Jack Larbi carefully scooped soup with a piece of rice ball and put it gently into his mouth and then he scowled slightly and leaned back.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Adobea?” he asked softly in his modulated and cultured voice.
“You said ‘shalawele’ and it shocked me, I guess,” Adobea whispered.
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “My father used to laugh at me over some of the silly words I used to utter, almost like your Shalom. I use ‘shalawele’ a lot, I guess, when I’m excited or happy.”
Adobea nodded slowly.
It was all becoming clearer now.
Somehow, this cultured man’s brain had been tampered with, making him get the mental faculties of an eight-year-old boy. He had been stripped of his grooming and finesse; he had been reduced to a carefree edition of himself who had freely lived as he wanted to live without the restrictive confines of norms.
Here was the older version, the brilliant physicist who was wealthy and had all the refined edges that a gentleman should have, and somehow Adobea felt a pang of regret and pain at the fact that the Shalom she had known was gone, probably forever!
Here he was, healed and strong and a true man, just as she had wished him to be. If the truth were known she did prefer this version, but she would always have a tender spot in her heart for the brash and lovely Shalom.
She wanted to leave him to enjoy his meal but he asked her to stay. Her joy was being with him so she needed no second prompting. Her mind always returned to that nagging question, though, about what would happen to them. It seemed there was no way Jack would remember her now. If that, indeed, was the case, then she was only hurting herself more by being in his company.
If he chose that Lucille lady and married her, life would be impossible to live for Adobea. The sensible thing to do was to cut all ties with him and try to get over him, but she knew that was already a lost battle. Being with him now was the happiest time of her life since he was wrenched so cruelly from her life.
But Aunt Tessy was right.
The people in Shalom’s life were untrustworthy, to say the least, and her place was beside him until she knew that he was safe and happy, and then she would accept all other consequences that would be bequeathed to her after the process.
When he finished eating, she packed the dainty glassware and cleaned the table. She then sent them to the kitchen and then went back quickly, but Shalom had left.
Adobea stood staring at the empty booth with pain racing through her heart! Her presence had not stirred up even the briefest recognition in him and he had left without even bothering to say goodbye to her.
She put unsteady fingers to her trembling lips and stared morosely at the place he had sat, quite unable to move as tears came unbidden to her eyes.
Her phone rang then; it was Aunt Tessy.
She fixed her earpiece and picked the call.
“Hello, Auntie?” she spoke listlessly.
“Mr Larbi didn’t want to draw any attention to himself,” Aunt Tessy said in a rush. “He says I should tell you he’s waiting in the car lot for you.”
“Car lot?” Adobea whispered, stunned. “Waiting for me? But why?”
“Do I look like I’m the custodian of Jack Larbi’s mind?” Aunt Tessy asked with a friendly chuckle. “Go on, girly, you’re free for the rest of the day. Go to your man!”
Adobea raced to the car park and came to a confused stop immediately.
There were so many cars and, in her haste and anxiety, she had not asked Aunt Tessy the make of Shalom’s car. As she desperately tried to fumble her phone out of the pocket of her uniform, she saw him at the far end of the lot waving to her.
She walked on air to his side and saw that his car was black, a sleek Lexus the make of which she had never seen before. It was so breath-taking that she spent a full minute just staring at it.
“Your car is…beautiful,” she whispered.
“Belonged to my father, actually,” he said softly with underlying pain. “I use it sometimes when I miss him so badly.”
“Oh…sorry,” she said tenderly.
He smiled at her, a smile that lit up his face and reminded her poignantly of Shalom. It was not quite as goofy as she was used to, but it did come from within him and had the same powerful effect on her.
“Seems to me that I’ve known you for years, Adobea,” he said suddenly with a slight scowl now. “Are you sure this is the first time we’re meeting?”
Adobea’s heart melted then!
She felt a combination of pain and desire, of weakness and need, and for one horrible moment she almost blurted out everything to him. She took a deep breath just to calm her nerves and remain calm. Indeed, she had to remain calm under all the pressure and play along with him because she did not know the effects that news of their previous life together might have on his reset mind.
“I’m quite sure…Shalom,” she whispered.
He looked at her quizzically for a time and then he smiled and indicated the car.
“Come on, sit down,” he said gently. “I want to spend the rest of the afternoon with you. There’s something I want to show you.”
She nodded and opened the passenger door.
The interior of the car was even more breath-taking. The seats were covered with gold and brown leather, and the dashboard looked almost like a type of complex cockpit.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur.
It was a glorious ride with him through the beautiful landscape of Beach Road. He took her through a fabulous wooded area, up a gentle slope until they came to a huge fenced-off area that had the words:
OUT OF BOUNDS
ISAAC LARBI ESTATE
TRESPASSERS WOULD BE PROSECUTED
The gate was opened by an armed security man.
Shalom wound down his window and spoke to the delighted man for a couple of minutes and then they drove on.
The wooded area continued until they crested the hill and there, situated on a flat plane, was a lovely and huge wooden cabin.
“I used to come here a lot with my father,” Jack said in a tender voice, and for a moment his voice shook with unshed tears. “This is the first time I’m coming here after his death. It held too many painful memories.”
Adobea placed her hand on his as it rested on the gear lever and grasped his fingers gently.
“You miss him,” she said softly.
He nodded hard, almost like Shalom would do, and this time a single tear rolled down his right cheek.
“I miss that man a lot, Adobea,” he said softly. “He was everything to me.”
He drove past the beautiful wooden cabin and took a hedged road that soon ended on a metallic rail that protected the end of the mountain. Shalom stopped the car and let the engine idle for a while, and then he took a deep shuddering breath and killed the engine.
“Come, Adobea,” he said gently. “Come and see something nice.”
He got out of the car and she quickly followed him.
He led her to the edge of the cliff and stopped near the metal railing.
Adobea gasped with shock when she saw the expanse of a lake way down below her. The lake had a bluish sheen, and a little way off she could see the greenish sheen of another body of water.
“There are two lakes?” she whispered in awe.
“Nah,” Shalom said with a giggle. “This is the Lake Shalom, the blue one.”
“The Shalom lake?” she asked suddenly, quite shocked, and he giggled and nodded.
“Yes, Shalom, yes,” he said. “My father named it when he bought the piece of land and developed it. It was quite a wild, unmapped terrain, and he gave the landmarks names. This place is actually called The Shalom. My father was quite in love with the serene peacefulness and beauty of the land, and named it aptly.”
Adobea nodded again with deeper understanding.
So, this was it.
His favourite spot, a place he had shared so many lovely moments with his father, and even when his mind was reset, the word ‘shalom’ had somehow stuck, and the moment he heard it he decided his name was Shalom.
It was a powerful, staggering moment for her!
If he had remembered Shalom and chosen it as a name, then maybe all was not lost for her or for them. Maybe, just maybe, his heart would beat again with the love they had found, shared and lost.
“The greenish part is actually the sea,” he continued as he pointed.
Adobea gasped with sudden shock.
“Really?” she whispered. “The sea meets the lake there? Blue and green?”
“They never merge,” Shalom said wistfully. “Quite incredible, isn’t it? There is a myth around that area, you know. They say if you mix the two waters over there you would drown immediately. I never believed it but my father did, can you believe that? We took our boat there several times and stopped just on the edge where they meet, but we never crossed into the sea portion because he was scared the boat would mix the two waters.”
“Oh, Shalom,” Adobea whispered and found herself trembling with passionate feelings. “It is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing it with me.”
He nodded and kept on looking outward for some time.
“It is kinda of funny, you know,” he said softly. “I’ve never been here since my father died. I’ve never brought Lucille here, you know. Lucille is the girl I’m going to marry, my fiancée, incidentally. But here I am with a girl I just met today. A girl who just mentioned Shalom to me, and suddenly I felt like coming here, to breathe the memories once more. And do you know something, Adobea?”
She could not speak.
She just shook her head once.
“I’m happy I came,” he said softly. “The memories are beautiful, not quite as painful as I feared they might be. Right now, this very slice of time, here with you and the spirits of my parents, I feel happy, Adobea. And I do not understand it.”
As he stared at her like her Shalom used to, with sheer innocence and that little-boy-lost look, Adobea Asare could not stop herself. Her heart was thundering fiercely in her heart and she just stepped near him and put her arms around his neck.
He stiffened for the briefest of seconds and then he put his arms around her lovely figure. She hugged him tightly, feeling the slight trembling that was running through her body subsiding gradually.
And then, quite suddenly, he put a hand under her chin and raised her face.
He saw the tears on her cheeks and a worried look crossed his face.
“Adobea,” he whispered. “You’re crying for him.”
She smiled at him through her tears.
“Sometimes, when women are happy, they do cry, Shalom,” she whispered.
“I can understand that,” he said and sighed deeply. “What are you doing to me, Adobea? I’ve never been unfaithful to Lucille, not in thoughts or actions, not virtually or physically, ever! But now, just now, Adobea, I’m quite alarmed by the emotions buffeting me! What are you doing to me, you little witch?”
And, before she could speak, his lips descended on hers.
It was not the desperate, almost-violent kisses Shalom used to give her. This kiss was soft and gentle, his tongue a sweet prodding tool that explored hers, sending up a heat of shattering emotions through her body!
It was the most powerful feeling she had ever felt, and with a little moan she responded to him, kissing him back gently and sweetly as the lake and the sea greeted each other gently below the bluff…
It was late afternoon when Lucille came out of the expensive Kurlz n Wispz salon. It was the most expensive salon in town patronized by the rich and influential.
Dressed in a stunning Donna Karan skirt suit, she cut a very elegant figure as she walked to her beautiful white Mercedes Benz four-runner parked in the reserved space of the car park.
She drew the admiration of both men and women as she walked.
Lucille unlocked the car with her remote and as she reached out to open the door, a slender young woman emerged from around the hood and stood facing her.
She was young, not more than twenty-two or so, and she was wearing blue jeans and a pink blouse with a handbag on a strap around her right shoulder. Her features were sharp and hard as her eyes pierced into Lucille.
“Good afternoon, madam,” she said.
She was used to people accosting her for money, sometimes with wild pathetic stories. Most of the time she ignored them, but today she was in an exceptionally buoyant mood!
Jackie-Love was back, and her plans were back on course!
Indeed, she was finding out that she did love him, and did prefer him to Samuel. It was going to get dicey working with them, but maybe she could help get them what they wanted and she would also stay married to Jackie. With the suspected wealth inside the vault in the hands of Samuel, he would gladly leave them alone to enjoy their love.
Lucille opened her expensive handbag, took out a twenty-cedi note and proffered it to the girl standing in front of her.
“Here, take it,” she said sweetly. “And that is all I’m giving you.”
The girl smiled, her eyes cold and calculating.
“You’ll need a lot more money than that, Miss Lucille,” she said with a cold smile. “My name is Cyndi, and I used to serve your fiancé lunch at Tessy’s Sweet Nibs.”
“And you think that entitles you to have money from me?” Lucille askes angrily.
“Oh, no, definitely not,” Cyndi said, her cold smile expanding. “But I was stopped from serving him, you know, with the arrival of a new girl at the restaurant. I’m on my way to Accra, and I thought you might be interested in what happened when your Jack Larbi met this new girl. Believe me, girl, you do need to know! But it will cost you, yes, it’s gonna cost you.”
Lucille stared at Cyndi with sudden fear!
Wordlessly, she reached for more money in her bag!
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