IN LOVE AND WAR VIII

Chapter Eight: Medicine

“You’re awake.”

Waking up to blurry hospital lights, EKG machine screaming into my ears and IV attached to the back of my hand, my head felt like an axe was splitting right into it. My neck felt like thousands of needles were jabbing through repeatedly. And my body was under the agony of a beautiful salmon fish in the bear’s teeth torn into pitiful shreds. I knew what it was like to resurrect from the dead.

Leo’s voice accompanied by the jubilant smile of a gold medalist and soft kisses placed on my temple made me feel less crappy. The distinct fragrance of lavender coming from the bunch of flowers on the table was so good, it was not merely a blessing to my olfactory lobes but gave peace to the stormy spirit within me.

He intertwined his hands with mine, “I was scared. Amanda said you tripped and fell down the stairs. You’ve been comatose for six days. How do you feel?”

Amanda. At the mention of her name, tears welled up in my eyes. I remembered the coldness in her eyes before I tumbled down the right side of the bifurcated staircase. I’d told her whatever she thought she’d figured out was no more than a mix-up. But she didn’t listen.

Something had to be done. Her attention had to be diverted, and the idea of rolling down the flight of black, granite stairs presented itself on the plate of my mind. Reckless but I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. Of course, I predicted it would be painful but going unconscious, that wasn’t part of the plan. And for six whole days? A hundred and forty-four hours of my life wasted.

It didn’t matter now. I’d prevented the disaster Amanda could have generated. Nathaniel’s heart protected at the expense of my perfect body, I convinced myself I’d gone the right way about this. The healing of a heart could never be compared to that of a flesh wound. I’d be alright, just not today maybe.

I wasn’t mad. I couldn’t bring myself to, even though Amanda left out the details. For reasons I was determined to dig out sooner, Amanda kept our discussion prior to the incident remained under the wraps. Why would someone give an incomplete truth? Fear. To protect themselves or another person. I’d been there a million times.

I could have sworn she was aware I’d thrown myself down intentionally. I could have sworn that beyond her obdurate outlook was an uncertainty about her hypothesis. Looking forward to our next conversation, I set before myself a quest to explore Amanda’s mind. My accident ought to have saved me, I hoped.

However I looked at it, Amanda was the victim in this circle still. I could not see otherwise.

“Stabbed by a thousand daggers.” I mumbled.

I wasn’t even kidding. And it was beyond the physical pain. It was about the length I would go to hush up my affair with my husband’s son. It was human nature to put the blame on everyone else, but in this instance, the scapegoat was I. If I could point my fingers, I’d have all ten facing my direction.

Amidst all, I wanted Leo. Now more than ever. The intensity of the fire raging in my heart superseded the sensation of barbed wire wrapped around my cold skin. He’d grown on me like he was a colony of E. Coli, a pathogenic microorganism, yet critically beneficial. His eccentric loverboy’s folly was trouble-bound just as I would make absurd decisions to save our necks every time, yet thinking of every bit of it could only make me smile.

“I missed you.” He patted my hair, igniting my hunger for speedy recovery without even trying. I needed to be in his arms again. He was my antidote.

“Not much has happened.” He fed me more of his soothing voice, my favorite song.

A brief kiss on my palm, he went on, “The company lost another contract with Suzuki. Actually, it expired and the request for renewal was denied.”

“I joined the company on Monday.” He adjusted his shirt collar, “still tryna get comfortable.” He crossed his legs.

Picturing Leo corporately dressed and behind a glassy table in an impressive, large and airy office, a slow smile of jest spread across my face.

He smiled back, “I enrolled to an online Business School because I have a lot to learn in a short period. I am representing the company at the Automobile Dealers Executive Summit.”

How is Nathaniel doing? I didn’t have to ask. I understood businesses would come with ups and downs but not like this. He’d lost another multimillion dollar contract in less than a month. The company was Nathaniel’s number one. He’d lost an arm and a leg. If only I knew what could be running through his head. If only I had the slightest clue about running a business.

Researching how to be of help, I concluded Leo and I had to be behind closed doors now of all times. No hinting charm bracelets. No encoded tattoos. Sneaking out into the garden like a thief in the night would definitely take the lid off, we could never afford that. Nathaniel had too much to handle already; the best I could offer him was some peace of mind.

*******************************************

“She’s conscious.” Amanda informed her friends after getting a text.

“That’s great news.” Kim took a pause from the menu. “How is she?”

“Crazy, obviously.” Alisha sassed, “do you even have to ask? She fell off the stairs to keep Ella’s identity under her hat.”

Amanda signaled to the waitress to come over, faced her friends afterwards, “Alisha, Gabriella is my father-in-law’s wife. This puzzle doesn’t fit.”

“But she knows Leo has a name for a child you haven’t conceived?” Alisha then, directed to the waitress, “I’ll have some grilled Salmon with Dill sauce.”

“I’ll have the same, please.” Amanda’s demureness was second to none.

“I’m confused.” She tilted her head to the left, fiddling her earring while Kim made her ridiculously long order. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s no way she’s having an affair with my husband.”

“Bitch played you. She catapulted herself down to mess with your head. Bravo, it’s working.” Alisha clapped. “She deserves a prize. Luckily, my brain functions properly. All I have to say is the same thing I said that night, she is Ella. It’s in her name for goodness’ sake. Open your eyes, girlfriend!” She rolled her eyes skyward.

Kim implored, “Amanda, sister, sometimes you have to make your own decisions and take full responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Just because Alisha thinks she is doesn’t mean she is. I don’t think she is. But if Gabriella is Ella, I’ll say give it time. The truth always, always comes out.”

“Shut up! Shut your face!” Alisha broke in, “You’re even fortunate to be at this table. Speak sensibly. Everyone knows Leo gets the Grammy for most adulterous on the entire planet. You, Kim can attest to that.” She rubbed it in.

“Let any one who is without mistake be the first to throw a stone.” Kim defended.

“Leo, we’ve all seen. What evidence do we have against Gabriella besides what Amanda overheard the employees saying about Leo going into her room, which happens to be his father’s room as well? It doesn’t even qualify to be evidence because he could have been there for hundreds of reasons, and the best you could come up with is she’s his mistress? Really, Alisha?” She shook her head in disapproval.

“Kim is right.” Amanda seconded.

The waitress returned with their orders.

“And I was wrong, right?”

“But she knows Leo has a name for a child you haven’t conceived?” Alisha repeated. Then reminded, “And explain the deliberate accident.”

“His father is his idol. Leo might disrespect me but never his father. He would never.”

Amanda’s conviction as solid as a Christian’s assurance of salvation had Alisha completely taken aback. Her face questioned how Amanda could trust her husband still despite all she’d faced for the sake of his infidelity. The shame, the betrayal, the hurt, her life literally took a new, unplanned direction over the sudden change of residence invented by his extramarital relationships. Was she in love or stupid or both? After two years of friendship, she’s been accustomed to Amanda’s reticence and maybe there were some benefits to it but not now; Alisha needed her friend to be fierce.

“Leo knows no boundaries.” Alisha pointed out.

“The way I see it, Ella is really the name Leo had in mind for the baby.” Kim tackled.

“Besides sleeping with your friend’s fiancé, what else are you good at? It’s obviously not intelligence ‘cause if it were you’d remember Amanda isn’t pregnant, dummy. What kind of Asian are you?” Alisha successfully ruffled her feathers.

Amanda’s issue was tossed aside. Her friends battered with words in the public like children. Heads turning towards their direction, she kept her head down to avoid making contact. She should probably leave the scene but she was only halfway done with her meal. What to do?

********************************************

Flat on one’s back for days, my eagerness to get out of bed was to a coherent degree. In a wheelchair, Leo pushed me around the hospital premises before we snuck into the park and out of the property.

In the roofless Mercedes S Class, fresh air gushed in like water from a broken pipe, gave my spirit some vitality; just what I needed. Straight drive to the beach, I drew in five long, deep breaths at my favorite place to be. I’d never felt more relaxed. Leo wouldn’t let me walk around, he feared I wasn’t strong enough for that. Even though I could not have the cool water lapping at my feet because we remained in the car, I enjoyed the wind caressing my face, the sight of the mighty waves ahead roaring and rolling down, the pure smell of nature in its humblest form, a cup of ice-cream and above all, the company of my beloved, my remedy.

“Do you know what the Lord said to John?”

“What?”

“Come forth and you shall receive an eternal life. But John came fifth and won a toaster.”

Guffawing, I was overcome by a wash of energy boost to pay him back with more puns.

Laughter is the best medicine; it’s never made sense to me until Leo and I started our insanely hilarious pun battle. Shared laugher was my fastest therapy. My discomfort eliminated. My fears pushed aside. All hurts healed. I couldn’t be anxious, irate or sad about anything. It was as though I’d developed a strong buffer against stress and resentment and tension and judgments. Only positivity bloomed like tulips in spring.

“Shoutout to the people wondering what the opposite of in is.”

“Out!” I exclaimed, drenched in the sea of glee.

The first time I had a play on words with Nathaniel was the last, he was as clueless as pirate wearing two eye patches, then made me explain the joke throughout the dinner date.

How couldn’t I have ended up with you instead? I pondered.

Patience, he responded with an ardent, breathless kiss on my lips. I’d almost forgotten he could read my thoughts.

Nathaniel, I would always regard as a double blessing to my existence but Leo, Leo was much more. Leo was the physical attraction. Leo was the mental attraction. Leo was the pleasurable pain. Leo was the medicine. Leo was the reason I’d shut down and restart my life as though it were as easy as a computer’s.

“Gabby.” He murmured.

Leaning closer, he stared at my wet lips. I could feel the heat of his breath on my skin.

“Yeah?” My answer was weak. It was the effect of the touch of his fingers on my cheeks.

“Let’s elope, please.” The teenager in Leo resurrected, bullying his manly senses into nothingness.

I let out a subtle laugh. The deadpan expression on his face could be mistaken for innocence but there was absolutely nothing innocent about this bad boy.

I really wished we could. “We can’t.”

Flattered by his idea, yet reasoning didn’t elude me. My emotions wouldn’t cloud my judgments. It nearly seemed like I was a character in a Telenovela, but I knew I wasn’t.

“Nathaniel and Amanda…”

He butted in with a low voice, “would live.”

“Can’t be so sure.” I continued slowly, “I have heard stories of suicide victims…”

“They’ll live.” He butted in again and his lips pressed against mine in an erotic smooch.

Leo’s spontaneity was one of the traits I admired the most about him but it would hurt the people who cared for us. I could never live with that. Knowing myself, I’d surely spend my entire lifetime thinking about it and beating myself up. Fate got us in this mess and fate would bring us out of it, I believed.

It might have looked like I wanted to eat my cake and have it. This was in no way one of those cases. Beyond shadow of doubt, being with Nathaniel came with an insurance and assurance of material, social and economical advantages. But I was already paying him evil for good with my intimacy with his only son and making it public, doing it to his face was rubbing salt into an open wound.

Unlike Leo who was used to getting everything he wanted at the time he wanted, I was confident that I was going to end up with him; neither how nor when was I aware of but I was assured and I didn’t want to rush it. I didn’t want to twist a knife in anyone’s heart in the process. I wanted things to happen naturally.

********************************************

Multivitamins. Seafoods. A lot of rest. Regular workout. Yoga. Broken pieces of Doctor Barley’s discussion with Nathaniel brought me back to life.

A two hour sleep was more profitable to me than the long nap I had for days. I woke up with the clarity of where I was and why. No blurs, no white noises. I recalled a glimpse of Amanda when she walked in, made a phone call to somebody that I was slumbering and then, left. I nearly called her back, my spirt was willing but flesh, weak.

I want to go home, I thought. Same words I spewed upon setting my eyes on Nathaniel. I could tell he was going to decline my request but Doctor Barley bailed me out, agreeing I would receive treatments from home.

In thirty minutes, I was in the Roll-Royce Phantom heading to the mansion. It was nice to be out of the hospital air again. Busy with calls, my husband and I barely uttered two sentences to each other but it was okay. He had to do what he had to do to save us all from financial slump. And I simply wanted to see Leo. Our last conversation ended with him walking out of the room with a dark grimace of bitter disappointment.

Giving him the full story of my voluntary accident – when we got back from the beach – and getting a volcanic outburst of dissatisfaction in response wasn’t particularly the acclamation I’d hoped for.

“Amanda knows nothing. You’ve only made a preposterous, suspicious move again. If she’d taken you to my father’s office, I would have been there and it would have turned out another way where nobody is lying on a sick bed. You’re not Supergirl! You could have killed yourself. For God’s sakes, would you stop with all these foolishness?”

He assumed I was too desperate to keep the truth underground. Maybe, I really was. But I did it for us. I was protecting us. I was afraid of Amanda successfully bringing everything into light. I was saving him. I did what seemed right to me, if only he could take a second to see from my perspective. Certainly, if he was in my shoes, he’d have done things differently. Still, I had no regrets.

“That was Barley.” Nathaniel informed after ending another call.

“Already? It isn’t that bad. He could gimme a break.”

Our driver parked directly in front of the front door, so that I didn’t have to walk from the garage. Rona and the other employees rushed out in geniality to help me into the house. Kindly, I rejected the offer to have my arms over their shoulders and limped inside on my own.

It was past midnight, why were the employees around? When did Nathaniel decide the workers could sleep over? Did they have their rooms too? Well, I didn’t bother much even though it was a big deal to me that he would make various decisions about the house without my knowledge. The same thing occurred when the workers went on a three month paid leave – I suddenly just stopped seeing them. Leo and Amanda’s arrival was in a similar fashion.

Getting to the swell step, flashes of my fall flooded my brain like a raging torrent. I couldn’t move because my legs became heavier than lead; I pleaded to be carried to the couch in the living room. Glancing around, I wondered why Amanda and Leo were nowhere to be found.

“What did Dr. Barley say?” I resumed, aiming to distract myself from the first sign of PTSD I’d just experience.

“Nothing. Just some test results came out.” Nathaniel got seated on the sofa adjacent to mine.

“Should I be worried?” God forbid!

“On the contrary, you have given me a reason to celebrate amidst everything we’re going through right now.” He grinned from ear to ear, unknotting his necktie.

“I have?”

“Yes, baby. I got to call Damien first thing in the morning. I am ruling out the legal adoption process.”

“I thought…”

He butted in, “You, my wife, are giving me a child in nine months time!” He bursted out like a cork from a bottle of champagne.

Beaming like a kid who just woke up to a room full of presents on Christmas morning, “You’re five weeks pregnant my darling.” He announced.

My heart beat faster than a greyhound winning the race. I couldn’t share in his ecstasy.

“That can’t be.” I spilled unknowingly.

“What do you mean?” He moved over to my seat.

“I am not ready. I do not have what it takes to be a mother. I am aborting this baby. Yes, that’s final.” I let out without a second thought, dragging myself to the next couch.

“You’ll what?” Eyes open-wide, he stared at me.

Opening and closing my mouth severally to form words that never came, Leo walked in. Just who I needed, I took a deep breath.

“Hi, guys.” He greeted before sensing the turbidness in the atmosphere. “Dad, is everything okay?”

Amanda climbed down the stairs to join us.

“Gabriella is pregnant, she wants to terminate the baby.” Nathaniel summarized, his hands tightening into fists.

I had no idea why Amanda gasped. What could she be thinking? Perhaps, she knew it already. No, I didn’t want to deal with this, not right in this moment.

“No.” Leo took his father’s side.

“Thank you!” Nathaniel exclaimed, messed up in his head.

“Someone please tell Freda to prepare me a room on this floor. I wanna be alone.”

Isolated, everyone respected my desire to be on my own. Leo didn’t show his face until I sent a text. Nathaniel, I didn’t even want to see. First, he’d raised his hopes over nothing. This baby couldn’t have been his. And I would be getting an abortion regardless. My body, my rules. I wasn’t ready to carry on my shoulders the responsibility of motherhood. If Leo wanted to be a father, he should count on Amanda for it. She was gravid anyway.

“How are you feeling?” He questioned, locking the door behind him.

“What can I say?” I longed to be clasped in his arms.

“Have you spoken with my father?” He took his seat on the edge of the bed, legs apart.

“I have nothing to say to him.”

He threaded a hand through his hair, “it’s going to kill him if you terminate this pregnancy.”

“The baby is yours.”

Not aware of it, one corner of his mouth twitched into a faint smile. “I know.”

Leo paused, “But he doesn’t.”

“That’ll be another lie!” Slack-jawed, I casted a fixed gaze upon him.

Why would Leo want us to trick Nathaniel into believing our baby is his? It’d make him the happiest man on the planet, I answered myself. Nathaniel had everything but this one thing – a biological child.

“Just…” he looked at the carpeted floor, speechless for a moment or two. “Just…don’t do it, Gabby. That’s our first child. Our first fruit. The product of my first true love. Please.”

“It’s not in your belly. I don’t think you get to have a say.” Giving an exasperated sigh, I smacked my palm on my forehead.

This could not be happening!

“I don’t want to argue with you. After I left the hospital yesterday, I spent the whole evening with a chaotic mind. I can’t spend today the same way.” A quiet calm settled with his words.

“Then be on the same page with me.” I appealed. “When we aren’t behind the curtains, we can have as many babies as possible.”

He shrugged, “let’s come out of the closet already! You know that’s all I’ve ever wanted. I am not scared. I’m not ashamed of anything. Of you. Of us. I want to show you to the world. We found love in a place full of deception. Let’s blow the whistle.”

“Now isn’t the time.” My voice shivered. I was close to breaking down into tears.

“I don’t want to argue.” He rose to his feet, set to leave. “I’ll give you time to think about it. And while at it, think about me, about us, not just yourself.”

“Are you saying I’m selfish for…”

“No. I’m saying your selfless act of putting others first, now is the time I need it the most. Put me first. Put the baby first.” He placed a kiss on cheek, “see you at dawn mi amor. I love you.”

To read the earlier chapters of this fiction, kindly go to the home page and begin from IN LOVE AND WAR (which is the first chapter) and follow through according to the Roman Figures. Happy Reading!

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