Saturday, 9 June 2018

MARRIED Episode 17-18

It was already one week and no one had caught sight of Jessica or heard from her. The tension was so thick, could almost be touched. No one knew what to do anymore. Andy had pulled all the stunts hecould with his endless streams of connections, the police were all out, searching for Jessica with pictures of her all over, with a huge amount of money for whoever provides a lead. So many people had called, giving them false leads just for the ransom, and even though Andy always paid the people handsomely, the leads were fruitless. Andy was not worried about the money, not even a bit. He already had more than enough money to last a lifetime and money still came in every minute.
Everything would be in vain to him if Jessica wasn’t found because he couldn’t think of the benefit of having too much money if Jessica wasn’t there to spend it with him.
Andy had dark circle bags under his eyes, due to lack of sleep as he moved himself to the office. He was almost going crazy because as he drove, he continuously scanned faces of the people who walked by. He hadn’t gone to the office ever since Jessica vanished and it took the constant persistence of his best friend to make him decide to go to the office.
“Good Morning sir” a staff member greeted shyly as she batted her eyes. Andy murmured a response, without looking at her and marched into the building, leaving the girl feeling neglected. For the very first time, Andy did not feel like being in his own company, he was just too worried. The strong aching in his heart was so intense and he did not think work could take his mind off the pain.
As he sat behind the table in his extra-wide office, the door to his office opened and Tunji entered. Andy was not sure if seeing his best friend was a welcome development but he just sat there without uttering a word.
“Hey man, what is going on?” Tunji said as a way of greeting.
Andy breathed. “Is it not obvious?”
“Frankly? No! I don’t know why you should bother yourself over that gold-digger.” Andy’s eyebrow shot up in warning. Tunji sighed.
“Look man, I was at the party for God’s sake, I heard everything, and I just don’t know why you are so obsessed with finding her after all you heard. I know it must be hard, she is a very stunning woman with an exquisite beauty that can’t be rivaled. She has a temptingly sexy body…” Andy’s eyes narrowed dangerously and Tunji had to halt his analysis.
“I can see you have a clear picture in your head Tunji” Andy dropped sourly.
Tunji blinked and stared at Andy. “Wait a minute; don’t get all jealous, I am just stating the facts. You have to get her off your mind. She does not deserve you”
“Stop this nonsense Tunji; I am the one who does not deserve her. She is hurt and missing and it is my entire fault.”Tunji looked puzzled.
“Everything that was done and said in the party is a frame up Tunji”
“What does that mean?”
Andy swallowed. “Before I got married to Jessica, we signed a legal agreement to dissolve the wedding after a year, after which I would give her twenty million Naira.”Tunji whitened. “You are kidding”
“Dad found out and destroyed everything by making Jessie look like the villain. He is obsessed about protecting the family name; couldn’t he think of how Jessica would feel? How disgraceful and humiliating this would be for her? I am at fault; she did not want to agree to this ridiculous plan at first. Christ, I am so screwed up” Andy stood up and started pacing.
Tunji was still taking time to process the information he had just heard. Somehow, everything started making sense. Andy’s sudden wedding which sprang up out of nowhere, working during his honeymoon and a host of others.
“I can tell that something must have changed between you two”, he murmured but Andy was silent. “You have developed feelings for her Andy” he stated matter-of factly.
Andy ran his fingers through his hair. He exhaled heavily. “Why did dad have to interfere in this? For the first time in years, I find myself going crazy over a woman but before I can even relax enough to enjoy the blissful sensation, it is ruined.” Andy swallowed. “And now, I don’t even know where she is. What if something has happened to her? What if she did not run away like everyone is making me believe? What if she is ill or worse…” he could not finish that statement. The thought alone was frightening. He clenched his jaw. “I would find her; if it is the last thing I do, I will”
Tunji just stared at Andy. He had never seen Andy so agitated and restless. Andy always posed an indifferent front, no matter the situation but it seems that Jessica had really gotten under his skin. He had found it hard to believe that Jessica was capable of doing what she was accused of at first but later, he had had to accept it, judging by Jessica’s facial expression then. Tunji walked to Andy and patted him on the shoulder. “Does she feel the same way you do?” he asked. Before Andy could answer, his phone rang and Andy jumped at it.
“Andy Williams” he said immediately he picked up. “What…” he rapped at the phone. “Are you sure ma’am…? You are sure you are not making a mistake.
Tunji looked anxiously at Andy, wondering what all the fuss was about. Andy was looking stupefied.
“Where exactly ma’am” Andy asked, frowned and then nodded distractedly. “I would be there as fast as I can”
“What was that about?” Tunji asked as Andy hung up.
“The caller said she just saw Jessica. The place seems odd though”
“Where”
“A cemetery”
“What?” Tunji exclaimed. “I am sure it is false. How many false leads have you gotten thus far?”
“What if it is correct? I am not taking the chance.” Andy picked up his car keys and started marching out.
“Well, wait for me man”
*****
Jessica sat by the graveyard of her parents. It had been a really terrifying week for her and all she had been able to do was cry. Everywhere she went, she was conscious of people staring at her. Even when they were not really staring at her or when it was obvious that their stare was a result of her beauty, she still did not accept it. Her reputation had been destroyed, her life had just been ruined and it was all her fault. She never should have gotten married for money. It was the most stupid mistake she ever made in her entire life. She had wanted to talk about the contract with Andy but she hadn’t wanted to shatter what they had just started experiencing. Missing Andy was much more painful than she thought, she had lost her appetite completely and she needed no one to tell her that she had lost weight. She felt lighter and the breeze seemed stronger than usual. It was as though it would sweep her off her feet.
As she sat at the tomb at the cemetery, she shivered as she tried to hold back her tears. She had always hated burial grounds and being there, where several tombs lay, she was terrified but she could not leave. Ever since her parents had been buried, she hadn’t had the courage to visit their tomb, not to mention her brother’s tomb. She did not think she would be able to visit her brother’s tomb, it was just too depressing. She dropped one bouquet of flower on her dad’s tomb and dropped the other on her mum’s tomb. The tears that she held at bay suddenly started rolling down her cheeks. She had cried and cried all week and now, she was surprised that she still had water left in her eyes.
“Oh mum, why did you leave me so soon? Uhn?” she sat at the foot of her mum’s tomb and cried. “Why did you leave your Jessie? I need you so much mum” her hands shook as she held her hand to her mouth slightly, trying to stifle her sob but it was not working. “I am all alone mum. You all betrayed me. You and dad and brother left me all by myself; why did you not take me with you? Why?” She cried and could not control her tears anymore. She cried and cried until she had no strength left in her anymore. All her strength had vanished, coupled with the fact that she hadn’t been eating.
Jessica sagged against the tomb and gasped when she heard her name. She stared at the tomb. “I am hallucinating mum, I am beginning to hear voices. Am I running mad?”
“Of course not”
Her head turned instantly and almost fainted when she saw Andy. Her eyes rotated and she could not even place where Andy was standing. She bolted up but her legs could not carry her. She swayed and vaguely felt Andy’s arms catching her. “Drew”, she breathed inaudibly and passed out.
A splitting headache woke Jessica up and she winced. She felt heavy and boneless. Andy was beside her and she realized that she hadn’t been dreaming. He looked worn-out and lean. Guilt overtook her instantly because she knew that her departure would have affected Andy but she couldn’t even think about it that time. She stil l would not think about it now.
“Oh Jess” Andy breathed and then it all came rushing back like a tidal wave, hitting Jessica and making her shiver. She suddenly wanted to cry.
It seemed like an eternity had passed and having to hear Andy’svoice again was so unbearable.
“Drew” she whispered.
Andy kissed her eyes, kissing away her tears and running kisses all over her face before kissing her mouth, long and deep. He had watched her sleep; scanning every inch of her body to be sure she was OK.
“Oh my God Jess, I have almost gone crazy. Why did you do this to me honey” he kissed her. “Come on, you must eat something, you look so thin” Andy was searching for what to say.
“I have to go Andy” Jessica said immediately and jumped up instantly even though her body was a bit heavy. Andy frowned deeply.
“What does that mean?” He grabbed Jessica’s hand as she made for the door. “I would not let you leave Jess”
Jessica closed her eyes briefly and swallowed. “You have to Andy” she murmured stubbornly. “I want a divorce, Andy”.

Mr. Williams stood by the massive window of his extra-large house. Guards stood motionless in strategic positions but all their faces were stony. Andy’s dad now fe lt a measured level of regret for what he did to Jessica. The poor girl did not deserve the kind of treatment he had given her. Andy’s confession of love, coupled with Jessica’s disappearance made him know that what he had seen when he visited them was not a drama. If what he had glimpsed that night hadn’t been a drama, which he doubted now, then, he was sure that Jessica must have feelings for Andy also. Frankly, he had never seen Andy as devastated as he had been for the past week; it was like replaying the tapes of Andy’s reactions when he found out that his wife-to-be was dead. He wanted his son to be happy – that was what he promised his deceased wife – but all he had succeeded in doing was to add to his sorrow.
Mr. Williams drank from his cup slowly. He should make things right immediately they find Jessica. He prayed in his heart that she was safe and not in harm’s way, if not, he won’t be able to forgive himself. Andy would surely never forgive him if anything happened to Jessica. Even if he found Jessica, how would he make things right with her?
*****
Andy’s hold on Jessica’s arm slackened as he stared at her, horrified. He just could not believe she had just mentioned the seven lettered word like it was nothing. Like there was truly nothing between them except a flimsy contract. ‘What is going on here?’ he mused. Several emotions crossed his face; bewilderment, confusion, hurt, anger.
Jessica saw these expressions and she felt her heart sinking. She never wanted to cause Andy any pain, but right now, she was not even sure if Andy had feelings for her. Why should he? She is after all nothing but a nobody who agreed to marry him for 20 million Naira, while he is the most eligible man that ever walked the surface of the earth. Every woman had their eyes fixed on him, wanting him, no matter the cost. Apart from being so distractingly attractive, he is also terrifyingly wealthy with a capital ‘W’. How would she be able to keep up with him? Would she ever be enough for him? It is obvious that she and Andy are both from two totally different classes, and even though she had had a taste of what it would feel like being rich when she was small, that does not seem to apply to this situation because, compared to Andy’s wealth, that still passes for being poor.
“Sit” Andy said instantly, snapping her out of her thoughts.
She turned puzzled eyes to him. “What? I am not-” Jessica murmured.
“Sit down Jessica, now” He cut in now, showing nearly no emotion. Andy rarely showed his controlling side but when he does, it can be a little scary. Jessica felt like a five year old when she finally sank her butt on the bed, gazing a bit angrily at Andy for making her feel so little. Andy grabbed the tray filled with food and put it in front of Jessica, carefully keeping his face blank.
“Eat up” he murmured, staring straight into her eyes. “All of it. We would have this discussion when you are through” Andy marched out of the room without looking back.
Jessica stared at the food in total confusion. Just seeing Andy had brought back part of her appetite but she doubted she would be able to finish half of the food set before her. Swallowing gently, she picked up the extremely big chicken and took a bite. It tasted so good and her stomach growled in response. She picked up her fork eagerly and scooped the fascinating fried rice into her mouth. A moan of delight escaped her lips as she became instantly aware of her empty stomach, attacking the food with fervor. The fried rice had so many ingredients and colours, exactly what she needed after a hunger strike.
She smiled dryly but the pain she felt overshadowed her, almost making her lose her appetite.
Knowing that Andy would not be pleased, she struggled to eat as much as she could manage. Strangely, she wanted to please him. She wanted him to be proud of her. She ate more and more. When Jessica could not take more, she was surprised that she had eaten a bit above half of the food. She picked up the chicken and peeled off the meat from the bone. Jessica wondered why the food tasted incredibly sweet. She assumed that it was because she had been starving herself for a few days.
The door opened and Andy entered. His presence almost choked her and she focused on taking in a deep breath. Her throat suddenly felt dry and she picked up her glass of orange juice, draining it at once.
“Thanks” she murmured.
“You did not finish it” he said, gazing at Jessica without revealing anything. He looked strained and agitated but his stance was firm and strong. Jessica felt that he was revealing his business-like stance, using it to cover the awkwardness. She swallowed.
“I have had my fill”. She stated. Andy looked like he also needed the same treat but she was not sure if she should say it.
“It is ok wife” Andy said, stressing the word ‘wife’. Jessica shifted uncomfortably, looking at the walls instead of matching Andy’s intense gaze.
“Drew, I-”
“Why are you doing this?” what she saw when he stared at her scared her. The pain she saw in his eyes was so unbearable; it cut through her like a knife. She averted her gaze, suddenly wanting to cry.
“You are killing me, do you know that?”
Jessica took a deep breath. “I don’t want to hurt you Andy, I really don’t”
“But that is what you are doing Jess. Do you know how it has been with me ever since you disappeared? Did you take me into consideration before deciding to vanish like that? I have almost driven myself crazy in my search for you honey, and now that I have found you, you want to leave me indefinitely? And you say you don’t want to hurt me?” Andy looked bewildered and shocked.
“I don’t Drew, I just-” she stood up and faced Andy as a cold shiver went down her spine. “Look at me Andy; I have been disgraced in the public. I have been humiliated beyond redemption. I feel people whispering behind my back everywhere I go” the tears Jessica tried to hold back came cruising down her cheeks. “I can’t bear it Andy, I just can’t. If I continue with you, the gossips would continue and I can’t put you through that Drew, you deserve something far better than a wife who would bring you nothing but disgrace”
The tears on Jessica’s face seemed to hurt Andy more than anything. He closed the distance between them and held her face in his arms, wiping away her tears with his thumbs. The contact made Jessica shiver slightly. “Look at me” Andy whispered and Jessica hesitantly raised her eyes to meet his. “You don’t think I deserve you? You don’t think I deserve love?”
“What are you saying? Of course, you deserve all the love you can get Drew”
“Even if I have to get it from someone else? Is that what you want – for me to be with someone else?” Andy asked, with his eyes blazing.
Jessica felt all her blood drain out of her. “If… If it makes you happy” she breathed quietly, lowering her eyes, Andy had to strain to pick her words.
“You would be able to handle it?” Andy emphasized quietly.
The thought of Andy with another woman was like a sticky bitter bile in her mouth and she had the urge to throw up just by thinking about it. She could not open her mouth, so she nodded softly.
Silence stretched uncomfortably between then. “Fine” Andy said and left Jessica. Her head jerked up; alarmed by what she had just heard but Andy had his back to her as he went to stand by the wall.
Finally, he faced her and leaned against the wall. Jessica could not tell what he was thinking about because his face was carefully blank.
“What?” she gasped out.
“You want out and I am consenting to it. Is that not what you want?”
Jessica stared at Andy like he had just lost his mind. She had expected him to beg and try to convince her but not agree. Obviously not to agree so easily! Does it mean he never truly loved her? She felt hurt and angry as she continuously stared at Andy. She choked and took her eyes away from his, trying desperately not to cry. She snatched her sandals from the floor and sat on the bed to put them on but her fingers were shaking so awkwardly that she just couldn’t.
“Let me do it” She did not know when Andy reached her side and her anger increased.
“No” she said too loudly. “I can help myself”
“C’mon, don’t be a baby” Andy’s voice held vague amusement and when Jessica looked, he was trying unsuccessfully to hide his smile.
“What is so funny?” she snapped as her anger doubled. She would not tolerate being made a fool of. The tears she had been preventing dropped suddenly and Andy’s face clouded confusingly.
“Don’t cry, d--n it” Andy said, alarmed and raised his hand to wipe off her tears.
Jessica wiped her face furiously with the back of her hand, pushing Andy’s hand away. “I am not crying, d--n you. I just want to get-”
Andy silenced her with a firm kiss, stunning her. Once he had his lips on hers, he could not stop again; he devoured her mouth completely, using the kiss to reassure himself of Jessica’s presence. That she was truly here with him. Jessica held on to him, unable to let go. “Can’t you see… that you drive… me crazy?” Andy murmured between kisses. Jessica put her hand in his hair, holding him close and allowing his words to sink into her. When they came up for air, they were both breathing heavily. “I can never let you go Jess, no matter how hard you persuade me. I love you, don’t you get it? I love you so much”
Jessica swallowed. “I love you too Drew” she was silent for some seconds, happy that the past few minutes had been a terrible joke.
“But-”
“Shhhh… We would figure it out baby, OK?”
Jessica wanted to protest but nodded. Andy sat on the bed and pulled her onto his laps. She placed her head on Andy’s chest, feeling safe with his strong arms around her.
*****
Jessica still could not believe that she was staying with Andy. The whole world had already tagged her as a gold-digger, but she still could not leave the man she loved so dearly. Running away had given her a taste of what it would be like to leave Andy and she was not sure she wanted to relive that moment of pain. She had been a bit happy when her uncle and his wife, whom she now saw as her parents, had come, looking very relieved and worried. Florence had cried with relief and she could see that her uncle, ‘Funsho’, who had been very furious with her at the party, was also deeply worried. He apologized for his irrational behavior but also scolded her for running away without thinking about how worried they would be. She had been so happy, even though she was being scolded. They wouldn’t scold her if they didn’t love her. She missed the little children: the stubborn Jake and the sweet and lovely Theresa. The two children of her uncle were at school and Jessica thought of bringing them over for their long vacation holiday; if Andy agreed of course.
Jessica still could not bear to think of Andy’s dad and Sonia. She had nothing but hatred for Sonia now but her father-in-law? Could she blame him? He was thinking of his own son’s well-being but she still could not get rid of the hurt she felt. Since she had arrived back in the house about three days ago, Andy had made her feel like a queen. The fun she had with Andy, both indoors and out was mind-blowing. She remembered some of the nasty things she did with her husband and her cheeks flushed at the remembrance.
“You are not going down memory lane, are you?” Andy winked at her and her blush deepened. How can Andy know what she was thinking just by looking at her? She wondered. Of course, he is the master of his game. “Do you want us to talk about your thoughts or act it out” Andy asked grinning widely. Jessica lowered her eyes and swallowed. “Oh” he breathed. “My shy wife. Don’t worry; we can go over your thoughts later. Eat your food, we are going out. I need to show you something” he kissed her cheeks.
“What is it?” Does my voice sound croaky? Jessica wondered.
Andy smiled, melting her heart, obviously hearing the edge in her voice. “It is a surprise baby”. He sauntered off, towards the study and Jessica followed him with her eyes. He turned his head and met her eyes. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment but she covered it by sticking a tongue out to him. He grinned and blew her a kiss.

To be continued…

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