Saturday, 9 June 2018

MARRIED Episode 15-16

The exquisite hall was filled to the brim with people. Andy and Jessica had arrived late because they have been so preoccupied with their newly found love. Their father had sent a driver to pick them up. They both stared at the building with anticipation. They had both decided that the party was very perfect because it would be a means of starting all over again.
Andy smiled at Jessica. “Jess, you look absolutely stunning sweetheart”
Jessica looked at her fingers feeling shy and nervous. She was putting on a short black gown which clung to her skin. It contrasted with her skin perfectly, making her eyes twinkle.
“I got you something” he pulled out a box and opened it. Jessica gasped as she saw the sparkling jewelry in the box.
“Andy” she gasped. She hadn’t worn jewelry for a very long time.
“I saw this when I was returning from Lizzy’s place and I could only imagine you wearing it.” He ran his fingers on it. “May I?”
She nodded, not trusting her voice, and turned. Andy raised the necklace and put it carefully around her neck, moving her hair in order to secure the hook. He put the bracelet around her wrist and put the ear-rings in her ear. She looked breathtaking.
“Thank you” she murmured. That he had actually bought it with her in mind almost made her weep. Who doesn’t love a romantic man? She sighed as happiness filled her heart. He opened the door and stepped out. He stretched his hand to her and she put her hand in his. “I hope you enjoy your evening my lady” he leaned down and kissed her.
*****
The party was going on smoothly. The crowd was as full as the one they had on their wedding day, with numerous family members and friends. There was actually no one that Jessica knew that was not there, including her uncle and his family; her friends and others. Andy and Jessica had met about half of the invited guests and were busy chatting with some friends when their attention was drawn to the podium. Andy’s father stood there with the microphone in his hand.
“Hello everyone, I am so happy that you were able to make ittoday. I was not around for my own son’s wedding but now, I do not feel so bad. I have a surprise for you” everyone applauded him but the smile on Jessica and Andy’s faces vanished when Sonia surfaced.
“Come up here my dear”
“Oh my God” Lizzy gasped as she stared at Sonia.
“This girl here has something to tell everyone about the couple” Mr. Williams announced. He handed over the microphone to Sonia, who took it with a smile. Jessica felt like she could not breathe. The air seemed to have oozed out of the hall, leaving her feeling faint and breathless. Andy was just glued to the ground, staring with horror.
“Hello everyone”
“What are you doing Sonia?” Lizzy yelled.
Sonia ignored. “Hello everyone, I am sorry to inform you that Jessica is a fraud” gasps of surprise followed the announcement. “She pressured Andy into marrying her so that she can make away with most of his money. She planned to penetrate the company in order to escape with 20 million naira.” Everyone had horrified looks on their faces as they turned to stare at Jessica. “I heard Jessica telling Lizzy this. She planned to divorce Andy once she gets the money.” Her eyes searched out Jessie’s in the crowd until she found her. She looked straight at Jessica. “Am I lying Jessie?”
*****
Jessica concentrated on taking in air and releasing it but even at that, her breathing was terribly fast and her chest was heaving. No! This is not happening! She tried to shake herself to see if she would awaken from this horrible nightmare but she could not even muster enough energy to move a muscle. Her horrible life of constant nightmares and disasters seem to be adding another event to the pent-up list.
“Answer me Jessica, is this information false?” Sonia screamed.
Andy, who had been glued to the spot, too stupefied to do anything suddenly charged to the front, marching to the podium. All he could see was Sonia and he would not stop till he got to her. A viselike grip dragged him back and he struggled, succeeding, due to his great strength. He did not even have the time to check the face of the person that stopped him as he charged forward. His dad blocked his way and Andy almost collided with him. The place was like a backstage entrance to the podium so people could not really see them.
“Dad, please leave the way” He growled.
“What do you want to do?”
“What sort of rubbish is this dad? What kind of stunt is this? Why are you doing this?” Andy’s hands were fisted and ready to charge. The only problem is that he could not punch his own father.
“I am saving your sorry a-s. Don’t think I don’t know wha t really went on but I am obliged to think that this Jessica of a girl bewitched you. I would not let the name of this family fall into the stinking mud because of your senselessness” Mr. Williams said too calmly.
“How did you even find out? I bet that stinking thing out there spilled everything” Andy wished he could be left alone with Sonia so he could teach her a lesson she would live to remember. His dad smiled. “I knew something was fishing when I heard you got married. When I got to your house, I planted a camera in the sitting room when everyone was asleep. I did not expect to find anything suspicious though because you and your so-called wife seemed so intimate.”
Andy stared, not believing his own ears. His father had invaded his own privacy. What on earth had given him the right?
“I felt guilty about the camera and went back to the house to get the camera. I played what I saw on it just in case and saw some love scenes, just as I was about to stop it, I stumbled on the very interesting scene where Sonia came to your house. I heard all the drama that ensued and went looking for Sonia”
“Who gave you the right dad? What makes you think you can meddle with my life? I am a grown man dad, perfectly capable of making my own decisions and choices” Andy yelled.
“Even stupid decisions like a contract wedding? What happened to a normal wedding?”
You are pushing it dad. It is my life. How dare you do this to her? You may want to destroy someone’s life but the person involved here is the woman I love; my wife” Andy emphasized.
“Contract wife you mean.
Son, that girl is only after the money, she has no dignity and don’t even think of loving her.”
Andy gritted his teeth painfully. “It is a bit late for that. How could you do this? I have great respect for you but what did you do? You violated my privacy and now, you are bringing down the reputation of a poor innocent girl just to save my name. How could you?” his face was as hard as granite. “Dad, tell that demented thing to get off the stage, or so help me God, I would cause a scene that even your almighty self would not be able to control.”
Jessica, who was still standing where Andy left her could not respond to the challenge that was being tossed her way by the very person she called her best friend. Lizzy and Paulina went to stand with Jessie but she almost could not notice them, the only thing that clouded her senses were the murmurings she heard and the loud accusations. “Let’s get out of here Jessie” Lizzy and Paulina tried to dragged her away but her feet were glued to the ground.
Her uncle suddenly appeared in front of her, his face as hard as rock. He seized her hand roughly and started pulling her out of the hall. She staggered behind him but he did not slow. When they got outside, her hand came free but pain shot through her like lightening as her uncle’s hand connected with her cheek. She winced and moaned in pain as tears that had been held in her eye socket rushed out.
“How dare you Jessica” he roared. “How dare you shame our family like this? How can you stoop so low? Tell me” he growled.
“No…” Jessica sobbed. “Dad, I…”
“Don’t call me dad; don’t you dare. We are not rich but then, we are not hungry. Were you so discontented?”
Her uncle’s wife pushed through the crowd that Jessica was just noticing. “Funsho! Stop this” she tried to calm him down. “We have not heard her side of the story. How can you be quick to believe another person’s word over her own?” she chastised her husband.
“What does she have to say? She does not look ready to protest”What could Jessica say? That she had actually married Andy for 20 million Naira but not the way Sonia had put it? That she had decided to forfeit the money? That all their declarations of love during the wedding had been a perfectly rehearsed drama? No! She could not say anything. In fact, it might just make things worse. She looked at the faces of people who had gathered, seeing so many friends of hers, seeing so many people who had attended their wedding, seeing their best man who was Andy’s best friend and some of Andy’s friends and family members. They all had the look of hatred and disgust on their faces. Some were stunned and many murmured continuously. She took to her heels and started running as fast as her legs could carry her, even though she wore high heeled shoes.
Andy charged through the door. “Where is Jessica?” he yelled.
No one was ready to give a reply but as he saw a familiar figure running ceaselessly, he ran after her. As he ran, he yelled her name but she did not slow down. Andy did not know if he was feeling rage, worry or confusion, all he knew was that he wanted Jessica to be alright.
The heels were really affecting Jessica but she continued running. She just wanted to run. She could still hear all the voices in her head as she cried. She stopped abruptly and started tugging off her shoes. She did not care if her bare feet got severe injuries by running without her shoes. She felt she would be glad if a physical pain could take her mind off the incident that just occurred. She continued to sob furiously as she gathered the shoes in her hands and started running again.
Andy’s arms closed around Jessica immediately, dragging her against him forcefully. She did not know that she was being followed but even as the familiar hands wrapped around her, she started struggling.
“Please Jessica, sweetheart, please calm down”
Jessica struggled and shook in his arms. “Leave me…” she cried.
“Let me go Drew”
“No… No love. Let me hold you”
Jessica had no more struggles. She buried her head against his chest and cried. Andy’s heart was shattered into pieces. It took all his willpower to stop him from crying. Seeing Jessica so heartbroken and shattered because of him was more than he could handle. It filled him with raw undiluted rage.
“I am ruined Andy.” Jessica wailed. “Why can’t I just die? Tell me Drew. Why does God hate me so much” she cried.
Andy was not sure he had answers to any of the questions she asked. He hugged her tightly. “It is going to be alright Jess. I love you, nothing can change that. We would get through this” he kissed her head and held her close. He called the driver that brought them to the party and within minutes, the driver arrived. Andy was happy that the driver had not witnessed all that took place because the driver looked shocked when he saw Jessica crying.
“Is everything OK ma’am?” he asked with concern.
Jessica could not answer.
“She would be fine” Andy replied and took Jessica to the backseat, sitting beside her also. The driver picked up Jessica’s shoes and purse which was scattered on the road and put them in the car as he got behind the wheels. Andy pulled Jessica back into his arms and she rested her head on his chest. Jessica sniffed and swallowed as her tears stopped. Andy stroked her head slowly and kissed the top of her head. He felt responsible for this occurrence. He never should have accepted the idea of a party, especially one which was being organized by his own father. His father had always been mischievous and spontaneous when it comes to the family name. To his father, nothing was more important and anything should be done when something untoward surfaces, even if it meant having a sacrificial lamb.
Jessica was already asleep when they arrived home and he was greatly relieved. He carried her inside the house and straight to the bed. When he placed her on the bed, she sniffed like a baby that just finished crying and folded her knees, towards her chest. Andy swallowed and kissed her cheek as he ran his fingers through her hair. His temples throbbed. He had promised to protect her and make her happy but no, all he had been able to give her was more and more pain.
He felt terribly devastated. He wanted to remove Jessica’s clothes and jewelries so that she would sleep more comfortably but he remembered that she did not get anything to eat at the party before it crumbled. He covered Jessica with a blanket and put on the air conditioner. He went to the kitchen but did not see any food there. Cooking seemed to be out of it because he did not feel up to it so he picked up the car keys and wallet and left the house to get food at a nearby eatery.
He wished he had not relieved the driver, he would have sent him to get the food while he held Jessica as she slept. He thought of how small she looked as she slept; she looked like a little girl who was afraid of a stormy night. After he got the food, he got back into the car and drove home. He locked up the doors and went inside the room but received a very big shock when he found the bed empty.

Sonia left the podium, feeling very low. She had just acted a script for personal benefit at the expense of her friend’s happiness. Sonia had always been jealous of Jessica’s pronounced beauty even though the person in question seemed not to notice it but instead, tried in vain to look unattractive. She started wearing various flashy clothes just to feel more beautiful whenever Jessica was around and her job at the bank enhanced it but Jessica never even noticed this act, no one did because Sonia was very discrete. Her jealousy had turned to envy when Jessica announced that she would be getting married to the richest bachelor in the country. Why couldn’t it be her? Why was it always Jessica? All these questions had clung to her subconscious. Jessica noticed that Lizzy was becoming closer to Jessie than she was and she became suspicious, then one day, she got the golden ticket when she eavesdropped on their conversation and heard them talking about a contract. All that came to Sonia’s mind then had been to snatch Andy by seducing him but when she found out that he was loyal to Jessica and even seemed to have feelings for her, she became confused but the answer came looking for her.
“Sir” she called when she sighted Mr. Williams. “My job is done and your son is not involved, he appeared to be the victim of the whole scheme”
“Yes, good job” Mr. Williams said dryly.
Sonia canceled the irritation she felt at the nonchalant dismissal.
“Sir, if you would give me my due, I would be on my way”
The elderly man faced her slowly. “You said that lady is your friend. Don’t you feel guilty for what you did to her?”
Sonia was thrown off balance by the question but after thinking about it she decided. “No. I am doing the right thing. What they both did is wrong. No one should get married for money. She got what she called for” Sonia remembered how stunning and sophisticated Jessica had looked when she arrived at the party. She looked perfect and everyone’s eyes, especially the men had followed her around. She could almost feel the jealousy in their eyes as well as the desire to be in Andy’s position. The ladies had also admired her beauty and coveted it. Sonia remembered the golden costume jewelries that Jessica wore and anger clouded her senses. She had no doubt that the jewelries would cost a fortune.
Mr. Williams looked at the woman in front of him and shook his head in disgust. “You are the worst friend a human being can have, it would be better to be friends with the devil himself.” The words stung Sonia painfully. He withdrew a check of 10 million Naira and gave her. “I don’t want to set my eyes on you again”. He turned and walked away.
*****
“Jessica” Andy called out with his heart pounding but did not hear any response. Alarm bells rang in his head and he flung the package he was holding, not caring where it landed. “Jess” he called louder. He checked the toilet and every corner of the room but did not find her. He started searching everywhere in the house, yelling ‘Jessica’ but he got no response. He hurriedly unlocked the door and went to his gateman.
“Did Jessica leave the house?”
“Yes, oga. She just commot, she no tell me anything”
“Oh my God” He groaned. “Why did you not stop her? What is happening for Christ’s sake?”
“Oga, abeg no vex”
“Shut up and open the bloody gate.” Andy yelled. The young man spun into action.
Andy jumped into his car and drove out with his blood boiling. He started driving and searching for Jessica. He crosschecked everyone twice even though he knew he would identify Jessie immediately he sighted her. After more than thirty minutes of fruitless search, Andy had to confront the fact that Jessica was nowhere to be found.
*****
Mr. Williams paced his sitting room slowly with a wine glass in his hands. His thoughts were in disarray. Thinking back, he was not happy with what he did. When h e had planted that camera, he hadn’t expected to find something so pathetic. The couple had portrayed the act of close intimacy when he saw them. The look in his son’s eyes when he stared at his wife was one of longing and desire. It had been so perfect. Little did he know then that it was all a script. That his son could act so perfectly was so unbelievable. Love. He remembered that Andy had mentioned something about being in love with Jessica. ‘He’d better not’ he thought firmly. He knew that that woman was so stunning and that any man would fall senselessly for her. Even he himself was floored when he saw his daughter-in-law, but he later realized that the little wench was using her exquisite beauty for other means. How perfect it is to make Andy fall for her; it would be easier for her to extort money from him. 20 million was nothing but he could not allow a woman to toy with his son’s heart. The poor boy hadn’t been able to get over the death of his love; it would be terrible if he falls in love with the wrong person this time. Mr. Williams drank from his cup slowly. He felt a little guilty for turning the tables, making the girl to bear all the consequences by publicly disgracing her but he had no other option. He didn’t want his family name to get soiled, so he decided to coin a believable lie out of the truth. The mere fact that the contract was already known by an outsider like Sonia, made Mr. Williams know that it was only a matter of time before everyone found out. He had to quickly find a solution and…
The door burst open, making Mr. Williams turn instantly. “Where is she?” Andy growled as he stormed the massive sitting room, moving to his father and covering the space with charged long strides.
“Where is who?”
“Don’t play coy with me dad, I am warning you. Where is Jessica?” Andy barked.
“She is your contract wife, shouldn’t you know her whereabouts?” Andy’s dad threw back.
Andy fisted his hands and gritted his teeth. “D--n it dad” he hit his fist furiously on the bar stand. “If you have done anythin g to Jessica, I promise not to spare you. What did she do to you to deserve this? I proposed this contract, not her; why can’t you carry out your frustration on me?” He yelled. “Tell me dad”
Andy faced the exit and walked towards it. He paused and turned. “If anything happens to Jessica” he breathed and pointed at his dad. “If ‘anything’ should happen to ‘my’ Jessica” he looked like he wanted to say more but just stood, fuming and pointing at his father. He dropped his hand and stormed out.
*****
Lizzy marched into the small building with anger roaring inside her. She couldn’t recall ever being this angry in her life. Sonia had betrayed their friendship in a very disheartening manner. They had all been so close, almost like sisters. But Sonia had destroyed it all! Watered down their friendship in the presence of innumerable guests. She had suspected Sonia’s jealousy when she would not stop ranting about how rich Jessica had become but Lizzy had shrugged it off. If she had been told to guess what the quiet Sonia was capable of, not in a thousand years would she assume that Sonia would do something as grievous as this. Lizzy had taken Jessica and the other girls like sisters but she saw Jessica as more of a sister to her even though Jessica seemed to like quiet Sonia more than everyone else.
But even at that, Lizzy had always wanted the best for Jessica and the other girls. When Lizzy got to the door, she paused for some seconds and took three deep calming breaths before raising her hand to knock the door. The knock was still harder than she had wanted. She swallowed and waited, hearing nothing. She raised her hand again and pounded the door harder because the lights made her know that the house was not empty. She tapped her right foot restlessly as she waited.
“Who is it?” Lizzy heard Sonia’s voice loud and clear, just behind the door and decided to keep quiet. The door opened slightly and Lizzy pushed the door forcefully and it went ajar, making Sonia to stagger backwards.
“Lizzy” Sonia gasped, frightened.
Lizzy rewarded Sonia with two resounding slaps on each cheek and the sound echoed round the room. A startled cry escaped Sonia’s lips and she forcefully shut her mouth.
“You” Lizzy grounded. “How dare you” she said through clenched teeth. Lizzy grabbed Sonia by the neckline of her dress, shaking her like a ragged doll.
“Let go” Sonia gasped out.
Lizzy laughed and held Sonia’s cloth more firmly in her arms, making Sonia struggle. “And if I don’t, are you going to beat me?” Lizzy laughed the more. “You see b---h, unlike you, I cherish the people I call my friends and I don’t stab them in the back, but when they betray me, like you just did to Jessica, I bounce back. I can squeeze the living daylight out of you if I want to” Lizzy shook her head in disgust and pushed Sonia away, leaving her cloth. Sonia tried to regulate her breathing and Lizzy look around her for the first time. She saw travelling bags and packed things. She smiled tightly and glared at Sonia. “There is no peace for the wicked, is there? How perfect of you to destroy someone’s life and run away. Tell me, how much were you paid? Say it Sonia; how much are you worth?”
“None of your business. At least we know that Jessica is worth 20 million Naira” Sonia croaked out.
“I am very sure you are worth less than that” Lizzy returned, astounded that the filthy girl could still open her mouth. Lizzy’s phone rang, shattering the exchange of glares. She fished out the phone and her anger instantly turned to surprise and anxiety.
“Hello Andy” she breathed. “What do you mean?” Lizzy’s frown deepened and Sonia became agitated. “Well, of course she is not with me. I thought you went after her” Lizzy’s voice was high now, with confusion. “Oh my God” she breathed. “Oh my God” Lizzy’s hand dropped and she became blank and pale. Lizzy looked lost for some seconds as she stared at the ground, trying to process what she had just heard. She raised weary eyes and bubbled with anger when she saw what looked like worry on Sonia’s face. What a b---h!
“You better pray… You better pray that nothing happens to Jessica. Pray that nothing happens to my friend because if not…” Lizzy advanced towards Sonia, glaring at her until they were just a breath apart. “I will find you. Even if I have to comb the entire planet, I would get you, and then, you would wish that you never knew Lizzy. You would seek death and you won’t find until you wish you had never been born. Mark my words” Lizzy glared dangerously at Sonia, allowing the message to sink in before marching out of the room.
*****
“Funsho” Mrs. Adams said as she climbed out of the car. “Just accept that you made a mistake, that is all”
“Well, I have not done anything wrong. For God’s sake woman, are you blind? Can’t you see what Jessica has put herself into? Not to mention what she has put this family into”
Florence shook her head. “I am not saying that she did the right thing, all I am saying is that you should have at least given her the opportunity of defending herself. She is our family and we should believe her above every other person.”
“Come on, didn’t you see her eyes? It was obvious that it was the truth.”
“But even at that, I won’t blame her terribly. She has suffered a lot in life, I can only imagine her reluctance about giving her heart out again when men had made her life a living nightmare, especially that fool that left her at the altar. She is going through a lot”
Funsho sighed and pushed his fingers through his hair. His wife had a point; maybe he had been too hard on Jessica. He could have sought answers in a more private environment. Thrashing her in the public might have been extreme. Frustration curled in his loins causing him to sigh again. His phone rang and he frowned when he saw the name. ‘Son-in-law’. His wife became anxious when she saw the caller and she pressed the answer button, also putting the phone on speaker.
“Hello sir” they heard Andy say and also heard the restlessness in his voice.
“Hello Andy, is everything alright?” the question seemed odd since everything was already in disarray.
“Not really sir, I just wanted to know if Jessica is with you”
The alarm sounded in Funsho’s head. “She is not here” he breathed out.
“Where is Jessica?” Florence asked, feeling a cold chill sweep over her.
Andy seemed to swallow. “I don’t know ma’am, I have been looking for her but I can’t find her. She seemed to have just vanished”
“Oh my God!” Florence squealed. The call ended instantly and Funsho started blaming himself, internally. His wife was right. He had been too tough on Jessica and now, she has gone missing.
*****
Andy was frustrated as he drove furiously. It was now very dark and he could hardly see anyone on the street but he could not imagine himself going to sleep when his wife was obviously missing. To crown up his worry, Jessica’s phone was with him. He had seen it on the bed after he had called several times. He could have had the phone tracked down if the phone had been with Jessica. He could not tell if Jessica ran away or if she was abducted. The latter seemed impossible though, as he thought of it. Everything that had happened still seemed like a dream; a really bad nightmare and Andy was having a hard time believing that it was reality but someone would pay. Someone had to pay for all these. And who else would pay except the very person that started this commotion.
He parked outside the building. He had only been there once before the wedding but now, as he marched towards the door ahead, he formed his palms into fists, trying to control himself. When he got to the door, he pounded loudly. When he got no response, he pounded again and the door shook but still he got no response.
“Open this damned door Sonia” He roared but still got no response. Andy moved back and with enough strength, kicked the door. The door seemed to be more cooperative as it flung open instantly. He looked around in horror but could not find Sonia. He noticed that the house was in disarray and most of the luggage was not there. There and then, he realized that he had come too late. “D--n it!” he swore loudly. Sonia had saved herself by running away. He groaned and turned round. He saw two to three people who had come out of their own apartments to confront him. Immediately they saw him, they all seemed to register who he was and they all held their tongues. He swallowed and marched out of the house, entering his car in anger and zooming off.

To be continued….

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