The main event on the 31st of December, 2014, was shaping up to be an all night affair. Nobody was sure if Wana planned it that way or if it was a spur of the moment decision, but the adults were okay with the idea and the kids were ecstatic.
Especially when Wana directed the sitting room seats be pushed to the wall, creating an atmosphere of a ballroom, but a corner of it had big mattresses for the kids to play on, while the adults lodged around either discussing or watching a movie…that’s if they could manage it above the children’s squeal of delight.
It was a warm and happy atmosphere. Cecil could practically feel the weight of love flowing in that room. All the doors and windows were wide open, random tables and seats were set up around the premises, incase couples wanted to have a heart to heart talk away from the others.
Wana had outdone herself creating a romantic feel with little or no decorations. There was nothing special planned, except the family prayer which will begin at 11:45pm and end at 12midnight, with screams of happy New Year, drinks for the guys and softs for the women and any child who happened to be awake at the time.
With the way they were jumping around, Cecil was sure they’d be long dead to the world come midnight. She sighed and smiled at the exhausting exuberance displayed by the children, especially, Wana’s Tony, the boy was a hurricane.
Cecil had learnt from her previous visit that her new friends weren’t into dress ups, they were a casual wears kind of people. So, she’d carefully chosen skinny, white cutoffs, worn under a loose and long chiffon shirt, with flat slippers.
She wasn’t chubby like her new friends, but she had female attributes that she was proud of. Attributes that remained perky at her age, according to Wana. The women were so comfortable in their skin that they made slim people feel inadequate for being slim; Cecil had almost felt that way, except, she wasn’t skinny any longer, though she’d been when she’d been younger.
Having arrived since 5:00pm and joined the women in preparing the large amount of food for the New Year celebration the next day, Cecil was a bit tired. She’d been glad to find out that they men had taken the children out, giving the women two hours to complete their cooking.
And they had. Five of them had worked seamlessly, cracking up and laughing to tears because of Wana and her antics and Cecil had felt, for the first time in her life, comfortable and accepted among women. She even had the urge to share her baby having idea and ask for advice about Usen.
But she’d held her tongue and decided to know them better.
An hour ago, the men had returned with the children and light food and snacks had been laid out for them. Cecil checked her slim chain wrist watch and noticed that they still had about three hours to midnight.
She was bored. So she made her way past the guys discussing football, glad that even though Ubong Ebong and Morgan Ekpembe were her subordinates, they hadn’t made the situation awkward, they had treated her with respect and warmth like they did their women.
Cecil got to the kitchen and discovered that Eddy had already cleared the dirty dishes she’d been hoping to wash out.
“I didn’t know,” Eddy wailed, causing Wana and the other women sitting around the kitchen to laugh.
“Eddy hates doing dishes,” Alero explained with a chuckle.
“We all do, which is why we toss coin for the person that will do them,” Debbie said with a grin.
“Why wasn’t I added to this gamble?” Cecil asked, loving the easy way she could relate with this women, even though she was at least a decade older than them, they made her feel young.
“Well, Wana chose to fry the meat and chicken for tomorrow, Alero rushed to clean the drinks and stack the fridge, so, I and Debbie were left to chose dishes and sweeping…Debbie won sweeping,” Eddy griped, seriously distraught that she’d just gone through washing dishes when Cecil could’ve taken it off her hands.
Cecil laughed, “Sorry, Eddy. I probably shouldn’t have spent so much time at the sitting room, you probably forgot I was still here, I would’ve carried some weight,” she said with a smile.
“Anything else to do?”
“No,” Eddy grumbled and made the other women laugh.
“Grow up, Eddy, it’s just plates,” Wana said.
“In that case,” Cecil said, rounding the counter and heading for the open back door, “I’ll just enjoy a bit of fresh air for a moment out here,” she said, just as she stepped outside, barely hearing the acquiescing murmurs from the women.
Ebong had been thoroughly flummoxed when he’d heard that Cecil was hanging with the women of the clan and he’d heard it when he couldn’t have come up with a plausible excuse to avoid tonight’s festivities.
He would have braved Wana’s eternal harangued to avoid it but the guys had been giving him speculative looks. Morgan had once again shocked him by wondering, aloud, if he had a past with the beautiful Cecil.
Of course he had vehemently denied it. Even though the guys had seemed to agree with him, Ebong had a sneaky feeling that they already knew the truth and were probably trying to push both of them together; he wasn’t going to allow that happen.
So to prove that Cecil meant nothing to him except like another random stranger and a colleague, he’d forced himself to ask how Cecil had come to be invited to the intimate clan affair.
He had forced himself to shrug insouciantly and behave as though he wasn’t suffocating with the knowledge that he had to spend the holidays with Cecil Ebe, in front of family.
Ebong suspected that his getting to know about Cecil’s presence, very late in the day, was a well orchestrated plan; but he couldn’t challenge them, for then, he would be admitting to a history with the woman. He would play their sneaky game and win.
When they’d arrived more than an hour ago, he’d been taking breaths and trying to relax his facial features from showing any expression…like the intense anger he felt towards Cecil. He had been sure he’d succeeded, until he’d seen her laughing with Alero inside Daniel’s sitting room.
His heart had lurched painfully and he, in desperation to avoid their first encounter in front of his family, had faked a phone call, and in all that time, he’d been shamelessly hiding out at the dark corner between the kitchen and the side of Daniel’s house.
But like a magnetic beacon, she had made her way to him.
Ebong hadn’t really been listening to the women’s conversation in the kitchen, but when Cecil had suddenly spoken, his whole body had paid attention. It was an annoying phenomenon he’d recalled experiencing with her when he’d been a young man, but to react so intensely to her at this age, was just plain shameful.
He shouldn’t have been reacting to the woman at all, she had left him; she had chosen a transfer and promotion over him and the funny thing was, he would not have stopped her transfer/promotion if they had gotten hitched. But she’d never asked, she had just chosen, not giving any regard to his damn feelings and not bothering to find out if it was possible to have the two.
When she stepped out into the night, the light from the kitchen reflecting on her beautiful face, she’d been smiling from what one of the women had said. Then she’d shaken her arms from her shoulders, a habit he recalled too well, she’d always done that when she wanted to relax, after a long day at work.
That wasn’t the only thing he was forced to recall about her. He could recall her scent, even though now she smelt different, sexier. Ebong stifled a groan at his indecent thought, he didn’t want to think about her in that way any longer, she had left him, he should have been over her already.
With a log in his throat, he watched her formerly slim form, admiring the new, prominent curves and hating that another man had gotten to see her develop into this classic beauty. He hated that another man had impregnated her and the childbirth must have caused this new robust figure.
It wasn’t a classic hour glass figure, but he could make out the stretch her protruding buttocks made on her white cutoffs, the flair of her hips and the obvious weight of her breast, which pulled the neck of her blouse downward.
Ebong had to open his mouth to silently let out breath that had been stuck in his throat; Cecil was more beautiful that he remembered. Suddenly, she spread out her legs in a fight stance and lowered her height to a crouch and then went up again.
She did this severally and Ebong couldn’t take his eyes off the stretch of her ass in that white cutoff, his heart hammered against his chest and he began feeling the stiffening and lengthening of his manhood.
It had always been like this; the woman could turn his head with her innocent acts. He recalled she’d always resorted to exercising when she was bored and apparently it hadn’t changed. Cecil had always been restless, always working and getting bored if there was a slight lull in activity. They’d laughed about it then and he’d always been eager and ready to take up other strenuous but far more pleasurable activities to kill time…and his body was apparently indicating such activities be engaged.
Suddenly, he was furious with Cecil for being there. It was a sacred time to be spent with family; what the hell was she doing here? Shouldn’t she be with her husband and kids in this time? The office could definitely do without her for a week.
But then he recalled that this was Cecil; she was always working. Ebong wondered how she had found time to make children. Maybe it had been a good thing that she’d left him, because despite not stopping her from furthering her career, he would not have tolerated abandonment of his kids.
The anger reduced his other passion and he was glad. He had thought of silently walking away, but they had to meet at some point; it would be better they met out here away from prying eyes.
“Bored, Cecil?” Ebong commented drolly, as though he was sleepily uninterested of what she was doing.
He must have startled her, having not expected that another person was present in the backyard; she yelped and lost her footing but smartly landing her palms on the ground, timely saving the white seat of her cutoff from getting dirty.
Despite the impressive stunt, for a woman that was almost middle aged, she still had herself in an awkward position; she couldn’t get to her feet without help. And unless she called out for someone from the house, it was left to him and this was something he’d rather not do…
Cecil knew that voice. Even though it was a bit gruff and had gotten more gravely with age, her body still recognized it, thrilling with tiny tingles at the sound of it.
Her heart sang with joy at hearing that voice but then she quickly wondered what he was doing at the Akpans’ residence. Had they also invited him in goodwill? Curiously though, she couldn’t recall Wana mentioning the possibility of him being there, she would have refused her own invitation.
On second thought, maybe she wouldn’t have. Her eyes strained into the dark corner to try and see his form and she wasn’t disappointed. Usen seemed to detach from the wall and slowly, like a ghost, walked into the light streaming from the kitchen.
He was wearing jeans trousers and a shirt with sleeves rolled up his forearms, stopping just before his elbows. Her eyes trailed the length of him, appreciating the fit and trim look he had maintained.
The sliver of white hair in his otherwise dark low cut made him look a bit like the incumbent vice president of Nigeria, the body too, as both men were trim, but Usen was taller.
“A little help?” Cecil croaked, her arms had begun cramping up from holding up her weight for a few minutes; she hissed under her breath in frustration, she really was old.
Ebong indolently pulled his right hand out of his jeans pocket and reached down to help her up. When she risked lifting one of her hands from the floor, she balanced precariously for a second before grasping his out stretched hand.
His hand tightened on her hand to take her weight and his muscles bulged, tightening the sleeve of his shirt around his arm when he dragged her up.
She might have purposely stumbled a bit, playing the damsel in distress just so she could get closer to him. Her breast brushed his arm lightly, her nose caught a whiff of his man scent and thrills went through her body when he wiped out his left hand from his pocket to hold her steady.
His hand might have flexed momentarily on her shapely waist, his fingers brushing the edge of her buttocks as he reached out and steadied her. Ebong knew he had held on longer than was necessary, she was close, he inhaled her new, sexy scent and had to swallow hard to curb the instant flair of desire that coursed through his body.
Their eyes met and held and two decades fell away in the instant of that connection.
“You’ve got wrinkles,” Ebong commented indolently, as though he wasn’t desperately fighting the urge to drag her warm body into his arms.
Cecil gasped in shock, then embarrassment filled her eyes, then outrage before she stiffly stepped away from his hold and looked down to dust sand from her palms by rubbing them together.
“And you’ve got grey hairs, you aren’t so young either,” she commented with an equally indolent smile, she could so totally play his vanity game, she was a woman after all and she knew where to hit best.
Ebong’s hands went back in his pockets while his eyes roamed the length of her body derisively. Her words shouldn’t have hurt because he knew she was just lashing back, but damn it…it did, and he was angry that he’d been put in the spot to actually deal with her.
He sighed wearily, “What are you doing here, Cecil?” his tone wasn’t so weary, it bordered on sounding rude, like she was trespassing.
Her basic urge was to bluster angrily but then she would be playing accordingly into his hands. He had been her tutor in surface reactions when facing a criminal or superiors and he’d taught her well, she might as well used the knowledge on him.
“Why, Usen…I was invited,” she answered, almost sounding coy, she flashed him a small smile and waited for his next hit.
“Are you stalking me now?” he asked with narrowed eyes as though Cecil was a psychotic woman who would stalk a man for reasons best known to her crazy mind.
Oh that one hurt and she bit her lip to stop the surge of anger that rose in her chest, “I said I was invited, as you were, I imagine,” her tone had turn hard too.
“This is my family, Cecil. I didn’t manipulate situations to get myself invited, I’m expected to be here…I’m the grand father to all those lovely children,” he said calmly.
She should have been shocked that he thought she’d manipulated situations to be invited. Rather, she was shocked when the connection clicked, Ubong Ebong…she should have suspected the surname but assumed people could share names and not necessarily be related.
But Ubong’s middle name wasn’t Usen, and she was forced to recall that he’d had an elder brother who’d died and he’d had a son. Her eyes refocused on him with more respect now, he must have stepped up and taken care of his nephew…
But some of those lovely children belonged to the other couples, she didn’t see the connection; how was he grand father to all of them?
While she thought, her eyes never leaving Usen’s face, a sliver of light cut her eyes, and without lifting her head or turning, she knew someone or people had opened the kitchen drape to stare at them, then she realized that this had all been planned…Agent Eddy Ebong, she silently griped.
“We’ve been set up, right?” she murmured in realization, and saw the confirmation in Usen’s eyes. “And right now, we’re being watched from the window, don’t turn,” she whispered urgently.
Ebong smiled indolently, “I’m no learner, of course I won’t turn,” he said while silently cussing his meddling family. They must have suspected, especially after Eddy had witnessed his angry storm out of Cecil’s office the other day.
The kids must have put two and two together after also noticing his moroseness of recent. He really had to purge himself of the inherent anger he had towards her, since he was sure he’d be seeing more of her at family gatherings; they might as well trash it out here.
He pulled his hands out of his pocket and folded it over his chest while giving her a contemplative look. “It’s Christmas, Cecil, the most popular holiday in Christendom, I assumed you would have been with your family, not skulking around with mine.”
A frown furrowed her brow instantly and hurt burned a path from her stomach to her throat. Usen was right, she should have been with her family if she had any. Cecil knew it would be very appropriate to lash back at him and point out that he was merely an adopted grandfather but she was suddenly weary.
They could go round and round like contending dogs, barking at each other and swiping away with worded claws, but it wouldn’t solve the resentment that was clearly present between them.
“I don’t have family, Usen,” she whispered and the weight of her regret crashed on her at that moment and she struggled not to cry. She wrapped her arms around her middle and held herself defensively for the whiplash that was sure to occur.
“You told me you got married,” his tone was mean.
“He died…and we didn’t have children…and I know I hurt you, Usen, I know, and I’m extremely sorry…”
“It’s extremely late for that,” he chuckled without humor.
“I was afraid, Usen, I was afraid of losing the career if we got married and you’d always said you wanted kids…”
“Did you discuss this worry with me? Because that’s what people do, people who are supposedly in love with each other are supposed to share their concerns…” his voice was beginning to rise with anger.
“I wasn’t thinking, and then the transfer came at just that time…”
“Don’t forget the promotion,” he snapped, his arms falling off his chest and returning to his pockets.
“I’m so sorry, Usen,” she murmured, her throat closing up with emotions but she was glad she managed to hold the tears at bay, no need giving the whole family a show, especially her subordinates at work.
“Did it ever occur to you that I wouldn’t have stopped your career just because we got married? Did it cross your mind, that I understood the importance of your career to you, me more than others?” his eyes held sadness as he asked the questions.
And Cecil was extremely floored to realize that he was right, he’d known her better than even herself and he would not have stopped her from furthering her career. The regret became a suffocating cloak as she tried to breathe…
“Usen…” she whispered, the tears finally spilled.
God damn it, he thought, his throat clogging at the sight of her vulnerable expression. She really did look sorry and regretful, and his heart might have loosened a bit of the resentment he’d been harboring but he wasn’t going to start anything with her…once bitten, twice shy, he thought.
But he could clear out their audience and save her from embarrassing herself before them, so he did just that. Without warning, he swiveled to the window of the kitchen and was in time to see several of the adults swiftly dock out of sight.
Well, except Wana, she was the one holding the drape to the side and she made sure Ebong saw the determination in her eyes. Morgan had been right, that woman was crazy and she was letting him know with her fixed gaze that she had something he wouldn’t like, planned.
“Show’s over,” he called out and heard murmurings as they dispersed, but Wana took her time, her eyes swiveling to the sobbing Cecil and returning to Ebong, and then her mouth tightened, as though to silently say she would make him pay for making Cecil cry…and he didn’t doubt that she would.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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