That tiny bit of doubt continued to prey on Benny’s mind. He’d had a bad night because of it. And when he’d woken up he’d even been more disturbed.

He wanted to stop doubting her. He’d promised her he would never again doubt her. He’d never had to doubt her before. But the thing with seeds was once they were planted, they start to form roots. And once rooted, hurling them out was always near impossible. A seed of doubt had been planted and unfortunately, it had taken root. And that seed, intent on sprouting up, was seeking nutrients to give it life.

If you go a-fishing, you will surely catch a fish.

That was one of his father’s keep-life-simple maxims. And that became his reality when that seed of doubt began to find its nutrients in almost anything.

They haven’t made love in the last two weekends. That was the first thing his suspicious, irrational mind reminded him. She had resisted all of his overtures; she was exhausted and stressed, she’d claimed. And last weekend, which had ended with the Valentine’s day, she’d begged off with a stomach cramp due to too much sweets and drinks.

They hadn’t meant anything to him at the time—except a mild disappointment, mostly from his dissatisfied male member. They didn’t have sex every weekend they spent together, so he’d swallowed his disappointment and gotten over it.

That was until now.

Nora enjoyed sex. She was not apologetic or coy about it. She was adventurous in bed and she possessed a high libido to match her recurrent crave for sex. He loved that about her—her uninhabited passion. It can be a little shocking the kinky ideas she came up with, but they were always a pleasure and they never failed to drive him wild.

But rejecting sex two weekends consecutively didn’t quite prove anything, Benny rationalised. Neither did the fact that last night she’d claimed fatigue again and had only curled into his arms and slept off. She probably was over worked. After all things have been more hectic at the bank lately.

Benny sighed and tried to nudge aside the crazy thoughts, but instead another one popped up—Nnamdi had thought he saw her car at Bloomsdale Hotel.

The second that thought hit, Benny muttered a curse and banished it. Now he was being paranoid. Dear God, he was going to drive himself crazy stressing over something that had been resolved. They were getting married in two months for heaven’s sake!

He was done with these insane thoughts. He loved Nora and he trusted her—completely. Benny reached for his phone and tapped open the Messaging App. He started to type her a romantic message but his fingers suddenly froze.

The answers she’d given him last night hadn’t correlated.

When he’d first cynically made mention of her hectic day, she’d said that the Branch Manager had called for a compulsory meeting as they were all getting set to close. It hadn’t been that they’d closed for the day and she was already gone… that had been her second explanation when he’d slammed her with what Maureen had said.

It could just be a manner of expression, one part of his mind chimed. But Benny found his finger backspacing and deleting the words he’d already typed. Something just didn’t feel right. The doubts returned and with them, a heightened disquiet.

Benny had tried to talk himself out of tailing her but no matter the number of sane counsels his heart came up with, his head rejected them all. He’d left the hospital and gone back home to drop of his car and then he’d taken a taxi to her bank. He figured that it would be less conspicuous if he followed her in a cab and not in his car.

She came through the gates and joined the moving traffic. Benny flagged down a taxi and called out an eatery along the Nnebisi road. If she branched off the road, he would have the driver change directions too. But when she only turned on her trafficator when she neared the road that led into her street, Benny knew he was acting like a demented fool and he cursed himself.

For heaven’s sake, what the heck was wrong with him? he repeatedly queried himself as he redirected the cab driver to drive him home. He was acting insane. This was his fiancée—the woman he’d known for two years for Christ’s sake!

Two years and she’d never proved herself untrustworthy and now he was going crazy because her goddamn responses hadn’t correlated?

Benny muttered another curse under his breath and told himself he was so making it up to her. She might not have known—and would never know—that he’d tailed her this evening but he was going to make up for his insane actions. He was buying her a special, obscenely-expensive gift tomorrow and he was making her a meal that will keep her mouth watering for years to come.

That was his penance and he was doing it not only with a sense of remorse but also with complete repentance.

He decided that the Gucci bracelet plus the Samsung phone he’d already bought were going to make the perfect I’m-never-distrusting-you gift, and satisfied with his choice he walked to the counter with it.

“Hey look, it’s the iPhone-man.” Benny sent an affable smile to the man in jeans and blazer paying for his own purchase.

Tim was momentarily shocked to see Nora’s fiancé, but he quickly covered his shock. “Blackberry-man, still convinced that’s the only way to go?” He grinned and offered his hand.

“There is no other route for me.” Benny eyed the Michael Kors jewellery set being wrapped for him. “I see you’re aiming to spoil your lady as I am.”

Tim tossed a glance at the gift he planned on giving Sharon as a silent apology for his mistake. “That’s why we are their men, right? To spoil them rotten.” He said with an easy smile, then grimaced at the swift burn on his chest. “Damn, if only I can find a magic cure for this.” He muttered, rubbing a hand just underneath his breastbone.

“Heartburn?” Benny hazarded a guess.

“Yeah. Been there since lunch and massively discomforting too.” Tim eyed him curiously. “How’d you guess, you a doctor?” He and Nora never talk about their partners. He supposed the reason would be because it was easier on their consciences pretending they didn’t exist for the time they were together.

Benny nodded. “Yes, Obstetrician though. But I recommend Gascol. It will work the magic you’re looking for.”

“Wow, thanks.” So she was going to end up a doctor’s wife? Nice. “I’m into business. Presently a hotelier. I own Bloomsdale Hotel, right after the government’s house.”

“Really?” Benny’s brain went on a major riot. “That’s nice. I hear it’s an amazing place.”

For the briefest second Tim wondered where’d he’d heard it from. “It is. You and your fiancée must pay us a visit. I’m promising a discount.” He picked his package and gave him a smile. “Thanks for the free diagnosis and recommendation, doctor. Have a great evening.”

“And you too.”

But Benny’s smile vanished the  moment his back turned. He owned Bloomsdale Hotel?

The fancy business card had had the name of the hotel on it… only he hadn’t paid attention to the card owner’s name that night. And they had both been talking in low tones that day at the Konwea Plaza before his fiancée—Sharon—had walked up to them.

Benny felt the slow hum of disquiet slid back in. Nora hadn’t said anything about knowing who owned the business card. She’d in fact dismissed it as customers turning them into their advertising agency. And at the Plaza she’d also dismissed Tim as an old friend, with no mention of the connection between him and the Bloomsdale business card.

No, he hadn’t been acting like a fool because of his suspicions, he was being treated like a fool because of his trusting and carefree ways.

Fury slammed into Benny and lodged itself beside the ball of pain that had taken precedence.

Nora allowed a smile into her voice when the call was picked. “Hey, baby. How are you? You home yet?”

“I definitely am. And you, are you on your way back?” Benny’s cheerful voice came through the line.

“I should be as soon as we round up here. We’ll be closing soon, I’m sure. See you in a bit, okay?”

“No qualms. See you later, sweets.”

Nora ended the call and dropped back the phone into her handbag. She started the car and pulled back into the highway. But she didn’t notice the blue-and-white painted cab that pulled into the road immediately after she did.

She walked straight to the hotel’s restaurant where she’d asked Tim to meet her. He was at a private table and quickly beckoned on her upon catching sight of her.

“I don’t want to waste time here, Tim. My fiancé is waiting for me and I don’t want him getting worried.” She began as soon as she sat down. “I want us to end whatever this is that has been happening between us. It should not have happened…” She bit her lip and forced back the tears. “My God, we cheated on our partners, Tim! I don’t know what we were thinking… I don’t know what I was thinking. Benny is ten times the man you are and will ever be. And I don’t mean that as an insult… I am just stating the truth, which I’m sure you know.”

“I know that he is a better man for you.” Tim said quietly. He was feeling too relieved to care about the insult of her statement. “I am sorry I brought us to this place. I take full responsibility for everything that happened. If I hadn’t come after you and hounded you, you wouldn’t have had to cheat on your fiancé.”

“No, I blame myself for my own senseless choices and actions.” Nora didn’t want to hide from what was glaring. “If I wasn’t a fool who still believed herself in love with her ex, I wouldn’t have fallen for your sugar-coated lies.”

“They weren’t entirely lies, Nora.”

“I don’t care.” Nora snapped. “I don’t care anymore. I wish I never even allowed myself to start caring again. I had a good man and I treated him unfairly because I allowed myself to start believing that you might truly love me this time. You were right when you said that you were unworthy of me… because you are. You never deserved me, and you know what, neither of us deserve the people we are engaged to.”

“I am sorry, Nora.” There was nothing more he could say.

“So am I.” Nora retorted, bitterness and regret etched in her voice. “I never want to see you again. Keep away from me and never ever again contact me. And finally, this dies with us. You hear me, Tim? I don’t care if you decide to be born again in future or have a vision of Christ reaching for your soul… this dies with us. No one else must hear of it. Not a single soul!”

“Oh God, we’re finished!” The words stuttered out of Tim’s lips even as his eyes widened with horror.

“What?” Nora gaped at him.

But her own eyes nearly popped as Benny stopped at their table and slipped his hands casually into his pockets, regarding them with cynical eyes. “Hey, sweets. Let me guess, your BM arranged this impromptu meeting, hmm?” His voice rang with utter disgust.

The ground beneath Nora collapsed and her entire life shattered before her eyes.

*** ~~~***