LEMUEL AND INARA moaned in ecstasy as they climaxed in each other’s arms in their bedroom. As they caught their breaths, Lemuel rolled off her and they both chuckled as their toddler, Caleb started crying from the bed’s built-in crib.
“Aww, he’s so jealous,” Lemuel commented jokingly as he gently combed his fingers through her ruffled hair. Her eyes were heavy-lidded from the aftermath of their lovemaking but she was smiling.
“Jealous indeed.” She drawled and they both lifted themselves to look down at Caleb. He stopped crying and stuck his thumb inside his mouth. Then he went back to sleep as he sucked on it.
“We have to do something about that thumb.” Said, Lemuel.
“You are not putting anything bitter on my son’s thumb.”
“You mean my son?”
“Our son.” She said and he gently tweaked her cheek.
“That was on a lighter note but why not? Your mum did it to you, remember?”
“Well, he needs some time. My mom did it to me because I was about five and was still sucking my thumb.”
“I can just imagine you, so cute and chubby with your thumb in your mouth.” He said dreamily and she giggled.
“Hmm. But we are not waiting that long.”
“You’re always so impatient.”
“You never said that to me before.”
“Well, I’m saying it now.”
“I guess it’s a flaw I would have to learn to work on, baby girl.”
“It’s not that bad, sir.” She said and placed a kiss on his mouth.
“Thank you.” He mumbled against her lips and they began to kiss. At the same time, her phone started buzzing from the bedside table. They kept kissing, ignoring it but when the call ended and the phone began to ring again, they had to break it off.
Lemuel stretched forth his hand and retrieved it for her. Zee’s name was flashing across the screen.
“It’s your precious Zee.” He said as he handed the phone over to her. “It’s 10:00 pm, but I won’t complain.”
“Thanks,” Inara responded as she received the call.
“You’re welcome.” He replied and carried Caleb who had started bawling again.
“Hi Zee,” Inara said and moved away from the bed as Lemuel focused on calming their son. The last time she had spoken with Zee was three days ago and Zee was back to herself. Despite the threat of the consequence of not performing the last dare, she was still reluctant to perform her dare.
Inara walked over to the dressing table and sat down. “It’s 10:00 pm, Zee. I am a nursing mother.”
“I know and I’m sorry but you’re the only friend I’ve got. You’re the only one I can talk to. We used to call each other at any time until Lemuel.”
Inara looked towards the bed where Lemuel had managed to calm Caleb down. The child had gone back to sleep with his thumb in his mouth. Lemuel gently removed it but he started bawling, so Lemuel stuck his thumb back in his mouth. Caleb immediately went back to sleep.
“You’re the boss for now.” She heard Lemuel say to the child, before kissing him on his forehead. God, she loved her husband. He was a great father.
“Inny?” she heard Zee say, her voice, cutting through her thoughts.
“I know,” Inara commented. “Sorry for the complaint. You know I love you always.”
“I love you too.
“Great, so what’s up?”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Why? You’re fully recovered right?”
“Yes but I’m yet to do my dare and I just had a nightmare.”
“Do it, Zee. Just do your dare.” Inara mumbled. “How many times do I have to tell you this?” She didn’t want Lemuel hearing her talk about a dare. He would think Zee was out to get her in trouble again and she didn’t want to argue with him. She knew it won’t end in her favor. When she stole a glance at him, he was resting on the bed and messing with his phone, his earbuds, on. Despite seeing him with his earbuds on, Inara knew she would still talk in a low voice because Lemuel’s ears were sharp.
“I’ll try,” Zee replied. “I’ll try and do it.”
“What happened in your nightmare?”
“I… I was walking with an old person’s stick.”
“You mean a walking stick.”
“Yeah, whatever. But I was trying to cross a highway. Somehow, I couldn’t move in the middle of it and a trailer truck crushed me.”
“It is pretty explanatory, Zee. The walking stick with you still young represents premature old age. Then the unexpected helplessness while trying to cross and you being crushed finally, represents sudden death.”
“I know,” Zee whined.
“I don’t want to lose you, Zee,” Inara murmured. “Is it not just a phone call? Call the guy that deflowered you and just ask him to marry you. It is very simple.”
“He’s already engaged.”
“How did you know that?”
“I don’t think it’s a problem. I’ve told you. Just do the dare. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.”
“It’s such a shameful act.”
“Shame is for the bloody weak,” Inara replied. “You used to say that, remember?”
Inara heard Zee sigh brokenly. She had never seen Zee get so beat up about anything but she completely understood the situation.
“Zee, I never thought I’ll say this to you but I dare you not to be a coward.”
She heard Zee let out a light chuckle.
“Fine. I’ll do it now.” She said, her voice sounding firmer.
“Great. Let me know when it’s done.”
“Sure thing. How’s Caleb my little thumb sucker?”
“Asleep and fine.”
“I’m sure he’s still doing his thing.”
Inara looked towards the bed where Lemuel was still fiddling with his phone as he listened to whatever was going on in his phone. Caleb was asleep, his thumb ever in his mouth.
“He is doing his thing.”
“I am sure that Lemuel must be mad.”
“It irks him.”
“I don’t feel sorry for him.”
“I know. You guys will never get along.”
“Not in this life.”
Inara laughed. “Same old Zee.”
“The one and only,” Zee said proudly, her mood, lifted.
“Do the needful and get back to me, Zee.”
“Sure thing,” Zee responded. “Goodnight, my friend.”
“Goodnight Zee. Do it tonight. Time waits for no one. The last dare will no longer wait.”
“I will…hey, wait a minute, what did you just say?” Zee sounded offended.
“Zee?” Inara was getting confused. There seemed to be a miscommunication between them. Zee sounded off. What was she asking?
“What did you just say?” Zee demanded.
“I said time waits for no one.”
“No. After that, you said something else.”
“No. You said the last dare will no longer wait. Do you think I’m stupid and don’t know how the game works?” Zee was sounding increasingly agitated.
Inara paused for a second. She didn’t remember saying the words.
“Zee, I’m familiar with the words but I never said them.”
“Are you just trying to mock my plight?” Zee snapped, indignant. “You’re having fun at my downfall, right?”
“Don’t start, Zee.”
“No!” Zee yelled. “This is what you always do. You’re tired of me. Why won’t you be? You think you’re better than me because your game favored you and you’re practically married to a prince.”
Zee was mad at Inara as she talked with her from the comfort of the couch in her bedroom. Why would Inara use the words of the last dare on her, knowing fully well how disturbed she already was? All she did was make a mistake by stalling the dare. Why would Inara rub it in her face like that?
Inara’s eyes widened with shock at Zee’s outrage.
“Shut up, Zee!” she shouted back. “I never said the words.”
“Maybe you need to get off my line.” Inara snapped and paused as she saw Lemuel staring at her and taking his earbuds off. Then he folded his arms and just studied her.
“Maybe we need to quit this friendship.” She heard Zee retort. “After all, your controlling husband is so good at keeping us apart.”
Inara lowered her voice. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Why the low voice? I guess he’s right there and would beat your ass if you wake his son up.”
Inara could feel her chest heaving with hurt at Zee’s words but she fought to control her emotions.
“He is not that low and you know it. There’s no need to be mean.”
“Oh please, tell me about it.”
“Stop spoiling for a fight,” Inara said through gritted teeth. “I am not your problem.”
“You started it by using the words of the last dare.”
“I most certainly did not.”
“Yes, you did.”
“I did not!” Inara shrieked and there was silence, which was immediately broken by Caleb who started crying.
Lemuel picked him up and strode with him towards Inara who had a look of shock and anger on her face, the phone still held at her ear.
He placed his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. “Calm down. Trouble in paradise, I see, but just calm down.” His attention returned to Caleb. “Shh. Caleb stop. Shh.”
Caleb was still crying, so he put his thumb in his mouth and the child stopped crying. Next, he rested his head on his father’s shoulder and went back to sleep.
Zee heard them clearly from her end and decided to end the call. “Sorry I ruined your little family peacetime with my call and sorry for confiding in you.” She said in a calmer but sarcastic tone.
As Inara felt Lemuel’s hand massaging her shoulder, she remembered something vital. It was a perfect explanation of the cause of the sudden misunderstanding between her and Zee.
“It’s the game.” She said quietly. “The game must have made me say the words. It’s nothing but the last dare.”