From Gisela’s place, Katelyn had managed to convince Elizabeth to stay for the night, so they could discuss Olivia’s relationship with Ryan.
After the kids went to bed, the sisters remained in the living room.
Katelyn sipped on her wine. “What should I do? She’s ruining her life.”
Dark smudges underlined Elizabeth's eyes. Her cheeks had little color. She seemed to have trouble focusing. "You... Um, can-- um... Maybe..." Her head dipped forward. She snapped it back up.
Katelyn tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey, I think you should go to bed.”
“Get some rest. We’ll talk at breakfast.”
This wheezing! Is it normal?
In the morning, they settled down for breakfast in the upper lounge, away from the kids.
Elizabeth settled and propped a foot on an ottoman, which quickly fell apart. Katelyn pushed it aside. "Sorry. I should have fixed this."
“What happened? Is this a blood stain?”
Katelyn squinted to the ottoman’s broken leg. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Must be Dan’s blood.”
“Oh, don’t remind me of that day. I didn’t know that side of Justin.”
“He can be so protective.”
“He loves you so much.”
"I'm not sure." She sipped her tea and wrinkled her nose. "Ugh. This tea's weak." She took the teapot and stood, intending to go to the kitchen. “I know you like it stronger.”
Martha's sudden appearance stopped her. “Good morning.”
“Oh, good morning.” Katelyn stepped back. “Welcome.”
“Good to see you.” Elizabeth hugged Martha.
“Coffee, tea, juice… we’re just about to have breakfast.” Katelyn set down the teapot.
“Just taken tea, but I won’t mind some fresh juice.” Martha settled next to Elizabeth.
Damn it! What d’you want this early in my house? Now we can’t talk about Olivia.
Nonetheless, the presence of her sister, Martha, the children, and laborers busy in the compound gave Katelyn some semblance of normal life. But she still saw the baby’s blood, Gisela’s… in
her hands. Shit! She sent for assortments of liquor and instructed Mademoiselle Rosa to roast turkey. A sumptuous lunch with drinks should help her forget. For a while.
Elizabeth ran a finger on the collar of Martha’s blouse. “I love this top.”
“Ah, thanks. From Italy.” Martha straightened the embroidered blouse's high-necked collar. “There’re not many left so in case you want, make your order early enough.”
Katelyn placed a glass of orange juice before Martha. “By the way, how is business? It’s just the other day you started it as a joke.”
“I can’t complain. Soon I’ll patent my own clothing line label.”
Elizabeth said, "That's great! What else?" Martha bent forward. "Well, there's this design I got my eyes on..."
They spent the morning talking. Only the call that lunch was ready broke their conversation.
The children had already taken their meal. Mike sat with his cup of coffee at the far corner of the sitting room, reading a novel as his young sister Natasha played with her cousins. Olivia was
sitting in the window near her brother, chatting on the phone, perhaps with Ryan.
At the dining table, Martha waited for Elizabeth to finish speaking, then said, “Um, got some news. Gisela’s baby’s my grandson.” She sipped her wine.
“Go away.” Elizabeth pulled the teapot to her side. “What are you trying to say?”
“I passed by yesterday after you guys had left. Did you take a look at the boy’s left leg? He has a black oval mark which you’ll find on Ken’s same leg.”
Carol came running to her mother, in her tightly drawn stockings, waving a tennis ball she’d snatched from Natasha.
“Ah, go play outside.” Elizabeth kissed her daughter’s forehead. “There is Tasha. Go with her.”
“Come, let’s go.” Natasha snatched the ball from Carol.
“Careful, you’ll fall.” Katelyn shouted as the kids ran outside. She turned to Martha, eyes wide. “Are you kidding me?”
“I can swear my life on it. Ken’s the father.”
“Oh, how I wish it’s true.” Elizabeth looked heavenwards.
Katelyn bit her lower lip to suppress a smile. Justin would be crushed. That’ll be the end of him and Gisela. "Oh, poor Justin. What an embarrassment."
“Katie, what do you care for? You sacrificed everything for him and he took you for granted.” Elizabeth sipped her tea. “Karma has a way of settling things.”
“You should’ve seen the look on his face when I told him.” Martha turned to Katelyn. “Can he harm the baby?”
“No, Justin’s incapable of such baseness. You’ve told him already?”
“I couldn’t wait. He destroyed Ken’s self-esteem, but my son will have the last laugh.” Martha emptied her glass and added more wine. “I asked him for a paternity test.”
Katelyn went to the fridge and returned with a bottle of tequila and two Riedell glasses. “What if the test confirms Justin to be the father?”
“No chance in hell.” Martha took the tot of tequila Katelyn had handed her and waited for Katelyn to fill her glass. “Cheers!”
Though happy this was happening, Katelyn hadn’t wanted Justin back in her life in this manner—making up with her just because he couldn’t be with Gisela. But she wouldn’t let the chance slip.
Olivia’s getting out of hand and needs her father around. Besides, she’d already decided to forgive her husband.
“You guys are tempting me to drink when I’m not supposed to. Damn the cancer.” Elizabeth got up, poured herself more tea, and after stirring it, pushed the cup away. “I keep forgetting I’m not
supposed to use sugar. Oh, I’ve had to change so much.”
Katelyn undid her ponytail and shook out her hair. “It’s all for the good. Soon you’ll be able to do everything you used to.”
“Yeah, you will. It’s only a matter of time,” said Martha.
Elizabeth poured herself another cup of tea. “Stop feeling sorry for me.” She tapped Martha’s shoulder. “How d’you feel being a grandma?”
“I already feel a strong connection with that baby. I’d have checked on him this morning, but I know I’m the last person Justin wants to see.”
Goodness, Katelyn might also be a grandma soon. The way her daughter had already started eloping with Ryan… She must warn Olivia of the dangers of rushing things with that boy. Nothing personal
against him. But, Olivia should take her time to know him better. And why hadn’t Ryan stopped Olivia from this madness? He should’ve at least offered to come talk to Katelyn before starting to
elope with her daughter. Maybe Martha was right. Maybe Ryan wasn’t a good boy. Damn it! No more scandals in the family.
Katelyn’s head spun. Tipsy? Maybe. She moved to the window, fists so tight sweat gathered in her palms. “What did I do to deserve all this?”
Her voice tottered. “My husband cheats on me. I help his mistress give birth--” She sobbed into her hands. “Now, it’s my daughter. She’s decided to elope with a guy I know nothing about.”
Her knees buckled. She fell to her knees on the tile, not caring who saw. Not even her children.
"Mom!" Olivia rushed over and slid a hand around her shoulder. “Mom, I’m sorry. You don’t have to worry about me. I won’t embarrass you.”
Martha helped Katelyn back to her seat.
Katelyn gulped another shot of tequila. “Let’s go sit outside. I dunno why these people can’t be responsible.” She peeped through the window to the farmhands in the compound. “Left unsupervised,
they don’t work. Supervised, they complain.”
“Mom, I’m very sorry." Olivia held her mother’s hand as they walked outside. “I’ll ask Ryan to come talk to you.”
“It’s okay, honey. Let’s talk later… when we’re alone.”
“But mom, I beg you, please trust me. I won’t do anything stupid.” Olivia kissed her mom’s hand before retreating to the house. “I love you.”
Elizabeth whispered to Katelyn, “Don’t frighten it! How sweet!” She remained admiring a nightingale pecking at a crack on the table set for them.
“Thanks for saving my grandson’s life.” Martha came from behind and sat, scaring away the bird. “I’ll forever be grateful to you.”
“What choice did I have? I couldn’t let them die,” said Katelyn.
Elizabeth’s eyes swam with tears. “In the face of death, nothing matters. When I lay on bed waiting to die, I even missed Ambrose’s annoyances.”
Martha said, “Now that you’ve recovered, I doubt you’d forgive him if you caught him cheating again.”
Katelyn shuddered. “Martha!”
“I’ll forgive him right away.” Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring. “I can’t afford to carry the burden of not forgiving.”
Katelyn crossed her legs. “Everything happens for a reason. Look at you now! You’ve become an overnight celebrity.”
“If anyone thought miracles didn’t exist, they should look at me. It’s God’s doing. I declare long life’s my portion. I’ll not die before I hit one hundred.”
“Amen,” Katelyn and Martha said in unison.
It was comforting to see the change in Elizabeth. Her color had returned and her hair, cleared by the chemo, had started growing. Her financial struggles were over. She’d make thousands of dollars
just attending one talk show after another. Her testimony got media houses many followers.
“What’s more fulfilling is the opportunity God has given me to share in other people’s sufferings. The cancer scourge’s bigger than what people think. I’m just one of the lucky few.”
Martha sighed. “Only God can help us.”
Elizabeth smoothed down her skirt. “There’s this woman I met the other day. Sold everything to have her son operated on to remove a tumor in the stomach--” She blinked. “That boy died hours after
“Whoa, that’s so sad,” said Katelyn. “Why does God allow such things to happen.”
“And guess what! The dad fled on learning the boy had cancer.”
Martha sneered. “Men!”
“That’s what I go through on most occasions and it makes me happy to be able to console such people.”
“How do you console such a person?” asked Martha.
“Words are meaningless in such cases. You just have to be there and cry with them, listen and hold their hands.”
Everyone went silent. To break the somber mood, Katelyn said, “How happy it was that Ken dated Gisela and how unhappy for Justin.”
“Ken has never dated ever since. He’s got a bad perception of women. Justin is a horrid, repulsive man—no heart.”
Katelyn’s stomach churned. Yes, Justin had his weaknesses, but was none of that.
“I should take a walk on the farm before dusk, that’s my routine nowadays,” she said, knowing to well Martha wouldn’t come with them in her high heels. Of late, she’d come to loathe her company and
realized she’d have been so depraved if she’d continued following her advice. “Will you guys come with me?”
“Oh no, sorry I got to go.” Martha looked at her watch. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
The sisters walked past the compound onto the beaten dusty road, marked with rusty wheels and overgrown grass on the sidewalk. Katelyn said, “I dunno why, but I don’t like Martha’s view on certain
“I’ve never liked her. She’s your friend.”
“Careful.” Katelyn listened to her sister’s heavy breathing while paying attention to the road, which passed now through the rocky ground. She avoided places where Elizabeth might make a false
step. “Are you okay?”
“Yes I am, don’t be fooled by my breathing. It’s been a while since I exercised.”
“Should we take a rest?”
“No, I’m fine. Don’t treat me like an egg.”
At least Katelyn could now talk freely. “I know you might look at me as gullible, or even stupid, but y’know, this separation has made me miss Justin instead of hating him. But I want him to go
through the humiliation and the heartache he put me through. I believe Martha. There’s no semblance between Justin and that boy.”
“You’ve been together for over three decades. You’ve known no other man and again, he’s not an awful man. He regrets what happened, as he told Ambrose.”
“I wish he’d just apologized to me from the beginning instead of waiting for me to find out. Anyway, those are bygones. Do you think we can love each other again… like before?”
“Of course! You still love each other.” Elizabeth stopped to take a breath. “We’ve always envied you guys, and even now, with what has happened, I envy you more. I wish everyone had a big heart
“You envy me for having a capacity to tolerate shit? I wish I was cold-hearted like Martha. Can you imagine her advising me to get even with Justin? That’s the most degrading thing a woman can do.”
“That’s why I envy you. You’re better than us.”
“C’mon, has it ever occurred to you to get even with Ambrose?”
“Hell no. Two wrongs don’t make a right. To me sex is so sacred I can’t imagine undressing for any other man. I think for a woman, getting even is the worst form of disrespecting oneself.”
“Oh, we need to go back,” said Katelyn, again scared by Elizabeth’s wheezing.
“Yeah, we can go back now. I’ve had enough exercise.”
“Lemme call for a ride.” Katelyn took out her phone.
“It’s okay, I’ll walk back.”
“Okay, but watch your steps.” Katelyn stooped down and picked a rock on the path ahead and threw it away. “Don’t underestimate the danger this can cause.”
“Oh, goodness me! You treat me like a two-year-old. I’m fine.” She coughed and held her chest. “Don’t gimme that look. I’m fine.”
Ambrose was waiting by the time they returned. After tea, he drove his wife and kids back home.
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