My Open Letter To Febbie

Dear Febbie

Yesterday I was made aware of a video going viral on social media about a man called Lameck. He gate-crashed a funeral of a woman who had been a mother in law to his daughter. He stopped the whole funeral and chose to speak ill of the dead, declaring boldly that the dead woman had a cruel heart and was wicked to his daughter and grandchild. He poured out his heart about a particular dehumanising treatment of his beloved daughter by the deceased where she urinated in a jug and poured the urine on his beloved child. He expressed that he was angry that the evil woman had died and that he would have loved to finish with her whilst she was still alive because God had taken her too soon before his precious daughter was vindicated.

When I watched the video, I did not laugh like what some are…

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An Untimely Love – Part 14

A text came from Alex just as Oliver was getting ready to knock off from work.

Sam has invited me to dinner. 

Should I go?

Oliver who was about ready to open his door paused, starring at his phone like a man frozen in time. This is exactly what Fantasia was talking about, he thought. what exactly was he supposed to do and what was the right thing to say in such a situation.
Oliver sighed heavily and replied; Have fun kiddo and take care of yourself.
And he switched off his phone. 
The tears that fell from Alex’s eyes came so fast it was as if they had been waiting for the disappointment to simply be confirmed.
“What was I expecting?” She said as she went about her room searching for something to wear. “Coward.” She kept repeating whilst sobbing, throwing clothes from the closet down on the floor.
“Bloody coward!!!” She finally broke apart and dropped onto the floor, clatching a bunch of clothes in her hands.

“You look stunning,” Sam complimented her when she opened the door for him. She was wearing a figure-hugging little shimmery black dress with white pearls around her neck and matching earrings. 
“Thank you,” Alex forced a smile and stepped aside to let him in. “Come in.”
Sam stepped closer, gave her a hug and planted a kiss on her forehead. With his arms still around her waist, he held her upper body slightly back and looked her in the eyes. “You look very beautiful Alex, but you also look like you just spent the last five hours crying.”
For a moment Alex had forgotten how attentive to detail Sam was. He somehow always knew when she was in a happy or bad mood and he always had the right words to say to comfort her. The sincerity and care in his eyes was the last thing Alex needed in that moment after spending the last thirty minutes fighting back the tears that just wouldn’t stop pouring. It was like they had a mind of their own. 
And naturally, Sam’s concern triggered them back on and they came streaming down.
Without saying a word, Sam held her tightly in his arms and held her like that until her sobs settled. 
“Even though I feel like showing you off to the world with the way you are looking right now, I think that tonight is a bad time for you to be out there.” Sam said after a while. “How about we kick our shoes off and I whip us something in the kitchen? I hope your fridge is stocked!” 
He gave her no time to respond but took her by the hand and led her to sit down on the couch. “Sit right there, or better yet put on some feel good music for us while I scan the house for any edibles.”
“But Sam-“
“No buts, just humor me this once okay?” His eyes were literally pleading with her to go with the flow. Everything he was doing was out of concern for her and yet it was so clear she was being unfair to him. He had a right to get upset and feel disappointed and yet it was her feelings he put ahead of his. 
Alex nodded like an obedient child.
“Good girl!” Sam said enthusiastically, getting up and rushing to the kitchen. 
Alex remembered an interview Sam had years back where he revealed he was a big fan of Stevie Wonder and she went for his record.
“That’s what am talking about!” Sam’s head popped from the kitchen the moment the music filled the air.
Alex laughed and went to join him in the kitchen. 
“How did you know I would like that?” He asked.
“I told you, I am your number one fan,” She said. “Where did you find that?” She pointed to the black and blue apron he was wearing, looking right at home in her kitchen. 
“It’s not a very complicated kitchen you know,” he said. “Everything is packed in its place. If I didn’t know better I would think you have an OCD or something. Everything is a little too perfectly arranged.”
She laughed. “Maybe I am, is that a problem?” 
“As long as it’s not the type that makes you rush straight into the bathroom after we make love cause that would just-“ he stopped his sentence short, realizing he had ran miles from the shocked expression on her face. 
“My bad,” he quickly said. “I…I…it was a joke. A very bad joke. Dammit Samuel Daniels what’s wrong with you!?” he was hitting his head on the side.
Alex busted out laughing, forcing Sam to stop and stare at her in wonder. “You’re laughing.” He noted. “You are not kicking me out of the house…yet.”
“I am a clean freak quiet alright but I doubt it’s at an OCD level so you have nothing more to worry about.” Alex reassured him. 
“Oh thank God!” He said, laughing. 
“Anything I can help with?” She asked, moving to stand next to him by the sink where he was now washing some vegetables. “What are you making?”
“It’s a special Sam recipe. It looks like you have a stable supply of food in this house, something I was expecting from a workaholic student like you. Besides, you don’t look like you eat anything, at all.” He was scanning her slim frame from head to toe.
“It’s O-Paulina and Cassey who bought everything actually.” She avoided saying Oliver’s name. “How about I wash those while you check what’s on the stove?”
“Am not taking no for an answer.” Alex quickly interjected him before he could finish what he was about to say. “I will be bored just watching you do everything. I need to keep myself busy.”
Sam immediately obliged her. She was right, she needed to keep her mind off whatever thoughts were running wild in her head. 

Doctor Russel slowly opened the door to his house a few minutes after midnight fully prepared to withstand the storm that awaited him on the other side of the door. As expected, he found both wife and daughter very much wide awake, well, maybe not both. Mathilda looked like she hadn’t gotten any sleep while Cathy looked like she had just been forced awake. There was a bunch of suitcases packed on the other side of the room. 
“What are you people still doing up this time?” He asked. He knew exactly what type of show they were putting on but he still chose to humour was the least he could do after turning their perfect little world upside down. 
No verbal response came from Mathilda but her body language was enough to turn the few remaining black hairs in the professor’s head into grey.
“How could you do this to us dad?” Cathy added sound to her mother’s silent protest. “Do you have any idea how much humiliation I went through today?”
The professor quietly went to sit down, leaving as much distance between him and the wife as possible. 
“Aren’t you going to answer your daughter?” Mathilda finally spoke, turning her body fully around to face him.
“What are those bags about?” Benson asked, pointing to the suitcases in the corner and completely ignoring the questions being fired at him. 
Mathilda stood up. “I am leaving you and I am taking my daughter with me since you obviously want nothing to do with us. Maybe you and that Karla can finally have the happy family you’ve always wanted to have.”
He scoffed and stood up as well. “Just swallow some anti-depressants like you always do and go to bed, the both of you and stop putting on a show.” He said and started walking towards the stairs.
“Benson Russel!” His wife called out to him. “Don’t you dare walk away from me. Do you think this is a bluff?”
The doctor stopped and slowly turned back around. “As a matter of fact yes, I think this is all a bluff because if you really wanted to leave, you wouldn’t have waited up for me till this hour when you could have been half-way through to wherever you’re going in your heads. How much are you willing to bet that there’s actually nothing packed in those bags over there?”
Cathy’s jaw dropped in surprise. “How did you know dad?” She asked and was immediately awarded with a look of utter disappointment from her mother.
“You fool,” Mathilda said to her daughter.
“Did you actually think that you would lie to him mum?” Cathy defiantly asked her mother. “I told you this is a waste of time. I’m going to bed now. You guys sort this out yourselves.” And she dragged herself up the stairs. 
“When are you going to stop manipulating everything to your will Mathilda?” Benson asked. “If you want to leave, leave but you are not taking my daughter with you. There’s no way am going to let you turn her into something worse than she already is. that girl needs help urgently and if you searched your heart as a mother, you would support me instead of antagonizing me all the way.”
The father followed the daughter up the stairs leaving the wife standing alone in the middle of the living room, desperate tears rolling down her cheeks. Mathilda Russel had finally been cornered into a wall. 
“Alex Saunders or whatever they call you, you think you’ve won don’t you?” She said between clenched teeth and clenched fists.

On Saturday evening, Alex got off her bike to enter her apartment building after a long day at work when someone honked at her from behind. She turned in that direction to find a very familiar car parked not far from the entrance. She had just driven right passed it and had she been paying attention, she would have done everything to avoid the pending confrontation at all cost. 
Cathy opened her door and stepped out of the car, a bemused smile on her face as she walked towards Alex. 
“I heard one of your lovers got you a BMW so why in hell are you moving around on a donkey?” she kicked the bicycle with the tip of her four inch red stiletto.
“What do you want Cathy?” Alex asked, making no effort to hide her displeasure. 
“Get over yourself I am not the least bit interested in this meeting just as you are.” She retorted.
“Then what the hell are you doing here honking at me?” Alex asked.
“Since that coward friend of yours, wait, should I say step-son or lover boy?”
Alex turned her back and was ready to walk away.
“I am pregnant with his child.” Cathy loudly announced. Alex turned to find her rubbing her visibly flat belly.  “I also only found out yesterday. Am 2 months along. He won’t answer my calls and he hasn’t been at his place for a while now.”
“Could you be any more obvious Cathy?” Alex asked, not falling for the diaper news. “Say you’re pregnant and he won’t leave you. Isn’t that what all the desperate girls do to keep a man?”
“Say whatever you want but my pregnancy is arched in stone you wouldn’t rub it off even if you tried. Tony can do all the tests he wants the truth won’t change. I am pregnant and it is his child. Since I can’t deliver this news personally to him, I know that you will deliver it. Tell him I have zero intentions of getting rid of it and zero plans of raising the child alone, comprende?”
Cathy hopped back to her car, every part inch of her body exuding pride and victory. 
Alex waited for Cathy to disappear from sight before cycling to Duncan’s house where she knew Anton was hiding. 
She pressed the bell at the gate and waited for a few seconds before the gate came wide open.  This was the fifth time Alex was visiting the Schmidt residence. If she was to rank the homes of all her friends, the Schmidt’s residence came second after the Cooper’s in terms of size, class and elegance. Every time she rode her bike down the long drive way made her feel like she was Alice in Wonderland. Whereas Oliver Cooper’s home felt like home, Duncan’s home made her feel like she had just been granted access into a parallel universe and even though she was sincerely welcomed, she couldn’t help feeling like escaping any chance she got. The house was just too perfectly decorated like a five star hotel to feel like a home. Everything in it was deliberately placed and saved a specific purpose. 
But what could one expect of the number one home maker and interior décor expert in town? Alex wondered as she got off her bike and handed it over to Victor the resident valet. 
“Welcome Ms Alex.” Victor happily greeted her. It appeared he had finally come to terms with addressing her by her first name after months of negotiating even the prefix remained unchanged.
“Long time Victor, how have you been?” Alex returned the greeting. 
“Very fine thank you,” he answered. “The gentlemen are by the foyer on the East wing.” He said before disappearing. 
“It would have been shorter and quicker if I rode the bike there.” She said to herself and went round the house. 
“Alex?” Duncan jumped in his seat when Alex came through. Alex was like the younger version of his mother. He knew no other woman that would nag him into acting responsively every time he acted like a wild child. 
Anton who had been facing away from the entrance with his legs propped on the other chair quickly turned around the moment he heard Alex’s name. 
“Look at the two of you chilling out here like two old men enjoying their retirement.” Alex said as she joined them where they were seated. “I wonder what your mother would say if she received an anonymous call from someone informing her about her son’s absence from school for no apparent reason.” 
She made a move for her phone but both men were up on their feet ready to grab the phone from her. Duncan succeeded and quickly threw the phone at Anton who immediately secured it in the inside pocket of his coat. 
Alex was shaking her head slowly in disbelief. “Do you actually think that I wouldn’t reach down there to get it?” She asked Tony. 
In response, Anton slumped his head and shoulders in surrender.
“She’s right,” Duncan said in a defeated tone. “I don’t think there’s any place on my body this chick is afraid to touch, what more you?” He pointed at Anton. “You guys are worse than siblings.”
Alex laughed but Anton didn’t seem to catch the joke.
“Alex is far from being anything like a sister to me.” He said matter-of-factly. “Should I even ask how you knew I was here?” 
“I know the Schmidt’s are on vacation so what better place for you to hide out than their very high class home?” Alex said. “You are very predictable Anton, and I know you could never hide far from home no matter how bad things got.”
“See what I meant?” Duncan said.
“Shut up D!” Anton warned him.
“Fine,” Duncan raised his hands. “I’m going inside to get some more drinks. The usual for you Alex?”
“Yes Dee, thanks.” She said, making herself comfortable in her chair. “And take your time okay!” she shouted after him.
Duncan laughed. “I know exactly what that mean!” She shouted back. “Ten minutes okay?”
“Yeah!” Alex replied. 
“What is it?” Anton asked.
“What do you mean what is it?” She asked.
“I know you wouldn’t have come all the way here if you didn’t have something you urgently needed to talk to me about.”
Alex chuckled. “Your dad and I eloped.” She said.
“Please, tell me something that makes sense.” Anton said, completely unfazed by her fake news. “My dad would rather lose a leg than admit to you or to the world that he has feelings for you.”
So you know that about him? Alex thought.
“Look at you, your whole face has changed just at the mention of him. Do you like him that much?” Anton asked. “I don’t remember ever seeing you like that even though you claim to have loved me.”
“Claim?” Alex asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I just don’t get how your feelings could have shifted so fast from me to my dad. Before it could even sink in my head that you liked me more than a friend, you heart had already moved to my dad. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that.”
“Is that why you hate me so much these days?” 
“I never said I hate you. I’m just…bitter? or should I say, disappointed?”
“Why are you disappointed?”
“Because it’s my father Alex!” Anton said. “I get it he’s a cool guy and looks younger for his age. I know you are not the type to fall for money or anything vain like that but still, he’s old enough to be your dad Alex. In fact, he’s always acted like your father all these years. When did your feelings shift really? One minute he’s the father you never had and next minute he’s the man of your dreams.”
“I too don’t know when it all changed or started.” She said. “All I know is that he was always there for me whenever something was going on in my life, more than you ever were. I guess after seeing you change girls all these years and watching you pick Cathy over me forced me face what I somehow already knew but had been avoiding to confront.”
“So are you telling me I have no chance with you?” 
Alex kept her eyes lowered, afraid to look up at him and see the hurt that she could hear in his voice. This was the long awaited conversation between the two of them. it was about time that they confronted reality as it was rather than avoid it. 
Anton sat up straight in his chair and put his hands together. “hmm Alex?” He prompted her to answer. “Have you completely erased me from your heart?”
“Anton-“ Alex searched for the right words to say but couldn’t find the right ones. Instead, she changed the topic. “I didn’t come here to talk about my love life Tony.” She said. “I had the misfortune of receiving a visit from your girlfriend some good forty or so minutes ago.”
“I thought your issues with her and her family where done yesterday. Those guys are really sick.” He said.
“That’s not why she came to see me. her visit was about you. apparently you’ve been ignoring her calls for days now.”
“And she came to you so that you do what?”
“So that I deliver this special message: she is 2 months pregnant with your child and she says she has no intentions whatsoever of getting rid of the pregnancy.”
Anton laughed. “And you believe her shit?” He asked.
“I did. Sadly, I don’t think she’s lying Tony.”
“There’s no way she can be pregnant, we were always careful.”
“How careful were you exactly?”
“I made sure she was on her pill and…ooh-“He let the sentence hang, finally realizing his error in judgement. “That bitch. How could she-“
“How could she trap you you mean?” Alex asked sarcastically. “Don’t act like you didn’t know what you were dealing with. You knew what she was but you just couldn’t resist. That’s on you Tony so don’t think about blaming her for how things turned out. You thought you could have her in one way but avoid certain parts of her?” And she laughed. “Why are men so vain when it comes to women?”
“I see you are enjoying yourself taking a selfie in front of a burning house ah.” Anton said, his face heavy with emotion. 
“I’m just trying to help you face the facts.” She said. “You always have this tendency to blame someone if things don’t go your way. So what do you plan on doing now?”
“I guess I just have to wait for the baby to be born and take a test.” He said. 
“And if the child is really yours?”
“What?” Anton glared at her. “You don’t expect me to go all mushy and say I will do the right thing by her do you? C’mon Alex you know me better than that. I will raise my child of course but I want nothing to do with the mother, period. And if she thinks she can use the child to milk money out of me, she’s got another thing coming I can promise you that.” 
Alex sighed heavily and leaned her back against the chair, head pulled back and eyes staring up to the ceiling. “How did we end up here Tony?” 
“You mean me as a father and you as my potential step-mother?” He laughed.
“None of this is funny.” She said in a very sombre tone.
“I know.” Anton said, his tone matching hers. “Sometimes I sleep hoping to wake up and find it was all just a bad dream and now there’s news of a child. How the hell do I tell the old man he’s going to be a grandfather, and to a child am having with Cathy of all people? He’s gonna kill me or knock me off the inheritance.”
“You know he cant do that.” Alex said.
“He can’t yeah but he will make sure he frustrates me enough into believing he can just to teach me a lesson.” 
Alex laughed. “You are right about that one.” 
“And yourself,” he was looking squarely at her now. Alex sat up straight to face him.
“What about me?” She asked.
“What are you going to do about my dad? You know he’s never gonna admit he likes you right?”
“Are you asking because you truly want to know or is this a way of you rubbing reality in my face?”
“After seeing the look in your eyes today, I know for a fact that I don’t stand a chance with you. Also, a huge part of me sort of understand why you fell for my dad. I think I would fall for him as well if I were a girl.”
Alex laughed and he chuckled with her.
“I’m just telling it as it is.” Anton said. “He’s a cool guy I’ll give him that but I am also going to be honest with you Alex, I can’t stand the idea of you being my step-mother. I mean, it’s you Alex! But then again, when I think about it, I ask myself questions like; do I really want to see my father spend the rest of his life alone? 
“Or, would I rather see him with another woman other than you? When I think about all the women out there, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that you would make the best wife for him. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I guess it’s one I will have to swallow since I love the both of you and I want you both to be happy.”
In all the years she had known Anton, Alex had never imagined ever having such a mature conversation with him; a conversation in which he did not put just his feelings on the table, but he considered everyone else’s feelings as well. 
“Please, don’t start crying on me now.” Anton warned her upon seeing her teary eyes.
She laughed and forced back the tears. “I am just thinking…how I wish you had said these words a few weeks ago…and, how I wish it was possible to be that kind of woman to Oliver but I have to face the fact that he doesn’t love me as much as I wish he would because if he did, none of the fears he has would matter.”
“I don’t doubt he loves you Alex.” Anton said. “I have never seen anyone rattle his world as wild as you did from the moment you confessed to him. He hasn’t been the same since. He probably, in fact, not probably, he actually thinks not being with you is the ultimate way he could ever express his love for you.
“You have to keep in mind, he’s the older guy here and you are like what, 19 years younger than him! The guy is scared you are too young and hot for him. Even folks like him have their own insecurities. Yeah he might look young for his age but the fact still remains there’s 19 years between you.
“I know that if I were him I would be worrying about you suddenly waking up one day and realizing you didn’t love me like you thought you did. Maybe you mistook fatherly love for something more. What if some young bloke comes along and sweeps you off your feet? And knowing my dad, he’s probably thinking, what if I’m too old to give her the kind of life she deserves? He’s probably thinking he will burden you or something, I know that guy.”
Alex stared in awe at her best friend. What have they done to my Tony? She couldn’t help wondering. “Who are you?” She asked him.
He laughed. “Don’t look at me like that.” He said. “I might be a little immature but I know something about men, and am an expert at knowing my father. by the way is that Sam guy still hanging around you like a leech?”
“What?” He said. “I just plain don’t like the guy. He is exactly the type of guy that all men hate. He has everything that we know women dream about. I hate him.”
Alex laughed. “That’s true.” She said, a far off expression on her face. “Then I guess that means something is wrong with me right?”
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“He’s been nothing but kind, loving and caring to me but apart from feelings of gratitude, I feel nothing more for him. He is like the dream friend I always wanted but I know it’s selfish to keep him like that because he wants and expects more. 
“You have no idea how many times I have tried to will my heart into loving him back. I keep thinking, if I can channel all these feelings I have for Oliver to this wonderful man that adores and worships me, then maybe I can breathe a little easy.”
“Isn’t life a bitch?” Anton said. “It always finds a way of screwing us over, one way or another. I don’t get how given two people, one that loves us and one that doesn’t, why do we always fall for the one that doesn’t love us back?”
“I know right?” Was all Alex could say in return just as Duncan appeared with bottles of beer in hand. 

An Untimely Love – Part 13

“What have you done?” Oliver sternly whispered into his son’s ear in the middle of the crowd as he dragged him away by the collar.
Is it true you are in a relationship with Ms Saunders? Oliver heard one of the many questions being thrown from every possible direction. He couldn’t help noticing how the tone and phrasing of the questions had changed from the time the nutcase question had been addressed. She wasn’t just Alex now, she was Ms Saunders.
Is your foster daughter really in-love with you?
Are you and your son in-love with the same woman?
Who do you think Alex will pick between the both of you?
As the questions kept coming, Oliver fought a strong internal battle to not stop and address the foolish questions. Enough damage had already been done. The media team would professionally take care of the rest. 
“Let me go!” Anton freed himself from his father once they were safely inside the building. 
Oliver stopped walking and glared at his son. “What is wrong with you boy? When are you going to grow up?”
Anton stopped and raising his eyebrow at his father, he tilted his head to the side and ran his eyes over him, a disgruntled look on his face. “Just can’t pass up an opportunity to call me a child ah?” He said. He straightened his head and starred at his father squarely. “Well guess what dad, I am your child and will forever remain a child to you but that doesn’t disqualify me from loving the woman who’s meant to be mine.”
Oliver couldn’t believe his son’s audacity but rather than address his brattish behaviour, he was more curious about other important things. “What exactly did you say to those people?” He motioned to the crowd outside with his head. 
“I only told them the truth.” Anton smugly replied. 
“And what is that truth?” 
“They kept calling Alex all sorts of names.” Anton said. “They think she’s after three men when it’s the other way around.”
“And you telling them that she has feelings for me was supposed to save her character? Tell me son,” Oliver leaned forward, arms crossed over his broad chest. “How exactly did that help clear her name? Didn’t I tell you NOT to say anything to them?”
“I didn’t mean to tell them that. I just…I thought…I just….” Finally realizing the extent of his error, Anton sighed heavily and put his hand over his forehead in deep regret. “They just kept coming at me, they wouldn’t stop….I was going to just walk away dad, I swear, but, I let them get to me. I’m sorry.”
Oliver had not expected him to apologize so quickly. The Anton he knew was going to keep on the pompous act to the very end, never admitting he did anything wrong. He had managed to get away with that kind of behaviour all these years so he was likely going to get away with this one as well…since daddy always took care of the mess for him. But instead, he apologized, in record time.
Oliver wasn’t quite sure how to respond. He was more than ready to pump some sense into him but he had not calculated for this kind of development. There was only one reason he could think of that could have brought about this kind of change in his son; his love for Alex. 
Could things get any worse between the three of them? How did they even end up in such a situation? 
“I am sorry I opened my mouth and reacted prematurely out there.” Anton was still talking. “I realize now that I just made things a little more complicated for everyone…and, I had no right to reveal Alex’s feelings to the world like that.”
For once, Anton was thinking about someone else other than himself.
“Why are you looking at me like that dad?” Anton asked Oliver who had a look of surprise on his face. “You don’t believe me do you? You think I did that deliberately right?” 
“No dad, that’s a little unfair.” Anton cut his father off. “I know that I’ve always been a brat and only cared about myself but that wasn’t the case when I said what I did. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way and I certainly didn’t think I was going to say anything until it was too late. What happened out there was just me being…you said it, childish and foolish. 
“I simply gave in to my anger and reacted, like I always do. It had absolutely nothing to do with spiting you. Even if I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t use Alex to do that to you. I love that girl dad, I really do…and I just messed up, not by intention, just a mistake, a foolish mistake.”
“I know,” Oliver said, this time around it was Anton who couldn’t believe his father’s receptive behaviour.
“You believe me?” Anton asked, not believing his father’s words.
“I do.” Oliver said and immediately hated himself for admitting it. “You go on up to Alex, I’ll head to the office and see to it that this whole mess is brought to an end immediately. Tell Alex that I will call her.” And before Anton could say anything in return, Oliver had turned and was already heading back. 

“What did you do?” It was the first question Anton was asked by Alex the moment Paulina opened the door and let him through.
“Alex I-“
“How could you?” Alex said, tears streaming down her cheeks. Both Paulina and Cassie quickly went to her side.
“I am so sorry Alex.” It was all he could say. His father was right to be upset with him, everyone was. It was a fact he had poured oil to an already burning bush. He had no more excuses for himself this time around.
“You always do this to me!” Alex cried. “You do things that you know you will have to be sorry for and it’s always me that suffers.” 
I didn’t mean to…what happened there was an accident Alex.” Anton tried to explain. “I didn’t plan to-“
“Of course you didn’t.” Alex said sarcastically. “Listen,” she slowly removed her friends arms from around her shoulders. “I don’t think I want to see you right now. I might just end up saying something I will regret. I want to be alone. I’m going to my room.”
Anton tried to go after her but Paulina threw him and it was enough to freeze him in step.  
“I think you should leave Tony.” Cassie said. “I’m sure she knows you didn’t mean any harm but she’s just going through a lot of stuff right now.”
“I am her best friend goddammit!” Anton cussed. “I know that girl better than anyone in this world so why can’t I be here for me? Yes, I messed up and I said I am sorry so why is everyone treating me like the enemy?”
“You dated the person who is behind the worst pain of her life Tony, have you forgotten?” Paulina reminded him. “You sacrificed your friendship with Alex, and with all of us just to be with her so how really do you expect us to treat you?”
“I admit it,” Anton raised his hands in the air. “I was foolish and I have no excuses and I am begging you guys to forgive me, please.” He looked from one girl to the other, eyes pleading for mercy.
Paulina and Cassie stared at each other in shock, as if to confirm they had heard the same thing. It was truly not like Anton to raise the white flag so quickly. He was normally shameless just as he was bold and confident. 
“Who are you?” Cassie asked, moving closer to Anton and examining his face thoroughly. “What have you done to Antony?”
Anton laughed. “It’s Anton you fool. How many times have I told you-“
“Yeah yeah yeah,” Cassie was shaking her head and waving her hands about. “It’s Anton, without the Y, we know.” She said, causing Paulina who was watching the two on the side to laugh as she recalled her first encounter with Anton. The girls had spent the next few months being reminded of the correct form of his name whenever they uttered it until they finally just settled for Tony which he found less offensive.  
“So am I forgiven?” Anton asked. 
“Maybe.” Paulina said, chuckling under her breath. 
Cassie turned to her friend. “How can we not forgive him when he’s being so humble?” She asked. “I don’t think there’ll ever be another day when Tony will apologize for something.”
“You guys, have I been that bad?” He asked.
“Yes!” Both girls answered at once.
“Wow,” he said, dropping his head slightly in shame and then raising it ahead. “I wonder how you guys managed to put up with me all this while.” 
“You’re rich.” Paulina said.
“What?” Anton asked. “For real?
Cassie and Paulina busted out laughing.
“It’s Alex,” Paulina quickly answered. “And when you are not trying to have your way you are a pretty awesome guy, awesome but dumb.”
“Dumb?” He asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Like how could you not have known all those years that Alex was in-love with you?”
“Oooh, you mean that?” Anton heaved a sigh of relief. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. I was pretty dumb…and now it’s almost too late. Looks like everything I do these days is rubbing her off the wrong way and all I want to do is show her how sorry I am and how much I love her.” 
“Are you sure it’s that kind of love you have for her or maybe you’re just scared you might lose your best friend if another takes her number one spot?” Cassie asked him. 
“No!” Anton answered a little too quickly. “Why would you even think that? Wait, is it so hard for everyone to believe that I am actually in-love with Alex?”
“Well Tony,” Paulina said. “We have all seen you in-love. It’s a very short experience and we don’t want you and Alex to lose your friendship over-“
“Then if you guys can think that I am doing all this just because I am afraid to lose our friendship then you must know very well just how much our friendship means to me so why would I want to risk it for some fear…insecurity or whatever you wanna call it? I love so much I am willing to fight my own father just to have her. Doesn’t that mean anything to you guys?”
“Well,”Paulina said. “When you put it like that it does sound quite convincing.”
“Thanks.” Anton said.
“You truly love her don’t you?” Asked Cassie who had been watching him closely, uncomfortably so the whole time.
Anton laughed. “She finally believes it.” He said. “Yes, I am in-love with Alex Saunders. Gosh, I just felt Goosebumps all over me saying that out loud. Anton Cooper is in-love with Alex Saunders.” He proudly kept repeating. 
“Lord, why now?” Lamented Alex who had been listening to the conversation from her bedroom door. 
Just then, her phone rang.
“Alex, I know am not supposed to do this, I mean to ask your opinion concerning this matter  but-“
“Did something happen, again?” Alex asked Oliver. 
“Oh no,” Oliver quickly replied. “Nothing like that, it’s just a small development…well, not sure if I can call it small or-“
“Okay you are freaking me out now. What’s wrong?” Alex asked.
“I received an email and then a call from the PR team,” Oliver explained. “It turns out Sam wants the company to release something to the press that explains his stance in all this and he called me just now to ask me to help him out without interference.”
“What’s in the letter?” She knew it couldn’t be an ordinary letter from his tone and hesitation and she was just as sure it was something she would not like…and he too was aware of that fact.
“He’s basically saying that the Alex he’s met in person and the one being portrayed by the media is different and any attempt to defend your character further would only mean there is something to defend in the first place when there’s nothing because the people that truly love you already know who you are. He also makes it very clear that he has been the one pursuing you and that you have not made any advances towards him. If anything, he adds, you’ve been avoiding him.”
“Well,” Alex was about to pass a comment but Oliver continued;
“Had I been thinking rationally, like a proper CEO should, I should have been the one to suggest that Sam release something like this to the press but I think am too closely involved to think rationally.”
“What are you saying Oliver?” Alex asked, not liking for a second the direction the conversation was going.
“I guess what I am saying is; can I go ahead and okay this release? I wanted your opinion before I could-“
“Before you could release it?” She finished for him. “Tell me something though, what would happen to that release if I said no? Would you tear it up?”
“I thought so.” She said, reading the rest of his response from his tone and long pause. “You know very well what will happen once something like that gets out.” She argued. “Sam’s fans will be on me pressuring me to say yes to him and if I don’t I will continue being the public enemy that I am right now. And you know what’s worse, I will have no chance with you because you being you, you will say no Alex I can’t be fighting an employee of mine for your affections. First it’s your dear son so I know what excuse is coming next. You did it with Anton so what will stop you now? This is just a way for you to ensure nothing ever happens between us isn’t it?” 
“I think it’s something that works best for everyone Alex.” Oliver said.
“For everyone, really?” She said. “How does this work for you or for me?”
“For me, it’s a scandal averted from a professional point of view.”
“And from a personal point of view?” She asked.
Oliver did not respond. 
“I thought so.” Alex said sullenly and cut the line. 
Oliver threw the phone to the other side of the room in anger and it shuttered to pieces. Just then, a knock came through the door.
“Come in!” He said begrudgingly. The moment he saw Fantasia the head of PR he knew what the meeting was about.
The first thing that the thirty-three year old PR specialist noticed when she entered the office and stood by the door were the broken pieces of what once was a very expensive phone. He hesitated by the door, not sure whether it was safe to have that particular discussion she had in mind or not. When was the poor man going to realize what everyone else in the company already knew? She wondered. Was it so hard to follow your heart and be dammed with what everyone else thought? 
“What is it Fantasia?” Oliver forced her mind back in time.
“We can talk about this another time Sir if-“ she was thinking about every word that came out of her mouth as her eyes wondered around the expansive office. 
“You know very well there’s no more time to be wasted on this one so what is it?” Oliver spat and sat down. He motioned for her to sit and she did, her files pressed tight against her chest.
“I was wondering if you saw the email I sent you this morning.” Fantasia said.
“I just saw it.” He answered curtly. 
“I don’t mean to rush you Sir but-“
“I know.” Oliver said in the same tone, two fingers pressed hard on his forehead. “Is that really the best option we have?” He asked.
“Given the circumstances, yes; one solution to address all the pending issues circulating in the media. Everyone is covered and protected.”
“Yeah, everyone.” Oliver said under his breath, clearly not believing what he was hearing or what he was trying to convince himself of. 
“Sir?” Fantasia said hesitatingly.
Oliver raised his head to look at her. “What is it?” He knew that look on her face. He had seen it one too many times before.
“What if there was another way….”
“Another way?” He asked. “I thought you just said-“
“I know what I said but what if there was another way, not an easy one. It would require some sort of sacrifice…on your part mostly.” The PR guru said.
Oliver raised his eyebrow. “Sacrifice, on my part? What the hell are you cooking up in your head Asia?” 
She laughed, if he could still call her by her nickname, then she was definitely safe to voice her audacious suggestion. “How about just telling the media the truth?” She said.
Oliver hesitated, as if lost for interpretation before asking; “What truth?”
Fantasia swallowed hard before saying, “Your feelings sir.” She held her breath.
Oliver had sensed that’s exactly where the conversation was leading the moment he saw that look in her eyes. Over the years of them working closely together, Fantasia was one of the closest employees Oliver had and trusted. Their relationship was somewhat both personal and professional, never any form of pretence. He had hired her in the first place for her intellect in telling things as they were but with as much care as possible to not cause injury even when delivering the most hurtful of criticism. She had a way of turning any grim situation into one of hope with just a few lines of well phrased words or sentences and she knew exactly what Oliver was made of; his fears, strengths and weaknesses. 
“And how exactly is that supposed to help curb the current situation?” Oliver asked.
Fantasia smiled, glad that he didn’t waste any time trying to argue against facts. “Just think about it sir,” she said. “Your career right now does not depend on how your reputation with women or your relationships with them is. Those years are over and done with. You are not that kind of celebrity now, you are a business man. I know for a fact that your standing on the market will not be affected in any way just because you decide to tell the world that you are in-love with a young beautiful and intelligent woman.”
“Not if that woman is someone I helped raise as a daughter Asia.” Oliver said.
“Anyone that knows you will know you never did anything wrong with that girl Sir and frankly you don’t need to care about those that think otherwise. You are forty years old now and you are not growing any younger. Are you telling me you want to spend the remaining years of your life living in regret? The moment this release goes out there, there’s no taking it back. Is your pride really more important that securing your own happiness that you have to send Alex right into the arms of another man?” 
“It’s not as simple as you make it sound.” He said.
“How?” She asked. “That your son is involved as well?”
“Is there anything you don’t know in that head of yours woman?” 
Fantasia laughed. “It’s my job to know everything sir. Isn’t that why you love me?”
“I love you and hate you for that very fact.” He said.
She laughed again. “I know.” She said. “So just add on to the hate for today because you know very well there’s sense in what am telling you right now. So what if your son is in-love with her as well? Who doesn’t know about Tony’s misadventures? What woman in her normal mind would pick him over you…no disrespect sir, I know he is your son and you love him.” She quickly added in response to the look he was giving her.
“Justbecause the boy is a little immature does not mean he does not deserve to have a good woman by his side. Truth be told Alex is the best woman he could ever have. She is the only reason why he hasn’t completely fallen off the grid all these years. She keeps him sane and in check.”
“And what about her?” Fantasia asked. “Is she happy being Tony’s saviour for life?”
It was a question that sent Oliver straight into thinking mode. He had not thought of that; indeed, what about Alex? So far he had looked at everything from everyone else’s point of view; from Anton, Sam, his and the media’s point of view but Alex’s.  
“I didn’t think that far.” Oliver admitted.
“Well, maybe now you can.” Fantasia said. “I am giving you up to tomorrow morning, 10am to be specific to think about it and if nothing changes, I will go ahead and send this out.” She lifted the file in her hand. “Just don’t blame anyone for your misery because with your own power you would have sent your woman into another man’s arms the moment this goes out.” She stood up. 
“How comforting your words are.” Oliver said sarcastically. 
Fantasia laughed. “You can hate me all you want today but I know you will love me right in the near future. Good luck thinking for today.” She said and left the room. 

After subjecting herself to another sleepless night of turning and tossing and just plain ignoring everyone during the course of the day, Alex got out of bed the next morning with a new found determination. She was headed to Professor Russel’s office. She had not been on campus since the news about her past and relationships came out so it was to everyone’s surprise when she appeared on campus in all her shinning glory, without any sort of disguise and busted into the professor’s office. 
“Karla?” The rattled Professor got up from behind his desk the moment he saw her.
“My name is not Karla.” She dismally reminded him.
“I’m sorry, Alex.” He quickly corrected himself. “What are you-“
Alex plopped herself into a chair. “Sit down for what am about to tell you because I am about to turn your world upside down the same way your family has done to mine.”
The professor sat without question.
“I woke up this morning feeling like causing a lot of damage since everything seems to be going against me.” Alex started. “It’s like I wronged the universe the moment I was born so I don’t think there’s any more damage that can be done to me at this point. I am just going to flow with the wind.”
“What do you mean by that?” Professor Russel asked. 
“I am about to lose the only man that ever sincerely cared about me from the get-go and I have no intentions of losing something valuable alone. I am taking your family down with me on this road if you don’t do the right thing before it’s too late.”
Benson Russel knew that a day would eventually come when his family would have to face the consequences of their actions and ever since the developments in recent days, he had waited patiently for that time to finally come. 
“I know that there is another I can ever do or say to you that would show you how sorry I am for-“
“Save that rubbish for someone else professor.” Alex said. “When a man cannot put his own wife and children in line, he needs to be ready to pay the price for whatever damage comes from their actions.”
“What would you like me to do?” He asked.
“Tell everyone the truth about what happened that day and tell them who exactly is behind the malicious stories going round about me. I don’t care how you do it but just do it the moment I leave this office because if you don’t, I will and God knows how candid I will be in expressing my grief over the suffering I’ve had to endure at the hands of your family. 
“You have a chance to do the right thing for once so am praying that you will be man enough this time and do something. I never once asked you or your wife to adopt me as your child. You came for me at the orphanage and you made promises to me which you never once kept. All these years I’ve had to live with the fact that no one in this whole world can ever call me their own and you know what, I am okay with that. What I don’t understand is why your wife and daughter feel the need to constantly darken my already gloomy life, to wipe out whatever ray of sunshine is there. What wrong did I ever do to them? Tell me what price I have to pay for whatever wrong I did and I will pay it but please, I beg you, leave me the hell alone. I have had enough pain and suffering to last me five life times. Don’t I deserve a break?”
Watching Alex in front of him brought back memories of that morning by the swimming pool when she had cried breathlessly for his help as his wife squeezed the life out of her and he had done nothing to help. Like the spineless man that he was, he had watched in the side lines and when he couldn’t take her pain anymore, he had turned and looked away. He was doing the same thing this time again, just watching on the side as Mathilda and Cathy did their damage.
She was right to call him a coward.

Alex was fighting her way through the crowd of students and reporters gathers outside the Social Science Faculty offices when she heard a familiar voice in the back make it’s presence known. She stopped dead and looked behind her.
“My name is Benson Russel and I have something to say to all of you.” The professor announced. 
Alex could hear the murmurs from the crowd about the professor’s connection to her and for a moment she wondered if time had finally come for her to receive her redemption. Had he made up his mind already? Was he really capable of going against his wife and daughter?
“Are the stories about Alex Saunders true?” 
“Did she really try to kill your daughter?”
“Are you finally ready to give a statement sir?”
The questions kept coming in all directions. Finally, the cameras and microphones where not pointed in her direction, Alex thought as she watched with bated breath the scene unfolding in front of her. 
“You are right,” the professor started in a very shaky voice. “There was a time in this dammed world when the girl you see standing there called me dad.” He pointed to where Alex was standing, behind everyone else. 
Alex felt hands over her shoulders and she turned to find her group of friends standing around her; Cassey, George, Duncan, and Paulina. Only Anton was missing from the bunch.
“Hey you guys….” Alex said in surprise, overwhelmed by emotions over seeing all of them together to see her.
“We came as soon as we heard you were here.” Duncan said, squeezing her shoulder slightly. 
The tears finally rolled down her cheeks. “You guys-“ she said. Paulina quickly squeeed her way in and went to put her arms around her.
“What is that fool on about now?” George asked. “How about we go and drag him outa there?” He said to Duncan. 
“Let’s hear what he has to say first.” Cassey cautioned them. “If we sense he’s about to spill some more shit we are all pouncing at once.”
“Deal!” The four of them said at once.
Alex chuckled. 
“Seventeen years ago my wife and I fell in-love with a little girl called Karla McKenzie.” Benson Russel continued his speech, his voice still shaking. 
Professor Russel had not gone far through his impromptu speech to the reporters camped at the school when his dear wife Mathilda received a call from a close friend informing her that her husband was on TV. 
“What do you mean he’s on TV?” Mathilda asked. “He’s not scheduled for any interviews this month.” She added, thinking about the research panel he was asked to sit on in a couple of months. 
“Just turn on the TV right now and see for yourself. He is almost on every entertainment channel.” The woman said and cut the line. Mathilda wasted no time.
“Alex’s entrance into our lives brought some sanity back into our family as my wife who was suffering from depression ever sinc the disappearance of our daughter started recovering.” Benson was saying.
“What is this fool doing?” Mathilda asked herself of her husband, moving to sit at the edge of the sofa. 
“You have to understand that for my wife, bringing a new child into the family was her way of coping with her loss. For her, little Karla…Alex I mean was Cathy. It was a special case of transference, one I should have dealt with the moment I noticed but I was just happy that my wife was finally back to normal. I couldn’t risk awakening her to the fact that the child she thought was her own was actually someone else.
“Naturally, things became complicated when the real daughter appeared unexpectedly at our door not so long after Karla. I have no excuse whatsoever for what happened thereafter. It was sheer negligence on my part as a father and husband because I could not protect the child I had promised to take care of and neither did I do anything to correct my wife’s behaviour. And on the part of my wife, she too has no excuses for her behaviour. At this point she was very much aware of the reality around her, enough to know what damage she was causing to the child she felt she had no more need for.
“It is with deep shame and embarrassment that I stand here to correct the stories that have been circulating in the media about what really happened at our home seventeen years ago, the pool side story. It is indeed a lie that Alex tried to drown her sister. It was in fact my wife that tried to choke Alex to death after discovering that Cathy had fallen into the pool on her own while she, my wife I mean had dozed off in her chair on the other side of the pool. Alex had seen the accident occur from her bedroom window and tried to call out for my wife but she was in deep sleep to hear anything. It was also Alex who ran from the house to save her sister and it was then that Mathilda woke up, upon hearing the commotion.
“It was unfortunate that Cathy who had not come to terms with the new member of the family and had for a while held some resentment towards the girl she thought was trying to take her place…in her foolishness she lied to her mother that Alex had tried to drown her. It was a claim that my wife willingly accepted without question even though it was obvious our girl was lying.”
To everyone’s surprise, the professor broke down in tears and struggled to continue talking. “What’s even more shameful,” he painfully continued. “…is that while my wife was squeezing the life out of Karla, I did nothing to stop her. The only thing I could think about in that moment was that it would be better for everyone if she was just taken back to the place we got her from…or if she was just out of our lives, for good. I just wanted to protect my family and bring the peace back.”
“So was it your daughter who spread the lies about Alex in the media?” One reporter asked.
“You have to understand, my daughter had been through a lot and her childhood was far different from that of her peers.” The professor defended his daughter. “You can’t expect a child that was kidnapped and raised by some stranger for years to be normal or adjust well to her changing circumstances.” 
“Is that fool actually making excuses for his daughter?” Paulina asked, loud enough for everyone to hear. 
“I am not making any excuses,” he fired back. “I am just trying to make everyone understand that they can’t judge Cathy as they would any other girl her age out there. We her parents are to solely blame for the way she turned out. She was raised by a mother afraid to displease her daughter lest she disappeared again and a father who wanted nothing but to see his family happy. It is a fact that Cathy became accustomed to always having her way and unfortunately, she took that outside the home and approached the world with a sense of entitlement. 
“When she discovered that her boyfriend was too close to another female, she did the only thing she knew how to do, win him all to herself and that meant using whatever means possible to get rid of the competition. It was a sheer coincidence that the girl she was fighting against was the same girl she had an unfortunate past with. All the stories about Alex’s childhood, her relationship with Mr Cooper and his son and the other celebrity young man were all twisted by my wife and daughter to make Alex appear like a very bad person. None of it is true.”
“Why did you decide to tell the truth now?” Another reporter asked. 
“Because for once I wanted to be a father, not just to my biological daughter Cathy, but to Alex as well. I owe her a lifetime of apologies for letting her down. It’s about time that I acted as a man and do the right thing even if that thing might appear to harm my family. Now that the truth is out, maybe I can get my wife and daughter the right help that they require to deal with whatever issues we’ve been avoiding over the years.”
“Your wife and daughter spread lies about very important and famous people,” George shouted from the back. “Don’t think that you can get away with lawsuits just by standing there, shaking in your boots and all and acting remorseful. You guys need to pay for what you’ve done to these people and most importantly, to our friend Alex.” 
“I did not make the decision to do this out of fear.” Professor Russel answered. “I did it because I am too ashamed to continue living this kind of life and I desperately need it to come to an end. I am willing to face the legal consequences that will come after the revelations made today. I wish you all a good day.” With that, he turned and forced his way out of the crowd and into his office where he looked himself.
He found his phone ringing. He didn’t need to look to know who the incessant caller was. He grabbed his phone and turned it off just as another call from Mathilda was coming in. 
Alex was quickly whisked away by her friends the moment the professor was done with his speech and before the reporters turned their attention on her. They had had their scoop for the day. It was time to give Alex a break. 
“Where are you guys taking me?” Alex asked them.
“Just keep quiet young lady and let the adults work ah.” Paulina said.
They all laughed as they helped Alex into Duncan’s vehicle. 

On the other side of town, Oliver had just finished watching the unfolding news in his office in the company of Fantasia who had come running in his office to switch on the tele for him. 
“Well, who said that the first option on the list could actually turn into a reality?” Fantasia commented as she turned off the TV. “Did you tell Alex to go and meet him?”
“No!” Oliver answered a little too quickly. “She thought of that on her own. I haven’t even spoken to her since yesterday. She keeps ignoring my calls.”
“No woman really wants a coward for a lover you know.” She said, pretending to be concentrating on the cover of the magazine she was holding in her hands. 
“I am not a coward Asia.” Oliver said.
“Who said you were?” She was feigning innocence now. 
Oliver sat down in his chair. “I guess this means we don’t have to put out that release right?” 
“I bet you are dancing in your heart right now aren’t you?” Fantasia asked him, a look of disappointment on her face.
“Of course am happy!” Oliver said. “We just averted a PR crisis without lifting a finger on our part so why can’t I celebrate?”
“You are only happy because now it means you don’t have to tell the media about your relationship with Alex since the threat has been neutralized.” 
“You know I don’t like being pressured into aking decisions. Maybe now I can think clearly.” Oliver said.
Fantasia was shaking her head. “You know what’s sad?” She asked. “That you actually believe that the threat has been neutralized. You are here busy celebrating a victory when the real war is just starting out there. You might have lost a wife in death but you my friend are about to lose the best thing that ever happened to you. Can you even imagine a live without Alex?”
“I guess she is better off with someone that will love her without any sort of reservation. I can’t give her that. There’s just too much going on-“
“Let’s see if you will still be singing the same tune after today.” Fantasia said. “Sam is back in town.”