The sun was up in the sky, shining brilliantly and giving life to the day’s activities in William Island. It was a Saturday morning and while the Island was full of activities, Monica sat on the wooden rock chair in her living room with JJ in her arms. She rocked the chair while humming a lullaby.
For almost an hour, she had been trying to get JJ to sleep so she could concentrate on cleaning up the house, but to no avail. She would not be able to focus if he did not sleep and funny enough, his eyes were wide open. He seemed to know what his mother was up to and did not want to co-operate, instead he played on her laps and said all sorts of things that only he understood. Monica gave up watching him and just threw her head back on the head rest. Though it was morning, she was still feeling tired. She had to get up several times during the night to attend to JJ whenever he cried and apart from that, her week was very hectic, working long hours at the Island’s Shopping Mall and taking little or no rest.
She wasn’t complaining of course; things could have been really bad for her and JJ but the reverse was the case and she remained forever grateful to Ella, detective Godwin and Inspector Louise. Though she did not trust Louise at first, she thought he was going to have them arrested but that was not the case.
After getting them out of the abandoned theatre house where the policemen came looking for her, Louise immediately drove down to the sea port, bought a ticket before put Monica and JJ on a ship to William Island; an Island that was recently built and developed by Global Island Development, an Island Development Company owned by William Osborne, a Ghanaian.
The news about its discovery and development had been all over the media for two years. Lots of tourists came to see for themselves the beauty of the place and how peaceful it was. Some eventually took residence there while others moved on. It was indeed paradise on earth. Before that day, Monica never dreamt of going to the Island because she was too busy. There was no time for sightseeing and besides she had been chased around lately for a crime she did not commit.
Before the ship sailed that day, Inspector Louise gave her extra money for upkeep until she could get a job to support herself; even Ella and Detective Godwin were surprised at the kind gesture. When they asked why he was helping out, he simply replied with “Someone knows you are innocent, he knows your needs and he hired me to get you to safety.”
“Do I know this person?” Monica asked.
“No” He replied. “But he knows you.”
“Will I meet him where I’m going?”
“You may, you may not. I’m paid to get you to safety, not to know what happens next.”
“You were paid to help me but you didn’t have to, thank you so much for everything. I will ever be grateful and who ever my guardian angel is, please tell the person I am grateful and hope to express my gratitude in person someday.”
“I will tell him in your exact words.” Louise replied.
That said, Monica smiled and hugged him before hugging the others and also thanking them for their support. She then went aboard and waved them goodbye as the ship made its way to William Island.
It was two months; two months since she arrived at the Island and things had been so good for her.
When she first arrived, there was a man waiting for her at the docks. He was dark complexioned and very muscular; not all that handsome but he was fine. The man had a photo of her with him for easy identification.
“Monica Anderson?” he asked as soon as he spotted her.
“Yes that’s me.”
“Welcome to William Island. Louise asked me to pick you up and take you to your house.”
“My house?” She asked confused. “Are you sure this is not a mix-up?”
“No” The man replied with a wide grin. “Louise never mixes anything up.”
Monica then remembered that someone, through Louise was taking care of her, she was confused. To get her and JJ to safety was one thing but to give her a house? She looked stunned. If this kind of assistance could come from a person she didn’t know, then it was high time she started to believe that God truly exists and watches over people.
Without wasting more of the man’s time, she got into the car with JJ and the man drove off. Some minutes later, she got to the house and when she saw it, she could not stop admiring the place. It was a tastefully furnished bungalow with two bedrooms and it had a flower garden behind.
Whoever furnished the house did not leave JJ out of the plan; there were lots of baby items in the house, even clothes, shoes, baby food, baby cot, toys and so on. Monica was indeed touched. How could someone do all this for her even when she was a total stranger to the person
She looked at herself. The clothes she was wearing had been the only one she wore for almost three days, all her belongings were lost and just when she thought she was going to start all over again, someone out of the blue had given her everything she could ever ask for. She still had one account with lots of money in it but the issue with the police had made her avoid going to the bank. If they knew about the account, they may block or confisticate it.
She silently said a prayer for whoever her secret helper was and hoped to meet him or her in the future.
The driver, after making sure that everything was functioning well in the house, told her to call him if she needed anything. He then gave her his card.
“Don’t hesitate” He said before turning to leave.
“Wait!” Monica called after him. “How much do I owe you? She started to bring out money but stopped at the man’s reply.
“You owe me nothing madam, Louise paid for everything. See you around.” He started to go again when she called out.
“What do they call you?”
“Mark, at your service.”
"Thank you Mark.
“You’re welcome” He replied before getting into his car and driving off.
It was now over a month since she came to the Island. She had met all sorts of people there and most of them were kind hearted while the others were just being themselves. Her first and best friend on the Island was Janet Eryson, a very friendly woman in her late thirties who lived across the street.
Janet and her husband came all the way from London to be in William Island. They owned the Island Shopping Mall where Monica worked and in fact it was Janet who had offered her a job about two weeks after her arrival. Janet gave her a tour around the Island and introduced her to a lot of people. Janet who also welcomed Monica to her family was good with children and instantly took to JJ and vice versa.
Talking about Janet, Monica was supposed to meet her at the shopping mall after cleaning up. More goods had arrived the day before and there was a lot of recording to be done. Monica looked down at JJ who was still swinging his little feet in the air and speaking in unknown language.
“Seems you won’t be sleeping after all, let’s get to the shop so we can meet Janet in good time.” She stood up, placed JJ in the baby cot and went about her chores.
About two hours later, Monica headed to the shop with JJ. When she got in, Janet was the first person to walk up to her.
“Monica, what happened?” she asked concerned, taking JJ from her. Janet Eryson was a plump British woman with brown hairs, blue eyes and pointed nose. She was about 5ft tall, had seriously tanned skin and very active.
“Am so sorry Janet, JJ wouldn’t let me work without distractions.”
“That was why I asked you to get a nanny but you wouldn’t listen.” Said Janet,
“No Janet, Monica replied, “I don’t need a nanny, besides, I don’t trust one. Don’t worry, you will not understand because you have lived abroad all your life. It is a Nigerian thing.”
“Tell me about it” Janet scoffed as she led the way to the back counter were six female workers were already putting down records of the new goods.
They exchanged greetings andtwil then Monica went straight to work. After about an hour, Janet came over with JJ crying over her shoulders.
“He is hungry.” She said as she handed him over to Monica. At least there were only women working there with her, all the male employees were attending to customers and so Monica felt comfortable unbuttoning her blouse in order to breast feed JJ. A few minutes later, JJ was happily sucking his mother’s milk and as usual, he threw up his right leg and used one hand to firmly grip the leather strap of his shoe. This was his favorite position when feeding.
It wasn’t more than five minutes she had started to feed JJ when they heard commotion at the front of the shop. Some of the other ladies stood up to see what was happening.
“What is it?” Monica asked while still feeding JJ and wondering what was going on.
“It’s that bush man again” One of the workers said. “I wonder why he doesn’t just stay in the bush where he belongs.”
“What bush man?” Monica asked confused,
“You have been here for what? One month plus and you haven’t heard about the bush man?” Asked another.
“Nope” Monica replied still keeping her focus on JJ.
“Well you can stand up briefly and take a look at him” Said the first girl. “He can’t bite you from afar.”
Being curious, Monica partially stood up to peep but what she saw threw her off balance. Of course there was a very un-kept man standing there, looking through some stuffs but behind him were men who wanted him out and since he would not go, they were going to use force. Some of the sales boys already picked up batons. Bewildered, Monica quickly put JJ down on a soft chair, buttoned up her blouse and ran out. She got there in time to hold back one of the sales men who was ready to bring down his baton on the bush man’s head.
“Stop it!” she ordered “Can’t you see he only wants to buy something? At least that’s why he is going through the content of those boxes right?”
“We don’t care if he wants to buy” Said one man. “His presence makes the other customers uncomfortable.”
Monica turned and looked at the bush man. He was really un-kept, his hair hung low and scattered, his clothes were torn and stinking, his nails dirty and he wore no shoes over his dry and dirty feet. But still, Monica could not bring herself to chase him out, not after what she had been through and how an unknown guardian provided for her. If a total stranger could care for her, then she was determined to care for this man too.
“This man needs to be treated right” she thought to herself. “And with love too.” She added.
What really struck her about him was that he didn’t even turn or act like he heard what the other men were saying; he just kept on looking at some necklaces in open boxes that were kept inside the show glass. Monica then turned to face the sales men.
“Leave him alone, consider him my customer. Anytime he comes here, I will attend to him personally.”
“You sure you want to do this?” Asked one of the sales boys, a very young boy of about 18 years old.
“Okay” Said another man. “Suit yourself. But if he ever steals anything, you’re going to have to take responsibility.”
With that, they all went back to their duty leaving Monica alone with the man. For some reasons unknown to her, she looked towards the back counter and saw the ladies who were supposed to be busy with record keeping staring at her in disbelief. One of them carried JJ on her shoulders and was making faces at her, faces that said,
“What in the world do you think you’re doing?”
Monica ignored them and turned to the bush man. To her dismay, he was trying to open the show glass on his own and that was not allowed in the shop; a customer does not open a show glass or box on his or her own so she quickly stepped in.
“Please don’t do that.” she said, “Just step back a bit and I will help you get the box and necklace out.”
He did as he was told and Monica brought out the one she saw him looking at.
“Is this the one you want?” she asked.
“Yes.” He replied and took the box with its content from her. He admired it a bit before asking. “How much is it?”
Monica quickly looked at the price list that hung on the nearby wooden shelf. When she saw the price, she was very sure that he would not be able to pay but still, since he asked she had to tell him.
“It costs 5,000 Naira Sir.” She said.
The man looked at her in disbelief. “You call me Sir? Even when I look like this?”
“Well” she said politely. “You are not a kid. Seems to me like you earned the title.”
The man looked like he was in his late thirties. Looks could be deceiving sometimes but, what do you know? Monica shook off the thought.
He grinned briefly at her comment but said nothing else. At that moment, Monica’s breath caught in her throat when she saw his grin. God he was handsome and his teeth were a beautiful set of white. Suddenly, she looked into his eyes and saw what a beautiful brown they were. Her eyes became fixed on him and she began to wonder at his handsome features.
“God!” she thought to herself, what had driven such charming and handsome young man into living like a bush man? He was good looking and even spoke clean English. He looked like someone who was learned, not an illiterate. William Island was called the land of opportunity, people living around were doing great for themselves and that was why she refused to believe that hardship had a major role to play in it. What could have gone wrong? She thought. His full lips had started to move again, she could see his white set of teeth and almost got lost in intimate thoughts when she finally heard what he was saying.
“…your money?” he was saying.
Monica, realizing that she had been caught staring quickly shook herself out of her thoughts. She felt completely embarrassed and her light skin turned red as she blushed. She pulled herself together and again looked up at the bush man.
“Sorry for staring. It’s not a habit I assure you.”
“It’s okay.” The bush man replied, “I have been told that I have certain effect on women.”
Oh come on Monica, you don’t owe him an explanation she thought; just because she got carried away the nitwit now thinks he has an effect on her? What a dumb person he must be. She then changed the subject.
“What were you saying by the way?”
The man eyed her briefly before extending a bunch of squeezed one thousand naira notes to her.
“Take your money.” He said almost in a whisper, his eyes never living hers. Monica was surprised. She did not need to count the bundle immediately, she was already sure that the money was complete. At first, Monica did not want to take the money but as soon as she took it, he thanked her for attending to him and then turned and headed for the exit.
Monica stood watching him as he went. Everyone moved aside when they saw him coming. It was indeed not a nice way to treat someone so gentle.
“How do you know he is gentle?” A voice in her head asked, this brought her completely back to reality.
“Oh girl! What’s wrong with you?” She asked herself, “Staring at a man like that? And a bush one for that matter.” She could still feel the flush on her cheeks as she raised one hand to touch her face.
“I hope no one saw what happened?” She said to herself. “Because I know I won’t hear the last of it.”
Monica then turned towards the counter to drop the cash. Hoping that it was not stolen money he had given her, she counted it and was surprised that the man had given her N2000 extra. She turned around and caught sight of him just going through the exit so she quickly followed.
By the time she got outside, he was some distance away from the shop; the only way she could get to him was to call out while going after him.
“Hey!” She called “Please wait. Hey! Hey!!!”
After trying some more, she got lucky because he turned around and was surprised to see her running after him.
“I’m I still owing?” He asked as soon as she got to where he was.
“No sir” She replied. “You over paid. Here is the extra.” She extended the money to him.
He looked down at the money with no expression on his face at all.
“I did not over pay.” He said and then looked up at her, “The extra is your tip.”
Monica looked taken back. A man who seriously needed money was leaving his N2000 for her as tip?
“No way!” She said at last. “You look like you need it more. If this is coming from William Osborne, I would not bat an eye lid, I will even demand more before agreeing to take it.”
“William Osborne.” He repeated the name. “Isn’t that the guy who owns Global Island Development? And the Island too?”
“Yes that’s him.”
“I hear he is an engineer”
“I don’t know about that okay, but since you are not him, please hold on to your money.”
I will be fine without it.” He said as he looked into her eyes. ‘It’s not every day one meets a nice person like you, so I want you to have it.”
“But my conscience won’t let me. Knowing you need it more makes it very hard for me to take it.”
"Okay then” he said. “Let me get going, when you don’t see me and you have no one else to give it to, you will keep it.” With that, he turned and continued his journey.
Monica was about to protest and go after him but then, something happened, something that shocked her and made her wonder if she was hallucinating. As she was about to go after the bushman and make him take his money, a limo pulled up at the end of the cross road which was a short distance away from where she stood. A man dressed up really nice in an expensive Italian suit stepped out of it with a lady who looked more like a model. What struck her most was that the man had very familiar features.
Monica was stunned. She couldn’t move, neither could she breathe properly. ‘No!” She said under her breath. “He is dead, my husband is dead, and I attended his funeral. This cannot be Jeff Anderson!” She continued to stare as the man and woman who kept smiling at each other walked into Dolphins, the best class restaurant in William Island.
Monica suddenly decided to clear her doubts by walking up to them just to have a closer look at the man who happened to be her late husband’s copy. As she took the first step in their direction, someone firmly but gently gripped her arm from behind and pulled her back. She nearly lost balance but the firm grip steadied her.
“Get off me. Who…” She was going to say rather than ask ‘who are you?’ when she looked up and found brown eyes staring back at her. This time the eyes were full of pain and something else she did not understand but then, the expression quickly faded away, it was like she did not see it at all. Maybe it was her imagination but, why did he hold her back?
“You!” She protested. “I thought you were gone?”
“I was” The bush man replied. “But then I looked back and saw you staring at that man and I decided to warn you not to go near him. Just when I was close enough and about to do that, you started to move. A good thing I was in time.”
“I just wanted to have a closer look at him that’s all.” Said Monica. “He really reminds me of someone I loved but…” Her voice trailed off. For the second time in one afternoon she wondered why she was explaining herself to a bush man who she barely knew. There was just something about him that made her trust him and see him as a normal person instead of a bush man.
As if reading her mind the man responded “You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to explain yourself to me either.”
“I know” She sighed. “It’s just that the man looks… Looks so much like my late husband” she completed it in her thoughts.
“I advice you get back to work; that man doesn’t like to be stared at. He could have your head if you’re caught in the act.”
“Gee!” She laughed. “Then he is definitely not who I thought he was.”
“Yes.” He agreed. “I guess not.”
There was a hint of pain and sadness in his voice and this caused Monica to look up at him again. First, an expression of pain and now sadness?
“Are you alright?” She asked.
The man quickly smiled at her; that same charming smile that made her heart almost stop beating at the shop. It made her want to smile back.
“I’m okay” He said. “It’s you I worry about.”
“Me!” She said with surprise. “Wow! I meet the famous bush man today and already he worries about me? I guess we better become friends then. I’m Monica, what’s your name?”
The man just kept staring at her, as if accessing her.
“Well?” she persisted, “Are you going to talk or just keep stari…”
“Monica!” Janet called from afar, cutting her off. “You’re not going to spend the whole day chatting with our bush man now are you?”
“Oh!” Said Monica who had totally forgotten about work and JJ. “What am I doing?” She thought to herself. She quickly said goodbye to her new friend and went to meet Janet. The man smiled at her retreating back before going on his way.
To be continued....
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