Laura was unhappy. Although, she had long realised that her father would never change, she never thought that he would force her into marriage just to promote his political career.

He had confessed that the only reason he wanted her to marry Aaron was because he was counting on Senator Ndukwe, Aaron’s father, to support his desire to become a presidential candidate in the coming election.

Just for that, he didn’t care if he jeopardised her happiness and her future. Laura was so disappointed in him. This must be the worst thing he has ever done. Her mother certainly thought so, because she had been so angry when Laura told her what happened that she decided they were leaving the house.

Now, they were staying with Ryan. At least, until they could arrange for a house of their own.

“I feel like this is my fault.” Her mother’s voice cut into Laura’s thoughts. “I should have left him all these years. By staying, I gave him the right to continue to interfere in your lives and not care how his actions hurt you and your brother.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Mum. It’s not your fault Dad is the way he is.” Laura said. “You did the best you could to make him change, but he wouldn’t.”

“Maybe if I hadn’t supported his political ambitions by keeping silent when I should have spoken, he would have tried harder to change.” Marilyn said sadly. “I threatened many times to leave him, but I still stayed because I didn’t want the public to see him as a man who could not keep his family together. Even now, I am worried about him and how people might perceive him if they know his wife has left him.”

She looked at Laura and sighed. “I am not a very strong woman where your father is concerned. If I were, I probably would have done more to protect you and your brother from his manipulations. I am sorry, dear.”

“You don’t have to apologise, Mum. Ryan and I don’t blame you at all. You were his wife and our mother, and wanted what was best for our family. None of his actions were your fault. You tried to fight him in the way you knew how to, but Dad wouldn’t change.” Laura said softly, feeling sorry for her mother. “Maybe now we are out of the house, he will come to his senses. At least, I hope he would.”

“I don’t know if he can change at this point. He has been calling me. He wants us to come back home. But I don’t want us going back if he still wants you to marry Aaron Ndukwe.” She wasn’t going to allow her daughter to be forced into marriage, Marilyn thought.

“I don’t think I will move back home, Mum.” Laura said. “I only stayed before because of you. But now, I can’t do it anymore. I think I’ve finally come to understand why Trisha left home the way she did. She wanted to be able to make her own choices and I want the same thing, Mum. I am old enough to live on my own and I want to do so.”

Marilyn was silent for a while. Then finally, she sighed and nodded. “You are right, my dear. You are now an adult and can make your own decisions and choices. You have a successful business and if you want to, you can live on your own. But don’t take off like Trisha did, please. I don’t think I can survive it if I never hear from you again. You and your brother are the most precious things I have in my life.”

“Oh, Mum, of course I won’t go away without telling you where I am.” Laura came over to hug her. “I will miss you and Ryan too much if I don’t see you regularly. I don’t know how Trisha has managed to live without her family, even without us her friends all these years. It still makes me sad to think about the fact that she has never contacted me. Or even, Margaret. We were all such good friends.”

“Maybe she is afraid that if you both know where she is, you will tell her family.” Marilyn suggested. “Anyway, I hope she is all right wherever she is.”

“I hope so too, Mum.” Laura murmured.

“Hey, guys.” Ryan greeted as he walked into the living room. “Good evening, Mum. How are you two doing?”

“We are fine.” Marilyn smiled at her son. “Welcome back. How are you?”

“Good.” Ryan hugged her and then, his sister. “Hey, Laura, how are you? You look somehow. Something wrong? Please, tell me you are not still worrying your head over Dad and his crazy idea?”

“Not exactly. No matter what he says, I will never marry Aaron.” Laura said.

“Of course, you won’t. Not when you don’t like him, and he doesn’t really care about you.” Ryan sat down beside them. “You two should just forget Dad. When he is ready to think about anyone else but himself, he can come apologise and take you home.”

“I don’t think I will be going back home. I was just telling Mum I would like to live on my own from now on.”

“You don’t have to live on your own, Laura. You are welcome to stay here with me.” Ryan told her.

“No, I prefer to have my own place. Besides, what if you meet someone and decide to get married, do you think your wife will feel comfortable with your sister sharing your home?”

“But I’m not getting married yet, am I?”

“You will one day, and I don’t want to be in the way when that day comes.” Laura smiled. “Anyway, how was your trip? You went straight to the office from the airport, so we have not been able to drill you yet.”

“It was great. I made some new business contacts for the hospital.” Ryan said, smiling. “And I think I have a surprise for Mum’s birthday.”

“Oh no! I told you two to forget about a party this year.” Marilyn shook her head. “I just want something quiet this year.”

“And something quiet it shall be, don’t worry.” Ryan laughed. “Talking about my surprise though, I met someone who looked oddly familiar.”

“And who did this person look like?” Laura asked curiously.

“Your old friend, Trisha.” Replied Ryan with a frown. “I never knew her all that well and it’s been years since I saw her, but there was something about the lady that reminded of her.”

“Something like what?” Laura asked, getting even more curious.

“I don’t know. Her face, I think. But then she had on too much makeup and this very big curly hair extension.” Ryan shook his head. “I just felt like she was familiar to me when I saw her. But she said we have never met before because she would remember if we did. And she said her name was Vivian.”

“Vivian? I never heard anyone call Trisha Vivian. What was her last name?”

“Frankly, I didn’t ask.” Ryan shrugged.

“Okay. But how did you meet her?”

“Em, I can’t tell you that now. It will ruin my surprise.” Ryan got up. “Anyway, I’m going to bathe and then come down for dinner. So, start setting the table.”

After he left, Laura turned to her mother. “What do you think, Mum? Could it be Trisha bearing another name?”

“Well, we can’t say unless we see her. Maybe your brother can tell us more after he has revealed his surprise.” Marilyn replied.

“Hmm. But Trisha won’t meet Ryan and pretend like she doesn’t know him, will she?”

“If she is still hiding from everyone, she might.” Marilyn stood up. “Let’s go set the table for dinner. I’m getting hungry.”

“Me too.” Laura said and followed her to the kitchen.

And they all forgot about Trisha for the rest of that evening.

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©Marie-Antoinette Otobo

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