Tega had lost count of how many times she had dialed Amara’s phone, but now, it had just become worse because the calls were no more going through. “Now what?” She groaned at the phone in anger.
Maxwell turned his head in her direction, taking his eyes off the road briefly. “What is it?”
Tega shook her head then dumped the phone on her laps. “Her line is no longer going through!” She sighed, “I don’t know what to make of this”
Max turned his eyes back to the road, his mouth drawing to a thin line. “We would get to her house soon, her phone probably got lost or something” he said, almost like he was trying to convince himself as well.
Tega glanced at him. “She couldn’t have gotten lost together with the phone, could she? I am sure something is wrong somewhere”
Maxwell swallowed, gripping the steering wheels hard. He still didn’t know what it is he felt for Amara, but one thing was definitely certain – it would hurt so badly if anything bad happened to her. He strictly schooled his head against thinking about terrible things, but it was not helping at all with Amara’s secretary’s state of unease. He spotted the house he had driven Amara to several days back and instantly came to a stop.
Tega barely had the seatbelt out of the way when she jumped out of the car, entering Amara’s compound hastily. Max followed hastily in her wake. He immediately spotted Amara’s car when he entered the compound and his alarm increased. Involuntarily, thoughts clouded his head. ‘Could she be sick’… ‘did she slip in the kitchen’ or… He put a big full stop to the evil thought that crept to his head.
“Boss…” Tega called out as she hastened to Amara’s apartment. Max stood nervously behind her at the entrance, as Tega knocked over and over. She tried the handle but the door was locked. “Boss” Tega called again, her voice ringing with fright. It was obvious no one was in the compound, if not, someone would have surfaced due to Tega’s high pitched shouts, loud enough to raise the dead. Max’s patience seemed to have expired and he grunted.
“Move aside” he ordered instantly, gently shoving Tega to the side. Before Tega could fully fathom his intention, his leg flashed out and it pounded against the door.
“You can’t break the door, the Nigerian police are not so understanding”
Max wasn’t in the mood to answer that, fear that something terrible had happened to Amara ate at him. He gathered all his strength and hit the door again with his leg. It shook again, but not enough to break it. After two more hits, the door broke free, bouncing off its hinges. The muscles he had gathered in the gym now paid off, but that did not stop his leg from throbbing painfully. He pushed away the pain, charging into the apartment like inspector general. He couldn’t tell which he feared most; finding Amara inside, or not finding her at all. Right now, he would prefer the latter because if she had been inside despite all the noise, only one thing would stop her from answering – the one thing that he did not even want to imagine!
Tega followed closely behind, as if scared of what she might see, should she come forward. “Amara” he boomed, tension eating at his nerves. Except if Amara was under the sofas in the sitting room, she was nowhere in sight. A quick glance around the kitchen and dinning showed no sign of her.
Tega looked fearfully at the bedroom door, covered with a curtain. “You think she… might be there?” She gasped fearfully.
Max walked towards the door.
“Wait! I should go” Tega said, jumping forward. “She might be… indisposed” she hastily said.
Max did not even respond, only pushed open the door and entered. Tega entered closely behind, only to find the room empty. She hurried to the bathroom and found it empty too.
“What is going on?” She yelled. Max bent down and picked some clothes on the floor. Tega hurried to his side and examined the clothes. “These are still wet” !ax murmured. “And sandy”
“She wore these to work yesterday” Tega commented.
“She must have been in the rain” he reasoned.
Tega spied something on the bed and hissed aloud before bending to pick up the phone that she had spent several hours calling. “She isn’t with her phone” she felt like smashing the phone against the cold tiles.
Tega shook her head. “This is not making any sense. My boss isn’t one to be untidy; there is no reason why she would dump…” she suddenly gasped. “Oh my God! Rapture couldn’t have taken place, could it?” Her alarmed eyes turned as large as doughnuts as she peered up at Max.
“This is no time for jokes, woman” Max groaned in anger. He couldn’t have Tega fooling around when all he wanted was to find Amara.
“I am not fooling sir. Rapture would explain her absence and the reason why her cloth is in a head on the floor. Kidnappers wouldn’t kidnap her naked, would they?”. She grabbed Max’s arm in fright. “Oh Lord! I have been left behind!”
It took all his might not to hiss at her. “I am pretty sure my staff would be searching for me by now, if rapture had taken place” he responded, then turned on his heels. “What I need you to tell me is where she might be. Where does she go often?” He ran his fingers through his Jerry curls, which ran silkily through his fingers.
“Oh” Tega gasped. “I should have thought of that! She recently started visiting a friend in the hospital – Miss Tina; she takes care of Ara P’s catering services. My boss never did tell me what was wrong with her but she visits her all the time and-”
“Take me there” Max cut in instantly, marching out of the apartment.
Tina whimpered as the pain became an alarming throb, eating at her senses.
“I really should call the doctor” Aisha said worriedly.
Tina shook her head. She had already become weary of constantly having doctors examine her. She was tired of it, and each day she spent in the hospital reminded her of her mounting hospital bills. “No! Don’t call the doctor. You should go home and rest Aisha, you look so exhausted.” She breathed in pain.
“I can’t leave you” she returned. “I would get the doctor” without waiting for her approval, Aisha rushed out of the room.
Tina concentrated on taking calming breaths, but it did not seem to help reduce the pain she was feeling. The pain had escalated severely, and try as she may, she couldn’t keep it from showing on her face. She was used to making sure that people don’t worry too much over her, she mightn’t be able to stomach people running from pillar to post, just to see to her needs. The door opened slightly, and she closed her eyes, not ready to face the inspection and examinations of the doctor. She sighed with her eyes closed, waiting for the doctor to ask the usual questions. “Do your worst” she murmured, but when she didn’t hear anything in response, she reluctantly opened her eyes.
All thoughts of pain vanished from Tina’s mind as her mouth dropped open. The human looming over her surely cannot be from planet earth! She felt winded as her eyes took a slow travel from his silky hair to his handsome face. Oh! That face! It was enough to make a woman swoon. A slow sexy smile crept up his face, and just when Tina thought he couldn’t get more handsome, he became breathtaking. Her breath caught in her throat and she whimpered. “Am I dead?”
Maxwell’s smile widened. “Thank God you are not” he murmured. Tina’s awed gaze had left Maxwell feeling more handsome than he already was. It was probably the way she openly gaped at him, not hiding under the shyness that most ladies were accustomed to around him. For someone who was obviously bedridden, the lady before him, though not the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, had this beauty that he couldn’t explain. Had this face that could easily be imprinted in the minds of men.
“For one second, I thought I was in heaven” Tina answered, still gaping at him. Her eyes travelled to his chest, lingered, then sailed back to his face. “Are you a new doctor? I could get used to seeing your face” Her face broke into a small smile.
Max stared at her, not knowing what to respond with for the first time. Women were always speechless around him, not the other way round! So why was he just staring at the woman without thinking of a response?
“He is not” a nurse responded, looking amused. For the first time, Tina noticed the other people in the room. There was a nurse she saw often and beside the gorgeous man stood Tega – Amara’s secretary. She frowned.
Tega spoke before she could voice her question. “Good afternoon Miss Tina, I hope you are feeling better” she said with a smile, although, she could see that behind the smile was deep worry.
“I am getting better” she lied. Glancing at the man before her, she wondered who he was.
Remembering himself, Max spoke up. “Pardon my disgraceful manners Miss, I am Maxwell”
Her eyes widened. “Babs? Maxwell Babs? You were Amara’s blind date right?”
He grinned. “Am I right to assume you were the one behind the mischief?” The woman was just full of surprises. Miss Tina! He remembered.
“I surely am. Why did I never go on blind dates myself?” She asked rhetorically with a frown. Maxwell chuckled slightly. Tega shifted impatiently beside him.
“Sorry to interrupt you miss, but have you seen Miss Peters today?”
Tina looked at her with a frown. “She slept over with me yesterday and left very early this morning to prepare for work. What is wrong? Isn’t she at work?” She asked.
“No, and she is not at home either. Her car is at home, including her phone”
“I am sure it is nothing to worry about” Maxwell hastily cut in, immediately he saw Tina move and wince on the bed. “I am sure she is fine, probably had to rush off somewhere. You need your rest, we shouldn’t have bothered you”
“I am not a puppet for God’s sake, I am tired of resting all the time. When Amara came yesterday, she was terribly worried about something, but she wouldn’t tell me; then she called Kelvin over and over but couldn’t get through to him”
Max frowned. “Who is this Kelvin to her?” He asked quietly.
“Oh, they are really close, have been for years actually” she answered shortly, too preoccupied with worry to even notice the narrowing state of Max’s mouth. “She hadn’t been able to reach him when she left early this morning and I could tell that she was very worried. Maybe she went in search of him or, God forbid, heard that something happened to him and rushed off in a haste” she concluded.
Max nodded briefly. “I just hope she is safe”
Amara sat inside the taxi, looking unseeing out of the window. She had envisioned the time she would be making this trip, over and over, she never imagined she would be in such a rush. But she couldn’t help it. In all her life, she had never felt so utterly alone. It was a feeling she was used to, in a way, but then again, she wasn’t used to it. Maybe because, despite all that happened to her, she had Kelvin to rely on. But now, she had no one. It would be foolish of her to unburden to Tina, who already had more than enough problems.
Amara wiped tears from her cheeks as finally, the Taxi driver slowed down in front of a building. She got out of the car instantly and paid the man, rushing inside the compound. As she got to a door, she paused to catch her breath. She raised her hand to knock and hesitated. She hadn’t come all this way only to chicken out at the last minute! Taking a deep breath, she tapped the door three times. She held her breath as her heart skipped out of control. When she heard no response, she knocked again.
“Who is it?”
The voice penetrated her senses, bringing back memories she had kept locked away. Her hands shook out of control as her heart raced. She jumped slightly as she heard the lock being pulled back. Tears formed in her eyes and she bit her lip nervously.
Immediately the door was wrenched open, an audible gasp rang in her ears. Tears slipped unhindered down Amara’s cheeks. “Mama” she cried.
Alex glared at the lady before him. “I heard that something happened to Amara’s company and I know you are involved. I never told you to tamper with her company” he boomed.
The lady strolled to the window of the hotel room. “If you want Amara all to yourself, you must leave me to do it my own way” she answered.
Alex hissed. “And you plan to do that by destroying all she has worked for? Do you know how hard she must have worked to get to the place she is now?” He barked at the back of the woman.
“If I wanted to destroy her, I would have done it already” she said softly.
“You are a snake. You are using me to get back at Amara, I don’t know what she even did to deserve such hatred from you”
She chuckled. “You have no idea”
“You should be careful with the way you spew your venom, I can’t be implicated in whatever you are doing” he warned sternly.
She pulled away from the window, walking towards him, her tight leather leggings was making him imagine things and he kept his eyes on her slim long legs as she advanced. She smiled coyly and sat on his lap, wriggling gently. “You don’t have to worry about that” she whispered in his ear. “Do you have my money?”
Her body was more than enough distraction and he hastily nodded, pulled open the bedside drawer and produced an envelope. He eyed the bed in anticipation. She collected it, opened the envelope and peeked inside. She smile. “Good” she breathed and placed a chaste kiss on his lips. Jumping up before he could take advantage of anything, she walked away from him, swinging her body as she went out through the door and closed it gently.
Amara jumped into Mrs Peters’ arms, crying profusely. Mrs Peter’s hands shook as they held Amara close. “Amara my daughter” she breathed shakily. “Is this really you?” She asked, not believing that she actually had her daughter in her arms.
“It is me Mama” Amara sobbed. “It is your Amara”
“Oh my God!” Mrs Peters cried as mother and daughter held on to each other, crying profusely. “I never thought… I would see you again my child” she said between sobs.
“I am sorry mum, I am so sorry” she cried.
“Shhhh… It is ok… Shhhh”
This was what she needed. A shoulder to fall back on. Not just a shoulder! The shoulder of a mother who would always understand. A mother who would always see beyond her mistakes and love her unconditionally. She missed her mother. She pulled back slightly. “Please forgive me mum; I should have come earlier”
“Shhhh…. It is OK. I am just glad you are here now. My God, look at you!” She said, giving Amara an assessing look. “You look so mature now, totally different”
Amara wiped the tears in her mother’s eyes and managed a weak smile but she ended up crying again, before hugging her mum. “I have missed you so much mama” she moaned.
“Oh Amara, if only I could tell you just how much I have missed you”
Amara pulled back. “Where is Papa?” She hurriedly asked.
“He went out not quite long… he would be so happy to see you. We talk about you all the time my dear” she said, cradling Amara’s face in her arms. “Come inside, you must be so exhausted. How did you know where we stay?”
Amara did not want to begin to explain that because it was such a long story. She had made sure she knew about her parents’ whereabouts, but she hadn’t been ready to visit, mostly because of her father. A part of her was glad that she didn’t meet him at home. She had always anonymously sent money into their account, because, despite it all, she would always be grateful to them, and would always see them as her parents.
Mrs Peters’ eyes were gleeful with over-excitement. “Sit here, what can I offer you Amarachi?”
Amara smiled for the first time. “Oh mama, I am not a guest now”
“I want to pamper my baby girl, don’t blame this old woman” she said, smiling.
The years hadn’t really changed Mrs Peters and Amara noted delightfully that her mother still looked as beautiful as ever. She stood up and wrapped her arm around her mother’s waist. “Well, I won’t mind having this beautiful lady pamper me. Papa has been taking good care of you ooo” she winked at her mother and kissed her cheeks. Oh, how she had missed her.
She shook her head. “You haven’t changed”
“I have missed your meals” she said, smiling.
Amara knew that she had no appetite whatsoever, but then, her mother’s meals have always remedied that.
Mrs Peters grinned. “Well, you won’t find another mother who can cook better” she answered and turned to the kitchen. Amara followed her into the kitchen instantly, holding her firmly by the waist.
…to be continued