Before Michael arrived, I went to his bar section to get myself occupied with a bottle of booze. I needed something hot down my stomach. My conversation with Ndidi dried my throat. Most of the things she said to me penetrated into my thick head, I forced myself not to think about the things she said and the threat she made. How could she think that I would fall in love? I know I have done many bad things in the past but I one thing I can never do is commit murder.I also have done good things for people. I always give to the poor whenever they ask for my assistance. I was the one who gave Mrs. Bola money to furnish her apartment. I paid the expenses of the trip of my secretary to London to give birth to her children. I have never spent Valentine’s Day with a woman. I always buy things in bulk and visit orphanage homes to spend time with children and the only person allowed to go with me was either Mrs. Blessing or any of my friends available. I love children and I cannot wait to have mine. The love I will not have for their mother, I will transfer it to them and they will be my happiness.
“Where is Ndidi?” Michael asked me after he came back from his outing.
“She has gone.” I replied him.
He sat down beside me. “Gone where?”
“She has gone for good.”
He picked up his phone and called her number thrice but she did not pick. Michael glanced into my eyes. “What have you done?”
“What do you mean?”
He sprung up, hiked inside, and came back in fury. “I can’t find her travelling bag she came with, I can’t see any of her things in my bedroom."
“Are you deaf?” I asked in a serious tone. “I said she has gone.”
“And I ask you what did you do or what did you tell her that made her leave?” he asked me. His eyes flashed with anger.
“If you smoked weed before you came here, you better go back and get yourself together.”
“What do you take me for Hector?” he asked me.
I did not answer him but relaxed my back on the chair to listen to his outbursts.
“Hector you are keeping quiet abi? I know you never liked her and you had this idea that she did not love me but it is my life and it is none of your business. You know my situation right now and I need her by my side. Maybe you are jealous of me.”
“Jealous of you?” I asked surprised. “How can I be jealous of my cousin who I am more richer and handsome than?”
“Oh please keep quiet!”
“Have you forgotten I am older than you? Don’t you dare insult me.”
“I don’t give a shit!”
I laughed loudly and his left eyebrow went up.
“What’s funny?” he asked.
“I can understand why you are talking like this and I will allow you say whatever you like. You can insult me and I won’t blame you. It’s because you are frustrated.”
I laughed more. “See what frustration has caused.”
He rose on his feet and set his hands on his waist pacing round his leaving room like a monkey. “Hector, I don’t care if you are more handsome or richer but have it at the back of your mind, money can’t buy love or happiness.”
“You are talking nonsense.”
“You are jealous because I love someone but as for you, your heart is very little for such. You don’t believe in it but I know you must have thought of never experiencing what it means to be loved by a woman.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Melissa loves me.”
He hissed, stopped to pace and faced me. “Don’t be fooled! Melissa wants to marry you for your look, money and name.”
“She is also rich.”
“Forget about that.’ He said. “Melissa cannot marry a poor or an average man. You know it. She wants to marry one of the richest bachelors in the country.”
“And you think that is the reason for accepting my proposal?”
“I won’t deny the fact that she may love you but she also loves your status in the society.”
“Is that not love?” I asked.
He smiled, walked to sit down and crossed his legs. He appeared calm. “Love is inevitable, so no one can measure it. You don’t love someone because of something he or she has. For example what if you had an accident and you are confined in a wheel chair, do you think Melissa will still marry you or even stay by your side?”
“Why don’t you ask me the other way round that if it was Melissa confined in a wheel chair whether I will still marry her?”
“Will you still go ahead with the wedding?” he asked.
“No.” I replied and it was nothing but the truth.
“I know but if it was true love I swear you will stay by that person, you will do anything to make her walk again. You might even marry her on a hospital bed.”
“I reject that in Jesus name.”
He laughed. “Hector I have really missed you. You always make me laugh when we are together even for the fact that you have pissed me off today.”
“Do you really love Ndidi?” I asked him.
“I really liked her a lot but if she really loved me she won’t have walked out of our relationship just because of you.”
“Because of me?”
“Of course.” He said. “You must have done something to make her leave. Did you offer her money to leave me?”
“No. The money you have spent on her is enough.”
He signed. “I wish you all the best with Melissa. I only hope you won’t miss the bone of your bone.”
“What do you mean by that Mr. Lover man?”
“What if you find someone you love tomorrow or even on your wedding day. What will you do?”
“I don’t know what I will do because I have no experience of loving a woman. How will I know am in love.”
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked me.
I hissed. “Are you here to discuss what happened to Cinderella?”
“Hector I am serious, this is no joke.”
“And I am not joking too.” I said to him. “The prince saw Cinderella for the first time and felt she was the one. This is a cartoon you are talking about not what happens in reality.”
“Titanic movie is a true story.”
“The writer for that movie must have twisted the story. Jack could not have died for Rose.”
“You are ridiculous I swear.” He said. “You always try to divert things in your own way and it will cost you.”
“I shook my head repeatedly. “It won’t cost me anything and besides I am saying the truth.”
“You are running from the truth Hector, probably you are scared that when you fall in love you might not be able to handle it.”
“I can handle anything. Can you stop this love shit talk and tell me what the commissioner said.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. I will only advise you not to marry Melissa. Forget it, that woman has plans for you. Don’t forget she knows about your exploits with other women. If you two get married she won’t give you breathing space.”
“Melissa has better things to do than follow me around. I have my reasons why I want to marry her so leave me alone.”
“Who will be your best man?” he asked.
“Are you interested in it?”
“Am I not the one?”
“A question with a question,” I said. “When the time comes you will know who would be my best man.” I stood up.
“Are you going?”
I checked my wristwatch for the time. It was 7:55pm. “I will spend the night here but I need to eat something now.”
“Why did you change your mind?” he asked.
“I want to watch you tonight so you don’t commit suicide.” I teased him.
He laughed aloud. “You should be a comedian, I swear. I can never do such a thing. I have a bright future. You need to let them know you won’t be coming tonight.”
“I will send Hillary a text later. I am very hungry.”
At 10: 15am the next day, I arrived home and what I saw made my heart skip. My mother Harriet, Hillary and Hope were in the living room panicking.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“My mother ran to hold me. “Your father is sick.”
“What! What happened? Where is he?”
Hope spoke up. Her eyes were red and puffy. “He’s in his bedroom with a doctor and a nurse.”
“Is he not supposed to be at the hospital?”
“He refused and the doctor says it’s diabetes.”
“My mother and Hillary burst out crying. “When did this happen and why wasn’t I told about this?”
“It happened yesterday evening and your father warned us not to let you know.”
“I don’t know my son.” My mother said. I hugged her very tight.
“I am very angry at father.” Hope said and wiped tears from her eyes. “I suspected he was sick the last time we spoke but he assured me he was fine only for Hillary to call me last night.”
My mother freed herself from me and went to sit down. “Your father has been unwell for some time. He did not want to bother the three of you.”
“And you agreed to it?” Hope asked angrily.
“It was your father’s decision to make. I could not disrespect him.”
“No wonder you came to the office to check on him.” I said to her. “You have been telling me to check up on him in his office too. I was foolish not to think something was really wrong.”
“It not any of your fault.” she said. “Your father does not want you three to panic. What he needs now are your prayers and love.”
“Nothing must happen to father.” Hillary said with tears tripping down her eyes. I went over to hold her hands. The doctor and a nurse came out to speak to us. He gave us the list of drugs, things our father needed and he would always check up on him from time to time. I went over to see my dad, he laid down tiredly on his bed. I carried a chair to sit close to him.
“Why didn’t you tell me about your illness?” I asked.
He turned to look at my face. “I am an old man Hector and I have every right not to tell you about my condition.”
“But I am your…”
He cut me short. “Let’s talk about something important. My lawyer will bring all the necessary documents for you to sign on Monday. Everything will be yours.”
I signed. “What about Hope and Hillary?”
He gave a faint smile. “I will give the two of them houses but Hope does not need my money, she wants me alive and as for Hillary she will still remain on her monthly allowance. You can increase it if you want. All my money will be transferred into your accounts here in Nigeria and abroad. I trust you Hector.”
“It’s time Hillary starts to work.” I said. “Mom is not helping her at all. Let her take over the bakery for a start.”
“She will use the money for shopping and to host parties. She is not a baby and if she comes back to her senses she will tell you what she wants.”
“I only hope it will not be too late. What about Michael?”
“The restaurant will be given to him.”
“We have two restaurants in Lagos and one each in Benin and Port Harcourt. Why can’t you give him two and the filling station in Ibadan?”
He closed his eyes and opened them slowly. “The restaurant is enough.”
“That is what your mother wants and don’t ask me any more questions. I want to talk to you about your marriage with Melissa.”
“What about it.”
“Don’t marry her,” he said. “Do not make a mistake.”
I was shocked! “I thought that is what you and mom want? You are a close friend to her father.”
“It is what your mother wants not me. If you do not want to marry her, I will always support you. You are my son and I want your happiness. Marriage is a lifetime commitment or are you planning to divorce her later?”
“No dad but the date has been fixed.”
“Your mom informed me.” he said and swallowed. “I have done things in the past that would have destroyed my marriage but your mother forgave me and I did not make that mistake again.”
“What did you do?”
“It’s all in the past.” he said. “You don’t need to know about it. Are you sure Melissa is the one for you?”
I held his right hand gently. “No but I will go ahead to marry her. I wanted you to be my best man.”
He smiled widely. “I’m honored but I will advise you to get married to a woman you love.”
I stood on my feet. “I don’t love any woman, Melissa is the woman that can tolerate me.”
“Tolerate?” he asked. “What do you mean by that? That should not be enough reason for marrying Melissa. You marry a woman because she is the one you adore, the one that completes you. You marry your friend. Do you even gist, relate…?”
“That’s enough father!” I could not allow him to go on. My head would explode if I let him. “I don’t know why since yesterday all I hear is ‘don’t marry Melissa’. I have had enough and I will go ahead with the wedding.”
“Who also talked to you about it?”
“It’s not relevant for you to know. Don’t you think it’s best you stay at the hospital?”
“No.” he replied.
“I should leave you to rest. I will check on you later.” I walked to the door to open it. My mother was already standing at the doorstep. I guessed she was listening to our conversation but I refused to ask her. I went to my room and undressed to have my bath.
“We are expecting Mrs. Bola and the new cook today.” Hillary said to Hope in the kitchen.
“That’s very good. I will miss Mrs. Bola despite not living here anymore.”
“Me too but let’s hope this new person will be better.” Hope said.
“I will be with mom to interview the woman.”
Hope took a glass of water to drink. She dropped the glass cup on top of the table and turned to face Hillary’s way. “Why did you not inform me of going to see my husband?”
She cleared her throat. “I went to see him, to apologize. Is that a crime?”
“No.” Hope answered her. “It’s no big deal but you should have called me to ask for my permission. Anyways I will be travelling very soon to France for a conference dad sent me and I want you to help me check up on Peter once in a while.”
“No problem about that. When are you travelling?”
“I will inform you a day to when I am going.”
As Hope turned to leave the kitchen, a wicked smile sparkled on Hillary’s lips.
I came out from the bathroom boiling with rage. I was infuriated that my father was sick and that whatever they said about my marriage to Melissa was correct. I called my fiancée’s number to cancel our date, letting her know the condition of my father. She wanted to come to be with me but I declined that I needed time alone to think. It was a lie, the truth was that, there was nothing she could do to cheer me up. Her presence could worsen my mood.
To be continued….