The Last Kiss Episode 8…
THE LAST KISS
One other thing about Richie surprises her.
She checks her watch again and confirms she is actually early.
Alicia couldn’t believe Richie is seated and waiting for her.
That is a first.
She checks her wristwatch again, thinking she might have overlooked some detail but she is actually ten minutes early.
She walks over to him still finding it difficult to believe Richie has been punctual especially where she is concerned.
Richie looks up with a broad smile on his face and tries to get on his feet.
“Hi Princess,” he responds.
Alicia quickly takes the seat facing him and sets her bag on the table.
“You look stunning as always. I can see you are doing quite well,” he adds with sarcasm.
“I’m very good. Trust you are well too. I must apologize for dragging you out here like this but…”
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“Alicia, please take it slow, alright? I’ve not seen you in a while, let’s talk over some drinks at least. I’ve really missed you. Why do you think I came here today? I know I didn’t treat you as well as I should have when we were a couple but you are the only woman that really meant something to me. I was hoping we could pick up from where we left off. I’m still in love with you, you know. I’ve really tried to get you out of my system but no matter how hard I try, nothing changes. I always feel like my life is missing something very important ever since we parted. I now appreciate the saying that you never know what you have until you lose it.”
“Richie, I don’t want you to get any funny ideas into that head of yours. This is not a social call. I want you to do me one little favour. I want you to test for HIV.”
Richie looks at her with shock written all over his face.
He feels she is trying to put him off.
“Are you kidding me right now? Why in heaven’s name would you ask that of me? ” Richie asks, confused.
Tears form in Alicia’s eyes immediately.
Suddenly reality sets in again.
This is the first time she has hinted someone that she has tested positive to HIV.
She looks into Richie’s confused face and feels overwhelmed with her plight. For a moment, she thinks of letting it slide.
She thinks of forgetting the whole fiasco and dealing with her issues alone.
She thinks about telling him to forget it and walking away but she really need to find out how she was infected. It is the first step to dealing with the problem at hand.
She rubs her eyes in a bid to stop the tears from spilling over her face.
“Wait a minute, don’t tell me that good-for-nothing husband of yours infected you with HIV.”
Richie pulls his chair backwards as the reality finally hits him.
He reacts as if talking to Alicia will get him infected too.
“Enough with the insults, please. Curtis is the best thing that ever happened to me. He is everything you never can be. He is HIV negative. I wouldn’t be here if he was infected too so just do yourself a favour and get it done or I’ll seek a court order for it. Because I just need closure on how I got infected. I don’t want any trouble or bad blood between us. Do it if you ever cared. You can call or text the results to me when it’s done since you find me so repulsive.”
Alicia gets to her feet and picks her bag from the table and takes off.
Richie looks at her, still dazed.
He does not believe what Alicia is feeding him.
Alicia, HIV positive? He looks at her again. Looking for a sign, something, anything that can convince him that she is that sick. There’s nothing that shows she is sick. She, in fact, looks prettier than he remembers. She still has that care free spirit he had admired so much. He feels sorry for her but he is lost for words.
He gets to his feet slowly.
Alicia is already on her way back to her car.
She couldn’t bear the look on Richie’s face.
It was like he was judging her, suspecting her, as if she had a plague or something worse.
“Alicia, wait! Tell me you are joking with what you said earlier. You don’t really want me to test for HIV, do you?”
Alicia stops as Richie’s right hand grabs hers, pulling at her to stop.
Then he does the unthinkable.
He let go of her hand suddenly and tries to wipe his hands with a handkerchief as if touching her will get him infected.
Alicia looks at him sadly.
She has been prepared for this.
Her counselling sessions with Dr. Josh Aboagye had brought out what she should expect from people when they hear her status, so she is ready. Ready for the scorn and mockery. Ready for the stigmatization.
But it still hurts when people, especially those who were once close treat you like you are a disease.
“You know I can’t joke with something like that. I need your help on this one. It’s important to get tested. It’s better to know your status and take it from there. I hope you do the right thing. Because you were the only guy I was sexually involved with before I met Curtis. I need to go. We are meeting my family and Curtis’ for dinner tonight. Just get tested, please.”
Richie sees the pain in Alicia’s eyes and is sorry he behaved like a jerk a few minutes ago.
He tries to explain that it was a reflex action but Alicia tells him she’s not worried about that.
He sees the sadness in Alicia’s eyes and wants so much to pull her in his arms and comfort her but he is afraid.
But he has heard from his friends that hugging or touching someone with HIV will get you infected too. He is not sure if they were joking or not. He is not prepared to learn that the hard way though.
Alicia notices the sudden change in his visage and is aware of what he is thinking. It is written all over his face.
She storms out of his sight hurt by his sheer thoughts and actions.
She is very aware that people with HIV are always maltreated due to the stigma it comes with.
Indeed, she has heard and read that a thousand times but she never believed Richie will do that to her.
She walks briskly to her car without looking back.
Richie stands looking at her with his mouth still wide open. He is still in shock. He is still in denial. In truth, he never, not in a million years, would have imagined anything like that happening to Alicia.
He always knew her as a principled and well-behaved person.
Richie is at his sixes.
Was there something he missed while they were together or his silly flings had resulted in the current situation?
He is very scared now.
He didn’t know what he will do if he tests positive to HIV.
Alicia gets in the car and sits for a long while.
She is really depressed. Seeing that condemning look in Richie’s eyes has killed her spirit to some extent.
She knows the hardest part of her problem is telling people you are infected but it still does not dull the feeling you get when people look down on you instantly when you tell them your status.
She now understands why people keep it to themselves.
The sheer look of condemnation and revulsion in Richie’s eyes is really tearing her apart.
She now dreads the meeting with her in- laws.
As for her parents she knows they will have no choice but to accept the bitter truth as it is. They can’t change the fact that she is theirs and theirs forever.
She is, however, not sure how her in-laws will take it especially since their son is HIV free.
She tries putting herself in their shoes and still thinks she should have convinced Curtis to move on with his life.
Without any shred of doubt she knows she will never love anyone as much as she loves him and she will never be loved the way Curtis loves her but sometimes love comes with huge sacrifices.
Alicia wipes her face in the driving mirror, secures her seat belt and starts the car.
She moves out of the parking lot and speeds off.
Richie is still standing at the very spot she left him.
Alicia fights back her tears as she accelerates through the busy streets of Accra to her destination.
For once, she is not looking forward to seeing her family, let alone Curtis’.
To say she is disheartened will be putting it mildly.
She plays with the thought of calling Curtis to call off the family dinner. She is really not into meeting anyone that moment.
Alicia glances on her dashboard for the umpteenth time. She is thirty minutes late.
Knowing the two families she is sure they will all be at the hotel by now and it would be so unfair not to show.
She is almost at the hotel anyway.
She drives into the luxurious hotel with a heavy heart and meets Curtis and his brother in a tete-a-tete at the bar close to the reception.
One look at her and Curtis knows she is at her lowest ebb.
He walks to her and gives her a huge hug and kisses her briefly. He pats her on the shoulder to reassure her of his undying support.
“You gave me a heart skip, Allie. You did not pick my calls. I thought something terrible might have happened to you.”
Alicia brings out her phone from her bag and sees the numerous missed calls from Curtis, her Mom and sister for the first time.
She has forgotten to activate the sound when she left the office after the preliminary meeting they held for the board meeting next week.
It’s an old habit of hers to put her phone on silent when she is busy.
“Sorry. It was still on silent. I forgot to activate the sound when I left the office.”
‘’It’s okay. I was just worried sick about you. Looking at you, I can tell it didn’t go too well with Richie. We can decide not to tell anyone else if it’s going to be too much of a bother for you. We can always do it another time. it’s not like there’s any rush.”
“As much as I agree with you, I think it’s time to get it over and done with. We will pick up the pieces from there. It’s really depressing. I can imagine the shock on their faces when we tell them.”
Curtis and Alicia join the rest of the family at the table.
Her in-laws, her parents, Curtis’ brother, her brother and sister are also present.
Alicia apologizes for being late and takes a seat beside Curtis uneasily.
This is the moment she dreads the most.
Looking at the faces of all the people they love and telling them she is HIV positive is her biggest nightmare and all too soon, it has caught up with her.
She looks at her mother, graceful as always, chatting happily with her husband and imagines her expression when she hears what she has to say.
The general mood around the table is a happy one as Curtis’ younger brother, Isaac, humours them with really funny jokes.
Her mother in law, Mrs. Edith Owusu-Mensah is having the time of her life with her three favourite men, as she always says when referring to her husband and two sons.
It is just amazing how the two families have hit it off with their marriage. Alicia has really been looking forward to a happy marriage and joyous relationship with her in-laws.
Alicia’s brother, Caleb, and her sister, Rachael, are having a good time too.
Curtis’ mom clears her throat while still laughing at something her younger son said.
“Curtis, we are all ears, you know. I know you two dragged us here for a reason and it’s about time we get to it. I have champagne on the rocks just for the occasion. True, I didn’t expect it this soon but a ….”
“Edith, please. Let them tell us why we are here. Stop putting words in their mouths,” Mr. Owusu-Mensah steps in.
Curtis gets to his feet uneasily and thanks everyone present for honouring their invitation to dine with them. He explains that they rushed off for their honeymoon after the wedding and have not properly thanked each and every one of them for their immense role in the preparations and eventual ceremony that saw them married.
“My wife and I are most grateful for all the sacrifices you all made on our behalf.”
“Now the men are talking!” Curtis’s brother cuts in.
Every one titters.
“There is also some recent development that we thought it wise to lay it before you first before rumours spread around. Alicia and I are happy together. I will give my life for her, if I have to. She was feeling a little under the weather and we went to see a doctor. After series of tests and consultations, it was revealed that she….”
“You don’t have to continue, my son. I think we all know what is wrong with her. This calls for celebration. My son is potent. He has really proved the potent capacity of the Owusu-Mensah family. He has indeed brought honour to us. We have to drink to this,” Mrs. Owusu-Mensah says vibrantly.
Curtis mood changes immediately.
He does not like it when his Mom always behaves as if she knows everything. He would have loved it very much if their news is that joyful. True, he loves kids, that goes without saying, but he knows that telling them Alicia is HIV positive is really going to break them especially with his mom getting so ahead of herself.
The contrast will be devastating.
For a moment, he thinks about playing along. He looks for a reason not to tell. He takes his seat and sighs heavily. Then he looks at Alicia, as if asking for support, and he looks really confused.
“I wish it is that simple, Mama Edith. I am sorry our news is not that exciting. As Curtis was saying, I have not been well for some time. There were these dizzy spells and high temperatures that didn’t add up. We left our wedding reception rather rashly because I felt faint but thankfully, no one noticed. Then things got worse. We sought answers, and finally the doctors gave me the bitter news that I was HIV positive,” Alicia intones with tears in her eyes, her voice trailing at the end.
Everyone stops eating and stares, incomprehension written all over their faces.
The silence around the table is so intense the fall of a spoon would have sounded like the blast of an atomic bomb.
Hot tears course down Alicia’s cheeks as she watches her parents pale immediately.
Her father looks like he is twice his age instantly.
Her Mom looks like she will pass out any second.
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Curtis’ brother is so shocked his mouth is wide open and the food he has scooped and is going to toss into his mouth gets stuck mid-air.
Alicia’s sister, who is giggling at something Isaac said, now looks at her older sister as if she is a total stranger.
Curtis and Caleb are the only ones who seem composed.
Mrs. Owusu-Mensah is shaking her head as if that will take back what Alicia said.
“What did you just say? ” she asks almost in a scream.