She was the first to wake up. She propped herself on her elbow, and stared at the god that was sleeping so beautifully beside her. As she looked at him, she marveled at the series of events that had brought them to the point they were in their lives. Her mind went back to the literary festival of the previous evening; they had barely followed the proceedings, and when their hunger for their bodies threatened to consume them, they had quietly crept out of the hall and within five minutes, they were in his hotel room, with the furniture witnessing a firework of clothes and a festival of lovemaking.
Without meaning to, she trailed her index finger on his hard torso, starting from his neck, down to his six-pack stomach. She then touched his muscled arm and gulped down the sudden surge of desire that rose from her belly. He is beautiful, she thought, and I love—
Immediately she was hit by a tornado of guilt that came on and on these days. She knew that she was betraying her husband, but she could not help it. She still loved Ikemefuna, her husband of thirty years, but what she felt for the man in front of her was exciting as it was real; she could almost feel her love for him hanging in the air, the guardian angel of their union.
Her lover stirred, then opened his eyes, a sexy smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. She remembered what that mouth had done to her, the way he had kissed, tasted and taken her to heights of pleasure she never thought she would experience again. At fifty-three she’d thought that the fire of her sexual passion had been long extinguished. But Andrew was a sex god as she had found out, he was capable of unlocking vaults that she thought closed forever.
He sat up, cupped her face in both his hands, and planted a kiss on her forehead. Then he went into the bathroom. As she stared at his sexy, hard ass, her thoughts went back to her husband. It had been twelve years since he died in that ghastly fire, yet she still loved him like he was still part of her. He’s still part of my life, she chided herself. She knew that she would always love him till her last breath; he had been everything she had wanted and more, and when he had died, she had been plunged into an abyss of pain and sorrow.
Till Andrew came along. First, he had become her friend—her best friend—and had pulled her out of her misery. He had been preparing to write his fourth novel then, but he had had time for her. He was also the one who encouraged her to start writing; according to him, writing was both an occupation and a drug that was capable of healing a great many things, most especially heartbreaks. She had been unsure of her ability to weave stories out of her mind, so she had decided to write about herself and her life.
Andrew had been there throughout the time she wrote her first book, and with his contacts in the literary world, she had published her first memoir. It had been an instant success, garnering acclaims from all corners of the world. That was how she had turned her pain into her passion. But she knew that despite her writing about the excruciating pain of her husband’s death, it had not really stopped her from the moments when she was most vulnerable, when she would be awake at night, her tear glands wanting to empty themselves.
Andrew came out, still naked and looking breathtakingly handsome. She found it hard to accept that he was fifty-seven as he was still trim and fit. Once when she had asked why he had no paunch, he had jokingly replied her that he saw no need for having a bag on his body when he could easily buy one if he needed it. He had such an easy way with life; it was as if nothing got to him, but she knew that nothing was as far from the truth as that idea. He had also known pain, had been locked up in the house for years with sorrow and agony, but he had finally found a way out.
He sat on the bed with her, clasped her hand in his and looked into her eyes. She could not resist the sharp intake of breath as she saw what those eyes held; it was something she feared and craved for at the same time; she wanted reach out into his eyes and pluck out the rawest expression of love she had seen in the past twelve years, yet she was scared that she was undeserving of such; she felt like a cheat—yes, she was a cheat. If not, how could she love both him and her dead husband? How could she expect to get away with this form of greed? Yet…
“Marry me, Gladys,” he blurted out, looking into the depths of her soul.
She was sure that time had stopped as well as her brain, because she was unable to form any cognitive thought. She tried to breathe, to calm herself down, but it was as if there was no more air available. Slowly, she took gulps of sweet oxygen before she was able to speak.
“What! What do you mean by that?”
“I’m sure that there are no two meanings to what I said,” he replied, smiling.
Was he joking? she asked herself. Yes, his lips were curved in a sly smile, but his eyes… oh his eyes were filled with such an intense passion that she couldn’t stop the tears when they fell.
He was instantly at her side, cradling her and whispering words she couldn’t catch into her ears. He held her like that for what seemed like hours; she made no move to leave, preferring the silent atmosphere as a refuge against the turmoil inside of her. She tried to rationalize his reason for wanting to marry her, but she could not; yes, they loved each other, but at that point in their lives, ideas such as marriage should be buried and forgotten. Marriage was something young people with futures did, not old people like them with no futures.
She remembered something else, something that had been like a shadow over her life of recent, eclipsing her joy anytime she thought of it. Which was always, except when she was with Andrew. Although she was best friends with the man that held her as if his life depended on it, she had decided not to tell him about that particular secret. It was of no use, she thought, I don’t want him to know that I would be leaving him soon too. Like his wife did.
“Why?” she finally asked, “why me?”
He sat her down, kissed her full on the lips and said, “Because I’m in love with you, Gladys. That is why.”
“But… What about what you said about not getting married again?” she asked, looking for any excuse to hold on to. She was thrilled about the idea of getting married, but she knew that she could not marry him. Not when she had…
“Yes, I once vowed that I would never marry again. That was when I thought I’d overgrown love. But you don’t overgrow love. I fell for you and I saw the light. Now I want you to be my wife. Will you?”
Another thing with him, she lamented to herself, was that he was terribly direct. He never coated words or tried to be diplomatic. She had always teased him about it; as a writer, she’d said to him, it’s surprising that you are so direct. Then he would usually reply, “No time dear, no time.”
Now she was faced with a direct question, one that she had to reply. She thought about stalling, about asking him for time to think about it, but she knew that she had nothing to think about. No, she had to give him her reply. And she had to be direct too.
“No, Andrew. I will not marry you,” she said. “And please don’t ask me why.”
He looked like his heart was ripped into pieces, yet he nodded stoically. Then he gave her a rueful smile and headed into the bathroom to take his shower. They were the two people scheduled for interviews later in the day.
She watched him get inside the bathroom and allowed her tears to flow unrestrained. She did not make any sound, she just cried silently as she let her sorrow fall freely in liquid form. It was for the best, she thought. I can’t marry him.
Not when I have ovarian cancer and six months to live. I can’t marry him and then leave him. There’s no way I can leave him like his wife did.