspicious.”
Afiba’s eyes grew wide with surprise. What? Was Uncle David having an extramarital affair with Auntie’s best friend?
Unbelievable. Or was she getting it wrong?
“David, I don’t care what Keren thinks, okay?
I don’t mind going to her right now and telling her the truth about what happened to Jasmine-”
Jasmine again. What had happened to her and how did that factor in the conversation.
Afiba struggled to get the picture.
“-otherwise I’m revealing to Keren the truth that her beloved child is not with her parents as she is being made to believe and that instead, Jasmine is lying dead in the cold-”
Afiba gasped in horror and swiftly slapped a hand over her mouth as what she had just heard sent a chill down her spine and her body into trembling. She retreated slowly, her eyes stinging with tears.
“Nadesh, please, give me just a little time.”
“You’ll see what will happen tomorrow if I don’t hear from you tonight.”
“Wait. Nadesh, wait."
Afiba heard them leave the kitchen with heavy footsteps and quickly she ran to the back of the house where she poured out buckets of tears.
Keren was enjoying the conversation with Martin when Nadesh stormed furiously into the living room. “Hey, is everything alright?” Keren asked as David came waltzing in calmly as if all was well.
“Just received an urgent call,” Nadesh didn’t stop as she walked out. “Thanks for the meal,” she added. With the door swinging wide open, the lady disappeared quickly through the doorway, leaving Keren a bit puzzled.
“That’s weird,” Keren remarked softly, looking nonplussed. David settled down in a sofa and glanced at Martin when Keren wasn’t looking.
* * *
She had been their boss for just about two months but the staff were already in love with Keren. She was simply appealing to work with. Her words and actions did nothing but motivate them to work harder and unlike the previous manager, Keren was very nice to every single one of her staff and she always took the lead in obeying the rules at the workplace. That made it easier for them to comply with every regulation she set.
When they were informed that the daughter of the company’s owner would be their new branch manager, many anticipated that Keren would make life difficult for them. On the contrary, she had created a friendly but professional atmosphere that did not exist at first and that had resulted in the massive turnaround of productivity from their branch. In return, they tried really hard to avoid doing anything that might irritate her having at the back of their minds that she was very hypertensive. They remembered her pleading with them to prevent abusive yells or loud quarrels at the workplace for her heart’s sake.
A neatly dressed and stout young man approached Keren’s door the following morning without the slightest hint of hesitance. He knocked and was invited in immediately.
“Hey, Harry Potter,” Keren smiled at the young man who was called by that name because he wore round glasses and he smiled back. “What’s on?”
“A lady dropped this at the reception,” Harry Potter handed a brown envelope to Keren. “She said it’s yours.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 7:54pm On Jan 20|
“A woman?” Keren turned over the envelope which had her name printed on it, examining it. “Did she tell you her name?”
“No, madam,” he shook his head, hands behind him politely. “She just asked me to give it to you and then left.”
Keren thoughtfully held the envelope for a few seconds and then dropped it on her table. “Well,” she smiled lightly at him.
“Thanks, Harry.” Then Keren watched him leave before picking up the envelope. Just when she was about to unseal it, her cell phone rang. Due to the urgency of her work, whenever at the office, she only answered calls that were either from family or related to work. However, when she saw that the call was from the Principal of Jasmine’s school, she quickly answered.
“Hello,” she said, leaning in her chair.
“Hello, Mrs Ampofo. How are you doing?”
“Great. What about you, sir?”
“I’m also fine, thanks. Anyway, I tried calling you last week Thursday but it wasn’t going through.”
“Yeah, that’s true, Sir. I wasn’t around. I hope there’s no problem.”
“Well… I wanted to know why your daughter wasn’t present in school on the last day of the term.”
Keren sat up at once, looking surprised to hear that. “Are you sure, Principal? Because my husband took her to school personally on that day.”
“Really? Well. I don’t know about that. All I know is your daughter, Jasmine Ampofo, won several awards but during the presentation, she was nowhere to be found.
You can even ask Jasmine herself and if she denies, ask her friends. They searched the whole school for her.”
Keren was perplexed. “Well, sir, she’s not around. Jasmine is spending the holidays with my parents.”
“Okay. Then you can call and verify from her.
The owner of the School really wanted to meet her having heard a lot about your daughter; how she had the potential to become the best student ever the school had ever seen but also with the potential to become the rudest student as well, something I hope you will talk to her about.”
“I’m sorry for that sir,” her surprised look suddenly switching to a faint smile. “I’ll make sure I work on that.”
“Please do. That will be it then.”
“Alright. Thank you so much, sir.”
“You’re welcome. Have a nice day, madam.”
“Same to you too.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 7:55pm On Jan 20|
The call had ended but the questions had just started. Ignoring the report about Jasmine’s rudeness, Keren would have been beaming with pride after hearing the impressive performance of her daughter had it not been the disturbing report that she was missing in school that day. She drummed the table with her pen, wondering how Jasmine could be absent when David had told her that he had taken her to school that morning. The school didn’t allow any student to leave the school during school hours so Jasmine couldn’t have slipped out of school. So where was her child at all?
As Keren tried to wrap her mind around this latest report, she remembered the envelope and picked it up.
The sound of her digital sphygmomanometer dragged her husband from his dream world into the real world - where his problems were waiting for him.
David turned on the bed with squinting eyes shying away from the bright rays of the light above. Keren was unwrapping the belt of her sphygmomanometer when David turned to face her.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 7:58pm On Jan 20|
David noticed the depressed look she wore after she placed the machine aside. Keren sat on the bed with legs outstretched, pressing her forehead with eyes shut. “Keren?” he touched her hand holding her forehead but there was no reply. David sighed and forced himself up into her position on the bed. He invited her to lean her head against his chest and she didn’t reject.
“My blood pressure is bad,” she confessed softly, stroking the hairs on his chest. “The drugs are not working.”
“You need to see your doctor.”
David kissed her hair. “And you need to calm down over Jasmine. She’s excellent and will be back home in no time.”
“But I can’t wait that long before I hear my little princess’ voice. I just want to be sure she’s okay. But from what’s going on…I can’t help but feel that Jasmine is not alright.”
“Stop worrying,” he rubbed her arms as a rooster crowed in the next house. “I’m sure she’s fine. You’ve just…been calling at the wrong time.”
“No, David,” she shook her head in disbelief. “It can’t be. Tomorrow will be a week since Jasmine left for Esiama and it can’t be just a coincidence that I happen to be calling at the wrong time all the time. There is something…something strange from the way my parents tell me she’s not around when I call…”
David linked fingers with hers. It was his little means of battling the grief awakening in his soul. He felt a little temptation to confess, but quickly he blotted the thought out before it got out of hand.
“…It – It seems something has happened to our daughter, and mum and dad are scared to tell us. I can’t stop thinking about it. A terrible sense of fear dawns on me anytime I think about Jasmine. It’s strange. Something’s not right.”
“Shh…” David gently covered her mouth with his hand. “I guess you now understand why your blood pressure is getting worse again.” He took his hand away.
“David,” Keren exhaled deeply, her face crumpling. “If my parents fear for my health, they should simply hand over the phone to my daughter and let me t-ta-talk to her…” She had broken into tears, and David cuddled her tighter to himself.
“Sweetheart, please, it’s okay. You’ll hear from Jasmine soon. You’ll see.”
“When?” she sobbed and looked up at him, her eyes drowning in tears. “Why are they hiding my child away from me? I miss her so much.”
“Please calm down,” David wiped her tears with his thumb. “I understand how you feel. But Jasmine is fine. Trust me.”
Keren stared at him in the eyes and sniffled.
“I wish I could. But until I hear from my baby, I won’t stop worrying.”
David swallowed imperceptibly. If Keren would keep worrying, then he feared things might start going downhill with her condition, and if the worst should happen, Stacy might not come to meet her alive. Keren’s hypertension was dangerous, but it wasn’t the only enemy of her tired heart; there were others, which thrived on her increasing anxieties and fears. A sudden frightful thought, a chill down her spine was enough to trigger the dreaded sharp scream.
All he could say was, “You’ll soon hear from her.”
Keren nodded slowly and raised her head up from his chest, rubbing an eye. She sat up and faced him.
“David,” she called softly, glancing at the pillow on her lap.
She looked at him with a straight face that sent a jolt of fear through David. He wondered what was going on in her mind that caused this sudden change in her facial expression.
“Did Jasmine go to school last Thursday?”
David was one good actor. He at once put on the most convincing confused look. “Yeah. Why do you ask?”
“David, are you sure?”
“Come on, sweetheart, yeah. I even drove her to school myself. What’s the problem?”
Keren nodded and turned to look straight at the TV screen for a moment and then returned her gaze to him. “The principal called and told me that our child, Jasmine, swept several awards, arousing the curiosity of the owner of the school but…Jasmine was nowhere to be found.”
“Oh how?” his eyebrows furrowed, shifting in his seat. “Where did she go?”
“I should be asking you.”
“Why should you be asking me?” David defended himself, spreading arms. “You should ask Jasmine when you finally get her on the phone. You know Jasmine, she’s naughty. She must-”
“My daughter is not naughty!” Keren snapped, silencing David at once. She bowed her head and ran her hand through her messy hair. “I don’t know who to believe now.”
“Hey,” David gently raised her chin so she could look at him and he said softly but confidently, “I took Jasmine to school and brought her back home before your parents took her away. Trust me.”
Keren gave a slow nod. “I trust you.”
David smiled and glanced at the clock. “Hey, Keren, look.” He pointed at the clock. “It’s fifteen minutes to 6 a.m. Call now. This time I’m sure Jasmine is available.”
Keren’s face brightened up and quickly reached for her phone. She couldn’t wait as she fumbled with the cell phone. “I’m only hoping they pick up.”
David stepped out of bed, heading to the bathroom. “Call your dad-”
1 Like 1 Share
|Re: Once Upon A December by Teedah: 8:00pm On Jan 20|
Op!!! Heart is terribly racing. Kudos!!!
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:02pm On Jan 20|
“Dad’s line is off. I’m trying mum’s,” Keren’s fingers were touching and swiping the phone’s screen swiftly like lightning. David stopped by the door, watching with sadness in his heart as his wife, oblivious to the truth, chased an assurance that all was well with her daughter, a warranty David knew would never come.
“She picked,” Keren whispered gleefully to her husband. “Hello, mum.”
“Hey,” he whispered back and joked, “Tell your mum that David sends his love and kisses.” Keren covered her mouth to hold back the sound of her short laugh. She nodded at him and he went inside the bathroom.
“Sorry, mum,” Keren transferred her feet from the bed to the ground. “Sorry for calling too early.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Avola. I’m already awake. ”
“Hope you’re all fine.”
“Yes, my daughter. How about you?”
“We’re good, mum. Kindly –”
“Have you been taking your drugs?”
“Yes, mum,” she said impatiently. “Um, mum, I know Jasmine is still in bed but can you please go to her room and hand her the phone?”
“Mum, please, I beg you, not again. Just this once and I promise I won’t bother calling to speak to Akuba again.”
“Avola. You are not bothering us. Akuba is your daughter and I know how you’re feeling. It’s not that I don’t want to hand Akuba the phone. The problem is your father and Akuba left a few minutes ago-”
“To where?” Keren could hardly believe it.
“Exercising their bodies. They are going jogging to Kikam. Your father wants to live longer -”
Keren hanged up on her mother at once, slowly sliding the cell phone down her ear and finally tossing it onto the bed. Her mouth was partially opened as she went frozen for a brief moment. “You are lying, mum,” she muttered to herself, nodding, trying to wrap her mind around this strange attitude of her parents. Something was wrong and Keren grew apprehensive. But what was it?
* * *
It had been six days since David’s car broke down and he hadn’t fixed it yet. It wasn’t that he was feeling reluctant to fix it. Simply put, the thought of repairing his blue Sedan was far behind in a long queue of priorities.
Things weren’t going too well. David hadn’t expected Jasmine’s absence to affect Keren so soon. Apparently, he had underestimated the great affection the mother had for the only child she would ever have.
Standing at a junction by the roadside that chilly and windy morning, David pulled out his phone and read the date; Wednesday, 10 th December, 2019. Six days ago, on a morning like this…he reminisced. Sighing, he returned the phone to his pocket. Then he started walking his way down to Kokompe; a suburb of the city with a large number of automobile repair shops and spare part dealers.
If the hawkers who sold shoes and clothing along the streets knew the hurricane striking in David’s mind, they wouldn’t have bothered calling out to him to have a look at their products. Though they saw him walk past them as if they didn’t exist, he wasn’t really there. It was as if he walked on Auto Pilot. His mind wandered far away. Keren had driven him to the junction and on their way, she told him something that drove fear into his heart like a sharp sword. She said she had received the day before, an empty brown envelope and according to her receptionist, it was delivered by a woman.
David knew who it was. The lady who was turning his already miserable life into a nightmare. Nadesh was sending David a message and he could read it clearly.
In spite of the threats camping around the life of his fragile wife, threatening to destroy it, David still held on to a tiny thread of hope – a white American Psychologist, who was equally enthusiastic about saving Keren’s life. David didn’t know how Stacy would do it but somehow he had to trust her; she was the only hope.
After a few minutes of walking on Auto-pilot mode, David switched back to normal mode as he entered a rather relatively quiet repair shop by the roadside and was met immediately by a young man with short braids and in dirty uniform emerging from a garage with a spanner in hand.
* * *
Keren was born prematurely as a baby.
Later, they discovered she had a hole in her heart as well. But that wasn’t a problem for her wealthy parents. They had her treated rather quickly, but that wasn’t the end. As she grew older, Keren began suffering several panic attacks which frightened her parents because she was their only child.
Subsequent diagnoses revealed Keren’s heart defects were genetic. She was put on treatment but it got worse until one day when she was ten, Keren suffered a major heart attack whiles in school – the first of three in her life so far. Fortunately, she survived much to her parent’s great relief.
From then on, Keren’s parents treated her even more special. They handled her gently as one would handle an egg while treading on slippery grounds. Several local doctors warned that anger, depression, anxiety were enough to trigger another attack. That frightened her parents the more. And when Keren was diagnosed with severe hypertension when she turned eighteen, her parents lived in constant fear for her life. Keren’s fragile health was a major factor that forced her parents to allow her to marry David.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:06pm On Jan 20|
Years after her third heart attack, a doctor in South Africa, whom Keren had been visiting twice every year, stated how impressed she was with Keren for surviving a third cardiac arrest, a rare occurrence. However, she said that it would be a miracle if she survived a fourth one especially if it was severe. No wonder then that her parents and her husband feared if Keren were to hear the news about Jasmine accidentally, she wouldn’t survive it.
After dropping David at the junction, Keren didn’t drive to the hospital as she made David believe, she took a different route, heading to Martin’s house. Keren had unanswered questions.
* * *
The young mechanic who met David at the entrance to their shop agreed to go with David to see his faulty car. So David waited on a bench under a shade watching some trainees gather around their boss as he showed them how to disassemble an engine. Auto mechanics used to be of interest to David as a teenager, during those years when he took on the world on his own.
Before he could take the journey down memory lane further, David’s phone vibrated his thigh. With eyes closed, he took a deep sigh after glancing at the caller’s name displayed on the phone’s screen.
“Hello,” said David in his recent humble voice, passing a hand slowly over his bushy hair.
“Do you know why you shouldn’t play with fire, baby boy?”
“Because you are sure to get burnt, you know.”
David bit his fingers like a scared kid.
“You know, I actually forgot to slip the photographic horror into the envelope-”
“Nadesh,” David’s bit his lower lip anxiously, itching on his seat. “Please, just a little more time-”
“Spare me that bullshit, baby boy. From now, as I speak, do not be surprised if you receive a call from her office saying your bitch just suffered a severe heart attack and had died. Ciao.”
“Nadesh,” David jolted up. “Nadesh…” The call was over. David sat back slowly, staring at the phone’s screen which now displayed his wallpaper; a photo of his wife in her wedding dress. Unless of course, Nadesh was only making empty threats, David knew Keren was in grave danger.
“Burger!” called the mechanic with the braids after he had emerged from a small room in one corner. He approached David with a sack in hand carrying his tools. “I’m ready. Let’s go.” David licked his lips and nodded at him, sliding his phone back into his pockets.
“Let’s go,” David got up with a forced smile.
* * *
The young girl heard a knock at the door as she ate and watched TV in the living room.
Elizabeth placed the plate of potato chips on the coffee table before hopping her way to answer the door. She half - opened and was met with a surprise that almost forced a gasp out of her.
“Hello,” Keren grinned at the little girl from whom she had just noticed a strange and almost imperceptible reaction.
“Hey, Aunty Keren,” Elizabeth’s lips trembled as she forced to return the grin. “Uncle Martin is not home.”
“Oh,” Keren’s smile disappeared briefly and took a swift glance at her car parked by the roadside. “That’s bad.” Keren gave Elizabeth a brief grin. “Anyway, I’m just from the clinic and pretty exhausted to drive the way back home, Lizzy. Do you mind if I come inside and rest a bit?”
“That’s fine,” Elizabeth smiled back, opening the door for Keren to walk inside. “You’re not going to work today?”
“No,” Keren kept smiling on her way to the living room as the little girl locked the door. She exhaled and took her seat on the couch facing the TV and made herself feel comfortable. Elizabeth walked in seconds later with calculated steps as if she was going for an interview and she settled slowly on a sofa on Keren’s left. Keren watched her; she felt her presence was making Elizabeth shy.
“Oh come here, Lizzy,” Keren gestured, inviting the girl to her side. “Sit with me and let’s watch the movie together.” The girl obliged, avoiding eye contact with Keren who tried hard to make Elizabeth comfortable in her presence. Keren picked a chip from the plate and nibbled on it.
“Where’s your sister?”
“She has gone to the Saloon to wash her hair,” she answered shyly.
“Oh ok,” nodded Keren, picking two more chips from the plate. “The chips taste good. You made them yourself?”
Elizabeth glanced swiftly at Keren. “No, my sister made them.” Keren looked at her; Elizabeth was downcast and fidgeting with her fingers. Keren took no more of the chips. She sat back and watched the movie on TV for a brief while.
“I think I’ve seen this animation before,”
Keren broke the silence, pointing to the screen. “Looks like a movie I watched with Jasmine in her room some time ago. What’s the title?”
“The Croods,” Elizabeth answered softly, finally looking at the screen.
“The Croods,” nodded Keren as she folded arms. “Yeah, I think it’s the same one. Pretty interesting, right?” Elizabeth nodded and glanced at Keren with a half-smile. No one said a word for the next few minutes. Keren only watched the little girl beside her from the corner of her eye. She wanted to confirm something that had been troubling her since yesterday but didn’t want to rush it.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:44pm On Jan 20|
“How was the end of term party, Lizzy?” Keren asked suddenly, looking at her.
Elizabeth forced herself to look back, her face like that of a guilty criminal hiding vital information. “It was great, Aunty.”
“You girls had fun?” Keren smiled at her, lifting a leg onto the couch. Elizabeth returned a smile with closed lips and nodding. “I understand your friend won several awards.”
“Yes, she did,” the girl answered and immediately looked away.
Keren nodded and then produced her mesmerising broad smile. “I can imagine her walking upstage with pride, right?”
“Yeah…” Elizabeth raised her shoulders, trying to out-smile Keren with a giggle. “You know Jasmine; she likes the attention. She gestured at us for more cheers.”
“I see…” Keren trailed off, nodding as she looked curiously at the girl who had turned her gaze to the screen. “Interesting. Lizzy?”
“Yes, Aunty,” she looked at Keren and their eyes met; Keren no longer smiled.
“I find it…puzzling,” Keren began, staring into the eyes of Elizabeth. “That you’ve just told me that your friend actually walked upstage-with pride to receive her awards when just yesterday, your principal called to inform me that Jasmine was nowhere to be found during the presentation of the awards. How will you explain that, Lizzy?”
Elizabeth was speechless, staring back at Keren with a face splashed with a mixture of guilt and shock. The lady had just trapped her by her own words.
* * *
There was more to be done on David’s car than he had imagined after the mechanic scanned for the fault. After standing beside him watching him loosen some bolts, David pulled away from him and stopped at the edge of his garage to make a call. He called Martin twice before he answered.
“Man, what’s up?”
“Not cool, man,” David had a hand in his pocket. “I may need to hire your brain this afternoon. Can you come over at lunch break?”
“Sure, no problem. I will be at your shop by 12.”
“Agyei!” moaned the mechanic suddenly, alerting David. When he saw the mechanic clutching his head with a wince on his face, David knew the bonnet had broken free and banged on his head.
“No, I’m home,” David said, approaching the man in agony. “I brought a mechanic down here to fix my ride.”
“Okay. See you soon then.”
“Sorry, boss,” David showed concern to the man who clutched his head in one hand and supporting the bonnet with another. “It happens all the time.”
The man wasn’t happy. He sucked his teeth quietly in annoyance and left the bonnet support to David while he continued his work.
* * *
“Lizzy,” Keren began and paused, staring at the little girl whose heart pounded against her chest as if she was being tried at the Supreme Court. Elizabeth had wanted to find her way out of the mess she had just created but Keren’s questions caused the little girl to contradict herself in the process. “Lizzy, let me get this straight. You told me moments ago that Jasmine received her awards and just now, you’re telling me something completely different. I don’t know which one to believe?”
“Oh no, she – we – actually Jasmine and I and - um Veronica and Lovejoy…” Elizabeth fumbled with her words, and she took a second to swallow. “We – we went out.”
“To where?!” Keren asked, amazed at how hard the little girl tried to buy herself out of her lies.
“Out,” she answered softly, her sweaty hands twitching.
Keren shook her head at Elizabeth. “You’re a liar, Lizzy.”
Those words somehow touched the little girl’s emotions. “Aunty, it’s true,” she suddenly started to cry, wiping an eye with the back of his hand.
“Then why are you crying, my dear?” Keren asked sadly as the girl sobbed as if she had just heard bad news. It melted Keren’s heart to see her cry and she inched closer to Elizabeth and wiped her tears with her thumbs. “Lizzy,” Keren gently took hold of Elizabeth’s hands. “Please, look at me in the face and tell me the truth.”
Elizabeth sniffled, “Okay, Aunty.”
“Was Jasmine in school last week Thursday?”
Elizabeth’s mouth twitched. “Jasmine was in school, Aunty Keren.”
“Those are not your words, Lizzy,” Keren observed, shaking her head slowly at Elizabeth who looked like she would break out into tears again. “Someone asked you to tell me those words. Isn’t that right?”
Elizabeth stared speechless at Keren with a mouth partially opened in shock. She probably wondered how Keren had guessed that correctly. “No…” Elizabeth broke out into tears and immediately ran off, sobbing her way back to her room.
Keren didn’t call her back. She leaned back on the couch and held her forehead, covering her eyes in the process. She had found the answers she had been craving. And it all pointed to one fact; Jasmine didn’t go to school on the last day of the term in contrast with what David had initially told her about driving their daughter to school himself. It wasn’t Jasmine’s absence in school that bothered Keren. What worried her greatly and which she still couldn’t understand was why David had lied to her that he had taken Jasmine to school on that day and also why Elizabeth had been asked to lie to her about it? What was going on? What were they trying to hide from her?
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:54pm On Jan 20|
Whatever it was that the people around her were trying to hide didn’t really matter to Keren as long as Jasmine was alright.
Unfortunately, that information was the one thing eluding her. Until she hears the high pitched voice of her dear child, Keren wasn’t going to be at peace. She didn’t want to speculate about anything regarding her daughter. That was dangerous. She just needed confirmation that her dear child was well.
* * *
The weather that day was very mercurial. Beginning with a chilly and windy morning, promising some rain, it had suddenly turned all bright and sunny with scorching heat as it reached midday. Martin had driven straight to David’s place as promised.
Parking his car in front of the gate, he went inside to find David on the stairs in the yard with a hand under his chin holding his neck. Martin didn’t need confirmation that his friend was in deep thought.
He sat beside David who began by telling him that his car was finally ready to hit the streets once again. Martin was glad to hear that, but he knew David had not invited him over just to speak about his car. It didn’t take long for the real conversation to commence.
“Mr Principal just made matters worse,”
Martin commented after David reported what Keren confronted him with at dawn.
“I don’t know what she’s thinking now,” David said softly looking at Martin. “Keren said she believes me, but I don’t think so.” David swallowed, rubbing palms together. “She’s growing very suspicious.”
“That Jasmine didn’t go to school on Thursday after I had told her I had taken our child to school myself. She will be wondering why I lied to her, and also considering the fact she has found this out at a time when she hasn’t heard from Jasmine for a week now. I’m worried she might start connecting dots.”
“I doubt she can,” Martin loosened his tie and opened the first button of his shirt. “The dots are too scattered, David.”
“You think so?” David asked softly.
“Yeah,” Martin nodded, rolling his sleeves.
When he felt fresh air finally circulating inside his shirt, he turned to David and explained, “Now, Keren doesn’t know that Jasmine is-”
Martin paused abruptly after David gestured to him to lower his voice. “Afiba is in the living room,” he whispered and Martin nodded with a glance at the door.
“As I was saying,” Martin continued, speaking softly now. “Keren doesn’t know that Jasmine is dead. That thought hasn’t even occurred to her! All she may be suspecting now is that Jasmine didn’t go to school and yes, you had lied, but so what? Huh? What’s the big deal? There’s no link from that to her daughter’s death.”
David held back words. He clasped hands again at his mouth, looking thoughtfully at Martin. “Okay, what if she asks why I lied to her?”
“That is if, she doesn’t believe you. Good thing we told Elizabeth to lie should Keren ask her.”
“Hmm,” David sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I wouldn’t be that worried if that was the only problem.”
Martin looked at him without a word. “Nadesh?”
“Not even that,” David shook his head.
“Keren’s parents. They’re trying hard but, Keren is too smart for them. She’s getting the hang of their little game. I don’t blame her though. What can you expect after not hearing from your child for about a week and being given same excuses over and over? That’s the thing causing her to ask questions.”
“Okay,” Martin said. “Why don’t you pretend or lie to her that you were able to speak to Jasmine one of these days.”
David tittered. “No,” he shook his head. “I thought about that, but I concluded it might heighten her suspicion. I mean, I tell her I spoke to Jasmine today and at another time, I lie again about speaking to Jasmine when she keeps failing to reach her. It would seem to her like a planned thing. I don’t know if you get my point”
“I do, man. You might even lie one day that you spoke to Jasmine say at 12 pm, and Keren would ask how come when she called at that same time, she couldn’t reach her. You’d mess up.”
“Can I get some water, man,” Martin licked his lips like a child. “I’m as thirsty as a camel lost on the Sahara.”
“Oh,” David looked over his shoulder and ordered loudly, “Get us some water, Afiba.”
The housekeeper arrived moments later and the two men couldn’t miss the strange figure Afiba cut as she served the bottled water from the tray. As David took his bottle off the tray, Afiba shot him a swift glance with a face that he had never seen before on her. It was as if she nursed a grudge with David and he couldn’t take his eyes off the housekeeper as she went back inside.
“Did you see that?” David turned to Martin who gulped down chilled water.
“Yeah,” Martin exhaled. “That was strange.”
“I’ve never seen her look like this before?”
“She looks troubled,” Martin guzzled the rest of his water.
“I know, I know,” David still looked at the door. “But it’s the way she looked at me.”
“Ask her about it. Maybe something’s up with her.”
David nodded when he turned back to Martin. “I will.”
“So, what’s up with Nadesh? Anymore nonsense since that dinner?”
“Martin,” he said with a sad look. “The girl is threatening to strike. Do you know she sent Keren an empty envelope at her office yesterday?”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 8:58pm On Jan 20|
“As a warning right?” Martin nodded.
“Yeah. Now, I don’t know what to do. Stacy is coming around Christmas, about two weeks from now and I don’t think I can keep delaying Nadesh till Stacy arrives.”
“Hmm,” Martin scratched his head with a finger. “Nadesh is capable of doing certain terrible things at times. Don’t underestimate her.”
“God,” David dropped his head and covered it with both hands. Martin rubbed his arm, comforting him.
“David, I thought about something.”
“What?” David raised his head up, with hopeful eyes waiting to hear good news.
“Maybe you can shut Nadesh up without sleeping with her.”
“How?” he asked, looking lost.
Martin leaned towards at him. “What do you know about the power of money?”
“Money,” David echoed softly, his eyes shifting towards a budding flower on a plant beside the stairs.
* * *
As the sun set, the few thin strips of clouds on the horizon turned shimmering gold. The driveway gate of a luxurious mansion opened wide and a sparkling black Land Cruiser drove in. The chauffeur quickly alighted and opened the back door for his passenger to step out. Ackah had just returned from a trip to Elubo; a large town at the border between Ghana and Ivory Coast.
The old man had left at dawn-not to jog to the next town with his grandchild- but on a journey. As he walked towards the door, he kept wondering why Keren of all people hadn’t given him a single call asking to speak to Jasmine. Ackah was certain his daughter had called her mother.
Aya jumped to reality when the glass door opened suddenly, and her husband entered the quiet living room. Her eyes were swollen and her face gloomier than ever. This sent Ackah panicking, fearing the worst had already happened.
“Ah, Aya,” he addressed her, quickly taking his seat beside her on the couch, fright written all over his wrinkled face. “What is it?”
Aya’s sobs in response made him even more apprehensive. Ackah was restless in his seat as Aya couldn’t hold back her tears. “Has something happened?” he asked his wife with heart pounding loudly against his chest. Only one thought on his mind; Keren.
Aya blew her nose into her tissue and coughed. Then the sniffles set in. Ackah burnt with impatience and severe anxiety.
“After you left,” the old lady spoke finally.
“Our daughter called-”
“Okay,” Ackah sighed deeply, relieved for now. “And what did you tell her?”
Aya blew her nose into tissue again. “I told her you had gone jogging with Jasmine minutes ago…”
Aya turned slowly to face her relieved husband with a look of horror. “Avola hanged up on me.”
“Just like that?” Ackah asked and then attempted to allay her fears, “But it could be a problem with the network or something else not what you’re thinking. Is that why you’re crying?”
“Ackah,” she bit her lower lip and shook her head. “This one is different. She hung up immediately I gave the excuse. Then I tried calling back several times, Ackah…my daughter didn’t pick one of them.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“Ackah, I sense deep down without a doubt that our daughter has started to sense something is wrong. She doesn’t believe us anymore…and Stacy’s arrival is about two weeks away. I’ve been here all day, thinking, and I don’t think Avola can make it two weeks without panicking. I don’t want her to start to panic!”
Ackah didn’t break down into tears as his wife did after those words. However, deep down, he was greatly frightened for his only child. He knew the deadly effect of anxiety on their daughter’s fragile heart. As Aya wept the more, Ackah bowed his head, kneading his temples with his hands. The scene was as if Keren had already died.
* * *
Martin had had a long day at work and could barely drag his body out of his car into the house but he managed to. Thinking he was finally going to have some rest, Martin was confronted by a perplexed Debbie who rushed at him the moment she set sight on him entering the living room.
“It’s good you’re back,” Debbie grabbed his hand and started to drag him away. “Come!”
“What is it?” he threw his briefcase into the chair as Debbie pulled him along into the corridor.
“It’s Elizabeth. She has locked herself up in her room and I can hear her crying.”
Brother and sister hurried to the little girl’s door. “For how long now?”
“Since I returned in the afternoon.”
Martin sighed and knocked. “Elizabeth, open up, please.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with her,” Debbie rubbed her arms anxiously. “I just hope it’s nothing serious.”
“Elizabeth, open up,” warned Martin, getting tired of banging on the door. “Or I’m breaking in.”
Debbie couldn’t believe he said that. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Watch me,” Martin took a few steps back to the wall and with all his might he kicked the door hard and it swung open at once. They rushed in and found Elizabeth huddled in one corner of the dark room, soaked in tears. Big brother and big sister exchanged glances, having no clue as to what to do as they stood before the little girl. They didn’t know why she sat crying in the corner.
Elizabeth didn’t look sick for one. They were momentarily speechless.
“Elizabeth,” Debbie said with a loving tone, kneeling before her sister. “What’s the matter?”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 9:24pm On Jan 20|
“She was here,” Elizabeth sobbed, looking up at Martin.
“Who?” Debbie asked.
“She was asking about her child. She found out I was lying…” Elizabeth's cheeks streamed with more tears. “She called me a liar…I’m not a liar!”
Debbie was confused, not Martin though. “What are you talking about?”
Martin inched towards Elizabeth and carried her up in his arms. “Where are you taking her to?”
“Go and watch TV, Debbie,” Martin said, turning around to leave the room. “Let me take it from here.”
“Martin, Martin…” Debbie called and called, but Martin ignored her as he headed to his room with Elizabeth in his arms, leaving Debbie stranded in the corridor. He placed Elizabeth down and locked up his door.
“Over here,” Martin led her to his bed and sat her down beside him. “Let me wipe those tears.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dried the girl’s face, but Elizabeth continued to sniffle. “Alright,” he handed the handkerchief to Elizabeth. “What happened with Keren?”
“I told her what you asked me to tell her,” she reported, fidgeting with her hands. “But she was able to tell I was lying.
She even told me that someone is behind my lying to her.”
“It’s fine, okay,” he wrapped his arms around her. “You’ve done your part. Let the tears end, please.”
“I’m not crying because she found out. I’m crying because I feel so sad trying to lie to Aunty Keren. It hurts me so much when I remember how she looked at me. She is going to hate me.”
Martin understood the emotional girl’s pain and he pulled her close to his bosom and rubbed her back. “Stop crying. She won’t hate you, okay?”
“Please tell her I’m sorry,” she looked up at Martin with eyes drowning in tears.
“I will work on that later.
You see, she’s mad at you now so let’s give it some time. But I promise she won’t hate you.”
Elizabeth gave a slow nod, trusting her brother. “Brother Martin,” she looked up at him. “Please tell me; why is Aunty Keren so concerned about whether Jasmine was in school last Thursday? Why did you ask me to lie? What will she do if she finds out?”
Martin couldn’t conjure any explanation at that moment. “Elizabeth, I- I don’t know, okay?”
“I don’t think I believe you,” Elizabeth retorted boldly leaving big brother stunned.
* * *
It was a tumultuous end to the day as lightning and thunder raged with fury and the howling wind swept the rain against their glass windows.
Nevertheless, the sound of Keren’s fingers striking the keys of her MacBook at an incredible speed could still be heard amid the roaring thunder.
From his position in the chair opposite to the window, David glanced at the clock hanging above the family picture; it was almost 11 pm.
Then he turned his gaze to the only other person in the living room with him: his wife. He had been staring at her for minutes, thinking…thinking about his wife who still believed that her daughter was still alive even if she wasn’t hearing from her and had probably found out that she wasn’t in school on the last day of the term.
At the dining table, David wondered what was possibly in her mind. She didn’t look worried, but focused on her work and she looked…beautiful too.
Keren glanced at him after catching him staring at her. “Why are you staring at me?” she smiled faintly.
“Isn’t it obvious?” David returned a question as thunder clapped above the ceiling.
“I just can’t take my eyes away from your breathtaking beauty.”
“Aw,” she giggled, covering her mouth. “Thanks, honey.”
David smiled at her and looked on for a while as she typed. “Don’t you think it’s time to go to bed?” he suggested.
“I um…” she trailed off, typing on. “I’ve got to complete this before tomorrow. Take the lead if you’re feeling sleepy. I’ll be with you in a jiffy.”
“You know that’s not true; you’ll be with me in the morning. You see, the spike in your blood pressure is due to the stress from your work. It’s taking its toll on you.”
“David,” she looked at the screen as she typed. “This company was started by my great-grandfather who passed it on to my grandfather. Then he passed it on to my father and soon, I’m going to take my father’s place. One day, when my heart finally kills me, Jasmine takes over. And Jasmine will pass it over to her child as well and on it goes…”
Though she tried to keep her voice clear off any hint of sadness, David sensed her voice drop when she mentioned Jasmine’s name. Her words, “When my heart finally kills me”
and “Jasmine will pass it over to her child”
nearly made David tear up. Keren was telling him from those words that she doesn’t believe she will live long to see Jasmine’s children.
“I get it now,” David said softly, rising and heading over to her side at the dining table where she sat on the chair closest to Keren. “Just do what you feel, right?”
“Thanks, honey,” she smiled wryly.
“And…” he took her hand, stopping her from typing, their eyes met. “You will live long enough to be a grandmother, Keren. You will carry Jasmine’s child on your laps one day.
Remember these words. You will say I told you so.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 10:57am On Jan 21|
Aw, the beautiful smile that spread across her stunningly pretty face after hearing those words! She held his hand tight and said, “I hope so. I’m just worried about Jasmine. That’s what is making me sick, not my job. If only I could confirm for myself that she is alright, I’ll stop worrying.”
“You will hear from her soon.”
Keren resumed work. “I’ve heard that several times. My parents are hiding something but let’s leave that for tomorrow. I have to finish this for something very important at the office tomorrow. Goodnight, honey.”
David stared at her. A look of fury crept on her face. He took a soft breath and pleaded, “Can you give me five minutes, please. It’s important.”
Keren glanced at him before slowing down. When she finally paused, David took the liberty of closing the lid of her MacBook.
“Okay,” she faced him. “What is it?”
“Remember I told you I had something to tell you after you told me that I had been down of late?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Keren nodded eagerly, very curious to hear David’s problem. “What is it? Talk to me.”
David placed his hands on the table with fingers laced and spoke as if he was now proposing marriage to his wife. “Keren, I need some money to invest into some business.” Keren’s mouth opened partially wide.
“David!” the lady was surprised. “You need money? Is that why you are not yourself these days?” David only gave a slight nod.
“Oh honey,” she rubbed his shoulders with a look of deep concern. “Why were you hesitating to tell me?”
David’s acting skills were finally back. “I didn’t want to bother you after all that you have done for me.” This time, it seemed Keren bought it.
“Bothering me? David, don’t say that. How much do you need?” Keren was like a mother who couldn’t wait to take away the source of pain of her child.
David couldn’t say a word.
“Tell me, honey,” she urged. “Just name the figure.”
It was all in her eyes; the love she had for him and the desire to show that love. “25,000 Ghana Cedis,” he uttered cowardly much to Keren’s amazement
“Just that?” she asked, resting her chin on the hand and looking surprised at her husband. “Can you do me a favour?”
“Get me my chequebook. It’s in my white bag beside the TV.”
David quickly got on his way and Keren couldn’t take her eyes off him as she shook her head at her husband who since the day they met, had always hesitated to ask for things from her. He was back with the chequebook and a pen in less than a minute and she handed it to her, taking his seat. She opened the book and started writing. David couldn’t stop tapping his foot on the floor. If he could obtain this amount, he would throw it at Nadesh and hopefully, she would end the blackmail.
“Here,” she tore a sheet from the book and handed it to him. “Let me know if it’s not enough.”
At first, David thought she didn’t write the full amount of his request, and that’s perhaps why she said that, only for him to read a signed check of 40, 000 Ghana Cedis instead! He looked at Keren with his jaw dropped. “Honey, thi-this is-too much!”
“Shh…” she pressed a finger against his lips. “As I said, don’t hesitate to tell me if you need more. I hope your problem is solved now.” David was speechless. “Don’t let me see you with a long face again, please. I have enough worries on
my mind to worry about your worries. Is there anything else you need, honey?”
With mouth slightly opened, he shook his head.
“Good,” she smiled. “Now I can continue with my work.”
Slowly, he rose up and moved behind Keren where he wrapped arms around her neck and gave her a tender kiss on the cheek to her delight. David then took the lead, heading to the bedroom alone but when he got to the doorway of the living room, Keren said to him, “Afiba is the next person acting strange now. Since the dinner on Monday, she hasn’t been herself; she looks absent and…sad like she has received a terrible news or something. I don’t know what is bothering her.”
“Yeah, I have noticed that. Maybe…she needs money too.”
Keren giggled. “Funny. I will talk to her.”
* * *
The office was as chilly as winter but her mind blazed hot with thoughts. On her desk was work waiting to be done but that was at the bottom of her priority list. Something was at work and Nadesh was feeling suspicious. She hadn’t called David since her last conversation with him on Wednesday and she had grown suspicious from the days leading to the weekend to that Monday morning. The words of Ackah echoed in her head , “I know we can’t keep this from Keren forever but until we find the best way to handlethe situation, I hold you all under oath to keep Jasmine’s death a secret…”
A solution? Nadesh was lost in the realm of reality as she sat in her chair with laced fingers, trying to wrap her mind over this solution.
If Keren’s parents find a solution to the risk of losing her, then Nadesh’s plan to get David would be rendered impotent. Surely, if there’s a search for a solution, then David must know about it. Perhaps, David is delaying in responding to her ultimatum to buy time for the ‘solution’ to do its work. No! Nadesh sat up with a bold face. She had to know what was going on. Wasting no time, Nadesh picked up her cell phone and called Keren.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:00am On Jan 21|
Keren answered in a heartbeat but with a feeble voice. “Hey, Nadesh.”
“Hi, girlfriend. Are you alright?”
“I’m- I’m feeling kinda sick today.”
Nadesh mouthed at the phone’s screen, “You will die, you,” and then faked a concerned voice, “Oh, sorry. So you’re at home?”
“How can I? This office needs me like plants need water.”
Nadesh rolled her eyes and then a fake giggle followed, “I know right. Hey, have you heard from my baby girl?”
“No…hmm. It’s killing me, you know. I don’t know wh-”
Nadesh laughed internally, shaking her head as Keren poured out her concerns over what she called a ‘mystery’. Then she mouthed at the phone’s screen again, “Your daughter is dead, baby girl, dead as a doornail.”
“Okay, okay, Keren,” Nadesh said, smiling.
“Give me your mum’s number and let me also give it a try. Maybe I might be fortunate to finally get Jasmine on the phone…unless of course, something has happened to her and they’re not telling you.”
“Eish, please, don’t say that. Do you want me dead? 024…”
Nadesh mouthed as she penned down the digits, “Of course I do, bitch.”
“…That’s my mom’s line. Nadesh, please, let me know what happened when you call.”
She scratched her hair with the pen. “Sure, no problem.”
“Thanks so much for thinking about Jasmine. Talk to you later.”
“Bitch,” Nadesh said with disgust after Keren hanged up. “You haven’t started dying just yet. Just wait and see.” After a chuckle, she dialled the digits and it went through.
Nadesh sat straight, immediately putting on a sorrowfu
l face as Aya answered her call.
“Hello, Ma,” the angel in Nadesh spoke with a caring voice. “It’s Nadesh, Keren’s friend.”
“Oh, my daughter. How are you?”
“I’m good Ma. What about you and Daddy?”
she asked and immediately heard a knock on her door. “Don’t let me hear you touch my door again, Abu!” Nadesh covered the phone with a hand and barked. Indeed, no more knocking was heard.
Nadesh sneered and swiftly switched to angel mode, “Hmm. It’s not easy but it shall be well. I’m just worried about how you and Daddy plan on handling this issue. I don’t know but I’m so worried about my friend. What are you going to do, Ma?” Nadesh sounded like she was about to tear up.
“Well, my dear, it hasn’t been easy here too. Yet, God being so good, we have contacted a former therapist of Avola in the States, and this psychologist has agreed to help, promising that your friend will survive the manner she will use to tell her the news about the death of my granddaughter.”
Nadesh was stunned. She didn’t expect the ‘solution’ to have developed to this stage. Frankly, Nadesh panicked but she managed to maintain the tone of her voice whiles shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “Oh, that’s wonderful news, Ma. The Lord is good.”
“Yes, my daughter. Let’s now pray things will go as the doctor promised. I hope you have been praying for your friend.”
“Always, Ma. Keren has always been on my lips every time I go before the Lord. So, when is the doctor coming to Ghana?”
“Erm,…around Christmas. That’s what she said but I will call her tonight and ask if she has bought a flight ticket yet. And I will get back to you when I do. But, Avola shouldn’t hear of this, please.”
Nadesh’s mouth sagged in shock. “No problem.” With that, she ended the call before Aya could utter another word. Her phone slipped out of her frozen hands and fell flat onto the table. Nadesh was dumbfounded. So, David was playing smart on her. Oh, so it was going to be, “Please, give me some time to think about it ,” till the saviour arrived and saved the bitch.
With clamped lips, she nodded, getting the whole picture. Quickly, she opened her drawer from the desk and brought out a calendar. Picking up her pen, she studied the days of the month for a short while.
Assuming the doctor was coming on the 25 th, she realised she had just about a week and a half to get David to bed her. She had to act.
Well if David felt Nadesh was just interested in having sex with him, then he was just a kid to her. Only Nadesh knew why she made an ‘X’ with her pen on the days beginning from 17 th December to 22 nd and circled 20 th. She took a deep sigh and hid the calendar in the drawer. But before he could call David and order him to come over to her office, she unexpectedly received an unexpected visitor; David barged into her office confidently with Abu behind him trying to no avail to pull him back.
“Madam, I tried to tell him to-”
Nadesh gestured to his secretary to go back before he could finish his explanation. David shook himself free from the slim young man who was relieved as he left that his boss didn’t slaughter him. Nadesh folded arms and stared at this seemingly confident David as he approached and stood before her desk. She offered him a seat but he ignored her. Honestly, she wondered what new power this man who a few days ago had grovelled before her had suddenly obtained.
“Have you returned to your senses now, baby boy?” she asked, arms still folded.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:02am On Jan 21|
David slapped the cheque on her desk. “That’s 40,000. Take it and leave us alone.”
Slowly, Nadesh picked up the paper and examined it, looking pretty shocked. David sensed it would work; the lady seemed mesmerised by the amount on the cheque until she tore it into shreds and hurled the pieces at him with fury.
“What do you take me for?” Nadesh slowly got to her feet as David was left stunned by what had just happened. “Do you think I need her money?!” David was speechless, staring at this obsessed monster who desired nothing but him. “In my bank account are figures equalling the number of figures that make up my phone number. And you think I need her filthy money?”
David’s lips trembled, sensing he had angered her greatly. Nadesh took a moment to take in some deep breaths. When she felt calm, Nadesh tugged a cunning smile. “Now,” she sat down and began rolling her pen with her fingers. “I have been patient with you enough but your grace period has ended. Listen, I will be leaving Takoradi for Cape Coast next week Thursday for family reasons. When I’m done, I will spend the weekend at a beach resort. You are to meet me there on Saturday the 20 th, which is five days before Keren’s saviour arrives.
David was stunned. Nadesh had heard about Stacy, but how? His heart raced as he realised that this lady wasn’t going to spare him any more excuses once she had learnt that a saviour was coming.
“If you stubbornly refuse to show up on the 20 th, I have people whom I’ve paid to deliver photos of the dead girl - who is supposedly with her grandparents-” she giggled. “-To Keren at the office or wherever she may be. I may also love to send her the wonderful picture of her beloved Jasmine to her on Whatsapp or maybe post it on her timeline on Facebook. Whichever way, Keren will finally have the mystery of her daughter solved. And should you try to do anything nasty, I have people standing by to still deliver the photos even if I should go missing or die.”
In a humble spirit, the young man knelt in front of her desk and pleaded with eyes glistening with tears. “Nadesh, please, ask for anything else and I will do it for you. I’m begging you.”
“Oh. Baby boy, don’t cry,” she said looking saddened as she pulled out a tissue from her bag and leaning forward, Nadesh wiped his tears. “I promise you, you will love it. It will be the greatest weekend of your life, and Keren won’t know a thing about it, like she doesn’t know that Jasmine is dead. Trust me.”
Nadesh propped her jaws on two hands while leaning on the desk and smiling at the young man staring into her eyes with watery eyes. Then, slowly Nadesh raised his chin with a finger and leaning much forward, she brought her lips close to his but David backed off before any contact could be made. Nadesh cracked up, collapsing into her chair.
“Don’t be shy, baby boy,” she said to David who had gotten on his feet. “Because we’re going to do worse things next weekend.”
He shook his head ruefully and turned around, and made for the door. When he got to the door, he turned to look at Nadesh one last time.
“See you on the 20 th, honey,” she said and blew a kiss at him.
Saturday, 20 th December; that’s what the blackmailer said. In just a few days, David had a critical decision to make. He simply didn’t want the life of his beloved wife threatened not because of fear of reprisal from Keren’s parents, but because he loved her as much as a man could love. At the same time, he couldn’t envision himself bedding another woman aside from his wife; something he had never even entertained in his thoughts let alone do. But, there was only one choice allowed in the deal; infidelity or death. The latter he knew was as real as it could be.
The clouds above looked like they were going to break out into tears that afternoon, so David hurried towards the porch like a man free of any trouble. He had driven home from work to pick up a few things he would need at the shop. The cloudy sky rumbled as he opened the door and walked inside only to arrive at a scene that nearly gave him a heart attack.
“No, no, no, no!” David cried, flying his car keys into the unknown as he rushed towards the limp body of his beloved wife sprawled on the floor in the middle of the living room. Beside her was the coffee table with photographs of a dead girl lying on top of it. He dropped onto the floor beside Keren’s body in a flash with heartbeats thumping loudly against his chest like music from Jasmine’s room at dawn.
“Keren! Keren! Keren!” he lifted the body onto his laps, shaking her vigorously. He didn’t want to believe it! But just like what happened in the hospital days ago with his daughter, his wife didn’t move a muscle.
“No,” David whispered, his first tear of the day breaking free from an eye and spluttering onto the dead woman’s cheek.
“Keren? Please…don’t die.” Too late. Nadesh had tolerated no nonsense.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:05am On Jan 21|
Sobbing with tears streaming entirely down his cheeks, he hugged the corpse and burying his face into her long hair, he cried his eyes out, sobbing like a child.
“No, wake up…Keren, please wake up,” he uttered those words even as he lay on the bed, and with eyes still soaked in tears, the ceiling above blurred into view in the dimly lit room. He still shivered; the dream was so real. He couldn’t believe he had been dreaming! How grateful he was. Trying to bring himself into a relaxed mood, he turned on his side to look at his wife. Keren was fast asleep with deep and loud warm breaths.
It was half-past midnight when he checked his cell phone, but sleep had fled his eyes. No, he didn’t want to experience that horrific dream again. With a deep sigh, he sat up and remained in that posture for a while, watching his wife in her peaceful slumber.
David wished her peace would lasts hopefully. The battle was not over yet, he thought to himself, pulling the blanket to cover Keren’s exposed arm.
With eyes not daring to submit to sleep, he dragged his body out of bed and left the room. A few steps down the corridor brought him up to the door; Jasmine’s door.
He stopped and faced it, as memories of the dead girl flashed in his mind. Slowly, he turned the doorknob as if he feared a ghost awaited him inside the room. David put on the light the moment he entered and the brilliant light revealed the expensive nature of the little girl’s bedroom. The tidy room had almost everything kids of Jasmine’s generation craved for from entertainment to clothing. Hanging on the wall was Jasmine’s photos, her paintings and Disney posters.
David walked over to her refrigerator to get himself a drink. David hardly ever spent five minutes in that room so he was surprised when he saw after opening the fridge that it was stocked with delicacies enough to rival a grocery store. He only shook his head slightly as he gulped down half the juice he had poured himself and made his way to Jasmine’s study desk. It took him just moments after settling, to spot a silvered coloured object beneath the table. It was a digital camera; a device Keren bought Jasmine during their final days in Accra.
Browsing through the videos Jasmine had recorded – most of them of herself dancing in her room- David found himself smiling faintly amid streaming tears as he watched her daughter’s videos.
“Forgive me, Jas,” he whispered to the video playing before putting off the device. Suddenly, he knocked his head violently against the metallic desk, full of grief and regret. It was so hard that he felt a momentary dizziness as he staggered towards the door on his way out, clutching his forehead. As he forced his way through the corridor in pain, he wished just one thing in life; that everything happening was nothing but a terrible dream and that he would wake up soon on 4th December. He could only wish, for it was already Tuesday, 16 th December, 2019.
Keren turned her head to the door when she heard the clinking of cutleries outside the door. It was Afiba getting breakfast ready for her employers. The hard-working girl had never delayed their meal ever since she arrived. Afiba was a rare gem of a housekeeper. But Keren didn’t feel like eating anything that morning; she felt sick and dizzy.
As David took his shower, Keren tried calling her mother. No, she wasn’t making the vain attempt to speak to her child – something she had discerned now – but instead she had a heart-stinging message for her mother. Aya probably thought Keren was calling to try to speak to Jasmine so she didn’t answer the call for the first three attempts but on the fourth attempt, she picked.
“Mum?” Keren said feebly, her forehead propped on her palm as she sat on the bed.
“Avola, my baby. Hope all is well. Oh, Jasmine was here moments ago but-”
“Mum!” Try as she did she couldn’t make out the sound loud enough as she had wanted. Her voice had suddenly turned croaky as tears welled up in her eyes. “Stop, just stop.”
“Avola? What’s the problem? Why are you crying?”
“Mum, what’s going on? What has happened to my child?”
“Avola, listen to-”
“Is Jasmine seriously ill or injured or-mum, tell me what is wrong with my child and put me out of this misery or do you want to carry my corpse to Esiama?”
“Avola, Avola, please, please in the name of God, take it easy. Jasmine is alright exce-”
“No, mum,” she sniffled and rubbed her eye, drying tears in the process. “Something’s wrong. I-II can feel it. It’s getting to two weeks and I haven’t heard my baby’s voice-you keep giving me excuses. Mum, something’s wrong and you’re not telling me.”
“Avola, Avola, calm down, please. For the sake of your health, please relax-”
“How can I relax, mum? If something has happened to my child, please tell me and put me out of this misery-it’s killing me. You know what, mum, should you suddenly hear that I’m dead, I guess you should know who killed me.”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:08am On Jan 21|
Keren hanged up at this and facepalmed before falling back on the bed. Immediately, her phone rang; it was her mother calling back. Keren cut the call impulsively and switched off her cell phone. The anxiety about Jasmine soared within her and she knew that was very bad for her heart. She had been in a similar situation before though the cause for anxiety was different here. For days now, Keren couldn’t shake off this terrifying feeling that something had happened to her princess in Esiama but that her parents feared to tell her. Was she seriously sick? Injured seriously or…lost!!
No! Keren sat up in a flash, her heart quickening its pace and amplifying the sound of its beat. She clutched her chest; she could feel the pain was coming.
Keren wasted no time pulling the drawer beside the bed and grabbing her pills which she threw into her mouth. Next was grabbing a bottle of water and gulping everything down. Her breaths grew heavy as her chest rose and fell conspicuously while standing beside the fridge. That was when David emerged out of the bathroom door rubbing palms and blowing air over them as if it was winter in the bathroom.
“Sorry I took -” David’s apology was cut short as Keren walked past him as if he didn’t exist with a disheartened look on her face. David turned, watching her guiltily as she entered the bathroom. He didn’t need to wonder what bothered her;
he was the cause of whatever bothered Keren.
About half an hour later, David was at the table having breakfast or rather forcing himself to eat something in the presence of his wife. Keren sat at the foot of the dining table, stirring her tea, looking lost in an abyss of thoughts. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?” he asked, taking a sip from his teacup and breaking the silence that had been hanging over the table since they sat down. “You aren’t eating your food."
She jumped back to reality at his question, dashing her eyes at him. “Doesn’t it bother you,” she asked keenly, eyebrows furrowing, “that we haven’t heard from our child since she went on holidays?”
“Your parents said she is okay,” David raised his shoulders with his mouth almost full. “Why? You don’t believe them?”
Keren shook her head lightly, turning her attention to her toasted bread as she said, “I don’t. It can’t just be a coincidence that for almost two weeks, we keep calling at the wrong time. Don’t you feel that something is wrong?”
David swallowed his food hard. “Keren, you should stop all this worrying. It’s not as if Jasmine is gone forever. Moreover, it’s been just 12 days since she left and eventually, school will reopen in about two weeks. Jasmine will be home by then. This worrying, it’s not healthy for you.”
Keren folded her arms, staring at David with a crumpled face leaving him wondering if he had said something wrong. “12 days may be just for you because you don’t care about our daughter,” she said crossly, tears glistening in her eyes much to David’s shock. “But to me, it isn’t! And I’m not going to wait till reopening day before finding out if Jasmine’s okay; I’m going to find out soon with or without you!”
She flew up from the table in a rage, leaving David bewildered and dumbfounded. Keren marched across the living room, heading to the corridor. David pushed his plate aside as he began to digest those harsh words he had just been fed. He could sense her frustration was taking the better of her and he had no idea how to calm her down. The best he could do was to rest his head on the table and wish he hadn’t forced Jasmine into that taxi.
Afiba scrambled eggs when Keren barged into the kitchen and headed straight to the fridge for a cold drink to cool down. Keren was frustrated with everyone; her mum, dad, David. She felt like exploding as she reached for a bottle of water and banged the fridge shut. She breathed fast after gulping down about half the water in the bottle and that was when she noticed something strange happening.
It was Afiba. She hadn’t moved a muscle nor said a word since Keren barged in and unleashed her fury on the fridge. The girl had been staring at the kitchen cabinet with her spatula dipped into the frying pan. She looked absent like how Keren had looked moments ago at the dining table. It didn’t take too long for the scent of the burning food to fill the kitchen and to Keren’s utter shock, Afiba didn’t move. It was as if Keren was with a dead body in the kitchen.
With a petrified look, Keren slowly approached the house help. “Afiba!” Keren called, accompanying it with a dirty slap on the girl’s shoulder. It was like she had just woken up suddenly from a coma; she gasped, startled and hurriedly tried to resolve the situation of the burnt egg with trembling hands.
“I’m sorry, Aunty,” she panicked, turning off the gas cooker with a puff of smoke rising from the pan. “I’m so sorry.” Keren gaped at her in her attempts to save the day but it was a little too late. Embarrassed and guilt-stricken she dropped her head, feeling shy to look at her madam in the face.
“Herh , duzu debie yε εlε gyegye wɔ a ?”
Keren placed down the bottle on the counter and gripped Afiba by the arms, examining her countenance closely. “What’s wrong with you? What are you thinking about?”
Afiba shook her head, still looking down.
Keren wasn’t happy with that response as her facial expression indicated. “Afiba, look at me,” Keren lifted up the girl’s chin. “What’s wrong with you?”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:10am On Jan 21|
Afiba struggled to hold her gaze. “It’s nothing, Aunty.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Keren released her grip and wagged a finger at Afiba with a stern look.
That surely drove fear into the girl as it was the first time Keren had given her that look.
“Tell me what is bothering you.”
Biting her nails, Afiba hesitated, backing away slowly.
“Afiba!” Keren yelled, shaking Afiba to the core. The house help saw that her madam was in a terrible mood that morning. “I hate what you’re doing, Afiba. Don’t get me annoyed!”
Had it not been a phone call that Keren received immediately after her warning, Afiba would have let the cat out of the bag out of fear. Keren had succeeded in terrifying her with her voice and face. It was a new experience for Afiba who had hitherto never encountered an angry Keren before. It was a call from the office and Keren was needed immediately at the workplace.
“I’m not finished with you,” Keren pointed at her after the call. “You’re telling me what you’re hiding when I return from work.” Afiba acquiesced strongly as Keren stormed past her leaving the girl leaning against the counter in sheer fright. She didn’t want to tell Keren that Jasmine was dead. After eavesdropping on the conversation between David and Nadesh, Afiba had discerned something; Keren was not supposed to know the truth. But why? She wondered.
Filled with grief and confusion, she slowly slid her back down the counter and settled on the floor as she heard the gate creaking open outside and Keren’s car moving out of the house. Afiba had been grieving in her heart ever since she learnt of Jasmine’s death. Jasmine was like that child whom you could only admire secretly due to her stubbornness. But she wasn’t always rude; Jasmine had her own ‘Angelic mode’ and when she was in that mode, she became the only person Afiba could talk to as they shared life stories except that Jasmine did most of the talking. Afiba was going to miss the cute girl so much. The house help grieved for her madam so much. She knew how much Keren loved Jasmine and Afiba wondered how Keren would take the news of the death of her beloved child.
Why were they hiding the truth from the child’s mother even if it was a bitter truth? What was the point in lying to her that her child was on holidays somewhere when she was actually dead? School will reopen eventually and then what? Keren would be expecting her child home. Afiba’s stay with the family had started off brightly with the promise of unending peace and joy but all of a sudden, things were beginning to look bleak. She sat there for a while with her back to the counter and head leaning against it. Keren will be back in the evening as usual, but before she comes, Afiba knew she had to do something first.
He had to meet her before she entered her office for she wouldn’t allow him to see her there nor pick his calls. That was the reason behind Martin’s haste that morning. He skipped breakfast much to Debbie’s bewilderment as he wasn’t at the risk of getting late for work. With his tie hanging loose around his neck and a folder in his grasp, Martin flew out of the door into the yard, heading to his car. That was when Elizabeth came running at him as he opened his car’s door.
“Brother Martin, you forgot again?” the girl asked.
“Forgot what?!” he asked impatiently, tossing the folder onto the dashboard.
“Jasmine’s grandparents’ contact!” Elizabeth replied, equally frustrated.
Martin sucked his teeth softly, tired of her pestering. “I will get it for you from Jasmine’s dad today, okay?”
Elizabeth looked surprised. “But, I thought you said you had taken it already.”
Martin looked heavenward, and resting his hands on his hips, he shook his head with a sigh. He had been caught up in his lie. “I have lost it and I will retake it, okay.
He jumped into the car swiftly at this, leaving the disappointed little girl behind.
She remained in her standing posture as Martin drove into the road and fired away. How she longed to hear from her friend and put the nagging fears and doubts to bed! It flashed lightning above her in the cloudy sky but she wasn’t scared; even after the proceeding thunder that cracked loudly. She may have stood there longer had it not been for that single drop of rain that fell on and trickled down her cheek.
David was all dressed up, sitting on his loveseat in the living room with arms folded and staring blankly at the TV. He had to go to work even if he had lost all desire to hold an electric shaver anytime soon. David didn’t want another inquisition from his wife about why he didn’t go to work should she find out. He had succeeded in making her believe that his sudden change in demeanour had been because of money.
Now that he had the money, he had to play ‘normal’. That wasn’t easy, especially not when his faithfulness to his wife and his wife’s life was threatened.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:12am On Jan 21|
He pulled out his cell phone from his pocket and searched for Stacy’s contact. It was obviously dark at that time in America and the doctor was likely asleep. So, David left her a voicemail asking her to call him when she had a free period. When that was done, he spent the next few seconds gazing at the phone screen, as the wallpaper automatically changed from one photo to another.
David was about to lock the screen and put aside the phone when the wallpaper changed and a heart-melting photo emerged. It was a selfie of David and Jasmine at the Accra mall during their final days in that city. He vividly remembered that day; it was perhaps his best moment with Jasmine. They weren’t always the warlords fighting each other to death; they had had some pretty good times together even if these were rare.
With tears already welling up, he stroked Jasmine’s image gently with his thumb as if caressing her in real life till a tear drop landed on the screen. Breaking into low sobs, he leaned back on the couch, hugging his phone to his chest.
A sparkling white Range Rover entered the parking space and pulled up beside Martin’s car. He leaned against the bonnet of his car and watched the pretty Nadesh in sunglasses come out of her car. “What is this game you’re playing?” Martin asked, taking steps towards her as she locked up her car. “Why can’t you leave David alone?”
“So he sent a peace negotiator,” Nadesh observed softly, almost walking past Martin like he didn’t exist.
“Hold it right there!” Martin grabbed her by the arm with his powerful hand, halting her in her tracks.
Nadesh first looked at his hand grabbing her arm and then back at his face. “You don’t want me to call security, do you? Especially when a former boxer is on duty today."
“I don’t care if it is a dragon-slayer who is on duty,” Martin narrowed his eyes as he tightened his grip. “All I’m asking you to do is leave David alone. Just take the money and end this stupid game you’re playing, Nadesh!”
“You think I need money?” she smirked.
“When will you stop being so naïve, Martin?” Nadesh pointed to the two-storey building before them. “I may not be travelling in and out of the country for fun but I’m managing a rich Chinese company.
When will you get that through your thick skull, huh? I have everything I desire, little boy. I don’t need his money.”
“You’re doing this just for your baseless revenge, aren’t you?” Martin spoke softly, gazing at the pair of eyes looking at him. “Don’t tell me you haven’t gotten over this story of so many years.”
Nadesh glowered away, saying nothing, lips pursed.
“Oh come on, Nadesh. How many times should I tell you that it did not happen? Believe me!”
“Believe you?!” she glared at him in a flash. “I only believe what I saw!”
“Calm down, Nadesh…” Martin trailed off, releasing his grip and glancing around the parking yard where three workers were hurrying inside the building to hide from the imminent rain. “See,” Martin sighed, thinking of what to say to convince her, “even if you believe Keren hurt you in the past, let it remain there – in the past. Please find a place in your heart to forgive her. Remember this is Keren we’re talking about, your own Keren, Nadesh, and your best friend.”
“Yeah,” Nadesh nodded ironically. “My own Keren treated me that way after all that was between us. My very own best friend whom I loved like a sister hurt me so much. Do you have any idea what she put me through? I was so hurt that I couldn’t study, and I failed the final exams while she passed with flying colours. My parents were so disappointed and angry that they didn’t want anything to do with my education. I left home, grew miserable as I took the world on alone. I cried for years and I swore to myself that should we meet again, I would pay her back equally.”
“It’s all about revenge, isn’t it?” Martin asked, looking intently at the vengeful eyes before him. “What do you stand to gain?”
“A long-awaited peace of mind. Yes, by paying her back, I’ll finally be at peace.”
“Really? Peace? Have you considered the fact that you’re endangering Keren’s life in the process? You know how fragile her heart is. Do you want her dead or what?”
“Endangering?” Nadesh giggled to Martin’s surprise. “If something should happen and Keren dies, what do I care?”
Martin stood well and folded arms, listening in amazement.
“Look, if I wanted Keren dead, I would have poisoned her back in school or paid for her to be assassinated when she came here. I’m not after that. I only want her to taste the pain I felt. If the pain overcomes her and she dies, fair deal, I don’t give a damn.”
Martin was speechless for a moment. “And all this while Keren thinks you are her friend.”
“All that while I also thought she was my friend,” Nadesh retorted and then broke into a smile suddenly, wrapping a curl of hair around her finger. “Do you know the interesting part? I’m in love with David.
Aside repaying Keren, I long for that guy.
That makes it much easier to get him because I have that internal drive to get him at all cost. At the same time, I’ll be paying back an old friend in equal measure. It is, as they say,
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:15am On Jan 21|
killing two birds with one stone. Timeout, little boy, rain is coming.”
She began to walk away but stopping midway, she turned, “Since you care about Keren so much, never talk to me about this matter again; otherwise I’m gonna sing about Jasmine’s death like Johnny Cash.
Resting his arm on the car, Martin watched her hurry inside the building. The lady was determined to hurt Keren by all means possible. It seemed nothing could change her mind. Perhaps, it was time to tell David their story as that might help him get the clear picture of the whole saga.
The rains of December; heavy and accompanied mostly by thunder and lightning. Keren competed with the clouds in the battle of tears. With her jaw resting on her palm, she cried at the photo sitting on her desk beside the monitor. Keren sniffled and wiped her eyes with a tissue. It was as if she had been told that she would never see Jasmine again.
She picked up the photo from the desk and brought it up close, gazing at the picture of her only child. “Oh, my baby,” her lips trembled, “I hope you are okay. Mummy misses you so, so much.” Taking a deep breath amid her tears, she leaned in her chair and hugged the photo. “Come home quickly, my princess.”
The knock on her door forced her ‘mourning’ to an abrupt stop and she quickly wiped her tears and blew her nose. “Hold on,” Keren put back the photo and wiped what she felt was the last tear drop in her eye with her thumb. “Come in.”
A light-skinned lady with a long braid entered, looking smart in her white blouse and black skirt. Her entrance was met with a deafening thunderclap. “The clients have arrived, Keren,” she announced, standing before her desk. “We are waiting for you to start the meeting.”
“Oh okay,” Keren searched the desk and paused. “Monica, did I give you the files sent by our clients yesterday?”
“No,” Monica shook her head innocently at Keren who pulled and shut drawers, looking desperate. “I think you should calm down, Keren.”
“Really?” Keren got up and approached the cabinet. “You think I’m panicking?”
“I think you look disturbed,” Monica went over to her as Keren continued her search.
“You look down and…I think something’s bothering you.”
Keren shut a drawer in the cabinet loudly.
“Monica,” she looked at her assistant. “I’m okay. I think I left it at home. I have got to go now. Please watch here for me.”
“Sure. Feel free to use my umbrella,” Monica said to her when Keren reached the door.
She looked over her shoulder and smiled at Monica. “It’s with Harry Potter. We don’t want our pretty boss looking all soaked up at the meeting.”
“Thanks,” Keren smiled and left.
The day before, David had narrated to Martin how Nadesh had rebuffed their attempt to shut her mouth with money and how she had now given David a fixed date.
Martin had promised to have a heart to heart talk with Nadesh and David was yet to hear the outcome. He didn’t want to get his hopes raised high for he knew very well that it was Nadesh they were dealing with. But David really appreciated Martin’s efforts.
The man proved as the day went by that he was cut out to be David’s best male friend.
As lightning flashed and thunders roared and the relentless rain beat their ceiling as hard as it could, David saw Afiba coming at him from the doorway leading off to the corridor. David was still in the couch, where he had been sitting for almost an hour, like a patient waiting for his turn to see the doctor. The despondent housekeeper stood before him as if she had just been summoned to a court hearing.
“Afiba?” David studied her face. “Is everything alright?” The girl clasped hands before her without a word, keeping her dispirited gaze at him and throwing his mind into bewilderment. “If there’s a problem, sit beside me and let’s talk about it, okay?” David spoke loudly due to the difficulty in hearing caused by the heavy rain and constant deafening effect of thunder.
That was when the tear ducts of her eyes flew open. Afiba broke into tears and covered her eyes with a hand. David slowly rose to his feet, puzzled. He took her arm and tried to sit her down, but she wouldn’t budge as she cried the more. “Afiba, what is it?” David asked desperately. “Have you heard a bad news?”
“Uncle,” she sobbed, taking her hand off her eyes. “Where is Jasmine?”
The question was one David wasn’t expecting. He wondered why Afiba asked this after he had already told her what she had to know. “But Afiba, I told you Jasmine has gone on holidays.”
“You’re lying!” she cried, shaking her head with tears streaming down her cheeks. The confidence in her assertion drove fear into David’s wounded heart and he couldn’t say a word. “You know you’re lying. Jasmine is dead!”
What? David panicked. How does she know? The man was receiving his daily dose of fear. David could feel his legs quake as a sudden trembling fell over his whole body.
“Af-Afiba…what-what are you sa-saying?” his lips trembled.
“I overheard you and Aunty Nadesh talking about it the other day she and Uncle Martin came for dinner…”
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 11:17am On Jan 21|
David’s eyes grew wide with raised eyebrows which spelt ‘shell-shocked’ on his face. Oh, no. The house help knows. He had to act fast.
She felt there was no point driving into the yard, so Keren parked her car just in front of their gate and under the umbrella, she was able to hide partially from the heavy rain. The cracking sound of a deafening thunder coincided with the sound of her opening their iron gate. Quickly but meticulously, she hurried to the porch lest she slips again like her memorable slip.
Afiba didn’t like it, but David insisted on remaining on his knees and pleading with her. Both housekeeper and employer sobbed like kids. “Please, get up,” Afiba tried in vain to haul David up to his feet. “Uncle, please.”
“Just swear to me, Afiba,” David entreated with watery eyes, holding Afiba’s arms in a firm grip. “If your madam hears about this, she will die! Afiba, my wife will die. Please swear to me- I beg you- that you won’t tell anyone.”
“I swear I will not tell madam.”
“You won’t tell me what?” asked Keren who had just arrived at the puzzling and emotional scene. “What’s going on here?”
Keren’s sudden presence almost gave
house help and husband a heart attack.
Afiba gasped and jumped away from David in fright while David had his head turned towards the direction of the voice by reflex, staring at Keren with a horrified look.
Speechlessly, they stared at Keren.
|Re: Once Upon A December by Kiddogarcia(m): 11:35am On Jan 21|
Martins soon the comment and applaud will start rolling in,don't get tired with the constant update. ann2012 is not here,wonders shall never cease.
|Re: Once Upon A December by Oremeyii(f): 12:03pm On Jan 21|
This is the best and simply the best suspense story I've read on Nairaland, my heart just went high when I read that Keren was going home and Afiba was confronting David, I seriously thought she'd overhear Afiba and find out that Jasmine was dead, but then another banger; Keren might think David is cheating on her with Afiba!
Dude, you're good!
|Re: Once Upon A December by jupitre(m): 12:49pm On Jan 21|
I'm really really enjoying it.And more power to your elbow man,calm down with your viewers,they will soon flood here..
Keep it up bruh....
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:16pm On Jan 21|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:18pm On Jan 21|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:19pm On Jan 21|
jupitre:Thanks, I would have finished it long ago but the turn up wasn't encouraging. More updates loading....
|Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 1:28pm On Jan 21|
martins18:We're all behind you.
Your writing style is very unique.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:48pm On Jan 21|
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:12pm On Jan 21|
The last scene of David, Afiba and Keren will be continued later. It's now time for some throwback memories.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:13pm On Jan 21|
Elizabeth stared at the calendar hanging in her room. She had received the customised calendar on the last day of the term like every other student who attended the end of term party. In exactly two weeks’ time, Elizabeth would be reuniting with her classmates as the school would reopen.
By then, she hoped, Jasmine would have returned. Elizabeth had a lot to beat her up for but also perhaps through Jasmine, Elizabeth could beg Keren for forgiveness for lying to her. The girl felt her brother was too unreliable to do her that favour seeing how procuring a simple phone number from Jasmine’s father had become a mountain for Martin to climb. That’s what she thought… or was he refusing to obtain her the number on purpose?
Elizabeth turned away from the wall and crawled up on her bed. It still poured outside and the thunders boomed far and near every now and then. But Elizabeth was among the few kids who entertained no fear of the lightning and thunder. She felt a book under the bed sheet and she pulled it out. When she flipped the first page open, a faint smile crept up on her face. How could she forget that day …?
The class had been waiting for such a moment for a long time; a time when they could have a dance battle in the classroom without the fear of being caught by a teacher. It was the new girl’s idea. With the end of term party coming off the next day, the class needed a contestant for the inter-classes dance battle that would come off at the party. Jasmine had argued that the class couldn’t simply pick a contestant based on hearsay, so she suggested a battle should be organized in the classroom for the class to see who deserved to be their contestant.
They simply bought into her idea. The new girl of about two months ago exerted a strong influence in class already. But organizing such a show in class under the watchful eyes of the teachers was suicide; the class would be standing the risk of cleaning the washrooms for a term. Some of her mates expressed their fears and were already chickening out.
Jasmine had already devised a plan that would calm down all fears. Somehow and baffling to her mates, Jasmine had learnt of a staff meeting coming on the day before the last day of the term. So, in the class meeting, she revealed how they were going to organise their show safely and when the day arrived, the class executed the plan.
It was perhaps the bravest and stupidest thing the class had ever done. Even their neighbours in the classroom block were astonished that their mates in the other classroom were having jams during school hours in a classroom. Some enjoyed the beats coming from Jasmine’s classroom and wished they were part of the rock show.
Others couldn’t wait for them to be caught and still, others couldn’t wait to report them when the staff meeting was over.
Meanwhile, the dance battle had gone through several stages and after about half an hour, the number of contestants had been narrowed to two and it wasn’t surprising. These two were archenemies already and perhaps that made the final battle even more interesting for the kids to enjoy. Jasmine narrowed her eyes at her opponent and class prefect, Judy, as they stood to face each other in front of the class. Judy, on the other hand, eyed Jasmine from head to foot with disgust.
Jasmine only replied with her usual cunning smile.
|Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:16pm On Jan 21|
Cheers roared on from the pink and blue-black coloured audience as the two most intelligent kids in the class got ready to take each other on. With the audience divided into two halves of supporters and each half crowded on one side of the classroom, the assistant class prefect who had sneaked a laptop and two mini speakers to school that day immediately set the class on fire and with the first beat of the music, the battle commenced.
“Go Jas!” Elizabeth’s scream overshadowed the rest, clapping. One could only hope her scream was blocked by the closed door and windows. The supporters wanted their contestants to hear their voice.
“Come on, dance hall princess! Come on, Jasmine!”
“No one can take your crown, Queen!”
The room had ceased to be called a classroom as the two girls battled it out with the thumping music threatening to collapse the building and the audience cheering on their favourite as loud as they could. It could safely be called a club hall instead. But the class felt safe. Their teachers were attending a staff meeting in the administration block several metres away and they believed it was too far for them to hear a single thing. Moreover, they had posted a boy outside the class to warn them at the first sight of a teacher approaching. For their neighbours next door whose ears were probably getting deafened, the class didn’t really care. The worst the other classes could do was to report and the class was ready to deny.
The battle was a tight affair but a few things became clear to the class as the battle raged on from song to song. They could see that between the two contestants, one had learnt the art of dancing while the other was born a dancer. Jasmine was clearly a talented dancer and her mates wondered how many talents she actually had under her sleeve. They could see that whereas Judy seemed to be trying too hard and also repeating the same moves over and over, Jasmine had taken things easy, smiling as if to tease Judy. Moreover, she seemed to be inventing and reinventing her moves for fun.
She had this flair and oozing confidence on stage – a vital asset to be able to perform before the whole school. Most of Judy’s fans had to face facts and even switched camps.
The greater number of the class cheered with one voice, “Go Jasmine! Go Jasmine!
With the class having proved who the winner was by their cheers, the assistant class prefect paused the music and declared Jasmine the winner, contestant for the next day’s competition, and for the next few seconds, Jasmine’s praises were sung.
“Thanks, people,” grinned Jasmine with a bow, standing before the disorganised class, “I won’t let you down. It’s a promise.”
The class gave her a loud applause as she took her seat beaming with pride. With a sly smile on her face, Jasmine gave Judy – seated on her immediate right with a disappointed look – a wink.
“Witch,” Judy muttered under her breath in annoyance, making a rude sound with her teeth and turning to face the glass window.
“It’s not my fault I’m the witch of the dance hall, baby,” Jasmine taunted with her cunning smile, biting her lower lip.
“Somebody is jealous,” Elizabeth teased loudly and most of the kids giggled. “There’s a new queen in town.”
“Yes, Judy,” said another girl who sat in Judy’s column. “Your term of office has ended.”
The class had such a good laugh that poor Judy had to hide her face under her desk.
Not only had she lost her crown as the “dance queen” of the class, but also as the best in academics to this talented freak of nature who had arrived barely two months ago. That was when a boy, seated in the last row, spotted a teacher at a distance through the window, marching towards the classroom block, and from the direction in which he headed, it was obviously to their classroom. “Cricket is coming!” he sounded the alarm and in the twinkle of an eye, all evidence of a dance battle was cleared.
He had been nicknamed Cricket about two months ago by a student in the class. The man was tall with tiny long legs that floated in his usual baggy trousers. Like his legs, his slim trunk floated in his tucked shirts too as his small, bald and round head stood rigidly on his long neck.
Cricket walked in with a pile of brown envelopes and was met with a most unusual welcome greeting from the class; they stood up and greeted in unison in the most respectful tone. He placed the envelopes on the teacher’s desk before taking his seat and the class followed suit.
He glanced from one corner of the classroom to another suspiciously.
Resting his elbows on the desk and clasping hands, he broke the silence with his usual cold tone, “While the staff meeting was in progress, I received an alarming report.”
Many of the students did swallow hard on hearing that. Trouble was on the horizon.
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