I woke up in a strange bed. The beddings were coarse, uncomfortable, nothing like my own. I slept in Chinese silk; as such I would know the difference. The memory of where I was came rushing back as I took in my surroundings. I was in my old room. I recognized the Avril Lavigne and Liz Phair posters I had put on my wall all those years back. There were a couple of basketball newspaper clippings of my favourite NBA team, as well as the twin football posters of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. I had slept in my clothes from the previous day. I hadn’t had the chance to unload my luggage yet. I found a pair of sandals at the base of my bed, struggled with my handle less bedroom door and got out. The hallway was suspiciously clear of people. I took a tentative step forward, paused to listen before moving. One of my cousins was in the living room, watching some news feature on TV, the volume turned down low. I nodded my greetings and passed by him. My car was where I had left it. I popped open the boot, dragged out my travelling case and headed back to the house. The number of cars had reduced, I noticed. The Benz from the day before was amongst the casualties. The cousin was joined by a female companion by the time I passed by a second time. I met one of my mother’s cousins on my way up my room. She greeted me, I replied then kept walking. She wanted to say more but I didn’t let her. I switched my phone back on as I started going through my things for my bathing accoutrements. I found what I needed and hit the showers.
I had no plan for the day, aside from maybe staying as far away from the house as possible. I got her message the moment I re-entered my room. I noticed the blinking light by chance. Curious, I unlocked my phone. It was a message from a strange number, informing me of an imminent arrival in thirty minutes. I do admit to being a bit slow that morning. As such, it took me a moment for it all to sink in, and then I was all movement. I was out of the house in fifteen minutes, bypassing my aunt on my way out in the process.
The plane had attracted some unwarranted attention. It isn’t every day that a G5 private jet graces my county’s mini airport, slightly upgraded from airstrip. There was a crowd forming already, mostly consisting of rug rats with nothing better to do and their adult busybody counterparts. The crowd parted as I approached, largely due to the fact that the Jag was associated with affluence.
I got out in time to watch her step off the plane, a steward a few steps behind her dragging her luggage with him. She was dressed simply in a flowered sun dress, designer glasses and sandals. She smiled when she finally spotted me but didn’t change the pace of her descent. Her movement changed, though, the way she moved, the intoxicating sway of her hips, the slight tilt of her head. What can I tell you? My baby is a traffic stopping goddess.
Usually, I hate public displays of affection. The closest I can get is holding hands in public, period. This time I couldn’t help myself. The moment she was within reach I pulled her close and kissed her breathless, like a starving man thrust into a rich man’s bouquet.
“Nice to see you missed me too, handsome,” she said, her voice throaty.
“You have to stop doing that. It drives me insane”
“Doing what?” she asked, her face the picture of innocence and virtue.
I pulled her closer.
“Oh, that,” she replied, laughing.
There is something about her voice that I love, the sound of her laughter.
I opened the boot for the steward before handing her keys to the Jag. She insisted on driving.
It is the music that woke me up. Sleeping With Sirens, Your Nickel Ain’t Worth My Dime. It was the song playing in the background the day we met, or so I am told. I don’t remember switching on the music. I was too busy when we crashed through the door, losing articles of clothing on our way to the sitting room. I felt her touch on me even before I was fully cognizant.
“Darling, our song is playing,” she whispered before kissing the back of my neck. She was fully dressed, lying beside me.
“Hello,” I replied. Normal brain functions were yet to resume. She wasn’t making the entire reboot process easier either. She smiled, reached forward and ran her hand through my neatly trimmed hair.
“We need to go,” she told me.
“Can’t we stay a bit longer?” I countered, sounding like a spoilt brat in the process. She kissed me, light across my lips and got up. Time to head back to reality.
The curtains were still drawn, sunlight threatening to break through all the same. By my estimation, it was late afternoon, probably around four o’clock. My clothes were neatly folded at the base of the bed. I took my time dressing up, childish, I know, before picking up her iPod on my way out.
“I want to meet your father.”
“I am sorry, what?”
It’s a good thing I wasn’t the one driving. That particular nuclear bomb would have made me drive us straight into road side tree.
“We are getting married in a couple of months, Vincent. Don’t you find it strange that I have never met your family?”
Nope. Never occurred to me. Ever since I ran all those years ago, I never considered returning for any reason, period.
“I mean, you have met my family, met my dad.”
“And for that very reason I am seeing a therapist twice a week, thank you very much.”
No I am not.
“It wasn’t that bad.”
Actually it was worse. Her father doesn’t like me. At all.
“That is like saying the holocaust wasn’t that bad.”
She said nothing for a moment.
“I am not taking no for an answer, Vincent. I want to meet your father. It is the main reason why I came down.”
She took the road down, leaving me to my thoughts for a moment.
“Don’t you still want to buy credit?” she asked out of the blue.
“I am sorry what?”
“Credit. You told me you were running low, you needed to buy some more.”
“Oh, right. Cred. You can stop here, then.”
I could feel their curiosity even as I got out. The cogs of the machine that was the village rumour mill were grinding in place. Necks were craning; children were suddenly running in front of me as if there was a price in store for whoever tripped me. The shop wasn’t that heavily populated. There were four people ahead of me. I hung back and awaited my turn. I remember the shop from when I was a kid. The guy had exorbitant prices for just about everything, no bargaining aloud. He also was, unfortunately, the best stocked shopkeeper around. I opened up my wallet and pulled out a bill. I asked after the old shopkeeper as his replacement served me. Apparently the old geezer had sold up and left to enjoy his ill gotten gains.
The blow came out of nowhere. Maybe that is why it floored me. I wasn’t prepared for it, at all. I heard my attacker say something, though I couldn’t hear him properly. I barely caught a glimpse of his face as he raged on about something, not sure what. His face seemed oddly familiar. It took me a moment to place him. I went to school with his older brother, the eldest in the family sharing a class with Liz at some point. What was his name again? Rob. Right. Robert. A crowd was gathering, forming a claustrophobic semi circle around us. He finished saying his piece and tore a hole through the onlookers and he was gone.
I was getting back on my feet when she came through. The murmurs started getting louder, the stares more brazen.
“I leave you for one second. Really, Vincent, I can’t take you anywhere, can I?”
“Must be my charming personality,” I replied with a smile as I got up.
“Must be,” she said in reply, a smile already in place.
My jaw hurt, sure, but that didn’t stop my smile from getting bigger.
“Friend of yours?”
“I went to school with his older brother.”
“Hmm,” she said in reply as the crowd parted for us as well.
“I think I might have a concussion,” I told her
She laughed at that, drawing even more stares.
“Oh, you will live. Don’t be such a baby.”
The XFR purred to life and we were off.
“How do you feel about a road trip?”
“I wouldn’t mind one. When?”
She took her eyes off her road for a moment to face me.
“Well, you wanted to meet my dad, didn’t you?”
She thought about it for a moment.
“Tomorrow,” she said finally.
Well, I tried, didn’t I? I took a deep breath and girded my loins.
I had to open the gate myself this time. The number of cars in the compound hadn’t reduced. There was one more, another luxury sedan. She parked the XFR right next to the newbie before getting out. She didn’t wait for me to play the gentleman. She stopped me from going for her luggage and together we stepped up to the stoop. She rung the door bell and we waited. Another cousin opened the door for us.
“What’s up, Vin,” he said by way of greeting. I didn’t reply, not that he noticed. Blood flow to the brain suffered the moment he saw her. Fucking teenagers. She waved him aside and we entered the house.
“Where the hell have you been?”
It’s like they don’t teach manners anymore. She was waiting for me in the living room, arms folded. The telly was off, and everyone with a lick of sense had cleared the room. Curiosity being what it is, though, there were a couple of faces peeking through the open arch that led to the dining room.
“Out,” I replied.
“I ask for one thing, one thing only and even that you can’t give me.”
“Actually, Liz, you asked for more than one thing.”
“Our mother is dead!”
“Your mother, not mine. My mother has been dead for years now. I grieved and moved on with my life. That woman you all buried yesterday wasn’t my mother. You want me to feel sorry she is dead, good luck with that.”
She slapped me. Second time in one evening I am getting blindsided. I must be getting old.
“Ouch. The first one is free. Keep raising your voice at me, or try to hit me again-”
“You will what?”
“Me? Nothing. I am not sure about the beautiful lady to my right, though. You really don’t know her, at all, so let me tell you something about her. Right now? She is angry. Like really angry. She is waiting for the slightest provocation before erupting. And when she does, let me tell you, it’s a thing of beauty. You won’t see it coming and I won’t do a thing to stop her from beating the living hell out of you.”
I paused. That moment seemed like it warranted a pause.
“That woman ruined my life. None of you were there for it so spare me. You want me to show remorse, keep waiting. I am glad she is dead. I am glad she isn’t ruining someone else’s life. I came because you asked me, despite the fact that she hurt me. In your selfishness you didn’t even bother to find out how it would affect me. So spare me.”
“She was ill. You knew that. We all knew that.”
I hadn’t noticed her walking in, my aunt.
“When people get sick they go to hospitals. That is what hospitals are for. You people kept excusing her behaviour while I suffered. I am glad Missy wasn’t around. But you two? You knew and you did nothing. Every time I called to complain you would go on and on about how sick she is and how I should understand. You, Liz, you ran. You ran as far away as possible. But I am here now. I am here because you wanted it. That doesn’t mean, however, I have to pretend that that woman was a saint, or that I have to wax poetic about her simply because she was dead.”
And then I walked past them, the girl in tow. At the arch I stopped for a moment.
“In case you were wondering, this is Sme, the love of my life, and the woman I am going to marry, soon.”
PS. If you like the story, share. Keep calm, chapter 3 will be on it’s way soon