CHAPTER 1: A Spark Neglected
Misfortunes never come in ones.
Tension hung in the air between Justin and his wife. They’d not spoken to each other for a week after she discovered he was paying school fees for his young brother and the two nieces. The tiff
between them dampened everyone’s spirits. Their children locked themselves in their rooms, only coming out to dine with their mother. Justin left well before they woke up and only came in after
they had gone to bed. Even the servants squabbled. Unable to cope with the simmering tension, the head cook tendered his resignation.
Justin could not come to terms with his wife’s seemingly unfair allegations. How could she be so distraught with such a noble deed?
“Instead of shouldering other people’s burden, you should have invested that money in our children’s future,” said Katelyn.
“I am sorry,” he’d said, but each time he thought about this accusation, it stung like a fresh wound. “After losing his job, my dad sold everything he owned to educate me. What’s wrong in my
helping him to pay my brother’s tuition?”
“That doesn’t give you the right to sacrifice your children’s future,”
“How am I sacrificing their future?”
“If Susie wasn’t busy messing around, she’d have gone to college instead of having illegitimate kids for you to educate.”
Muscles quivering, Justin raised his voice. “It’s Susie who housed me in the city when the rest of my family moved to the village. She shared with me whatever she earned from her menial jobs. How
can I not help her?”
And he walked out of the house, rubbing his wet eyes.
She must apologize, he later reflected, swinging in his office chair. He wouldn’t talk to her until she repented. How selfish could she be? She had access to and controlled his bank account. Yet,
he didn’t have access to hers. Was this not enough?
Tears welled in his eyes when he remembered how tough it had been to support his extended family, from their daily upkeep to frequent medical bills of his aged and ailing parents. He paid for it
not from his salary, but from little earnings he got on the side. Justin reminded his wife that he’d never touched his salary. However, she didn’t buy that line. They were one according to their
marriage vows and she had the right to every single dime.
The standoff had entered the seventh day. Justin went for a drink in a nearby club instead of spending the after-hours in the office. He sat in the casino on the upper floor, and ordered for
whiskey, tonic water and lemon drops. The ballad playing in the background soothed his nerves. The first sips of the whiskey drove out his ill humour.
He spied a young couple seated at a low round table. Despite the dim lighting, he recognized his daughter’s friend, Gisela, with her boyfriend, Ken.
His vibrating cell phone interrupted his thoughts with a message from his wife. She asked if his new norm was to come home late. Ha! At home, she’d hardly spoken to him. Now that he was out of her
sight, she still complained. Heat flushed through his body, and he slammed his phone on the table top. "What's her problem?" Justin ignored her message and drowned the bad taste with a gulp of
whiskey. He couldn’t get enough of it. Blinking, he clenched his teeth as he pushed the second gulp down. His muscles relaxed and he sighed as he shook the short glass, stirring its contents. The
ice cubes knocked against each other as they melted into the whiskey.
He concentrated on Gisela’s table. She and her boyfriend didn’t seem to be getting along well tonight, as if something had gone sour between them. A short while later, Gisela said something, wrung
her hands and walked away.
Women! Why are they complicated. Her reaction reminded him of his wife.
Gisela woke Justin from his fantasy when she saw him and came to greet him on her way back from the lavatory. "Good to see you. Gisela," He hugged her. "What brings you out to this cheap joint
"I'm just trying to convince Ken that I spent the last two nights at your home studying for finals with Olivia. He thinks I'm secretly dating her brother."
Justin chuckled and nodded, remembering Mike’s excitement each time Gisela visited. "Really? So sorry to hear."
Both Justin and Gisela looked toward Ken, who got up and left. "Take it easy, you know how we men are, so jealous when your girlfriend is such a pretty girl like you." After they sat, he motioned
to one of the waitresses to take Gisela’s order. The both decided on pork steaks and a glass of champagne.
The music was now loud and the crowd had swelled. The tables disappeared under the eclectic assortments of liquor - beer, wine and whiskey. Once in a while, the chatter was interrupted by roars of
laughter. The waitresses ran up and down the aisles refilling drinks. Their scanty attires - exposing their shoulders and cleavages – enticed men. Some broke their necks to catch a glimpse of their
skirts that reached several inches above their knees.
“Ken will come round,” said Justin. “He’s jealous because he loves you.”
The gold necklace around Gisela’s slender neck distracted him. With a tinge of shyness, she dropped her eyes to her half-full glass of champagne.
A few minutes later, the waitress came carrying hot wet napkins on a silver dish. Using an aluminium tong, she first held out the steaming napkin to Gisela. Then, she handed the other one to
Justin. “Are they well-done?” inquired Justin, looking at the sizzling sirloin pork steaks served by the second waitress. “Yes, they are.”
As they enjoyed their meal, Justin and Gisela rambled on diverse topics, from politics to social progress. As a student of political science, she was more than up to date on such matters. Their
conversation gave Justin an insight into her wit. Mesmerized by her intelligence, he admired her. She’s a genius, he thought, and ordered another round of drinks. Not surprisingly, he carried her
mental image to the lavatory. Her impressive voice, the well-articulated syllables and fine white teeth she exposed when smiling.
Walking on air on his way back, he stopped at the dance floor. He fancied his head floating in the air–the whiskey had taken effect. Captivated by the music, he made a few dance moves and stopped
short like a statue, thrilled by his own prowess. He knew she was looking at him. At his behest, she joined him. Unable to stand still, she kept moving – the champagne seemed to have seeped deep
into the blood. She leaned on Justin’s chest, swinging from side to side like a pendulum, in perfect rhythm with the music. Planting his right foot between her legs, he curved her body backwards.
He stooped his torso across hers, coiling around it like a snake. Seeing her long braids suspended in the air by this move was exhilarating to say the least. She was breathless. Even the teenagers
on the floor could not match Justin's stunning dance moves.
“I cannot stand,” she remarked.
“I got you.”
It was past 11 p.m. when the duo walked out to the parking lot. The night chill and gentle breeze buffeting their faces sobered him up. He felt a sudden qualm of conscience on the unexpected turn
events. It was immoral on his part to get infatuated with his daughter's friend. This thought stung him, but the girl was really pretty and cute. And she had such fine legs, and perky boobs... Who
She abandoned herself into his hands, going wherever he led her. His right hand, coiled on her waist, sent an electric current across his body, making his blood run hot. “I’ll drop you home,” he
said, laying her across the passenger seats at the back of his car. She was asleep before he started the engine.
Upon their arrival at the hostel, Justin wanted to leave without further ado. The pangs of guilt gnawed at his conscience and he was keen to set things right. “I am sorry for everything. No one
should know about this.” He bid her goodbye at her door.
“I’ll tell no one,” she smiled, exposing her fine white teeth which he had fallen in love with.
In the car, he sat silent for a while before starting the engine. He couldn’t get that endearing smile off his mind. A still small voice within urged him to start the engine. Yet, the strong pull
he felt towards her drowned that urge. Without thinking, he moved from the car to her door again.
Though she appeared puzzled at his unexpected return, she admitted him nonetheless. She looked dazzling in her white night gown; her sleepy eyes only added to her youthful charm. His starving eyes
fed on her beauty as he penetrated her transparent gown. She backtracked and sat right on the edge of the bed.
“May I?” he asked, signalling to sit on the pouffe beside the bed.
On the pouffe was a small framed picture of a woman in her twenties. He glanced at it for a while, trying to ascertain who it was. “Careful,” she asserted, taking it away from his hands. The
cautious manner in which she held it, like someone carrying an egg, was illuminating. She put it on her bed stead with a feigned smile but her watery eyes betrayed her. The image resembled her, but
he could make out that it was not her. “Is it your sister?”
“No. My mother. I killed her at child birth.”
“Hush!” he whispered close to her ear as he strapped his hands round her wasp-like waist. She jerked upwards and settled her rump on his lap, now facing him. She closed her eyes. In a blink, her
lips rubbed against something wet and soft-his lips.
When Justin woke up the next morning, he could not believe his eyes. He was not in his wife’s bed. In his arms lay Gisela, who was fast asleep like a baby. He recoiled from her, turned and faced
the wall. The lust that had clouded his judgement all night long eroded into thin air. He was now as sober as a judge. Yet, the hideousness of cheating on his wife stared him right in the face.
Last night, the rush of blood in his veins triggered by her sight had veiled his reasoning faculties. Now, repugnance fed his guilt. Getting no solace from sleeping on his side, he turned again and
slept on his back, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
“Oh no…!” he exclaimed in a whisper.
To make sure he was not dreaming, he stole a glance at her. Yes, it was his daughter’s friend. The more he looked at her, the more he saw his own daughter, Olivia, in her. He felt worse than a
grotesque murderer. It was as if he had defiled his own daughter.
He shoved the quilt aside and sat upright, ready to leave the bed. However, he was stopped by his black Italian suit lying on the floor. “Damn it”, he cursed, beholding his nudity. The realisation
of how low he had stooped sunk in. Through the cracks at the door, the light of day pierced into the room. He could not get over the fact that the darkness of the night before had dulled his senses
to the point of no return. It was long gone, leaving him prey to shame and guilt. In utter despondence, he closed his eyes and fell into wishful thinking. ‘I should have left after dropping her… I
shouldn’t have entered her room. It was wrong of me….” Such thoughts raced one after another with little respite.
Flesh will always be flesh, he poignantly remembered the sermon of the previous day. “A spark neglected can burn down a forest. And so it is with big falls. Think of King David! It all
started with an inappropriate glance at a woman, then murder and adultery" said the priest.
“If only I had not entered her room…,” he regretted.
His movements had woken her up. She turned on the other aside, exposing his cell phone, but pretended to be asleep, feeling rather ashamed to face him.
He grabbed it and the first thing he saw was the thirty-two missed calls registered on the phone screen: twenty-eight from Katelyn and four from his friend, Ambrose. In haste and confusion, he
dialled, intending to call Ambrose, but the call went to his wife instead. Indeed, misfortunes do not come in ones. Understandably worried for her husband, she didn’t waste a second in answering.
Dazed to hear a woman’s voice, he became as mute as a corpse. He hung up after recognizing Katelyn’s voice. “Damn it, damn it!” he lamented, punching his palm with a fist. There was simply no time
to lose. He thrust the quilt aside, jumped out of bed and dressed.
The scorching rays of the midday sun burned his eyes and blinded him at the door. The hustle and bustle of university life was at its peak. Students scattered in all directions. Mingling with them
hurriedly, he proceeded to his car.
Justin called his friend Ambrose the moment he came out of the university precincts. They agreed to meet at the club where it all started.
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