For a week, Ryan and Olivia traversed the neighborhood looking for a Domestic Servant Quarters to rent. Three days into the new job which offered five times his previous pay and additional
benefits, he could afford to live near her home—of course not in a main house.
“We’d better get a place pretty soon. It’s just too expensive staying in the hotel,” he said, gazing at the block of apartments ahead. “Let’s check here.”
She jerked her head to push back a strand of hair hanging over her eye. “I know, but it's better to take the time to find a nice place.”
Apart from paying for his hotel accommodation, she had overspent to improve his wardrobe to give him an executive look, befitting his elevated position as an Audit Senior. Her generosity had
brought him happiness, but slowly this joy became tinged with sadness. He should have been the one spoiling her with gifts and not the other way around.
Thank God for the new job. Soon, I’ll be the one to spoil you.
“Honey, you’ve spent a lot already.” He gently pulled her hair back and wrapped the scrunchy around a low ponytail. “I hate being a burden.”
Though she didn’t have a job, Olivia didn’t seem to feel the pinch. The way only a millionaire's daughter could live so large.
She stopped. “A burden? Not at all. Honey, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You become what you think, attract what you feel and can create what you imagine. Believe in yourself.”
A tall, dark guard, tapping a baton to his palm, watched their approach. “Hey, how can I help you?”
“Ah, we’re interested in the house.” Ryan focussed his gaze on the ‘To let’ placard pinned at the gate. “Can we have a look?”
“Um, it’s a thousand dollars a month.”
Without answering, Ryan took off his denim jacket—another gift from her, and passed a handkerchief over his heated brow. Did the guard think he couldn’t afford the rent? Damn him. But the prospects
the new job offered swallowed up the little annoyance. Soon, he and everyone else who despised Ryan would respect him. Vincent’s image rose to his imagination.
“Ryan.” A voice called out from inside the gate.
Was that Kevin?
A big smile spread over Ryan’s frown when Kevin came out of the gate. "Kevin? What-- what a surprise! I haven't seen you since graduation. How's it going, brother?"
“Sir.” The guard bowed as Kevin went past to meet Ryan.
Kevin must have been a person of authority. Perhaps the Estate Manager.
“Nice to meet you, bro. Long time!” Kevin pulled him into a hug. “You never change, man. You hit the gym?”
Everyone keeps asking the same thing. If only they knew!
“Yeah, I do hit the gym. But man, life’s been tough. I wouldn’t add weight even if I wanted.” He glanced at Olivia, who’d frowned. “Hey! Meet my girlfriend.”
Kevin took the hand Olivia offered. “Nice to meet you. What a beauty! Kevin… but they call me Kev.”
“Pleasure meeting you... Olivia.”
Ryan covered his yawn with both hands. “Oh boy, we’ve been walking for the last hour. What are you doing here? You live here?”
“Yeah, Come on in.”
“By the way, how’z Irene?” He slipped a hand around Olivia’s waist and helped her through the gate. “Babe, remember the classmates I told you married when we were at campus?”
Olivia adjusted her skirt. “Oh, really? It’s them?”
She looked at Kevin. “He’s got lots of respect for you and your wife. Keeps talking about you guys.”
“Oh, I’m flattered… Irene’s doing great.” Kevin unstrapped his sneakers at the door.
“Man, you guys were the Romeo and Juliet of our class.”
“Oh boy! You don’t say. I must’ve scandalized--”
“… the Bishop.” Ryan burst into laughter. “You guys were so mean. They used to call me the Bishop of Rome.”
She couldn’t suppress a grin. “And why’s that?”
“Let him tell you,” said Kevin.
“Cause of my vocation.”
Kevin smiled. “You must’ve underestimated the power of a woman when you made that decision.”
"Yeah, well..." He squeezed Olivia's shoulder. "I couldn't resist her."
“I know. Had I not seen her, I’d have judged you, but I now rest my case. Irene’s sure to fall in love with her.” Kevin pushed the carved door open. “I heard your voice and thought I was mistaken.
I’m very, very glad to see you guys. Let’s go in. Come, tell me what you’re up to.”
Ryan crouched to unstrap Olivia’s knee-high boots. “We’re looking for a house to rent. How much are you paying for rent?”
“New tenants are paying one thousand dollars a month but the old tenants pay seven hundred dollars.”
Ryan noticed how Kevin left himself out of the equation.
“Feel at home. Lemme call Irene,” said Kevin.
Ryan’s gaze followed him to the winding magnolia staircases. Could it be that Kevin owned such an exquisite townhouse, towering in between two rows of posh apartments with lofty carved ceilings and
frescoes on the walls? With floors of mosaic, purple silk curtains, vases on pedestals, and open fireplaces?
It must have taken an interior designer to perfectly centre the family photos in the gorgeous sitting and dining rooms. This house did much by its very appearance tell Ryan he wasn’t Kevin’s equal
Ryan and Irene weren’t talking to each other at the campus. Her friend had tried making advances on him and he decided to stop talking to the two ladies to protect his vocation. So childish!
He smiled sheepishly as Irene descended the staircase, so pregnant, her water might break at any moment. She offered her hand. "Ryan."
He fought the giggles. His cheeks grew warm. "Irene. Stunning as ever."
“Don’t you grow old?” Irene asked him, then turned to Olivia with open arms. “Hey, Irene. You can call me Renee.”
Olivia snuggled in. “Hey, Olivia.”
As the ladies hugged, Ryan whispered to Kevin, "You own this place?"
Kevin simply smiled.
"Wow. Man, I always thought I'd be the one..." He nodded. "Well, congrats."
He’d seen himself as the next big thing after landing a job that gave him more than two thousand dollars a month. Now, this seemed like pocket change compared to Kevin’s grand lifestyle.
Olivia and Irene hit it off at once and went to the kitchen, leaving the men in the sitting room.
“I knew she’d like her,” said Kevin, focussing his gaze on the apéritif a maid had set before them.
“She’s so likable. I’ve never known someone this kind.”
They chatted for hours. Finally, after lunch, they decided to view the house.
Kevin came over to the kitchen, jiggling keys in his hand. “Honey, will you manage to come with us?”
“Of course I’m coming with you… he thinks I’m a fragile piece of glass.” Irene drew the blinds and peeped outside. “It’s a bit sunny, lemme put on my hat.”
“You should count yourself lucky. He’s caring,” said Olivia.
“I don’t like thinking I’m lucky when my man treats me right. That’s the way it should be, and of course vice versa.”
Before Irene turned around, Kevin had already brought her the hat. “Okay, let’s go.”
Looking at Irene pregnant, and the photos of their other kids on the wall, Ryan felt as though he was in an Olympics marathon. The shot had long been fired but while the other marathoners took off,
for some reason, he’d remained glued on his marks. Only now did he want to start running. Would he catch up with the rest? Kevin? He wished Olivia was already pregnant. What a happy family! Ryan
longed to see Kevin’s kids.
“Where are the kids?” he asked, sliding a foot in his shoe.
“They’re at school till about three.”
The government had banned holiday tuition and Ryan wondered how Kevin could be so careless to get himself in trouble. He hastened his steps and caught up with Kevin who’d started towards the house.
“Dude, you’ll get yourself in shit. No kid’s supposed to go to school during vacation.”
“Ah, our children are on the British system. They haven’t closed schools yet.”
Where did Kevin get all this money? The foreign curriculum was expensive and very few locals could afford it. Ryan could hear the ladies chatting behind them.
“I also did the British system like your kids,” Olivia said and stopped when they reached the apartment.
Though he didn’t voice it, Ryan had already made up his mind when he confirmed the rent amount. There was no way he would spend fifty percent of his salary on rent alone. But he wanted a better
excuse to decline the offer.
“U-huh, I like it, but man, what would I do alone in such a big house?” he said, looking around.
He realized his mistake when Kevin and Irene exchanged meaningful looks. How could he speak of being alone when he’d introduced Olivia as his girlfriend?
He jammed his hands in the front pockets of his pants “I-I... I mean, we’re not yet married. So, I might be here alone for some God knows how long.”
“It’s fine. We can just take the house. At least we won’t have to hustle looking for a bigger house later,” said Olivia.
He nodded. Incredible! She's not even mad. He wanted to take her into his arms and ravish her right there. "Yeah. Yeah."
“I like that. What would you men do without us? We see far,” said Irene, smiling.
Kevin jerked his head in Irene’s direction. “I saw that coming, but yeah, I couldn’t agree more.”
“So, um, when are we doing the paperwork?” Olivia coiled her arm around Ryan’s. “Sweetie, I love this place.”
Ryan knew he couldn’t do anything now to dissuade her. It was out of respect for him that Olivia didn’t want to be assertive. She didn’t need his help to pay the rent.
He snapped his fingers. “Okay, three against one. You win, um, let us know when the paperwork’s ready for signing,” said Ryan.
Kevin’s eyes glittered as if he’d just discovered something. “Well, now that-- that’s done, what do you say? A walk in your soon to be neighborhood?”
"Ah, you two go on. The kids will be back soon, and I'm tired." She smiled at Olivia and offered her arm. “If Olivia doesn't mind, some company would be nice?”
Olivia pressed Irene’s hands. “Of course…”
Ryan and Kevin returned after nightfall. The kids were already asleep, and the ladies were still engrossed in their stories. It didn’t take a lot of prodding before Ryan and Olivia accepted a
“Oh, finally we’ll have a place of our own. I can’t wait. When should we move in?” said Olivia, dropping her lingerie on the floor when they’d moved to the guest bedroom.
Ryan's pupils flared. Had she just stripped before him? Justin would kill him.
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