The weekend that followed their public announcement of their relationship saw Alice popping up at
Juliet’s door early in the morning unannounced.
Juliet addressed her sister from the door, not moving an inch to let her in. “I wish I could say am
surprised to see you visiting me for the very first time since I moved, but am not.” She said. “I expected something like this. I’m just curious how you knew my address.”
“Aren’t you going to let your older sister in?” Alice said, feigning a huge smile on her face.
Juliet reluctantly stepped aside and let her through. She closed the door behind her and went
about making the living room a little decent for company. There were books everywhere, on the floor, sofas and table.
“I am working on my PhD so…forgive the mess.” She said and patted the sofa where she had clea red for her sister to sit down. “Sit,” she said.
Alice’s pernicious glare sent chills down Juliet’s spine. She took one last look around the room and sat down like someone had a gun to her head.
“Did he pay for this apartment, Jack I mean?” Alice asked.
“Why would he when I have a well-paying job?” Juliet said, sitting down on the other side of the room, facing her. It was always safe to keep a reasonable distance between her and her sister.
“A job at his company. Isn’t that the same as him paying for everything?”
“I am more than qualified for my position and I have earned every cent. Why are you even here?”
“You said you were expecting me so why are you asking why am here?”
“Alice, I have no time to get into some drama with you.” Juliet’s tone was cold and menacing. “Just state your business and leave. I have too much work to do.”
“I see now you have yourself a man and you’ve grown wings. Since when are you this out-rightly rude to me?”
“Since I decided never to let you interfere in any part of my life.”
Alice scoffed. “I see you still have your insecurities when it comes to me. It’s not my fault that your man pined over me before he settled for an easy target. There’s no reason for you to think of me a threat.”
Juliet closed her eyes and silently instructed her inner demons to calm down. She had expected this to happen. She had spoken about it with Jackson and they had agreed on what she needed to do.
All I have to do in stay calm and in control, Juliet reminded herself.
Juliet opened her eyes wide and sat up straight to look directly at her sister. “Are you in-love with my man Alice?” She asked.
Alice choked on her saliva. This isn’t the way this conversation had played out in her head.
“Excuse me?” She said.
“You heard me.” Juliet said, her resolve unwavering. “When are you going to get over the past? Jackson was never in-love with you. So what if he had a crush on you? So a young boy liked you but the man that he is today is in-love with someone else. He is not an adolescent boy anymore.
Besides, he isn’t the only guy that crushed on you so why aren’t you following those other guys around like you’re following my man? You just can’t deal with the fact that it is me he loves isn’t it?”
Alice was chuckling uncomfortably, looking for the right words to say. She had known Juliet to be very outspoken with other people but whenever it came to her and her mother, the girl acted timid and always gave them the power over her. It was as if she was begging them to be loved…as if she somehow sensed she was really a real part of them. Why had she suddenly changed? Did she think she didn’t need them anymore now that she had a man by her side? Why was she so sure about Jackson’s love for her, enough to shame her so confidently?
If there was one thing Alice was sure of, it was the power she had over men. There was no man out there that she had desired that did not want her back. Whether married or single, they all chased after her, desired her and spoiled her. She used them and discarded them the minute she ran out of use for them. Who the hell did Juliet think Jackson was? He was no different from other men out there. She had dealt with men that tried to play hard to get in the beginning but eventually they all curved and fell in line.
So what if Juliet was beautiful, intelligent and successful in her career? At the end of the day men didn’t care about that. She was more beautiful than her and capable of fulfilling every man’s fantasy so what exactly did Juliet have that made her think she could hold on to her man forever?
And just why did she keep referring to him as her man? They weren’t even married yet so that meant Jackson was still public property.
I liked her better when she didn’t have anyone else in the world apart from mother and I. Alice thought as she continued glaring at Juliet.
“You think you’re all that now don’t you?” Alice said.
“Actually, YES.” Juliet replied.
Alice laughed, hard, out loud, dropping her head on her laps and then sitting back up again. “I wonder if you would be this confident if you knew who your parents actually were.” Alice said, not caring anymore if her mother
killed her for spilling the beans or not. She couldn’t stand the sight of Juliet acting all mighty before her. Her mother would one day thank her for getting rid of a pain in their bottoms.
“Is that supposed to hurt me?” Juliet said, looking absolutely unperturbed.
“Your dad was a drunk and a construction worker. He died from cheap alcohol poisoning and my mother brought you into our home because she somehow was in-love with him from way back.”
“So what?” Juliet said dismissively.
“Huh?” Alice said. That was not the reaction she had been hoping for.
“Let me tell you a short story about a girl I once knew.” Juliet said. This girl lived in this home with someone she called her mother and another her sister. She always thought they were a real family even though she could not remember anything about her early childhood. But because the people she was living with told her that she was family, she had no reason to doubt them despite the
wicked treatment they showed her day in and day out.
“One day the woman she considered her mother left the house and her lover, who happened to be the sister’s father came into the night to ‘check’ on the children. When he entered the girl’s room, he locked the door behind her and told her to shut up and not make a single sound. When the girl later told her mother about the abuse, do you know what the mother said to her? ‘Don’t ever tell anyone about this you hear me?’ She told the little girl. ‘If you want to continue living in this house, you will do everything that daddy Dominic asks you to do.’
“You see, despite being very young, the little girl knew that no real mother would ever ask her daughter to do such a thing or let alone allow her to be abused by a man in order to provide shelter for the family. That and the snide remarks constantly made the girl she considered her sister convinced the little girl that these people were not her real family. It would take a few more years for her to know for certain as she had to raise money so her friend in the US could have a DNA test done for her.
“But you see, despite finding out the conclusive truth, the girl who was not so little anymore could not bare to separate herself from the people she had considered family all those years. Despite their ill-treatment of her, they were the only family she had ever known and certainly they were better than having no family at all. And so, this girl silently took in the abuse without complaining.
She worked a thousand jobs from a young age to contribute something to the family hoping that the two people she was living with would not think about kicking her out since she was proving herself useful.
“When she finally got a job as an intern during her college days, the first thing the girl did was to rent a house for her family. Her mother and sister are still living in that house that she’s paying for but you know what the funny story is sis? That girl was kicked out of the house because it was discovered she was in-love with a fella that her supposed older sister had a thing for! You would think that’s the funniest bit until you hear that the girl was commanded, am telling you, she was commanded, not asked ah-ah. She was commanded to continue paying rentals for that house despite being kicked out and the stupid girl did as commanded.
“The girl kept praying and hoping that a day would come in the future when the family would grow to love and appreciate her but time and time again they kept proving her otherwise…until she woke up one day and decided, screw it! She didn’t need that kind of drama anymore. That family of hers was not worth it anymore. She had someone by her side who had embraced the darkest parts of her without asking for anything in return and if it ever happens that she loses that someone, God forbid, she would still forge on with life because despite everything, the girl had come to learn that her value did not lie in what people thought or expected of her but it was within herself; what she thought of herself and how she responded to the things happening around her.
“Look at me sis.” Juliet said to Alice who appeared to be in some sort of trance now. “Do I look scared to you now?” She asked.
Despite lifting her eyes to look at Juliet, Alice said nothing in return.
“I might not be the brightest start out there and yes there are plenty of women out there better than me but guess what, am done comparing myself to others and wallowing in self-pity over a past I cannot go back and change. I finally got the help I desperately needed thanks to Jack and I have no plans of going back. I had to do something, not just for myself but because of the man I love. It was either I continued being that person that even I found repulsive or I took steps to become the kind of woman my man would be proud of.
“I want to stand next to Jackson without feeling like I don’t deserve to be there. I want to be the best version of me and as long as I know I have done my part, it does not matter what misfortune befalls me because I will still pick myself and forge ahead. Every part of me wants to hate you and mum. I have thought about completely cutting ties with you guys but you know what? I don’t want to do that. You guys might have treated me like trash but at the end of the day you are still the only family I know whether I or you like it or not.
“Because of the things you guys did to me and allowed to be done to me-“ Juliet paused to compose herself. There were now tears in her eyes. “Because of all that hate and abuse, I am where I am today. Like you said, who knows where I would be today had I stayed in that place where my real parents were? I was an orphan…yes, i did my own research…nevertheless, you guys allowed me to call you family. That’s enough for me. Now, it’s up to you and mum to decide whether you want to continue this war against me or not.
“I have never understood why you both hated me so much but I guess you have your own reasons. If you want to continue treating me like an enemy , well and good. Go ahead but please bear in mind that I will not just sit still and watch you guys make moves that threaten my happiness. Right now Jack is all I have and if anyone dares to take him away from me, I cannot tell you to what lengths I would go to protect what’s rightfully mine. Do not put me in a position where I have to choose between you and him because you best believe I will choose him any day over you and mum. You need to leave now Alice. I am done talking.”
Alice could only stare at her with her mouth wide open. She slowly got up from the sofa and showed herself to the door without uttering a single word.
The moment the door closed behind her sister, Juliet ran over and locked it. she then dropped to the ground and heaved a sigh of relief. She was heavily breathing in and out to steady her breath.
That whole rant had taken a dear toll on her. She was still in that position when a voice came from behind her and sent her falling off to the side.
“You look like you could use a hug.” It was the thirty year old Happy standing behind her.
“What time did you come in?” Juliet struggled a bit to get herself up until Happy offered a helping hand. “What time did you wake up even?”
“A while ago.” She said. “I was standing behind that door listening intently to your conversation and just dying to find a reason to burst through and put that woman in her place. You held yourself firmly Juliet! Gosh, I never thought I would live to see the day you stood up against your family. I wish I had recorded that for Jack to see.”
Juliet went to sit on the sofa. “I feel like I have lost 10 kilos from that experience.”
“Let me get you a glass of water.” Happy offered.
“Thanks.” Juliet said.
Happy appeared a few minutes later with the glass of water.
“Thanks.” Juliet took it from her.
“If Alice continues acting like a diva, then I will believe without a doubt this time around that she is Lucifer’s niece.” Happy said, sitting down next to Juliet. “That woman’s shamelessness is beyond comprehension. He scares me.”
Juliet finished drinking and put the glass on the table. “Speaking of scary humans, don’t you think it’s time to go to your mum’s? I hate to imagine what she will do when she hears that her daughter has been in town for the past two days and hasn’t bothered to inform her or let alone visit her.
Worse when she hears that you are at my place.”
“Did you have to bring that woman up right when I was starting to feel at home right here?” Happy protested. She stretched herself onto the sofa, laying her legs on top of Juliet’s as she rested her head on a cushion.
“You told Thomas that you were coming to visit your mother. How do you think he will feel when he hears you haven’t even been to see her?”
Thomas was Happy’s husband of five years. He and Happy met in college and together they built a home for their family of four in the US. If not for Jackson her brother, Happy wouldn’t have bothered to visit Zambia after becoming a US resident.
“I only said that because he wouldn’t have let me come if I told him the actual reason; that I was coming to help you smooth things over with mum so you can get her blessings.”
“I am also against your reasons for coming sis.” Juliet said.
Over the years, the two of them had grown very close so much so that Happy started introducing Juliet to her friends as her big sister. Juliet had no choice in the end but to accept the then little girl’s offering of sisterhood. Happy had turned out to be sister Juliet had never had. And the feeling was mutual for both women.
“If I don’t do this, that woman will never let the two of you get married.” Happy said. “She will do whatever it takes to guilt Jackson into waiting for her blessings and we both know that will never come.”
“Thing is, I don’t blame her.” Juliet said.
“To hell with that!” Happy said, sitting up for effect. “She isn’t the only victim in this family feud.
She was just as nasty to your mother and sister as they were to her. She suddenly feels she’s way above the grade now that her son is rich. She is doing this for selfish reasons. She doesn’t care about Jackson’s happiness. As far as Jack and I go, we are nothing but her ladder to the very top of the food chain. If not for Jack I wouldn’t even recognize her as my mother.”
“But blackmailing her into giving Jack and me blessings Happy?” Juliet said.
“That’s the only way to win with a woman like that.” Happy said. “The moment she hears that Jack and I will withdraw caring for her financially, she will behave herself. The truth is she doesn’t care about us being in her life. She only cares about our money. Take that money away and she has nothing.”
“She won’t believe that Jack would agree to something like this.” Juliet said. “Jack forgave her a long time ago and is desperately trying to repair their relationship.”
“Jack is a dreamer.” Happy said. “He is grasping at straws and sooner or later he will learn the hard way that our mother only cares about one person; herself. Besides, she doesn’t need to hear from Jack about this. Once I tell her that I intend to convince Jack to cut all ties, she will be very afraid. She knows the bond my brother and I have is way stronger than the umbilical code that once tied us to her.”
“I don’t know Happy.”
“Just leave everything to me sis.”
Mildred and Alice were unwelcome guests at Jackson and Juliet’s wedding despite their presence at the high table. They could barely hide the fact that they wished to be anywhere else but there.
However, they both couldn’t risk crossing the newly determined Juliet that had vow ed to set them straight if they dared to do anything that threatened her happiness. And most importantly, Juliet was their only source of income and with Jackson in her life, they got to enjoy the benefits that came with being recognized as part of the rich family by the public.
Beauty on the other hand put in zero effort to mask her disdain for the union. Even though Happy had succeeded in blackmailing her into giving Jackson her blessings, she could not get her to fake a smile at the wedding or keep her opinions to herself during her speak.
“Can you imagine that this family used to be all that back then while my children and I suffered after my husband lost his job and this family humiliated us day in and day out?” Beauty said during her speech.
Mildred was about to stand and provide a retort but Juliet gave her a stern look that had her daughter Alice grabbing her hand and pulling her back down.
Beauty who was watching them the whole time broke into a high-pitched laugh. “Isn’t it amazing what money can do, huh?” She asked the guests. “She can’t even say anything because money talks and-“
Happy appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the microphone from her mother. “Please do forgive my mother.” She said giving her mother a look that mirrored Juliet’s when she had to deal with her mother a few minutes ago.
“She is obviously drunk and she seems to be having issues with her memory.” Happy continued.
“You remember that conversation we had mother?”
The semi-drunk Beauty waved her hands in the air in surrender and went back to sit.
“I thought so.” Happy said under her breath. “Alright everybody, it’s time for the new couple in town to give us a dance as Mr and Mrs Chibamba!”
The master of ceremony standing on the other end of the podium appeared to have a different program in hand and tried to say something but Happy was already by Jackson and Juliet’s table, taking both their hands and leading them onto the dance floor.
“DJ, do your thing!” Happy said into the microphone and then handed the microphone over to the master of ceremony as the couple’s song started playing.
“I could kiss Happy right now.” A smiling Juliet whispered into her husband’s ear as they danced.
“How about kissing me instead?” Jackson said.
“Feeling possessive already are we?”
“Maybe.” Jackson laughed and holding her head in place, he pulled her slightly back and kissed her on the lips…much to their friend’s amusement.
“Thank you Juliet.” Jackson said as they resumed dancing.
“For what?” Juliet asked.
“For keeping your promise to me.” He said.
“Promise?” She asked.
“What you said to me when we were kids, back in your mother’s kitchen.” Jackson said. “My mother had hit me, I was bleeding badly but somehow I ended up in your arms. You were just a kid back then but you were like this tiny Miss Know-it-all. Do you remember what you said to me that night?”
“No, I don’t.” Juliet answered a little too quickly.
Jackson laughed. “I think you do.” He said.
“I thought you said you couldn’t make sense of what I said because you were in and out of consciousness.” Juliet reminded him.
“Aaah, so you do remember!” He chuckled. “I lied.” He said. “I remember everything you said, the promise you made to me.”
“I was a kid, what does it matter?” Juliet tried to brush it aside.
“It matters because it gave me hope.” Jackson said. “I know they were just ramblings of a little girl but in that darkest time of my life, your innocent words brought me back to life.” Jackson suddenly stopped dancing and took her hands into his.
“That night as I left home, for the very first time I found myself contemplating death.” He said.
“Jackson.” Juliet said, her eyes registering deep horror.
“No, relax.” Jackson said. He could feel her shivering anger his touch. “It was only a fleeting thought because I stepped outside the gate and I found you there. I didn’t know where I was going to go that night but I just wanted to end everything.
“You said to me, you might not even notice me but I will save us both.” He said. “I remembered those words later after I got back home and I remember laughing to myself. I thought; this kid, why does she always sound like an adult? I meant to brush it all aside but for some reason those words kept replaying in my head. Ever since my dad lost his job I kept praying for someone to come and save us but no one ever came.
“But you appeared in my life and despite your age and everything you were going through, you always looked out for me and Happy. I always pictured a grown man or a super hero coming to save me and my sister and if someone told me that help was going to come in the form of a ten year old girl, I would have laughed in their face without shame.”
“Jackson-“ Juliet removed her lace gloves and used her hands to wipe the tears off Jackson’s face. “What kind of groom cries at his wedding?” She joked. “Look, you’re making me cry as well.”
Jackson wrapped his hand around her waist and pulled her to him, hugging her tightly as he waited for his nerves to calm down.
“I love you Juliet, I really do. I really really love you.” Jackson said.
“I love you too Jackson. I really really do love you.” She parroted him with a hint of a smile in her voice. “Now get a hold of yourself and let’s dance like we mean it!” She freed herself from his embrace and ran to the DJ’s booth. She whispered something into his ears and ran back to where her husband was standing.
When P-Square’s remix of ‘Chop my Money’ filled the air, Jackson burst out laughing.
Juliet leaned over to him and whispered; “This is my gift to my new mother in-law so let’s give her something to celebrate my love.” Jackson didn’t need any more encouragement.
A few seconds later, every guest in the building was on their feet dancing, except for Beauty, Mildred and Alice.
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