Having been on her own for six years now, Stella sat within her studio and thankfully reminisced on how things had been picking up gradually but steadily as she established her readymade clothing collection. Developing her fashion outlet required much harder work if she was not going to cut corners, but she knew that was the way it had to be.
She had not set eyes on Orobosa since the day she walked out on him at his office. No divorce papers were signed but they remained separated and Stella had decided that she would remain alone. It was Ruth who had called, a month after Stella left Orobosa, and told her how the bureau was having a hard time trying to keep the incoming calls under control. She told Stella about their string of unsuccessful attempts to sweep the issues of Orobosa’s estranged wives under the carpet.
‘Sir, the press is on my neck,’ Ruth had lamented one afternoon, feeling frustrated. ‘They said they would not leave until you give them a statement.’
‘Get rid of them,’ Orobosa had ordered.
Ruth did not budge. ‘People are going to talk you know, they will want to know why a Minister of the State cannot seem to hold down his home. It is better you tell them the truth than allow them to spread rumors.’
‘Who cares what they spread?’ he asked. ‘People will always say what they will, won’t they?’
Ruth nodded. ‘They will say that the Minister’s wife has left him - again.’
‘Let them say so,’ he replied tiredly. ‘At least this time, they will not be lying.’
Closely following his administration over the years, Stella heard the details of Orobosa’s first term in office. The review revealed that a lot of the artifacts had gone missing during his tenure and public funds were unaccounted for. She heard how he was investigated on charges of money laundering. She heard about his brawl with the press and how he left office in disgrace. She heard how he collapsed in front of his house and was rushed abroad for treatment. She heard how, now back in the country, he was recovering, while struggling to put his life and reputation together.
As she sat in her studio that afternoon, flipping through the pages of the life and style magazine, the featured article caught her attention. She read, with interest, the interview that followed a six-page photo spread displaying an amazing collection of native couture. Stella gasped in surprise. It was not the first time she would be reading about this fast growing fashion mogul, but today’s article was the mother of them all. The magazine editor was unreserved in her praises for the young man, remarking in her opening statement that his success was not a chance reversal of fortune, but as a result of his diligence over the years, which had forced the spotlight to turn in his direction.
Stella had sent the featured designer a few messages to try and make amends, but he never replied. For a long time, she wondered if he had changed his number. Now, here was the perfect opportunity to find out. Picking up a pad and pen, she quickly jotted down the details of the upcoming black heritage fashion festival. If her ex-husband refused to pick her calls, then she could at least go there and see him in person.
The final preparations were being put in place when Stella arrived at the fashion festival, which Edwin was jointly hosting with a few friends. Getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, she sneaked in past the curtains and behind the scenes, hoping to catch a few minutes out of Edwin’s busy schedule.
‘Stella!’ he exclaimed, when he saw her. ‘What are you doing here? Visitors are not allowed backstage.’
‘I needed to quickly speak with you,’ she explained.
When she asked him, Edwin confirmed that his number was still the same. He had got her messages but did not see any point in replying.
Stella nodded in acceptance of his decision. ‘I read in your interview that you turned down the offer to be a judge for next year’s beauty pageant,’ she said.
He let out a laugh. ‘I had to,’ he replied. ‘I am afraid that I am not good at judging such things. I would not want to make a wrong judgment a second time.’
She winced. God was forgiving and willing to give another chance. With human beings, it was usually more complicated. ‘Well guess what?’ she chimed. ‘I am back in the race.’
He looked confused. ‘You are competing for the crown, again?’
She nodded as a look of surprise spread across his face. He had not known that one could compete twice and Stella did not explain it was a different crown. He was just going to ask how she managed to do that, when someone called his name.
‘I have to go,’ he said apologetically and began to leave. ‘No hard feelings Stella,’ he said, as an afterthought. ‘Even though things happened the way they did. I have picked myself up and I see you have too. I hope we can get along as friends.’
She said goodbye and returned to her seat to enjoy the evening. ‘Things are not always the way they seem,’ she muttered softly as the fashion show kicked off. ‘The dried tree was expected to fall, but it budded and the fresh tree fell instead.’
She smiled, in spite of herself, as she recited those words. Her assistant often told her that sometimes she spoke like one of the matriarchs of their land and wanted to know who she had been rubbing shoulders with. Stella had only laughed.
In the sequel: ‘The returning story’, find out why Stella laughed.
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