Joseph was getting ready for work early one morning when the sitting room door burst open and Becky came in. He was shocked by her appearance. She was clad in her house robe and house slippers with a hair net on her head. It was obvious she was roused from bed in haste: her eyes were red and puffy with tears. “What is the problem, Becky? You look distraught.” Joseph said in concern as he moved her to the sofa and sat down with her. “Daddy was rushed to the hospital this morning. He woke in the middle of the night with a terrible stomach pain and started vomiting blood.” She paused as tears welled up in her eyes and trickled down her face. “He is on oxygen already since he can’t breathe on his own any longer, even as they carry out different test on him but I didn’t wait for the result to come out before I came here.” She covered her face with her hands and cried as if her heart will break. “Becky, everything will be okay by God’s grace. Look at me.” He pulled her hands away from her eyes and forced her to look at him. “Prepare yourself to face anything and be strong for yourself, your sister and your mother. You know what I mean?” He said quietly as he stared into her eyes and she nodded numbly. She got to her feet and paced back and forth for a moment. “Joe, dad is suffering from food poisoning and I don’t think he will survive it.” She said grimly as she came to a stop in front of him. “Don’t be so pessimistic, Becky. How can you be so sure? You didn’t even wait to see the outcome of the test, did you?” He chided her gently as he got to his feet. “Have you forgotten I’m a doctor? The symptoms are there but I’m hoping I’m wrong. I pray I’m wrong.” She said desperately as tears filled her eyes again and he took her in his arms. She hugged him tightly, drawing from his strength as she buried her face in his shoulder and he stroked her back soothingly. “You are going to be alright.” He told her quietly. “Thank you for everything.” She stepped back, out of his embrace and turned to pick up her car key. “I will give you a call later but I’m going to check him in the hospital now.” Joseph glanced at his wrist-watch. “I have to get home now. I’m a mess. See you later.” She tried to smile as she opened the door and stepped out.
Benedict Badmus gave up the ghost in the wee hours of the following day. Ramsey had taken Ruth and Lizzy home and Becky was the only one with their father when he breathed his last. She left the hospital premises immediately he was confirmed dead and called Joseph on her way home to break the news. Rebecca was extremely calm throughout the whole ordeal: the wake-keeping service took place seven days later and she was glad of the two men’s support in her life, even though she was aware of Ramsey’s increasing resentment towards Joseph. “Why should he be involved in whatever we are doing? He is not part of the family.” Ramsey told her one night after a stressful day of receiving visitors who came to pay them condolence visits. “He has been part of the family for a long time and I need any help I can get at this point in time. Stop being such a spoilt sport and behave yourself.” She snapped at him and walked away.
Joseph strolled along the road, eating up the distance with his long strides and his hands in his pockets when a car slowed down beside him. “Hop in, my boy.” It was salmon and he got into the car without second thought. Joseph had never seen a man cried so openly the way this man did at his friend’s graveyard and he respected him for it. “Accept my condolence on your friend’s death.” He said quietly. “Thank you. It was so sudden and unexpected. We were at the club house together two days before his death. i still find it difficult to believe he is gone.” Salmon frowned at the road and Joseph saw his hands tightened on the steering wheel. “Such is life. One moment you are alive and the next, you are dead. We should just make the best use of whatever opportunity we have.” He shrugged philosophically. “You are right. Becky was so unexpectedly brave throughout the whole scenario when I was a complete wreck myself. I’m so proud of her.” He said in admiration and Joe nodded in agreement. “Are you still staying with the family or you are moving on?” He glanced briefly at him as he moved unto the government house road. “I don’t know yet. If the family decides to keep me, I don’t have any problem with that but if not, I’m moving on without second thought but I guess nothing can be decided until the deceased’s will have been read.” He said with another shrug. “That is right. Where is your house?” He glanced briefly at him as he waited for the traffic light to change at the challenge junction. “I stay in Agbo-oba but you can drop me across the road. I can get a taxi home easily from there.” Joseph told him casually. “I will take you home. It is no problem to me and I really need the driving anyway.” Salmon said sheepishly. The light changed and he drove smoothly towards the Unity road round out. “Thank you sir” Joseph said in appreciation.
“I’m in trouble, Rose.” Becky sobbed bitterly into the phone. “The Will had been read, right?” Rose guessed quietly from the other end. “The terms were really awful, Rose. I never knew Dad hated me this much.” Becky shook her head in self-pity. It was six months after her father’s death. “What is it like, Becky?” Rose asked curiously. “Ramsey will take over the company naturally but I’m not entitled to any of his property unless I’m married to him and that automatically extends to mum and my sister, though they won’t be as penniless as I would be. I really didn’t know he is this obsessed with a male child.” She said with half-hearted sarcasm. “This is serious indeed. What are you going to do?” Rose said worriedly. “I don’t know yet but I can’t marry him. I don’t love him but no one seems to understand.” She said indignantly as she paced the length of her bedroom and back again. “I think your realization is quite too late because according to Lizzy, the wedding preparation is already underfoot. Am I wrong?” Rose said in her usual practical way and she sighed heavily as she dropped unto her bed. “You are right. Mummy won’t allow me to back out because I can’t give a genuine reason for my action.” She said helplessly. “That means he is a real gold-digger like Lizzy labeled him. Have you told him about your change of mind? What does he have to say about it?” Rose asked angrily and heard her friend sigh again. “He won’t set me free, Rose. He said he loved me and can’t live without me. He even shed tears, Rose, can you imagine?” She jumped to her feet again in remembered outrage. “I can imagine. He loves your money and can’t leave without it. Let’s be frank here, are you in love with joseph?” Rose asked quietly and she was silent as she stared out of the window into the dark night. “I don’t know, Rose. Can I even trust my feelings any longer? I was so sure Ramsey is my one and only love but I was wrong. How can I trust what I’m feeling for Joseph now?” She asked worriedly. “Follow your instinct, girlfriend and make sure you make the decision that will make you happy. Put yourself first for once and let’s see where the tide of life will lead you to. Have a good night rest and remember I love you always.” Rose said quietly. “I love you too. Good night.” She cut the phone and stayed where she was for a very long time.
Naomi was already sleeping off when she heard the sitting room door opened and closed in the distance. Her eyes fluttered opened slowly and she listened, wondering who their night visitor was, then she heard her voice.
“Becky, what are you doing here at this hour?” Joseph asked in concern as he swung his feet down and sat up straight on the chair. They both knew he had been avoiding her ever since her wedding date had been picked. He thought distance would lessened the level of attraction between them but he was so wrong, he thought in despair as desire hit him straight in the gut at the sight of her in his house, clad in simple button-down flowery gown that stopped just above her knees. “I came to see you.” She sat down on the seat beside him and smiled but he could see nerves behind that smile. “We saw each other this afternoon, Becky. It is late already” He glanced at the wall clock: It was 9PM already and looked back at her. “I know. I brought a car with me and …..”She gave a nervous laugh, wriggling her fingers. “I sincerely hope you won’t tear off those fingers. You are nervous.” He observed quietly. She stared down at her toes for a while and got to her feet abruptly. “It doesn’t really matter. I was just getting bored at home and decided to see you.” She said with a smile and moved towards the door. He sprung up and wrestled the door knob from her hand. He held her against the door and framed her face in his large hands. “It is the only thing that matter right now. Please talk to me, Becky” He said softly. “Tomorrow is my wedding way.” She whispered past the lump in her throat and he took a deep breath. ‘I know. I’ve been trying to tell myself I don’t really care.” He gave a short laugh and moved away. “After tonight, I won’t be a free woman again. You know I am getting married because of everything except love. I want to save my home and my father’s property but if you say just one word of commitment to me, I will drop everything to be with you.” She paused as she firmed her lips to keep it from trembling. “Becky, I feel so helpless right now .You deserve the best but I’ve got nothing to offer you.” He turned to face her pleadingly. “I don’t care about how poor you are, Joe. You are educated and you have all it takes to succeed. All you need is a little capital and I can provide enough.” She said desperately as she took his hands in hers and shook it impatiently. “I’m sorry, Becky but you know me better than this. I can’t and won’t depend on a woman for my source of living.” He said firmly. “How about if I get you a loan? I can get a collateral but at least, the money will not come from me directly.” She held her breath but he only moved his head from side to side again. “Don’t you have any feelings for me? I love you, Joe. Isn’t it obvious to you?” She asked in a whisper and he felt his heart twist in anguish. “I can’t marry you or any woman for that matter right now. I and my mom have come a long away together and I need to repay her for her kindness in my life before I can think of settling down with any woman. She brought me up single-handedly without anybody’s help. Please try to understand, Becky.” He looked into her eyes and the pain and anguish in them tore at his heart. “I understand.” She moved away, opened the door and walked out.
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