If you’ve noticed, I’ve been a bit quiet. I left in the face of so much lovey dovey happening in every corner, ha, these people can make a girl jealous. They made me begin to contemplate confronting Trouble with my feelings, but, well, let this tale end first.
Nkoyo would have laughed in anybody’s face that would have dared, a month ago, to tell her that she’d be in this much pain because of a man. It wasn’t a physical pain but it affected her as such; the morning after he had rejected her in his room, she’d went to breakfast with a migraine, yet, she couldn’t stop thinking and wondering why he had suddenly sent her away despite the passion between them.
Onen had returned to avoiding her like he used to but this time, it hurt her so much she cried herself to sleep a couple of nights, it should have been more but she was a practical person, crying wouldn’t solve anything; but it didn’t stop her from having the urge every time his gaze went over her as though she was invisible.
How could he just switch off his feelings like that? She had tried but it was impossible and something she didn’t wish to do. Her feelings for Onen was new, a miracle and a fantasy come through because he had reciprocated. Nkoyo wished continuously that she could even get to talk to him, she wanted to find out what the problem was and try to solve it.
If she knew no problem, how could she solve it? She hated this limbo of waiting uncertainly. Why was he being so difficult when she had told him that she had no feelings for Ekong? Didn’t he understand that meant their engagement as was good as gone? If there was one thing she loved about her parents, it was their liberality when it concerned marriage, if she hadn’t agreed, the engagement to Ekong would never have happened, and now that she understood the real feeling of wanting to spend the rest of one’s life with someone else, she didn’t want to settle for less.
And even though, the way things were currently looking, Onen refused for whatever misguided reason to have anything to do with her, she still would not settle for less. Now that she had experienced passion, she never wanted to erase the taste of it with something less. It wasn’t a surprise, she had always been one with high taste and expectations, it had always been the best for her or nothing.
When she’d accepted Ekong as her future husband, she’d chosen him because of the over all standing of his kingdom, which was higher than the other two princes that had also been vying for her hand. Now that she had experienced Onen and the intense emotion she’d suspected was love, nothing less than love would tarnish it for her.
So on the fifth day of Onen’s silence and avoidance, she dressed up and went down for another painful breakfast session and drive to the mill.
Liman and Jesam, after much finger biting had decided to step in and stop a potentially complicated and quite dangerous situation. It was obvious that the kids were in love, and knowing their son, he was fighting his emotions because he was a man of integrity, he would never pursue a woman that wasn’t his.
And Jesam bled for his pain. She wished the princess would decide to leave, but from her sessions with Nkoyo, Jesam had come to know that the young woman could be tenacious. She obviously reciprocated her son’s feelings and her longing stares during meals were testament to her confusion why he wanted nothing to do with her. But Jesam also gleaned that it was a matter of time before she confronted him.
Jesam wanted to avoid that confrontation and to ease her son’s discomfort.
Onen arrived at breakfast and took his seat, but nobody knew that before he walked into the dinning room, he had stopped at the door and took deep, calming breaths that hopefully would take him through the meal. And he would need more to take through the drive with her to the mill.
A normal woman would have stopped going to work and tried severally to avoid him, but no; Nkoyo wasn’t that way, and even though it annoyed him, he also admired her strength. He missed those times when he would escape from breakfast into his car and off to the mill, not anymore, she was everywhere, her scent was everywhere and therefore, there was no ease to his longing for her.
It was worse since he knew the taste of her succulent lips and the feel of her sumptuous body and even if blind folded, he could find her in the crowd by her scent. The woman was driving him mad, especially when he caught her staring with questions and longings that mirrored his in her eyes.
He was glad when he got to the mill, he was happy to flee her presence and join the manual labor downstairs. Sometimes he wondered how he swallowed his food despite the mighty lump that had taken permanent residence in his throat.
The king cleared his throat after a telling gaze from his wife. They had come to love the princess, especially after she’d begun changing into a decent human being, but the sanity of their son came first and they didn’t want to seem rude by telling the girl she had to go, they didn’t also want to let the kids know that they knew how they felt.
“I need you in the meeting with the chiefs today, Onen,” Liman said after taking a sip of water.
Onen looked up with a curious frown, why would his father need him in a minor meeting with his chiefs? His eyes unconsciously found Nkoyo’s own and the effect was still the same, his heart leaped and his whole body stiffened, he looked away swiftly.
“Is everything okay?” he murmured.
“I just need your opinion about something, it means though that you’d get to the mill late,” Liman pointed out.
Nkoyo frowned at that, she had some work to do and wasn’t sure the whole day would be enough, so going to the mill late would be a problem.
Jesam was glad to catch the frown of worry on Nkoyo’s face, in fact she had been watching for that frown. “The driver could take you, dear, not to worry,” Jesam assured and Nkoyo smiled her thanks at the queen.
Onen was secretly relieved that he would not have to drive with her to the mill today. It was a temporary reprieve but it offered some relief all the same. He went into the meeting chamber with his father the same time Nkoyo went out of the palace in the car with a driver.
Twenty five minutes into the meeting, Onen still had no idea when his opinion would be needed. The chiefs might have welcomed him warmly, teasing that it had been a while since the last time he’d joined their meeting. But after that, they had just plain ignored him, but he listened, even though he fought to concentrate, while struggling with thoughts of Nkoyo.
Thirty minutes later, a commotion interrupted the meeting, when a disheveled driver, the same one that had driven Nkoyo that morning panted a ridiculous story of bandits kidnapping the princess.
Onen was sure his heart stopped beating for a whole minute, not that he’d been counting. But the fear that suffused him for Nkoyo was instant and the guilt that he’d been relieved earlier that morning in not driving her to work competed with the fear.
Atam kingdom was one of the safest around, there had never been any kidnapping incident, so Onen couldn’t explain this one. With a thumping heart, he listened to where it had happened and before he knew what he was doing, he left his dad and went to the king’s study to unhang his hunting gun.
He couldn’t do nothing, he would not be able to live with himself if anything happened to Nkoyo. He might not be able to claim her as his own, but he didn’t want her harmed either. His parents and the chiefs stood around wondering at their next action while he was already in his car with his father’s gun on the passenger’s seat.
Onen drove like a mad man and prayed fervently that he wasn’t too late.
It felt like a dream, one minute, she was having the pressing urge to shed tears for Onen’s attitude, the next minute, the car was faced with two armed and masked bandits, demanding that she step out of the car.
She obeyed on shaky legs, her heart raced in terror while she wondered why this was happening to her. Was she paying for her sins? Onen didn’t want her and now, she was being robbed, or worse, she thought, her fear increasing.
“Take everything, and leave us alone,” Nkoyo offered with a blustering courage that she wasn’t really feeling.
“We don’t want those things, we want you, Princess,” one of the bandit had said, causing her heart to go into over drive.
Her brain melted in the rush of terror that attacked her chest. She couldn’t understand what they meant by they wanted her. And before she could bolster another scoop of courage to ask, the driver bolted, leaving her there alone with the dangerous men.
They shot at him and the report of the gun sent Nkoyo to her knees while she screamed at the top of her lungs; not in a bid to attract attention but out of debilitating fear for her life. They had dragged her on the ground into the forest when her legs couldn’t support her.
When she earned bruises from the short drag, she struggled to her feet and followed the men who didn’t seem to be in a hurry to flee the scene of their crime.
“Please, I’m the daughter of the king of Efik kingdom, my father would pay handsomely for me and I’m a guest of the king of Atam kingdom, please just let me go,” she pleaded.
“I’m not sure what you think your credentials would do for you, princess,” one of the bandit said with humor in his voice. “You probably have just over stayed your welcome and you need to leave.”
Nkoyo was trying to understand what he meant when a single gun shot shattered the relative peace of the forest, sending birds scattering and apparently her assailants too. Was it a rival gang, Nkoyo thought even while screaming again at the top of her voice.
Onen was glad to hear her scream. He followed her voice while sending another shot in the air and was doubly glad that her voice wasn’t moving but was stationary. It took only a few moments to find her and was glad to see that she wasn’t hurt, only emotionally distraught.
“It’s okay,” he said as he rushed to her, sliding to his knees and gathering her into his arms. “Oh God, Nk, I was so scared and worried, Christ,” his arms tightened about her while his eyes roamed the forest looking out for any danger. His gun lay at a reachable distance beside him while he tried to comfort the sobbing woman.
“It’s alright, Nk, I got you now. Nothing is going to happen to you, baby,” he comforted, his hand rubbing her back and hoping she’d stop her heart wrenching cries.
“We need to leave this place,” he said and helped her to her feet, lifting his gun and holding her close to his side as they walked towards his car. He refused to think what would have happened to her, he was just happy and grateful she was unharmed.
He took time again to hug her before helping her into his car, he worried about her reddened face and the trauma that the situation might cause her. Dropping an unplanned kiss on her temple, a result of his relief, he closed her door and hurried to the driver’s side. He was almost to the palace when she broke her sniffles and spoke.
“I want to go home,” she said in a determined voice; and the whole notion shattered Onen’s aching heart.
He had not been expecting that; he guess he should have been careful what he’d wished for. Less than an hour ago, he’d been happy to avoid the drive to the mill, now he was faced with her absence, perhaps forever.
INSIDE OUT continues
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