Confusion marked Zee’s brow.
“What?” Zee was confused.
“Remember when I accused you of sending me a text with the words you just accused me of saying to you?”
“Yeah,” Zee confirmed. She sounded thoughtful now.
“I never saw the message again and that was how I knew it was my last warning.”
Zee sighed resignedly.
“I didn’t say the words, Zee. That was your last nightmare.”
“I know that now,” Zee admitted. Her voice was solemn. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too. Do the needful. I’ll be waiting for feedback.”
“Good luck, Zee.”
Zee ended the call and Inara placed her phone on the table. When she looked up, Lemuel had his eyes on her. She couldn’t read his expression. He could be so unreadable sometimes.
He took Caleb back to bed and laid him down before sitting down on the bed and throwing his legs onto the floor. Then he patted the spot beside him, indicating that she come to him. Inara rose up and joined him on the bed, sitting beside him.
“Sorry I woke Caleb up.”
“You couldn’t help it. But I’ll like to know what the problem was.”
“There was no problem.”
His eyebrows lifted probingly.
“You and Zee were almost at war and you say it was nothing?”
“It was just a simple misunderstanding.”
“Mrs. Lemuel Arnold. Who do you think you’re talking to?” he asked firmly.
“I’m sorry.” She whined.
“I need the night to calm down.”
“When it comes to Zee, I’m sorry but I will not give room for a downplayed story. I want it now that it’s hot if you know what I mean. Besides, I heard the words ‘dare’ and ‘nightmare,’ which has me worried.”
Inara sighed. Lemuel could be so demanding and overwhelming. But she already knew who she married. And she also knew that talking about it would alleviate her anxiety concerning Zee.
“Talk to me, Baby Girl. I’m no longer a stranger to the last dare.”
“So talk to me.”
“Zee never did her dare as she had claimed. She lied about that. She stalled her dare with some voodoo but got high and forgot to renew the voodoo and now she has to do it.”
“I know I insisted on hearing it but I really hate this subject.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to say anything,” Lemuel said matter-of-factly. “What was her dare, anyway?”
Inara hesitated. She hated talking about the last dare. It was a sore reminder of her recklessness with Zee.
“Inara Anthony Lemuel…” he began in a warning tone.
“Fine, it’s not like I don’t want to tell you.” She said quickly. If Lemuel started calling her like that, it meant his patience was thinning.
“I’m all ears, Baby Girl.”
“Well, she has to call the guy that disvirgined her and ask him to marry her.”
Lemuel stared at her, speechless for a moment. She remained silent. He was the one who had asked. The shock wasn’t hers to bear.
“I believe it was you who gave her that dare?” He sounded disappointed. Inara nodded but said nothing else. It felt like she couldn’t be more ashamed of her past actions at that very moment.
“You girls were really playing the dark side. Gosh.”
“We realized our error.”
“Obviously.” He said curtly. Inara cast her gaze to the floor. She was already feeling bad about everything. This was why she didn’t want him to know what was going on. He would be all over her, questioning and scolding her.
Lemuel took a deep breath. He knew that she was already regretful. There was no need to add to her sorry state. “I’m sorry, Baby. This really isn’t the time for a scolding.” He said softly and took her hand gently in his. “I already heard you encouraging her to do the needful.”
“Yes, but what would you advice?”
“I’m not a saint and I don’t like Zee but what if your dad or another clergyman can fight this with prayers, you know like the way, exorcists do?”
“It’s possible. Come to think of it, this option never even crossed my mind during my turn. But I think she should just do the dare because she really has no time.”
“Well, one does what one can. You’re right. She should just do it and get it over with. I wish her good luck.”
“Don’t worry, everything will be alright. I’m not praising you or indulging this but your dare was actually harder than hers if you really look at it and see, here we are.”
Inara nodded and he pulled her close to him so that she leaned into his sturdy frame. Then he kissed the top of her head. “Let’s go to sleep, Baby Girl, and hope for the best.”
It was 11:30 pm and Zee was on her bed, staring at the contact name Michael on her phone. She had been staring at it for almost ten minutes after her phone call with Inara. Michael was the guy who had disvirgined her. Ever since he relocated, they had lost the closeness. It wasn’t like they had been close to each other anyway, but that was her fault.
He had liked her but she hadn’t felt the same way about him. Or rather, she had been afraid to date a serious-minded person. She had felt like she didn’t deserve him. He was a serious-minded person and she hadn’t been self-confident and was in love with a play boy, Nathan who had been busy cheating on her with a very saucy and slutty girl in school. She was quite a good girl then and felt that the good girl way wasn’t working for her. She had needed to be bad like the girl Nathan was almost leaving her for, or so she thought.
The first step to being bad was to lose her virginity, hence, she had called Michael. He had been shocked but he came and did it.
Zee shifted her mind away from the past and hit the call button on Michael’s name. Before it could ring, she cut the call. “Damn, I can’t do this.” She mumbled and tossed the phone beside her on the bed. She decided to stall a bit. Then she changed her mind, picked up the phone, and dialed Michael’s number for what seemed like the umpteenth time.
Her heart was pounding as she listened to the phone ring. God, the guy had a fiancé. What if they were together? Well, she had to survive. Zee’s eyes widened as the call was received.
It was Michael’s voice and he sounded alert. Considering the time, she was grateful that she hadn’t woken him up from sleep.
“I thought you would be asleep.”
“I’m wide awake. Sorry but, who’s this?”
Zee noticed that his voice had grown deeper than the last time they were together. Boys had grown to guys.
She didn’t blame him for forgetting her. They barely spoke. She guessed he no longer had her number.
He paused for a moment. “I know, Zee. I was just pretending.”
“Yeah, well, it’s me, the one and only Zee.”
“You haven’t changed,” he said and laughed softly.
“Marry me, Michael.” She said flatly.
“Marry me.” Zee didn’t see the point in elongating matters.
“Are you drunk?”
“I’m as sober as any sane person.” She responded. “Will you marry me?”
“Zee, what is the meaning of this?”
“It is a simple thing, Michael. Please, will you marry me, please?”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“No. I’m serious.”
He was silent for a few seconds.
“Let’s just say that I take you seriously.” He said. “I have a fiancé.”
“Leave her for me.” Zee felt bad about saying it but she knew she had to be serious in her performance. Inara had gone all out and she had to follow suit if she wanted to survive. And she did want to survive. The last dare was not playing around.
“Zee, you sound serious.”
“Remember when I asked you to take my virginity? You thought it was a joke then.”
“So you’re serious like then?”
“Perhaps, more so, now. You know I’ve never been a jester.”
“Hmm. You know what? I’m in town.”
“What?” Zee was surprised. “Since when?”
“Why? Some business or what? You relocated with your family.”
“My fiancé lives here.”
“Yeah. And now, I want to see your face when you tell me what you’ve been telling me, say tomorrow?”
Zee would have said no but she wasn’t in charge. The game was in charge. It would only be over if he said an outright no to her proposal. He had to use the word no. Then she would be free. Hopefully, when they finally met, he would say the word, no.
“Okay.” She consented. “Place and time?”
“You’re the one who lives in San Jonas. Where would be best for you? Over lunch is good, right?”
“Perfect.” She responded as she inwardly prepared for the worst but hoped for the best.