Andy felt like he was going crazy. He stood up from the bed and sat on the small chair in the room. This was the third time he was standing up from the bed after fruitlessly trying to sleep. He had been terribly devastated ever since he dropped off Jessica. He still could not believe that it had all happened so fast. He had lost his appetite even though he was hungry but his thought that his anger would go down as time went by was totally wrong because each passing minute added a measured level of frustration to the ones on ground. Sleeping on the bed was the worst part of it all. He kept remembering all that he and Jessie had been doing on the bed; their intimacy, laughter, jokes, emotional tears and even their breakfast. The masters’ bedroom held far too many memories, all derived from one day, but the joy and fulfillment he felt within twenty four hours had evaporated just like that. He could not bear to think of the look of betrayal and hurt he saw in her eyes. He sighed and stood up. If he had been told years back that one day, he would care about the feelings of a woman; he would have laughed the person to scorn. But here he was, having sleepless night because of a woman. He had only been in love once in his life but the experience was too traumatic. He checked the time on the wall clock as he entered the sitting room and noticed it was some minutes to three. He had expected that it would be around five or something like that. He sighed and switched on the TV, hoping that he would be able to focus on the TV. ********** ********** Lizzy woke around past six as she was used to and noticed that Jessica was still asleep, she was happy. She had given Jessie some drugs which she usually used after a really stressful day and seeing Jessie sleep peacefully told her that the drugs were effective. She was not used to bathing so early, so she just washed her face and brushed her teeth. Moving about quietly in order not to rouse the sleeping Jessie, she went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She checked the rice she had cooked the previous night and was happy that it was enough for two; the stress of cooking another food was out. She heated up the rice and stew but also boiled water to use for tea. The weather was very cold, considering the heavy rain that fell throughout the night. While she waited for the food to steam up, she went to the sink and started washing the plates from the previous night. She was happy that she was on her own and not with her parents, if not, they would be ranting about sweeping the entire house, and she would not be able to ask for food until she had worked her bones sore. ********** ********** “Tunji, I believe you should be able to handle the office without my assistance” Andy said as he conversed rather reluctantly with Tunji, his best friend, over the phone, driving at the same time. “Well, thank God you finally noticed that. Hope there is no problem? I mean you never miss a day at the office but today would make it three days” “Well, that is the difference between a married man and a single man” “Don’t tell me that. Did you just get married? You even came to the office during your honeymoon so cut it out. Andy, are you on the road?” “I have not got time for this now Tunji, got to go” Before Tunji could respond to what he said, Andy hung up. Andy dropped the phone and swallowed. He knew it was too early but he could not stay in the house for another minute. The thought of Jessica was almost driving him mad and he needed to make her believe him. He just could not fathom what it would be. He encountered a little traffic and was instantly angry that he lived in Lagos. Lagos was a state that he had always known for its overcrowded nature. Though Lagos was a beautiful place, he was not happy that today of all days he was being delayed by traffic, so early in the morning. ********** ********** “You should have woken me up Lizzy, I am not a baby” Jessica said. Even though her head was still pounding, she did not like being the last person to wake up, only to find all the work already done. Lizzy smiled. “You are my baby for today sweetheart. Just wait, Paulina would be here soon” “Oh no”, Jessica groaned. “I don’t need a motherly intervention right now”. Jessica stared at the food in front of her, she had no appetite whatsoever and her head ached terribly. She drank the tea slowly. “I am all ears Jessica” Jessica did not need a long speech to know what Lizzy was referring to. Jessie sighed and decided it best to talk about it. “Andy is a womanizing cheat” “Wow Jessie, that is a really strong statement. I assumed that Andy was the subject matter but needed confirmation. Andy does not strike me as a womanizer, though I can’t dispute that he looks seriously like a ladies’ man. Women would always be attracted to him, there is no stopping it but I don’t think Andy is someone who jumps from skirt to skirt” It hurt Jessica that Lizzy was defending Andy. “Well, he turned out to be a womanizer” “I don’t like people feeding you with lies. You are married to one of the most famous men in this country; people want to take your place. Come to think of it, even if this were true, should it bother you? I mean, you don’t have feelings for him, do you?” Lizzy knew that she was intentionally goading her friend. Jessie swallowed and glared at Lizzy for some seconds. “Of course I don’t, and it does not bother me” Lizzy’s knowing smile annoyed Lizzy. “I am serious Liz, the only thing that bothers me is what happened” she paused. Talking about it seemed much worse. Now that she thought of it, she could not imagine Andy raping anyone but common sense never makes sense to people when faced with a situation like this. “He almost raped Sonia” Lizzy choked on the tea she was drinking and started coughing. She coughed and coughed for sometime and breathed in deeply. “Ok Jessie” she coughed. “I think you are imagining things. Are you sure you don’t feel dizzy? The drugs I gave you are strong and you should still be asleep by now.” “Cut it out Liz, I am not crazy. I got a call from Sonia yesterday evening and she asked of what I was doing. I told her that I was home with Andy and was about going to make my hair. She then told me that she was coming over and should get to the house in about two hours. I decided to go over to the saloon, leaving Andy at home, since everything I needed to do there would just take about an hour. On getting home, I saw Andy with Sonia, struggling with each other on the chair. The sight was…” she trailed off. Lizzy was looking with wide eyes and open mouth and for almost a minute, nobody talked. Lizzy stood up and paced thoughtfully. “Jesus, I can’t believe this. Andy?” the full memory of the past evening returned with full force and she swallowed as pain overshadowed her. “What did they both say?” “What else would Andy say? He said it is not what I think” she laughed slightly. “Sonia said he was trying to rape her. It is so disheartening Liz, my friend almost got raped because she visited me” she remembered something. “That was when Sonia surprised me by mentioning the one year contract between Andy and I” Sonia paused. “Yes. I was terribly shocked. She said a whole load of crap” Jessica went ahead to narrate everything that was said the previous night, even including Andy’s bewildered responses. Lizzy sat down and looked thoughtful. “Something is fishing. I am not sure I trust Sonia” “Lizzy! How can you say that?” “It is true Jessie, I don’t trust quiet people. Come to think of it, she said she would be in your house in two hours time and you got back after one hour only to meet her there” “It happens all the time Lizzy. She might have anticipated traffic when she said that but met with a clear road” Jessica defended. “But she knew you were at the saloon and could have gone earlier to meet Andy” Lizzy looked thoughtful. “Why would she want to do that?” “Everyone loves a rich man” “Stop it Lizzy, I can’t believe you doubt your own friend.” Jessica was surprised. “I am just trying to be the reasonable person here; I mean, if you can doubt your husband, I see no reason why a friend cannot be doubted. Besides, I cannot fully trust someone who is too quiet, just like Sonia. I can still remember how much she lamented on the beauty of your house and how much you must be enjoying” “Everyone did that, even you. I can surely doubt my husband, or contract husband but I have known you girls for a long time now, I trust you” “The same way you trusted that best friend of yours and she stole your first man? You can deny it but deep down, you know that what is between you and Andy is beyond just a mere contract” Lizzy countered. Jessica did not have to answer when they heard a knock. Jessica was still processing everything when all of a sudden Andy was standing before her. She did not know when Lizzy opened the door, all she saw was Andy, standing at the entrance, looking directly at her. As usual, his presence was so powerful, she could almost touch it, but she still noticed his anxiety. “I would leave you two alone” Lizzy said. “No Lizzy, don’t you dare” Jessica yelled. Lizzy was never known to be an obedient child; she went outside and closed the door. Jessica breathed deeply. “What do you want?” She folded her arms across her chest. “I just want you to hear me out Jess. Don’t sentence me without giving me a fair hearing” Andy said. “What do you have to say? More lies?” “The truth. Jess, Sonia was forcing herself on me” Jessica laughed. “I was sitting shirtless in the sitting room when I heard a knock. I felt it was you so I did not bother putting on the shirt. Sonia came in when I opened the door so I went for my shirt but she flung it. She came up with a story that she does not know what I saw in her S.U. friend and that I should have come for someone like her. She jumped on me before I could even think and we both fell on the chair. It was while I was trying to detach myself from her that you entered” Andy landed. Jessica smiled and laughed. She clapped her hands slowly. “Bravo. Did you spend the entire night coming up with that story?” Andy groaned. “Come on Jessica, I know we just became intimate and that it must be hard for you to believe me, but trust me Jess, I can’t hurt you” he paused. “I love you” Jessica swallowed. “Wow… the three magic words. Is that what you tell every woman you sleep with?” Andy swallowed. It had taken being in that traffic to finally admit that he was madly in love with Jessica. It was something he had known for some time but never admitted to himself, much less someone else. “I have only told Wendy that” “Oh, the woman at Convy Hotel?” Andy hated the way Jessica goaded him. “No, my ex.” He paused. “She was my fiancé” she swallowed. He sat on the chair at the dinning for some minutes without talking. Jessica was done goading. She saw the pain that raked through him and was deeply touched. “She is the reason why I could not love any other woman. She was my first love” “What did she do?” Jessica’s voice softened. “She died” Jessica gasped. “A day before our wedding” Andy swallowed. “She was asthmatic, I knew that and made sure I always got her inhaler. I was not rich then and getting the pump at times was difficult. She was caring and understanding. When her pump finished she did not tell me; heck, she should have. She was so damn stubborn, wanting to buy things by herself.” He inhaled. “She got an asthma attack and the people in the house found an empty pump. They rushed her to the hospital but before they got there, she was already… already dead” she swallowed hard and breathed deeply. Jessica could not move a muscle. “I was busy expecting the next day so that I can be joined with my wife. I was at the bachelors’ night that was organized by my friends when my friends called me. They were told to tactically deliver the news to me. How tactically can they deliver that? Tell me” Jessica went and hugged him tightly. “It is OK Drew” she wanted to take away the pain she saw in his eyes. Andy was not the extremely emotional type but he needed that hug. “That was why I dived into work. It paid off because I am successful today but I didn’t have time for women. I had some women after that but it was not anything serious.” The feel of Jessica drove his pain away. He pulled back and stared into her eyes. “I would never hurt you Jessie. You were the reason why I became obsessed with work. I thought about you every time and I was using work to substitute you in my mind” he kissed her head. “Do you have feelings for me Jess?” “Andy, I…” “Please, don’t say no.” he paused. “You know what, I would be back. Please think about it” He kissed her cheek, stood up and walked out slowly.