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Love Eternal – When Passion Conquers All – O. N. Michael

  • November 28, 2023
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Love Eternal – When Passion Conquers All – O. N. Michael

We met on a beautiful morning, when the sun comes up in the sky and the golden rays throw into the wretched earth, its light and peace. On such mornings, I was in the worst mood ever because that was when Father made me follow him to the ranch. I actually loved the ranch, with the countryside view and the fresh smell of manure and hay. I would love to have my own ranch someday, but I simply wanted to be free. I wanted to be away. I wanted to be like a bird, made to fly into the sky and away from any problems that may bound me.

Father never let that happen.

He kept me away from the world. He always said the world was corrupt, and that he was scared that I would leave him like Mother did. He only explained these when his mood was down and he felt like talking.

On every normal day, he would be as mean as crap, not even glancing my way. That thought me to be mean as well. I hardly spoke to him and when he was there, I hardly glanced his way. In this way, I and my Father had been living for the past eighteen years, enveloped in the large mansion of Crown Del Rosa-the title he gave the mansion, after Mother. On a day like this, I was seated at the back of Dad’s car while he drove in silence. We were getting closer to the ranch when something caught my ears and definitely Father’s ears as well.

It was music!

The melodious voice of a bass singer resonated in the car as Father drove into the gate. I wanted to know who was singing, and in fact, hear the voice a little better, so I stylishly brought down the tinted window and poked my head a little outside, my eyes searching. Then I saw him. He was a man, probably in his early twenties. He wore a singlet and a pair of jeans with a cowboy hat on his thick black hair. His beard was trimmed and in the sun’s golden rays, I could clearly see his blue glowing eyes, his perfectly shaped nose and his slender lips. He was muscular in the most beautiful way ever, with the fit shape of a British man.

He was the most handsome guy I had ever seen, but that was not what was catching me. It was his dancing! He held a lady as they both danced the Tango while a couple of other men with similar dressing but awkwardly different faces kept the music going. I wanted to keep looking at this angelic face, wanted to drown in his perfection. As we drove on, I could swear that he saw me, briefly. He looked up at me with a sexy boyish smile and his smile broadened when he saw me. I couldn’t concentrate at the ranch that day. As I fed the horses, my mind kept drifting to the romantic singer, his perfect lips, his glowing eyes… I wished he could be here with me presently so that I could continue to watch that face. It was too bad he was not working in the ranch as I had not seen his face before.

Suddenly, an idea struck me. I decided to go look for him. I knew quite well that it was an ultimately crazy thing to do, yet it was something to try. First, I had to ensure Father was too busy in his office to remember I existed so I crept towards Father’s office. The door was shut and I could hear murmurs from within. I leaned closer to listen better.

“None of you noticed when I drove into the ranch today.” I heard Father’s voice.

“We are very sorry for our incompetence, sir.” I heard one of the men reply. I was surprised. Could it mean that the singers were workers here? That showed I knew very little of the developments in the ranch. There were more workers I didn’t even know about! Could it be….

“Incompetence? You were all making a foolish show of yourselves, dancing and singing in the public!” Silence!

I knew Father was mad. He was always mad about something, one thing or the other but for goodness sake, this was music! What harm could it make?

“I want you all out of the ranch immediately! You are fired!” I gasped.

What? In my shock, I turned immediately to leave entrance and suddenly came face to face with someone. It was all dark around me and I could hardly see the face. We were so close, I could hear his breath. I choked in my breath.

“What are you doing, miss?” What the hell? Was this stranger questioning me? Who was he to do so? “None of your business!” I remarked rudely and immediately walked out. I was in a bad mood, trying to find the handsome dancer and as well, trying to know how to stop Father from firing the workers. That day was so vain. I could not find the dancer but I was going to try to stop the workers from being fired! Time was running out!

Chapter Two

When I returned home that night with Father, we had a visitor. He was a regular visitor, best described as family now after I have known him for three years. His name was Alonso. Alonso was the son of the Town District officer, a graduate in the navy. He was tall, good-looking and very influential in town as a result of the rank his father held.  Officer Kaman- Alonso’s father was a childhood friend of my father. When father found himself in a good mood at rare times, he used to tell me stories of how he and Kaman had come so far. I honestly admired their friendship. They were together at their school days, during their marriage, when their wives both passed away and even now in their old age. If only I and a man I loved could have such lasting relationship.

As I climbed down the stair that marked our house as the largest duplex in town, I heard Father and Alonso talking in the sitting room. Father paused when he saw me and immediately stood up.

“Excuse me.” He said and exited the living room. I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to give I and Alonso some private time together. He always did. Father had this inordinate dream that Alonso and I would get married someday, probably because he loved his charisma or simply because he wanted to keep the bond between him and his friend for a longer time. I had no feelings for Alonso. I didn’t hate him. He was just a friend to me and there was nothing that was ever going to make me even imagine marrying Alonso.

“Good evening.” I greeted quietly as I settled down on a cushion opposite him.

“Hello, Miranda.” He replied with a smile. I wondered what exactly we’ll be talking about. Talks with Alonso were usually boring as it’s either business or the ranch that we end up discussing. “How was it in the ranch today?”

The Ranch! It suddenly occurred to me. The dancing workers would all be leaving tomorrow! This was my chance! Only Alonso could convince Father to hold back from carrying out his decision. On every normal day, Alonso was the one to bring up whatever we would be talking about. This time, the reverse was the case. I smiled the most beautiful smile ever as I began.

“Something awkward happened at the ranch today…” I said. Alonso saw my smile and seemed interested in what I had to say.

“Tell me.” He said, leaning forward.

“We were heading the ranch this morning-n Dad and I when we found over half of the workers at the gate side, singing this incredible salsa and beautifully dancing!” I ended up laughing as I thought about it.

“Goodness!” Alonso cried as he burst into laughter. 

“They were really good, at least to me. But Dad didn’t see it that way. He is threatening to have them all fired tomorrow.” I sighed.

“Have them all fired? Simply because they were dancing?”

“That’s the point Alonso. We cannot let Dad do that. I can’t convince him but you can!”

“You want me to make your Father pull back from his decision?” He asked. I smiled, nodding slowly. “Consider it done, my lady.”

I sighed deeply, thanking God in my heart. “Thank you, Alonso. I knew I could trust you.”

It kind of pained me, when I realized I was just taking advantage of him.

I was looking out the window of the library at the ranch and down at the anxious workers who were all assembled in wait of Father’s final decision. The foreman was in Father’s office. I was waiting as well, hoping Alonso had done the job correctly. The foreman finally returned after ten minutes that seemed like an hour. 

“What did he say?” One of the workers asked. Oh! My god! I thought as I observed the foreman’s face. He seemed totally down but suddenly, he broke into a wide smile.

“We stay!” He yelled. There was a loud eruption from among the workers as they exploded in joy, throwing hugs at one another and exchanging handshakes. I was so happy; I nearly fell through the window. I turned in a hurry to go thank Alonso who had followed us to the ranch.

I jumped back in shock as I nearly rammed into a person who stood right behind me.

“Lady…” the man said. I sighed heavily.

“Hello? What are you doing…?” I paused. It was him! I recognized him again- the man I was desperately looking for. I recognized his thin nose, slender lips and glowing eyes.

“I’m sorry I frightened you.” 

“Frightened? No…No….it’s,…um… it’s nothing!” I lied. That was not I would have said if it was someone else. “How may I help you sir?”

“I want to thank you for sparing the workers and not allowing your Father fire us.” His heavenly voice said. 

“Us?” I gasped. He was a worker at the ranch!

“How’d…did…. you know that?” I asked, wondering why I was stammering. 

“I saw you eavesdropping on the conversation yesterday…”

“You were the one?” I gasped.

“Yes… you didn’t know?”

“Of course not. It was all dark!” I replied, remembering how I had rudely addressed the person yesterday.

“I just guessed you were probably the one behind our stay, since you are closest to the boss.”

“You’re welcome.” I simply replied. “…n and sorry…. for….. um… the way I addressed you yesterday. I was freaked out.”

“Thank you.” He replied warmly.

“You…um… you dance quite well.” I couldn’t hold back my comment.

He chuckled. My heart sank seeing his beautiful smile. He was like heaven.  “Thank you, lady.”

“I’m Miranda.”

“Wow…”

“What is it?”

“Nothing, it’s a beautiful name. I’m Fredrick.”

“Nice to meet you, Fredrick.” I replied courtly. He suddenly shifted closer and stared deep into my eyes. The blue of his eyes was as deep as an ocean. I was drowning in it. He was so close now, I could hear his breath. 

“Friends?” he let out his hand for a shake.

“Friends.” I chuckled slightly as I received his sturdy hand. He raised my tender hand and planted a kiss on it. I felt my heart jump. Those beautiful god-like lips on my hand! I contained myself. 

He left then and I returned to the window to dream of what it would be like to love Fredrick.

Neither of us saw Alonso watching.

Chapter Three

For a new found reason, I was going to the ranch each and every day now. Father probably didn’t notice anything wrong since he knew I had always loved the ranch in the first place but what he must have noticed was amiss was my drift in mood whenever I got to the ranch. Without anyone having to tell me, even though Madam Purita the cook of the ranch workers always told me- I knew I was having a buoyant, bright face whenever I was in the ranch and my happiness was as clear as sunlight. What no one knew, at least, no one yet, was that Fredrick was the one behind it.

I was beginning to know Fredrick now and some things about him. We met regularly in the stables where we fed the horses with hay, taking advantage of our solitude to talk. Fredrick was incredibly lively and free. He found it easy to talk with me never minding the contrast in our social status. It was from our every afternoon chats that I found it he was from the countryside, he grew up without a mother and his father passed away when he was twelve leaving him to the street. He had since then sought for his everyday living, a struggle for survival, but he told me his sustaining secret- dancing.

That afternoon, Fredrick had said: – “dancing is the best thing that had ever happened to me. I grew up with a dancer for a father. He thought me to dance and made me understand all the basic things I know today. Since then, I had used this talent to survive my street journey.”

“Is that what you do for a living?”

“For a long time, Yes.” He replied. “I was paid, dancing and singing in clubs…”

“Singing?” I gasped.

“Sure…”

“I love singing!” I remarked.

“That’s one thing we have in common then.” He laughed softly as he ran his fingers through a mare’s hair.

“How am I even sure you can sing?” I asked with a raised chin.

“You wanna see me sing something for you?” he asked with a raised brow.

“As you wish.”

He smiled that glorious smile that heaven must have considered a gift. “Come closer.”

Affection filled my eyes as I stepped a little closer to him. We settled on the hay and suddenly he dug out a guitar from a pile of wood behind us.

“Are you for real?” I gasped.

“Everything in this ranch is music. I just pray boss would get to understand one day…” He sighed. I silently prayed so too. The guitar began to resonate softly in the still air. I found myself pulled into the melody as he began to sing.

At first, I glimpsed her in a car, a diamond in my heart…” I chuckled. “…i wished you didn’t live so far… I’m starting to fall apart… I want to sing you to sleep, each and every night… make you dream and peep… because I love you, hope that’s alright…”

Fredrick had never said he loved me. We were friends for some weeks now and just that but to… love me? It felt strange. The music was over now and the silence ate at us.

“That… um… that was a perfect song… I…”

Something mysterious happened just then! Fredrick came closer so fast, I couldn’t see it coming until our lips touched in a deep affectionate kiss. I returned his kiss softly until we parted. He looked into my eyes with his sea blue eyes…

“Miranda…” He began. “I love you…”

I felt my heart sink.

Chapter Four

I LOVE FREDERICK!

It was like I was in a beautiful dream. The very man I had fallen for had proven to love me too!

I ran into the fields the next morning, playing with the flowers and birds like I was a child again. I couldn’t believe this was what love felt like. So light, so soft, so free! I didn’t hold back from visiting the stables even once each and every day. Somehow, probably because we had finally gotten to admit that we loved each other, we felt more comfortable with our presence. Frederick was a man to be with. He was never pushy. He respected me and gave me the time and space to make my decisions. When we worked on the horses, we simply chatted together as friends, laughing, playing and talking all day. To add to my happiness, Father and Alonso were on a very important dealing with some businessmen giving them both almost zero time for me. So I spent the whole day in the stables, at Frederick’s side without anyone to question me.

One of these hot afternoons, I had met Frederick sitting on a ball of hay, dressed in his tight jeans and folded white shirt covered in dirt together with his unmatchable cowboy hat. He had with him a guitar and was playing a slow, romantic tune. I suddenly came in and he almost hid the guitar.

“It’s just me” I said. He smiled a little but didn’t continue to play. I took my position on the hay beside him. “Won’t you play for me?” I asked. He looked up at me now and into my eyes for the first time since I arrived.

“I will, I would love to.” He replied. 

“Would I like the music?” I asked in faked haughtiness. “I’m not sure…” I could feel my eyes dazzle as I acted out. Frederick chuckled. 

“Let’s see ma’am.” He replied. He faced the guitar now. Taking a deep breath, he struck a string and began a song. At first, I thought it was just a normal song and I loved it all the way from the first strike of the guitar but then I realized that the song had a message. He was saying something like:-

“… He wishes to be happy

… He wishes to be with me

… He wishes for my father’s blessings

….He wishes to be free

…. He wishes he had all it took to have me

…. He wishes like Alonso, he was wealthy and affluent

….To give Father all he wanted

….. To have me forever

…..I wish we were possible

….. Because indeed I love you….”

When the song was finished, I figured my mood had dampened down. He was also quiet but smiling pitifully as he turned the guitar without looking at me. 

I knew that what he said was true indeed. Father would never let I and Frederick be. There was no way that Father would consent because of Frederick’s background. I could feel his pain, the frustration of wishing to be rich, of wishing to be someone else. But that was not what mattered to me and what Father said about us didn’t matter either. I was willing to do anything to be with him. To wake up every morning and see his face, to love him, to run with him into the fields, to kiss him each and every day, to have children with him…

“Let’s go together, Fred.” I suddenly spat my mind. The shock on Frederick’s face was inevitable. 

“No, Miranda. The last time we talked about running, it was only a joke.”

“It’s not this time around.” I insisted.

Frederick got up now, pacing. 

“This is not just about you. This is also about your father, about Alonso….”

“You really should stop bothering about everyone and start thinking about yourself too.”

“Miranda, you know I love you above everything else and that is why I can’t let you get hurt.”

I stood up now and walked towards him. “Leaving me here Frederick would be the worst thing you’ve ever done in your entire life. You either take me, or I never forgive you.”

“Miranda, I am a street broke, okay?” He was sounding frustrated now. “I am nothing but a slum rat trying to gather together a living! On the contrary, you’ve grown all your life in paradise and suddenly, I would be leading you to a world of hardships just so you may be with me? No way! That’s me being wicked!”

“That is you loving me!” I insisted. “You think I’m really some rich spoilt girl, huh? How about I tell you I’ve trained three years in karate. I’m almost on my black belt.”

Fred chuckled heartily. 

“Yeah… I know right.” He replied sarcastically. I raised a brow as I gave him a move. In a second, the grown up guy was lying flat on the hay. He stood groaning and rubbing his head.

“Okay, this is way above my expectations.” Frederick commented. I helped him up.

“Don’t let me show you another move.” I warned.

“Alright, I admit you are in to face street life, but think about your father….”

“Dad is going to be comfortable. He would understand no because I would write to him every day. And when we are married, we would then come back.”

“And what if he comes after us?” Frederick asked.

“I don’t know about you, but as for me, I am planning to go far far away.”

Frederick moved closer to me. He was so damn handsome, I caught in my breath.

“I don’t want you to regret anything, my love. I just want you to be happy.” He whispered to me.

“You’re never a regret….” I replied. “Never!”

***

I and Frederick planned to leave that very night. Frederick was to ride to the house that night, then I move out through the window to join him as we ride to the Arid Hills from where we planned to move to another city.

I sat in my room reading a novel at the window while watching carefully for the first sign of Frederick. Father was not in the house as he had gone for Holy Saturday mass. I was alone with the cooks and maids which was to only make the job easier until one of the maids rang the doorbell of my room to inform me I had a visitor. I hurried out to the sitting room, wondering why Frederick would decide to come inside until I came out to see Alonso seated on the couch he always loved to occupy. He greeted me with a warm hug.

“I guess, you’re here for Father. He attended the Holy Saturday mass this night.”

“No, no…  I came to see you.” He replied. I frowned. I was meant to remain at the window. I couldn’t afford losing Frederick. 

“Merry very close Easter.” Alonso wished. I smiled.

“Boring one too. Father didn’t mind putting up Easter bunnies this year.” I said jokingly. Alonso laughed anyway until we both stopped and silence filled the room.

“Miranda…”

“Yah.”

“I …… I love you, Miranda.” Alonso said quietly.

I felt my heart drop.

No! No! No! This was the least I expected. I knew Alonso had feelings for me. He just never became so plain.

“I……”

I was suddenly cut short by Alonso:- “I know, you love me too….. I love you so much my dear.”

I choked. But that was not what I was about to say. I suddenly felt annoyed.

But Alonso was coming closer. I was nervous and unsure but stood firm. When he came close enough, he suddenly dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out a little case. I didn’t want to believe it. 

“Dearest Miranda…” He was on his knees now. “Would you marry me?”

Chapter Five

Miranda’s heart skipped a beat. She felt like sinking into the ground at that very moment. Why does it have to be Alonso? Why wasn’t it Frederick before her right now and asking for her hand in marriage? Why does it have to be right now? 

Then she suddenly remembered. Frederick was coming for her. She stared at Alonso, shaking in fear and surprise. His eyes glowed with expectations. It was like he was a hundred percent sure she was going to say yes.

Miranda was visibly vibrating now. Her head spun and she almost lost her balance. Instead, she fell backwards, freeing her hand from Alonso’s firm grasp.

“Miranda….” Alonso’s face was contorting, an expression of confusion. Miranda didn’t realize she was shaking her head as well.

“Miranda? Are you okay?” 

“I’m sorry, Alonso.” Miranda replied now, her voice barely a whisper. “I can’t.”

Alonso gasped as tears filled his eyes. He stood straight now.

“Miranda….”

Miranda felt tears whelm in her eyes as well. She had liked Alonso as a good friend. She didn’t want to leave him heartbroken in such pain and agony.

She turned for the staircase and began to climb up.

Suddenly, Miranda felt him grab her wrist. She almost yelled as he turned her with a dazzling force, she nearly staggered and fell. Alonso pulled her to his face.

“You’ll marry me, Miranda because you have no choice!” Alonso growled. Miranda fought at his grasp.

“Let me go!” She pleaded.

“Say yes and wear the ring!” Alonso commanded.

“Alonso!”

“Say yes and wear this ring!” Alonso’s words sounded more like a threat. 

“Please, Alonso.”

“Just a simple yes, Miranda” Alonso’s words sounded like a threat. 

“Let me go!” Miranda screamed as she tore free from his grasp. Sobbing, she moved away.

“Is it because of him?” Miranda felt her heart thump. Because of who? She thought. Oh God! 

“Go away, Alonso. I am disappointed in you!”

She replied.

Alonso turned to go but turned back suddenly again. He pulled her close and made to kiss her. Miranda growled as she pushed his face away but Alonso acted rather fast. He threw a slap at her, throwing her to the ground. Miranda fell, the pain was unfathomable. 

“Let’s make this easier.” He smirked. He leaned down and tore part of her gown. He pushed her to the ground and fell over her. Miranda took the next action. She pulled out a knife suddenly from the table below and struck Alonso on the face. Alonso screamed as the blood gushed down from the sleek line that ran diagonally across his face. Sobbing, Miranda ran for the front door. Alonso pursued after her, the knife in his hand. She tried the front door, they were not opened. Where were the maids? The cooks? They must have gone in for the night, unaware of the children’s play going on in the sitting room. 

She dodged and headed for her room with the growling Alonso following behind. Once she got to the room, she picked the bag she had set earlier and looked out the window. Her heart sank. There he was. Frederick was looking up at her, on the very horse he had promised to take her with. He was smiling, looking relieved to be seeing her, having no idea of the tragedy above. He was waiting. She threw her bag down the building and swung out.

“Careful!” Frederick warned. She was in between now, leaning on the rough walls of their ancient building. She began to come down step by step.

Then Frederick saw someone else coming from the room- a figure in the dark. He recognized him once he came to the light but then….

“Jesus Christ!” Frederick exclaimed on seeing the scar on his face.

“Miranda!” Alonso was screaming. “Come back!”

Miranda dropped halfway down but landed on Frederick.

“What the hell is going on?” Frederick gasped.

“Run!”

Like Miranda knew, Alonso had gone for his gun.

They both ascended the horse and began to take off when they heard Alonso shot. He had missed but they could hear his last yell.

“I would get you, Miranda! I promise!”

***

Mr. Bonaparte arrived to the mansion very late that night. He was worn out after stopping in the church to hear the mass and now, as he galloped on his powerful horse to the mansion stables, he wondered how the life of Miranda his daughter would be the moment she marries Alonso. Alonso was a good man who loved Miranda like he loved his own life. Mr. Bonaparte had seen this himself in Alonso’s eyes. He couldn’t wait to get his daughter and one of the best friends he ever had to be united forever in marital bliss. This gave him joy more than anything. Which old man did not want to see his beautiful only daughter get married to the best man in the world?

Bonaparte tried the front doorbell. When the maids did not reply the third time, he figured they would have gone to bed. He decided to go for the emergency key tucked away below the porch stairs and slowly eased himself into the house. It was all dark, a sign that everyone was asleep. He felt for the socket and turned it on before going to brew himself a mug of hot coffee when he paused in mid-step. His breath caught him and he clutched his chest in suffocation. What was this before him?

Alonso lay on the ground, unconscious with red blood stains covering his white shirt and the unbelievable scar on his face that had bled down the wooden floors.

“Jesus Christ! Alonso!” He screamed as he ran to him and held him up. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Who did this? Who?” Bonaparte could feel the tears envelope his eyes. Alonso was surprisingly still awake. He was sighing, half dead. 

“Talk to me, Alonso. Stay with me. Who did this?”

Alonso could not reply. He kept sighing as his eyes rolled round and round.

“Alonso! Where is Miranda?” Bonaparte cried. No reply. “Is she in her room? Alonso!!!”

“Miranda has run off with her boyfriend.” Alonso managed to say.

Bonaparte felt a spear pierce his heart.

“No way!”

“I tried to stop her.” Alonso was at the brink of tears now, fake tears. “I begged her not to go with that rogue. Then I threatened to call you. She watched the rogue beat me up and then…..then….she tore my face when I fought her boyfriend back.”

“No….” Bonaparte shook his head in disbelief. Tears filled his eyes now. “Miranda, my daughter would never do that.”

Alonso was weeping now. When Bonaparte saw his sincerity, he broke down in tears too, dropping beside Alonso.

“I’ll call a doctor.” He stood up but stopped. “Who is this rogue, Alonso?”

Bonaparte’s arm was folded into a fist in rage and hatred.

“Your very own ranch worker- Frederick!”

Chapter Six

THREE MONTHS LATER

The rays of sunlight sipping through the curtains and into the quiet room awoke Miranda. She let her eyes open slowly, appreciating the golden yellow of a new day. Blinking now, she yawned a little and shifted. As she turned, she gasped.

“Frederick! Ah!” Frederick laughed beside her as he slipped into the bed by her side. “Yeah! Yeah!” Miranda said as she rolled her eyes. “A fantastic way to awake someone-  standing with your face close like a demon of conscience.”

“I was simply watching your glorious face below the golden rays. You are beautiful.” Frederick’s voice pulsed with sincerity and admiration. Miranda visibly blushed. 

“And you are unbearably ugly!” Miranda replied as she made to throw the covers aside, revealing a blinding set of gold skin thighs beneath the night gown she wore. 

“Wait! Have some tea.” Frederick called. That was when Miranda observed two glass mugs sitting on a tray on the bedside stool. 

“Aww… You made tea, that’s so romantic.” Miranda replied as she sat on the bed again, waiting for Frederick who handed her a mug. 

“I felt stupid doing so.” Frederick shot back. Miranda eyed him stupidly, a wry smile on her face. She remained quiet now as she took a sip. 

“Fair!” She rated the hot drink. 

“Thanks”

Silence lasted for the next three seconds, enough time for both of them to drift into their thoughts. 

“Mr. Bonaparte would be broken, Miranda.” Frederick said in his thoughts.  Miranda sighed. 

“I dropped a letter for him that night. It’s all going to be okay, stop worrying.”

She replied. Frederick remained quiet. 

“And Alonso…. I still can’t forget his face that night.”

“You keep blaming yourself for everything.”

“I’m just trying to look at it on all sides, dear. What if what we did was wrong? What if this is all a crazy mistake?”

Miranda stood now, still with the mug. She went for the windows and threw them open letting the golden rays flow in in powerful currents and directly at Frederick. Frederick flinched as he squinted.

“We are in Alarosa, Fred. We are in a totally different country. Please keep all these in the past…. “Miranda came closer now for emphasis as she dropped the mug on the tray.”…. I had a choice, Fred…..  And guess what? I chose you.” She whispered their face an inch apart. They remained still for a while until Frederick suddenly pulled her down the bed, in a way that she fell above him in a jolt. He turned now, Miranda taking his position below and Frederick above her. 

“You’re so annoying!” He commented with a grin, his eyes dazzling as it always did, those eyes that had drawn Miranda to him, that had made her breathless. He leaned down now as his tender lips rested on hers in a gentle kiss. Miranda remained numb at first but as realization dawned on her, she returned his peace offering in a gentle, slow motion but they we’re getting faster, and faster, more intimate by the second, pulling closer, closer…. 

“Off to work!” Miranda disengaged from Frederick who grumbled in disapproval. 

“Yes, off to work!” He rolled his eyes

*****

Mr. Bonaparte sat in his office like a don. He uttered nothing and in the stillness of everything around him, he stared out the window, lost in his thoughts, unconscious in his loneliness. 

Miranda why…. 

The door suddenly clicked open as Alonso came in. He looked rather in a better shape than three months ago. He was dressed in his usual cowboy wear of jean trousers, a singlet with a half unbuttoned shirt worn on it coupled with ankle boots. His face had undergone a good stitch and now, what was left of it was a very slight scar that ran across his face in a diagonal. 

“Found anything?” Bonaparte asked without turning. 

“They’re both out of the city.” He replied dryly. “But do not worry, Mr. Bonaparte, with each moment I look in the mirror, I promise myself I’ll find her. I will”

Without waiting for Bonaparte’s reply, he stumped out of the office, putting on his hat. Bonaparte remained in silence again, but he moved this time. He raised a paper he held in his left hand and read it for the hundredth time.

Father, 

I am safe

I am happy 

I am with who I want to be

With whom I love 

Do not look for me

I’ll come back to meet you

That would be the best day ever….. 

With love

Miranda

Very few words… Bonaparte observed, but very powerful words. Could Miranda have written this? Definitely, her handwriting, her brevity, her character, it was all there. This was his daughter, but under the influence of the ranch worker- Frederick and even though Bonaparte understood the message, he just couldn’t help the fact that his daughter was with a man. Something was not right. Was she placed under a spell? Was this the work of voodoo? 

Either way, Bonaparte promised himself that when he finds the man, he was going to make him pay for his ignorance! 

***

Mr. Eduardo, the foreman had come for work that day at the ranch. He was quiet now, no longer the jovial ageing man he used to be, the one who would laugh and tease the workers. He was disturbed. The other workers felt okay with it, knowing he was growing older with each day and of course, he had loved Frederick a lot. It was probably all a result of missing him so much. That morning, however, he had almost slumped in the process of gathering hay for the horses. It was at that moment they concluded he had to go home. He was placed on his horse and another worker- Tommy had ridden with him to the house 

… But Eduardo never made it home. It was until his wife called to inform them that he had not been seen that the other workers became anxious. But Tommy too had gone missing. 

The both were last seen riding down a lonely track, just after passing through the market. 

***

Alarosa was a country to be. It was a typical copy of Italy, and situated on the outskirts of Paris, one of the smallest countries in the world. It shared boundaries with Italy, resulting in its hilly topography. Like Venice, it was also swamped in some areas where the sea level had risen too high that canoes and kayaks were the only options for transport in the country. But aside its naturally creative landscape, what caught the attention of sight seers was the radiant atmosphere and its vibing scenery. Alarosa was like a Utopia, where there was nothing but total happiness and peace of mind. It was like an enchanted town where everyone lived like a fantasy in never ending beauty. It was any lover’s dream come true, full of life and colors, full of music and dance. 

On this form of sunny mornings, the streets were lined with individuals moving to and fro for their daily activities. Mornings like this were the best times for Frederick and Miranda. By the edge of a building common to be the Aman, because it was the tallest building in the country, a group of street people sat there, some lame, some blind but all talented. This part of the city was where they sat, singing a song, or dancing or playing tricks, or painting and people who were in love with their works appreciated them by giving the token they had. This was how Frederick and Miranda had made a living. They visited The Aman each and every day to play and sing and those who loved them dropped notes into their own basket. When it happened over and over again, more people began to pass by The Aman every day on purpose to hear them sing until even before they got to the site, a string of people were waiting already to hear them and every day, they had something new. 

As they arrived today, Miranda gasped when she saw the numbers standing by the space they occupied. A little girl with a grinning mother waved Miranda passionately. She smiled in return. 

As they settled on the stools they always sat on, Frederick turned to look Miranda into the eyes. She smiled warmly. 

“Are you happy?” He asked, a smile on his face but his eyes twinkling with worry.   Miranda wondered the next thing she could do to assure Frederick that she was not just happy; she was in heaven with him. So she reached out and held his free hand, giving it a light squeeze, she finally left him with a smile. She went over and sat while Frederick fully handled the guitar. A soft melody began to resonate in the air as they both raised their voices, Frederick on the lower octave and Miranda on the higher as they engulfed their audience in the sweet rhythm. 

****

Jacques Volt was yelling at his team members again like he always did. 

“You, Jerry, you were supposed to keep an eye on the DJ and Rita, you’re an up to down fuck up! I expected much more from that voice. How many times would I tell you never to smoke right before performing and to quit your outrageous level of potato chips and ice cream??? Coughing in the middle of the crescendo…. Oh God!” He rested his palm on his forehead sweating. Rita, tall, blonde and rough looking made to say something… 

“Shut up and get out!” Jacques cut in.  Like they knew their team leader quite well, they left at once. Jacques growled as he swung down a bunch of files off his table. Cursing, he turned his tall, masculine frame to look out the window.  His broad features made him look older than he was but also less like the Native French gentleman he was as well. As he looked out the window and down the building of his office which rested on the second floor of the thirty six floors that The Aman had, he caught sight of a scene below, a young man playing a guitar and a girl by his side with the voices of angels, but the man didn’t matter, Jacques hardly observed him. He could see only the damsel, in her beauty, her elegance as she sang like a swan singing its last. 

…And at that moment, Jacques could see the future of his company, his music empire, right in her eyes….. 

CHAPTER SEVEN

Miranda couldn’t help but wonder for that brief moment how humans could be so petty minded. Leaving the Aman would be a very big problem for them, as their day to day living depended on the income they made by singing but that was the least of Miranda’s worries now as she watched Frederick, coming from behind. The sun filtering through his sweat beaded forehead and silk hair. If Frederick was there, there was nothing more needed.

        “What do we do, Miranda?” Frederick suddenly spoke. It was then Miranda realized they were out of the midst of the crowd and were now heading for the express road. Miranda awoke from her thoughts just then. “With this, we would never be able to save enough money to get a decent home. Miranda smiled as she watched the creases of worry circling around his face. Frederick gave her a weird expression when he noticed her smile, as if to ask ‘seriously?’. 

        “I’m okay, Fred.” Miranda replied, her smile gentle, her innocence flawless.

        Frederick moved closer to her now, his brilliant eyes scrutinizing her. “Miranda, are you happy?”

        Miranda felt her heart sink. The question had become a common notion but somehow, this time around, Miranda suddenly felt a burden, something aching her chest, but she ignored it at once, choosing to understand why she got that feeling some other time.

        “Fred, trust me. That day I ran away with you, I never expected paradise. I knew exactly what I was bargaining for and I made my choices. No matter the situation, I am happy. I am, Fred. And sometime in the future, we are going to make it and if we don’t, then we are going to live with the joy of being whichever way we are right now. All I need Fred, is you…”

        Frederick’s eyes searched hers in a dramatic way. “All I need, Miranda, is you. I love you.”

        They both settled for a warm embrace, a hug of encouragement and when they finally separated, they were turning away to carry on, to move on with their lives, to…

        “Sir…”

        They both walked on, not guessing they were being referred to.

        “Sir…”

        “What do you…?” Frederick had guessed it was another person from the crowd as he turned back but paused when he saw the gentleman in front of him was quite the opposite of what he had expected. The man was well polished, on a decent suit that fitted him perfectly, a clean shave with a moustache and a face that made him look more French than the American he really was.

        “Sorry… were you referring to me?” Frederick asked, surprised.

        “Oh! Of course!”

        “Oh!… um… sorry…. I thought you were someone else…” Frederick replied chuckling nervously. 

        “Obviously.” The man replied, chuckling as well.

        “How may I help you, sir?” Frederick asked.        

        “I watched the both of you leave the Aman, you know, the site just by the corner….”

        “I see…” Frederick replied, both men speaking in between nervous chuckles.

        “So I ran after the both of you, but um… what is more important is when… um…. is that I watched you sing- the both of you.” For a brief moment, the man’s eyes flashed a glance at Miranda for the first time, a warm glance of admiration. “And I have to say, I have never seen a duo perform any better.”

        “Thank you, sir.” Miranda replied with Frederick, grateful for his comment.

        “I’m Jacques. I work in the Aman. You know the building is a division of several incorporations. Mine is music incorporation. I’m a music producer, popularly known as Trident….” Jacques searched out his wallet and handed over a business card to Frederick’s patient arm. “… we would like to have the both of you on the team please…”

        “For real? No auditions or something?” Miranda was the one who spoke. 

        “Nothing. More exciting, there is a music contest coming up in the whole of Valeria. Being the winner of this contest, my friend is a life changer. Everything about you would change forever. We need you, the both of you…”

        Frederick and Miranda exchanged a brief glance and for that split second, it seemed that they had conversed. Frederick turned to face Jacques again.

        “Mr. Jacques….”

        “Just Jacques…” He cut in. “I’m single…” Another glance at Miranda.

        “Alright, Jacques. We’ll put a call through tomorrow morning. For now, can we go think about this…. it’s so sudden and all, you know…..”

        “Yes! Yes! I understand.” He replied. “It’s okay. Thank you… um…”

        “Frederick.” Frederick replied with a handshake offer Jacques received.

        “Miranda.” Another heart pulsing handshake.

        “I would love to hear from you both, my friends.” Jacques replied.

        “We will definitely get back to you.”

        They both went their individual ways again with a goodbye. On the way home, neither Frederick nor Miranda said anything, even until they got into the house. It was then they stood a distance apart staring at each other, expressionless.

        Suddenly, Miranda erupted in an ear-piercing scream as she ran to Frederick, throwing him the largest hug he had ever received in a long time. Frederick accepted gratefully as they both laughed in joy.

        They had both found the opportunity they sought.

***

        It was exactly eight o’ clock in the morning when a ring on his office door came in. in fact, Jacques had sat staring at the wall clock, waiting.

        “Come in!” He replied immediately and was happy when Frederick and Miranda moved in, Frederick one step ahead of Miranda, standing like a protective wall ahead of her. Jacques stood to acknowledge them as he welcomed them with a handshake, pausing when he shook Miranda, elongating their handshake a little more than necessary. Then he offered them seats.

        “Please tell me you’re here to be a part of this incorporation.” Jacques said as he sat again. Silence….

        His eyes ran from Frederick to Miranda, his mind racing. They had to say ‘yes’. 

        “There is a payment…”

        “We’re in.” Frederick cut in. “That was our decision.”

        Jacques visibly eased with this reply. He chuckled nervously, relief drawn all over his playboy face.

        “You’re welcome with honor.” He replied them. “It’s very easy around here. There’s nothing much to know about us. You just need to get to know my other team members and you know, go together. We have another room, a hall rather in the Aman where we’ve been practicing… where we always practice. It has all sort of musical instruments, at least a lot of them. Everyone is practicing now for this contest, but trust me, none of my team members have what it got, the way the both of you do…. but believe me, this contest, we have to win…. you have to win!”

        “We will.” Frederick replied suddenly. From the corner of his eyes, he could see Miranda shoot him a glance, a warm smile dancing on her pink tender lips. Frederick’s face remained stoned anyway, his determination evident.

        “Well then, I think it’s time you come to see the rest of the team. So you’ll be properly introduced. I’m sure you’ll love them.”

***

        Jacques entered his office slowly. He had taken them to the hall, and after seeing to the introduction, he returned to his office in joy, his legs working like springs, his mind anticipating. On getting inside, he shut the door to the office and banged at his table, throwing down files in joy. Laughing, he approached the glass, looking down at the busy city below him, his face optimistic.

        But Jacques was no longer looking through the glass. He was looking into the glass and the future it radiated. He could see Frederick and Miranda on that stage as the thousands of people in the crowd applaud them while the organizers of the contest signs him a million dollars contract.

        But the imagination sifted away and another came to play, one that excited Jacques even more as he watched himself and Miranda lying on a cozy bed in the midst of their own dollars, kissing and pulling their clothes off. A smile played on Jacques’ lips.

        “It’s going to be…” He muttered in his distant thoughts. “…It’s going to be…”

CHAPTER EIGHT

        “Fur Elise?” 

        Frederick eyed the sheet of paper in his hand. “Come on, Mark, what exactly are we supposed to do with this song? Who sing Fur Elise in the twenty first century?”
        “When we registered, we were made to pick a song of our performance in a form of raffle draw. We picked Fur Elise, and since then, we have not found our way around that song…. tone rather…” Mark explained.

        This made the third day since Frederick and Miranda had practiced with the team. The team was a small one, which made it easier in terms of organization and co-operation. Mark was like a leader after Jacques, a vibrant and friendly personality in his late twenties and a good tenor singer. Then there was Jeremy and Andrew, powerful male dancers and handlers of the guitar and drum. There was meant to be a girl in the team, one they called ‘Cardi’, except that she had not shown up in those three days.

        “So we are meant to sing with the tune of Fur Elise, and at the same time, perform it?” Miranda asked with her irresistible air of grace that made everyone in the team respect her as the only female available.

        “We have to find a way around it. We have one million dollars contract hanging on the line.” Jeremy replied, standing as he picked his guitar and began to play the calm of Beethoven. 

        “What exactly can we bring out of this?” Frederick’s eyes scanned a music note desperately; his ears wide open to the gentle play of the guitar.

        “Alright, I think I have an idea.” He suddenly said. We all looked up at him in surprise. Funny enough, I didn’t feel surprised, more like curious to watch his creativity. “But this idea would entail Mark and maybe Jeremy taking the mic.”

        “Come on…” Mark cut in. “That wasn’t part of the idea at all. Jacques brought you here to take to the mic. Jacques sought your voices.”

        “I and Miranda would do better with taking the dance. The dance demands a female.”

        “But there is one…”

        They all turned towards the direction of the voice. It was the Cardi they had been talking about. She took swaggering steps towards the team, her fury pink hair scattered aggressively around her head. Her eyes were definitely not clear and she smelt of the aftermath of alcohol. 

        “it has been agreed that you be suspended from the team  if you go on drinking and staying away from practice.”  Mark said as he stood from the platform on which he sat and walked forward in authority.

        “Stay away, Mark.” 

        “Stay away, Cardi!” mark shot back. “This bullshit has to stop.”

        “You need me!”

        “Not anymore!”

        Just then, Cardi’s eyes took a turn around Mark as she eyed Miranda with distaste. 

        “We do need her.” Frederick cut in. “We need a female voice. Give her another chance, Mark…. for this contest.”

        Mark eyed Cardi once more, disapproval drawn around his face. With arrogance, he turned back to pick a guitar.

        “let’s practice.” He simply said.

        Cardi moved closer now, eyeing Frederick. “Thank you, Mr. Cute Boy.”

        Miranda chuckled quietly.

****

        It was a matter of days of crucial planning and hectic practice before the team could finally work as one. For one thing, Mark and Cardi never seemed to work well, more like no one seemed to work well with her.  Jeremy and Andrew were always off key and Frederick and Miranda were always too distracted, enveloped in their own passion that they swayed from the music lines and danced to the melody of their own minds.

        It was on a calm evening they had come together for another practice. Cardi was surprisingly sober and calm. Mark, already prepared for another gothic war with her was quite disappointed. Jeremy and Andrew began the music, a slow tone of romance, a combination of the guitar and the piano.

        Frederick and Miranda moved next in their step by step ballet dance around the hall, careful not to drift too far from the circle and also to sway along with the music even as they stared into each other’s eyes.

        Mark and Cardi came in next, picking up the music lines Frederick and Miranda had written. It took Mark a while to actually believe that he was listening to Cardi, who sounded authentically different. 

        After the four minute performance, the team came to a stop, the hall as silent as an empty pitch. 

        “We did it…” they could all hear Mark whisper under his breath in total disbelief. Jeremy and Andrew’s cracking chuckles came next.

        “We just staged our performance…” Mark’s whisper of disbelief came again.

        Their chuckles erupted into heart filled laughter as Mark embraced Cardi in a warm hug.

        They were not just ready for the contest…. they were together!

CHAPTER NINE

Miranda…”

        Miranda looked away from the window from which she had been staring and now turned to face Frederick who stared at her from behind. “You seemed so distant, it looked like you were about to tip off the window.”

        Miranda smiled and shot a dazzling smile at Frederick. “I was just…. thinking.” She moved closer to him now.

        “Don’t be nervous, Miranda.”

        “It’s today, Fred…. Trust me, I don’t want to be nervous, but today is the day!”

        “The day when our very dreams would come true, the day when the hundreds of thousands of people out there would see what we are capable of!”

        “That sure calls for nervousness!” Miranda chuckled, nervously indeed.”

        A smile traced Frederick’s lips. “Mira, right now, we don’t want you this way. I’m looking for the Miranda that would stare in the face of trouble and only smile, the Miranda that looked me in the eyes and told me everything was okay when nothing was, the Miranda that forfeited everything and chose to run with me.”

        Miranda looked up now, a smile on her irresistible face, tears in her eyes. Frederick planted a brief but breathless kiss on her tender lips.

        “That’s the Miranda that would win this contest with me!” With a confident smile, he left the room now, winking at her.

        Miranda watched him go, smiling. Then she continued with putting on the costume as she was earlier doing. Just then, the door came open again.

        “You know what Fred…” Miranda cut short as she turned to see that the man behind her was not Frederick. It was Jacques.

        “Hey!” Jacques greeted. “I can see you’re ready.” He said, his eyes darting nervously.

        “Yes… i…. I obviously am.” Miranda replied with a stammer. She had never really felt comfortable around Jacques.

        “You’re going to win this, Miranda.” He said now as he came closer to Miranda who wasn’t even looking. When Miranda turned now, she jumped back in surprise to find him that close.

        “if you’ll excuse me, sir…” Miranda moved away now but paused when Jacques held her hand. She looked up at him now, rage crossing her face. “Could you let me go?”

        “Stop pretending you don’t see my advances, Miranda…”

        “And stop pretending that you don’t know I have a boyfriend!” Miranda shot back. Jacques scoffed. 

        “You don’t mean Fred…”

        “Whatever you want to think about him but I am happy with him. That’s all that matters, so please, don’t make me keep ignoring you.”

        Jacques smiled now, embarrassment all over him. He left her hand now and watched as she marched away.

***

        “Sir Alonso, nothing turned up.” A man in his early thirties marched into Alonso’s office, a piece of paper in his hand. 

        “He said nothing?” Alonso sat down on his swivel chair with his legs crossed on his desk.

        “Mr. Eduardo refused to talk sir. I can bet you that the old man is at the point of death. It’s been a week since we have been torturing him, sir and still he says nothing.” The man replied. “Or he knows nothing.”

        “He must know something. He knew everything about Frederick. Frederick could not have carried out this plan without him.” Alonso said thoughtfully as he lighted a cigarette.

        “I’ll tell you where he is and you would let him go!”

        Both men turned suddenly to the door to see who had just spoken. It was a lady, a blonde lady probably in her late twenties with her shiny hair parked into a bun and a dazzle in her eyes.

        Alonso smiled at the lady with renewed interest. “Of course… of course…” He smiled slyly. “You knew where they were all the while?”

        She looked down now shyly. “I did.”

        “Why now?”

        “Because you’re hurting the old man.”

        “Ah! I see. So what’s your name, miss?”

        “Bianca.”

        “Tell me what you know, Bianca and I promise I would have Mr. Eduardo released at once.”

        Bianca paused now, giving it a thought. She looked from the man standing almost beside her and the waiting Alonso.

        “They went to Valeria.”

        Alonso’s eyes widened with hidden surprise. “The capital city in the far East?”

        “Yes.”

        “How do I know this is true?”

        “Because Frederick told me before he left and because I have this!” Bianca dropped a sheet of paper on the table before her now. It was when Alonso picked it up that he realized it was a newspaper. On the front covers, the major headline read:- “ATLANTA MUSIC CONTEST THIRD EDITION FINALLY HERE!” and there on the front page, among other people grinning with joy and vibe, stood Miranda and Frederick, holding hands and grinning joyfully at the camera. Alonso’s face closed, his eyes reddened and filled with tears. He traced the picture of Miranda on the paper. As he traced it, he remembered the night…. the very night….. and the everlasting scar still dancing across his face.

        “Miranda…” He whispered to himself. He looked up at the man now. “Release Mr. Eduardo to this good miss. Thank you Bianca. You did just well.” 

        “Do not hurt Frederick, Sir Alonso…. just bring him back.” Bianca warned aggressively. 

        Alonso chuckled. “Oh sure! In pieces!”

        “Alonso!” Bianca growled.

        “Take her out!”

        Alonso waited until the man pulled the protesting Bianca out and finally returned.

        “Mr. De la Rosa must not find out about this yet.” Alonso said as he stood, a new surge gushing through him. 

        “Come on, Malbron. Gather the men. We have a trip we can’t miss!”

***

        Mr. De la Rosa sat quietly with tears in his eyes as he looked out of the window and then back to the paper he held in his hand. He had read the headlines; he had seen his daughter, proudly holding the hands of her ‘kidnapper’ and grinning, walking her way to fame. He knew she was happy indeed, just as her letter said. He couldn’t wait to see her again, that was all he asked for.

        “The flight is ready, sir.” An attendant announced to him solemnly. De la Rosa turned away from the window now and picked his box. He held the paper firmly in his hand. He was going to Valeria.

        … And he was going to see his daughter!

TEN

        “Next on the show is the long awaited Team Trident!!! Let’s see what these cute set of people have us!” The commentator- a brunette in a skin tight gold gown- announced.

        A round of applause erupted from the cheering crowd as everyone stood on their feet. In the backstage, Frederick and Miranda held hands. Already dressed and breathless with anxiety and nervousness, the team encouraged each other. 

        “We can do this!” Mark said as he patted their shoulders. He stopped to give Cardi more than a simple pat but a peck. “In for this Hun?”

        Cardi smiled. “More than ever!”

        “Are you ready, darling?” Frederick asked Miranda. Miranda grinned. It was going to be okay. 

        “Yes!”

        “Let’s go kick an ass!” Jeremy concluded as the team marched out and took their positions while the crowd cheered and hailed. The cheering soon died down to produce a deafening silence. The stage fell dark to set the mood as the team members stood like statues on the stage, as the plan called for.

        It was then the piano came on, slow tune played. Andrew began the work as he hit the keys to produce Beethoven Fur Elise. Nothing moved still and as he got to the next part, Miranda broke out from Frederick’s grasp, a smile on her face as she stared into Frederick’s eyes that said one thing only- you can do it!

        As part of the plan, Frederick remained non-moving while Miranda warmed the stage with her glorious moves. On her skating shoes, she glided through the stage in graceful melody. It was then Cardi put in her soprano, clear as daylight to blend with the lady in charge of the stage now.

        Jeremy joined the guitar now and with an effect to make it look like Frederick had just awoken to the sound of the guitar, Frederick began to glide towards Miranda in a chase while Mark joined Cardi to blend the whole atmosphere with his powerful tenor. 

         The show went on as the dance became romantic now when Frederick finally caught up with Miranda as the script demanded and in a most amusing way, they both danced around the stage, occupying every inch of the stage space and creating no dull moment. 

        “You’re doing lovely.” Frederick whispered into her ears as he pulled her down and caught her again. Miranda smiled as Frederick felt her shaking hands calm.

        “You’re too damn beautiful!” He whispered again as they went round and round. Miranda chuckled now. Frederick knew that would be helpful, knowing fully well that her smile was needed to lighten the air of the performance. In a glamorous move, he pushed her forward towards the audience and awaited her return. She returned in a slender twist and waited to be pushed again. When she went the second time, she glimpsed the audience and gasped evidently, with a slight and almost unnoticeable distortion; she missed Frederick’s catch and nearly fell!

        …but Frederick was faster!

        In a single swoop, he caught up with her and glided off so fast that they both nearly fell. There was an audible gasp from the audience as they thought she had crashed but the mislead audience only thought it was a design and ended up clapping as the show went on.

        “What’s wrong, Miranda?” Frederick whispered to her, feeling her whole body reeling and shaking and her heart beat escalating. 

        “I saw my father!” Miranda whispered with a shaky voice.

        “No way! You’re just nervous and you need to calm down.” Frederick whispered back.

        “Look at the seat at the highest level, just by the man adjusting the fluorescent light.” 

        “On it!”

        They both slid past the pitching Mark and Cardi and went for the front again, slightly deviating from the lines. Frederick and Miranda stretched their arms in a pull as Frederick stole a glimpse at where instructed. Miranda could feel the shiver in Frederick’s arm. She was right! There was evident surprise in his eyes and they glided back and forth, taking on the lines again.

        “You need to relax. Trust me, he is proud of you!” Frederick whispered to her.

        She nodded confidently as they both continued the performance, none looking towards the audience anymore. 

***

        “We did marvelously well out there! I mean am so proud of us right now!” Mark emphasized as they both returned to the backstage with Miranda and Frederick moving much faster.

        “Something was wrong out there.” Cardi said quietly. “With the both of you.”

        “Yeah, it wasn’t only Cardi that noticed that, Fred. You deviated from the plan about twice.” Jeremy was saying.

        “And you nearly fell, Miranda!” Andrew added. 

        “That was just an accident.” Miranda replied guiltily without looking at them. 

        “No it wasn’t just an accident, Miranda. You can talk to us. We’re your family here.” Cardi cut in.

        Frederick went over and held Miranda’s arm. “We saw Miranda’s father seated among the audience.” Frederick replied. “It was the least we expected.”

        Silence…

        “Well, isn’t that supposed to be good news?” Mark asked in a pretty kettle of fish.

        “He’s not supposed to be here. It’s not good for us!” Miranda spoke now.

        “Or so you think, Miranda.” Frederick cut in. “It’s been almost four months, a lot would have changed!”

        “Not this one!” Miranda replied.

         “Miranda!” Frederick held her smooth face in his palm now to make her stare into his gripping eyes. “Trust me, it’s alright.” 

        Sobbing now, Miranda enveloped herself in Frederick’s warm embrace. 

***

        “It’s time to announce the winner of the Atlanta Music Contest Third Edition between the Team Trident and The Kingsberries!…” The commentator fired. On the stage, both teams were present on either side of the stage, heads bent and hands held.

        Frederick squeezed Miranda’s hand. “He’s proud of you.” He whispered. Miranda shut her eyes praying silently, wishing and hoping.

        “And the winner… is….”

        Oh God!

        “is…”

        Oh God!

        “TEAM TRIDENT!!!”

        An applause erupted from the audience. Cardi and Jeremy collapsed to the ground. Mark covered his face. Andrew wiped his tears. Frederick and Miranda exchanged a hug. Despite the noise, Miranda could hear him whisper “He is proud of us…”

        Tearfully now, they both turned to face the audience, Miranda purposefully searching for her father, and then she saw him. He was standing, laughing and clapping! Clapping! Tears ran down her eyes as she cupped her mouth crying.

        It was just then that Frederick went down on his knees and dipping his hand into his breast pocket, he brought out a little box.

        “I love you, Miranda..” Frederick began. He opened the box then to reveal to her a dazzling ring. “Would you marry me?”

        Miranda froze like a statue. She stole a glance at her father. He smiled at her, a smile she well knew. A smile of encouragement.

        Four months away and still everything was so perfect…

        “Yes!” she cried. There was an eruption from the crowd at large now. The focus had moved from the contest to the newly engaged. Frederick stood now and covered the sobbing Miranda in a warm hug. Miranda had never been happier.

….it was this moment they had all heard a gunshot!

ELEVEN

Jacques was in his most joyful. He had been automatically made the richest man on earth. He was busily shaking hands with the partners and organizers of the contest when he saw Frederick going down on his knees.

        But the other part of his imagination was going with the woman he loved- Miranda! And she was about to be proposed to.

        Jacques ran through the audience of people, cheering and shouting. He was going to stop Frederick.

        “Miranda!” He yelled, running as fast as his legs could carry him. he couldn’t let this happen. He couldn’t let her go, not now, not ever.

        “Miranda!”

        Then he saw her say ‘yes!’ and the crowd erupted in joy. He was the only one going in opposite direction.

        “No!”

        He was hardly heard. He climbed up the stage now from the very front with his arm raised to tear her away from the comfort of Frederick’s embrace. 

        Then he paused suddenly as the sound of the gunshot came. Everyone paused and turned to Jacques. They couldn’t see it at first until he fell. That was when the blood from the hole at his back soaked up his blue corporate shirt and went down the stage.

        Screams!

        Frederick and Miranda were still too shocked to understand what was going on but Frederick had understood first. Jacques had just accidentally taken a bullet meant for him and someone was shooting from the audience.

        Then he saw it coming.

        Miranda… He whispered in his thoughts, his mind clouding, his muscles reviving, his reflexes awakening. In a single sharp turn, Frederick turned Miranda the other way round such that he backed the audience and enveloped her from what was coming. 

        Then Miranda could hear another shot and Frederick groaned quietly. Tears filled his eyes as they glared red with pain. The one shooting had missed the first time, not the second. 

        “Noo!” Miranda screamed. She could hardly hear herself now as Frederick fell beside her, blood protruding from the puncture made by the bullet on his chest. Everyone was running now. No one knew what was happening and the pandemonium did not allow anyone to understand anything. All Miranda could think about at that moment was that Frederick lay on the ground, half dead. Where was her Father? Where was the team? Who was shooting? Who just shot Jacques?

        “Miranda! We have to take him to a hospital!” Andrew was yelling, though his voice was a piercing tune in the midst of the roars from the crowd.  Miranda let Andrew and Jeremy pick him up and support him out of the stage. They finally got outside the building, scaling through the mass of running people. They put Frederick and Miranda into a car. Cardi took the wheel while Mark took the other seat. Behind, Jacques was being carried into another car to be taken by Jeremy and Andrew. 

        They took the road now, driving as fast they could. Miranda looked down at Fred who had his head on her chest. 

        “Stay with me, Fred.” She cried. Frederick looked up at her. He could see her now even though she was a blur. Her face was messed up by the tears that ran down in torrents. Frederick’s heart sank.  Raising his hand with tears in his eyes, he held her face.

        “You’re beautiful.” He whispered to her. She broke out in a smile now as she grabbed his cold hands.

        Frederick chuckled. “The ring is a fit!”

        Miranda found herself chuckling now. “Yes, darling. You have to stay with me, okay…. please….”

        He only smiled, his hard fingers caressing the finger that held the ring. Miranda took a second to look up now. She gasped.

        “Is everything okay?” Mark asked looking back, but Miranda just had her eyes straight on the road. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was him! all the while it was him! it was Alonso!

        There Alonso was, dressed in casual clothing with a jacket and he was visibly injured and limping, about to cross the road. Miranda did not have enough time to wonder how he got there.

        “Cardi, can you trust me?” Miranda said suddenly.

        “Yeah?”

        “There’s a man crossing now and limping. I want you to knock him!”

        “What? No way!”

        “Trust me!”

        “Why would I just knock down an innocent manner.”

        “Because I know him! and because he is the shooter!”

        Cardi hit the accelerator now just as Alonso made to cross…… he turned in shock, seeing the car coming with so much blinding speed.

        But as it came closer, Alonso could see it was coming for him… but he could also see Miranda seated behind but she had brought her face forward, a hatred of eternity ran across her face and tears in her eyes, a vision Alonso would carry to the grave, a revenge the moment he had least expected.

        So fast…

        He raised his gun to shoot but it was too late. Cardi got to him first and at once, she knocked him in a blinding speed. Alonso jacked up the, up the windshield and rolled down on the other side. He landed unconscious.

TWELVE

The surgery was unsuccessful and Frederick didn’t have much time…

        I watched him awake slowly, his tender lips opening slightly to release a moan, his eyes tightly shut now opening and adjusting to the bright fluorescent of the hospital. I wasn’t alone…

        Beside me was Father, holding my right hand, Mark, Cardi, Andrew and Jeremy were there as well, standing around the hospital bed where Frederick lay, muffling sobs. The other ranch workers had come as well, Mr. Eduardo and every other person we knew was present…. even a priest.

        I bent slowly towards his pale, dull face. Even in his worst condition, Frederick was still very handsome.

        “Miranda…” He moaned.

        “Remain calm, dear. I’m here. I am always here.” I replied urgently as I patted his dry head, running my fingers through his dry pitch black hair.

        “How do you feel?” I asked.

        “Never been better.” Frederick replied. He took a brief moment to scan the room.

        “Hey guys… Jesus! Everyone’s here!” Frederick gasped.

        “Honey…” I called out his attention. He turned to face me, smiling to see that indeed, he had people who cared. 

        “Look darling. We ain’t alone anymore!” Frederick chuckled. I felt the tears welling in my eyes. Sniffing, I pushed them back.

        “Yes darling. Never again!” I replied. He chuckled slightly.

        “I love you, Miranda. I always will.”

        I could hold the tears no more. I suddenly found myself pouring out my tears. “Hey… Hey… why you crying?” Frederick asked as he patted my cheeks. “… those tears don’t suit you. There’s nothing to cry about anymore, Miranda. I am okay, everyone is okay…”

        “I want us to get married, dear.”

        “Yes… Yes, we definitely will.” He replied.

        “Right now, darling…”

        It was like it was just at that moment that Fred spotted the priest. He looked into my eyes, worry drawn all over his pale face.

        “You must have a reason for such rush, sweetheart. So I would not question you…. I love you, Miranda.”

        I found myself giving him a warm hug as I finally poured out my tears. Don’t leave me, Fred…. don’t leave me!

        The wedding rights took nothing long and in an hour, I and Frederick were a married couple.

****

        The part of the story that everyone found so difficult was being able to tell Frederick that he had two or three weeks left. In fact, he was living with a serious injury in a vital organ in his body. My biggest wish was to make Frederick’s last days one he would never have to forget.

        Once he was discharged, father took him all the way to the ranch where he took a rest. The workers who had known him all the while gathered around him together with Mr. Eduardo, chatting with him and telling him several updates since we had both disappeared. 

Eduardo was confirmed to have been kidnapped by Alonso and to save him, Bianca had given out our location. Alonso had come but not to pick me up but to kill us both on the contrary not knowing father had followed behind to find us. When we were performing and finally won the show, Father’s despise for Frederick and disappointment for me had become admiration but Alonso had only aimed at shooting us there on the stage. Unfortunately for Sir Jacques, just at the wrong time, he had climbed the stage and for the very wrong reasons and entered in the place of the first bullet. Jacques was recovering now but used a wheelchair. How long he was going to be on the chair, no one knew. 

        The others in the team had seen what Jacques was capable of and had immediately resigned, using the awarded price from the contest to begin pushing their dreams. Mark and Cardi travelled to the States while Andrew and Jeremy forwarded their music training. I knew I was going to miss them all but we were always going to remain together in contact.

        After Alonso had succeeded in shooting Frederick who took the bullet in my place, Father had spotted Alonso at the top where he was. Father had immediately thrown himself at Alonso and began to wrestle with him before he could get a chance to shoot at me. In the process of their war, Father had managed to throw Alonso down the two storey staircase that led to the top of the theatre. Alonso was still alive and had limped his way out of the chaos he had created but this time; fate was not going to be bringing us to Alonso. It was going to be bringing Alonso to us. It was then that we had happened to come across him while driving to the hospital and had run him over.

Alonso was still alive, though!

And he was going to be for a very long time, spending his lifetime in prison, and suffering from the permanent paralysis he had developed after his operation. He could not walk or talk or move. He just used the wheel chair every moment.

Father was the happiest man on earth. Not only had I gotten married to the one I truly loved but I had also proven to him that I was now worth being a woman, like my mother. Mr. Eduardo was treated after being tortured in the process of trying to trace us. Now, he had been named foreman of the De La Rosa ranch and was going to remain with us for as long as we know.

Somehow, so suddenly, everything had fallen into place.

***

        Frederick and I spent our honeymoon in Paris, visiting various parts of the beautiful city, laughing and taking pictures. 

        We happened to settle down in a garden after a long day outing. Laughing, I leaned on his muscular shoulder as we both watched the setting sun and the stream that lined the horizon afar. 

        “I love you, Miranda.” Frederick muttered. I smiled when I heard that voice again, the powerful muscular voice that had sun g for me beautifully as he played the guitar in father’s ranch. He was playing again, a slow romantic tune.

        “I love you more, Fred.” I replied as I ran my hand around him and hugged him, still leaning on him as he kept playing the tune.

        “I have something to tell you, Fred. it’s a good news and a bad one too. Which would you like to hear first?” I asked, smiling as tears filled my eyes.

        “The bad one.” He replied quietly.

        “Darling…” I felt my eyes grow bulged with tears. How am I to say this? “darling….”

        “I know I have less than three weeks left.” Frederick suddenly cut in. I felt my heart thump as I cut out from my hug and sat up to see his expression. He was looking away and into the distant horizon. I finally broke down in sobs.

        “I’m sorry honey!” I threw him a hug again as I watched the tears fill his eyes. “Don’t leave me, Fred….”

        “I won’t, Miranda. Maybe medicine limited my days but it doesn’t mean it has been concluded. I would always be here for you, Miranda. I am not going to die, not now honey… not any time now.”

        I felt more tears leave my eyes as I nodded. For a brief moment, I felt that indeed, Fred was going to be here.

        “The good news, darling… I’m pregnant!” I spat out suddenly. Frederick suddenly moved away from me and stared right at me.

        “Are you real?”

        “Yes!” I grinned. “It’s a beautiful chubby girl darling. Your baby is right inside me!”

        Frederick’s eyes widened as he pulled me close and planted a tender kiss on my lips.  In a second, he was staring at me again.

        “We’re a complete family, sweetheart!”

        “Yes we are!”

        “And I am going to be a father!!!”

        “Yes you are!” I laughed.

        I felt the weight of his body as he squeezed me in a hug. “Thank you, Miranda… for being here.”

        “Thank you, Frederick….  for being here…

He looked into my eyes now. “Again, Miranda. I am going nowhere. We are going to be together and we are going to raise this child together!”

I smiled, nodding as tears filled my eyes. “Yes Fred. I love you, Frederick and I would always will…. for eternity…

“For eternity, Miranda, I would always love you too…”

I hugged him now, enjoying the comfort of his touch as he picked the guitar and began to take his slender fingers across the strings.

        “Hey!” I suddenly exclaimed. “That’s the tune of the song you were dancing to the first time I saw you!”

        “Shh! I’m not playing it for you now. It’s for my darling hiding in your womb, my little Miranda….”

        I couldn’t hold back my laughter….

THE END

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Okpala Michael

"Behold He Whom You Shall Call King..." WRITER| MODEL | POET | AUTHOR | NOVELIST | THESPIAN At Your Service. Follow and Link Up!

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4 Comments

  • This story is so amazing ❤️

    • Thank you so much dear! At this point today, we are about two chapters away! Let’s see what becomes of their love

  • Whoa. I’m glad her father is able to witness everything.
    Well-done.

  • Special thanks to all our readers for reading and engaging this post .
    We love you and appreciate you so much .
    Many thanks .

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