MASKED- Chapter Three

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CHAPTER THREE

*****

Summer.

Many years later, it was July and the beginning of one of the hottest summer that had occurred in history. Sweat trickled down backs, and every now and then someone was reaching for a can of chilled drink. Three boys stood at a counter in the busy cinema waiting for their dates.

“Do you think she is coming?” Soren asked. He was a tall, lanky boy and one did not need to look at him twice to know he was a bully’s favorite toy.

“Shut up Soren! Why won’t she come?” Elvis asked rhetorically.

Elvis was a twin, and just like any two siblings, he was different from Elvin. They dressed differently, had different taste in shows and acted completely different.

“Well, she’d better hurry, I don’t want to keep Mary waiting for long,” Tony said and winked at the girl sitting at a corner in a tight white shirt and mini skirt.

“Stop complaining already, the movie starts in half an hour. Stupid bitch will be here soon,” Elvis said, putting the pack of cigarettes back in his pocket after the girl at the counter warned him that smoking was prohibited.

“Why do you always call her that? If you don’t like her anymore, you can just dump her,” Soren suggested timidly.

“I can call her whatever I like Soren. And no one is dumping anybody,” Elvis barked.

After waiting for a few more minutes, Tina arrived in a short dress and sneakers, her hair was tied neatly in a bun, and she was wearing a beautiful smile.

“Hello Elvis, Hi Tony, Hi Soren. Have you guys been waiting here for long?”

“What do you think?” Elvis asked putting an arm on her waist, and drawing her closer. He was moving his hands downwards when she whispered, “You can’t do that here.”

“Okay, so should we go to the bathroom then?”

The boys laughed.

Tina was embarrassed, “I think the movie has started.” She said.

“And whose fault is that?” Elvis asked.

The movie lasted an hour and a half. It was a romance comedy, and they all enjoyed it except, Tina who had been fighting Elvis to keep his hands in appropriate places while they were in public.

“Nice movie,” Soren said when they were done, he had no date and was the only one who had paid full attention to what was going on.

“I had no idea, what was going on half the time, Tony admitted, Mary is quite a handful,” he said, smiling mischievously to himself.

The boys laughed alone, the girls had excused themselves to the washroom.

“What’s wrong with her?” Tony asked.

“Who?” Elvis asked annoyed.

“Your girl, Tina.”

“It must be her mother again, I am tired of that drama. I already have a lot going on at home. My goodness! She is always carrying a long face, it’s becoming downright annoying.”

“Maybe you should ask her.”

“Who cares?” Elvis said and shrugged.

The two girls arrived at where the boys were now standing, and Mary said she had to go, that she had just received a call from her mother. Tony offered to escort her home and they both left together.

It was left with the three of them and eventually Soren walked off to have a conversation with the girl at the counter, who had been staring at him pointedly.

“What’s the problem?” Tina asked looking worriedly at Elvis.

“Nothing. Is there a problem with you?”

“No…yes…it’s my mother. She is at it again.”

When Elvis made no comment she continued, “She has made another of her plans for me, another marriage proposal came…We fought about it this morning and that’s why I was late.”

“That again? Who is he?”

“A 60 year old rich guy who owns three different club houses, he just got divorced for the sixth time. Can you imagine?”

“Huh, a rich divorcee Eh? Let’s go to my place, I brought my car.”

Tina looked hesitant, she remembered clearly what happened the last time they went there. And why did he think that would be a solution to her problem.

“What are you looking at me like that for? You don’t trust me?” Elvis asked looking hurt.

Tina smiled, “Of course, I do.”

“So, come on.”

They said goodbye to Soren and drove off, on their way, Elvis diverted, he passed the junction that led to his place.

“Where are we going Elvis?”

“Relax, you are going to like it. I hope that this would appease your mother. It’s a surprise.”

Elvis stopped the car in front of a deserted mansion, the place was thick with vegetation and the air was cool and soothing, Tina could see the rising beauty with an artificial lake by the building, it was so beautiful and unreal that it looked like it had been cut out of some fairy tale book.

“Do you like it?” he asked as he took her around.

“Yes…it’s so lovely, Elvis. Does your father own this?”

“Yes and many more like this.”

Tina stopped smiling for a second, “So why did you bring me here exactly?”

“To show off, ” he answered with a smile.

“What?”

“Tell your mother what you saw today. Tell her you have a rich boyfriend, who can take care of you, so she doesn’t have to hook you up with these old men like you are some slut.”

“Really? Elvis, you brought me here to say this?”

He looked away, “I am sorry. I am just tired of them, why are parents so_”

“Another problem at home?”

‘It’s nothing.”

“You know you can tell me. Sharing is caring,” she said, touching his face lightly.

“My father wants me to go to Yale, because Elvin is going. I don’t even know if I want to go to college, or what I want to major in. but they seem to have my life all figured out.”

“Elvin is going to Yale?” Tina asked apologetically, it’s been her lifelong dream to go to a prestigious college, but she knew with the kind of mother she had, she would be lucky if she even made it to college.

“Yes, why?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking maybe you could talk to Elvin to talk to them about giving you some time.”

“Yeah, I was thinking of that. He is the cause of all this anyway. He is always trying to be impressive. He is just jealous of me.”

Tina knew better than to ask what Elvin was jealous of, instead she said, “Come on Elvis, show me around. I doubt we will be able to walk, let’s go for a drive.”

Elvis smiled, “Sure, let’s go for a drive … My god! Why is it so scorching?”
*
The nursery at Patricia’s home for orphaned kids was always noisy during the summer. But this particular year, it was worse because the heat was unbearable and all the babies cried out at the same time. Most of the workers had taken a summer break, so it was left with, Patricia, Tangy and another lady whom coincidentally, was born on the same day in the month of July as Tangy. On discovery of this, both ladies were pretty excited and decided to spend their birthdays with the orphans, together with Tangy’s two children, whom she had been bringing to the nursery since the holiday began. The atmosphere on that day had pacified the kids, whether it was the colorful balloons floating above their cribs or the music that sang in their ears. That was the only day of the summer that they did not cry as much. Dave had not been able to make it to the orphanage, but instead he made dinner for Tangy at home. He made a dish they both loved using the recipe he had learned from an Italian cook book, and truthfully it had turned out better than she had expected.
Nearly twenty years since the loss of Sophie, after she returned to work and had been told her show “The Rule with Tangy” was no more, she did not let the bad news get to what was already left of her. From time to time, she was allowed to co-host on Keeping up with Nitta. But the show was a big flop just as she suspected, and sooner than everyone expected, it was disposed of. Then the station put her up to discussing issues that she was in no control of. Issues like childbearing, infertility and the many options available to women just like her. The station had assigned her a role as the voice to the barren, without directly stating it. She had tried all those options she talked about and they had failed her, so it was not with much confidence that she spoke about it. In those days of talking about freezing eggs and artificial insemination, she felt lonely. Those procedures had taken a part of her and left her un-whole. She had been crying herself to sleep, and crying herself awake. She cried whenever she saw it was a new day and she was alive yet without Sophie or her show. Dave was busy flying commercial planes and she did not want to burden him with her guilt. Everything she had worked for had crumbled, and she thought she had no reason to go on.

It was the early hours of a Sunday morning, when Dave arrived and found his wife lying unconscious on their bathroom floor. An empty bottle of fluoxetine was lying on the white tiles, with a few pills scattered all around, the tap was running and the bathroom was overflowing with water. She had swallowed an outrageous number and had planned to get into the bathtub, just in time, but she hadn’t made it. He rushed her to the hospital fretfully and after they had pumped the pills out of her, the doctor recommended that she began to see a therapist. Dave took a leave from work to take care of her. He finally understood the impact of the loss of Sophie and he was the one who’d suggested that they adopted kids, but Tangy had been afraid of the idea. She was not yet convinced of the kind of mother she was, and it took weeks for her to make up her mind. But when both babies arrived, the smiles they brought to their home proved that it had been the right decision all along. Tangy was no longer interested in public speaking or being televised. She did everything for her children, and refused having any help. But finally the babies grew, and they had to go to school, and Dave also went back to work. Then she busied herself with house chores, but she hated being at home all alone. So one day when Patricia’s home for orphaned kids called to check on the affairs of the children, she asked them if they would take her as a nanny in their nursery. When she got there, they were still shocked to see that she was serious. Eventually she became more than a Nanny. When Patricia was away, she handled every affair that arose in the orphanage, and it was not like broadcasting, or paying nearly as much but she loved it.
It had been a busy day, especially since they were short on staff. Tangy was exhausted. She had changed diapers, fed babies with bottles, supervised the washing of their clothes and done other cleaning. Her children, Dave Jnr, who was eight and Tania six, were equally tired from looking at and pinching the chubby faces of the babies. They had whined that they wanted to go home and see their Daddy, but Tangy reminded them that Daddy won’t be home until the next day.

Dave was not ever present but he was more at home than the times when he had no children. When the children were not on holidays and were still going to school, he helped Tangy get them ready. And they took turns to drive them home after school. Dave was an easy father, and they bullied him into everything and he couldn’t resist them, especially Tania. She was delightful and adorable. Tangy always complained that he made her look terrible, since she was way stricter with them. However easy he was, Dave was such a good father, that he surprised even himself. Amidst the parenting struggles, Tangy still found it necessary to satisfy her husband, and she thought that he was looking more ravishing as the day went by, as if old age only intensified all his good features that she had never noticed before. One day when Dave had stopped by, one of the workers at the nursery had made a disturbing comment. Asking her how she was still able to keep that kind of man satisfied or interested in her. Whatever she meant by that, the statement hadn’t sat well with Tangy. It was true she was no longer as young as she was, when they first met in college, even she can admit that to herself. But she believed she still had it in her, whatever it was he had fallen in love with. It had to be there, somewhere underneath the white hair, and the weight she had gained in unflattering body parts, not to mention the wrinkles that paraded themselves no matter how much foundation she applied. He wouldn’t just stop loving her just because she had a few minor changes. She was a bit insecure and didn’t realize that it was part of the reason why she refused any help to come into her home. Dave had complained that the kids were too much work for her. But after Miss Martha, whom they had trusted was found hanging from a rope with a note saying how sorry she was about Sophie. Tangy was still not accepting of strangers. Even with the note, it was still unbelievable. No one understood clearly what her reason was or better yet what she had done with their child.

To be continued…

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