Ebong scratched his more than over night beard, yawned and lazily returned to mixing drops of water into a cup containing shaving powder. He used a plastic spatula to stir the mixture into a greyish paste that would be splattered all over his jaw in a minute.
As opposed to his previously fully scheduled existence, he suddenly had so much time on his hands he was left confused as to how to proceed.
A month had passed since he’d had the weirdest conversation with Cecil, and the incongruity of their discussion had faded with time and he believed she probably hadn’t been serious about it.
Though she had dragged him to the fertility clinic to get tested, Ebong was sure it didn’t take a whole month to get results, so he assumed she must have changed her mind about it.
“Good,” he murmured but his heart pinched in obvious disappointment which he chose to ignore.
Allowing the mixed shaving paste to breathe for a while, he stretched his naked upper body, sighing in satisfaction as loud muscle pops signified a relief of the kinks in his joints.
For weeks he’d been lazy and had totally relinquished his strict exercise routine, a thing he’d instilled in the boys, Slay and Morgan, from their young age. It was so unlike him but then, he was retired anyway; he was allowed to wallow a bit in inactivity.
Very soon though, he thought as he went down on his tiled, sitting room floor in a press-up position, he was sure PJ would find a safe and profitable investment venture for his money.
He had spoken to PJ and Daniel and had offered to be a silent partner, but the guys had pointed out that he needed something more exciting than publishing, which basically involved wading through a lot of crap writing everyday.
Daniel had said he needed something more active, if not exactly like his former job but, at least close. And PJ had offered to research and give him options.
Ebong was grateful to the guys. Even though he needed activity, plunging into the business world was a bit scary and daunting to him. He had always been a service man and he’d remain one; which meant that whatever venture he chose, he would run it the best way he knew…like the service.
Thirty press-ups later, as opposed to the usual fifty, Ebong still in the press up position only changed the position of his arms. Instead of balancing on his fists, he placed his arm on the tiled floor and suspended his body weight from the floor…he was planking.
Five minutes later, he was panting and ready to quite; his body wasn’t as strong as it had been a couple of years back. No matter how fit he was, age was still an annoyingly present variable.
His pants echoed loudly in the house and at that moment he missed the boys. The emotion crashed down on him so hard he lost concentration, his shaky arms giving up the fight to hold up his weight. He was fast enough to twist his body, so that he fell heavily on his side.
Sweat dripped from all his pores and he was momentarily grateful for the coldness of the tiles. Ebong shut his eyes while panting and wondering where the errant emotion had come from.
Of course he was lonely, he’d been lonely since the boys had grown and left the house more than a decade ago, but it had never interfered with his routine. He really was a sad, lonely, old man, and the thought brought back Cecil and her crazy request.
Could he do it? Could he father a child at this late juncture? The fertility clinic was supposed to ascertain if his sperm count was any good, and even though he actively denied it in his mind, he was concerned.
He was concerned that he would be too old and shriveled to donate his sperm. He was concerned that Cecil’s eggs would be too old and shriveled to be of any good. And then he’d go right back to hating her for putting them in this situation in the first place. Their kids would have been grown and probably Slay and Morgan’s age by now, and he would have loved all of them.
And just to escape the unavoidable pain in his heart, Ebong would clear his mind with the discipline he’d perfected over the years and shrug off the concerns and hate. He would tell himself that he had gotten over Cecil, and that he had his family in which he was well pleased and if it never worked out, it probably was best.
He still couldn’t imagine carrying the faceless baby. Oh, he was good with playing grandpa for the children but, he was sure he’d be clueless when it came to his. So he had told Cecil that he would only donate his sperm; he’d said he was too old to be of any great use to a baby.
She had been hurt but had covered it up with a smile and a nod and a gratitude speech. Cecil had said she hadn’t even expected him to agree to her crazy idea, but that she couldn’t think of any other person to father her kid, but him.
He might deny it all he wanted but her words had been the highlight of his night on New Year’s Eve.
His door bell rang and he frowned. He wasn’t expecting anybody and the boys knew to call him before coming over. He could have been out already, but then he recalled that he was retired, so he really didn’t have anyway to go.
Momentarily, he considered not opening the door, but he was bored and it wasn’t even nine am yet.
Pushing himself from the floor, the clean exercise sweat having dried on his body because of the whirring fan, he didn’t bother with his t-shirt, he opened the door in his gym shorts.
“Hi,” Cecil greeted with a flustered smile and a nervous flutter of her hands. She had been about to reach out for a hand shake but seemed to have thought better of it. Even the smile faded from her face when she saw Ebong’s frown.
“What are you doing here?” he asked more harshly than he’d intended, the sight of her had shocked him; he felt like his thoughts had conjured her.
“How do you know where I live?” he added, less harshly though the scowl on his face remained. He was battling shame for having even spared her a thought.
Cecil cleared her throat and tried to keep her gaze on his face instead of on his fit body. Her first glance had shown that he wasn’t as lean as he’d been, more mass had been added to his muscle and it was distractingly attractive.
“You’ve always lived here, Usen,” she replied in a husky voice and licked her dried lips. “Besides, even if you’d moved, I do have your file…”
Ebong sighed heavily and widened the door, stiffening himself when she walked by him into his home. Her alluring scent wafted under his nose and he helplessly inhaled it.
“For a moment there, I thought you weren’t going to let me in,” Cecil joked, her eyes taking in the new décor of the house; at least it was new to her.
When Usen had moved into his newly built house, years ago, the walls had been plastered but hadn’t been painted, the floor had been cemented and the furniture had been sparse; he had just been starting life then and he had wanted to share that life with her.
Guilt and regret was a horrible combination to choke a person at once and Cecil in the past two months since reentering Usen’s life had thought she’d have gotten used to it already, but she had not.
Ebong shut the door and turned to give her a blank look, “There’s no need, besides you’re here already and I don’t see the point pretending that I don’t know why you’re here,” his expression had gotten serious as he waved at the leather couch to Cecil and preferred to stand, leaning his back on the sturdy book shelf and folding his arm on his chest while facing her and waiting.
Cecil cleared her throat and settled on the seat, dropping her big handbag on the equally sturdy coffee table; she noticed that his furniture matched and his house looked lived in and homey. She fell in love with the place instantly and wished she didn’t have to live at the giant mausoleum the Agency had given her.
She was nervous and she hadn’t expected Usen would go straight into the matter, considering the contradictions he’d presented when she’d brought up the idea.
“I’m waiting, Cecil,” Ebong said, his pulse ticking as he waited with bated breath as though he was to be convicted.
Cecil nodded, looking down and twiddling her thumbs, “Our results came out and the doctor said we are both healthy enough to make a baby,” she said, her voice growing a bit hoarse towards the end.
Ebong nodded calmly with an expressionless mien as though he wasn’t mentally punching the air victoriously. No man would have heard that news and not be proud. Men younger than him suffered from low sperm count, but at his age, he’d been certified able to make a baby.
Even though he’d continuously denied not being worried about the whole affair, it was just good to know that he was still a hundred percent man.
The blank look on his face increased Cecil’s nervousness. Did he like the news? Had he changed his mind about the plan? She really wished she knew what he was thinking, so she’d prepare a defense for whatever contradictions he came up with.
“What now?” he asked, a muscle ticking on his jaw as he hardened it.
The situation was weird and awkward and Cecil wished she could make it turn around; she wished she could turn back the hands of time and agree to his proposal. But she was stuck with this awkwardness, a situation that Usen wasn’t even helping to abate.
It felt like he was purposely making the situation more difficult for her, after all, she was the one that wanted a baby at old age.
Taking a deep breath, she ignored the regrets and replied in a rush, “The doctor gave me a plastic container for your, err…sperm and a cooler that would preserve it for at least 4 hours,” she rambled while opening her bag and producing a small, clear plastic container, the kind usually required to urinate into at a hospital.
But this one had a firm covering and Ebong was sure it was the very same he’d been required to masturbate into when he’d gone to the fertility clinic. He still couldn’t understand why or how he’d even agreed to this.
Then Cecil produced a small, handheld cooler, white and blue in color and it resembled the tiny food flasks Slay’s children carried their lunches to school.
His father had been a health practitioner before his death and Ebong recalled he’d had a similar cooler, maybe bigger, whenever he brought home vaccines from the hospital to administer free to the neighbors’ children.
Silence reigned as they both stared at the containers on his coffee table. Tension filled the room and Cecil almost choked on her breath as she struggled to exhale through the hammering of her pulse.
Ebong thought he saw her hand tremble, he noticed that she kept swallowing hard and taking deep breaths as though to calm herself. He was glad that she was as nervous as he was in this situation.
Staring at the containers, he imagined himself masturbating to fill the clear, white plastic. Embarrassment filled him instantly when he recalled going through the process at the special room provided by the clinic. None of the X-rated magazines had gotten him off, but a mental image of Cecil exercising at Wana’s backyard on New Year’s Eve.
He seriously felt disadvantaged that his emotions were involved in this, even though he wanted to be stoic about the whole thing. He wanted to tell her he’d have her sample by the end of the day, touch himself without an image of her, ejaculate into the container without any pressure in his chest and hand over the sample, stoically washing off his hands from her and her wishes.
His nose got hot, longing weighed on his chest, tension filled his body making his skin tingled with pinprick sensations and he felt like his head would explode from the building pressure…
“Or…” Cecil said, taking a very deep breath and looking up straight into his eyes, “We could…” she choked and continued, “We could do it the natural way.”
“Uh?” Ebong croaked stupidly, it was as though his senses and ability to speak had deserted him.
“I took my hormonal injections this morning, and it’s required that I get inseminated between 24 to 36 hours. It would be less stressful, if I don’t have to drive the long distance to the fertility clinic…”
Ebong cleared his throat and was finally able to create a sensible sentence after forcibly clearing his mind of the images and pressing urge of actually feeling Cecil, warm and naked, pressed against him. He mentally explained his intense reaction with the fact that he hadn’t been with a woman for quite a while.
“At the risk of sounding dense, we are still speaking of Rainbow Fertility/IVF Centre at 51 Ikot Abasi Street, right?” he asked with a frown, which was more to curb his growing erection than in expressing his incredulity.
Cecil nodded, still sitting at the edge of the couch.
“You made it sound as though it would involve hours of driving. Besides, didn’t the doctor explain something about washing the sperm to increase its strength to fertilize your egg?”
“He did,” she replied curtly and mentally thought how slow men could be sometimes; the man obviously wanted her to spell it out to him. Or maybe, he didn’t just desire her that way anymore; she was forty-nine after all. Even so, some men would have jumped at the idea; but Usen wasn’t some men, he was special, which explained why she was hung up on him.
When she’d gone for her first consultation with the clinic, she’d been told she could just buy donor sperms, but she’d only wanted Usen’s own. Now, she was before him and she realized that she wanted more than his sperm, she wanted him…all of him. But he was currently putting up resistance again.
“Then, the plastic is the…”
Cecil scoffed quite loudly and impatiently. She surged to her feet, elegantly straightening her corporate, pencil gown and pinning Usen a penetrating gaze, while her hand went bent to get to her back.
Ebong swallowed hard and wondered what she was doing. He was still wondering when he watched her shrug off her dress from her shoulders, and then reached to pull her arms out of it one at a time.
He was still wondering when she shimmied out of the dress, the bulk of it pooling at her feet, together with a girdle. Ebong swallowed hard as his eyes tracked her alluring body, from her cream, sexy lace covered breasts to her matching panties and black, corporate heels.
She stepped out of her cloth and stood before him in all her glory. At some point his mouth must have dropped open because he realized he was breathing through it.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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