7 years later
“Have you checked in with security?” I ask, Mrs Gilbert, a quiet sweet old woman kind enough to have wanted to do this; to take care of the children all the way through the holidays.
“Yes,” she nods vigilantly.
“And the food and present? Is there enough for everyone?” I ask her even though I made sure there was, but its always good to double check.
“Yes, ma’am, quite enough. The children shan’t ever be hungry again.” Mrs Gilbert says.
I smile.” I know. I hope not.” I say as I begin to pack the files into my briefcase.
“Let me help you, ma’am.” Mrs Gilbert offers. And even though I’ve mentioned time and time for her to stop referring in such term, she still insists.
However, I have learnt to ignore the awkwardness of it and the fact that she is about twenty years older, so I am the one who’s supposed to be calling her ma’am not the other way around.
I let her help pack the stuff I will need for next two week holiday. When every important document has been shoved in my briefcase along with packing the contents which belonged in my accessory bag, Mrs Gilbert then begins to tidy up my desk, despite my protests.
“Thank you.” I reluctantly let her. And the woman just smiles warmly at me.
“I should be the one thanking you. Ever since you came here, a lot has changed and for the better too. Goldings Orphan Home hasn’t been this merrier before, the excitement rallies in the children, they’re very grateful.”
I grin, her remark filling with much warmth inside. Of course she speaks truth. When I was presented with this Home, I was appalled at the lack of staff, the impoverishment of the children and mostly the condition the building was in.
I started working on it instantly the next day and I didn’t rest until everything was in set; until I made sure that the needs of the children we met, as well as improving the staff and the building, because then the Home could focus on the more important issue and that was aiding those poor, unfortunate children.
So to hear Mrs Gilbert’s words, well she has just made my day brighter.
I know the time isn’t in my hands because its almost evening and I’m expected to be home safe and sound for this Christmas eve, but I just can’t yet leave without making sure everything will be set for the fortnight of my absence.
I linger a little bit longer in my quaint but warm small office gifted to me by Sir Lord Golding himself, the founder of this establishment. He is one of the most respected man whose philanthropic heart has him doing all things for the good of others. Since his retirement, he’s spent his time dedicated in opening and creating charities works all around the globe, for the benefits of children.
That’s where he met, Jeremy, at one of the social events. Since I graduated college few years back, I have had my heart set on children. For the few months after my graduation I had decided to teach preschool children, but soon had to quit the position when I fell pregnant. That was when I decided from then on, I would be a dedicated mother.
I didn’t want a nanny prior to Jeremy’s insistence, I wanted to experience motherhood and all of its up and downs. So I quit work for a while and became a temporary housewife, until last month when Jeremy told me about Sir Lord Goldings and how he was looking for someone to rejuvenate one of his Home since it had become neglected when the previous manager had quit.
The home had been neglected for a year without Sir Lord Goldings’s knowledge since he was out of the country with other projects.
When he returned and found out, well let’s say he wasn’t too happy about it.
Jeremy, told him about me, and one thing led to another and so here I am: the manager of this home.
Jeremy knows about my dream to have my own Homes and so he thought this will be a great experience before he could actually gift me with my very own.
Even though he consistently acknowledges how I am very much capable of handling everything, I still want to experience handling it first. This Home, at first, proved to be a challenge but by the love I continued to get from the staff and children, well I am becoming too attached to want to leave it.
“Ma’am, its half past six.” Mrs Gilbert pulls me out of my reverie. I instantly snap to attention and inwardly cuss at the time.
Giving her one last goodbye I head out of my office, greeted and farewell by a few staff I happen to pass by and then I exist the Home, smiling at the new rejuvenated building as I make for my car at the parking lot.
I locate my Ferrari, one of my many gifts from my doting husband, Jeremy. This car had been my nineteenth birthday gift. The first birthday I spent with him, also the first birthday I actually felt was a truly celebrated birthday.
As I drive my old car, feeling whimsical about it, I recount the past seven years of my life with Jeremy.
Boy, has it been a long rollercoaster ride.
I remember his promise, and I smile as I remember how hard he truly tried to give me space instead of demanding me to marry him in instantly. I had worked for a month at Millie’s before quitting to enrol in college, all by Jeremy’s influence of course.
Those college years were the hard ones: even though the college was the best in the state we were in, Jeremy still didn’t like the hours of separation.
I had insisted at first that I drive everyday myself for a hundred miles but he didn’t see the end of it. He practically had Mitch glued to my car every morning for the journey.
When that arrangement finally settled, the next problem was compromising the hours I spent at school as well as with him. That was when Jeremy hauntingly decided to rent an apartment near the school for us, since he couldn’t stand only having me at night and not all day, because within those night I would be tired from the work and the four hour drive of going and coming back from the college.
As I recall this, my grin spreads on my face. I probably look like an idiot grinning to myself in my car.
We had celebrated our first year anniversary together in that apartment he rented. It was that first year when Jeremy began to be much insistent on us marrying. Of course he tried to keep to his promise that I would be the one to tell him when I was ready, but it never stopped him from grumbling and nagging until I finally consented.
We married after six months of our first anniversary in Jeremy’s old home. Of course it was Doreen’s influence to coerce us into using the house for the ceremony. She made all the arrangements and I never complained through it all, I was actually glad someone would do all the dirty work.
So we had a small ceremony with few of our friends to witness it. Julie had been my maid of honour since our friendship blossomed into more like being sisters rather than close friends: I adored her and she me. Hilly, Effie and a few friends I had made at college had insisted being the bridesmaids.
Matthew had been the best man.
Once both brothers had finally sat down together and talked after so many years, they became virtually inseparable afterwards.
Doreen has been so gratefully for me ever since.
Most of Jeremy’s friends were present and since I had only my fellow waitresses and my college friends, the ceremony had been mostly dominated by huge names and faces which you only saw in magazines and television.
We spent our honeymoon travelling the continents of Europe, Asia and some parts of Africa. So it virtually became a three month honeymoon. After long night’s in various parts of the world, we couldn’t wait to get back home and finally start our life together as man and wife.
Life from then on hasn’t been sweeter. Even through occasional volcanos and earthquakes in our relationship, I find myself even more at bliss with my life. Each day I’m more surprised at how much I still grow to love my husband and our little family.
As I pull unto a familiar road, that same giddiness returns to me every time I think of home.
With the security key, I open up the gates that will lead me to the small road surrounded by ubiquitous army of now snow coated trees, draped with Christmas lights. I drive this arch ringed road until I spot the mansion I had first been introduced to that one night Jeremy had turned my life around, the night after finding out that Matthew was his big brother.
Those were bittersweet days were I was full of anxiety for my future and yet here I am; now parking behind the lines of cars I know belong to my family and friends. I go into the house that I now call my own.
However before I enter the mansion, I stand in the snow and glance at the window which shows one of the living room parlours… and boy is it occupied.
By the huge couch sits familiar faces, Jack and Nicole are amongst the party in the couch. The sight of them reminds of those days when I first got to know Jeremy. I remember the hostility Nicole had given me at first meeting since she’d been friends with Jeremy’s previous lover, Cassie–lord knows whatever happened to her. But according to Nicole she had fled the states with a new lover; she has since to hear from her, but I doubt Nicole is going to rehash that relationship with her.
I spot a few of Jeremy’s close business friends or should I say his ‘Buddies’. Four of them are sitting by the other couch obviously discussing business.
Matthew is amongst the party and he looks on the men with a serious face.
Since the turn-around of Jeremy and Matthew’s relationship, Jeremy has tried to let Matthew into the company but of course Matthew still has no interest in running the Lawson Empire. I found out once that Matthew had graduated with a degree in construction and engineering and if he was not running his restaurant, he was working on adapting his own Construction company.
He started the business a few months back. So him, right now, sitting with those men, well it tells me he’s taking a few pointers from them, even though his company is kicking well, prior to his known name.
I then spot a group of women on the far corner of the room by the Christmas tree. The throng consists of my girls. The friends I made at college who have stuck by me since. Of course one of them actually possesses a big name from her marital status to one Jeremy’s buddy here. Julie is amongst them too being the obvious spectator. There’s also a new party in the group, Matthew’s girlfriend.
I survey Julie’s attitude and yes, my best friend is friendly towards the poor girl. Julie and Mathew had dated seven years ago only for two weeks and it had become obvious that it wouldn’t work out when the two realised they were two completely different people, wanting different things. They had parted ways in friendly terms.
Matthew has had a string of on and offs dates with countless women, of course that was until he finally met his match a year or two, maybe three years back. And since then, I’ve never seen him more loyal to his woman until she came along. But how their relationship came about? …Well it’s their story to tell.
I watch from the window as the group admire and gush over the decorations.
Then finally I spot Doreen seated over by the couch near the fireplace, in her lap she holds a little boy of almost three years of age with huge blue eyes and chubby cheeks, a dazzling toothy grin was spread on his little face. In her lap the boy sits quietly but restless as he watches the fire with wondering, curious eyes. Doreen smiles adoringly at him and she strokes his mane of curly chestnut brown hair and kisses him from now and then.
My heart lurches, but I shake my head in disbelief at the sight I see. How Doreen has manage to tame, the usually wild and boisterous boy, who now sits in tranquillity by her lap remains a wonder to me.
As my eyes rack at the sight of my family and friends, I begin straining my neck to look into the whole room so I can finally catch sight of the only person I really want to see after such a long day.
I become disappointed by each passing second when I don’t catch the familiar dark blue grey eyes–the eyes that have never failed to disarm me ever since–and the familiar features of a face whose forehead is now covered by long locks of chestnut brown hair, which in my opinion are needed to be cut very soon.
“Are you going to stand there, gazing through the window like an eavesdropper or are you going to finally turn away and enter the den, Mrs Lawson?” That same deep sultry voice that churns and wrecks my insides into mush, breaks the silence of the night.
My eyes instantly dart towards the voice and the instant they do, they meet those disarming eyes that hold and trap my gaze.
I watch as the figure rises from the swing seat located near the porch and begins to journey towards me.
After seven years it still amazes how he can still look the same without any trace aging nor any change from the same strong, confident stance he always has.
He walks over to me until he stands tall and erect before me. His shadow casting over me from the porch light. The huge coat he’s wearing manages to hide how well defined he truly is under it.
“Good evening, Mrs Lawson.” He greets me formally like he has before ever since we exchanged our vows. And so with this usual greeting, I reply with my very own.
“Good evening, Mr Lawson.”
He grins at this, the hands at his side twitching to touch me but he refrains.
“You’re finally home, well after curfew again as usual.” Even though his remark is meant to rebuking, the grin still remains in his features.
“I’m not always that late.” I protest trying to put on a frown which ultimately fails since his grin is infectious.
“I had to make sure that arrangements for the children’s this holiday will be extra special for them.” I argue.
“Yes, I know. The one of many traits I love about you.” His hand reaches out to return a free tendril of hair back behind my ear. The contact makes my heart jolt and my skin tingle from where he touches me.
“Now, tell me what were you doing spying by the window?” He asks, the blue grey of his iris dancing with curious amusement.
I take note of how he hasn’t removed his hand from my face, his fingers now trace my cheek. I lean my face towards the hand, closing my eyes.
“I wasn’t spying.” I reply him, opening my eyes to meet his.
“Then what were you doing?” His voice is laced with curiosity.
“Simply acknowledging the fortune that is my family and friends.” I tell him, smiling as my hand finds his other hand and my fingers instantly interlocks with his, finding that I cannot refrain from touching him.
I always craved contact with him especially after a long day.
His eyes radiate warmth as he gazes at me, his fingers moving to trace my lips.
“And what do you make of this fortune?” He asks.
“Oh I am very much fortunate indeed. I couldn’t have asked for a more glorious life than the one my dear husband has given me.” I grin at him.
He chuckles softly, the sound choosing to reverberate down towards my now churning insides. This dose of desire I instantly feel makes me shift closer to him.
He welcomes my body, by draping an arm around my waist, whilst the other, moves from my face to hold and caress the back of my neck.
“He sounds like an charming man, this husband of yours.” He smirks.
“Oh he is. He’s also handsome too in roguish sort of way. But what I love most about him is his heart and how much it has to offer.” I smirk back at him.
“Ah, wife of mine, you wound me.” He frowns mockingly.
“Wound you? How?”
“By making me love you even more, I didn’t know that my heart can have this much love for a person.”
“Then I shall have to heal and reassure it that it’s not alone in that aspect of loving someone so much it practically hurts.” My voice becomes a soft husk because he has abruptly drawn me closer towards him; his face is now inches from mine.
“Leyla, I’ve missed you all day and I haven’t been alone in that.”
“I’ve missed you too, I’ve missed all–”
I don’t get to finish my sentence because suddenly he can’t wait any longer to kiss me. The instant he does, complete bliss washes over me. I close my eyes and wrap my arms around him to kiss him back with equal fervour.
We remain in this intimate embrace for a while until the cold wind begins to take its toll by wafting its bitter bite at us.
We instantly run to the house, kissing briefly like teenagers at the now closed door before entering into the company of others, we know once we are there, we won’t have this chance again until deep in the night and it’s not always guaranteed that we will have it all to ourselves depending if our little boy will really sleep tonight.
Speaking of which, the instant my presence is known among the party in the parlour, everyone greets me warmly with hugs and some with nods but the most boisterous of all is that of my baby boy.
Once he realises that I’m in the room, he struggles out of his Nana’s lap and trudges over to me in a flurry of activity that only a two and three quarter year old can manage to achieve.
I grin at the running boy and kneel down to meet him and he flings himself at me, screaming,
“Mommy! Mommy is back!”
“Hey, baby boy.” I say lifting him up, grinning at him as I shower his face with kisses.
He grins too, but then he says, “Gross, mommy,” as he rubs my lipstick off his face in which the whole party erupts with laughter.
“I miss you.” I cannot resist kissing his chubby cheeks again.
He giggles and this time he kisses me back. Looking at him, with those bright blue eyes he only could have inherited from his grandfather and that stunning baby grin which managed to melt your heart every time you looked at him, he was the exact replica of his father.
I move over to a vacant arm chair and sit myself on it with my boy on my lap. Once we are seated he then begins telling me all about his day; Where ‘nana’ took him; what he did with ‘Uncle Mattie’; how he got to wrap presents with ‘Aunt Juyie”; what he and ‘Daddy’ did; all the way up to meeting everyone here.
I listen attentively, putting my remarks in the right place, kissing his hair, soothing him as well as telling him about my day when he had demanded me to do so.
He is almost three and my baby boy not only resembles his father but he’s just like him in every way.
My eyes dart in search of the man himself, and I find him conversing with his buddies. He looks back at me the instant my eyes find him. I grin at him and he has that same look of adoration and awe as he watches both me and his son converse.
It’s after a while of seating with him that I then realise the excitement of the day has been too much for my poor boy. His eyes start dropping and his head rested at my chest begins falling to one side.
I laugh to myself, adjusting him as I stand up from my seat with intention to put him to sleep.
“No wonder he’s been up and running all day, entertaining us in your place,” Julie comments with a grin on her face as I pass my friends for a brief chat and wish them a merry Christmas eve.
I wish everyone a merry Christmas eve and then finally make leave, with my little man in arms, to his room.
His father follows me, not wanting to miss the daily routine of putting him to bed. Jeremy takes him from my arms and together we head upstairs to his room where we place him in his cot.
The sooner Jeremy puts him down, my little man springs awake not wanting to miss the day, but his father soothes him to sleep promising him another day full of bountiful playfullness.
A grin plasters on my face, my heart doing its usual dance when I watch father and son bond together. After a few minutes of cooing our boy, he finally succumbs to sleep.
Jeremy turns the baby monitor on and together we silently close the door. As Jeremy turns to me, he has a huge grin on his face.
“He wounds me too, every time with pride.” He says.
I laugh at his remark, hitting his arm in mock scolding.
“I love him so much, Leyla, even when he throws those tantrums of his. Today has been life affirming for the both of us.” Jeremy takes me in his arms and instantly leans down to level with me.
I rejoice in his words, feeling as if I can flap my wings like a proud mother hen. “He is life changing, isn’t he?”
“More than so, I can’t believe in two months he’ll be three. Sometimes he acts like a three year old but most times it’s as if you’re talking to an actual intellectual adult who has his own opinions.” Jeremy shakes his head.
“Well, he gets his intelligence from his father.” I comment.
Jeremy breathes in sharply before kissing me. “I can never thank you, Leyla for giving me him, for giving me a family; it makes me anticipate for the future in a more hopeful way.”
I cannot contain my grin. “And I thank you for keeping to your promise that first year, then for being too impatient to marry me. Thank you for being there with me, Jeremy, through the ups and the downs, the good and bad. Thank you, for giving me everything I could ever want and need, for giving me this life, for giving me a family when I’d never had one before.” I kiss his cheek, followed by the corner of his mouth, then his lips.
He kisses me back, desperately, as if he’s a starved man seeking for bread.
“For you Leyla, everything.” His eyes shin down at me. “I vowed to give you the world, remember?”
I giggle as I hug him, my face pressing in his chest to feel his thudding heart echoing my own pacing beat.
“But you have given me the world, ” I tell him.
I feel his smile as he presses his lips in my hair. “I better have, because you deserve it all… now let’s go and entertain our friends and family, like good hosts we are.”
I giggle again.
“I love you, my wife.” He grins as he releases me from our embrace, both of his hands now drawing my face to his.
“And I you, my husband.”
And we seal this with one long endearing kiss.