I thought he was dead, but there he was, right in front of me on the street, smiling at me. It can’t be. My mind was racing. I saw them bring his body up from the boat.
It was a boating accident right before our wedding. He had insisted he wanted to have a bachelor party on a boat, middle of the sea. I wasn’t comfortable but he had insisted. Think about it, no naked girl would be popping out of any cake, he had laughed. There were eight on the boat and my brother was one of them. He had hired for a whole night, Friday. The plan was for the group to return on Saturday and our wedding was on Sunday.
The relationship has not been easy for both of us. He was very good looking, had a high paying job as an investment analyst and an attitude to match. I was just a country girl, who had arrived at the city, lost. I was offered a job as junior copywriter at an advertising firm. It was a dream for me to work for the advertising firm. It was during one of the events organized by my firm for his investment company that I had met him. My dislike for him was instant. Maybe I just disliked handsome men.
I was told that I needed to liaise with him for the press release for the event. Tried calling him a few days before but when the line got through, he just said that he was in a meeting and that I should call later. Many more calls and I still could not get the press release from him. I tried calling the firm’s PR lady, however, she was also unable to help as he was the person to approve the contents of the press release. Finally, when I got him on the line, he tried to brush me off again and that was when I said `Actually, I am standing outside your office and if I do not get that document now, I am barging in.’ It was a threat, no doubt, but it worked. He looked up through the glass door of his office, saw me standing with my hands on my hips and within next ten minutes I received the press release.
`You must be very tired,’ I heard a voice and turned. There he was with a glass of champagne in his hand, giving me that cocky look. `You must be very tired for you have been running in my mind since that day,’ he completed his sentence and started laughing. Such arrogance!
I just moved away to another corner. The event was going well. Guests were mingling, networking. I saw him talk to groups of men in rich suits. It was almost midnight. I went searching for my boss. She was talking to a few people from the investment firm. I called her aside and told her that I was leaving. She asked me to take a taxi as it was nearing midnight. I nodded and turned and wham! I bumped into him. He must have been eavesdropping, for standing that close.
I apologized and walked out when I felt someone pulling me back. It was him. He smiled and started leading me out of the room, holding my elbow. I felt like a little child being dragged away after doing something naughty. Tried pulling my arm away but his hold was very tight.
I didn’t like it but walked quietly. As soon as we were on the pavement outside the hotel I shrugged free.
`What’s wrong with you?’ he demanded. `I just want to talk to you.’ Some girls who walked past us looked at him and whispered something among themselves. I felt a little jealous but kept a straight face.
`I need to go home,’ I said. `I will drop you off,’ he said signalling the valet.
In a few minutes, the valet brought a gleaming black BMW. He opened the front passenger side for me to enter then walked to the driver side and sat down.
I told him where I lived and half hour later he dropped me outside the house that I shared with my housemates. As I was about to get down he casually leaned and kissed me, full on my lips. Shocked, I almost stumbled.
The following few months saw him drop me off after work. My housemates were green with jealousy. He was like the hero out of Mills and Boons romance novel. Tall, handsome and rich plus he knew how to manipulate women.
A few times he tried to get me to his house. I said no. He asked me why. I told him that in my family, the women do not go to men’s house before there were any type of ties. He understood, I presume, for the next day, he proposed with a diamond ring. I was shell shocked that it took me a good 60 seconds before I said `Yes’ to him. So, I was his fiancée.
With the new relationship in place he asked me to move into his home, a sprawling home on fifteen acres of land outside the city. He had a stable full of high breed horses, a few more expensive cars.
As soon as I started living in with him, things sort of changed. I had an expensive car to drive to and fro work so he didn’t drop me after work anymore. I also dined with many of his clients after work. Those people seemed to have some kind of business dealings with him. Many a night I had to be up to help him type documents or send emails. Although I was quite aware of what was going on, I did not have the full picture nor I bothered to ask him. Life was good and rich. I kept my salary aside and at times helped my parents and brother back home. My parents worked on our farm while my brother was pursuing his degree in engineering at the university in a city nearby.
One night after sending off the last email, he sat beside me on the sofa and casually said let’s get married. I turned and looked at him. He raised an eyebrow. I said okay. The next few weeks saw me coordinating the wedding preparations. My best friend Debby was of great help. He was immersed in work, that at times we hardly met for days. Something kept thugging at my heart for I felt it was strange that he spent long hours alone in the study, talking on the phone and at other times just sitting, staring at the night sky.
The wedding drew closer. My mum was very happy. She had her own list of invitees. Dad had his, so did my brother. Then a week before the wedding, he told me that he wanted to have his bachelor party, at sea. At sea? I argued. He argued. Finally, I gave in when he promised to include my brother in his list of invitees for the party.
The group left on Friday evening from the city pier. I received a photo from my brother showing the group having fun under the night sky at sea. There were only men. No naked women prancing on the deck.
My phone kept ringing but I didn’t hear. I had a very late night, putting things in place for the wedding the next day. Finally, I woke up from my deep slumber and picked up the phone. It was an unfamiliar number. Hello?
The voice on the other side said so many things that my mind could not register. I only heard `Come to the city pier. You need to identify someone’.
How I reached the city pier, I had no idea. There were ambulances and police cars everywhere. A Coastguard vessel had docked in. Paramedics were bringing someone on a stretcher. Oh, my God! It was my brother. My heart almost stopped. He had burn marks on his arms and they had put oxygen mask on his face. I stumbled and felt someone hold my arms, steadying me. I was in a daze.
Then they brought him up. He was all burnt. I could only see the engagement ring on his left hand. That was his. The Coast Guard chief told me that they tried to revive him on their vessel but he had died on the way back to port. I was trembling. No, tomorrow was our wedding. How could he go like this?
The next few days were all in a daze. Instead of a wedding we had a wake. His funeral ended and I moved out of his house. What happened after that, I have no idea. I returned to my parents’ farm and stayed there ever since. It has been two years. My brother had a difficult recovery but the family supported him. He did not want to talk about the incident. All he said was he was asleep when the boat went up in flames. Yesterday I returned to the city to attend a job interview.
There he was, right in front of me on the street, smiling. He gestured me to walk with him. I paced faster and reached his side. He took my hand into his. We walked in silence for a moment, then he turned to me and asked,’ Have you moved on?’
`Do you think I could move on? I did not know what happened. Our wedding became a wake.’
`I came to put your mind to rest. You needed to know.’
We walked a good ten minutes. The street was crowded, so we had to weave through throngs of people. At times, allowing people to walk between us.
He told me that the blast on the boat was planned. Something about an investment gone sour. The client was not happy. He found out that the client was linked to a cartel after the deal fell through. But it was too late to recover the investment. But when he discovered an unusual device on the boat,in the galley, he had covered it with his own body so the damage to others would be minimal. Yes, he was the only fatality that night. The rest seven including my brother survived, though some had bad burns.
My eyes welled up. Tears started streaming down my cheek. I wanted to hug him badly. Two years of not knowing had finally come to a closure. I turned to hug him. Only I was there and the crowd. He wasn’t anywhere. I looked around. There were people everywhere but not him. Who did I just speak with?