Jacob slumped on the couch. The thing he’d been afraid of had befallen him.
“I’m sorry. I can call and ask her myself.” Lucas, his business partner said.
“No, it’s fine, I will.” He said, even though all he wanted was for anyone else to make that call. “You need to focus on getting better. I’ll make sure we submit the reports in time.”
Jacob hung up and threw the phone on the couch, all the energy draining out of him as dread took its place. Lucas had fallen ill, leaving Jacob in a lurch. The deadline was fast approaching for a project they were working on and there was no way he was going to finish everything on time on his own. He needed help and unfortunately, the only person he knew who could do Lucas’ bit as well as Lucas, maybe even better was the one person in the world who hated him with the fire of a thousand blazing suns.
No matter how he sliced it, he’d have to call his ex-fiancée, whom he hadn’t spoken to for months. She wouldn’t answer. If by some miracle she answered, she’d say no and he couldn’t blame her.
Better rip off that band-aid, Jacob thought, dialling her number. It rang and rang and rang as his heart raced and raced, unsure about whether he wanted her to answer.
It looked like they were going to do this in person. He took a long shower, aware that he was deliberately dragging his feet. He wanted to see her, he just didn’t want to see her see him. Didn’t want to see the hate raging where there once was love, adoration and desire.
Abigail narrowed her eyes as she stared at her ringing phone, wondering if she should answer. The thought that something had happened to him was the only reason she slid to answer.
“Hey,” she breathed out, trying to sound calm, and casual.
“Hey, you,” Lucas said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. “How are you?”
“I’m good. You?” She asked, trying to calm her racing heart. Obviously, nothing was wrong if he sounded like himself.
“I’m a little sick, got admitted, but they’ll be discharging me tomorrow.”
“Nothing big. The doctors have it under control, which is all I could ask for. I’m calling to beg.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head even though there was no one to see it.
“I haven’t even said nothing yet.”
“Please, we’re in a huge bind and there’s no way he’s going to finish prototyping and user testing and writing up the reports in time.”
“You can’t ask me that.”
“You know I wouldn’t if I wasn’t desperate. I’m the one asking, not him. Abigail, please.”
She shook her head, unable to form the words.
“Will you at least consider it?” Lucas asked after the prolonged silence.
“Okay,” she exhaled and hung up. She was immediately engulfed by guilt for hanging up on him but was too tired to call back and apologize.
She sat staring at her forest wallpaper-covered wall, trying to channel nature’s calming powers.
A knock on her door pulled her out of her reverie. She turned to find her colleague’s head hanging through her door and she just knew her day had gotten worse. “There’s someone here to see you.”
Before she responded, her colleague stepped aside and there he was.
“Thanks, Linda,” he said, walking in and closing the door in the face of the colleague who clearly knew something was going down. Something juicy.
“I’m sorry… I tried calling,” Jacob started, still by the door.
Abigail shook her head, unable to find the words. All she wanted to do was scream and scream and scream.
“I need your help. Lucas is sick and we have this project due. I wouldn’t bother you if I didn’t have to. I know I’m the last person you want to help.”
“Get out,” she said, finally getting her words back. She felt her anger rise. At him, the audacity to come asking her for a favour after what he’d done. Anger at herself, for worrying earlier that something may have happened to him. She wanted nothing to do with him and his family. They could go to hell for all she cared.
“Abi, please. I’m begging.”
She scoffed. “Go to hell.”
She walked to her door and opened the door. He walked through it without a backward glance or word.
Jacob pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting back the emotions churning in him. Seeing her had packed more of a punch than he’d expected. No amount of bracing himself would have prepared him to see her clean-shaven head. It was so low she looked bald. Bald and as beautiful as she ever was.
It was the first time he’d seen her after the night she’d angrily chopped her hair off with a pair of old rusty kitchen scissors. Angry tears streaming down her face as the hair she’d so painstakingly nurtured fluttered all around her dotting the floor. Everything had changed that day.
He couldn’t think about that now. He needed to find someone to help him with the usability testing of the app they were working on as well as the report writing bit which were Lucas’ responsibilities. He had his hands full with the wireframing and the prototyping bits of the app development as it were.
He’d called the only other person he knew after leaving Abigail’s office and that too had been a burst. Jacob needed her. He needed her for this project; he clarified. This project was too big to fumble. He’d try again. He’d surprised her, maybe having had some time to think about it she’d reconsider. Maybe. Fingers crossed.
He shook his head, disgusted with himself. She’d called him a workaholic with tunnel vision, and she’d been right. How could he be so selfish after seeing how hurt she still was? She’d accused him of being in cahoots with his family and instead of trying to explain, he’d decided to let her think so poorly of him. I mean, if she thought that, there was nothing he could do to change her mind, he reasoned. The truth, he could finally admit to himself, was he’d been so hurt he could barely think, and when she’d accused him of working with his family to hurt her, he’d just pulled away altogether. He’d wanted to hurt her the way she’d hurt him.
Except she’d already been hurt far more than she ever deserved. He couldn’t get the image of her walking out of the women’s prison, her hair in neat lines that hadn’t been there earlier that week out of his mind. Couldn’t stop seeing her swollen, red-rimmed eyes. Couldn’t stop seeing her in the kitchen maniacally cutting her hair with those rusted scissors. Seeing her through those bars, how mad she was at him and how desperate for his help in getting out. How she hated him at that moment.
She’d been held in the women’s jail for an entire weekend. He’d felt like he was losing his mind, but that was nothing compared to what she’d been through. Not that she talked about it. She’d been done with him as soon as she’d walked through those gates. He could imagine, though. She was claustrophobic, a side-effect of boarding school. The entire experience from the handcuffs to the incarceration must have been hell. He didn’t even want to think of the added hellscape that was Kenya’s inhumane prisons. Fuck.
His family had done that to her. Some money had gone missing in his parent’s house, and they’d assumed it was Abigail because they’d been there together earlier that week for some family celebration. Except it wasn’t her, of course, it wasn’t her. Their entire relationship she’d wanted nothing to do with his family’s money. No way she was going to steal it, certainly not given the way his family treated her like she was beneath them because she didn’t grow up rich.
His parents had called the police. They’d tormented her for no reason.
He’d done that to her.
Abigail fought back tears as she prepared the ingredients for her evening meal. She wouldn’t cry about him and his family ever again. She’d made herself that promise a thousand times and broken it as many times. She wouldn’t break it today.
Every time she closed her eyes she was back there, a policeman roughly cuffing her hands outside her old office. Getting packed like sardines in the standing-room-only prison lorry as they were moved from the police cells to the prison because she’d been arrested on a Friday. Being told by the female prison warden that everyone with braids in their hair needed to undo it or get it cut off. The hair she’d just had braided two days earlier. The pair of scissors the warden used to cut the ends of all their braids so they could get a rush on unbraiding their hair. How they’d all helped each other, fighting back tears as the warden threatened to get it over with by just shaving them all if they didn’t hurry up.
Thus began the most horrendous two days and two nights of her life.
She remembered her confusion as the police took her away, accusing her of stealing from Jacob’s parents. They laughed as she denied it. At first, she’d been certain Jacob would get it ironed out immediately, she wouldn’t even have to leave the police station. Then they were leaving the police station and being transferred to the prison for the weekend. Still, she told herself he’d come through and she wouldn’t spend the night in prison. Abigail spent the night in prison and then the following night. He came to see her the two days she was there, bribing the guards to let him and Lucas in. The first day she begged him to get her out, begged him to get his parents to drop the charges. The second day, she wouldn’t speak to him. Even after he got his parents to drop the charges that evening and after bribing the guards and a magistrate to let her out on a Sunday, she wouldn’t speak to him.
Lucas dropped them off at her house and left. She got into the shower and stayed under the water until it felt like her skin was pruning. She finally felt clean, but still wasn’t ready to face him. There was no fighting it though. She was hungry as hell after subsisting on white porridge, overcooked cabbage, and undercooked ugali for the last two days. The porridge was served in massive mugs and if you failed to finish your allotment, you’d earn you and everyone else a punishment of some sort by the sadistic wardens. Any perceived slight by anyone would see the warden’s wrath visited on everyone. It could be something as small as looking at them in a way they considered disrespectful or not finishing your lumpy porridge with sufficient enthusiasm.
Abigail walked into the living room to find Jacob had laid out pizza, chicken wings, and soft drinks. They ate quietly, with him stealing glances at her. When she was satisfied, she finally turned to look at him.
“Get out of my house,”
“Abi,” he said, hand on his chest, voice earnest. “I am so sorry.”
“I don’t care. I want nothing to do with you and your wretched family.”
“They dropped the charges. It’s over.”
“It’s over? It’s over?” Suddenly she was so mad, for the first time she understood the expression of seeing red. She loomed over him where he sat. “First of all, fuck you and your entire family. Did you ever stop to ask yourself why they thought they could treat me like that? Why they thought they could do that to you, to your partner? Do you think they’d have done that to Brother 1’s Wife and Brother 2’s Wife? They wouldn’t. And why because my family doesn’t have money? You’re going to disrespect me because of money? I was fine before I met you, I’ll be fine long after you’re gone. If I never see you and your family, it will be too fucking soon. Get out of my house.” She finished her rant with a scream.
“I’m on your side,” Jacob said, hands raised as though in surrender. “I swear, Abi, I’m on your side. I didn’t know and I swear I did everything I could to get you out.”
“It wasn’t enough. We’re done. I promise you, I promise you, there’s nothing you can say that’s going to change that. Get out.”
He nodded as understanding finally dawned and he accepted what he had long known was coming. “I’m so sorry,” he said before closing the door on their past, present and future.
Jacob opened and closed his fist, trying to get a hold of his trembling fingers. He knocked on her apartment, trying to calm his racing heart.
She opened the door and sighed when she saw him. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I’m not here to try and convince you to help me. You have no business granting me any favours, I get that. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for ambushing you like that. I was just really desperate, and I was only thinking of myself, not you, and how triggering seeing me could be.”
“Triggering? You have way too much confidence in yourself.”
“I could have sworn I was part of your traumatic past,” Jacob said with a wry smile. “I’d prefer to be wrong, though.”
“No luck there.”
She swung the door open and walked in. He followed, surprised she was letting him in. Memories hit him from everywhere. Them cooking together in the small open-plan kitchen. Breaking a dozen health codes as he made love to her on the counter. Lazy afternoons and evenings spent spread out on her soft carpet under a blanket, watching TV.
“What is Mommy Dearest going to say when she finds out that you’re consorting with riff raff?”
He turned to her, taking in her bald head again, fighting the acute desire to run his hands over it, kiss it, apologize to her head, her missing hair.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t spoken to her or my father since… since you left.”
Abigail turned, surprise etched on her face. “Why?”
“What do you mean why?” Jacob asked angrily. “What does that question even mean?”
“You’re all about family.” She answered matter-of-factly.
“Is that what you think of me? That I didn’t care about you? That it wouldn’t matter to me that they got you fucking imprisoned?” He asked, voice so soft it was a whisper.
She was taken aback by the pain in his voice.
Before she could answer, he jumped in.
“If that’s what you think, that’s on me, I guess.” He sighed. “I failed you. You should know anyway and I guess now is better than never. I loved you and when I thought of family, I thought of you. Me and you. I never felt as safe as I did when I was with you, Abi. I never felt more myself than when I was with you. Loving you was the smartest thing I ever did, and I guess this is evidence that I didn’t do it as well as I thought I did, and I’m sorry about that. You should know I kind of miss my parents but you, it feels like my heart is literally breaking when I think of you. Like a slow painful death that somehow starts over and yet continues every day. Don’t doubt that you meant something to me, you did. Everything. Everything good about my life was wrapped up in you. Your smile, your energy, your curiosity and spontaneity, your honesty about living and everything. It meant something to me. It was precious to me and if you didn’t feel that… I failed.”
He nodded, fighting to swallow the knot that was forming in his throat.
Jacob turned to leave and found himself held back in a tight embrace, her arms around his waist, her head on his back. He covered her hands with his and stood there for a minute before turning. He let his fingers play gently over her face, then her lips, then he leaned down as she stood on her tippy toes and met him halfway. He deepened the kiss, his hand on her head, gently caressing her. She joined him, tightening her hold on him.
They pulled away to catch their breath, and he immediately wrapped her in a hug, as if afraid to waste every moment he could have her in his arms.
“Okay, I’ll help you with your thing,” Abigail said, voice muffled by his chest.
“That’s what you want to start with?” Jacob asked, pulling back to look int her eyes.
“Do you want me to take it back?” she asked with mock seriousness.
“No,” he said with a laugh as he kissed her head. “Have I told you how hot you look bald?”
“No, you haven’t.”
“You do,” Jacob said, kissing her head again. He kissed her head over and over, hoping she knew how sorry he was. How very sorry he was. She leaned into him, rubbing his back like she was comforting him. He shook his head, fighting back the tears.
“If we’re going to do this, we may need help as in therapy.” She said into his chest.
Jacob pulled back so he could look into her eyes. “If by this you mean us, yeah. We can start looking whenever you’re ready. About the work stuff, I got an extension, they were not happy, but we have a few extra weeks. Lucas will be back in commission soon, so we’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry about that.”
“Oh. But if you still want me, we work from my office. I can focus there.”
“I’ll always want you. Also, I can distract you anywhere, baby.” He said peppering kisses along her neck as he massaged her head. He couldn’t get enough of it.
“Promises, promises.” Abigail teased.
He lifted her and placed her on the counter, eliciting a surprise laugh from her.
“Are you ready?” He asked with a smile as he helped her take off her t-shirt.
“Show me your best work,” she answered, breath already shallow as his fingers started doing the walking.
“That’s all I need to hear.”
I Intensely Disliked Him The First Time We Met; I Never Thought I Would End Up Falling In Love With Him Part 1
She Thought His Death Was An Accident Until She Found The Note
Time Apart Brought Them Back Together And They Got Their Happily Ever After
A Kenyan Love Story: Love Song – A Dream Turns Into A Nightmare
He Initially Liked My Ambition But Later Started Acting Like We Were Competing