That clutch on hope lifted her mood and kept her cheerful as they dealt with the busy morning session. When the flow of customers trickled down to one every now and then, Anya decided she could steal an hour’s break to see Saz, charm him with a couple of the baked goodies, and maybe talk him into taking her for an early lunch somewhere.
After all, if she was going to win over his heart, it wouldn’t hurt to show him how extra good everything could be with her, would it?
But he wasn’t at the store.
He was yet to come in that morning, Lucy told her.
Anya tried to call. But his phone was switched off. She considered going back to the shop and waiting to see him in the evening as he’d promised, but squashed the idea at the thought that he might be at home brooding over her.
It was possible. He hadn’t slept well last night, according to him and from what she’d seen that morning, and he still looked torn up when he left her house.
Her mood lifting even further at the possibility that he might still be miserable over the thought of losing her, which gave her more reasons to hope, Anya aimed her motorcycle in the direction of his quarters. If she found him at home brooding and unhappy, she would not only cheer him up with the goodies in her purse. But a delicious serving of her very self.
She had erotic images of the number of things they would be doing flashing in her head by the time she rode into his street, and was pleased to find the Sienna van parked beside the fence. Well, it looked like he was heading out, but she was sure she could talk him into a few minutes delay.
More than a few minutes, Anya hoped, climbing off the bike as the nice buzz of anticipation spread.
It turned out the pedestrian gate was slightly ajar, which confirmed he really was on his way out. So, she quickly went in. And sure the front door would be unlocked, she opened without knocking.
He was in, all right. But he wasn’t stretched out on the sofa looking morose, or doing any of the things she’d imagined he would be doing.
Instead, he was standing at the middle of the living room with a lady in skinny jeans, nice clingy top, and rather lovely Ballerina shoes. A very pretty lady, who had her left hand on Saz’s arm, but had paused whatever she was saying to stare at her.
Saz was staring at her too, and it occurred to Anya that she was doing the same thing–staring at both of them.
“Hello,” she said, found her voice too dry and cleared it. “I thought I’d surprise you. And it looks like I have.”
It wasn’t the right first thing to say, she thought, silently reproving herself. It sounded as if she was saying she’d caught him doing something he shouldn’t be. Which she hadn’t, and he wasn’t–hopefully.
“Anya.” With quick strides across the room, he covered the distance between them, and took her hands. “I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting you. I mean…” He stopped there and just let out a sigh.
There was confusion in his eyes, Anya noted. And regret. Her heart lurched. “Let me guess. You made a good deal with the buyer and have to leave today.”
She said it as a joke, and with the hope that it was, and should be, the worst thing that could happen.
But it wasn’t, because he gave his head a shake. “No, I’ve not met with the buyer. I will need to see Eze, so we can arrange for a meeting before…” He broke off, tightening his grip on her hands. “I’m sorry I’m blabbering. It should be nice having you here to surprise me…”
“But it isn’t,” Anya finished for him, and made herself look over his shoulder.
The lady was watching them, with a wary and faintly annoyed look.
Not just annoyed, Anya thought even as her guard went up. Her expression was mildly antagonistic too. “You should introduce us, Saz,” she said quietly.
“Yes,” Saz agreed, although he looked reluctant as he turned, dropping one of her hands, while still keeping the other in his. “This is Grace. She’s, uh…”
“His girlfriend,” The lady–Grace said, looking directly at Anya, and daring her to dispute the information.
“Ex-girlfriend,” Saz said, an edge of annoyance creeping into his voice.
“It can’t be now, can it?” Grace said, shifting her gaze on Saz. “Not with this baby coming.”
Saz said her name sharply to rebuke her. But Anya thought it was too late, and unnecessary. She’d said it, and from the look of her, and the pain and regret which were now stark on Saz’s face, it was nothing but the truth.
It was also clear she needed to leave. Or escape. Whatever one was supposed to do in such situations.
“I think I will leave you two to…well, go on with your visit.” She turned to the door, fumbled with the handle, and mercifully got it open and was out before Saz could stop her.
He followed her though, through the gate and to where she parked the bike.
“Anya.” He grabbed her and stopped her then. “I am sorry. I swear it to you, I broke up with her. I did, and I didn’t know she was… I was going out to see Eze when she came only a few minutes ago. You can’t believe my shock when I saw her. I…I didn’t know.”
“Now you do.” It sounded like a cruel thing to say, but she didn’t say it to be cruel. It was just fact.
He knew now. They both did. His girlfriend–ex-girlfriend–was pregnant. With his child, Anya added even when she didn’t need to make it clearer.
“Anya, I don’t know what to say.” He looked like he didn’t know what to think or do either. “But don’t think I’m doing this to hurt you. I wouldn’t. I don’t know…”
“I don’t think you’re doing this. But it’s happened.” It was happening. She didn’t know what to think or do herself. Not when her head felt like it was whirling. “This is not the time for us to talk. You should go back inside to her. It’s the two of you who need to talk now.”
“I don’t want to leave you like this. Let me drive you back to the shop.”
“Don’t be silly. I came on my motorcycle, and you can see it here.” She gave his hand a squeeze. “Go talk to her. We’ll talk later.”
For a second, it looked like he wanted to argue. Then he gave a nod. “I’m sorry.”
“I think I am too,” Anya murmured, and pulled free her hand.
She climbed on the motorcycle, paused to give him a small smile before starting it, then pulled into the street and drove off.
When she cast a glance over her shoulder, Saz was still there watching her.
He wouldn’t stop watching her until she was out of sight. Then he turned, walked through the gate and back into the house.
Grace had taken a seat on the sofa, and adjusted to face him as he approached her. “She’s the one, isn’t she? The reason you broke off our relationship.”
“We’re not going to talk about her.” Saz sat, because it felt like his knees were going to give out under him if he continued to stand. “How can this be? How can you be pregnant, Grace?”
Seeing her get off a bike just as he was driving out of the yard had been a big enough shock. But it was nothing compared to the mindless shock that had stunned every thought from his head when she’d announced she was pregnant.
He still couldn’t believe it even now. “We used protection.”
Always until the last week before he left Benin. He’d been…restless. Saz decided that was the word. He’d been depressed enough to be restless, and stupid enough to believe she would take care of it the morning after.
“I know it’s not something we planned, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen, is it?”
Frowning, Saz looked at her. “We had no plans, Grace. Not as far as our relationship was concerned, and definitely not when it was over. We broke things off, remember?”
“You broke things off.”
“So I did the breaking up. But when I did, you said nothing about this.”
“Because I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time. I didn’t know until two days ago.” She was the kind who couldn’t stay still when agitated, so Grace stood and paced. “Totally out of an unconscious thought, I realised I’d missed period, figured I should take a test just to rule out the possibility of pregnancy and was stunned to find that was the possibility.”
Halting, she faced him, watching him with stormy eyes. “I’m not here to trap you, for your information. I didn’t purposely get pregnant just so I could come here and force you to get back with me. This is as much of a shock to me as it is to you. And I am as confused as you are about what we should do.”
Only hours earlier, he’d been asking Anya to give them time to decide calmly on what they should do. It seemed now he was about to have same conversation with Grace. Only in her case, she was pregnant, and it looked to him there was only thing for them to do.
“Sit down, please.” To make sure she did, he got up and walked her back to the sofa himself. “Look, I don’t in any way think you’re trying to trap me. I don’t. I’m just shocked, and I realise you are too. But I’m hoping that since you came here, you did because you want to keep the baby.”
“I don’t exactly know why I came here,” Grace said, watching him carefully. Hopefully, too. “I wanted to call and tell you over the phone, but I just couldn’t do it. So, I went this morning to the park, came here, and asked directions to the house of the Isichei who owned the building materials store.”
“I’m grateful you chose to tell me. I know you could have made a decision on your own…”
“I don’t believe in abortion, Saz,” Grace said before he could finish. “I mean, I don’t want to have one. I know this is unplanned, and having a child is a lot of responsibility, but I am going to have this child.”
“That’s good. Because I would rather you have the child.”
Saz nodded. “I’m not going to lie to you and say I’m excited about the news, because right now I’m not. But this is my child and I have no wish to do it any harm.”
“Me neither. So, what are we going to do?”
He knew what he was going to do–what he had to do, but he couldn’t tell her yet, not until he talked with Anya.
“Give me a few days to think. A few days only,” he stressed on seeing the flicker of alarm in her eyes. “I need to finish what I started here before returning to Benin. But I am assuring you that I would do right by this child.”
“Is that a promise, Saz, you will do the right thing?”
“Thank you.” There was a slight hesitation, and then she roped her arms around his neck and hugged him.
Saz couldn’t touch her. He didn’t want her touching him. So, he waited for her to end the embrace. “You didn’t come with a bag, so I’m guessing you plan to go back to Benin today?”
“Yes. I didn’t tell my parents I was travelling, so I have to go back.”
“In that case, you should be on your way. I’ll drop you off at the park.”
“Saz.” Grace held his arm to stop him. “You’re not angry about this, are you?”
“No, I’m not. Let me get the car key.”
He had lied to her, Saz thought as he went up the stairs. A small part of him was angry that something like this could happen and interfere with all his plans. Then there was the part of him that was angry, and terrified, that he would lose Anya.
That he had lost her.
SHORT ANNOUNCEMENT :
Free episodes end here, and the story will be published for sale on 15 August 2020.