Amara was super aware of Kelvin’s presence behind her as she unlocked the door to her apartment and opened it. What on earth was wrong with her? She wondered. Surely it would not just take a week of encountering Kelvin to shake her six years resolve, would it? Anger developed in her, causing her to clench her fist as she walked in ahead of him; anger at Kelvin for doing this to her and also at herself for being so stupidly childish.
Amara watched as his eyes took in her sitting room and she squirmed nervously, knowing what he must be thinking. She turned away from him and put some distance between them, not wanting to see in his eyes what he felt about her cold sitting room. She reminded herself that cold is what she ought to be now.
“I can see your intense effort at keeping emotions at bay Ara” he murmured gently and she turned to stare at him scathingly.
“What can I offer you?” She asked drily, more out of necessity than enthusiasm.
His eyes burned bright with something she could not name. “Amara!”
“Excuse me?” She asked, stiffening.
He moved some steps closer. “You can offer me Amara, the woman I knew years back; the woman I glimpsed for some seconds minutes ago. That is one offer I would never reject”
Amara stiffened her spine and glared at him. “Why do you wish to awaken what is long dead? My past was filled with pain, do you seek to take my mind back to a time where all I knew was misery?” She asked incredulously. “Is that how much you despise me?”
Kelvin swallowed hard and took few steps which brought him face to face with her. Despite the effect of his nearness, Amara refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing he affected her, so she squared her shoulders and craned her head backwards, glaring up at him. Kelvin’s eyes bore into hers, as his dark unreadable eyes bore into her angry ones. The atmosphere was tense, and when Kelvin did not seem to be ready to speak, Amara’s anger increased a notch. It can be highly infuriating when your tirade of anger is returned with absolute silence. Kelvin’s gaze roamed her face, coming to pause slightly on her lips. Her breath caught in her throat and suddenly she forgot to breathe. She knew now that she had let her anger blind her against the dangers of coming so close to Kelvin. Or had she intentionally used her anger, knowing he would come closer? Wanting him to come closer?
Anger and confusion glued her to the spot and Kelvin’s hand came up suddenly to trace the gentle curve of her cheek. She gasped softly and his eyes caught her and held them. His gaze was intense and flaming as his thumb lightly traced her bottom lip. Amara’s heartbeat was deafening even in her own ears and she was certain Kelvin could hear it. She forgot to breathe as Kelvin’s eyes dropped to her lips again as his thumb ever-lightly brushed her bottom lip again. Just when she felt certain that he would bend and kiss her, his hands vanished and he turned away from her. She was so stunned that she stumbled slightly, her weakened knees swaying slightly. Amara blinked away the tears of disappointment that burned in her eyes, angry that she had even entertained hopes of kissing him.
Kelvin raked his ten fingers through his hair in complete exasperation. He shouldn’t be doing this; he knew this so well, yet, he couldn’t control the overwhelming feelings he had whenever he was with her. God knows he isn’t the man for her, and even though the thought of another man with her was enough to fill him with too much rage, he knew he couldn’t have her. Amara needed a far better man than he.
His jaw clenched hard. “Why… don’t you freshen up? You’ve had a long day”
He hadn’t finished his statement when he heard her move and seconds later, he heard what should be the door to her bedroom close firmly. He closed his eyes and released a shaky breath, willing the uncontrollable desire to have her in his arms to vanish. But he knew it wouldn’t. Even without seeing her, he had been trying, for more than six years, seeing her only made his desire more intense.
Alex advanced towards Hannah menacingly, but the frail woman refused to quiver before him like any mediocre cleaner would. She stood her ground as he advanced, a deep scowl on his face.
“Listen to me woman” Alex spat out through clenched teeth. “You might have been misled, but I am not the sweet smiling charmer the press paints me to be” he declared. “Believe me, I can be your worst nightmare, don’t try my patience”
Hannah lifted her chin as her eyes watered. “I promised myself that I would not do this; that I would not be tempted to tell the truth. That is why I left Abuja several years ago. I was content knowing that you were with people who could cater for you. But seeing you today, I couldn’t stop myself.”
“What rubbish are you uttering woman” Alex bellowed angrily, clenching his fists dangerously.
“You can’t understand, no matter how much I explain. Katherine and Bello needs to be here. That is the only way you would understand. Please…”
Alex glared at her for some seconds, wondering why he was even still listening to the deranged woman. But she had called his mother her maiden name; only close people knew that name. He groaned in confusion and picked up his phone. The last person he wanted to see was Mrs Bello, the woman who had effectively destroyed his life. He gritted his teeth and dialed a number, turning to glare at the woman claiming to be his mother.
“Hello dad” he said, immediately he heard a grunted hello on the other end.
“Are you just calling to explain what you went to do in Lagos, leaving my company without informing me?” Senator Bello rasped over the phone.
“No, I am calling because it seems you have some explanations to give me dad, and it would be physically”
“What are you talking about Alex?” The senator asked.
Alex paced angrily. “There is a really sticky situation here that only you and your wife can explain before I lose my mind. You have to be here as soon as possible”
“What rubbish are you saying Alex” the senator bellowed.
“For goodness’ sake dad, just take the first flight to Lagos tomorrow and bring your wife with you” Alex yelled back and hung up furiously. He turned to look menacingly at the woman standing just a few steps away. This ragged woman who looked terribly malnourished couldn’t possibly be his birth mother, right? He shook his head to discard he hedious idea and glared dangerously at Hannah. “For your sake, I hope there is an explanation for all these, because of not, I would make you loath the day you were born for disturbing me”
Amara came out of the bedroom still dressed in the same cloth. She couldn’t imagine herself changing her clothes or taking the shower she really needed with Kelvin so close. She had never had a man in her apartment and it felt so strange, especially with the frizzling tension between both of them. She had however washed her face after standing immobile in the room for more than fifteen minutes. It had seemed rude that she would leave her guest all alone for that amount of time but she wanted to gather her wits before again subjecting herself to Kelvin’s dominating presence.
Kelvin wasn’t in the sitting room but the sounds she heard from the kitchen told her Kelvin had gone out of his way to make himself feel at home. She walked on silent feet to the kitchen, as the delicious aroma of boiling stew drifted to her nostrils. She stood silently at the door as Kelvin came into view. He opened pot on fire to survey the content, then closed it again. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to his elbows, revealing strong muscled hands. Muscles rippled beneath his shirt as he did something on the cabinet that Amara could not see, blocked effectively by his hard massive body.
“I hope you like what you see” Kelvin stunned her by saying, with a smile in his voice.
Amara shifted, like she had just been caught stealing meat and stared at his rigid back. She wondered how he knew she was there, she had thought her feet were silent enough. “What makes you think I am doing that uhn?” She asked indignantly.
“You have always had the habit of doing just that” he replied, then turned his head from what he was doing to look at her. Amara gripped the door frame firmly as his eyes landed on her. Seeing Kelvin in her kitchen was definitely something she won’t forget in a hurry. She would probably enter the kitchen every time and remember Kelvin’s position beside the gas cooker.
“You have always been too full of yourself” Amara retorted.
Kelvin’s eyes took a quick sweep of her still unchanged cloth and humor flashed in his eyes. “Thank God not everything has changed in us” he called back and Amara suspected the sentence had a double edge. With him turned, Amara could finally see that he had been cleaning the cabinet. Her legs finally unlocked, leaving the hypnotised state they had formally assumed. What on earth was always wrong with her brain whenever she sees Kelvin?
“You shouldn’t have done this” she said automatically, avoiding his gaze as she entered the kitchen. “You are a… guest; you shouldn’t be cooking in my kitchen.” She said. She made sure to remove herself from a very close proximity of Kelvin, refusing to have a repeat episode. “Thanks though” she murmured, more out of necessity. She noticed that he had somehow located the soup she had kept in the freezer and was boiling rice. Hunger gnawed at her insides and she realised that she was actually truly grateful to Kelvin for taking the initiative to get her something. He had always been too thoughtful and sweet; any woman woman would be lucky to have him. Tonight marked the second time Kelvin had almost kissed her but turned away at the last minute. Amara found herself wondering if there was actually a lucky woman in his life already. It had been years; surely he must have stopped loving her. There must be another woman now… Amara shifted uncomfortably, angry at herself for thinking about such mundane things.
Kelvin noticed her discomfort and sought to ease it. “Tell me about Ara P” he said as he grabbed two dishes. “What made you go into events? Last I remember, you wanted to be a medical doctor” he said, passing the plates to Amara, who turned off the gas.
“After all that happened to me, I didn’t want to chase dead dreams of being a doctor” she said, glad that she was talking about her company for a change. “I started learning hairdressing when I got to Lagos, in order to make enough money to go back to school.” She told him as she served the hot rice. “Months after I began, the daughter of my boss was celebrating her birthday and I decorated the small room she used.I didn’t think much of it but my boss did not stop talking about how perfect the decoration was.” Amara smiled in remembrance. “About a months later, her friend also wanted to celebrate her son’s birthday and my boss told me to decorate for her. I enjoyed doing it and when they sang my praises, I decided that it might be more profitable to pitch my tent in that line” Amara glanced up to see Kelvin smiling, albeit proudly. Amara hadn’t felt happier! She wanted to impress him with her achievements.
Motivated, she continued feverishly, ranting more than she had done in years as she carried the plates of food. She barely noticed when Kelvin collected the plates from her, carrying it instead. “I started with children’s party, volunteering to decorate, showing them pictures of the first two birthday parties I decorated. I charged low prices for those who did not really have much and increased my price for rich families. I saved all I could until suddenly, a rich woman who I decorated her daughter’s party, asked me to decorate a book launch for her.” Amara laughed slightly, too happy that she could talk freely to someone. “I was initially scared that I wouldn’t pull it off” she confided, glancing at Kelvin, her eyes bright with humor as they sat down to eat. “But, the event would be attended by many of her rich folks and I saw it as a really huge step. I knew I would get so many valuable clients if I could make that book launch spectacular, and guess what, I did just that.” She said proudly, too excited to eat. Kelvin’s gaze made her feel like she had emerged the winner of a marathon race. “The launch was the talk of the town and her friends started contacting me. I gathered enough money to enroll in a part time school where I studied Business Management, then, I got myself a small shop which I used as my office. Ara P grew from there” she said proudly.
The look on Kelvin’s face was priceless, feeling her with warmth. Watching her talk had filled Kelvin with extreme gladness. He had watched her open up, discarding the iciness. “I am so proud of you” he murmured. “I knew you could do it”
Amara smiled happily, feeling like a child who passed her exams with flying colours and faced her food with enough enthusiasm to finish a drum of rice.
The senator sat in a taxi with his wife as the driver drove away from the airport to Pristique Hotel. He wondered what was going on. It had been a very long time since he sat in such close proximity with his wife and he glanced at her as she sat, looking out the window in a lifeless manner. She had done everything a woman could in the past years to bridge the gap that her mistakes had created, but Mr Bello couldn’t just forgive her. He hated the coldness between then, because despite it all, he loved his wife.
The taxi stopped in front of the massive hotel and they both alighted wordlessly. Alex had better have a good explanation to render for hurling him out of his bed this early morning to catch a flight. As they entered, Alex approached at the reception. “Good morning dad” he greeted, ignoring his mother.
Mr Bello was about to point it out but Alex gave him no time to do so. “Please come with me” Alex said and the senator noticed that he was angry and ruffled, like he hadn’t slept at all. Wordlessly, they entered the elevator, listening only to the humming sound of the machine. Mrs Bello was the most uncomfortable as the men in her life ignored her. She blinked back tears as they got out of the elevator and moved to a door which Alex opened unceremoniously. Inside stood a woman who looked vaguely familiar to the two of them but Mrs Bello wouldn’t have remembered her if Mr Bello hadn’t suddenly called her name.
“Hannah?” He called out in surprise as he stared at the older version of the woman he had known several years back. Mrs Bello also raised her eyes in recognition.
“You both know her!” Alex exclaimed in disbelief. “This is just so perfect” Alex exclaimed again. “OK! Probably you both can explain why she thinks I am her son”
Mr and Mrs Bello gasped in unison and the senator turned shocked eyes at Hannah, who looked right back at him.
…to be continued