My eyes opened along with the blaring alarm. Last night was the longest night for me without knowing the reason for it. I had spent last night with the image of Carlton walking out from the house four days ago.
It shouldn’t bother me to this extent but it did and this waking moment almost got me worried. I questioned myself for this peculiar behaviour. I stared at the ceiling and grabbed my phone from the nightstand.
The date on the phone screen! I choked once saw the date. The nightmare that haunting until this second of my life. The date where everything collapsed. The date where I never thought would come in my life. Ever!
Harriet. His death anniversary. It has been three years but I vividly remember every smallest details of the day.
A deep breath escaped from me as I neared my wardrobe and took out his sweater. I thought it was from a stranger that I got at the club until Harriet told me, it was his. The realest man and none could replace his place. A lump in my throat occurred while I stood there and fighting back my tears. I lose it when the scent of him was there, embraced it close to my heart and torrent tears soaked the sweater.
‘I miss you, Harriet. Why? Tell me why, please!’
I didn’t realise I drifted into sleep at the wardrobe while hugging Harriet’s sweater. The glaring light of high noon sneaked in as I winced. I brought the sweater closer to me and took in the scent enough to give me the energy to endure this day.
Slowly I walked in the bathroom and looked at my face. God, dark circles and puffy eyes! I stood there in front of the mirror, tried to appear as normal as I could. But all I could see was fake smile and unbearable pain that dancing all over my face. I cleaned up myself, while getting dress for my work, I heard a soft knock. Must be Tantiana.
“Ma’am, you okay?” She asked with full of concern.
“I’m fine. Slept late last night.” I assured her and we both got down to the kitchen. The house appeared to be lonelier than my soul. But this house never been flooded with more than four which include, Jermy. I closed my eyes and tried to keep my emotions in check.
“Ma’am, are you staying in for lunch?” Tantiana wore a.
Took in a long breath, I massaged my temple and even before my mind registered my words, “Isn’t Carlton supposed to be back last night? Where is he?” My breath hitched when I realised my question. My eyes bulged out while Tantiana almost faint right over there because this was the actual picture of bullshit.
Me asking Carlton’s whereabout. We got looked at each other trying to digest the incident. My laugh came out hollow. Absolutely fake! I quickly dismissed myself from there without waiting any reply from her.
I couldn’t visit Harriet’s grave this year so I decided to stroll around the town where I went him three years. Once done, I went to café and immersed myself into work. Just to keep me distracted from the harsh reality of his gone.
“Good morning. Is Miss Adele Raquel free for a coffee?” My lips curved up into an instant smile on hearing that greeting.
I turned back and looked at Rhea standing with a warm smile. “Of course. Please wait for me, I’ll be right there.”
I made two cups of coffees for both of us and neared the table. She thanked me and took the cup from me. We sat there quietly for a moment and I knew exactly whatever running in her mind. “You okay?” She asked hesitantly as she placed the hot cup on the table.
I smiled sadly and nodded without replying. We remained silent again.
Then I continued, “I went for a walk especially to the places I went with Harriet.”
“To the fountain?”
“Yes. Those days!” I sighed and leaned back.
“Where you wished and threw coins with someone else.” I saw glimpse of smile at the corner of her lips.
“That was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I can’t imagine Harriet, stood there and watched me wishing with a stranger.”
She laughed slowly, “and you shouted ‘Error 404’. Silly”
“it was an error since then. Perhaps he knows he don’t have forever with me. And this date three years ago, he decided to walk away. Miles away from me where I can never reach him.” I mumbled and looked out from the window. Rhea rubbed my hand as she used to do whenever I talk about him.
“Let him go, Ele.”
“I am. He needs to rest peacefully Rhea. I am. Trying would be the first step.” We both sat there and talk about other stuffs.
“Adele Raquel for the very last time, I’m telling you it’s 5.23pm. I just told you five minutes ago and for God sake stop checking your phone already. God, it’s annoying. What’s wrong with you?”
“Promise you won’t say I’m a paranoid.” I put out my hand so Rhea would promise me. She rolled her eyes, “Ele, tell me first.”
“Carlton. He supposed to back last night but he’s not here yet.”
She beamed when I said that. “Wow missing husband already”
“Uff, Rhea. Nonsense. He went to Germany for a business trip. I repeat Germany. The dates and-”
She interrupted me as I was stressing the words, “Yes you are paranoid.”
“Rhea, I’m serious.”
“You don’t get it, aren’t you?” I said slowly with deep sorrow and hurt when Rhea didn’t seem to understand me. But I really have no energy to quarrel with her especially today. “Ele, he must be got carried away with his business. He will be back soon.” I was fighting back my tears while trying to accept her words.
“Stop overthinking Ele. Please.” She almost begged seeing my condition. I ignored my thoughts and changed the topic. But it was hard for me. After Rhea went back, I helped Natty and others to clean the café. It was around 9pm when we all closed the café. “Miss Adele, are you free? Drink?”
“Come on, Natty! Don’t be silly. She has a husband to take care once she’s back unlike you.” One of my staff replied while Natty pouted her mouth hearing that.
‘Husband to take care?’ Lol! I declined her offer politely and headed back to house.
The world was calm but when I stepped in the house, it was quiet. A quiet that wasn’t comfortable at all. I was surprising when loneliness that I have been mastered was weird and I can’t bear this at all. At the corner, there was a wine rack with the collection of Carlton’s favourites. I stood at the middle of house alone, stared at them.
I gulped down the whiskey to relief my pain but it got worst than I thought. It was almost midnight but Carlton still not here. Tears slipped down my cheeks while I kept drinking. I never felt so alone before. I sat there in the dark and felt short of air. I didn’t bother to switch on the lights as my life was way darker. I drowned myself in alcohol.
The doorbell rang, I thought to not answer but it was kept ringing. Wobblingly I walked to the door and answered. It was as a flashback when Jermy stood there while finding strength to speak. I panicked and waited for him to speak up.
I didn’t wait any longer and shot a question, “Where’s Carlton?”
He avoided my eye contact. Holy shit! My chest tightened with his expression. “It’s about sir, ma’am.”
I grabbed his shirt and shook him, “Jermy, what happened to Carlton? Where’s he?” He puzzled for a moment with my action. I continuously asked him, without caring about my tears and maniac state of mine. “Where’s he? What happened to him? Jermy answer me!”
“He- he’s at-”
OMG! I can’t take this anymore. I could hold this heartbreak no longer and fell to the floor in dishevelled heap as grief poured out in a flood of uncontrollable tears. “Why everyone leaving?”
In between I heard Jermy’s voice as he was shaking my shoulder, “Ma’am no. Lis-listen. Sir is-,”
“No don’t say. I don’t want to hear anything. Leave just leave!” I pushed his hand away.
“Where’s Carlton, Jermy?” I asked in between sob with my shaking hand covering my face.
“I’m here, Adele Raquel.” A deep voice stopped my heart from pounding. I tilted my head slowly to find a tall figure standing over me. “Wait for me in the car, Jermy. I’ll be back.” He ordered Jermy without breaking his eye contact with mine. I tried to stand up straight but stumbled. Carlton rushed within a second and caught me from falling on the ground.
I pushed him by his hard chest and stood in front of him, “Where have you been Carlton?”
“I told you Adele, away to Germany for a business.”
“I’m aware of it. But you supposed to touch down last night itself. And what took that idiot to complete one damn sentence?”
“I had issues to settle and couldn’t get back on time. I asked my secretary to inform you Adele.” He spoke.
“None. None of them inform me anything. You’re so selfish. You tracked me down and brought me back when I went to New York. But what about you? Just left me without informing anything. What the hell do you think of yourself? Do you know how worried I was?” I yelled at him. He noticed the half bottle of whiskey and looked back at me.
“How much did you drink Adele?” He asked in his stern voice and I looked like a lost kitten in front of him.
“Am I a joke for you? I’m yelling here and you cared about your goddamn whiskey!”
“You’re drunk Adele. Calm down. Listen-,”
“No. You don’t get the rights to order me around. I’m not your slave Carlton. And guess what, I won’t calm down.” I saw the plates on the dining table and hurled the plates across the floor. The sound of plates shattering, was jarring but the pain remained in my heart. The fragments of the plates on the floor resembled my brokenness.
Carlton stood there with his hands shoved into his slack pockets and watched me. It was as if he reading my emotions. “Adele, stop.” He gripped my wrist.
“Let me go Carlton.” I tried to release from his hold but failed.
I woke up with a massive headache. I opened my eyes slowly and tried to wake up. I shouldn’t have drunk that much last night.
The tantrums I threw, if it was someone else, I swear I would end up by road side. He remained calm. I sighed heavily and dragged myself to the shower.
Thank God, it was weekend or else it would be a tragedy with this hangover. As I climbed down from the staircase, I had an idea. I should cook, it has been a while. I saw Tantiana busy preparing for breakfast in the kitchen.
“Holla!!” I chirped in and she startled, “Ma’am!” I laughed seeing her panicked face and took a bite of the toast that she prepared earlier.
“You look all radiant today.” I smiled and continued with my toast. I glanced at the clock on the wall, almost 9am. He should be-,
Like I care!
“Sir is working out. Over there.” She pointed out at the backyard. There was he, with only his sweatpants, looked all sweaty but hot! A heavy breath escaped from my mouth with that sight.
Fuck! Stop it Adele Raquel.
“Oh, by the way, I’m sorry for the mess. You had to clean all that.” I apologized to Tantiana.
She looked confused with words and furrowed her brows. “Mess? The house was all clean since I came this morning.”
" Ohh.” I nodded slowly and diverted my gaze to the backyard. From the glass door, I saw Carlton in plank pose.
′So, you cleaned up the mess. Good for you. If you come back on time, I wouldn’t have done that. Serve you right!′
My mind completely went blank when his piercing eyes was focusing on me. I couldn’t tear off myself from the contact. I swallowed in when he stood up and started to wipe off his sweats with a towel.
Without ruining the moment and our eye contact, I grabbed the apple from the basket and bite it.
′You messed up with the fire Mr. Carlton Wilbert. I’ll show you the bad side of it’
With that, I continued to ‘eat’ my apple. It was fun to see him all tensed and red. Unconsciously and out of habit, I bit my lower lips to taste the apple.
But the moment he walked in from the backyard; my heart began hammering. His steps were reaching me and honestly, I was turning into a jellyfish. The courage I had earlier, vanished!
My breath hitched. I gulped and was trying to run away. Even tried to call out Tantiana but can’t hear my own voice. Our gaze was intense. A wicked glint lingered in his eyes. He knew it. He knew his effect on me. He knew I’m panicking.
He neared me, as his eyes wandered all over my face and stopped at my lips. Then his gaze bored in me and he licked his bottom lips.
Oh Jesus Christ!
He took a bite of the apple that I was eating and his finger wiped off something from my lips. “You’re drooling, wife.”
My eyes felt wide open. I saw him jogged happily back to his room. I ruffled my hair out of frustration.
This wasn’t me. And this idiot can’t be serious. My hormones were bloody traitors! I cursed myself for being such a weak ass in front of him.
God answered my prayers when Carlton said he wanted to have his coffee only in his study. I told Tantiana to clean the table while I started to chop the vegetables for lunch.
Annoyed with myself as I still couldn’t get over the morning incident. I wore a scowled face and opened the fridge. I grabbed the ingredients out and turned around.
“Fuck! What’s wrong with you?” When did he came in? He doesn’t have any clothes to wear?
My eyes unashamedly roved his muscular body. He kept walking closer and I was backing away. “Carlton stop right there or-”
“Or else?” He raised his brows.
Wasn’t he had enough of the torture he gave earlier?
“Carlton stop!” The poker face I put on wasn’t working much. He didn’t care even a bit of my words and continued his steps. Our faces were inches away. I leaned against the wall and involuntarily shut my eyes hardly.
“Adele Raquel.” My name rolled perfectly. He whispered with a seductive tone.
“Carlton” Fuck I sounded desperate.
“My parents joining us for lunch.” I registered his words for a moment and my eyes opened widely.
“What!?” I was still wearing an unsatisfied look on my face while he was smiling mischievously. I blinked continuously, tried to pull myself together.
“Yeah. Cook for them too. If you’re tired you can rest. Ask Tantiana to cook.”
‘I’ll cook you and feed you to the neighbor’s dog Carlton. I mean it!’ As if he could hear my mind voice, he chuckled and winked.
“Move away.” I said without any emotions or with a slight stern on my voice. He bit his lower lips and looked both sexy and amused.
“I need to cook Carlton. Move away!” I pushed him back where he moved away at the same time without giving any hard time for me.
I checked the food on the stove and began preparing for the next meal. He was still there while looking at me as he leaned at the kitchen wall. I inhaled sharply and turned around to him, “Stop looking at me. Go out from here. I need to cook.”
“Go on. I’m not stopping you.” He spoke.
“Get out my sight right now.”
Oh, my goodness!
“Stop looking at me. You’re distracting me” I pulled out the knife on his face.
Imagine someone looking at you while you’re cooking. I don’t want ended up cooking some awful food for his parents. I had enough of handling and apologizing to them.
He raised his hand in surrender and I continued with my business with the stove and pans.
“Happy cooking” He sang and walked out from there. I huffed and drank down a glass of water to calm down.
Asshole since day one!
As soon as I done cooking, I let out a sigh. It was exhausting to cook since I cooked after some time. Stretched my body lazily, I saw Tantiana rushing back and forth from my room to Carlton’s. I wondered what was happening there.
When I about to approach her, Carlton’s voice halted my steps. “She’s shifting your things to my room.”
“No way! Why?” I exclaimed and my eye widen hugely.
Without any words, he neared me inch by inch and my heart paced faster. “Why not. Am I making you uncomfortable? Are you nervous?”
“No, Mr. Carlton Wilbert! Don’t think high of yourself. Why am I shifting to your room? I’m not sleeping with you!” I crossed my arms. He sneered, “You’re my wife and suppose to sleep with me, your husband.”
Once heard the joke of the year that he just cracked, I scoffed. “Carlton, look I’m too tired to laugh for your lame jokes.”
“Will see that too, Mrs. Carlton” I rolled my eyes and waited for him to answer my question, “Sweetheart-,”
“Don’t call me that!” I stomped my feet.
“Alright. Wife, my parents will be staying over with us so they need a place to sleep. Anything else, wife?” He simply emphasised the word ‘wife’ to annoy me. “What? Are you serious? You’re not a mummy boy, aren’t you?” I nearly laughed after saying that.
His expression turned cold and distant as usual and replied, “I love them Adele Raquel. I don’t do this thing called acting emotionless around my loved ones.” I stared at him for some time as that wasn’t an expected reaction from him at all. He simply broke the first judgement I had on him; I mean day by day he wasn’t the one I thought.
Then, he continued with an authoritative voice “Now go clean yourself.” He walked past me and I froze there.
It was awkward to share weekends with Carlton and I never imagined myself sleeping next to him for the next two days. We barely stay home in weekends. Tantiana set up my clothes neatly in his wardrobe and I chose a white summer dress.
When I got down, I saw Carlton was setting up the table and he gazed up at me then returned to his work. He didn’t even bother to look at me again. As if I’m dying for his attention.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang and I pushed back my long wavy hair when he raised his eyebrows at me, indirectly asking if I’ll be answering the door. I rushed to open the door and revealed his parents, smiling warmly.
“Welcome, mama, papa!” I welcomed them inside and Mrs. Wilbert hugged me.
“Where’s Carl?” His dad asked while soaking into the sofa. I placed the wine they brought for us on the table, “He’s getting ready. Will join us shortly.”
“Hi mum. Hi dad. Good to see you both.” With that I turned around to see the owner’s voice. My mouth dropped slightly but quickly gathered myself. ‘Oh dear, it’s getting warm here.’
I felt the air been knocked out of my body. White shirt, he wore the damn white shirt. I averted my eyes before he could sense the horrendous scream of my body. He hugged both his parents and completely ignored my existence.
Later, the lunch was going normally as it should and the sight of Carlton was disturbing my peace, for sure. A while later, the door bell rang and I narrowed my eyes towards Carlton if he invited anyone else. He just shook his head. I answered the door and my lovely best friend rolled in with her husband. “Heyyy, come in. We’re having lunch with his parents. Join us.” Rhea hugged me affectionately as if this was the first time we’re meeting.
Aidan shook hand with Carlton and his dad while Mrs. Wilbert welcomed Rhea. “How are you, Rheala?”
“I’m fine, Mrs. Wilbert. You look lovely” Rhea remarked politely. “Oh, you look different since I last time saw you.” And she beamed taking closer look at Rhea. I thought she look just as the last time I saw her. Rhea remained quiet but I could sense there was something else behind her smile. As if she got caught.
Then Aidan and Rhea joined us and made the lunch hour more interactive while I sat there quietly just nodding and blessing my eye-sight. Soon after the lunch, Carlton got comfortable to hang around with Aidan and was playing PS.
“What you mean by breaking the plates?” Rhea almost screamed but kept in control to avoid anyone else hear our conversation. We both were in the kitchen cleaning the dishes. “Drunk and couldn’t control it.”
“God, Ele. I told you to not act unreasonably.”
“What the hell Carlton? Why did you bring her with you?” Not long after we heard Mrs. Wilbert’s voice roaring out there. Me and Rhea pulled our brows together into frown while waiting for Carlton’s answer. Rhea insisted me to go check there but I refused.
He replied calmly, “Mum, she’s my secretary of course she needs to come along.”
“Did you bring Adele along?” His mum questioned him. Rhea was looking at me when the mum asked him that. I didn’t get the whole point of their argument but genuinely shocked and decided to check on them. When we strolled out from the kitchen, Mrs. Wilbert approached me, “You’re fine with this?” I swallowed in uncertainly and she continued, “Your husband brings along his ex, Giana, with him all the time since she’s the secretary?”
I blinked repeatedly when heard the new information I received from his mum. So, Giana was his ex and now his secretary. Oh okay. What am I supposed to do with that? Because I don’t care at all. My reaction was completely unacceptable for everyone there because I started laughing. Rhea was already getting enough of my bullshit and tapped my shoulder hardly. “Ele, stop it.”
I cleared my throat and oblivious to the reaction of my words, “Mamma, I don’t care about it.”
“WHAT?” everyone said in unison except for Carlton and my eyes roamed around the room.
I grinned nervously and continued, “No, I mm, I mean I do trust him”
“But I don’t trust that witch” His mum was serious and still didn’t seem to give up about the topic. Carlton was looking straight into my eyes and I couldn’t guess anything about it. I let out a heavy breath and his mum continued with her whine and lastly came out with her last words, “I don’t care next time when you’re going for any business trip bring your wife along. Am I clear with my words, Carlton?”
I’m not going anywhere with this asshole! “But mamma, I have café-,” she stopped me, “I’ll take care of the business when you’re not around.”
“Mum, please. There’s nothing to worry about. You know I don’t mix around my personal life and business.” Carlton said sternly.
“Darling, leave the kids alone. They know how to manage” Mr. Wilbert had enough of his wife’s insecurities.
“No, I won’t. You don’t know how dangerous she is. Adele if you’re not promising now, I’ll be very upset with you.” I reluctantly agreed and earned a satisfactory smile from everyone. For the next hours, everyone was enjoying their weekends at our place. I felt content to witness this little happiness surrounded by me but too bad it won’t last long.
When evening came, Rhea and Aidan excused themselves and my in-laws went off to their room. I realised how Carlton’s dad spent time with his wife on weekends. Loving husband, I thought.
I entered the room and saw the bathroom door was slightly ajar. I stood against the door frame when I saw Carlton in there. “Hmm, that must be nice.” I mocked. He wasn’t sure what I meant and raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah, I mean, to bring along your ex with you for business trips and God knows where else.”
He leaned back to the opposite of doorframe which left small gaps between us and watched me intensively.
“Haahhh, I get it now. No wonder you came one day later than you were supposed to. How was the night? Sensual? Passionate? Or … rough?”
“She’s hot, isn’t she? You know what, you both are meant to be together. You see she wears clothes that just cover here and there, like homeless while you roam around this whole house without shirt. See! How sweet” I let out a fake laugh.
“What do you care, Adele Raquel? Insecure?” I laughed sardonically when Carlton said that.
“Me? Insecure? Never Carlton Wilbert. And it was your parents who expecting me to act like a possessive lunatic wife.” He pursed his lips and moved forward left inches between our face. It was quite intimidating to see his face.
“Why you agreed then?”
I scanned his face for a while and spoke, “Your mum was insisting!”
His intimidating face expression replaced by a wounded expression. No, it wasn’t a feigned hurt, the pain in his eyes was transparent. I stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say next.
“This shows how much you dislike me, Adele. We barely husband and wife, so why even taking care of my mum’s feelings? You can be rude like how you were last time. Cut off your drama, Adele Raquel. And yes, Giana is hot. You have any problem with that?” With that, he pulled himself back, walked out of the room after slamming the door which made me jolted in his sudden reaction.
‘Fuck, Rheala what have I done?’