Hajji’s Children

The Mheshimiwa’s office was relatively empty today; not to say that no one sat waiting for him; the man was always on demand but less than the usual number sat patiently in those dingy metal seats awaiting his counsel. Jabari stared at the clock then at the door… then at the clock again. He twitched nervously. Boss was later than usual. Even though Jabari had only been working for Mheshimiwa Hajji for a few months, he could certainly say he knew all there was to know about the man, when it came to his professional life at least. He actually prided himself in the fact that he knew the boss enough that he would always be able to provide what the man needed before he knew to ask for it. Regarding the boss’ personal life, he wasn’t quite sure if he knew the man well enough. Or if there was really anything to know.

Jabari had a painful childhood. He didn’t realize it till much later in life when he was afforded the luxury of seeing children grow up loved, cared for and spoilt unconditionally. Jabari never had close family, not normal family anyway. He had vague recollections of people so selfish that they abandoned him. He was born in the exotic ‘coast’ of the country where the weather was hot and humid and everything else including the people were cool and easy going. His parents made a mistake. He wasn’t even sure they were fit enough to be afforded the title of parents, to him they were just two random human beings who happened to reproduce. They were two young ignoramuses who cared a notch too little for anything or anyone, especially themselves. They had that going for them the day they met, so they went ahead and made offspring like all ignoramuses do when they’re idle too long. They were both drug addicts; Jabari’s grandma always said that’s what ‘kept’ them together and away from their son, Jabari. They sent Jabari to live with his grandmother and his cousins instead. His maternal grandmother was lovely and old, too old to care for 11 children; they barely scathed by.

For about 8 years, Jabari lived in the utopia where he had 10 brothers and sisters and grandma was actually mama. Then, his mother came back to the village. People like her only did that for two things grandma said; for money or to die. Grandma didn’t have any money. ‘The life’ had finally caught up with her in a viral way. She was seriously unwell, Grandma explained. Jabari had gone back and forth hating her then loving her then pitying her and finally cursing her. When Jabari was 12 after finally forgiving her, he became the sole caretaker for his mother. His mother finally passed away from complications stemming from HIV/AIDS, something they only referred to then as “Mdudu”. That was the first time Jabari heard of it. It was the most painful he ever had to experience to the day. He had slowly begun to forgive her as any child would, only to watch her writhe in pain and lose her brutally soon after. He had never met his father. But that was a bridge he had burned immediately after her death; a bridge he could not, would not rebuild. To Jabari, his father had died with his mother and family was who you made it.

Jabari liked to think that Mheshimiwa Hajji was a good father, if not the best. That the man did his best considering his circumstances to ensure that his family was loved and cared for. Jabari liked to think he knew his family too on account of all the thoughtful gifts and cards he bought for them, silently, on behalf of the boss. He would finally get to meet Mheshimiwa Hajji’s family today. They would be arriving in less than ten minutes in the car service he hired for them; a separate car for each. That meant Mheshimiwa Hajji was late. He was never late. Something felt strange to Jabari. He shifted uneasily, glancing at the clock again. Through the door came, Hajji’s son, Paul. Paul dragged his feet lazily and slouched making himself look a lot shorter than he was. His eyes gave away his dread to be there. He walked straight past Jabari into his father’s office and immediately walked back out. “He’s late. Everyone’s late. But I’m supposed to be the ‘bad’ one. I should have stood him up.” He began to whine and rant to himself in the middle of the room as if no one else was there. Jabari was staring at him so hard that he almost didn’t notice Hon. Hajji’s older daughter, Roselyne walk in. She screeched when she saw her brother, taking him into his arm kissing on the cheek and forehead cheekily, and Jabari’s attention, as well as that of everyone else in the room, was diverted to her.

“Where is he?” She began, drawing away from her brother who was cringing from the public displays of affection he had just received from his sister.

“You know he yapped for thirty minutes when I told him I wasn’t coming. Now, where is he?”

“That’s your misdoing. You know charity events aren’t optional for the Hajji’s” He imitated his father as his sister burst out laughing. They laughed for a little over a whole minute before they noticed the half-full room staring at them. They kept quiet and stood in the middle of the room awkwardly, aware that the eyes of the constituents were on them. Jabari did not miss his cue.  He was by their side in seconds to direct them to a room where they would be more comfortable. He showed them to the meeting room down the hall then dutifully went back to his post.

“Mr Hajji, Miss Hajji…. Follow me! We have a room set up for you. Can I get you anything? Tea? Water? Juice? Soda? We even have porridge!” Jabari offered vehemently but they only murmured their refusals and walked past him into the meeting room across the hallway. The room was a grand boardroom with large elegant mahogany table standing in the middle of it. The room smelt of leather and polish.

The youngest daughter came into the waiting room next. Minnie walked straight into her father’s office too then came back out exclaiming, “I’m not late!” She was ecstatic for a few seconds before also realizing that the masses were staring at her. She then walked to Jabari and introduced herself in a rather professional manner before he showed her to the meeting room. She was the more humble and cultured of the three, Jabari could tell immediately. She was received far much less enthusiastically by her siblings than by the bystanders in the waiting room. It didn’t seem to bother her that her presence came with an air of tension with a hint of discomfort. The Hajji children gave each other a few awkward stares before Oldest Roselyne cracked the silence,

“So why are you here?” She said. Her voice was cross, almost mean.

“What do you mean?” Younger asked in reply with no animosity in her voice.

“Well, you said you didn’t need us! You remember, Paul?” Paul turned away, not wanting to get involved in what was about to turn into a full-on sister fight.

“I said I didn’t need you, Roselyne. Me and Paul are just fine, yes Paul? How’s aviation school?” Minnie deflected heavily while trying to bring her brother over to her side.

“Then leave! Leave us Hajji’s!” Roselyne began to raise her voice from the edge of her seat. She would have gotten up and backed up her words but Mrs. Hajji strutted violently into the room.

“Where is your father?” Silence

“Hmm. Roselyne! Apologize to Minysteria. Now!!”

“Muuuuuummmmm!” The girls whined in unison. Roselyne in protest of the apology, Minnie in protest of the use of her full name. Mrs. Hajji ignored them and walked over to her son.

“How’s Aviation school, Paul? Dropping out yet?”

“Actually, mum,” Paul stood to give her his seat, “Yes! I want to do theatre arts now.”

“Theatre Arts? Sounds familiar. Roselyne didn’t drop out of the same class a few years ago. What are you doing now?”

“I’m on the circuit now. Getting more gigs now. My agent says I’ll be vogue famous soon” Roselyne twirled gracefully as she stood.

“Circuit? You know I knew you’d be a call girl, Rose. I just wish your father hadn’t wasted so much on those three incomplete degrees to realize it. He could have just listened to me.”

“I’m a model, mum!” Roselyne sat back down. She had been struck down.

“Model? Hmmm” Mrs. Hajji poked. “And you Minysteria! I hear you are now a manager at 24. Impressive! Your goal was by 22, wasn’t it?” Minnie was the only one who didn’t take her mother too much to heart. They were the same; they could take it and dish it ten times over.

“Yes but, I lost those two years in that Catholic Disciplinary Programme you made me go to cause I called you chubby.” Roselyne and Paul giggled shyly behind their mother while Minnie and her mother locked into a death stare.

“And to think! I didn’t let them cane the delinquency out of you.” Mrs. Hajji said while pulling out a small mirror and her make-up purse out of her bag. Her children watched her quietly; all reflecting and regretting.

The meeting room door creaked open. Hon. Hajji’s presence drew the attention of the whole room. Everyone in his family shifted; He was here, it was now time to behave. He was in a better mood than usual. Maybe it was the annual charity; it always made him giddy to gun up good press.

“How’s the Hajji clan! Excited for our annual charity ball? Roselyne? Paul? Minn?”

“Yes, dad!” They faked enthusiasm in unison.

“And you my love? How are you? Excited?”

“Like you don’t already spy on me enough to know my feelings.” Mrs. Hajji didn’t look up from her mirror. She just continued to elegantly color her face with a brush.

“How are you, kids! Paul, School?” Hon Hajji ignored his wife’s callousness.

“We can talk about it after.”

“Now” Hon. Hajji insisted with a gruesome grin on his face.

“I’m thinking of dropping out of Aviation School. It’s just not for me. I want to try my hand at Theatre Arts!” Hon. Hajji’s mind must have replaced what his son said with white noise cause he ignored his son’s absurd request and went on to his oldest daughter,

“Rose! How is that job of yours? Any luck?” He must have also forgotten what Roselyne did with her life because he would never and had never approved.

“I’ve been trying,” Seeing the good mood her father was in, she moved closer. “I’m gonna be on a magazine cover. Soon” Hon. Hajji didn’t crack but usually, the thought of his daughter on print and not to the aid of his campaign repulsed him.

“Minnie! My Minnie Mouse! How’s the old desk job?” Minnie hopped with excitement. She had been waiting at least two months to tell her dad about her promotion. She imagined he’d be over the moon about it.

“I got promoted, Daddy. You are now looking at SetiNel’s newest youngest freshest manager.” Hon. Hajji turned to Minnie

“That’s wonderful, honey. But what is happening with your siblings?” He now turned and walked up to his son. Looking him directly in his eyes, their faces about to touch, he bellowed, “Theatre Arts? You? A man? Want to spend the rest of your life acting like a woman in plays? Putting oranges where your chest hair is? Is that what men do?” Paul was silent. “Is that what men do?”

“No.” He murmured under his breath.

“I will be paying tuition next week. You will redo that semester you spent thinking about theatre arts.” He turned to Rose whose face gave away that she was obviously thrown off by the sudden change in attitude her father was having.

“So you’re a prostitute now?”

“Mmmmh-hmmm” Mrs. Hajji affirmed.

“No daughter of mine will have her nakedness spread all over the magazines. You think I didn’t know about those nude campaigns you’ve been doing. I have personally had each and every one of them taken down.” He moved closer to her, she cowered. “Who taught you to be a harlot? Your mother is such a graceful lady. Then look at you! Naked! An MP’s daughter posing naked? On camera? Not this MP. Not my children. Over my dead body.”  Hon. Hajji breathed heavily, angrily while his children stared at him in fear; all except Minnie of course. She sat feeling mighty and unscathed. However, the truth is that she felt ignored. Her father only noticed her when she did something wrong. In which case, he would scold her and give her the silent treatment for a few weeks. He brushed off the achievements like they were nothing and he expected much better. She wanted to follow his footprints into politics but he had simply retorted, “You’re too loud even for a woman to ever make it as a politician. You say what you feel and think because you think everyone cares. But the men of this country, they like it when their women know their place. Quiet. In the kitchen or with the children. Your best bet is to birth a politician.”

Hon. Hajji’s nostrils had widened and his eyes reddened now. He got angrier and angrier just looking at the bad investments that called themselves his children. Minnie had just opened her mouth to speak out when a soft yet authoritative knock was heard at the door to the meeting room.

“Yes?” Hon. Hajji called out loudly. Jabari opened the door softly, immediately noticing the tension that ensued. He walked over to the MP, leaned in and murmured,

“The car to take you to the event is ready. If you don’t leave now, you’ll be late.”

“Thank you. “ Hon. Hajji politely to Jabari. He then turned to his children; his wife was now conveniently done with her makeup.

“I was not a spoilt child. Your mother, though a little spoilt now, was never over privileged or lazy.” Mrs. Hajji sneered. “I don’t know why you all act like nincompoops. You wouldn’t last a day in the world without me. You are all old enough to fend for yourselves yet you still live in MY MANSION! The Hajji Money train is now out of service. You all have an education, yes? Good luck.” He walked away dramatically. Mrs. Hajji made a patronizing noise before following him out of the room.

It was Minnie who broke the silence. “I guess we need new last names.”

Chief Mitchell’s Office – Det. Cooper Series

Det. Cooper sat nervously outside the Chief’s office. He could hear the Chief ripping one of the officers a new one, questioning his intelligence and threatening to strip him of his badge. He was anxious. He even got rid of a hang nail or two while he waited to see Chief of Police Mitchell. He and Mitchell were good friends and even better as partners in the force. So if Mitchell told him to pull the plug on the Manning rehash case, then he had to pull the plug. What of that insubordination with Manning’s sister? It sure didn’t help his chances. He could have taken the beating (to him it would have been more like pecking), he actually deserved it but somehow he felt he had to defend himself. With a gun in her face, Coop? There’s easier ways to lose your job. Cooper figured, two week suspension and a few more weeks of petty cases would do the trick but he couldn’t be completely sure if that would cut it for the chief. He feared that the Chief would only settle for his badge and gun. Mitchell wouldn’t fire me, would he? Well he can if he wants to; or if someone at the top wants him too. But isn’t he the top? Cooper wasn’t sure. His demons played tug of war with his future delving deeper into the unknown. Speaking of the top, maybe I ask him about who pulled the plug on Manning’s homicide case back then. Maybe, he starts a task force because he sees big things happening behind the scenes. Gets me to head up the task force. We catch a serial killer or two; maybe even catch one in the act, save the poor victim in real time. The media will eat it up. Front pages will scream it. Then two, three years down the line, they’re calling me Chief Cooper, Chief of Police! Cooper had just begun to crack a smile when Chief Mitchell flung open his door and let the officer out.

“Make sure you keep me updated. And fix it before it becomes another bigger goddamn mess” The chief said patting the nodding officer’s shoulder as he walked away. He then looked down at where Cooper sat. He didn’t smile; he just stared with his bloodshot sunken eyes. He claimed they always looked that way but Cooper knew better. They only looked like that when he was pissed off; really pissed off. Chief Mitchell was breathing heavily, so heavily that Cooper in his seat felt the drafts of warm air coming  from his mammoth nostrils. Cooper could see them widen then shrink back to their original size then widen again. Mitchell’s giant shadow cast over Cooper’s sitting self, making him feel like a child in the presence of an adult preparing to discipline him. Chief Mitchell intimidated Cooper immensely, mostly because he knew that the chief would not be pleased with his behaviour. However Cooper was not one to act timid; His pride did not allow it. He had learnt from his early police days that faking it may just be the only way to make it in the force.  He gathered his wits, deciding to tap into his old partner relationship with Mitchell. If it still counted for something, that is.

“Bernie my man!” Cooper played off the trouble he was in and the way he felt sitting timid in front of the Chief

“Do I look like a huge purple fucking dinosaur? Get in here, Coop!”

“It’s spelt different, Mitchell.” Coop remarked as he followed the chief into his office.

“I don’t care if it dresses different too. Don’t call me that! I’ve been telling you that for years. Sit yourself down.” Cooper was suddenly reminded of the good old days. Mitchell had to have been the first and best partner Coop ever had. Their relationship was deep and riddled with history. They had taken a few bullets for each other yet their relationship remained light characterized by jokes, gags and pranks. They were like two inseparable school boys. Part of why Cooper was so respected in the force was his relationship with Mitchell. When you saw Coop you saw Mitch; that’s just how it was.

“Ok, Mitch. I know you’re probably mad about Lynnette Fischer.”

“And?” Mitchell cut him off patronizingly, glaring him menacingly waiting for him to slip up.

“And well, she was going for Coop’s Chest of Treasure. She was basically begging me to shoot her in the ovaries.” Coop cracked a smile; acknowledging the cunning reference to his ‘below the belt’region.

“Really? Cooper! You were going to shoot a civilian for grief hysteria? Grief hysteria that you gave her! You go over to this woman’s HOUSE! To upset her with all that talk about her sister being murdered twenty years ago then you point a gun in her face?” Mitchell paused, Coop wasn’t smiling anymore “THAT WAS OVER THE LINE!”

“I know. I’m sorry” Coop dropped his head slightly, feigning regret and remorse.

“You’re sorry? Why I should lock you up for police brutality! I make you a detective and this is how you repay me? Why are you up Manning’s ass anyway? That case is as dead as Manning and you know it!”

“Well, someone killed it. I didn’t. And if I recall correctly, neither did you. Anyway, we found another DB; similar circumstances. I made the connection. You know that I always had my doubts about Estelle.”

“Twenty years, Coop? You’re dredging up old wounds all over when you should have gotten over this nineteen years ago. This city does not pay you to clear your doubts and cleanse your fucking soul, it pays you to put murderers behind bars. Now unless you’re going to arrest Estelle Manning for killing Estelle Manning twenty years ago, I suggest you let it go.” Cooper stood now to look Chief Mitchell in the eyes

“That was not a suicide, Chief. I know it. I smelt something fishy with these dead girls turning up in other people’s houses. Supposed to have killed themselves? But no weapons on site? Mitchell, you see it, right?”  Mitchell’s eyes narrowed as he began to see Cooper’s point.

“Girls? Tell about these cases.”

“Can I get the rookie to do that? I’m trying to catch Hysterical Lynette before she leaves the station.”

“I already let her go. I wasn’t going to arrest for having a cop’s gun in her face. In fact she was so worked up, I promised her I’d arrest you for insubordination.” They both cracked up laughing in unison. Mitchell had a lot of power but none that he planned on using to arrest Cooper. The fact that he had to use it to calm Lynette down made it funny. Coop continued as if filling his partner in on the details of their new case.

“Ok so; A few days ago, we found Alicia; slit wrists in the Morgans’ master bedroom. They were on a two week vacation before they found her; she had been dead a while. Looks 30, but she was holding a card for her twenty-eighth birthday, so we assumed she was killed at 27, before it happened. No murder weapon found.” Mitchell began to lean into the case groaning in agreement, Cooper urged on.

“Then two years ago, Mary Jenkins, twenty-seven. She slit the blood vessels in her toes. I saw the crime scene photos; it was brutal! Not her place, not a weapon in sight.” Mitchell began to pace and nod. Cooper knew that was a sign that he too was not so sure about all these ‘suicides’

“Four years ago, Clare Blanks, twenty-seven. Slit her wrists, left her at a stranger’s house. She was found, the murder weapon wasn’t. See! Just like Manning! Except Estelle was the only one we found at her place.” Mitchell began to chip into the investigations, getting suckered into working with Coop again, just like old times.

“But Estelle died 20 years ago. The next girl comes sixteen years later? Could we have a copycat or an apprentice coming out of the cracks?”

“I have a theory, Chief. There may be more girls, we just never found them; maybe because he masked his murders with suicide scenes. He was shy then. Wanted to make a statement but didn’t want everyone to know he was the one giving it.”

“So what’s changed?” Cooper’s eyes lit up

“He’s gotten over his stage fright, so to speak. He’s bolder with every kill. He feels more justified all of a sudden. He wants us to hear him, see him, feel him giving the statement. That’s why he left the card at that last one. He wants us to see the pattern.” Mitchell smiled, realizing that even though Coop had just dropped the ball he had a damn good reason just like he was taught. The smile faded fast as he morphed from Coop’s partner to chief again.

“Ok! You’ve got something. I’ll give you a week to run with it then I pull the plug and put you back on parking duty.”

“Thanks Chief!” Cooper turned to leave

“Oh and Coop! How is that daughter of yours getting on? ”

“Yeah, Chief. She’s doing fine. She just bagged a summer internship in Spain. She’s out there right now building dams or houses or something. Me and her mum are very proud”

“And that hot piece that you love so much but won’t commit to?” Coop smiled at the chief. He was always teasing him about his love life, since they met.

“Oh, Jill?” He laughed a little. “Hotter than Jalapeño poppers on a summer’s day.”

Coop walked away realising that he hadn’t spoken to Jill, his ‘special friend’ since she’d called him cold and unfeeling a few months ago. He had resolved to apologize at a later date but his ego hadn’t changed at all since then so he hadn’t apologized after all. He figured as she always did when they fought, she would return, content with what he gave her knowing he was either unable or unwilling to give her more.  But not this time. Cooper was as unromantic as he was a wet blanket. With Jill however, he felt a lot more strongly than he had any woman even the mother of his children; even his own mother! She challenged him while accommodating his comfort. She laughed at his jokes and didn’t cower when Cooper’s temper hit the roof. She understood him more than any other person living, yet there were parts of him that still puzzled her; like not wanting to get married or have children, and caring more about his murder victims than his family. She bought Cooper’s daughter birthday and Christmas gifts every year and signed them “Love, dad”. She visited his mother regularly. She was the human representation of the thin string that held up Cooper’s love life. Since she left three months ago, Cooper’s daughter had moved to Spain to get away from him and her mother while Cooper’s mother called frantically for few months before giving up as her calls always went unanswered. He hadn’t noticed that either. He needed to see Jill but first…

“Chief! Wait!” Cooper looked back and called out to the Chief who was welcoming another officer for a verbal thrashing, “You didn’t say who killed the Manning case.” Mitchell shifted uncomfortably then looked at the officer.

“Just go in and wait for me.” The officer obliged; then the chief walked to Cooper and whispered,

“It came from the top, Coop. But I’ll fix it.” He then walked back to his office, while Cooper stood there puzzled.

The Curse of Other Woman

It was the darkest day of the season. The clouds hang grey and heavy begging to burst onto the earth while the winds blew cold and strong as if telling a sad story to the plains over the hills. Every one stayed indoors. The park was calm today, devoid of its usual cheer and flare. No children ran around, no parents sat and chatted happily while they watched their children play. Not a soul, save for Jane and her son sitting on the oldest park bench under the dark shade of the largest oak tree in the park. Another icy cold breeze blew past them. The child held himself closer, shivering.

“Ma!” Jane startled from her stare, “I’m cold. Aren’t you cold?” The child said moving closer to her, burying his head in her side. Unusually Jane did not shiver or shudder at the weather, even if she was barely dressed for it. She shook her head without looking at the boy. The weather didn’t seem to faze her or penetrate her thoughts. Sitting there, just the two of them, all alone in the cold, that’s what she had to look forward to. She looked up at the clouds, the perfect metaphor for her life at the moment. She could see the grey in the clouds; hear the sound of thunder from a far, smell the wet earth preparing for the rain. She sat there and took it all in because this was the calm before the storm. The calmest she could hope for. In a few hours, there would be a downpour like no other she had seen, one she was not sure she could survive.

She had always imagined herself a stronger woman, a woman worthy of so much more but time had proved her to be something else. Something she didn’t want to define, someone she was ashamed of. She travelled through her memories to 12 years ago, exactly 12 years ago. Everything was so different, less opaque, and less bleak. She had much more to look forward to then. She was young and so beautiful that she would joke and say she had to beat off her suitors with a stick. She knew a simple man would never been enough for her. She had to have the perfect man, she had to have Ben. Lucky for a younger Jane, Ben wanted to have her too. They met on the 5th, got engaged on the 10th and were married by the first of the next month. It was sheer madness, back then it felt like sweet madness, it intrigued and excited her at the same time. Now it felt like a case of simple stupidity, a symbol of her naivety and foolishness. She thought back. Oh how naïve she must have been to imagine a man could be perfect and remain perfect rather than just appear perfect. Oh how foolish had she been to imagine that he would reserve his love and affections for her always, especially after 12 whole years had gone by.

She loosened her fists and let out a sigh. The child looked up at her worriedly. She didn’t look down at him. She just caressed her wedding ring with her thumb. It was one of his upgrades, not her original ring, not the one that was blessed at their wedding. It was just another one of his guilt gifts. “Ring number 4.” She mumbled under her breath. The more wrong Ben did to her, the bigger and better that ring got. Their vows had been renewed twice and he was now planning their third honeymoon. But she was smarter now than she was 12 years ago, she saw through him and the façade that was their marriage. The first wedding ring upgrade was after Angela, his ‘fitness instructor’ for a year before Jane found out the truth. She tried to meet him at the gym for a couple’s workout. She never returned to a gym again.  Their second honeymoon was after that girl Deedee showed up her door. She was a bit younger than Jane, prettier eyes, smaller frame, and all cried out, voice sore. Even Jane felt a pang of sympathy when she first saw her. She thought she was in danger or something. But she sat across from Jane behind a coffee mug Jane had served her and said they were having a child. Her Ben and this Deedee. Jane winced at the memory. She remembered she didn’t speak for a week after that, not to family, not to friends especially not to Ben. But he had returned two weeks later with tickets for a month on the Caribbean Islands. She caved again, bought into his love and forgave him.

He decided that they would renew their vows just after she found out about Joan. She was older, less attractive but she came with wealth that Jane had never even dreamed of. At first, he said they were ‘business partners’. She believed him only because she knew her life was expensive and so was his and furthermore she didn’t like to challenge Ben when it came to money. She met Joan in the back of a clothes store; Joan had followed Jane to the changing rooms. As soon as Jane stepped out to see herself in a new outfit she was trying on, Joan pounced on her screaming. “You whore! You stole my Ben and my money.” It took a while, a few security guards and a plain clothed policeman with a Taser to calm her down. Jane finally found out his ‘business partner’ was doing more than just business and Ben liked her so much he even told her that Jane was just one of his girlfriends. Jane left this time, a month at her parents’. But sure as rain, Ben came back with a wedding dress and a bigger wedding ring. She remembered him crying, on his knees. He looked so helpless and pathetic like he had made the worst mistake in his life. It felt different from the other times. So again she gave in, threw on the white gown and her biggest smile and invited everyone she knew to watch Ben recommit after all he had done. She felt like the prophet of forgiveness and new beginnings. A few months after, they were blessed with Jared, their baby boy. Jane loved that boy like she could love no other. Jared changed everything; not enough of everything however. Some things were still somewhat the same.

There came Katie and Charlie who were all so kind to reveal themselves to her as twin mistresses at a friend’s wedding. They were not really twin sisters. Jane assumed they enjoyed taking other women’s husbands, twice and together.  Jane could still remember that night, clear as day. She had totally lost her grip on herself. It was the end; rather it felt like the end. She wasn’t going to take it anymore, she repeated to herself in a whisper. The man had no respect for her and now absolutely none for their son. She left Katie babbling about something she didn’t need to hear while Charlie agreed with her as vocally as she could. She walked straight towards him. Ben was standing in a crowd of people who seemed thoroughly entertained with his tales as he gestured and narrated. She shoved away two ladies who were obviously swooning over him. “One wasn’t enough! You had to have two mistresses, Ben??” She said as she flung her hands at him every which way just trying to hit him, hurt him, finally pay him back. The real police, uniform and all had to pull her away from him; at which point she was hysterical screaming, “I’ll kill you Ben, I swear!!” and brandishing a dinner fork. That time, she convinced herself she was staying with Ben for young Jared. So the vows were renewed again, bigger and better and the wedding ring had to big enough that it blinded all those women who tried to remind her of her crumbling marriage.

That was a long time ago too. Exactly three years ago. Jared was older now and the signs were more than clear. There was a new girl or new girls, you never knew with Ben. Ben said less, was seen less but certainly gave more; more money, a new car, talk of a new estate. Something seemed odd; No, not odd. Something rang all too familiar for Jane. So she sat there beside Jared, waiting for it to rain; in her life and on the ground. She looked down at Jared who had cuddled up to her side and fallen asleep. He was a rather peaceful boy but not a foolish one however. He would definitely notice if something changed. Jane thought of all the love that Jared had, despite all the animosity brought upon her by Ben and all the tension that still lingered. Jared didn’t appear to pick sides; and she didn’t want to make him choose. But did that mean she was doomed to fight mistresses all her life? Did it mean she would have to survive in that lonely, loveless marriage? She felt the burden of those 12 years on her shoulders. Her skin was now wrinkled and sagged a little under her eyes, her eyes sunk back into her sockets as if she was ailing. She was no longer full and round body, her curves had shed over the years. She was old now. She couldn’t compete. She didn’t want to compete. 12 years is a long time to fight for love, alone. She was tired and ready to give up. She was conflicted. She knew she had a duty to herself to walk away from the things that hurt her, use her and abuse her but she also knew that Jared needed his father. Evil man or not, adulterer or not, that man was his father.

One thing, however, rang clear in Jane’s mind; Ben was a cheater, an all-round fully fletched cheater. And he wouldn’t change; not for Jared, their son and certainly not for her. She had to admit it and accept it. She had married a cheater and she was now plagued with the curse of the other woman!