Warmth slowly faded, receding until it was but a distantly vague memory. Cold took its place, creating a wall of ice thick enough to rival the walls of Jericho. Peace turned into war, love turned to hate and the silence and calm which Jack always cherished and desired in his home was gone, replaced by the loud screams of his mother which penetrated the fogginess of his sleepy eyes.
Jack jerked up with a start. Mummy!
His bedside clock confirmed it still two hours to midnight. He couldn’t have been sleeping for long, but his mother’s shrill voice sounded parched and raspy as though she had been screaming for hours. He jumped out of bed and raced out of his bedroom and down the stairs, knowing what was happening from the matching growls of his father. He is doing it again! He thought fearfully. The closer he got to the sitting room, the louder the voices became. Fear gripped his heart like the claws of a hungry lion, squeezing hard until it became too hard to breathe. Without thinking twice, he dashed into their large sitting room, turned his head in the direction of the screams and froze.
He stood there, frozen in time as he watched his father’s fists go up and down, pounding the face of his mother repeatedly.
“Pleeeeaaassee… stop…” his mother screamed, aimlessly using her hands to shield her face.
Mr Pascal’s slaps and blows seemed to increase. “So you can beg ehn?” he yelled. “Don’t worry, I would teach you respect with my fists” he barked.
Jack couldn’t stand it any longer.
He ran towards them. “Nooo… stop” Jack pulled uselessly at his father’s arms, clawed at his back but he just won’t stop. Mr Pascal continued to rain punches on his mother.
“Don’t. Ever. Talk. Back. At. Me” Pascal roared, as his fists punctuated each word.
“Leave her alone… leave my mummy alone” Jack screamed as tears rolled down his cheeks. His mother’s face was a bloody mess, her initially loud screams were becoming weaker and weaker, his father’s punches kept coming and coming, yet, he couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t defend his mother! He picked his shoes and started hitting it against his father’s back desperately, shouting above the wails of his mother. “Stop. Stop. Leave. Mummy. Alone” he yelled as he slammed the boots against his father’s back.
“Get off, stupid boy” Mr Pascal’s hand flashed out and pushed Jack away forcefully.
“Jack” Margaret gasped out painfully as Jack tumbled and fell to the ground.
She tried to drag her battered form towards her son but couldn’t muster the strength. “Don’t… don’t hurt my son, please…” she begged.
“We cannot stay under one roof. For your own good, take this useless son of yours and get out of my house before I drag you out” Pascal barked, his fists clenched tight.
“Mummy” Jack yelled, stood up and rushed to his mother, ignoring the sting in his butt0ckz. “Mummy… mummy, are you alright?” he asked hurriedly, with his seven years old face totally askew. “Let’s go mummy, let us leave this place” he begged as tears rolled down his cheeks.
The bloody face of his mother tore at his tender heart and his hatred for his father increased.
“Listen to your son, woman” Pascal barked. “Leave my house”
“No” Margaret gasped out in pain. “Please Pascal… we have nowhere to go… pleeeaasssee…”
“Do I look like I care?” he asked. “You can go to hell, I don’t give a damn! Now, get out of here before I drag you out myself” he threatened, his voice echoing round the sitting room.
“Stop” Jack yelled, putting himself between his mother’s form and his towering father. “We would go! Leave my mummy alone”
Mr Pascal glared at the seven years old boy. “Shut up you little brat” he barked. “How dare you raise your voice at me? I have always wondered if you were my son”
Jack nodded. “Me too. I have always wondered if you were my father” he returned stubbornly and heard his mother gasp in horror.
Mr Pascal’s eyes burned with rage as he slapped Jack soundly across the face, making the little boy sway from the force. Margaret shrieked and summoned enough strength to stand up and pull Jack behind her, shielding her son with her body against her husband. “Leave him Pascal, we would leave”
“Get out of my house now” Pascal roared, “and take this bastard along with you. This boy can never be my son”
Jack turned his eyes back to his father, stubbornly steeling himself against the tears which threatened to break free. “Yes. Being a bastard is better… than being your son”
Margaret hurriedly dragged Jack out of the house as fast as her battered body could carry her. Jack hurried along with his mother, he didnt know where they were going, but at least, no matter where they went, he took pleasure in knowing that his father wouldn’t be able to beat up his mother again.
Mr Pascal’s enraged voice grew thinner and thinner until it finally faded out. And so they walked, away from the house and into the thick darkness of the night, without a destination in mind. They were alone, tossed out in the cold to thread the dangerous path of uncertainty. Jack felt certain that anywhere would be better than the lion’s den which was his father’s house, but he was to learn…
Getting himself and his mother out of the den seemed like the best decision at the time, but it took being out in the unknown to change him, maim him and ultimately, chart a new course for him… There are worse fates than being in the lion’s den! It took being out of it to realize this, but the hands of time can only move forward. Turning back the hands of time is… a painful impossibility!
Lara Banks stepped out of the bar. It was already very dark. She didn’t know she had spent so much time at the bar, thinking about nothing and everything. When would a time come for her when she would be without problems? As she set to the task of walking home, she wished for the first time that she had taken a driver along with her. If I had, I wouldn’t have to walk home alone on this dark street, she mused. She had always hated darkness, right from her childhood. It still remained the only insurmountable fear she had. Sighing deeply in resignation, she walked on, cutting off her environment as she created a safe haven for herself in her thoughts.
Even though she had spent all the time in the bar, thinking about her relationship with Derin, she still thought of it now. She wondered how he would react to this new development with her father if he ever got to find out. Deciding that she wouldn’t tell him, she walked on. Scanty people walked by, giving her a measured level of confidence, but after a few minutes, she became the only person on the road once again. Then it came! The sickening feeling that she was being watched! She turned her head from side to side but didn’t see anyone.
‘Oh great! Now I am becoming paranoid’ she muttered to herself as she picked up her pace, walking faster. But then, she still felt eyes on her. She turned again to scan the street. Someone had to be watching her, she couldn’t be imagining it, could she? She glanced at her wristwatch as her heart raced. It was just minutes past nine, but because of the kind of environment they lived in, it was perfectly normal for the road to be deserted. She glanced around again! Now, she was certain, someone was definitely watching her!
How many times have her dad said that she should always go out with a body guard? ‘You are not like all the lesser people out there, you need to be protected every time’ he would say. It had always annoyed him whenever he said that, but now, walking down the street, with someone watching her movements, she really wished she had listened to her father. She saw the security gate to her estate ahead and walked faster. The security men there should be able to stop any ambush right?
She half walked and half ran as the eyes on her became more intense. Is the person getting closer? Fear was beginning to take over her senses. As she sped towards the gate, not daring to look back again for fear of what she might see. She heaved a heavy sigh of relief as she approached the gate and saw the security men there. She slowed down and walked more calmly, then all of a sudden, the eyes watching her seemed to vanish. Suddenly, she could breathe freely.
She turned, still she didn’t see anyone.
Had someone really been watching her or had she imagined it? Confusion set in as she got to the large estate gate. The security men on guard looked at her, their faces showing surprise and disapproval.
“Miss Banks?” One of the security men looked questioningly at her. “I didn’t know you were out”
Lara smiled apologetically at them. “I stepped out for a drink and lost track of time” she murmured.
“It is unsafe for a lady such as yourself to be out alone so late at night”
Lara almost rolled her eyes in exasperation but judging from what she had just experienced, he was probably right.
“Yes. I would just go in now. Have a good night” she said and walked on, into the estate.
She paused for some seconds and turned to stare back at the road, but it was empty. Had she imagined it? The security men were looking at her with puzzled expressions on their faces as she stood immobile at the gate, staring back at the road. She smiled softly and turned finally, walking up to her father’s house. ‘I probably am going crazy’
Jack came out of the shadows with a rueful smile tugging at his mouth.
He watched Lara’s retreating back until it finally disappeared into a building, not so far from the gate. From his vantage point, he could easily see the building. Satisfied, he turned and walked away with various plans in his head. ‘Today has been really fruitful’ he thought in his head, still tapping the digital camera in his pocket.
Lara stepped out of her steaming bathroom and into her freezing cold bedroom. She never had the culture of taking her bath so early in the morning, so taking her bath around 10am was more like a normal occurrence. Goosebumps broke out on her skin as she hurriedly reached for the remote of the air conditioner and turned it off.
The soft humming went off but the chilling cold was still present. Lara sighed and loosened the white towel around her chest, toweling off the droplets of water which still beaded all over her body. Her extra-large bedroom swallowed her up, making all her attempts at decorating it seem futile.
It still wasn’t the small cozy room she desired, but she was already used to it.
She applied lotion to her skin and shrugged on her underwear. Unwrapping the towel around her head, she released the braids she had done three days ago, letting it fall to the middle of her back. She had to visit Derin, but how would she get past her father’s men. Naturally, she should be out of her father’s house and in her own apartment, but every time she brought up the issue, it was always thrown in the trash. Her mouth pressed into a thin frustrated line. If he thinks he can rule my life, then he has another thing coming.
As she threw a small thigh-length gown over her body, she started hearing voices just beyond her bedroom door. She smiled to herself as her door opened and her two friends entered, looking as radiant as ever.
“Hey girlfriend” they chorused and Lara grinned at them.
“I would pen down the day you both remember to knock” she said, grinning at them. She could always trust her friends to brighten up her days.
Bola snorted. “That day would never come” she said as she jumped on the bed.
Teresa dumped her bag on the bed and walked to the full length mirror. “What’s the fun in knocking when we can bump in and catch you red handed in whatever sinful thing you are doing, all alone in your room?” she murmured as she grinned at her reflection in the mirror.
Lara hissed. “Don’t think for a second that I am as sinful as you”
They were called the three rascals! They had been together since their secondary school days, and now, they had become more like sisters. They teased each other, fought endlessly, but they had remained close friends through it all. Bola propped her elbow on the bed and supported her head on her raised arm. She winked at Lara. “You are looking really hot Larrypop”
Teresa snorted. “Yes. Too bad she couldn’t think of a better person to give herself to, it had to be a bloody carpenter” she said, looking disgusted.
Lara deflated as she glared at Teresa. “Don’t you start” she warned.
Bola looked thoughtful. “I think the carpenter is cute”
“Thank you! But his name is Derin and not carpenter” Lara said frustratedly.
“Listen to yourselves” Teresa finally turned away from the mirror to glare at the ladies. “Lara doesn’t deserve a ‘cute’ guy, what she needs is a smoking hot guy, handsome enough to make women fall over themselves with envy whenever they see Lara” she glared at Lara.
“Tell me exactly what you see in that filthy carpenter”
This conversation was beginning to get on Lara’s nerves. “What he does and how he looks is not important to me, how many times would I repeat that?” She yelled. She closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. “You know what, we’d better go shopping now before I lose interest. You are beginning to get on my nerves”
Bola jumped out of the bed. “Cut it out Teresa” she murmured as she grabbed her bag. “I didn’t dress up so stunningly only to end up going nowhere” she also walked up to the mirror and checked out her reflection. She turned with a flourish towards the ladies. “Shall we?” She breathed with a bright smile. Lara looked at the women she called her friends and shook her head. She sighed as she picked up her bag and followed them outside, without even a glance at the mirror. They always got on her nerves, but what could she do? They were her friends and though they were always annoying, she loved them anyways.
Thankfully, her father was about the business of keeping the state alive and her mother was nowhere in sight. They drove to the boutique in Teresa’s car, talking animatedly all through the drive. They never mentioned anything about Derin again and this pleased Lara tremendously. The lively chatter made the trip to the boutique seem shorter and they bounced into the boutique with happy glows on their faces. One thing that Lara always loved about being rich was the thrill that always accompanied shopping. But then, she knew that shopping would be a real chore if she didn’t have her friends there with her. They picked clothes that they loved and fought over a cloth that they all wanted until the sales girl settled it by telling them that they could have three of the same cloth.
Through it all Lara was happy, until she felt it again. That feeling that she had several days back. She turned to see if anyone was watching her, but there were several people in the boutique, it could be anyone.
“Oh my God!” Teresa m0aned quietly.
“What?” Lara muttered in agitation, still feeling eyes on her.
“Look at that guy! Oh my God, he is so hot” she breathed.
Lara hissed as she dismissed both Teresa’s voice and the sinking feeling in her.
“Oh Lord” Bola breathed too. “Look at his eyes”
Lara shook her head and decided to oblige her too annoying friends. She turned and followed their gaze until she found the object of their fascination. It took all her self control to stop her jaw from dropping. He wasn’t the most handsome man she had ever seen, but he was definitely the most… Sekxy?
His broad shoulders looked so powerful, her eyes lingered hungrily. She shook her head to clear her stupid thoughts as she raised her eyes to his. Slowly, as though he knew he was being watched, he turned his head and his eyes shot to hers. Her breath caught in her throat as his dark eyes drank her in. Slowly his lips broke into a Sekxy sardonic smile.
Lara wondered what a man so breathtaking was doing in a ladies’ boutique.
He couldn’t be a sales guy, could he? A stunning model-like lady tugged at his hand and he turned his head to her with that Sekxy smile still on his face. That definitely is her answer!
“Wouldn’t you want your boyfriend to take you shopping?” Teresa whispered into her ears. She stiffened her spine as she turned to her. “That wouldn’t happen anytime soon with your carpenter boyfriend.” She chipped and turned away.