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Love Battles
by Nkem Akin   (Author)
Read First Three Chapters


“I didn’t know I could sleep with a woman without having sex with them but you’ve shown me.” Edward said.

They were lying on his bed and he couldn’t remember the last time he felt so relaxed. The sheets were twisted around them and the air conditioner poured out cool air. The early dawn light peeped through the curtains. He’d returned to Lagos a couple of days after Christmas while Gladys had come straight to his place from her flight yesterday evening so they could spend New Year eve together. She’d been so tired they’d gone to bed early.

“Happy New Year to you darling, I love you.”

“I love you too.” He accompanied that with a kiss. They’d talked more openly and honestly than they ever had before and each knew where they stood with each other. It had been almost spiritual for him and now he wanted to share even more of himself with her.

Edward looked into her face. “I’ve not fully told you about my earlier years, have I?”

“Not really. I do know you were born in an orphanage and moved about a few foster homes till you left the last of them when you were about seventeen.” Gladys replied.

Many times the subject came up he glossed over all but the barest bones of it. He’d told her more about the years after he had arrived in Lagos and how he’d toiled to make something of his life. She must have concluded after a while that those were the years that made him what he was or that he would share when ready.

Edward sighed. “That is correct, but it misses out some of my most important experiences and how they affected me.”

What happened was one thing, how he’d felt was another. He wished his childhood and early teenage years could remain in the past. Those were truly difficult years but they were part and parcel of him. A very big part now that he was going serious with Gladys.

“As a young orphan one thing I envied others was that sense of belonging somewhere. Before long, it was clear one needed not just personal merits but also the support of family to succeed in life.”

Gladys looked on without saying a word. A few minutes passed but she remained silent. He could hear the gurgling of the air conditioner and some sounds from the kitchen of his houseboy moving around but they sounded so distant. They could as well have been in the house by themselves.

He sat up against the headboard with his mind made up. “I told you how I left the orphanage at ten for my first foster family and how I felt abandoned all over again when my foster parents divorced and I was returned to the orphanage.” He paused.

Gladys shifted closer and wrapped her arm round his lean waist with her head on his chest. “I miss my dad sometimes too and I understand about being abandoned. I’m so sorry.”

“You don’t have to be, baby. Knowing you has gone a long way to heal me. As you know, I was returned a couple more times.”

Gladys kept quiet and waited for him to continue.

“What I didn’t tell you was how I ended up in my last foster home. The ‘mother’ I had grown up in the orphanage with retired and the new one wasn’t enamored of the older boys. She made it clear we would leave by eighteen, I was fifteen then. She worked us like slaves and made money from our labor by hiring us out to factories around.”

“Was that allowed?” Gladys interjected when he paused.

“Sometimes, but not the way she did it. I was hopeless about my future. There was this drive within me but I didn’t know how to channel it, I wanted to attend university but there was no one to help. I acted out, got into drugs, and fought anyone at the drop of a hat..

“The administrator took all the money we earned and didn’t pay for our upkeep most of the time. She took in babies to get money from adoption while we slept outside on the verandas. Things had gotten harder in Nigeria; the austerity measures of the mid-eighties were pinching everyone and the home was even harder hit.”

He stopped and rubbed his hand over his shaved head.

“You don’t have to tell me everything today, Edward…”

“Gladys I want to. I want to get this all off my chest. I want you to know all of me. Nothing left out.” He tightened his grip on her hand and stared directly into her eyes as he got on with it.

“It was during this period that I met this Igbo couple. I was working at this groundnut oil factory and had gone to the admin office to get paid. This woman walked up to me and asked my name. She said I looked like someone she knew. I admitted I was an orphan and wasn’t sure of my parentage. She then asked me to wait to meet her husband who was the owner of the factory. Before the end of the week she and Chief expressed interest in taking me in.”

“They sound like a nice couple,” she murmured.

Edward shifted into a more comfortable position. “I jumped at the offer. They wanted to send me to university and pay me for working at the factory. I felt I’d found a home at last. They were childless and seemed happy to have me. I got distracted from my wild friends and everything went according to plan.” Things could only get better, he’d reasoned. He had the Advanced Levels exams to prepare for, and also wanted to work and save as much as possible.

“The wife said you looked like someone she knew? Did you find out who it was; a relative maybe?”

“When I first moved in, I always asked but she evaded the question till I let it be. However she told me before I left.”

“So why leave? This was the home you ran away from?”

“Yes. It was a combination of several things. My foster mother began to resent me and the house wasn’t comfortable anymore so I got back with my gang. Chief wouldn’t take that and threatened to send me away. An incident served as a flashpoint and I decided to leave. However, before I could get free, they vengefully made me spend a month in prison.”

“They put you in prison because you left the house?”

“No. They said I took some of their property. This was money I’d earned legitimately at the factory. I was hard hit because I was innocent and I began to isolate myself after that.”

“That was merciless of them. They must’ve had strange motives for taking you in if they could turn on you that way.”

At the beginning, he’d loved his new foster parents. They were his saviors and he thought they could do no wrong. But yet again, it wasn’t difficult for them to grind his emotions in the dust. He’d dwelt on it the whole month in jail and became very bitter.

Edward shrugged. “The DPO took pity on me and persuaded Chief to have me released. I only stayed in Kano long enough to get a transfer from the university. I then moved to Lagos, changed my name and made a new life. As I left Kano, I swore never to trust or love another human being. I didn’t believe it was worth it.”

“By now you should know that not everyone is like that.”

“I have learnt to let that go but it still rankles sometimes…”

“You could contact them again to resolve the issue.”

“I used to imagine meeting them again but not for a peaceful resolution. As I matured, it was one of the things I put behind me.”

“Have I told you about my mother and aunt?” He nodded and she went on to update him on the recent explanations from her aunt.

“Your mother is an exemplary woman.” Edward shook his head. “Some people would never have forgiven your aunt.”

“I’ve learnt a lot from my mother; you can too, if you want.”

He smiled. “I want anything you want Gladys.” He pulled her up so their bodies meshed and ran his palms down her sides. He’d finally committed to waiting and knew he’d have to stop soon.

Gladys turned over groggily on the bed as the door to her room opened. She looked up and broke into a weak smile when she recognized Jennifer and Ayo.

“And we thought you were invincible!” Jennifer exclaimed as she quickly took the only armchair in the spacious room.

Ayo came closer and perched on the bed. “I hope you’re not infectious? I can stand if that’s the case.”

Gladys laughed. Just last Sunday at their outing after the church service, she’d bragged of never being sick after a year in Lagos. Alas she spoke too soon! Around lunch time at work on Tuesday, she’d started to feel ill, and it got worse to the point that she was miserable by afternoon. She had chills all over her body, a terrible headache, and felt faint. Ola took her home ahead of the usual time and waited until Aunt Isioma came back. The fever receded but in the evening; she had barely started a phone call with Edward before her stomach turned to liquid.

When she spent most of the night in the toilet, her aunt had brought her to Reddington Hospital for a checkup. She had ended up being admitted for observation because based on the blood tests; she had a very high white blood cell count. That was yesterday.

“Sorry we couldn’t come to see you earlier. We decided to come together after work.”

“No problem at all, thanks for coming.” Gladys had called them both this morning. She’d been too weak yesterday to think of even raising a finger.

“So what exactly is wrong? You look terrible.”

“I’m surprised to be alive. I puked out everything in me, and from both ends too.”

“Eewwww,” Ayo groaned. “Too much information; please enough of that.”

Gladys laughed, “But you asked. You should have seen me yesterday. I looked like death warmed over and I couldn’t eat a thing. Once I was admitted, they started me on IV antibiotics and fluids because of the fever and the chills, and I was dehydrated too.”

“So what caused all that?”

“The doctor said it is dehydration and food poisoning. I must have eaten something that did not agree with my stomach. As for the dehydration, the sun this January has been horrible.” Her hands kneaded her stomach as she sat up on the bed.

Ayo plumped the pillows behind her. “You can say that again. How do you feel now?”

“I feel better today; the treatments must be working.”

“And you have this cool room to get well in. How lucky!”

Gladys smiled. Jennifer had always been lively but she was even bouncier these days. “Yeah, that was fortunate. These rooms on the 6th floor are the Royal Suites and I get to stay here because the normal suites are full. As for the food, I’d rather be home eating Tolani’s spaghetti and chicken. That girl has her issues but cooking is definitely not one of them.”

Ayo laughed and scooted further up the bed. “Oh so you’re up to eating already?”

“Yes, in fact I was ravenous after I woke up this morning. It felt like my abdomen was stuck to my spine. There were eggs for breakfast and steamed rice for lunch; not the best but bearable. I’m still waiting on dinner which will soon be here.”

“How long will you be here?”

“Two nights. I’ll probably be discharged tomorrow evening.”

“Two nights is not so bad. It must be expensive, though.”

“Aunt Isioma already has a health plan with them; it’s not really that expensive. Also I don’t even think I need stay tonight as I have no problems drinking fluids.”

“It’s been a while since I last saw your aunt. How is she?”

“She’s fine. She was with me through out yesterday. She was the one that called my mother and brothers and Edward too. She was here this morning and will soon be back.”

“That’s very nice of her. Your aunt is always so gracious.”

Gladys nodded. In the year since she’d arrived in Lagos, her aunt had become like a second mother to her. They had grown even closer after she had confided about her late husband’s lack of sympathy and the unhappy prison their marriage had become.

“You said last Sunday that Edward was out of the country and won’t be back till the weekend. How did he take the news of you being admitted in hospital?”

“He called last night but I was still too weak to carry on a conversation. He did say he’d wrap up his business and return home as soon as possible.”

“This love is really catching him…”

“At least you’ll be looking better then.”

“Oh, so you think I timed the illness for when he was away?” All three girls laughed.

“I hope you get well soon. I still need you for my planning, and we must all dance our legs off that night.” Jennifer bounced on her chair and took out some cards from her purse.

“Great, the cards are out.” Gladys reached out and collected one from her. Jennifer’s engagement party had been fixed for the night of Valentine’s Day in just about three weeks time.

“Yes, and you and Edward are the number one guests.”

The girls hashed out a tentative agenda for the party after Gladys had admired the card in glowing terms. They remained with her through dinner until her aunt arrived.

“He’s here, hurry up.” Her aunt called from downstairs.

“But I can’t see his car from here.” Gladys peeped through one of the landing windows.

She’d returned to her aunt’s from the hospital last week and was feeling much better now. Edward had come back from his trip a couple of days earlier than scheduled so he could take her home from hospital. He’d also been to see her every evening for the last week since she resumed work and had postponed all his planned travels in the meantime.

“He’s waiting outside the gate,” her aunt called back.

“But why would he do that?” Gladys queried as she joined her in the sitting room.

“I don’t know.” Aunt Isioma suddenly became busy with what was on the television.

Shrugging her shoulders, Gladys left the house. When she stepped out of the gate, she looked up and down the quiet street. A limousine was standing a few yards away from her. Her eyes alighted on it in admiration as it drove slowly to a stop before her. The window directly before her wound down automatically in a replay of their first meeting.

“May I help you?” Edward’s smile was like that of a Cheshire cat who’d got some cream.

“Edward! What is this?” She couldn’t help the exclamation.

Stepping out of the car, he put an arm around her waist and held the door open for her.

“Tonight is going to be one of the best memories we share. We own the night milady, and the limo is here for our exclusive delight.”

Edward bowed and gestured her to enter the luxury car. She did and he followed her in and closed the door, enfolding them in the cool leather interior. The driver carefully maneuvered away from the curb and into the street. When they arrived at their table in the restaurant at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Gladys told herself this was definitely going to be a night to remember. The dinner passed in a blur of slow conversation and tender looks but nothing more.

They soon finished their dinner and moved to a secluded alcove in the bar. Edward swirled the Bailey’s Irish Cream in his cut glass tumbler while she sipped on a Chapman on the Rocks.

Gladys knew he was going to ask her to marry him or he wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble. She knew what her answer would be this time but now wondered if she’d got it mixed up. Edward put back his drink down and took hers to deposit beside it. Her heart raced faster than usual and she found it difficult looking him full in the face. He spread both palms and she placed her hands in them. Their fingers linked as he started to speak in a solemn tone.

“Gladys, I’ve had mixed life experiences, more bad than good but I don’t want the bad to influence my life going forward. I’ve become more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt since I met you. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. I want to be with you, I don’t want to run or hide anymore. Especially not from you Gladys, I love you.”

She felt the tears come to her eyes. This was the best thing he’d ever said to her. “I love you too Edward.” After what they’d been through, she cared about him so much more. She also loved how he got on with her family. All her brothers were his fans now.

Edward smiled at her, “I can’t believe that I have you, baby. I didn’t know it but I never had a full life before I met you.”

He’d simply gone through the motions but was too wounded to make the most of all that came his way. She’d healed his heart and made him whole again. Her mother and brothers were just the cherry on top. He’d told them that he wanted to marry her. He’d almost let her go last week but the more he thought of it, the more he recognized the beginning of another phase of his life. He only had to accept it.

“I am not perfect Gladys. I’ve had some experiences in this life that have shaped me differently from your usual man. I smoked, drank, did drugs and women. I have forgiven myself of these things and asked God’s forgiveness too but I still bear some scars.”

He brought up her left hand and kissed the back of it and then each finger in turn. Gladys heart began to beat faster in her chest. It was as if everything was moving in slow motion.

He dropped her hands and dipped two fingers in his pocket. “I don’t know if I am worthy to ask you this but I have been blessed in meeting you. You shone light in my life and reminded me that it’s not all about work and money. You are a beautiful soul and I love you. I am willing to share my life with you if you’ll have me.”

Gladys closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them when she felt Edward release her hand and move off the banquette. He was kneeling at the edge with an open jewelry box clasped in both hands. The small diamond solitaire winked at her in the dim light of the bar. People were laughing and clapping but she felt the tears return. During dinner she’d imagined the proposal with him down on his knees. She felt her heart melting inside her and she wished she could hug him forever.

“Give me your hand Gladys.” Edward said.

She stretched her left hand. “Edward, I love you so much. This is very beautiful.”

“Just like you’re beautiful inside and out. He raised her fingers with one hand. “I promise never to hurt you. I’ve asked you this in my mind several times before but now it’s for real. I love you Gladys. Will you marry me please?”

“Yes I will. I love you so much Edward.” Their gaze caught and held. His heart shone from his eyes.

“I promise to love you till I die.” He slipped the ring onto her third finger and kissed it.

“I’ll be good to you too. You’ll never regret loving me or placing your trust on me.” Gladys raised him up and stepped into his arms with a long kiss. Some people in the bar stood up too and clapped enthusiastically. Afterwards they both turned with a smile for everyone and then Edward led her to the dancing floor.

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Price: ₦500 ($3)
Product Details
Author: Nkem Akin
Publisher: NS Publishing
Publication date: 2013
Pages: 104
Product dimensions: 425 x 600
More About This eBook
Overcoming his emotional scars, Gladys finally gets Edward to see that she
loves him and that with love they can surmount their differences. However, when they return from a romantic trip abroad, they find that some mysterious people are about to take over Edward's business empire, and his past has come back to haunt both of them. Who are these people and will
they succeed in tearing the lovers apart?
This concluding part of Love Happens is full of intrigues, secrets and shocking revelations. Love is usually gentle, but Edward and Gladys show that when need be, love will, and must, do battle to remain on top.
Editorial Reviews
About Author
Nkem was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria, where she spent most of her time, studying, reading and daydreaming or climbing trees and playing with the boys. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health Research but has now returned to her childhood dream of spinning stories. She writes and blogs full-time, and believes in the use of the internet and social media to promote the book industry and literacy levels in the country. Nkem is also the founder and managing editor of www.NaijaStories.com, for those that read, write or publish Nigerian stories.

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