Ryan stopped at the door of the Radisson Hotel and motioned Olivia to go in. “Ladies first.”
Head held high, she made her way past him with an effortless saunter. “You’re so kind, thank you.”
The clicking of her heels added rhythm to the smooth jazz playing in the background. She slowed down, and he took her hand, leading her to a high table where Ken was waiting.
“Howdy, Ray.” Ken hi-fived him and offered his hand to Olivia. “Hey.”
When they’d all settled down, Ryan couldn’t help but notice a condescending sneer on Ken’s face each time he looked at Olivia. He didn’t want to imagine Ken was angry at her for what happened
between Justin and Gisela. Maybe Ken just felt bad for Annie. But why? They’d discussed this repeatedly, and Ken had assured him he didn’t have a problem with Ryan dating Olivia.
“Wow! This place’s amazing.” She looked at the chandeliers dangling overhead.
“It’s Ken’s choice,” said Ryan.
A hardly perceptible smile played on Ken’s lips, and Ryan could tell he’d come simply to keep his promise. Something was amiss.
He tapped Ken’s shoulder. “Hey, buddy, you seem out of sorts. What’s up?”
“Ummm—Err. Mi jus can’t tek it.” Ken started tapping his heel on the floor. “Well, I-I I’m that piece ah shit who can’t pretend. Who does your papa tink he is?” For the first time, he peered into
her eyes. “I’ll mek him pay for wah his done to me.”
Olivia’s eyes shifted to the side and glazed with a glassy layer of tears. “I—I’m sorry—“
Ryan squeezed her hand. “It’s not your fault. You shouldn’t apologize for anything.” He turned to Ken. “Really? You can’t be serious.”
The waitress arrived and stood stiffly in her starched white blouse and black bowtie. “May I take your orders?” Getting no response, she moved closer. “Sorry, excuse me…”
Ryan lifted a finger. “Give us a minute, please.” Then to Ken. “Goodness, are you for real?”
He looked at Ken’s flared nostrils. Shit! The dude must’ve been high on weed. Asshole! He won’t let him ruin his date. If Ken didn’t stop, he’d call security on him. Better still, he might just
deal with the punk himself.
Ryan squared his chest and leaned towards him. “Why are you doing this?”
Ken stood. “Mi shud aks you. Why are you hurting Annie?” He rolled his eyes towards Olivia. “Aren’t you ashamed of your papa?”
“Come on, Man. Stop it.” Ryan tipped his chin up and forced a wicked smile, tempting Ken to end his anguish, half hoping he would. “Don’t push me.”
“Seh what? Push you?” He focussed his gaze on Ryan. “You can’t do anything to me.”
Thank God you and Annie have always been there for me since Mama died. Otherwise, I’d have long punched you in the face.
A small stream of sweat trickled down his temples. “Please, just leave.”
Olivia made as if to go, but he pulled her back. “Don’t go. I’m on this.”
“Oh, the queen slayer. Lie to her like you’ve always lied to Annie. How do you sleep at night living a lie? You pretend to be celibate but a skirt won’t pass your way. Does she know you’ll soon be
a priest and leave her or you’ll leave the priesthood for her?” He tilted his head sideways and gave Olivia a menacing look. “Your dad’s gonna pay for what he’s done to me.”
Then he walked out.
“Gimme a sec,” said Ryan, and followed Ken.
“What’s up with ya dude?” He caught up with Ken at the exit and grabbed his hand. “What’s the meaning of all this?”
“Nuh touch mi, man.” Ken pulled away. “How dare you play my sistah before my eyes? You must tink me a fool. It’s just shameless… banging Olivia in Annie’s house? How ungrateful. After what she’s
sacrificed for you!”
Ryan remained open-mouthed. Though Ken exaggerated the banging bit, he was justified to be angry.
“All along you’ve known her dad has been banging Gisela behind my back and you didn’t even have the decency to tell me, huh?”
Ryan swallowed. “I swear I knew nothing about that-”
“It doesn’t matter. Get lost and leave us alone. Don’t ever come close to mi sistah.” Ken said over his shoulder as he strolled out of the hotel.
Damn it! Of all the things Ken said, being told he lived a lie hurt the most. He’d faithfully lived a celibate life ever since he joined the society five years ago despite Annie’s moves and
Vincent’s torture. The video footage from the bank clearly exonerated him of stealing. But Vincent still fired him for what he didn’t understand, and not one of his spiritual brothers
came to his defense. He couldn’t continue being in that society. Perhaps it was too soon for him to date Olivia. But who gave a damn? For once, he’d decide his own fate.
He returned to the table. “Ah, sorry. Ken’s gone nuts.”
“Um, it’s not your fault. But what Dad has done is so awful.”
He peered into her big amber eyes, which were as wide and honest as a child. How could she not take offense after such an unfair attack?
“I dunno what to say. You’ve got a heart of gold,” he said.
The waitress returned. “May I take your orders?”
“Yes, please.” He turned to Olivia. “Ah, what are you having?”
They made their orders, which included wine for her. She’d at first refused but with a little persuasion, accepted. He asked for whiskey. He needed to calm his nerves.
The dinner was as choice as the china, in which he was a connoisseur. The sushi, the chili, and all the sauces were mouth-watering. The waiter, in a white cravat, served them with elegance,
treating them as dignitaries. Good mood slowly returned. Ryan was suddenly conscious of such delight, and at the same time of such dread, that his breath failed him. He couldn’t utter what he
wanted to say—that he’d want to spend the rest of his life with her. Maybe it was too early to say that.
“Oh, I love your bracelet.”
She wasn’t the same girl he’d been seeing. The lights hitting her pomaded hair and revealing her fine dimples, gave her a shy look which made her even more charming.
She turned her eyes to a woman who passed by, wearing a dress that exposed her whole back and only covered half her breasts at the front. “Is this how women dress when dining?”
“I hope I’m not scandalizing you.” He twirled her bracelet and gazed in her eyes. “We could go to another place if you’re not comfortable here.”
“Oh, no. It’s okay.” Her dimples deepened with a smile. “I’m being entertained. She’s not feeling cold?”
“It’s freeze and shine,” he said. “But my girl doesn’t have to do that… y’know!”
Her lips quivered and the moisture in her eyes made them even brighter. “I’m flattered.”
“It’s not flattery. You’re naturally beautiful.” He squinted towards the woman with the exposed back. “I don’t like the way her date is looking at ’ya.”
“C’mon sweetheart, he’s with her.”
That she called him sweetheart filled Ryan with delight and a feeling akin to someone who’d won a lottery. He briefly rubbed her lap. “You might have just made him realize how off the mark he was
in his choice.”
She let her eyes fall on his hand which was now playing with her wrist-watch. “You’re making me blush.”
“Oh, sorry.” He let go of the watch.
“No, I didn’t say stop. Um, it’s just err… sorry, I think I’m starting to get drunk.”
“It’s okay. You’re in good hands.”
She became overly animated. Clearly, the wine had taken effect. She ran her hand over his bicep. “Did I tell you I loved this?”
Ryan smiled. “Yes, you did.” He flexed his muscles. “It’s in our genes. You should see my brothers. I’m the smallest.”
“Oh really! They must be giants then. But I don’t like them so big.” She pressed his biceps. “This is the right size. By the way, Gisela used to tell Ken how she loved your hands and he’d really
get mad at her.” Her face contorted.
“What is it?”
“Sorry. I don’t want to talk about her. What she’s done is unforgivable.” Olivia grabbed her glass of wine. “I could drink a whole bottle now. How could Dad and my best friend do this to me?”
Her voice held a tremble. She frowned.
He said, “I know it’s tough but you can count on me.”
She dropped her gaze. “It’s so shameful. I can’t walk with my head high anymore.”
“Not at all.” He poured her more wine. “You shouldn’t let anyone ruin your life. I’m proud of your mom. She’s so strong. Now I understand why they say even if the man is a hopeless drunkard, but
has a responsible woman, that home will stand. And the opposite is true. If the woman’s hopeless, that home’s done for.”
She held the glass of wine to her mouth. “Mom would do anything for us. But she’s so crushed.”
“You’re a chip off the old block. I already envy our kids.” He lifted her chin and kissed her.
A brief silence ensued, and it was as though she’d sobered up. “I-I-I’ve never kissed a man in my life.”
His jaw dropped. “You mean? Ah. Thank God. I wasn’t sure how you’d take it.”
“I hope that doesn’t make me look cheap.”
“Of course not.” He kissed her again. “On the contrary, it only makes you more attractive.”
“Stop. Don’t make me blush.” She smiled. “You seemed not to believe it when I said I’ve never kissed a man.”
“Ummm, I trust you but, it’s just that nowadays it’s difficult to--”
“Lemme save you the trouble. No one has burst my cherry yet.” She burst into laughter. “Look who’s shy now. Sorry. No more wine for me.”
“I’m not shy. But yeah, you caught me there! Guilty as charged. You mean you’ve never ever… ever?”
“Dad would’ve killed me. He lives by the book and to him, everything is either white or black. No sex before marriage. Period. That’s why what he’s done hurts so much. I still can’t believe
it. Tell me I’m dreaming…”
He sighed. “I’m sorry about that. But trust me, he’ll come to his senses. Already, he must be regretting.”
“Well, I hope I don’t spoil your mood. What d’you make of Ken’s comment? That you’ll become a priest?”
“Forget about Ken. Yes, I belong to the celibate society, for now. Look, I’m here with you, right? That should tell you something.”
“After what your boss did, that should be a no brainer. Anyway, take your time.”
“I’ve already made up my mind.”
“Really? What have you decided?” She quickly added, perhaps noticing his hesitation. “Don’t stress. You don’t have to tell me if you’re not ready.”
Ryan loved the way she was gentle and understanding, never insisting on anything. Well-bred. Wow! He felt challenged to be a gentleman.
He kissed her. Man, he wouldn’t get enough of her. “Your dad will soon come back begging for your mom’s forgiveness.”
“I wish he comes sooner. Despite everything, I still love him.”
“Trust me. He will.”
The waitress left the bill behind after clearing the crockery from the table. Ryan scanned it and placed it back on the table. Where would he get the money? From the time he was fired, Ken had been
the one sorting him and he’d promised to cater for this outing. It must have been a trick.
“Ah, it’s not expensive. Do they even make profits?” said Olivia, looking at the bill.
He snapped out of his thoughts. “No. Not really.”
Her words seemed to mock the size of his pocket, but regardless of his financial conundrum, her every sound, every move of her lips and her eyes and her hands made everything alright. He was ready
to rob a bank to make her happy.
Her phone chimed with a message from her mother.
“My mom wants me home.” She dropped the phone in her purse. “We need to go.”
“It’s okay, lemme organize to pay this.” Ryan took the bill from the table, clueless of what to do.
She pulled a credit card from her purse and handed him. “Use my card. Pin 2483.”
“Are you sure?”
“Honey, please, if you love me as you claim, please do this for me.”
He lowered his eyes and took the card. How did she know he didn’t have the money?
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