Justin felt like he’d jump out of his skin when he pulled into the parking lot. With a spring in his step, he followed Ambrose across the lawn to the main entrance of Rockers Inn.
The thought of the mouth-watering beefsteak they’d ordered in advance heightened his excitement. He plopped onto a stool and rested both elbows on the counter. “Hey, is our food ready?”
The barman looked up. “I haven’t seen you guys for ages. The food will ready in about twenty minutes. Ah, should I get you the usual black label as you wait, or you wanna try the new blue label?”
He offered a bottle to Justin.
“Oh, there’s a new kid on the block!” Justin scanned the bottle, rotating it in his palm. “It looks dignified. What say you?” He handed it to Ambrose, who’d just come from the bathroom.
Ambrose took a seat next to him. “What are you talking about?”
The barman set two shot glasses. “This is the whiskey now en vogue, blue label. You won’t find it in any other clubs yet. Just opened the first batch this morning.”
“Man, I’m so tempted.” Ambrose lifted the bottle close to his eyes. “Looks more dignified.”
“Exactly what I thought,” said Justin.
Justin glanced at the people around him, once in a while greeting and freely winking to acquaintances. He was haughtier and more self-possessed than ever. He’d always wanted another boy. What was
more exciting, Gisela had agreed to name the baby after Justin’s dad.
He repeated the full name aloud. “Thomas Coral.”
Ambrose patted him on the back. “I’m happy for you, man.” He lifted his glass for a toast. “To a long life!”
“Long live my boy!”
If Justin had had any tinge of guilt concerning his relationship with Gisela, the birth of the baby changed everything. Instead of guilt, pride and happiness filled his heart. Gisela was no longer
a mistress. She was the mother of his son, and he burned with impatience to officially recognize her as such—his second wife.
“I count myself so blessed. Katelyn has a big heart and I just can’t thank her enough. If it were someone else, she’d not have helped Gisela in childbirth.” He sipped his drink. “I haven’t seen
someone with such a pure soul. It’s difficult for a woman to forgive infidelity, err, I just don’t wanna come off like I’m abusing her kindness, but I know she’ll accept Gisela as my co-wife.”
“I know she’s noble, but don’t push your luck. It’s difficult to pick a woman’s mind. Let not her kindness fool you. Be vigilant. More than ever.”
Justin stroked his mustache. No one understood the purity of Katelyn’s soul like him. She’d appreciate it if he told her his plans plainly, that all the happiness of his life, the only meaning in
life for him, now lay in seeing his two wives and children happy.
“Yes, women are complicated, but not my Katie. She’s not your typical woman.”
Suddenly, Katelyn’s face, full of worry, concern, and care as she ran and bent over Gisela, flashed in his mind. The image of Gisela laying on the floor, helpless and screaming, also played in his
mind, making his heart faint with emotion. He envisioned his future—two wives—one happy family.
Ambrose pulled the cap from his receding hairline and tucked it on the knee. “Man, you really love this chick. The other day I thought you were joking when you said you’d bought her that apartment.
Even if I was a billionaire, I wouldn’t have bought her a house yet.”
“Gisela has always wanted a place of her own. Plus, I wasn’t only doing this for her but my boy.”
“I’ve been wondering, where did this dude get all the money?”
“Kevin. He’s so young to own all that property.”
“Oh, nowadays young guys are very smart. He told me he made his first million at twenty-six from trading in shares before he ventured into real estate. Never been employed--”
The waiter showed up and stood stiffly in his starch white shirt and black bow tie, carrying sizzling beefsteak on a tray. From his seat, Justin had a view of everyone. The restaurant was getting
full. He looked around at the busy tables, wiping his hands with the wet napkins. An old couple ate side by side, one glass of wine each, studiously bent over their meals.
Would he one day be as old as them, sitting alongside his two wives, dining?
“Sirs, the food’s ready. Bon appétit.” The waiter placed the tray on the counter.
Justin gazed at him with an expression that conveyed his utter nonchalance and curiosity to show off his mastery of French. “Merci.”
Businessmen in their grey suits smoked cigars. The noise level was high. But this didn’t bother Justin. Everyone had a right to be happy.
His eyes flickered from the table to the waiter’s tag. James. He wondered why parents named their children in such trite ways. Ambrose looked up, and Justin followed his gaze to a young
woman who’d stopped by Justin’s side.
She stood with a hip jutted to one side, her right arm draped across her slender body, a folder tucked under her left arm. Her head lolled down to one shoulder, casting her bobbed hair onto the
“Hey, Connie. Sorry I forgot about our appointment.” Justin pulled a stool closer. “Please have a seat.” He followed Ambrose’s gaze to Connie’s miniskirt. “Ah, let’s move to the low table.”
Ambrose offered a hand, running his eyes from the miniskirt to her brown eyes. “Long time! How are you?”
“I’m good. Thanks.”
“We were just about to have our meal, join us.” Justin motioned for the waiter to come.
“Thanks, but no thank you. I have another appointment at two with my dentist. My tooth’s aching really bad. Can’t chew the meat.”
“In that case, I won’t delay you.” Justin moved aside and signed the documents before returning the folder. Ambrose’s gaze followed Connie until she disappeared.
Justin sipped some whiskey to wash down a chunk of meat he’d just swallowed. “Boy, you’re smitten. What happened? The last time I checked, you’d started making some moves on her.”
“Oh yeah, she’s a stunner, but ever since Liz got diagnosed with cancer, I promised God never to cheat on her again. Seeing her suffer just made me lose interest in these games. I wanna be faithful
Justin swallowed hard. “Thank God you’ve never been caught red-handed. I did it the first time and got caught right away, and Gisela got pregnant. Anyway, I’m not complaining. Turns out it’s the
best thing that happened to me. I always wanted a baby boy and Katie wouldn’t agree trying again.”
“But Connie just gets into my brain in a way I can’t explain. Can’t stop thinking of her. Why don’t you call her back, of course after the dentist’s appointment? She can at least take wine.
That doesn’t require chewing.”
Justin burst out laughing. “What happened to the resolution you made after Liz was taken ill?”
“I can’t help it. Sometimes I wonder, if it’s wrong, why does God allow such a strong passion in me for her?”
“Tell me about it. It’s the same with me and Gisela. I’ll never make the mistake of authoritatively commenting on matters of the heart. Speaking of which, lemme tell her where I am, just in case
I’m needed.” He sent Gisela a text.
Ambrose's eyes shined with tears. “Since Liz started her cancer treatments, things have never been the same. I’ve had to ignore the metallic taste of her kiss; snorting sound she makes when I press
into her; the bony feel of her body, covered by skin that lacks tensile strength; the hairless scalp. I close my eyes and only the memory of what it was like before gets me through. I
just try to savor the moment because there might not be many more.” He focused on Justin. “Would it be wrong if I secretly got myself a woman?”
Justin’s forehead creased. “I’m so sorry. It must be tough. Before I’d have told you straight up, it’s wrong to get yourself a woman just because your wife’s sick, and I still believe it is. But I
guess I’ve lost the moral ground to speak on such matters. I dunno how you feel but I wish you could stick with Liz till the end, but as I said, sometimes logic can’t speak to the heart.”
“Ah, I’m dampening the mood when we should be celebrating a new life.” Ambrose dug his knife and fork into the beefsteak. “I could eat a whole bull.”
Justin’s analogy concerning the heart and logic reminded him of Olivia. What right did he have to tell her what she was doing was wrong? She too was just following her heart. But no, she was still
young. Again, she was being a bad example to her siblings, and she risked her future. Was Ryan capable of taking care of her?
“I’m just confused. Olivia could use the same reasoning.” Justin stretched his legs. “What right do I have to reprimand her after what she’s seen with me?”
Ambrose peeled a slice of beef off the bone with his teeth. “Don’t even go there, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Ryan’s not the right person for her.”
“I don’t know him that much. How is he?”
“First off, he’s from a different tribe. A marginalized community, there’s no development in that part of the country. I visited the region a few years back, you should look at their houses,
mud-walled and grass-thatched.”
Instead of this observation putting Justin away, it reminded him of his own tough upbringing. It was as though Ambrose was reciting Justin’s biography.
“Yeah, I get you, but this has nothing to do with the boy. It’s unfair to judge him based on his community or tribe.”
“You’ve invested a lot in Olivia and can’t afford to take chances. Someone’s upbringing has a lot to do with who they turn out to be. There’re high chances he’s just like members of his
community. Worst still he was born out of wedlock and the mother died of HIV. You don’t want your daughter to be associated with such a guy.”
Justin shook his head. His own mother died of poisoning when he was still a toddler and if he’d been discriminated against, maybe he wouldn’t have been as successful as he was. The more he learned
about Ryan, the more he saw himself.
“To be honest, so long as Ryan genuinely loves Olivia, I’m okay with it. His background doesn’t matter for as long as he’s smart, hardworking and has the potential for a good future. Guess what? I
can support them should they intend to marry. That’s exactly what Katelyn’s dad did for me.” Justin straightened when the waiter returned to clear the table. “I hope Ryan has a strong vision and
big dreams. They say hope is not a strategy, but that’s what carried me through the years as a hustler.”
“You’re feeling guilty of what’s happened between you and Gisela. Don’t act on emotions. Take your time and you’ll thank me later. You’re sure to regret it if this guy marries your daughter.”
“I don’t think so.”
“At least I’ve told you.” Ambrose looked at his watch. “Please talk to Connie before it’s too late.”
“Oh, boy! You were serious? Old habits die hard.”
“I mean… I don’t intend to do anything. Just wanna have a good time and that’s it. Y’know how talking to a pretty woman relaxes the nerves.”
“Okay, lemme text her.”
“Call her. She might ignore a text.”
“I’m her boss, she can’t ignore me. But this is wrong of me. You’re the only person who makes me abuse my powers.”
Connie came when dusk had fallen. Justin and Ambrose had moved upstairs, to a more private area, just in case someone they knew saw them. She’d had a change of clothing. A dazed expression
dominated her features.
Her voice was low. “Hey, did I forget something, boss?” Her cheekbones sat high on her face, and a childlike smile curved her lips. She must have suspected what it was all about, given her history
“Nothing serious. Have a seat.” Justin lifted his whiskey. “Just call me Justin.”
The waiter appeared. “What may I get you, ma’am?”
Connie rocked on her heels, avoiding eye contact with Ambrose. “Ah, nothing, thanks.”
“No have something. A drink. Wine, perhaps?”
“Okay. Just a glass of house dry white, for now, thank you.”
Justin sat on for a while until Connie had settled down and freely started chatting with Ambrose.
“If you guys could excuse me just for a few minutes. I need to get something from him.” Justin followed the bartender who’d come to check on them downstairs. “I’ll be right back.”
He ordered a glass of whiskey and sat at the counter with crossed legs. The barman smiled, showing Justin he knew what was going on.
Surprise. Surprise. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Martha coming towards him. What the heck? He took a sip before standing to greet her. “Oh, what brings you here?”
Martha took his hand in her small palm. “I’m just from your place.… I mean, the new home. Gisela told me you were here.”
“Is something amiss? Is the baby okay?”
“The baby’s fine. In fact, I’m here precisely to talk about him.”
Justin’s eyes popped out. “What about the baby?” He chucked the phone and called Gisela. “Hey, are you guys okay? Is the baby fine?”
After confirming everything was fine, he hung up and sat back. “Jeez, you scared the crap out of me. Please have a seat. A drink?”
He quickly texted Ambrose.
Martha’s here. Stay there. I'll keep her down here.
Martha ordered four shots of rum. “I dunno how to put it, but there’re just too many similarities between the baby and Ken to ignore.”
He stroked his mustache. “What do you mean?”
“I think a DNA test is necessary in order to determine the child’s father.”
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