Deborah is a novel lover and a Writer. She has written many short stories. She knows how to make her readers keep scrolling down.
GUILT OF THE INNOCENT
Sonia stood by her bedroom window, her gaze across the road, her thought deep. That secret she had tried so hard to keep would soon be out of the bag in matter of minutes. It wasn’t one she couldn’t cope with the pressure and discrimination but there was more to it. With her long dark beautiful hair flowing across her shoulders and those straight legs that could make a man dash his foot against a stone, she was more than everyone’s dream. Her eyes were shining brown and she had this beautiful dimple when she laughed.
The clock on the drawer stroke 7 past 8 am. The sky proved signs of a good day. Sonia moved away from the window and reached for her clothes that she had spread across her bed. It didn’t take her up to five minutes; she was dressed in a jean trouser and a crop-top. She carried over her shoulder, a silver handbag to match her sneakers. Confirming from the mirror that she was okay, she dashed out of the door.
Down in Princeton, House 14, Claire glanced at the wall clock every now and then. Her puff checks were beginning to glow with anger. She wasn’t going to miss this party whatever the reason could be. Ten minutes to nine o’clock, she stood up and reached for the door, and then the door bell sounded. She made to utter a word but then calmed down and gave way for Sonia to enter. ‘Am sorry,’ said Sonia.
‘I am running late.’ Claire’s voice was rising. ‘Be quick with what you’ve got to say. I don’t have all day.’
Sonia and Claire were best friends since high school and they did been that way every since not until this moment when Sonia was about to remove the concrete that held their friendship by what she would say. She looked at her friend; nostalgia filling her, having double minds whether to tell Claire the truth about her romance life with her boyfriend and lose her friendship or whether to keep silent. She sighed, opened her mouth to say something and then shock her head. Like a rattle snake, she made for the door and said, ‘Enjoy your family get toge…ther.’
‘What is it?’ Claire was now calmer. She could sense that bitterness in her friend’s eyes when all was not well. ‘Tell me, Sonia.’
‘You can’t marry Jack.’ Sonia blurted out. Heaviness following her words.
Claire looked at her astonished. She turned to know if Sonia was referring to her. Yes, it was her! ‘What on earth for?’ her voice was low.
‘Am sorry, Claire. I was going to tell you.’
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Claire, confused. ‘Tell me what?’
Sonia inhaled deeply and said, ‘Jack is not the Jack you know. He is not Jack Adams, the son of the Barrister, Justin Adams, you know. He……’ her words drifted away.
‘He’s what?! Claire screamed. She was beginning to lose it.
‘He is Bryan Adams’s son.’
Claire looked at Sonia, wanting to say something; then everywhere seems to spin.
The table was laid, the room filled with decors and the air was full of laughter and cheers. It seemed more than a get together party-It was more than a get together party. Jack and Claire’s friends were there and Clare’s parents were present. Jack had Bill, his closest friend to stand as his relation. His mother was late and his father was far away. Very far away. Dressed in a grey shirt over a jean trouser, his hair packed in a pony tail, Jack stood by the door way, his face beaming with pride and anxiety. He loved Claire and was waiting patiently for her. Greeting the guest with a smile or a wave of the hand, he remained where he was.
Bill came over to Jack. He wasn’t as happy as he should have been that his friend would be engaging his girlfriend. He tried not to show his dismay but could hardly hide his thoughts from coming to spoken words. ‘Have you told her the truth?’
‘We will deal with that later.’
‘When you marry her or …….’
Jack interrupted, anger exploding. ‘If you won’t support me then tell me!’ They were both silent then Jack sighed and said calmly, ‘Please, Bro you are the only one I’ve got. I need you now. I love her and cannot lose her.’
‘Claire needs to …….’ Bill caught himself when he saw the fear and anger in Jack’s eyes.
It was nearly an hour since Jack stood there waiting for Claire and she was nowhere to be seen. Worry sat at the pit of Jack’s stomach. He dug out his phone from his jean and dialed her number. It rang and went dead. He tried it three more times and now his worry turned to fear. Fear of something bad happening to her, fear of her changing her mind or better still, fear of her finding the truth. Had Bill told her the truth? Anger radiating from his face, he matched to sought for Bill.
Claire’s dazzling fair colour drained from her face. She had woken up not up to ten minutes but she remained speechless, only staring at the white ceiling, tears rolling down both sides of her check. The words that Sonia had told her echoed in her head. Jack is not the Jack you know. He is Bryan Adams’s son.
Bryan Adams was an armed rubber and a drug dealer as well. He had many undercover which made him to operate smoothly for the past 12 years before he was discovered and arrested after two years of his hidings. A bounty was placed on Bryan’s head for anyone who could find him; $1000. Bryan was gold. He was a careful man and intelligent as well but a fool when it came to women. Entrusting himself in the hands of the girl he had found in a clubhouse one Tuesday night, he’d imagine that he had found true love. He told her most of his secrets and after three months of their staying together, one morning, Rosy was nowhere to be seen. A knock sounded on the door, he thinking it was his girlfriend, opened up to welcome the cops. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He never spoke about Jack to anyone whom he had 29 years ago with a club girl he beat to death after seeing her with another man.
Claire turned and looked at Sonia for the first time since she awoke. It was a look holding pains and grief and hatred as well. She gripped her lips; causing inwardly and fighting anger but she let the tears flow down freely.
‘What did I ever do to you?’ was her first remark, her eyes piercing at Sonia’s
Sonia let down her grief with a tear flowing down her check. ‘I am sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to hurt you.’ She forced back tears that was building up and ready to pour, only fierce this time. It was a battle of grief and feelings between them. ‘Jack made me swear that I do not tell you. He said that if you knew he would lose you; that he would tell you when he marries you. I am very…….’
‘How long have you known this?!’ She was obviously tired of hearing ‘sorry’. She was burning with anger that she fought to control.
Sonia stood up from the bed and walked to the window to take a gaze. She stood silent shaking her head, consoling herself inwardly that she had done no wrong, that she was only trying to help her dear friend. Without turning to Claire, she said, ‘it was five years ago, in college, the night when you invited me to go with you to Jack’s apartment to collect course note from him. You said you’d like to show me your boyfriend. Well, we were all in the study when you both stepped out. I sat gazing around when a file attracted me. It was labeled confidential. I know I wasn’t supposed to open it but something drew me to it. Curiosity. Therein the file, I saw his certificates of birth. Name: JACK BRYAN ADAMS, I was afraid having heard of his father’s criminal activities. I closed the file and sat down again. Minutes later, he walked in without you. I think he noticed when he saw the file. I was scared.’ Sonia paused, shock her head again and continued. ‘To my surprise, he begged me not to tell you. He explained to me that he had two girlfriends when he was 18 and when both discovered who he really was, they broke up with him. He said he had hid his identity since then and he couldn’t lose you too.’ Sonia turned to look at Claire. ‘He threatened to kill my cousin, Ann, if I ever told you and for her sake I promised not to tell you.’ Sonia let the tears flow down freely this time. Going on her kneels she wept bitterly.
Jack paced about the room, fuming. His hands in a fist. Bill said he told Claire nothing. It was Sonia! He wanted to smash something; anything. Sonia was supposed to be his friend. She had betrayed him! Hatred brew inside of him. He looked at the wall clock; it was twenty past three. He bit his lower lips when he thought about the embarrassment and how he had to beg the pardon of everyone who had come for his get-together party. Sonia! How could she?! He grabbed his denim jacket and threw it over his shoulders. A knock sounded. He needed no disturbance. He wanted no friend. Opening the door, he stood, couldn’t move, couldn’t say a word.
Claire rushed in, pushing him out of the way. The colour in her face was drained; her eyes had gone into her sockets with crying. ‘Who are you?’ she demanded. ‘You lied to me!’
‘Bae…..’ Jack began.
Like a rattle snake, Claire turned and slapped him across the face which sent him on his knees already begging. He knew he had lost the battle. He has lost Claire. ‘I was going to tell you.’
‘After I am married to whom I don’t know! How could you? I trusted you. I loved you. Just how could you lie to me?’ She turned away from him trying to gain herself, trying to bear his sight then suddenly scuffed, ‘James Adams, son of the barrister indeed.’ She turned to face him again. ‘That’s what you told me. It was all a lie!’
‘I love you, Claire. Please. I swear I love you.’ You could almost see him crying. He made to hold Claire’s hand but she shoved him away.
Pulling the engagement ring Jack had given her from her finger, she threw it at him. ‘You can go and love yourself.’ She declared and walked out of the door.
Still on his knees, head bent, revenge brewing in his heart, hands in a fist, he swore to deliver his promise to Sonia. He would kill.
The office was small but well furnished. It had a drawer hanging against the wall and an air-conditioner buzzing some meters away from her table. On her desk sat a monitor and an arc file filled with papers overflowing. An intercom was at the other end. The wall was painted grey oil- paint and the floor was wooden. It was past 8 am in the morning. Ann sat in her revolving office chair, her charisma powerful, when a knock was heard on the mahogany door. Julian, Ann’s Secretary carried her usual morning coffee and you could smell the wonderful scent coming from it. It was Ann’s ritual to drink tea in the morning before she starts her day.
Ann, the CEO of Fashion Gem was a beautiful woman and an intelligent one at that. She was business minded and knows friends from foe when it came to business. During her college days, it was her dream to run a business of her own and she did fight to achieve that. From selling clothes in stores to working out projects and assignments for her mates and friends, she grew financially. She was bent on succeeding.
The intercom rang; Ann reached for it, ‘hello?’
‘Madam, there is a man here to see you, says he’s your brother.’
Ann winced but said, ‘let him come in.’ She made the mistake of not asking his name.
Jack stood at the door and slide his hand behind his back.
Sonia hadn’t seen Claire for two days since they had that conversation and she was worried about her. It was some minute to 9am and she didn’t pick up her calls. She didn’t dare call Jack to know if she was at his place. Instead, she called Bill.
He answered at the first ring. ‘Sonia, how are you?’
‘Okay, Bill. Please did you happen to see Claire?’
‘No, haven’t seen her for.... a while.'
‘And Jack?’ she could hear herself scared.
‘He said he had a pound of flesh to settle.’
The phone fell from Sonia’s hand. Ann. He knew her cousin’s office. She ran out of the house forgetting her phone. Waving down a taxi, she dashed inside and shouted, ‘Fashion Gem.’
Jack pointed the pistol at her, ordering her to be quiet or she dies. He enjoyed the terror on her face but even more he would like to see the torment and guilt on Sonia’s face. Ann sat trembling, her both hands at her mouth, pleading with her head. The tears kept pouring.
‘This is a message from Sonia,’ he said as he prepared to pull the trigger.
The door burst open and Sonia dashed inside and screamed. The bullet went off.
The day was shady at 2pm that Tuesday and the air had the smell of dust. Sonia sat at the corridor of Joe Santos Hospital, with her hair flowing down her shoulder and her face wearing a solemn expression. She was fighting with her conscience and hated herself for what had happened to Ann. She wanted to help her friend but as the same time, her cousin suffered for it. Would Ann ever forgive her, would Claire talk to her again? She bent her hair low and left the tears as it ran down her cheek.
‘Hello,’ a voice called.
She raised her head and wiped her face with the back of her palm to behold the smiling face and then she saw Claire who gave her a bear hug. Sonia leaned her chin on her shoulders and cried. ‘Am sorry,’ she said. ‘I didn’t mean to ruin your engagement. Am so ….’
‘Hush,’ said Claire releasing her and looking into her eyes. ‘I am most sorry for what happened to your cousin. Please forgive me.’
Bill coughed briefly to interrupt, still smiling. ‘May we go see her?’
‘Of course.’ Said Sonia, her mood lightened.
Ana lay in the bed her eyes closed. She looked so peaceful. Sonia, Claire and Bill entered and Sonia sat on her bed and took Ann’s hand into hers and rubbed it lovingly. Ann turned to look at Sonia and smiled briefly. She looked at Bill and Claire looking down gazing at her with smiles and acknowledged with a blink of her eyes.
‘Jack has been apprehended, Ann. You have nothing to be afraid of.’ Bill reported and winked at Sonia with love which made Sonia to smile revealing her dimples. ‘Get well soon.’
Sonia looked at her cousin. ‘Am sorry dear, Ann.’ She paused and added. ‘I love you.’
Claire couldn’t say anything. She just let tears roll down her cheek as she smiled at Ann.
It was luck that had Ann. The bullet had grazed her shoulders. She’d recover before she knew it but the scare would ever be there.
Sonia was happy that Claire had not ended in a marriage that would have given her a bad name and reputation and happy that Ann had not died. Sonia looked at her cousin’s bandaged shoulder and sighed. She knew that she would never forgive herself for what had happened to her cousin. It was a guilt she would carry in her heart.
© 2022 Deborah Osadjere