THE STANDPOINT | 2

Previously, on The Standpoint…..

There is pitch silence in the room. I can hear the sound of smoke ascend from his halfway smoked cigar. I stare at it on the ash tray, waiting for Dad’s response. He never quite gives in to anything. He has a way of getting what he wants, or what he considers his way or the high way.

I wait for the volcano eruption and when I look up from the ashtray into his eyes, he says to me,

‘FINE.’

***

I walk into our favourite Java Cafe. Stella is seated in the same spot I expected her to be. She waves and smiles as I walk towards her. I notice her new hairstyle.

‘Hey Babe,’ I say to her as we hug.

‘Hey Love,’ she responds. ‘You should clap for me, today I came earlier than you.’

‘Haha, the bill is on me.’ I say jokingly.

‘Is everything okay? How did it go with Dad?’

I guess she picked it up, that my laugh was constrained. Somewhat forced. Something had to be wrong.

‘Nice hairstyle by the way…’ I tell her, trying to distract both of us from the question. She stares at me expecting an answer and I realize we are not sidestepping this one.

‘Thanks….so?’ Stella asks firmly.

‘We need to elope!’

Just in time, the waiter walks up to our table to pick my order. I can see Stella looking at me with quizzical eyes, screaming at me, WHAT?

I ordered pineapple juice and the waiter left.

‘You can’t be serious! Why? Have you forgotten about my Grandma?’

Since Stella’s Mum died from a car accident, her Grandma has been her mother. She took charge of her life and raised her up. Though the Dad was present and never remarried, he was busy most of the time running his businesses. Her Grandma was there for her and now it was her turn to take care of her. She’s become old and sickly.

‘No, I haven’t forgotten about your Grandma, Babe.’ I say softly. ‘But I feel like we are stuck in this vortex and the only way to break free is to elope. Go somewhere else and start anew.’

‘You still haven’t told me what your Dad said.’ She insists.

‘He says I can get married to anyone else but not you. That your father is his sworn enemy and he will never allow us to get married.’ The words leave my throat grudgingly. I dread saying them to her, but deep down, I know I have to be brutally honest.

Stella thoughtfully stares at her halfway drank coffee. The waiter places my pineapple juice and asks if there is anything else I’d like. ‘No, thanks.’ I respond and she walks away.

I stretch my hand across the table and hold Stella’s left hand. I affectionately rub my thumb on the back of her hand, waiting for her response.

‘What do I tell Grandma now?’ Stella asks, her eyes still fixed on the coffee, in a zombie-like mode.

I’m gobsmacked by her question. I don’t know how to respond. Part of me wants to tell her to just wake up and leave, that Grandma would understand and she’d wish her well, then another side of me debates on whether leaving would be the best option. I know Grandma means so much to Stella. I wrestle with my thoughts.

It seems to me that it’s a matter of choice. Either choosing me or her family. My mind is made up and now it’s up to her to decide. Am I being selfish? I ask myself.

I keep my silence, unable to answer her. You see, we’ve been through this before. Having constant disagreements on how to advance. It took me a whole lot of courage to face my own Father and break the news, though he already knew about it.  Facing him was one of my best achievement yet. Nonetheless, I did it, because I love Stella that much.

‘Let’s assume I said yes, have you thought through the whole situation? What’s the plan?’ She looks up to meet my eyes.

I’m impressed by her slow buy-in to the idea of eloping. Honestly, I haven’t completely thought through the entire plan. As it stands, we’d both go to South Africa. I have a friend from my childhood years who’d help us settle down. We’d work at his shop and live off our savings as we get our footing.

‘Do you think they are still following you?’ Stella prods further. My Dad always sent his men to tail my kid sister and I everywhere we went. Despite my protests at it, he always seemed to ignore my request of living freely, away from his dealings. It was the package that came with the business he was running.

Stella’s Dad for the longest time was always detached from her daughter’s life and whatever was happening. She had grown up knowing and accepting that a long time ago.

He didn’t really know or have a say about what was going on between us for the last two years. But her Grandma knew it all. She was Stella’s close confidant.

It’s not her Dad she was afraid of disappointing if we ever eloped, it was her Grandma she was most scared would not be able to handle the impact of the news. Her absence especially. And for that reason she was hesitant.

I gripped both her hands softly. ‘Think about it. I’ll wait for your answer when you’re ready.’ I said in a reassuring voice.

***

Later that evening, seated on my favourite couch in the apartment I delved deep into thought. I contemplated critically of the decision we were about to make and whether it was worth it.

Did we really have to elope? Couldn’t we just stick to our guns regardless of our family members opinions and stand our ground? What if I was forcing Stella into this? Was she ready? Was my plan even thought through properly?

I sipped my caramel tea again. At times I could hear my own self, speak. It was strongly dawning on me that I had to fight for what I believed in and for the one I loved. And no matter what, even if it meant going against the grain and ‘disobeying’ my Father, I had to trust my guts.

I wondered just how deep Stella was ready to get herself into this. Would she choose me over her family? Over her Grandma, who meant the world to her? I silently hoped she would.

I thought about that night I went out for a drink to blow off steam. I can’t remember what exactly happened. That night I’d managed to shake off my Dad’s security detail. I entered the club and there she was. She was the first girl I noticed in the dim lit club environment.

When she came to my table, I was prompt enough to tell her that I was married (showing off the gold ring on my ring finger) and that I was only out for a drink and dance. She said she knew my type – the ones that love hard, but still, get tempted – and she just wanted to talk. Something told me, it wasn’t the right thing to do, but my whisky on the rocks was getting a good kick out of me. So, I let her stay.

The next thing I remember was waking up to her in her apartment. I tried retracing my thoughts but fell short. Mash, my favourite bouncer lost his job for not being keen about my whereabouts when my Dad asked. He’d tried calling me countless times but couldn’t reach me.

She called me a month later to tell me she was pregnant with my child. I asked her to take a DNA test but she refused, saying that there was no need to prove what she knew for certain. And, how could I think less of her yet I’m the one who asked to go to her place that night?

It sickened me to think of what I had done. How was I going to break the news to Stella? Would she stay, if she knew I’d cheated on her with a stranger? A random girl at the club!

I hated myself for ever going out alone. That night I was careless. For the last three months, I’d been tormenting over the consequences of my actions. I loved Stella so much to tell a lie, but this one secret, I had decided to keep from her, and it was eating the peace out of me.

And deep inside, it was part of the reason I wanted to elope with Stella and start over anew. Either way, I knew I had to tell her what happened that night. Despite the fact that I believe I was drugged and I couldn’t exactly remember what happened.

The next day I’d meet the girl at the club. I secretly hoped she’d accept my offer.

 

[To be continued…..]

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