The sun was hot, but the water was cool. She moved her legs easily in it; swimming in circles and occasionally taking deep dives. The sun was unsually high, compared to the week before; and the heat was becoming unbearable. The water was exactly what Monica needed to cool her body. She was not alone; almost half the residents were also inside the water taking a swim, playing water ball or just relaxing in it. There were occasional splashes here and there by children chasing each other.
It was a Sunday afternoon and most residents of William Island came to the beach after church service, to relax with family and friends. The week before had been a tough one; everyone looked forward to the weekend, especially Sundays. It was the only day they could really rest and have fun.
Monica and JJ came over with Janet and her children; two lovely but stubborn boys aged 13 and 12. Her husband, Edward, went off the Island about two weeks back to face some outside business. She was alone with the kids.
Most families around also came with their children and other relatives. People who came on vacations were also present, making the beach crowded and full of life. It was a day to unwind after a long and tedious week full of fun, very hard work and weird events. Talking about weird, Monica hadnt forgotten the bush man who came to the shop on Saturday. She didn't known they had actually become the center of attention when they stood alone at the shop and on the side walk outside the shop. After she went back to the shop with Janet, she heard all sorts of remarks from the workers and some customers who saw her outside with the man. Even her dear Janet couldnt stop talking about the scene. The worst and annoying part about their remarks and insults was what they said about how she looked like someone who was about to kiss a bush man. How did that even happen? All she knew was that she admired him; he was really handsome. Dirty, bushy, but handsome. She could see through all that busy hair and beards. What impressed her more was how calm and gentle he was. But wait, what was she thinking? Sure he had perfect eyes and lips as well as the most gorgeous smile, but all she did was admire his features. She had blushed when he smiled and her eyes couldnt leave his lips but that was that. How did she end up looking like a starved prostitute who wanted to satisfy her longings with a bushman? Anyway, that was one mistake she was going to avoid next time. She just couldnt have her name rubbed in the mud all because of a man she barely knew, a man who was handsome, looked intelligent, spoke good English but chose to be bush.
After having a really nice swim, Monica forcefully put away her thoughts about the bush man and came out of the water. Her swim suit hugged her body so well, bringing out all her curves. Though her belly was not completely down yet due to child birth, she still looked good. Carrying a baby for nine months was definitely not a childs play, especially when the child's father was nowhere around to give support.
The incident that followed Jeffs death made it impossible for her to work on trimming down her tummy, completely. However, since time and money was available, she was going to have to hit the gym. Her guardian angel had not stopped sending weekly allowances for her and JJs upkeep, so, money was not an issue. Mark usually delivered the cheques to her. At one time she'd had to interrogate him just to know if he knew anything about the person sending her monthly allowances. Mark was completely ignorant of the situation. He said all he does is deliver anything Inspector Louise instructs him to. Monica was indeed grateful but she knew she will never be comfortable until she met her guardian angel in person. All she wanted was an opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you and when things get better, she intended to pay back every dime.
Although it was a month plus since she came to William Island, she still kept in touch with Ella and Detective Godwin. They were always so happy to hear from her and JJ. The only people she could not reach were Inspector Louise and the man who had paid him to help her. Louise left no contact with anyone and her guardian angel was not known, let alone having his contact.
Sighing and shaking off the thoughts, Monica went straight to the table where Janet was changing JJs diaper. There, she took a seat.
"Where are the boys?" Monica asked.
"Over there." Janet replied, briefly pointing at a group of children playing beach ball.
"So did you enjoy your swim?" Janet asked; resuming her task of changing JJs diaper.
"Yes" Monica replied. "It didn't clear my head, but it thoroughly got rid of the heat." She eyed JJ and Janet briefly. A smile soon tugged at the corner of her lips. "I doubt JJ still thinks I'm his mother. He has completely taken to you. And you are really keeping his hopes up."
"Well" Janet smiled without looking up. "I know my sheep and my sheep knows me."
Both women laughed at the statement. As soon as Janet finished changing JJs diaper, she handed him over to Monica and went looking for the waste bin to put the used diaper.
Monica laid JJ on the table and played with him. She put her mouth against his tummy and began blowing air against it. Placing her mouth on the tummy made the air come out with a force that tickled JJ. He burst into laughter while holding his mothers head down on his tummy. One could easily tell he wanted her to continue making him laugh.
Monica, being too busy making her son laugh, did not notice a man walking towards her table. Just when she was taking her play time with JJ to a different level, she heard the voice.
"Good afternoon Miss." It said.
"Oh not again!" She muttered. She knew that voice. It kind of rang in her head since the day before. Why did he choose to walk up to her in this crowded place? She bet all eyes will be on her again and then the murmurings of the sales girl and the bush man romance will start all over.
"Look, just go away" She was already saying when she raised her head and found dark blue eyes staring back at her. His lips almost looked familiar and so did his smile but she wasnt sure. She just couldnt be sure of anything at that moment. She stood there, looking into the handsome face of William Osborne, Founder of William Island and the wealthiest man living in it. He stood exactly 6 feet tall and wore a cream colored tuxedo with a cream tie on white long sleeved shirt. His hair was a low but neatly brushed afro and he had well trimmed side beards too. Monica had not met him one on one before. All she had seen was pictures of him and the pictures did not do justice to his handsome features, at all.
"I didn't know I had to be thoroughly scrutinized before I get an answer." He said ignoring her earlier outburst.
Monica, realizing for the first time that William had been asking if he could take a seat, quickly got to her senses and stood up.
"Oh! I am really sorry." She apologized. "Please forgive my manners. I just did not expect to see the almighty William Osborne at my table, let alone asking to sit. Please do sit. And errmm please ignore what I said earlier."
"Well." Williams started with a boyish grin as he took the empty seat. "I didnt hear anything. Actually, I have not been on the Island. I just got back and noticed that the whole place looked empty. My escort told me that on Sundays, most people come to the beach and so, I decided to come here to join the party, or should I say the fun. Since I got here, I have seen a lot of new faces so I thought I should get acquainted."
"Thats interesting." Monica's brows shot up. "I dont know any wealthy man who will want to get acquainted with commoners, let alone poor people."
"Are you poor?" He asked, suddenly.
The question really surprised Monica. She looked at him with confused eyes before realizing that he asked the question based on what she had said.
"No!" she protested. "I didnt mean that I was poor." She mentally knocked her head. "I meant mixing with everyone here, some of them are from poor homes but, that doesnt seem to bother you and.."
Her voice trailed off as her attention went to JJ who was busy playing with a cup of juice. She tried to stop him but it was too late. JJ poured the content on Williams side of the table. William jumped up but was not quick enough. Juice splashed all over him giving his milk colored tuxedo yellow wet patches.
"Oh dear!" Monica was embarrassed. She quickly grabbed a napkin and tried to wipe off the yellow stains from William's Tuxedo. "I'm so, so sorry." She said as she worked with trembling hands.
If she knew anything about rich people, it is that they hate when children mess them up and the result was usually shouting and insults. William looked at her and immediately took in her countenance. Seeing that she was distressed, he quickly took her hand in his and assured her that all was well.
"Its okay." He said. "Its only juice, juice can't hurt a man."
Monica looked up at him. She was truly surprised at what she saw in those dark blue eyes. He was not offended that JJ had ruined his cute tuxedo neither did it worry him. That aside there was something else in his eyes; something that told her to stay away from men like William Osborne. Was he flirting with her? Thinking about it, she was sure he saw JJ going for the cup of juice but he did nothing just so that this, her cleaning him up and he pretending not to care could happen. Probably he was used to having his way with whomever he pleased but she would rather take the shouts and insults than let this man think even for one moment that he could have her. Not to seem rude, she politely withdrew.
"Well, since all is well, I guess I should just sit down."
"Why would you want to sit?" Janet asked. She had been watching the drama quietly from behind. 'I spent my afternoon cleaning up JJs poo and then went looking for where to throw it. Now coming back, I meet such a great sight, in fact the best I have seen in a long time and I hear what? She wants to sit down? No way! You two look great together."
By this time, Monicas light complexioned skin had turned red. Why does Janet always do this to me? She thought.
William smiled at the middle aged ladys frank remark. "Hello Janet." He greeted. "I did not know you where here. Last time I checked you hated the beach."
"Yes I did." She replied. "But that changed since I met Monica." She said gesturing at Monica who had quietly gone back to her seat and carried JJ on her laps.
"Monica?" William asked, looking at her. "Nice name." Monica did not respond to his compliments, instead she pretended not to have heard it.
"Monica!" Janet called with a frown. "Mr. Osborne said you have a nice name. What happened to your manners?"
"I guess I lost them." She replied without looking up. She was busy cleaning the juice from JJs clothes.
Janet felt embarrassed but she knew there was nothing she could do. "I am truly sorry about that." Janet apologized to William. "Monica has been through a lot; I think she still needs time to be herself."
"Janet please." Monica Protested. "Don't start telling a stranger anything about my life."
"Monica what has gotten into you? Mr. Osborne is a fine young man and if he finds you attractive, its not a crime. Or is it? I saw the look on both your faces so I know what this is about. You have been alone for too long and here is a man who I think likes you already. Even if you don't get into a relationship with him at least be friends."
"Are you done?" Monica snapped. "I will move on with my life when I want to, Janet. You are too much of a friend for me to pick quarrel with so please, just keep your friend company and leave me out of your discussion."
"Monica?" Janet continued even though she was confused about how and why her friend suddenly picked offence. "Look Mr. Willi..."
"Janet it is okay." William interrupted her. "Everyone is entitled to his or her own free will. I should be on my way now. I have business to take care of. I will come around to visit some other time." He then turned to Monica. "Stay well Monica, it was nice meeting you. And please, no hard feelings." Then referring to JJ he said, "Look after that young man, he looks like he will make a great footballer in the nearest future."
"Sure he will." Janet agreed, laughing. "He kicks hard."
"Sure he does." Replied Williams.
Monica looked up at him, his suit was still stained and he truly did not mind. She started to feel guilty for the way she had treated him. Just as William was about to go, she quickly got up, carrying JJ on her shoulders.
"Mr. William." She called. "I'm sorry about my behavior. I sincerely hope you will forgive it and hope we will meet under better circumstances next time."
"Well, Janet already explained." William replied. "You have been through a lot and I should be in a better position to understand. Take care Monica." With that, he turned to Janet said his farewell and left. Janet who had escorted him for a short distance came back and took her seat. As she sat, she took the plastic cup JJ had knocked over and poured some more juice into it. Monica did not like the growing tension between them so she spoke first.
"I'm sorry; I shouldnt have been so rude. Its just that I thought tha..."
"You owe me no apology, sweetheart." Janet cut her short. "I should not force you to do what you dont what to, but please, no matter what just try to be nice. Is that too much to ask of you?"
"No. Its not. I won't embarrass you again, I promise."
"Okay then, all is settled. But tell me one thing."
"What?" Monica asked.
"What was your beef with him anyway? Because I really have never seen you act the way you just did."
"Phew!" Monica sighed. "Men! Well, I think he was trying to flirt with me. You know, the way rich guys do and they think theyre so irresistible because they've got the cash."
"So?" Janet asked.
Monica smiled at Janet, "I had to let him know that his money meant nothing to me. At least, not when I still have my guardian Angel and he still sends me weekly allowances to the tune of N50,000."
Janet smiled at her friend. 'You are one hard nut to crack, Monica. I don't see anything wrong in flirting with him and taking off if he starts to get too serious and youre not."
"You did not just say that!" Monica's eyes widened.
"Hell yes!" Janet replied with all the seriousness she could muster and then curved her lips into a smile. "I did."
Both ladies burst out laughing; it hadnt even occurred to Monica that what Janet actually wanted was to get her to flirt with William. Just have fun and move on; after all, they both know that a man like William Osborne will never marry any one below his social and economic status.
"Great plan, Janet." Monica finally said. "Unfortunately, I was too angry to see it."
"Yeah, yeah. Next time, just don't fail to maintain eye contact."
Some minutes later, Janet got up, took JJ from Monica and went to join a group of mothers with children around JJs age group. Janet always was of the opinion that JJ needed to mix with children who were his age mate.
Monica sat alone. She was still re-living the afternoons event when she saw movement from the corner of her eye in the nearby bush. Being curious, she walked over to check it out. It could be some naughty kids running off into the bush. However, her line of thought changed when she saw foot prints of giant sized tigers. The sight scared her but, she did not scream or run off; instead, she moved deeper into the bush.
Some distance ahead, she noticed the rustling of leaves. She was scared out of her wits but decided that it was better to know what was there. She quietly moved closer. She hadn't gone too far when her heart trippled and nearly stopped. Before her was a giant tigeress of about 4 feet in standing position, rolling on the ground; trying to scratch its back. The beast saw Monica and stopped for a brief moment, before ignoring her like she wasnt even there.
Monica refused to run, neither did she scream. She stood there and continued to watch the tigress when suddenly, a low growl some distance behind, caused her to turned around. Her hairs stood as her eyes took in the size of the tiger. It revealed sharp teeth as it snarled viciously at her.
"Run!" That was all her instincts told her.
Her fears doubled when she noticed the tigeress had gotten up and joined its partner against her. While the animals moved toward her, she took several steps backward; until she came in contact with something tall and hard.
Oh God! She thought. What now?
Monica stood still, expecting the worst to happen. To her surprise, both animals stopped snarling, turned and ran off.
"Never run from animals." To them, its a bad sign."
Monicas eyes grew wide. She turned swiftly to face her bush friend.
"You!" she accused. "You should have said something instead of making me feel that I came in contact with a more dangerous predator. And I thought that was why the tigers took off."
"Thats no way to say thank you." He said, watching her with keen eyes.
"Okay, thank you. But next time please say something before my heart gives out."
"Yes Ma' am." He turned and started to walk away. Monica followed behind.
"Emmm... where are you going?"
"Back to work, now that you are safe."
"Oh, I didn't realize I distracted you from work."
"You are distraction itself, Mrs. Monica."
"How?" She asked. Brow raised.
The bush man turned to face her. "Because you are different. You see me here now but you are following me instead of running away, same way you saw me at the store and did not run away or insult me."
Oh Monica said; guilt taking over her expression. but she had to tell him the truth. "Uhhhh... Look, about the store, I wont be able to attend to you there anymore. I got someone else; a nice kid. He will be your new attendant."
"Why can't you be my attendant anymore?" He asked, never taking his eyes of hers.
"Well its, its just..."
"Are you leaving the Island, Mrs. Monica?" He asked.
"Oh no!" she quickly corrected. "Its not that at all. I am very much around."
"Then you are leaving the store?"
"Then what? And why cant you say it?" This time he looked really worried.
"Okay," she sighed. "Its just that some people have taken my attending to you the wrong way and I think that to set them straight, I should not attend to you anymore."
The bush man looked at her long and hard, making her uncomfortable before he spoke.
"You know what I think, Mrs? The real reason for your decision is because you dont want to look at me like that again, like you want to kiss me. I assure you that I am very good at it. You shouldnt be scared that I won't do it well."
Monica was taken aback. Her brows shot up. Look at you like that? "Why would I even want to kiss you? You are a bushman. All I did was admire your white and complete set of teeth."
"Okay."Said the bush man. He left his spot and came to stand before her. Monica should have run or pushed him aside. However, she just stood there, looking straight at him and sometimes moving her gaze to his lips, nose and eyes. Funny enough he was in rags, but not smelling. What happened to the smell? She thought. The thought did not last because her heart was seriously pounding hard against her chest. The tempo of her heartbeat increased when she noticed him bending over her.
"Oh God!" she thought He is going to kiss me?
For fear of the unknown, she started to pull back but two strong hands held her by the shoulder, pulled her back to him before bringing his lips down on hers.
At first, Monica struggled to get free but as the bush mans lip pressured hers apart and his passion increased, Monica found her own passion growing and then suddenly, she was no longer fighting. She responded to his kisses and moved further into his embrace. It had been so long since she kissed a man and for a bush man to be the one to awaken her passion, she did not know how it even happened. All she knew at the moment was that flirting or not, this bush man seems to have won her attention. Of course love was not part of the deal but at least, she was happy to have this one. As he sucked more on her lower lips, his hands explored the lower part of her body and Monica moaned; throwing her hands around his neck and bringing him closer.
In the heat of their passion, they did not notice someone coming up from behind.
Out of shock, the duo untangled and standing a few feet from them was Janet. Her expression was that of complete horror and shock.
"What on earth do you think you are doing? I leave you for few minutes and you come here to kiss that thing?"
Monica turned to the bush man for support, any kind of support. Instead, she found him still trying to recover from the heated passion they just shared.
Without wasting one more minuet, Janet took Monica by the hand and dragged her away; all the while complaining about Monicas reckless behavior. Monica felt like a little child being scolded. What was she thinking? Why did she let things get out of control? And with a bush man? Curious about how he was feeling, she turned just in time to see the him smiling.
Oh dear She thought. How could she even think for one moment that the man was sane. He was a bush man and she had stupidly fallen into his arms.
"This will be the last time, bush man." She thought. And she was serious. She never wanted to see him again.
To be continued...