Maxwell and Linda got back to working on the proposal that they were working on before Maxwell recounted his story. Maxwell was very intelligent and often had great plans but never had the chance to implement them. He felt that this was the right avenue to really know how good he was at organizing people and planning something worthwhile. He had the tendency of evaluating people and despite his own shortcomings; he knew the strengths and weaknesses of all his friends and acquaintances. As he drafted the proposal, he put into consideration the role each of them was going to play should they be awarded any contract. He had carefully designed the proposal and he knew it was going to fly with anyone who set eyes on it. As he tried to explain something to Linda to get them to rectify the proposal and put finishing touches to their work, he caught Linda staring at him and it made him feel a bit uneasy. “Why are you still staring at me like that again?”, Maxwell asked Linda trying to hide away the impression that she had already made a thousand and one inferences about him from his story. “You are the first person I have fully recounted everything I have been through to and I would be very disappointed if I heard this from anyone else”, Maxwell warned, feeling somewhat insecure. “Your secret is safe with me”, Linda assured Maxwell with that banality. “Come to think of it”, Linda started as if to say she had just remembered a multimillion pound idea. “In your entire story, you never mentioned your father and the role he played in all of this because from the get go, it has been your mother who has been fronting for you all this while”, Linda said. “Before I went to secondary school and even on the eve of my departure to the university, my father sat me down and advised me”, Maxwell started. “He told me that the best legacy he was leaving behind for myself and my siblings in the instance of his death was not wealth or possessions obviously because he had little of that but he said his legacy to us was going to be the name that was passed down to him by his father”, Maxwell explained. “My father told me that when he received his surname he was told by his father that he had successfully passed on the baton of integrity to him and he was to maintain that integrity and pass it on to his children and if possible, see to it that his children passed it on successfully to their children too”, Maxwell added. “But you can see from my escapades that I failed my father woefully because I could not live up to that name and I ended up disgracing my family’s name by dragging it through the gutters of promiscuity and amorous behaviour”, Maxwell added, bowing his head down in disappointment. Linda gently held his hand and rubbed it against hers, “I know how it feels to somewhat be a black sheep in a family but in life, we should always remember that broken crayons still colour so no matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, you can still come back and make something of the rest of your life on earth because hope is mankind’s greatest asset so if you have hope, you have enough to fight the odds of life”, Linda preached. Maxwell forcefully pulled his hand from Linda’s hold and yelled, “You don’t know how it feels, Linda, you don’t!”. Linda was startled by Maxwell’s sudden change in tone and composure and moved back a bit because she felt Maxwell was going to go into a fit of rage but Maxwell gently got off his seat and slowly paced the room and after a few rounds in the spacious confines of his room, he returned to his seat, held Linda’s hand to assure her that he was fine and said, “Let me explain something to you”. “My father and his brothers, for whatever reason known to them were and are still in competition with each other”, Maxwell revealed. “They sought to outdo each other maybe to gain the favour of their father so they all did things in that regard”, Maxwell added. “And I guess it included the way their children were also brought up”, Linda suggested inferring from the way Maxwell was making his point. “Exactly, and this singular act of mine had brought to naught all the conscious effort my father had put in to make us appear more prim and proper than the children of his brothers”, Maxwell said. “But that was insane on their part!”, Linda burst out. “They are blood brothers for crying out loud!”, Linda exclaimed with disgust written all over her face. “Unfortunately, that is the kind of family I was born into”, Maxwell said. “I have never been able to look my father in the eye ever since this happened and I think this is how things are going to be till we die”, Maxwell said and immediately, tears started rolling down his cheeks. He tried to hide the tears away from Linda but he was too late. “Maxwell, are you crying?”, Linda asked. “No I am not”, Maxwell responded trying to wipe the tears away expertly with the back of his palm. “I am such a disappointment to my family and there is nothing I can do to make up for all the pain and emotional trauma I have put them through”, Maxwell confessed. “It is all well and good and maybe some things are just meant to happen to help make our lives take the trajectory that destiny has in place for us”, Linda said, in an effort to try to console Maxwell. “No, Linda!”, Maxwell started. “Let’s face reality here”, Maxwell said. “When my parents found out that Alberta was pregnant, they vowed to keep it a secret from the entire family and cover it up in the best way they could because first of all, they didn’t want to rat me out and my dad also had his integrity to protect in the eyes of his brothers but as fate would have it, Alberta’s parents eventually got in touch with one of my uncles when my father wasn’t going forward to tell them anything and informed him of what had happened and he also informed the rest of his brothers who carried out their own checks to verify the claims made by Alberta’s family”, Maxwell recounted. “When they were satisfied with their investigations, they invited my father over and gave him what was probably the worst verbal bashing any man could take”, Maxwell explained. “My father took all of this in his stride and never raised his voice at me but believe you me, I knew he had a heavy heart when he came back home that night”, Maxwell said. Linda kept totally silent as Maxwell spoke and did not make interjections like she did earlier. “By now, all my cousins know that I have a child out of wedlock and how do you expect me to look them in the eye and pretend as if everything is alright?”, Maxwell asked. “Things are not the same anymore and I have little doubt that things would come back to be as they were”, Maxwell added. “That doesn’t change the fact that you are a good young man with a lot of potential to make something out of this life”, Linda said. “I see what you are trying to do Linda, but it still won’t change anything”, Maxwell cut in rudely. “Change is a state of mind, Maxwell and you of all people can relate better to it”, Linda interjected. “Where were you all this while when I was going through all of this?”, Maxwell asked, looking at Linda in awe. Linda smiled and moved close to Maxwell and placed her head on his shoulder, “Let’s just say I was a few seconds late in this case”, Linda said. Linda looked at her watch and said, “Unless you plan on holding me hostage, I think I have stayed out too late and I have to return home before the police are alerted of a kidnapping”, Linda said jokingly and both of them broke out in hysterical laughter. Maxwell and Linda went through their proposal one more time before Maxwell decided to see Linda off. “I have really enjoyed myself and I have learnt a lot from your story and I am glad that you have started on a road to redemption by doing this project with your friends”, Linda revealed. As they walked down the pathway to the gate of Maxwell’s house, Linda still had a lot on her mind and wished she could get some clarity. “So when was the last time you heard from Nancy?”, Linda asked. “Well, I tried to reach her several times to apologize for all that had happened and beg her to come back to me but she claimed she could not see herself in this mess and that I had to clear up my mess all by myself”, Maxwell said. “”I think she has a point because even though it hurts to be treated this way, I am the one who cheated on her in the first place”, Maxwell recounted. “In one of our conversations, in which she was crying, she asked me point blank to find someone else who would understand that I have cheated and let that person fight this battle with me”, Maxwell said. “Okay”, Linda responded and turned to face Maxwell as they finally got to the gate. “Maxwell, you are one amazing young man and…”, before Linda could finish here statement, Maxwell grabbed Linda by the neck and planted a kiss on her cheek and hugged her tightly. “What was that for?”, Linda asked, trying to hide the blushes on her face. “That was for being a good friend back there and not being judgmental at least to my face owing to the fact that we are mere acquaintances”, Maxwell said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves because if we are going to act according to how we are feeling right now, we might end up doing something we might not be able to reverse”, Maxwell said. Maxwell gracefully opened the gate and ushered Linda out and both of them walked the lonely street in silence till they arrived at a semi-detached house a few blocks from Maxwell’s house. “This is my house”, Linda said pointing to the house which was painted in bright yellow and green colours. Maxwell watched Linda as she graciously cat walked unto the landing of her porch and waved her goodbye and started down the road alone in silence on his way back home. As he approached his gate, he was hit by a pinch of veridical perception. “How could I tell all my secrets to another woman; the same species that has landed me where I am today?”, Maxwell thought out loud. He pondered over the happenings of the night as he took his shower and retired to his bed to catch some sleep.
The following morning, Maxwell called up all his friends and arranged a meeting with them that evening. When they all honoured the invitation and were seated at the dining table in Maxwell’s house, Maxwell presented a copy of the proposal to all of them and they went through the details together. They all brought their expertise to the table. Raphael made very intelligent suggestions after just a first glance at the proposal and made many recommendations. Maxwell jotted down all the points Raphael made and quickly edited his copy of the proposal. Raphael was the most intelligent among all the young men gathered at the table so it was little wonder to all of them gathered that he had his own reservations and additions. The other boys made their inputs and soon, they had a well-defined proposal with all the ideas they pooled together. Maxwell edited the previous proposal he had drafted with Linda and asked Linda to work on the edited proposal. In a matter of days, the new proposal was ready and Maxwell had it personally delivered to all his friends to look thoroughly at one more time. On each visit, he carefully explained the role that each person was to play. Maxwell took some time off work to go round in search of a company they could sell their proposal to. With each day that passed, Maxwell returned home with little success after trying to get a company that would grant him audience. Many of the organizations he contacted wanted to know more about the track record he had raked for himself before they listened to him. Maxwell had virtually no record to boast of but he was determined to get their proposal to a bidder who would reward them handsomely. The leave he had requested from work had almost run out and still, he did not have anyone to look at their proposal. “Just grant me five more minutes of your time and I would show you how this proposal would benefit your organization”, Maxwell said, at one of his many meetings with some C.E.O’s. “Young man, the business world does not thrive on trial and error and more importantly, it is not a field for new entrants like yourself”, one of the board members said. “Build for yourself a good track record and some extra experience and come back to us”, another board member chipped in. Maxwell was at the verge of giving up, he gave his friends a daily report as to what was happening on his hunt. “Maxwell, do you think this is going to work?”, Frank asked, during one of their meetings. “This proposal is fool proof and we just have to hope that someone would agree to take a look at it for just five minutes”, Maxwell answered.
Soon, Maxwell had exhausted all his leave days and had to return to work. On the day he was supposed to report to work, he called in sick and requested to stay home. He decided to use the excuse to take one more chance at getting someone to look at the proposal. “I can’t fail my friends”, Maxwell thought to himself as he sat in the commercial bus heading into town. He had seen an advertisement in the newspapers and it was in line with their proposal so he decided to tender in their proposal to see if they were going to get lucky. Maxwell was ushered into the lobby of Passione Global; the company that was in need of ideas for their capacity building project. He sat there and day dreamed about working there as the new Project Coordinator. His daydreams were cut short as he ushered back into reality by the words, “Sir, the board would like to see you now”. Maxwell followed the beautiful receptionist to the entrance of the conference room where the board of directors were waiting to hear him out. “These heels must cost a fortune!”, Maxwell thought to himself as he could not help but keep staring at the stunning shoes the receptionist had on. “Soon, all of us would be wearing some of all these expensive stuff”, Maxwell said to himself. “My bosses are easy-going therefore you shouldn’t have a hard time convincing them, all the best”, the receptionist said and held the door ajar for Maxwell to enter. After the exchange of pleasantries, Maxwell handed over the proposal to the board members who glanced through it individually. After the last of them had skimmed through the document, the chairman of the board started, “You have made very solid points in your work but I don’t know whether it is coincidental or something but we have received this same proposal already two days ago and what is more, the wording in the document are the same. Maxwell could not believe what he was hearing. “There must be some sort of mistake somewhere sir”, Maxwell stammered as he adjusted himself in the seat. One of the board members, to prove their point, handed over a document to Maxwell. All the information in the document that was provided to Maxwell was exactly the same as was in his own proposal except the fact that the producers of the documents were different. Maxwell could not believe his eyes. He was at a loss for words. “We reviewed this proposal yesterday and we are to meet its producers next week to discuss their terms of employment”, the chairman of the board revealed referring to the earlier proposal. Maxwell did not know what to do or say. “Can I come back tomorrow?”, Maxwell requested. The board members agreed and Maxwell quickly rushed out of the building without even stopping by the desk of the pretty receptionist to say goodbye.
When Maxwell arrived home, he quickly called an emergency meeting for all the individuals who were involved in their proposal. He wanted to remain as calm as possible but it was not working. “Which one of you leaked our proposal?”, Maxwell shouted as he commenced the meeting. All the people gathered in the room started exchanging glances at each other looking to find the culprit. “Linda, did you per chance show your copy of the proposal to anyone?”, Maxwell asked angrily. “I wouldn’t do that for anything in the world”, Linda said in her defence. “So which one of you guys did this?”, Maxwell barked, scanning the faces of all his friends. “For your information, I visited a company this morning and they are going to award the new owners of our proposal a contract; our proposal, our hard work!”. “All they had to do was to present it and in a matter of days, they are going to be smiling all the way to the bank”, Maxwell added. “Someone better start talking so we see if we can salvage anything from this mess because I know one of you is responsible”, Maxwell barked out. “Okay, okay, enough already”, Raphael started. “If you have something to say, say it now!”, Maxwell cut in. “Three days ago, an old school colleague contacted me and asked that I helped him draft a proposal for a fee”, Raphael started. “I had forgotten about it so when he called saying he had deposited the money into my account, I had to also fulfil my part of the deal so I sent him our proposal to use as a sample”, Raphael continued. “I didn’t know he was going to stupidly present the same thing”, Raphael added. Immediately Raphael finished his submission, Maxwell burst out in a fit of rage only to be held back by Prince and Rudolf. “Raphael, you are a fool!”, Maxwell yelled. “Up until today, I always thought that you were the most intelligent among us but this your action has confirmed how shallow-minded and daft you are!” “Your stupidity has let all of us down!”, Maxwell said as he tried to wriggle free from the hold of Rudolf and Prince and pounce on Raphael. “You have sold our future and a chance of a better life for a something not worth the price of fine wine!”, Raphael was standing at one corner of the room and tried to defend himself, “How was I supposed to know that he was going to present the document verbatim?”. “Shut up, Raphael and accept that you action was not merited”, Frank burst out. “All the sacrifices and sleepless nights were for nothing?”, Maxwell yelled. “Come to think of it, I had to put my job on the line for all of us and see how you pay me back you ingrate”, Maxwell added. All of a sudden, Maxwell broke free from the hold and dashed towards Raphael.
…To be continued