Justin collapsed in the car seat gasping for air, hands so shaky he couldn't guide the key into the ignition. Holy shit!
What—The thought changed from—a night! to—have I done?
Hell! He lost focus, just sat until beads of sweat trickled down his face. The hot midday sun, windows closed, no air conditioner running... Maybe if he sweated enough it’d hide the stink of his
He started the car, cranked the AC.
What have I done? He frowned. Actually, what have I done? In a nutshell, screwed up my daughter’s hot, sexy, insatiable friend. Twice!
His fingers shook as he put the car in gear and backed out of the parking slot. Shit. He phoned Ambrose. His university friend had become his brother-in-law after they married sisters. This was the
only person he knew who might help him deal with what he’d done. They met at the same Club—Mavericks and sat a few meters from the counter.
The waitress came by shortly. Perhaps sensing Justin’s mood, Ambrose ordered. “Double tots of whisky and tonic water.” He glided a finger across the liquor menu. “No, wait--make it triple, with
Justin’s gaze settled on the wall behind the counter where every hue of amber liquid in their inverted bottles lay; the same temptation that had brought him to his current predicament. He’d not
wanted to taste alcohol, but changed his mind after seeing the bartender scrubbing the glass of the chiller cabinet, perhaps recently re-stuffed with those damn garish alcopops.
He said, “Let’s just get a whole bottle.” His phone was clogged with missed calls and texts from Katelyn.
Ambrose smiled. “Now you’re talking.”
Ambrose cheated on his wife, Elizabeth, with some regularity. Justin had always given him hell about it. Now... it did mortify him to imagine how Ambrose would be delighted to learn he’d also
cheated on Katelyn. Nonetheless, he needed advice from such a Casanova on matters infidelity.
He looked over his shoulder to ensure the waitress was out of earshot. “Man, I’ve blundered big time.”
Ambrose pulled out a packet of smokes and a lighter. “What happened? Wait, you didn't kill someone, did you?”
Justin sighed. “Not someone. Something. My marriage. I—I didn’t sleep at home last night.”
Ambrose snorted. “You don't look like you slept much.”
“Maybe a bit after the second time. And I think I even hurt myself—“
Ambrose’s snicker interrupted him. “Wait… you didn't.”
“You cheated on Katelyn?”
Justin lowered his gaze and just... sat quietly. His skin burned. Jeez!
Ambrose flicked the lighter, then lifted the flame near his eyes briefly before lighting the cigarette. “Man, you scared the crap out of me, I thought it was something serious.”
“This is serious.”
Ambrose puffed out two thin clouds of smoke between his teeth, forming curls in the gloom, illuminated only by the speckled bar lights. “So long as Katelyn doesn’t find out, it’s not a big deal.
But even if she found out, she ought to understand—A man can’t just be with one woman. Does she know?”
Justin shook his head. “No.”
“Then don’t worry.”
Justin recognized the waitress when she returned with their drinks. The professional smile she’d worn all night was quite gone. Her eyelids sagged and her face hung loose and long.
He sipped his drink after she’d left. “We shouldn’t have come here. She’s the same girl who was serving us last night. I’m still wearing the same clothes and she saw me leave with a woman. Oh,
“Man, relax. You’re so nervous, and that’s how Katelyn will catch you.”
Justin fiddled with the table mat. “What should I tell Katie?”
“Are you supposed to tell her?”
“She’d forgive anything but infidelity.”
Ambrose slumped back in his seat. “A woman will forgive anything if you’re sincere in your apology.”
God, even if he’d messed up, he wouldn’t justify his actions in any way. How could Ambrose be persuaded it was okay for men to cheat and expect women to forgive?
“Is that how you feel about it, Ambrose? This is different. We’ve always been one. I’ve broken that oneness.”
“So you’ll tell her the truth?”
Justin fidgeted with his wedding ring. “Of course not.”
“Pretty sure Elizabeth thinks I cheat on her, but she has no evidence.” Ambrose stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray. “But you, no one expects this from you. Something awful must’ve happened to
push you into this.”
“It was all Katie’s fault. She started yelling at me simply because of paying school fees for my brother’s and Susie’s girls.”
Cupping his hands around the flame he’d just lit, Ambrose sucked life into another cigarette. “Speaking of Susie, she can give you a good alibi—You slept at her place.”
Justin pulled out his phone. “Excellent idea, hoping they haven’t talked yet, but I doubt it, they’re sworn enemies.”
Susie agreed to come over in a few minutes.
“Imagine: I wished her goodnight, even started the car, but I just couldn’t leave. I went back to her room.”
“C’mon man, I’d have done the same thing. I mean, Connie’s so pretty, and she’s single.”
“Who said it was Connie? I can’t sleep with my PA.”
Ambrose’s jaw dropped. “It’s not Connie? Who then?”
Justin downed the remnant of his drink. “That’s the worst part. It’s— It’s... Ah, forget it.”
Justin thought for a while, then sipped on his drink. “Just... a hooker.”
Ambrose leaned forward. “Look man, I got your back. You can tell me anything.”
“Are you sure? No way.”
“I met her here. Last night.” He pointed. “That table over there. She was seated alone. We drank, danced, then... Shit.” He shifted. Still so sore!
“Hookers in this club are usually so hot, I’ve picked a few from here myself.” Ambrose licked his lips as if reminiscing. “Man, I think I should soon come over and hook with one. I envy you.”
Justin stroked his mustache. “Don’t envy me. If Katie discovers this, my marriage’s over.”
“I didn’t know Katelyn to be such a terrible person.”
“She’s not terrible. What I’ve done is inexcusable. I wouldn’t forgive it if I were in her position. Would you forgive your wife for cheating on you?”
Ambrose waved his cigarette. “Men and women are different. Only a wicked woman cheats, not a wife.”
“Double standards. Why is it okay for a man to cheat and not a woman?”
“I don’t know; it’s just how we’re created.”
“Aren’t you the hypocrite? What you’ve done just confirms this.”
Justin scooped some groundnuts and rubbed them between his palms. The peels flaked off. “I don’t twist the truth. If this is pretense, so be it.”
“Easy, I’m sorry.”
For a second, Justin imagined Katelyn in a hotel room with… He couldn’t think of anybody they knew, but he scowled at the imaginary man. Middle-aged—no, younger. Definitely younger. Muscular, hairy
chest, bearing a Han Solo mocking smile as he took off her bra. The son of a bitch. What he’d done was horrible.
He felt two slender hands leaning on his shoulder from behind. “Jeeezuz!”
Susie giggled. “Help, Justin.”
“Gosh, you scared me.”
“You look awful, what is it?” said she, cradling her brother into a tight hug. She eased away, scanning him. “Wait a minute, aren’t these the same clothes you wore yesterday in the office?”
“Hey, take me slow, idiot.”
Smiling, Ambrose stood and shook Susie’s hand. “I’m glad you’re here. At least you can shake him out of self-pity.”
Justin’s phone rang again. He checked the screen. “Ah, it’s Katie.” He put it down.
Susie rolled her eyes. “Since when did you start ignoring Katie’s calls? What’s the matter?”
Justin paused when the waitress came for Susie’s order. “What can I serve you, ma’am?”
Susie sipped from Justin’s glass. “Just bring him another empty glass, I’ll use this.” She wiped the red lipstick on the rim with a finger.
Ambrose raised his glass. “That’s why I like you. So simple. I wish all women were like you.”
Susie gave a mocking smile. “I guess that’s why I ended up single.”
“Gosh.” Justin cracked his knuckles. He’d repeatedly forbade his sister against speaking badly about herself. Why was she hell-bent on allowing the stupid mistakes she made in her youth define her
future? “Susie, you just haven’t met the right guy, and that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
“Tell that to Katie. She doesn’t understand how someone can make the same mistake twice.” She munched on a groundnut. “Stop giving me that pitiful look, I’ve long accepted my fate.”
Katelyn’s words must have really stuck, many years later, after their quarrel. Susie never let slip a chance of repeating Katelyn’s scathing words. If he now told her she was the cause of his
quarrel with Katelyn, this would crush her.
She refilled her glass. “So… You wanted to speak to me.”
Ambrose leaned forward, smiling. “Have you guys watched this movie, The Hitman?”
“Please don’t compare me to Jenny. Too many people say I behave like her.”
“Precisely, and you look alike.”
Justin said, “I’ve not watched it but I guess Jenny must be a tomboy.” He cackled, leaning on his sister. “You remember that night you ambushed Mr. John with a whip?”
She answered with a burst of laughter. “Oh, poor man, may his soul rest in peace. He ran away even before I lowered the second stroke.” She carefully wiped tears with a tissue. “But I was avenging
for you. He made mama beat you, yet it wasn’t you who broke his windscreen.”
Ambrose chuckled. “So, you fought his battles?”
“Of course, and I was only ten. I’ve always looked out for him.”
Justin put a hand over her shoulder. “That’s why I’ll not allow anyone to come between us.”
“C’mon, you know you can tell me anything. Is this about Katelyn?”
Justin lowered his eyes and collected more groundnuts.
“What did I do this time?”
“Well, you did nothing. It’s my carelessness. She bumped into your text message and flew off the handle.”
“Oh, about school fees? I don’t understand why you allow her access to your phone.”
Ambrose shifted. “Liz can’t touch my phone.”
Justin waved him off. “That’s for another discussion.”
She rummaged through her handbag and pulled a lipstick. “She must have called me all manner of names.”
“Sue, please. Can we just be objective for a moment?”
“Okay, so she chased you from your own house, and you slept in the street? You should’ve come to my place,” said she, rubbing her lips against each other to spread the lipstick.
“No, I just didn’t go back home after work.”
She poked his shoulder. “You can be such a damn ass boring storyteller. Cut to the chase. What happened?”
Justin growled. “Just know I didn’t sleep at home and I need you to give me an alibi. Now, will you help me out or not?”
“You know you don’t even have to ask. I’ll do anything for you. May I ask, what happened?”
Justin took her hand in his. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that... I, um, I—I really feel awful and don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay, I understand.”
He pressed her hand. “Thank you.”
“And you don’t have to tell me what happened. I already know.”
Justin busied himself with refilling his drink.
She placed her handbag back on the table and remained silent for a moment before she looked up. “I’m not judging you, but y’know my stand on men who cheat—they’re assholes. But I know she pushed
you into this.”
‘’No, I did it on my own.”
Susie’s eyes watered. She blinked, held back her tears. “At least you regret it. I wish the assholes in my life had a conscience like yours.”
Ambrose tapped on the base of the cigarette packet, pulled a stick, and spoke over his shoulder on his way out. “Excuse me.”
“No wonder! I missed her call last night,” said she.
Justin gazed blankly before him. “I’ll tell her I was at your place.”
“Will Connie be able to act normal if she happens to call her?”
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
“I can only imagine she’d panic and say something wrong. If you’re feeling this way as a man, she must feel horrible.”
Justin lifted his glass halfway to his mouth. “What the heck, all of you guys think I’ve been sleeping with my PA?”
“Who is it then?”
Justin gulped down his drink and stroked his mustache.
“Oh my God! I wish it were a stranger. It’ll hurt Katie even more because she knows Connie.”
“C’mon, are you planning to tell her, Huh?” Justin gave his sister a menacing look. “I told’ya it’s not Connie.”
“Sorry, it’s just horrible.”
He sighed and drained his glass in one shot. “I know, I know. I feel horrible.”
More than driving a stab of guilt in his heart, her reaction sent cold chills down his spine. If it’d been worse supposing it was Connie—someone Katelyn knew from afar—how about Gisela, whom she
cared for as her own daughter? He resolved to guard his secret at whatever the cost.
“I suggest the two of you go together so she knows he spent the night at your place,” said Ambrose, sinking back to his seat.
“That wouldn’t convince a toddler. If anything, it’d only create suspicion,’’ said Susie, returning her glass on the table. “Can’t believe I’m saying this. Just go home and pretend to be still
annoyed with yesterday’s quarrel. If she asks where you were that’s when you tell her, you spent the night on my sofa.”
“I hope she hasn’t already called Elsie or Tamara?”
Susie fumbled for her phone. “I doubt it but lemme just confirm. I got my issues with Katie, but I still feel so bad for her.”
It turned out Katelyn hadn’t contacted Susie’s daughters. She asked her eldest daughter, Elsie, to call Katelyn and tell her Uncle Justin had left with mum but forgot his wallet.
“This is so wrong. I’m even teaching my daughters to lie.” She squeezed Justin’s shoulder. “But I got your back.’’
Justin pressed her hands. “I’m so sorry for putting you in such an awkward position.”
Her phone chimed. “It’s Elsie.” Phone to her ear, she turned away.
When she hung up, Justin asked, “Has she called Katelyn?”
“Yes. Katie asked her if you spent the night and wasn’t interested in anything else.” She drained her glass. “Go home now, before she calls Elsie again.”
Ambrose leaned forward. “Tell Elsie and Tamara to switch off their phones just in case she calls back. We need to celebrate with Justin for a while before he leaves.”
“That’ll be a big mistake. A woman’s sixth sense is stronger than the five. She’ll definitely know there’s something fishy.” Susie wrapped her scarf around Justin’s neck. “There you go. Katie knows
my scarf. Act as if you’re still annoyed.”
Justin stood. “This is wrong, but thank you.” He hugged Susie and shook Ambrose’s hand. “You guys have fun. I’ll pay for everything via mobile money. Just lemme know how much.”
“Sure, I’ll text you the bill,” said Ambrose, sitting back.
Susie giggled. “That’s how you guys screw up. That’s evidence you’ll be providing to show Justin’s lying. I’ll sort the bills.”
Justin drew Susie into another tight hug. “That’s why I love you.”
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