(Continued from Romanced by a Villager III)
Rose’s mind spins even faster. She has lost one man. What if she loses the other? What if Ambrose changes his mind? She loves him. At least she thinks she does. And she has been thinking since lunch time. With Dave out of the way, there is no reason why she shouldn’t give Ambrose a chance. She doesn’t have to care about what her friends think.
She has a nagging fear at the back of her mind though. From their interactions so far, she has deduced that Ambrose is not exactly a romantic man in the Western sense. He is a traditional African man. So, by saying yes to him, she will be kissing flowers, chocolates and candle lit dinners goodbye. If she eventually marries him, she will be expected to be a traditional wife. She will work at the office yes, but she will be expected to cook, take care of the children, do laundry and generally carry the household on her back. She is not sure she is ready for that.
These are the thoughts that are crossing her mind as she hurriedly walks from her office to his, ignoring the wicked eye that Janet gives her. Her heart is beating rapidly as she closes his door behind her. She is very afraid. Saying yes today will dramatically change her life. It will mean that she is going to be one step away from being a step-mother. Because people like Ambrose date with marriage in mind. Will his children accept her? Is she even ready to be a mother?
She finds him reading a newspaper. As she walks towards him, he looks up, concern written all over his face.
Dave curses himself after terminating the call. Why is life so unfair? He has always dreamt of the day Rose would come back to him. And he waited for the entire two years for her. He tried to date other girls, but he couldn’t. He was obsessed with her.
But when he finally accepted that maybe she wasn’t coming back; when he made peace with the fact that he didn’t stand a chance for as long as she was hanging out with those four girls; just when he has found a woman to settle down with, she comes back.
Faith knows about Rose, although she doesn’t know that they have been in touch lately. Faith and Dave became friends around the time Rose left him. She had also just walked out of a nasty breakup with Frank, her boyfriend of six years. Dave cannot remember anymore how they started talking, but they quickly became close platonic friends as they exchanged notes on their heartaches.
Since they were both serving in the church, they would meet at the church grounds and talk. On Sundays they would leave church and have lunch together in a restaurant and while away the afternoon. People started asking if they were dating, and would look at them with sly smiles when they denied it. But it was the truth. They were platonic friends. They both tried relationships with other people and failed. They would encourage each other and laugh together whenever their other relationships went south, as they often did.
They openly admitted to each other that they still had feelings for their initial exes, Rose and Frank, even though those exes had hurt them both very deeply. Faith could not understand why Frank had left her. They had the perfect relationship and had even started planning for a wedding. Then he started cheating on her with a girl called Jackie, and when Faith found out, he walked out on her and married Jackie. Jackie is a plump girl, just like Faith. They are both dark skinned and from the photos that Faith saw on social media, they even share a fashion sense.
Dave’s case was much more straightforward: Tony had money, he did not. Rose had left him because he was broke.
If Faith had feelings for him all along, Dave has no way of knowing it. It is only early this year that he started noticing her in a romantic way. He started by noticing how beautiful she is, and was surprised that he has not seen her in that light before. Like him, Faith is very particular about how she spends her money, and they talked often about their saving habits. Unlike Rose who would dreamt of leading a luxurious life like her friends, Faith is more concerned about financial stability and her ability to sustain her lifestyle even if she loses her job. That, in Dave’s opinion, makes her the perfect partner for him. They would have made an excellent couple if Rose hadn’t shown up to mess up Dave’s emotions.
Unlike Rose who is an extrovert, Faith is a quiet girl who takes time before she trusts people. That is one of the reasons why he could not bring himself to leave her. It took time for her to trust him, and he doesn’t want to break that trust.
But he knows eventually he will, because his heart is with Rose. And that reality is very frustrating to him.
“Rose. Is there a problem?” Ambrose asks as Rose steps into his office.
She smiles at him.
“No, there isn’t. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure. Please have seat.”
“I have your answer,” she blurts out. He raises an eyebrow, then he smiles gently.
“Oh, that was fast. Do I stand a chance?”
She takes a deep breath.
“Yes Ambrose. I will be your girlfriend.”
There, she said it. Who lives on flowers anyway? They cannot even be eaten. And if she wants chocolates, she will buy them herself.
“Thank you. You have no idea how happy that makes me,” he says. He takes her palm into his and squeezes it. She is disappointed. She expected that he would at least hug her, maybe even kiss her. Not a miserable squeeze in the palm. But she has made her bed, and she will lie on it. He is a good man. A traditional man perhaps, but a good, solid man. Not a fake one like Tony.
She takes a sip of the water that she has carried from her office.
“I don’t know why but this water tastes weird.”
“I cannot explain it, but it does have a funny taste.”
“Let me see,” Ambrose takes the bottle and looks at it suspiciously. Just then a wave of pain jolts through Rose’s body. She drops to the floor and starts screaming as the waves of pain torment her body.
Ambrose rushes to her side, still holding the water bottle, and holds her hand with his free hand. What could be in the water? He is almost crying at the sight of her agony and his own helplessness. Images of his late wife Sheila fighting a losing battle with cancer flash through his mind. Why would God do this to him?
Janet knows that her plan is going south the moment she sees Rose hurriedly walk out of her office to Ambrose’s office with the water bottle in her hand. Has she suspected something? Did the water taste different? Did she overdo the poison? Did Rose notice that the water bottle is different?
Janet is ready to deny vehemently if Ambrose summons her and asks her if she knows anything about the water.
Ambrose doesn’t summon her. Instead, a sharp female scream rises from his office. Janet knows what it means. She bolts from her desk and rushes to Ambrose’s office. The game plan is simple. She will enter the room, locate the water bottle and take it. When other staff members enter the room, as they are bound to, she will leave with the poisoned water and return a few minutes later with Rose’s original water bottle. Anybody who notices her walking around with a water bottle will assume that she is just confused because of Rose’s sudden illness.
But there is a problem.
When Janet enters the room, the first thing she notices is that Ambrose is holding Janet’s hand with one hand, and the bottle of water with the other.
“Call an ambulance!” Ambrose growls when he notices her presence. He is clearly very concerned about Rose’s well-being, and that irritates her. She wants Rose to die. So she will take her sweet time before calling an ambulance.
“On it,” someone says behind her. Janet turns and sees Veronica the receptionist leaving. Janet curses her under her breath. What is she doing on this floor? Not that it matters that much. It will take time for an ambulance to get here and for Rose to be taken to hospital. If what she read on google is correct, and she has no reason to think it is not, then Rose will be dead by the time she gets to the hospital.
The bottle in Ambrose’s hand is what is giving Janet a lot of anxiety. Ambrose probably doesn’t know that he is holding a bottle that could land him in jail. He will become the main suspect if the police find him with it. If that happens, she will of course be forced to deny knowing anything about the matter, because she cannot be expected to implicate herself.
But she doesn’t want that to happen, because the plan is to eventually marry him. And she cannot do that if he is in jail. She has to find a way to get that bottle from him.
The ambulance arrives sooner than expected. Apparently it was fueling in Wangige on its way to Gartha Hospital where it would have been parked awaiting an assignment. Gartha Hospital is a new hospital in Banana. It has modern laboratories, which is why Ambrose follows the ambulance in his car. He is sure that Rose’s illness has something to do with the water. And if that is the case, then her life might be saved if the water is quickly examined at the lab.
After handing a sample of the water to the hospital, and after Rose is wheeled to the emergency room, Ambrose drives back to his office and locks the door. Janet, James, Samuel and George followed him to the hospital in George’s car, so there is no one on second floor.
Beth’s strange illness has always disturbed Ambrose, especially because she was perfectly okay when she first reported to work. Ambrose knows that Beth is jobless, but was unable to convince her mother to allow her come back to work. Beth’s mother is persuaded that there is something evil in this office.
When he hired Rose, Ambrose decided on impulse to install cameras all over the office. The cameras were installed on Sunday. They are tiny gadgets embedded on the walls and roofs, invisible to anyone who doesn’t know they exist. And Ambrose is the only one who knows about their existence.
He decides to start with the footage of the camera in Rose’s new office.
Ambrose gets back to the hospital just in time for the doctor’s briefing. He is accompanied by two police officers, something that puzzles Janet and the three unit managers.
“Rose is still in a critical condition. Her internal organs are shutting down because of the powerful effect of the toxin in her body. My colleagues and I are doing everything we can, but I can’t promise anything. We have results from the tests we conducted on the water that Mr. Ngugi gave us. He was right. The water is laced with a powerful rat poison that has actually been banned in fifty six countries around the world because of its devastating effect on humans. Unfortunately, it is still legal and available in retail outlets in Kenya. Rose is fortunate to be alive, but she may not be in the next one hour.”
When the doctor leaves, focus turns to the two police officers.
“Ms. Janet, we need you to come with us to the station,” one of the officers says.
“Why? Am I being arrested?”
“Yes, you are.”
“We don’t know yet. If that young lady dies, then we will have arrested you for murder. If she doesn’t, then it will be attempted murder. The doctor said we will find out in an hour, didn’t he? Now please come with us.”
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