His beard was neatly trimmed and his Mohawk seemed to have grown bit. Stacey still blinked severally to assure her racing heart that he was real.
“I knocked on the door, rang the bell for a while…”
Wana moved first, before he could safely drop the gift in Uncle Ebong’s hands, he was suddenly engulfed in hugs and back pats and welcomes.
Richard couldn’t believe they just accepted his return like that with no censure, rather with complete joy, as though he’d been missing and they were ecstatic to have found him again…like the prodigal son.
“Say hi to my son first,” Morgan commanded and Richard dutifully looked down at the bundle in Morgan’s arm.
The baby looked really small in Morgan’s muscular arms and light skinned – a contrast to his dark skinned parents. The baby looked bored at Richard, yawned and turned into his father’s chest, his tiny mouth working to suck on his chest.
“Okay, off to mummy,” Morgan declared, everybody laughed off the tension, while he tenderly handed the child to Alero.
Richard chuckled, even though he wanted to cry in pure, undiluted happiness, he’d soon have a bundle like that of his own; that was, if his woman would still have him.
He saw her seating as still as a statue, her eyes as wide as saucers, like she wasn’t sure it was really him. Like if she moved, he would disappear. Richard smiled uncertainly at her and then faced the adults they’d known almost all their lives, he had something to say.
But Daniel beat him to it, “I am from the bottom of my heart, very sorry Richard for the terrible way I acted and the things I’d said. It wasn’t you, in particular,” he said, coming to stand in front of Richard, “It was to every man out there, because she’s my little girl and will always be.”
Richard nodded in understanding, his throat clogged with emotion, especially as he saw the women surreptitiously wipe tears from their eyes with their fingers.
“I have something to say…to all of you,” Richard begun and then cleared his throat, his voice had gone a bit hoarse from emotion.
“First of all, I need to apologize for taking off like that without telling anybody, it was very immature of me…”
“You’re damn right, it was, dude,” PJ interjected and the family chuckled, all but Stacey who still remained seated and unmoving.
“I am extremely sorry for the worry I caused. Though, I was fine, I was working on a ship a few miles out of Port Harcourt harbor and we just completed the job a few days ago.”
“I’ve had long quiet times to think of …” he choked on his words and was glad Wana rubbed his back and nodded encouragingly to him to continue.
Taking a deep breath, he made sure his gaze touched everybody in that backyard, “I have been holding myself back from really belonging to this great family, it was stupid and I was scared, but I shouldn’t have been since you people never did anything that encouraged that fear, I did that all by myself and I’m sorry.”
Debbie hugged him first, “We understand, fully, Richard and I’m glad you finally overcame your fears, all by yourself, like I knew you would,” she sounded so proud and Richard didn’t know whether to cry or be proud of himself.
The others followed suit, hugging and back slapping and accepting his apology.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the wedding, I wanted to but the chopper was late to come pick me from the ship,” he apologized to the newly wed couple.
“It’s okay, son,” Ebong said and patted his back fatherly.
“This is still the wedding, this gathering here is even more important than the reception. And you didn’t miss anything at the church, the pastor apparently loved the sound of his voice,” Cecil joked, giving him a slight hug.
Everybody laughed at her joke, comments of the joke being true seemed to float about Richard as he finally focused on the still sitting Stacey.
She looked beautiful and seemed plumper in that dress, like she was an adorable kid he just wanted to cuddle…and do more. Richard swallowed thickly; he shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts with her father a few feet away. He shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts without apologizing first.
He disentangled from the hurdle of the family and walked directly to her. When he stood before her, he immediately fell on his knees, his head naturally falling on her thighs as he murmured several varieties of apologies.
Her hands moved of their own accord and caressed his head like she would to comfort an upset child. She would have said something, she wanted to say something but her throat was impossibly clogged with emotion.
“The boy is good,” Daniel confessed in awe, his mouth wide open as he stared at Richard’s apology to his daughter. There was no way a man fell like that, in complete helplessness, before a woman, that she wouldn’t forgive him.
“I told you,” PJ replied smugly, having already known that characteristic in Richard.
“Watch and learn, guys,” Wana joked from under Daniel’s arm, though she cleaned tears from her eyes at the tender picture her kids made.
“Not Morgan, though,” Alero griped as she placed her baby on her shoulder to make him burp, “Any more skill and I might never not be pregnant again,” she said wryly.
Her comment wrenched a bark of laughter from Morgan and he stared at his wife in shock, “I can’t believe you just said that,” he said amidst chuckles and giggles from the other couples.
Alero rolled her eyes, “It’s a compliment,” she said, her mouth twitching to curb the wide grin that was struggling to burst forth on her face.
The night was suddenly filled with love and affection that warranted that couples get their spouses alone and in a room. It was time to go.
The adults surreptitiously dispersed. They went into the house, picked their children and with promises to see the next day, everybody went to their homes.
In all that time, Richard had refused to raise his head from Stacey’s thighs while he remained on his knees.
Finally, the heavy emotion lightened in her throat and she could manage a croak, “Richie,” she called and he shook his head, refusing to look up.
“Seriously? Are we going to stay this way all night?” she joked lamely and was shocked to see Richard’s head nod.
Stacey giggled, “The pregnancy makes me tire easily, so…”
That got his head to move very fast, his eyes widening in alarm, “Oh, I’m sorry, shit. I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t think…I’m so sorry, Stacey,” he said again with a mournful look as he sat on his haunches.
Stacey nodded, “We should go to your house,” she suggested shyly, and when he looked at her with shock, she explained, “I don’t want to be self conscious while talking to you.”
“Of course,” Richard said, rushing to his feet and helping her up.
Her heart soared at how easily he cared for her, “I missed you, Richie,” she said heatedly, her emotions rushing to the fore again, shinning through her eyes, and then she went on her toes and kissed him.
Richard accepted the kiss, pulling her flush against his body, moaning deep in his throat at the overwhelming sweetness that was entirely hers and his to take.
“We should go,” he rasped, his voice hoarse with desire.
Stacey nodded, her eyes clouded with the same emotion, “I’ll pack a few things,” she said and pulled him after her as they went into the kitchen and found her parents necking in the sitting room.
The slowly pulled away and Stacey succinctly informed them that she was following Richard to his house before she went to her room to pack an overnight bag.
“Home?” Wana asked, “You rented a place and didn’t tell us,” she accused.
Richard looked guilty, his eyes met that of Daniel as though asking for help, the man just grinned with a shrug as though saying, I have no hand in this.
“It’s not rented…it’s built…”
Wana gasped, “When were you going to tell us?” she really seemed hurt.
Richard looked down in shame but then he looked up determinedly, “I wanted Stacey to see it first.”
“Oh,” Wana mellowed, “That’s fair. And the car?” she bobbed her head towards the front door where his car was parked.
Richard moved uncomfortably from one foot to the other like a naughty child reprimanded in the principal’s office, “Mine too.”
“I…I planned to do a house warming party for the family, you know, to make everyone know,” he explained defensively, also knowing Wana loved celebrations, she would probably end up planning the thing.
“It will be my first party for the clan,” he grinned at the happy woman.
“You better be planning a wedding right after that,” Daniel groused threateningly.
“Of course,” Richard replied with a sincere and serious expression, because he truly was.
“Good, that’s you taking permission from me to marry my daughter,” Daniel declared and pulled a laughing Wana into his arm.
“I’m so calling the ladies this night,” Wana laughed evilly when she saw Richard’s pleading gaze.
“Aunty Debbie will kill me,” he mourned, though with a slight smile.
“Serves you right,” she replied just as Stacey emerged with a small overnight bag.
The goodnights weren’t as awkward as they’d expected, Richard swallowed thickly because he still had things to offload from his mind before he made this woman fully his.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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